Monday's Muse, 53rd edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Bruremarsj Fra Ă˜sterdalen (Wedding March From Ă˜sterdalen) by Bukkene Bruse.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Mythology - Chinese.

The Twelve Kingdoms - This is halfway between Japanese and Chinese mythology, but leans more toward the Chinese, so thus its inclusion here. There are seven books in this series from Japan, but only the first four have been translated so far.

Sea of Shadow (#1) by Fuyumi Ono.

Yoko is an ordinary high school girl with nightmares when a golden-haired young man tells her she's in dream-foreshadowed danger. Soon the teen is flying on the back of a huge bird to a kingdom in another world, where she'll eventually learn that she is destined for a throne. The prominence of a jewel and a sword (as well as purification by water) connects this tale to Japanese tradition. Chinese tradition contributes cosmography and the Mandate of Heaven. Anime tradition guarantees lots of bloody monster-killing by the reluctant (and imperfect) Yoko. This otherworld seems thinly realized, with confusing politics; however, violent action and odd creatures abound. The real-world frame plays a small role, though the fantasy of not really belonging to one's parents is key. Yoko leaves behind her conservative, sexist upbringing, putting on men's clothes and developing muscles, acknowledging the demonic within, and learning to assert herself. Yet, she fears trusting anyone and judges the absence of religion as the reason for people's selfishness. A cynical blue monkey, the heroine's amoral self, regularly suggests suicide. The reading level is not difficult, but names (Keiki, Kaiko, Kyokai, Kou, etc.) are tricky without a guide. Pacing is uneven: stretches of inaction drag on and anticlimax replaces a final confrontation with the forces of evil—but six more volumes are planned. Anime fans will be encouraged by the occasional manga-style black-and-white illustration, and the strong female protagonist will attract others to a fantasy with identity and self-acceptance at its core.—Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI, School Library Journal.

Sea of Wind (#2) by Fuyumi Ono.

This is the story of Taiki, who must accept his role as kirin, protector of the Tai kingdom. Born in Japan and raised as a human, Taiki is overwhelmed when he's brought back to the kingdom of Tai, where he's told he's a kirin. With little knowledge or guidance, he must trust his latent instincts to choose a king for the Kingdom of Tai from among dozens of men and women who seek the position. Will the frustrated Taiki, who can't even figure out how to transform into animal form, make the right choice? And more important, will he discover the kirin that lives within?

The Vast Spread of the Seas (#3) by Fuyumi Ono.

When only an eggfruit, the kirin of the En kingdom, Rokuta, was transported to Japan for his own protection. But he was abandoned soon after his birth by his surrogate parents, left to fend for himself in the mountains. It just so happens that at the same time, a young boy in the En kingdom named Koya was also abandoned by his own parents, after which he was raised by demon beasts. Their similar circumstances aren't the only thing to bind these two boys, though. Twenty years after their abandonment, their destinies intersect, with potentially disastrous consequences for the En kingdom.

Skies of Dawn (#4) by Fuyumi Ono.

In the kingdom of Kei, Yoko struggles in her new role as ruler. She's ashamed that her subjects are disappointed in her weakness, and she suffers greatly. In the kingdom of Hou, young, pampered Shoukei watches her father, the ruler of Hou, slain before her very eyes. And in the kingdom of Sai, Suzu slaves away under a scornful mistress....When these three young women set out on their own journeys to find new happiness, their worlds will collide, and a new door to the future will open.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.

Ai Ling wants to be a dutiful daughter, but surely marrying the vile widower Master Huang is a bad idea. If Ai Ling finds her missing father, then won't she and her mother be freed from blackmail and manipulation? Ai Ling sets off across the kingdom of Xia to find her vanished father, but finds herself embroiled in both Imperial and mystical intrigue. Her quest is aided by her new friends, the exotically handsome half-Xian Chen Yong and his flirtatious foster brother, Li Rong, both seeking Chen Yong's birthparents. Together, they rescue gods, fight zombies and travel to dangerous lands where three-eyed men ride flying chariots. Luckily, Ai Ling has newfound powers that aid in their fight against the forces threatening both the trio and the entire land of Xia. Ai Ling is a well-developed protagonist, from her shyness to her great love of food (leading to plentiful mouthwatering descriptions of meals). This fantasy heroine, who shows her spunk with quiet self-determination instead of swordfights, headlines an appealing magical adventure set in a refreshingly non-Western milieu.--Kirkus.

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Full of passion and fury, the sequel to Silver Phoenix (2009) brings Ai Ling into the spotlight again as she tries to fight an evil spirit that possesses her and save the young man who has won her heart. This book picks up where the previous volume left off. Ai Ling has killed the death eater, Zhong Ye, but now he resides in her spirit. Her love, Chen Yong, is off to search for his father, and Ai Ling finds a reason to join him on the voyage. But interwoven into this tale is the story of Zhong Ye and how he became the monster whose thirst for power cost him both his beloved Silver Phoenix and his humanity. A bit more confusing than the previous book, this nonetheless has many of the same strong elements: action embroidered by the otherworldly, the search for both love and family, and, most importantly, a brave and true heroine who will entice readers. Readers who were dazzled by Ai Ling the first time out will not be disappointed. -- Cooper, Ilene, Booklist.

Dragonkeeper (Trilogy) by Carole Wilkinson.

An action-packed adventure set in China in 141 B.C. In a remote western palace, Ping, a slave girl of unknown origin, serves the emperor's Dragon Keeper, an incompetent drunkard who neglects the two last-known dragons in his charge. When one of them dies and an evil hunter threatens to kill the other for his magical body parts, the old dragon, Danzi, escapes with the girl. He entrusts Ping with his precious and beautiful purple stone, which he is determined to take to the ocean. As they make their long journey east, Ping develops plausibly from a terrified, abused child into a confident young woman who truly deserves the official title of Dragon Keeper. Beset with self-doubt, often making mistakes, she slowly becomes aware of her innate powers, which includes second sight. The plot twists and turns, cinematic action comes in bursts, and villains are vile, while Danzi, Ping, and her pet rat are heroic, appealing companions who can fight or scheme their way out of every tight spot. Danzi sometimes speaks like a Daoist philosopher, but his telepathic communication with Ping too often resembles the truncated phrases of a Chinese speaker still learning English. That said, the dramatic plot and competently crafted writing make this a good choice for voracious readers of fantasy, especially those who have enjoyed Anne McCaffrey's dragon fantasies. The ending, though satisfying, makes way for a sequel.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, School Library Journal.

Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson.

In this sequel to Dragon Keeper (Hyperion, 2005), young Ping has rescued Kai, the baby purple dragon, son of Long Danzi, the last of the Imperial dragons, and hidden with him on Tai Shan, the forbidden sacred mountain. The old dragon appointed Ping as Dragon Keeper and entrusted her with the dragon stone, from which Kai has hatched. Ping has escaped the dragon hunter and the evil shape-changing necromancer once, but she knows she must keep Kai's existence secret or his life will be in danger. When the necromancer appears on Tai Shan, Ping must flee again. Aided by her pet rat, Hua, and by her ability to summon her qi power, she escapes, only to be captured by the Emperor's guards. Mistakenly thinking her previous friendship with the young ruler will keep her safe, she is betrayed by him and his obsessive search for immortality. She barely manages to save herself for another possible sequel. Ping is an appealingly feisty heroine, and the author paints a vivid picture of life in the Imperial Ming Yang Lodge. Readers should be warned that some of the necromancer's practices are horrifyingly graphic. The dragon's baby talk that Ping hears inside her head makes him seem more real, if a bit silly. References to events in the earlier book are sometimes confusing, but should inspire readers to explore Ping's earlier adventures. This believable fantasy should help fulfill the demand for dragon books.—Quinby Frank, Green Acres School, Rockville, MD, School Library Journal.

Dragon Moon by Carole Wilkinson.

In this final book in the trilogy, Ping has grown into a responsible Dragon Keeper for Kai. Danzi, Kai's father and Ping's first dragon, has left instructions for the girl to take Kai to the Dragon Haven where he can grow up safe from human influence. Following an ancient and faded map, the two set out to discover if Kai, now an adolescent, is the last of the dragons. During the journey, many of Ping's old friends are rediscovered. The story, set during the Han dynasty, offers an unusual combination of fantasy and ancient Chinese culture in which the dragons have extraordinary lives that not only affect Ping, but all of China as well.—June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY, School Library Journal.

Can you think of any others? Three authors seems like a very meager tasting. I do know of Huntress and Ash by Malinda Lo but they are being saved for another list.

[Edit] Thanks to Charlotte at Charlotte's Library for reminding me of Grace Lin's work! And I remembered one more on my own.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.

 Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman.

Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.

Feature Fun Friday - Liesel and Po Music Video

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): First Time by Lifehouse.

Now here's an interesting idea, taking the idea of a book trailer one step further into a music video. The song, "A Train With Wings," at one point was apparently available for download, but I am having trouble locating it for you guys. But I hope you enjoy the video nonetheless. Have an utterly fantastic weekend, everyone!

A Book Released Into the Wild - World Book Night

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Peponi by The Piano Guys.

On Monday, something really cool happened. It was World Book Night, where secret people of pure awesome gave out books to random strangers, for free for one night. These are the real super heroes.

It was created with the intent of giving people something else to do that evening, and perhaps open a book for the first time in years.

There was a list of books available, and if you got in on the action early, publishers would send you paperback copies of the book for free to distribute. Books like Little Bee, Ender's Game, The Book Thief, Kindred, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, The Stand, Housekeeping, and so many others.

I loved this idea. I loved it so hardcore I wanted to hug my screen and shout for joy. But there was a slight kerfuffle for me. Most of these books were already really well known. I wanted to do my part as my self-appointed description of ordinary girl extraordinaire dictated. There were some great gems of stories being overlooked, and I wanted to help them out.

The problem was trying to decide which one to do. There are so many amazing stories out there. I finally decided on one that is so overlooked, I don't think the series will ever be finished. Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti. She used to have an adorable website, but even that has disappeared recently. I loved the story and I thought the characters both hilarious and endearing. And from my interview with her, the fact she wanted to write good and happy things because there is plenty of tragedy already in the world made my heart go pitter pat.

So it was decided. And I already knew the perfect place to drop it off for someone else to find. Now as far I know, you're actually supposed to physically hand your book to someone, but I loved the idea so much of leaving it, seemingly abandoned, as a gift from one anonymous friend to another like so much fun, I had to do it. So I went to the park where I grew up.

It was a bit of a drive admittedly, but worth it. This place was such an enormous part of my childhood. It is large, with so many nooks and crannies, hills and hidey places to freak any parent out, but it was paradise to me. A lot has changed since then. The stone dolphin and Beluga whale are now gone. The ginormous swings have been replaced by a tamer, safer variety, and everything has a new coat of paint. Also, the trees are taller. Those at least have grown up with me. But it still felt like home.

Walking around a park childless, especially with a camera, is always a slightly unnerving task. Parents eye you a whole lot more closely (which doesn't make it any easier to drop of said book gift). Luckily I am a girl, so that helps a little. I just try to put on my most sincere face of innocence possible and the parents lower their hackles. For the most part.

So I wandered for a bit, trying to find the perfect spot for my treasure. You can't see it in this picture, but a gorgeous tree near the entrance was bursting in pink blossoms. There was a sun's ray hallowing it, I swear.

So I placed my book, took as fast a picture as I could, and then disappeared.

It was still there when I got to my car. I hope someone found it and enjoys it as much as I did. Mission accomplished. :)

Feature Fun Friday - Diana Wynne Jones

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus by Harry Gregson-Williams [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe soundtrack].

This didn't load on Friday? Good gracious. Hmmm. Let's look at it this way. I'm extending your weekend (I won't tell anyone it's Monday if you don't). :) This is an interview of the grand lady herself, on the adaptation of one of her most famous and best-loved books--Howl's Moving Castle. It was turned into an anime feature film by an living legend in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki. She says in the interview they are slightly varied creatures. They are in fact completely different entities, but each stunning and wonderful in their own way. I, of course, recommend you read the book first. Happy Monday Friday, everyone!

It's a Diana Wynne Jones Celebration!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Adventure by Angels and Airwaves.

Diana Wynne Jones is one of those great writers. Not "I-am-great-therefore-I-am" snarky kind. She ranks among the ones being as good as or greater than toast on jam. Which is a pretty amazing invention, if you think about it.

Diana Wynne Jones is one of the great ones. My heart cracked in a way I didn't know it could last year when she finally passed after a two+ year battle with cancer. I'm not sure if it is fully mended. But Greenwillow Books (her American publisher) has put together something grand. It is a "week" (and by a week they basically mean a month) of Diana Wynne Jones. It is a celebration and makes me want to bound around a bit. Kind of like Bambi when he was twitterpated. Kind of. Sort of. Yeah, a lot like that actually.

You can submit anything you want to their tumblr, or follow the blog tour that is going all over the internet. It is fantastic. It makes me giggle with joy.

So to get into the spirit of it all, here is a wonderful watercolor done by Agent-Elrond/Grace Ogawa on deviantart for a book of DWJ I didn't even know existed (guess who is about to dash off and remedy this?). Here is the quote from Eight Days of Luke, where she took her inspiration from:

When he came out on the hillside, the storm had died down and there was a sunset gathering. Luke was crouched just below him looking tired to death, ten times more tired than he had looked after Mr. Wedding caught him. And as soon as he set eyes on him, David discovered that knowing all about someone need not change your feelings at all. Luke might be lord of fire and master of mischief. He might have done a number of appalling things and be going to do more before he was through. But David was simply very glad to see him again, and extremely sorry that he had been so slow fetching the hammer that he had tired Luke out.

Isn't she a great writer? I must find this book now.

Monday's Muse, 52nd edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): When I Look At You (Reprise) by Douglas Sills [The Scarlet Pimpernel - musical soundtrack].

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Mythology - Japanese.

(This is me stretched to my utter limits, guys. This is every possible book I could find remotely related to this mythology. We need more).

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Norioko Ogiwara.

An epic battle rages throughout the land of Toyoashihara, pitting the invading forces of the God of Light and the indigenous forces of the Goddess of Darkness in this masterful first novel from Japan. Immortal demigods representing Light fight the Goddess's band of endlessly reincarnated mortals. As the story opens, Saya, a 15-year-old whose adoptive parents have raised her to worship the Light, discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and therefore a leader of the Children of Darkness. She must travel to the very heart of the lands ruled by the Children of Light and retake the Dragon Sword, a mighty, magical weapon stolen from the Children of Darkness many years before. Then she must tame the destructive power of the Sword and help bring the war to an end. To accomplish these tasks--Saya has failed over and over again in previous lifetimes--she must master her own fear and hatred, and develop her ability to love and forgive. Drawing on Shinto mythology, Ogiwara crafts a complex, action-packed novel with dizzying plot twists and breathtaking fantasy sequences as well as gentle, emotionally charged scenes. Psychologically truthful and abundantly inventive.--Publisher's Weekly

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Searching for the wandering soul of her beloved sister, Mitsuko enlists the aid of a host of supernatural friends in this colorful fantasy, set in 12th-century Japan. As a member of an eminent clan, Mitsuko has spent her first 13 years in a courtly, constricted world. When part of her family is set upon, first by warrior monks who leave her new brother-in-law Yugiri dead and his wife (her sister Amaiko) dazed and numb, then by an ambitious local lord with marriageable sons, Mitsuko finds the courage to flee into the forest--and to accept the company of Goranu, a mischievous, immortal shapechanger. Sure that Amaiko's soul has followed Yugiri's into the land of the dead, she sets out to reclaim it, sped on her way by several Buddhist and Shinto spirits, some kind, some dangerous. Although elaborate courtesies, a round of poetry parties, and stylized conversation slow the beginning, Mitsuko will win readers over with her determination and the forthright way she faces the powers of heaven and hell... The account ends with a poignant, romantic twist: Goranu offers to end his life so he can come back as a mortal and marry her. A readable, engagingly semiserious adventure.--Kirkus

The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey.

Fifteen-year-old Fujiwara no Mitsuko, the fourth daughter of a powerful noble family, is about to be betrothed to an 11-year-old prince whether she likes it or not. In 12th-century Heian Japan, Mitsuko is not free to follow her heart, either to pursue the study of Buddhism or her growing relationship with Goranu, a shape-shifting tengu who has come to her aid in time of need. Even as political forces are directing Mitsuko's future, supernatural forces affect her present life when an evil ghost demands retribution for an unkept promise. Although this novel is a sequel to Dalkey's Little Sister (Harcourt, 1996) and refers back to events in that story, it stands on its own as an interesting fantasy and an even more interesting glimpse into a long ago and far away time and place. It is embellished with characters and customs from Japanese history and folklore, from the Shinto and Buddhist religions, and from the lifestyles and events of the period. Haiku-like verses introduce each chapter and are interspersed appropriately in the text as well. Readers nurtured on folklore and fairy tales from around the world will enjoy this well-told tale, while romantics will appreciate the affection growing between Mitsuko and Goranu. The book ends with the possibility of several different futures for Mitsuko, and with definite room for yet another sequel.--Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA, School Library Journal

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Norioko Ogiwara.

Oguna is an orphan with a secret even he doesn’t know—he’s a prince and heir to a terrible power. His best friend Toko is a member of the Tachibana clan and a potential high priestess able to tame that power...or destroy it.

Half World by Hiromi Goto

Fat, poor and intellectually slow, Melanie Tamaki's days are divided between torment at school and her alcoholic mother at home. The day a crow gives her a fortune cookie—one that says only "go home"—all that changes. Melanie follows her now-vanished mother into Half World, a magical limbo populated by gruesome semi-humans and characterized by despair. Chased by the oozing monstrosity Mr. Glueskin, aided only by a jade rat and a crumbling Magic 8-Ball full of cryptic advice, Melanie seeks escape from Half World with her mother. Unfortunately for Melanie, Mr. Glueskin thinks Melanie is the chosen one, the destined child who'll bring Half World back into balance with the realms of Spirit and Flesh, and he'll do anything to stop her. As Melanie is neither particularly bright nor brave, her persistence and her empathy will have to be enough. The richly flavored, often gruesome despair of the worldbuilding is enriched beautifully by Tamaki's evocative illustrations, in which the contrasts between light and darkness mirror the tale's thematic concerns. Hopeful and beautifully strange.--Kirkus

Ichiro by Ryan Inanza

Ichiro lives in New York City with his Japanese mother. His father, an American soldier, was killed in Iraq. Now, Ichi's mom has decided they should move back to Japan to live with Ichi's grandfather. Grandfather becomes Ichi's tour guide, taking him to temples as well as the Hiroshima Peace Park, where Ichi starts to question the nature of war. After a supernatural encounter with the gods and creatures of Japanese mythology, Ichi must face his fears if he is to get back home. In doing so, he learns about the nature of man, of gods, and of war. He also learns there are no easy answers--for gods or men.

The Grass-Cutting Sword by Catherynne M. Valente.

Similar in tone and style to Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams (2005), Valente's baroquely layered fantasy tells an earthy tale of heroes and monsters. Banished from heaven, Japanese trickster god Susanoo-no-Mikoto, a kami with powers over the wind and the oceans, bemoans his fate and travels across mundane lands hoping to find solace with his mother, Izanami-no-Kami. Then a peasant couple beg him to rescue their daughter, who was kidnapped by a great eight-headed serpent the same serpent that took her seven sisters before her. When the peasants tell Susanoo he may take the eighth daughter as his wife, he agrees. He trails the serpent to the village of Hiroshima, where he slays it and creates the Grass-Cutting Sword from its spine, even as his new wife ignores his lordly reassurances and mourns the monster. This lyrical, language-driven novella alternates between the awkward ("peasant-colored" people) and the sublime, as when Susanoo departs Hiroshima: "footprints flaming over the city, burning white and sere... and a hot wind followed after them."--Publisher's Weekly

Feature Fun Friday - Levar Burton and National Poetry Month

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): What the Water Gave Me by Florence + The Machine.

This video combines so many of my favorite things. Poetry, libraries, Shel Silverstein, libraries, and LeVar Burton. Reading Shel Silverstein. In a library. My geekiness overload meter just went off the chart! *happy sigh*

Apparently LeVar Burton was in town to speak for the Culture House at Johnson County Community College and decided to stop by the Kansas City Library on the way (isn't that just awesome?!) to read to the kids. And he was joined by author Shane Evans. This may be a new favorite video. Have a great weekend, everyone!

A Library Anecdote

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Not Broken by Goo Goo Dolls.

So I have this friend who works in a library. One night we were telling each other the funniest thing we have personally witnessed within library walls. This is her story. I wish I'd been there.

A young girl and her mom came up to the front desk to pay a fine. The girl got bored and trotted off to play jungle gym on the security gates (it happens a lot). Her mom tried to get her to come back over a couple of times, but it wasn't happening. My friend was just about to stand up and tell the girl she couldn't do that when her mom in exasperation whipped her head around and said in all seriousness,

"Katie! We are supposed to blend in with the humans!"

Little Katie instantly stopped what she was doing, went to her mother's side with arms folded and stayed quiet as a mouse for the rest of the transaction.

My friend tried not to burst out laughing the whole time. She barely made it.

Feature Fun Friday - Kiwi Short Film

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Baby Beauty by Danny Elfman [Black Beauty soundtrack].

I really hope I have not shown this to you before. If I have, it's been a long time. This is one of my favorite animated shorts. It was done by a college student for his master's thesis. Cutest kiwi ever (I love it when he claps best) ^_^ I like to think there is a trampoline. With all that planning, I know there was one. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Review: Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): How I Go by Yellowcard.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor
Published: February 5, 2008
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 304
Current Amazon Rank: #315,602

Author's Website: Leslie Connor
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

Maybe Mommers and I shouldn't have been surprised; Dwight had told us it was a trailer even before we'd packed our bags.

My Take:

Waiting for Normal is one of those wonderfully rare books that wrenches your heart and fills you with hope (and courage) at the same time. And so much of it has to do with the main character, Addie.

Life's not been easy for her. When Addie's parents divorce, she is separated from her step-father and younger half-sisters. Dwight is unable to get custody for her because he is not her biological father. Life is as far from normal as it can get when she and her mother move into a cramped, yellow trailer underneath a highway overpass. But with her unconquerable spirit, Addie makes the best of it. She practices her flute, struggles with a reading disorder, and makes friends with the people who frequent the convenience store across the street while trying to create a safe haven for herself and her rather unpredictable, "all-or-nothing" mother who often disappears, sometimes for days at a time. Yet she finds happiness whereever she is while "waiting for normal" to come.

Addie's voice is vivid from the first page. It sucked me in and didn't let me go. I felt like I was still holding my breath even after I'd read past the final word. This book takes you for a turn and then some, but never drags you down. The author handles the very weighty and difficult subject matters of divorce, bi-polar disorder, child neglect and others with such grace and poignancy she makes it look easy. Addie's ingenuity and heart surge this story along into something sincerely uplifting, even as your heart breaks for her. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and loved this story. It felt unique and utterly familiar, diverging from the common tropes it could have been peppered with in less capable hands. I loved it for its hope and reality that made that hope all the more potent. It felt real.

The Final Word:

So good. An utterly enthralling story about a young girl's indomitable spirit, filled with hope and poignancy. Powerful and beautiful, this is a first-rate read.

Monday's Muse, 51st edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Dangerous and Sweet by Lenka.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Mythology - Egyptian.

Hoo boy, this is a much smaller field. If you know of any guys, feel free to shoot them out at me. Or if you're writing, there is a definite void in this whole mythology here.

Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles) by Rick Riordan.

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

The Summoning (Sisters of Isis series) by Lynne Ewing.

Three fifteen-year-old girls living in Washington D.C. learn that they are the direct descendants of Egyptian pharoahs, with special powers that will allow them to battle demonic members of the Cult of Anubis, who are trying to return the universe to the chaos from which it sprung.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (Theodosia series) by R. L. LaFevers.

Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum.

When Theo’s mother returns from her latest archaeological dig bearing the Heart of Egypt—a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb—Theo learns that it comes inscribed with a curse so black and vile that it threatens to crumble the British Empire from within and start a war too terrible to imagine. Intent on returning the malevolent artifact to its rightful place, Theo devises a daring plan to put things right. But even with the help of her younger brother, a wily street urchin, and the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, it won’t be easy . . . she quickly finds herself pursued down dark alleys, across an ocean, through the bustling crowds of Cairo, and straight into the heart of an ancient mystery. Theo will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country—and herself!

The Ugly Goddess by Elsa Marston.

Princess Meret, only 14, has been promised by her father, the Pharaoh, to be the next Divine Wife of Amun, in order to save his kingdom. He has commissioned a statue of Taweret, protector of women, to accompany her and keep her safe. Meret does not want to leave her father, and she has recently developed a crush on a young Greek soldier, Hector. When the master who is crafting the sculpture suddenly falls ill, his dying words instruct Bata, his errand boy, to finish his work. The lives of the three young people become intertwined when Bata tries to find the princess in order to take the statue to her, Hector decides to follow his love, and Meret is kidnapped by soldiers. The teens are guided and aided by Taweret, who magically comes to life from her stone statue. Mystery, adventure, ancient religion, and romance all figure into this fictional re-creation of the Persian takeover of Egypt in 525 B.C.E. Marston alternates the voices of the male and female characters. Accurate historical details with only an occasional lapse into modern language combine with a fast-paced story and interesting characters. The devotion to statues and the pantheon of ancient gods may confuse readers unfamiliar with mythology, but all in all, this is a decent story for budding Egyptologists. –-Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, OR, School Library Journal.

The Oracle Betrayed (Oracle Prophecies trilogy) by Catherine Fisher (a stretch admittedly. But it does sound good).

Between what I speak and what people hear yawns a vast divide," says the voice of the god to Mirany, a trusted servant, in Welsh author Fisher's sprawling, atmospheric adventure. Set in an ancient culture that blends elements of Greece and Egypt, the novel shifts between the third-person narratives of Mirany, one of the Nine young women who serve the Oracle, and Seth, a scribe who has promised a map of a royal tomb to a vicious gang of thieves. Archon lives a life of seclusion, receiving commands from the god and passing them on to the people through his Speaker—he has no other human contact. Before the Archon dies in a sacrificial ceremony, he passes a note to Mirany, warning that the Speaker is fabricating the words of the god in order to manipulate the masses and tells Mirany she can trust his musician, Oblek. Meanwhile, the people and the land suffer through a crippling season of drought. As Mirany boldly strikes out on her own to find Oblek, she crosses paths with Seth. Fisher constructs a fascinating cosmology, doubly so because of the gravity she grants it. This is no cautionary yarn about the perils of blind faith: Mirany begins as a doubter, despite her placement in the role of priestess of the Oracle, while the corrupt Seth believes there is a god, contrary to his dark actions. Mirany's journey to faith leads her to realize that the rituals do have meanings beyond the symbolic. A crisp, quick-moving narrative and fully fleshed out characters will keep readers hooked to the remaining installments in this trilogy. --Publisher's Weekly.