Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mr & Mrs. Bunny: A Fun, Whimsical Read

10-year-old Madeline is used to being the sensible one in her family, and taking care of things for her flighty, hippy parents. So when she comes home from school one day and discovers that they've gone missing, she knows what needs to be done. With the help of Mr. & Mrs. Bunny- a pair of fedora-wearing, rabbit detectives (whom she more or less stumbles upon), a garlic bread-loving marmot, and a host of other quirky characters, she sets out to find her parents, learning important lessons about friendship, family, and herself along the way.

Polly Horvath has long been one of my favourite authors, and her newest book exceeded my expectations. Madeline is a character that both adults and kids will enjoy. She's precocious without being obnoxious, and she's very clearly the grown-up in her family. It's not that her parents don't love her- they do, but they are very live-as-you-please sort of people, and have untraditional priorities. They are not the sort of parents who will come and watch her receive her school award, or be impressed that it's being given to her by the Prince of Whales, but getting a pair of white shoes for the event is important to Madeline, and she needs to get them to agree to give her the money. Madeline is thoughtful, wise, and always in charge, but she also demonstrates moments of vulnerability that remind you she actually is a child.

When some some foxes need the help of Madeline's Uncle Runyon (who just happens to be an expert decoder)  to decode a secret recipe for rabbit, they kidnap Madeline's parents in the hopes that they will lead them to him. Unfortunately, neither of them remember where he lives, which poses a problem for the foxes, but they decide to kidnap them anyway until they remember. The foxes really made me laugh. They are totally over-the-top villains, and it works perfectly for this story. They can speak, and write english (entirely self-taught), and they assume that humans are stupid and easily foiled.

Mr. & Mrs. Bunny, having only recently taken up detecting (all because of the fedoras), are immediately taken by Madeline, and offer to take her case. They also insist that she stay with them until they find her parents, and get the idea that they could possibly keep her as a pet. For the first time, Madeline gets a sense of what it's like to be taken care of, and she's really conflicted. On the one hand, she enjoys being parented, but on the other, she's so used to being the adult, she can't quite trust any adult- human or otherwise to be competent to handle anything.

The Bunny's are extremely entertaining, and adults in particular will appreciate the comical banter between them. Polly Horvath does comedy extremely well, and the satire is extremely clever. Some of the jokes might go over the heads of child readers, but there is plenty about this book that will endear it to them.

I am also a sucker for beautiful language, and this book certainly has that. More than a few times I paused reading to take in a particularly wonderful phrase. The author does not shy away from using sophisticated language, and I actually see this as a plus- not a negative. This is a perfect book for both reading aloud, and it should absolutely find a place on the shelf of every middle-grade reader.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Must Read Middle Grade: Storybound by Melissa Burt

In the land of story, children go to school to learn how to be characters. They learn to be heroes, sidekicks, ladies, or even dastardly villains. They then go on to find work in stories written just for them. In our world, 12-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt out of place. That is until she stumbles onto a mysterious book in the library and is transported into Story. But all is not perfect in Story.With a Tale Keeper watching her every move, and whispers of a secret that involves Una herself- one that could put her- and Story- in grave danger!

Many years ago I read a book by Roderick Townley called The Great Good Thing. I'm not sure if it was ever a bestseller, but I loved it. I loved it because the characters in the book knew that they were characters, and yet when the book was closed, they had lives outside of the story. Storybound  reminded me a great deal of that and of course, of Inkheart, to which it's often compared.

Books like this are wonderful because they take you beyond the book, and make you wonder- what do the characters in our favourite stories do when we aren't reading them? Do they have lives outside of their stories? The characters in Storybound certainly do, and Story feels as real and as possible as ours is.

The characters are brilliantly flushed out, and nobody is exactly what they seem. On first blush, Snow is a spoiled and snotty girl, but as the novel progresses, readers learn how much more there is to her than what we saw. Snow is a lonely girl who feels abandoned by her mother (who has left her to live with a seemingly uncaring aunt and uncle) and just wants to feel important. She also wants to capture the attention of Peter, a boy in Story who is training to be a hero. Many of the other characters in Story are also not what they seem, including Una herself.

The story moves along quickly, and though I was wondering in the beginning where it was leading, it wasn't long before I was wholly engaged. I ended up finishing the last 300 pages in the space of a few hours on a Friday night because I simply couldn't put it down. The author creates some wonderful twists and turns, and I have to admit that I was totally taken by surprise by some of the revelations at the end.

Storybound is a really wonderful quest fantasy, and even better, it`s intelligent! It is not so difficult a read that kids will struggle, but it`s content rich, thoughtful, and a perfect book for reading alone or for reading aloud.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Armchair BEA: Introductions

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
I got into blogging because several of my industry colleagues suggested that I should be sharing my reviews and passion for books.

       2. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?
I am currently reading 3 books: 1. Hunted by Cheryl Reinfield, 2. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers and 3. Outcasts of River Falls by Jacqueline Guest

       3. Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.
I am a total musical theatre nut and it's probably my second biggest passion (next to books) I am also a virtual social butterfly, but much more shy and reserved in real life. 

        4. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
My favourite part about the book blogging community is that it is a community. I love connecting with other people who are huge readers and intelligently and passionately talk/write about the books that they read. I've connected with awesome people this way. 

       5. Has blogging changed the way you think about books and how? 

I'd say yes it has. I've come to think about books more thoughtfully and critically than I did before I blogged. I've learned to go beyond my superficial reaction and consider more carefully my response to a book. 

       6.  Where do you see your blog in five years?
I honestly have no idea. I hope that I am still blogging and have grown it to a sizeable readership. 5 years seems like a really long time from now though, and I'm not sure where life will take me in that time. A lot can happen!

       7. What books do you most enjoy blogging about? 
I blog about the books I enjoy most. I read a lot and will often finish more than one book in a week. My writing time is so limited I'd rather blog about something that is a 4 or 5 star read for me than a book I didn't enjoy.