Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Walking the Dog by Linda Benson

I'm finishing up my list of dog-centered books, and it's been a very entertaining trip. The timing is working out well, too, because at this moment my son is watching an old Elvis movie in which the King is piloting a helicopter over the Hawaiian Islands. His chopper is currently filled with a charter of dogs, and his only human passenger just spilled an entire box of doggie treats in the floor. Chaos is ensuing, but I digress.

My final read in the dog-lovers  genre is Linda Benson's YA/MG novel, Walking the Dog. The story certainly didn't disappoint me, but, tell me, who could resist this face?

When I saw the cover, I knew I had to see what was inside. Here's a short blurb to whet your appetite:

Jared is smitten when his teacher seats the new girl, Sophie, right next to him. Even with the scar running up the side of her face, Jared thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire fifth grade. But why did she transfer here so late in the year? Rumors say something bad happened to her.

Jared and Sophie become friends while walking the guidance counselor’s new puppy, but when his parents object to this arrangement, Jared fabricates a series of elaborate lies to meet Sophie on the sly. But little brothers can be pests. First Petey lets the orange cat loose at the animal shelter where Jared and Sophie have been secretly walking the dogs. Then Petey turns up missing. 

And Sophie's past finally catches up with her.

Ms. Benton has written a very enjoyable story featuring two young people who are each struggling with their own issues. Jared is dealing with feelings of guilt that center around his younger brother, Petey. Then he voluntarily takes on another load of guilt by going against his parents' wishes with regard to Sophie. I try to avoid spoilers, so you'll have to read the book to see how he handles those feelings.

Although Jared is the main character of the story, Sophie holds her own as a secondary player and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. Her life is one that is all too familiar with many young people today, and I couldn't help but fall in love with her gritty, persevering attitude. My only regret is that she didn't venture out farther on the proverbial limb and become more vocal in her denouncement of the treatment she had been subjected to. But one of the reasons I enjoy reading so much is knowing that all authors add their own unique voice to their work, and I respect and admire Ms. Benson for keeping Sophie true to character.

Walking the Dog has a lot going on in it for such a short read. Ms. Benson did a great job of maintaining several different microcosms throughout the novel and keeping each one separate, but at the same time allowing them to overlap enough to keep everything cohesive. I think it would be quite easy for even the youngest readers of middle grade fiction to follow the story with interest, but varied and contemporary enough to hold the attention of the upper end of the age range as well. 

Walking the Dog is Ms. Benson's fifth novel and her third with Musa Publishing. I find her writing to be smooth and uncluttered, and I sincerely appreciate that ability in a fairly new indie author. I have already added two more of her novels, The Girl Who Remembered Horses, and Six Degrees of Lost, to my ever-growing list. I hope we'll be seeing many more offerings from Ms. Benson, and I wish her well in all of her writing endeavors.

Happy Reading!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Wolven by Di Toft

As I stated earlier, my October reads so far have been canine-centric. That's a good thing, because I love dogs, but Wolven wasn't quite what I was expecting based on the cover art.

The main "dog" character in this tale is actually a creature called a wolven, which is a little difficult to describe. He appears to be a dog, but can morph into a human boy and has telepathic abilities. I was expecting a light, silly read filled with calamitous adventures focused around a boy and his dog. It started out that way, but soon became something I wasn't expecting.

I don't want to include any spoilers, so I'll simply say that had I read this book at the recommended ages of 8-12, I would have had nightmares for months. Admittedly, I'm still a chicken when it comes to the horror genre, and don't watch scary movies at night, alone, but this book had some rather frightening scenes. In contrast, it was also sprinkled with some hilarious descriptions that made me laugh out loud, especially the description of one villain's mouth and its similarity to a cat's behind. But the bad guys in this book were exceedingly bad, and I worried for a while as to where it all might end.

Having said that, I still found it to be a well-written tale and a great read. Timely, too, since Halloween is quickly approaching. But my suggestion is that you read it for yourself and make your own decision.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Little Dog, Lost

Life has been busy lately, so blogging, and writing in general, has taken a temporary back seat. I've also been working  on my Reading Challenge 2012 commitment, so my writing time has been spent reading what others have written. There are just so many hours in a day.

I'm all the way up to the nineties in my book challenge count, so I'm hoping to reach my goal of one hundred books ahead of time. Then I can devote more time to blogging and working on my next novel. Of course, in the middle of trying to finish the one, ideas have begun crowding into my brain for the next one. That can be very distracting, if you're as single-minded as I am.

I have read some very good books lately, though, in my non-productive time. Several of them feature one of my favorite animals, too. I'm speaking of dogs, and even dog-like creatures.

While perusing the choices at my friendly neighborhood library, I discovered Little Dog, Lost, by Marion Dane Bauer, and the title, paired with the charming cover art (by Jennifer A. Bell) was irresistible. I had to bring it home.

I don't recall whether or not I've read any of the many books Ms. Bauer has written, although the odds are good that I have read at least a few because she's been rather prolific and successful as an author. But this one, small book has convinced me that I want to read more of her offerings. It is delightful in every way.

The cover art is adorable and says so much all on its own. A happy scene of a park with blooming flowers and butterflies flitting about. In the background, life is happy with ice cream sharing, dog-walking and bicycle-riding. Even a bakery - who doesn't get a happy fuzzy while gazing at beautifully-decorated cakes?

And in the foreground, a complete contrast to all the sunny happiness, is the most pitiful little dog you'll ever encounter. Everything about him screams out sadness. And the only one with a clue to his misery is a tiny bunny peeking out from the colorful flowers. Are you crying yet? It gets worse once you open the cover.

The book is written in verse, and I think that is a very clever tool the author incorporated, because it serves as a way to encourage reluctant readers to pick it up. The same as graphic novels, the layout of the pages makes it more appealing than pages filled with print. There are also several pages of illustrations sprinkled inside, which earns it additional bonus points to young readers. But the story itself is well worth the short time needed to read it.

The story itself is a bit predictable. As the title tells us, the little dog is lost, but his sorrowful tale begins long before he actually becomes lost in his new neighborhood. He escapes the confines of his yard and can't find his way back. But he isn't the only one lost. The author does a wonderful job of showing us we can be exactly where we've always been, and still be lost. It's a sweet, endearing story of loneliness and longing, and love fulfilled. It works well as a read-alone, but I think it would be lovely as a read-aloud for a class of 3rd thru 6th graders.

I'll be back again - hopefully in a more timely manner than I've managed lately. But I still have several books remaining on my list, and I hope to succeed at NaNoWriMo this year - which I've never managed to complete before.

Happy Reading!