Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Diviners was SO good, I only put it down for…

…this guy:



And only because he is so good at looking at me with such a cute blend of sweetness and judgment.

divinersIf Libba Bray’s latest can rival my adorable puppy for my attention, you have to know that it is seriously good. I have not read something so gripping and intricately plotted for quite a while. I can honestly say that every single page held my attention, and there were many places when I stopped to reread just to enjoy Bray’s turn of phrase. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the trilogy.

Set in the 1920s in New York City, The Diviners follows Ohio native, Evie, who could not be happier to be sent away to the city after an embarrassing incident in her small town. She has dreamed of the freedom and excitement of New York for as long as she can remember. She goes to stay with her Uncle Will, the curator of a museum of supernatural objects, which is fitting because Evie has an unusual gift. She is able to read people’s past experiences whenever she holds an object that belongs to them. Soon after her arrival, a series of murders rock the city, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Evie, her Uncle, and his assistant, are drawn into the investigation and it isn’t long before they realize that a terrible force of evil is only beginning its dark work.

An amazingly rich cast of characters is a big part of what makes this book so captivating. There’s Memphis, a young man who has lost the ability he once had to heal people through touch, and his brother Isaiah, who can see the future. There’s Theta, one of Ziegfeld’s chorus girls, who guards her own secrets, Sam, a pickpocket searching for his mother, and Uncle Will’s assistant, Jericho, is not what he seems. I connected to all of their stories. Bray weaves everything together so masterfully that you get just enough of each person’s story to fulfill you but still leave you curious and eager for more in the next book.

The city and the incredibly freaky old mansion where Naughty John, the serial killer, makes his lair, come off as characters in themselves, they are so richly evoked. I love a book with a strong sense of place, where you can really sink into the time and the feeling of the setting. The Diviners has this in spades.

I expect you’ll also be charmed at the way that Bray manages to get some lightness into a very dark and at times, deeply unsettling story. The dialogue is snappy, and Evie, our heroine, is so plucky and peppy that you will “pos-i-tute-ly” love her.

So unless you’ve got an 11-week-old puppy to pull you away from this book, I don’t imagine you’ll be able to do much other than keep on reading once you start The Diviners. One more thing. Don’t read it when you’re home alone. That would be a Very Bad Idea.

The Diviners is published by Little, Brown.

Mischief (barely) managed: our new addition

It’s Family Day in Ontario, so it’s just the right moment to share some exciting news. We have a new addition. Here he is:



His name is Gryffin, after (you guessed it): Gryffindor. We’ve had him officially sorted, and luckily, he does not need to be renamed Slythery or Puffball. He is a Lakeland Terrier. We are terrier folk, and there will only ever be one perfect Irish Terrier for us, so we decided to try a smaller, but equally sassy variety this time around.

It turns out he is brave of heart, having survived the first 48 hours under the same roof as his very angry Siamese brother. (Pretty sure that one is Slytherin, mostly because of the way he stares at Gryffin with Draco-like malice. He is plotting something, that’s for sure).

Just for fun, mostly to serve as a forever-in-progress scrapbook of Gryffin’s days, I’ve started a dog blog. It’s called mischief managed. I am sure it will be filled with tales of adventure and friendship and courage and laughter, in all ways worthy of the great books that inspired the boy’s name. I promise Shelf Elf will not turn into a mommy-dog blog, but surely there will always be a place for pictures like this, right?



Mischief managed!

Feeling the love: Jumping for Cybils (and Valentine’s) Joy

photoAwesome picture, right? That’s me and my hubby doing a heart-shaped jump for joy. (And yes, that’s our sassy old-man Siamese stalking away in the background. He was not impressed by our acrobatics). Earlier this week, we went to do a photo session at jumpshots, an amazing studio in Toronto that is the brainchild of Margaret Mulligan. She is as lovely as she is talented. If you’re in Toronto and you’re in search of a fun way to spend an evening, I can’t think of a better suggestion than a photo shoot at jumpshots.

Today is not just Valentine’s Day (reason enough to jump around, all heart-shaped), it is also the day when the Cybils 2012 Winners are announced. Here’s the link. I was on the Fantasy and Science Fiction YA panel this year, and it was a treat to be able to discuss the finalists with such a smart group of bookish people. I think you’ll find our winner, Seraphina, is definitely worthy of a heart-jump.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy Cybils Day!

Scaredy Elf meets The Diviners

Folks, have you seen the book trailer for Libba Bray’s The Diviners? Well sheesh, I saw it the other day and I thought, “That is the SCARIEST book trailer I have ever seen!” followed immediately by, “I must get my elfy hands on that book, now.” I guess that is what is called effective marketing. Side note, it is no surprise that I am the sort of person who knows she has no business watching scary things on TV when she is home alone, and yet cannot resist said scary things and so ends up having to check closets and the basement and behind half-open doors before going to bed. For monsters. And/or zombies. And/or bad people.

Even writing a post about this while I am home alone is giving me goosebumps. I’m warning you. Do not watch the following trailer if you are at all inclined to get really afraid of imaginary things, or if you have a tendency to get freaky twisted nursery-rhyme type music stuck in your head, particularly at bedtime.

Thanks Libba. Thanks a lot.

(BTW, the book rocks, and it is very scary indeed. Review soon).

I heart Binky, Maru’s brainy cousin

binkyIf you ask me, Binky is what might happen to Maru if he focused less on boxes, and more on the possibility that aliens could be trying to attack his family’s space station (house). Those who know me, know how much Maru means to me, so that is perhaps all I really need to say to tell you how much I love Binky, the crazy cartoon kitty, created by the always stylish, super-talented Ashley Spires.

But honestly, I have many more reasons why I think The Binky Adventures are pretty much purr-fect (absolutely could not help it). Let’s make a list, shall we?

1. It’s got huge kid appeal, for boys and girls. Not just sayin’ this folks, I’ve got the banged-up, always coming-and-going copies in my school library to prove it. Some girls might be picking it up because Binky is just so darn cute, but they’ll stay because he is hilarious. There’s sweetness, but there’s also a little potty humour. In Binky Takes Charge, Gordon the dog may be leaving coded messages for the aliens (flies) in his business (um… poop). Now that will make kids laugh.

2. An average kid reader could finish a Binky book in one sitting, not rushing, just having a good time.

3. Spires’ artwork has such clean lines and a neutral colour palette that the expressions on the characters’ faces really stand out. Also, the uncluttered design of the panels will help readers to hone in on the story all the more. Plus, there’s something about Spires’ illustration style that feels modern and hip – and we all know how important it is for kids these days to feel modern and hip (*wink wink*). Perhaps I should say that Binky will score their hipster parents’ seal of approval?

4. It is becoming harder and harder for me to track down and stock enough graphic novels for the library that are appropriate for smart, book-devouring younger readers. I’m talking about kids in Grade 2/3/4 who are desperate to leap onto the GN bandwagon and who are really not ready for the content, length, and language in some popular GN series. Binky is perfect for that kind of kid. So not only are hipster parents cheering, it also gets the Cool Librarian’s Seal of Approval.

5. When you read a Binky book, you feel like Ashley Spires gets how cats think. Ask any cat lover and she (or he!) will tell you that their cat could be Binky, and this is at once thrilling and terrifying. (Now that I think about it, Yoyo has been spending more and more time lately lying on top of the heating vent. Perhaps he thinks the aliens are going to break in via the magic hot air?)


The little rotter

In conclusion, Binky is for everyone from Grade 2 right on up to your crazy cat lady relative. Read all four and you’ll heart Binky too.

Binky Takes Charge and all the others in the series are published by Kids Can Press.