Book Review: Warren the 13th

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
By Tania del Rio
Illustrated by Will Staehle

My Edition:
Hardcover, 216 pages
2015, Quirk Books
ISBN: 9781594748035
Expected Publication Date: November 24

I received this book for free from Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.

Warren lives in a hotel that his family has run for generations. After the death of his parents, Warren’s lazy Uncle Rupert and mean-spirited Aunt Anaconda take over the hotel and under their neglectful eyes the hotel soon loses all business. But when a mysterious guest suddenly arrives, Warren finds himself in the middle of a battle for control over the hotel against his Aunt, who is searching for a powerful magical item that would grant her ownership over the hotel, despite Warren being the heir. 

First off, let me say this will be a review, Judging Book combo, because the illustrations in this book are divine!

I initially received this as an e-book through NetGalley. Sadly, I couldn’t view it properly on my Nook or Kindle and had to read it on my computer. Even then, I think there was something wrong with  my file, because most of the illustrations seemed to be corrupted. Either that, or because it was an ARC, they didn’t put the finishing touches on. But the colors looked warped, some of the images were pixelated, and a few looked normal. It really affected my experience, because half the magic of this book comes from Staehle’s fantastic artwork!

Luckily, Quirk sent me a copy and boy, the finished product really makes a difference. So I gave the book a re-read. My initial thoughts on the story itself are much the same:

This is a semi-gothic, middle grade fantasy adventure with an atypical main character. Little Warren’s odd looks are refreshingly different, and his positive attitude, pride in his family hotel and the hard work he puts into maintaining it send a great message to young readers.

The adults in the book are fairly standard however – the lazy, clueless Uncle, the abusive, two-faced aunt, and two kindly hotel workers who care for Warren whenever they aren’t cowering away from his aunt. As an adult reader, I think the characters could use a bit more depth, but for younger readers they make fine players in Warren’s story.

The plot of the book moves very fast. I think there were a few too many elements crammed into just over 200 pages and it left some of the larger twists feeling less impactful. Different plot points were over and done with before you really get to explore or absorb them. At times, I found myself feeling a little lost or overwhelmed. I think the plot could use a bit more focus, or the book a slightly larger page count. But there are magical and even semi-steampunk elements that I enjoyed and Warren’s character really piloted the book.

There’s going to be a sequel and I’m definitely interested. Between the plot and the images, the book has a very Tim Burton meets Lemony Snicket feel that I loved. I think this is an excellent choice for younger readers who aren’t quite ready for a lengthier chapter book, or for eager listeners who will appreciate the unique art style.

Now, let me focus on that art style. In short – wow! Seriously, having a physical copy of this book makes all the difference. I can finally appreciate all the images and typography and special touches included in this book, and they all helped pull me into the story. I love the foil on the cover, I love Warren’s creepy little silhouette, I love the full page illustrations at the start of each chapter and bold typography that’s inserted into the regular text. (deep breath) I love the two-column type, I love the simplistic yet bold black, red and white color scheme, I love Warren’s gap-toothed smile, and the puzzles they’ve slipped into the story. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful and enticing middle-grade books I own.

If you like bold graphics and typography, the images alone will probably be enough to get you to check out this book.

Now, without further gushing, here are the pictures I promised:

hello!

Mini Review: The Dragon Hoard

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The Dragon Hoard
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Paperback, 162 pages
1971, Tempo Books
ISBN: 0441166210

The Dragon Hoard is a fairy tale following Prince Jasleth on his quest to win his family a fortune and maybe break the curse set upon he and his sister by the wicked witch, Maligna.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m making a better effort to read more of my Tanith Lee collection and I decided to start with the first novel she published. The Dragon Hoard is a children’s book, but I had fun reading it and would recommend it for fans of fairy tales (or Tanith Lee), regardless of age. Maligna puts a curse on Jasleth (love his name) and his sister Goodness on their birthday, which will last for one year – he will turn into a raven for an hour each day, but he will not know when it will happen, and his sister will be too good. Goodness immediately begins giving away all the king’s wealth to the servants and poor people of his kingdom. The king sends Jasleth on a quest to win them back their fortune before Goodness leaves them begging.

There are many familiar fairy tale elements mixed together in this story and Tanith weaves them with vivid simplicity. I had no problem imagining her world and its goings on, despite the shorter page count. I loved her characters too – Maligna could be your cliche fairy tale witch, but she has some original elements, like the bats living in her hair and her penchant for riding evil, winged chariots without paying her bills for previous rides. I wish I could draw, or find fanart for this book, because her characters are so wild and fun that I’d love to see them animated. There’s quite a bit of wit in here too – I found myself chuckling more than once.

It’s a quick read and I think it would be a good start for children who are learning to master chapter books and enjoy magical tales. Could also be a great bedtime story to read to your little ones.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Aesop’s Fables

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This is my weekly post where I choose to appreciate a book for its cover art or overall design – to me, a well designed book is like a piece of art. We all judge book covers to some extent. Personally, it’s usually a title/cover combination that pulls me in when I’m browsing in a bookstore. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books, or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers (looking at you, Penguin!) wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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I scored this lovely edition from Book Outlet for a couple bucks – I couldn’t resist. I was pleasantly surprised to find it has thick, glossy pages. I knew it was illustrated, but it was also nice to see just how many there were and that there are some line illustrations as well as full color ones. It’s published by Fall River Classics, 2014, ISBN: 9781454910978.

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Mini Review: Nightbird

Nightbird
By Alice Hoffman

My Edition:
ARC e-book, 100 pages
2015, Wendy Lamb Books
ISBN: 9780385389587 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: March 10, 2015

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.

From NetGalley: Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Clockwork Three

This is my weekly post where I choose to appreciate a book for its cover art or overall design – to me, a well-designed book is like a piece of art. We all judge book covers to some extent. Personally, it’s usually a title/cover combination that pulls me in when I’m browsing in a bookstore. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books, or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers (looking at you, Penguin!) wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Nostalgia Reads: Holiday Stories

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Since it’s December I wanted to do a sort of holiday post – in reviewing my bookshelf, I realized there’s a lack of holiday-themed books, but I found a few cuties from my childhood to reminisce about.

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Search for Wondla

This is my weekly post where I choose to appreciate a book for its cover art or overall design – to me, a well-designed book is like a piece of art. We all judge book covers to some extent. Personally, it’s usually a title/cover combination that pulls me in when I’m browsing in a bookstore. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books, or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers (looking at you, Penguin!) wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Book Review: What-the-Dickens

What-the-Dickens
By Gregory Maguire

My Edition:
Paperback, 295 pages
2008, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780769641474

From the back of the book: From the darkest night, amidst a terrifying storm, Dinah’s parents go missing. With supplies dwindling and worry growing, Dinah and her brother and sister listen to their cousin Gage tell them an unlikely story – about tooth fairies, known as skibbereen, who are living in warring colonies right in the neighborhood. Dinah is skeptical, but as the story unfolds and the storm rages, she begins to believe.

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