The Wild World Handbook: Creatures by Andrea Debbink

Information

Goodreads: The Wild World Handbook: Creatures
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Quirk Books for review
Publication Date: November 2, 2021

Official Summary

Packed with real-life tales of adventure, breathtaking illustrations, and practical tools, this handbook is an inspiring guide for the next generation of climate activists, conservationists, and nature lovers.

We share this incredible planet we call home with countless living creatures, from butterflies and falcons to koalas and dolphins. And just like us, animals everywhere are faced with the growing threat of climate change.

Featuring seven categories of creatures, this handbook offers a roadmap for change and an invitation to explore the outdoors with fascinating facts, hope-filled stories, and hands-on STEAM activities. Each chapter highlights the biographies of scientists, artists, and adventurers from diverse backgrounds who have used their passion and skills to become courageous advocates for animals around the world.

The second book in a middle-grade series for young activists and conservationists, The Wild World Handbook: Creatures empowers readers to appreciate and protect Earth’s wildlife.

Inside you will find:
• Seven incredible categories of creatures
• Fourteen inspiring biographies
• Seven kid-friendly DIY activities
• Seven fun field trips
• And much more! 

Star Divider

Review

I would not say I am an “animal person.” I like them well enough and vaguely find some cute and some interesting, but I have never been the type of person who read extensively about animals, loved zoos, or wanted to work with animals. So it was with great delight I discovered this book is FASCINATING and I read it cover to cover in two days.

Part of the book’s brilliance is the variety of information: fun facts, biographies of people who help animals, information on specific species, crafts, and learning activities you can do. I never felt like I was reading the same thing or had to slog through.

I also love the emphasis on how kids can continue to learn about animals and become helpers themselves, which is motivational. Stories of animals that HAVE gone extinct and others that have been saved help illustrate the importance of this.

The beautiful illustrations also make the book fun and compelling to read. I highly recommend this.

Briana
3 Stars

Little Kid, Big City!: London by Beth Beckman and Holley Maher

Information

Goodreads: Little Kid, Big City!: London
Series: Little Kid, Big City!
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: June 15, 2020

Official Summary

Curious kids will find plenty of sights, smells, and tastes to explore in this illustrated, choose-your-own-adventure travel guide series. Next stop: London!

If a kid were given the opportunity to lead a tour through London, where would they go? Would they hop on the Tube to visit Buckingham Palace, watch a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, or pass the time with Big Ben? By following prompts at the end of each page in Little Kid, Big City, the options are endless!

In this series, an illustrated travel guide collides with an interactive format, allowing children to imagine, create, and explore their own routes through the greatest cities on the planet. With gorgeous illustrations, lovable characters, and dozens of different forks in the road, Little Kid, Big City is a new way for kids to take part in their travels and invent their own adventures.

Star Divider

Review

Little Kid, Big City!: London is exactly in the same vein as Little Kid, Big City!: New York, which I loved and reviewed previously. The book is set up as a kind of choose-your-own adventure. Each page describes a tourist attraction or thing to eat or do in the city, and then there’s a choice at the bottom asking what you want to try next.

The beauty is that book works both as a fun read – the interactive element makes you feel as if you’re travelling, even if you’re just sitting at home – but it’s also functional as an actual travel guide if you truly want to plan a trip. It has tongs of suggestions of popular things to do, and the back of the book has extra material and information to really round out your plans. And while, obviously, the book is about kid-friendly attractions, it has great suggestions for everyone.

I had fun with the New York book because I’ve been there several times, and even while I’ve done many of the things recommended, I haven’t done all of them. I’ve never been to London at all, however, so this was a really fun book to pretend I was on a trip because, you know, the pandemic; I haven’t been anywhere overly exciting in a while!

Both books are fun and informative, and the illustrations are really welcoming and light-hearted. I trust any new books in the series will be just the same.

Note: Some reviewers on Goodreads have pointed out some factual errors. Again, I haven’t been to London, so these aren’t necessarily things I would notice, but it’s worth looking into, particularly if you actually do start planning a trip based on the book. (I did notice myself that Stonehenge is not in London and probably should not be included in the book.)

Briana

Little Kid, Big City!: New York City by Beth Beckman and Holley Maher

Little Kid Big City New York book photo

Information

Goodreads: Little Kid, Big City!: New York City
Series: Little Kid, Big City
Source: Review copy from publisher (Quirk Books)
Published: February 1, 2021

Official Summary

If you could have an adventure in New York City, where would you go? Curious readers will find plenty of sights, smells, and tastes to explore in this illustrated pick-your-own-path travel guide series.

Would you walk the Brooklyn Bridge for a huge slice of pizza, see the dazzling lights in Times Square, or visit the whale at the Museum of Natural History? With Little Kid, Big City!: New York you can create your own itinerary by choosing where to go next at the end of every page! Whether you’re an armchair traveler or a real-life tourist, here are dozens of ways to explore iconic sights, venture to nearby locales, and wander off the beaten path. 

In this first book in the Little Kid, Big City series—in which travel guides collide with an interactive format—kids are empowered to imagine, create, and explore their own routes through the world’s greatest cities. Featuring whimsical illustrations, lovable characters, an invaluable resources section, and a foldout map, Little Kid, Big City has everything you need to invent your own adventure! 

Star Divider

Review

Little Kid, Big City!: New York is a whimsically entertaining, yet also useful, guide to the sights of New York City.

The book is formatted as a pick-your-path book, so you can imagine yourself going through a day of touring New York, making choices at each stop. For instance, do you want to check out some of New York’s famous bagels next, or do you want to head to a zoo? This structure makes the book fun to read even if you have absolutely no intention of going to New York City in the near future because you can simply pretend you’re there! (Super useful during COVID-19 but also in general.)

However, the book also has merits as an actual guide to the city. I’ve been to NYC a number of times myself, but the book definitely pointed out places I haven’t gone yet that I’d love to add to my list. And, in addition to the main book, the back includes a list of sites that are near the featured ones, so you can 100% use it as an actual reference guide to help you plan an actual trip. (All suggestions are also kid-friendly, as the title of the book implies, though of course anyone can enjoy them.)

Finally, the book also includes little fun facts about each site, so you can learn interesting tidbits while reading/planning your trip!

I love the formatting of the book and think this is an immensely fun idea for an entire series featuring different cities. (Quirk Books plans to publish a guide to London next.) I definitely recommend it!

Briana
5 stars

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

Bookish and the Beast cover

Information

Goodreads: Bookish and the Beast
Series: Once Upon a Con #3
Source: Library
Published: August 4, 2020

Official Summary

In the third book in Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, Beauty and the Beast is retold in the beloved Starfield universe.

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

Star Divider

Review

I enjoyed both Geekerella and The Princess and the Fan Girl, so it was only to be expected I’d pick up the third book in the Once Upon a Con series (though they’re really companion novels, and you could probably read them in any order and understand them). Yet after finishing Bookish and the Beast, which ought to have been a strong contender for my favorite book in the series since I LOVE “Beauty and the Beast” retellings…I find myself with little to say about it besides it was a perfectly enjoyable read.

Part of the fun of this series is how it revels in nerd/fan/con culture, and that’s certainly present in Bookish and the Beast, though the action not does occur at a con as it does in the first two books. References to Poston’s invented Starfield fandom abound, of course, but there are also nods to everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as a general love of science fiction and fantasy. Readers who also love these fandoms will feeo right at home in this book.

In terms of actual plot…the book is fine. It’s obviously a looser interpretation of “Beauty and the Beast,” since the protagonist isn’t literally trapped with Vance Reigns. The set-up for how they end up spending together did feel contrived to me– both why Vance has ended up in this random town and why Rosie has to spend a bunch of time in his house.

Spoiler Warning This Paragraph: Basically I think it’s ridiculous that 1) anyone would assume Vance was cheating with Elle because they…happened to be in the same car together. She’s dating his coworker. Clearly they know each other and possibly hang out sometimes. 2) Rosie is paying off an expensive debt by organizing a home library, especially when no one has any idea whether she’s qualified to complete such a task.

I get that part of the appeal of retellings like this might be a suspension of disbelief, or just the fantasy that such wild things might come to be (hence the “falling in love with a famous person who never knew you existed before” plot), but I could have done with slightly more realism.

The book really is fun, and I had a good time reading it, but it didn’t stand up to the previous two books for me, either in plot or in romance. I’m looking forward to reading more of Poston’s work, but this does feel like a good close to the Once Upon a Con series because I’m not sure I would read more of this particular series.

Briana
3 Stars

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Melanie R. Anderson and Lisa Kroger

Information

Goodreads: Monster, She Wrote
Series: None
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: September 17, 2019

Official Summary

Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.

Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.

Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories. 

Star Divider

Review

Monster, She Wrote gives readers a captivating overview of the history of women writing horror and speculative fiction, referencing big names like Mary Shelley and Toni Morrison while acknowledging a large body of writers who have generally been overlooked by academia and general readers alike.  Written in a chatty voice with fun illustrations and short sections addressing biographical information and recommended reads, the book is accessible and welcoming.

Despite the approachable tone, one can clearly tell the amount of research and personal knowledge that went into Murder, She Wrote. Both authors have PhDs in literature, and while the book might seem superficially casual, it is clear it can only have been written by someone with a deep knowledge of the field of horror fiction.  Picking the most influential and interesting women writers from each time period is its own large task, while references to essays and nonfictions works reveal the authors’ knowledge of scholarship surround these women.

The one downfall of the book is that, personally, I find it difficult to read a few hundred pages of short biographies, no matter how interesting the subjects, yet this is a book I think is best looked at as an overview of the field.  That is, it makes sense to read the whole thing, rather than to read only a section or otherwise use it as a reference book.  I’m not sure there’s a solution to this; changing it would have resulted in an entirely different book.

That said, I enjoyed it immensely, from the anecdotes about the authors’ lives to the glimpses into the evolution of horror writing to the summaries of books I might read in the future.  I certainly got some ideas of novels to add to my TBR list from this, which is always a win.

Briana
4 stars

Iron Magicians: The Search for the Magic Crystal by Cétrix & Yuio (ARC Review)

Iron Magicians

Information

Goodreads: Iron Magicians: The Search for the Magic Crystal
Series: Comic Quests #5
Source: Quirk Books for review
Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Official Summary

This middle-grade graphic novel series makes YOU the hero of a fantasy quest—pick your panel, find items, cast spells, defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and play through new storylines again and again!

Step inside a steampunk re-imagining of nineteenth-century Paris, where magic and machines exist in harmony. The Eiffel Tower—a secret weapon built with magic—is almost complete, but the crystals that power the structure are missing! Find the hidden crystals and survive your dangerous mission.

HERE’S HOW TO PLAY:
• Select your character and begin your quest.
• Numbers are hidden in every panel. Decide where you want to go next, and then flip to the panel with the matching number.
• Solve puzzles, cast spells, and defeat enemies in your quest for success. Only after you’ve collected all the crystals will your journey be complete.
• If you fail your mission, just start again from the beginning! You can play the book again and again, making different choices every time.

Remember, this is no ordinary comic book—what happens next is up to you!

Star Divider

Review

An interactive comic book seems obvious, now that I’ve read one, but I’d never heard of one until Quirk Books included Iron Magicians on their Fall 2019 release list.  (In fact, there are apparently four other interactive comics in this series—not related to Iron Magicians; they’re just other interactive comics—and somehow all have managed to escape my notice.)  Now that I have read Iron Magicians, however, I think this may be my new favorite concept.

The book was, however, more intense than I anticipated, almost more a game than a story with a pick-your-path element.  I took the book on a train with me, expecting it to be an entertaining way to pass the time, only to realize I was expected to keep track of my skill points, inventory, spells, and gather energy (gathering 30 energy points is your ultimate goal), and I hadn’t brought a pencil.  (You can write in the book itself, and there are multiple pages to do so, but I ultimately elected, once off the train, to use a piece of paper.)  You’re also supposed to use a crayon to spin on two different wheels at the back of the book.  One wheel determines your skill points and whether you win or lose battles.  The other is a compass.  Not having a crayon or a suitable substitute, or a good way to spin one on a train anyway, I ended up fudging the numbers and generally assuming I won battles so I could move on.  Basically, if you want to read this book, come prepared!

Ultimately, I really did feel immersed, more so than with more traditional pick-your-path books.  The illustrations helped, not only because the book is so visual, but also because the author plays around with having readers, for example, go into a room and then choose different people to talk to, just to chat.  Some panels are also just you walking down the hall or looking at a door.  Then you need to go to a different panel to move down the hall or enter the door.  I got seriously lost in the swamp, coming back to the same panels again or again.  Basically, there’s a sense of “walking” or interacting with the space I haven’t gotten from most pick-your-path books.  There are also several riddles and codes.  Some I found fairly straightforward, which is fair since I think this is technically a middle grade book, and some I genuinely had to think about for a bit to solve.  The challenge was great.

The story lines are interesting and kept me engaged, but you’re definitely not reading for plot here.  I do think it’s more game-like than other takes on this concept, with some RPG components and the ideas of fighting opponents, gathering objects, etc.

If you like interactive books, I highly recommend Iron Magicians.  It took me several hours over a couple day to complete, and there’s enough in the book I think I could read it at least one more time without getting bored, though I do always semi-cheat and try to look at extra paths.  I can’t wait to see more from this author and maybe more in this series!

5 stars Briana

My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

My Lady's Choosing

Information

Goodreads: My Lady’s Choosing
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: April 3, 2018

Official Summary

The romance novel that lets you pick your path, follow your heart, and find happily ever after

You are the plucky but penniless heroine in the center of eighteenth-century society, courtship season has begun, and your future is at hand. Will you flip forward fetchingly to find love with the bantering baronet Sir Benedict Granville? Or turn the page to true love with the hardworking, horse-loving highlander Captain Angus McTaggart? Or perhaps race through the chapters chasing a good (and arousing) man gone mad, bad, and scandalous to know, Lord Garraway Craven? Or read on recklessly and take to the Continent as the “traveling companion” of the spirited and adventuresome Lady Evangeline? Or yet some other intriguing fate? Make choices, turn pages, and discover all the daring delights of the multiple (and intertwining!) storylines. And in every path you pick, beguiling illustrations bring all the lust and love to life.

Star Divider

Review

I don’t normally read romance novels, but I’m a big fan of choose your own adventure books, so picking up this one was an easy decision for me.   I read the e-book, which conveniently allows you to just click the link to your next adventure but does not really allow you to decide you actually wanted to make the other decision and backtrack.  😉 Overall, however, it was a fun experience.

The general idea is that you are a twenty-eight year old woman of the nineteenth century; it’s now or never for you to find a husband before you’re doomed to spinsterhood.  The book presents three main options: a rich lord with a biting tongue, a kindly Scotsman, and a brooding Romantic hero who makes Byron look tame.  The nod to different romance genres is pretty fun. You have a Pride & Prejudice-esque story, a Scottish romance, and a Gothic romance.  Even better, there are actually other choices for romance along the way, including one romance with a woman.

The number of paths was really quite impressive. Oftentimes these types of books give you kind of an illusion of choice, but the paths ultimately converge, but I got consistently different results with each choice I made as I read and reread the book.  I also appreciated that it really is a fluffy romance, and I didn’t end up dead or horrifically maimed or anything I associate with a lot of the choose your own adventure books from my childhood.  It’s just romance around every corner!

I admit, however, to being slightly stressed by some of the options, as if there were actually a “right” answer.  I mean, it’s a romance book, so do I choose “throw caution to the wind and throw my body at the dashing Scot?”  Or do I remember that I am a proper young lady of the nineteenth century and try to reign in my passion?  Somehow it seems like a trick. 😉

Finally, I enjoyed that the book is a bit tongue-in-cheek about romance novel plots and language.  There’s a whole scenario where you hook up with a postal worker, and everything is describe with postal puns.  If you want to see ridiculous romance euphemisms for male and female body parts, My Lady’s Choosing has you covered.

Overall, this book is basically what you would expect it to be, and it’s good at it.  If you like romance and what to feature as the protagonist in your own nineteenth century novel, pick this one up.

Content Note: This is probably self-evident, but we review a lot of middle grade and young adult books here, so I just want to be clear.  This is an adult romance novel and includes many explicit sex scenes.

4 stars Briana

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella

Information

Goodreads: Geekerella
Series: Starfield #1
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: April 4, 2017

Official Summary

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Star Divider

Review

I love fairy tale retellings, but if you had asked me before I read Geekerella if it were possible for someone to write a take on “Cinderella” that felt fresh, I probably would have said no.  The plot line is so well-known and in some ways so straightforward that I don’t even read a lot of retellings of it anymore; I tend to turn towards more obscure fairy tales.  However Poston’s take on geeky Cinderella who meets her Prince Charming at a con does put a lively twist on the tale, even as it follows the well-worn lines of the story. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun reading a book in a long time.

The book raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a “true fan” of something and explores the good and bad sides of geek culture. I’ve seen some arguments that the premise is absurd because geeks aren’t even outcasts anymore, and while it’s true that geek culture has never been more mainstream, I think it’s important to note here that Elle and her ilk are hardcore fans of the fictional show Starfield.  We’re not talking the type of fan who, say, just really likes The Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. We’re talking about the type of fan who speaks Elvish or can tell you what color earring someone was wearing in in scene 3 of episode 12.  I think these type of fans do still get side-eyed for being a bit weird.

However, ultimately the story is just pure fun, and I don’t think readers should over-think it.  The most common description I’ve seen is “super cute,” and this hits the right note.  So, while parts do read as “unrealistic” (I mean, a teenage fashion designer driving a vegan food truck named the Magic Pumpkin who goes on a badass mission with it, mowing over barriers at a country club does strain credulity), that’s part of the appeal. Geekerella is a crazy, improbable, but amazingly enviable adventure where the geeky girl next door has a chance to nab a movie star boyfriend who shares her geeky interests! So, yeah, cute.

This book will resonate with readers who have ever felt out-of-place or who ever just dreamed of something this unlikely happening to them. “Cinderella” is all about the right circumstances converging to make someone’s life brighter than it had been before, and Poston taps into that to write a compelling take that walks the line between normal high school life and fantasy. Definitely a recommended read from me.

Note: Goodreads tells me this is the first book in a series, but it definitely reads as a standalone. It looks as if book 2 might be a companion book more than a sequel.

4 stars Briana

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Information

Goodreads: Hollow City
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children #2
Source: Quirk Books
Published: February 24, 2015

Official Summary

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

Review

Note: I was sent a beautiful box set of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series for review by Quirk Books, as you can see in the photo above. In addition to the three books, this box set comes with a collector’s postcard featuring some of the characters, using the type of vintage photographs found throughout the books themselves. My review of the first book can be read here, and this post is just a review of book 2. Bonus content in this edition of Hollow City includes: a sneak preview of the third Peculiar Children Novel, Exclusive Q&A with Ransom Riggs, and never-before-seen peculiar photography.


Hollow City begins in medias res, right where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children left off.  There is some minor exposition to help jog the memories of readers who might have read the first book a while ago, but mostly things start at a gallop, which I liked.  The children are on the run/on a quest to save their headmistress (odd how those two things overlap), and starting the book at a fast pace builds momentum that continues throughout the novel.

I liked that in this installment Riggs shows readers more of the world of the peculiars.  The children leave their island loop and get to visit a variety of other loops and places on the mainland.  We also get to learn more of the history and legends of the peculiars.  Some things just seemed highly convenient (you can telephone loops?), but overall seeing more is fascinating.

There’s also some more character development here of Miss Peregrine’s charges.  As those who read book 1 know, Miss Peregrine is out of commission, which means that the children are in charge.  They have to make decisions and take actions without the ability to consult an adult or the duty to obey any adults, which helps draw out each of their personalities.  Unfortunately, I still think Jacob is a bit of a flat main character (even though he is developing his peculiar abilities, which, thankfully, are more complex than I was led to believe in book 1), and I still think the romance he has with Emma lacks any chemistry whatsoever.  However, the secondary characters really shine here, and it was great getting to see more of them.

One of my struggles with the photography in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was that I didn’t think the photos Riggs chose to represent the characters always matched the character descriptions in the book.  I actually thought that his photo-picking abilities were more on point in Hollow City, though there is a shift here away from photos of people (though there still are many) to photos of things like zeppelins and horses and houses.  Overall, my feeling is still that including vintage photographs is a unique concept for a YA series, but I could really take or leave them.  A photo of zeppelins, in the end, just doesn’t add much to my experience of reading the book.

This is one of those books that, objectively, I think counts as a pretty strong fantasy novel.  On a personal level, I didn’t connect with it quite as much as I hoped, but I think others would enjoy it and feel confident recommending it. The ending also takes enough of a twist that I’m curious to see how things wrap up in book 3.

3 Stars Briana

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

Information

Goodreads: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods
Series: Warren the 13th #2
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: March 21, 2017

Official Summary

This sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye begins soon after the first book’s conclusion.Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles. Once again, you can expect stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page along with plenty of nonstop action and adventure!

Review

I immensely enjoyed the first book in this series, Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, and I was excited to join back up with the characters for another adventure in this sequel.

I am not among the alarmists who believe that print books will cease to be produced, but in an age where e-books and digital materials continue to grow in popularity, I’ve been thinking a lot about what would persuade people to buy a print book rather an e-version.  The Warren the 13th series is one answer to that question for me.  The books are not only about the story, but about the design, from the feel of the book in your hands (square! with a great heft to it) to the way the pages are laid out.  These book are ones you’ll want to take off the shelf and flip through, if not to reread, at least to look at.  They’re beautiful, and the design adds to the experience.

In this installment, Warren and company get stuck in the formidable Malwoods–home of some the world’s most powerful and frightening witches.  I really liked that the witch theme continued in this book, even as some new magical elements and creatures were introduced.  The book has the right balance of continuity and novelty.  Similarly, readers get to see all their old favorite characters, and a couple new ones are added to the mix, which I think may be a theme as the series continues.

The plot is fun and has a delightful number of surprises.  I was kept guessing about what was going to happen next.  While I generally expect the protagonists of middle grade novels to win, I like when I can’t quite figure out how they will achieve it.  As with the first book, I think this one does have space to be a bit more interactive for the readers than it is, but there are a couple riddles and one quick code that Warren has to figure out  as he journeys to save his beloved hotel.

This series is fun, unique, and beautifully illustrated.  I look forward to reading the next adventure Warren takes on.

4 stars Briana