Book Review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

This book revolves around James Clyde, plucky orphan, and his two friends, siblings Mary and Ben (also orphans). The three, recently adopted by crotchety Anne Brown, are looking forward to visiting with James’ elderly grandfather, Wiltmore Clyde, over the Christmas holidays. Wiltmore has always told James and his friends stories of the legendary land of Orchestra, where three invaluable diamonds are hidden, diamonds that can grant wishes.

The appearance of a sinister man in black heralds an attack on Wiltmore’s house by mysterious cloaked monsters, and James finds out that the stories his grandfather has been telling him all this time have been true. Orchestra is a real place, the diamonds are real, and James is in fact the long-lost heir to the throne. James (with the diamond his grandfather has been hiding since he was a baby) flees with Mary and Ben to Orchestra, where they find themselves embroiled in a long-running war for the rule of the legendary land, and possession of the magical diamonds.

I don’t normally review children’s books, nor do I have children, so I am reduced to giving an adult’s perspective on this book. The bones of the story are interesting, with flavors of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, Peter Pan, and even the Terminator (yes, the movie, I kid you not). The cloaked monsters, the Dakotas are frankly creepy, and you get the impression  of quite a bit of background waiting to flesh out the story.

Along those lines, some additional world building would have been helpful. The story throws you right in, with little explanation. I generally enjoy getting thrown into the middle of the chaos, but the book does little to explain things later on. James, Mary, and Ben know all about Orchestra and the diamonds, so there is no vehicle for the reader to learn much about the world. It feels like the author has a complete world built in his imagination, but you are only seeing the smallest sliver. The book feels like the beginning of a series, so future books could help to add depth to the land of Orchestra.

However, I think this book will be enjoyed by the ages it was intended for–kids around 10-12. The plot is simple enough for younger readers to not get bogged down, and the resulting fast pace will keep their attention. There are some violent and scarier scenes in the book, but nothing really over a PG rating. Kids who enjoy fantasy books would be a good match for this one.

Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Wood by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

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

This is the second book to feature the weird looking protagonist Warren the 13th. In the first book, Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, Warren had to fight off an evil witch to regain control of his family’s historic hotel. Click on the link above for my full review. Necessary caveat: Spoilers ahead for the previous Warren the 13th book.


So now Warren is the happy proprietor of the Warren Hotel, which is the only hotel in the world to move around on legs, bringing its guests to new and exciting locations. His friends Petula (the trainee witch hunter) and Sketchy (the octopus monster) help him run the hotel alongside his buffoon of an uncle, his kindly tutor, the piratical chef, and Petula’s mother, world famous witch hunter and chief of security.

When word gets out that a famous witch hunter is living aboard the Warren, the queen of the witches sets a bounty on the hotel and everyone in it. When the hotel is hijacked and brought into the Malwoods (where witches live, of course), Warren and his friends must race to save the hotel and one another.

I have to say that I really enjoy these books. Even though they are geared towards children, the plot and dialogue still sit well with older readers like me. Combine that with the Edward Gorey-style artwork, and this is simply a wonderfully fun book. del Rio and Staehle have carried through the puzzles and riddles from the previous book, and readers are invited to solve them themselves as the book goes on. The plot has a surprising amount of layers to it for a children’s book, and let’s not forget that as this is a kid’s book, we can count on a happy ending no matter what.

I would recommend this series for someone looking for a children’s book that is a bit off the beaten path. If you’re tired of happy bunnies and racing turtles and what not, this might be the book for you.


An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday the 13th Book Review: Warren the 13th by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle


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

Happy Friday the 13th!

I don’t usually really or review children’s books, but after getting a gander at the artwork for this book (I’m a huge Edward Gorey fan), I just couldn’t resist. And I wasn’t disappointed. The book is recommended for readers age 8-12, but us older folks can find a lot to like in the story as well.

Warren the 13th is a young, vaguely ghoulish-looking boy who helps to run the family hotel (The Warren), does all the odd jobs his ne’er-do-well uncle is too lazy to do, and tried to avoid his evil aunt, Annaconda. Since the tragic death of Warren’s father (Warren the 12th, obviously), the hotel has fallen into disrepair as Warren’s uncle ignores the place and his aunt tears the building apart looking for a legendary magical artifact, the All-Seeing Eye, which is said to be hidden inside the hotel.

When  a mysterious new guest appears, the race to find the Eye is on. Warren will have to venture deep into the bowels of the unusual hotel and solve ancient mysteries in order to claim his rightful inheritance.

As I said above, I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations are wonderful  and put the reader in an Edward Gorey/Tim Burton-esue mood. The story is simply told (it is for younger readers, after all),  but not childish. Fans of more offbeat stories, like Artemis Fowl or A Series of Unfortunate Events will like this book.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Warren the 13th and the All-seeing Eye is currently available for purchase.

Hey there! How about some Friday the 13th perks?

The authors have made up a short story and activity book for Warren the 13th on this most unlucky of days. You can check out this online only goodie here.

Happy reading  (and grab your lucky rabbit’s foot)!