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

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


I have three daughters, so I am always looking for new books for them to read. I was very excited about the opportunity to read Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye. This middle grade novel by Tania del Rio seemed like the sort of book that we would enjoy.


Warren is a young boy who lives in a hotel that his family owns. He is the 13th Warren, and the hotel is his, but his uncle is serving as conservator until Warren becomes an adult. Unfortunately, his uncle has done a terrible job, and the hotel has fallen into disrepair. Even worse, his uncle recently married a witch named Annaconda who has been tearing the hotel apart looking for a magical artifact- the All-Seeing Eye. Warren has tried to warn his uncle, but the man is so besotted that he cannot see that anything is wrong. Warren is going to have to use all of his resources if he is going to find the All-Seeing eye before his wicked Aunt Annaconda. This book is full of witches, magic, treasure hunters, double crossing, pirates, and even a basement monster named Sketchy.     Continue reading


A Pain in the Tuchis by Mark Reutlinger

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I am a big fan of mysteries, so when I received the opportunity to read Mark Reutlinger’s A Pain in the Tuchis, I was very excited. This is the second Mrs. Kaplan mystery, featuring a senior citizen sleuth and her intrepid assistant.

Narrator Ida and her friend Rose Kaplan are residents in a Jewish assistant living center. When Vera, one of the residents, passes away under suspicious circumstances on Yom Kippur, Mrs. K and Ida spring into action. Right away, they realize that their biggest obstacle is that the deceased was not a very nice person. She recently had a waiter fired for a very petty reason. She told the center director about her neighbor’s secret cat. Simply put, Vera was the sort of person who made enemies wherever she went, but which of them would actually kill her? Continue reading


Calvin by Martine Leavitt

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I was not familiar with author Martine Leavitt when I received the opportunity to review her novel Calvin, but I was intrigued by the premise. My oldest daughter is a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and her passion has helped me to rediscover a comic strip from my youth. I used to love reading Calvin and Hobbes with my father, who passed away a few years ago, so it is very special that my daughter loves Calvin and Hobbes as much as he did.

I do want to clarify that Leavitt’s novel Calvin is intended for a young adult audience. Calvin is the story of a young man named Calvin who believes he has a personal connection to the famous comic strip. Not only does he share a name with Calvin, but he also has a stuffed tiger named Hobbes, and he was born on the day the last strip was published. The stuffed Hobbes was lost in a washing machine accident years ago, but he has returned- except this time, Calvin is the only one who can hear Hobbes talking. This is one of the reasons that lead to Calvin’s diagnosis with schizophrenia. He is convinced that there is a connection between his life and the fictional Calvin. He needs to persuade Bill Watterson to draw one last strip in order to cure his schizophrenia. So, Calvin decides to walk across a frozen Lake Erie with his neighbor Susie in order to meet Bill Watterson.

The most wonderful thing about this book is that it brings awareness of mental illness. Schizophrenia affects millions of people around the world, but it has been highly stigmatized. Calvin is an extremely likeable narrator. His plan for a cure is completely unrealistic, but I couldn’t help but root for him. At times, Leavitt brings a sense of lightness to a serious subject, but it’s clear that Calvin is tormented by Hobbes and he is willing to do anything to get Hobbes to leave him alone.

While I do not want to give too much away, I will vaguely allude to a more suitable treatment plan being put into place eventually. But during the story, we are treated to a magical journey. Calvin and Susie have many surreal experiences as they travel across the frozen lake. Part of this is due to a narrator whose sense of reality is distorted, but there truly does seem to be something magical happening to Calvin and Susie during their journey.

I would recommend Calvin. As I have mentioned, this book is best suited for a young adult audience. This is a unique reading experience about growing up, friendship, and compassion. The premise might be outlandish, but it also provides the reader with a real look at schizophrenia, and in many regards, Calvin is just like any other teenager.


Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I am a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s mysteries. I enjoy her Molly Murphy mysteries, and her Royal Spyness stories as well. I was very excited when I received an opportunity to read Away in a Manger, the 15th Molly Murphy mystery.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Molly Murphy series, allow me to provide a brief introduction. Molly is a young Irish immigrant living in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. She worked as a detective before settling down with handsome police captain Daniel Sullivan. Her son Liam was born a couple of books ago, and he is now a lively toddler. Daniel does not approve of Molly’s detective work, and expected her to stop after the wedding- but Molly cannot help getting involved when people need her help.

Away in a Manger begins with Molly preparing to celebrate the holidays with her family. She and Bridie, her ward, encounter an angelic little girl singing Christmas carols in the street. Molly notices the girl’s English accent and that she is singing “Away in a Manger” the English way rather than using the American version. Both children speak with a very posh accent. Molly’s husband Daniel thinks that the children are more of the typical street children that he encounters during his work as a police officer; they are simply con artists posing as beggars, and they can’t be trusted. Molly is convinced that there is more to these children, and that they do not belong begging on the streets. She only has the recollections of two small children to work with, but she is determined to figure out if these children have any family in the city.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought the Christmas theme went very well with the plot. The children’s situation seemed especially desperate because of the cold and snowy weather. The holiday season enhanced the plot by giving Molly the perfect opportunity to visit the big new toy store- FAO Schwarz. The historical details of the period combined with the Christmas season, making this a very satisfying story. Bowen also contends well with the ongoing problem of Daniel not approving of Molly doing detective work.

I would absolutely recommend Away in a Manger. This is a wonderful story for fans of the series: there are many appearances from familiar characters from Sid and Gus to Molly’s mother-in-law. If you are new to the series, reading the books in order provides the reader with an appreciation for the characters, who have grown and changed as the series progresses. That said, the books do function as standalone novels, so feel free to start with a Christmas story as the holiday season is almost upon us.


The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Ann Michaels

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love reading books with my girls, so when I had the chance to read The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, I was very excited. This children’s chapter book was written by poet and author Ann Michaels, who is making her children’s book debut. The book features charming illustrations by Emma Block.

It’s hard to describe Miss Petitfour. She has sixteen cats, and she likes to fly around by making a parachute out of a tablecloth and letting the wind sweep her and the cats away. The book is broken into a series of short adventures, usually involving some sort of catastrophe, like a valuable stamp blowing away on a snowy day or narrowly avoiding landing in the river on their way to pick up some birthday cheddar. Continue reading


The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

I have been a big fan of Laura Amy Schlitz since listening to the audio version of her novel Splendors and Glooms. So when I saw her latest novel- The Hired Girl– on the young adult news release shelf at the library, I was very excited.

This is the story of Joan Skraggs, a fourteen-year-old girl living in rural Pennsylvania in 1911. She is heartbroken at having to leave school to work on her father’s farm. She feels that her efforts are not appreciated, and inspired by an article she read in a newspaper, she goes on strike. Her father retaliates by burning her books. Joan runs away from home; she also read in the newspaper that people are paying $6 a week for hired girls. She makes her way to Baltimore, and ends up in the home of the Rosenbach family. She lies and claims to be 18, and is hired to assist Malka, the aging housekeeper. Joan- who has taken the name Janet- has never met anyone Jewish before, but she is eager to learn. Continue reading


The Big Penguin Party by Christian and Fabian Jeremies

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I was very excited about the opportunity to read The Big Penguin Party because I knew my girls would enjoy it. This book is a “Find Me If You Can Adventure” and is a collaborative effort from twin brothers Christian and Fabian Jeremies.

Grandma Penguin is celebrating her 90th birthday. All of her friends and relations have arrived to help her celebrate. Grandma has misplaced the pieces of her rainbow outfit, and she needs help finding them before the mayor arrives with a photographer. Continue reading