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Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers – Anna James

Today’s review is a magical book for 8-12 year olds with magical adventure, books and a girl who lives in a bookshop!

Here is a review from a Rogan’s Reviewer, Emily (10).

Pages and Co is the story of an 11 year old girl who can travel inside books. She lives in a bookshop in London with her grandparents. The story begins when Tilly loses her best friend and ends with her imprisoning a villain with her new comrade! As well as books this story is packed full of friendships, mysteries and cake.

Pages and co by Anna James is an absolutely brilliant book for any book-lover and is full of so many plot twists it’s extraordinary! Especially at the end (but I won’t spoil it for you). I wish I could book wander like Tilly and Oscar, my only question is what would happen if you book wandered into this book? Would you be able to book wander into the books in the book? I loved how it referenced so many other books, but it would only make sense if you have read them all, luckily, I had read most of them. I loved all the little details like the necklace with the bee charm that Tilly and her mum both wear, and how the opening scene begins with Tilly spilling potatoes everywhere. The two characters I loved the most were Amelia, the librarian and Anne of green gables.

I would recommend this book to children aged 5-105.

I would rate it 10/10!

And I would just like to say one more thing: that the author of this book is an absolute genius.

                             

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How to Rob a Bank – Tom Mitchell

This was a little treat of a book, it’s a funny relatable book about a fifteen year old boy. It doesn’t try to be an allegory, there are no dragons or chosen ones. It’s all the better for it. After hearing the author talk about this book, he said that there is a gap from the ages of around 12 – 15 where readers are lost – and from our book selling experience it’s mainly boys.

This book is the antidote to that. It’s a book that’s purely for reading and enjoying. There is no metaphor or lesson, it’s literally about a boy, Dylan, who accidentally burns his prospective girlfriend’s house down with a knock off scented candle – and he decides to try to rob a bank to pay her back for his mistake.

Super cool movie-style book poster? Check!

There is a lively and engaging secondary cast of characters, his sister Rita is gloriously self involved about the whole situation and his mum and dad are very well drawn and funny. Some of the set pieces are hilarious, especially an incident involving the neighbours cat and it’s consequences and the various robbery attempts Dylan makes.

The book is full of pop culture references, without the author trying to be cool, and the language is accessible and appropriate for the target audience.

My favourite character was Tom, who has a permanent Joker grin after being accidentally kicked in the head by a llama as a child. You can see why teenagers will find it funny.

Get this one for the teen boy in your life, if anything has a chance at keeping them interested in books till they become cool again at sixth form, it’s this.

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The Train to Impossible Places – P.G. Bell

In a spellbinding debut novel for older children, P.G. Bell has created a unique world to tell his story in. We follow the adventures of Susie Smith an 11 year old, physics loving girl who hitches a ride on a magical postal delivery train that takes a detour through her front room.

She is soon drawn into a fantastical adventure delivering magical post to time stealing evil witches, diving deep to meet pirate ghosts and breaking retired post office trolls out of their retirement home to liberate a secret and gain entry to the obsidian tower where a mystery will be solved and her adventure to save the kingdom of impossible places.

It’s refreshing to see a science loving heroine of colour lead a book like this with action, whimsy and trains. Lots of trains. And trolls. And a yellow monkey powering the train with explosive bananas. Because of course.

This is a thrilling ride, well written, and I can’t wait for more adventures in a fictional world where gravity is negotiable and the post train needs to run on time.

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Agatha Oddly – The Secret Key – Lena Jones

Agatha Oddlow is 13, and like her namesake, loves a mystery. She’s a detective, with a so far unsuccessful agency in her too posh school. She doesn’t fit in, as you would expect for someone whose current read is about the most poisonous plants in England. She tries to avoid her bullies, Sarah and the CC’s (original meaning forgotten, they are the Carbon Copies – but not to their faces). Her best friend Liam is her escape, and her confidente in all things detective, covering for her as she escapes the school grounds (in her latest disguise) via the recycle bin. She lives with her Dad, in the groundskeepers cottage in Hyde Park and is friends with the local homeless man JP.

Agatha’s mum encouraged investigation, puzzles and mysteries. Her Mum passed away, but Agatha keeps her memories alive through compulsive note taking in her note books, wearing her vintage clothes and re reading her old books.

When an old lady is knocked over by a motorbike in Hyde Park – on purpose – Agatha helps, and starts to investigate why. It turns out the lady is a professor and has a mysterious key tattoo, and before long there are threats to Agatha and her family, cholorform incidents, terror alerts to the water supply in London, and secret socieities under the city. How is this all connected, who is warning her off the case and just what does the key symbol have to do with her mother?

This is a great early teen adventure, with a proactive, brave heroine who literally won’t take no for an answer. Agatha is street smart, observant and persuasive, and rescues herself – and quite often Liam. The mystery is quite high stakes for a book like this, with city wide consequences, but it never loses track of the plot or the books sense of fun.  It’s a complete mystery in and of itself, that has potential for future books, which is refreshing, so you  won’t immediately have to be looking for book two. However, the quality of the writing and the likeable characters mean that you will be first in the queue at Rogan’s Books in March for Agatha’s next case, The Murder At The Museum…

 

 

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The Cradle of All Worlds (The Jane Doe Chronicles 1) – Jeremy Lachlan

This is a tricky one, it’s a rip roaring adventure featuring a smart, sarcastic heroine who is saving herself, but it’s definitely solely aimed at it’s audience, with less adult appeal than you might expect for a book of this ilk.

Jane Doe appeared with her semi comatose father on the steps of the Manor in the town of Bluehaven.

For years she has been struggling with her social position as her appearance that day lead to her being labelled as cursed. She feeds and looks after her dad, while living in the basement of the family who drew the short straw and had to take her in.

She finds out there is a gateway to other worlds in the manor and that her blood opens mysterious gateways as well as having the power to demolish the buildings of her town.

Once the action moves  into the world behind the manor, the book becomes a thrilling adventure with great set pieces, new characters and great world building.

Which is good as this one finishes on a blooming cliffhanger!

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Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

This enchanting book for older children debuted in 2017, and as the sequel has just been released it seemed an ideal time to have a little look at this one.

We follow Morrigan Crow who has always been told she’s useless and a curse, and blamed for literally anything that goes wrong where she lives. She didn’t really mind all that as she has always known that she was going to die at Eventide, when she is 11.

Just as she’s supposed to die, she is whisked away by a mysterious, enigmatic, incredibly…. ginger haired man named Jupiter North. They arrive in a city of magic, Nevermoor, at the hotel he owns and Morrigan tries to settle in.

Through a series of trials, Morrigan is to try to gain entry to the Wundrous Society, which is the most respected organisation in Nevermoor. Battling her outsider status against mean girls and their magical talents Morrigan finds unlikely allies – most notably a giant talking cat called Fen.

The language is simple, yet magical and spellbinding, the imagery is stunning and cinematic (you feel the whole thing has been written with a lucrative film contract in mind). In particular the Hotel Deucalion seems so wondrous, sorry Wundrous, that you are totally enchanted. Who wouldn’t want a rooms of flavoured smoke whose smells change by season and mood, to a room that sensed your emotional state and changed configuration and decoration according to it’s own whim?

This immersion in a comforting, homely world is what is making people draw comparisons to Harry Potter, but this is infinitely more innocent, and optimistic than that, a real family friendly approach to adventure.

The plot and pacing are great, and enough of the world opens up so that you both can see the avenues future books might take, but also enjoy the story as a whole.