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The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton – Anstey Harris

This is a warm and uplifting book from Anstey Harris – the publisher blurb :

Grace Atherton has fallen out of love…and into life.

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about…. 

And Christine, one of our Rogan’s Reviewers says:

A story of how one single event is changing  a few peoples lives for ever. A story of what love is not and what friendship is with love of music as a background. It is a book full of emotions and a good read – very enjoyable. Thank you for recommending I try this book.

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The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker

Well, this will be polarising. This book is nominally an epidemic / apocalyptic thriller charting the spread of a disease in a small Californian university town. It’s also an in depth lyrical piece about the nature of dreams and reality. 

We begin in a small town in the shadow of a mountain, next to a lake, and one by one local college students start to fall asleep. And they can’t be woken, with their brains are more active than waking or dreaming. 

The short chapters explore the lives of some of the students, two young girls who live with their survivalist father, a doctor visiting to understand the epidemic, two new parents and their tiny baby and many more. 

The prose is fascinating, lyrical and flows beautifully. The short chapters are evocative and give you a real sense of the people in the town, while still touching on the escalating crisis. 

I can imagine readers coming to this expecting thriller style ‘Outbreak’ shenanigans will be disappointed, but if you loved her previous work, The Age of Miracles (2012) you will enjoy this one. There is an explanation and resolution to the story, characters and the sickness itself, but it is mostly not needed or the point. 

Excellent, let’s just hope the next novel from this author arrives sooner than 2026!

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The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner

What a lovely book, this little treat is a real traditional picture book. It’s the story of a grumpy bird who doesn’t want any company or noise and always tell people to go away.

There is some great repetition so that children can easily understand the story and can join in at the right points for the times when the bird refuses friendship. Then when a bigger threat shows the strength and support of a group the message of the story is subtley revealed.

Catherine Rayners stunning paintings provide both beauty and character and Julia Donaldsons prose seems both fresher and more traditional all at once than her recent works.

A lovely tale about needing time to oneself, but also the value of friendship and teamwork. Lovely.

The Go-Away Bird is released in a gorgeous hardback edition on 7 March 2019.

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The Plotters Un-Su Kim

This is a (very) grown up new book, released on Thursday 21 February. It’s from one of the biggest established voices in Korean Noir. Newly translated ready for the UK Market, it’s challenging and distinctively non Western in style and tone.

‘Kill Bill meets Murakami. Twisted and surreal, The Plotters is one of those rare books that will haunt you long after you’ve finished it. The writing is smooth, unhurried and often profound, even as it draws you deeper into the gruesome underworld of skilled contract killers. Chillingly, the violence is almost exquisite, a bloody art form’ D. B. John, author of Star of the North

Our Rogan’s Reviewer Erin writes:

“The Guardian billed this as the new Scandi noir; considering Jo Nesbo’s books have sold more than 36 million copies worldwide this is a bold claim, fortunately this bold claim is more than just talk. Reseng, our main character is an assassin in Seoul, and while yes he is an assassin, he has morals and isn’t a bad person, after all everybody needs a job. This is a job, in the world he was brought into as a baby and the only world he knows. This underpinning fact of Reseng’s life explains the business like manner of his character. The story reads like a third person memoir of an assassin a tone that I don’t think other authors could have achieved with the same level of mastery as Un-Su Kim. Concisely put, this story – because it’s so foreign to your own life experience – draws you in such a insidious manner that you will suddenly find yourself irrationally angry at perfectly ordinary parts of your day because they are taking away from your reading time. 

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Enchantee – Gita Trelease

This brand new release (21 Feb) is a magical YA release.

School Library Journal describe it :

Distinctive characters, vivid 18th-century images of Paris and Versailles, lively French-infused dialogue, an appealing heroine, and an upbeat ending propel this lengthy romantic fantasy. Romance and fantasy readers will enjoy the magic realism, ruse and tension of Camille’s double identity, authentic historical references, and Camille’s daring, passionate spirit. A must-have.

Our own Rogan’s Reviewer, Holly says:

Enchantée is an amazing twist of historical setting and magic.  The book follows the life of Camille, a young girl, as she struggles to keep herself and her sister alive by using magic to cheat her way into court. 

The book was exciting and sad. It had a hold over me; I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I could feel the character’s pain and fear, and at several points felt myself tense hearing my heart beat a little faster. Because the book is set in the past with a detailed description of Paris in 1789, you can imagine the characters to be real, and that this was what their lives were like. 

I would recommend this book for young adults who are interested in magic, drama and a sense of mystery. Overall, I think Rogan’s Books should stock this book and that it will be really popular.

Come and order a copy!

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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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A Home Full of Friends – Peter Bently and Charles Fuge

This picture book, on the face of it, wouldn’t appeal to the mini reviewer in our house. It’s very traditional in its illustration and doesn’t feature neon, pirates or dinosaurs. And yet.

We love this book. It’s a gentle tale of friendship and acceptance and is the perfect bedtime read. Bramble Badger is a kindly soul with a small sett and a happy life, but when a storm hits his little community he takes a walk to see the damage.

He comes across three of his friends one after the other, who have had their homes damaged, and they ask to stay with him. He has little room and little food, but says yes to each one.

Then, when they arrive that evening, they have brought their family – 12 mouths to feed! He doesn’t turn them away, choosing to share what he does have, and when he does he realises they saved things from their homes and they have plenty of food and supplies if they share. They have a lovely time and discover a home is better with others.

This could be twee, and it probably is, but the verse is charming and the super detailed pictures are just lovely. It’s impossible not to smile when reading this book out loud to a little one.

Apparently, the tree falling is scary (when Daddy makes the bang), the squirrels are cute, it’s funny when a hedgehog makes himself into a bowling ball and the best bit is all of Brambles friends sleeping in drawers and cupboards!

A hug of a book, which (along with it’s equally charming sequel) is now often requested in our house.

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Lots of Frogs by Howard Calvert and Claudia Boldt

Today’s review is from a family of Rogan’s readers. The book is a charming little picture book that came out in November last year. It’s cheeky and sweet, with a direct short style of prose that is easy for kids to understand, but is expressive and fun. It’s a tale of a box of frogs getting into real mischief.

Rosey (3) Loves this book because ‘it’s so funny’, her favourite page is when the frogs go in the headteacher’s hair.

Chloe (7) Loves this book ‘because it’s funny, my favourite page is when it goes – rows of frogs drinking tea’

And their Mum and Dad were ‘not so sure about the very short style of sentences in this book to start with but it definitely grew on us. A good, fun book – not too short to be over in a flash, but also not to long to lose interest. Nice and bright and colourful.

So there you have it!

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Well this isn’t quite The Breakfast Club.

Today’s review is a YA novel, set in an American high school (big shock I know, but bear with). It opens in detention where five students have all been given detention for having a mobile on them – but none of them brought their mobiles to class…..

They are:

Bronwyn, who is a college focussed overachiever, with a fear of rule-breaking

Nate who has never met a rule he wouldn’t break, and who is a not entirely legal delivery person and on parole.

Cooper, a well behaved uncharacteristically sensitive (aren’t they all in these books) Football Player.

Addy, a prom queen with a less than ideal home life whose mum is the life and soul of any party, who does everything her boyfriend tells her.

And Simon, the creator of the school gossip app, who has built a reputation on destroying those of others.

Who has got them all into detention, as they ponder this, Simon has a drink of water and collapses with an allergic reaction. After his death, suspicion naturally falls to the four remaining students in the room. What would be their motive? Was he about to reveal their secrets? Where what Simon’s epipen, and who removed the rest of them from the School Nurses Office?

As blog posts start to publish with details of the crime scene only the four could know they start to suspect each other, but in the face of police investigation and media scrutiny can they work together to solve the crime?

This is a surprisingly fast moving YA thriller, which aims to subvert stereotypes of teens in teen movies, but unfortunately subverts them in a predictable way. The perfect student may have cheated, the bad boy might have more emotions than he lets on, the prom queens home life isn’t bad and all she wants is to be more edgy and independent.

Where this book is strong is that despite being familiar the characters are well drawn, the pop culture references are neither cringey or forced and the central mystery is compelling. The students secrets and stories are drip fed enough that your ideas for what actually happened will shift throughout the story as plenty of viable suspects are introduced and discounted.

All in all, this is a great introduction for teens into more adult thrillers and the ending is satisfying and ties up the story nicely.

And, for a YA book, it doesn’t set up or need a sequel, so it can be enjoyed for what it is!

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The Legend of Kevin by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Spoiler. I love Reeve & McIntyre. The shop loves Reeve & McIntyre. They could write a plumbing manual and it would probably be charming and gorgeously realised and illustrated. I’m going to love this book……. (Begins reading)

Guess what. I LOVED this book. It’s possibly their most relatable book, despite being the tale of a boy, his flying horse, his goth sister Daisy (SORRY! – Elvira), cheeky Sea Monkeys, hair obsessed Mermaids and two pioneering guinea pigs named Neville and Beyoncé. (Also, can I point out that my tablet totally just put the accent on the ‘e’ in Beyoncé without me doing anything. She’s that famous. Look it did it again!).

Kevin is a roly poly flying pony who doesn’t realise he’s lonely. He loves a custard cream, just as any flying pony should.

I’m so beautiful and magic.

Max is a charming little boy who lives in a top floor flat in a quirky little town and all he wants is a dog. They can totally live on the top floor of a building and stay in all day, right? When a big storm sweeps Kevin off course (and DOOF! Straight into the wall of Max’s flat), a massive flood isn’t far behind him.


What follows is a tale of bravery, friendship, flying, underwater hair salons and a noble quest to find custard creams.

The illustrations are so vivid and so lovingly created you will not even realise they’re in black white and blue, in your mind they’re full colour and full of joy. Reeve’s text is clever, witty and as whimsical as you would expect, with a perfectly parentally acceptable level of naughtiness.

There are little visual jokes in the pictures to keep a parent smiling while reading it, and you come away with a bigger smile than when you started.

Unfortunately despite all being awesome there are currently no sequels to their earlier works, but this reader is fervently hoping that Kevin and Max will be the first to lead a whole series!