Alan Gratz – Ban This Book

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read. 

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned-books library out of her locker. As word spreads, Amy Anne’s locker stash quickly grows into a school-wide sensation. Soon, she and her friends find themselves on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what kids can read. 

This past week has been Banned Books Week in US, so it seemed an appropriate time to review Alan Gratz’s latest middle grade novel, Ban This Book. When offered the book for review, I jumped at the chance as the whole banning books phenomenon has always been slightly baffling to me, as it doesn’t really happen in the same way here in the Netherlands. The idea of keeping kids from reading anything that isn’t catastrophically inappropriate is strange to me. In my opinion, no one tells my girls what they can and can’t read, but me and their dad. And of course as a librarian, the issue is near and dear to my heart, so I was curious to see how Gratz would approach the concept.  Read More …

Amy Engel – The Roanoke Girls

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

Before I actually start this review and discuss Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls and my feelings about it, I want to give a content warning. Since it might be considered a spoiler, I’ve decided to put it in a footnote, so you can avoid it if you want.1 But in short, this book might be triggering to some, so Caveat Lector!  Read More …

Daniel Polansky – A City Dreaming

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and when a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to turn to all out war, M finds himself thrust in thrust in the unfamiliar position of hero. Now, to keep the apocalypse from descending on the Big Apple, he’ll have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steam-punk universes, hipster zombies, and phantom subway lines. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.

It is no secret that Daniel Polansky is one of my favourite writers. I’ve adored all of his work that I’ve read so far—the only novel remaining unread being Those Below, which is waiting on my to be read shelves. As such, I was super excited to receive a review copy for his latest novel A City Dreaming. Reader, there was squeeing when I opened the package. I even read it close to its publication date in order to review it in a timely manner and then I got stuck. Because I had no idea how to even start to review it. Do not get me wrong, I really enjoyed A City Dreaming; it is an intriguing book with a unique style, but one that might not work for everyone.  Read More …

N.D. Gomes – Dear Charlie

ndgomes-dearcharlieEngland, 1996.
Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie.

At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed. Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong.

School shootings are a sad phenomenon of our time and have been the subject of numerous YA novels in the past years. I’ve read two of those, Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where It Ends. Both are gripping, emotional novels, each dealing with different points of view on the matter. Quick’s book is written from the point of view of the shooter, while Nijkamp’s novel shows us differing perspectives of teens involved in a school shooting. Dear Charlie takes a very different tack, though its story is equally compelling and emotional. N.D. Gomes focuses her novel on the aftermath of a school shooting and what happens to the family of the culprit.  Read More …

Louise Gornall – Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesI’m Norah, and my life happens within the walls of my house, where I live with my mom, and this evil overlord called Agoraphobia.

Everything is under control. It’s not rosy — I’m not going to win any prizes for Most Exciting Life or anything, but at least I’m safe from the outside world, right?

Wrong. This new boy, Luke, just moved in next door, and suddenly staying safe isn’t enough. If I don’t take risks, how will I ever get out — or let anyone in?

This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because Under Rose-Tainted Skies isn’t a good book, because is brilliant. And not because I didn’t love it, because I loved it to pieces. But because reviewing this book and explaining why I find it so absolutely wonderful means I’ll have to get personal and that is always somewhat scary.  Read More …

Author Query – Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesWhen I read the synopsis for Under Rose-Tainted Skies I knew I had to read this book. Mental health representation is important to me; if I hadn’t felt so embarrassed and like a failure, I would perhaps have sought help for my depression far earlier than I did and it might not have gotten so bad. In addition, one of the biggest effects of my depression was the fact that I became a shut-in, who’s main contact with the outside world was my then-boyfriend (now husband). So Norah’s struggles spoke to me strongly. I’m in the middle of the book now and it is brilliant—it hits close to home quite often, but Norah is really funny too. Look for a review tomorrow! In the mean time, I got to speak to the book’s author Louise Gornall, who I think is a YA author to watch!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: YA October-December

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. YA books have become a steady part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. This is the last one. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: YA September

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. YA books have become a steady part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. September is such a huge month, it got an entire post to itself! For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: YA July-August

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. YA books have become a permanent part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. This is the first one. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …

Anticipated Books (Summer-Autumn) 2015: Middle Grade

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. Today it’s time to look at books for a younger set of readers: middle grade books. I’ve mixed the different genres together for this one, so there should be something for everyone. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Read More …