December 2008 Newsletter

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December's News from Bookbag Towers

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Wow! It's December. With advent, both properly religious and improperly choclate-calendared. It's been snowing and everything! How did that happen? Where did 2008 go? But with things going as they are in the wider economy, perhaps it's just as well the festive season is upon us. We can break out the mince pies and put our feet up with a good book or two, and let the woes of the world pass us by, even if only for a little while. We've been busily working away on your behalf, especially on behalf of those of you whose Christmas shopping is as dilatory as ours. Check out our Christmas Gifts Recommendations page. We've got something for everyone on it. And in the unlikely event you still can't find what you're looking for, read on Macduff. The close of the year is often a quiet time for books, but the dying days of 2008 still have plenty to offer the discerning Bookbag reader. Here's what we think you might like...

What we've been reading...

In fiction, we've a brace of fantasy novels to kick off with. Lesley loved The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. Archangel Raziel is back dirtside with a mission to perform a Christmas miracle. It's Moore at his silliest and a sheer joy to read. Trish loved Windfall (Weather Warden) by Rachel Caine - a fast-paced fantasy-detective-chick lit read set in the near future with enough meat about climate change to set me thinking. In a change of tempo, Loralei thought The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks was not as weepy as you might expect and an is example of chick-lit at its very best. Those who prefer their fiction with a little more octane value will agree with Kerry, who loved My Favourite Poison by Anna Blundy - a terrific and, at times, hilarious tale with a heroine that can only be described as a journo-James Bond for the noughties. More generally, Sue recommends Wild Oats by Michael Edwards. It's a comedy of sexual politics where the plot and the characters seem to be developing a will of their own. Those looking for something more meaty over the Christmas holidays should listen to John, who loved Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad, a petite modernist novel in three thirds, which successfully intrigues with its humdrum hero having an unusual goal in life. It is not quite flawless but for the right reader is very entertaining.

In non-fiction there's also plenty to choose from. Sue, our resident dog lover, adored Old Dogs by Gene Weingarten and Michael S Williamson. It's a celebration in wonderful words and stunning photographs of the older dog. The occasional sad moment is far outweighed by the laughter. On a completely different tack, in 1977, Daniel Everett moved with his young family into the Amazonian jungle to help a remote tribe find God. Instead, enlightenment comes to him through his studies of the Pirahas and their intriguing language and culture. Ruth thinks you should read about it in Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes. John loved Delta Blues by Ted Gioia, a history of the blues from its origins in the Delta region of Mississippi, through the careers of the early performers and to the 'blues revival' of the 1960s and beyond. Paul thought London: The Illustrated History by Cathy Ross and John Clark a massive, thorough and attractive survey of the development of the capital. It covers nearly every aspect of the city's life - from glaciers to The Gherkin. John heartily recommends On the Origin of Species, a republishing of the Darwin's first edition, with many brilliant illustrations and added written features.

For teenagers, Jill loved The Reckoning by James Jauncey, a tense and exciting novel about family breakdown, racism and cults, and also The Fatal Child by John Dickinson, third in a trilogy, it works wonderfully well as a stand-alone novel. It's rich, deep and doom-laden with big themes and a haunting style. Confident readers will love Spyology by Dugald Steer. Sue thinks it's the complete book of spycraft and delivers fun, information and history. It's highly recommended for your aspiring young Bond. Keith loved The Comic Strip History of the World by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner. It's a fantastic book, both as a light fun read, and as a brief education into everything that has been before. And don't forget Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, a gorgeous novel in free verse and a perfect introduction to poetry for any primary school child. For the little ones, Jo recommends If I Were You by Richard Hamilton. When Dad is putting his cheeky daughter Daisy to bed, a chance comment gets them both thinking about what it would be like to be the other. They both have some wonderful ideas about what they would be able to do and these thoughts are brought to life by Babette Cole's wonderful illustrations. Ruth fell in love with Her Mother's Face by Roddy Doyle and Freya Blackwood, a modern fairy tale about loss and forgetting, with words and images beautifully matched. It's warm, touching and memorable. Buy it and share it with a special child - you'll both love it.


We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!


We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. All that remains is to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May Santa bring you at least one of the books you are longing to read!

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