February 2017 Newsletter

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February's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and how are you all?

We don't want to dwell too much on convulsive world events - not because they don't concern us but because everyone is doing it and probably doing it much better than we could. But how could we not point out that George Orwell's newspeak classic 1984 is, as we write, back in Amazon's bestseller list. Alternative facts are not facts. And thank you, George Orwell, for warning us.

Happier news with the Costa Book Awards announced. Congratulations to Sebastian Barry for winning best novel with the beautiful and bloodthirsty Days Without End. And more congratulations to Brian Conaghan, who won for children's book with The Bombs That Brought Us Together, a fabulous and original story that gets to the heart of what it is to be a child in a war zone.

It's been great to see the film of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness doing so well at the box office and it reminded us that the original outline for the story was written by the wonderful late Siobhan Dowd, who died of breast cancer in 2007. So we'd like to give a shout out to the charitable trust she left behind. The Siobhan Dowd Trust works to give young people the opportunity to read and enjoy literature and it funds some wonderful and worthwhile projects. It's a charity well worth promoting and supporting, if you can.

And while we're having charitable thoughts, do remember that Comic Relief is coming up. And of course, there's a book angle. Penguin Random House will publish The Ladybird Book of The Do-Gooder, an irreverent and pocket-sized guide devoted to what people get up to in the name of charity to coincide with this year's fundraising effort. We might even buy a copy!

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month is White Teeth by Zadie Smith. This warm and humorous look at the immigrant experience in London of the late 20th century still holds its own fifteen years on from its first publication. It was just so talked about back then, wasn't it? And yet, re-reading it now, it is still so fresh. It won multiple awards and it richly deserved every single one of them. If White Teeth is a book you still haven't got around to reading, you really should think about rectifying that. You won't regret it.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Luke was highly impressed by The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill. Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Rose and Pierrot dream up a plan for the most extraordinary show the world has ever seen. Separated as teenagers and sent off to work during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld - dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft -will they ever reunite? This is a dark yet vibrant fairytale that will make you laugh, cry, fall in love, be filled with rage, and become part of the company of a tragic cast of clowns. It's a dizzyingly beautiful book.

In non-fiction, John thinks you might enjoy In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett by Tony Fletcher. a warts-and-all biography of the man who was one of the soul-singing greats of the mid-sixties, yet during a lengthy career sadly failed to exploit his initial success. Fletcher charts the highs, the lows, the greatest hits and the demons in painstaking detail, with insight, objectivity and sympathy.

For teens, Jill fell in love with We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, a beautiful collaborative novel, told in verse. Spanning immigration, xenophobia, arranged marriage, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour and more, this is a star-crossed love story of heart-rending clarity. It's a courageous creative choice and provides two unforgettable voices. We loved it and we think readers will love it too.

For middle grade readers, Sue recommends dyslexia-friendly Good Dog McTavish by Meg Rosoff. Good dog McTavish did wonder whether he was making a mistake in adopting the Peachey family: it was a decision which came from the heart rather than the head. This is a funny story which doesn't patronise children either in the approach it takes or the words it uses. It just makes you laugh. And this, we think, is just how it should be. What's more, dyslexia friendly, means non-justified text, a very readable font and perfect spacing to make easy reading.


We have some cool features for you this month, as ever. We were very impressed by Linda Newbery's Until We Win a dramatised example of Suffragist ideas. She's been chatting to us about the power of protest, an important topic given the current febrile times, we think you'll agree. It's important to make our voices heard and it really can make a difference.

Luke thought that Kingdom's End by Charles D Blanchard was an adventurous take on a political thriller. It features rats but offers some facinating insights into the world of us humans. Luke had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to Bookbag Towers to chat to us.Charles talks to us about everything, not just rats. And we love the cover of his book. For the artist, read the interview!

It's never an easy job picking our top ten self published books of any year, but 2016 was particularly difficult as we've seen some exceptional books. Our list for last year is in alphabetical order for this reason. They're all great and it's nice to support independent writers where we can. We hope you find something you might enjoy there. Actually, we're sure you will!


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. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .

All at Bookbag Towers

See what we were reading last year.

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