January 2016 Newsletter

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January's News from Bookbag Towers


We hope you had a wonderful festive season and if you were affected by the awful floods, you have our sympathy, solidarity and very best wishes. And at least one book in your Christmas stocking.

How sad that the year opened with the death of one of Britain's greatest cultural icons and musicians, David Bowie. Bowie was a voracious reader and The Telegraph has a list of the great man's 100 "must read" books here. It's as eclectic as you'd imagine and we think it will provide you with plenty of inspiration for reading outside your comfort zone. Take a look!

There's the dark side of publishing, as exemplified in the feud between Jeremy Duns and Stephen Leather. And there's the side of light and magic and mystery as Martin Latham's blog evokes so well. Let's hope that 2016 is filled with the light side for all readers of every stripe.

Oh, and the The Orangutan Foundation has launched a new award called The Sir Terry Pratchett 'Oook' Award for Orangutan Conservation. How cool is that? We still miss Sir Terry. #speakhisname

Golden Hour

The film adaptation of our Golden Hour book this month is looking as though it may land itself an Oscar nomination or two. Whether or not you've seen the film, the book is well worth revisiting. Room by Emma Donoghue narrated in the voice of five year old Jack. It's the morning of Jack's fifth birthday, but Jack is no ordinary boy. He and his Ma have been imprisoned by the character known only as 'Old Nick' in a single room for all Jack's life. True he has a television, but his mother has convinced him that those people are not real. The room is all Jack has ever known - and in it he has developed his own attachment to things like Bed, Rug, Table, Skylight and Wardrobe where he sleeps. The first victim of incarceration, it seems, is the definite article. This is a haunting, innovative and brave story that will stay with you long after the final page. A sad situation, lightly and movingly told.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Anna recommends Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator) . Upstairs, a flat where mother and daughter struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque; downstairs, the love nest of a dying writer and her last of many conquests. Meet the eccentric writer Alba Cambó and the people whose lives she has touched through an equally eccentric collection of anecdotes. Combining the mundane and the magical, this one is a page-turner.

And Luke would like to draw your attention to Exposure by Helen Dunmore . London - 1960. With the Cold War at its height, spy fever fills the newspapers, the political establishment knowing how and where to bury its secrets. A sensitive file goes missing, and Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and is arrested. Helen Dunmore returns with a book more twisting and layered than her previous, and yet is an intimate and compelling study of people, personalities and the secrets we hide from each other.

In non-fiction, John thinks you should look at Mr and Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance by Daisy Hay . In 1839 the flamboyant yet impecunious novelist and rising young Member of Parliament Benjamin Disraeli married Mary Ann Lewis, the rich widow of one of his late Westminster colleagues. She was twelve years older than him, and though contemporaries thought it was an absurd union, the odd couple proved very well-matched and supremely happy, and he became an unexpected yet very successful Prime Minister. This biography paints a vivid portrait of "the odd couple".

For tweens, teens and grown-ups too, Jill fell in love with Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit . It's Poland in 1939. And Anna's linguistics professor father is about to be rounded up in the Nazi purge of intellectuals. Knowing this is likely to happen, he leaves her in the care of a friend for the day. When her father doesn't return to collect her, the frightened friend loses his nerve and abandons Anna to a new and dangerous world. Anna is just seven years old and will never see her father again. Intense, literary and with a flavour of magical realism. Jill loved this beautiful and heart-rending story. She won't forget how it felt to read it. Ever.


Even through the Christmas period we have been hunting down poor unsuspecting authors and asking them questions! Jill thought that Dragon's Flight was FUN and that's not something she often says, so she had quite a few questions for authgor Kris Sime when he popped into Bookbag Towers. Jill also thought that Braver Than Britain, Occasionally by Spadge Whittaker in which Spadge researches Britain's top ten fears and faces them all over the course of a year was funny and silly and, yes, brave. It's a joyous little book. EXCEPT FOR THE SPIDERS. Spadge explained the inclusion of SPIDERS when she and Jill had a good chat.

We've been looking for intelligent women's fiction that provides a good read and we think that we've found some crackers. You can check out our choices here, in our top ten. And then there are independent authors, not published by the main houses, but by themselves. Self-publishing contains some real gems, and we've seen some of them over the course of the last year. You can see for yourself at our Top Ten Self-Published Books 2015 feature. Enjoy!


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 doing last year.

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