July 2010 Newsletter

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July's News from Bookbag Towers

It's windy and rainy today, here at Bookbag Towers. What's going on? Where's our sunshine? Do we have to leave the shores of this sceptr'd isle to catch some rays, always, every single time? Sometimes, it sure does feel like it. Jill doesn't mind: she's swanning off to Tuscany for a fortnight, and it's bound to be hot there, right? Right?!

We've been taking stock this month. We're not far away from a site containing five thousand book reviews and approaching that milestone has pulled us up short. At Bookbag's birth five years ago, if you'd told us that the site would grow like Topsy, and that within five years we'd have thousands of reviews posted, more than fifty reviewers writing for us, millions of page views a month, and thousands more followers on Twitter and readers of our newsletter, we'd have fallen down in a dead faint! But it does, and we do. So whither now? How can we make it even better? We're always interested in what our readers have to say, so if you have any ideas - or criticisms, we can take it! - do let us know. We're eager to please.


We've been out and about chatting again during July! We talked to David Gatward about his super new horror series which begins with The Dark. He thinks we are over-sensitive about cliffhanger endings in children's books - what do you think? - and he's a thoroughly nice chap, full of infectious enthusiasm about what he's doing.

Ruth talked to Melanie Welsh about her seafaring adventure Mistress of the Storm. She sings David Fickling's praises for the freedom they give their writers - hip hip hooray for David Fickling! - and gets brownie points from Bookbag for her appreciation of Narnia's Puddleglum the Marshwiggle.

Heather Gudenkauf told us all about her impressive debut, The Weight of Silence. The book is set in a tiny window of 24 hours, and she tells us why she chose such a claustrophic timeframe and what it was like to write within it.

Golden Hour

This month, we would like to remind you of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, perhaps the seminal work in English about the Spanish Civil War. Written in Orwell's admirably spare yet wonderfully evocative prose, it's a searingly honest book, almost a rite of passage. It talks of the realities of the trenches and of the politics and of the feelings. Sincerity and honesty spring from its pages and rack its brains as it might, Bookbag can't think of a single bad thing to say about it. It's a book you simply should not have never read.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new...

In fiction, we were awash with wonderful books this month. We've chosen just two - with apologies to the brilliant writers whose work we've enjoyed over the last few weeks. First up is The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod, a genre-busting piece of speculative fiction that blends political thriller with sci-fi. It's a highly intelligent, exceedingly worrying and happily witty book that will satisfy sci-fi nerds, political buffs, conspiracy theorists and cybernetic philosophers alike. There should be more writers like Ken MacLeod.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is a completely different book. As World War II edges ever closer, it takes us from the elegance of Paris, through the streets of Budapest and on into the Hungarian countryside and the Ukraine. It is an epic tale, masterfully told.Heavy to hold but incredible to read, our reviewer Ruth lived and breathed this brilliant, haunting novel from start to finish.

For teens and young adults it's been an equally wonderful month. We hummed and hawed and hummed and hawed, and eventually chose Losing It, an anthology of short stories about virginity edited by Keith Gray. Some of our best young adult writers are in there: Gray himself, Patrick Ness, Melvin Burgess, Mary Hooper, Jenny Valentine, Anne Fine, Bali Rai and Sophie McKenzie. The stories are disparate, thoughtful, sad, sweet and funny, and they add a great deal to the conversation about teen sex that we all have, most importantly the teens themselves.

For the younger ones, we've chosen Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins. It's a breathtaking and original tale of two young people who find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous world. It's a high-octane, suspense-filled thriller involving Mayan artefacts, shadowy corporations, courageous children, and an alternate world in which Roman soldiers use dinosaurs to pull their chariots and medieval castles sit beside Egyptian obelisks. Fantasy-tastic stuff!


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.

What were we reading a year ago?

All at Bookbag Towers

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