July 2017 Newsletter

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July's News from Bookbag Towers

Hello Bookbaggers! How the devil are you? Well, we hope.

The best bit of book news recently comes right after one of the worst news stories for the country generally. Philip Pullman is set to name one of the characters in his upcoming novel after a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire. Teacher James Clements pledged £1,500 in memory of his former pupil Nur Huda El-Wahabi, who died in the fire, and hundreds of others added more cash to his bid in the Authors for Grenfell fundraising auction. The whole auction raised £150k. And we don't mind telling you that we shed a few tears over it all. We hope the authorities get their stuff together and show a similar generosity of spirit. We're not holding our breath on the showing so far, sadly.

The saddest bit of book news was saying goodbye to Paddington creator Michael Bond. Paddington Bear entered our cultural consciousness and stayed there, didn't he? We all know him and we all love him. And we love Bond's messages of kindness, welcome and inclusivity. Farewell, Michael Bond. We will miss you more than we could ever say.

Let's have something funny, eh? How do you fancy choosing the oddest book title of the year? Well, the Diagram Prize will give you the chance. You can vote on the Bookseller website. Here are your choices: An Ape’s View of Human Evolution, Nipples on My Knee, Love Your Lady Landscape, The Commuter Pig-Keeper and Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors. Teehee. Ok, which one will you go for? We are thinking Nipples on My Knee is a shoe-in, but what do we know?!

And that's about it for new for this month - read on to see what we we have been reading and think you might enjoy.

Golden Hour

Harper Collins have done us a real favour with its recent reissue of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr and so of course this is our blast from the past this month. It's Germany, 1933 and nine year old Anna has a dream – she wants to be famous when she grows up. Her life is, however, turned upside down by Adolf Hitler's rise to power. First published in 1971 and now an acknowledged children's classic, your might think it would read as dated now. But it doesn't. In fact, the story probably has even greater relevance today given the number of child refugees and their families currently seeking new lives in Europe. Everyone, child and adult alike, should read it.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Sean has a new fantasy author he'd like to point you towards. One hundred years ago Nall's Engine was fired on the enemies of the Republic, and in its wake it left a blackened and scarred landscape known as The Misery. Beyond The Misery, a wasteland of corruption and dark magic, reside the even darker entities known as The Deep Kings. They want nothing more than to destroy the Republic, the realm of men. Blackwing: The Raven's Mark Book One by Ed McDonald is the first instalment in what looks to be a very interesting series and Sean predicts it will be one of the biggest fantasy debuts of the year.

And James thinks you should read Raid by K S Merbeth. It's and unrelentingly brutal read that doesn’t stop to draw breath from its vicious start until its bloody end. And it's marked out in its dystopian genre by its refreshing treatment of gender - gender is dealt with by ignoring it. James assumed characters to be one gender or the other based upon their actions only to be proven wrong over and again and has concluded that it is a real shame that it took an apocalypse to equalise us!

In non-fiction, John has something for fans of historical biography. Generally known during and shortly after his lifetime as Edward of Woodstock, after the palace in Oxfordshire in which he was born, the eldest son of King Edward III was arguably one of the Kings that never was. And at last in The Black Prince by Michael Jones we have a modern biography to put him in his proper perspective. Jones' biography defends him against the blackening of his reputation at the hands of French historian Froissart, and praises him as a fine if sometimes flawed soldier.

For the younger ones, James suggests Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks. If reviewing the first Minecraft novel got James excited, reviewing the first Minecraft novel written by the author of World War Z got him positively drooling with anticipation. In fact, his brain went on holiday! And he wasn't disappointed. Max Brooks perfectly captures the experience of playing Minecraft without instructions or assistance from the random punching stage through to building towers that touch the sky. Just as schools around the world are using Minecraft to teach computer science and other skills, Brooks uses his novel to demonstrate how valuable life lessons can be learned from this online phenomenon.

For young adults, Rachael recommends The Nearest Faraway Place by Hayley Long. On Griff's thirteenth birthday, he and his brother's lives change forever when their entire family is caught up in a road accident. The story is told from the point of view of his brother, Dylan, as they both try to come to terms with the end of their world as they know it. This is a brilliantly well written and poignant story about grief for teenagers. It's both real and raw whilst still feeling slightly magical. Somehow, Hayley Long has managed to find an uplifting story out of the most terrible sadness


We have a couple of really interesting interviews for you this month. Peter enjoyed Cargoes & Capers with its memories of life in the East End and stories of how the author, Johnny Ringwood, turned his life around. He had rather a lot of questions when Johnny popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us. When Johnny imagines his readers, he sees his friends and neighbours from London's docklands but we think his readers should include all of you, wherever you come from.

Sue laughed and cried when she read Surgery on the Shoulders of Giants: Letters from a doctor abroad, touched and humbled by a man who has provided medical aid in some of the most needy parts of the world. She had a great deal to talk about when author Saqib Noor came to see us. Saqib has worked in Haiti, Pakistan, Cambodia and more, and his one wish is for every human being to have access to affordable, safe and robust healthcare. We second him in that.


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.

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