June 2011 Newsletter

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June's News from Bookbag Towers

Well, summer is coming and your thoughts are probably turning to holidays - and books to take with you. We're busily reviewing away and we think you'll have plenty to choose from over your 2011 sojourn, wherever you're going. Make sure you have a super and relaxing time whatever you read, but if you're looking for some inspiration, you can check out our reviews of the books on Richard and Judy's Summer Reading List.

The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize longlist has been published and there are some corkers on there. We've a sneaky feeling My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher will win, but each book on the list is wonderful and has a good shot. Which one would you vote for if you were on the panel? Leave a prediction on our list!

And while we're on the subject of children's literature, the fantabulous Julia Donaldson has been named the new Children's Laureate. Congratulations to her and lucky kids - she's going to be great.

The Orange Prize 2011 was won by Tea Obreht for The Tiger's Wife. It's a richly textured first novel that includes both a modern day search for the truth behind the death of a young doctor's grandfather in Yugoslavia, and the myths and folk tales that are told in the region. Our reviewer Robin agrees with the Orange judges that Obreht is an exciting new talent.

Golden Hour

This month, we've chosen 1978's Booker prizewinner as the book we recommend you revisit. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch is the lyrical tale of a theatrical celebrity who trades the bright lights for solitude by the sea. Magical, insightful and laugh out-loud funny, this is Murdoch at her best. Monstrous and marvellous, The Sea, The Sea will have you hooked to the last page as you discover whether or not Charles will find what he is looking for.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Robin recommends Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift. Combining farming and the Iraq war, this is a stunning piece of writing. It's a book about many things - the attachment to the land, the decline of rural England and changing priorities, but it's also a very human story. Swift has already won one Man Booker prize - and Robin thinks this deserves another nomination.

Linda wants you to read Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt. Polly thinks she may be losing her mind. Each time she makes a cup of coffee at work, someone else drinks it. The same someone is talking to her clients. But the worst thing is when she goes to pick up a dress at the dry cleaner and discovers it's disappeared. No, not the dress. The dry cleaner. If you like erudite, silly humour you'll love this book.

In non-fiction, it's a first for Bookbag. We are recommending a self-published book this month. Ian Griffiths suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Ian published his book, DMD Life Art and Me, to make as many people as possible aware of this dreadful disease and we at Bookbag - especially Sue - would like to spread the word about it. Read our review or have a look at his website to find out more. You won't regret it.

For younger readers, Jill is singing the praises of two books. Blood Red Road by Moira Young is a fabulous quest novel set in a future dystopian society and in the current vogue style of a revenge Western. It's beautifully done in spare prose and has a marvellous central character. Jill loved it and is sure they will too.

We don't usually recommend second and subsequent books in series in case readers haven't found the first yet, but Jill insists on an exception for Everfound by Neal Shusterman. We rejoin the limbo world of Everlost for this final volume in the Skinjacker trilogy with Mary Hightower asleep and encased in a glass coffin, Allie tied to the front of a train, and Nick still amnesiac and still puddling chocolate wherever he goes. Pacy, full of dark humour and moments of real pathos, it's both challenging and entertaining. Jill is rather sad that it's all over!


It is always a little worrying when an author finishes a popular and well-loved series to start something new. Will the new characters be as interesting as the old, familiar ones? Will the books just be a pale retelling of the plots in a new context? But fans of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries need not worry. She's gone Western! To introduce us to the genre, and her new series, Caroline called into Bookbag Towers to tell us all about her favourite Western movies.

In support of his book Mathematics of Life, Ian Stewart looks at the pros and cons of popularising mathematics, through books and other means.

We've been busily interviewing, too. We talked to Bali Rai about his super book Killing Honour, an honest and hard-hitting look at an important and controversial issue. Bali is one of Bookbag's most trusted teen authors and you'll enjoy reading what he has to say. The Candle Man returns in a second volume about a British - yes, British! - teen superhero. Pacy and packed with rather marvellous villains, this steampunk and comic book-inspired series will be a big hit with tween readers. We asked author Glenn Dakin all about it. Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers is another fantastic book from New Scientist, this time looking at odd events on the way to scientific discovery. It's brilliantly written and compiled, and endlessly fascinating. We leapt at the chance to interview editor Stephanie Pain.


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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