June 2013 Newsletter

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June's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and good reading to you.

We'd just like to say a sad goodbye to Iain Banks, who died this month, long before his time. He was two brilliant authors, and we will miss him. What else is there to say? He was wonderful.

The Desmond Eilliott Prize shortlist is out. It's for debut fiction published in the UK in 2013 and we have reviewed all three books. Take a look. You should read all three - of course! - but The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan has a special place in a corner of Bookbag's heart. We defy you to read our review and fail to rush out and buy a copy!

The Guardian has a fascinating article about self-publishing. Apparently, over 20% of the genre market is now accounted for by self-published books. Overall, 12% of ebooks bought are self-published. But when you include print books, the proportion drops to 2%. Wow. Lots to think about there, wouldn't you say?

Golden Hour

This month, our trip is back to the past in more ways than one. Yep. We've gone with historical fiction. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett is the first in an historical saga dealing with Scotland in the sixteenth century. This is historical fiction with a very classy edge. It's literary. It's dense, it's complex, it's historically accurate. It's a rather large cut above the rest and it comes recommended as a Golden Hour choice for fans of the genre in need of a challenge or for serious readers looking to step outside their usual box.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Robin has chosen Paris by Edward Rutherfurd for your pleasure. Spanning the years from 1261 to 1968 but focussing on the period from 1875 to 1940, Rutherfurd's exemplary historical research supports a wonderfully woven saga of four families from different social positions through the ages that captures the spirit of the nation. It is as enchanting and complex as the city he describes.

In non-fiction, Sue went mad for The Norm Chronicles: Stories and numbers about danger by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter. A look at the risks we all encounter on a daily basis and how much of a hazard they really are, it's witty, informative and highly recommended. Sausages are more of a problem than Sue had thought and wine is less. Goshdarnit!

For teens, Jill has chosen Noble Conflict. Brilliant dystopian storytelling - as ever - from Malorie Blackman in a tale of propaganda, newspeak, and subtle authoritarianism. It is gripping and powerful with a clever subtlety underlying the action. Characters you believe in. A strong morality and an acknowledgement that life is full of Catch-22s. What more could you want? We love Blackman's books. But you get two for the price of one this month as we simply couldn't pick a winner. So, Linda gives you Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Towards the end of World War Two Rose Justice, a young American pilot who came to Britain as a volunteer, is captured by the Germans and sent to Ravenbrück. Throughout the horror-filled days that follow, she learns that survival requires far more than simply staying alive.


One of the highlights of the first few months of 2013 for Robert was reading a new book by Simon Packham, one of the most consistently excellent YA contemporary authors writing today. Firewallers is a fantastic read, so he was thrilled when Simon agreed to write a guest post for us. Whilst retaining a lingering affection for the leisurely pace and innocence of books where girls called Titty could spend whole summers messing about in boats, Simon is glad to be writing at a time when fiction for younger readers is allowed to venture into more controversial territory. We couldn't agree more. Author Jackie Marchant is terrified of spiders but with the boy-next-door, Dougal Trump she's just written a book about tarantulas. She's been telling us all about the things we do for research.

Want to know who has agreed to be interviewed by us this month? Well, here at Bookbag Towers we're massive fans to Steve Cole and we thought his latest book Magic Ink was just brilliant, but when we heard that Steve was popping in to chat to us we decided that we needed an expert to conduct the interview - eight-year-old Billy Young. We like to start 'em early! We also love Joe Craig and his teen hero Jimmy Coates hereabouts, particularly Robert, who had a whole list of questions for Joe when he called in. When Robert reviewed You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett he couldn't bring himself to say too much about it in case he gave any spoilers. He did take the opportunity to chat to Sophia though!

Sue thought that The Spark by O H Robsson was a rewarding read for those who like to get to know their characters - and that it was likely to tempt you into planning a holiday in western Norway. She had quite a few questions when the author popped in to see us. Robert thoroughly enjoyed Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry and he was delighted when the author agreed to answer his questions. Jill thought that Jelly Cooper: Alien was a fun book about a teenager with special powers and she had a few questions she wanted to ask author Lynne Thomas when she called into Bookbag Towers. Robert doesn't often say that a book should have been longer, but Straight Flush was one of the rare exceptions. There were quite a few questions he wanted to ask Ben.


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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