May 2013 Newsletter

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May's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and how are you?

What are you reading? And is it any good? Choosing books is tricky, isn't it? Nobody chooses a book they think they'll hate. It can be even more tricky for reviewers, who have less choice in the books they read. We try to do things a little differently here at Bookbag. Our reviewers choose their own books from our review-copy stock. So they choose, mostly, the books they think they'll like. This does mean that our reviews are skewed to the positive - but it does mean that fans of chick lit are reading reviews by people who also enjoy reading chick lit, not by people who enjoy snotting all over it. So we think our policy leads not only to a happy place for its contributors, but also to a place where niche fans can find reviews by their peers. We like this policy, but we can see why some people wouldn't. And that's why Michael Deacon's hilarious take-down of Dan Brown over at the Telegraph made us laugh this month.

Parents, librarians: do you know any youngsters who want to write? If so, you should point them in the direction of the 2013 Red House Young Writers’ Yearbook competition. They say Is your child a budding writer, poet, or journalist? If so, we have a brilliant opportunity to get their work in print! We want aspiring young writers from around the country to enter the 2013 Red House Young Writers’ Yearbook competition and win the chance to see their stories or poems published in a beautiful book. The winners will also be invited to a writing workshop, hosted by a children's author, at The Imagine Children's Festival in February 2014. You can find full details here.

Golden Hour

This month, our choice is The Walk and other stories by Robert Walser. This collection of around forty short stories affords the English speaking public a unique opportunity; that of reading Walser, possibly the leading modernist writer of Swiss German in the last century. He has received high praise in A Place in the Country, W G Sebald's recently published posthumous collection and he is well-known as being a significant influence on Franz Kafka. His work here dates from 1907 to 1929 and along with his poetry won him recognition with Berlin's avant garde. Like Kafka and Sebald, Walser wrote about the solitude and unease of human existence. Honest, wry and idiosyncratic, his stories are snapshots of the lives great artists, poor young men, beautiful women and talking animals alike. We thank Serpents Tail for the opportunity to read them anew.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, George thinks you should read The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook. About to be developed as a feature film this arresting, surprising and moving novel is set in the British Occupied Zone including Hamburg in 1946. It depicts the personal struggles as two families; one British and one German struggle to rebuild their lives and overcome the enmity and grief incurred during the War.

In non-fiction, John recommends The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov, a biography of the Mississippi-born entrepreneur who found a new life as an entrepreneur in Russia and Turkey during and immediately after the First World War. John had never come across the story of Frederick Bruce Thomas, 'the Black Russian', before and his story is a remarkable tale of rags to riches, tragedy, success against the odds and subsequent failure.

For tweens, Jill loved Moon Bear by Gill Lewis. She says Gill Lewis continues to cement her reputation as one of the strongest voices in support of the natural world and wild animals currently writing in children's literature with this lovely, heart-rending story about the use of bears in traditional Asian medicine. It could be her best book yet.


We have some interesting author features this month. Author Phil Earle thought that he knew about the perfect cover for his book, until the booksellers told him otherwise. Phil says I’ve learnt that I should have absolutely nothing to do with the covers for my books. As a ridiculous control freak, it’s been a difficult lesson to learn, but finally, three books in, I’ve accepted it. Find out the full story here.

Emily Murdoch has been in to see us and talked about the tenuous balance between the head and the heart for an author in The Way To Fairyland. There is such a place as fairyland, you know - but only children can find the way to it.

Obviously, we haven't forgotten to get out our reporter's pads this month either. We have super interviews for you. Robert gave five stars to teen novel Department 19: Battle Lines and he had quite a few questions for author Will Hill when he popped into Bookbag Towers. Robert also loved the live-action role playing in Geekhood: Mission Improbable and he had quite a few questions for author Andy Robb. Jill really enjoyed Flowers From Fukushima by Clive Lawton, a haunting story of two survivors in a Japanese post-disaster wasteland. She and Clive ha a lot to talk about when he called in.


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

All at Bookbag Towers

See what we were reading last year.

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