November 2011 Newsletter

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November's News from Bookbag Towers

Well, world news isn't exactly encouraging, is it? Everywhere a crisis. It's times like these when books become even more important. They give us the chance to escape the misery for a while and indulge in a bit of escapism. And, with a cash-strapped Christmas coming up for many of us, books also make great value presents that won't break the bank. With this in mind, we've collected some of our favourite books from 2011 as recommendations for Christmas gifts. We think it has something for everyone - including a Kindle for those who aren't quite boracic. Take a look at our list if you're in need of ideas. We've also updated our review of the Kindle to include the lovely new dinky version.

We shall be tending to kith and kin this festive season, so this will be our last newsletter of the year. We'd like to say thank you very much for visiting us, reading our reviews and taking the time to pay attention to these witterings every month. We hope that your Christmas is wonderful and your New Year filled with happiness and good fortune.


Golden Hour

This month we're featuring a Smarties Prize-winner from 21 years ago. Midnight Blue by Pauline Fisk is a singular book, full of contrasts. Kitchen sink drama sits beside fantasy, and warmth and love sit beside the darkness that comes from both within and without. We at Bookbag love stories that feature a passage between worlds and this is a fine example. It's about growing up, about self-knowledge, and about the redeeming power of love. What more could you want? Pauline has reissued the book for Kindle herself and she was kind enough to tell us all about the process in an interview.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Sue has picked out The Forgotten Lies by Kerry Jamieson. In the mid-thirties, the golden age of Hollywood, three aspiring starlets shared a studio house on Lantana Drive as they waited to hear if they were going to have a career in the movies – or not. The plot is layered like an onion, there is a superb evocation of time and place - and a heroine who you never quite warm to, but are still keen to know how she gets on. A great read.

Continuing the World War I theme and in non-fiction, John (VdK John, this time) was impressed by The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund, an alternative history of the Great War, based on extracts from letters and diaries of twenty eyewitnesses around the world, some of whom died during the conflict while others survived. It brings home the atmosphere of those years in a way which is beyond the means of many a conventional account.

For younger readers, we've chosen The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook. If you, like us here at Bookbag, thought this was a likely to be a vanity project from an in-demand actor cashing in on possibly fleeting fame, then be prepared to be staggered. A boy discovering fairies has hardly been covered in a better way. It's funny without forcing out the jokes, involving while having a for-all-comers simplicity, and effective at everything it tries to do.

And fantasy-loving teens should look no further than Runelight by Joanne Harris. This super follow-up to Runemarks is a fast-paced fantasy using the Old Norse pantheon. It has fantastic world-building and a heroine to rival Pratchett's Tiffany Aching. We couldn't put it down.


This month, we've been talking to Keren David, whose new book Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery is quite a departure from her norm. She tells us how and why there are similarities... before she wandered off into fantasy man territory, that is. Hands off Johnny Depp, Keren!

We really enjoyed Ellie Irving's For the Record, an engaging story full of the best kind of English eccentrics trying to save their Jersey village from the bulldozers. It's charming and fun - just like Ellie herself! She was kind enough to give us a bit of background on the book when we chatted with her.


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

What were we reading last year?

All at Bookbag Towers

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