November 2012 Newsletter

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November's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and welcome! The dreaded Christmas shopping season is rapidly approaching. In fact, by the time this newsletter goes out, you'll probably be stuck in already. So we'll say what we say to you every year: don't forget to buy at least one person at least one book! If you're stuck for ideas, you could always look at our lists section. You'll find many of our favourites, all organised in a way that makes it easy to find a good book for any recipient, no matter their age or interests. We hope you find great gifts for everyone on your list - literary or not - and that you receive some great gifts yourself. And we also hope that the entire shopping experience doesn't make you lose the will to live.

What do you think to the Random House-Penguin merger that has had everyone chattering over the past few weeks? Game-changer? Or a last gasp of the big publisher in a world where 50 Shades of Grey can be self-published yet still top the best-seller lists? What with the advent of both ebooks and self-publishing, it's an interesting time in the book world. Bookbag is watching this space with interest.

And in less important, but actually fun news, we trust you didn't miss the delightful Google Doodle celebrating Bram Stoker's 165th birthday. In case you did, you can see it here. Enjoy! And we're having December off (turkeys to cook, dontchaknow) - so we'll see you in January. Happy festive season!

Golden Hour

We've chosen Simon & Schuster's timely reissue of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky as our blast from the past this month. You might have noticed it's been adapted for the big screen starring Harry Potter's Emma Watson. The film was lovely, but don't forget this book; it's even lovelier. Charlie tells his story in letters to an unnamed "friend" in this coming-of-age story about fitting in, about independence, and about difference. It's honest, heartfelt and sincere and it doesn't duck any issues. We can't imagine anyone who wouldn't love it.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, John recommends The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers. Agnes is a mystery to the residents of Chartres, even as she goes about filling any shortfall in labour here, doing any odd job there, and cleaning for some of the people in and around the fabulous cathedral the town is so proud of – and, even in the end, cleaning the cathedral itself. She seems perfectly willing to do anything one asks, so much so that one might ask why, although nobody seems to do so. The answers might be in the even-numbered chapters, which take us deeper into this character's extraordinary past, and to a linked series of quite tragic events... This is a novel whose qualities are impossible to pin down, but wondrous nonethless.

In non-fiction, it was no contest this month. We loved, loved, loved Boobadoodle by Rosy Sherry and Zoe's review of it. Girls, make a boob of yourself by drawing on your boobs with make up. No, really. A few dozen designs from witches to snowmen, cupcakes to ice cream. It’s hard to find fault with this book because it is exactly what it says, and shows, on the cover. If you object to looking at other people’s boobs then you won’t like it, but for us it was irresistible!

For the younger ones, Jill fell in love with The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. It's a beautiful fable about connections between people and between past and present, and about the universality of the human condition. It has lyrical prose and a dollop of surrealism combined with a healthy measure of reality. We loved it. This little book is like a Tardis - much more inside than you'd dream possible for such a slim little volume.


We thought that Black Heart Blue was incredibly powerful and more than a little bit frightening. Louisa Reid popped into Bookbag Towers to tell us about All Things Nasty. We don't know if you'd realised, but Gothic is her bag, big time.

We were also impressed by The Long Weekend and Savita had an interesting story for us when she called into Bookbag Towers. It's all about the title of her book and a film starring Robert Mitchum!

We've also been busy with our reporter's pads, interviewing kindly authors who were prepared to give us their time. First up was the lovely Stefan Bachmann. Three years ago a young man emailed to ask if he could review for us. Normally we wouldn't have considered him - he was fifteen and we don't like putting commercial pressures on people who are still at school. He lived in Zurich and we don't post books outside the UK. There was just one thing that we couldn't pass. He wrote like an angel and over the course of a year Stefan gave us some wonderful reviews. We're not surprised that he has a deal with a major publisher but we are delighted and we certainly were not going to pass the chance to ask Stefan a few questions.

Battalion is an action-packed adventure set some twenty yeas into the future. It's a thriller in the true sense of the word and we'd only just caught our breaths after finishing the book when author Adam Hamdy popped in to see us. Danaan Elderhill brought a little magic into our lives with her book The Magic Book of Cookery. We had quite a few questions for her when she called into Bookbag Towers.

This has been an incredible year for YA contemporary books, and James would be hard-pressed to choose his favourite. A strong contender, though, would be the long-awaited UK release of Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, an enchanting story of one incredible night. It's lyrical, romantic, and full of wonderful characters. He was absolutely thrilled to be able to talk to Cath Crowley about it!


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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Robin Leggett said:

In answer to your newsletter question about Random House / Penguin - I'd have felt much happier about it if they had called the merged group Randy Penguin. I'm also very impressed that neither you nor Zoe referred to "Boobadoodle" as featuring on the Sunday Times breastseller list! I wouldn't have been able to resist... (Zoe's review did make me chuckle though ... or perhaps that should be titter)