October 2014 Newsletter

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October's News from Bookbag Towers

Hello! How's it going? What have you been reading? There's so much good stuff about that we bet you are spoiled for choice. Read on for some of our recommendations for a fabulous reading experience this month. However, you don't have to wait until the end of the month to find out which books we're enjoying. You can always follow us on Twitter, where we post links to reviews of the books we liked every single day. Get ahead of the Bookbag curve!

Huge congratutlations to Richard Flanagan for his Booker triumph with The Narrow Road to the Deep North. His kaleidoscopic, empathetic portrait of Australian POWs working on the Burma Death Railway during World War II is a new classic of war fiction. And isn't he a lovely guy?

And at a time when libraries are closing despite desperate campaigns to keep them open, isn't it great that Birmingham Library is nominated for the Riba Stirling Prize 2014? Have a look at this fabulous building.

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month is a real classic: The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - The Nearly Definitive Edition by Douglas Adams. Originally a radio comedy, a "trilogy" of five books was published between 1979 and 1992. This much loved series finds a beautiful home in a new edition from William Heinemann, with all five parts of his wonderful trilogy collected into a brilliantly designed hardcover copy. It's great for fans of the series and newcomers alike and it'll have you in stitches from the very first page.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Patricia couldn't speak highly enough of By Night The Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel. It's an outstanding novel based on the author’s memories of growing up in Equatorial Guinea. Reading this book, it’s hard not to feel the excitement that comes with discovering a great author; the rare exhilaration that strikes once every few hundred books, amid the indifferent, the simply good or the cleverly fashionable. It raises so many issues, both political and economic, caused by the dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea, that it attracts attention for its scope alone. The story transcends the small island and its protagonists. It is the classic and ever tragic tale of a wealthy and repressive elite keeping its subjects in poverty and isolation.

Ani is recommending Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald. 1850s India: Laura Hewitt accompanies her newly married cousin Emily Flood and Emily's husband Charles to the exotic sub-continent for a visit to Charles' half-brother Oliver Erskine. Although none of the travellers have ever met Oliver, many of the people they encounter have heard of him and the way he rules his small fiefdom as its Zemindar. These stories tantalise Laura as the information conflicts and she's unable to develop a mental picture of the man. That's not all that's conflicting: there's an increasing feeling of unrest in this furthest outpost of Queen Victoria's empire which will eventually lead to one of the bloodiest episodes in Indo-British history. Laura, Emily and Charles are naïve, but that won't save them from what's to come – something beyond their worst nightmares. This novel juxtaposes a love story and the immense hatreds of the First Indian War of Independence, without ever compromising either. It's wonderful stuff so get your tissues at the ready!

In non-fiction, Louise thinks you should go with some popular science for children. The Human Body in 30 Seconds by Anna Claybourne is a fabulous little volume from a series that tries to make the complex simple and succeeds very well. Our body is an amazing machine, capable of performing a myriad of tasks simultaneously. Even when we are sleeping, our body is busy processing information, pumping blood, regulating temperature and filtering waste. The 3-minute-missions in this book form a useful, hands-on way to help readers understand how the body works. And who wouldn't want to make an eardrum out of a bowl of rice and some clingfilm?!

For teens, Jill fell in love with A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. Claire and her friend Ella Grey are inseparable. Ella is dreamy and strange and Claire thinks she is the most beautiful girl alive. The two are part of arty friendship group who are studying literature and getting ready for university. They wear vintage clothes and drink wine together, dreaming of freedom and future lives full of art and song and creativity. And then, one day, Orpheus appears. His music entrances them all but none more than Ella. And Claire, with a cold lump of dread inside, can see her beloved friend slipping away. It's a desperately romantic and deeply lyrical re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Full of the hums and thrums of emotions, landscape, music and poetry, it's David Almond at his best.

For tweens, Jill recommends Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson. Living in Edwardian England, Opal Plumstead is a fiercely intelligent girl. She has already won a scholarship to a public school and dreams of going to university. But all her ambitions are snatched away when her father is sent to prison and Opal is forced to abandon her education for a job in the Fairy Glen sweet factory. The other workers there find Opal snobby and arrogant but the factory's owner, Mrs Roberts, notices her artistic talent and treats Opal as a protege. Through Mrs Roberts, Opal learns about the suffragette movement and even meets the legendary Mrs Pankhurst. Blimey! This is Jacqueline Wilson's 100th book! Do we really need to tell you that it's super?!


We have a brace of cool interviews for you this month. Sue thought that Snug was a deceptively simple novel with unsuspected layers. It left her thinking about our colonial history and when Matthew Tree popped ino Bookbag Towers she had quite a few questions for him. Can we ever escape the legacy of colonialism? Matthew has some ideas.

Peter thought that author Leigh Russell captured the atmosphere of the racecourse well in Race to Death and he had quite a few questions for Leigh when she called round. I wonder if you can guess the identity of her favourite crime author. Guess before reading the interview. We're betting you get the wrong person!


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.

What were we reading last year?

All at Bookbag Towers

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