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Review of

This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

4star.jpg Teens

Jess is a normal 90's teenage girl, just trying to navigate the usual stresses of school, and boys, and parent troubles. But strange things seem to be happening in her small town, with a mystery flu keeping lots of people indoors, and a strange metal device, with an apple on it, that slips out of her friend's bag, but that her friends just won't talk to her about. Jess feels like she might be hearing voices, and her sister (who is very ill) seems to be responding to her in strange ways sometimes. Is there something going on beneath the surface of Jess' life? Full Review

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Review of

Murder in the Belltower (A Miss Underhay Mystery) by Helena Dixon

3.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

In December 1933 the remains of Elowed Underhay were discovered in the cellar of the Glass Bottle Public House. Ezekiel Hamett was sought in connection with the murder of Elowed and his half-brother, Denzil Hammett, whose body was also discovered. Kitty Underhay's long search for her mother, who disappeared in June 1916 was over. Now she's determined that the man responsible for her murder will be brought to justice. Full Review

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Review of

Little Gold Ted by Vanessa Wiercioch, Poppy Satha and Sasha Satha

4star.jpg For Sharing

One day, Gold Ted falls into a puddle. It's quite a deep puddle and the water is swirling. Poor Ted starts to spin around and around and is sucked down a drain on the side of the street. Finding himself down in the sewer, Ted starts to panic. OH HELP ME PLEASE he cries and alerts the attention of Reg the sewer rat, who plucks him out of the dirty water using his cane, which might look just a bit like an old cricket bat. Reg is a kind soul and he dries Ted off and warms him up with a nice bowl of broth. Full Review

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Review of

The Treasure in the Tower by Rob Keeley

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Rob Keeley is back! Hooray! We here at Bookbag Towers are always happy to read a new adventure from Rob - his stories combine fast pace and lots of action, an easy to read style, an unerring eye for children's friendships and rivalries, and always a good dollop of naughty humour. They're all present here, in The Treasure in the Tower. The chance purchase of a book during a school trip sparks the whole adventure. Who can follow the clues best and find the treasure? Jess, her brother Mason and their friend Kessie through sheer persistence? Or spoiled brat Perdita with her money and tech gadgets and willingness to cheat? Full Review

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Review of

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Frankie Elkin found Lani Whitehorse's body in her car at the bottom of the lake. She knew that the twenty-two-year-old waitress wouldn't have left her three-year-old daughter and run away. Lani was the fourteenth missing person to be located by Frankie and now she's moving on again, this time to Boston where there's a strong Haitian community which was home to Angelique Lovelie Badeau until her disappearance eleven months ago. Frankie, middle-aged and white, gets a job and accommodation at Stoney's bar and sets out to investigate the community which is just about exclusively black. Full Review

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Review of

The Jeeves Collection, Vol 1 by P G Wodehouse

4star.jpg Humour

In my youth, I wasn't fond of PG Wodehouse: I've never been keen on upper-class twits and I was greedy. I wanted everything: I required brilliant plots, exceptional characters and laugh-out-loud humour. Age brought the realisation that you have to compromise and I came back to Wodehouse with a different mindset. The humour is gentle and subtle: there's never any malice in it. The characterisation is two-dimensional where women are concerned: there's little in between old gorgons (Aunt Agatha, we're looking at you...) and young schemers such as Honoria Glossop. The plots are superficial but gently engaging. They're fun - and the writing is exquisite. Full Review

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Review of

Hall of Smoke by H M Long

4star.jpg Fantasy

Hessa is an Eangi: a powerful priestess of the Goddess of War. That is until she is banished by her high priestess for not following her one order: to kill the traveller that visits her temple. Her whole town is burnt to the ground while she is praying for forgiveness, and Hessa – now left alone – must find this traveller to atone for her weakness and win back her goddess' favour. On her journey, she encounters zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly awakened demons at every turn. It is a gruelling quest, and along the way, she discovers a harrowing truth: the gods are dying, and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa's trust in her goddess weakens, and she is thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New. Full Review

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Review of

Kokoschka's Doll by Afonso Cruz and Rahul Bery (translator)

2.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Well, this looked very much like a book I could love from the get-go, which is why I picked my review copy up and flipped pages over several times before actually reading any of it. I found things to potentially delight me each time – a weird section in the middle on darker stock paper, a chapter whose number was in the 20,000s, letters used as narrative form, and so on. It intrigued with the subterranean voice a man hears in wartorn Dresden that what little I knew of it mentioned, too. But you've seen the star rating that comes with this review, and can tell that if love was on these pages, it was not actually caused by them. So what happened? Full Review

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Review of

There's Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Years ago, Danny Garvey was a footballing prodigy playing for his local club. Everyone predicted a bright future – but his career in professional football never quite worked out. Thirteen years on, convinced to return home by his "uncle" Higgy to visit his dying mother, Danny takes over the shambolic and once-great team he used to play for and tries to reform them. Full Review

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Review of

The Mirror Dance (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

4.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

It was the August Bank Holiday weekend and, as so often happened, it was cold enough to have the fire lit and Bunty the Dalmation wasn't inclined to leave it to keep Dandy Gilver warm on the sofa. The thought of work was almost cheering when Dandy took the call from Sandy Bissett in Dundee. She was the publisher of a magazine and had been told that the man running the Punch and Judy show in the local park had used copies of two of her cartoon characters - Rosie Cheek and her sister Freckle - to drum up some local interest in his show. Sandy Bissett's request was simple: she wanted Gilver and Osborne to warn the man about infringement of copyright - and Dandy and Alex would be cheaper than employing a solicitor to do the same job. Full Review

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Review of

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: Lessons in life from Saints, Spies and Serial Killers by Dr Kevin Dutton

4star.jpg Popular Science

'Donald Trump outscores Hitler on psychopathic traits' claims Oxford University researcher.

Until the events of 6 January 2021 that might have surprised, even shocked many readers: now they're probably convinced that they knew it all along. The statement has lost a little of its shock value but it does help us to understand more about the nature of psychopathy. It's too easy to associate psychopathy with the Yorkshire Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Saddam Hussein or Robert Maudsley, the real-life Hannibal Lecter, but the truth is that having psychopathic traits can sometimes be a good thing. Full Review

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Review of

The Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex Wheatle

2.5star.jpg Confident Readers

We meet Welton Blake at the worst of times – only they should be the best of times. He should be getting a text from the most bae-worthy girl in school in regards to a cinema date, but his phone has packed up, he's chundered last night's meal and his breakfast over another girl in class, who's duffed him up in response, and the wanna-bae seems to actually be with someone else anyway. On a bigger scale he's living with his mother and not much income now that the dad has left the picture – yes, things are so bad they're resorting to having cabbage for dinner. I know, right? But surely this is just a blip, a day at school to forget, and everything (like his vomit) will all come out in the wash? This can't be the start of a most nightmarish time for young Welton? Full Review

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Review of

The Cousins by Karen M McManus

5star.jpg General Fiction

The rich and famous Story family led a life of luxury on Gull Cove Island, until 25 years ago when each of the Story children - Anders, Archer, Adam and Allison - received a mysterious letter from their mother and were cut off completely. But now, a quarter of a century later, their children have been called to return to the island for the summer by their grandmother. What does she want with the cousins? Why did she cut off her children all those years ago? Are the deaths on Gull Cove Island really what they seem? The dark web of twisted lies, secrets and tragedy that has held the Story family up - and held them apart - for a quarter of a century is about to come crashing down. Full Review

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Review of

The Natural Health Service: How Nature Can Mend Your Mind by Isabel Hardman

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Isabel Hardman suffered a trauma which she chooses not to share. She says that a friend who does know, burst into tears and health-care professionals' jaws have sagged in disbelief. Hardman dealt with this at the time by 'keeping going': the next day she went to work to cover the budget, next there was the EU referendum, the political party leadership contests and then it was party conference season. One night she had to be sedated and returned home to begin long-term sick leave. That was what brought me to this book: 2020 was the year when the bins went out more often than I did. Full Review

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Review of

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll and Kaja Kajfez

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Fran, the gardener's daughter at a posh country house, is worried. She's just cracked her garden fork through quite a grim discovery - a large bone, buried under the potatoes. But she's even more worried when she learns that that event coincided with Leo, the older child of the house, breaking his leg while playing cricket on the lawn. She is due to get even more worried when she finds something else that also seems to foretell a surprise. Tasked with shoving Leo around the grounds in his bathchair, she might have reason to be out of her mind with fear, when she learns what he is seeking - a long-forgotten burial chamber. But surely that won't act as a premonition to anything - not here in the sultry, summery days of 1914? Full Review

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Review of

Why You? 101 Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again (3rd Edition) by James Reed

5star.jpg Business and Finance

Six years on from the original edition, the book is being re-issued with a bonus chapter entitled The Future of Work which includes an additional 10 questions. I've come to this some 6 years after reviewing the original book and my life has changed significantly in the meantime. I'm no longer working in middle-management having opted for a down-shift into reduced hours freelancing to enable me to focus on other (not necessarily paying) work. I can therefore relate to the first point made in this chapter namely that independence and flexibility are core skills that employees need to have. Full Review

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Review of

The Captive by Deborah O'Connor

4star.jpg Thrillers

Hannah knows the cage, intimately. It lurks in the corner of her eye. Soon, it will be occupied. Then what? What if he speaks to her? What if he escapes? What if he hurts her? What if she hurts him? Full Review

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Review of

The Therapist by B A Paris

5star.jpg Thrillers

When Leo Curtis found the house in The Circle, a gated community, Alice Dawson was in Venice. Leo wanted to move quickly on the property as it was on the market at such a reasonable price that Alice wouldn't have to sell her cottage in Harlestone for them to be able to afford it. Alice agreed - she was tired of their long-distance relationship. Now they would be able to spend most of the week together instead of just the weekends. Leo had some work done on the house: he made two bedrooms into one and although Alice knew that the house was stunning she just didn't feel comfortable there. Full Review

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Review of

The Awesome Power of Sleep: How Sleep Super-Charges Your Teenage Brain by Nicola Morgan

5star.jpg Teens

2020 has been a strange year: I doubt anyone would argue with that statement. Lots of our routines have been completely dismantled and for some teenagers this will have brought about sleep problems. Some teens will dismiss this as irrelevant ('who needs sleep? - I've got loads to be doing) and others will worry unnecessarily. Most people, from children to adults will have the odd bad night but worrying about your lack of sleep is only likely to make it worse. And there's also the fact that for far too long, lack of sleep has been lauded as a virtue and sleep made to seem like laziness. Being up early, working late has been praised and the ability to survive on little sleep has almost become something to put on your CV. Full Review

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Review of

The Coffinmaker's Garden by Stuart MacBride

4star.jpg Crime

At the coastal village of Clachmara, the headland is slowly eroding into the sea. Storm Trevor speeds up the process. A ship - the Ocean-Gold Harvester is stuck on the rocks and young Alfie Compton cannot resist sneaking out of the house to see what's happening. Margaret runs after her son and as she grabs him to pull him back to safety she glances across at the newly-exposed cliff front and sees human bones. Gordon Smith's home is falling into the North Sea and the evidence of what he's been doing for decades is going with it - except for what Ash Henderson of LIRU can grab as he later escapes the tumbling ruin. Full Review

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Review of

Winterkill (Dark Iceland) by Ragnar Jonasson

4star.jpg Crime

Ari Thor Arason is the police inspector in Siglufjordur and he's still living in the house on Eyrargata which he shared with his wife Kristin and son Stefnir before Kristin left to go to Sweden to do a Masters degree, taking three-year-old Stefnir with her. They were supposed to spend Christmas together but Kristin cancelled. It's now the Thursday of Holy Week and his family is due to arrive in Siglufjordur that afternoon. Ari Thor is having trouble sleeping but when he finally managed to get to sleep the phone rings: the body of a young woman has been found on Adalgata, the main street of the town. Full Review

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Review of

His Name Was Wren by Rob Winters

4star.jpg Confident Readers

In September 1944 something came down in Oban Woods, near the village of Hurstwick. It came down hard, taking the spire of the village church with it, destroying a stone shack, and leaving a wide trail through the wood, but no trace of what it actually was. German secret weapon was the local gossip, but there should have been an explosion and a crater, and there were neither of those things. Full Review

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Review of

The Spy Who Inspired Me by Stephen Clarke

4star.jpg General Fiction

This is a spoof spy story, that isn't about James Bond. Or Ian Fleming. But it features a man called Ian Lemming, who dresses well and 'likes the ladies' and who works for the secret service, but in the planning side of things more than the active service. Lemming finds himself put on a mission with a female spy called Margaux, and the pair end up stranded in Normandy, with Margaux on a desperate mission to unearth traitors in the resistance network, and Lemming desperately trying to keep up with her! Full Review

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Review of

Making a Difference: Leadership, Change and Giving Back the Independent Director Way by Gerry Brown

4star.jpg Business and Finance

You're not there to run the organisation. You are there to make sure that it is run properly.

Gerry Brown is passionate about the benefits which Independent Directors can bring to a board - not just a corporate board, but the board of an NHS Trust, a university, a sports organisation or a charity. He's particularly keen that there's increased diversity on these boards and feels that this would help to avoid some of the scandals (Oxfam, Kids Company - we're thinking about you) which have occurred in recent years. For this to happen, boards need to have a wider field of people to choose from when they're looking for an ID. Full Review

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Review of

The Natural Health Service: How Nature Can Mend Your Mind by Isabel Hardman

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Isabel Hardman suffered a trauma which she chooses not to share. She says that a friend, who does know, burst into tears and health-care professionals' jaws have sagged in disbelief. Hardman dealt with this at the time by 'keeping going': the next day she went to work to cover the budget, next there was the EU referendum, the political party leadership contests and then it was party conference season. One night she had to be sedated and returned home to begin long-term sick leave. That was what brought me to this book: 2020 was the year when the bins went out more often than I did. Full Review