The Bookbag

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The Bookbag

Hello from The Bookbag, a site featuring books from all the many walks of literary life - fiction, biography, crime, cookery and anything else that takes our fancy. At Bookbag Towers the bookbag sits at the side of the desk. It's the bag we take to the library and the bookshop. Sometimes it holds the latest releases, but at other times there'll be old favourites, books for the children, books for the home. They're sometimes our own books or books from the local library. They're often books sent to us by publishers and we promise to tell you exactly what we think about them. You might not want to read through a full review, so we'll give you a quick review which summarises what we felt about the book and tells you whether or not we think you should buy or borrow it. There are also lots of author interviews, and all sorts of top tens - all of which you can find on our features page. If you're stuck for something to read, check out the recommendations page.

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The Catchers in Pirates, Thieves, Zombies and Magic by Stuart J Kent

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers

Meet the Catchers – a mix of young and old, magical and human, smart and, er, less smart. It's their job to round up Fabulous Beasts, and right from the get-go they have a job on their hands in this, the second book to contain their adventures. Colin, the older and magical (if not completely smart) one, is tasked with a recovery mission by a friend who boasted about having a wonderful lion griffin, only for it to vanish. Well, wouldn't you, if you were a lion griffin called Muffin? Either way, we know the adventure is going to include more than that simple task implies, as the extended title of the book suggests, but is it any good? Is it rock bottom on the pile of juvenile fantasy reads, or does the combination of Pirates, Thieves, Zombies (both tame and wild) and Magic make this particular Muffin top? Full Review


The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Pleasant Court is a cul-de-sac a few minutes from the beach in Melbourne. Kids play in the street and it's the sort of place people aspire to. Certainly that's how the families who live there feel and there's a good sense of community. Ben and Essie are glad that Essie's mother is living next door as Essie had a mental breakdown three years ago when her first daughter was having difficulty sleeping. Mia's come through that stage, but now there's Poppy, who's been the perfect baby for the first six months of her life, but is just starting to be difficult. Ben, in particular, is pleased that he can rely on Barbara to keep an eye on the situation whilst he's out at work. Full Review


Panic Room by Robert Goddard

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers

Don Challenor is a down on his luck estate agent who gets tasked to sell a house in Cornwall and upon meeting the live-in cleaner, Blake, finds his life utterly turned upside down. A simple sales job gets increasingly complex with the addition of a witch, professional heavies and a mysterious panic room. Intrigue builds on intrigue and what started fairly simply becomes something far more complex. Full Review


Horace & Harriet Take on the Town by Clare Elsom

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Emerging Readers

When Harriet, aged seven and a quarter, decides to go to Princes Park to practise 'Going to the Park on Her Own' (i.e. with her Grandad walking at least thirty steps behind) she can't believe her eyes. The statue of Lord Commander Horatio Fredrick Wallington Nincompoop Maximus Pimpleberry the Third (or Horace for short) starts to move. He not only moves but stamps his foot, shouts something that would get him in serious trouble with Harriet's mum, and climbs down from his pillar. Understandably Harriet can't resist following and quickly finds herself dragged all around the town as Horace searches for a new – and more suitable – home. His sights are firmly set on the Mayor's mansion and it, therefore, falls to Harriet to persuade him that there must be a better alternative. Sadly, Horace's visits to the museum, cinema, train station, playground, bank and library all cause mayhem. Luckily, however, a competition in the park reveals the perfect answer. Full Review


Gillie Can Share by Sarah-leigh Wills

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

Gillie the rabbit is baking cookies with Daddy. We might think they look most appetising (they're shaped liked carrots and rabbits, you know) but Gillie is really taken by the way that they smell. Lips are being licked. Does she dive in and eat them? No, she doesn't There are eight cookies. Two - a carrot and a rabbit - are for Grandma and Gillie hops off to deliver them. Another two are for Grandpa and then there are two for Mummy. Now there are just two left and Daddy gives them to Gillie, but Gillie is a kind, generous and thoughtful rabbit and whilst she eats one cookie, a rather scrumptious looking rabbit is offered to the reader. I wanted to hug her! Full Review


Reckless Obsession by Dai Henley

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime

It was several years since DCI Andy Flood's wife had been murdered, but he'd not come to terms with it. His daughters were coping reasonably well, not least because his mother had moved in after Georgina's death and she ran the home and looked after the girls. Flood's real problem was that the Met had moved the murder to cold case status. He couldn't believe that they'd do this when the murder of the wife of one of their own was unsolved, but he's determined not to give up on the case. Each evening when he's finished work he goes into his study and works on the statements from the case, looking for any inconsistencies. Full Review


Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

Miguel Bonnefoy's Black Sugar is a sensual epic chronicling three generations of the Otero family. The tale begins with the disappearance of Captain Henry Morgan's treasure and then illustrates the power this treasure holds over people. Multiple people become obsessed with finding this fabled treasure that has become an urban legend in the town in which the story is set. Full Review


The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

The Zero and the One is an incredibly well written and well crafted book. We meet our narrator, Owen, on the plane to New York for the funeral of his best friend. He is still reeling after recent events, a suicide pact in which his friend died but he lived, and he is going through the motions of the funeral and consoling family whilst still trying to get to grips with his own feelings of grief and guilt. So far, so simple. But this is where the talent of Ryan Ruby steps in and slowly, so slowly, he reveals little tantalising clues that all is not what it seems, a throw-away comment here, a mis-step there, and it becomes clear that Owen is not a reliable narrator. Full Review


The Parentations by Kate Mayfield

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Fantasy, Historical Fiction

In eighteenth century London, sisters Fitzgerald, Constance and Verity are changed forever when they become entwined with the Fowler family - and charged with protecting a mysterious child. Fast forward to the London of 2015, and the sisters are still waiting - with no way of knowing if the boy is alive or dead. Far away, a hidden pool grants those who sup from it eternal life, but also forces them to keep a secret for two hundred years. As those years pass by, those who were granted immortality find that it's far from a blessing - with true darkness emerging in the absence of death. Full Review


Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B C R Fegan and Lenny Wen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

Mr Nicholas Noo is the host of the magical Hotel of Hoo and he's just welcoming his very first guests. They're going to be in room number one and it looks very comfortable with a cosy fire and comfortable bed. But Mr Noo is a considerate host and he shows his guests around the hotel. There's only one rule: don't ever look behind door 32. Now, you're going to wonder about what, exactly is in room 32, because we'll see some exciting and wonderful things as you move from room 2 to room 31. Forget expensive theme parks: you'd be much better off going to the Hotel of Hoo. Full Review


Silver-Tongued by David Barrie

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime

Bruno Kahn is a bit like Marmite: people either love him or hate him. He's a psychiatrist, who has managed to insert himself into one of the richest families in France. There are those who suspect that he's exerting undue influence over the head of the family, Guy Larroque, who is either 'not as sharp as he used to be' or 'suffering from vascular dementia', depending on where you stand within the family. At the vascular dementia end of the continuum is Guy's daughter, Sabine Larroque, who's paid Samuel Bencherif, a freelance photographer, to dog the footsteps of Kahn and Guy Larroque's (very) young wife in the hope of finding something which she can use to free her father from their clutches. So far, so very much as the very rich live, until Bencherif is found bludgeoned to death in a passageway by the Theatre de l'Odeon in the centre of Paris. Full Review


Souvenir (Object Lessons) by Rolf Potts

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Travel

I know a lot about the subject of this book – although please don't think for one minute that is akin to a boast that I could have written it; far from it. But I too have a mountain of souvenirs here and there. They come in five kinds, don't you know – including a miniature version of what you've been to see (my porcelain Field of Miracles from Pisa, that has long since lost its miraculous ability to act as both memento and leaning hygrometer); pictorial representation, such as postcards (oh so many postcards); and physical bits of the place (a particularly Klimtian bit of stone found on a beach on Jersey only this autumn past). I am such a collector of souvenirs I get narked when I go to a place such as a cathedral and all that's on offer is religious product and nothing branded with the site, which is rich considering the whole souvenir industry came from religion and religious pilgrimage in the first place – you only need consider that in buying a souvenir you're trying to take a bit of its source home with you, and for that very reason people sought a continuance of some kind of holiness via religious artefact. You only need consider it, I say, but rest assured all that history and everything else has been considered in the making of this wonderful book. Full Review


More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

Rev has just turned eighteen. He is happy at home with his adoptive parents Geoff and Kristin. They are kind and supportive and have enabled Rev to leave his painful past behind - at least in part. Rev is doing well at school and has a good friend in Declan. Yes, he still wears a hoodie to hide his scars but, overall, Rev is doing well. Until, that is, he receives a letter from his biological father. And the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back into Rev's life. Full Review

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Truly, Wildly, Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

Annie has chosen to leave school in favour of doing her A levels at a college a train ride away. She's quite excited about this new adventure and the extra layer of independence it represents. No more silly school uniform. No more being followed around by a dedicated teaching assistant. It's going to be great. And nothing is going to get in the way of Annie making the most of it - not even the wheelchair she sometimes has to use, as person with cerebral palsy. Full Review

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Munich: The Man Who Said No! by David Laws

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers

I've played Neville Chamberlain in public, you know – a full one-line in a Beyond the Fringe sketch, where he says he has a piece of paper from Hitler. I then proceeded to prove it was a paper bag, in fact, by blowing it up and immediately bursting it. That is what that paper was to many – the indicator of a lot of hot air, and only leading to an unwelcome noise, when WW2 actually struck anyway. Certainly, not everyone was keen on his appeasement with the Nazis, and this book opens with the first-person reportage of one such man, keen on showing proof to Chamberlain that he should not sign the Sudetenland away. But he only got so far before his story was cut off entirely – leaving a grand-daughter, Emma, at Cambridge but under a cloud of ignominy, to pick the last, barest threads of the story up and see just what did happen to him. Oh, and her help has just come out of prison… Full Review

Young she.jpg

She, Myself and I by Emma Young

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

Rosa is just eighteen. You'd expect her to be off to university, or going on a gap year, or about to start an apprenticeship, wouldn't you? You'd expect her life to be full of possibilities and exciting new horizons. But this is not the case for Rosa. Diagnosed with a rare and incurable neural condition when she was just ten years old, Rosa is confronting mortality. This disease will kill her, and soon... Full Review


How to be Happy by Eva Woods

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Women's Fiction

Annie had hit rock bottom. Her mother was suffering from early-onset dementia and her marriage was well and truly over. She lived in a damp and depressing tenth-floor ex-council flat and had to share with someone she didn't really know just to afford the rent. And let's not get into the job with Lewisham Council and her colleagues there. Could it get any worse? Well, it looked as though it might when Polly burst into her life. She's one of those irritatingly happy, joyful people who simply won't take no for an answer and she's determined to make Annie happy. Whether she likes it or not. Full Review


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. These impassioned words belong to Zelie, the firecracker heroine of Tomi Adeyemi's stunning debut YA fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone. Already optioned for a movie it tells the story of the beleaguered Maji people persecuted for their supernatural powers. Once extolled as Diviners, imbued with godlike gifts and marked by their distinctive white hair and dark skin, the Maji have been the victims of genocide which has ripped away the magic of the survivors and cast them into the depths of despair. Considered a threat by the paler skinned ruling class, who fear the unknown, they have been labelled as 'maggots', oppressed, subjugated and classified as second class citizens (a universal theme which invites a comparison with the atrocities of today and the holocausts of the past). As Adeyemi explains, We live in a time where men, women, and children of colour are being dehumanized and oppressed and unjustly murdered. Though my book is an epic fantasy, it's directly tied to all of that pain. Indeed Adeyemi includes scenes reminiscent of the worst ravages of slavery to illustrate that horror and elicit empathy from the reader. Full Review


Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

Sarah, a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany as WWII is about to break out, finds herself alone after her mother is shot as they try to escape the country. She meets a mysterious man and, in a fit of dangerous altruism, saves him from arrest by the soldiers. This reckless act changes everything for Sarah, who finds herself recruited as a spy and sent to infiltrate a girl's school full of the daughters of the great and good of the Reich. Her mission? To befriend the daughter of a nuclear scientist and get access to his research. Sarah might be Jewish but she is also blonde-haired and blue-eyed. But will this be enough to maintain her cover? The tiniest slip could be fatal... Full Review