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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Return to Wonderland by Various Authors

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers, Short Stories

In following a young girl called Alice down the rabbit hole a few years ago, when the first book she was in hit 150 years of age, I found that I didn't really find too much favour with it. The wacky-for-the-sake-of-it did not gel, and I don't remember loving it more as a child. But I would suggest I am the perfect audience for this book. I had every chance to enjoy these short stories that come at the core from a tangent, that show the benefits of the oblique glance. I've always preferred coming to an author's output through their least obvious, allegedly throw-away pieces, and it's the same with franchises – I'd more likely go for Bree Tanner's short novella than the whole Twilight saga (although that remains just a hunch, for obvious reasons). For another thing, there was every reason to expect some kind of greatness here – with Carroll much loved by millions, surely pieces written with that love in mind could only provide for success after success? Full Review

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Rumblestar (The Unmapped Chronicles) by Abi Elphinstone

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

Rumblestar follows the haphazard adventures of the anxious 11-year-old Casper Tock who timetables his every movement, makes countless to do lists and is hounded by wealthy bullies with the absurdly humorous and appropriate names of Candida Cashmere Jumps and Leopold Splattercash. He stumbles across a magic portal by accident just like Lucy of Narnia fame, meets a feisty girl troubled by her past and is plunged into a perilous quest. In a kingdom where the dark mythological forces of Midnights threaten the weather Marvels (equated here to the miracle of nature) conjured by magical creatures, only unlikely heroes can battle against evil. [[Rumblestar (The Unmapped Chronicles]) by Abi Elphinstone|Full Review]]

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The Evil Occupants of Easingdale Castle by Ray Filby

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

Jason likes chess. He's pretty good at it too - a level eight on his computer programme, with level ten being Grand Master level. He's also good at systems, having contributed to the relational database that has streamlined his school's administration. Jason's school, Easingdale Comprehensive, is very big on technology and its head, Mr Johnston, is keen to involve his pupils wherever they show promise. So Jason's friends have also helped out. Liz is great with hardware and helped with the school's card reader system. Becky has a flair for software and has recommended lots of curriculum-enhancing apps. And Bill is a talented programmer... Full Review

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Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

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

DC Cat Kinsella is back at the Met after a secondment to the London Mayor's Office: the hours were good but the job was boring. She's grateful to be back with the old team - her partner DS Luigi Parnell, boss DCI Kate Steele and DC Rénee Akwa. She's still not prepared to say anything about the identity of her boyfriend: the knowledge that she's in a relationship with Aiden Doyle, the brother of a murder victim and moreover a murder with which her father might have had some involvement could finish her career. Kinsella and Parnell are called to the discovery of the body of a young woman: Naomi Lockhart was Australian, just twenty-two years old and her body was discovered by her flat mate, Kieran Drake, an ex-offender. Full Review

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Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson

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

Despite Dorothy Koomson regularly being suggested as an author I might like, ie people who like this author also like Dorothy Koomson, I have never read her before. Having done so I can totally see why she's the bestselling author of fifteen books. Full Review

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The Boy Who Fell (Inspector Tom Reynolds) by Jo Spain

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

There were six friends: four men and two women. They're all about eighteen and they've known each other since they started school. Both girls - Hazel Brophy and Charlotte Burke - have been in relationships with one of the boys, but Charlotte was determined that it would not be sexual. Hazel's views were so dramatically opposite that you wondered how they could be friends. They were all partying in a derelict house when Luke Connelly was pushed to his death from a third floor window and Daniel Konaté Jones was charged with rape and murder. Daniel was loosely associated with the group but never felt himself one of them. He didn't come from a wealthy background, is of mixed race and openly gay. Targets don't come much easier than that, except for one thing. Full Review

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Disbelieved: Skin and Bone CSIs by Beth Webb

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

Anelise - Annie - has been living with her cousin Joe and her aunt, an eminent forensic scientist, since her mum died and her naturalist father went abroad on a research trip. So she does wonder sometimes whether the minor premonitions she has - who's on the other end of the ringing phone, or at the door when there's a knock - are in her imagination. But to foresee a serious accident and then for it to actually happen? And the dreadful headaches. Something's going on. Luckily for Annie, Joe is convinced and also willing to help. So they start to investigate the accident... Full Review

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Joe Country (Jackson Lamb 6) by Mick Herron

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

I'd like to say that all the old crew are in Slough House but the rate of natural (or unnatural) wastage is such as to have Health and Safety worried. Roderick Ho's there though, narcissistic as ever, and so's Louisa Guy. She's getting over the death of Min Harper to the extent that she's not too concerned when she gets a phone call from Clare Harper, Min's wife. River Cartwright has got death on his mind too, but in his case it's the impending demise of his beloved grandfather and former spook, the OB. Diana Taverner has taken over from Claude Whelan as First Desk at Regent Park and she's going to make changes: one of the first is a shock. An argument with Emma Flyte sees the head dog departing the service. Meanwhile at Slough House, Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Jackson Lamb is offensive as ever and Shirley Dander and J K Coe do their best to remain unnoticed, the latter by saying nothing. Full Review

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Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

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

Vintage 1954 starts by thrusting several completely different characters upon us, before deciding to run with them and formulate a plot. So we have an American biker, just landing in Paris but unfortunately not with the wife who shared his dream of visiting the city together. We have a goth girl who everyone recognises from an American crime show, but actually is a humble restorer of antiques. We have a cocktail barman, infatuated with the goth girl. We also have a man ruling the roost over a whole suite of individual apartments fabricated from the Haussmann-era mansion his family once owned. Finally something conspires to get them together, and drinking from the same bottle of a rare 1954 red wine. Only, one of them has a bizarre incidence in his family history that also features the same plonk – where a grandfather imbibed, and walked out the door one rainy morning, never to be seen again. But of course nobody will be doing any disappearing now, though – will they? Full Review

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The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

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

As the title suggests, this book is all about a girl, Teagan Frost, who has psychokinesis. Forced to secretly work for the government along with a few unique (and shady) individuals, Teagan has to use her power for unimaginable tasks. All of this whilst under the pretence of working for a moving-company. After her latest job goes wrong and her and the team escape by the skin of their teeth, Teagan finds herself as a murder suspect when the victim is found in such a way that only she could have committed the crime. The rest of the story unfolds in a fast-paced race against time to clear Teagan's name and find out exactly what has happened. Is it possible that someone with a gift like Teagan's has managed to fly under the radar? Full Review

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The Suffering of Strangers by Caro Ramsay

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

Roberta (please call her 'Bobby') Chisholm is sleep deprived. Six-week-old Sholto doesn't ever seem to sleep, so Bobby's like a robot. There's a little light on the horizon, though: her husband James is up for a new job, which could mean quite a bit more money. When he rings to tell her that he's got it he's obviously over the moon and tells Bobby to go to the local shop and get a bottle of champagne so that they can celebrate. For once Sholto has dropped off to sleep and when Bobby gets to the shop she's reluctant to disturb him: surely there won't be a problem if she dashes into the shop to get the bubbly? She can keep an eye on the car through the shop window, but when she comes out, the car has gone... Full Review

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The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge

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

If you go into the woods, Old Crony will get you. Secrets, spies or maybe even a monster... What lies in the heart of the wood? Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to discover the truth, but when night falls without warning they find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Lost in the woods, strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows. As time plays tricks, can Charlie solve this mystery and find a way out of the woods? But what if this night never ends...? Full Review

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Bold Lies (DI Kelly Porter 5) by Rachel Lynch

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

It was the smell which announced the presence of the body in the wheelhouse of a boat and identification wasn't going to be easy as the man was stark naked. There were all the signs of a brutal, cold-blooded execution but gradually the man was traced back to Allendale House, the estate of the former Lord Allendale, and then to London, where two more bodies, naked, in a staged setting in a garage, were discovered. Senior Investigating Officer DI Kelly Porter had to go to London and was shocked to discover that the SIO for that case was DCI Matt Carter, her manipulative and untrustworthy ex-lover. It was going to be anything but easy to work alongside Matt the Tw... Ah, well let's not go there. Full Review

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Special Delivery by Jonathan Meres

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Dyslexia Friendly, Confident Readers

How do you explain to children about dementia? Injuries or illnesses are obvious, but when the problem is the brain which isn't functioning quite as it used to it isn't as easy to grasp. Frank was a normal nine year old and like many nine year olds what he wanted was a new bike. He'd had his for about seventy-eight years and he didn't want to raise the seat any more. Mum pointed out that it wasn't his birthday or Christmas any time soon and bikes cost a lot of money, which didn't grow on trees. His sister Lottie had a solution: Frank could help her with her paper round. Frank agreed despite thinking that it would take him a thousand years to save up the money for a bike AND he had to get up at six o'clock in the morning. Full Review

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The Spectacular Revenge of Suzi Sims by Vivian French

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Dyslexia Friendly, Confident Readers

Suzi Simms loved running and it was her ambition to win the 100 metres race on sports day at the end of term - and that was next week. We're going to read about what happened in her diary, although there's a warning that we really shouldn't be reading it, particularly as it's about Barbie Meek. To say that the two girls don't get on at all well is a bit of an understatement. Suzi wouldn't actually do anything about it, but Barbie is a troublemaker and she wants to win the 100 metres race too - by fair means or foul. Full Review

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The Adventures of Harry Stevenson by Ali Pye

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

Meet Harry Stevenson. He's a typical guinea pig, except he's perhaps a bit more ginger than normal. And more lazy than usual. And his appetite is possibly bigger than the norm. Apart from that he's a regular guinea pig. But the stories in which he features are nothing like. In the first one here, the lad who owns and looks after him is being forced to move house. It should be a simple journey for Harry, safe in his cage from all the predators that watching nature documentaries have put into his imagination, but he gets distracted and – shock horror – left behind. It takes some bravura slapstick and a charming contrivance for him to be found again. In the second, for we get two full-length stories in this volume, there's a party being held to get the lad used to his new schoolmates, and Harry used to life in a garden hutch. And one more wonderful conceit that drives high drama. Full Review

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Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

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

The Yoo family originated in Seoul. Yoo Young and her daughter Meh-hee came on ahead of the father of the family, Yoo Pak, as a couple in Baltimore offered to provide accommodation for Young and Meh-hee in exchange for assistance in their grocery store. What Young had not appreciated was that she was to work from 6 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week. For years she hardly saw her daughter except when the Kangs brought Meh-hee to see her at the store. Meh-hee became Mary and struggled at school: her fellow pupils were no exceptions to the rule that children can be cruel and Mary was an easy target. Full Review

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Velocity Weapon by Megan E O'Keefe

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

The last thing Sanda remembers is her gunship exploding. She expected to be recovered by salvage-medics and to awaken in friendly hands, patched-up and ready to rejoin the fight. Instead she wakes up 230 years later, on a deserted enemy starship called The Light of Berossus - or, as he prefers to call himself, 'Bero'. Bero tells Sanda the war is lost. That the entire star system is dead. But is that the full story? After all, in the vastness of space, anything is possible . . . Full Review

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The Chessmaster's Secret by Mary Parker

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

Belle and Joe travel to London in 1944, towards the end of World War II. Orphaned evacuees, they haven't had a good time of it - especially Joe, who is a sensitive child and was badly bullied. Meeting them is Uncle Griff, a kindly man, but one without much money. He is more than happy to have the children stay during the school holidays. Uncle Griff owns the Shop of Mechanical Marvels and the children love all the old things it contains. Uncle Griff hopes to restore it to profitability and bring some wonder back into London's bombed out streets. Full Review

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The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters to You by Rob Walker

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

The curse put on reviewers is that we get to read through a book which is really better dipped into, or read gradually and thoughts allowed to be provoked. And so it was with The Art of Noticing. It's a simple premise: the pace of modern life and rapidity of technological advances means that we are constantly overwhelmed and distracted. Rob Walker wants us to be able to steal our attention back. He gives us his thoughts on various areas of our lives and then provides 131 exercises to help us recover our attention. Full Review