The Bookbag

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The Bookbag

Hello from The Bookbag, a book review 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. We can even direct you to help for custom book reviews!

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Ready for Pop by Hurk

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

London, The mid-sixties. In what appears to have been a murder attempt, Britain's greatest pop sensation 'Vic Vox' has been left a foot tall – the effects of a 'shrink drug' administered by assailants unknown. As Detective Chief Inspector Ladyshoe and his team at Scotland Yard try to find who did it and why, comedian Tubs Cochran prepares himself for his big come-back show. Can he keep his old fashioned comedy instincts relevant enough to entertain a new generation? Will Vic Vox's big rivals, 'The Small Pocks' be given a boost in Vic Vox's absence? And will June Scurvy get her hit (or maybe not) new single featured on the show they're all waiting for…Ready for Pop! Full review...

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

The first thing you must know about Ada Marie is the way she said nothing until the day she was three. Now that's a way to pique your interest from the start. After all what sort of child does not speak until she turns three? In this case it's a very smart little girl. Full review...

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

5star.jpg For Sharing

The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph, but what if you get stuck at the first bit? What if you don't want to try new things? Kevin the Koala knows what he likes, and likes what he knows thank you very much. And he's quite happy doing just that, hanging around his tree, never trying anything new and refusing the other animals' invitations to join in. He won't / can't / is choosing not to come down and play. Full review...

The Hippopandamouse by Jools Bentley

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

When the princess comes to your shop, everyone stands to attention, and Fluffley's Fine Toys is no exception. In preparation, the staff work hard to ensure everything is perfect. The floor is clean, the shelves neat and tidy, a place for everything and everything in its place. And if anything doesn't meet these exacting stands then POOF! It's off to the Unstitcher room. There is no room for anything less than perfection here. Full review...

Bram Stoker's Dracula: A Colouring Classic by Chellie Carroll

4star.jpg Crafts

There's no choice in the matter - you're going back to Transylvania in the late nineteenth century, to follow Dracula's attempts to move to England in search of new blood and to spread the undead curse. Only this time you're not reading Bram Stoker's classic, but using pens and crayons in this colouring classic full of bloodthirsty vampires, gothic patterns, dramatic landscapes and nightmarish figures. It's eerie, it's dramatic and it's great good fun. Full review...

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Colouring Book by Paul Kidby

4.5star.jpg Crafts

It was Sir Terry Pratchett whose chose Paul Kidby as artist for The Last World and the covers of the Discworld novels from 2002 onwards and it was a marriage made in heaven, with the one complementing the other. Kidby himself says that designing the characters with pencil and paint challenged and amused him beyond measure. The writing conjured clear imagery and it was his job to capture the humour and richly-textured stories on paper. Kidby and Pratchett shared interests in nature, folklore, science and history as well as a love of Monty Python and the bizarre and to my eyes at least the result was more, far more, than the sum of the parts. Full review...

The Otherlife by Julia Gray

5star.jpg Teens

Ben has a dark gift: he can see the Otherlife, a world of ancient Norse myths, wildness and danger. It means freedom from exams, warring parents, and everyone's impossible expectations. Then Ben meets Hobie, a charming, ruthless bully. He's a born mischief-maker who always gets away with it. Hobie has everything he could possibly want. Except the Otherlife. And he'll do anything to be a part of it. Anything. Full review...

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things by DK

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Depending on the curiosity level of your child, you may start to hate the word why. Why is the sky blue? Why do some elephants have bigger ears than others? Why, why, why, why! I can suggest to most parents that they make something up that sounds vaguely intelligent. The problem is that kids are canny little things. So, rather than trying to download the entirety of the internet into your head, get your child their own first encyclopaedia, something like My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things. Full review...

What's the Opposite? by Oliver Jeffers

4star.jpg For Sharing

When a child is very young they don't have the ability to grasp what their hands are, never mind complex matters of State, but eventually they all must start to learn. One way to achieve this is by reading fun books about the alphabet or numbers, but not all concepts are as clear as letters and numbers. What about the concept of opposites? How do you define to a 16 month year old why one thing is opposite to the other? Thankfully, you don't need to know the answer as the Hueys are on hand to help in their usual irreverent way. Full review...

Black Powder by Ally Sherrick

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Black Powderfollows a fictional account of the events leading up to November 5th 1605 – The Gunpowder Plot. The story opens with Tom Garnett, a 12 year-old boy, witnessing the hanging of his neighbour for a crime he did not commit. However being Catholic sealed his fate. This opening event is told with caution which paints an appropriate picture for a children's story. Tom's father, also a good Catholic man, helps a struggling priest by giving him shelter for the night and attempts to guide him to safety along the road to London. Unfortunately, the police hear of these kind deeds, which is against the King's rule and through forced information they set off to arrest his father. Knowing what lays ahead, Tom sets out to warn his father and so sets the scene for this exciting tale. Full review...

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Autumn 2000. Newly married lawyer Lily and her artist husband Ed have a small apartment in London. Fresh from the honeymoon, they're still settling in to their new roles, and their neighbour Francesca and her 9 year old daughter Carla help to take the pressure off a little bit. Full review...

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Clashes of cultures or cultural enrichment? Xenophobia or embracing diversity? Today's hot topics focus much on cultures meeting and notions of foreignness, especially in the context of migration. As such, Peter Ho Davies could not have chosen a more current and thought-provoking theme for The Fortunes: through four different stories, the novel documents some of the history of Chinese people in America over more than century. From railroad workers, laundry owners, and prostitutes to film stars and adoptive parents, The Fortunes tells tales of searching for identity on both national and personal levels. Full review...

Time: The Immortal Divide (The Chronicles of Fate and Choice) by K S Turner

4star.jpg Fantasy

As we open this, the third book of the trilogy, Tachra is on the threshold of either victory or death. As Arrun runs amok, Tachra's kutu allies disappear on paths that are separated from hers so she's forced to rely on her own wit and power. As Tachra and her people teeter on the edge of destruction, will that be enough? Full review...

The Mystery of the Three Orchids by Augusto de Angelis and Jill Foulston (translator)

3star.jpg Crime

All the ladies of O'Brian Fashion House are trying to do is to present their works in the best of lights to the best of Milanese and European society, but they're not going to find a dead person on their premises much help. Cristiana lives in Casa O'Brian, on the top floor of the building where everything key to her company happens, and it's on her bed that she finds the corpse – resplendent with an orchid perched nearby, an orchid that bizarrely means a lot to her. What could it signify? Was she correct in thinking she'd seen some people she really didn't want to see back in her life, in the audience below? And who here might not actually be who they first appear? It'll be a tough case for Inspector de Vincenzi, that's for sure. Full review...

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

5star.jpg History

Few cities have experienced a year more dramatic than Petrograd in 1917. The city, now known as St Petersburg, went through two revolutions: the first a popular uprising that brought down the Romanov dynasty, the second a Bolshevik coup that led to the formation of the Soviet Union. At the time, Petrograd was home to a large expatriate community, including diplomats, journalists, and businessmen. Many kept diaries or wrote letters home, vividly describing the chaos unfolding at their doorstep. In Caught in the Revolution, Helen Rappaport draws on this material to give a gripping first-hand account of the Russian Revolution, as told by those who lived through it. Full review...

Invisible Inc. by Steve Cole

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

So, you've gone invisible, the end of the world is nigh, and the bad guys have kidnapped your mum (as they do). Who are you going to call? Nope, not those guys (or, in the more recent film, gals) although there are a fair few not-quite-ghosts floating around in this story. In fact, dear readers, your dream team to stop the baddie and save the planet (honestly, the number of times poor old Earth is in danger in stories for young people, it's a wonder we get any sleep at nights) is a Victorian lady inventor, a five-hundred-year-old warrior knight and his trusty steed. Well, actually, it's a pony, but let's not get technical. Full review...

Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Emily. She's your typical young girl, except she's a little bit of a tomboy. Oh, and she's got a tail. Oh, and she was born from an egg that was left on a ride on the huge theme park that is Funfair Moon and when she hatched she grew up in the Lost Property Office with a sort of giant alien octopus as surrogate mother. But apart from that she's a typical young girl. She likes hanging round with the two weird creatures – one that's hairless and green, with eyes on stalks, and another that's like the plumpest Wookie – that maintain Funfair Moon. But today there's more than routine repair work to be done – but the way Emily throws herself into solving the drastic list of problems is typical of young, thoughtful, enterprising girls everywhere. But is it enough? Full review...

Horton Hears a Who by Dr Seuss

4.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Some books are classics and they prove this by never going out of print. Do you want to pick up a copy of a Dr Seuss novel? The chances are that you will be able to find a brand new one in any book shop. However, do these tales still stand the test of time? Can Horton’s adventures with the Whos remain the wonderful story it was the day it was written? Full review...

My Gym Teacher is An Alien Overlord (My Brother is a Superhero) by David Solomons

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Luke Parker is just an ordinary kid (unless you count his obsessions with comic book superheroes). While he has no special skills or talents, Luke has to put up with the fact that his brother and best friend both have superpowers. Zack is 'Star Lad' while Lara is the slightly more rubbish superhero, 'Dark Flutter'. Luke has always wanted to save the world and now he's about to get his chance. He discovers that an alien mothership is in orbit over his home town (Bromley) and they plan to take over the world as part of an alien reality TV show. To make matters worse, the aliens have chosen to disguise themselves in the most terrifying form possible – they all look exactly like his gym teacher. Sadly, however, no-one is prepared to believe Luke that his gym teacher is really an Alien Overlord. Full review...

Little People, Big Dreams: Amelia Earhart by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Mariadiamantes

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Amelia Earhart was born just before the end of the nineteenth century but she would become the most famous female pilot of the twentieth, having first become interested in planes when she went to an airshow when she was just nineteen. Shortly afterwards a pilot gave her a ride in a biplane and from that moment on she knew that she had to fly. There had been precursors to this obsession though: when she was a little girl she like to imagine that she could stretch her wings and fly like a bird. Full review...

Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon

3.5star.jpg Entertainment

Picking up this book immediately makes you wonder what exactly you make of John Lydon, the man who became notorious in the late 1970s as 'Johnny Rotten' of the Sex Pistols. Was he the iconoclast who if some of the tabloids were to be believed was about to destroy western civilization almost single-handed? Had he really come to destroy, or merely to use the showbusiness system and end up becoming part of what he had set out to fight, or both – or what? Full review...

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Quinn is missing someone, and Alex has found someone. And both are a little confused (not to mention alarmed, cautious and a little uncertain). In Chicago, Quinn discovers her roommate, Esther, is missing. Vanished. Gone without a trace. It's extremely out of character for the girl Quinn knows, but as she starts to hunt down Esther's whereabouts, she has to question how much she ‘'does know the girl with whom she shares a home and a life. A little way away, Alex is working in a restaurant when a mysterious stranger comes in. He can't quite figure out why, but he's drawn to her. Who or what connects these two stories? Full review...

Resolution by A N Wilson

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

In 1772 Reinhold Forster and his son George were hired as ship's naturalists for the Resolution, the vessel Captain James Cook piloted to New Zealand and back on a three-year voyage of discovery. Once a Lutheran pastor near Danzig, Reinhold seemed unable to settle to one line of work and had a higher opinion of himself than was prudent. In Wilson's vision of life on the Resolution, Reinhold seems fussy, argumentative and rather heartless, as when he offers George's dog up as fresh meat when the captain is desperately ill. George, just 18 when he joins the expedition, is a self-taught illustrator and botanist with a keen ear for languages. Though precociously intelligent, he is emotionally immature and cannot keep a handle on his masturbation habit or deal with their servant Nally's crush on him. Full review...

The Art Teacher by Paul Read

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face. A mediocre teacher, stuck in a struggling school ruled by violent pupils, Patrick goes home every night to an empty flat, and an existence filled with reminders of his life as a faded rock star. When one pupil over steps the mark, a brief mistake plunges Patrick into a world of danger, violence, and the glare of the media. Full review...

Super Rabbit by Stephanie Blake

5star.jpg For Sharing

We do love a good Stephanie Blake story in our house, and since we've pretty much worn out Stupid Baby we were very happy to give Simon's newest adventure a go. Simon the rabbit is not just any old rabbit, he is Super Rabbit, of course, complete with cape and mask! He is brave, he is bold, he is adventurous and, oh my goodness, he has got a splinter…! Full review...

Peter in Peril by Helen Bate

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Meet Peter. He hasn't got a brilliant life, by modern standards – always getting into trouble, and playing some form of football with coat buttons, but with a loving nanny and parents. The trouble is that he is living in Budapest, and while Peter understands nothing about the outside world's problems as yet, he is about to see what happens when the Nazis take control. And, in these graphic novel-styled pages, so are we… Full review...

The Messy Book by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Richard Smythe

4star.jpg For Sharing

When cat makes a big mess, he'd rather come up with any idea than tidy it up! He tries to get rid of his mess in various different ways, unsuccessfully, until there is no other option but to tidy up properly. It's a familiar scenario for many families, I'm sure, and told here with a great deal of charm! Full review...