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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Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

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

Thomas Senlin embarks on his honeymoon with high hopes. He and his young wife Marya are travelling on a sleeper train across Ur to that engineering marvel, that fabled centre of culture, the Tower of Babel. It's a place he's read books about, taught his pupils about, and longed to visit, but the bustling and chaotic surroundings of the Tower in the desert are a long way from the quiet fishing village in which Senlin teaches. When he loses sight of Marya shortly after their arrival, he has no option but to look for her in this strange and overwhelming place. For all his background reading before the trip, he is ill-prepared for what he finds in the Tower, both its marvels and its horrors, and thus begins Thomas Senlin's arduous quest to recover his wife. Full Review

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Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women by Louise Kay Stewart and Eve Lloyd Knight

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

Rule breakers. Risk takers. Rebel women. Law makers. A celebration of women rallying around the globe to win the vote.

Let's just get straight to it. I loved Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women. And I can't let a review pass without a brief note on the fabulous production values. The cover is stunning and deeply impactful as you can see. It has that lovely, bookish smell. The paper is thick and heavy. Everything about it tells you that this is a book with interesting and important information. It simply begs to be picked up and read. Full marks to Wren and Rook for this investment. Full Review

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Star Quality (Dance Trilogy 2) by Jean Ure

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

Maddy, Caitlyn, Roz and Alex have all just been tested to go to the prestigious City Ballet School full time. Caitlyn, Roz and Alex all get their acceptance about a week later, but Maddy's is a little slower in coming. It was obviously delayed in the post. She was never actually worried that she wouldn't be accepted: well, she's an exceptional dancer and her family is ballet royalty. Where else would she be but City Ballet School? Caitlyn still can't quite believe the opportunity she's been given, particularly as she's not been dancing anywhere near as long as the others. It means so much to her. Full Review

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Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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

Love, Hate and Other Filters tells the story of Maya, a Muslim of Indian heritage. Like many other American teenagers, she is struggling to convince her parents to allow her to move away to attend university. However, in Maya's case, things are more complicated than usual, after instances of Islamophobia make her parents extra protective. Full Review

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I Swapped My Brother On The Internet by Jo Simmons

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

After a terrible argument over the Hanging Pants of Doom (don't ask), the sibling rivalry between Jonny and his older brother Ted comes to a head. Jonny fills out an application form at and sits back to wait for a new brother who is bound, surely, to be infinitely better than patronising, mocking, bullying, Ted. Right? Any brother would be better than Ted. Right? Of course! What on earth could go wrong?

Well, plenty as it happens. Full Review

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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

So, you arrive in all ignorance at Auschwitz, and see the horror there, and immediately swear to survive the ordeal to see retribution dealt on those behind it, but what do you do to see that oath out? Do you get to work diligently as the Nazis demand, to the extent you get the word collaborator muttered behind your back? Do you dare to stick your neck out and get a job that means you're actually a Jew working in the political wing of the SS, answerable to Berlin? Do you dare get contacts with civilian workers building the place, and trade the loot purloined from the incoming victims' belongings with food they smuggle in for you, under the eyes of all the camp guards? The man whose real life story inspired this novel did all that, and survived to tell the tale, but he also managed to do something even more daring, and unexpected – he dared to invest hope in a burgeoning love that he found in the camp. Full Review

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

As I began listening to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of the President of the United States taking to Twitter to establish that he was a stable genius, as opposed, we must conclude to being an unstable... Well, let's not go there. It's a little too frightening: this is the most powerful man in the world. So what made me listen to this book? Well, Donald Trump didn't want me to read it: US presidents don't often go down that road and rarely to a good destination (I'm thinking of Richard Nixon here) and that made me really want to know what was between the covers. But how did the book stack up? Full Review

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Auntie Poldi and the Fruits of the Lord by Mario Giordano

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

How to describe this book - well for starters it's unlike anything I've ever read before. It's chaotic, mad, funny, fast-paced, confusing but once you get into it it's really good fun and totally enjoyable. Full Review

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A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

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

FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing children. There's a link back to her childhood here, as she might not have been missing but she was certainly lost. Her mother was abusive and her father preferred not to do anything about it: there might have been a bit of pretense but there was no protection. All that should be in the past, although Elsa is still self-harming when under pressure, but her father is dying of lung cancer and although she would have hoped for some personal time with him, her boss has allocated her to a new case, that of 17-year-old Ruby Haverstock, and you can't waste any time when children go missing. Full Review

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The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

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

The Chalk Man follows a group of friends haunted by an eerily terrifying spectre, conjured during one fateful summer. By the time the new term begins, friendships will be fractured, and a girl will be dead. But who is the killer; is it The Chalk Man, whose dusty white grip squeezes ever tighter, or someone much closer to home? Thirty years later, Ed has tried to forget about that summer, about all the poisoned, sinister memories of The Chalk Man. However, someone seems determined not to let him and when the letters start to arrive, the past follows, plaguing him and dredging up the fever dream nightmare of the summer of 1986, populated by fairs, ra-ra skirts and death. Driven deeper into the mysterious events surrounding Ed's sleepy suburban life, the reader cannot help but wonder; who is The Chalk Man, and will he ever let Ed go? Full Review

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White Bodies by Jane Robins

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

Callie and Tilda are very different twins. Callie lives a quiet life, with a menial job, whereas Tilda craves the spotlight, and is a moderately successful actress. Callie is awkward, suffering from a lifetime of acne, weight issues and comparing herself to her sister and her beautiful white body. Callie has very strong feelings for her sister, envy, admiration, anger, love, and Tilda laps all of these feelings up. They are grown, and see each other with relative frequency. But now Tilda has met a new man, Felix. He's smart, charismatic, successful and very intense, very particular. At first Callie loves him, loves the way he includes her in their relationship, but after a boating trip, fun turns into something more sinister, Callie begins to worry about this dynamic, to obsess ... Full Review

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Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

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

Sophie had been married to James for twelve years and two children: to be honest she was more than a little bit in awe of him. James Whitehouse was an MP and junior minister: perhaps most importantly he was a friend of the prime minister, so when he had to admit that he'd been having an affair he was confident that some contrition, a public admission that he'd been wrong, that he was not perfect, would soon have his career back on track. And it seemed as though that was the way it was going, until a friend of the 'other woman', parliamentary researcher Olivia Lytton, persuaded her to go to the police. There was no dispute that the relationship had been consensual, but after James had finished the affair there was an incident in a lift in House of Commons and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service were both of the opinion that this amounted to rape. The prosecuting counsel is Kate Woodcroft and she's very determined that Whitehouse is going to be brought to book. Full Review

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Everless by Sara Holland

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

Jules and her father live in the kingdom of Sempera. In Sempera, everything is reckoned in terms of time. Wages come in the form of blood-coins, currency taken from actual blood and denominated in weeks, months or even years of life. In Sempera, as you'd imagine, the rich live for a long time and the poor do not. In debt and struggling to afford the rent, Jules decides to ignore her father's warnings and take a job at Everless, an estate belonging to the Gerling family. But Jules's father objects for a reason: there is a royal wedding coming up, between Lord Roan Gerling and a ward of Sempera's queen, and secrets long concealed that, if revealed, would change everything... Full Review

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The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen

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

I came to this book expecting only a typical teenage coming of age story, yet somehow, within only a matter of pages, I was utterly engrossed by the wonderful character of Malin. I read this book faster than any other I've read this year! Malin is a fourteen year old girl, who is very naive and innocent, and she struggles with social interaction. It is never stated within the book (a fact that I liked) but I suspect that she's somewhere on the autistic spectrum. But that isn't really what the book is about. It's about Malin growing up, struggling at school, having a first date, and dealing with family difficulties, all at the same time. Full Review

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Mike by Andrew Norriss

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

Floyd is a rising teen tennis sensation. At only fifteen, he is set to become the youngest ever champion of the national under 18s, his tennis career is written in the stars. Until Mike shows up. At first, Floyd thinks Mike is just a weird kid following him around. Why else would he be at tennis practice in the school so early? But when he appears on the tennis court in the middle of the match, Floyd can't understand why everyone is acting so calm … until Floyd realises he is the only one who can see him. Floyd is referred to a specialist and together they unpick the mystery of Mike. Full Review

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Dark Pines by Will Dean

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

Tuva Moodyson works for a local paper in small town Sweden - there to be near an ailing Mother, but desperate for the big break that will have her moving on to pastures new. Just outside of her town, Gavrik, two bodies lie deep in the forest - brutally murdered and their eyes ripped out. They bring back dark memories for a town that has seen this crime before - and Tuva is desperate to find the killer. At first, she's just out to write a good story - but as the crimes continue she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the forests outside of Gavrik, filled with stranger characters and dark secrets. Will she find the killer before they find her? Full Review

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Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers, Children's Non-Fiction

Women in Sport is coming to us just before the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018. It celebrates a century and a half of the development of women's sport by looking at fifty of its highest achievers, covering sports as diverse as swimming, fencing, riding, skating, and much more. Think of a sport and a pioneering women succeeding at it is probably in this book somewhere. Each entry is a double page spread with a brief biography and a striking portrait. Full Review

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Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

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

The Ice Queen has cast a spell on Erkenwald, separating the Fur and Feather Tribes and making the third – the Tusk Tribe – the enemy of both. Eager to secure her position by gaining eternal life, the Ice Queen is consuming the voices of the Erkenwald people. There seems little anyone can do until three children – Eska, Flint and Blu – come together. With help from 'the wild', they set off on a quest to find the legendary 'Frost Horn' and the magical 'Sky Song' that will free Erkenwald from the Ice Queen's control. Full Review