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|author=F G Cottam
|title=The Magdalena Curse
|summary=Mark Hunter is the sort of father who would do anything for his son. After losing his wife and daughter in a tragic accident, his surviving son Adam has become his whole world. And Adam is an exceptional child – beautiful, incredibly smart and mature beyond his ten years – only recently he's been channelling the voices of the dead. Plagued by horrific dreams, able to speak Russian in the hours after he wakes, drawing occult symbols when he doodles, Hunter believes Adam to be possessed. Doctor Elizabeth Bancroft is sceptical, until she meets Adam, and witnesses the horrors the poor boy endures for herself.

Revision as of 15:12, 26 October 2009

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.

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The Magdalena Curse by F G Cottam

2.5star.jpg Horror

Mark Hunter is the sort of father who would do anything for his son. After losing his wife and daughter in a tragic accident, his surviving son Adam has become his whole world. And Adam is an exceptional child – beautiful, incredibly smart and mature beyond his ten years – only recently he's been channelling the voices of the dead. Plagued by horrific dreams, able to speak Russian in the hours after he wakes, drawing occult symbols when he doodles, Hunter believes Adam to be possessed. Doctor Elizabeth Bancroft is sceptical, until she meets Adam, and witnesses the horrors the poor boy endures for herself. Full review...

The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

I shall start with a word of advice. When you're being hounded by a circus master, and a magician, for the soul of a tiger that's contained in a tiger's egg that's contained in the brain of your teddy bear, and your best friend - a fallen angel - is trying her best to make sure the other angels do not turn on you in a big way - then you're probably living the third book in a fantasy trilogy. Still - never mind, the angel's efforts will involve you entering a dream world of flight and cloud cities, the chase after your enemies will take you across the world to desert oases and back, and friends new and old will be on board to help. Full review...

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years by Sue Townsend

5star.jpg General Fiction

Adrian Mole is now 39¼ and living, quite literally, in a pigsty, sharing an all too thin party wall with his parents and working in a bookshop. It's not quite how life was supposed to turn out. As he spends his days wrestling his strong willed 5 year old Gracie into her school uniform, trying to reassure glamorous wife Daisy that life in the provinces is not as bad as she would like to believe, and desperately attempting to talk his mother out of her quest to appear on the vile Jeremy Kyle show, worrying over his increasingly frequent visits to the toilet is really the last thing he needs. And yet, the worst is still to come. Think a crumbling economy, redundancy, affairs, death, a family member challenging him in the novel writing stakes and a query over the big C – it's going to be a tough year for the Moles, and there's little that ol' Adrian can do except sit back and watch his life spin out of control around him. Full review...

Fallen by Lauren Kate

4.5star.jpg Teens

A 17 year old girl at a new school meets a mysterious and impossibly good-looking boy, who she's immediately drawn to. He seems determined to either ignore her or be outright rude to her, until he saves her life, and the two of them end up drawn together. This isn't Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, but it certainly has striking similarities. Full review...

King Lear by Gareth Hinds

3star.jpg Graphic Novels

Hound me out of town in a most appropriate manner, but I do not like King Lear. For me, even as a trained actor, the language is too dense and rich, the set-up too archly unfeasible to create the great tragedy it's thought to be. To my mind the acclaim and esteem in which it's held is only mirrored by its own over-long, over-blown blustering. Full review...

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Set in India, familiar territory for Theroux, A Dead Hand tells the story of a travel writer suffering from writer's block (also known as 'dead hand') until a chance letter from an American ex-pat, the mysterious Mrs Unger, relating a story of a mystery of a dead body in a hotel leads him to release his creativity in very unexpected ways. The story is more about obsession and infatuation than it is about the mystery itself as the narrator falls under Mrs Unger's Tantric charms. But does she have more to hide than she's letting on? Full review...

The Fourth Part of the World: The Epic Story of History's Greatest Map by Toby Lester

4.5star.jpg History

In 2003 a map was bought for $10 million, the highest price ever paid publicly for a historical document, by the Library of Congress, where it is now on permanent public display. No ordinary map, this is sometimes described as America's birth certificate. It is the sole survivor of a thousand copies printed early in the 16th century, and was discovered by accident in some archives in a German castle in 1901. The sale and story behind it intrigued Toby Lester so much that he was inspired to discover more, and this book is the result. Full review...

Is it Just Me or Has the Shit Hit the Fan?: Your Hilarious New Guide to Unremitting Global Misery by Steven Lowe and Alan McArthur

3star.jpg Humour

The banks fell over like fat Labradors running over a wet kitchen floor. Surely that is the wackiest, most inappropriate simile for the credit crunch and all it has done for the world. You won't get any such namby-pamby animal likenesses from these authors, instead with quite a potty mouth on them they will lambast the modern world, the entire banking system, all those who failed to see it coming, and those millions just seemingly waiting for us all to revert to high-interest, high-risk, high-lending capitalism, so they can get back on the expenses train, and back up the rich lists. Full review...

What's For Dinner, Mr Gum? by Andy Stanton

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

As soon as heroine Polly turns her back, and leaves the town of Lamonic Bibber for a day at the seaside, Mr Gum falls out with his best friend, causing carnivorous carnage all over the place. Meat is getting thrown around like it's going out of fashion, and we have to doubt whether Polly and her companions can ever utilise the power of love and put things to rights. Especially as this book does not contain a magic unicorn called Elizabeth. Full review...

Here Come the Girls by Loose Women

4star.jpg Home and Family

This is the second volume by the panelists from that nice ITV series, Loose Women. Just as promised on the cover, this book is an entertaining night with the girls. It turns out that they're just like us. The faces are already familiar and even if you don't know them yet, with nine contributors, you'll soon find a like-minded woman behind one of the celebrity faces. The women are universally warm-hearted and supportive: there will be many a lonely woman who reads this book and feels as if she sat down with a group of friends for the evening. Full review...

The Madness of Queen Maria: The Remarkable Life of Maria I of Portugal by Jenifer Roberts

4.5star.jpg Biography

Born in 1734 in Lisbon, at that time the richest and most opulent city in Europe, Maria was destined to become the first female monarch in Portuguese history. Married to her uncle Infante Pedro, seventeen years her senior, she had six children (outliving all but one of them), and became Queen in 1777. A conscientious woman, she had the misfortune to be born in during the 'age of reason', when church and state were vying for supremacy. Instinctively a supporter of the old religion, with a humanitarian approach to state affairs, she was no Queen Elizabeth, no Catherine the Great, and wore her crown rather reluctantly. Full review...

Thomas Wogan is Dead by David Hughes

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Well, with a title like that, need I bother with a plot summary? A man has a day out in Morecambe, then the next thing he knows he's in the ultimate waiting room, with a strange array of animals (a bat, a toad, a sea urchin...), all waiting for... well, something. Yup, as you didn't need telling, he's dead. Full review...

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

4star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Max. When I say he sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick about adults, or dislikes his mother's new boyfriend, or gets a bit feisty when he feels the need for revenge, I am certainly understating the facts. He is a bit of a rascal to say the least. But all that might change when he finds himself travelling to a strange land of roisterous animals, and ends up installed as their king. Full review...

Christmas Chaos for the Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Trevor's troublesome dog, Streaker, has had three puppies. They were fathered, according to local bully Charlie Smugg, by one of his Alsatians. Trevor would ideally like to keep them, at least until Christmas, but his parents have other ideas and put them up for sale. Charlie Smugg declares that he's entitled to half of the money from the sale of the puppies, but before they can be sold the three puppies go missing in the park and it's up to Trevor and his best friend Tina to try and track them down before Charlie demands his cash! Full review...

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

3.5star.jpg Teens

Cassie lives on an Arctic research station in Alaska. She loves the ice and the wilderness of her remote home and she'd definitely prefer to spend her time on tracking polar bears and fending off frostbite rather than on mixing with her peers and enjoying college and home comforts back in Fairbanks. However, things aren't all rosy. Cassie's mother died when she was just a baby and she can't help feeling a huge hole in her heart. Her scientist father is remote and unloving and her grandmother left the station after an argument with him when Cassie was still very young. Full review...

The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Iain Smyth and Michael Terry

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Do you know the joke about the wide-mouthed frog? You must have heard it. It's a classic. It's one that you really need to tell in person, with your fingers pulling your mouth wide open, but to hopefully spark your memory, the wide-mouthed frog introduces himself to a number of animals until he finally comes across a crocodile who eats wide-mouthed frogs, and the frog does his best to disguise who he is whilst saying Ooh, you don't see many of those round here, do you? I'm hardly doing it justice, but it's very cheesy and funny. Anyway, this is a book of that joke. Full review...

Don't Swallow Your Gum by Dr Aaron Carroll and Dr Rachel Vreeman

5star.jpg Lifestyle

BANG. That's the sound of copious urban myths being shot down. BANG. That's the sound of the old wives slamming the door, as their tales get revealed as baseless. CLICK. That's the noise lots of ill-informed websites make as they get closed down. All noises come due to this brilliant book. Full review...

Violet by Annie Taylor

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Violet is a very special hippo. She is extremely small but that does not make her adoptive parents Albert and Mavis love her any the less. However, they are slightly worried that Violet has a very unusual habit of turning pink without warning and for no explicable reason. Full review...

When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Arthur Transcombe is a middle-aged, grey-haired, self-effacing poet. Unremarkable really - on the outside. He has, however, managed to achieve some success with his poems. (Being a guest speaker at the Cheltenham Literary Festival is no mean feat). He is also a babe magnet! Full review...

Tommy Storm and the Galactic Knights by A J Healy

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Tommy Storm. He's one of five teenagers snapped up from around the universe to be a gang of heroic detectives charged with rescuing EVERYTHING from destruction. Not just the planet, or the solar system, or even the galaxy, but EVERYTHING. Nobody seems to know what's going to cause this destruction, or when, but he and his friends and their ship seem to be the only people proactively going about saving the day. So it's a pity that they start this book strung up by a nasty loony who's about to kill them. Full review...

Bounder!: The Biography of Terry-Thomas by Graham McCann

4.5star.jpg Biography

When I was in my early teens, it sometimes seemed as if Terry-Thomas was one of the stars of almost every other five-star British comedy film around. He was certainly one of the most recognizable characters of all with his gap-toothed grin, cigarette holder and inimitable 'Hel-lo!', 'Hard cheese!', and best of all, the angry, 'You're an absolute shower!' Full review...

Stop Me by Richard Jay Parker

3.5star.jpg Crime

Spam E-Mails can be incredibly annoying, but most of us will have had to deal with them. Fortunately, we can hit the delete button and forget about them as quickly as they came. I certainly prefer not to torture my friends by sending such rubbish on, no matter how bad my luck is supposed to become if I don't. But I wonder how many of us would react if a spam E-Mail actually was a matter of life and death, rather than just claiming to be? Full review...

The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson

5star.jpg Confident Readers

London 1601. Elizabeth I is getting on in years. Her capital city is a busy, bustling place. Boats fill the river and people fill the streets. Jack is happy because it's his birthday and his present is his heart's desire: an excitable black puppy named Max, who's a licking and a running and a leaping and a jumping and a tummy in the air and a tail wagging and a barking, racing, braking, spinning energy dog of delight. Full review...

Love and Kisses by Jean Ure

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Tamsin and Katie were just thirteen and worried that they were boring. They'd been best friends since forever and were the good girls. Neither missed school, skipped her homework nor had boyfriends. Well, that is, not so far. Up until then Tamsin had been the boffin head – consistently strong academically and looking forward to going on to university. All that seemed to change when she met Alex. Well, when I say 'met' I should perhaps clarify and say that Alex pushed his wheelbarrow into her, from the building site where he worked. Oh, and did I mention that he was seventeen, Polish and spoke very little English? Full review...

Managing by Henry Mintzberg

5star.jpg Business and Finance

Study after study has shown that managers work at an unrelenting pace

How true, though it always makes me wonder why, as a result, there's such a market for bulky management and leadership and general business books like this one. How does anyone who needs or wants to read one ever find the time to do so? This title actually has an answer to this, by providing two books in one, and it is such a simple yet effective solution that I have to start there. You can read this book in one of two ways. Option one is to read every word, chapter by chapter, cover to cover. If you have the time I would recommend this approach because the book is very readable, not too repetitive, and quite thought-provoking. Full review...

Blood Born by Kathryn Fox

4star.jpg Crime

To give support to a vulnerable gang-rape victim, forensic pathologist Anya Crichton offers to drive Giverny Hart to the courthouse on the day she is due to testify against the notorious Harbourn brothers. But when Anya arrives at the house she finds Giverny close to death and faces a battle against time to save her. In the panic, Anya fails to take note of an important clue which might help tell whether it really was suicide or a cleverly staged murder. Worse still, in trying to save the girl's life, Anya has interfered with a crime scene and the case falls apart. She blames herself for the Harbourn brothers being allowed to walk free and only hours later there is news of another attack. A pair of sisters have been stabbed and raped resulting in the death of one, while the other clings to life. Full review...

Remembrance Day by Leah Fleming

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

In the year 2000 an old lady in a wheelchair watches the unveiling of the new war memorial in the village square. There's pride in what has been achieved, in the family who are gathered around her and there are memories too. Some are good but many are not. Full review...

Surf's Up (Mammoth Academy) by Neal Layton

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Having successfully seen off the rather unpleasant humans in earlier volumes, our favourite junior mammoths Oscar and Arabella have nothing much else to do apart from return to Mammoth Academy for lots more double periods of Difficult Sums. They're supposed to be making presentations about what they did during the holidays too, but Oscar hasn't done any preparation and, frankly, he can't really remember what he actually did do with all that free time other than no Difficult Sums. Full review...

The Princess Who Had No Kingdom by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The princess who has no kingdom wanders around in a cart pulled by her horse Pretty. She's very polite, friendly, and kind-hearted, but she feels like something is lacking because she doesn't have a kingdom of her own. The other royals she meets treat her nicely enough, but there's always a feeling that she's not quite as good as them because she isn't the princess of anywhere. Full review...

The Happiest Man in the World or the Mouse Who Made Christmas by Mij Kelly and Louise Nisbet

4star.jpg For Sharing

Mouse doesn't like anyone and keeps herself to herself. Her things are her things and she is too selfish to share them with anyone else. One day, an old man moves in to Mouse's house. He used to be the happiest man in the world, but now he's sad. He's fed up of having given, given, given all his life and never got anything back. He just sits quietly and mopes. This makes Mouse miserable, so one day she decides to cheer him up by giving him a clementine... Full review...

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

4star.jpg For Sharing

Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep head into a cave to get out of the rain, but little do they know that Bear is fast asleep in there. When they wake him up, he roars at them, chasing them outside, so they decide to cheer him up somehow. Zebra paints stripes on him, Moose fashions antlers for him and Lion sticks a mane of straw on him. Unsurprisingly, this makes Bear even crankier, so it's down to Sheep to save the day... Full review...

Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray and Lee Wildish

4star.jpg For Sharing

A young boy's parents are splitting up. He's going through the usual emotions that children of divorce go through: worry, feeling unsure, blaming himself, anger, denial, and then trying to get them to stay together. His method for this isn't the usual response though: he looks for glue to stick his mum and dad together. Thankfully, he finds some wise and kindly advice in the process. Full review...

The Bear With Sticky Paws Won't Go To Bed by Clara Vulliamy

4star.jpg For Sharing

It's Pearl's bedtime, but she says she's really busy and isn't going to sleep. She just wants to play and play and play. When the bear with sticky paws rings the doorbell, he whisks her away on an amazing adventure - although as you might expect, the bear has a little more energy than Pearl and eventually she does get a little sleepy. Full review...

Miki by Stephen Mackey

4star.jpg For Sharing

It's cold, dark and icy, and Miki and Penguin are trudging through the snow. But it's Midwinter Eve, when wishes come true. They wish for a tree, lights, someone strong to power the lights, and finally a star that will shine brightly forever. Miki is taken deep below the ice to find the star, whilst up top Penguin and new friend Polar Bear start to worry about her. Full review...

Fire by Kristin Cashore

5star.jpg Fantasy

Possessed of great beauty, the kind that drives men mad, Fire is used to people trying to kill her. She isn't used to them doing it by accident. When a poacher in the woods outside her home accidentally shoots her, Fire is hard pressed to keep the temperamental Lord Archer from killing him. But as sure as Fire is the man did not mean to cause her harm, she is made unsure by the strange fog that exists in the man's mind. Full review...

Eye Spy: Uncovering the Secrets of the World Around You by Justin Scroggie

4star.jpg Trivia

Signs are everywhere. I wasn't really one of those who thought our roads were littered with too many traffic signs until the day I was driven past a pair of speed regulation signs, positioned at the exit end of a one-way street but facing the illegal way up it. Not all signs, of course, are quite as unnecessary, or indeed as blatantly visible, which is where this pictorial guide to countless coded messages, signifiers and other similar factoids comes in. Full review...

Small Memories by Jose Saramago

4star.jpg Autobiography

Having been born in 1922 and lived through so much of the twentieth century, with an author's view of change and people, Jose Saramago has certainly experienced a lot. Civil Wars in the neighbouring Spain; the growth of his country - which still left it as western Europe's poorest. Here he allows us witness to his mind drifting through his childhood, in the country and in Lisbon, and provides a subtle and gentle memoir. Full review...

And Another Thing ... Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6) by Eoin Colfer

3.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Of all the big books announced for this year, this one must have raised more eyebrows than many. Why try and write a new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, when way before the end, its creator Douglas Adams was proving quite hopeless at such a task? And why approach an Irishman, Eoin Colfer, when the originals - tempered with their humour which could only be described as Monty Python doing a sci-fi Terry Pratchett, and with their cups of tea and dressing gowns, could only be described as very English? Well the answer is most evident - Colfer is a world-beater when it comes to knocking up a story. Full review...

Tell No One by Harlan Coben

5star.jpg General Fiction

I've been meaning to get around to reading some or all of Harlan Coben's work, because if the reviews are to be believed and you are a fan of the 'Bloody Knife /Blunt Instrument' thriller, the man is quite simply not capable of turning out a duff novel. But you know how it is, what with one thing and another and a bulging pile of books to be read and reviewed, I just somehow hadn't managed to give him my full attention. Until now. Full review...

Margrave of the Marshes by John Peel and Sheila Ravenscroft

4.5star.jpg Entertainment

John Peel was without doubt one of the most important disc jockeys of all time. Born in Merseyside in 1939, he began his career in mid-60s America before returning home to join Radio London and then become one of the original Radio 1 team, where he stayed until his death 37 years later. I admired the man for his passion for playing the music nobody else would give the time of day (even if I didn't always enjoy it myself) and his readiness to say exactly what he thought, even if it was not what his employers at the BBC wanted to hear, and I always enjoyed reading his columns in the music weeklies and later Radio Times. Nevertheless I found much of his show unlistenable towards the end, recall some of his rather curmudgeonly remarks on air (guest slots on Radio 1's Round Table review programme come to mind), and thought his build-'em-up, knock-'em-down stance rather irritating after a while. So I approached this book with an open mind as a fan, but not an uncritical one. Full review...

Perfumes: The A - Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The only thing that could be conceivably better than reading Perfumes would be to read it while sampling the scents it reviews, but even without the olfactory component, Perfumes is a delight: Turin (a lyrical scientist) and Sanchez (an analytically enthusiastic collector) not only treat perfume creation as high art, but turn perfume criticism into an art form (or at least a sophisticated genre of writing) too. Full review...

Ransom by David Malouf

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Taking his theme from a small part of Homer's Iliad, Malouf tells the story of the king of Troy, Priam's grief-stricken voyage into the Greek camp to ransom Troy's wealth for the body of his fallen son, Hector, killed by the equally grief-stricken Achilles whose great friend Hector had killed in battle before Achilles took his cruel revenge. Malouf tells the story in sparse, yet lyrical and poetic fashion suggesting the personal stories behind the epic themes that Homer related. It is an exquisitely written piece managing to be both deeply moving as well as a great piece of story telling. Full review...

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon

4.5star.jpg History

The assassination of President Kennedy came at a pivotal moment in my life and for more than forty years I've read most of what has been written about the event. It's been of variable quality, but the books fed the curiosity of people entranced by the charismatic young President who died so publicly. I'd come to the point of wondering if there was anything new to be said, but Stephen Gillom has looked at what happened from an unusual and largely overlooked angle – the first twenty four hours of Lyndon Johnson's Presidency. Full review...