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. We can even direct you to help for custom book reviews! Visit to get free writing tips and will help you get your paper written for free.

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A Biblical Theology Behind Music, Praise, and Worship by Dr Mark Pearce

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Music used in religions and worship itself goes back to the beginning of humankind. In this book musician and theological academic Dr Mark Pearce explores its Biblical history in a Christian context as well as providing tips and suggestions for those involved in worship in the present day. Full review...

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Set in 18th Century London, this historical thriller captures all the rawness of life in the grimy city. A young girl, Cat, who was orphaned at birth, is taken under the wing of a kind benefactor, Mr Sheridan, who found her abandoned on the steps of his theatre. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, is an exciting place to grow up, and Cat becomes a well-loved member of the staff behind the scenes. While running errands in the theatre, she dreams of being a famous writer herself one day. Before her dream is realised though, Cat has an important role to play in solving a mystery - the mystery of a diamond hidden in the Theatre Royal itself. Full review...

The Age of Olympus (Duncan Forrester Mystery 2) by Gavin Scott

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Whilst part of an SOE mission to kidnap a German commander in Greece during the war, Duncan Forrester came across an ancient Cretan stone, which he hoped could lead to the deciphering of Linear B. The war is now officially over (although a lot of people are still fighting it, mentally if not physically) and Forrester has returned to Athens with his lover, Sophie Amfeldt-Laurvig, intent on getting the necessary permissions to go to Crete and retrieve the stone. It was whilst they were in Athens that Forrester was the unwitting witness to the poisoning of a Greek poet and where he found himself pursued by a man wearing a mask. Strange as all this might seem, Forrester is convinced that the poet was not the intended victim: it should have been a general who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. He's the sort of charismatic man who could sway a lot of people to follow him adn that would mean certain war. Full review...

Can I Join Your Club? by John Kelly and Steph Laberis

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Duck just wants to join a club. Any club would be fine, but he would really like to be a part of something, so he tries the Lion Club, and the Snake Club, and even Club Elephant, but it seems like duck won't ever fit in anywhere… Full review...

Ethics for a Full World or, Can Animal-Lovers Save the World? by Tormod V Burkey

4star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

Burkey argues that man's current practices are outside the realms of nature. He is no longer part of the ecosystem, but instead exists above it through his dominating ways. He is himself distanced even further by advancement in technologies, industry, money and all the pollution that comes with them. The natural world, Burkey argues, no longer exists for man because he has altered it by such things. Indeed, global warming has caused climate change, which, if it continues, will make the world unrecognisable. For the world to become fuller, for it to be a world that seeks to provide for the needs of every living thing, then it needs to change. Full review...

Tibs the Post Office Cat by Joyce Dunbar and Claire Fletcher

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Set in the 1950's, this is a story about a cat called Tibs (who was a real cat) who was born in a post office, and who had a job to keep all the rats and mice under control. Rather than killing and eating all the mice, however, Tibs befriends them, and with their help he is able to apprehend some thieves, becoming the hero of the day! Full review...

Elizabeth, William... and Me by S Lynn Scott

4.5star.jpg Humour

Ally is an ordinary woman with teenage children, a husband and a job. Then comes the day when ordinariness flies out of the window. It's not a coincidence that it's the same day she finds Queen Elizabeth I in the pantry and the Bard of Avon in her bath. What's she going to do? Well, Elizabeth and Will have their own ideas about that! Full review...

William Wenton and the Luridium Thief by Bobbie Peers

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Bobbie Peers is a pretty talented guy. Not only did he win a Palme d'Or award for a film he wrote and directed in 2006, but with this, his first book, he's turned his hand to writing for young people. And the list of awards he's collecting in his native Norway are testament to his vivid and entertaining imagination. Full review...

Allotments (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Allotments came about originally from the enclosure of land, primarily for sheep pasture. Fearing that the enclosures would leave peasants unable to feed themselves, Elizabeth I issued an act requiring all new cottages to have four acres of ground, something which has been honoured more by history than by Elizabeth's contemporaries. It was the first in a long line of legislation with that aim in mind - which largely failed to achieve their aims. Full review...

Beginner's Project Management Handbook: Art of Project Delivery by Dr Sunil C Gebalanage

4star.jpg Reference

In the last fifteen years I've project managed the construction of an office and the extension of a building. On both occasions I looked for a resource which would give me a framework within which to proceed, but whilst I could find several volumes which dealt with individual parts of the project I couldn't find any literature which put it all together. An additional problem was that what literature there was out there was written with specific professionals in mind and didn't accommodate the generalist. It was with relief for those following me that I discovered Beginner's Project Management Handbook: Art of Project Delivery. Full review...

Spot the Mistake: Lands of Long Ago by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You'll like as not have seen a children's book before and harangued it for containing errors. This book has at least two hundred, and that's not a problem. Yes, in personifying the idea of learning through your mistakes, we get ten large dioramas of historical activity, all containing twenty things that shouldn't be there. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to try and find them all. And the learning is also here, as we get text to tell us what the goofs were designed to show us. Make no mistake, this is a clever and absorbing read… Full review...

Under the Same Sky by Britta Teckentrup

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

In this delightfully different book award winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup combines beautiful pictures with a simple yet lyrical text to portray a celebration of global unity. It beautifully depicts how the world's communities are united by the same hopes and dreams. Full review...

Little Gold by Allie Rogers

5star.jpg General Fiction

The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden. Into her fractured life steps elderly neighbour, Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognise the danger before it's too late? Full review...

The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson

4star.jpg Crime

In January 1987 it was only joggers and dog walkers who went on to the Thames towpath after dark. Estate agent Helen Honeysett left the riverside cottage she shared with her husband and never came home. A neighbour returned their dog who was found wandering, but Helen's body was never discovered. In 2016 Helen's husband, Adam, still wants to know what happened. He has an alibi, albeit a somewhat dubious one, but another neighbour was suspected. Steve Lawson couldn't stand the constant suspicion and drowned himself in the Thames: over the years that came to be accepted as an admission of guilt and even one of his children is certain that he was responsible. Full review...

Star Wars: A New Hope Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 1) by Ryder Windham

4star.jpg Confident Readers

It takes a greater mind than mine to keep track of all the different versions of Star Wars – A New Hope that there have been. That was never the name it was known under at the start, for one thing, but beyond the exuberant cinema classic known to so many, you get the digitally retouched version, then the DVD version, which both added to and took away some of those changes. And as it is with the film, so it is with the novels. This new presentation of the YA trilogy, while bearing the 2017 Copyright mark, is the 2004 children's novelisations, as far as I can make out, minus the pictures. You do get, on this first one, a '40 years of Star Wars' sticker, which is proof this is a classic we're looking at, but more than that, just goes to make me feel old… Full review...

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

We're in Paris, and – not to be too rude about things – we seem surrounded by idiots. For one, it seems they think the perfect place to experiment with manned hot air balloon flights is in the middle of the biggest city in the world. For another, they think only men could suffer the slightly colder and slightly thinner air experienced on such an adventure – women would never be able to cope. Meanwhile, a young girl is dreaming of flight, as so many are wont to do, completely unaware that she will soon marry one of the most famed balloonists. They will have joint journeys skyward, before his early demise – leaving the young woman, Sophie Blanchard, to go it alone and become the first female pilot. Full review...

The Thoughts and Inner Journey of Dr. John Dee by Clair Iles

3.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Clair Iles is, in her own words, a normal person who was educated at a normal comprehensive school. However, she's a normal person who hears dead people. Yes, Clair is a spiritualist with ability to hear from those who have passed on. In the past they had generally been relatives or everyday folk. Imagine, then, her surprise when she felt she was hearing from Elizabethan court polymath John Dee. Over a period of time she could feel his dictated thoughts and ideas in her mind and this book of the channelled words is the result. Full review...

The Anxiety-Elimination System by Nicos Nicolaou

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Nick Nicolau suffered a major panic attack and was told by his doctor that he would need medication to control the attacks and that there wasn't much more that he could do - apart that was, from going home to sleep. The next morning he had another attack which he could neither stop nor control and before long was having panic attacks every day and developed generalised anxiety and phobias. After a great deal of work and research he discovered how to control his anxiety - and now he helps others to do the same. No one is born with a chemical imbalance in the brain and genes do not determine behaviour. The proof of the efficacy of his system is that through the course of a particularly challenging life event - his divorce - he didn't slip back into inappropriate anxiety. Full review...

Mold and the Poison Plot by Lorraine Gregory

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Mold's mum abandoned him in a dustbin when he was a baby but the binmen didn't want him. Luckily old Aggy gave him a home and, with a crusty one-legged sailor as a friend, Mold is happy. Happy until Aggy is accused of poisoning the King. Suddenly Mold finds himself alone and thrust into the unlikely role of hero. He sets off to rescue Aggy and along the way finds himself trying to save the King and prevent a war with the Boggers. It's a lot for one small boy with an enormous nose but luckily he finds he's uniquely fashioned to sniff out danger. Full review...

Shipyard Girls at War: (Shipyard Girls 2) by Nancy Revell

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Book 1 in the series from the beginning. The war bites deeper and the shipyard girls at Thompsons have more to contend with than a heavier workload. The Elliott household is in mourning now Teddy has been killed in Africa, muting the celebrations when his twin, Joe, comes home, albeit injured. Rosie is getting over her horrendous episode with her murderous uncle but she's still not back to full health. Working shifts at the yard during the day and secretly by night as a brothel manager to afford her little sister's school fees is a bit of a strain at times but the worst seems to be over. The complications in Rosie's life aren't over yet though. A complication of the heart is on the horizon: can she afford to fall in love with a police detective? Meanwhile Gloria attempts to move on from her abusive husband aren't that easy. The war is taking more than its share of casualties but then so is life. Full review...

Eat With Pleasure by Akon Margaret Kalu

3star.jpg Lifestyle

When you think about a certified nutrition coach you probably imagine someone who is going to be very strict with you about what you should or shouldn't be eating. You visualise someone who will insist that you eat worthy (and probably tasteless) food and completely avoid those foods which you really love. Gone will be the bar of chocolate and possibly even the mug of coffee which gets you going in the morning. It was particularly refreshing and something of a relief to encounter Akon Margaret Kalu - certified nutrition coach and food blogger at She's outspoken. She believes that the occasional treat does you no harm so long as you don't make it a regular habit. In fact you're better having a small, occasional, indulgent snack than resisting and finally giving into cravings and binging. In other words, she lives in the real world with the rest of us imperfect beings. Full review...

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

5star.jpg Crime

Is there something about Scandinavia, that makes its inhabitants identify with quicksand? This is the second book with the same title by northern writers that I've read this year, and we're only into April. For clarity from the outset, this has nothing to do with Henning Mankell's conversational memoir reviewed elsewhere on here, but we are back in territory he would probably have been familiar with. We're in a Scandinavian courtroom, Swedish to be precise – we're about to begin the trial of Maja Norberg. Full review...

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham

4star.jpg Autobiography

Everything seemed alive in that scintillating moment and as the gleams gyrated and glittered I imagined I could see their tiny twinkling hearts, seeding the sparks that made them so very vivid. And then I wiped away the spilled slop of the river, polished the glare and thrust my fingers into the sparkle jar to stir the soft tickles of the swirling tinsel of fishes.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a unique memoir, written in a distinct style quite unlike any other. Chris Packham, well-known TV presenter and wildlife expert, takes us back to his childhood in 1960s Southampton, and we meet a curious child who doesn't quite fit in to the societal norm. Fast forward a few years, and the chasm widens, leading to bullying, name-calling and beatings at the hands of the local thugs at his comprehensive school. Full review...

The Future of Violence - Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones: Confronting the New Age of Threat by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum

4star.jpg Politics and Society

Looking back over this month, April 2017, the news has been full of terrorist attacks perpetrated by lone individuals. A suicide bombing on the St Petersburg Metro killed 15 people and injured 64 more. In Stockholm, Sweden, a hijacked truck steered into a pedestrian shopping area and department store. Most recently, a shooting in Paris just two days ago, claimed the life of a police officer and injured several others. Whilst it is true that governments have access to impressive, cutting-edge technology to combat terrorism, it is also a fact that these resources are becoming increasingly available to individuals. At what cost? Full review...

Hamish and the Gravity Burp by Danny Wallace

4star.jpg Confident Readers


A terrifying noise is rumbling through the sleepy town of Starkley (the fourth most boring town in Britain) and having a peculiar effect on the residents. Gravity has gone into reverse and the poor townsfolk are floating skyward, helplessly trying to grab onto whatever they can in order to slow their ascent. Hamish Ellerby has just arrived home to find his family stuck to the ceiling, along with a bowl of fruit, six batteries and a wind-up meerkat. What could be causing this strange phenomenon? Could it be leading up to something bigger? A gravity-belch, or heaven forbid, a gravity-FART? It's up to Hamish and his gang, the PDF, to solve the mystery and restore order to Starkley in time for the official visit from the Public Office of Pride, or POP (shouldn't it be POOP?). Full review...

Harold: The King Who Fell at Hastings by Peter Rex

4.5star.jpg History

Harold is in the unenviable position for being remembered as the monarch who was defeated and killed in the Norman conquest, and almost nothing else. He does not even merit a passing mention in the renowned 1930s spoof English history, '1066 and all That', which no doubt has him in their category of 'Unmemorable Kings'. This book is thus inevitably a history rather than a biography of someone about whom undisputed facts are rather lacking. Full review...

The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll

4star.jpg Confident Readers

After a family argument, a girl and her mother are stuck out on the streets of Ireland, finding shelter finally in an old, abandoned mill. The mill becomes the girl's castle, where she finally feels safe from the lurking threat of 'the authorities' and some of the strange men in her mother's life. Her mother, however, seems to be tumbling deeper into depression, keeping her daughter locked up, out of sight inside, and now there are strange men in hard hats coming around the mill to measure and make notes. Can the two of them move on, or will they be too late to escape? Full review...

A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Psychologist Alan Kennedy's fifth novel continues the story he began with Lucy by Alan Kennedy. In the autumn of 1942, Captain Alex Vere and Justine Perry are among the men and women picked up and taken to a stately home in Scotland, where they are trained in spy skills. After this first encounter, Alex is smitten yet uncertain if he will ever see Justine again. The spy's life is dangerous and unpredictable, after all. Six weeks later, though, they meet up again in southwest France, where they have been sent to collect Simone, a Special Operations Executive agent. It's Alex's first mission (Justine's fourth) and all goes horribly awry. Alex ends up in custody at the Gendarmerie, facing a German who knows he has a false passport. Full review...

Say Yes to New Opportunities! by Ruth Pearson

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Ruth Pearson was deputy head of her school and was studying for a Masters degree when she suffered an emotional breakdown as a result of the stresses of the job. The breakdown was so severe that she was afraid to return to the classroom, but rather than sitting back and letting the circumstances overwhelm her she allowed what had happened to become a catalyst which would help her to change her life. In Say Yes to New Opportunities she shares what she learned from the experience. To come back from this situation requires strength, honesty and a sense of purpose, all of which Pearson demonstrates quite clearly throughout this book. Full review...