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 Home Full of Friends by Peter Bently and Charles Fuge

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Bramble Badger was out looking for nuts by the river when the storm broke and he was so cold that he decided to go straight home. On the way he met a trail of devastation: Snuffle Dormouse's house has been squashed by a falling tree. She'd like shelter in Bramble's sett, if he has room. He's a little bit reluctant because he thinks his sett is in a mess and there isn't much space or dinner available, but what can you do when a friend is in need? Next it's Tipper the Toad whose home is full of mud, then Boo the Hedgehog's nest has been covered by leaves. Full review...

A Life in the Day: Memories of Sixties London, Lots of Writing, The Beatles and my Beloved Wife by Hunter Davies

5star.jpg Autobiography

Although I knew the name Hunter Davies before I picked this book up, I was unaware just how pivotal a figure of the Swinging Sixties Hunter Davies really was. Take him, Harold Wilson and a certain musical quartet from Liverpool out of the decade, and you are left with a bit of a vacuum. Full review...

The Matilda Effect by Ellie Irving

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

When you're wronged, and you know you've been wronged, it's the worst feeling in the world. When someone takes credit for something you have done, claiming a prize that is rightfully yours, it's a horrible, horrible injustice, and that's the same whether it's a Nobel Prize or simply the blue ribbon (and excessive amounts of dog food) given away at a school science fair. Now parents might tell you that life's not fair, you win some you lose some, or any of a number of clichés, but if your name is Matilda you just can't let it lie. And, when she finds out that her granny was side-lined for a much bigger award, for work she did 50 years ago, she makes it her mission to right the wrong and let the world know exactly what happened. Full review...

My Psychosis Story: A Story of Fear and Hope Through Adversity by Emmanuel Owusu

4star.jpg Lifestyle

My Psychosis Story recounts Emmanuel Owusu's journey into and eventually out of psychosis. In late 2014, during a visit home for Christmas, he found himself exhausted, anxious and unable to sleep. Symptoms persisted and soon he was suffering from noise sensitivity and intense headaches. Various visits to A&E failed to diagnose a physical cause. Things deteriorated further and possible diagnoses of anxiety and post traumatic concussion were suggested. And still things got worse. Eventually, Owusu's condition deteriorated so far that he was suffering from delusions and hallucinations. An ambulance was called and he was detained - sectioned - under the Mental Health Act in 2015. Full review...

The Glow of Fallen Stars by Kate Ling

4star.jpg Teens

The Glow of Fallen Stars is the second book in Kate Ling's Ventura series - you can read our review of the first instalment here. Seren and Dom, together with Ezra and Mariana, have escaped the Ventura, the spaceship on which they have spent their whole lives, and crash landed on the planet Huxley 3. At last, they are away from the stifling authoritarianism of life on board the ship and free to pursue their own lives underneath a real sky, walking on real land. Full review...

Sky Thieves by Dan Walker

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Zoya Delarose never quite fitted in at the orphanage and she's about to learn why. Abducted at the end of a school trip, Zoya is knocked unconscious and wakes up in a creaking sky ship in the dead of night. She attempts to escape but when she's caught and brought in front of the ship's captain, Zoya discovers a history and a threat that will change her life forever. Full review...

Peck, Hen, Peck! and Ben's Pet (Early Reader) by Jill Atkins and Barbara Vagnozzi

4star.jpg For Sharing

It probably sounds obvious, but you really shouldn't keep your pet chickens in a bag! Well, that's what I learned from this book which tells us first the story of Tom who puts his hen in a bag. The hen pecks through the bag, as hens are wont to do, and escapes! A simple and somewhat tragic tale! This is swiftly followed by a story about Ben's pet. Will it be another hen, I wondered? No, actually, after several incorrect guesses, we discover that Ben's pet is only a rabbit! Full review...

Buzz and Jump! Jump! (Early Reader) by Alice Hemming and Louise Forshaw

5star.jpg For Sharing

After hearing a mysterious buzzing in the kitchen, mum traps a fly in a jar, but then she hears the buzzing again...what could be going on? Meanwhile, Ken the Kangaroo (who declares himself to be the best at jumping), is jumping everywhere he can. In this red level book, aimed generally at those who have completed their reception year in school, there are two simple, sweet stories in one book, perfect for those who are just learning to read. Full review...

Bamboo and I Wish (Early Reader) by Alice Hemming and Julia Seal

5star.jpg For Sharing

With two stories in one book, there's plenty to like about this simple, and funny, early reader. The first story, Bamboo, deals with a cheeky panda who has run off to hide. Where can he be? The second story is about a wishing well which is granting wishes left, right and centre! Evaluated as a red level book, it sets itself as being about the right level for those around the end of their reception year. Full review...

How to be a Kosovan Bride by Naomi Hamill

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

How to be a Kosovan Bride recounts tales of two women, who are of a similar age and live in Kosovo, one of the world's youngest and most unstable countries, in the aftermath of the Balkan war. The first girl, the Kosovan Wife, follows the archaic, traditional path that has long been the norm for women from her country - she marries before she is twenty, and soon produces children. The second girl follows a starkly different path - returned to her parents after a disastrous wedding night, and thus labelled the Returned Girl, she scorns tradition, and studies endlessly until she is accepted into university, where she discovers the distinctly modern, Western world of political activism. The girls' stories are interwoven with both Kosovan folk tales and memories of the recent war, really giving readers a feel of what it is like to call such an unstable place home. This is undoubtedly a political book, with distinctly feminist undertones, but it is also thoroughly enjoyable, and beautifully written to boot. Full review...

Storm Whale by Sarah Brennan and Jane Tanner

5star.jpg For Sharing

This is one of the most beautiful picture books that I have read for a while.

Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down When I and my sisters walked to town…

So begins this story of three sisters who set off to walk to the beach together in this stunning and rather special picture book. The cover illustration is reminiscent of traditional family holidays depicting three girls, hand in hand and wearing sunhats disappearing over sand dunes on their way to the beach. The story then departs from a typical seaside theme as the sisters find a stranded whale on the beach and spend the day in desperate attempts to save it. Full review...

Fear by Roald Dahl

5star.jpg Short Stories

Do you enjoy being scared? Featuring fourteen classic spine-chilling stories chosen by Roald Dahl, these terrible tales of ghostly goings-on will have you shivering with fear as you turn the pages. Full review...

War by Roald Dahl

5star.jpg Short Stories

In war, are we at our heroic best or our cowardly worst? Featuring the autobiographical stories from Roald Dahl's time as a fighter pilot in the Second World War as well as seven other tales of conflict and strife, Dahl reveals the human side of our most inhumane activity. Full review...

Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

4star.jpg Teens

Emma Nash is a typical 16 year old with all the insecurities and obsessions that come with this age. When the love of her life ghosts her (i.e. breaks up with her by acting as if she doesn't exist), she spends the summer moping in her pyjamas. However, September arrives all too soon bringing with it the start of Sixth Form and a resolution to make some important edits to her life. This includes e-tweaking herself with disastrous, and often hilarious, consequences. The whole experiment is recorded in Emma's private blog: a blog that she might just regret ever writing. Full review...

Low Heights by Pascal Garnier and Melanie Florence (translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Edouard is an exemplary example of a crotchety old man – changing his mind, and blaming anything and everything – even that decision – on other people. He's physically fine, apart from one hand disabled by a stroke, but mentally, what with forgetting his past, assuming too many days are Sundays when they're not and buying too many inappropriate things, he needs a nurse – Therese, who has formed an unlikely and almost unwanted couple with him. For Edouard, the memory of his wife who died ten years ago is still a little too strong. But this unusual 'family' is about to be upset by an unexpected arrival, who will stir the emotions and life of their remote house no end… Full review...

Broadcast by Liam Brown

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity. Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world. A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show's creator has for him. Full review...

The Painted Queen: an Amelia Peabody Mystery by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Amelia Peabody is a no-nonsense lady who endures all manner of murder attempts, kidnappings and sundry other crimes while on various archaeological digs in Egypt with equanimity and composure. She is either revered or feared (or both) by villains, museum curators, family and workmen alike for her caustic tongue and the steel-reinforced parasol she brandishes at the first sign of danger. And yet, once the evil-doers have been locked up, precious objects returned to their owners and all injuries bandaged, she still insists on all the decorum of the English abroad: formal dress for dinner and only the politest and least contentious topics for dinner-table conversation. Full review...

Chengdu Can Do by Barney Saltzberg

5star.jpg For Sharing

There's something utterly delightful (and, it must be said, sometimes infuriating, especially when you're in a hurry) about the toddler's determination to be independent. Scrambling along using any handy piece of furniture or, if they don't move fast enough, the family pet as a prop, exploring cupboards full of the most enticing objects, and the daily struggle to get as much dinner in his or her own mouth as on the walls – all that requires grit and a refusal to fail which augurs well for the little one's future. That can-do attitude, so lauded by education, enterprise and big business, is a quality Chengdu the panda has in bucket-loads! Full review...

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

4.5star.jpg True Crime

Many readers may be drawn by the fact that the internationally bestselling John Grisham is the author here. I however, must admit that although I have enjoyed some of the films based on his books, I have never actually read any of them. This hasn't been due to deliberate avoidance, I just haven't gotten around to it. I was keen then to read this True Crime title and see what Grisham would bring to the table, so to speak. Full review...

The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Unicorns and Rainbows by Rebecca Jones

5star.jpg Crafts

I've a problem with many colouring books for children: some initial effort goes into the colouring, but the chances are that little will be kept on a long-term basis and it's not particularly satisfying. How much better would it be if the colouring produced something which could be sent to someone else, who would appreciate that it's unique and that effort and care has gone into the card? How much better to give a child something like The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Unicorns and Rainbows than an ordinary colouring book which will soon be discarded? Full review...

Refuge by Dina Nayeri

5star.jpg General Fiction

Sinking boats in stormy seas, national borders boosted with barbed wire, and overcrowded shelters – the media's portrayal of seeking asylum focuses on the process in its darkest, most dangerous form. What happens after tumultuous journeys and temporary shelter is not news; and life after decades in the new country is rarely headline material either. But in Dina Nayeri's Refuge, it is the life after that takes centre stage. Full review...

I am Actually a Penguin by Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Do you know a child who loves to dress up? Well this is the perfect picture book for that child. Quite probably the perfect picture book for the parent of that child too. Full review...

Conversations with Kammie by Annie Ingram

4star.jpg Pets

It was something of a relief when I encountered Annie Ingram and her cocker spaniel Kammie. You see, Annie knows something which has been self-evident to me for a long time: dogs are perfectly capable of communicating with humans and not just on a level of food!, walk! or play!. You do require extensive training to become fluent, but most dogs will be perfectly willing to give their time to teach you and all you have to do is listen. Annie has studied hard: Kammie has trained her well and the pair have allowed us to share some of their conversations. Full review...

Truth or Dare by Non Pratt

4.5star.jpg Teens

After an accident leaves his brother, Kam, with severe neurodisability, it's obvious that the lives of Sef and his family will never be the same again. Plagued by feelings of guilt and struggling to cope, Sef turns all his attention to the only way that he might be able to help - money. In an attempt to raise funds for his brother's care, he enlists the help of Claire. As a volunteer at the facility looking after Kam, she's the only person from school that really appreciates just how dire Kam's situation is, and how important it is to get the funding that he needs. Aided by Claire's equipment and YouTube know-how, the two create a channel where their alter-egos, Truth Girl and Dare Boy, play an escalating game of Truth or Dare to persuade viewers to donate to their cause. However, £60,000 is no small amount, and fundraising through YouTube is no easy feat. Just how far are they willing to go for their cause? Full review...

High Spirits (Spirits 4) by Rob Keeley

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Millions of people will die in the war, Ellie. And it's our job to make sure it happens. That's why our work isn't easy.

And if that's not ominous, I don't know what is.

It's been two years since Ellie's last adventure in the spirit world or talked to her friend, the ghost of Edward Fitzberranger. She has tried to do what Viewpoint asked her to do and live a normal, boring, human life. Mum is still working for the Journeyback historical re-enactment company but it looks as though her job won't last much longer. Money is tight and Mum, as ever, is stressed. Dad got compensation for his accident, so he is living the life of Riley. He's eager to help out but Mum won't hear of it. And Ellie has a romantic interest in Luke. All in all, things could be better but they could also be worse. No more spirits. No more corrupting of timelines. Full review...

Across the Ocean by Hawa L Crickmore

4star.jpg General Fiction

A young cage fighter, Martin Grandson, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder which required a bone-marrow transplant, preferably from a sibling. Only recently he'd been a fit young man, in the prime of life, but now he was suffering from a rare type of bone cancer: without the transplant he would be paralysed for life and might be dead within the next twelve weeks if he didn't receive the transplant within the next fourteen days. Unfortunately Martin's parents had died in a car crash and there were no siblings or other close relatives. His girlfriend, Celia, was not a match. Full review...

Insidious Intent: (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Book 10) by Val McDermid

5star.jpg Crime

When we meet Kathryn McCormick we know that she's got less than three weeks to live. Had Kathryn known that she might have made different choices. I've a suspicion that she might not have wasted time being at the wedding, but it was there that she met her killer. He said his name was David and he was charming, respectful, unwilling to rush anything as he was still getting over the death of his wife. Kathryn was left with the feeling that he was still more than a little bit in love with Tricia. They went on a couple of dates and then David took her to a cottage in the Dales for the weekend. By the end of the weekend Kathryn would be dead in her burned-out car. Full review...

Hush Little Baby by Joanna Barnard

5star.jpg General Fiction

Babies don't break bones for no reason. Something has to happen and, normally, someone else will be involved. So when the hospital says Oliver has a broken arm, suspicion lands on his family. Could it be his mother? But she was out all evening, drinking with her old colleagues (hence why she smells of booze when they arrive in A&E). Could it be his father? Sally left him in charge of their son, but he may have popped out for a while (something she doesn't know…yet) and if he was out then he too was away from his son at the time of the crime. Or could it be his half-sister Martha? She's a responsible teenager most of the time, and she would have no reason to harm her baby brother, but there's a nagging feeling about that night that she just can't shake. Full review...

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Clara is mother to pre-schooler Maisie and newborn Felix, but now she has a new label: widow. Her husband Nick is dead, killed in an awful car crash that thankfully spared his daughter's life when Felix is just a few days old. For Clara, that's not the end of the nightmare. As she works her way through grief and struggles to carry on for the children, she is faced with some new worries. Maisie isn't talking much about the accident, but she's having nightmares that make Clara question the police story of events. There are things in Nick's personal possessions that are odd, things she has never seen before. What's more, it turns out a lot was going on at Nick's work that he hadn't shared with his wife. And, the more she starts to look, the more she wishes she could un-see and go back to how things were. Full review...

Libby in the Middle by Gwyneth Rees

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Twelve-year-old Libby has an older sister, Bella. Bella used to be a real confidante to Libby but things have changed since she got a boyfriend. Now, Bella makes Libby feel childish, foolish and unwanted. The close friendship they had shared has gone and Libby worries that it will never come back. Libby also has a younger sister, Grace. Grace is lovely but it seems to Libby that Grace, as the baby of the family, commands all the parental love and attention. Libby is well and truly stuck in the middle, without a role of her own. Full review...