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! Visit to get free writing tips and will help you get your paper written for free.

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Marvel Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer

4star.jpg Confident Readers

No superhero story is really complete without a lesson of some kind, and this adventure starts with one too. Tony Stark – a young, teenaged fan of Duran Duran Tony Stark – is taking his latest home invention to his father. It's a perfect drone, able to do no manner of humanitarian things, but the lesson from Howard Stark, the weapons developer and seller, is that toys like that don't help the security of the world. From now on, Tony will be building things that are definitely not cutesy, or do-goody. But, while the gamut of Iron Man suits he has developed since then allow him to have a playful playboy figure in the limelight, especially courtesy of his party DJ variant, the threats continue to rise. And this one seems to come from within… Full review...

The Great Convergence by Richard Baldwin

4star.jpg Business and Finance

The globalisation of the world economy is a central factor in life and politics today. 'The Great Convergence' attempts to explain the current driving forces behind the phenomena and the likely consequences. It is well argued, and supported by a wealth of data and research, but it is not one for a general reader. A background in economic principles and an understanding of some key concepts would be a key requisite in getting the most out of this book. Without this background, the reader will be constantly switching from the text and cross-referencing the meaning of some of the vocabulary used. With that note of caution, and the required understanding, Richard Baldwin's analysis is compelling. Full review...

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Christmas can be an awesome time surrounded by friends, but if you don't have many, it can also be a rather lonely time. One way you could get more friends is to socialise a little and perhaps join a hobby group or two. What is unlikely to help is locking yourself up in a workshop and inventing things on your own all the time. This is exactly how Princess Eliza spends her time, but what caused her to have a lacks in friends may help her when a Christmas crisis occurs. Full review...

Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe

5star.jpg Autobiography

This collection of Iris Murdoch's most interesting and revealing letters gives us a living portrait of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers and thinkers. They show her mind at work - seeing Murdoch grappling with philosophical questions, feeling anguish when a book fails to come together, and uncovering Murdoch's famed personal life, in all its intriguing complexity. They also show the 'real life material' that fed into her fiction - and above all we see her life - blazing, brave, and brilliant in this collection of letters. Full review...

The Mouse that Cancelled Christmas by Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy

5star.jpg For Sharing

When you think there can't possibly be a different way to tell a Christmas story for children, along comes Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy with a tale of a mouse who was once injured at Christmas time. A falling bauble hit poor mouse and that was enough to convince mouse that Christmas meant danger. Mouse dons his hard-hat and high-visibility jacket to inspect the animal's village Christmas preparations. In true health and safety style, nothing is up to scratch: the star is too pointy; the tree too tall and the lights are too bright on the tree, not to even mention the spikiness of the pine needles. Quite frankly, Christmas is jolly well too dangerous, so mouse wants it cancelled. Full review...

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

4star.jpg Crime

When Fran met Nathan everyone assumed she was on the rebound from a lengthy stint at the mercy of Nick The Unsuitable. I imagine falling pregnant within those first few heady months may have added fuel to that particular fire particularly from where Fran's best friend is standing. But when this is followed by a hasty wedding and a move to an isolated farmhouse in the Fens, Fran feels sure that her new role as home-maker and mother, so very different from the London party-girl she used to be, is the right one for her. So when Fran wakes in the middle of the night to find Nathan's side of the bed completely cold, she goes to look for him. Finding him bloodied and very much dead was most definitely not part of the bargain. Full review...

Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan

4.5star.jpg Reference

The exquisite sound of a lone chorister singing Once in Royal David's City amid the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, marks the start of the Christmas festivities for millions of people round the globe. Broadcast at 3pm on Chrismas Eve, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols provides a precious moment of tranquility amongst the bustle of the festive season. Here author Alexandra Coghlan takes the reader on a journey through the fascinating history of carols, from the very first - sung by the angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem - to anecdotes from contemporary King's choristers, and shows them how carols have evolved from pagan songs to become one of our nation's most sacred treasures. Accompanied by lyrics and music and compiled in conjunction with Radio 4 and King's College Chapel, Carols from King's is the official companion for fans of Christmas and carols alike. Full review...

Dr Seuss: A Classic Treasury by Dr Seuss

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Sitting on my shelf is well thumbed book. I have had it since a child and even to this day pick it up once in a while and read its contents. What is this tome? A slice of classic children's literature that taught me all about the absurd and that words could be played with. This was not Wind in the Willows or 'Swiss Family Robinson, my classic is a Dr Seuss Omnibus that contained four of his books. Full review...

The No Black Project by Numba Pinkerton

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I don't like shopping for clothes, but there's no valid reason why. I'm small, but reasonably slim - a size 10 petite usually fits me perfectly - and I'm lucky to be able to afford to buy whatever clothes I want. The trouble is that I lack the confidence to know what is going to suit me and to be honest it's very difficult to get excited about a trip which will almost certainly end up with another pair of smart black trousers and a matching top. I never feel that I look particularly good in black, but I've resorted to it because it can usually take me anywhere and is unlikely to cause offence. So, how did I feel when I was given a copy of The No Black Project? Well, to be honest, I felt a little scared... Full review...

Santa Claude by Alex T Smith

5star.jpg For Sharing

Ah Claude! He is such an endearing little dog. He's back on an adventure with Sir Bobblysock and this time it is a Christmas adventure. There are baubles and trees and carols and reindeer and, of course, there's trouble! For who else but Claude would accidentally handcuff Santa to an armchair on Christmas Eve, and then need to deliver all the presents himself? Full review...

Stinkbomb and Ketchup Face-and the Great Kerfuffle Christmas Kidnap by John Dougherty and David Tazzyman

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It's Christmas Eve and Father Christmas is missing. Brother and sister Stinkbomb and Ketchup Face wake up in the middle of the night expecting to find a huge pile of presents. Instead they find a huge pile of nothing. They know something must be wrong because they have been good all year long (honestly). The only possible answer is that Father Christmas is in trouble so they have to save him and save Christmas for everyone on the island of Great Kerfuffle. Full review...

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: A Colouring Classic by Vladimir Aleksic and Kate Ware

4star.jpg Crafts

A Christmas Carol has always been my favourite book by Charles Dickens. Perhaps it's the fact that it's a novella rather than the usual brick of a book, but the plotting has always seemed tighter and the story more fast moving. I also like to idea of Ebenezer Scrooge not so much getting his comeuppance as his seeing the error of his ways. I've read the book and seen numerous film adaptations - now I've had the opportunity to do some relaxing colouring of scenes from the classic story. Was it fun? Full review...

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

5star.jpg Teens

They don't know who we are. Not really. They don't know what we've done, what we've managed together… so let's show them they picked the wrong damn fight.

First things first if you haven't read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo yet, the first book in the duology, you should read it as soon as possible, buy it or borrow it before anything else and then read Crooked Kingdom. Trust me, because while Six of Crows is unimaginably clever, with diverse characters and a brilliant heist plot, Crooked Kingdom is on a whole other level. Full review...

The Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton

4.5star.jpg History

After a series of individual biographies on the major Tudor women, mostly royal, this book brings a new dimension in touching on the lives of individuals from all walks of life. However it is much more than a collection of lives. While the Queens and princesses naturally dominate some of the chapters, it looks beyond the surface to devote attention to serving maids, businesswomen, activists and martyrs, as well as focus on various aspects of life for women and girls in Tudor England. Full review...

Ludwig the Space Dog by Henning Lohlein

4star.jpg For Sharing

Before there was Neil Armstrong and before there was Yuri Gagarin, there was another explorer of Space – Laika. This was no man however, but a dog. Laika was one of the first animals to explore space; the less said about her fate the better, but surely her adventures would encourage other canines to explore the great beyond? Ludwig is one such Mutt and although we may not have a rocket ship to help him with his adventures, we do have a set of 3D glasses. Full review...

Fred by Mick Inkpen and Chloe Inkpen

5star.jpg For Sharing

It's tricky being a puppy. There are so many things to try to understand, like sit, and stay, and fetch! Whilst the pup in this story has learned all of these tricky commands, and is doing very well at being a good boy, he is having some issues around the word 'Fred'...what on earth does everyone mean when they keep shouting it at him? Full review...

101 Things To Do When You're Not Drinking by Robert Short

4star.jpg Lifestyle

If you're thinking about giving up alcohol long term, short term or for Dry January then you might be wondering if it's going to leave one helluva hole in your social life. You might be thinking about what you'll do with the time you normally spend out socialising (just having a quick one before you get the train home...) as well as the time you spend recovering from having had just one too many the night before. Sunday mornings will loom large as uncharted and largely unknown territory. Robert Short has a few answers for you - well 101 of them in fact - in a pocket-size book which should give you some inspiration. Full review...

The First Ever Christmas: And Who to Blame by Gray Jolliffe

5star.jpg Humour

If I tell you a secret, will you promise not to tell anyone? Well, I really don't like Christmas: it's my least favourite time of year and whilst some people count down to the day itself, I look forward to that point when I can say that it's all over for another year. It's all too commercialised for me, with a coating of faux religion. I've never found it in the least funny - that is, until I found Gray Jolliffe's The First Ever Christmas: And Who's to Blame. Amazingly, I'd never encountered Gray Jolliffe either, but I'm a convert to his skills as a cartoonist (if not to the idea of Christmas) after reading this collection of Christmas-themed cartoons from his archive. Full review...

The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

The Storm Whale in Winter is a sequel to the highly popular The Storm Whale. Noi's father embarks on one last fishing trip before the Arctic Winter sets in. All alone, with his six cats, Noi patiently waits for his father's return. As night sets and the sea begins to freeze, Noi starts to worry and believes he can see his Dad's boat from his bedroom window. Full of courage, he sets off out in the snow to find his Dad. Getting lost in the blizzard, Noi is in need of help which comes in the form of his old friend. Full review...

Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and Beyond by David Long and Kerry Hyndman

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

There can be few people who are not captivated by stories of survival - those people who by chance, through knowledge but mostly because of their strength of will, survive against all the odds. Survivors is a collection of such stories of people, some of whom knew that what they were doing was dangerous, but many are those who found themselves in situations which seemed impossible, but who didn't give up. The result is a wonderful mixture of the scariness of the peril and the glorious uplift of survival. It's insightful, inspirational and all absolutely true. Full review...

Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy by Bonnie Burton

4star.jpg Crafts

For far too long it has been accepted that men will have free choice as to what they do and that women will somehow accommodate and adjust around them. It's been a hard fight to get to where we are now - and there's still a way to go, particularly when you read the views of people such as Member of Parliament Philip Davis, but the cause can't always be moved forward by being deadly serious, no matter how serious the cause: sometimes what you need is a little whimsy. We might take the cause seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously. And besides, what's better than to unleash your creativity? Full review...

A Head full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

4star.jpg Horror

I don't normally go in for horror stories, mainly because I usually can't take them seriously enough to suspend disbelief. But A Head full of Ghosts appealed to me, somehow - perhaps I was just curious to read the novel that scared the living hell out of Stephen King. Or maybe I was interested to see how Paul Tremblay dealt with the schizophrenic behaviour of his teenage protagonist. And I was certainly intrigued by the highly original storyline described in the blurb: when Marjorie, a teenage girl, starts behaving erratically, her family can't cope and call in the local priest and, ultimately, a TV crew who start to film a reality show about exorcisms. Full review...

Theory of Mind by Sanjida O'Connell

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Sandra works in a zoo, studying the minds of chimpanzees, mankind's nearest living relatives. Her involvment with the animals starts to affect her own relationships, in particular that with her new boyfriend Corin. His energy stimulates her, his passion excites her and his work as a TV producer fascinates her, but are his feelings real, or does he want to control her? As her feelings preoccupy her, Sandra continues her research into the emotions of chimps and whether or not they are capable of empathy. During a visit to the zoo, Sandra meets a strange and isolated child, Paul, son of one of the keepers, and she also meets Kim, a scientist who has built a killer instinct into the robots she makes. As Sandra worries about her friends and her relationship, things race to a thrilling climax - putting much more than Sandra's emotions at risk. Full review...

The Sword of Hachiman by Lynn Guest

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Set at the dawn of the Shogun era, The Sword of Hachiman follows two warrior clans, the Minamoto and the Taira, as they struggle for power under the Emperor. At first the Taira are in uneasy control, but the three Minamoto sons, separated at birth, plan to secretly reunite in order to defeat the Taira and avenge their Father's death. The youngest, Yoshitsune, is deemed most worthy and is granted the family heirloom, the Sword of Hachiman, the War God. Initiated into love and espionage by a young Taira noblewoman, and tested in the ferocious hand to hand combat that is his birthright, we follow Yoshitsune as he meets his faithful retainer, Benkei, and as he goes behind the scenes of the Cloister court, where two extraordinary women enter his life… Full review...

Threadbear by Mick Inkpen

5star.jpg For Sharing

We have all had a special teddy, the teddy which is not perfect, the one that would never be classed as beautiful but the one that is loved more than any other. Threadbear is that very teddy. The man who made him put so much stuffing in him that his arms and legs were too hard. Sadly, because of all the extra stuffing, the squeaker in his stomach has never squeaked. Not once. Ever. Threadbear feels he is letting his Ben down, so he embarks on a mission to fix his squeaker. He tries and tries but fails, until he decides that there is one special person he must meet and maybe this will be the only person who can fix his squeaker. Full review...

The Building Boy by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

This is the story of a boy and his Grandma. An award-wining architect, Grandma promises to build the boy a special house on a hill over the horizon, over a city and beyond the sea. But Grandma is getting old – too old to make houses. And, one day, she is gone. Without Grandma, the house is empty. It’s just rooms. But the boy has an idea – it requires a lot of work but the result is totally magical. Full review...

The Demon Undertaker by Cameron McAllister

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Fourteen-year-old Thomas has already seen much sorrow in his young life –notably the death of his beloved father and the accidental loss of his own hand. His mother hopes to give him a new start by sending him away from Virginia to join his uncle Sir Henry Fielding, chief magistrate of London, but before the boy has even had the chance to greet his new family he is embroiled in a life and death chase through the grimy back streets of the capital in the hopes of rescuing a young noblewoman. All London is agog: what happens to the people who disappear, never to be seen again, and what exactly does the terrible masked fiend in the hearse want them for? Full review...

A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters and Ellie Snowdon

5star.jpg For Sharing

Living on a farm, with her father who works as a farmer and a mother who is a farm-vet, Jasmine has spent all her young life learning how to care for animals. On a visit to a neighbouring farm, Jasmine is excited to see the new baby piglets. Expecting to see eleven piglets, she is stunned to find one extra - a tiny little runt hiding in the corner. Being smaller than her hand, the farmer has no sympathy and expects it to die by the end of the day. Of course, Jasmine can't allow this to happen. The story is then set for a struggle to save the smallest piglet, called Truffle. Full review...