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 www.everychildareader.org to get free writing tips and www.genecaresearchreports.com will help you get your paper written for free.

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The Sleeping Beauty Killer (Under Suspicion 4) by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

4star.jpg Crime

Fifteen years ago, Casey Carter went to prison for the murder of her fiancée Hunter Raleigh. The evidence seemed indisputable; her fingerprints were on the gun that killed him and her skin tested positive for gunshot residue. She'd been known to be argumentative and passionate, qualities that earned her the nickname Crazy Casey thanks to a tell-all book by an ex-boyfriend. Even her family seemed to suspect her guilt. But now Casey is out of prison and determined to prove her innocence. Who better to help her than Laurie Moran and the Under Suspicion team? After hearing her case, Laurie promises to give her a fair hearing on her TV show and reinvestigate the circumstances of Hunter's death. Full review...

The Hanging Tree (Rivers of London 6) by Ben Aaronovitch

5star.jpg Fantasy

When Lady Tyburn rescued Police Officer Peter Grant she put him in her debt. Now it's payback time as her daughter is implicated in a murder. Is this just another drug related killing? No, Peter is only involved in crime related to the supernatural side of life and since both Lady Ty and daughter are river goddesses, there's much to investigate. Full review...

Mr Churchill's Driver: A Murderer's Story by Colin Farrington

3.5star.jpg Crime

2014: 50 years since William Gilbey's father Herbert was hanged for murder. This anniversary is different from those in the past in that it's given William the impetus to go and find out more about two mystifying parts of his father's history. Firstly the oddity of the murder: why randomly kill two women in the street in daylight? Secondly, when William was a child, Herbert had told him a story about a meeting between Winston Churchill and then Irish Teasoch Eamon De Valera during World War II. There's nothing in the history books so did this actually happen? This is definitely a good time to investigate, especially as William has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for murder himself. Full review...

Fireborn (The Seraphim Trilogy) by David Dalglish

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

When the Center (the government that's meant to protect them) destroys the Academy Bree and Kael Skyborn take the only route open to them. They join the resistance and some allies who they'd be more wary of in other circumstances. Indeed the Prophet Johan may not have seemed that attractive to them in the past but he has resources that will come in useful as well as some interesting secrets. Bree and Kael will definitely learn a lot, including why the Skyborn family are so prized by the dictatorial organisation they now battle against. Full review...

The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang and Imogen Taylor (translator)

5star.jpg Biography

I think I'd like Ludwigsfelde. I wouldn't have liked it when it was an industrial village, with one or two huge mechanical plants and nothing else to its name. But now, even with the constant hum of the autobahn (one of Hitler's) keeping it company, it must have an appeal. It has been rebuilt, refashioned and remodelled since the end of East Germany, under the most prosperous and forward-looking mayor in the state, if not the country. He it was who put in a mostly-nude swimming spa. It has dispensers for doggy poo bags, so there's nothing as uncouth as taking your own. The mayor, bless him, even expanded the motorway to three lanes in each direction. It is within touch of Berlin, and in tune with so many business wants, yet is surrounded by woodland. Woodland where, between Christmas and New Year a few years back, the mayor's own wife and dog were found, both having been strangled… Full review...

The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer

3.5star.jpg Thrillers

Eve Singer is a journalist stuck on the ‘meat beat’; she and her camera man Joe chase down every recent murder to get a shot of the gory body, determined to get the best viewings and move into reporting better stories. Eve soon learns to become careful what she wishes for when she begins to get her exclusives from the killer himself, a self-gratifying exhibitionist who is wooing her with a succession of gruesome murders. But how long will it be until he gets what he finally wants; to murder Eve? Full review...

Invisible Planets by Ken Liu

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Invisible Planets is an eclectic collection, translated beautifully, and Ken Liu’s opening essay provides a welcome introduction for those who aren’t familiar with the genre. The stories are dreamlike and hypnotic, evocative and inspiring. Full review...

The Last Debutante by Lesley Lokko

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

In 1936 in Chalfont Hall in Dorset young Kit Algernon-Waters can't really understand what's going on: at thirteen years old she's been banished to have supper in the nursery whilst everyone else is dining downstairs with the guests. Even her elder sister, Lily, who's sixteen is dining with these unnamed 'guests'. Kit has tapped all her usual sources to find out who the visitors are, but to no avail. All she's managed to work out (well, let's be honest 'find out by eavesdropping' is closer to the truth) is that the visitors are German. Kit's parents, Lord and Lady Wharton, are short of money and it's important that at least one of their daughters makes a good marriage. Six months later Lily is married to one of the German, living in some style in Germany. Within a couple of years she's mixing with some dubious company, including Unity Mitford. It was even rumoured that she'd met Hitler. Full review...

Everyday Life in Tudor London: Life in the City of Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare & Anne Boleyn by Stephen Porter

4.5star.jpg History

The Tudor period in England marked a transition in so many ways from the medieval period to a new era, and so it is only right that somebody should at last have examined what effect that should have had on our capital city. After the instability of the Wars of the Roses, a period of consolidation set in and London was at last established as the seat of royalty and government, as well as the centre of cultural life and commercial activity. Full review...

The Burning Page (The Invisible Library Series) by Genevieve Cogman

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Think Indiana Jones, Robert Langdon or Jack West, with a sprinkle of the panache of James Bond and Raffles. Educated and courageous folk who risk all to obtain that magical talisman, that precious statue, that ancient scroll, and, now and then, to save the free world in the process. Place such a person in a multi-universe where on every world the same struggle is being played out: the dragons, who stand for order and control, oppose the Fae, who desire chaos and drama. And then turn your hero or heroine into a . . . librarian. Huh? Does not compute! Full review...

Class: What She Does Next Will Astound You by James Goss

4star.jpg Fantasy

At Coal Hill School, things have started to get public. Kids have become obsessed with a website that demands you perform risky stunts, or tell it your most painful secrets. And Seraphin, everyone's favourite vlogger, wants you to get involved. All in the name of charity. At first people just get hurt. Then their lives are ruined. Finally, they disappear. As April's fragile group of friends starts to fracture, she decides she's going to uncover the truth behind thie site herself. Whatever it takes, whoever she hurts, April's going to win. But then, to her horror, she wakes up and finds her whole world's changed. What she does next will astound you. Full review...

The Shadow of What Was Lost: Book One of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Young Davian is an Augur; a once powerful race that has become almost extinct due to legislation. The surviving remnant stay silent about their powers lest they follow the same fate as their forebears – outlawed and then murdered by a harsh legal system. Up till now Davian has been safe within an academy for the Gifted: the Tol in Andarra. Then one day everything changes. Now Davian is running for his life, unaware of his capabilities or whom it's safe to trust. It's even worse than it sounds for this is a world on the edge of war, trying to suppress secrets that will endanger its very existence. Full review...

Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston

4star.jpg General Fiction

It's all about the ratings in the world of TV. Therefore the BBC, part of the British televisual establishment since TV was invented, feels it has nothing to fear from a new internet channel. However those in control don't understand what – and who – is behind this new phenomenon. The mysterious Rasmus has a plan and some savagely innovative ideas; nothing can stand in his way. Full review...

Class: The Stone House by A K Benedict

4star.jpg Fantasy

There's an old stone house near Coal Hill School. Most people hurry past it. They've heard the stories. But, if you stop, and look up, you'll see the face of a girl, pressed up against a window. Screaming. Tanya finds herself drawn to the stone house. There's a mystery there, and she's going to solve it. But the more she investigates, the more she realises that there's a presence in the house. One that wants her. Something is waiting for Tanya in the stone house. Something that has been trapping others in its web over the years. Something that is far worse than any ghost... Full review...

The Great Brexit Swindle: Why the Mega-Rich and Free Market Fanatics Conspired to Force Britain from the European Union by T J Coles

3.5star.jpg Business and Finance

Have you been mis-sold Brexit by posh men in sharp suits promising you free healthcare? If so, you might be entitled to compensation...

There wasn't much could make me laugh on the morning after the EU referendum but this spoof advert on Twitter managed it. Only, it seems that it wasn't completely a joke - well apart from the bit about compensation. In The Great Brexit Scandal T J Coles looks at the substantial core of free marketeers in the Conservative party who were determined to rid the UK of the Brussels red tape which was putting a brake on their activities. You might also know these views as neoliberalism, an ideology which looks to deregulate markets and maximise profits. On the surface that doesn't sound bad, until you realise that the benefit will go to the people who are already in the group which Coles refers to as the mega-rich and the losers will be working people. Full review...

As Nice as Pie by Gary Sheppard and Tim Budgen

5star.jpg For Sharing

The day that you build that bird table and set out some nuts you are unwittingly creating a millstone for your own neck. From now on your inner voice is going to keep telling you to keep the food topped up. What will happen to those poor little birdies should they go without, will you be to blame for their hunger? Worse than the voice in your head is if the birds themselves started to demand more food. Could you deal with a cheeky chaffinch or a rabid robin? Full review...

The Mock Olympian by Michael Long

4star.jpg Sport

It started with an idle conversation just before the 2012 London Olympics: Michael Long's friend Sarah gave him a book as part of his birthday present. It was Time Out's guide to the history of the Olympics and it covered each of the summer Olympics in chronological order from the inaugural games in Athens in 1896. Sarah's boyfriend James commented that with all the running Michael did, he'd probably have run in most of the Olympic cities. Although Long had done a goodly number of runs, bike rides and triathlons he'd only competed in two of the twenty three cities - London and Athens. Now most of us would have left it at that, but that's not the Michael Long you're going to come to know and love. He saw it as a challenge and what's more he blogged about it and then wrote this book. Full review...

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

4star.jpg Teens

This book, although rather short, managed to put its message across clearly. I was interested to read this, as it is a theme that I had not read before in a book. I found it very difficult to read at times, but I always found myself turning the next page a minute after the last. I was quite nervous to read this, but after I had finished, I could not have been more glad I had chosen it - it showed me the mind-set of the main character after her experience. I found this an interesting and unique book. Full review...

Class: Joyride by Guy Adams

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Poppy is a quiet girl, right up until she steals a car and drives it through a shop window. Max is a nice guy, but then he kills his whole family. Just for fun. Amar always seems so happy, so why is he trying to jump to his death from the school roof? Some of the students of Coal Hill School are not themselves. Some of them are dying. Ram has just woken up in a body he doesn't recognise, and if he doesn't figure out why, he may well be next. Full review...

Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire by Jere Krakoff

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Leopold Plotkin finds himself in some very hot water when he initiates the Mud Crisis. Leopold inherited the family butcher's shop and he is a very good and skilled butcher. But he doesn't like people watching him work and is generally lacking in social skills. The shop's trade suffers and Leopold decides to cover the window with mud so that no-one can see inside. Full review...

Where's the BaBOOn? by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

3.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

The title of a book can be an important indication of what you are about to get yourself into. Where's the BaBOOn? is a subtly different than Where's the Baboon? Can you spot the surprising difference? One book is about finding the missing monkey, the other is waiting for the missing monkey to find you. Therefore, grab this book at your peril, knowing that at some point a Baboon will say BOO! Full review...

Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor)

3.5star.jpg Anthologies

This seasonal anthology contains a nice mixture of poetry, nature and travel pieces, and excerpts from longer works of fiction. Felicity Trotman, a freelance editor and member of the English Civil War Society, has arranged the material into three sections: 'The Old Year', 'Christmas, Sacred and Secular', and 'The New Year'. This creates an appropriate sense of chronological progression, and also serves to make Christmas the heart of the book. Black-and-white illustrations – maps, photographs and engravings – are interspersed throughout, and each author gets a short paragraph of biography and background. Full review...

Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This lovely tale of a small rabbit hero, begins in a time of peace and contentment for the rabbit kingdom. In the cold and snowy days leading up to the mid-winter holiday, an old Bard visits Thornwood Burrow to entertain the rabbits around a roaring fire. The Bard tells a gripping tale from the past, about Podkin, the son of a rabbit chieftain. When a dark and frightening power, known as the Gorm, rises up in the rabbit world, Podkin and his sister and brother are forced to leave their burrow and run for their lives. The story follows their journey and their attempt to defeat the Gorm and restore peace and safety to the rabbit communities across the land. Full review...

Great British Eccentrics by S D Tucker

4.5star.jpg Biography

Some very strange people have stalked our green and pleasant land. In his introduction, Tucker asks us why. Is it our status as an island people which has made so many of our countrymen turn in on ourselves? Has our long libertarian tradition of the idea of individual freedom, as long as we do nobody else any harm, permitted weirdness to flourish among us? Full review...

The First Hunter by Robert Swindells

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Tan and his family are scavengers - stone age scavengers. When a big cat makes a kill one of the family - the brand man - dashes in and frightens the big cat off its kill with a firy brand and one of the others snatches some of the meat for the family. If they don't get the meat then it's down to roots, insects or lizards. Some of the family are concerned about Wid, who grew, but his brain didn't and they don't see why they should hunt for meat to keep the boy alive. They're all for leaving him to the wolves. Tan won't have it and for the moment Wid is safe. Full review...