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.

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Go Ask Fannie Farmer by Elisabeth Hyde

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Eighty-one-year-old Murray Blaire hoped for the best when he waited for his three children to arrive one Friday night. He might be a retired lawyer, a state legislator, elected congressman and now an amateur farmer but he knew that there could be trouble when Ruth and George arrived. Ruth, a corporate lawyer, would find fault and want to talk about him going into a retirement home. George, a nurse, would argue and Lizzie, a professor of English Literature, who lived locally and kept and visited him regularly, would be unpredictable. Murray hoped that all would go smoothly, but that simply wasn't going to happen. Full Review

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Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers

The name Janina Ramirez is well known: her television programmes on cultural history, especially of early medieval times, are both lively and informative. She shares her extensive learning with a light hand (and a frequent giggle) and her enthusiasm encourages students and viewers alike to explore further the subjects she discusses. But how will that translate into children's fiction? Will her academic desire for accuracy make the story dull and fact-packed? Will she hold up the action to display her considerable knowledge? Nope, not a bit of it! Full Review

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The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Fantasy

The Grey Bastards is an absolute triumph! Fantasy, action and adventure cleverly wrapped around a super plot and well written characters, this book is so much fun. A word of caution though, this is not suitable for all readers. As the tittle suggests there is a lot of bad language, a LOT of bad language, thrown around all the time in general speech. In addition to this there is also some sex and sexual language too, there is some violence but this is not actually very explicit and not as constant as the language and bawdy jokes. If this bothers you then this is not the book for you. For anyone who doesn't mind then this is an absolute must read. Full Review

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The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers

Cecilia is picking her daughters up from swimming when the pool's receptionist asks a quick favour of her – to drop off a little boy from the class as his parents seem to have forgotten to collect him. The pool is about to close, and it's not a big ask although Cecilia is somewhat put out that it will interrupt her routine. But, minor inconvenience isn't really a good enough reason to say no so she agrees and bundles the boy whose name is Tobias into the car with her girls. This is a decision that will change her life, and that minor inconvenience quickly becomes something much larger that will haunt her every waking moment. Full Review

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Showtime (Dance Trilogy) by Jean Ure

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers

Second years. The girls couldn't believe that they'd made it through the first year - in fact they'd all made it, all eight of them, which was most unusual. Usually some were thrown out - they might have grown too tall, didn't look right or didn't have the commitment required. Maddie felt a bit nervous when she thought about that last bit as there'd been a point when she might have been thrown out for that reason. She's now determined that she really does want to be a ballet dancer, except... Full Review

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The Gravediggers' Bread by Frederic Dard and Melanie Florence (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Thrillers

Blaise is at a loose end, for having left Paris on a wild goose chase for a job, which was his friend's idea, he's stuck outside a call box waiting to report back before he gets the train. The woman in the post office using the payphone finally finishes her business, and leaves him with a strong impression – as well as a wallet dropped to the floor containing several days' good money, and, when he tracks her to the village funeral directors', signs of her infidelity. Lo and behold he is given a job as the woman's husband's assistant, although she also starts to employ him in sending messages to her amour, her childhood love before circumstances changed. Blaise is of course deeply in love with the woman by now, and hates the two obstacles preventing him from being with her. One is the lover, a brutish bloke with little prospects and a bad case of epilepsy. Surely he will not fall by the wayside, and surely the brick wall of fate keeping Blaise from his intended destiny will remain two men tall? Full Review

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Boy Underwater by Adam Baron

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers

Cymbeline Igloo (yes, that’s his real name!) is nine years old, and he has never been swimming, and this wouldn’t be a really big problem except for the fact that the school bully has somehow got the impression that Cym is actually an amazing champion swimmer, and has challenged Cym to a race at their very first school swimming lesson! He tries to research swimming on the internet, but there’s an accident at the pool that, initially, sees Cym embarrassed in front of the other kids, but that results in his mum having a breakdown. Why has she never taken Cym swimming? And why does his accident at the pool create such devastation in Cym’s life? Full Review

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Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction

Meet Fabrice Valantine. He's a headhunter, and a successful one too, in an office in Paris. All around him however his world is changing – yes, there is a new ban on smoking in all workplaces. Goaded by his non-smoking wife, even though they met over an ashtray, of sorts, he sees a hypnotist who had success with a mutual friend in stopping their nicotine habit. The session seems to have been successful, however he faces the prospect of having such a change to his own personality, his imbued habits and lifestyle, with fear, when he realises it will never again grant him any pleasure. He needs this pleasure when further changes at work come about – but it's what he replaces the habit with that will surprise the most. Full Review

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

William Woolf is a letter detective, working in the Dead Letters Depot in East London. He spends his days deciphering smudged addresses, tracking down mysterious people and reading endless letters of love, guilt, death, hope, and everyday life. Full Review

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The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens

Funny how no one ever uses the word 'love' when discussing my case. I do what I do because she's my mum. That pure and that simple.

Bobby Seed's mum has MS and it's getting worse. Bobby, who is seventeen, shoulders most of her care. And he also keeps house and also looks after his little brother Danny. He gets some help from his best friend Bel, who has her own reasons for spending as much time as possible not at home, but it's still a slog. But Bobby doesn't mind because he loves his mum and they have a wonderful relationship, mostly based on taking the mickey out of each other. Bobby also attends a support group for young carers. It's a bit daft with all the role play exercises and the like, but it's nice to meet other kids in the same boat as you. Especially Lou, the American boy with the weird way of speaking and the Vespa and the air of cool. Bobby can barely keep his eyes off Lou. Full Review


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The Old Religion by Martyn Waites

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime

The Cornish village of St Petroc isn't on the tourist trail: there's nothing particularly pretty, or historic, or interesting about it, which might be one of the reasons why Tom Killgannon is there. He had been an undercover policeman, but something had gone badly wrong and now he's in witness protection and working in the local pub. St Petroc feels safe and it's put a good deal of distance between him and some very violent people. He's got an on-again, off-again relationship with the local policewoman, with the on-again bits coinciding with the times when her husband's away. It's not an exciting life, but right now it suits Tom just fine. Until he meets Lila, that is. Full Review

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The Dragonfly Story: Explaining the death of a loved one to children and families by Kelly Owen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

The Owen family were feeling sad. There used to be five of them. There was Mum, Dad and three children: Abi, Jenny and Joe. But then Abi died. Now there were only four of them. Life felt very strange without their sister, and they were all very unhappy.

How does a family cope with the loss of a beloved child and sibling? Full Review

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Marsha's Deal by Laura Solomon

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Short Stories, General Fiction, Fantasy

Marsha didn't have an easy ride in life the first time around. She'd been afflicted with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare disease which turned parts of her body to bone when they were damaged. Finally she was unable to stand her life any longer and went to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic. She'd thought that would be the end, but after cremation her body went straight to hell and she found herself face-to-face with the devil. And that was when she made the pact. In exchange for details about some of those who had been close to her - their strengths and weaknesses - she would be reborn on the same day to the same parents, but would live her life free of disease. Full Review

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H Winthrop

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

In an isolated Louisiana town, a young black prisoner sits in his dingy cell, staring at the shadow of the window bars cast onto the concrete wall by the evening's dying sun rays. At midnight, he will be dead; strapped to a chair and electrocuted for the rape of a white girl, who later committed suicide. He is resigned to his fate; it is futile to protest his innocence or to expect anyone to believe what really happened; after all, love between a black man and a white woman was never going to have a happy ending in a small town filled with small-minded people. Full Review

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The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was a Mermaid by Tania Unsworth

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers

Stella's mother died when she was a little girl. Stella is growing up in a house with her dad, who is often away, and her grandmother, who is starting to experience the onset of dementia. This is all hard enough for a young girl, but at the same time Stella finds that she feels like rather an oddball, struggling to fit in at school, and as her grandmother begins to lose her grip on reality, Stella struggles with feeling very alone. When Stella's only school friend suddenly moves away, Stella struggles even more. She is desperate to find out what happened to her mum and to uncover her family's secrets. Full Review

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Ascension by Victor Dixen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Teens, Science Fiction

Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars. Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. She has signed up for glory. She has signed up for love. She has signed up for a one-way ticket. Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets. Full Review

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The Toad Who Loved Tea by Faiz Kermani

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

Tungtang is not like other toads. She can't sit still, tongue protruding, and wait to catch a fly. Tungtang needs to be on the move. Sometimes, she even hops right the way over to the rotten tree stump in her community of Muddy River. And she loves to regale her fellow toads with stories of her exploits. That is, until a mean old crow comes along and tells Tungtang that a real adventure would take her a lot further than a tree stump by a bridge everyone knows. Infuriated by the crow and inspired by her grandfather's stories of humans and ancient toad prophecies, Tungtang decides on a Real Adventure and heads off to the town of Little Cobblestone... Full Review

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The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Thrillers

The year is 1615 and celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr have been arrested for murder. She is young, beautiful, and a member of the notorious Howard family. He is one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, risen from nothing yet has the King's ear. Both of them are suspected but the crime is not as black and white as it seems. Is Frances an innocent or is she the witch so many believe her to be? Is Robert telling the truth when he says he knows nothing of the murder? In between all these questions is King James I, for it is his secret that is at stake. One of them is a killer, but who has committed the murder in question? Full Review