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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To Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh

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

If you're a detective on a murder squad one of the first things you learn is detachment. You develop a distance from the victim: it allows you do do your job with the minimum amount of emotion. That's relatively easy when you encounter your victim when they're already dead but DS Alice Parr met the woman they would need to call Jane Doe when she was alive, albeit only just. She was being tended by an off-duty paramedic who was struggling to cope with the fact that the woman's throat had been cut and she'd been stabbed several times. The attack had been called in by a dog walker and Alice had been walking to work when the call came over her Airwave radio. Full Review

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Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

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

It's two years since Suzanne hit rock bottom. She's had extensive therapy and a stint with a lovely foster family. And now she's eighteen and must leave the Looked After system. Suzanne is apprehensive but excited. She's found herself a job, a bedsit has been rented, and she's about to return to Brighton, the only place she's ever felt truly at home, and to Caddy and Rosie, her two best friends. Full Review

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Atomic Habits by James Clear

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Popular Science, Lifestyle

I've said this before but there are some books that you seek out, some books that you stumble across and some books that drop into your life because you really MUST read them, like, right now! Atomic Habits is in the last category. Full Review

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Marked for Death by Tony Kent

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

The death of a retired Lord Chief Justice would have made the news: his crucifixion dominated it and Detective Chief Inspector Joelle Levy of the Met's Major Incident Team was the person whose job is was to find his killer. She never thought that it would be easy: the Lord Chief Justice had been making enemies in the course of his work for over half a century. It seems unreasonable to suggest that the crucifixion of retired solicitor Adam Blunt might have given her a ray of hope, but surely two such grisly killings cannot be random? All that's needed is to find out what connects the two cases. Full Review

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Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

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

Tilda returns to Brighton, to tidy away the remains of her mother's life after her death. Whilst there, she returns to the Paradise hotel, a haven for eccentrics and misfits. A place where people can be themselves, and let go of thoughts that torment them elsewhere. Little wonder that Tilda cannot forgive her mother for banishing her as a child, from this place of wonder. With the help of Queenie Malone, caring, and gregarious, Tilda begins to pick apart the tricky and uncertain relationship she had with her sometimes cruel and distant mother. Full Review

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Lark by Anthony McGowan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Dyslexia Friendly, Teens, Confident Readers

I'll warn you first.

This is the fourth and last story about Nicky and Kenny. Try not to cry before you've even read the first page.

Things have got tense at home - again - for Nicky and his learning-disabled brother Kenny. Their mum is coming to visit - the mum who abandoned them a long time ago. They haven't seen her for years and the impending visit is stirring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. And Nicky's girlfriend has ended things. To take their minds off it all, Nicky and Kenny plan a day out, trekking across the moors. But it doesn't go to plan and an accident puts both boys - and their dog, Tina, in terrible danger. Full Review

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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

To begin with we don't know a great deal. We know that there's a body and before too long we know that Doug, the gamekeeper, doesn't think it was an accident. You get the feeling that Doug knows about these things. Three days earlier there had been nine travellers on the train: however you cut that one, the seating is going to be awkward. Someone is going to be left on their own. The highland lodge is stunning though, but these people who don't usually get outside the M25 find it difficult to realise exactly what isolated really means. In this case it means that it's an hour's drive to the road and that's when the weather's good. But this new year, the weather definitely isn't good. This is serious snow. Full Review

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Tadcaster and the Bullies by Richard Rutherford

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

In some ways it was a gentler time: video games were around, but children usually went outside to enjoy themselves. They flew kites and went sledging if there was snow around. Tim and Mary's great-grandfather started a business in 1899 so our story is probably set in the nineteen seventies. Something which hasn't changed, unfortunately, is bullying and two lads are making life miserable not just for Tim and Mary but for other children who gather in the playground. Tim's probably about ten - just at the stage where he's beginning to feel responsible for his younger sister, who's two years younger than him, but he's not yet at the stage where he knows how to deal with bullies. Full Review

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I Can't Tell You Why by Elaine Robertson North

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Women's Fiction

When we first meet Dani she's about to get an offer that would appear to be all too easy to refuse. She's Alex Cambridge's agent and the indications are that he's about to make the big time. He's good looking, charismatic and appealing - well, he's an actor so that's part of the spec - but his suggestion that he and Dani should start a relationship is hedged by a statement that he's got no intention of leaving his wife and three children. So, what's in it for Dani? No, there's no need to answer that. Dani understands the situation all too well and tells him so. Full Review

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Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

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

Bridie, or Little Bird as she prefers to be known, is a crofter's daughter living on the remote Scottish island of Tornish. Life is hard but often happy even though Little Bird struggles with the disability of a wasted arm and leg and often misses her mother, who died some time ago. Despite this, Little Bird has a warm and loving father, sisters to watch over her, a good friend in Will and a laird for whom she is a particular favourite. Little Bird knows every inch of her windswept, savagely beautiful island. Full Review

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The Dragon's Harvest by Jason F Boggs

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

Young Nelson Jones was a young and gifted military cadet in the fascist new world order called the 'New Era'. As his experiences led him on a path of conflict and self-discovery, he became a changed man. Picking up 20 months after the events of The Devil's Dragon, Nelson is on an expedition to uncover the mystery of the sungates, when a terrible secret leads to horrifying discoveries for all involved. Meanwhile, the humans and the Aesini fight for their very existence, as Nelson's nemesis, Major Ira Billis, finds a terrifying new ally in a quest to restore the New Era to glory. As Nelson and his friends race against the clock in order to defeat this new threat, they find themselves facing a power beyond imagination… Full Review

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Whiteout (Red Eye) by Gabriel Dylan

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

Are you up for a sleepless night or two? If so, read on!

Charlie is on a school trip, skiing in the Austrian mountains. He's not having much fun. A miserable home life has given Charlie a bad attitude reputation and he's not a popular kid. Charlie tends to go off by himself - not always a safe thing to do if you're staying in a ski resort - and this is what brings him into contact with one of the ski guides, Hanna. Hanna herself doesn't have the happiest backstory and this forms a connection between them. Full Review

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Completely Perfect: 120 Essential Recipes for Every Cook by Felicity Cloake

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

It's a novel concept for a cookery book: these are not Felicity Cloake's recipes but the best ones she found to do a particular job - the job of delivering the best meal, the Completely Perfect meal of the title. Think of it as the equivalent of a comparison site for when you want to renew the car insurance and then taking the best elements out of each recipe to make perfection. There's nothing cutting edge here: it's the sort of food which we've been eating for decades and probably will be for decades to come. There's a reason for that: roast chicken followed by apple crumble works and providing that you don't have a vegetarian or a vegan at table, it's a meal which is unlikely to do other than go down well. Full Review

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The Man Who Came to London by A S Cookson

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

In 1948, the first set of Caribbean nationals arrived in Great Britain on a ship called "Empire Windrush". They struggled to find housing. They worked as labourers. They faced open discrimination, forcing them to quickly form their own community. Decades later, Freddy makes the same journey.

Does he find a place to live? Does he face stereotypes? Has Britain moved forward?

Freddie arrives in London in the early 2000s, answering the call for teachers. He thinks about his own Jamaican education, based on the British system, and the way he was taught English nursery rhymes and about the River Thames. He thinks about the love of cricket and football, shared by both countries. And he thinks of the generations of the diaspora who came before him. Freddy does well in his job in East London but he does have to face down some stereotypical attitudes from his pupils - all Jamaicans smoke weed, don't they? Everybody knows that! Full Review

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Red Snow by Will Dean

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

Life in the small town of Gavrik is trying to return to normal, following the grim events of Dark Pines. As Tuva prepares to move on from both the death of her mother and her small hometown, she is drawn into another dark investigation. One suicide, and one murder. Are they connected? With black liquorice coins covering the murdered man's eyes, the hashtag #ferryman starts trending, and the local people stocking up on ammunition. With only a fortnight to investigate before moving to the South, Tuva is further troubled by a blizzard that descends on the town, cutting Gavrik off from the larger world. Desperate to stop the killer, Tuva must go delve deep into the heart of the community – but who's to say the Ferryman will let her go? Full Review

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Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

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

This is a story about the past. A specific past, certainly, in the form of pre-war Budapest, but also a story about how that past can impact on the present and the future. In this book, the first of three Magda Szabó wrote on the same theme between 1969 and 1987 and now newly translated and reissued, we witness a heart-rending nostalgia for happier days, guilt about those who did not survive, and a dogged but doomed determination to cling to long-gone times, feelings and experiences which mark the here and now, staining and warping it into another, subtler misery. Full Review

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The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

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

The Winter of the Witch is the conclusion of the story following Vasya, Vasilisa Petronova, as she negotiates her way towards her destiny through the world of medieval males and the Catholic Church's perception of witchcraft. The story picks up directly from the action in the second novel, The Girl in the Tower, and as a reader too much is lost if you haven't read this at the very least. My advice would be to read all three. The first two novels are beautiful and lyrical with extraordinary characters and a wonderful balance of magic and action. This final novel, however, is an absolute triumph. Full Review

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Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson

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

Ro Snow spends her time at school trying to pass under the radar. She doesn't want anyone to notice her, because then they might start asking questions, or they might want to be friends, and she can't have any friends because she can't ever have anyone come over to her house. You see, Ro's mum is a hoarder, and their whole house, with the exception of Ro's bedroom, is an ever-growing mound of rubbish and paper, and Ro lives in fear of social services finding out and taking her away. Full Review

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The Boy in a Turban by Joseph Hucknall

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

You might not think that Georgian London contained many black people. But it contained more than you think. You may have heard of Francis Barber, the black African slave who became the friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson and was a beneficiary of his will. The Boy in a Turban tells the story of a fictional black character, James, in Georgian London. James, then Quaccoe, is brought to the capital from a Jamaican plantation by a ship captain who wanted a servant for his two daughters. Full Review

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Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber Lee Dodd

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

Named after two famous female explorers, Amelia Hester McLeod loves to listen to stories of exciting adventures, but when it comes to being brave herself she finds it very difficult. She lives on a small Scottish island with her dad and her grandad, and spends her time daydreaming about where her adventurous mother might be off exploring. When her mum had lived with them, she had home-schooled Amelia, and her dad and grandad tried to continue that for a while. But now her dad has decided it's time for Amelia to go to school on the mainland. Amelia is afraid - afraid of having to make new friends, afraid of being picked on because of her problems with reading, and afraid of what's happening to her since she went and made a wish on a mysterious rock in the sea… Full Review