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. is the custom writing service thousands of students trust all over the world. My Homework Done is your best choice among those websites that do homework for you.

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Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations by Eilidh Muldoon

5star.jpg Crafts

Have you ever tried wrapping a small gift, or those handmade sweets or biscuits you've prepared for a friend? It's not easy is it? If you use wrapping paper the gift tends to lose presence and once you start to use glass jars the gift becomes really quite expensive and less easy to transport. Do you find colouring relaxing and rewarding but somehow it feels just a little bit too indulgent if all you do is turn to the next page and start colouring that? Would you get more out of it if you could use what you've coloured for a practical purpose? The ideal solution to both problems is Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations by Eilidh Muldoon. Full review...

Talking to Gina by Ottilie Hainsworth

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

This is what happened. An artist decided she needed a dog – so drove the length of the country, Brighton to Grimsby, to pick up an Eastern European immigrant street dog with some mange and one working eye. Why not? The first night at home, Gina – the dog – eats something she shouldn't and causes a mess, so it's not a great start, but then begin the tribulations of training, status and behaviour all humans must go through with their dogs. And then, the life with Gina begins to feel like too much – I felt weird about you, because you were always there. My thoughts were taken over by you, and I felt sick, as if I was in love. Slowly, however, everyone – our artist/author, her husband, two children and two cats – gets to form the family they and Gina all would have wanted. Full review...

Free Lance and the Field of Blood (Free Lance Trilogy 2) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

The world of jousting is a fierce one – survive the minor battles with the lance, either as a bonded employed Knight or as a Free Lance, and you might try your hands at the major league. There the men are stronger, the horses faster, and the ground hurts more when you hit it. But the big time also offers more that can put a humble Knight at risk – such as evil hosts, beautiful princess-types in pickles, and mysteriously successful strangers. Our nameless hero and his loyal horse, Jed, are going to be up against a lot more than they expected here… Full review...

Oh Baby, the Places You'll Go by Dr Seuss and Tish Rabe

4star.jpg For Sharing

A slightly odd concept to get one's head around, Oh Baby, the Places You'll Go is both a book within a book, and a book sized advert all in one. Dr Seuss (fun fact: 'Seuss' originally rhymed with 'voice') wrote many, many books in his lifetime, and lots of us will be familiar with his best-known characters such as The Cat in the Hat and the copious numbers of adventures he wrote about such as when Horton Hears a Who. This book is different, because rather than introducing new wild and wacky characters, it brings together existing ones who may never have met each other before. Adapted by Tish Rabe (though very much influenced by Dr Seuss's originals), this book rattles through the different titles and their key characters, knitting them together with the premise that these are all people baby will meet in the future, through the wonder of children's books. Full review...

The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

5star.jpg For Sharing

First we had a cute little mouse finding his inner beast in The Lion Inside and then we had a nervous koala trying to move out of his comfort zone in The Koala Who Could and now we have a couple of greedy, fighting squirrels. Whatever next? Full review...

When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi

4star.jpg Thrillers

Anna is in a coma. Only two people know who inflicted the severe injuries that lead to her lying there unmoving in the hospital bed, the culprit who won’t talk, and Anna who can’t. If, and it’s a big if, she wakes up, she may remember what happened, but of course there’s a chance she quite literally did not know what hit her. For her husband Erik, it’s an agonising wait. The police don’t seem that interested, but he has to know who was responsible, and so he wonders whether he should do a bit of investigating himself. He shouldn’t, of course, because in a story like this there are secrets just waiting to be uncovered, and he may find that these are things he would rather have never known. Full review...

Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

The timeless story that we all know as The Wizard of Oz is given a twist in this original interpretation by master story-crafter Michael Morpurgo. It's the tale of a character that seems to be so often overlooked in the well-known story: Dorothy's faithful dog, Toto. We hear the whole story from his point of view, told in first person narrative from the moment the tornado sweeps across Dorothy's Kansas farm. Toto continues to tell the story as it happens to him in a witty and charming manner as their house is lifted into the air and whisked away to the mysterious land of Oz. Of course, Toto and Dorothy meet the absurd but loveable scarecrow without a brain, tin man without a heart and lion who lacks courage, and together they set off along the yellow brick road to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, hoping that he might help Toto and Dorothy return home. Along the way, the tin man, scarecrow and lion learn that what they think they are missing might have been there all along. Full review...

Star Wars Where's the Wookiee? 2 Search and Find Activity Book by Katrina Pallant and Ulises Farinas

4star.jpg Confident Readers

It's not enough these days, you know, to have just one franchise. No, you have to match it with another. You have to mash Doctor Who with the Mister Men. You need zombies in your Pride and Prejudice (don't laugh, the book was much better than the film). Batman has to have a Lego equivalent (and don't laugh, for the film was awfully unfunny). Even when you're a Disneyfied, new-film-every-year-like-it-or-not behemoth like Star Wars, you need some secondary property to latch on to. Hence this, which as the title suggests, is the second book asking you to find the Wookie in the Wally/Waldo-esque scenes. Full review...

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, Peter Bently and Steven Lenton

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, as we were constantly told when I was young – I dare say people are still saying it, but it was quite prevalent way back then. I'm sure many people reading this will know that the Dearlys end up with 101 Dalmatians for Christmas themselves, and it must be debatable whether they stayed in the same house as them all come the new year. But what is beyond doubt is that the getting of so many cute pups was full of drama – drama that fills this young reader to bursting, and drama that comes in illustrations like these with no end of charm. Full review...

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Magnificent Creatures) by Anna Wright

4.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

One of the problems a Christmas-themed book has is in making itself relevant at other times of the year. This charming little encapsulation of the well-known yuletide poem (known in English in 1780, but older than that, trivia fans) gets round that by (a) being a counting book for the very young that they could gain from on any date they chose, and (b) just being really pleasing to look at. Full review...

Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia by Francis O'Gorman

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

After a glut of books about mindfulness it came as something of a relief to encounter Forgetfulness, Francis O'Gorman's thinking on why the twenty-first century is losing touch with the past, on why what is likely - or could be made - to happen is so much more important than what has gone before. The book is supremely intelligent, but with the knowledge worn lightly and it's eminently readable, regardless of how you feel about the conclusions he draws. Full review...

You Dear, Sweet Man by Thomas Neviaser

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Bobby Fastow's journey to work on the subway was an oasis of calm in an otherwise exhausting day: nothing was required of him. He could sit and relax, gazing at the adverts until he got to his stop and went to his physically-demanding job. The ad for BurgerBlast caught his eye: a beautiful woman was sitting on a boardroom table, encouraging you to read about the business's move away from artery-choking food to a healthier menu, but it wasn't the message which caught Bobby's attention. It was the woman. She seemed to be looking directly at him and he could have sworn that she winked... Full review...

Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers) by Chris Priestley

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Maudlin Towers has a school newsletter out. It contains an indignant notice about an Offending Item:

It has come to our attention that a renegade author by the name of Chris Priestley has written a COMPLETELY FICTITIOUS AND WILDLY INACCURATE account of life here at Maudlin Towers for the Not Particularly Bright Sons of the Not Especially Wealthy. This is in NO WAY sanctioned by the school and should be AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS. Full review...

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Ebo is twelve years old and all alone. His sister left for Europe months ago and now he doesn't know where his brother is either but knows that he has probably done the same thing. So Ebo has to attempt the same dangerous journey himself. He must cross the Sahara Desert, get himself to Tripoli, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and then try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. By himself. At twelve. And, even if he makes it, how will he find his sister? Full review...

Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales by Hilary McKay and Sarah Gibb

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

You can't leave a parcel on the doorstep for long. Not if it's alive.

Hooray! Hilary McKay is back! This makes me happy. If you hadn't already guessed by the title - and not that I like stating the obvious or anything - but she's back with a collection of fairy tale retellings. There are ten of them - some, such as Rapunzel and Cinderella, the most famous, and some, such as The Swan Brothers or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, lesser known. And of course, McKay brings her own twist to them all with the bedrock of openheartedness overlaid by a slightly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that permeates all her writing. Full review...

We See Everything by William Sutcliffe

5star.jpg Teens

Lex lives in what used to be London. Today, it is a closed-off, bombed-out area known as The Strip. Nobody comes in and nobody can go out. Drones are a constant presence overhead. Alan spends all his time watching The Strip. His talent as a gamer got him the job of drone pilot. He hasn't bombed anyone yet but he's hyped up to do it. It's fighting terrorism, after all. Alan's observation target is a high-profile target - a man high up in the resistance organisation known as The Corps. Alan calls him #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.

Lex and Alan will never meet. But their lives will collide in devastating ways... Full review...

Supersaurs 1: Raptors of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

I'm thirteen years OLD, not young. And it's a good job too, for her grandma and godfather have taken Bea on an extended holiday to Indonesia, where the wild dinosaurs live. Yes, this is a world where they never went extinct, and have been used for riding for leisure or as pack animals ever since mankind domesticated them. But wild and dangerous ones still exist, such as the Raptors of Paradise. Bea's older guardians have another reason to go there, though – they are in search of clues that might lead them to at last discover the fate of Bea's birth parents, who disappeared a decade ago. She's unaware of this being the final grasp at one last clue – and all of them are ignorant of how the real danger and mystique on the island may actually come not from the fabulous beasts, but from other humans… Full review...

The House with the Stained-Glass Window by Zanna Sloniowska and Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Marianna, an opera singer in the soon-to-be Ukrainian city of Lviv, is mistakenly shot dead at a political rally in the dying days of the Soviet Union. This novel begins with both anger and hope, as Marianna's coffin is covered in the illegal blue and yellow flag, and her death seems to herald the birth of a new nation. But the day of her funeral is also the day of her daughter's first period – a girl who must learn how to be a woman in this time of drastic change, with no mother to guide her along the way. Full review...

Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

This is the story of two mothers and two daughters, and the virus that binds them. Widowed mum Kate is a nurse. She has a daughter, Rosie, and Rosie is ill with measles. As a nurse, Kate knows exactly how dangerous this can be, but because Rosie has a rare allergy that prevents vaccination, there was nothing she could do except cross her fingers and hope herd immunity would carry her through. Married mum Madeleine is a mummy blogger and tells the world, or at least the internet, the do's and do not's of parenting. There's one thing she didn't do, though, and that is get her daughter Clara vaccinated. Dubious of the MMR, she and her husband decided to forgo the jabs for their children. And now, like Rosie, she has measles. Full review...

These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers

5star.jpg Crime

Somewhere in his brain Tony Garner knew that getting hold of the knife was a mistake, but he liked knives and had quite a collection until they were all taken away after the accident which had left him, well, not quite as he ought to be. The problem with this knife was that it was beside the woman who was lying in the ginnell, one leg twisted under her rather strangely and with blood coursing down her face. Tony thought about ringing the police but dismissed the idea quickly. She was still alive - just - so an ambulance might have been a good idea, but Tony had an instinct for when trouble was going to catch him, so he dropped the knife down a drain and disappeared. Full review...

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

I love a good romcom and so was excited to read Chrissie Manby's latest novel. It certainly didn't disappoint on the comedy value and pleasingly it was more a 'relationship comedy' than just a romcom with unlikely friendships and day-to-day family relations providing the best laughs. Full review...

Pulse by Felix Francis

4.5star.jpg Crime

The man who was found unconscious in the Gents at Cheltenham Racecourse was smartly dressed, but completely lacked any identification. He was rushed to hospital and Dr Chris Rankin, a specialist in emergency medicine, tried to save him, but the man died. Where had he come from and why had no one claimed the body? Whilst the police were investigating the man's death the doctor's competency was called into question. Chris Rankin had been hiding anxiety and panic attacks from her colleagues, and now could no longer work. She wasn't going to give up though - she was intrigued by the nameless man and suspicious of the behaviour of high-profile jockeys at recent race meetings and began an investigation of her own into the identity of the dead man. Full review...

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Once again the vivid and decidedly quirky imagination of Frances Hardinge has produced a story which grips the reader while he or she is reading it, and remains in the memory long after the book has been replaced on the shelf. This time the English Civil War is erupting and we meet Makepeace, whose gift (or curse, depending on your perspective) means she has a space inside her where ghosts can hide. Her first guest is a large, angry bear which has spent its unhappy life being seriously ill-treated, and much of her energy in the earlier part of the story is given over to stopping it using her body to rampage around smashing everything and everyone in sight. Full review...

Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story by Anne Meredith

4star.jpg Crime

Adrian Gray was not a particularly pleasant man, but that was no reason why he should meet his death at the hands of one of his own children as they celebrated Christmas at Kings Poplars in 1931. None of the six children were fond of their father and several had cause to wish him dead. Richard was the eldest and was married to Laura. He was a politician and keen to advance himself - and to get a title other than the knighthood which he already had - but such endeavours cost money which he didn't have. He'd also been indiscreet with another woman who was attempting to blackmail him and was hoping that his father would advance some funds to get him out of the mess. Full review...

The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

5star.jpg General Fiction

Dear Mma Ramotswe is back, for the eighteenth (!) book in the series, and what a beautiful book it is. I ran through the whole tumult of emotions whilst reading this story, with all the usual moments of humour, annoying (and yet endearing) idiosyncrasies of character, low level mystery solving and endless cups of redbush tea. There is a case for the agency with a lady who has been wrongfully fired from her job. There's the worrying, background presence of Mma Makutsi's nemesis, Violet Sepotho, who must surely have been involved in this poor lady's job woes. And there is the difficult discovery of an unknown family member for Mma Ramotswe, and an unwelcome return from another. Full review...

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

4star.jpg Crime

My very first crime fiction book was a Kinsey Millhone story, and I found it so utterly captivating that it converted me from a crime avoider to a crime lover! Since that first story, I have been committed to the alphabet mysteries, so it I felt both excited and a little sad to be holding the penultimate story in the series in my hands! Full review...

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals by DK

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The animal kingdom is a diverse one, full of creatures that do all sorts of things. The number of animals out there is so vast that even vets need to do a quick google when something strange appears in their practice. For budding vet-to-be animals are a constant source of fascination and they will absorb as much knowledge as you can give them. It is not practical to visit the zoo every day, but getting an educational and entertaining animal encylopedia is. Full review...

DK Children's Encyclopedia by DK

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

More than sixty years ago my grandparents bought me an encylopedia: it was a major purchase for them as they didn't really do books, but it was a treasure trove for me and I still have it today. It didn't just teach me facts - it taught me how to find out information for myself and how to use an index. It opened my eyes to subjects I'd never considered and widened my knowledge on those I already loved. In format, in size and content it was very similar to DK Children's Encyclopedia and I can imagine a younger me hunched over it and begging just to be allowed to finish this bit before I went to bed. Full review...

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Every year the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest, in the hope that this sacrifice will keep their town safe. Little do they know that the witch, Xan, is a kind soul who rescues the children and finds them new homes with families on the other side of the forest. She feeds the babies on starlight to keep them nourished throughout their journey, but one year she accidently feeds a baby moonlight which fills the child with a powerful magic. Xan names the baby Luna and realises she must raise this magical child as her own, locking away her magical abilities until her thirteenth birthday. But as the day approaches where Luna's magic will emerge, she will have to learn to protect the safe and loving world she has always known. Full review...

Time of Blood by Robin Jarvis

4star.jpg Teens

Travel back over a hundred years into Whitby's past to see two witches battle an ancient evil. Follow young Lil as she tries to avoid spoilers and find her best friend. Full review...

Peter Pan and Wendy by J M Barrie and Robert Ingpen

4star.jpg For Sharing

It's a childhood staple - the story of Wendy, John and Michael Darling and their beloved nurse, Nana the Newfoundland dog who took them to school each day. It's George Darling, their father, who makes the mistake when he locks Nana in the yard and the children are whisked away to Neverland by Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. There's a wonderful mix of characters, from Peter Pan, the boy who never wants to grow up, Tinkerbell, the rather unpleasant fairy, Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, the lost boys and - of course - Wendy, but then it wouldn't have been a classic since the original stage production in 1904 and the novel of 1911 if it were otherwise. Full review...