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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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...

Look For Her by Emily Winslow

4star.jpg Crime

In 1976, Annalise Wood disappeared on her journey home from school and instantly became a local celebrity. For decades the town of Lilling tried to solve the mystery of Annalise's disappearance until, almost twenty years later, her body was discovered. Annalise's body was badly decomposed and there was lack of DNA available, the only trace on the body was found in her skirt and does not match anyone on record. The chances of finding her killer were extremely low and the murder soon becomes a 'cold case' – but still the most famous Lilling has ever seen. Full review...

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix

4.5star.jpg Horror

Demonic possession, murderous babies, man-eating moths… for these books, no plot was too ludicrous, no cover art too appalling, no evil too despicable. Now horror author Grady Hendrix risks his soul and his sanity (not to mention the reader's!) to relate the true, untold story of a fascinating and often forgotten era in publishing.

Read the synapse-shattering story summaries!
See the horrific hand-painted cover imagery!
And learn the true-life tales of the writers, artists, and publishers who gleefully violated every literary law but one – never be boring. Full review...

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

Luke Dittrich seeks to shed light on the man behind the initials, and in doing so, uncovered quite a bit more than he expected. Full review...

Worry Angels by Sita Brahmachari and Jane Ray

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Amy-May was devastated when her parents split up: she and her mother left the delightful seaside cottage where the waves had sung her to sleep and moved into a 'garden flat'. That didn't mean that it had a garden, just that it was on the ground floor. They didn't have a lot of possessions as the bailiffs had taken most of them. Her father was living in another old cottage now and hopefully he'd be able to set up his kiln, but he wouldn't be able to home-school Amy-May. The alternative was Sandcastles Secondary School but the rather nervous Amy was considered to be too anxious to start at the school full time. As a gentle introduction to schooling she went to Grace's art school instead. Full review...

The Winter's Child by Cassandra Parkin

5star.jpg Paranormal

A modern Gothic tale of twisted love, secrets and hauntings it says on the cover. I'll go along with that. Suzannah Harper doesn't believe in life after death or gypsies being able to tell the future, but that hasn't stopped her spending a fortune on psychics and fortune tellers in the desperate hunt for her son. Joel has been missing for five years. He skipped out of school one day after an argument at home and has not been seen since. Full review...

Bathroom Boogie by Clare Foges and Al Murphy

4star.jpg For Sharing

Every day I leave the house with the feeling that I left it in a pretty tidy state, but on my return some things always seem out of place. This is especially true of my bathroom. Why is there toothpaste on the mirror, or a flannel on the floor? It would appear that I may not actually be to blame and that when I'm at work all the bathroom items come out for a boogie. Will I ever catch them in the act? Full review...

Son of the Night by Mark Alder

4star.jpg Fantasy

In Son of the Morning, author Mark Alder plunges the reader into a chaotic, dangerous world, taking them back to the turbulent reign of Edward III and the dangers of the Hundred Years War. Adding elements of fantasy and theology to the mix, Alder created an intriguing read which is continued in Son of the Night. With Lucifer, Satan, God, Devils and Angels interacting with a cast of real and well researched characters, Alder continues his exploration of the Hundred Years war whilst rather incredibly keeping his readers as educated as they are entertained. Full review...

The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Robert Ingpen

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows was one of the defining books of my childhood and more than sixty years after I first read the book I've just recently passed it onto another young reader. Since the book was first published in 1908 there have been some notable illustrators: Paul Bransom provided illustrations for the 1913 edition, Ernest H Shepard (perhaps better known for his illustrations of Winnie the Pooh) in 1933, Arthur Rackham (possibly the leading illustrator from the golden age of book illustration) in 1940 and Robert Ingpen who illustrated the centenary edition of The Wind in the Willows. Full review...

Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins

5star.jpg Reference

In the mid twentieth century the railway was something which harked back to the Victorian age with trains being supplanted by cars and planes, but steam was being replaced by oil, even then and in the twenty-first century oil is giving way to electricity. It's cleaner, more environmentally friendly and the stations which we'd all rushed through as quickly as possible, keen to escape their grime, were restored and became places to be admired, possibly even lingered in. Simon Jenkins has chosen his hundred best railway stations. Full review...

Eloise Undercover by Sarah Baker

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Eloise has a wonderful life with her two best friends, Albert and Maddie, until the German soldiers start to arrive and everything changes. Nazi-occupied France is not a place Eloise wants to be. Maddie and her family are taken away and Albert starts to act very strangely. Then her father disappears. Eloise is lost until she discovers her father has been working for the resistance and there might, if she is brave enough, be a way to rescue him before he's deported to Germany. She now has hope and a plan. But will the resistance let a twelve year old schoolgirl join them? Full review...

Silver Silence A Psy-Changling Trinity Novel by Nalini Singh

4star.jpg Paranormal

Jump straight into a rich and diverse universe at this designated jumping on point. Visit a world of humans, changelings and Psy. The world the books have set in has faced a dramatic change and a new world-order of peace has been declared. The peace is painful and not universally loved. Into this world a bear falls in love with an emotionless Psy – how'd ya reckon it'll turn out? Full review...

The Cossack by K J Lawrence

5star.jpg Thrillers

Daniel Brooking is not what you'd think of as hero material: he's a photographer of some merit and in his fifties he has a settled life. It was the disappearance of his assistant, Ivan Shevchenko, which disrupted everything. It wasn't unknown for him to disappear occasionally, but missing an exhibition was a first for him. He'd been distracted for a few days - and then there were the strange papers which arrived, to be kept safe. The authorities, in the form of a shadowy senior member of the security services, confirmed the view that Ivan was probably dead, because of some supposed connections with organised crime and drug dealing. Full review...