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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Greeks Bearing Gifts: Bernie Gunther Thriller 13 by Philip Kerr

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

Set in Germany in 1957, Greeks Bearing Gifts is a historical crime thriller with everything from dodgy Nazi past histories to insurance fraud. Bernie Gunther is a Berliner, who was a sarjeant during the second world war and now, in this novel, is working in the morgue of a hospital. He finds himself embroiled in a mystery, taking on a new role as an insurance claims investigator. The investigation takes him to Greece, and back into the dark times of the war. With layered plots and double-crossing left, right and centre, there's lots to keep you guessing throughout this story. Full Review

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All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew

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

Ia Pendilly lives in a caravan on the coast of Cornwall – a woman as raw as the landscape that surrounds her. Living with Bran, her abusive cousin and common law husband, she's never yet had her own baby. Discovering a waif washed up on shore, Ia rescues the girl but is also rescued by the girl – given a new found strength to escape and to embark on a new journey. The journey takes her deep into a troubled society and through a damaged, hurting world – finding family and memories long hidden will break Ia, remake her and perhaps give her the elusive sense of freedom she's been seeking. Full Review

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Tale of a Tooth by Allie Rogers

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

Danny lives in a small Sussex town with his mother, Natalie. Life is poor, but they manage - until they're threatened by a benefits sanction. A Job Centre employee looks to be their salvation - but her impact on the family goes far beyond what they first expect, and the resulting changes are described to the reader through the naive yet perceptive and wholly original eyes of four-year-old Danny. Full Review

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Claudia by Anthony Trevelyan

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

When Claudia is called to the reception of her Manchester Office block to meet a visitor, she doesn't expect it to be her father figure – a man she hasn't seen for fifteen years. Samson Glaze – otherwise known as Wild Samson, The Aztec and The Sun King, walked out of Claudia's life and into a world of success as a solar panel salesman – but now he's returned and he needs Claudia's help. Reggie, Samson's son, has joined a mysterious cult called Tarantula, a group who prepare for the end of the world and encourage humanity to embrace their impending doom. Claudia's journey takes her far from her home in Manchester to the end of the world – where encounters with hammer-wielding assassins make things very difficult indeed… Full Review

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

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

James DeWitt and Danny Allen are both men in their early thirties whose lives haven't taken them where they were supposed to go. At an all time low time for both of them, the two men reconnect and slowly find they're exactly what the other needs. Together, they help each other put their lives back together. This is a beautiful story about friendship and what it really means to help another person. Full Review

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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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

How small I look. Laid out flat, my stomach touching ground. My right knee bent and my brand-new Nikes stained with blood.

Danny was playing with a toy gun his friend Carlos had lent to him when he was shot by Officer Moore, who claims he was in fear for his life, that Danny, a five foot tall, twelve-year-old boy, was a threatening thug whose menace was such that Officer Moore had no choice but to reach for his gun and eliminate the threat. Full Review

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

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

Ailsa Rae has been sick her whole life, and just as she was edging closer to death she finally, finally got the call that she needed, that a heart was available for her to have a transplant. Previously she had felt so helpless that she had used her blog to make decisions for her, running polls amongst her readers to decide on her actions. But with her new heart, she has been given a new life. Can Ailsa manage to start to live on her own, and will her mother let her do that? Full Review

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Spirit by Sally Christie

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

Matt Barker has seen something strange. Something extraordinary that no one would normally see. That wouldn't usually matter but Matt accidently tells the rest of his class when they're playing the 'truth game' on the school bus. Now most of the class think he's either mad or a liar. To make matters worse, his classmate and new next-door neighbour, Jazzy O'Hanlon, believes him and she's determined to find a way to share his experience, even if that means losing her best friend. Full Review

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The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

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

Tension exists among the kingdoms surrounding the Pitorian Sea, and peace is definitely not on everyone's agenda. Instead power is sought by force, and political manoeuvring of the worst kind sees families torn apart and innocent victims swept up in the fallout. This story of warring nations is fast moving from page one, and the main characters, who move between kingdoms, face challenge after challenge. There are five separate story lines, each led by a colourful and interesting character, and Sally Green weaves them together beautifully like a tapestry as their paths cross and their lives intertwine. Full Review

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Precept: A Novel by Matthew de Lacey Davidson

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

Nathan Whyte is tremendously excited about the arrival of Frederick Douglass in Ireland. And even more excited that his Quaker father, who is publishing the British edition of Narrative, Douglass's memoir of his life as a slave, will be accompanying the famous black American abolitionist on his speaking tour. Nathan is deeply impressed by Douglass, who is a charismatic figure and a gifted orator. But Ireland will have as big an impact on Frederick Douglass as Frederick Douglass will have on it. We watch him through Nathan's eyes as he sees for himself the beginnings of the horrors of the potato famine and meets and befriends the famous Irish nationalist, Daniel O'Connell. Full Review

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The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz

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

When we first visit the Chiesa di Santa Maria we're in the company of Molly Cavendish who is a part-time guide at the Museo di Santa Maria, which is what the ruins of the Chiesa - a chapel - have now become. Crowds flock to see its centrepiece, a renaissance fresco with a history which grabs the attention of young and old. Molly uses the history to entertain the tourists, but there's more too it than she knows, particularly as the history of the building is also the history of the Vannini family, who helped in building the chapel some six hundred years ago and one of whose descendants is the director of the museum. Full Review

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Falling Leaves by Stefan Mohamed

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

When your best friend vanishes, how can you begin to move on? How can you live your life not knowing whether they're okay? And what would you do if they reappeared in your life? – all questions that Vanessa faces every day, even seven years after her best friend Mark vanished. When he reappears, she's shocked not only by his presence back in her life, but also by the fact that he hasn't aged a day – for him, no time has passed since his disappearance. Shocked, confused and emotionally reeling, Vanessa must return to her home town in order to help Mark find the answers he so desperately craves. But what's waiting for them is far more surprising than either of them could ever have dreamt… Full Review

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Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto

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

Nickerbacher is doing his dragonly duty as all dragons do. That dragonly duty is, of course, princess-guarding. That's what dragons are for, after all. But Gwendolyn isn't any princess. She finds the whole princessing thing quite boring really and she is much less interested in fairy tales than she is in watching comedy on The Late Knight Show. Nickerbacher likes The Late Knight Show too - in fact, it's his favourite TV show because he wants to be a stand-up comedian himself. He tries out his jokes on Princess Gwendolyn but they don't always come off quite as Nickerbacher intended. Full Review

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How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

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

Imagine a world without bees. Not just how nice it would be to eat jam sandwiches in the garden without having the little yellow and black torpedoes attacking you - really imagine it. No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no new plants. No new plants, no food. Simple. So, if those pesky chemicals we use kill off practically every bee in the world, humans will have to take over their work. Children, in fact, because you need small, nimble fingers to work those tiny feathers full of pollen into the flowers and turn them into delicious fruits. Full Review

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Turn a Blind Eye by Vicky Newham

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

DI Maya Rahman is just back from Bangladesh and she should be on compassionate leave as she went there to bury her brother after he committed suicide. Instead of grieving at home and getting over her jet lag she's pitched straight into a murder investigation as a new member of staff discovers the body of popular headteacher Linda Gibson in her study at Mile End High School. Her hands are bound and beside her strangled body is a card with a Buddhist precept: I shall abstain from taking the ungiven. It's the second of five precepts and Maya is worried that there's been a murder that hasn't been spotted - and that there will be more deaths. Full Review

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The Chocolate Factory Ghost (The Dundoodle Mysteries) by David O'Connell

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

Archie McBudge is sitting in the of Honeystone Hall with his mother. And a lawyer called Mr Tatters has some important information for Archie. A great uncle he has never heard of has died and Archie is his sole heir. This means that Honeystone Hall now belongs to Archie. But that isn't all - this young boy is now sole owner of Scotland's premier sweets giant: McBudge's Fudge and Confectionery Company... Full Review

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Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

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

When I read the blurb for this book, I found myself instantly interested in its premise of two people trying to start their lives again following serious life changes. The book did not disappoint. Full Review

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A Shimmer of Hummingbirds by Steve Burrows

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

Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune is on a birding trip to Colombia: well it's ostensibly a birding trip, but the reality is that he's trying to establish what really happened in the manslaughter case which has left his brother a fugitive. It's a difficult situation as the police force don't want him to do this and the Colombian authorities are understandably reluctant, but Jejeune has always been a law unto himself. Meanwhile in Saltmarsh on the North Norfolk coast there's been a brutal murder of a woman, and DI Marvin Laraby, Jejeune's nemesis, has been drafted in to replace Jejeune during his absence. How's that going to work out? Full Review

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I Stop Somewhere by T E Carter

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

Ellie has to change schools. It's a chance for renewal and Ellie sets to work to make the most of it. She doesn't want to be homecoming queen or anything - she just wants to fit in without anyone noticing that she's a bit too curvy and doesn't have the money to buy fashionable clothes. With the help of a neighbour, Kate, she manages it pretty well. And so, when Caleb notices her, tells her she's beautiful, Ellie can almost believe it. But there's something not quite right about Caleb. He blows hot and cold and his smile doesn't quite meet his eyes. But it's nice to be wanted and so Ellie ignores the warning signs... Full Review