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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Emily's Numbers by Joss Langford

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Children's Non-Fiction, Popular Science

Emily found words useful, but counting was what she loved best. Obviously you can count anything and there's no limit to how far you can go, but then Emily moved a step further and began counting in twos. She knew all about odd and even numbers. Then she began counting in threes: half of the list were even numbers, but the other half were odd and it was this list of odd numbers which occured when you counted in threes which she called threeven. (Actually, this confused me a little bit at first as they're a subset of the odd numbers but sound as though they ought to be a subset of the even numbers, but it all worked out well when I really thought about it.) of review Full Review

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The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus by Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Animals and Wildlife

What a treat! I really did mean to just glance at The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus but the pull of the sounds of a dozen different birds singing their hearts out was far too much to resist on a cold and rather wet February morning. I spent an indulgent hour or so reading all about the birds and listening to their song. Then - just because I could - I went back and did it all again and it was just as good the second time around. So, what do you get? Full Review

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Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

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

Jade lives in a rough area of Portland, Oregon. But she goes to a very posh school on scholarship.And, as a scholarship girl, Jade knows she must grab every opportunity the school offers. Her mother, a care worker, won't be paying for college after all - there is rarely enough money at home for ice cream, let alone college. But why do all the opportunities the school offers Jade seem so, well, patronising? Jade doesn't feel like a charity case. She doesn't feel broken. Her mum is a good mum. It's infuriating. But, when the school offers Jade a mentoring programme that will ensure a college scholarship, how can she say no? Full Review

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Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil

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

This is an unusual book, in style it feels like a novel by E M Forster; with a deep study at the minutiae of life and thought, yet the plot and content is thoroughly modern. The bulk of the story is told through the perspective of Nick, and we see his point of view on life around him. The main characters of the book, however, are Pieter and Riaan, as it is these characters who fascinate Nick and are the focus of his contemplation and crisis. Full Review

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Ask For Blues by Malcolm Walton

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

Malcolm Walton's book is clearly a memoir about his introduction to the Trad Jazz scene of the late 1950's and early 1960's, but he has chosen to write it in the form of a novel, claiming in his prologue that this would give the book a different approach to the music memoir. His protagonist 'Martin' takes on Malcolm's mantle, and begins with his first discovery of the Salvation Army band with his grandfather. This catapults him into a love of music, initially taking piano lessons, and later delving into his true love – the trumpet. Full Review

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Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

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

What happens when Utopia is achieved? When everyone is linked neurologically to everyone else and people vote on each minor decision so every aspect of life is truly democratic? Everyone knows everything and everyone decides everything so what can possibly go wrong? Except people are dying, melting to be precise, and no one knows how, or why, or who could be next. In such a circumstance who can be trusted to solve this crime and do so without spreading panic? What if the only people who can be trusted have already let you down once before? Full Review

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Revenge by Mitchell & Mitchell

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

Revenge opens with the news that Charles Stuart is to return to the throne as Charles II of England. A young woman, Ruth Courtney, is returning home to her family's farmhouse, excited at the prospect of a new King. She arrives home, however, to find her home ablaze and surrounded by renegade soldiers, supporters of Cromwell, her family nowhere to be found. Full Review

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The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall

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

Down in hidden railway carriages, deep behind foliage and further down Long Meadow Road than most care to go, live the Greenwood Brothers. They haven't spoken to each other in years, but one morning a letter arrives on their doorstep - a letter from a sister long thought dead...As the brothers are forced to confront painful memories of a past that both tried to keep buried, the post-woman who delivered the letter struggles with secrets of her own... Full Reviewc

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Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

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

Edie McKinley isn't the world's greatest student. And she has a history of rebellious behaviour. But she has most of that under control now, with the help of her adoptive family, her lovely boyfriend and her best friend Bonnie, who is a straight A student with a bright future ahead. That is, until Edie wakes up one morning to find the police at her door. Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, Jack. Bonnie has been very mysterious about Jack, even with Edie and Edie is about to find out why - Jack is none other than Mr Cohn, a music teacher at school. Full Review

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The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

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

Every year on St Stephens Day, Wren Silke is chased through the forest in a warped version of a childhood game. Her pursuers are Judges - a group of powerful and frightening boys who know nothing of her true identity. If they knew she was an Augur - their sworn enemy - the game would be up.

The Wren Hunt is set in a contemporary Ireland where the ancient druidic traditions are still in play. The Judges have dominated the Augurs by buying up the land containing the sources of Augur power. The Augurs can feel their magic depleting and are determined to win it back. To this end, Wren has been chosen to infiltrate the house of the prominent Judge, Cassa Harkness, to find the information they need. Full Review

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Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing, Confident Readers, Children's Non-Fiction

A lot of history is about men. Kings and generals and inventors and politicians. Sometimes, it feels almost as though there were no women in history at all, let alone ones young girls might like to read about or regard as role models. Of course, this isn't true and there are plenty of women who, throughout history, have achieved amazing things or shown incredible bravery, or created something never seen before. So here, in this wonderful picture book from Kate Pankhurst, are the stories of some of them. Full Review

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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

One minute here is richer than a thousand moments there

In the resplendent world of Orléans, beauty runs through the blood of a select few: the Belles. Only they have the power to transform the appearance of a population cursed with grey skin and red eyes, who covet beauty above all else. Camellia Beauregard is a new generation Belle, ready to fulfil her duty and help the people to love themselves. Like her sisters, she's in the running to be the favourite – the most accomplished Belle in the land, personally chosen by the royal family to live in the palace and tend to members of court, with the power to make a difference. It's what she's been wanting and training for her whole life… but so too have her sisters. And only the best will be selected. Full Review

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A Pitying of Doves by Steve Burrows

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

The body of a senior attaché from the Mexican consulate was found in a local bird sanctuary, along with the body of the director. It was a strange tableau: the girl impaled on a branch and the man lying at her feet, both in a cage. The fact that the man is a diplomat isn't immediately evident - he was in the area under an assumed name. DCI (and birder enthusiast) Domenic Jejeune is conflicted. The immediate problem is obviously to establish who murdered the man and the woman - and even that's complicated by the political necessity of not to involving the Mexican consulate, thus tying his hands rather tightly. The thoughts which are running in the back of his mind though are about the full-time research position studying birds which the director's death has opened up. Could this be his escape route from the police force? Full Review

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Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge

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

Stan is a space freak. He's nuts about it – to the extent of having too many embarrassing experiences in his rocket undies, but that's by the by. He's trying to win a telescope, and diligently do all his science-based homework, but one thing stands in the way. Space. Or, more precisely, the space he has to share with his incredibly snotty, annoying, dumb, messy little brother Fred. Stan has a project on the go, which is to get three helpers and enter a science fair, but Fred has also found something to concentrate his erratic mind on – the local museum is thinking of ditching its T-rex fossil for a huge light-up Earth in a new eco gallery. Fred almost thinks of Rory the T-rex as a pet, and is certainly more friendly to it than he is to Stan (when he's not colouring the poor thing's legs in with crayon, that is). Can Stan get something to take to school without bogies all over it, and will Fred get his way where Rory is concerned? Full Review

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War Baby: A Dyslexic Life by Mike Strange

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

The author admits here that there is a peculiar ground where the autobiography of somebody very unfamous lies – it stands as a personal document for the family concerned, as much as a book to capture the attention of strangers. Either way, there are certainly events of note to be covered here – from an idyllic if damp Sussex farmhouse the lad gets evacuated, with his mother and gran, to maternal relatives in South Wales, and arrive back when it's clear we aren't about to be invaded – that is to say, just in time to be in the flightpath of all the doodlebugs and V2 rockets. A boisterous teenaged existence post-war leads to Mr Strange needing a few nudges to get into the academic world, at which he ultimately excels – even with a strong case of dyslexia. Full Review

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London Rules by Mick Herron

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

Claude Whelan, Regent Park's First Desk has insurmountable problems. He's charged with protecting a lame duck prime minister, but he's under fire himself. There's the self-publicising MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote and who might just be looking to take the PM's job from him. The MP's wife is a columnist for one of the tabloids who's having a go at Whelan in print and who will do anything to promote her husband's interests. Then there's the PM's favourite Muslim who's running for mayor despite having a very dark secret himself. As if this wasn't enough, Whelan's deputy, Lady Di Taverner is watching for his every stumble - and it's not so that she can catch him and help him to safety. Full Review

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The Boat People by Sharon Bala

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

Among the 500 Sri Lankans in a rickety boat making its way to Vancouver Island are Mahindan and his six-year-old son Sellian. When the boat arrives the Canadian authorities take all the passengers into custody, placing the women and children in a separate facility from the men. A gruelling series of hearings will decide on the fate of each individual or family: whether they will be allowed to stay in Canada, or deported back to Sri Lanka. The government fears that up to half of these asylum-seekers may have links to the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist group, so judges are instructed to have a firm hand. Full Review

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The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

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

Maybe you've heard about Scarcross Hall? Hidden on the old coffin path that winds from the village to the moor top, the villagers only speak of it in hushed tones - of how it's a foreboding place filled with evil. Mercy Booth has lived there since birth, and she's always loved the grand house and its isolation, but a recurrence of strange events begins to unsettle her. From objects disappearing through to a shadowy presence sensed in the house, mysteries come to light that can only be solved by Mercy unearthing long-buried secrets. And will a dark stranger help Mercy protect everything she has come to love or tear it from her grasp? Full Review