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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A Step So Grave (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

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

Dandy Gilver and family had made the arduous journey to Wester Ross, but Dandy had mixed feelings even when they arrived. They were there to meet the family of Mallory, her son Donald's fiancee. It wasn't that Dandy thought Donald to be rather young at twenty three to be contemplating matrimony, but that Mallory was rather old for him at thirty. There was also a niggling worry because Donald wasn't the sharpest pin in the cushion. All the doubts had faded into insignificance though when they arrived at Applecross: they might have come to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Lady Lavinia, Mallory's mother, but it soon became obvious that Donald was smitten by the mother rather than the daughter. Dandy and Hugh were considering whether or not they should try to put an end to the engagement when the news arrived that Lady Lavinia had been found dead. Full Review

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Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

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

Mehr is a girl trapped between two cultures. Her father comes from the ruling classes of the empire but her mother's people were outcasts, Amrithi nomads who worshipped the spirits of the sands. Caught one night performing these forbidden rites, Mehr is brought to the attention of the Emperor's most feared mystics, who force her into their service by way of an arranged marriage. Full Review

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Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Short Stories

Laura Solomon's publisher describes the short stories in Alternative Medicine as black comedy with a twist of surrealism. I'm rather glad that I didn't see this until after I'd finished reading as I'm not normally a fan of either, but I've come to two conclusions about the book: what the publisher says is correct - and I really enjoyed it. The comedy is not too black and the surrealism is gentle and perhaps best described as a twist or flick of reality when you were least expecting it. Your comfort zones are going to be invaded in the nicest possible way. Full Review

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The Count of 9 by Erle Stanley Gardner

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

The Count of 9 is a hardboiled detective story written in the 1950s. It revolves around the detective duo of Donald Lam and Bertha Cool as they attempt to solve the theft of priceless Bornean artefacts. However, their case quickly turns into something darker - an impossible murder. Full Review

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Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

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

Zoe believes in adding life to years as well as years to life. Her world, like her name, is bursting with life and colour. She is the sort of girl who would sing a rainbow if she could. Tristan (or Tree as she calls him) is the opposite. Fresh out of hospital following a prolonged stay in a psychiatric unit, he sees a world as a grey place. Full Review

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Cold Case (Bob Skinner) by Quintin Jardine

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

Bob Skinner left the police service in Scotland when it was amalgamated into one unit. He didn't believe in it then and he doesn't now and many serving officers would agree with him. He might be retired but he's hardly idle: he's contracted to spend one day a week working for a media group, but usually gives more. His family - six children now - is important to him. There's the occasional private commission, although he stops short of calling himself a private investigator, but he's just been presented with a problem which it's difficult to refuse. It's not the problem that's the difficulty - it's the person who is asking for help. Sir James Proud was Skinner's predecessor as Chief Constable and he's been approached by a blogger who feels that he has evidence that Proud was involved in a famous murder for which a man was convicted. He subsequently committed suicide whilst in prison - and went to his death denying that he was guilty. Full Review

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Be Your Higher Self by Samesh Ramjattan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Spirituality and Religion

There are a lot of self-help books about: it's one of the most thriving sections of the average bookshop, but it's not always easy to find the book you need. Samesh Ramjattan has addressed this problem in Be Your Higher Self, a book which allows us all to make sense of our place in the world, as most of us only glimpse our true potential and few people ever achieve it. Even with hard work and dedication, obstacles present themselves and it's difficult to understand why or how they can be overcome. Ramjattan offers us a guide to the spirit world, the chakras, karma and reincarnation as well as information about the age of Aquarius and the ego. It's a slim book - just 128 pages - so can it provide us with the answers we seek? Full Review

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Her Final Confession (Detective Josie Quinn Book 4) by Lisa Regan

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

Detective Josie Quinn is no longer Chief of Police, but in many ways that's something of a relief, although it does mean that she doesn't quite have the autonomy that she had. It also means that the other detectives have a habit of calling her 'boss'. It's the autonomy bit that strikes home though when she has to watch a fellow officer being arrested for a cold-blooded murder, but what other conclusion can you come to when the officer goes missing, her vehicle and phone are off the radar and there's the body of a young man in her driveway? Josie Quinn can't believe that Gretchen - the woman she brought onto the Denton police force - could be guilty of such a crime, but she and Noah Fraley are not going to have much time to prove that Gretchen is innocent, and Gretchen doesn't seem inclined to help them. Full Review

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The Woods Murder by Roy Lewis

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

Jenny Carson was just nine years old when she was murdered whilst taking a shortcut through Kenton Woods. Her father blamed lawyer Charles Lendon for her death - not that he thought he was physically responsible, but because Lendon had refused to allow the local children to use his driveway as a shortcut to school, forcing them to cut through the woods if they were late. Lendon wasn't a popular man - he would say that lawyers never are - partly because of his attitudes, but his incessant womanising had made him a lot of enemies. When Lendon was murdered a couple of months after Jenny's death, there was no shortage of suspects. Full Review

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Murder at the Manor Hotel (Melissa Craig 4) by Betty Rowlands

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

Melissa Craig should have been getting on with writing her latest mystery novel but she'd been sidetracked into working on the script for a pantomime. It wasn't a traditional panto, but a spoof for the birthday party of a local millionaire, to be held on Halloween. It's got all the hallmarks of a mystery and a pantomime and it looks as though cast and audience are all in for a good time with the rehearsals being held in a luxury hotel. Well, they were until one member of the cast turns up dead in the cellar at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs. What was he doing there and why is the hotel manager acting so strangely? Full Review

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Salvation by Peter F Hamilton

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

Apparently the term space opera was coined in 1941 as a pejorative. It was borrowed not from the high-brow musical art form, but from the common or garden 'soap opera'. It related to a particular kind of science fiction which the coiner (one Wilson Tucker) described as a hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn. It would be fifty years later before the term started to be re-appropriated to cover – if still the same themes of distant futures, military conflict, heroism and a simplistic set of values – more literary, more expansive works. The term is now taken as compliment. Full Review

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House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

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

Clara suffered from Osteogenesis imperfecta: these days it would probably be called brittle bone disease and whilst there is still no cure, treatments have advanced. At the beginning of the twentieth century it meant that Clara was confined to her home, living life through a window and the tales her mother, Charlotte, brought home. Both became far too knowledgeable about bones and the sounds they made on breaking. Charlotte would list bones like continents. Clara would only escape the house after her mother's death - of a tumour at the age of thirty nine - and in her wanderings discovered Kew Gardens. Her growing knowledge of tropical plants led to the offer of a job stocking a newly-built glass house at Shadowbrook in Gloucestershire. Full Review

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Under the Ice (DCI Jansen) by Rachael Blok

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

It's eleven days to Christmas and the cathedral city of St Albans is looking particularly festive with a covering of snow, but this belies the atmosphere: the body of a young girl has been found frozen in the local lake. DCI Jansen's only lead comes from Jenny Brennan - but can you put any credence on statements made by the sleep-deprived mother of a four month old child, particularly one who claims to have seen visions? Can you believe her statements that she's been sleep-walking in the middle of the night when she find evidence that the police have missed? When another girl goes missing the tiny city is in melt-down and for Jenny it all seems close to home. Far too close to home. Full Review

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The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

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

Five years ago Evelyn, Philippa and James Hapwell escaped to the safety of their air raid shelter as bombs fell all around the streets of London. In the terrifying darkness waiting for their parents to join them, Evelyn prayed to be anywhere else. A plea that was answered by The Woodlands. One moment in grey London and the next surrounded by a rich green forest, the three children were transported from one world trapped in war, to another on the brink of its own. Full Review

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Clownfish by Alan Durant

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

When Dak's dad dies very suddenly, from a heart attack, Dak is left feeling lost and alone. His mum is lost inside her own grief, struggling to take care of herself, let alone care for Dak, and so he escapes to the local aquarium - somewhere that both he and his dad had loved. But then he discovers that actually, his dad has turned into a clownfish and is living at the local aquarium! What will Dak do when the aquarium's future is in question, and he may potentially lose his dad all over again? Full Review

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Only the Ocean by Natasha Carthew

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

Kel Crow lives with a heart defect that could kill her at any time. Her only hope is to escape the floodridden, waterlogged Cornish world she lives in, to leave her drug-running family far behind, and get to America with enough money for an operation. She has a plan: stowaway on a ship, kidnap a rich girl, exchange the girl for enough money for the journey to America and the surgery that will change her life. Full Review

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Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

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

You cannot put on a costume and become something else. You are a queen of Fennbirn island.

Following on from Three Dark Crowns and its sequel One Dark Throne, in Two Dark Reigns each of the Goddess' daughters have their own battles to fight. All her life, Katharine has dreamed of being the great Queen the island of Fennbirn deserves. Having won the crown though, she is facing trial after difficult trial and murmurs of dissent and revolution grow louder on the streets each and every day. And without evidence of her sisters' death does anyone but herself and the old queens buried under her skin, believe she is the one true Queen? Full Review

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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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

The Center is the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi and is the source of great controversy when it comes to the Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice debate. It is at The Center where one man, George Goddard, takes it upon himself to get revenge for the loss of his grandchild, in the form of a mass-shooting. What arises is a novel that details the lives of the remaining hostages, as well as other characters central to the story. One of these characters is Hugh McElroy, a hostage negotiator called in to help deflate the situation, who soon discovers that his sister and daughter, Wren, happened to be at the clinic that day. Full Review

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Gentleman Jack (DI Yates 7) by Christina James

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

The investigation into the thefts of farm machinery has been going on for months and it's getting DI Tim Yates down: he can't see where to go next. It's almost a relief when Jack Fovargue, agricultural entrepreneur and local celebrity is assaulted in the street, but no one can understand why Fovargue is so reluctant to help the police with their enquiries, or to press charges, particularly when a police officer was also assaulted. Yates is then diverted into the investigation which followed the discovery of the headless body of a woman in a canal near Lincoln: it's an interesting case but the downside is that the senior investigating officer is DI Michael Robinson. They're contemporaries but Robinson is bumptious and inclined to taking credit for other people's efforts. Full Review

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A Clean Death by Adriaan Verheul

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

Three very different men meet in the jungle, led there by fate. Davey sees conspiracies everywhere, Oliver seeks answers about the death of his father, and Captain Christmas leads a community of armed men, women and children, hidden far from justice in the forest. As the three men are brought together, the events could cause each to lose something of consequence: maybe illusion, maybe conviction, and maybe, just maybe, life itself… Full Review

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Beyond Thought by Chris Dhladhla

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

Have you ever felt trapped by your own thoughts? That your mind is so busy processing what's going on in the world around you that you just can't catch a moment and simply be? Or that the outside world just won't stop pressing in upon an inner life that you'd like to be more peaceful? Full Review

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Where the Truth Lies (DI Ridpath) by M J Lee

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

DI Thomas Ridpath - call him Ridpath as he doesn't think Tom or Thomas suits him - looked to have a promising future in CID until he was forced to take extended sick leave nine months ago. He's back, but the word cancer leaves people doubting how well you really are, or are going to stay. Perhaps it would be better if he quietly retired? His wife, Polly, would like to see him in a desk job. Ridpath would like to be back in front-line policing, but all that's available to him is a secondment for three months as Coroner's Officer. If that's how it's got to be, then he'll do the best job he can. Full Review