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. We can even direct you to help for custom book reviews! Visit www.everychildareader.org to get free writing tips and www.genecaresearchreports.com will help you get your paper written for free.

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Here Come the Superheroes by Neal Zetter and Chris White

4star.jpg Children's Rhymes and Verse

I'm quite sure you're well aware of the spate of superhero movies doing the rounds these days, with any and every star of the comics page seemingly on the big screen – and the small. They're everywhere, and their numbers are only growing. But here is a unique chance to meet a few more – Mega Slug, Micro Girl, Magnetic Me, Sister Speed – even one calling himself the Ultimate Superhero. But we're not meeting them in a well-established comic universe, or with some horrid and convoluted back story. No, we're being introduced to them all in the format of verse – and for the young superhero and/or poetry fan this clearly has an instant appeal. Full review...

Where is Grandma? by Peter Schossow

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Meet Henry. He's a young lad being taken by a nanny to hospital to check up on his grandma, who's in having had an accident. It's a shame, then, that said nanny is so busy yacking into her phone to look after him, for he ends up going off on his own adventure to find his gran. And what an adventure – babies being born, people with stomach problems, chemo, beans stuck up their nose… all life is here in this hospital, and both that and the lad's mishap are clearly and very pleasantly conveyed. Full review...

Iggy Peck's Big Project Book for Amazing Architects by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Out of all the things I wanted to be as a child, an architect was not one of them. Which is a shame, perhaps – I might have had a few Prince Charles-friendly ideas under my belt, and even if I hadn't exactly progressed at that I might have been more at ease at those stupid team-bonding 'build-a-this-or-that' exercises you are sometimes forced to undergo as an adult. I never knew I would ever hold any importance in my ability to draw buildings, conceptualise towns and create model structures of my own creations – partly because I knew I had no ability. But for the likes of Iggy Peck, the whole idea is never in doubt – he spends his entire time thinking of buildings and how to improve on the ones he knows. And so, for the duration of your engagement with these pages, will you. Full review...

The Waking by Matthew Smith

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Isabel Sykes, 23, recounts the recent attempt she made to come to terms with the loss of her mother, the acclaimed but psychologically disturbed novelist Marianne Sykes. Marianne died in an unexplained house fire when Isabel was ten. Inspired by the appearance of Imogen Taylor, an enchanting young woman who wants to write a PhD on her mother's work, Isabel plunges into the depths of her past and an intense new friendship. After discovering that Imogen is not who she seems to be, Isabel must face the darkest moments from her childhood in order to protect her family from more tragedy. She receives unexpected help from beyond the grave: in the strange, glittering fragments of her mother's last, unfinished work, 'Midnightsong'. Full review...

The Warrior in the Mist by Ruth Eastham

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Fracking is a big issue in some parts of the country, particularly in the north, and for Aidan, it means not only the destruction of the countryside he loves but a huge change in his life. Once they start blasting, his dad will lose his job caring for a rich landowner's horses, and he and Aidan will have to leave their home and their friends to live seventeen floors up in a tower block. But despite the protesters' determined efforts the blasting is going ahead, and there is only one small, faint hope – find the tomb of the warrior queen Boudicca, reputedly slaughtered nearby by the Romans in AD 61, so the area can be declared a World Heritage Site. Full review...

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida, makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss - who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married - and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn't take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut-shamed, labelled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.How does one go on after this? In Aviva's case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She starts over as a wedding planner, tries to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident.But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. These days, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you've done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it's only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane's daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her. Full review...

Rhyme Crime by Jon Burgerman

5star.jpg For Sharing

Sometimes books for sharing need to be calm and gentle, soporific even, to lure little ones under the duvet and off to sleep. And sometimes books need to be utterly zany, full of bright colours, daft doodle-style illustrations and crazy rhymes for the child to shout out loud. Please, dear parent, do not try to read this wonderful book to your offspring within an hour or two of lights out. Seriously, be warned - You Will Regret It. Full review...

Autumn by Ali Smith

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The first part in Ali Smith's four part 'Seasonal' series, Autumn is the story of Daniel Gluck and Elisabeth Demand, unexpected friends who used to be neighbours when Elisabeth was a little girl. In a series of memories and dreams, we discover their friendship from Daniel babysitting Elisabeth through to her visits with him now that he is in a home and drawing towards the end of his extremely long and fascinating life. Along the way, we get a wonderfully written insight into time, memories, and the fleeting nature of life itself. Full review...

Electric Light Orchestra: Song by Song by John Van der Kiste

4.5star.jpg Reference

My memories of pop music in the early sixties revolve around guitars and drums, sometimes the piano with only occasional excursions into strings and brass. Pop music rarely stands still and it wasn't long before the basic instruments were seens as constraints and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys began to experiment, with other groups following where they led. Amongst these groups was The Move and their lead guitarist and songwriter, Roy Wood. Wood wanted to develop the group's sound by adding more instruments but was prevented from achieving what he wanted by cost limitations and because the rest of the group didn't really share his enthusiasm. Full review...

Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

4star.jpg Teens

Valor is under arrest for the attempted assassination of Anatol, Demidova's Crown Prince. Queen Ana is furious and sentences Valor to life imprisonment in Tyur'ma - a brutal prison constructed of stone and ice... ... it's not sounding too great for Valor, is it? But the thing is, this is exactly what she had been hoping for and she's even prepared to risk her parents' respected positions at Demidova's court to achieve it. Because Valor's sister Sasha is already in Tyur'ma - accused of stealing a national treasure vital to cementing a peace treaty between Demidova and a neighbouring nation. Valor is convinced of her sister's innocence and intends to break her out. Full review...

The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

What would life be like if you just packed up your things and left? This is a thought that the main protagonist Caitlyn has been mulling over for a while now but has never had the guts to do, until she reaches the final straw when her father fails at sobriety once again. After throwing her phone in a river, Caitlyn takes herself to the airport where she ends up getting a plane to New York. From there her life completely changes as she meets Jake who seems to be just what she needs. As they grow closer she is invited to meet his family, but, in a house surrounded by forest that is miles away from civilisation, family takes on a whole new meaning. There you live by the motto we are here for each other, and we are nothing without each other. Full review...

Do You Speak Chocolate? by Cas Lester

4star.jpg Confident Readers

When a new girl arrives at Jaz's school she is delighted and warms to her immediately. The only problem is that Nadima does not speak any English at all. However Jaz is the type of girl who is not going to let this get in her way and in her typical straightforward manner determines to make sure that this friendship blossoms. Initially this appears to have worked and the girls bond through a shared love of music, movies and food, especially chocolate! But then difficulties, misunderstandings and past traumas get in the way and Jaz struggles to cope with the consequences. Full review...

Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes

4star.jpg General Fiction

The opening of Green Lion is an apparently simple premise; a young South African man, Con, is tasked with picking up the belongings of an old friend, Mark, who is lying in a coma in hospital. Mark worked at a small zoo with a rare black-maned lioness, who mauled him and caused the coma. However, as the story unfolds, Rose-Innes reveals an unflinching embrace of the messiness of human and animal life, and their troubled interactions. Full review...

The Iron Hound by Tim Akers

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorise the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage between the north and the south. Three heroes Malcolm and Ian Blakeley and Gwendolyn Adair must end the bloodshed before chaos is unleashed. Full review...

A History of Victorian Postage by Gerard Cheshire

4.5star.jpg History

Although we think of postage and the sending of letters as a specifically Victorian innovation, its roots go far deeper than that. This book, which surveys a much broader time frame than the title might suggest, presents us with an admirably concise picture of its development up to its full fruition in the mid-nineteenth century. Full review...

10, 9, 8... Owls Up Late! by Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

It's tough being a mother owl. Rather than just one or two rambunctious little ones to calm down ready for bed, she has ten of them! And there's so much going on in her tree that she must sometimes despair of ever getting them to sleep. But gradually, one by one, the owlets' eyes begin to droop and they make their way to their comfy little nest until at last . . . zzzzzz! Full review...

My First Wild Activity Book by Isabel Otter and Maxime Lebrun

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You sit down together as a family and ask your child what they would like to read from your bulging bookcase. Will they choose the timeless classic that you yourself read as a child? Perhaps they will pluck for a modern tale with its dayglo colouring and storyline based around pants? Nope. Neither of these. All you will hear is Stickers! Your child would rather play with a sticker activity book than read with you, so best make it a worthwhile sticker activity book. Full review...

Storm Cloud by Jenny Oldfield

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Kami Miller was invited to stay at Wolf Ridge Farm, the home of her best friend Macy Lucas, for the summer. They were both going to be working as real cowgirls and there was a herd of 300 cows to be brought back from the mountains to the ranch. It wasn't going to be easy work, particularly as Macy's father was recovering from an accident and couldn't ride. All the pressure of running the ranch has fallen on Macy's brother, Wes - and he's not coping well. Kami's upset that he's taking it out on one of the young colts, Storm Cloud, but what can she do about it? Full review...

The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue

4.5star.jpg Crime

DI Mike Lockyer and his preferred sidekick DS Jane Bennett are back – but this time not on home turf. Lewisham's finest are sent to the country for this outing. There's been a death down in Somerset. It's not the sort of thing you'd expect the regional murder squad to get involved in, it looks like a hit-and-run on a remote road in the Quantocks, probably just some drunk driving a big four-by-four who didn't even know he'd done it. Full review...

The Captain's Girl by Nicola Pryce

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Last year, Bookbag reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed, Pengelly's Daughter, a swashbuckling historical romance set in picturesque Cornwall. Now we have the pleasure of reading the much-anticipated sequel. This time, the story focuses on a neighbour of the Polcarrow family, Miss Celia Cavendish, who has been engaged to a cruel man that she does not love. One fateful night, she runs away to the Polcarrow house to beg them for help, and the pivotal events of that night have far-reaching consequences for all involved. Full review...

Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Have you ever watched the Terminator movies or some similar 'Robo-geddon' franchise and wondered what would have happened if the robots had actually won? Well wonder no more, because Sea of Rust hinges on that exact premise; a world where the robots have wiped out every living thing from planet earth. Only artificial life remains; there is no trace of organic matter anywhere, since the robot uprising that devastated the planet. Now two huge mainframes compete for world domination: CISSUS and VIRGIL. They capture robots and turn them into drones; uploading their minds into a hive consciousness. The few remaining bots are called 'freebots,' and inhabit a desert called the Sea of Rust, where they do what they can to survive, including cannibalising other bots for spare parts. Full review...

Have You Seen My Giraffe? by Michelle Robinson and Claire Powell

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Imagine, if you will, a world in which you no longer win goldfish at the fair, but you could potentially be coming home with a giraffe! This is the situation that the family in this story find themselves in, and it turns out that having a giraffe in your house may not go down too well with your parents! Full review...

A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith

5star.jpg General Fiction

Here we are, back on Scotland Street, eager to see what everyone (especially Bertie…) has been up to! This is now the twelfth book in the Scotland Street series which is remarkable. That a serial novel has such momentum, and that the characters within have become so very familiar to AMS's loyal readers, is a testament to his skills as a writer. This time around our nerves are on edge as Pat ventures back towards a relationship with the dreadful Bruce! Surely she'll see sense...won't she?! Matthew, of all people, is in trouble with the police, Irene is busy planning a PhD, and Bertie? Could there be a happy ending for Bertie in the air? Full review...

The Long Arm of the Law by Martin Edwards (editor)

4.5star.jpg Crime

When we think of the 'golden age' of crime fiction, we think of the brilliant amateur forever putting the official P.C. Plod to shame. Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, Father Brown and so on. I'll admit to being a fan of all of those, but they aren't the whole story. The other side of the coin shows the official police doing their job and getting their man. Full review...

Chasing the Sun by Katy Colins

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Author Katy Colins became Britain's most famous jilted bride when the true story of her subsequent lonely hearts backpacking trip went viral, before becoming a romantic comedy book series with this the latest one. Full review...

The Secret Life of a Tiger by Emilia Dziubak and Przemyslaw Wechterowicz

4star.jpg For Sharing

If David Attenborough has taught us anything is that a lot goes on in the natural world that we are unaware of. Animals will hunt in interesting ways, or find a mate using secret dances, but did you know that Tigers sometimes sneak up on apes and give them new haircuts? You will be amazed with the revelations found in Emilia Dziubak and Przemyslaw Wechterowicz's book, but I am not convinced that this kid's book is based on facts. Full review...

Scientist Academy: Are You Ready For the Challenge? by Steve Martin and Essi Kimpimaki

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Kids seem to have an innate curiosity about the world around them. They are constantly asking How? and Why? Curious kids and budding scientists are going to love the new Scientist Academy book by Ivy Kids, which is filled with practical experiments and fun activities with an educational twist. Full review...

City of Circles by Jess Richards

4star.jpg Fantasy

Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents, after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret. Over the years, Danu pushes away her grief and develops elaborate and successful high-wire acts with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu's birthplace, Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by the temples, spice mists, and pleasure seekers within the intoxicating outer circle district. Here, she finally gains the courage to open her mother's locket, and discovers the name of a stranger who lives behind the locked gate of the Inner Circle. Fated to remain in Matryoshka, Danu attempts to resolve this mystery. Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something far more unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city? Full review...

A Home Full of Friends by Peter Bently and Charles Fuge

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Bramble Badger was out looking for nuts by the river when the storm broke and he was so cold that he decided to go straight home. On the way he met a trail of devastation: Snuffle Dormouse's house has been squashed by a falling tree. She'd like shelter in Bramble's sett, if he has room. He's a little bit reluctant because he thinks his sett is in a mess and there isn't much space or dinner available, but what can you do when a friend is in need? Next it's Tipper the Toad whose home is full of mud, then Boo the Hedgehog's nest has been covered by leaves. Full review...

A Life in the Day: Memories of Sixties London, Lots of Writing, The Beatles and my Beloved Wife by Hunter Davies

5star.jpg Autobiography

Although I knew the name Hunter Davies before I picked this book up, I was unaware just how pivotal a figure of the Swinging Sixties Hunter Davies really was. Take him, Harold Wilson and a certain musical quartet from Liverpool out of the decade, and you are left with a bit of a vacuum. Full review...

The Matilda Effect by Ellie Irving

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

When you're wronged, and you know you've been wronged, it's the worst feeling in the world. When someone takes credit for something you have done, claiming a prize that is rightfully yours, it's a horrible, horrible injustice, and that's the same whether it's a Nobel Prize or simply the blue ribbon (and excessive amounts of dog food) given away at a school science fair. Now parents might tell you that life's not fair, you win some you lose some, or any of a number of clichés, but if your name is Matilda you just can't let it lie. And, when she finds out that her granny was side-lined for a much bigger award, for work she did 50 years ago, she makes it her mission to right the wrong and let the world know exactly what happened. Full review...

My Psychosis Story: A Story of Fear and Hope Through Adversity by Emmanuel Owusu

4star.jpg Lifestyle

My Psychosis Story recounts Emmanuel Owusu's journey into and eventually out of psychosis. In late 2014, during a visit home for Christmas, he found himself exhausted, anxious and unable to sleep. Symptoms persisted and soon he was suffering from noise sensitivity and intense headaches. Various visits to A&E failed to diagnose a physical cause. Things deteriorated further and possible diagnoses of anxiety and post traumatic concussion were suggested. And still things got worse. Eventually, Owusu's condition deteriorated so far that he was suffering from delusions and hallucinations. An ambulance was called and he was detained - sectioned - under the Mental Health Act in 2015. Full review...