The Bookbag

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search

The Bookbag

Hello from The Bookbag, a book review 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.

There are currently 10,534 reviews at TheBookbag.

Want to find out more about us?

New Reviews

Read new reviews by genre.

Read the latest features.

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf

4star.jpg Popular Science

We're screwed. Wherever we look, whatever we think of doing, there is a reason why we shouldn't be doing it, and people to back that reason up with scientific data. Take any aspect of your daily life – what you eat, how you work, how you rest even, what you touch – all have problems that could provoke a serious illness or worse. And outside that daily sphere there are economic disasters, nuclear meltdowns, errant AI scientists and passing comets that could turn our world upside down at the blink of an eye. Perhaps then you better read this book first – for it may well turn out to be your last… Full review...

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

It probably helps to be a fan of Agatha Christie. It probably helps to absolutely adore the sheer selfish indulgence and style of the 1930s. It probably helps to just accept the rich as being completely divorced from real life. It definitely helps if you're happy to take your crime as a puzzle, rather than as heart-rending, gut-wrenching rendition of reality. Full review...

The Imaginary by A F Harrold and Emily Gravett

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Rudger is Amanda's imaginary friend. She found him in her wardrobe one morning and they've been inseparable ever since. Amanda's mother is quite accepting of Rudger, Amanda's friends less so. Amanda took him to school with her once but the trip wasn't a huge success so now the pair hang out by themselves, taking voyages of adventure in Amanda's garden, in her bedroom and under the stairs in Amanda's house. It's while exploring a complex of dark and dingy caves under the stairs - what on earth could be in a cupboard under the stairs other than a complex of caves? - that the doorbell rings and Mr Bunting appears. Full review...

Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen

4star.jpg Entertainment

Donald Fagen is best known as one half of the partnership that became Steely Dan, one of the more sophisticated names in American rock music. While at school in the 1960s he was convinced that his vocation would be journalism, until music took over. When the group, or rather duo plus hired hands, went on hiatus, he contributed to various journals. About half of this fairly brief book consists of his articles on films, music and science fiction, and the rest is made up of his entries (including random thoughts concerning the world around him) from a touring diary. Full review...

Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard by Rochus Misch

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

I am proud to declare an interest in all things Holocaust, one of the key areas of which was the last days of Hitler – the Downfall, if you like, way before youtube satirists. So this book, from the man who for some unspecified years was the last eye-witness to have been in the Fuhrerbunker at the end of the Nazi regime, was always going to be a great read. It remained that even after the foreword dismissed its own book, pointing out differences here to the canon of thought about the timings etc of April/May 1945, and declaring the author somewhat naïve in not being so aware, circumspect and authoritative about the major points of WWII. Full review...

Digital Inferno by Paul Levy

4star.jpg Lifestyle

You know how it goes. You have a pressing job that requires your immediate attention, but decide to treat yourself to a five minute tea break surfing the internet. One link leads to another and before you know it, your short tea break has swallowed up a whole hour. Or maybe you are at an important meeting and you feel the phone vibrate in your pocket, signalling an incoming text. Is it rude to check your messages when your full attention should really be elsewhere? If you feel that meaningful communication with the family has been replaced with a glut of hastily-typed x's, LOLs and emoticons, this book may be just what you need. Digital Inferno aims to help its readers reclaim their place in the digital world and gain mastery over all of those pieces of tech that seem to demand so much of us. Full review...

Engel's England: Thirty-nine counties, one capital and one man by Matthew Engel

5star.jpg Travel

Matthew Engel has spent some considerable time travelling around the thirty nine historic counties of England. On the face of it this is a rather strange task given that some of the counties (anyone remember Middlesex? Cumberland?) no longer exist and that they are - or were - situated in a country which you can't reliably find on a drop-down internet menu. Engel's attempts to explain to his eight-year-old son which country we live in produced mixed results. His son grasped the outlines but as he explained the concepts Engels found himself getting more and more confused, particularly when you add in the counties: reorganisation in 1974 changed borders, created new counties and abolished some old ones. Some were renamed, to subsequently revert to the old name whilst others faded away unremarked. Full review...

The Hero Pup by Megan Rix

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Christmas is going to be tough for Joe this year. It's going to be the first without his dad; a brave soldier who died in the line of duty. Before then, he has the more immediate issue of facing his friends when he returns to school. They are bound to ask him lots of awkward questions about his dad and he's not feeling ready to open up to people just yet. Luckily, Mum has an idea that will help them both perform a fitting tribute to dad, whilst giving Joe something worthwhile to focus on: they decide to adopt and train a helper pup who will eventually assist an injured soldier in need. Full review...

One Christmas Night by Christina M Butler and Tina MacNaughton

4star.jpg For Sharing

If you regularly read children’s books about Father Christmas you are probably as amazed as I am that he ever gets the job done. It would appear that almost every year some sort of problem befalls old Santa Claus and he has to ask for help. I can understand getting aid from his elves, his reindeers or even the tooth fairy at a push, but a hedgehog? However, this is not just any hedgehog, but Little Hedgehog and with the aid of friends and a fluffy scarf, Hedgehog may just get the job done in time. Full review...

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Who loves underpants? EVERYONE loves underpants! We’ve already explored how aliens love them, how cavemen love them, and how pirates love them. Who else could there possibly be? Oh yes, that’s right…. Monsters! Claire Freedman and and Ben Cort are back with yet another tale about pingy pants elastic. Full review...

Do You Speak English, Moon? by Francesca Simon, Ben Cort and Lenny Henry

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Night can be a scary time for a child, with shadows playing tricks on the walls and no daylight to make everything seem okay. Do You Speak English, Moon? is a great book for this situation, with a little boy deciding the best thing to do is to talk to the moon. He asks the moon some lovely and magical questions before finally snuggling down and going to sleep. This is an excellent way to try and make the dark just a little less of a fearful place for young children. Full review...

Night after Night by Phil Rickman

4star.jpg General Fiction

It's no surprise that when it comes to reality television, broadcasters are fighting amongst themselves for the next big thing, no matter how tasteless, base, or exploitative it may be. That's the starting point for Phil Rickman's creepy new thriller, as tv producer Leo Defford decides to launch a reality show in a mansion formerly owned by tragically deceased movie star Trinity Ansell, and perhaps haunted by Henry VIII's last wife, Katherine Parr. Full review...

Rebecca Is Always Right by Anna Carey

3.5star.jpg Teens

First things first: I must admit that I chose to review this book entirely based on its title. After all, what better book to keep on the coffee table and brandish at my husband when I'm making a point? What I did not realise when I volunteered is that it is the fourth book in a series that began in 2011 with The Real Rebecca, for which Anna Carey won the Senior Children's Book prize at the Irish Book Awards. This has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can tell that the characters are established and well-rounded. On the other hand, there are such frequent references to past events – presumably, adventures from the previous three books – that it is clear this is an instalment in an ongoing story and not a stand-alone book. Full review...

How To Be A Conservative by Roger Scruton

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Roger Scruton has been described by Jesse Norman as 'one of the few intellectually authoritative voices in British conservatism'. His central theme in this book is to defend and champion the value of the home, a society based on free association and the nation state. The simplest of biographical sections demonstrates that the author was brought up not from ‘privileged’ stock but within a Labour-voting, lower middle class family, to demonstrate that his conservatism was not inherited but a product of his own intellectual journey. Full review...

Rattle and Rap by Susan Steggall

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Apparently, back in the days of steam, every little boy used to dream of being an engine driver. The trains in Rattle and Rap are all diesel but the allure of travel still wafts strongly from the pages. This is one in a series of vehicle-themed books aimed at pre-schoolers. It’s unusual to find engaging non-fiction for the under fives. With the focus on vehicles, Susan Stegall takes a staple of many a children’s book but, unlike some other authors, she treats the subject with imagination and creativity. It’s enough to make an anthropomorphised tank engine blush. Full review...

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

5star.jpg Teens

If anyone ever suggests to you that science and art (or philosophy) don't go together, give them this book! The Ghosts of Heaven presents four fabulous stories from different time frames linked by the natural constant of the spiral. The introduction provides a lyrical explanation of the birth of the universe, the Solar System and us and of the dimensional spiral we call the helix. It also explains that we can read the stories in any of the twenty-four possible orders we please. Full review...

Secrets of the Rainforest: A Shine-a-Light Book by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner

5star.jpg For Sharing

The rainforest is bustling with life. If we look closely, we will be able to spot the animals living there. Some are hiding in the trees, some under leaves or behind rocks. There are plenty of secrets to discover. And to become a special rainforest explorer, you will need a torch, or a bright light, because that is the key to spotting all of those hidden creatures... Full review...

Professor Stewart's Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries by Ian Stewart

3.5star.jpg Popular Science

Ah, those pesky number things. Not just Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World and how we have related to certain ones, but how they all relate to each other, and have provided mathematical scientists with thousands upon thousands of hours of thinking time. Just one problem in these pages has ended with not so much a checkable proof, but a third more data again than the entire Wikipedia project. Within this book are numbers far too big you would not even manage to write them out given the entire lifespan of the universe (and ones bigger than that) and problems wherein one must define as many integers as possible using merely 1s and mathematical symbols. Full review...

The Edge of the Sky by Roberto Trotta

4star.jpg Popular Science

Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do. Apparently that's advice to budding journalists and writers, and I do try to follow the English translation of it, if not completely successfully. Someone who seems to have no trouble whatsoever in agreeing with the dictum is Roberto Trotta. This book is his survey of current astrophysics and cosmological science, but one that has to convey everything it intends to by using only the most common thousand words of the English language. So there is no Big Bang as such, planets have to be called Crazy Stars – and it's soon evident you can't even describe the book with the word thousand either. Full review...

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors 12 Stories by Malorie Blackman, Holly Black and others

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

How long do you keep your birthday presents for? A week, a month, a year – or life? Is that time-scale different, perhaps, when you're nearly a thousand years old? I only ask because Doctor Who is, of course, both 51 (in our earthly, televisual representation) and 900 and more in human years as a character. In 2013 we were given a great book that gave us a story for every Doctor Who we've seen on TV, in honour of the 50th birthday proceedings. But now is a year on, and we're a further Doctor down the line. And so what was '11 Doctors, 11 Stories' is now '12 Doctors, 12 Stories'. So while many of us would have cherished and kept said birthday present, the only addition is the last, which like the rest was available as an e-book. So it's worth revisiting what I said about the book last time, then chucking in the (what might only be temporarily) concluding story at the end. Full review...

The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small

4star.jpg Politics and Society

In this personal account of his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Small journals his time spent with people he meets along the way and attempts to make sense of the conflict that has dominated this area for many years. Small openly admits the issue there is not a simple one and his visit reinforces the fact that there are many complexities preventing peace from happening. Full review...


Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Woody's dreams were about football: he wanted to play for his country one day, but there was a snag. His father was a fighter pilot - and his squadron was going to war - but as Dad was a single parent Woody had to go to a boarding school for armed forces kids. That's enough of a change for any boy, but there's an even bigger one which Woody has to contend with. At Borderlands they don't play football. They're mad about rugby. It's almost a religion. How will Woody cope with boarding schools and rugby? How will he manage the constant knowledge that his father is in a combat zone? Full review...

The Green Door by Christopher Bowden

4star.jpg General Fiction

Clare Mallory is a promising junior barrister working from a prestigious chambers. Life is pretty good. She's not the type to be taken in by psychics but when cards advertising the services of one Madame Pavonia start arriving in the post, her interest is piqued, first by the rainbow spectrum pattern and then by... well, something else. Tempted to visit the fortune-teller at a local fair, Clare is taken aback at Madame Pavonia's reaction to her and rushes out of the tent. Full review...

The Girl With The Sunshine Smile by Karen McCombie

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Everyone knew Meg as the girl with the sunshine smile. She always looked pretty and happy and her mother used her in her business to model bridesmaid's dresses. They had a lovely little flat which was always neat as a new pin and Meg thought that life was perfect. Then her mother met Danny - and everything changed. Danny was the single father to four boys and they all lived on a houseboat. A messy houseboat. With no lock on the bathroom door. And when there was a flood at Mum's flat they had to move in with Danny and the four boys. That was when Meg stopped smiling. Full review...

The Lost Sock by Gillian Johnson

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

A lost sock. We’ve all had them. In fact, I know people who only buy socks of one colour in order to always have matching socks. I, who prefer to buy brightly coloured socks (much like the man in this book), seem to spend my life with my feet constantly mismatched. It doesn’t bother me all that much, but it certainly affects the hero of this tale, who goes on an adventure in order to find the missing sock. Full review...

Glorious Gardens by Various Authors and Illustrators

3.5star.jpg Crafts

Colouring books are a great way to reduce stress, so how come they are mainly aimed at kids, what have they got to be stressed about? To be fair, some of the little blighters have their worries, but I can guess that more adults after a hard day at work could do with a relax. This could come in the form of a nice glass of wine or something creative. I tell you what, why not try both? Full review...

Meteor Men by Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Meet Alden. He's only at high school, but as his parents have died the farm is his – his and the couple of professors the smart kid hangs out with. One night a large gathering forms on an ad hoc basis to watch the Perseid meteor shower – and one of them unexpectedly lands. The rock is Alden's as it landed on private property, but the planetarium's main scientist is keen for science to learn from it – or that it should pay for Alden getting through university. But the rock has a lesson much bigger than even that premise could provide for – it wasn't a hundred per cent rock. And Alden also owns a much greater connection to what was inside it when it landed… Full review...

Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief by Alex Milway

3.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Problems are afoot in Tuptown, leading up the annual Butterfly Ball – bit by bit the whole thing is being stolen. Harold has made a special statue for the occasion, but has awoken to find it missing, the berries for the catering have vanished – and someone's even run off with the butterflies. It's up to our heroes Harold (the hamster) and Pigsticks (the, er, pig) to don their stereotypical detective outfits and save the day. Full review...

The Tooth Fairy's Christmas by Peter Bently and Garry Parsons

5star.jpg For Sharing

If I had a choice of being a magical figure I would choose someone like Father Christmas over the Tooth Fairy. Yes, he may be morbidly obese, but at least he only has to work really hard on one day of the year. The Tooth Fairy has to work all year round, including Christmas Day. Thankfully, all these magical folk appear to be in some sort of union, so when the weather is too bad on 24th December you can always rely on St Nick to help you out Full review...

The Free by Brian Ruckley

4star.jpg Fantasy

The Free are a band of mercenaries - magical warriors who have travelled the world and are renowned for their skills in battle. Finally reaching a point where they can retire from war, their leader Yulan is offered one final contract - one he cannot refuse. Full review...

Twist by Tom Grass

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Twist doesn't know his family. Homeless and on the run from the police, he is swiftly caught up in the world of Dodge, Fagin, Sikes, and Red. As they involve Twist in the dangerous world of Art theft, his skills are pushed to the limits, and his morals are tested by both the murky underworld and the beauty of Red. Full review...

The Odd Squad: King Karl by Michael Fry

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Nick, Molly and Karl have come through a lot of things together since forming Safety Patrol - often with the help of Shakespeare-quoting janitor Mr Dupree. But when the mysterious MLEZ, who run the school, want Karl to join them, Nick and Molly have to start thinking about ways to stop him - because Karl in charge is a frankly terrifying prospect. Full review...