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, the charity shop 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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Something to Tell You by David Edwards

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

Sam Murray and Bert Leinster had been friends for a long time. Bert was Sam's boss at CERN, but this never seemed to affect the way that the families got on. Bert's wife, Natalia, was Russian and seriously rich. Their twins, fifteen-year-olds Allie and Josh, went to a private boarding school, but at weekends they were great friends with Sam's two children, Liam and Hannah. Sam's wife, Briony, was head of product research at Nestlé. Life was good for all eight of them, until Sam - a particle physicist - spotted that the rate at which Higgs Boson particles were hitting the earth had risen exponentially. It's enough of a problem for Sam and Bert to drag the head of CERN, Prof Ralph Moyeur, out of a family lunch. Then Bert started having conversations with a plant called Lily. Full Review

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You're the Froth On My Soy Cappuccino: Poems for the Present by Don Behrend

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

You're the Froth On My Soy Cappuccino begins with A Modern Love Story:

You’re the froth on my soy cappuccino
You’re the spread on my paleo toast
You’re the nose of my GM-free Pinot
You’re organic, my love. You’re the most!

Ha! How can you not laugh at this gently mocking take on love in the hipster world? Full Review

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The Mitten Handbook: Knitting Recipes to Make Your Own by Mary Scott Huff

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

I love mittens - they're so convenient and much easier to get onto (and off) cold hands than a pair of fiddly gloves. They're not something you regularly see in shops, so I knew that if I wanted new pairs I would have to knit them myself. Well, actually, that's my rationalisation of the situation: in truth I love knitting mittens. They have just enough technique to make them satisfying, plenty of quick work and a pair of warm mittens in a few days. Patterns, though - where do you get them from? Full Review

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The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

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

Every so often, as a reader, a book comes along that is utter and complete perfection. This book is one of those. Utter and complete perfection. Winter has created an absolute masterpiece of a novel, set in the fantasy land of Uhmlaba the reader is instantly thrown into war, a battle for survival for the Omehi people. Fleeing their homeland, they have to fight to remain on the only scrap of land they can reach. The culture of the Omehi people is rich and deep but not perfect, not sanctimonious. They have villains, they have faults, they are the invaders after all, but Winter creates a realistic and honest portrayal of a people desperate to survive, to save themselves and their culture for future generations. Full Review

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I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak

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

Cosmo's family is in crisis. Mom and Dad argue all the time. Emmaline doesn't quite understand it because she's too little but she feels it. And Max, who is bigger, does understand it and is terrified by it. Long ago, when Max was just a baby, Cosmo made a promise to protect Max forever and so he sets about his mission of repairing the family with everything he's got... Full Review

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Deadwood Hall by Linda Jones

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

In late December Dylan Beaumont and his sister Emily were on their way to spend the week before Christmas at their grandfather's house. It was snowing heavily and you could sense that their parents were becoming annoyed at the bickering in the back of the car. Emily was rather brusque with her nine-year-old brother's behaviour, but then that's your prerogative when you're a grown-up eleven year old. The snow was getting heavier and the journey longer when Emily opened the car window just a couple of inches. There was a dreadful smell and Dylan saw a horrible, snake-like figure clawing at the car window. Full Review

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A Breath on Dying Embers (DCI Daley) by Denzil Meyrick

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

Few government trade missions arrive by luxury liner, but the cruise ship Great Britain is berthed in Kinloch harbour and on board are high-powered international delegates. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that it's not entirely about work as the billionaires, entrepreneurs and their civil service minders tour the country, golfing and sightseeing with their entourage of security personnel. It's an event which DCI Daley hopes will pass quickly, particularly as his formal uniform is far too tight for comfort, but it's not long before one of the crew members and a local bird watcher go missing. Full Review

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The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

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

This is a dyslexia-friendly, science fiction novella for young adults. It tells the tale of Hugo, an unwanted and rather lonely android, who makes a living for himself mending time-travel watches. When one of his clients demands that his broken watch be mended, Hugo realises there is a mystery to be solved, and is only too ready to help. An exciting journey of discovery unfolds, which takes Hugo out of his drab attic workroom and into a scary adventure with some amazing new friends, exploring regions of the planet never before known to exist. Full Review

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Cold Granite (Logan McRae) by Stuart MacBride

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

DS Logan McRae is just back from a year's sick leave after he was attacked by a killer. He's just about OK and he's supposed to be easing himself back into the swing of the job in a gentle way - until three-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch. He'd been missing for some time and it came as no surprise that he was dead but he's the first of several child murders. To add to the complications the police even have a body but no child reported missing. A serial killer, a child killer and abuser, is on the loose in Aberdeen and the press are missing no opportunity to bay for blood. As if that wasn't bad enough there seems to be a leak from within Force Headquarters: a local journalist, Colin Miller, quickly finds out everything that's happening. Full Review

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Child's Play (D I Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons

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

There's a prologue and we know that we're dealing with someone who is very disturbed. The descriptions are horrifying, but worst of all is the coldness of the killer. Full Review

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Exhalation by Ted Chiang

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

Over the past twenty-eight years Ted Chiang has published fifteen science fiction short stories. These magnificent stories have won twenty-seven major science fiction awards so if you are a science fiction fan it is likely that you have already come across some of the work by Ted Chiang. I cannot speak highly enough of this collection of short stories, they are so wide ranging in their themes and so beautifully written, Chiang has written an absolute masterpiece of a collection. If you come across Chiang's work before, take this opportunity to do so now. Trust me; your imagination will be grateful. Full Review

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Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

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

Rose and her brother Rudder have recently escaped from cult-like fundamentalist Christian sect, the Pilgrims, along with their mother. While Mum works endless hours at agency cleaning jobs trying to keep the rent paid on their tiny flat, Rose and Rudder are trying to navigate the worldly world. It's not easy when everything is new and the rigid rules you've always lived by are suddenly missing. Full Review

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Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson

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

I guess that most of us have made the odd impulse purchase but Tracy Waterhouse, security chief at the Merrion Centre in Leeds, blew most people's ideas of an impulse purchase out of the water one morning. Seeing a known prostitute dragging a toddler through the shopping mall whilst cursing at her, Waterhouse followed the woman and bought the girl for £3000. The difficulty of a purchase like this is knowing what to do next and Tracy's humdrum life is replaced with one of stress, fear and an overwhelming love for four-year-old Courtney. Full Review

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Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin

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

Maya has to escape. She's on the run in a country she doesn't know and has no idea who to trust. Raul is escaping too - travelling back to his home where a terrible tragedy happened, ready to stir up trouble. When their paths collide in the middle of the jungle, the sparks begin to fly. As modern world corruption meets the magic and legends of ancient times, can Maya draw on her hidden light to find the way through to the truth? Full Review

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Child's Play (D I Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons

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

There's a prologue and we know that we're dealing with someone who is very disturbed. The descriptions are horrifying, but worst of all is the coldness of the killer. Full Review

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I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

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

Gemma has just started her A levels at school. She's a keen student and she has a good, close set of friends. Gemma loves country music and in her spare time she enjoys writing and singing country songs. She's pretty good at it too. Home life is busy - Gemma's brother Michael has a chance at a football career and the whole family, propelled by Gemma's rather over-invested dad, is supporting him with everything they've got. Gemma hasn't had a serious boyfriend yet, so when the handsome Aaron appears and an instant attraction fizzles between them, Gemma is keen to see where romance could lead... Full Review

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What's That in Dog Years? by Ben Davis and Julia Christians

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

George and Gizmo have been together ever since George was born. Gizmo has always been a fun, adventurous dog and a loyal friend, but just recently, George has noticed that he's starting to slow down a little. A visit to the vets leaves George worried that Gizmo might not be around for very much longer, and so he begins to write Gizmo a bucket list, of all the adventures that they can still have together in Gizmo's last days. But are they his last days? And who will help George to stay calm when Gizmo is gone? Full Review

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The Long Flight Home by A L Hlad

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

September 1940 - as WWII rages on, bombs rain down on Britain, destroying the homes and lives of a people on the edge. In Epping Forest, Susan Shepherd and her grandfather Bertie live together raising homing pigeons with the birds proving a comfort for Susan following the loss of her parents. These pigeons are more than just birds to Susan though – in each one, and especially in Duchess, she sees a distinct personality and forms a close bond. Meanwhile, young pilot Ollie Evans leaves Maine to head to Britain and join the Royal Air Force. Working with the National Pigeon Service, he soon meets Susan and is tasked with air-dropping hundreds of homing pigeons into German-occupied France, where many will not survive. As the mission is planned, the bond between Ollie and Susan grows stronger, but when Ollie's plane is downed behind enemy lines, it may be Duchess who provides an unexpected lifeline and ensures that hope of a reunion for Susan and Ollie remains… Full Review

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Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator)

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

An instruction manual for the forest is how Wohlleben's publisher described the idea for this book, and that's basically what it is – although right at the end the author says that it is not intended to be a reference book, but an appetiser. Full Review

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A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson and Rachel Wilson-Boyles (translator)

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

We're going to hear this story through the viewpoints of three different people: Adam Sandell, his wife, Ulrika and his daughter Stella. Adam's a pastor in the Church of Sweden and Ulrika is a lawyer. Stella is, well, just difficult. You sense that she's always been difficult and there have even been occasions when Ulrika has let slip that she wishes that Stella was more like her best friend, Amina Bešic - and no one has ever said that if they don't think that the other person is better. We first meet the family on Stella's 18th birthday and we get a sense of Adam's controlling nature. Permission has to be given for a glass of wine for Stella at the celebration meal. Full Review

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The House of Light by Julia Green

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

Bonnie is growing up on a slightly strange island, living with her grandfather, scavenging for food, and rubbish that has washed up on the beach that she and her grandfather can use to make things. There is some sort of ban against anyone else landing on the island, and lots of suspicion around those who live there, including a great fear of anyone who gets sick. But when Bonnie is on the beach one day and discovers not only an intact boat, but a young boy cowering beneath, rather than turn him in to the authorities she takes him home and hides him, smuggling him boiled eggs and blankets in the shed whilst she tries to figure out what to do. Full Review

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Check Mates by Stewart Foster

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

In many ways Felix is a typical boy in Year 7, enjoying playing games on his PS4 and hanging out with his friend Jake at the weekend. However Felix is struggling at school. He is not a problem child but he does have a problem. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate, he keeps getting into trouble and his grades are slipping. When his Mum suggests that he spends more time with his grandfather Felix is horrified. Ever since Grandma died his Granddad has been grumpy and more eccentric than before. All he wants to do is sit in the dark and play chess. Felix knows that this will be extremely boring. But sometimes we learn valuable lessons where we least expect to and perhaps Granddad and Felix can help each other. Full Review