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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Santa Goes on Strike by Jem Vanston

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing


Something's gone horribly wrong. It's Christmas Eve and everything is very busy in Santa's grotto. The presents are all ready and waiting to be loaded onto the sleigh and the reindeer are itching to get going. But Santa? Santa is just not in the mood. He is tired of delivering the latest toys to children who only play with them for five minutes. He wishes people would remember what Christmas is really about - a time for families to come together for love and friendship and goodwill to one another. Full Review

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The Coming of the Spirits by Rob Keeley

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


In Victorian England, young Edward Fitzberranger is about to be infected with scarlet fever and die. Further back still in time, Sir Francis Fitzberranger is about to marry Tina, the love of his life. In the modern day, Henry and Luke are getting on with life. And in an alternate timeline, Ellie is working for a resistance movement and struggling under a Britain ruled by the Nazis... Full Review

link=http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/ 1509885803/ref=nosim?tag=thebookbag-21


Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

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

Jago doesn't like Clementine. He knows there is something different about her and he doesn't like it. And he never lets her forget it. Clementine knows she's different too, and that the difference is magic. And as much as she tries to ignore it, Clementine's magic is getting stronger. So when Jago's bullying gets too much, it's not really surprising that Clem loses control of it and gets herself suspended from school. Full Review

link=http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1786894327 /ref=nosim?tag=thebookbag-21


The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig and Chris Mould

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

Poor old Truth Pixie. She's cursed! She can't speak unless it's to tell the truth. You might think this is a good thing because telling lies is bad, right? But sometimes the truth isn't nice and sometimes a white lie is okay and sometimes it's better to say nothing at all. You might not want to attract the attention of the school bully by calling him mean and nasty, for example, or you might not want to tell someone that you think their brand new haircut looks awful. Full Review

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Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death by M B Vincent

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

Dr Jess Castle, the self proclaimed failure of the prestigious Castle family has returned home to the sleepy, idyllic chocolate box town of Castle Kidbury. Rather than being delighted, her family are suspicious, especially her father, the judge. Luckily for Jess, she doesn't have to try too hard to dodge her family's suspicions as a series of gruesome local murders are taking place and that's all anyone is talking about. Jess accidentally finds herself in the thick of the investigation, and to her delight finds that she can actually be useful. But with the small population dwindling and the sense of danger moving ever closer to home, has Jess made a grave mistake getting involved? Full Review

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Nothing Lasting by Laura Solomon

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

We never know the man's name but let's call him Boyo. It's what his mother used to call him, not least because he found it annoying. When we first meet Boyo his mother is alive, if not living as most people would understand it. She spends her days watching daytime television and drinking. Housework is a foreign country. When she dies she's not missed, firstly because she'd spent a couple of years in a mental hospital, but mainly because her ghost continues to haunt Boyo. She wants him to achieve something in his life: what she has in mind is that he could be a famous arsonist. Full Review

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Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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

This is the problem with words and even stories: there is never one truth

Summer, Mia and Brynn are obsessed with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn. They begin to believe it is real, that the world of Lovelorn is really materialising around them, and start writing their own fan-fiction sequel. One day, Summer is violently murdered in the woods where they all played and everyone thinks Mia and Brynn did it. Full Review

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What if It's Us by Becky Albertelli and Adam Silvera

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

I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you're thinking. I don't mean it in the our souls were split and you're my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you're meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.

What If It's Us is one of those books that just gives you a boost when you need it. A feel good, fun and easy read. I was surprised at the collaboration of Silvera and Albertalli – one known for happy endings, the other for tragedy – but they really work together well. Each takes a character and their voices are so distinct, so real, that you are immediately sucked in. Full Review

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Cold Breath (Gunnhildur Mystery) by Quentin Bates

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

Gunna wasn't too keen when she was taken off police duties to become a bodyguard. It wasn't just the sheer inconvenience of it - away from home for however long the job took and with no contact with the family - she wasn't the only one to have doubts about the man she was guarding. Invited to Iceland by prominent politician Steinunn Strand, Ali Osman was either a saint who devoted himself to helping refugees escape the carnage in their Middle Eastern homeland, or a money-laundering gunrunner. The truth was probably a combination of the two, but whichever or whatever was correct, there's money on Osman's head and this is the reason why he and Gunna are holed up in an isolated house outside Reykjavik, with Gunna toting a gun under her fleece and with a group of armed police in a nearby house. Full Review

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Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

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

Evan Hansen spends a lot of time indoors by himself. This worries his mother, who has engaged a therapist to try to help Evan with his extreme anxiety issues. Evan's therapist assigns him the task of writing a daily letter to himself as a way of getting Evan to think more constructively about himself and the world around him. But Connor Murphy, a rather scary boy at school, finds one of Evan's letters and gets the wrong end of the stick because Evan has mentioned Zoe, the girl he has a crush on and who is Connor's sister. Full Review

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Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M C Beaton

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

St Ethelred's Church in the idyllic Cotswold village of Thirk Magna has a team of dedicated bell ringers, with the keenest being twins Mavis and Millicent Dupin and when we first meet them they're preparing for the bishop's visit. Now you might be expecting an older, perhaps rather grey man, but this bishop is a little different. One description is 'sex on legs' and even Agatha Raisin is a little smitten - at first - but there's the merest whiff of a scandal about the bishop. It's the mystery of the bishop's ex-fiancee, local heiress Jennifer Toynby, who disappeared very suddenly and neither she nor her body have ever been found. Full Review

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Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

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

It is the middle of the night when twelve year old Louisiana Elefante's granny wakes her up to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they must leave home immediately. Granny is prone to middle of the night ideas so initially Louisiana is not too worried by this but then gradually she realises that this time it is different. This time Granny intends that they will never return. Separated from her friends, Raymie and Beverly and her cat, Archie, Louisiana is devastated and desperate. She is determined that she will find her way home somehow. But as her life becomes entwined with the people living in a small Georgia town Louisiana starts to worry about the curse Granny told her was upon her head and fears that she is destined only for goodbyes. Full Review

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XX by Angela Chadwick

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

Angela Chadwick's debut novel explores the possibility of two women being able to produce a baby girl through a process called Ovum-to-Ovum fertilisation. It centres around Rosie and Jules who take part in the first ever clinical trial that would allow them to have a child of their own without the need for a sperm donor or any other male intervention. What follows is a story that shows the harshness and at times disgraceful behaviour of the media, and the general public, when faced with a controversial technique that could lead to the demise of men. Full Review

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Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Blue Moon by Sally Gardner

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

Betsy K Glory lives a rather wonderful life on a peaceful island where nothing horrible ever happens. Her father, Alonso, makes the most wonderful ice cream in every flavour you could imagine. Her mother, Myrtle, is a mermaid and comes to visit regularly, although she still lives in the sea. Betsy dreams of two things: firstly, about the circus owned by a tiger and whether it would ever come to her island and secondly, about a magical ice cream made from the berries of the Gongalong bush. One scoop of this ice cream can make wishes come true.

And then Mr Tiger and his circus arrive. And a journey is planned... Full Review

Tweet scheduled for 9.15 clare@headofzeus.com

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Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies

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

This is a quiet but remarkable story, written in a style reminiscent of E. M. Forster, [Tirzah and the Prince of Crows has no great and stirring action but rather small ripples that make a huge impact. Tirzah is a young girl of sixteen raised in a small Welsh town in the 1970s by highly religious parents as part of a strict religious community. The book follows Tirzah though a tumultuous year as she tries to decide who she wants to be, and what she wants to do with her life. Full Review

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Modern Patchwork Home: Dynamic Quilts and Projects for Every Room by Vivika DeNegre (Editor)

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

The problem with a craft which is largely based on traditional designs is that what results from your labours is also traditional, or - depending upon what light you shine on it - old-fashioned. Vivika DeNegre has curated a collection of patterns from today's top designers. As a word of warning, if you read Modern Patchwork Magazine you may well find that there's nothing new in the book, but if you're new to the magazine this could well prove to be a delightful collection from the back catalogue. Full Review

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The Chaos of Now by Erin Lange

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

Eli, a talented hacker, is one of those people who manage to fly below the radar. When new friends offer him the chance to enter a prestigious competition he soon realises this golden opportunity has a sting in its tail. How many people can hand on heart say that they have not made mistakes? Most people are fortunate not to have a permanent online reminder, the very presence of which refuses to allow you to adapt, to change, to grow. Eli has a few mistakes skulking online, moments of madness that if discovered would change his life forever. Full Review

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The Reckoning by Clar Ni Chonghaile

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

As the blurb says, In a cottage in Normandy, Lina Rose is writing to the daughter she abandoned as a baby…the whole of Chonghaile's second novel is a series of letters addressed to Diane. Lina is now in her seventies and Diane is a mother herself. They have met just once since Lina gave her up for adoption. It was not a good meeting. Full Review

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The Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi 2) by Michael Pronko

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

The funeral is a good time to rob a house in Tokyo - and even better when they're famous as most people will be there. Bernard Mattson had been famous - one of the great political thinkers - and renowned for his support of the American bases in Japan. One of the great tragedies of his murder was that he was just a few days short of meeting up with his daughter Jamie: they hadn't been estranged, but when Mattson and her mother divorced she took the teenager to the USA and father and daughter just drifted apart. Jamie and her mother came back for the funeral, but her mother departed as soon (or even before) she decently could, leaving Jamie to settle her father's affairs. The only problem is that an awful lot of people seem very interested in Bernard Mattson's legacy - and they're prepared to be violent to get their hands on it. Full Review

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Storytelling: The Presenter's Secret Weapon by John Clare

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Business and Finance

I was a little bit nervous when I picked up Storytelling: The Presenter's Secret Weapon. After all, the majority of presentations which I've seen or given were in a business context and what was required was absolute professionalism, not an act put on for light entertainment. I needn't have worried though: the book is an essential guide to preparing and giving your presentation, with or without what has now come to be known as The Dreaded PowerPoint. I've been making presentations successfully (but I'll say more about this later) in various professional situations for some forty or more years and I did wonder if the book would be able to teach me anything. It did.


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Treasure of the Golden Skull (Maudlin Towers) by Chris Priestley

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers (If multiple categories use the same format, separated by comma + space) Sponge and Mildew are not the biggest fans of their school, Maudlin Towers. Who would be? It's run down. It's gloomy. You can't move for gargoyles and that's discounting the teachers. But when they find out that there's no money left and the school might close they realise that, tatty and morose as the Maudlin Towers is, it is home. So they set their minds on a rescue mission... Full Review