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 to get free writing tips and will help you get your paper written for free.

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Murder in Saint-Germain by Cara Black

4star.jpg Crime

Who is Aimee Leduc? I have to be honest and say that though this novel may be seventeenth in series from the best-selling Cara Black, it is in fact my first outing with the deft Parisienne detective. And so, if I'm honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. How does a character with so many investigations under her belt retain the gusto we've come to expect from all good literary detectives? Moreover, how does an author with so well established a character as Aimee Leduc keep her interesting enough for those of us coming late to the party? After reading Murder in Saint-Germain I would suggest that Black manages it quite easily. Full review...

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre and Frank Wynne (translator)

4star.jpg Crime

Christmas week, 1999, and Antoine hasn't got the best of situations. Some of his friends have parted company with him because of the new-fangled Playstation, which his mother refuses to let him waste his time on. He's built a treehouse all by himself, and decided it was solely to woo the girl next door that he loves, but she's rejected it. And his best company, the dog from the other house next door, was injured in a hit and run, and shot to be put out of its misery. In the process of angrily demolishing the treehouse, he's visited by his very friendly and adorable neighbour, the dog's six-year-old owner, and Antoine's swung some of the wood at him – and killed him with one fell and very foul sweep. As the title suggests, there will be a very tense few days and nights while the guilt amasses with the lad – and/or a lifetime of living on a knife-edge, where any false move could lead to him being found out… Full review...

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

As the old adage goes, to walk a mile in someone else's shoes is to gain some understanding of what it is to be that person. Admittedly, Hendrik Groen isn't much up for long walks any more, but he does acquire a swish mobility scooter to zoom around in; one could say that we get to zoom a mile in Groen's shoes, and oh, what fun shoes he wears! Full review...

The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

4star.jpg Politics and Society

An account of the fate of Al Qaeda and the Bin Laden family since the events of 9/11, The Exile plunges into the murky waters of international terrorism, espionage and politics. Detailed and meticulous, the book tackles the subject from all angles, providing a panoramic view of the subject and acting to enlighten and inform the reader. Full review...

A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Darby lives on a strawberry farm with her mum, big sister, step dad and step brother. She loves music, dancing, chocolate egg hunts and her big sister Kaydee. She is warm and funny, and she has Down's syndrome. The story looks at the events of one weekend in Darby's life when the farm is threatened by a tornado, and her family is threatened by the revelation of a closely-guarded secret. Full review...

Shelter by Sarah Franklin

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women's Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.
Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.
What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect? Full review...

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

5star.jpg General Fiction

18 year old Rachel Fullsmith returns home to Kenya after being away at school in England and finds a lot can change in 6 years. Of course she realises her mother's death would alter things but she's not prepared for her father's live-in 'companion' Sara nor Sara's son Harold sleeping in Rachel's old room. Michael the Kikuyu servant boy she grew up with is still there though and now a man with his own ideas. Meanwhile the unrest between the British rulers and the local Mau Mau fighters is increasing and about to blow. Full review...

The Legion of Flame: Book Two of the Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan

5star.jpg Fantasy

WARNING: There are spoilers for Book 1 from the beginning. Lizanne Lethridge, Blood-Blessed and secret agent of the Exceptional Initiatives Division has survived another mission, only to be forced to go out again. This time it entails a man-hunt in a place from which no one has emerged alive. Talking about alive, Claydon Torcreek, having escaped several types of death in the jungles now goes to the southern ice with Hilemore in their current attempt to defeat the dragons and put the world on a safe footing. What if all that waits for them is more dragons and more inventive ways to die? That's a thought that's soon banished from his mind. 'This is where we save the world' says Clay… but he's been wrong before! Full review...

Words of Fury: Volume 2 (Words of Power) by Ritchie Valentine Smith

4star.jpg Fantasy

Warning: Spoilers ahead… Emmanuel (Man) Kinross, Yoshi, Joah, the Voice and Dirk Faslane are all fleeing the Lord of the North in a giant floating bubble. This is a delicate conveyance when you consider that the stakes are high and, if caught by the evil Lord of the North, the world as they know it will end. They just need to get to the Waning of the Moon, a psychic fortress that spells safety but there's still a long way to go and the odds are very much against them. The Lord of the North has more power than they've seen yet and more devastating ways to use it. Full review...

Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator)

5star.jpg Crime

In 1978, in a small town in Northern Italy Elia Furenti is sixteen and troubled. His mundanely stable, loving and ordered life is rocked by the murder of a young boy and the disappearance of a young woman, who vanishes into the woods. As Elia struggles to make sense of his shifting relationship with his increasingly erratic and unpredictable father, he begins to question what role this volatile man may play in these acts of senseless violence. Into this steps Anna, the mother of Elia's friend, a woman bowed under the strain of life and haunted by her choices. As the heat of summer intensifies, so does Elia's certainty that something is desperately wrong in his home. Drawn, seemingly inevitably, to the mysteriously sensual and sad Anna, Elia feels the ground start to shift under his feet, to feel the wind whipping his face from the cliff edge of adolescence and the unavoidable pull of adulthood. Full review...

William and Dorothy Wordsworth: A Miscellany by Gavin Herbertson

5star.jpg Anthologies

William Wordsworth was a defining member of the romantic literary era. He was part of the first wave, and his poetry helped to shape a large part of it. Nature is the key: existing in nature, finding one's own true nature and becoming natural in the process were the driving forces behind it. Full review...

Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates: The Sneaky Sweet Stealer by Chae Strathie and Anna Chernyshova

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The Rusty Barnacle is set to sail again, with a second term for the wannabe pirates and their teachers and crew. Tommy, despite being late, is the keenest pupil there – after all, he has great friends, enemies he can easily vanquish, and a very good novice parrot for company. But everyone on board has reason for concern when they set sail – the prize sweets from the tuck shop are going missing in great quantities. Who could possibly be behind this mystery? Full review...

Cool Physics by Sarah Hutton

4star.jpg Popular Science

If you aren't entirely sure about a phrase such as Christiaan Huygens states his principle of wavefront sources, don't worry – it was only in 1678 that it happened, so you're not too far behind in physics. Brownian motion, and the gravitational constant being measured both date from before the Victorian era, and all of these three things are on the introductory timeline in this book, which I think might well be proof enough that a primer in the world of physics is very much needed. Full review...

The Valentine's Day Kitten by Cathy Hopkins

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Marcie is distraught. On Valentine's Day last year she'd didn't receive a single card and her parents could see that she was upset, so when she came home from school there was a box on the kitchen table and in it was the most gorgeous fluffy silver kitten. Misty and Marcie were soon inseparable until the day that Misty went out without a collar on - and didn't come home. Marcie blamed herself: Misty's collar had broken and she'd never got round to buying a new one. Mum has put notices up everywhere she can think of and rung the local vets and animal rescue centres, but there's no sign of Misty. Then Marcie starts having dreams, about a boy, a hotel, a painting - and Misty. Will there be a happy ending? Full review...

Darkmouth: Hero Rising by Shane Hegarty

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Things seem as bad as they can get for Finn, trainee Hunter of all those nasty things that keep trying to get through to our world from the Infested Side. His dad has been sacked, leaving him practically alone to face the baddies, both monstrous and human, he has no weapons or back-up apart from his friend Emmie, and the family has even been kicked out of the house they've lived in for generations. Of course, in the way of the best stories, you only have to hint that things couldn't get worse for them to do exactly that. And any beastie that's got all the monsters from the other dimension scared is not going to be a doddle to fight. Far, far from it. Full review...

Summer at Hope Meadows by Lucy Daniels

4star.jpg General Fiction

Animal Ark was a popular series of children's books written between 1994 and 2008. The stories focus on a young girl called Mandy Hope, the daughter of two vets who run a practice, Animal Ark, in the Yorkshire town of Welford. Along with her best friend James, the children seek to help out creatures in need. The series consisted of 94 books in total and was written by a collection of authors writing under the pseudonym Lucy Daniels. Summer at Hope Meadows is the first in a new series for adult readers, continuing grown-up Mandy's story now that she is a fully qualified vet. Full review...

The King of Fools by Frederic Dard and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator)

4star.jpg Crime

Having sort of split up with his partner, Jean-Marie is on holiday alone on the southern French coast, when he chances to meet a married English woman, Marjorie. They meet in the most unusual ways – with two identical cars parked next to each other, she gets in the wrong one by mistake, then leaves her beach bag behind. Lo and behold they find each other at the casino, and the following day, when she arrives at his hotel to reclaim her bag, they meet heart to heart. Jean-Marie sees her to be a very unhappily married woman, and not even the arrival of his partner and make-up sex can convince him he is not in love with Marjorie. But finding her again will take him to Edinburgh – and into no end of trouble… Full review...

Some of Us Glow More Than Others by Tania Hershman

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

I won't be alone in stating that reading short story collections can be slightly awkward. Going through from A-Z, witnessing a bounty of ideas and characters in short order can be too much, but do you have the right to pick and choose according to what appeals, and what time you have to fill? The sequence has carefully been considered, surely. Such would appear to be the case here. The last time I read one of this author's collections, with The White Road, the only real difficulty was holding back and rationing them, but here you not only get a whopping forty pieces of writing, they are also spread into sections. Full review...

Death Makes A Prophet by John Bude

4.5star.jpg Crime

Two pages into this Crime Classic I had to check the first publication date. Reading the first two pages, it could easily have been written in 1967, or '87, or even (possibly as a pastiche) in 2017. Given that Bude's witty caper originally came out in 1947, it's slightly criminal that it's taken this long to resurface. Full review...

Mudpuddle Farm: Alien Invasion by Michael Morpurgo and Shoo Rayner

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

This collected edition contains two stories from Mudpuddle Farm: Alien Invasion and Mum's the Word. When the bees swarm the animals panic over a new creature that appears in the farm. In the second story that greedy goat has vanished and when he returns something darned odd happens… Full review...

Stunt Double by Tamsin Cooke

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Finn wants to be actor but, when his first ever lines in a film are cut, he's happy to settle for stunt-double. He has all the skills for this demanding role: he's a natural dare devil with a karate black-belt (almost). The only downside is the person Finn has to double for: Finn and teen-star Blake have history and a relationship of mutual hatred. Pretty soon, however, this is the least of Finn's worries. The eccentric film director, Novak, pushes him to the limits with increasingly dangerous stunts, manipulating Finn into doing the stunts without safety gear. But that seems tame when they transfer to film on location in a remote part of Papua New Guinea and Finn discovers what Novak really has planned for him. Full review...

The Thing by Simon Puttock and Daniel Egneus

5star.jpg For Sharing

One day the Thing falls from the sky and four strangers stumble across it. At first they are confused. What is the Thing? What does it do? What is it for? Then the four of them decide to work together to look after and care for 'the Thing. Soon word spreads about the Thing and others come from far and wide to find out more. Gradually a media circus builds up around the Thing. Throughout all of this the Thing remains silent. Then just as suddenly and silently as it arrived the Thing departs. Full review...

Around the World Colouring Book by Thomas Flintham

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Colouring books are a useful way for children to relax, develop manual dexterity and explore colour, but in the dash to appeal to the child so many miss the opportunity to be gently educational and to still appeal to the young. The two are not mutually exclusive! Look for instance at this colouring book: it's got page upon page of pictures to colour (with just a little narrative to set the scene) with the added attraction of four pages of stickers. You'll see grey shapes - and that's the signal to get stickering! Full review...

A Change Is Gonna Come by Various Authors

5star.jpg Teens

A Change Is Gonna Come is an anthology of stories and poems interpreting the theme of change by twelve BAME writers. It's Stripes Publishing's response to the under-representation of BAME authors in the UK. And it's a great response. Full review...

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

5star.jpg Teens

A group of teens witness something that they shouldn't and find themselves hunted by half the kingdom. Royal plots, magic, adventure and a rich culture to immerse yourself in. Can the pack of bastards make it to safety before the vicious warriors chasing them catch them? Full review...

Funny Kid for President by Matt Stanton

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Max Walburt has a real problem with his teacher and nothing seems to make it better. Running for class president seems like a good way out of his problems but inevitably it doesn't run smoothly. Full review...

Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Can I Speak to Someone in Charge?, blogger Emily Clarkson's debut book, is a fierce, witty and laugh-out-loud funny ode to feminism. In a series of open letters, she addresses the issues faced by every modern woman, discussing everything from dealing with body hair to being made to feel uncomfortable in the gym, as well as more personal issues, like her experiences of being 'catfished' and sent abuse online. This is a vital read for any girl born in the 1990s, tackling some very serious social injustices beneath its fun exterior. Full review...

Final Girls by Riley Sager

4star.jpg Thrillers

A 'final girl' is the last girl alive at the end of a horror movie, a gruesome description which has defined the life of Quincy Carpenter, as much as she tries to persuade you differently. Quincy, the sole survivor of a teenage massacre, has spent her adult years trying to put the past behind her. But when another 'final girl' dies, the media, who have always been obsessed with the girls' dark glamour, swarm upon her. And to make matters worse for Quincy, the other 'final girl' a survivor from another massacre, who has been in hiding for years, appears on her doorstep. Suddenly, Quincy is not only able to move past her past, her past starts to intermingle with her present and she is drawn back in. Was the first 'final girl's death an accident? Why has the second 'final girl' come out of hiding? And what isn't Quincy telling us about her own massacre? Full review...