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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Run Wild by Gill Lewis

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

Meet Izzy and Asha. Bullied away from the local attempt at a skatepark, they find a huge waste ground in the shadow of a derelict gasometer to practise on, which they duly do, even though they have to drag Izzy's younger brother with them. The following day they all want to return, as does the brother's schoolfriend, despite – and of course because of – there being a huge wolf living in the site. Can the children survive living in the urban wilderness, alongside such obvious dangers? Full Review


Staying On by C M Taylor

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

Tony Metcalfe is a Yorkshireman through and through and being honest, Yorkshire's where he'd really like to be. You suspect that Scarborough would be perfect, but he's living in a mountain village just beyond the Costa Verde and running a pub. The Viva Espagñe isn't flourishing: Tony would really like to sell it and return to the UK, what with the uncertainty of Brexit and everything, but there are a couple of problems. First off, his wife - Laney - refuses to go back to the UK. She'd have you believe that she's not well, but there's a backstory there that's not being talked about. Then there's the pub, which isn't doing well enough to sell. In fact Tony's cleaning the swimming pools of expats who have left Spain and returned home, in order to make a bit of money to try and make ends at least come in sight of each other, even if they never meet. Full Review


The Truth About Lies by Tracy Darnton

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

Jess is in a meeting with Dr Harrison, the school counsellor. Dr Harrison is hoping to help Jess come to terms with the death of her room-mate, Hanna. But he's not having much success, largely because Jess has no intention of telling him how she feels. Instead, she feigns a grief she does not feel so that he is satisfied and she gets out of there as quickly as possible. Full Review


Where Do You Go, Birdy Jones by Joanna Nadin

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

Bridie - Birdy - Jones is eleven and finding life rather hard. After her mother died, it used to be just Birdy and Dad and that was okay, but now there's Birdy, Dad, an overbearing step mum, a little sister and another baby on the way. There's precious little room for Birdy any more and the only place she really feels happy and secure is at her grandfather's pigeon loft. Birdy loves pigeons. She loves caring for them, training them, and releasing them to wait for them to find their way home. Full Review


All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

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

Elizabeth Klehfoth's debut novel is a mystery thriller written from the perspective of Charlie Calloway, a teenage girl in her final years at boarding school who is plagued by her mother’s disappearance. As the story progresses she begins to learn more about what happened to her mother, finding out along the way that not everyone was who she thought they were. Titled All These Beautiful Strangers it really makes you question whether you are surrounded by strangers too. Full Review


When The Curtain Falls by Carrie Hope Fletcher

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Paranormal, Crime, Women's Fiction

A thoroughly, magical and riveting story that hooks you in from the first page and takes you on a roller coaster ride towards the last. Fletcher weaves together a dash of Whodunit the thrill of romance, (the course of which never runs smoothly,) and an unpredictable ghost. The ghost appears once a year, the principal star of her very own show, to meet with the love of her life and re-enact her death. A tragic accident with the roots buried deep within the whole array of human nature. Love, joy, care, friendship, jealousy, possessiveness, selfishness, cold ambition, all laid bare on centre stage.


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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

Miryem comes from a long line of moneylenders – but her Father isn't very good at it at all. Lending freely and rarely collecting, he leaves the family on the edge of poverty, until Miryem must step in. Hardening her heart and collecting what is owed from local villagers, she becomes a person of great interest when she borrows a pouch of silver pennies from her Grandfather and returns it full of gold, soon becoming entangled with an array of strange creatures, from the dark beings that haunt the wood through to a King who's eager to exploit Miryem's talents – she soon becomes aware that her skills may be more trouble than they're worth… Full Review


The Party by Lisa Hall

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

Rachel wakes up in a strange bedroom, with the worst hangover she's ever had and no memory of the night before. And even though she has no memory, she knows at the core of her being that something very bad has happened to her at her neighbour's New Year's Eve party. But with everyone there appearing to be hiding something and no one giving her a straight answer to her questions, will Rachel ever find out what happened at the party? Full Review


The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

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

Comic-Cons are a place of wonder and sanctuary for many people, and when Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, he's looking for both that and sanctuary with other fans and creators, plus the chance of maybe, just maybe reuniting with his ex. However, when his rival is found dead, Mike is forced to navigate every dark corner of the con in order to clear his name – from cosplay flash mobs and intrusive fans to zombie obstacle courses – Mike must prove his innocence and, in doing so, may just unravel a dark secret behind a legendary industry creator. Full Review


The 100 Best Novels in Translation by Boyd Tonkin

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

Consider, if you will, translated fiction. Some say it's impossible – that if a book was so good in one tongue it could never survive being put into another. Samuel Beckett must have laboured over ever syllable and Breath, but he could translate his own works, and other equally complex pieces can cross borders. It's a market that has actually doubled in sales volume between 2000 and 2016 (thanks, Millennium Trilogy). Novels, in particular, in translation, are – as the introduction here so smartly puts it – a privileged means of passing border posts, a sort of universal passport issued by that Utopian state, the Republic of Letters. We here at the 'Bag regularly try and give equal credit to the translator, without whom we wouldn't be reading what we have in our hands. But all that said, do we really need one of those list books about the subject? I got given a book the other year detailing 1001 places to go to before I die, and I might even then have missed out a zero. It would take as long as a fortnight's holiday to wade through, and even though this is not as long as your typical Bolano housebrick, it's not a short thing. Should it take our time? Full Review


The Day of the Orphan by Dr Nat Tanoh

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

Saga is eighteen and, like many eighteen-year olds, his prime concerns are listening to what his mum calls hop-hip, eating copious amounts of food, and learning about girls. Living in an affluent, liberal and protected suburb, he has a good life. However, the suburb is in Africa, where childhoods can be snatched in an instant. When his friends and family are dragged into the conflict raging around the dictatorship that Saga lives under, he is forced to become an unlikely revolutionary. Can chubby Saga really stand up to a murderous regime? And can he stay one step ahead of the soldiers desperate to stop him? Full Review


The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

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

Fionn is off to spend some time with his grandfather on the island of Arranmore. His older sister Tara is going with him. Tara is well into adolescence and she can be quite dismissive of her rather green younger brother. The siblings need some time away because their mother isn't coping well with the death of their father and needs time alone to get better. Grandfather is a strange, eccentric old man who lives in a tiny cottage full of candles. He has a crabby but wicked sense of humour and sometimes has trouble keeping hold of his memories. But he makes the candles dance and his eyes contain depths that hold the secret of the seas. Full Review


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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

The Great Believers follows a group of friends whose lives are devastated by the AIDS crisis in Chicago during the late 1980’s. Beginning in 1985, the reader follows Yale and his friends as they come to terms with the increasingly virulent illness spreading throughout their community, alongside their demonisation at the hands of a conservative America. Thirty years later Fiona, a devoted friend to Yale, is searching for her estranged daughter on the streets of Paris, trying to rebuild a relationship beset by memories and old hurt. Full Review


The Boy Who Hit Play by Chloe Daykin

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

Elvis Crampton Lucas was found, as a baby, on a bench at the zoo. He knows little else about himself, other than that's where his father found him one day and he took him home and named him after the first three vinyl records he took down from the shelf! Elvis' life has been a happy one, but as his twelfth birthday comes around he finds himself suddenly wanting to know, and needing to know, the truth about who left him on the bench and why. Elvis' quest takes him far away, to a new country, facing challenges he'd never imagined in his desire to know the truth. Full Review


Russian Roulette by Sara Sheridan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime (Historical)

It makes a pleasant change to have a female detective who isn't a slightly eccentric grandma, a world-weary cop with as many hang-ups, bad habits and family traumas as her male colleagues, or a slick, skinny, sharp-shooting type who lives in a loft and works out in the gym after work, boxing with (and trouncing) every big burly bloke they can throw at her. Mirabelle may have somehow got herself involved in crime-fighting, with all the requisite tropes of climbing through unguarded windows, contacts who are not one hundred per cent on the right side of the law, and a refusal to faint at the sight of blood, but she is, as everyone around her will attest, first and foremost a lady. Indeed, the first encounter we have with her in this, the sixth book in this excellent series, sees her giving a police superintendent an icy stare for his lack of manners. No matter what the life-and-death crisis, there's no reason not to be polite, is there? Full Review


Even The Dead Will Bleed: Book 3 of Tell Me When I'm Dead by Steven Ramirez

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

In the third and final part of the Tell Me When I'm Dead series, Dave Pulaski is headed to Los Angeles – seeking revenge and retribution. With the events of book two still weighing heavily on Dave, he struggles against the rage burning inside him and saves Sasha – a young escapee from the secret testing facility. As events come to a climax, and Dave finds himself pursued by both an ex-military sociopath and a group of scientifically engineered humans who flay their victims alive, the stakes are higher than ever before – will Dave make it out of this alive? And what kind of world will he have left? Full Review


Dead Is All You Get: Book Two of Tell Me When I'm Dead by Steven Ramirez

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

Still battling the zombie hordes who first appeared in Tell Me When I'm Dead, Dave Pulaski thinks his prayers have been answered when the Black Dragon Security team show up to rescue him and his wife Holly. But things only get worse – with the virus mutating, and the infected getting smarter. When Dave discovers the truth behind the contagion it will drive him past all limits of faith or reason – but will he able to manage dealing with this knowledge whilst protecting Holly and those closest to him? Full Review


Tell Me When I'm Dead: Book One of Tell Me When I'm Dead by Steven Ramirez

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

A recovering alcoholic, Dave Pulaski has had a long road to recovery, but finally feels like he's getting his life back. Then - a plague hits the town, turning the majority of the population into flesh-hungry monsters who crave the taste of humans. Fighting to survive - Dave's urge to hide away and drink is strong - will he fight to live when the chances of survival are so slim? With the hordes of the undead growing and the security forces outnumbered, it seems that hell has arrived for Dave... Full Review


The Gilded Ones by Brooke Fieldhouse

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

It was a hot day in 1984 and Pulse had two job interviews for the day, but the heat wasn't the only reason why he wasn't feeling on top form. He'd had a disturbing dream the night before. He'd been following a Porsche on a difficult route, probably somewhere in the Alps when the Porsche went off the road. The passenger, a man, was dead, but the woman was still alive. I'm Freia..., she said. It's spelled the German way. Of the two job interviews, the first was with an up-and-coming design studio in Brighton and it would almost certainly be good for Pulse's career. The second was with a run-down practice based in an old London house and headed by Patrick Lloyd-Lewis, whose wife, Freia, had recently died in unexplained circumstances. The link with the dream of the night before was too much for Pulse to refuse the offer of a job. He couldn't resist the lure of the mystery. Full Review