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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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...

No Filter by Orlagh Collins

4star.jpg Teens

Em - Emerald - has led a pretty privileged life. Her wealthy parents have sent her to a posh private school. She's friends with all the right people, as her social media accounts will attest. Everything is sweetness and light in Em's world. Or is it? Equivocation over covering up bullying has put Em in the crosshairs of the school's cool girl pecking order. Friends are suddenly less friendly. There are secrets at home about to turn from secret to open crisis. And when Em's mother overdoses, the dominoes start to topple. Full review...

Kid Normal by Greg James and Chris Smith

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Murph Cooper is fed up. He and his mum have moved house. Again. This means another new home to get used to. This means another new school to get used to. This means another set of friends left behind. And if that weren't enough, this time he doesn't even have a new school to go to. Everywhere is full. Eventually, a place is found - at The School, a strange place hidden away in a back street. The School is a school unlike any other. It caters for children with superpowers. But Murph doesn't have any superpowers and is soon consigned to the socially undesirable super zeroes gang. The kids with superpowers are not kind to the super zeroes... Full review...

Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Max Brooks perfectly captures the experience of playing Minecraft without instructions or assistance from the random punching stage through to building towers that touch the sky. Just as schools around the world are using Minecraft to teach computer science and other skills Brooks uses his novel to demonstrate how valuable life lessons can be learned from this online phenomena. Full review...

The Nearest Faraway Place by Hayley Long

4.5star.jpg Teens

On Griff's thirteenth birthday, he and his brother's lives change forever when their entire family is caught up in a road accident. The Nearest Faraway Place is told from the point of view of his brother, Dylan, as they both try to come to terms with the end of their world as they know it. Full review...

The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris

3star.jpg Crime

A flawed but reasonably entertaining swipe at modern media. There's plenty here to like, and plenty not to. But good structure and scramjet pace keep this one flying to the final page. Full review...

Best-loved Paddington Stories by Michael Bond and R W Alley

4star.jpg For Sharing

With the sad passing of Michael Bond there is no time like the present to revisit some of the adventures of his most iconic creation; Paddington. As the character has proved so timeless regular re-issues of the books have appeared and Best-loved Paddington Stories brings three of these stories together. Does this collection really reflect the best that the bear has to offer or are they just three random tales stuck together with marmalade? Full review...

Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Kate Fordham arrived in the sunlit city of Granada a year ago. In the shadow of the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places on earth, she works as a waitress serving tourists in a busy bar. She pretends she's happy with her new life – but how could she be? Kate's alone, afraid and hiding under a false name. And fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear. Five centuries ago, a message, in a hand few could read, was inscribed in blood on a stolen scrap of paper. The paper was folded and pressed into one of the Alhambra's walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the Fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever. Full review...

Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin

4star.jpg History

Lauren Elkin is down on suburbs: they're places where you can't or shouldn't be seen walking; places where, in fiction, women who transgress boundaries are punished (thinking of everything from Madame Bovary to Revolutionary Road). When she imagines to herself what the female version of that well-known historical figure, the carefree flâneur, might be, she thinks about women who freely wandered the world's great cities without having the more insalubrious connotation of the word 'streetwalker' applied to them. Full review...

Together by Julie Cohen

5star.jpg General Fiction

This is a love story told backwards, in the most beautiful manner, so that we know from the very beginning that Emily and Robert love each other enormously, and that he is about to break her heart in the most dreadful way in order to protect a secret that they've lived with for decades. Seeing their love unfold in reverse is beautiful. We get to know them once they have already gotten to know each other, and it makes for an unusual and interesting structure. The secret they hold is referred to throughout, but it isn't revealed until very late in the book. I'm guessing very few readers will figure it out. Even once you know, you want to go back and read the whole story again in the light of the information you now hold. Full review...

Wishker by Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings

4star.jpg For Sharing

Mirabel is a small girl who wants rather a lot from life and is sadly frustrated when everyone says no to her. Then a stray cat appears in her garden. He's a rather special cat with wish-granting whiskers. All Mirabel's problems will be instantly solved. Or so she thinks… Full review...

A Guide to the Classics: Or How to Pick the Derby Winner by Guy Griffith and Michael Oakeshott

4star.jpg Sport

It's not often that you get a glimpse into the personal, youthful interests of one of the greatest Conservative philosophers of the twentieth century, but A Guide to the Classics co-authored by Michael Oakeshott is a light-hearted look at how to pick the Derby winner. Originally written in 1936 it is, amazingly, as relevant today as it was then. In fact, the techniques and analysis employed by the authors were way ahead of their time and have only come into general use relatively recently. Full review...

So Say the Fallen (DCI Serena Flanagan) by Stuart Neville

4star.jpg Crime

Harry Garrick had been a successful businessman until the car accident which cost him both legs and left him bedridden and beholden to his wife for even the most intimate functions, so there was not a lot of surprise when, six months later, he seemed to have taken his own life. One sachet of morphine granules, mixed in a pot of yoghurt had given him a good night's sleep. Garrick appeared to have crunched ten sachets of granules, if the empty packets were anything to go by. It seemed obvious that the case should be closed quickly: who would dispute a finding of suicide? Even DCI Serena Flanagan was just about convinced: it was just that the widow, Roberta Garrick, and the local clergyman, Peter McKay seemed suspiciously close. Perhaps a few loose ends needed tidying up before the case was closed? Full review...

Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente

4star.jpg Humour

Nine comedians are invited to a remote Caribbean island under the guise of working with Dustin Walker, a comedic legend. Each fits neatly into one of the archetypal comic stereotypes: Steve, the washed-up has-been who has fallen far from his early days; Zoe, the rising female star with a new stand-up special coming soon; Dante, who went from being a kid on the streets to the hardest working road comic in the business; Oliver, the child-like prop comic who can't get any respect from his peers; Janet, the insult comic who is past her prime; TJ, the nightly variety show host with a reputation for harassing his female colleagues and guest acts; Ruby, the ultra-feminist YouTuber and Blogger with a chip on her shoulder; and William, whose redneck character Billy the Contractor is a far cry from his real personality as a posh millionaire. Of course, all nine agree because when God almighty walks down on a beam of light and asks for your help, what the hell else are you going to say? Full review...

My First Mog ABC by Judith Kerr

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

There are few children's series that have been as long lasting as Judith Kerr's Mog books and even though the cat may no longer be with us, there is a huge back catalogue of old stories and images that could be repurposed. In the wrong hands reusing old Mog images would seem like a crass cash in, but done right, they could still hold the same sentimental appeal that the daft old cat has for so many people. Which way does My First Mog ABC fall? Full review...