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. Ewritingservice.com is the custom writing service thousands of students trust all over the world. My Homework Done is your best choice among those websites that do homework for you.

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William Shakespeare's the Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a man called William Shakespeare, who was able to create a series of dramatic histories full of machinations most foul, rulers most evil and rebellious heroes and heroines most sturdy. You may or may not have noticed the cinematic version of his original stage play for The Force Doth Awaken, but here at last we get the actual script, complete with annoying-in-different-ways-to-before droids anew, returning heroes from elsewhere in his oeuvre, and people keeping it in the family til it hurts. And if you need further encouragement, don't forget his audience only demanded three parts of Henry VI – here the series is so popular we're on to part seven – surely making this over twice as good… Full review...

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

5star.jpg Reference

Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead.

There's truth in that statement, you know, but there's a conundrum when it's applied to authors. Shakespeare is dead: Dickens is dead, but we haven't buried what they've written: that lives on until... when? Is it until fashion decrees that they should be no more? Or is it, as in the case of some children's authors that they are on life support through licensing deals and astute marketing? Christopher Fowler has unearthed (exhumed?) ninety nine authors who were once hugely popular, but whose works have disappeared, sometimes quite literally. Full review...

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa and Alison Watts (translator)

5star.jpg General Fiction

Sweet Bean Paste centres on Sentaro, an ex-con who dreams of being a writer, but instead spends his days making dorayaki, a type of Japanese pancake. He reluctantly employs Tokue, an elderly lady with disfigured hands, after tasting her divine bean paste - the perfect filling for said dorayaki. Predictably, a friendship soon blossoms between the pair, despite her age and appearance. In many ways, this could sound cliché - a protagonist learns a valuable lesson about not judging someone by their appearance after finding a friend in someone they never expected to like, not exactly an unheard-of concept. Yet, Sukegawa still manages to enthral his audience. Full review...

Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Since the death of his father, the moors no longer offer Joe the sense of freedom and tranquillity that they once did. Instead, they become a battleground for a fight over the fate of the hen harriers which are nesting in the heather. This is a fight that Joe becomes wrapped up in and he is required to make some serious decisions. Knowing that he can't please everyone, he decides to stay true to what he really believes in and in doing so, he finds friendship in two unlikely characters: the stylish daughter of wealthy landowners and a naïve townie involuntarily transplanted to the countryside. The three of them learn to overcome their differences and trust each other as they question what really matters to them and how they can make a difference. Full review...

101 Things to Take the Stress Out of Christmas by Robin Snow

4star.jpg Trivia

For many years one of my guiding principles has been that the C word should not be mentioned until the beginning of December but unfortunately C seems to be coming earlier each year and there are even shops where it never ceases to be imminent, which ramps up the stress levels considerably. So, a book which promises 101 things to take the stress out of C seemed liked a good idea. What’s it about? Tips like putting the sprouts on to boil in November or joining a religion which avoids the celebration altogether? Well, not quite. Full review...

101 Things to do instead of worrying about the world by Felicity Brightside

4star.jpg Trivia

I don't think that I've ever been quite so worried about the state of the world as I have been of late - and I speak as someone who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and various other apocalyptic moments. It almost certainly comes down to a lack of confidence in the people who are supposedly in charge, whether it be from a political point of view or of our stewardship of this planet we call home. But what can be done about it? We've tried voting, arguing and demonstrating. Now we're down to pulling up the drawbridge and doing our best to think about something else. Full review...

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R M Romero

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Karolina is a refugee from the Land of the Dolls. Her homeland has been ravaged by rats and Karolina was blown by a magical wind into Krakow, Poland, at the height of WWII. She finds herself in a workshop belonging to Cyryl, known as the Dollmaker of Krakow. Lonely, crippled Cyryl repairs Karolina and the two cement a strong friendship which helps Cyryl in his life outside the workshop. But it's not just the Land of the Dolls suffering under a vicious enemy: it's Poland, too. Together, Karolina and Cyryl befriend their Jewish neighbours and determine to do whatever the can to save from the monstrous Nazi regime... Full review...

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things

The Last Namsara revolves around Asha, a fierce young woman who has whispered stories to dragons all her life. But where once she told them in friendship, now she uses stories to hunt all those that still plague her father's fracturing kingdom. Full review...

The Sinclair's Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Oh, the excitement, the glamour and the sheer, unabashed luxury of Christmas at Sinclair's! Windows full of fabulous items which lure shoppers inside, where their nostrils are filled with the scents of cinnamon, toffee and cigars while they browse the laden shelves or relax and take a refreshing cup of tea (with maybe just a teensy little cream cake or two: shopping is so very exhausting!). The staff scurry here and there, packing up purchases and sending them out to the delivery teams waiting patiently in the stables, helping customers to find that perfect something to place under the Christmas tree, and preparing costumes for the forthcoming New Year's Ball. Full review...

Blue Planet II by James Honeyborne and Mark Brownlow

4.5star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

You may well remember when the sticking of a number '2' after a film title was suggesting something of prestige - that the first film had been so good it was fully justified to have something more. That has hardly been proven correct, but it has until recently almost been confined to cinema - you barely got a TV series worthy of a numbered sequel, and never in the world of non-fiction. If someone has made a nature series about, say, Alaska (and boy aren't there are a lot of those these days) and wants to make another, why she just makes another - nothing would justify the numeral. But some nature programmes do have the prestige, the energy and the heft to demand follow ups. And after five years in the making, the BBC's Blue Planet series has delivered a second helping. Full review...

Don't Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms by Harry Leslie Smith

5star.jpg Politics and Society

Don't Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms is part biography and part rallying call for society to tackle the systemic, endemic and debilitating inequality faced by the people of the United Kingdom, particularly in the North. Through reflecting on his own experiences during his childhood, Harry Leslie Smith has painted a frank and uncompromising picture of the grim, appallingly miserable childhood he had to endure due to the poverty faced by his family contrasted with the, shamefully still, grim and miserable lives many people endure today in a country ravaged by cuts, austerity and political turmoil. Full review...

The Creative Writer for the Creative Newspaper by Terence J Fry

1.5star.jpg General Fiction

The man we shall come to know as The Creative Writer was looking out of the window of his office when he spotted a beautiful woman struggling to stay upright in the tornado which was rattling the windows ferociously. Then he realised that it wasn't just the dreadful weather which was affecting her: the woman was doubled up in pain and he could see blood. Amazingly, no one was stopping to help her, worried, he would find out later that, they might be sued if something went wrong. The Creative Writer had no such worries - he dashed out into the tornado and brought her back into the house, shouting at his grandmother that she should call an ambulance. Full review...

Dork Diaries: Crush Catastrophe by Rachel Renee Russell

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Is Nikki Maxwell's life actually turning a corner for the good? She's finally working out she has a crush on Brandon, the hunky guy who's looked ideal for her since book one, and she can actually get to page 100 here without her arch nemesis Mackenzie doing something bad to her. Life doesn't actually have any room for badness or mishap, anyway – she wants to be with Brandon training her new puppy, she wants to go to Paris for a month, tour America with her band (don't ask), and you just have to wonder how she's going to fit things in. There are problems – her manipulative younger sister stealing family time (and Nikki's candy), of course there are problems – but surely things, as I say, are on the up. And surely being mentor to an exchange student for the last week ever at middle school will not be a problem? Oh hold, on, of course it can… Full review...

Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures: Step Into a Prehistoric World by Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You might think, what with books about dinosaurs being just as varied (and almost as old) as dinosaurs themselves, that there was little to say about them that hadn't been said, and few new ways of giving us information about them. Well, I would put it to you that this is a novel variant. Over many jumbo spreads, we get a different dinosaur in a different situation each time, whether it be being born, being slain or learning to fly, and the book gives us all the usual facts, not in chronological order, nor in some other more spurious fashion, but grouped by where these dinosaurs lived. The continent-wide chapters have several entrants in each, and what with the book hitting all corners of our current globe, it brings the world of dinosaur remains right to our door, and makes this old subject feel remarkably new… Full review...

Scarecrow by Danny Weston

5star.jpg Confident Readers

When Jack's dad discovers illegal activity at work and blows the whistle, he makes some very powerful and dangerous enemies. He and Jack are forced to go into hiding in a remote cottage in the Scottish highlands. Miles from anywhere and anyone, they hope they will be alone and safe. But it quickly transpires that they are neither. Dad's enemies already know where they are heading and, even before they move in, Jack starts to have doubts whether they are actually alone. Did he really see the scarecrow next to their cottage move? Full review...

Pirates Magnified: With a 3x Magnifying Glass by David Long and Harry Bloom

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's becoming easier and easier to spot books for the young about pirates – that surely is about the only career from the seventeenth century that gets so many volumes produced about it. It must be a combination of the derring-do, the illegality, and of course the fancy dress and silly speak that appeals – nowhere else would you see a youngster studying one country's attacks on another, and reading about how treasures, slaves and other resources changed hands. This volume, however, tries its best to stand out, and has adopted the equally prevalent concept of getting the reader to pore over large dioramas to seek the small detail hidden in the images. For once, though, there's a thoroughly educative reasoning behind it. Full review...

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

5star.jpg Thrillers

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden. As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side. Full review...

Build It! 25 Creative STEM Projects for Budding Engineers by Caroline Alliston

4star.jpg Popular Science

Build It! 25 Creative STEM Projects for Budding Engineers takes a strictly hands-on approach to science to show how scientific ideas can be applied to real-world situations. The book contains 25 projects with varying degrees of complexity to demonstrate topics such as air travel, programmable machines, light, motion and electricity. The book is designed with the younger scientist in mind, so there is a focus on the fun aspect, with many of the projects involving toys. Full review...

The Adventures of Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Tree House Comix proudly presents: A tale of oppression...a tale of redemption...a tale of rebirth...and a tale of hope. A Tale of Two Kitties!

Dog Man is really a story within a story. Best friends George and Harold, of Captain Underpants fame are now in fifth grade and are now so totally mature and deep that they have decided to create a brand new comic about a police officer with a dog's head. Thus we enter a surreal (and completely bonkers) comic-book world featuring an evil cyborg fish, cloned cats and beastly buildings. Is Dog Man up to the task of protecting the city from such threats? Full review...

We Can Swing Together: The Story of Lindisfarne by John Van der Kiste

4.5star.jpg Entertainment

It all began with a group of youngsters in North Shields. Rod Clements, Simon 'Si' Cowe, Ray 'Jacka' Jackson and Ray Laidlaw formed The Downtown Faction, soon changing the name to Brethren when they were joined by singer-songwriter Alan Hull. As a US-based group had a similar name they opted to change the name again - and Lindisfarne (with the name taken from an island off the Northumberland coast) was born. More than forty years on and with numerous changes of personnel the band is still very much around. They might not be touring or producing much in the way of new material, but they still perform, with Rod Clements, one of the original members on his fourth stint with the group. Full review...

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

4star.jpg Crime

When local police find something weird - spectres scaring commuters on a particular part of the Metropolitan Line, for example - they call for PC Peter Grant of the Special Assessment Unit, also known as The Folly. Stray river gods, missing Victorian children, fleeting 18th century dispatch riders, they are all in a day’s (or a night’s) work for The Folly. Full review...

The Happy Ending by David Stokes

3.5star.jpg Crime

Harry Pigeon is 97 years old. He's a bit shakey on his pins, can't move far without his walking frame, has been known to have a fall or two – so makes sure he has his panic button with him – but still he's managing well enough at home. Mentally he's all there, even if he does have these conversations with his wife, who's been dead the last 6 years. There's a point when 'doing ok' stops being quite so ok, a point when there's clearly no purpose left. No-one comes, even the paramedics seem to have shunted you to the bottom of the list, and well, it's all becoming just a bit too undignified. To be honest, when he found the morphine Betty'd been stock-piling against the day her own illness got too much for her but never used as it turned out, Harry was on the point of using it himself. Full review...

Jack and the Geniuses 2: In the Deep Blue Sea by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Jack and Ava, aged twelve, Matt (16) and Dr Hank Witherspoon (quite a bit older) have barely recovered from their adventures at the South Pole when they find themselves packing once again, this time en route for the tiny Pacific Ocean island of Nihoa, near Hawaii. Dr Hank has been asked to help solve some problems with millionaire Ashley Hawking's ground-breaking new invention for generating electricity, which performed badly at its first public demonstration, and the wealthy lady has specifically invited his three young companions to come along too. Ava and Matt are excited by the scientific possibilities; Jack, his brain fuelled not by facts but by the exploits of his favourite cartoon programme, Duck Detective, is convinced sabotage is the cause. Full review...

Death in the Stars (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

4.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Much as it did in 1999, eclipse fever gripped the country in 1927, but private investigator Kate Shackleton couldn't understand why theatre star Selina Fellini had approached her for help when it seemed that all she needed was for a flight to be arranged to take her from Leeds to Giggleswick School, where she was to view the eclipse. Surely she didn't need a sleuth for this? Kate went ahead and organised the flight, which collected Fellini, comic Billy Moffatt and Kate from Soldiers' Field in Leeds and landed them at the school in good time. It was obvious that the singer was worried about something, but she didn't seem able to explain what it was. Full review...

The Princess and the Suffragette by Holly Webb

4star.jpg Confident Readers

I am a big fan of the beloved classic 'A Little Princess' by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but when I found out that Holly Webb had written a sequel, I wasn't sure whether to read it. On the one hand, I wanted to catch-up with the characters. On the other hand, I was sceptical that another writer would be able to match the warm and cosy innocence with which the original is written and I was worried that it would appear as a twee or weak imitation without much substance. I decided to take the book as a fun chance to see what happened to Sara and friends, and as an opportunity to wander nostalgically through the corridors of Miss Minchin's prim and proper school. Full review...

The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon

5star.jpg Biography

Angela Carter is remembered as an influential and inventive writer – with works like The Bloody Chamber and Nights at the Circus propelling her to fame, and a status as an icon and inspiration for many modern-day writers. Here author Edmund Gordon delves into the life of Carter – from the London of the 1940s through to the London of the 1990s, with stops in Bristol, Tokyo, Australia, and various other places in between. A work that is as full of detail as it is full of devotion to a remarkable woman, The Invention of Angela Carter is the first authorised biography of a woman and a writer who is hugely missed today. Full review...

Mr Tambourine Man by Nicholson

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Back in 1965 we heard Mr Tambourine Man by the Byrds on the radio very regularly. Nicholson was thirteen and saw the 45rpm recording of the song in the window of the local music store and would have loved to be able to buy it but didn't have the money. Thirteen-year olds didn't in those days unless it was a birthday or Christmas and you couldn't get a part-time job until you were fifteen. There would be a few of those badly-paid jobs before he finished his A levels and went to New York for three months. It's this trip which Nicholson feels turned him from being a boy into a man and allowed him to see the bigger picture. Full review...