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. 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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The Art of Failing: Notes from the Underdog by Anthony McGowan

4star.jpg Autobiography

I had not come across Anthony McGowan's work before reading this book, as he mainly writes for Young Adults. I can imagine his books to be engaging and humorous from the clever way he constructs sentences, and the ironic subtlety with which he uses descriptive details. Full review...

Optical Illusions by Gianni Sarcone and Marie Jo Waeber

5star.jpg Popular Science

I used to work as a library assistant and I remember arriving to work one morning to find all of my fellow librarians crowded around a book, chattering excitedly and...squinting rather oddly. The book was called Magic Eye and promised a magical 3D viewing experience if you looked at the psychadelic pictures in a certain way. For a brief period in the early 90s, the pictures had a sudden spike in popularity, until everyone presumably got eye strain and went back to their everyday lives. Well good news Magic Eye fans! The pictures are back (albeit only two images), in the engrossing and immersive new book Optical Illusions. Full review...

My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner

4star.jpg Teens

You have to accept that if two people jump from the dome of St Paul's they would be bound to land. They'd be dead but they would land. Except, in this most unusual book, they didn't. Two people were seen leaving the outside of the London Cathedral's dome, but were never found at the foot of it – and someone has been in prison ever since for pushing them off. It's a most peculiar scenario, and our narrator Jaz is struggling to tell her mysterious interrogator, Mr Jones, all about it – and all about her relationship with her best friend. Now Becky, the friend, was a child prodigy sci-fi author, until something happened – she realised she wanted something else from life. Rushing around to investigate the case of the fallers, she seems to have found that, in the shape of a hot-blooded romance. But what is Jaz doing starting her testimony with talk of inquests, evidence and hatred? Full review...

Undercover Princess (The Rosewood Chronicles) by Connie Glynn

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Lottie Pumpkin is an ordinary girl who is obsessed with princesses, fairy tales and Disney. Her dream is to become a princess and she had no idea that she would be sharing a room with one at Rosewood Hall...Ellie Wolf is a princess who wishes to be ordinary, so she attends Rosewood to avoid her royal duties in the kingdom of Maradova. When destiny puts these girls in the same room, the only way to survive Rosewood is to swap identities... Full review...

Blue Dog by Louis de Bernieres

4star.jpg General Fiction

Mick's mother had a mental breakdown after his father's death and Mick was sent to live in in the outback with Granpa. On the face of it you'd think that it was going to be a lonely life for an eleven-year-old city boy, with no school to attend, in fact no other children anywhere near. Granpa's busy too: life on a cattle station is brutal for anyone, with all the heat and the dust. But they've all got to make the best of the situation. Full review...

Make and Play: Nativity by Joey Chou

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I always feel a slight disappointment for children at Christmas when they're presented with a tree to decorate with a box of ornaments and a nativity scene (sometimes quite precious, so it's Not To Be Played With) which is set up Somewhere Safe. Where's the imagination, the creativity, the sense of pride in that? How much better to have a child create their own nativity scene, which they can then play with? That's exactly what they get with Joey Chou's Make and Play Nativity. Full review...

Do You Mr Jones?: Bob Dylan with the Poets and Professors by Neil Corcoran

4.5star.jpg Entertainment

Bob Dylan's receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 'for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition' proved highly controversial. It inevitably led some people in the literary world to take stock and look at his work and reputation with a fresh eye. This volume of essays was first published in 2002, and is now reissued with a new foreword by Will Self. Full review...

A Poem for Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri

4star.jpg Anthologies

For those who do not read much poetry, for those who do not know where to start, this is a fun and easy commitment to take on. Reading a poem a day does not take long, mere minutes, and with over three-hundred poems in here there's bound to be a poem that speaks to each reader directly. Full review...

Stream Punks by Robert Kyncl and Maany Peyvan

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Robert Kyncl is the Chief Business Officer of YouTube. He has written an exceptionally interesting book about YouTube and his role within it. You don't have to be in your late 40s, or from Eastern Europe, to identify with his childhood recollections of a time when there was nothing on TV, and no other options for entertainment. It's amazing how far we've come – I still remember the hype around channel 5 appearing, and now I have more channels than I could ever watch on Sky and have both Netflix and Amazon Prime, and yet often choose the free (ignoring the adverts bit) alternative of YouTube instead. Kyncl actually worked at Netflix and regular television too, before coming over to YouTube, so he knows the industry well. Full review...

Fifteen Minutes by Erinna Mettler

4star.jpg Short Stories

Our world is obsessed with celebrity culture - and in this advent of social media, the updates on celebrity come 24 hours a day, delivered to us on our televisions, our magazines, on our phones and our computers. In focusing on these heightened and airbrushed lives though, are we missing the more interesting and human stories that are out there? That's what Erinna Mettler considers in 15 Minutes - short stories that feature celebrity encounters told through the eyes of ordinary, but no less compelling, characters. Full review...

50 Things You Should Know About the Vikings by Philip Parker

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Vikings have got a lot to own up to. A huge DNA study in 2014 was the first thing that proved to the Orkney residents that they had Viking blood in their veins – they had been insisting it was that of the Irish. The Vikings it was that forced our English king's army to march from London to Yorkshire to kill off one invasion, only to spend the next fortnight schlepping back to Hastings to try and fend off another – and the Normans had the same Norse origin as the first lot, hence the name. There is a Thames Valley village just outside Henley – ie pretty damned far from the coast – that has a Viking longship on its signpost. Yes, they got to a lot of places, from Greenland to Kiev, from Murmansk to Turkey and the Med, and their misaligned history is well worth visiting – particularly on these pages. Full review...

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

5star.jpg General Fiction

Ellis is a tin man – someone who practices the under-esteemed art of panel beating. He can remove a dint, dent or blemish by expertly applying force so that you can't even feel where the mark was. If he has to choose what would define his life, though, it wouldn’t be his job. It would be Michael and Annie. Michael, the lad he grew up with and Annie who completed their triangle, changing 'everything and nothing'. Now only Ellis remains… Full review...

Kingmaker: Kingdom Come: (Book 4) by Toby Clements

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

1470 dawns and the next chapters of the War of the Roses are ready to play out. King Edward thinks that the future has been settled but treachery is still lurking. Meanwhile Katherine and Thomas also have their world turned upside down when that ledger and a chance comment threaten all they have, including their lives. Full review...

Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future by Melissa Pimentel

4.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Jenny and Isla were focused teenagers. So much so in fact that they decided to write a life plan for their futures right down to predicting the year in which Jenny would marry the man of her dreams. As luck would have it, as the predicted year arrives Jenny finds herself living with Chris – kind, dependable Chris. The sort of guy with whom she would happily walk down the aisle. Then that fateful long girly weekend with Isla happens in Vegas. A cocktail or two and voila, a sudden, very different husband. Can Jenny get a divorce in time for her wedding to Chris without Chris finding out about this little…errr... glitch? Jenny's working on it! Full review...

Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Having discovered the evil intent of the Autumn Lords, Livia Cornelius is trying to beat the inferno that the ensuing war is creating in order to get back to her husband Fisk. That's not as easy as it sounds though as she and her entourage including (her sister Carnelia and Livia's baby) will be caught up in the conflict more than they'd like to be. Meanwhile Fisk along with fellow mercenary Shoe, doesn't have it any easier… and the world is burning. Full review...

Guns in the North (The Sir Robert Carey Mysteries Omnibus) by P F Chisholm

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

1592: Sir Robert Carey flees the strictures of Elizabethan court – and his creditors – in order to become Deputy Warden of the West March in Carlisle. The Scottish/English borders and those who inhabit them are different from the world he's left behind but it will have to become his world. It's now his job to bring law to the lawless. This isn't easy when every local he comes across has an affinity and a heritage of crime to some degree. For Robert the best thing about the job is its proximity to the woman he loves but he doesn't know what he'll do about that yet either. Meanwhile he soon realises that those who are supposed to be on his side are plotting against him but they don't realise what they're up against. Full review...

Embroidery: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

4star.jpg Crafts

In Embroidery: A Maker's Guidewe get a brief introduction to the craft by James Merry, embroidery artist, information on the tools you'll need, materials you can utilise and a guide to the stitches you'll be using. If you're just thinking about starting embroidery and not certain which type will suit you best or someone who's experienced in one area but wanting to branch out this book could be an ideal starting point. There are over 230 glorious photographs (of items from the V&A collections) and illustrations covering 15 styles of embroidery and giving all the information and designs you'll need for 15 projects. Full review...

80 by Roger McGough

5star.jpg Children's Rhymes and Verse

Yes, Roger McGough has hit 80 – and it's a query in the reader's mind as to whether he's 80 years of age or just celebrating 80 books, as he's been very highly regarded in poetic circles for so long now that both seem plausible. In fact, this book is designed to applaud his ninth decade's arrival due in November 2017 (his birthday is 9/11 – that's the British 9/11, not the other one), and it dutifully compiles 80 poems – with a bonus, new one on the back cover. You also have to take pause in estimating his life's achievement by thinking that not every book of his is, like this one, family-friendly and classroom fodder – but still, such is his output that selecting 80 best must have been no easy feat. Full review...

Satellite by Nick Lake

5star.jpg Teens

Born and raised, along with twins Orion and Libra, on the space station Moon 2, Leo has never set foot on Earth. And yet, everyone calls it home. Moon 2 orbits about 250 miles above Earth. It travels at 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. If you ever look out of the porthole beneath, you'll usually see ocean. What would it be like to see the ocean for real? Leo and the twins may soon be able to do that now that they are teenagers and the scientists below think they are strong enough to come home. Each has their own idea of what it will be like and what they would like to do. Orion wants to go to a concert. Libra wants to dig her hands in soil. Leo wants to throw a ball and observe its arc. Everyone wants to see a bird in flight. Full review...

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

5star.jpg Confident Readers

I really loved The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley when I read it, and so I was excited, and also a little nervous, to see there was a sequel. The book picks up almost exactly where we left off, with Ada having had her operation to correct her club foot. Now her pain has, for the most part, been removed and she can walk and even run, Ada finds that she must now redefine who she is, and who she has always believed herself to be. Her mum had told her she was worthless, unloveable and a monster...a freak of nature who shouldn't be seen. Yet now she is just like any other little girl, with the beginnings of a new family with Susan. Ada, as spiky and unpredictable as ever, finds herself struggling with ideas relating to who she is, and who she must now try to protect, since although her foot is fixed, the war continues to rage on in Europe. Full review...

Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

4.5star.jpg Crafts

Patchwork is a magical craft: you can take relatively small pieces of material and turn them into another piece of material with an entirely different pattern. Quilting converts a topper and a backing fabric with some wadding in between into a fabric of an entirely different weight. Combine the two crafts and you have something more than magical, occasionally fashionable but always deeply satisfying. But where to start, when there are so many different styles of both crafts? One answer is to read Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide which looks - as the cover says - at styles from Italian trapunto to Korean jogakbo and then delivers fifteen projects inspired by the V&A collections. Full review...

The Prancing Jacana by Steven Jon Halasz

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Mabel Pembrose's latest novel The Prancing Jacana has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a couple of weeks: her husband, Robert Bersley, isn't doing anything like as well. He writes children's books and his editor is adamant that as he's writing about Snake and Mouse, then Mouse has to be eaten by Snake, because that's how it works. Mabel's not completely free from problems though: her novel, set in Senegal, features Police Detective Salif Bampoky and he's gay in a country where same-sex sexual acts are outlawed and in consequence her book has been banned in the country. The fact that it's banned isn't harming her sales in the US at all, but Mabel - or rather Caroline Parker, as Mabel Pembrose is her pen name - isn't content with this. She's been to Senegal, loves the country and she'd like the book to be a bestseller there too. Full review...

1,423 QI Facts to Bowl You Over by John Lloyd, James Harkin and Anne Miller

5star.jpg Trivia

You may think me lazy, but there is an inherent satisfaction for book reviewers in hitting upon a book such as this – you know you will have very little bearing on its sales, and what's more you hardly even need describe it – just dip in here and there for a few quotes, and sit back and relax knowing your job is done. Only 1% of people who buy marmalade are under the age of 28. Treadmills were once the harshest form of punishment after the death penalty. Naked mole-rats can survive for 18 minutes without oxygen by turning themselves into plants. And the whole of page 52. There, job done – and the creators of this book certainly have done their job to perfection. Full review...

Wychwood by George Mann

4.5star.jpg Crime

Thirty-something Elspeth Reeves has lost her job and left her partner. Much as she prefers London, she decides to retreat to her childhood home in an Oxfordshire village for a short time to lick her wounds, but she arrives to find the neighbouring part of the Wychwood is a crime scene. Even broken-hearted journalists can't afford to pass up the chance of a story, particularly if they know they need to drum up some freelance work soon, so Elspeth can't resist sticking her nose in. With her childhood friend Peter the detective sergeant on the case there's an extra interest in it for Elspeth, and once she's spotted the connection between the ritualised murder and the local myth about the Carrion King, Peter and Elspeth pool their resources to try and uncover a serial killer. Full review...

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...