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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The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen

5star.jpg Teens

I came to this book expecting only a typical teenage coming of age story, yet somehow, within only a matter of pages, I was utterly engrossed by the wonderful character of Malin. I read this book faster than any other I've read this year! Malin is a fourteen year old girl, who is very naive and innocent, and she struggles with social interaction. It is never stated within the book (a fact that I liked) but I suspect that she's somewhere on the autistic spectrum. But that isn't really what the book is about. It's about Malin growing up, struggling at school, having a first date, and dealing with family difficulties, all at the same time. Full review...

Hero From Another Planet by Jnr Rademeyer

3star.jpg Confident Readers

Jason Bronkurts is the kid the teachers like: he's always on time and puts his school work first. He isn't a great socialiser and certainly not one of the cool kids, although he's had something of a crush on Rosie, but he's known her since kindergarten and done nothing about it. At the other end of the scale are Jack Radogerens and his friend Ryan, who bully Jason. It might be Wednesday, but Jason will be glad when the week's over. His home life is a bit strange too: when we meet thirteen-year-old Jason, his dad has just phoned to say that he's going to be away for three days. Jason's on his own. Well, apart from the UFO and its occupants, that is. Full review...

Mike by Andrew Norriss

5star.jpg Teens

Floyd is a rising teen tennis sensation. At only fifteen, he is set to become the youngest ever champion of the national under 18s, his tennis career is written in the stars. Until Mike shows up. At first, Floyd thinks Mike is just a weird kid following him around. Why else would he be at tennis practice in the school so early? But when he appears on the tennis court in the middle of the match, Floyd can't understand why everyone is acting so calm … until Floyd realises he is the only one who can see him. Floyd is referred to a specialist and together they unpick the mystery of Mike. Full review...

Dark Pines by Will Dean

5star.jpg General Fiction

A dark, compelling and character driven thriller set in the wilds of Sweden - Dark Pines goes above and beyond the standard crime book with brilliantly drawn characters and an intriguing mystery at the heart of events Full review...

Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Women in Sport is coming to us just before the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018. It celebrates a century and a half of the development of women's sport by looking at fifty of its highest achievers, covering sports as diverse as swimming, fencing, riding, skating, and much more. Think of a sport and a pioneering women succeeding at it is probably in this book somewhere. Each entry is a double page spread with a brief biography and a striking portrait. Full review...

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

The Ice Queen has cast a spell on Erkenwald, separating the Fur and Feather Tribes and making the third – the Tusk Tribe – the enemy of both. Eager to secure her position by gaining eternal life, the Ice Queen is consuming the voices of the Erkenwald people. There seems little anyone can do until three children – Eska, Flint and Blu – come together. With help from 'the wild', they set off on a quest to find the legendary 'Frost Horn' and the magical 'Sky Song' that will free Erkenwald from the Ice Queen's control. Full review...

Below Zero by Dan Smith

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Twelve year old Zak Reeve is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sunshine with his family before he goes into hospital for surgery. Instead, the whole family are on a plane to the Antarctic because the 'spider drones' his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission to Mars have started to malfunction. His parents assure Zak and his older sister, May, that this will be a flying visit but, as you'd expect with any action adventure story, things go wrong from the moment their plane crashes into the ice outside Outpost Zero. Zak and his family are about to find themselves in a chilling adventure that will leave them fighting for survival. Full review...

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

3.5star.jpg Teens

So long as there are heroes in this world, there's hope that tomorrow might be better Once the minority in a world of chaos and disorder, the Renegades fought for freedom and justice. Victorious in driving their opponents, the leaderless Anarchists underground, those specially gifted with an extraordinary range of abilities are now the lawmakers and leaders of the future, governing a new peaceful and prosperous society. They are the heroes of society; the role models young children look up to, the officers people look to for justice and strength. All except the fraction of Anarchists that hide in the darkness, plotting and planning until they are able to get back what was stolen from them. Full review...

Servants of the Underground by David Ssembajjo

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Having experienced a terrible famine in his own country, Kalamchi leaves to travel and learn. He returns with a burning desire to feed his people - but not only to feed their stomachs but to feed their minds, too. Kalamchi wants to raise his people's consciousness so that they can fight against the dictator Bamutu - chillingly known as president for life and after death. Full review...

Rotten to the Core by Rob Murphy

4star.jpg Thrillers

It's 2009, and Russia look like being awarded the football World Cup hosting rights for the oh-so-distant 2018 tournament - that is, until England stick their oar in. They have solved their hooligan problem, and improved their transport system, and so at last are valid final holders. Watching this is France, who have to reciprocate with the Russians who helped them get France '98, and they have a plan. At this stage the UEFA European championship of 2016 has not been awarded, and while France remain favourites to get the job, again some upstart idea has poked its head above the parapet - a joint offering from Wales and Scotland. Yes, these two tiny countries, separated by 200 miles and without a brilliant connection from one to the other, and without some vital posh hotels here and there, and with no serious claim to soccer fame when it comes to winning things, are unlikely hosts. But what if France could persuade the world it was a good idea - and let Russian espionage prove it not to be so, with all the while the French around to pick up the pieces? All of the UK would be damaged, meaning England '18 would be dead in the water, and Russia would win out. And who's to say the Brits, with their devolution habits, and their first coalition government in a long time, could not get through without damaging themselves? Full review...

Forests in the Sahara by Paul Stidolph

4star.jpg Thrillers

Everyone I speak to thinks you are going to come to some sort of sticky end. Those are not the most promising words a man can hear from his new partner, but she doesn't lie in this instance. He is Jeffrey Harvey, a young Cambridge professor, who has been dabbling with some extra-curricular work, creating GM trees that can keep vast quantities of water purified. Get an iceberg or three worth of H2O near Africa, where clean water is still a scarce resource, and the trees can do their bit and the water will advance the place and make Jeffrey a well-respected global entrepreneur. If, that is, he can get round all the problems in his life - fractions in the start-up involved in the project, a finance officer embezzling the funds for gambling - oh, and a man ready to accuse Jeffrey of murder and theft of research data on a case reaching back several years. It seems the lovely girlfriend was right to see no shortage of possible sticky ends... Full review...

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

4star.jpg Thrillers

In the unseasonably warm autumn of 1982, fifteen-year-old Gabriella Flores goes missing. Her younger sister Anna is torn up by her sister's disappearance and for the next thirty years, no one knows what happened to Gabriella. Decades later, Anna has built a life for herself in Athens and has tried to put the past behind her. But the sudden death of her mother forces Anna to return to her childhood home and the village where she and her sister grew up. Being the only Flores left in her family she is left to sort through her mother's possessions, and having to reconnect with her past makes Anna question something she hasn't dared think about in years – what happened to Gabriella? Full review...

The Adventures of Billy Bog Brush!: The Fire Brigade by Ian Campbell and Tim Constable

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Billy Bog Brush's family have gone out for the day, leaving him staring out of the window at the lovely weather outside and wondering what he could do to pass the time. Suddenly, he hears a desperate cry for help. Mrs Brown's house is on fire, the key is inside, and her little boy Tommy is locked in. Tommy is in terrible danger and what if the fire brigade doesn't arrive in time? Full review...

Trials and Tribulations of a Travelling Prostitute by Andrew Mackay

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Just chance you think that you're picking up a book about what can go wrong in life for an itinerant sex worker I'd better explain exactly what it was that author Andrew Mackay did for thirty three years. A travelling prostitute is a worker who is employed by one company but his services are sold out to other countries, usually at a substantial profit to the employing company and a lot of inconvenience to the employee. Mackay was an engineer who knew all that there was to be know about turbines and generators, or if he didn't could soon be up to speed to the extent of being able to teach other people. Occasionally his skills were used in the UK, but frequently he was abroad. Just every now and again he would be in those parts of the world which has the rest of us green with envy, but then there were those areas which feature heavily in the news and not in a good way. Full review...

W by John Banks

4star.jpg General Fiction

On the slopes of Mt Hood in Oregon, an 1000-year old Viking is discovered frozen - three thousand miles further west than any previously known Viking exploration. Josh Kinninger is inspired by the Viking discovery - three personal catastrophes having left him angry, unmoored and with his world in turmoil. Beginning a journey westward, he's filled with a desire to wreak vengeance on the individuals he finds morally corrupt. Full review...

The Extinction Trials by SM Wilson

4star.jpg Teens

Storm and Lincoln live on Earthasia, a continent ruined by overpopulation. Space is scarce and energy and food are rationed. Education is minimal and mostly focused around searching for new, efficient food sources. Storm's mother has died and she never knew her father, so she lives in one of Earthasia's overcrowded shelters, goes to school for one day per week and wrestles hay bales for a job. Lincoln's sister is dying from the blistering disease and he has no access to the healthcare that could save her. It's a mean, desperate existence for them both and so they are first to volunteer for the Stipulators' trials for a new mission to the neighbouring continent of Piloria. The aim is to retrieve dinosaur eggs so that a virus to kill them can be engineered and the citizens of Earthasia will have access to the space and abundant food sources Piloria offers... Full review...

Coming Home to Island House by Erica James

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Much to the disgust of the village and his estranged children Jack Devereux has a new wife, the 'scarlet woman' Romily Temple. But, can his death and final demand that his children spend seven days together at childhood home, Island House, bring about a reconciliation and forgiveness from his much loved family? With sadistic Arthur, grief-consumed Hope, remorseful Kit and fiery Allegra this seems like an impossibility but then war is declared and the family find themselves pulling together. Full review...

Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood by Joshua Davidson

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

A straight-laced student makes one defiant act of creativity and has a world of magic and imagination opened up for him. Will is the new Night Zookeeper and his tenure in the role of protector to a magical world starts with the repulsion of a dangerous invasion. Full review...

Pirates in Classroom 3 by Alison Donald and Ben Whitehouse

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Not all of us were the child that paid attention in class. Some would look out of the window and let their minds wander. Why be stuck in a stuffy room when you could be in space or on the high seas? Sometimes you do not need to seek adventure as it may just find you. It makes perfect sense to me that if the teacher leaves the classroom there is ample time for a pirate to enter and ask all the children to help him find some lost treasure. Who could possibly give up this opportunity? Full review...

The Elephant in the Room by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Somebody has smashed Father Giant's elephant. Who on earth could it be? Can Father Giant unravel the mystery of what happened, and who will face being banished from the house forever once he discovers the truth? Told in a rhyme that gets more and more surreal as it goes along, this is a wild and brightly illustrated mystery story, with an interesting moral at the end. Full review...

It's Worth a Try by Nicola Goodland

4star.jpg Home and Family

This is how Nicola Goodland introduces her book, It's Worth a Try:

I wanted to write this kind of book because when I was a young woman, ladies and gents told me that they suffered from abuse of some kind as children and only found the courage to talk about it as adults. Maybe this book can deter children from becoming future abusers and stop abuse so it goes away for good.

The intention is for any adult who knows a child - whether family friend, godparent or relative - to create a relationship that is open, has trust, and creates a space for children to able to share both the good and bad things that are currently going on in their lives, with confidence. Full review...

The Invisible Crowd by Ellen Wiles

4star.jpg General Fiction

This novel follows the plight of Eritrean Yonas Kelati as he tries to make a life for himself in England. He and a good friend, Gebre, escape from prison only to be thrown into captivity again: trafficked in a shellfish factory where they have to earn their ‘payment’ to the malicious Aziz for entering the UK illegally. When Yonas escapes, the story really starts. Full review...

Hurricane Justice by Patricia Watkins

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Finn Westlake was first amused and then horrified when he saw the attractive young woman jumping up and down in the road as his jeep turned the corner: the amusement came from the fact that she was wearing just soaking-wet bra and panties. It was when he saw the tears streaming down her face that he realised that there was a serious problem. Diana McGuire's father's plane had crashed into the river and she had tried and failed to get him out. Sending her to get more help Finn dived into the river and managed to extract Chester McGuire and his business associate, Sandy Moseley, but whilst checking that there was no one else in the plane he was seriously injured. Full review...

Rooster Wore Skinny Jeans by Jessie Miller and Barbara Bakos

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

One of the best things about modern online shopping is the knock on the door and the parcel arriving. What was it I ordered again? It could be something as exciting as a new toy, or something as boring as a new mixer for your shower. The anticipation of opening the box is as close to the feeling of Christmas that an adult is going to get (except perhaps for Christmas). Rooster has ordered something online and it arrived quickly. Will his farmyard pals appreciate his buy as much as he does? Full review...

Can You Keep a Secret? by Karen Perry

5star.jpg Thrillers

Thornbury Hall is the grand ancestral home of the Bagenal family headed by taciturn Peter with his wistful wife Heather and their two children, Patrick and Rachel. It is also the setting for many secrets and tragedies all of which resurface twenty years later as Patrick reunites childhood friends, Niall, Marcus, Hilary and main character Lindsey, for one final party before selling the house. Full review...

Discovering Dinosaurs by Anne Rooney and Suzanne Carpenter

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Lift the flap books have progressed somewhat since I was a child. This one comes with sounds! Taking us layer by layer, through various different ages of dinosaurs, we meet a variety of creatures, some of whom are very familiar but some I'd never heard of before! Each scene peels open, layer by layer, showing you what the various dinosaurs are getting up to, with background noises, roars and squawks to accompany them! The book creates a dinosaur experience, rather than just being facts about dinosaurs it's very visual, placing the dinosaurs in their habitats and giving us sounds too that spike your imagination. Full review...

The Poo That Animals Do by Paul Mason and Tony de Saulles

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I know, I know, sometimes you really don't want to encourage your children's poo jokes, but this book is brilliant! I sat and read it by myself when the kids had gone to school and found it fascinating! Who knew there was so much I didn't know about poo? The book manages to be both funny (and silly) as well as being very interesting and educational. Using a mixture of facts and figures, photographs and funny cartoons, you come away having sniggered a little at the vulture who poos on its own feet, but also knowing a lot about different types of poo, why poos smell, and why wombats do square poos. Full review...

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A writer's awakening by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

5star.jpg Autobiography

The true story of Kenya's foremost author in his own words. Ngugi wa Thiong'o is the most important writer that you've (or at the very least, I've) never heard of. In this colume of his autobiographical series we follow Ngugi as he ventures to University in Uganda and starts writing professionally. Ngugi tells the story of British colonialism at the end of the Empire as clearly as his own tale – making this one of the most important books on the market today. Full review...

Rising Stars: New Young Voices in Poetry by Pop Up Projects

4star.jpg Anthologies

This collection brings together five emerging voices in poetry. And despite what the publisher says, I wouldn't personally impose an age restriction on the writing here. Each poet uses words that will appeal to many readers. I found this particularly so with Jay Hulme's poetry. Full review...