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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  • Walton Ask.jpg

Ask For Blues by Malcolm Walton

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Entertainment, General Fiction

Malcolm Walton's book is clearly a memoir about his introduction to the Trad Jazz scene of the late 1950's and early 1960's, but he has chosen to write it in the form of a novel, claiming in his prologue that this would give the book a different approach to the music memoir. His protagonist 'Martin' takes on Malcolm's mantle, and begins with his first discovery of the Salvation Army band with his grandfather. This catapults him into a love of music, initially taking piano lessons, and later delving into his true love – the trumpet. Full Review

  • Reynolds Fire.jpg

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

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

What happens when Utopia is achieved? When everyone is linked neurologically to everyone else and people vote on each minor decision so every aspect of life is truly democratic? Everyone knows everything and everyone decides everything so what can possibly go wrong? Except people are dying, melting to be precise, and no one knows how, or why, or who could be next. In such a circumstance who can be trusted to solve this crime and do so without spreading panic? What if the only people who can be trusted have already let you down once before? Full Review


  • Mitchell Revenge.jpg

Revenge by Mitchell & Mitchell

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

Revenge opens with the news that Charles Stuart is to return to the throne as Charles II of England. A young woman, Ruth Courtney, is returning home to her family's farmhouse, excited at the prospect of a new King. She arrives home, however, to find her home ablaze and surrounded by renegade soldiers, supporters of Cromwell, her family nowhere to be found. Full Review

  • Morrall Last.jpg

The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall

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

Down in hidden railway carriages, deep behind foliage and further down Long Meadow Road than most care to go, live the Greenwood Brothers. They haven't spoken to each other in years, but one morning a letter arrives on their doorstep - a letter from a sister long thought dead...As the brothers are forced to confront painful memories of a past that both tried to keep buried, the post-woman who delivered the letter struggles with secrets of her own... Full Reviewc

  • Barnard Perfect.jpg

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

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

Edie McKinley isn't the world's greatest student. And she has a history of rebellious behaviour. But she has most of that under control now, with the help of her adoptive family, her lovely boyfriend and her best friend Bonnie, who is a straight A student with a bright future ahead. That is, until Edie wakes up one morning to find the police at her door. Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, Jack. Bonnie has been very mysterious about Jack, even with Edie and Edie is about to find out why - Jack is none other than Mr Cohn, a music teacher at school. Full Review

  • Watson Wren.jpg

The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

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

Every year on St Stephens Day, Wren Silke is chased through the forest in a warped version of a childhood game. Her pursuers are Judges - a group of powerful and frightening boys who know nothing of her true identity. If they knew she was an Augur - their sworn enemy - the game would be up.

The Wren Hunt is set in a contemporary Ireland where the ancient druidic traditions are still in play. The Judges have dominated the Augurs by buying up the land containing the sources of Augur power. The Augurs can feel their magic depleting and are determined to win it back. To this end, Wren has been chosen to infiltrate the house of the prominent Judge, Cassa Harkness, to find the information they need. Full Review

  • Pankhurst Women.jpg

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing, Confident Readers, Children's Non-Fiction

A lot of history is about men. Kings and generals and inventors and politicians. Sometimes, it feels almost as though there were no women in history at all, let alone ones young girls might like to read about or regard as role models. Of course, this isn't true and there are plenty of women who, throughout history, have achieved amazing things or shown incredible bravery, or created something never seen before. So here, in this wonderful picture book from Kate Pankhurst, are the stories of some of them. Full Review

  • Clayton Belles.jpg

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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

One minute here is richer than a thousand moments there

In the resplendent world of Orléans, beauty runs through the blood of a select few: the Belles. Only they have the power to transform the appearance of a population cursed with grey skin and red eyes, who covet beauty above all else. Camellia Beauregard is a new generation Belle, ready to fulfil her duty and help the people to love themselves. Like her sisters, she's in the running to be the favourite – the most accomplished Belle in the land, personally chosen by the royal family to live in the palace and tend to members of court, with the power to make a difference. It's what she's been wanting and training for her whole life… but so too have her sisters. And only the best will be selected. Full Review

  • Burrows Doves.jpg

A Pitying of Doves by Steve Burrows

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

The body of a senior attaché from the Mexican consulate was found in a local bird sanctuary, along with the body of the director. It was a strange tableau: the girl impaled on a branch and the man lying at her feet, both in a cage. The fact that the man is a diplomat isn't immediately evident - he was in the area under an assumed name. DCI (and birder enthusiast) Domenic Jejeune is conflicted. The immediate problem is obviously to establish who murdered the man and the woman - and even that's complicated by the political necessity of not to involving the Mexican consulate, thus tying his hands rather tightly. The thoughts which are running in the back of his mind though are about the full-time research position studying birds which the director's death has opened up. Could this be his escape route from the police force? Full Review

  • Wickson Stan.jpg

Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge

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

Stan is a space freak. He's nuts about it – to the extent of having too many embarrassing experiences in his rocket undies, but that's by the by. He's trying to win a telescope, and diligently do all his science-based homework, but one thing stands in the way. Space. Or, more precisely, the space he has to share with his incredibly snotty, annoying, dumb, messy little brother Fred. Stan has a project on the go, which is to get three helpers and enter a science fair, but Fred has also found something to concentrate his erratic mind on – the local museum is thinking of ditching its T-rex fossil for a huge light-up Earth in a new eco gallery. Fred almost thinks of Rory the T-rex as a pet, and is certainly more friendly to it than he is to Stan (when he's not colouring the poor thing's legs in with crayon, that is). Can Stan get something to take to school without bogies all over it, and will Fred get his way where Rory is concerned? Full Review

  • Strange War.jpg

War Baby: A Dyslexic Life by Mike Strange

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

The author admits here that there is a peculiar ground where the autobiography of somebody very unfamous lies – it stands as a personal document for the family concerned, as much as a book to capture the attention of strangers. Either way, there are certainly events of note to be covered here – from an idyllic if damp Sussex farmhouse the lad gets evacuated, with his mother and gran, to maternal relatives in South Wales, and arrive back when it's clear we aren't about to be invaded – that is to say, just in time to be in the flightpath of all the doodlebugs and V2 rockets. A boisterous teenaged existence post-war leads to Mr Strange needing a few nudges to get into the academic world, at which he ultimately excels – even with a strong case of dyslexia. Full Review

  • Herron London.jpg

London Rules by Mick Herron

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

Claude Whelan, Regent Park's First Desk has insurmountable problems. He's charged with protecting a lame duck prime minister, but he's under fire himself. There's the self-publicising MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote and who might just be looking to take the PM's job from him. The MP's wife is a columnist for one of the tabloids who's having a go at Whelan in print and who will do anything to promote her husband's interests. Then there's the PM's favourite Muslim who's running for mayor despite having a very dark secret himself. As if this wasn't enough, Whelan's deputy, Lady Di Taverner is watching for his every stumble - and it's not so that she can catch him and help him to safety. Full Review

  • Bala Boat.jpg

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

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

Among the 500 Sri Lankans in a rickety boat making its way to Vancouver Island are Mahindan and his six-year-old son Sellian. When the boat arrives the Canadian authorities take all the passengers into custody, placing the women and children in a separate facility from the men. A gruelling series of hearings will decide on the fate of each individual or family: whether they will be allowed to stay in Canada, or deported back to Sri Lanka. The government fears that up to half of these asylum-seekers may have links to the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist group, so judges are instructed to have a firm hand. Full Review

  • Clements Coffin.jpg

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

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

Maybe you've heard about Scarcross Hall? Hidden on the old coffin path that winds from the village to the moor top, the villagers only speak of it in hushed tones - of how it's a foreboding place filled with evil. Mercy Booth has lived there since birth, and she's always loved the grand house and its isolation, but a recurrence of strange events begins to unsettle her. From objects disappearing through to a shadowy presence sensed in the house, mysteries come to light that can only be solved by Mercy unearthing long-buried secrets. And will a dark stranger help Mercy protect everything she has come to love or tear it from her grasp? Full Review

  • Griffiths Dark.jpg

The Dark Angel (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

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

Dr Ruth Galloway has got used to being a published author, to being on television, but she's still flattered when Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli asks for her help with some bones which he's discovered in a tiny hilltop village outside Rome, but doesn't know what to make of them. Ruth succumbs to temptation: she and Angelo have some history (it was just the one night...) and it's years since she's had a holiday. Even a working holiday has to be an improvement. Castello degli Angeli isn't quite what she was expecting, but it will make a reasonable break for her, her daughter Kate, friend Shona and Shona's son Louis. Full Review

  • Benway Far.jpg

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

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

Having just given up her new-born baby for adoption, 16-year-old Grace is desperate to look for the one person who could truly understand how she feels. The birth mother that gave her up for adoption when she was a baby. What Grace doesn't expect, is to discover that she has siblings. A confident, loud-mouthed younger sister, Maya, adopted by a wealthy family living just twenty minutes away. And Joaquin, their stoic older brother, hardened by seventeen years in and out of foster care. Full Review

  • Burrows Siege.jpg

A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows

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

Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune is new to Saltmarsh, but his reputation has come before him. Success in a high profile case has made him the poster boy for the police. There's a snag though: Jejeune isn't actually that keen on the job. He'd much rather be out birdwatching, but that doesn't bring in an income and there's a simple fact. Jejeune is very a very good detective, with insights which few other people possess. There's one advantage to the job too: Saltmarsh is situated in North Norfolk, the UK's premier birding country but sometimes Jejeune's mind is more on the birds than the job. Full Review

  • Sparkes Night.jpg

Night Speakers by Ali Sparkes

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

Three young people meet up in unusual circumstances to find that they all share a strange experience: waking at exactly 1.34am, the same time each night. Elena, Matt and Tima try to get back to sleep, but after a few days of broken sleep they are drawn outside into an adventure that tests their ingenuity to the limit. Together and completely sleep deprived, they decide to investigate this strange night waking phenomenon, and their searches take them to a different and scary world where inexplicable things are happening. Full Review