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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Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B C R Fegan and Lenny Wen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

Mr Nicholas Noo is the host of the magical Hotel of Hoo and he's just welcoming his very first guests. They're going to be in room number one and it looks very comfortable with a cosy fire and comfortable bed. But Mr Noo is a considerate host and he shows his guests around the hotel. There's only one rule: don't ever look behind door 32. Now, you're going to wonder about what, exactly is in room 32, because we'll see some exciting and wonderful things as you move from room 2 to room 31. Forget expensive theme parks: you'd be much better off going to the Hotel of Hoo. Full Review

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Silver-Tongued by David Barrie

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

Bruno Kahn is a bit like Marmite: people either love him or hate him. He's a psychiatrist, who has managed to insert himself into one of the richest families in France. There are those who suspect that he's exerting undue influence over the head of the family, Guy Larroque, who is either 'not as sharp as he used to be' or 'suffering from vascular dementia', depending on where you stand within the family. At the vascular dementia end of the continuum is Guy's daughter, Sabine Larroque, who's paid Samuel Bencherif, a freelance photographer, to dog the footsteps of Kahn and Guy Larroque's (very) young wife in the hope of finding something which she can use to free her father from their clutches. So far, so very much as the very rich live, until Bencherif is found bludgeoned to death in a passageway by the Theatre de l'Odeon in the centre of Paris. Full Review

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Souvenir (Object Lessons) by Rolf Potts

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

I know a lot about the subject of this book – although please don't think for one minute that is akin to a boast that I could have written it; far from it. But I too have a mountain of souvenirs here and there. They come in five kinds, don't you know – including a miniature version of what you've been to see (my porcelain Field of Miracles from Pisa, that has long since lost its miraculous ability to act as both memento and leaning hygrometer); pictorial representation, such as postcards (oh so many postcards); and physical bits of the place (a particularly Klimtian bit of stone found on a beach on Jersey only this autumn past). I am such a collector of souvenirs I get narked when I go to a place such as a cathedral and all that's on offer is religious product and nothing branded with the site, which is rich considering the whole souvenir industry came from religion and religious pilgrimage in the first place – you only need consider that in buying a souvenir you're trying to take a bit of its source home with you, and for that very reason people sought a continuance of some kind of holiness via religious artefact. You only need consider it, I say, but rest assured all that history and everything else has been considered in the making of this wonderful book. Full Review

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More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

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

Rev has just turned eighteen. He is happy at home with his adoptive parents Geoff and Kristin. They are kind and supportive and have enabled Rev to leave his painful past behind - at least in part. Rev is doing well at school and has a good friend in Declan. Yes, he still wears a hoodie to hide his scars but, overall, Rev is doing well. Until, that is, he receives a letter from his biological father. And the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back into Rev's life. Full Review

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Truly, Wildly, Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

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

Annie has chosen to leave school in favour of doing her A levels at a college a train ride away. She's quite excited about this new adventure and the extra layer of independence it represents. No more silly school uniform. No more being followed around by a dedicated teaching assistant. It's going to be great. And nothing is going to get in the way of Annie making the most of it - not even the wheelchair she sometimes has to use, as person with cerebral palsy. Full Review

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Munich: The Man Who Said No! by David Laws

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

I've played Neville Chamberlain in public, you know – a full one-line in a Beyond the Fringe sketch, where he says he has a piece of paper from Hitler. I then proceeded to prove it was a paper bag, in fact, by blowing it up and immediately bursting it. That is what that paper was to many – the indicator of a lot of hot air, and only leading to an unwelcome noise, when WW2 actually struck anyway. Certainly, not everyone was keen on his appeasement with the Nazis, and this book opens with the first-person reportage of one such man, keen on showing proof to Chamberlain that he should not sign the Sudetenland away. But he only got so far before his story was cut off entirely – leaving a grand-daughter, Emma, at Cambridge but under a cloud of ignominy, to pick the last, barest threads of the story up and see just what did happen to him. Oh, and her help has just come out of prison… Full Review

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She, Myself and I by Emma Young

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

Rosa is just eighteen. You'd expect her to be off to university, or going on a gap year, or about to start an apprenticeship, wouldn't you? You'd expect her life to be full of possibilities and exciting new horizons. But this is not the case for Rosa. Diagnosed with a rare and incurable neural condition when she was just ten years old, Rosa is confronting mortality. This disease will kill her, and soon... Full Review

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How to be Happy by Eva Woods

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Women's Fiction

Annie had hit rock bottom. Her mother was suffering from early-onset dementia and her marriage was well and truly over. She lived in a damp and depressing tenth-floor ex-council flat and had to share with someone she didn't really know just to afford the rent. And let's not get into the job with Lewisham Council and her colleagues there. Could it get any worse? Well, it looked as though it might when Polly burst into her life. She's one of those irritatingly happy, joyful people who simply won't take no for an answer and she's determined to make Annie happy. Whether she likes it or not. Full Review

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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

They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. These impassioned words belong to Zelie, the firecracker heroine of Tomi Adeyemi's stunning debut YA fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone. Already optioned for a movie it tells the story of the beleaguered Maji people persecuted for their supernatural powers. Once extolled as Diviners, imbued with godlike gifts and marked by their distinctive white hair and dark skin, the Maji have been the victims of genocide which has ripped away the magic of the survivors and cast them into the depths of despair. Considered a threat by the paler skinned ruling class, who fear the unknown, they have been labelled as 'maggots', oppressed, subjugated and classified as second class citizens (a universal theme which invites a comparison with the atrocities of today and the holocausts of the past). As Adeyemi explains, We live in a time where men, women, and children of colour are being dehumanized and oppressed and unjustly murdered. Though my book is an epic fantasy, it's directly tied to all of that pain. Indeed Adeyemi includes scenes reminiscent of the worst ravages of slavery to illustrate that horror and elicit empathy from the reader. Full Review

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Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

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

Sarah, a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany as WWII is about to break out, finds herself alone after her mother is shot as they try to escape the country. She meets a mysterious man and, in a fit of dangerous altruism, saves him from arrest by the soldiers. This reckless act changes everything for Sarah, who finds herself recruited as a spy and sent to infiltrate a girl's school full of the daughters of the great and good of the Reich. Her mission? To befriend the daughter of a nuclear scientist and get access to his research. Sarah might be Jewish but she is also blonde-haired and blue-eyed. But will this be enough to maintain her cover? The tiniest slip could be fatal... Full Review

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Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime (Historical)

Unnthor Reginsson is the uncrowned king of the valley; retired Viking farmer and rumoured owner of a large hoard of gold. He is gathering his clan, a grand reunion after ten years of absence. It is time for strengthening family bonds, feasting, telling tall tales and remembering shared history. Full Review

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Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain

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

Flying tips for flightless birds is a quirky and complex story, told with an elegant simplicity that hooks you from the first few pages. A gentle but gripping exploration of the highs and lows of being a young person, of love, friends and the relationship we have with ourselves and others. Full Review

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The Seer's Curse by J J Faulks

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

Although The Seer's Curse is billed as a pre-teen novel, I would say that it would appeal to a wide audience interested in fantasy and mythology, as well as just a good tale. Full Review

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Marilyn Bennett

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Women's Fiction

Lorraine has one of those voices which makes you stop whatever you're doing so that you can listen properly. She has some disadvantages though. She's a checkout operator for Fresh and Co and frankly it's not the best place to be if you're hoping to be the next big superstar. Her manager is her mother, but that's not quite as much of a disadvantage as you might think as Natalie definitely has Lorraine's best interests at heart and she's street smart. But Lorraine (actually, it's Lolly to her Mum) has one really big advantage too: she sounds just like the superstar she idolises and that lady has been indulging in some illegal substances and needs a body/voice double at pretty short notice. It's the perfect opportunity for Lorraine. Full Review

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Max and the Millions by Ross Montgomery

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

Ten year old Max likes being alone – it's easier than trying to cope with the feedback from his hearing aid when he's surrounded by loud noise or attempting to swivel his head fast enough to lip read when several people are speaking at once. However, when he discovers a civilisation of millions behind the door of the school janitor's room, Max has to learn to lead a team. Max finds a way to communicate with Luke, the tiny boy who's Prince (and almost King) of one of the three tribes now living on the floor of the caretaker's room. Supported by his roommate, Sasha, Max has to find a way to bring the three feuding tribes together and find a safe place for them to live before the school's Headteacher disposes of the little people for good. Full Review

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Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

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

Look closely at the cover of Jonathan Miles's third novel and you'll see the central drama depicted: white wheelchair tracks snake up from the bottom and stop three-quarters of the way from the top, where they are replaced by footprints. On 23 August 2014, wheelchair-bound veteran Cameron Harris stands up and walks outside the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi. In the rest of the novel we find out how he got to this point and what others – ranging from his doctor to representatives of the Roman Catholic Church – will make of his recovery. Was it a miracle, or an explainable medical phenomenon? Full Review

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Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick

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

Templar Silks is a great example of historical fiction done well. It's a fictitious account of William Marshal's time in Jerusalem during the late 1100s during a brief spell of calm before the death of King Baldwin to leprosy in 1185. Elizabeth Chadwick has written a previous book about William Marshal but glossed over this period in his life for lack of research. In this book she goes back to fill in the gaps having spent time studying this particular period of his life. Her main problem, as she acknowledges at the end of the book, is that virtually nothing is known of Marshal's time in Jerusalem. We know when and why he went, we know who the major power players were, we know when he came back and that is about it. So understandably, this book is probably more fiction than history but it is brilliantly written none the less. Full Review

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The Vanishing Season by Johanna Schaffhausen

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

Schaffhausen has been garnering a lot of attention for her first crime novel having already been crowned a First Crime Novel Award Winner by the Mystery Writers of America. My interest therefore was definitely piqued and I was excited to read this book. So, does it live up to all the hype? In a word: yes. I was gripped from the outset (forgive the terrible pun, we are after all dealing with a serial killer who chops off the hands of his victims to keep as trophies!) Full Review

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Girl on Fire by Tony Parsons

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

A drone collides with an air ambulance, the mess falls on a busy shopping centre and we are barely out of the first chapter. DC Max Wolfe's latest adventure looks at religion, radicalisation, hate and paranoia. Without drawing breath we immediately jump to catching those responsible. The rest of the book gradually builds a web of intrigue and a virtual soap opera of family issues. Full Review