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 Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

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

Tension exists among the kingdoms surrounding the Pitorian Sea, and peace is definitely not on everyone's agenda. Instead power is sought by force, and political manoeuvring of the worst kind sees families torn apart and innocent victims swept up in the fallout. This story of warring nations is fast moving from page one, and the main characters, who move between kingdoms, face challenge after challenge. There are five separate story lines, each led by a colourful and interesting character, and Sally Green weaves them together beautifully like a tapestry as their paths cross and their lives intertwine. Full Review


Precept: A Novel by Matthew de Lacey Davidson

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

Nathan Whyte is tremendously excited about the arrival of Frederick Douglass in Ireland. And even more excited that his Quaker father, who is publishing the British edition of Narrative, Douglass's memoir of his life as a slave, will be accompanying the famous black American abolitionist on his speaking tour. Nathan is deeply impressed by Douglass, who is a charismatic figure and a gifted orator. But Ireland will have as big an impact on Frederick Douglass as Frederick Douglass will have on it. We watch him through Nathan's eyes as he sees for himself the beginnings of the horrors of the potato famine and meets and befriends the famous Irish nationalist, Daniel O'Connell. Full Review


The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz

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

When we first visit the Chiesa di Santa Maria we're in the company of Molly Cavendish who is a part-time guide at the Museo di Santa Maria, which is what the ruins of the Chiesa - a chapel - have now become. Crowds flock to see its centrepiece, a renaissance fresco with a history which grabs the attention of young and old. Molly uses the history to entertain the tourists, but there's more too it than she knows, particularly as the history of the building is also the history of the Vannini family, who helped in building the chapel some six hundred years ago and one of whose descendants is the director of the museum. Full Review


Falling Leaves by Stefan Mohamed

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

When your best friend vanishes, how can you begin to move on? How can you live your life not knowing whether they're okay? And what would you do if they reappeared in your life? – all questions that Vanessa faces every day, even seven years after her best friend Mark vanished. When he reappears, she's shocked not only by his presence back in her life, but also by the fact that he hasn't aged a day – for him, no time has passed since his disappearance. Shocked, confused and emotionally reeling, Vanessa must return to her home town in order to help Mark find the answers he so desperately craves. But what's waiting for them is far more surprising than either of them could ever have dreamt… Full Review


Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto

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

Nickerbacher is doing his dragonly duty as all dragons do. That dragonly duty is, of course, princess-guarding. That's what dragons are for, after all. But Gwendolyn isn't any princess. She finds the whole princessing thing quite boring really and she is much less interested in fairy tales than she is in watching comedy on The Late Knight Show. Nickerbacher likes The Late Knight Show too - in fact, it's his favourite TV show because he wants to be a stand-up comedian himself. He tries out his jokes on Princess Gwendolyn but they don't always come off quite as Nickerbacher intended. Full Review


How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

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

Imagine a world without bees. Not just how nice it would be to eat jam sandwiches in the garden without having the little yellow and black torpedoes attacking you - really imagine it. No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no new plants. No new plants, no food. Simple. So, if those pesky chemicals we use kill off practically every bee in the world, humans will have to take over their work. Children, in fact, because you need small, nimble fingers to work those tiny feathers full of pollen into the flowers and turn them into delicious fruits. Full Review


Turn a Blind Eye by Vicky Newham

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

DI Maya Rahman is just back from Bangladesh and she should be on compassionate leave as she went there to bury her brother after he committed suicide. Instead of grieving at home and getting over her jet lag she's pitched straight into a murder investigation as a new member of staff discovers the body of popular headteacher Linda Gibson in her study at Mile End High School. Her hands are bound and beside her strangled body is a card with a Buddhist precept: I shall abstain from taking the ungiven. It's the second of five precepts and Maya is worried that there's been a murder that hasn't been spotted - and that there will be more deaths. Full Review


The Chocolate Factory Ghost (The Dundoodle Mysteries) by David O'Connell

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

Archie McBudge is sitting in the of Honeystone Hall with his mother. And a lawyer called Mr Tatters has some important information for Archie. A great uncle he has never heard of has died and Archie is his sole heir. This means that Honeystone Hall now belongs to Archie. But that isn't all - this young boy is now sole owner of Scotland's premier sweets giant: McBudge's Fudge and Confectionery Company... Full Review


Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

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

When I read the blurb for this book, I found myself instantly interested in its premise of two people trying to start their lives again following serious life changes. The book did not disappoint. Full Review

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A Shimmer of Hummingbirds by Steve Burrows

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

Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune is on a birding trip to Colombia: well it's ostensibly a birding trip, but the reality is that he's trying to establish what really happened in the manslaughter case which has left his brother a fugitive. It's a difficult situation as the police force don't want him to do this and the Colombian authorities are understandably reluctant, but Jejeune has always been a law unto himself. Meanwhile in Saltmarsh on the North Norfolk coast there's been a brutal murder of a woman, and DI Marvin Laraby, Jejeune's nemesis, has been drafted in to replace Jejeune during his absence. How's that going to work out? Full Review


I Stop Somewhere by T E Carter

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

Ellie has to change schools. It's a chance for renewal and Ellie sets to work to make the most of it. She doesn't want to be homecoming queen or anything - she just wants to fit in without anyone noticing that she's a bit too curvy and doesn't have the money to buy fashionable clothes. With the help of a neighbour, Kate, she manages it pretty well. And so, when Caleb notices her, tells her she's beautiful, Ellie can almost believe it. But there's something not quite right about Caleb. He blows hot and cold and his smile doesn't quite meet his eyes. But it's nice to be wanted and so Ellie ignores the warning signs... Full Review

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Lady Mary by Lucy Worsley

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

Lady Mary chronicles the famous story of Henry VIII's love affair with Anne Boleyn, his divorce from Katherine of Aragon, Anne's execution for adultery, and Henry's subsequent marriage to Jane Seymour, which finally produces the much longed for birth of a male heir. This time, the story is told through the eyes of an important but often neglected player - Henry's young daughter, Mary. Mary's hopes of her family staying together are crushed by the divorce and she is treated terribly by a father under the influence of the Boleyn faction. Lady Mary follows her through these awful years and you can't help but root for the little girl stuck in the middle of these tumultuous events. Full Review

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The Wolf by Leo Carew

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

Travel to a world that is familiar and yet utterly different. We are in a version of ancient Britain with enough landmarks to make us feel at home yet it is a smoked glass. North of the river Abus we have the Anakim, a race that isn't quite human; they are something more. The Anakim are virtual giants and their ribs are not cages but bone breastplates instead. Below the Abus are the Sutheners, humans. Theirs is an ancient grudge and one where blood is spilled frequently in pitched battle. Unfortunately it is rare when humans are involved for things to be straightforward and the same is true here. On both sides politics and machinations complicate the quests for glory. With the Anakim we have a boy coming to power and vying with the greatest warrior in the land for the throne. Amongst the Sutheners we see a commoner having the temerity to lead an army alongside his betters. Both battles are as interesting as the war itself. Full Review

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

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

My house has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning, it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we've been living.

Ok. I dare you to tell me that you don't want to read a story about a house with chicken legs. There is no way anyone could resist. I certainly couldn't! Marinka lives in this chicken-legged house with her grandmother, Baba Yaga, whose job it is to guide dead people through The Gate. But Marinka is lonely. The house, her grandmother and Marinka never stay anywhere long enough for Marinka to make any friends. And Marinka is determined to change this. But the chicken-legged house has its own agenda... Full Review

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Pandora's Boy by Lindsey Davis

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

Relax, die-hard fans of Falco and his spirited British daughter Albia. Rome continues to be as splendid and as sordid as it ever was, the crimes committed are as complex and intriguing, and our heroine just as determined and cynical, with that light dusting of humour which made tales of her father's exploits so engaging. Newcomers to the series need not fear, by the way: each book contains just enough background detail to make you feel immediately at home. This time, despite some serious misgivings, Albia is investigating the sudden death of a fifteen-year-old girl, described as bright, affectionate and popular. Was she poisoned by an illegal love-potion, or did she die of a broken heart? Full Review Full Review


When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth

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

My fingers come away deep red. My breath catches. Blood. I wipe my shaky hands on my trousers. There's a leopard out there, injured. And I have to find it before they do.

Two months earlier, Ruby's dad had dropped a bombshell. They were moving from Australia to India, where her father had got a job at a hotel in the mountains. It was to be a new start and it would help both Ruby and her father get over the death of her mother. Ruby wasn't so sure about that and didn't get more optimistic on arrival - to find a rundown building full of scary corners in a place where the dark is really dark and the wildlife includes scorpions, bears and, well, you get the picture. Ruby has struggled since her mother died and it pretty much feels as though her father has brought her a place that makes everything worse... Full Review


Me Mam. Me Dad. Me by Malcolm Duffy

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

It was the day the clocks went back. That's when I decided to kill him.

I is fourteen-year-old Danny. Him is Danny's stepfather Callum. Up until a year ago, it was just Danny and Mam. They lived in a damp, cold council flat and didn't have much money to spare, but things were pretty good. Danny and his Mam got on well, they saw a lot of their lovely extended family, and Danny not only had mates but even a girlfriend, Amy. But a lot has changed. They're now living in Callum's posh house and Danny gets holidays and plenty of Christmas presents. Great, right? Full Review