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 Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

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

Funny how no one ever uses the word 'love' when discussing my case. I do what I do because she's my mum. That pure and that simple.

Bobby Seed's mum has MS and it's getting worse. Bobby, who is seventeen, shoulders most of her care. And he also keeps house and also looks after his little brother Danny. He gets some help from his best friend Bel, who has her own reasons for spending as much time as possible not at home, but it's still a slog. But Bobby doesn't mind because he loves his mum and they have a wonderful relationship, mostly based on taking the mickey out of each other. Bobby also attends a support group for young carers. It's a bit daft with all the role play exercises and the like, but it's nice to meet other kids in the same boat as you. Especially Lou, the American boy with the weird way of speaking and the Vespa and the air of cool. Bobby can barely keep his eyes off Lou. Full Review


The Old Religion by Martyn Waites

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

The Cornish village of St Petroc isn't on the tourist trail: there's nothing particularly pretty, or historic, or interesting about it, which might be one of the reasons why Tom Killgannon is there. He had been an undercover policeman, but something had gone badly wrong and now he's in witness protection and working in the local pub. St Petroc feels safe and it's put a good deal of distance between him and some very violent people. He's got an on-again, off-again relationship with the local policewoman, with the on-again bits coinciding with the times when her husband's away. It's not an exciting life, but right now it suits Tom just fine. Until he meets Lila, that is. Full Review


The Dragonfly Story: Explaining the death of a loved one to children and families by Kelly Owen

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

The Owen family were feeling sad. There used to be five of them. There was Mum, Dad and three children: Abi, Jenny and Joe. But then Abi died. Now there were only four of them. Life felt very strange without their sister, and they were all very unhappy.

How does a family cope with the loss of a beloved child and sibling? Full Review


Marsha's Deal by Laura Solomon

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

Marsha didn't have an easy ride in life the first time around. She'd been afflicted with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare disease which turned parts of her body to bone when they were damaged. Finally she was unable to stand her life any longer and went to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic. She'd thought that would be the end, but after cremation her body went straight to hell and she found herself face-to-face with the devil. And that was when she made the pact. In exchange for details about some of those who had been close to her - their strengths and weaknesses - she would be reborn on the same day to the same parents, but would live her life free of disease. Full Review

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H Winthrop

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

In an isolated Louisiana town, a young black prisoner sits in his dingy cell, staring at the shadow of the window bars cast onto the concrete wall by the evening's dying sun rays. At midnight, he will be dead; strapped to a chair and electrocuted for the rape of a white girl, who later committed suicide. He is resigned to his fate; it is futile to protest his innocence or to expect anyone to believe what really happened; after all, love between a black man and a white woman was never going to have a happy ending in a small town filled with small-minded people. Full Review


The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was a Mermaid by Tania Unsworth

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

Stella's mother died when she was a little girl. Stella is growing up in a house with her dad, who is often away, and her grandmother, who is starting to experience the onset of dementia. This is all hard enough for a young girl, but at the same time Stella finds that she feels like rather an oddball, struggling to fit in at school, and as her grandmother begins to lose her grip on reality, Stella struggles with feeling very alone. When Stella's only school friend suddenly moves away, Stella struggles even more. She is desperate to find out what happened to her mum and to uncover her family's secrets. Full Review


Ascension by Victor Dixen

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

Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars. Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. She has signed up for glory. She has signed up for love. She has signed up for a one-way ticket. Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets. Full Review


The Toad Who Loved Tea by Faiz Kermani

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

Tungtang is not like other toads. She can't sit still, tongue protruding, and wait to catch a fly. Tungtang needs to be on the move. Sometimes, she even hops right the way over to the rotten tree stump in her community of Muddy River. And she loves to regale her fellow toads with stories of her exploits. That is, until a mean old crow comes along and tells Tungtang that a real adventure would take her a lot further than a tree stump by a bridge everyone knows. Infuriated by the crow and inspired by her grandfather's stories of humans and ancient toad prophecies, Tungtang decides on a Real Adventure and heads off to the town of Little Cobblestone... Full Review


The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

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

The year is 1615 and celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr have been arrested for murder. She is young, beautiful, and a member of the notorious Howard family. He is one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, risen from nothing yet has the King's ear. Both of them are suspected but the crime is not as black and white as it seems. Is Frances an innocent or is she the witch so many believe her to be? Is Robert telling the truth when he says he knows nothing of the murder? In between all these questions is King James I, for it is his secret that is at stake. One of them is a killer, but who has committed the murder in question? Full Review


Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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

My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, Queen of Astrea, and I will endure this. For the last decade, Theodosia has lived at the fragile mercy of her vicious enemies. From the day her beloved country, Astrea, was invaded by the Kalovaxians and her mother, Queen of Flame and Fury, was brutally murdered directly in front of her, she has been forced into a life of submission and desperate survival. Full Review


Falling Short by Lex Coulton

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

Lex Coulton's debut novel is a story about mistakes, failures, and relationships. The main protagonist, Frances Pilgrim, is a sixth form English teacher who has recently fallen out with her best friend Jackson, a work colleague, and is grappling with the increasingly eccentric behaviour of her mother. This relationship is complicated by the fact that Frances's father disappeared at sea when she was five years old. Full Review


The Aladdin Trial by Abi Silver

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

When elderly hospital patient Barbara Hennessy is found dead on the pavement outside the hospital, a police investigation is launched into whether she jumped or was pushed. Having just have surgery on her foot, there is sufficient grounds to think this was no accident, but the only suspect the police can link to the death is the hospital cleaner, a Syrian refugee, Ahmad Qabbani. Solicitor Constance Lamb and barrister Judith Burton reunite to defend Ahmad, but with an uncooperative hospital staff, Barbara's self interested children and Ahmad keeping secrets, it's going an increasingly difficult task to prove to the jury and the media, that he is innocent. Full Review


A Demon In Silver by R S Ford

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

Take a fantasy world where gods once walked the land and magic influenced everything for millennia, where magic was power and the entire world was shaped around its influence. Then, overnight, that power was ripped away, sorcerers' died instantly and magic is never heard of again. Until now. A farm girl from the middle of nowhere has unleashed raw magic and the tribal leaders will stop at nothing to control her, using whatever means necessary. Can anyone save her, or will they need saving from her? Full Review


Lala by Jacek Dehnel and Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

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

This is the mysterious nature of storytelling: the same start can also mean different endings, and different starts can lead to the same finale. It's all subordinate to the greater narrative, which starts somewhere in Kiev. This beautiful book is exactly that, the mysterious art of storytelling. The wayward meanderings of memory, of tangents and digressions, of side notes and elaborations, but above all that of affection; for both the story and the storyteller. What makes us who we are if not our culture and heritage and in this book our narrator re-lives and re-tells the story of his heritage told to him by his grandmother. Full Review


A Thousand Perfect Notes by C G Drews

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

What he wants most in the world is to cut off his own hands. At the wrist would be best.

What child would think such a thing? Beck would think such a thing. The son of a talented pianist who became ill and could no longer play, Beck is the servant of his thwarted mother's ambitions. He must be the pianist now. And Beck's mother - the Maestro - makes him practise for hours every day. If he rebels in any way, his mother's response is violent. But Beck doesn't want to play Chopin. He wants to compose. Forbidden music fills his head but it's an impossible dream. Full Review


In The Blood by Ruth Mancini

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

Bringing up a child on your own is difficult: when that child is severely disabled the obstacles are almost insurmountable and criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman struggles on a daily basis. Ben is nearly five but still can't walk or talk and isn't toilet trained. His main way of communicating is to have a screaming tantrum, but he will watch Teletubbies - for hours on end. She has sympathy with Ellie when she's charged with trying to murder her son, firstly by poisoning him and them by removing the dialysis line with was circulating his blood to clean it. On the face of it there doesn't seem to be a lot of chance of fighting the charge - that's certainly what Sarah's boss thinks - but Sarah isn't quite so certain. Full Review

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Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn

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

Hello, Shadowlands chronicles a booming crime wave in South East Asia. It illuminates everything from the meth industry in Myanmar to the abortion pill black market in the Philippines using both Winn's personal accounts and historical context. It is devastating to imagine the very real human lives that are swept up in this cloud of refuse, and how the West helped create it and is doing nothing to prevent it. Full Review


Hunted by G X Todd

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

Do you not sometimes think a storm is coming?

Hunted continues where the Voices series left off, with our heroine on the run without anyone to defend her whilst the world around her is descending into chaos.

Lacey, barely escaped with her life after the events of Defender and now she's being hunted. By a boy driven by a voice stealing away his sanity piece by piece and by another incapable of speech. Both are determined to find her at all costs and both are building up an army of followers to track her precise location before the other. Full Review