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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Phantom by Leo Hunt

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

Sixteen-year-old Nova is an undercity dweller and a leecher - a futuristic kind of pickpocket who uses tech hacks to steal byts from hapless corps workers. The higher up in the city you live, the more sunlight you see and the easier your life. For leechers like Nova, four hundred storeys below the surface, life is tough. But with the help of the hacking program Phantom, invented by legendary anti-corps hacker the Moth, Nova can sneak up to the city, leech some byts and at least make rent. vFull Review


All the Hidden Truths (Three Rivers) by Claire Askew

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

As a news item, school shootings always terrify me: the deaths are bad enough, but even the young people who survive are always going to be scarred by the fact that this was done to them by one of their number. It doesn't end on the day, either. School shootings cast a very long shadow. May the 14th had the makings of being a normal day until Ryan Summers used three modified starting pistols to shoot thirteen fellow students - and one last bullet to kill himself. We follow the story through the lives of three women: Moira Summers, the mother of the murderer, Helen Birch, the newly-promoted detective inspector who will investigate the killings and Ishbel Hodgekiss, the mother of one of the victims. Full Review


Garrison Girl (Attack on Titan) by Rachel Aaron

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

You want me to be like everyone else and spend my life hiding inside the walls where it's safe, but that's an illusion. So long as there are titans out there… no one is safe

In the dystopian world of Attack on Titan, humanity hides behind the safety of high impenetrable walls to keep out the enemies outside. Known as titans, these enemies are impossibly tall human like creatures, with sharp hungry teeth and regenerative powers. Difficult to kill and innumerable they roam the Earth looking for prey, and whilst the walls have always kept them out, that has begun to change… Full Review


The Island by M A Bennett

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

A contemporary take on the savage classic Lord of the Flies: a group of mismatched, modern-day teenagers must fight to survive on a deserted island. Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad - however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others... Full Review


Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles

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

Reeling from a tragedy and unable to cope, unemployed actor Arlo decides to get on a plane and go somewhere new. Full Review


A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott

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

When Inspector Inès Picaut is called to investigate the horrific murder of a strikingly beautiful elderly lady, she's puzzled – whilst the identity of the woman has been erased, it's clear that she has been killed in the same way that traitors to the resistance were executed in World War Two. Solving the mystery will lead Inès deep into the history of this woman – and back to a time when the men and women of 1940s France were engaged in a desperate, brutal fight for survival against their Nazi oppressors. As more and more secrets come to light, Inès discovers that there are many in the present who would rather their past stay buried – and many who would kill to keep secrets safe… Full Review


The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

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

Tomb Raider meets Indiana Jones within an X-Files episode, for the Youtube era. Join the intrepid (if rather inept) team of internet adventurers as they head out on yet another search for an anomaly only to (spoilers) actually find one. Imagine if, instead of being scared by their own acting, Derek Acorah and Yvette Fielding actually found something; that is the starting point of this book. Deep in a cave within the Grand Canyon our team of adventurers find themselves trapped in a Stephen King plot with added levels of paranoia and conspiracy thrown into the blend. Full Review


The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj

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

Nick is in the middle of wedding preparations when he decides to leave his fiancée behind in London and take up a post in some un-named west African country providing engineering support for the building of a children's hospital. He has no idea what he is getting himself into. Full Review


Beau Death (Peter Diamond Mystery) by Peter Lovesey

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

Children love wrecking balls, so the young lad wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to watch one hit a building through one of those very tempting holes in fencing which you find around building sites. The problem was that when the dust settled a skeleton, sitting in an armchair and clad in clothes which looked to be a few hundred years old, was visible in the loft of the half-demolished building. The lad's father ceased his explanations about kinetic energy and hurried the boy away. Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond was not so lucky. Viewing the corpse from a cherry picker, an unfortunate adjustment to the controls left him eye to, er, eye socket with the corpse and the picture was caught by a press photographer. It was too good not to go viral. Full Review


Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

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

Though it's been 5 years since Mika died, Reiko still sees the ghost of her sister every day, forever 14. It's something that brings her comfort, but also a constant reminder that she has to make up for being one when there should have been two. She has to shine bright enough for both of them. When she befriends outsider Seth, he presents her with an escape. From her family, her friends, the grief and loss that continue to scar them all. Seth is instantly smitten with her. After all, who wouldn't fall for gorgeous, popular Reiko Smith-Mori? But while she falls in love with the escape that he represents from her grief, it's not so clear that she's falling in love with him. Full Review


Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay

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

Samkad is living high up in the mountainous Philippine jungle just as the nineteenth century turns to the twentieth. But Samkad has no idea about any of that. He has never met anyone from outside his own small tribe and his thoughts are focused on becoming a man. He's desperate for the Elders to permit him to join the ranks of the warriors who protect his tribe from their headhunting enemies, even though he knows it will mean leaving his childhood friend Little Luki behind. Full Review


Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

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

Imagine a world in which death was no longer something to fear but something to aspire to. After discovery of the afterlife, the British Empire has extended its reach into Summerland, the Big Smoke for the recently deceased. In 1938 the British Empire is caught up in a race against Soviet spies and dealing with a mole buried deep in the heart of Summerland. When Rachel White, an ambitious SIS agent, becomes suspicious about the potential rogue agent, she must decide how far she is willing to go and how much she is willing to risk to uncover the truth. Full Review


Going To The Last: Short Stories About Horse Racing by K D Knight

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Short Stories

In the opening story a man whose wife has deserted him visits Sandown with little money, but comes away with cash in his pocket - and his wife. In A Grey Day an owner struggles with the problem of whether or not to run his horse in the Gold Cup when the ground is against him. My favourite was The Story of H, the story of Foinavon. H is depicted as a kind horse who only wanted to please people. After changing hands on various occasions he came to the yard of John Kempton. H (or Foinavon) was entered in the Grand National and considered a no-hoper. In one of the most dramatic runnings of the race, a pile up occured at the 23rd fence. Foinavon, who had been many lengths adrift, cleared the fence and galloped to the line, winning the race at odds of 100/1. Full Review


The Frog Who Was Blue by Faiz Kermani

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

Biriwita the blue frog longs to be accepted at Croak College, the most famous school for frogs in Malawi, but the other students all turn their backs on him. He is just too different!

Biriwita hails from Lake Ticklewater. Many creatures find a home there, including frogs. For some reason that nobody can remember, all the Lake Ticklewater frogs are blue. They think nothing of it. So, when Biriwita wins a place at Croak College, the first Ticklewater frog to manage such a feat, he is filled with excitement and his only worry is how much he will miss his friends and family. Full Review


The Survival Game by Nicky Singer

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

Mhairi Anne Bain is fourteen years old and is on her way home to the Isle of Arran. But Mhairi's world has been ravaged by climate change and the mass movement of people and it is one defined by borders, checkpoints and soldiers with guns. Mhairi has made it across Africa and onto a plane to Heathrow - which is more than can be said for Muma and Papa. She's even made it out of the detention centre at the airport. And during this journey, Mhairi has learned that you can't rely on anyone else and you can't allow anyone else to rely on you... Full Review


The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

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

Audrey, a complex mix of flights of fancy and seriousness, wanting, needing, to be more than what everyone expects of her, escapes from the straightjacket of her home. Where every action, every thought, every yearning is controlled by her father, who only once in his life threw caution to the wind and married way beneath him for love. Now a widower and remarried, he has rigorously returned to upholding what is right, what is proper, the bastion of doing what is expected. Full Review


Four by Andy Jones

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

Friends are nice, and couple friends are doubly nice, giving you like minded people to spend time with. A pair of pairs, or a couple of couples. Married couple Sally and Al have known Mike for ages – Sally from university, Al through work. His new girlfriend Faye completes their foursome and though she doesn't have their shared history, she's a lot of fun – a bit younger than the rest of them, an actress and so on. Full Review


An Italian Summer by Fanny Blake

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

Set against the backdrop of Rome and Naples, ten very different people meet on a small 'Taste of Italy' sightseeing trip. This is a story of family, friendships and relationships – my favourite. However, it was a departure from the usual formulaic chicklit I normally read focused on sassy independent female characters in their twenties or thirties. Here the characters are middle-aged with children in their twenties and rather than looking for love they are facing different life challenges of maintaining love, empty nest syndrome, and the loss of loved ones. Essentially it is a story of breaking out and new beginnings. Full Review


Believe Me by J P Delaney

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

Claire Wright wanted to be an actress, but she was penniless and living in New York. She might have had a scholarship to cover her school fees, but she still had to find the money to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. There was a solution, although it didn't provide a regular income: she became a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. The job was to trap straying husbands and tape them as they propositioned her. There were rules though: she couldn't hit on them directly - they had to proposition her. There was no intention to trap the innocent. Full Review