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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A Tiding of Magpies: A Birder Murder Mystery by Steve Burrows

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

DCI Domenic Jejeune's most celebrated case was his rescue of the Home Secretary's daughter when she was kidnapped. It's always been his deep regret that he failed to rescue the man who was kidnapped with her and this has all resurfaced now that the case is being reviewed. Long-buried secrets are bound to come to light, even though the officer reviewing the case, DC Desdemona Gill, is a fan of his to the extent that it's almost embarrassing. The review isn't the only problem he has though: a body has been found on some waste ground, but it's so badly burned that identification is difficult - and made more difficult by the indecision of the Medical Examiner. Full Review

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The Darkness Around Her by Neil White

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

Lizzie Barnsley was escaping from her abusive boyfriend when she was murdered on the canal towpath on New Year's Eve. It obviously wasn't the boyfriend as he was still being held by Lizzie's friends at the pub, but before long Peter Box was arrested and charged. He'd sought treatment at the local hospital for an injury to his head which was the same shape as the heel of Lizzie's shoe - and her blood was on the shoe. Dan Grant was called in to represent Box, but there's a problem. Box won't talk - won't talk to the police or to Grant, so how is he to represent the man? And had Box killed Lizzie? It was obvious that he hadn't known her - so why would he kill her? Full Review

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Blue Sky Black by John Connors

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

When Tom Allenby, the 14 year-old boy who can control the elements, sees metal objects and cars rising into the air one night he knows he is facing a powerful enemy. The trail leads to stolen magnetic stones, sinister experiments in an old country house and a village hiding a secret. As each of his friends faces challenges of their own, can Tom fight a force which knows all about them?

Of course he can! Full Review

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Landslide by Melissa Leet

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

The area where Jill and Susie lived wasn't highly populated so it was fortunate that they became such good friends, despite the fact that Susie was a year older than Jill. Susie lived with her mother, an alcoholic, and Jill lived with her mother, who dedicated herself to her garden. Jill's father was Jay Tutle, the photographer, but he spent much of his time working away - often for months on end. In reality there was little difference between the two families: Mrs Smith's alcoholism caused serious illness whilst Susie was still young. Joy and tragedy would visit Jill's home. Landslide is the story of how what happened determined the course of Jill's life and how great tragedy can breed resilience and hope. Full Review

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The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

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

Have you ever found yourself staring out the window slightly longer than needed to see what your neighbours are up to? This is a common occurrence for Katy Speed who regularly watches 'The House Across the Street' as a frequent stream of women are brought there in the same black hummer and seen leaving a short while later. Although slightly unusual, not much is said aside from your typical neighbourhood gossip, that is until Katy is woken up in the early hours one morning to find out that the same house has been burnt to the ground, along with the woman who lives there. This situation is made a whole lot worse for Katy when her father is arrested for starting the fire. What follows is an engrossing depiction of Katy's quest to prove her father's innocence whilst dealing with her unbearable mother and ultimately having the safety of many people's lives in her hands. Full Review

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A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland

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

Witchcraft, the supernatural and the will to survive at all costs collide in a story that never shies away from the darker side of human nature. The land is unhappy, the old spirits want revenge and famine is kindling a resurgence of the old faith. As fear rises, it is increasingly difficult for Prioress Johanne to ignore that something rotten has taken root. The sacred well is tainted, its healing waters run red with blood and strangers are blowing in on a wind of change. Full Review

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The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

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

Two hundred years ago, bad weather, bad company (well, the kind that is also mad, and dangerous to know), a spooky reading list and a few chance topics of discussion all led a young woman to start writing her first, and definitely her most famous ever, book. The narrator of this novel has brought himself to a remote Alpine building, in the centre of that first novel's world, to revisit it in honour of its bicentenary. He hates it, for he sees it as badly written and with some unwelcome biases. He seems to only be there and doing this for the publisher to whom he addresses a lot of the script we read. But what if some greater force wanted him there too? Full Review

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The Relentless Tide (DCI Daley) by Denzil Meyrick

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

The site was rumoured to have been the home of Viking warlord Somerled so the discovery by Professor Francombe and her team of archaeologists of the graves of three women initially caused great excitement, which rapidly turned to horror when they realised that the women had died just over twenty years ago. The graves would bring some closure though - these were the bodies of the three missing victims of the 'Midweek Murderer' who operated in Glasgow in the early to mid nineties. It was also an opportunity for DCI Jim Daley to confront a failure in his past. He'd been on the original case and the murderer had never been found. He'd also lost a close friend and made some enemies, one of whom would return to taunt him when Police Scotland's Cold Case Unit arrived on the scene. Full Review

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

Yuval Noah HarariIf gave us Sapiens, which told the history of mankind and then Homo Deus which looked at mankind's future. Now we have 21 Lessons for the 21st Century which looks at the challenges we currently face and it's enlightening, thought-provoking and occasionally just a little bit frightening. It's unlikely that mankind will face what - eighty years ago - would have been thought of as a traditional war, with armies, navies and air forces fighting it out hand to hand. It's much more likely that the threats we'll face will be relatively new. Harari looks at them in some depth. Full Review

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Aftershocks by A N Wilson

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

In a country very much like New Zealand, but at the same time most avowedly not, two women will find love. Strong love too, for our narrator will say that her first attraction for her partner was the only thing to make sense of all those exaggerated songs she'd heard, and books and poems she'd read, and plays she'd acted in – works of art that had until then seemed sheer hyperbole. It was entirely unrequited love for quite some time, but it does burgeon, or so we're promised from the off, because of something quite drastic – a major earthquake very much like the one that hit Christchurch, but at the same time most avowedly not. This book then is the combined exploration of the lovers and the story of the quake. Full Review

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The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

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

In a world ravaged by the horrors of the Second World War, two boys and two girls move to the countryside to stay with a professor. They find a secret door and then a strange and enthralling world where they are needed, to play a major role in an epic battle. Sound familiar? Full Review

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The Amber Maze by Christopher Bowden

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

Hugh Mullion goes away to Dorset for the weekend and, while waiting for his wife to arrive, finds a mysterious key down the back of an antique chair. The grubby and torn label to which is attached reads... Full Review

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Worzel goes for a Walk. Will you come too? by Catherine Pickles and Chantal Bourgonje

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

When we last met Worzel Woolface he was a rather frightened dog who had difficulty meeting people. He's a bit better now and something which he really enjoys is going for a walk. It's not just a case of attaching a lead and heading for your favourite spot - there are a lot of other things to think about first. Full Review


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Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

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

Flitting between the present day and mid 16thcentury, Bellewether tells the fascinating tale of the Wilde House and all its inhabitants. In the present tense aspects, the Wilde House is being turned into a museum due to the legacy left by Captain Benjamin Wilde. It is told from the perspective of Charley, the museum curator, who is intrigued by the ghost who haunts the house and their story; a tale that ends in tragedy involving Benjamin Wilde's sister, Lydia, and a French-Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Philippe who was sent to live there. The perspective of the book is continuously shifted between Charley, then Lydia and Jean-Philippe. The latter two tell the truth about what was happening during this chaotic time in history, just as Charley is beginning to unravel it herself. Full Review

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The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure (Legend of Kevin 1) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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

Meet Kevin. He's a flying pony, and he's a little on the plump side. He loves biscuits too much is why, but he's happily living in the middle of nowhere, in the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West. Now meet Max. He's a simple human being, not flying anywhere, and wishing for a pet to share his time in his top-floor flat with, something his Byronically goth sister and parents don't agree with. One night, however, the wild and wet hills are wilder and wetter than usual, and an enormous storm blows Kevin out of his nest, and on to the balcony outside Max's window. The two are bound to become friends, but they might not be able to relax just yet, for the bad weather has not finished… Full Review

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The Murder of Harriet Monkton by Elizabeth Haynes

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

But that's just it, she said. It's not Harriet, is it? Not our Harriet. It's some manufactured creature, that exists only for this blessed inquest: something to be summed up like a spirit, to be examined and pored over, to be sneered at and judged. Harriet deserves to be remembered as she was to us, not picked at like carrion.

And that was the problem: it seemed that there were two Harriets. There was the one her friends - a fellow teacher, her would-be lover, her seducer and the man who was her landlord who was also her lover - knew. Some spoke of her as kindly, virtuous and pious, but that was before her body was found behind the chapel which she regularly attended in Bromley. She'd been poisoned - or had taken her own life. After the inquest was opened another Harriet would emerge, one who was about six months pregnant and who had obviously not been living the chaste life expected of a young, unmarried woman in 1843. Full Review

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You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance

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

Gracie Dart is a studious, responsible student with a colour coded timetable and French verbs covering her walls. She's hardworking and smart but once her final school exams are over, Gracie has a revelation. After she mistakenly thinks she's contracted a fatal illness (the perils of looking up symptoms on the internet) Gracie decides to start living her life. Her studies are finished for the summer so Gracie wants to say yes to every opportunity that comes her way, and just like her meticulous study timetable, Gracie Dart doesn't do anything by half measures. Full Review

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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

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

Sancia Grado is just about to pull off the biggest heist of her fugitive life for more money than she has ever seen before in all her gruelling years on Tevanne's streets. The job: steal a small wooden box from a safe deep inside the Waterwatch-patrolled harbour and deliver it untouched to the client. Fearless and quick, she is the best thief Foundryside has to offer and has never interfered with jobs before. Yet once she has the box in her possession, she can't shake the uneasy apprehensive feeling of what lies within. For Sancia is no ordinary thief, with the magical ability to scrive and understand everything she touches she's about to discover a secret that will sent her fleeing for her life, unearthing myths that are it transpires more truth than fairy-tale. Working against the clock, Sancia will work to save her world and prevent a descent into destruction. Full Review

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What's Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone

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

Sasha has a lot on her plate. Husband Jeremy is distant and absent and the marriage needs work. Son Zac is entering a rebellious adolescent phase and it's hard to know how to redirect him. Mother Annie, an alcoholic, is beginning the journey into dementia and has never been an easy person at the best of times. Thank heavens for her lovely dog, Sebastian, and his unconditional love. Full Review

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A Holiday to Die For by Marion Leigh

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

It was the holiday of a lifetime: Petra Minx was accompanying her childhood friend, Carlo, to his cousin's wedding in South Africa and taking the opportunity to see as much of the country as she could whilst she was there. Petra works for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Carlo is from Interpol, so they're hoping for a holiday free from crime, although Carlo does seem to have rather more interest in diamond smuggling than the average tourist and Petra's boss doesn't seem to appreciate that she's on vacation. It's not asking much for her to track down a young girl who's the daughter of an influential friend and check that she's OK, is it? Then there are Megan and Hilary: they're on a gap year, but Petra can't help but think that they're getting themselves into dangers they don't understand. Still, it's not going to spoil a wedding in a vineyard, is it? The bride does seem strangely uninvolved in the proceedings, though... Full Review