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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I Can't Tell You Why by Elaine Robertson North

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

When we first meet Dani she's about to get an offer that would appear to be all too easy to refuse. She's Alex Cambridge's agent and the indications are that he's about to make the big time. He's good looking, charismatic and appealing - well, he's an actor so that's part of the spec - but his suggestion that he and Dani should start a relationship is hedged by a statement that he's got no intention of leaving his wife and three children. So, what's in it for Dani? No, there's no need to answer that. Dani understands the situation all too well and tells him so. Full Review


Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

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

Bridie, or Little Bird as she prefers to be known, is a crofter's daughter living on the remote Scottish island of Tornish. Life is hard but often happy even though Little Bird struggles with the disability of a wasted arm and leg and often misses her mother, who died some time ago. Despite this, Little Bird has a warm and loving father, sisters to watch over her, a good friend in Will and a laird for whom she is a particular favourite. Little Bird knows every inch of her windswept, savagely beautiful island. Full Review


The Dragon's Harvest by Jason F Boggs

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

Young Nelson Jones was a young and gifted military cadet in the fascist new world order called the 'New Era'. As his experiences led him on a path of conflict and self-discovery, he became a changed man. Picking up 20 months after the events of The Devil's Dragon, Nelson is on an expedition to uncover the mystery of the sungates, when a terrible secret leads to horrifying discoveries for all involved. Meanwhile, the humans and the Aesini fight for their very existence, as Nelson's nemesis, Major Ira Billis, finds a terrifying new ally in a quest to restore the New Era to glory. As Nelson and his friends race against the clock in order to defeat this new threat, they find themselves facing a power beyond imagination… Full Review


Whiteout (Red Eye) by Gabriel Dylan

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

Are you up for a sleepless night or two? If so, read on!

Charlie is on a school trip, skiing in the Austrian mountains. He's not having much fun. A miserable home life has given Charlie a bad attitude reputation and he's not a popular kid. Charlie tends to go off by himself - not always a safe thing to do if you're staying in a ski resort - and this is what brings him into contact with one of the ski guides, Hanna. Hanna herself doesn't have the happiest backstory and this forms a connection between them. Full Review


Completely Perfect: 120 Essential Recipes for Every Cook by Felicity Cloake

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

It's a novel concept for a cookery book: these are not Felicity Cloake's recipes but the best ones she found to do a particular job - the job of delivering the best meal, the Completely Perfect meal of the title. Think of it as the equivalent of a comparison site for when you want to renew the car insurance and then taking the best elements out of each recipe to make perfection. There's nothing cutting edge here: it's the sort of food which we've been eating for decades and probably will be for decades to come. There's a reason for that: roast chicken followed by apple crumble works and providing that you don't have a vegetarian or a vegan at table, it's a meal which is unlikely to do other than go down well. Full Review


The Man Who Came to London by A S Cookson

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

In 1948, the first set of Caribbean nationals arrived in Great Britain on a ship called "Empire Windrush". They struggled to find housing. They worked as labourers. They faced open discrimination, forcing them to quickly form their own community. Decades later, Freddy makes the same journey.

Does he find a place to live? Does he face stereotypes? Has Britain moved forward?

Freddie arrives in London in the early 2000s, answering the call for teachers. He thinks about his own Jamaican education, based on the British system, and the way he was taught English nursery rhymes and about the River Thames. He thinks about the love of cricket and football, shared by both countries. And he thinks of the generations of the diaspora who came before him. Freddy does well in his job in East London but he does have to face down some stereotypical attitudes from his pupils - all Jamaicans smoke weed, don't they? Everybody knows that! Full Review


Red Snow by Will Dean

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

Life in the small town of Gavrik is trying to return to normal, following the grim events of Dark Pines. As Tuva prepares to move on from both the death of her mother and her small hometown, she is drawn into another dark investigation. One suicide, and one murder. Are they connected? With black liquorice coins covering the murdered man's eyes, the hashtag #ferryman starts trending, and the local people stocking up on ammunition. With only a fortnight to investigate before moving to the South, Tuva is further troubled by a blizzard that descends on the town, cutting Gavrik off from the larger world. Desperate to stop the killer, Tuva must go delve deep into the heart of the community – but who's to say the Ferryman will let her go? Full Review


Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

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

This is a story about the past. A specific past, certainly, in the form of pre-war Budapest, but also a story about how that past can impact on the present and the future. In this book, the first of three Magda Szabó wrote on the same theme between 1969 and 1987 and now newly translated and reissued, we witness a heart-rending nostalgia for happier days, guilt about those who did not survive, and a dogged but doomed determination to cling to long-gone times, feelings and experiences which mark the here and now, staining and warping it into another, subtler misery. Full Review


The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

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

The Winter of the Witch is the conclusion of the story following Vasya, Vasilisa Petronova, as she negotiates her way towards her destiny through the world of medieval males and the Catholic Church's perception of witchcraft. The story picks up directly from the action in the second novel, The Girl in the Tower, and as a reader too much is lost if you haven't read this at the very least. My advice would be to read all three. The first two novels are beautiful and lyrical with extraordinary characters and a wonderful balance of magic and action. This final novel, however, is an absolute triumph. Full Review


Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson

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

Ro Snow spends her time at school trying to pass under the radar. She doesn't want anyone to notice her, because then they might start asking questions, or they might want to be friends, and she can't have any friends because she can't ever have anyone come over to her house. You see, Ro's mum is a hoarder, and their whole house, with the exception of Ro's bedroom, is an ever-growing mound of rubbish and paper, and Ro lives in fear of social services finding out and taking her away. Full Review


The Boy in a Turban by Joseph Hucknall

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

You might not think that Georgian London contained many black people. But it contained more than you think. You may have heard of Francis Barber, the black African slave who became the friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson and was a beneficiary of his will. The Boy in a Turban tells the story of a fictional black character, James, in Georgian London. James, then Quaccoe, is brought to the capital from a Jamaican plantation by a ship captain who wanted a servant for his two daughters. Full Review


Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber Lee Dodd

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

Named after two famous female explorers, Amelia Hester McLeod loves to listen to stories of exciting adventures, but when it comes to being brave herself she finds it very difficult. She lives on a small Scottish island with her dad and her grandad, and spends her time daydreaming about where her adventurous mother might be off exploring. When her mum had lived with them, she had home-schooled Amelia, and her dad and grandad tried to continue that for a while. But now her dad has decided it's time for Amelia to go to school on the mainland. Amelia is afraid - afraid of having to make new friends, afraid of being picked on because of her problems with reading, and afraid of what's happening to her since she went and made a wish on a mysterious rock in the sea… Full Review


Dead Heat (A Harry Radcliffe Mystery) by Glenis Wilson

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

Of course it wasn't champion jackey Harry Radcliffe's fault, but that didn't stop him feeling guilty. His attempts to solve the murder of prostitute Alice Goode had left his estranged wife, Annabel and her partner, Sir Jeffrey in danger and it was Harry who had urged them to get away as quickly as possible for the sake of themselves and their unborn child. It would be quite a while before he woke in hospital to find that Jeffrey and Annabel had been involved in a serious car accident. It looked as though Jeffrey would be in a wheelchair for life and Annabel had lost the baby. On top of that there was horsebox driver John Dunston's apparent suicide. Full Review


All the Lonely People by David Owen

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

Kat and Wesley are both loners, looking for places to fit in. Kat finds this with online communities, where she feels like she can be her true self - a feminist, an activist, someone who isn't scared to speak out. Wesley's desire to feel a sense of belonging sees him fall in with an altogether nastier crowd. Bullies, trolls, extremists. When he pulls the final trigger on a violent, targeted online bullying campaign, Kat is forced to delete her entire online presence. Bereft of everything that represented her identity, Kat's physical self starts to fade as well. As the entire world slowly forgets that Kat ever existed, only Wesley seems to remember the girl whom he erased. Wesley is faced with a choice: get sucked further into a sinister alt-right movement or help Kat to stop them. Full Review


Keep Your Health and Fitness For Life: Don't Let Age Be A Barrier by Stuart Roberts

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

My birth certificate might suggest a higher figure, but I know that I'm only 42. I learned a long time ago that I could retain that feeling by keeping my life in balance. This meant eating sensibly, getting quality sleep and having regular exercise which I enjoyed. There was an added bonus too: I was juggling four chronic conditions and living this way meant that I could keep three of them in the background. Then a silly mis-step meant that the hip problem flared up. The only way I could get more than an hour or two asleep was to take pain relief and the duodenal ulcer started to complain. Because I was masking symptoms I didn't dare to exercise - and the black dog of depression prowled along behind me. Full Review


Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox

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

In a hotel in Cairns, a group of 7 grown ups go for dinner, leaving their 4 children upstairs in a hotel room. When they return, only 3 children remain. Wow, that's all a bit…familiar. But the resemblance to the McCann case ends there, in many ways. Parents may be suspects and judgements may be made of their choice to leave the children unsupervised, but beyond that this is not the same story, not least because by the end of this book we do know once and for all what happened to Richie. Full Review


The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Martha's world has changed. Blind in one eye after falling from a tree, she wakes with a disturbing gift. She can read people through their clothes, secrets tumble from the weave, revealing insights she doesn't really want, and knowledge she doesn't understand. She flees to her grandmother, Mormor's cabin, seeking answers no one is prepared to give, and stumbles into world of menace. Full Review


Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson

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

Life in London isn’t always glam, especially if you’re young and underpaid. For Lizzie it’s all a bit of a balancing act. She has a nice home but it technically belongs to her room-mate’s parents. She works in the entertainment industry, but her job itself is probably not one you’d covet. She doesn’t have much spare time, but that’s because she’s been working through some self-improvement. If they could only see her now. And, well, actually, they can, although there’s a lot less of her to see than there once was. But yes, she doesn’t really have much time for the past and the people from it. Full Review