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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Exit Day: Brexit; An Assassin Stalks the Prime Minister by David Laws

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

At the time of my writing this, there is one thing uniting Britain, and this is hatred of 'Brexit'. Not just Brexit, but use of the word 'Brexit'. Yes, people hate the people that instigated it then disappeared, and/or the people who just can't seem to get their fingers out and complete it, but they also hate the use of the word. This biggest turn-off has made people who have never so much as tutted in their life slam down their tea-cups in high dudgeon and leave the room until it's safe to return, when all mention of it has subsided. I mention this in relation to this book because it is partly about Brexit, but because it too seems to get to the actual Brexiting in a very protracted manner. Just as we have to wade through dirges from Europe to get anywhere, it seems, so the reader of this book has to get through a lot from Europe before the title's theme really arises. Here, at least though, the author's delaying tactics are much more forgiveable. Full Review

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The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain

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

When Barbara Hummel arrives, determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother's possessions, Dora and Joe find their worlds upended – and are swiftly forced to confront their pasts. Revisiting their time on the Channel Islands during World War II, Dora remembers a time when she concealed her Jewish identity, and Joe, a Catholic Priest, remembers a time when he hid something very different. In this story of love, loss and betrayal, it remains to be seen whether a speck of light can diffuse the darkest shadows of war… Full Review

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Painting Snails by Stephen John Hartley

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

It's very difficult to classify Painting Snails: originally I thought that as it's loosely based around a year on an allotment it would be a lifestyle book, but you're not going to get advice on what to plant when and where for the best results. The answer would be something along the lines of 'try it and see'. Then I considered popular science as Stephen Hartley failed his A levels, did an engineering apprenticeship, became a busker, finally got into medical school and is now an A&E consultant (part time). I found out that there's an awful lot more to what goes on in a Major Trauma Centre than you'll ever glean from Casualty, but that isn't really what the book's about. There's a lot about rock & roll, which seems to be the real passion of Hartley's life, but it didn't actually fit into the entertainment genre either. Did we have a category for 'doing the impossible the hard way'? Yep - that's the one. It's autobiography. Full Review

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The Haven: Book 1 by Simon Lelic

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

When Ollie and Nancy, the police officer tasked with guarding our young hero, are abducted in the middle of the night, things take a dangerous turn. Rescued by Dodge, Ollie is taken to the Haven, a secret underground community based in a network of underground tunnels that the London above ground knows nothing about. Here, children work together to battle great evils. And there is an immediate enemy to fight. Ollie would have been the hundredth victim of Maddy Sikes had he not been rescued. And Maddy intends to destroy the city. Full Review

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The Things That are Lost by Alan Kennedy

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

The final novel in Alan Kennedy's WW2 trilogy sees Captain Alex Vere taken off active duty and banished to Scotland, providing trade craft spy training. It's stifling and suffocating and feels as much like a prison to Alex as anything the Germans would provide. And where is Justine? Alex hasn't seen her since he went to that disastrous meeting with John Cabot, instigator of the disinformation campaign, and returned to find her missing. A failed mission is one thing but no Justine is quite another. Alex can't get Justine out of his head. Has she left the service? Does she know too much? Is she even still alive? Full Review

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Song of the Dead (DI Westphall) by Douglas Lindsay

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

A man walked into a police station in Estonia. He told a tale of having been held prisoner, used as a donor for organ harvesting and sperm donation. X-rays and medical examination bear out this part of his story, but this man, or the man he says he is - John Baden - died twelve years ago. His body was identified by his partner, Emily King and by his parents - and then the body was buried. So, who is this man? DI Ben Westphall is sent to Estonia because of his background in MI6, but that brings some baggage with it too. Westphall cannot, will not, get on a plane. His last experience of flight was more than enough for one lifetime. Full Review

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A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

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

No Widdershins girl has ever been able to leave Crowstone. If we do, we'll die by the next sunset.

A Pinch of Magic follows three sisters – Betty, Fliss and Charlie – who have lived on the isle of Crowstone, infamous for its surrounding marshes and the neighbouring inescapable prison, for their entire lives. The middle sister, Betty, has longed for adventure for as long as she can remember and she is determined that nothing and no-one will prevent her from seeing everything that the world has to offer. But in setting out to do just that, she and her sisters discover a deadly curse which has haunted their family for generations. From their ancestors, as well as a lifetime trapped on Crowstone, they have each inherited a magical object – an old carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls and an antique handheld mirror – all of which are more than meets the eye and could possibly be the key to their problem. Full Review

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Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

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

Evie Carter's husband was shot dead in his own home and she was found with the gun in her hands. Was this a domestic dispute which had got out of hand? Was it pregnancy hormones running rampant? Detective D D Warren recognised Evie immediately. It might have been sixteen years ago, but there's no mistaking the teenager who had accidentally shot and killed her father: 'a tragic accident' everyone said, as there was no doubt about the love the two had for each other. D D had no worries at the time, but just how many gun accidents can one woman have - or is Evie about to get away with murder again? Full Review

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The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder

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

After a big blow-up fight with her mum, Emily is left alone with her dad. Her mum has gone away on some strange job (even though Emily didn't think her mum even had a job) and so she is not quite sure what is going on. Things turn even stranger still when her dad goes off to find her mum, and then doesn't come back. She heads out to investigate and discovers a strange, secret world called the Midnight Hour, which seems to be London during Victorian times, and is full of magical beings (and monsters!) What were her parents doing here? And will she be able to find them and rescue them, so her life can go back to normal? Full Review

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Gallowstree Lane by Kate London

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

Spencer was just fifteen years old when he stepped out into a London Street and asked a complete stranger for help, begging him not to let him die. The stranger was an off-duty paramedic but even his skills were insufficient to save Spence. Just one of those things you might, think. Tragic, but teenage boys seem to be getting stabbed on the streets of London all the time. His friend Ryan was with Spence when he was stabbed. It was Ryan who called the ambulance on the paramedic's instruction, sobbing as he held the phone. But Ryan wasn't prepared to accept that it was just one of those things. He wanted revenge. Full Review

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How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Ece Temelkuran

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

A little while ago a friend asked me if I thought that we were living through what in years to come would be discussed by A level history students when faced with the question Discuss the factors which led to... I agreed that she was right and wasn't certain whether it was a good or bad thing that we didn't know what all 'this' was leading to. I think now that I do know. We are in danger of losing democracy and whilst it's a flawed system I can't think of a better one, particularly as the 'benevolent dictator' is as rare as hen's teeth. Full Review

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A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

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

They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances. Seventeen year old Hannah Gold was born mature – or so her parents tell her. She has dined in fancy restaurants, explored the most sophisticated corners of the globe and lived a life of luxury. Full Review

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When You Read This by Mary Adkins

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

Smith Simonyi and Iris Massey worked together for four years, during which time Iris left her husband at the altar on their wedding day. Smith, meanwhile, relied on Iris, but his attention was on making enough money to cover his mother's nursing home fees in Wisconsin, running the branding agency in New York and losing money gambling when the pressures got too much for him. He was devastated when Iris developed a terminal cancer and died at the age of thirty three. He was surprised too when he discovered that Iris had been writing a blog in the last six months of her life and her final request of Smith is that he gets the blog published as a book. Full Review

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The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

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

This is an epic love story spanning ten years of 'will they, won't they'. Stephanie and Jamie are 'meant to be'. When they meet on an art course they have an instant strong connection but both are with other people. However, what I loved was that it's not a 'typical boy meets girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after' story. In fact far from it, without wanting to give too much away, the ending was both refreshingly unexpected and achingly poignant. Full Review

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Good Mood Food: Unlock the Power of Diet to Think and Feel Well by Charlotte Watts and Natalie Savona

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

I thought I was getting a cookbook: I liked the idea of a series of recipes which would make me feel happy. For once this isn't a case of 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is' - it's a case of getting something which could change your life for the better - for good - rather than a quick fix. Full Review

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The Last by Hanna Jameson

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

Jon Keller is in a hotel in Switzerland in the remote countryside when the world ends. He has no idea if his family is alive, he has no idea what's going on in the nearest city, or if the nearest city has been obliterated. Shocked, amid the mass hysteria and exodus, Jon decides to stay at the hotel rather than attempt to get to the airport and home. He's not alone, twenty other people also stay and gradually form a small community. One day, when helping the hotel manager, Jon finds the body of a girl deemed to have been killed before the world ended. The community descends into a deep mistrust as Jon becomes fixated on finding this girl's killer and finding the truth about what is possibly the last community on earth. Full Review

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Deviation by Luce d'Eramo and Anne Milano Appel (translator)

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

For those of you who have read books of life in the Nazi camps – and of course, for those of you who have not – this can be considered a next step. It begins, after all, with someone escaping Dachau and fleeing her work assignment during a bombing raid, and you'd not blame her one minute, as her career was deemed to be cess-tank cleaner and sewage unblocker by the Germans. In Munich, she stumbles on help to get her to what seems to be a camp for non-native civilians to look for work, or company, or transport elsewhere, either official or otherwise. But then the next chapter sees her going back into the camp next to Dachau once more, and by then eyebrows are being raised. Full Review

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Fast-track the I.T Journey - How to move from Supplier to Partner by Alok Ranjan Tripathy

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Business and Finance

So, what brought me to this book? As the owner of a small business and a buyer of IT services I should be the senior partner in the relationship with my suppliers, but I've frequently found myself the junior partner and I've regularly been let down by them. I needed to know where I could improve that relationship and, by looking at the situation from the supplier's point of view, what steps I needed to take. Alok Tripathy's book looked as though it might provide help and possibly some of the answers as to how my suppliers could better help me. Full Review

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

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

Harper's life is pretty disastrous at the moment, through no fault of her own. Her mother has cancer and not long to live. Her father has scarpered but not taken his debts with him. And her brother is forever getting into trouble. But Harper soldiers on nonetheless, despite coping with her own cerebral palsy. One day, she sees an attempted abduction of young girl and intercedes, only to find herself kidnapped in the girl's place. But even an imaginative girl like Harper couldn't have guessed where she was being taken... Full Review


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Loved to Bits by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson

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

Loved to Bits is the heartwarming story of a boy's love for his bear. Bear's adventures with boy take him to all kinds of places and together they fight and defeat every obstacle put in their way, from the jungle to the sea. Inevitably mishaps occur on the way . The loss of an arm, a leg, an ear or an eye are nothing to Stripy Ted who shrugs off all injuries with a cheery don't worry, I've got one more. But boy loves him just as he is and won't hear of him being mended. His place, after all, is in Boy's bed. Full Review