Book Reviews From 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 Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

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

Aimee Sinclair is just on the edge of making it big time as an actor. Right now she's the sort of person whom you think you know but can't quite remember where from, but that's all about to change. That's a little worrying for Aimee as life has changed for her before and she knows that she's not really Aimee Sinclair, she's Ciara: Aimee is simply the name she was forced to take when she was snatched as a child. That's not at the front of her mind though when she comes home one day and finds that her husband, Ben Bailey, has disappeared. Disappeared completely. Along with considerable funds from their current account Full Review


Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

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

In an alternate 1952, Soviet Troops control British Streets. After D-Day goes horribly wrong, Britain is first occupied by Nazi Germany – only to be rescued by Russian soldiers from the East, and Americans from the west. Dividing the nation between them, London soon finds itself split in two, a wall running through it like a scar. When Jane Cawson's husband is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Jane is determined to clear his name. In doing so, Jane follows a trail of corruption that leads her right to the highest levels of the state – and soon finds herself desperate to stay one step ahead of the murderous secret police… Full Review


Not My Fault by Cath Howe

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

Maya and Rose won't talk to each other. Even though they are sisters. Not since the accident. Maya is turning wild and Rose doesn't know what to do. And now Maya and Rose have to go away together on a week-long school trip. Will the trip fix their sibling bond... or break it for good? Full Review


We Are Blood And Thunder by Kesia Lupo

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

In a sealed-off city, a young woman, Lena, is running for her life. She has been sentenced to death and her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear - those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. Years ago she escaped before her own powers were discovered. But now she won't hide who she is any longer.

So, Lena is a cryptling - a low caste individual living in the city of Duke's Forest.Full Review


Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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

A child has gone missing. The detective asked to take on the case is still struggling with the shame and frustration left by a previous case, where the child was not found in time. Hardly original themes for a private eye thriller. And yet . . . take another look. This detective is a woman, and the setting is Victorian London, with all the rich and colourful paradoxes of that era: technical and scientific progress jostling for space beside superstition and a fascination with the bizarre and the downright hideous. And before you're more than a couple of pages in, you realise just how much more unusual our heroine is than you expected. Bridie Devine may dress in half-mourning, with a widow's cap and stout, shiny boots, but the tobacco she smokes in her pipe (my dear, what an utterly fast thing for a lady to do!) is mixed with a nugget of something, well, let's say recreational, created by her chemist friend Prudhoe. The fact that it's actually meant to cure bronchial problems is by the by. Her housemaid, being seven foot tall, is also somewhat remarkable. And then, of course, there's the ghost. Ruby Doyle, world famous tattooed boxer (deceased) accompanies Bridie all through her investigation, and it's clear he has a soft spot for the determined young woman. If he really exists, that is. Full Review


Beneath the World, A Sea by Chris Beckett

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

South America, 1990. Ben Ronson, a British police officer, arrives in a mysterious forest to investigate a spate of killings of Duendes. These silent, vaguely humanoid creatures - with long limbs and black button eyes - have a strange psychic effect on people, unleashing the subconscious and exposing their innermost thoughts and fears. Ben becomes fascinated by the Duendes, but the closer he gets, the more he begins to unravel, with terrifying results... Full Review


Where the Dead Fall (DI Ridpath, Book 2) by M J Lee

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

It really shouldn't have happened. DI Ridpath, conscious that his relationship with his wife and child is hanging by a thread, is off to collect them at his mother-in-law's house for an evening out. Traffic was heavy on the M60 (a match at Old Trafford wasn't helping) but it was moving steadily. Then a man wearing only a pair of blue boxers dashed out into the traffic, briefly put his hands on Ridpath's car then ran into the path of an articulated lorry. The driver had no chance of stopping and the naked man was killed instantly. Glancing to the hard shoulder Ridpath glimpsed a man with a gun. This was now a crime scene and the resulting seventeen-mile tail back of traffic would be the least of Ridpath's worries, although no one would let him forget about it in a hurry. Full Review


A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

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

Enid Campbell was a woman who, on the face of it, had everything. Leading the life of an aristocrat – full of inherited wealth and splendour, glamourous locales and high expectations. Only Enid's life has been plagued by mental illness – undiagnosed, untreated and threatening both Enid and those close to her. After losing custody of her children, Enid sells her son to her sister for £500 – but is this an act of greed, or an act of desperation? Exploring the true story of her own grandmother, Eleanor Anstruther has found the perfect subject for an explosive, moving and beautifully well written debut. Full Review


55 by James Delargy

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

Two men enter a police station, both tell the same story; they were kidnapped and narrowly escaped the clutches of a man who intended to kill them. As they escaped they ran through a graveyard and they were not the first victim. The stories match, the evidence is compelling and each man blames the other. Now the question is, who is guilty? Full Review


Lord Of All the Dead by Javier Cercas and Anne McLean (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews History, Biography

Lord Of All the Dead is a journey to uncover the author's lost ancestor's life and death. Cercas is searching for the meaning behind his great uncle's death in the Spanish Civil War. Manuel Mena, Cercas' great uncle, is the figure who looms large over the book. He died relatively young whilst fighting for Francisco Franco's forces. Cercas ruminates on why his uncle fought for this dictator. The question at the centre of this book is whether it is possible for his great uncle to be a hero whilst having fought for the wrong side. Full Review


Super Sons: The PolarShield Project by Ridley Pearson and Ile Gonzalez

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Graphic Novels, Confident Readers

It's the near future, and every coastal city – including Metropolis – is in need of a huge flood barrier, built on its coast by Wayne Enterprises. But the rising sea levels have put even those constructions under threat, forcing many people to relocate in America's biggest exodus for decades. Superman is helping out, of course – first he was patching up the dams, but now he's mining the asteroid belt for a rare dust that's perfect for blocking the solar energy from making further polar ice melt. Inland, in Wyndermere, the refugees from the coast are suffering bigotry and intolerance for being newcomers, but something else is much worse. A major bout of food poisoning is hitting the city. But it can't possibly have anything to do with what looks like sabotage of the flood barriers and the efforts to correct the climate, can it? Four young children begin to piece together clues that it can… Full Review


Confessions of a Recovering MP by Nick de Bois

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

I should warn you in advance: this may not be the best time for me to review the memoir of a Tory MP. Not only am I a left-of-centre - to put it mildly - voter and so probably have next to no points of political agreement with Nick de Bois, but I, along with everyone else, am currently subject to the debacle of parliament, government and Brexit, a dog and pony show currently revealing in hideous technicolour the absolute dearth of competent leadership among our political classes. And yes, opposition parties: I'm looking at you as well. You're just as useless.


Desperate cry into the void over. Sorry about that.

At least Nick de Bois made me laugh! Full Review


Mera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Graphic Novels, Teens, Confident Readers

Meet Mera. She's the latest in a line of young women intent on fighting against their intended destiny for one only they can see for themselves. Her father, the king of Xebel, sees some cotton wool and a hunky man in an arranged marriage as her future – after all, Mera's mother, the territory's warrior queen, is long dead. Mera doesn't fancy the cosseting or the fella involved at all, and is in fact trying to get Xebel out from under the cosh of Atlantean power, for Xebel's royalty are merely puppets of Atlantean masters. So when she overhears her father request that her intended goes to the world of us air-breathing humans, and kill the Atlantis heir, she rushes off to get the quest (and the promised throne) all for herself. But of course, she has no idea what kind of person she will meet, and how hard it will be to get the job done… Full Review


Poster Boy by N J Crosskey

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

I first read 1984 in school, in the late seventies when 1984 still seemed like a long time in the future. It came and went quickly enough. Some of us may have breathed a sigh of relief that Orwell's nightmare had not (quite) come to pass. Others, I think, were out there already working on making sure that all he got wrong was the date. Crosskey hasn't put a date on the nightmare. If she had, I suspect it would not be as far in the future are 1984 was when I first read Orwell. If she had, I suspect it might hardly be in the future at all. A lot of what happens in Poster Boy is already happening. Sadly. Frighteningly. In the blurb, Christina Racher says "…but keep it far from anyone who might be tempted to turn its fiction into reality". My only response to that is: too late! Full Review


Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse

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

When you reach a certain stage in life the phrase 'going home' when it refers to your childhood home is best if it means a short and hopefully harmonious visit. The woman who used to be DCI Robin Lyons, but was now just Robin Lyons, went home with her thirteen-year-old daughter after she was dismissed from the Met. She was going home to the room which she'd had as a child: she would have the bottom bunk and Elena - Lennie to those who knew her well - would have the top bunk. The room was redolent of the time she'd shared the room with her brother Luke - and they weren't good memories. Full Review


A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

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

The problem with Martine's fiction debut is that she makes the two commonest errors in SF writing: she tries to be too clever and she wants her fictional languages to be complex and rich and errs on the side of making them unpronounceable by most readers. I can see why she does both, but it's a disappointment because they're the blocks against which the brilliance of the book stumbles. Full Review


When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee

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

There is a place on this earth that, at the time of writing, is resplendent with life. In the spring seals gambol in the river – not venturing too far, for fear of being slashed open on the razor wire the humans have put in place. In the autumn, salmon come upstream, looking doleful as well they might, for they will spawn and die, if they reach their birthing grounds. Mountain goats gambol prettily among the hills – if the landmines men left behind do not prevent them from doing so. This is a snapshot of life in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between the two countries with Korea in their name, and it's the world's least welcome wildlife sanctuary. Full Review


M for Mammy by Eleanor O'Reilly

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

The Augustts are, like all families, a bit complicated. A loving irish family, their love binds them together – but all express that in very different ways. However, when misfortune strikes the family they are forced to work together in order to understand each other again, as with a family as complicated as the Augustts it's not always what is spoken that makes the most sense. Things are shaken up further when Granny Mae-Anne moves in and takes charge. Full of stern words and common sense, she's a force of nature who must try her hardest to hold the family together. Full Review


Time and How to Spend It: The 7 Rules for Richer, Happier Days by James Wallman

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

Most things you can replace, but one of the things which you simply can't replace is time. Even though we know this, we fail to use what we have wisely. We have more leisure time, but that's not how it feels: a high value is put on how we spend our working hours, but there's a low value on leisure. Unfortunately we now know how to work and not how to live: we need to learn how to spend our leisure time wisely and James Wallman has taken on the onerous task of teaching us how to do this. Full Review