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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Conviction by Denise Mina

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

It's strange how the worst of days can start in such an ordinary, mundane way. And so it was for Anna McDonald as she sorted out gym kit and packed lunches for her two daughters. It didn't begin to go wrong until she opened the door to her best friend, Estelle and realised that her husband was at the top of the stairs, dressed as though for a holiday rather than the work clothes she'd been expecting - and he was carrying a suitcase. He and Estelle were leaving together - and they were taking Anna's two daughters with them. There was another problem which neither Hamish nor Estelle knew about. Anna wasn't actually Anna McDonald. She was Sophie Bukaran, the woman who had been involved in the rape case against four footballers. Full Review


Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

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

People will not forget. Or forgive. An ugly girl is too great an offense...the world is made for men. An ugly girl can never be forgiven.

Stepsister tells the gripping story of Cinderella's 'ugly' stepsister, Isabelle. We've been told this fairy-tale over and over again throughout our lives and know the characters well. But have you ever wondered what happened to the sisters after Cinderella married the Prince? Or why the sisters disliked her so much? Full Review


The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

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

We know that something wrong is happening: a body is being dumped in deep water. The rower pulls away and rows back to the boat house and then she walks back to Lake Hall. As you begin reading you suspect that you know who has been killed and who dumped the body, but be patient: all will be revealed before too long. Full Review


No One Home by Tim Weaver

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

Long after the police have given up on cold missing persons cases, David Raker picks them up and tracks them down. He's called to a particularly disturbing case where a small village of nine people all vanished overnight two years ago. Raker and his associate must delve in to the lives of these people to work out how and why nine people have gone missing. They are being threatened to stop but something about the mystery keeps drawing Raker further in, putting him in personal peril. Full Review


The Passengers by John Marrs

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

In the near future, self-drive cars are the norm - a convenient and easy way of transport. However, when someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course. As everyday commutes turn into terror-filled journeys, the public have to judge who should survive. But with every aspect of these passangers being examined by the public - will they turn out to be what they seem? Full Review


If You Could Go Anywhere by Paige Toon

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

Angie is someone who always wanted to travel, but it's taken her 27 years to leave the small mining town in south Australia which has been the only home she's ever known. She doesn't do things by half though, and once she does feel able to go (following a family death) she leaves not only the town, the state and the country, but also the continent, and finds herself following in her mother's footsteps and heading to Italy. Full Review


Mayhem in the Archipelago by Nick Griffiths

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

In Latvia the conspirators meet in a rather unpleasant location, but it's their plans which matter to them. In Moscow two men delight in all the uncertainty in the Baltic. In Washington the Undersecretary is a woman, but the personal pressures on her are the same as the men in Moscow are obliged to suffer. In Stockholm three members of SÄPO, the Swedish Secret Service, know that the time has come for them to make a move. They'd talk more, but their wives would get difficult and there's a rather pleasing tart which mustn't be missed. Full Review


Watchwords by Philip Neal

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

This satisfying collection of short stories has a provenance at least as beguiling as the provenance of the antique watches that inspired it.

Philip Neal lost a watch. It was a watch he was fond of and had been told was like a 1930s Cartier. Instead of mourning its loss, he began to collect vintage watches that resembled it. And that's how he became a watch collector. An eBay purchase led him to the Antique Watch Company watch repairers in Clerkenwell. The eBay purchase was a fake, but the friendship that grew between the buyer and the repairer of watches was not and the seed of an idea for a book was born. Full Review


Fall Down Dead (Cooper and Fry) by Stephen Booth

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

DS Dev Sharma is delighted - if delight is the right word to apply to a murder case - but he's got a result when the husband of a murder victim is found with the knife, standing over the body, and admitting to the murder. DI Ben Cooper is concerned with a suspicious death on Kinder Scout. A party of walkers - the New Trespassers Walking Group - got lost in the fog and problems arose when one of the party was injured. The group split up to find help, or at least a mobile signal, but when they're rescued they're one short and the body of Faith Matthew was found at the bottom of Kinder Downfall. It looked like a dreadful accident, but Cooper wasn't happy about the way the body had fallen. Things are not always as they seem - in either case. Full Review


Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

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

Sometimes you begin reading a book and before you've got to the bottom of the first page you know that it's going to be brilliant. You sense the author's effortless grasp of her subject matter and you already know that her use of words is almost surgical in its precision. The hands holding you are safe, which considering that this is a book about two subjects where facts are in short supply, is somewhat surprising. Our first subject is the Reverend Willie Maxwell. Over seven years, six people close to the Reverend had died, with Maxwell benefiting substantially from insurance policies which he'd taken out on their lives. Full Review


Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

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

Poor, frumpy Anne of Cleaves always gets a raw deal by history, of all the wives of Henry VIII she is the one who is known for being rejected. Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard were the sexy ones, Jane the dutiful one who delivered a son, Katherine of Aragon clung on to her crown and Katharine Parr clung on to her life but poor frumpy Anne of Cleaves just rolled over and moved along. Not any more! Alison Weir presents us with a different view of this young woman who saw the opportunity to live an independent life and took it. Full Review


Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt

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

We're in Stoke on Trent. A group of young women who study at Dunwood Academy are running the cross-country course. One of them - Lauren Ansell - stops behind to tie her shoelace and is murdered, to the shock and devastation of her friends. Twins Courtney and Caitlin Piggott, Sophie Bishop and Teagan Cole cling together for support - or do do as much as they can given that their parents are understandably reluctant to let them out of their sight. One of the parents is journalist Simon Cole, boyfriend of DS Grace Allendale, who is charged with investigating the murder under the guidance of DI Nick Carter. It's a struggle to keep their professional lives separate. Full Review


Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham

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

There are times when two people come together and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts as in the case of, say, Morecambe and Wise. Sometimes two people come together and we get Folie à Deux - a shared psychotic disorder which produces devastating consequences. One of the prime examples is Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. But - I'm getting ahead of myself as our story started with a suicide. A middle-aged woman had been gulled out of £75,000 by a man called Patrick Jenkins, but once he had the money he disappeared and ghosted his former lover. She threw herself in front of a tube train. Full Review


Nocturna by Maya Motayne

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

A thief without a face, a prince who was never meant to be king, Finn and Alfie collide, as if thrown together by fate, to bring about a series of catastrophes and set in motion the release of a darkness that seeks to consume all the goodness and magic in the world. These two unlikely allies must try to put their own personal battles behind them and join forces to stop the evil from destroying everything they hold dear. Full Review


The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers Clara has lived in the crumbling Braithwaite Manor owned by her guardian, Uncle Edward, since she was a baby. It has been a lonely life as her uncle is strict and forbidding and she has been home schooled. Her only friend is Cook who looks after Clara with kindness and tells her stories of her own family and their adventures. Clara has recently become aware that something is wrong as many of the prized possessions such as paintings and porcelain are disappearing and then cook is dismissed. Shortly afterwards Uncle Edward abandons Clara in the local village with a fistful of money and disappears. Clara is now totally alone. Full Review


Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story by Leah Hazard

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

Over the past few years we've had a rash (sorry - no pun intended) of books by medical practitioners. Doctors have been at the forefront, but Hard Pushed is the first book I've seen by a midwife. It's an unusual profession in that it's one of the few callings within the medical system where most of the patients are healthy and the only one where one person comes into the system and (for the most part) more than one goes out. It's an amazing thing to be able to do - to escort new life into the world - and an enormous responsibility. Leah Hazard came to it after a career in television and Hard Pushed is the story of her career as a midwife - and the title tells more than one story. Full Review


The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

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

Paradise. That's what it seemed like to nine-year-old Posy Anderson. Her father delighted in indulging her and playing with her. Together they caught butterflies and examined them before her father took them off to let them go free. Her mother was rather distant, but her father more than made up for that. The only blot on the horizon was that her father was a spitfire pilot, recovering from an injury, and it seemed likely that he would have to go back to the war. Everyone thought that it was drawing to a close, but men still had to go and fight - and risk their lives. Posy was staying with her grandmother in Cornwall when the news came through that her father had been killed in action. Her mother had travelled from Suffolk to tell her what was going to happen to her. Full Review


The Words That Fly Between Us by Sarah Carroll

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

Lucy is living in a beautiful, expensive house along with her joking, playful dad and her lovely mum. Everything should be perfect. Her dad is a property investor, making millions, and she and her mum don't lack for anything in their lives. But still, Lucy lives her life on edge, controlled by the words around her, whether they are spoken, or unspoken. You see, her dad is a bully, edging closer and closer towards physically abusing her mum, and Lucy is manipulated by him, unable to express her true feelings, or fully develop her artistic side which is where she feels her talents lie but her dad says won't ever lead to her having a successful life. Full Review


Nights of the Creaking Bed by Toni Kan

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

Nights of the Creaking Bed is a collection of short stories by Toni Kan. The series of stories tell of the lives and lusts of an assortment of characters living in and around Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria, in this collection, is imbued with its very own heart of darkness. Danger stalks the shadows and people are killed for nothing more than a wrong look. Kan writes with a vitality and passion that allows these cynical stories to achieve a glimmer of hope. Full Review


The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble

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

Set in a dystopian Australia, this is the story of Ella and Emery and their dogs travelling across the outback together. A red fungus has wiped out all the crops and grasses, and with the food chain grinding to a halt, society is collapsing. Ella's mum has been gone for a long time - she left for work one day and then never came home. Ella and her half brother Emery have been living at home with their dad and their dogs, hoping for the best, but one day their dad decides to go out and try to find Ella's mum. When he also fails to return, Emery decides that their best chance of survival is to set out with the dogs to travel across the outback to his grandfather's house where, he believes, there will still be food and a safe place for them to live until their father can find them again. Full Review