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, the charity shop 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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Child's Play (D I Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons

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

There's a prologue and we know that we're dealing with someone who is very disturbed. The descriptions are horrifying, but worst of all is the coldness of the killer. Full Review


Exhalation by Ted Chiang

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

Over the past twenty-eight years Ted Chiang has published fifteen science fiction short stories. These magnificent stories have won twenty-seven major science fiction awards so if you are a science fiction fan it is likely that you have already come across some of the work by Ted Chiang. I cannot speak highly enough of this collection of short stories, they are so wide ranging in their themes and so beautifully written, Chiang has written an absolute masterpiece of a collection. If you come across Chiang's work before, take this opportunity to do so now. Trust me; your imagination will be grateful. Full Review


Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

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

Rose and her brother Rudder have recently escaped from cult-like fundamentalist Christian sect, the Pilgrims, along with their mother. While Mum works endless hours at agency cleaning jobs trying to keep the rent paid on their tiny flat, Rose and Rudder are trying to navigate the worldly world. It's not easy when everything is new and the rigid rules you've always lived by are suddenly missing. Full Review


Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson

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

I guess that most of us have made the odd impulse purchase but Tracy Waterhouse, security chief at the Merrion Centre in Leeds, blew most people's ideas of an impulse purchase out of the water one morning. Seeing a known prostitute dragging a toddler through the shopping mall whilst cursing at her, Waterhouse followed the woman and bought the girl for £3000. The difficulty of a purchase like this is knowing what to do next and Tracy's humdrum life is replaced with one of stress, fear and an overwhelming love for four-year-old Courtney. Full Review


Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin

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

Maya has to escape. She's on the run in a country she doesn't know and has no idea who to trust. Raul is escaping too - travelling back to his home where a terrible tragedy happened, ready to stir up trouble. When their paths collide in the middle of the jungle, the sparks begin to fly. As modern world corruption meets the magic and legends of ancient times, can Maya draw on her hidden light to find the way through to the truth? Full Review


Child's Play (D I Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons

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

There's a prologue and we know that we're dealing with someone who is very disturbed. The descriptions are horrifying, but worst of all is the coldness of the killer. Full Review


I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

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

Gemma has just started her A levels at school. She's a keen student and she has a good, close set of friends. Gemma loves country music and in her spare time she enjoys writing and singing country songs. She's pretty good at it too. Home life is busy - Gemma's brother Michael has a chance at a football career and the whole family, propelled by Gemma's rather over-invested dad, is supporting him with everything they've got. Gemma hasn't had a serious boyfriend yet, so when the handsome Aaron appears and an instant attraction fizzles between them, Gemma is keen to see where romance could lead... Full Review


What's That in Dog Years? by Ben Davis and Julia Christians

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

George and Gizmo have been together ever since George was born. Gizmo has always been a fun, adventurous dog and a loyal friend, but just recently, George has noticed that he's starting to slow down a little. A visit to the vets leaves George worried that Gizmo might not be around for very much longer, and so he begins to write Gizmo a bucket list, of all the adventures that they can still have together in Gizmo's last days. But are they his last days? And who will help George to stay calm when Gizmo is gone? Full Review


The Long Flight Home by A L Hlad

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

September 1940 - as WWII rages on, bombs rain down on Britain, destroying the homes and lives of a people on the edge. In Epping Forest, Susan Shepherd and her grandfather Bertie live together raising homing pigeons with the birds proving a comfort for Susan following the loss of her parents. These pigeons are more than just birds to Susan though – in each one, and especially in Duchess, she sees a distinct personality and forms a close bond. Meanwhile, young pilot Ollie Evans leaves Maine to head to Britain and join the Royal Air Force. Working with the National Pigeon Service, he soon meets Susan and is tasked with air-dropping hundreds of homing pigeons into German-occupied France, where many will not survive. As the mission is planned, the bond between Ollie and Susan grows stronger, but when Ollie's plane is downed behind enemy lines, it may be Duchess who provides an unexpected lifeline and ensures that hope of a reunion for Susan and Ollie remains… Full Review


Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator)

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

An instruction manual for the forest is how Wohlleben's publisher described the idea for this book, and that's basically what it is – although right at the end the author says that it is not intended to be a reference book, but an appetiser. Full Review


A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson and Rachel Wilson-Boyles (translator)

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

We're going to hear this story through the viewpoints of three different people: Adam Sandell, his wife, Ulrika and his daughter Stella. Adam's a pastor in the Church of Sweden and Ulrika is a lawyer. Stella is, well, just difficult. You sense that she's always been difficult and there have even been occasions when Ulrika has let slip that she wishes that Stella was more like her best friend, Amina Bešic - and no one has ever said that if they don't think that the other person is better. We first meet the family on Stella's 18th birthday and we get a sense of Adam's controlling nature. Permission has to be given for a glass of wine for Stella at the celebration meal. Full Review


The House of Light by Julia Green

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

Bonnie is growing up on a slightly strange island, living with her grandfather, scavenging for food, and rubbish that has washed up on the beach that she and her grandfather can use to make things. There is some sort of ban against anyone else landing on the island, and lots of suspicion around those who live there, including a great fear of anyone who gets sick. But when Bonnie is on the beach one day and discovers not only an intact boat, but a young boy cowering beneath, rather than turn him in to the authorities she takes him home and hides him, smuggling him boiled eggs and blankets in the shed whilst she tries to figure out what to do. Full Review


Check Mates by Stewart Foster

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

In many ways Felix is a typical boy in Year 7, enjoying playing games on his PS4 and hanging out with his friend Jake at the weekend. However Felix is struggling at school. He is not a problem child but he does have a problem. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate, he keeps getting into trouble and his grades are slipping. When his Mum suggests that he spends more time with his grandfather Felix is horrified. Ever since Grandma died his Granddad has been grumpy and more eccentric than before. All he wants to do is sit in the dark and play chess. Felix knows that this will be extremely boring. But sometimes we learn valuable lessons where we least expect to and perhaps Granddad and Felix can help each other. Full Review


Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor

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

We first meet Sylvia Penton on her birthday and her boss, the Prof, is taking her out to lunch. This is her favourite day of the year, not because it's her birthday but because of the special time she gets to spend with the man she loves. He's told her that he and his wife are going to divorce - Martha is apparently having an affair - and Sylvia is convinced that the Prof will then declare his love and they can be together. She hasn't fully constructed 'together' in her own mind - she envisages it as romantic, but her imagination hasn't yet progressed to the sexual part of the relationship. There's time though - she's only been the prof's PA for fifteen years. Full Review


Return to Wonderland by Various Authors

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

In following a young girl called Alice down the rabbit hole a few years ago, when the first book she was in hit 150 years of age, I found that I didn't really find too much favour with it. The wacky-for-the-sake-of-it did not gel, and I don't remember loving it more as a child. But I would suggest I am the perfect audience for this book. I had every chance to enjoy these short stories that come at the core from a tangent, that show the benefits of the oblique glance. I've always preferred coming to an author's output through their least obvious, allegedly throw-away pieces, and it's the same with franchises – I'd more likely go for Bree Tanner's short novella than the whole Twilight saga (although that remains just a hunch, for obvious reasons). For another thing, there was every reason to expect some kind of greatness here – with Carroll much loved by millions, surely pieces written with that love in mind could only provide for success after success? Full Review


Rumblestar (The Unmapped Chronicles) by Abi Elphinstone

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

Rumblestar follows the haphazard adventures of the anxious 11-year-old Casper Tock who timetables his every movement, makes countless to do lists and is hounded by wealthy bullies with the absurdly humorous and appropriate names of Candida Cashmere Jumps and Leopold Splattercash. He stumbles across a magic portal by accident just like Lucy of Narnia fame, meets a feisty girl troubled by her past and is plunged into a perilous quest. In a kingdom where the dark mythological forces of Midnights threaten the weather Marvels (equated here to the miracle of nature) conjured by magical creatures, only unlikely heroes can battle against evil. [[Rumblestar (The Unmapped Chronicles]) by Abi Elphinstone|Full Review]]


The Evil Occupants of Easingdale Castle by Ray Filby

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

Jason likes chess. He's pretty good at it too - a level eight on his computer programme, with level ten being Grand Master level. He's also good at systems, having contributed to the relational database that has streamlined his school's administration. Jason's school, Easingdale Comprehensive, is very big on technology and its head, Mr Johnston, is keen to involve his pupils wherever they show promise. So Jason's friends have also helped out. Liz is great with hardware and helped with the school's card reader system. Becky has a flair for software and has recommended lots of curriculum-enhancing apps. And Bill is a talented programmer... Full Review


Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

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

DC Cat Kinsella is back at the Met after a secondment to the London Mayor's Office: the hours were good but the job was boring. She's grateful to be back with the old team - her partner DS Luigi Parnell, boss DCI Kate Steele and DC Rénee Akwa. She's still not prepared to say anything about the identity of her boyfriend: the knowledge that she's in a relationship with Aiden Doyle, the brother of a murder victim and moreover a murder with which her father might have had some involvement could finish her career. Kinsella and Parnell are called to the discovery of the body of a young woman: Naomi Lockhart was Australian, just twenty-two years old and her body was discovered by her flat mate, Kieran Drake, an ex-offender. Full Review


Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson

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

Despite Dorothy Koomson regularly being suggested as an author I might like, ie people who like this author also like Dorothy Koomson, I have never read her before. Having done so I can totally see why she's the bestselling author of fifteen books. Full Review


The Boy Who Fell (Inspector Tom Reynolds) by Jo Spain

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

There were six friends: four men and two women. They're all about eighteen and they've known each other since they started school. Both girls - Hazel Brophy and Charlotte Burke - have been in relationships with one of the boys, but Charlotte was determined that it would not be sexual. Hazel's views were so dramatically opposite that you wondered how they could be friends. They were all partying in a derelict house when Luke Connelly was pushed to his death from a third floor window and Daniel Konaté Jones was charged with rape and murder. Daniel was loosely associated with the group but never felt himself one of them. He didn't come from a wealthy background, is of mixed race and openly gay. Targets don't come much easier than that, except for one thing. Full Review


Disbelieved: Skin and Bone CSIs by Beth Webb

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

Anelise - Annie - has been living with her cousin Joe and her aunt, an eminent forensic scientist, since her mum died and her naturalist father went abroad on a research trip. So she does wonder sometimes whether the minor premonitions she has - who's on the other end of the ringing phone, or at the door when there's a knock - are in her imagination. But to foresee a serious accident and then for it to actually happen? And the dreadful headaches. Something's going on. Luckily for Annie, Joe is convinced and also willing to help. So they start to investigate the accident... Full Review


Joe Country (Jackson Lamb 6) by Mick Herron

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

I'd like to say that all the old crew are in Slough House but the rate of natural (or unnatural) wastage is such as to have Health and Safety worried. Roderick Ho's there though, narcissistic as ever, and so's Louisa Guy. She's getting over the death of Min Harper to the extent that she's not too concerned when she gets a phone call from Clare Harper, Min's wife. River Cartwright has got death on his mind too, but in his case it's the impending demise of his beloved grandfather and former spook, the OB. Diana Taverner has taken over from Claude Whelan as First Desk at Regent Park and she's going to make changes: one of the first is a shock. An argument with Emma Flyte sees the head dog departing the service. Meanwhile at Slough House, Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Jackson Lamb is offensive as ever and Shirley Dander and J K Coe do their best to remain unnoticed, the latter by saying nothing. Full Review