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Hello from The Bookbag, a book review 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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Fly, Chick, Fly by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Do you have a born worrier in your family? This picture book is for them. Two of the owlets in the tale leave the nest with excitement and confidence. The third one is too much of a thinker for her own good. When her parents say she has to fly, she replies

If I fly, the crow might get me.
If I fly, the rain might wet me.
If I fly, a train might hit me.
My sister flew and never came back.
Why would I want to fly? Full review...

Skating Sensation (Dork Diaries) by Rachel Renee Russell

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

OMG!! Niki's gym class is doing ice-skating this term, and anyone who presents a display at a public charity event will get a straight A. Also, if she can perform well she will keep an endangered animal charity working for some months. It's just a shame then that Niki suits ice-skating as well as chocolate suits building barbecues. What's worse, is that the shelter has a deep meaning for her hunky friend Brandon... Full review...

Ru by Kim Thuy and Sheila Fischman (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Everyone of a certain age will remember the American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. This was the answer to years of student protests and the prayers of many US parents who saw sons like theirs drafted to war only to return in body bags. As far as the west was concerned, the suffering was over. However, for the Vietnamese people, the suffering continued as the Khmer Rouge and then the invading Cambodians killed, tortured and destroyed people who were just trying to survive. Ru is written by and about one such person. Full review...

Dreams (Sarah Midnight Trilogy) by Daniela Sacerdoti

4star.jpg Teens

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Midnight's parents are dead. Everyone else thinks it's an accident - but she knows the truth because her parents were demon hunters and her dreams helped her guide them from the safety of her bed. But they didn't train her for what would happen when they were gone - and if she doesn't master her powers, and learn who she can trust, she might be the next to die. Can she live up to the Midnight motto, Don't Let Them Roam? Full review...

The Beautiful Truth by Belinda Seaward

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

There are two parallel story lines in Belinda Seaward's The Beautiful Truth: one set in the present day and one in wartime Poland. Both involve love stories and personal struggles, and there are repeating themes such as horses and the stars that effectively provide links between the two in this clearly well-researched and engrossing narrative. Full review...

Elephant Pants by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and David Wojtowycz

5star.jpg For Sharing

Oh, fiddle-dee fickers,
Where, oh where, oh
WHERE are my knickers?”

This is the plaintive cry from Major Trump that sets the tone at the start of this wonderfully entertaining story and sends Noah and all the animals on the ark into a flap. Major Trump asks Noah to help locate the missing undies which are a fetching red pair with white hearts that match his wife's. Noah calls an ark alert and gathers all the other animals round in order to line up and display the pants that they are wearing. What then follows is a comical parade of animal pairs showing of their weird and wonderful underwear. There are hippos brandishing stars and stripes pants, flamingos with frilly knickers, tigers in super-strength drawers and horses wearing ones that are organic, recycled and handmade. I have only mentioned a few of what is quite a sensational collection of varied underwear. Unfortunately, no one is wearing the missing undies but perhaps there is another explanation for where they might be! Full review...

Murder and Chips (Jiggy McCue) by Michael Lawrence

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Poor Jiggy. It seems everything he touches is doomed. In previous books he's been squeezed almost to death by a pair of demonic underpants, attacked by the ghost of a bad-tempered goose and pursued by a spiteful genie—though all of that, frankly, is nothing compared to what happened with that toilet (don't ask). And now, to cap it all, exams are looming—you know, the ones everyone tells your whole future depends on? Jiggy and his two friends Angie and Pete are stressed, and in dire need of bit of rest and relaxation. Full review...

Katie in London by James Mayhew

4star.jpg For Sharing

Katie is visiting London with her little brother and her Grandma. When Grandma gets tired they stop a while in Trafalgar Square, and whilst Grandma rests on a bench Katie and her brother find themselves going on a magical adventure with one of the Trafalgar Square lions! Full review...

Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear, Emily Brown! by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton (illustrator)

4star.jpg For Sharing

Emily Brown and her rabbit, Stanley, are having fun indoors on a very grey and rainy day. They meet a small, very wet little teddy bear who is singing sad, self-commiserating songs to herself about how sad and lonely she is. Of course, Emily and Stanley feel compelled to help, so they take the teddy with them to the Outback of Australia, but will they manage to cheer the little teddy up? Full review...

Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney

4star.jpg For Sharing

Small Bunny has a blue blanket. He loves his blanket very much and takes it everywhere he goes. It helps him to do all the things he enjoys doing, like swinging and painting and reading. Of course, this means that Blue Blanket gets rather dirty, and so one day Mummy says that both Small Bunny and Blue Blanket need to have a wash... Full review...

Tears of a Phoenix by Helen Noble

4.5star.jpg Crime

It was almost inevitable that Jed Johnson would follow his brothers into crime. The slippery slope from care to young offenders' institute to an eventual life sentence was almost predictable despite his mother's attempts to raise him for responsibility. However, once serving the life sentence, Jed has time to think and, aided by Elisabeth, a prison service psychologist, he assesses his past and decides how he'd like his future to look. Decision doesn't guarantee fulfilment though, and Jed has a long way to go before he knows how his story will end. Full review...

Spy Another Day by Philip Caveney

5star.jpg Confident Readers

That Mr Lazarus is an odd man. He works at the local cinema, which is owned by Kip's dad, and unknown to anyone but Kip he's actually set up home in the projection room. He claims to be about 120 years old, and he makes money by selling film memorabilia. But he doesn't acquire his loot by hanging round movie plots, or rummaging around on stalls at car boot sales. No, he does it by persuading (well, that's a polite way of putting it: blackmail's such an ugly word) Kip and Beth to go into films and steal it. Yup. Into actual films, while they're playing. Downside? If they don't get out by the closing credits, they're stuck there. No pressure, then. Full review...

Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

4star.jpg General Fiction

When the first book in a trilogy is outstandingly awesome, and the second is pretty darn excellent, to read the final instalment is a no-brainer really. And, I suspect that is why this book is selling so well, because while it’s a mildly interesting reading, in my mind it didn’t come close to the first two offerings in terms of intriguing characters, a suspense filled plot or general kinky-fuckery. Full review...

This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This is an incredibly gentle (and gently funny) love story set in the winter of 2008 when the Irish economy was booming and the US were about to elect their first black president. Hugh (a deliciously grumpy surgeon) and his currently unemployed architect daughter Addie lived happily in an Irish seaside town. Ok, he'd broken both his wrists tripping over Addie's dog and Addie found it hard not to cry sometimes, but they were alright. Then one day, out of the blue, they receive a voicemail message from Bruno, a distant American relative who's just popped over the ocean to say 'Hi!' Remembering the last US relative who came to visit (it didn't go well), Addie and Hugh decide to ignore the phone... and the front door... and the occupant of the bench seat across the road... He's bound to go home eventually. Full review...

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

4star.jpg Teens

Meet Khemri. One of the universe's chosen, he has been selected as a Prince, giving him biological enhancements, mental connection to priests to aid his psychic ability, and so much more. It has also probably led to the death of his parents, and meant he is alone except for a very close bodyguard, but - at least he is in the running to become Emperor, and thus almost godlike. But in a world where you can have everything - including more than one chance at living - it might still be wise to think more about what you wish for... Full review...

Pop! by Catherine Bruton

4.5star.jpg Teens

Elfie's mam has done her twelfth - or is it thirteenth? - bunk and things aren't so hot in the Baguley household. No mother, no money, and an ongoing strike plagued by immigrant workers and scabs. Elfie needs a plan. And since plans are what Elfie excels at - if you listen to Elfie and not to anybody else - she soon comes up with a stonker. If she can win TV talent show Pop to the Top, she'll net a cool £25k - enough to get her father out of debt and to fund her friend Jimmy's Olympic swimming dreams. All she needs is a voice, which she finds in Agnes, who sings like an angel. Full review...

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

5star.jpg Science Fiction

The best thing about Paolo Bacigalupi's latest young adult novel is that you almost certainly wouldn't realise it was intended for a younger audience unless someone pointed it out to you. The Drowned Cities may lack the sex, swearing and amoral protagonists of his award-winning adult novel 'The Windup Girl, but it has all the needle-sharp description, complex world-building and brilliant characters that have rapidly made a name for Bacigalupi as one of this centuries preeminent science-fiction writers. Full review...

The King's Blood: Book Two of The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham

5star.jpg Fantasy

After unexpectedly managing to expose a conspiracy to murder Prince Aster, Geder Palliako has become the prince’s Protector and the hero of Antea. Dawson Kalliam is working with him as the Anteans pursue the roots of the plot, with the possibility of war breaking out. Elsewhere, Cithrin Bel Sarcour is frustrated by a new notary stopping her from running her bank as she wants to, while Marcus Wester tries to protect her. As if that wasn’t enough to keep things going, Master Kit has a goddess to kill… Full review...

Secret Agent Splat! by Rob Scotton

4star.jpg For Sharing

Splat the Cat has a collection of wooden ducks, made by his father, that he is very proud of. He keeps them in a display case in the garden shed and has named every one of them. Therefore, you can imagine his dismay when one day he discovers that the red duck is missing. The following day he discovers that the blue duck is missing although the red one has been returned. He would have been happy about this apart from the fact that its beak is missing. The day after, the blue one's back (minus its beak) but the green one is no longer there. It's certainly a mystery and Splat is determined to get to the bottom of it with a little help from his friend, Seymour. Full review...

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

5star.jpg Fantasy

Alex can see demons. He's been able to ever since his dad left when he was five years old. Some demons are hideous, some are frightening, and some just lurk in corners doing not much at all. One is called Ruen, and he's Alex's best friend. Full review...

Amber Scott is Starting Over by Ruth Saberton

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Amber Scott has been with her fiancé Ed for over ten years. Things may not be perfect in their relationship but they muddle along OK in their London home, both going off to their separate jobs. However, one day, just as Amber is about to celebrate a promotion of her own, Ed announces that he has been offered a partnership in a law firm. This should be fantastic news but the problem is that it is over two hundred miles away in Cornwall and would mean Amber having to give up everything that she has worked for in order to go with him. And, of course, as Ed points out many times, if she really loves him she wouldn't even have to think about it. Full review...

Life According to... Alice B. Lovely by Karen McCombie

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Thirteen-year-old Edie knows that she doesn't need a nanny. She's old enough to look after herself, and her six-year-old brother Stan. Between them, they've managed to scare off nearly everyone who their parents have hired to take care of them. So when a girl of just sixteen starts looking after them after school, Edie is less than impressed. But then the girl, Alice B. Lovely, with her captivating dress sense and strange way of looking at the world, starts to win over Stan... could she be the person to fix Edie's problems? Full review...

Ten Years On by Alice Peterson

4.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

The prologue of this book sees Becca with her student friends at a New Year's Eve party. Afterwards, she and her boyfriend Ollie and their flatmate Joe hang out for a while, talking about the future. They wonder what they might be doing in ten years' time... Full review...

Dangerous Waters: Mystery, Loss and Love on the Island of Guernsey by Anne Allen

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Jeanne Le Page suffered a panic attack as the ferry neared Guernsey. It was a decade and a half since she'd left the island following the deaths of her parents in a boating accident. She'd been in the boat with them but had no memory of what happened other than the occasional flashback. It was the death of her grandmother which brought her back to the island, but she never intended to stay for long - in fact just long enough to arrange for the sale of the cottage which her grandmother had left her. But somehow the island worked its magic on her and she found herself making friends and developing more of a social life than she'd had back on the mainland. Full review...

Another Home, Another Love by Gwen Kirkwood

3.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Rosemary Palmer-Farr is nowhere near as grand as her name might lead you to expect. In fact she's a down-to-earth girl, fresh out of horticultural college who's taken over the gardens attached to her mother's hotel. It's her mother who has the social pretensions. She's determined that Rosemary Lavender (it's OK - everyone else calls her Rosie) is going to make a good marriage and that certainly doesn't include any of the tenant farmers (or their offspring) she's been so friendly with. And when push comes to shove she'll do whatever is necessary to keep her away from one particular man of the soil whilst pushing the suit of the local landowning family. Full review...

All Shall be Well by Stephanie Tillotson and Penny Thomas

4.5star.jpg Anthologies

Twenty five years - a quarter of a century - is a long time. It's an incredible length of time as an independent publisher, particularly one which specialises in publishing the best in Welsh women's writing, but that's exactly what Honno have achieved. To celebrate the occasion they've published this anthology of twenty five short stories and non-fiction pieces. They've previously been seen in the numerous anthologies published by Honno but when combined they give an interesting and enlightening insight into the work of these great writers. Full review...

Elmer and Butterfly by David McKee

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

One day, Elmer, the patchwork elephant, is out walking when he hears a cry for help. It's his cousin, Wilbur, playing tricks and because of this, when Elmer hears a second cry for help he is tempted to ignore it. Luckily, he doesn't though, as this time the plea is for real as Butterfly is trapped behind a fallen branch. It does not take Elmer long to set his small friend free and, of course, Butterfly is enormously grateful. Anxious to return the favour, Butterfly promises to repay Elmer one day and tells him just to call if help is needed. Elmer thinks that is highly unlikely and, as he goes on his way, he chuckles:

A butterfly saving and elephant, that's a good one! Full review...

A Death in Valencia by Jason Webster

4star.jpg Crime

Chief Inspector Max Camara of the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia has rather a lot on his plate. A renowned local paella chef and restaurant owner went missing and then his body turned up in the sea. It's the eve of the Pope's visit to Valencia and there are threats against a local abortion clinic. The mayor and the town hall are set on demolishing El Cabanyal, the colourful fisherman's quarter on the seafront, to make way for modern development. To cap it all some ominous cracks have suddenly appeared in the walls of his flat. Well, he thinks they've suddenly appeared, but he's not quite certain. It's not exactly what you might call a home. Full review...

A Journey to Nowhere: Among the Lands and History of Courland by Jean-Paul Kauffmann

4.5star.jpg Travel

When I turn to travel writing, it is a healthy balance of that about places I have been to, and places I've not. But without sounding too big-headed it is seldom places I have never heard of in any context - especially those I have passed through, what's more. The 'nowhere' in focus here is Courland, which was more-or-less the coastal slither of the top of Latvia, and was once an independent Duchy. In one fell swoop Kauffmann seems to become the only travel writer to have written a book about the place, at least for many a generation, and, it's pleasant to say, probably the best one could have hoped for. Full review...

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

4star.jpg General Fiction

Weddings are always a potential source for intrigue and drama. In Maggie Shipstead's debut novel, Seating Arrangements, there's plenty of that going on. Set in a New England island called Waskeke, Winn Van Meter's eldest daughter, Daphne, who is already heavily pregnant is about to marry Greyson Duff. The problems start when Daphne's retinue of bridesmaids, who include her sister, Livia, who has had her heart broken by her first love to the son of Winn's social arch rival, and the flirtatious Agatha mix with Greyson's brothers. Add in the fact that Winn has always had a yearning for Agatha and things get decidedly messy. Full review...

Six Days Inside A Mountain by Louane K Beyer

3star.jpg Confident Readers

On the day after his thirteenth birthday Peter and his younger brother, ten-year-old Andy, set off on an adventure. Peter's parents had given him a pellet rifle for his birthday and he and Andy were heading out in search of game. They lived near the Rocky Mountains in an area where game was plentiful and they set off early because they'd promised to be home by 4.30. There's something about the mixture of boys, a rifle, targets and a forest which isn't conducive to getting home on time and before Andy thought to look at his watch they were late - and they were lost. Full review...

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

4star.jpg Teens

Cas Lowood is no ordinary high school boy. He lives a peripatetic existence, hunting malevolent ghosts and "killing" them with his father's knife. A tip-off from a trusted informant lets Cas know that Thunder Bay's Anna Dressed In Blood is no urban myth and so he and his white witch mother set off for the Canadian town. Something tells Cas that Anna is no ordinary ghost and he feels sure that once she is despatched - to wherever ghosts go - he will be ready at last to deal with the voodoo spirit that killed and ate his father... Full review...

1.4 by Mike Lancaster

4.5star.jpg Teens

Peter Vincent lives a privileged life. His father is a world-renowned scientist and fully expects his son to follow in his footsteps. But Peter has other ideas. He wants to study literature. Although he enjoys gaming and social networking, he's uncomfortable about spending too much time on The Link, a system which connects the minds of every individual on the planet. So when he meets Strakerite Alpha, he is immediately attracted to her. Peter's father hates the Strakerites, who believe that human evolution depends on regular upgrades from alien aggressors.

So when Alpha contacts Peter to tell him that people are disappearing, he is more than willing to help. Together, they will uncover a conspiracy to hide the clock ticking down to the next upgrade... Full review...

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

4star.jpg Teens

Lena's Father left when she was a child, disappearing North to the dangerous and mysterious wilderness called Scree where The Peculiars live - people with unnatural physical features. Lena, herself, has unnaturally long and awkward hands and feet which makes her an easy target for bullies. But Lena wants to know more about herself, why has she got these hands and feet? Is it because she has 'goblin blood' like her bitter Grandmother tells her? Full review...

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's the time for the tall mainland men to come to the island to trade, so 16 year old Mary prepares. She brings out her handmade 'broideries' and hides Barney, her little brother, in a cupboard. This is a necessary preparation born of fear, for the island boys have been vanishing, taken by the traders. On this particular day Mary's broideries go, but so does Barney. Full review...

Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons

4star.jpg General Fiction

Tom Finn had been a builder, but bankruptcy intervened and taxi driving provided some sort of living for him, his wife, Tess and twins Rory and Keeva. And so it might have continued but for two burglars in his home. Tom 'confronted' them - and nearly went to jail, but his conviction mean that taxi driving was no longer an option. Then a chance encounter brought him the offer of another driving job - but this one was in Phuket in Thailand - and included accommodation. There's a saying that if something seems too good to be true then it probably is, but when you're as close to the bottom as Tom Finn there comes a time when you've got to take a chance and hope that this is your lucky day. Full review...

Always By My Side: Losing the love of my life and the fight to honour his memory by Christina Schmid

2.5star.jpg Biography

On Halloween 2009 bomb disposal expert Olaf (Oz) Schmid became another mortality statistic from the conflict in Afghanistan. Many people enjoy magazines like Hello who will absorb the stories of Oz's early years, how he met Christina, the family holidays, stories about both sets of parents etc. But for me, this is like looking at someone else's personal photo album; even if you have a connection with the album's owner, after a while it becomes boring and lacks meaning. Although I wouldn't have had half the inner strength and courage that Christina showed after the death of a soul mate, the emphasis of Always By My Side is out of kilter, the descriptions of life in Afghanistan and the subsequent campaign being almost lost in the family detail. Full review...

How To Keep A Boy As A Pet by Diane Messidoro

3star.jpg Teens

Circe Shaw is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives with Daniel Craig, Johnny Depp and Jude Law. Sounds like heaven, right? Sadly, Daniel, Johnny, and Jude are her pets, and the only actual men around are two who are interested in her mum, not her. What’s a girl to do? Circe decides to start a blog to help her reach her goal of becoming a journalist, and to find out the truth about boys. Full review...

Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

3star.jpg Confident Readers

Wumbers mixes - as you might have guessed - words and numbers. Think text speak that doesn't horrify stuffy parents. Each page takes in a different scene, with a speech bubble along the lines of Look at his 2can ta2! It takes a little bit of decoding for its young readers (and rapidly ageing reviewers) but look upon it as a bit of a game, and it's good fun. Full review...

The Treasure House by Linda Newbery

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Linda Newbery says she once helped out in a charity shop, and felt it was a perfect place to find material for stories. Each item had a history, whether sad or happy, and Second-Hand Rose, the shop owned by Nina's eccentric great-aunts, is full of vintage clothes and other fascinating things, including a big green toy crocodile which is bought and returned so many times it becomes the shop mascot. But finding things there she is sure her absent mother would never willingly give away, Nina is puzzled, distressed and, eventually, determined to find out what made her mother leave—and whether she intends to come back home one day. Full review...

This is Not the End of the Book; by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere

4.5star.jpg Entertainment

In many ways, the cover of my edition of this book is perfectly appropriate. Huge, bold serif script, with nothing but the typeface; a declamatory instance of the art in the most common of fonts, and that perfect semi-colon at the end of the book's name - proving that that itself is not the be-all and end-all. Buy this book, as you can, in electronic form, and you might see this cover for ten seconds at most, but it is so much part and parcel of what's within. Full review...

The Great Fairy Tale Disaster by David Conway and Melanie Williamson

5star.jpg For Sharing

'Once Upon a Time there lived an old Big Bad Wolf. He no longer had any huff and puff to blow down the Three Little Pigs' house and he'd had enough of falling into hot water.'

Well, when it's put like that it's no wonder that the Big Bad Wolf decides that he has had enough of his own particular fairy tale. He decides that he needs a nice relaxing one instead and thinks that he would fit in well to Cinderella. However, when a very nervous Cinderella allows him to take her place, he's not too happy to find himself in a dress and glass slippers. It's not good for his macho wolf's image at all. Full review...

The Road to Hell: An Alice Rice Mystery by Gillian Galbraith

3.5star.jpg Crime

DS Alice Rice is facing a disciplinary hearing which could result in her dismissal from the police force. She knows that she's innocent - that it wasn't her who'd been too free with some sensitive information - but it's all going to come down to whose word is believed and whether a couple of witnesses can remember exactly who said what in a very tense situation. It's a difficult afternoon and when she gets home that evening, Ian - the man with whom she lives - has a visitor and forgets the importance of Alice's afternoon. The resulting argument will stay in Alice's mind for some of the worst reasons. Full review...

Pictures at an Exhibition by Camilla Macpherson

3star.jpg General Fiction

A story designed around the display of individual paintings at the National Gallery during World War Two held immediate appeal for me. Alas, Claire and Rob, the central characters in the novel, did not. Claire’s extreme irrationality is jarring even within the context of the ordeal she has endured. Rob seems inconsiderate, clearly due to the barrage of irrationality he is having to live with on a daily basis. But while that is understandable, I did worry that I might be reading a novel that contained no likeable characters. Full review...

Murders of London: In the steps of the capital's killers by David Long

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

While the true crime specialist reader may prefer books which deal in one case in depth, there’s always room for another title at the other end of the spectrum, dealing in brief with a variety of murders over the years. Full review...

The Immortal Dinner: A famous evening of genius and laughter in literary London, 1817 by Penelope Hughes-Hallett

4.5star.jpg History

A book based around just one dinner sounds a little extraordinary. But the host, painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, was no ordinary artist. He was a friend of many of the major artistic and literary figures of the day, in addition to being an ambitious painter of historical scenes. Sadly, his ambition was not matched by popularity or good fortune, and despite or perhaps parly because an exaggerated belief in his own abilities, one and a half centuries after his death he is largely forgotten except for his suicide after years of despair, and perhaps his diary as well. Full review...

The Grand Tour: Letters and photographs from the British Empire expedition by Agatha Christie and Mathew Prichard (editor)

5star.jpg Travel

In 1922 Agatha Christie, already the author of three very successful books, was happily married with a small daughter, and her heart's desire was to continue writing while she led a quiet life in the country. However her husband Archie was becoming increasingly restless and disenchanted with working in the City, and his longing for a change was suddenly to be fulfilled in a most unexpected way. An old friend, Major Belcher, 'blessed with great powers of bluff', presented them both with the opportunity of a lifetime – to join him on a trip to several imperial outposts in preparation for the forthcoming British Empire Exhibition to be staged at Wembley. Archie would be his financial adviser, and Agatha was cordially invited for the trip, as his wife. (Two-year-old Rosalind would have to stay at home, a decision which involved some soul-searching). Full review...

Burn Mark by Laura Powell

4star.jpg Teens

Glory comes from a long line of witches. She knows the fae will show itself in her eventually. And when it does, Glory intends to make sure her East End coven regains its former and elevated status. Lucas is the privileged son of the Inquisition's Chief Prosecutor. He holds the prevalent view that witchcraft and witchcrime are all but synonymous and that witchkind generally presents a serious threat to national security. He intends to follow his father into the Inquisition... Full review...

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

4.5star.jpg Teens

Luca Vero is expelled from his monastery after being accused of heresy. The seventeen-year-old is recruited to map the End of Days, and his first task is to go to a nunnery where a Lady Abbess of his own age has been accused of witchcraft. Will he find Isolde guilty and condemn her to the pyre, or is there more to the case than meets the eye? Full review...

Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Jack Gantos. Grounded for the summer after an accident with a Japanese rifle, Jack expected his holiday to be spent doing chores and reading his history books. So when the old people in his off-kilter town suddenly start dropping like flies, he jumps at the chance to be an assistant to Miss Volker, one of the Norvelt originals and a personification of the town's old-fashioned ideals and reverence to history. While faithfully typing up the unique and flavoured obituaries that Miss Volker orates, Jack finds himself learning a lot about the origins of his dying town, about the history of America, about a lot of things in fact, while simultaneously being drawn into the oddest of murder mysteries. Full review...

North Child by Edith Pattou

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Superstition says that children born facing north will travel far from home and Rose's mother is terrified that Rose, a north child, will face a lonely, icy death if she follows her destiny. Full review...

Paris by Maarten vande Wiele

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

In the category of graphic novels not to be seen reading in public, Paris is way up there. With a gaudy pink and silver glitz cover, and a lot of blowjobs and sex inside, it's not one for the daily commute. But, even though it's subject matter is merely the unlikely choice of the rags-to-riches-to-rags tale of three Parisian starlets, it is certainly worth a decent perusal. Hope was a juvenile beauty queen, and could now work in fashion were it not for scars due to a car crash, and Faith wishes for the vicarious life of pop stardom, and it's no spoiler to report who and what they find will disappoint them. Chastity, the most sarcastically-named character in comix, is happy enough destroying herself. Full review...

Earthfall by Mark Walden

3.5star.jpg Teens

They are coming. If you are caught, you will not escape. If you escape, they will hunt you down. You must not be captured. Everything depends on you. Prepare for Earthfall.

Life is chugging along pretty much as normal for Sam Riley when his father suddenly turns grey with fear and rushes off to an emergency at work. Within 24 hours, alien spaceships have appeared above every major city across the world and enslaved the entire population with a mind probe. Except Sam. Sam has no idea why he is immune to the alien signal or how he recovered from a terrible injury after a fight with one of their drones. But after a year hiding in London's sewers, he has learned how to survive. Full review...

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur by Richard Byrne

5star.jpg For Sharing

Finlay is what you might call a little dinosaur; there are certainly plenty bigger than him. One day, a big dinosaur walks past and Finlay offers to share his jelly beans with him.

But the big dinosaur wants all the jelly beans for himself and even though Finlay explains that the jelly beans actually belong to his really big friend and they aren't his to give away, the big dinosaur just puffs up his chest and tells Finlay to let his friend know that he's going to take the jelly beans all for himself anyway. Full review...

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

5star.jpg Teens

In a remote village in Zimbabwe, Deo is playing football with his friends while his brother Innocent looks on. Innocent takes a bit of looking after - deprived of oxygen during birth, he's not quite like other children and Deo is fiercely protective of him. Then the soldiers arrive, looking for a delivery of food aid and the traitors who welcome help from the evil Americans, and they destroy the entire village. Now orphans, the two boys have no choice but to flee to South Africa in the hopes of finding their long-lost father. Since their only possessions are Innocent's bix box and Deo's football (stuffed with worthless billion dollar notes), it won't be easy... Full review...

The Lonely Furrow by Pamela Kavanagh

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

The loss of the family business was no fault of the Drummond family, but by the time that they'd repaid what was owed they had no home and no means of making a living. The elder son, Nathan, lost his fiancé and there was little left for them to do but to leave Glasgow and move to a farm which had been in Florence Drummond's family for some time. They weren't farmers, but there was little choice but for them to buckle down and make the best of the situation presented to them. Full review...

The Celestial Bibendum by Nicolas de Crecy

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Diego is new to town. He's a seal, on crutches, but don't raise an eyebrow at that - you won't have enough left to raise at what follows, when he is hounded by a singing professorial claque who go about grooming him for being a very public, hopeful figure. Observing all of this is the devil (a dwarf in check dungarees, of course), who wants Diego for his own purposes... Full review...

Africa Junction by Ginny Baily

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Adele has made a mess of her life and she knows it. Working with the stresses of being a teacher as well as a single mother and having shrugged off a disastrous relationship, her life seems to be set on self-destruct. Part of the problem is that the past won't leave her alone. Adele is haunted by the memory of Ellena, a friend from her childhood in Senegal, Africa. With one unthinking, childish action, Adele inadvertently devastated Ellena's family so, in order to go forward, Adele must go back to the continent where it all began. Full review...

Monsters Don't Cry! by Brett McKee and Ella Burfoot

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Archie awoke with a shout in the night.
Only a dream, but what a terrible fright.
Well monsters may roar, may growl or just sigh,
But monsters are strong, monsters don't cry.

Archie is a funny, adventurous and brave little chap but in spite of the fact that he's a little monster – literally – sometimes when life's little twists and turns don't go his way, it all gets a bit upsetting. Because even monsters get scared; especially little ones like Archie. Full review...

Raven Boy and Elf Girl by Marcus Sedgwick

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Raven Boy and Elf Girl are on a mission. An ogre has been trampling and crashing around the place, pulling up all the trees and destroying people's homes. Many of the forest creatures have fled, and poor Elf Girl has somehow managed to lose her parents. What's more, she doesn't really believe Raven Boy when he says he can talk to the animals, mostly because all they seem to say is RUN! Full review...

Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

3star.jpg Literary Fiction

A small community in rural Hungary is unsettled. One man has too much control over the place, with too much influence on the work done there, and over all the lives lived there. His effect is still felt, even though he has been dead for over a year. So whether you are the man itching to finish a swindle and leave with the proceedings, or the doctor, confined by will to a chair at his window, making the most personal, immaculate notes about the whole existence of the community, or the housewife whose loins still mourn the influence of said man, you are unsettled - especially when the dead man is said to be returning... Full review...

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

As he has done before on several occasions, Peter Carey offers us two parallel stories in his intriguingly titled 'The Chemistry of Tears'. The two elements of the title reflect that this is a book about grief, but also about science. It's also a book about human's relationship with machines and dependence that we have grown to have on them, and the ugliness of life and the beauty of, at least some, machines. In one strand of the story, Catherine is a modern day horologist working in a London museum whose world is shattered by the death of a married colleague with whom she was having an affair. Put to work on restoring a mysterious clockwork bird, she discovers the journals of Henry Brandling, the nineteenth century wealthy man who commissioned the construction of the toy for his consumptive son. Full review...