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'''For new features [[Features|click here]].'''
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|author=Miss Read
|title=Christmas at Thrush Green
|genre=Women's Fiction
|summary=Set in the rural village of Thrush Green, this book is the latest in a series surrounding familiar characters. There is the feisty Ella Bembridge, who is finally having to admit that old age is creeping up as her eyesight fails. Friends such as Dimity and Charles Henstock are concerned about her, but she refuses to accept any help. Albert Piggott has decided it's time to retire now that his wife, Nelly, is a successful cafe owner and can afford to take care of him! And relative newcomer Phil Hurst and her husband are arranging the local nativity play, despite a number of set-backs. Will everything be in place for Christmas? And will independent Ella make a decision about her future?

Revision as of 13:18, 30 October 2009

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.

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Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Set in the rural village of Thrush Green, this book is the latest in a series surrounding familiar characters. There is the feisty Ella Bembridge, who is finally having to admit that old age is creeping up as her eyesight fails. Friends such as Dimity and Charles Henstock are concerned about her, but she refuses to accept any help. Albert Piggott has decided it's time to retire now that his wife, Nelly, is a successful cafe owner and can afford to take care of him! And relative newcomer Phil Hurst and her husband are arranging the local nativity play, despite a number of set-backs. Will everything be in place for Christmas? And will independent Ella make a decision about her future? Full review...

Yuck's Robotic Bottom by Matt and Dave

4star.jpg Confident Readers

It's concerned me for a while that it's relatively easy to pick up early readers for girls – princesses, magic soft toys, mermaids and pets abound – but there's a much smaller choice for boys. It's important too with early readers that the content is interesting and reading becomes more than just something which you have to do at school and moves into being fun. Matt and Dave have found the answer in Yuck. Full review...

The Great Death by John E Smelcer

4star.jpg General Fiction

'As Western Europeans settled Alaska, they brought with them diseases against which the indigenous people had no natural immunity. At the beginning of the twentieth century, fully two thirds of all Alaska natives perished from a pandemic of measles, smallpox, and influenza. No community was spared. In most cases, half of a village's population died within a week. In some cases, there were no survivors. It was the end of an ancient way of life. Natives still refer to the dreadful period as the Great Death.' Full review...

River Deep by Maxine Barry

3.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Two young women both have a love of the Thames. Melisande Ray's beloved hotel, the Ray of Sunshine is on the river bank. It's here that guests come who want to be pampered and looked after in the way that only the best hotels can do well, but when Wendell James checks in to the hotel it's not pampering he's looking for. He's buying a piece of land not far from the Ray of Sunshine and he's sussing out the competition. There's something personal in there too – if his new hotel means that the Ray of Sunshine goes under then that would be an added bonus. There's just a slight doubt in his mind when a red-haired maid catches his eye. Full review...

Spade and Archer by Joe Gores

4star.jpg Crime

Sam Spade decides, bravely, to set up his one-man detective agency. It's the 1920s in San Francisco so we have the prohibition era and all that that entails. Many locals, of course, choose to disobey the law, stick two fingers up, so to speak and as a result there's lots of bootleg liquor.

Straight away, it's evident that Sam is a man of few words. He has the mannerisms of a cat - stealthy, quick on his feet. He's also a compulsive chain-smoker, but then again, most people were. In that era, holding a cigarette was an elegant, almost essential accessory. How times have changed. Full review...

The Best of Times by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Most children enjoy a good traditional tale and this lovely book by Michael Morpurgo seems to have all the right ingredients – a handsome prince and a beautiful princess who fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Or do they? Sadly, not long after Prince Frederico marries the lovely Princess Serafina, she becomes very sad. Nobody knows what has caused such great sadness, but poor Prince Frederico is desperate to find a cure for his wife's misery. He tries everything in his power and eventually decides to offer his kingdom to anyone who can make her happy again before she dies of a broken heart. Lots of people come to the palace to try and help but in the end the solution is a simple one provided by some very kind travellers. Full review...

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Mary Katherine Blackwood, also known as Merricat, is eighteen, and lives with her older sister Constance in the family home where 'Blackwoods had always lived'. Merricat quickly draws the reader into her world by a series of matter of fact but bizarre statements – her likes include her sister and death cap mushrooms, and everyone else in her family is dead. The wealthy Blackwood family has always kept the house 'steady against the world', shutting out other people, and they live near a village. Merricat believes that 'The people of the village have always hated us', and tells us that she hates them too. Full review...

Nelson to the Rescue by Simon Weston

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Nelson used to pull Mike the Milk's milk float, but he has now retired. He lives in the stable at the back of the dairy along with a couple of tricky rats, Rhodri and Rhys, a pigeon who has no sense of direction, a frog who thinks he's a secret agent spy and an old racehorse who spends most of his time sleeping. Rhodri and Rhys find a mysterious message on Mike's fridge and the animals believe that Mike has been invited to Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE. Somehow our hero, Nelson, finds himself travelling down to London, pulling a ceremonial coach for Prince Charles as well as giving a TV interview about his experience. Full review...

Too Many Magpies by Elizabeth Baines

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Becoming a mother brings a whole new world of fear into your life. Suddenly you see the danger in every situation, and fear and trepidation can be become your constant companions. In this novella, we meet a young mother who is married to a logical scientist. They attempt to control their children's futures on a scientific basis, growing their own fruit and vegetables, giving their children nothing sugary, eating no eggs for a whole year until any adverse affects from them were disproved. But after meeting with an enigmatic stranger our young mother begins to struggle as he introduces ideas of freedom into her world. She begins an affair with him, begins to let things slip at home and with the children, yet finds she is still continuously haunted by the sense of an ever-present danger. Full review...

Burning Out by Katherine May

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Violet has it all – a well-paid job, and a luxurious apartment all to herself. Everything is catered for; her meals, her clothes, and her health are all how she would like them to be. But the life she is leading is beginning to take its toll. On the verge of snapping, a drained and somewhat out-of-sorts Violet, withdraws back to her home town. There, she meets someone familiar, a ghost reminding her of how she used to be ten years earlier – a young carefree girl, full of life. Only this isn't a ghost, but a girl living the life Violet once lived – exactly the same. Haunted by the past Violet realizes history is repeating itself and is convinced events will happen again. Events that will in turn haunt the girl. Full review...

The Drowning City by Amanda Downum

3.5star.jpg Fantasy

In a nutshell, you're reading this because you're wondering whether The Drowning City is good, bad or mediocre. You've probably glanced at the rating and guessed the latter. I'm afraid it's not quite that simple. This is a debut that provokes decidedly mixed feelings. I started off convinced that I was going to love this book. The cover art is effortlessly cool, the premise intriguing, the characters laden with potential for greatness and the backdrop is certainly evocative. Full review...

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Most people of my age will have come across Jansson's work unwittingly, via the televised renditions of the Moomin tales. The readers amongst us would then have been entranced a few years ago to discover that at last Thomas Teal had set about the translation into English, first of The Summer Book and then of a collection of short stories which were published as 'A Winter Book'. Full review...

Me and Kaminski by Daniel Kehlmann

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

After reviewing several long books, it's been refreshing to read such a fluent yet pared down story as 'Kaminski and Me'. In it, Sebastian Zollner, the obnoxious main character, shoves himself forward in a desperate attempt to research a best seller which will re-ignite his career as an art critic. Kaminski, the proposed subject, was a fashionable painter long ago, but now, ancient and chronically ill, has virtually slid into oblivion. So the second-rate writer is on a loser unless he can dig up some juicy details to hook the art world and general public. Full review...

Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment by Louis Barfe

4star.jpg Entertainment

Light entertainment is often looked down upon, as if it's a bit naff, tepid and ignorable. What's often forgotten is that it's hugely popular, enjoyable and much of it is of the highest quality. Louis Barfe's Turned Out Nice Again tells the complete story of British light entertainment. Full review...

Oh No, Monster Tomato! by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall

4star.jpg For Sharing

Marvin is entering the Great Grislygust Grow-Off, but just like him, his tomatoes aren't growing very big. He takes the only sensible course of action: he sings his tomatoes a song. The results are spectacular. Victory is surely within his grasp. Full review...

The Spook's Stories: Witches by Joseph Delaney

4star.jpg Teens

'Warning: Not to be read after dark,' are the only words on the back of The Spook's Stories, and on the inside flap, 'The Times' warns us that this book is 'seriously scary'...

The whole thing kicks-off relatively tamely, though, with a story about a young Spook (a sort of monster-hunter) who falls in love with a witch and is forced to bear the consequences when the witch's sister comes to stay and exhibits a taste for the neighbor-children. Full review...

Die For You by Lisa Unger

3.5star.jpg Crime

Best-selling novelist Isabel Connelly is married to successful video game designer Marcus Raine. Or so she thinks. But when her husband fails to return from work, she realises something is wrong. Going to his office to try to find out what happens to him, she gets attacked and ends up in hospital, while his co-workers are killed. Things get worse for her, however, when investigating detective Grady Crowe reveals that Marcus Raine has been dead for several years, and the man she married was using a false identity. Infuriated by the betrayal, and the realisation that she's been living a lie for the past five years, Izzy takes matters into her own hands and sets out to find her husband and work out why he lied to her for so long. Ignoring police warnings, she delves deeper and deeper into a nasty underworld, and finds a tale which has its roots in Prague and rivals anything she could have plotted in one of her novels. Full review...

Wake by Lisa McMann

4star.jpg Teens

Janie is seventeen and studying hard for college. She's also working lots of hours at a local nursing home to earn money for college as it's unlikely her alcoholic mother is going to provide much in the way of resources. College is Janie's only chance at a life better than the one she's lived so far and so you can't blame her for being so single-minded in the pursuit of her goal. Only one thing stands in her way... Full review...

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

3.5star.jpg Teens

Listen Taylor's father has just moved in with his girlfriend and they are adopted into the Zing family, with all of its delightful eccentricities and unusual behaviour – the Zings meet every Friday night for dinner and then disappear into the garden shed to work on the 'Zing Family Secret'. Marbie Zing is terrified of doing something wrong and losing Nathaniel and Listen. Her sister Fancy is becoming increasingly disillusioned with her home life, and her daughter's year two teacher is coming to terms with a break up. The stories of these people come together to create a tale of life, love, and ultimately, what being part of a family means. Full review...

The Magdalena Curse by F G Cottam

2.5star.jpg Horror

Mark Hunter is the sort of father who would do anything for his son. After losing his wife and daughter in a tragic accident, his surviving son Adam has become his whole world. And Adam is an exceptional child – beautiful, incredibly smart and mature beyond his ten years – only recently he's been channelling the voices of the dead. Plagued by horrific dreams, able to speak Russian in the hours after he wakes, drawing occult symbols when he doodles, Hunter believes Adam to be possessed. Doctor Elizabeth Bancroft is sceptical, until she meets Adam, and witnesses the horrors the poor boy endures for herself. Full review...

The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

I shall start with a word of advice. When you're being hounded by a circus master, and a magician, for the soul of a tiger that's contained in a tiger's egg that's contained in the brain of your teddy bear, and your best friend - a fallen angel - is trying her best to make sure the other angels do not turn on you in a big way - then you're probably living the third book in a fantasy trilogy. Still - never mind, the angel's efforts will involve you entering a dream world of flight and cloud cities, the chase after your enemies will take you across the world to desert oases and back, and friends new and old will be on board to help. Full review...

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years by Sue Townsend

5star.jpg General Fiction

Adrian Mole is now 39¼ and living, quite literally, in a pigsty, sharing an all too thin party wall with his parents and working in a bookshop. It's not quite how life was supposed to turn out. As he spends his days wrestling his strong willed 5 year old Gracie into her school uniform, trying to reassure glamorous wife Daisy that life in the provinces is not as bad as she would like to believe, and desperately attempting to talk his mother out of her quest to appear on the vile Jeremy Kyle show, worrying over his increasingly frequent visits to the toilet is really the last thing he needs. And yet, the worst is still to come. Think a crumbling economy, redundancy, affairs, death, a family member challenging him in the novel writing stakes and a query over the big C – it's going to be a tough year for the Moles, and there's little that ol' Adrian can do except sit back and watch his life spin out of control around him. Full review...

Fallen by Lauren Kate

4.5star.jpg Teens

A 17 year old girl at a new school meets a mysterious and impossibly good-looking boy, who she's immediately drawn to. He seems determined to either ignore her or be outright rude to her, until he saves her life, and the two of them end up drawn together. This isn't Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, but it certainly has striking similarities. Full review...

King Lear by Gareth Hinds

3star.jpg Graphic Novels

Hound me out of town in a most appropriate manner, but I do not like King Lear. For me, even as a trained actor, the language is too dense and rich, the set-up too archly unfeasible to create the great tragedy it's thought to be. To my mind the acclaim and esteem in which it's held is only mirrored by its own over-long, over-blown blustering. Full review...

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Set in India, familiar territory for Theroux, A Dead Hand tells the story of a travel writer suffering from writer's block (also known as 'dead hand') until a chance letter from an American ex-pat, the mysterious Mrs Unger, relating a story of a mystery of a dead body in a hotel leads him to release his creativity in very unexpected ways. The story is more about obsession and infatuation than it is about the mystery itself as the narrator falls under Mrs Unger's Tantric charms. But does she have more to hide than she's letting on? Full review...

The Fourth Part of the World: The Epic Story of History's Greatest Map by Toby Lester

4.5star.jpg History

In 2003 a map was bought for $10 million, the highest price ever paid publicly for a historical document, by the Library of Congress, where it is now on permanent public display. No ordinary map, this is sometimes described as America's birth certificate. It is the sole survivor of a thousand copies printed early in the 16th century, and was discovered by accident in some archives in a German castle in 1901. The sale and story behind it intrigued Toby Lester so much that he was inspired to discover more, and this book is the result. Full review...

Is it Just Me or Has the Shit Hit the Fan?: Your Hilarious New Guide to Unremitting Global Misery by Steven Lowe and Alan McArthur

3star.jpg Humour

The banks fell over like fat Labradors running over a wet kitchen floor. Surely that is the wackiest, most inappropriate simile for the credit crunch and all it has done for the world. You won't get any such namby-pamby animal likenesses from these authors, instead with quite a potty mouth on them they will lambast the modern world, the entire banking system, all those who failed to see it coming, and those millions just seemingly waiting for us all to revert to high-interest, high-risk, high-lending capitalism, so they can get back on the expenses train, and back up the rich lists. Full review...

What's For Dinner, Mr Gum? by Andy Stanton

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

As soon as heroine Polly turns her back, and leaves the town of Lamonic Bibber for a day at the seaside, Mr Gum falls out with his best friend, causing carnivorous carnage all over the place. Meat is getting thrown around like it's going out of fashion, and we have to doubt whether Polly and her companions can ever utilise the power of love and put things to rights. Especially as this book does not contain a magic unicorn called Elizabeth. Full review...

Here Come the Girls by Loose Women

4star.jpg Home and Family

This is the second volume by the panelists from that nice ITV series, Loose Women. Just as promised on the cover, this book is an entertaining night with the girls. It turns out that they're just like us. The faces are already familiar and even if you don't know them yet, with nine contributors, you'll soon find a like-minded woman behind one of the celebrity faces. The women are universally warm-hearted and supportive: there will be many a lonely woman who reads this book and feels as if she sat down with a group of friends for the evening. Full review...

The Madness of Queen Maria: The Remarkable Life of Maria I of Portugal by Jenifer Roberts

4.5star.jpg Biography

Born in 1734 in Lisbon, at that time the richest and most opulent city in Europe, Maria was destined to become the first female monarch in Portuguese history. Married to her uncle Infante Pedro, seventeen years her senior, she had six children (outliving all but one of them), and became Queen in 1777. A conscientious woman, she had the misfortune to be born in during the 'age of reason', when church and state were vying for supremacy. Instinctively a supporter of the old religion, with a humanitarian approach to state affairs, she was no Queen Elizabeth, no Catherine the Great, and wore her crown rather reluctantly. Full review...

Thomas Wogan is Dead by David Hughes

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Well, with a title like that, need I bother with a plot summary? A man has a day out in Morecambe, then the next thing he knows he's in the ultimate waiting room, with a strange array of animals (a bat, a toad, a sea urchin...), all waiting for... well, something. Yup, as you didn't need telling, he's dead. Full review...

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

4star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Max. When I say he sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick about adults, or dislikes his mother's new boyfriend, or gets a bit feisty when he feels the need for revenge, I am certainly understating the facts. He is a bit of a rascal to say the least. But all that might change when he finds himself travelling to a strange land of roisterous animals, and ends up installed as their king. Full review...

Christmas Chaos for the Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Trevor's troublesome dog, Streaker, has had three puppies. They were fathered, according to local bully Charlie Smugg, by one of his Alsatians. Trevor would ideally like to keep them, at least until Christmas, but his parents have other ideas and put them up for sale. Charlie Smugg declares that he's entitled to half of the money from the sale of the puppies, but before they can be sold the three puppies go missing in the park and it's up to Trevor and his best friend Tina to try and track them down before Charlie demands his cash! Full review...

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

3.5star.jpg Teens

Cassie lives on an Arctic research station in Alaska. She loves the ice and the wilderness of her remote home and she'd definitely prefer to spend her time on tracking polar bears and fending off frostbite rather than on mixing with her peers and enjoying college and home comforts back in Fairbanks. However, things aren't all rosy. Cassie's mother died when she was just a baby and she can't help feeling a huge hole in her heart. Her scientist father is remote and unloving and her grandmother left the station after an argument with him when Cassie was still very young. Full review...

The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Iain Smyth and Michael Terry

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Do you know the joke about the wide-mouthed frog? You must have heard it. It's a classic. It's one that you really need to tell in person, with your fingers pulling your mouth wide open, but to hopefully spark your memory, the wide-mouthed frog introduces himself to a number of animals until he finally comes across a crocodile who eats wide-mouthed frogs, and the frog does his best to disguise who he is whilst saying Ooh, you don't see many of those round here, do you? I'm hardly doing it justice, but it's very cheesy and funny. Anyway, this is a book of that joke. Full review...

Don't Swallow Your Gum by Dr Aaron Carroll and Dr Rachel Vreeman

5star.jpg Lifestyle

BANG. That's the sound of copious urban myths being shot down. BANG. That's the sound of the old wives slamming the door, as their tales get revealed as baseless. CLICK. That's the noise lots of ill-informed websites make as they get closed down. All noises come due to this brilliant book. Full review...

Violet by Annie Taylor

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Violet is a very special hippo. She is extremely small but that does not make her adoptive parents Albert and Mavis love her any the less. However, they are slightly worried that Violet has a very unusual habit of turning pink without warning and for no explicable reason. Full review...

When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Arthur Transcombe is a middle-aged, grey-haired, self-effacing poet. Unremarkable really - on the outside. He has, however, managed to achieve some success with his poems. (Being a guest speaker at the Cheltenham Literary Festival is no mean feat). He is also a babe magnet! Full review...

Tommy Storm and the Galactic Knights by A J Healy

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Tommy Storm. He's one of five teenagers snapped up from around the universe to be a gang of heroic detectives charged with rescuing EVERYTHING from destruction. Not just the planet, or the solar system, or even the galaxy, but EVERYTHING. Nobody seems to know what's going to cause this destruction, or when, but he and his friends and their ship seem to be the only people proactively going about saving the day. So it's a pity that they start this book strung up by a nasty loony who's about to kill them. Full review...

Bounder!: The Biography of Terry-Thomas by Graham McCann

4.5star.jpg Biography

When I was in my early teens, it sometimes seemed as if Terry-Thomas was one of the stars of almost every other five-star British comedy film around. He was certainly one of the most recognizable characters of all with his gap-toothed grin, cigarette holder and inimitable 'Hel-lo!', 'Hard cheese!', and best of all, the angry, 'You're an absolute shower!' Full review...

Stop Me by Richard Jay Parker

3.5star.jpg Crime

Spam E-Mails can be incredibly annoying, but most of us will have had to deal with them. Fortunately, we can hit the delete button and forget about them as quickly as they came. I certainly prefer not to torture my friends by sending such rubbish on, no matter how bad my luck is supposed to become if I don't. But I wonder how many of us would react if a spam E-Mail actually was a matter of life and death, rather than just claiming to be? Full review...

The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson

5star.jpg Confident Readers

London 1601. Elizabeth I is getting on in years. Her capital city is a busy, bustling place. Boats fill the river and people fill the streets. Jack is happy because it's his birthday and his present is his heart's desire: an excitable black puppy named Max, who's a licking and a running and a leaping and a jumping and a tummy in the air and a tail wagging and a barking, racing, braking, spinning energy dog of delight. Full review...