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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The Very Rude Toytoise by Peter Lynas and Andy S Gray

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

It was one of those blissful days in the forest. Mrs Rabbit was collecting carrots because she wanted to make a cake. Mrs Blue Bird was gathering twigs to build a nest. Mrs Spider was busily spinning a web to catch juicy flies. Mrs Squirrel was piling up acorns. And Mr Bear sat comfortably in a chair, fishing for lunch. What could be better? And then... Full Review


Recipe for Making a Snowman by Peter Lynas and Rosie Alabaster

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing

Who knew it? You can even get a recipe book which tells you how to make a snowman - and there's no cooking involved! Mum, Dad and the two children are absolutely meticulous though: they're going to get everything right, even down to doing some mining to get the coal for the eyes, searching through the bits 'n bobs jar for buttons for the snowman's coat and picking out the perfect piece of headgear. There's quite a choice available, but the family decide on the bobble hat, presumably to keep the snowman warm. The moth-eaten pair of mittens simply won't do and a pair with purple and pink stripes are chosen. Full Review


War and Love: A family's testament of anguish, endurance and devotion in occupied Amsterdam by Melanie Martin

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

Melanie Martin read about what happened to Dutch Jews in occupied Amsterdam during World War II and was entranced by what she discovered, particularly in The Diary of Ann Frank but then realised that her own family's stories were equally fascinating. A hundred and seven thousand Jews were deported from the city during the war years, but only five thousand survived and Martin could not understand how this could be allowed to happen in a country with liberal values who were resistant to German occupation. Most people believed that the occupation could never happen: even those who thought that the Germans might reach the city were convinced that they would soon be pushed back, that the Amsterdammers would never allow what happened to escalate in the way that it did, but initial protests melted away as the organisers became more circumspect. It's an atrocity on a vast scale, but made up of tens of thousands of individual tragedies. Full Review


Snowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick

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

This is a deep, interesting read unlike any book I've read in quite some time. The novel's story follows a young man named Ash in the process of joining a community of sick people in the curiously named town of Snowflake, Arizona. These people are sick, but it's not a sickness you've heard of. Instead, they're environmentally ill – affected by household chemicals and fabrics, pesticides, static electricity, and radiation – and their only cure is to stay in the town away from the real world. Though it's about a real place, the people in it are fictional. It really is a place apart, quite literally cut off from the outside world – people are even required to decontaminate themselves thoroughly before becoming fully integrated. Full Review


Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

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

Robin Hood is gone – denouncing both his former life and his love Marian, and retreating to a monastery – although no-one knows quite what led him to abandon all that he had built. Marion's life since has been relatively quiet - but when her friends start dying, Marion is tasked by Father Tuck to break the curse surrounding them and to save their lives. Setting off with a soldier, a Fey Lord and a sullen Robin Hood, she becomes tangled in a maze of betrayals, complicated relationships, and a vicious struggle for the throne…Full Review


The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

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

The Nightjar is an unusual and exciting story. Alice Wyndham lives a normal life in London until she finds a box on her doorstep one morning and her life begins to unravel, fast. From that very moment, her life is flooded with magic, loss, expectation and particularly, betrayal. As everything around her shifts, all that she knows, all that she thinks she knows, must change. Who can she trust? Who must she trust? Who will she trust? More importantly, can she even trust herself? Full Review


American Royals by Katharine McGee

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

Two and a half centuries ago, America won the Revolutionary War and General George Washington was offered the crown. Today, the House of Washington still sit on the thrown with Princess Beatrice next in line. Beatrice's whole life has been building up to her ruling the United States and the time for her reign is imminent. Full Review


Dead Flowers (Dr Sian Love) by Nicola Monaghan

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

It was more than a little bit of a surprise to Dr Sian Love (and the rest of the relatives) when her uncle Bobby left her his home - a former pub called The Loggerheads in the Narrow Marsh area of Nottingham. Then it was a shock when she found two bodies in the cellar before she'd even got settled in - and managed to break a bone in her foot in the course of making the discovery. They'd been there for some time, but who - exactly - were the man and the woman, wrapped in each other's arms? Having spent ten years on the Murder Squad, ending up as a DCI she knows what's going to happen next, but she's not prepared for quite how personal it's all going to get. Full Review


Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson

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

Amara's twelfth birthday is coming up and she wants nothing more for it than a trip to New York to meet her father's side of the family. But her father hasn't spoken to Amara's grandfather for many years - Amara doesn't know why - and both her parents are resistant to the idea. But Amara is nothing if not persistent and a school family history project provides her with the perfect wedge. Eventually, her parents give in and off she goes... with a secret mission from her mother: to bring her father and Grandpa Earl back together again. Full Review


Lakes of Mars by Merritt Graves

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

Aaron Sheridan doesn't want to live anymore. His entire family is dead by his own hand, killed in a shuttle crash. Unable to deal with the guilt, he signs up for the Fleet expecting a fatal deployment to the Rim War, but instead ends up at their most prestigious command school, Corinth Station... Full Review


Coming of Age by Danny Ryan

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

He began writing novels and poetry at the age of twelve, but it was to take him a further forty-eight years to realise that he wasn’t very good at either. Consistently unpublished for all that time, he remains a shining example of hope over experience...

This a memoir from someone you have never heard of - but will feel like you have. Full Review


Lighthouse of the Netherworlds by Maxwell N Andrews

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

The phrase about never trusting a book by its cover is something I put on a par with comments about Marmite. You're supposed to love it or hate it and I'm halfway between, and likewise the old adage is halfway true. From the cover of this I had a child-friendly fantasy, what with that name and that attractive artwork of an attractive girl reaching for an attractive water plant. That was only built on by the initial fictionalised quotes, with their non-standard spelling, as if texts of scripture in this book's world predated our standardised literacy. But why was I two chapters in and just finding more and more characters, both human and animal, and more and more flashbacks, and no proof that this was what I'd bought in for? Full Review


The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

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

Berlin, 1989. Miriam is in the middle of a city freshly united, with the Wall newly broken down and people able to cross at liberty for the first time in decades. She is in the middle of such euphoria, but cannot feel it, for she has not left her father's apartment in weeks, nursing him as he lies dying. One standard bed-bath, however, is very different, when he gasps the name Frieda that she does not recognise – and she sees for the first time ever a tattoo for his camp inmate identity under his watch. One bombshell outside, then, and two inside... Full Review


A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

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

Tove Jansson's worldwide fame lasts on the Moomin books, written in the 1940s and later becoming television characters of the simplicity, naivety and sheer 'goodness' that would later produce flowerpot men or teletubbies. Simple drawings, simple stories, simple goodness. What is often forgotten outside of her native Finland is that she was a serious writer…that she wrote for adults as well as children…and that she had a feeling for the natural world and the simple life that not only informed those child-like trolls but went far beyond any fantasy of how the world might be. Full Review


The Collective by Lindsey Whitlock

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

Illinois Territory, Collective Homesteads of America. Some people live in sunken houses, buried into hillsides to disguise how large their property is at times of austerity. Others are called Foresters, for they live and work in trees. When the small area the Foresters live in is placed under compulsory purchase, the residents are given a pitiful amount to clear out before they get manfully cleared out. Our hero, Elwyn, has just left the trees for the Hills, to live with an uncle and learn their ways – he's just of age to decide things for himself, and he has decided to see how the other half lives... Full Review


The Man Who Killed Hitler by Andre Pronovost

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

Germany is split. Some of her is in favour of Hitler and the Nazis, but much isn't. Some of her is stuck to the east fighting the Soviets, but some will soon have to be on the other front, against the Americans coming into the continent to put things right as they see it. Finding out that the war to the east isn't working, due to Hitler's tactical ineptitude and inability to heed advice, some people reckon Stalin is five seasons away from being in Berlin. The only way to shore things up, and repair the splits, is to kill Hitler, and luckily the Baron Nicholas is the man to do it. He's aristocratic enough, he knows enough people in industry, society and other circles of power, so once he's succeeded he might be able to keep a German presence in Europe. But will he still be able to keep the capitalists and communists from meeting in the middle? Full Review


The Long Call (Two Rivers) by Ann Cleeves

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, LGBT Fiction

When we first meet DI Matthew Venn he's at his father's funeral, although 'at' rather overstates the proximity. He sees everyone - his mother and the preacher included from a distance - but he doesn't go it. He wouldn't be welcome. Those attending are part of the Barum Brethren and the teenage Matthew was thrown out when he told the congregation how wrong they were in their beliefs. It coincided with him leaving university and joining the police force. The announcement of Matthew's marriage to Jonathan Church was in the local paper and whilst he doesn't know if his father saw it, he can't imagine that it will have gone down well. Full Review


Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It by Susie Day

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

When Max’s dad finds himself in a spot of hot water, he disappears for a few days, leaving Max in charge of his three younger sisters, Thelma, Louise and Ripley. Max has no problem with stepping up to fill his dad’s shoes and be the man in charge, but when his dad still doesn’t come home, he starts to panic that interfering grown ups will realise that the children are home-alone, and that they will step in and separate the family. So Max takes his sisters to Wales, to hide out in a friend’s cottage. It won’t be for long, surely? Because his dad wouldn’t miss Christmas, would he? Full Review


Sunlight 24 by Merritt Graves

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

If the game wasn’t fair before, it’s definitely not fair now. Or so thinks Dorian Waters, part of the ever-expanding portion of humanity who can’t afford the nano-implant and genetic augmentation regimen known as Revision. And because he can’t afford Revision, he can’t get into college, he can’t get a job. And when he sees the brilliant and mesmerizing Lena for the first time, he knows he doesn’t have a chance with her, either. And so, Dorian robs a house with his best friend, Ethan. Then they do it again. They’re able to keep at it until they have enough money saved up for their first Revision. Their initial choices in self-enhancement start impacting their future choices, which in turn impact their future Revision––on and on in a downward spiral of self-destruction... Full Review


Drowned Lives by Stephen Booth

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

When council officer Chris Buckley is approached by an old man who wants his help in healing a decades' old family rift he's reluctant to get involved, but then Chris is reluctant to get involved in anything but a pint in the pub these days. It could just be the way that he is, or the fact that he's just lost both his parents within three months of each other. He's currently existing in the family home and wondering when he's going to be made redundant from his job with the council. The short answer to that one is 'soon'. Chris does his best to deter the old man, but it's not before he's left a lot of papers with his neighbour. Then the old man is murdered and the police come calling on Chris. Full Review


Financial Accounting Essentials You Always Wanted To Know: 4th Edition by Kalpesh Ashar

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Business and Finance

Financial Accounting Essentials You Always Wanted to Know gives people without an accounting background, who have risen in a company, the knowledge to understand the accounts which show how the company is doing. The book begins by looking at why financial accounting systems are necessary, then moves on to give an excellent overview of the types of accounting systems which will be encountered and the terms used. We then look in detail at the balance sheet, the income statement and the statement of cash flows. If you understand these three sections on a set of accounts they will tell you a story. You will understand the company (or indeed any other business) but if you don't understand what's there you will be missing vital clues as to whether or not the company is thriving. Full Review