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26 JANUARY

 

Review of

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

  Thrillers

Frankie Elkin found Lani Whitehorse's body in her car at the bottom of the lake. She knew that the twenty-two-year-old waitress wouldn't have left her three-year-old daughter and run away. Lani was the fourteenth missing person to be located by Frankie and now she's moving on again, this time to Boston where there's a strong Haitian community which was home to Angelique Lovelie Badeau until her disappearance eleven months ago. Frankie, middle-aged and white, gets a job and accommodation at Stoney's bar and sets out to investigate the community which is just about exclusively black. Full Review

28 JANUARY

 

Review of

The Treasure in the Tower by Rob Keeley

  Confident Readers

Rob Keeley is back! Hooray! We here at Bookbag Towers are always happy to read a new adventure from Rob - his stories combine fast pace and lots of action, an easy to read style, an unerring eye for children's friendships and rivalries, and always a good dollop of naughty humour. They're all present here, in The Treasure in the Tower. The chance purchase of a book during a school trip sparks the whole adventure. Who can follow the clues best and find the treasure? Jess, her brother Mason and their friend Kessie through sheer persistence? Or spoiled brat Perdita with her money and tech gadgets and willingness to cheat? Full Review

1 FEBRUARY

 

Review of

Murder in the Belltower (A Miss Underhay Mystery) by Helena Dixon

  Crime (Historical)

In December 1933 the remains of Elowed Underhay were discovered in the cellar of the Glass Bottle Public House. Ezekiel Hamett was sought in connection with the murder of Elowed and his half-brother, Denzil Hammett, whose body was also discovered. Kitty Underhay's long search for her mother, who disappeared in June 1916 was over. Now she's determined that the man responsible for her murder will be brought to justice. Full Review

2 FEBRUARY

 

Review of

This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

  Teens

Jess is a normal 90's teenage girl, just trying to navigate the usual stresses of school, and boys, and parent troubles. But strange things seem to be happening in her small town, with a mystery flu keeping lots of people indoors, and a strange metal device, with an apple on it, that slips out of her friend's bag, but that her friends just won't talk to her about. Jess feels like she might be hearing voices, and her sister (who is very ill) seems to be responding to her in strange ways sometimes. Is there something going on beneath the surface of Jess' life? Full Review

4 FEBRUARY

 

Review of

Slough House (Jackson Lamb 7) by Mick Herron

  Thrillers

Someone is killing secret service agents, past and present, from the Slough House team. Jackson Lamb can't understand it. Well, what he actually can't understand is why, having seen them, anyone would bother. But the deaths are mounting up and something needs to be done. After all when things went awry on Spook Street, they generally went the full Chris Grayling. Over at Regent's Park, Diana Taverner is quietly jubilant about an operation which saw the perpetrator of a Novichok poisoning in the UK (three people seriously injured and one dead) dispatched. It isn't just the message that was sent: she's also delighted that she managed to fund the operation off the books. Some private money was brought in. She won't always be so jubilant about this. Full Review

 

Review of

The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

  Thrillers

Fergus Ariss is in his late thirties and he knows that he's dying. His body is giving up on him, his internal organs beginning to putrify but before he dies he wants a wife, a child and a brother. He's been on the lookout for the perfect people and he's made certain preparations. The flat where the family will live is prepared and even windows with curtains, and pictures in frames have been painted onto the walls. Angela Fernycroft was to be his wife. Her husband, Cal, had taken the children - a boy of seven and a girl of five, away for the weekend. Unfortunately, it doesn't go according to plan and Angela dies. Full Review

 

Review of

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman

  Crime

It wasn't exactly the case Lt Milo Sturgis had been dreaming about: a death from thirty-six years ago and the daughter of the woman who died wanted some answers. She had money and money translated into clout and so the problem was dropped onto Milo's toes. Dorothy Swoboda was twenty-four years old when she died in a car which went off a cliff on Mulholland Drive and burst into flames. It turned out that she wasn't actually married to the man with whom she'd left her daughter but Dr Stanley R Barker, optometrist, was a good man and he took out adoption papers for Ellie - and she took his name. Ellie was three when her mother left her with Dr Barker and she has nothing of her but one photograph of her mother and father and a necklace made of serpentine. Full Review

 

Review of

The Invisible by Tom Percival

  For Sharing

This is the story of Isobel, a little girl who made a big difference. Isobel lived with her parents in a house - a very cold house, because her parents couldn't afford to put the heating on:

Ice curled across the inside of the window and crept up the corner of the bedpost.

The family didn't go to the cinema or on holidays but they had each other and they were happy. Then the day came when they couldn't afford the rent for the house and they had to move to the far side of the city. This part of the city was cold, sad and lonely and Isobel felt invisible. Full Review

 

Review of

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

  General Fiction

Faye lost her mum when she was very young. She was raised by some elderly neighbours after her mum died from a cold that got worse, and although they were kind and very good to her she of course missed her mum enormously. So when, unexpectedly, she discovers a time travel conduit (via an old space hopper box in her attic) that takes her back to the 70's and her mum, she revels in the chance to create some memories and get to know the woman who meant so much to her. The time travelling, however, is neither easy nor safe, and Faye fears that her husband won't believe what's happening and so lies to him instead. The lies grow more tangled, and Faye begins to wonder if it's safe for her to return one last time to the past. Should she try to see her mum one last time before her mum's death, or will it change her own future forever to attempt it? Full Review

18 FEBRUARY

 

Review of

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

  Historical Fiction

Minnie is an 'ordinary' girl living an unexciting life in a leafy provincial suburb. The book is set in the 1930s and Minnie is expected to live up to her mother's expectations and find a nice young man to marry, produce children and spend the rest of her days looking after her husband and their home. Unfortunately, this isn't what she wants to do at all and neither does she want to continue working as a secretary. As a result of a chance meeting, she finds herself drawn into espionage, working for the secret service and effectively living a double life - attempting to infiltrate the Communist Party of Great Britain. Minnie finds herself torn between what she perceives as her duty and the friends she has made - and likes - whilst working for the Communist Party. Full Review

 

Review of

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

  Confident Readers

April's father, a scientist, has been given a job on a remote island called Bear Island, and he accepts the job deciding to take his daughter April with him. They live alone anyway, since April's mother died some time before, and he feels it will be educational for her to experience the island and all its natural beauty. April already has an affinity with nature, and she's excited to travel with her father, thinking of all the fun things they will be able to experience together on the island. But when they get there, her father finds that his work monitoring and recording the temperatures just takes up too much of his time, and so April is left to explore by herself. Her father had reassured her that there were no longer any bears living on Bear Island, but one day April thinks she catches a glimpse of one, and so she sets out to find the Bear, and then when she sees he is injured, to befriend and help him. Full Review

4 MARCH

 

Review of

The Khan by Saima Mir

  Crime

Jia Khan has alway lived by the motto be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men. This has served her well in her rise through the criminal justice system and by the time she is called home for her sister's wedding after fifteen years in self-imposed exile, she is at the top of her game. Returning to the city of her birth, to old scars and fresh wounds, Jia must confront her past and reconcile her visions for the future with her sense of honour and duty. Full Review

 

Review of

If You Kept a Record of Sins by Andrea Bajani and Elizabeth Harris (translator)

  Literary Fiction

This was an incredibly readable novella, but one that left me a little conflicted. We start as our hero arrives at Bucharest airport, and before we even know his gender or the nature of the person he's addressing in his second person monologue of a narration, we see him picked up by his mother's chauffeur, and carted off to do all the necessary introductions before said mother is buried the following day. The mother was a businesswoman, who clearly left northern Italy and settled in Romania with her (night-time and business) partner, and feelings of abandonment are still strong. And so we flit from current (well, this came out in the original Italian in 2007, so moderately current) Bucharest, to the lad's childhood, and see just what he has to tell her as a private farewell address. Full Review

 

Review of

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

  Teens

Jayne Baek is a fashion student that's barely getting by. She drinks. She smokes. She makes bad decisions about the men she sleeps with. She's an all-round messy character; and that's her charm. June, on the other hand, is a complete contrast to Jayne. She's a typical older sister: she's smart, thinks she knows it all, and has a successful job. She constantly criticises Jayne for her life choices, and the two have barely kept in contact despite living in the same city for the past two years. This is until June finds out she's sick, and Jayne is the only person she can turn to. The two sisters have to come together and decide how far they'll go to save each other's lives – even if it means swapping identities. Full Review

18 MARCH

 

Review of

The Day the Screens Went Blank by Danny Wallace and Gemma Correll

  Confident Readers

Meet Stella and her family. They're just innocently trying to have a Sunday evening in together, watching a film – using three different screens to watch three different things, mind – when poof everything goes blank. And it's not just their home, but the entire south-western village of Mousehole, and not just that, either, but the whole country, if not world. Suddenly people are constantly on their phones – hoping they're first to get a screen back, and not what they were constantly doing on them before. Toasters can toast, but TVs cannot do the V part of their job, and no computer can show its computations. You might think this is going to be a social comedy about people stuck in such a Luddite experience against their will, but no. For the family finally remember Stella's grandma, and see if they can get across country to her. Hence this has to go down as a road-trip book. But not just that, a slapstick road-trip comedy. And more than that, too – for it's a slapstick, high-drama, high-octane road-trip comedy with oodles of cuddly heart that kids of all ages will love. Full Review

23 MARCH

 

Review of

The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

  Thrillers

Our hero David Thorne is an author, who shares his life between the two US coasts. It's the western coast we're concerned with, a place he has to return to, and a place he has to be able to leave. David lost contact with his partner there ten years ago, when she vanished from a remote road late at night. He's paying for contact with the man he thinks the only suspect, a lifer now, who went a bit Hannibal Lecter, and has a dozen and more unfound Jane Does on his record. David is trying to pry the connection between the murderer and his girl from the man's mind, but to no avail. He's also having a recharge ready for his next hit novel when into the restaurant walks the sheer spitting image, the very embodiment, the virtual resurrection, of his love. What is a man to do? Full Review

1 APRIL

 

Review of

Remy: A book about believing in yourself by Mayuri Naidoo and Caroline Siegal

  For Sharing

Remy is feeling miserable. He's let himself down again. The school bully Jayden, together with his sidekicks Ryan and Brandon, have been laughing at Remy, calling him names because he is short and has small eyes. They are mean but they are not stupid. They are careful to wind up Remy when nobody can see and then push him just that little bit further when the other kids are around. So, when Remy reacts, it looks as though he was the instigator. And then he gets into trouble at school and the teachers don't believe him when he tries to explain what happened. Full Review

 

Review of

Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

  General Fiction

This book lets us discover several people in different stages of life in the early 1970s, all vaguely connected. So we have a bullied half-cast boy (as he would have been called then), a girl in a humdrum job wanting to become a singer, and chiefly, Imelda, the third generation of Madame Burova, Tarot-Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant, to use her family's sea-front booth. The singer, the scryer and the sufferer's mother will all become staff at a revamped holiday camp, but just before then we see Imelda fly solo for the first time in the family stall. We also see her on her last day, fifty years later, in possession of a pair of letters that will change everything for a woman called Billie. Just who is she, and who delivered the secrets about her to Imelda, and why did it have to remain a secret all this time? Full Review

15 APRIL

 

Review of

Sistersong by Lucy Holland

  Literary Fiction

Sistersong is part of a genre I particularly enjoy, the modern retelling of folk and fairy tales. These stories, for most of us, are a cornerstone of childhood and I relish seeing them retold with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. If handled well these retellings give new life and new meaning to stories that are now becoming increasingly narrow and outdated, fleshing out characters, examining relationships and re-evaluating the role of women. Sistersong is a perfect example of a modern retelling done well, the plot is handled with care, keeping its archaic historical feel but allowing the characters to come to life, to feel real and human, most importantly they feel relatable in a modern world whilst still feeling appropriate for the pre-Saxon age they live in. This is a masterpiece of storytelling and I was captivated from beginning to end. Full Review

 

Review of

The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

  teens

Rachel Chavez is the new girl at Manchester Prep. A school filled to the brim with the richest children in the city – and Rachel doesn't belong. She's not rich, she has no ties to some royal family in Serbia, and most of all, she spends the majority of her spare time watching horror movies as a source of comfort. She struggles to find anyone to connect with, until one day she stumbles upon the Mary Shelley Club. A secret society with one aim: pull off the best prank in true horror movie style, and unless someone screams, you have failed. Rachel becomes immediately engrossed in the competition. But as the pranks escalate, and Rachel finally feels like she has found her place in this school, things start to go wrong; a masked figure keeps showing up to the pranks, and people begin to get hurt. When the competition then takes a deadly turn, Rachel must figure out who this masked figure is before it's too late. Full Review

27 APRIL

 

Review of

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O'Neal

  Teens

Having recently been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Priya has to come to terms with the fact that she may be in constant pain for the rest of her life. She joins Oof Ouch My Bones, an online support group where she talks to a bunch of other teens living with chronic illnesses. They talk about their troubles and help each other out, while also providing an escape to just joke and mess around. When Brigid—one of her closest friends—doesn't respond to the chat for a while, Priya becomes concerned. She decides to steal her parents' car and drive to Brigid's house to check up on her. But what she doesn't expect to find there is a werewolf in the basement – and for that werewolf to be the girl she has been talking to online for the past few months. Full Review

29 APRIL

 

Review of

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

  Women's Fiction

This re-telling of the myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur is interesting and unusual. Jennifer Saint presents the story in a way that is sympathetic to its origins but also appealing to a modern audience. Saint's narrative is told predominantly through the viewpoint of Ariadne, spanning from her childhood to her death, allowing the reader to really connect with Ariadne as a character in her own right rather than just a prop in the heroics of Theseus. Full Review

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