Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2016

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We know that you could do your Christmas present book shopping from Amazon's best seller lists, but we like to suggest more unusual books that we've enjoyed over the year. Hopefully you'll find something for everyone here.

Some Seasonal Fun

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Review of

Pugh's New Year's Resolutions by Jonathan Pugh

4.5star.jpg Humour

If there's one thing that's for certain, it's that the world is changing. We're dating online, we're communicating in ways that make email seem redundant, and when we're shopping we just tell a website where and when it can be delivered, and how much leeway they have to swap our wishes for whatever it is they do bring us. But those changes are also supposed to be affecting us – we're supposed to use a smart watch to tell us if we're moving or not, we have to keep up with the latest fads, and we're supposed to prick our ears up and take note when the proverbial 'they' change their minds about what we're supposed to eat. Full Review

Children's Books

For Sharing


Review of

The Mouse that Cancelled Christmas by Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy

5star.jpg For Sharing

When you think there can't possibly be a different way to tell a Christmas story for children, along comes Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy with a tale of a mouse who was once injured at Christmas time. A falling bauble hit poor mouse and that was enough to convince mouse that Christmas meant danger. Mouse dons his hard-hat and high-visibility jacket to inspect the animal's village Christmas preparations. In true health and safety style, nothing is up to scratch: the star is too pointy; the tree too tall and the lights are too bright on the tree, not to even mention the spikiness of the pine needles. Quite frankly, Christmas is jolly well too dangerous, so mouse wants it cancelled. Full Review

If you'd like some other suggestions for brilliant picture books then have a look at our Top Ten Children's Picture Books 2016

For Confident Readers


Review of

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It's Poland in 1939. And Anna's linguistics professor father is about to be rounded up in the Nazi purge of intellectuals. Knowing this is likely to happen, he leaves her in the care of a friend for the day. When her father doesn't return to collect her, the frightened friend loses his nerve and abandons Anna to a new and dangerous world. Anna is just seven years old and will never see her father again. Full Review

For more suggestions for books for children who are reading confidently on their own right through to the pre-teens, have a look at our Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2016

For Teens


Review of

Front Lines by Michael Grant

5star.jpg Teens

1942: Hitler is pushing his way ever further, the USA adds its strength to the Alliance and women are allowed to fight in the military for the first time. Rio Richlin’s sister has already died in the war, Frangie Marr is desperate for a way to keep her family’s heads above water and Rainy Schulterman wants to kill the man who is murdering Jews. All three go to war and all three are changed. Although they do they do not start together, their paths intersect as they all take on roles that leave more scars than expected. Full Review

If you'd like more suggestions for books for Teens and Young Adults we've a Top Ten List for you.

Children's Non-Fiction


Review of

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The number of young people suffering from mental ill health is increasing year-on-year. Yet we still find it difficult to talk about. And mental health still hasn't achieved parity with physical health in terms of services and healthcare available. Enter Mind Your Head. Full Review

We've got more children's non-fiction books for you to consider in our Top Ten Children's Non-Fiction Books of 2016

Fiction for Adults



Review of

Chain of Custody by Anita Nair

4.5star.jpg Crime

After the success of A Cut-like Wound published in the UK in 2014, Chain of Custody sees the return of Inspector Gowda of the Bengarulu (rendered throughout in its anglicised version: Bangalore) police, called in when an affluent lawyer is found dead at his home in a prestigious and well-guarded gated community. However, that is the prologue jumping ahead of the story – as is the current vogue. Full Review

Chain of Custody is one of our top ten crime novels of 2016. You'll find the other nine here.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Review of

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Two spies employed by the Republic of Seresta are sent to the court of Jad's Holy Emperor Rudolfo, 'The Destroyer'. The first, Leonora, knows what she's doing right down to hiding behind the cover of a sham marriage assigned for that purpose. The second, Pero, is a young artist kidnapped for the task. He has no previous experience but he's expendable so that's not completely necessary. Events transpire to ensure that both spies will need to rely on mariner and merchant Marin and Serjani fighter Danica more than they think. Yet even they can't stop the conflict that's on the horizon. Rudolfo has his eye on extending his empire globally and Jad help anything that gets in the way. Full Review

If you're looking for science fiction, or want something different in fantasy, have look at our Top Ten Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels 2016

Women's Fiction


Review of

If I Forget You by T C Greene

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

A college love affair splintered apart by an accident that could not have been either predicted or avoided, this is truly a story of star-crossed lovers. Henry, forced to decide between a prison term that will change his life forever in ways that he would never be able to repair and his relationship with Margot, whom he believes, even then, to be the love of his life, simply decides that he cannot go to jail. He reluctantly ends his affair with Margot but knows he will never forget her. Twenty-one years later, haunted every day by the love he gave away, Henry spots Margot on the crowded streets of New York. Their eyes meet and he sees recognition in her eyes – for he has seen them in his dreams for all of his life. He calls out to her but she lowers her head and is quickly absorbed into the crowd and Henry hurries after her. Full Review

For more choices have a look at our Top Ten Women's Fiction Books of 2016.

General Fiction

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Review of

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

5star.jpg General Fiction

When you've had a heart attack and frightened the hell out of not just yourself, but your husband, your children – if they had known - your mother and your best friend, you imagine that some long overdue TLC is about to come your way. You're thinking cards, flowers, being waited on hand, foot and finger and even though the imminent influx of culinary gifts are likely to be low fat, low sugar and taste like the box they came in, they're coming, right? And you'll probably get a couple of months off work and not even have to think about the laundry. Or the housework? Or taking the twins to school? Right? Right???? Full Review

Historical Fiction

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Review of

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

It's 1949, and with the Second World War over, a new decade of recovery is beginning. For East End teenagers Lenny and Miriam, life has been suspended. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent, to take the cure, submit to the way of the Doctors, and learn the deferential way of the patient. Through doors newly opened by the one year old NHS, come Lenny in his striped London drape suit, and Miriam in cherry felt red coat, and beret pinned gingerly onto her blue-black curls. Trapped in a sterile closed environment, the twins find themselves meeting air force officers, a car salesman, a university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the Aristocracy, and, arriving to blast away their lethargic submission to authority - an American merchant seaman. Together they discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach, and may only be gained through full scale rebellion... Full Review

Literary Fiction


Review of

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Yolanda and Verla wake up disorientated. They realise they've been drugged. Yolanda thinks that perhaps they are in some kind of mental facility - She knew she was not mad, but all lunatics thought that. Verla just sits, still and frozen, waiting. And soon enough, two men arrive to reveal their fate. Yolanda and Verla, along with eight other girls, have been brought to a remote farmhouse surrounded by an electrified fence. Their heads are shaved. They are dressed in uncomfortable, scratchy, Amish-style clothes. They are tied together like a chain gang. And, like any chain gang, their days are marked with forced labour. Two men, one more cruel than the other, and a so-called nurse are their jailers, not their guardians. Full Review

There are more excellent choices in our Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2016

Non-Fiction for Adults

Autobiographies and Biographies


Review of

Marooned in the Arctic by Peggy Caravantes

5star.jpg Biography

Misogynists are manmade. And if anyone was in a position to hate men and the lot they put on their shoulders, it was Ava Blackjack. Her surname spoke of an abusive man she had a son by, but it was her time with four other men that made for one of the last century's more remarkable stories. An Inuit native, but one brought up in a city and with English lessons, she was invited on an excursion alongside many other 'Eskimo' and four intrepid Westerners, to the uninhabited Wrangel Island, perched off the northern Siberian coast. They were there just to stick a flag in it and call it British, even if they were pretty much fully American and Canadian, and the chap whose ideas these all were bore an Icelandic name; she was along to provide native expertise, especially waterproof fur clothing. And that was it – none of her kin joined her, leaving her in one tent and four men in another, in one of the world's most remote and inhospitable places. And that was just the start of her worries… Full Review

We've more biographies and autobiographies for you to choose from in our Top Ten Autobiographies and Biographies 2016

Animals and Wildlife

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Review of

Planet Earth II by Stephen Moss

5star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

Planet Earth II is the official companion to the upcoming BBC wildlife documentary series of the same name. Our understanding of the world around us has reached a new level, courtesy of ground-breaking technology that gives us unparalleled access to a diverse range of environments and a sneak peek into previously hidden worlds. The book looks at six vastly different environments: Jungles, Mountains, Deserts, Grasslands, Islands and Cities and showcases some of the amazing creatures that live in each one. Full Review

There's a larger selection of non-fiction books in our Top Ten Non-Fiction Books of 2016.


And something quirky to finish with:

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Review of

Only Fools and Horses: The Peckham Archives by Rod Green

4star.jpg Entertainment

We are in the world of one of the country's most famous and well-loved sitcoms – even if it was sort-of killed off for Christmas 2003. Yes, there have been specials since, and more repeats to clog up the BBC schedules than is really pukka, but very few people failed to succumb to its charms at one time or another. I'm sure there have been books before now celebrating the stony-faced reception of that drop through the open bar hatch, and that chandelier scene, but this is much more meaty. Purporting to be the family archives, found dumped in Nelson Mandela House, the documents here were passed from pillar to post, from one council worker in a department with a clumsy acronym to another, from them to the police – and now here they are being published for their social history worth. Will enough readers find them of worth, as the series quietly celebrates its 35th birthday? Full Review


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