The Bookbag

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The Bookbag

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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Over The Line by Tom Palmer

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Jack Cock made his debut as a professional footballer for Huddersfield Town and that fragile dream of playing for his country came just a little bit closer, but this was just before the beginning of the First World War, when there was immense pressure on young men to do the honourable thing and join the war to fight in France. Over the Line is the story of Jack's war, of joining the Footballers' Battalion, playing in the Flanders Cup, fighting in the trenches and not just surviving but being decorated for bravery. After the war he scored England's first international goal and was one of the first of the modern generation of 'professional footballers'. Full review...

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

5star.jpg Confident Readers

If you want to know how the average young adolescent thinks and speaks, read this book. Yes, it's a sci-fi adventure with monsters and robots and space travel. And yes, it's a story of war to the death with invisible aliens. But kids are kids, no matter what the circumstances, and anyone brave enough to get on a ship for a week with three hundred young people and no parents is, frankly, asking for trouble. Full review...

The Quickening by Julie Myerson

4star.jpg General Fiction

Rachel and Dan are on holiday in the Caribbean, but soon after they arrive on the island of Antigua odd and disturbing things start to happen. Items seemingly move by themselves. Things break. People appear out of nowhere. And then, the attacks start. Rachel is petrified. Newly pregnant she is worrying for her baby’s safety as well as her own, and she has a nagging feeling in her stomach that the one person she should be able to trust is the one she simply cannot. Dan is acting strangely and though she begs him to let them go home early, he plays down her fears. Why won’t he believe what she’s saying, and take her seriously? Full review...

The Giver by Lois Lowry

5star.jpg Teens

Jonas lives in a world were sameness has prevailed over individuality. There are rules, so many rules, which are adhered to, and which allow society to live without pain, suffering or conflict. These rules are rarely questioned, merely accepted. When they turn twelve, children in this world are assigned their future role in society by the Elders, and start training for it. These assignments are based on years of observation of their characters and aptitudes, and whether they are assigned to be a nurturer of the young or a caregiver of the elderly, a labourer who keeps the streets clean or someone who prepares and provides food, they are usually a good match for the person. At the assignment ceremony, Jonas is not given a typical role, however. He is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, a position given out only once every few generations. He will receive and store all the memories of the past which the rest of society are no longer burdened with, but which may be needed from time to time to aid in decision making and law enforcement. Full review...

Orfeo by Richard Powers

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

'No one thinks twice about the quiet, older bohemian in the American Craftsman at 806 South Linden…people take up all kinds of hobbies in retirement.'

Seventy-year-old Peter Els is an out-of-work composer in Pennsylvania. He teaches music appreciation at a senior centre, but much of his spare time is devoted to chemistry experiments. As a college student he agonised over the choice between chemistry and music, in fact, and these days he wonders if he got it wrong. His avant-garde compositions, such as a three-hour opera based on medieval German history, were infrequent and never very well received. Should he have gone into biochemistry after all? Thus, thanks to a few thousand dollars' worth of semi-professional equipment purchased off the Internet, Els is now engaged in a new kind of composition – with bacterial DNA taking the place of musical notes. Full review...

Bryant and May: The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

4.5star.jpg Crime

The Bleeding Heart is the eleventh outing for Fowler's distinctive detectives from the Peculiar Case Unit. If you've been along for the ride so far you'll either have fallen in love with them, or really not be able to see the joy of them. Either way, this review isn't going to tell you anything you don't already know, other than, yes, Fowler's still on form. Forgive me then, if I address the rest of my thoughts to those who've yet to stumble into the is backwater of the Metropolitan Police. Full review...

Going Home by Cliff McNish

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Ralphie, Fred, Mitch and Bessie are the ‘No-Hopers’- dogs who have been at Happy Paws Rescue Centre for so long that it seems unlikely they will ever find new homes. Bessie, a beautiful collie, has a fear of being touched; Mitch can’t stop chasing cats; Fred is depressed and despondent and Ralph is horribly disfigured. Luckily for them, Happy Paws has a policy of never putting a healthy dog down. However, when a new manager takes over the centre, the rules change and it becomes a desperate race against time to find the No-Hopers a home. Full review...

Rough Passage to London: A Sea Captain's Tale, a Novel by Robin Lloyd

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Elisha Ely Morgan leaves his native Connecticut to go to sea, partially but not entirely to escape his father's cruelty. There's a second reason: the sea has been blamed for the loss of two of his brothers, the exact circumstances of his elder brother's disappearance never having been clear. But Ely has heard a rumour; a rumour that will take him as far away as London and obsess him for decades. His brother Abraham may not be dead. Full review...

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Elizabeth Pringle bequeathed her house on Arran to Anna Morrison even though she didn't actually know her. Anna just happened to walk past and ask to buy the house decades earlier. Elizabeth hadn't said yes but always remembered the young lady, walking past with the baby in the pram. The baby, Martha, is now an adult visiting Elizabeth's house – Anna's house – after Elizabeth's death. Through the belongings that Elizabeth left with it, Martha sees glimpses of a past life while hoping that that this refuge will now become a haven for her mother before it's too late and while she still has a mind to take her back to the good times. Full review...

The Worst Girlfriend In The World by Sarra Manning

4.5star.jpg Teens

It's an acknowledged fact amongst the boys of Merrycliffe-on-Sea. Franny B's best friend Alice is the worst girlfriend in the world. She loses interest and dumps them, one at a time, leaving a trail of heartbroken boys and furious girlfriends. But as a friend to fashion-obsessed Franny, she's great. Until she gets bored of schoolboys and decides to set her sights on the lead singer of local band Thee Desperadoes, despite knowing that Franny has been crushing on him for years. Can Alice get the guy, or will Franny finally go for it? And is their friendship strong enough to cope? Full review...

The Lying-Down Room (Commandant Serge Morel) by Anna Jaquiery

4star.jpg Crime

There is a reason why everyone who can leave Paris in August does so: it's swelteringly hot and deeply unpleasant. Commandant Serge Morel and his assistant, Lila Markov don't have the choice and to add to their problems they're short-staffed. The murder of the old woman seemed strange from the beginning: she was frail, inoffensive but she'd apparently been drowned and then laid out with care, garishly made up and adorned with a red wig. The bed sheet was tucked in tightly around her. Why would anyone want to murder her? And why was Fauré's Requiem playing whilst the murderer worked? Full review...

Horrid Henry's Wedding by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

What on earth was Prissy Polly thinking? If she had wanted her wedding to Pimply Paul to go without a hitch, why, oh why had she insisted on asking her awful cousin Horrid Henry to be a page boy? One thing is for certain: when you take a certain horrid boy with a reputation for mischief and force him to wear a lilac shirt, green satin knickerbockers, tights, a pink cummerbund and white satin shoes with gold buckles, you are just asking for trouble... Full review...

Call the Vet: Farmers, Dramas and Disasters - My First Year as a Country Vet by Anna Birch

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

Newly-qualified vet Anna arrives in the sleepy coastal village of Ebbourne filled with dreams of following in the footsteps of her hero, James Herriot as she starts her new role working in a rural mixed practice. She will be treating farm animals, as well as smaller pets, in a friendly community in a stunning location. However, Anna barely has time to settle in before being thrown headlong into the thick of things with two tricky calvings to deal with and plenty of muck, blood and gore. “Oh yes Mum, it’s a glamorous job...” she laments. Full review...

Foxy Tales - The Cunning Plan by Caryl Hart and Alex T Smith

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

Foxy DuBois is on a mission to get rich quick and to get rid of that pest, Alphonso the Alligator for good, otherwise the greedy alligator is going to eat Foxy for breakfast. However she needs Alphonso’s help to ensure that her plan will succeed. In order for the scheme to work Alphonso must dress as a lady dog walker and distract a rich old lady while Foxy kidnaps her small dogs. Alphonso will then pretend to find the dogs and the rich old lady, full of gratitude, will give them a generous reward. How could this possibly go wrong? Very, very easily... Full review...

Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Munro packs an extraordinary amount into a short story. Some of them are quite long for short stories, and they are not the sorts of stories that might suit reading on your daily commute; they demand more attention than that. Her observations of human behaviour are acute, and the most innocuous of them will set you thinking a great deal. Most of the stories warrant a pause for thought and need a little time for absorption of detail. Full review...

Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Meredith loves her husband Alistair (the father of her teenage twins Jemima and Luke). This is a bit of a problem though as Alistair now has Charlotte, a new and younger model. With his new coupling in mind, Alistair decides to take the twins on holiday so they and Charlotte can bond. Surprisingly Meredith agrees wholeheartedly; she's sure that a week with the twins would break any fledgling relationship up. Meanwhile Meredith's own twin brother, Jack, is 'taking a break from work' which is fine but you'd think he could at least take a turn visiting his dementia-bound mother… or at least Meredith would think that and regularly does. Jack isn't as responsible as she is, in fact he isn't as a lot of things as she is but Meredith knows it will all turn out ok in the end, and, after the incident with the dead bird in the bleach, she may just be right. Full review...

The Wild Ways: An Enchantment Emporium Novel (Enchantment Emporium 2) by Tanya Huff

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Charlie Gale, the lass who has magic in her music (literally!), leaves the rest of the family behind to play at a Celtic festival on the Canadian coast. You can never leave the Gale family behind though even when the problem is an oil company drilling offshore in a seal sanctuary area. This may not be a popular occupation but the oil company has the clout to use a little leverage. Charlie pits herself against them with the help of a Selkie family but in the process (family link incoming) also pits herself against the formidable Aunt Catherine. Back home Allie is having trouble with Jack, the young sorcerer dragon they rescued from the underworld last time. Indeed, in the Gale households there's no such thing as peace and quiet anymore! Full review...

Ant and Bee and Kind Dog by Angela Banner

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

When you learn to read it has to be fun. You have to master the skill but it mustn't be too daunting or you're not going to enjoy it and - worst of all - you might be put off reading for life. It's best if you can share the reading until you get to grips with decoding what's on the page, so if an adult could read most of the words but you read others to which you've already been introduced and which are in a different colour then that is going to be a help. If the words are introduced with a nice big picture and if they appear in alphabetical order, then that's going to be fun, isn't it? It's going to make reading easier too if the book is the right size for your hands and has a nice firm cover which is easy to hold - and wipes clean if there's an accident. Full review...

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

4star.jpg Teens

Flocks of suicidal birds are throwing themselves at planes right across North America. There are dozens of crashes. Thousands of people die and millions more are stranded or under curfew as the government moves to instil calm. Reese and David are driving, not flying, home along an empty highway in the desert when another crazed bird flies into their car. They crash. And don't wake up for a month. Rescued by a medical military unit, Reese is told that her life was saved by experimental treatments and procedures. Both she and David are made to sign non-disclosure agreements. Full review...

Outdoor Wonderland by Josie Jeffery

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

When I was growing up we had ‘Why Don’t You’ to inspire us what to do during the summer holidays, but I still don’t understand why a TV show would encourage me to switch off the telly – how am I meant to know what to do? A far more sensible guide for outdoor fun is a book like Josie Jeffery’s ‘Outdoor Wonderland’, an informative book full of interesting things to do outside no matter the weather or time of day. Full review...

Famous Five Colour Reads: A Lazy Afternoon by Enid Blyton

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Perhaps the only thing better than a favourite author publishing a new book, is one of their old works that you missed first time around being re-released. The Famous Five, you see, didn’t just feature in their most well-known tales. They also had some short story adventures that were first seen in albums and magazines and whatnot, but are now being published as books in their own right. Hurrah! Full review...

The Conversations by Olivia Fane

5star.jpg Lifestyle

I need no encouragement to start talking. Leave me alone with someone and I will find something to talk to them about, in whatever language. I’ve dated people I’ve met by talking to them on aeroplanes, hablaring español with them in evening classes, chatting to them online. I’ve made friends at the gym, on the shop floor, during a day’s IT system training, people I still keep in touch with. So you might think the last thing I need is a book of conversation starters, and yet in a way that’s what this is. Full review...

Secrets of the Seashore by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

This book starts in a rock pool. It’s not a boring, quiet, calm place, though, it’s bustling with life, and with every page that turns we learn more about the mysterious creatures that live within it. You might not see them at first, but with a hint of magic they appear. Full review...

Tilly's At Home Holiday by Gillian Hibbs

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Tariq is going to India. Chanel is going to Spain. And Paris, of course, is going to Paris. Poor Tilly. She’s not going anywhere. Not even to Grandma’s. Mum thinks that they can still enjoy themselves at home. Tilly’s not so sure. Can a visit to the library, the swimming pool, the park and a market really be as much fun as a proper holiday? Full review...

The Edge of the Cloud by K M Peyton

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

First things first: this is a brilliant book and you could read it on its own but it's an extra-brilliant book if you've read the first book in the Flambards series. It's inevitable that there are going to be spoilers in this review so if you want to get the best out of this series, click away right now. I really won't be offended. Full review...

Ghost Moon by Ron Butlin

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Maggie sits in an elderly persons' care home tgryig to exist through the ever tightening grip of dementia. Her son, Tom, visits trying to jog her memory but she doesn't even recognise him. To Maggie, Tom is 'Michael' a name that means nothing to a son getting more desperate to break through to his mother once again. However there was once a Michael, in a life that bubbles with secrets that even Tom doesn't know; for once, long ago, Maggie was young. Full review...

After the Bombing by Clare Morrall

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

On 28th March 1942, the city of Lubeck was attacked by RAF bombers. The medieval buildings were reduced to rubble and hundreds of innocent people lost their lives. In retaliation, Hitler decided to bomb the most beautiful and culturally rich cities of England, using Baedeker’s tourist guide as a reference. The cities he chose were Exeter, Bath, Norwich, York and Canterbury. 'After the Bombing' follows the story of an Exeter schoolgirl and her friends in the aftermath of the attack. Full review...

Flambards by K M Peyton

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Christina Parsons was orphaned as a child and since then had been shunted around between various relatives, but her Uncle Russell decided that she must come and live with him and his two sons. The twelve-year-old discovered accidentally (it sounds a little harsh to mention that she was reading someone else's correspondence, doesn't it?) that the the aunt with whom she was living suspected that the plan was that Christina would eventually marry Mark, the elder son and the money (quite a lot of it actually) which she would inherit on her twenty-first birthday would be used to prop up Flambards - the Russell's country estate - which was falling into disrepair. Full review...