The Bookbag

From TheBookbag
Revision as of 17:11, 23 February 2012 by Sue (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

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.

There are currently 9,793 reviews at TheBookbag.

Want to find out more about us?

New Reviews

Read new reviews by genre.

Read new features.

The Case of the Missing Boyfriend by Nick Alexander

4star.jpg General Fiction

You could be forgiven for thinking that CC had it all. At thirty nine she was near the top of the advertising business, owned her own flat in north London and had a group of close, party-going friends. That's what you saw from the outside, looking in. What CC saw was a life that lacked that one essential which she seemed unable to acquire. She was desperate to find the man of her dreams and preferably one who would whisk her off to a farm house in Devon where she'd live The Good Life. In the meantime she was stuck with the memories of too many heartbreaks, a mother whose current lifestyle brought a very unfortunate word to mind and being on the periphery of her friends' dramas - and as they were all gay she didn't have a lot of chance of meeting that elusive man. Full review...

The Goggle-eyed Goats by Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Life is pretty chaotic in Timbuktu where Ali Haji Amadu lives with his wives, children and their many animals. They have one dangle-tailed donkey, two snaggle-toothed camels, three curvy-horned cows, four wobble-legged lambs and five goggle-eyed goats. That would probably be enough if the goats were not so troublesome and mischievous, munching and chewing everything in sight. At the insistence of his three wives, Fama, Rama and Sama, Ali Haji sets off to Mopti Market with the intention of selling the goats. It's a long trek but he finally arrives early the following morning and tries to find someone to buy them. It's not as easy as he expects though, especially when certain members of his family, having followed him, decide to intervene. It seems that the goats are wanted after all even though there is always such a hullabaloo when they are around. Full review...

Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Jon Bauer's first novel, Rocks in the Belly, is an emotional journey. The narrator is a man in his late 20s who has returned from Canada to visit his mother who has cancer of the brain. The narrator himself is emotionally damaged from the relationship that he had with his mother from childhood when she and her husband fostered children and, interspersed with the narrative, is the voice of narrator at eight years old and in particular telling the experience of one foster boy, Robert, who we know from early on in the book suffered a significant tragedy while in their care. What that event was will be revealed in due course, but it is clear that the young boy suffered hugely from jealousy of his mother's love for these foster children. Full review...

The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Elinor de Lacey (Nell) has an eager, quick mind that's been trained by her scholarly father, against her mother's wishes. Nell would rather be discussing Copernicus' latest theories than learn how to keep a wet larder or how to be a dutiful wife. It's Nell's greatest wish, in fact, to attend the court of Queen Elizabeth I so that she can discuss and argue with the finest scientific and philosophical minds of the day, but her mother is ardently against it. Nell doesn't understand why. Not, that is, until her dream becomes a reality but by then it's too late to go back. Full review...

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The Orphan Master's Son follows the adventures of Jun Do who has been born without any say in his future. For this is North Korea, where all is organised for the good of the state or at the whim of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.

Jun Do starts his adult life as a member of a state-sanctioned kidnap squad before joining a fishing boat as a 'listener', basically a spy monitoring and translating foreign radio traffic. His troubles start when he discovers that being a good citizen isn't enough and sometimes a person needs something else to believe in and fight for.

This is an incredibly hard book to sum up, but I also realise this will be an awfully short review if I don't try, so here goes... Full review...

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

5star.jpg Teens

It is probably impossible to read this book without crying. It is one of the most heart-breaking and yet uplifting books around, and reading it feels like a privilege. Begin it early in the day, because you will not want to put it down until you have reached the very last page, and when you do you will care for many of the main characters like friends. You will weep for those who die (or most of them, at any rate: even the gentlest of readers will be glad that the world is rid of one or two). You will be proud to be human, if people like these are in our world, and you will burn for shame that others can be so cruel, so cold and so vicious. And the worst of it is, our study of history tells us that even if these precise events did not happen, then there are many other events in war, both in the past and doubtless now as well, which resemble them. The whole book is a testament to human courage and human frailty. Full review...

Divergent by Veronica Roth

4star.jpg For Sharing

Beatrice - or Tris as she becomes - belongs to one of five factions in a segregated future world. Beatrice is Abnegation (selflessness) but has always struggled with the self-effacing lifestyle embraced by her faction. But she's not sure if she's any better-suited to one of the others: Candor (honesty), Amity (kindness), Erudite (intellect) or Dauntless (courage). So Tris approaches the faction aptitude test taken by all sixteen-year-olds in her society with a large dollop of trepidation. Full review...

Wave the Flag and Blow the Whistle by Ronda Armitage and Andrew Gordon

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

A little boy and his grandad, and a spotty giraffe toy go out one day for a ride on a train. They're off on a journey to Blueberry Hill. What will they see? What will they do? All the excitement of travelling by train are looked at in this story! Full review...

The Book Of Universes by John D Barrow

4star.jpg Popular Science

The idea of a 'multiverse' - multiple universes existing alongside each other - is something science fiction and fantasy fans are fairly au fait with. Parallel realities in which you made a different decision at a pivotal moment and, as a consequence, have evolved in entirely different ways, have been fodder for authors, scriptwriters and 'what if' musings for some time, but recently, scientists - specifically cosmologists - have been taking increasingly seriously. Full review...

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

5star.jpg Teens

When Kali sees the Orobouros mark on cheerleader, Bethany, at her high school, she doesn't hesitate in tempting the parasitic creature - a Chupacabra - out of Bethany and into her own body. The parasite is a death sentence for humans. Some days, Kali's blood is toxic to paranormal creatures. Some days she's blessed with strength, speed and killer instinct, and the parasite feeding off her memories wouldn't have stood a chance. But not on this day. On this day, Kali is completely human. And she has to survive the next 17 hours before she changes back. Full review...

Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

When Zoe Harper arrives at Somerby, a lovely old mansion and the setting for the latest televised cookery contest, she is full of excitement. Before long, she finds herself rescuing one of the judges, Gideon Irving, from a ditch and realises that she is extremely attracted to him. Not long after, she meets her room mate and fellow competitor, Cher, for whom there is no immediate attraction as she comes across as shallow and devious. All the rest of the contestants are friendly though and they are soon all immersing themselves in the challenges of the various rounds. Full review...

After the Snow by SD Crockett

4.5star.jpg Teens

On a near future Earth, Willo lives with his family in an isolated community without technology. His parents remember a time when there were machines but all this has changed. Now there's only enough petrol for the sinister government trucks. One day Willo finds himself totally alone, his parents missing, presumed taken. Armed with his father's cryptic sayings and his only friend, (a dog's skull that speaks through his imagination) Willo leaves all that's familiar in order to find his loved ones. The unknown is a ruthless place filled with Stealers and starvation but there's escape from what he needs to do. Full review...

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Gerbrand Bakker's Dutch novel, The Detour translated by David Colmer, is a very odd story indeed. Mostly set in Snowdonia, the book tells the story of a Dutch woman, who gives her name as Emilie, who rents a remote farm. She's clearly on the run from something, perhaps an affair with a student at the university where she was researching the works of Emily Dickinson, but it increasingly becomes clear that this is only part of the story. Certainly her husband and parents back in the Netherlands have no clue where she has gone - or why. Once these details are established, the book takes a turn to the seriously odd which is more of a full blooded journey rather than a mere 'detour'. Full review...

Pulse: A Siren Book by Tricia Rayburn

3.5star.jpg Teens

Vanessa and her family have returned home from Winter Harbor, with Paige in tow due to the deaths of her sister and mother. Now in a relationship with Simon, Vanessa should be happy - but she's struggling to adjust to life as a siren, and is still keeping her secret from everyone. Disturbed as she seems to see Raina and Zara in her thoughts all the time, and confused by the way she affects men now, how can Vanessa move on with her life? Full review...

Wyrmeweald: Bloodhoney by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

4star.jpg Teens

Micah and his mentor, the grizzled old tracker Eli, have holed up in a mountain cave: fullwinter in Wyrmeweald is harsh, and few humans could survive its rigours. With them is Thrace, a kingirl who bonded with a whitewyrme but who was abandoned by the enormous dragon-like creature after she and Micah fell in love. Used to flying free across the skies, she finds the confinement almost unbearable, and she is wasting away before their eyes. Full review...

Illusionology by Emily Hawkins

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

If there was a prize for the most lavish book received here at Bookbag Towers for review, this would definitely be on the shortlist. A lovely large format hardback, the cover is a delight itself - with a 3D lenticular image, embossed bits, a plastic gem stuck in it... And inside there are packets of goodies to open and explore, making this more of a literary toy than a book. The book aims to introduce the cleverer child to the wonders of stagecraft and magic, and so here are props for some tricks for you to do, some instructions for other illusions of your own, and a historical guide to how the masters of their trade did it. Full review...

The Prince Who Walked with Lions by Elizabeth Laird

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This book is closely based on the story of a real boy, Prince Alamayu of Abyssinia, whose short life was divided between his beloved African home and Britain, the country of the people who conquered his father's kingdom. In fact, his grave can still be seen at St George's Chapel, Windsor. For his first few years he was brought up surrounded by servants, luxury and power, with a loving mother and a fierce but adored warrior father. But the king, a despotic and, some would say, reckless man, challenged the might of the British Army by chaining up and imprisoning the European envoys sent to negotiate with him, simply because he found them irritating. This action led to the attack on his lands and consequently the downfall of the Abyssinian monarchy. Full review...

The De-Stress Diet: The Revolutionary Lifestyle Plan for a Calmer, Slimmer You by Charlotte Watts and Anna Magee

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Most people will recognise that excessive stress is not good for you. It's the cause of depression, high blood pressure, skin problems and insomnia - to name just a few problems from a very long list. There's also mounting evidence that chronic stress is responsible for excessive weight gain and not just because there's a tendency (er, yes, I can testify to this...) to turn to comfort eating. Too many stress hormones in the body encourage fat storage - particularly in that obvious and very-hard-to-shift area around the middle. The aim of the De-Stress Diet is to bring about a slimmer, calmer person with a better quality of life. Full review...

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Web Weaver by Sam Siciliano

3.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

An old gypsy woman places a curse on guests at a ball, leaving the upper class revellers shocked. When, over the next few years, misfortune befalls several of the party-goers, potted-meat magnate Donald Wheelwright knows there's only one recourse left to him - to call Sherlock Holmes. It's a slightly different version of Holmes from that we've come to expect, though. The detective, far from being an emotionless man, is capable of feeling strongly for the right woman - could the detective find love as well as the answer to the mystery? Full review...

Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter

5star.jpg Short Stories

'Burning your Boats' brings together Carter's early works and her uncollected short stories, alongside the collections 'Fireworks', 'The Bloody Chamber', 'Black Venus' and 'American Ghosts'. Carter's ability to take the everyday and transform it into the fantastic is evident in stories that range from a cautionary tale of a musician in love with his instrument to a lost motorist whose journey ends in nightmarish circumstances in the Snow Pavilion. Full review...

On The Floor by Aifric Campbell

4star.jpg General Fiction

Geri Molloy, the central character in Aifric Campbell's On The Floor, may be earning a six figure salary working at a London investment bank just prior to the outbreak of the 1991 invasion of Kuwait, but she's seriously messed up. Drinking heavily, sleeping lightly and mourning the end of a relationship, she may be a mathematical genius with a direct line to a mysterious Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager with whom she trades, but her life is increasingly being controlled by other people. Full review...

The Lying Carpet by David Lucas

4star.jpg Confident Readers

There is a room in a big old house where nothing moves but the insects. An empty chair sits to one side, a stone statue of a girl called, and representing, Faith, the other. In between is a tiger rug. What potential is in that for the setting of a charming book? What potential indeed... Full review...

The Weeping Empress by Sadie S Forsythe

3.5star.jpg Fantasy

Chiyo wakes up with the sun in her face and the grass at her back. For a moment, she feels almost as though she's in heaven. But the joy in the moment is short-lived. Around her is mayhem. Uniformed guards are fighting off two rogue warriors intent on freeing a band of captives. Before she knows it, Chiyo is fighting alongside the warriors, showing a ferocity the meek and mild wife and mother never knew she had. Full review...

Red Army Faction Blues by Ada Wilson

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Ada Wilson admits that his fascination with the period is what drove his work on this novel, and it is the wealth of detail and background that strikes one when reading his account of Peter Urbach, the undercover agent whose role was to act as an agent provocateur to the Red Brigade. Urbach is revealed from the outset as a plant, an undercover operative who needs to keep all events of the group 'noted and filed' for his masters. And throughout the first half of the novel we see Urbach recording the changes and developments, the complex web of political ideology, naivety and the pure egocentricity of youth which created the happening of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Full review...

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

5star.jpg General Fiction

Max is 8 years old. He likes Lego and Star Wars and playing with toy soldiers. He can tell you 102 words that rhyme with tree. He scarfs down grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken and rice. He does not like physical contact. He lives with his mum and dad who argue about what is best for him and why he’s not normal like other boys and girls. Full review...

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

4star.jpg Teens

Mockingbird is the story of Caitlin, an 11-year old girl with Asperger's syndrome trying to recover from the death of her brother Devon in a school shooting. With her dad struggling to cope and Caitlin no longer having her brother to explain to her things she doesn't understand, the young narrator must seek closure on the tragedy herself. Full review...

The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Dr Petrie is surprised, but pleased, to see his old friend Nayland Smith has returned to England. But this is no mere pleasure visit – the former Scotland Yard man is on the trail of Fu Manchu, a Chinese doctor with the brains of any three men of genius. Petrie is immediately plunged into a headlong race against time to stop the mysterious villain from fulfilling his evil plans and leading the East to world domination! Full review...

Saved by Cake: Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy by Marian Keyes

4star.jpg Cookery

Right now you are probably thinking 'Marian Keyes? She writes chick-lit doesn't she? What's she doing writing a cookbook?' You'll quite probably also be looking at her and thinking that she doesn't look as though she eats a lot of the output either. Well, there's a bit of a story behind this book... Full review...

Pants, Vest, Getting Dressed! (All By Myself) by Debbie Foy

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Have you ever noticed that there are certain processes which a child needs to master but which cause quite a lot of grief along the way? Most children are alright with one or two but stick on others - and they're the ones which parents come to dread each day. Getting dressed is one of these. The need for it isn't immediately obvious and - let's be honest - there's not a lot of fun in it is there? Well - that might be about to change with a series of books from Debbie Foy which inject some fun into the processes. Full review...

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

5star.jpg Fantasy

George never knew his father, a man with whom his mother had a brief relationship when the Vaudeville - a travelling theatre company - came to town. Sixteen years later and George is following in the footsteps he believes to be his father's, by playing piano at a theatre on the circuit and hoping his father will show up. He doesn't, so George goes in search of him. The first glimpse George has of the man he thinks of as his father is at one of the troupe's shows. He is captivated not just by Silenus, but by the entire company. Full review...

Drive By by Jim Carrington

4star.jpg Teens

It's hot. Johnny and his friends tire of the park and ride their bikes to the local shop for an ice cream. Sitting outside in her husband's car is the Poisoned Dwarf, the miserable old lady who burst their football when it landed in her garden. Armed with water soakers, the boys just can't resist. But this "drive-by soaking" has catastrophic consequences. The Poisoned Dwarf has a heart attack and is carted off in an ambulance. And a few days later, she dies. Johnny is overwhelmed with remorse but is too afraid to come forwards. But are the weird things that start happening - waking up at the same time every night, a feeling of being watched - just tricks played by a guilty conscience? Or is the Poisoned Dwarf haunting him? Full review...

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Tom Gates is your typical year 5 lad: frequently late for school and fond of reading comics and doodling in school when he should be paying attention. Things change slightly when he's moved to sit at the front of the class between Amy - a clever girl - and Marcus who's a bit of an idiot. Tom tells us the story of his daily life, his attempts to impress Amy Porter, his favourite band and all the excuses he uses to get our of doing homework - or PE - or swimming - or for being late. He puts so much effort into doing all this that you really wonder why he doesn't just do the schoolwork. But then that would be too simple, wouldn't it? And we wouldn't have such a great book to read. Full review...

Grk and the Phoney Macaroni by Joshua Doder

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The last time we met Grk (he's the dog, by the way) he was in Australia, but don't worry if you haven't read any of the seven earlier books in this series - they all read well as stand-alones. This time it might seem as though it's going to be a very local adventure with Mrs Malt taking Tim, Natasha and Max to the Natural Science Museum whilst Grk says in the car. Things are not as they look, though - for Grk is going to be dog-napped from the local park and whisked off to Italy with Tim in pursuit. On the way he's going to encounter Giovanni Mascarpone, the thirteenth Duke of Macaroni, his vicious bodyguards and quite a lot of people whose names are going to put you in mind of Italian food. Full review...

Except the Dying: Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Victorian detective novels set in Britain are fairly common, and some of the most well-known and popular crime series fall into this category. The Murdoch stories, however, come from a different angle, being placed (for the most part) in Canada, with its snowy wastes, its logging camps and pioneering spirit. Loyalty to the Queen is as ardent here as back home in 'the old country', but there is a rawness and a sense of space to these novels which is due in large part to their setting. Full review...

Christopher's Caterpillars by Charlotte Middleton

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Christopher Nibble, a charming little guinea pig, loves gardening with his friend Posie. When they find six munching caterpillars on their plants though they decide that they cannot stay and choose to keep them as pets instead. They make a list of the things that they think that the caterpillars will need such as woolly socks and mini hairbrushes. When they visit Mr Rosetti, who runs the local café, he puts them straight and suggests that they get some clean jars, juicy leaves, twigs, and make lids with holes in them instead. They now know exactly what to do in order to look after their new pets and they do – very carefully. Full review...

Between a Mother and her Child by Elizabeth Noble

3.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Maggie and Bill had a wonderful, happy family until tragedy struck, nearly a year before the story opens. The blurb on the back of the book says exactly what this tragedy was, but it's not explained until several chapters into the book. It would have made more powerful reading had I not known what had caused the family to break up. Full review...

The Tudors: History of a Dynasty by David Loades

4.5star.jpg History

For several years David Loades has written and published extensively about the Tudors, individually and collectively, from almost every angle possible. This title is not a chronological biography or history of the five monarchs whose reigns gave their name to the era. As he and his publisher make clear in the preface, it is rather a study of Tudor policies. Full review...

Nights of Awe (Ariel Kafka Mystery) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator)

4.5star.jpg Crime

Inspector Ari Kafka (no relation to the author or, indeed, the local pawn shop owner) is half of the Jewish police officers in Finland which he's sure is due to pay levels rather than religious conviction. Ari graduated 4th in his class at police academy which surprised his mother at the time. If his brother and sister could both graduate top of their university classes, what's wrong with him? His brother is always trying to encourage his attendance at family dinners and the local rabbi has to remind him of the whereabouts of the local synagogue. All this pressure is normally water off a duck's back to Kafka, but this is about to change. When two Arab bodies are found on a railway line, he must choose between loyalties to those he loves and to those he's sworn to serve. Full review...

The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life by William Nicholson

4star.jpg General Fiction

William Nicholson's The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life is an ensemble story focussing predominantly on middle class and mainly middle age people living in a Sussex village. The cover of the book suggests that it is little more than a superior chic-lit style story of how Laura reacts when an ex-lover from her past appears from out of the blue to disrupt her marriage and two children, but while this is a central issue that runs throughout the book, this is only a small part of the story. It's far better than that might suggest. Full review...

The Angel at No. 33 by Polly Williams

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Sophie is the wife of disorganised Ollie (who watered a plastic plant for a year before realising), mother of typical little boy Freddie and she's dead. Yes, Sophie is very dead. During a wine-filled evening of moaning about her predictable lifestyle with her best friend Jenny, Sophie tries to stop a taxi in the worst way possible. The taxi stops but not quite soon enough. Full review...

Oliver Twisted by J D Sharpe and Charles Dickens

4star.jpg Teens

A small boy, Oliver, is brought up in a workhouse before being sent to work for an undertaker. Running away from the cruel undertaker and his wife, he finds himself in London, where he falls in with a disreputable old rogue called Fagin and his gang of thieves. Think you know the story? Think again - and add soul stealers, werewolves, and magic... Full review...

The Queen's Secret by Victoria Lamb

3.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

It was July 1575 and the court had left the unpleasant atmosphere of London for its annual progress round the homes of the more prominent nobles. It was to stay at Kenilworth Castle, home of the Earl of Leicester (better known as Robert Dudley, the queen's favourite) for some three weeks. The expenditure on the stay was enormous, but Leicester was determined to persuade Queen Elizabeth to marry him. The fact that he was also having an affair with Lettice Knollys, wife of the Earl of Essex, was beside the point. Lucy Morgan, a black entertainer of Moorish descent, was drawn into the midst of this intrigue and found herself on the edge of a plot to assassinate the queen. Full review...

The Library Book by Anita Anand, Julian Barnes, Bella Bathurst, Alan Bennett and others

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I had better begin by saying that I had a vested interest in liking this book since I am a chartered librarian myself and so am wholeheartedly in support of saving our nation's public libraries. But you don't need to be a librarian to enjoy this book. It is rich with anecdotes from some wonderful writers and makes a pleasant read whether you're keen to save libraries or not. Full review...

Marco Moves In (A Rather Remarkable Grizzly Bear) by Gerry Boland

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

It's not every day that a grizzly bear turns up on your doorstep. Yet, this is exactly what happens one night at Patrick'shouse. The grizzly bear, Marco, has escaped from the local zoo and is looking for somewhere to live. The entire town is on the lookout and a grizzly can be rather hard to hide. After a host of close calls, Patrick and Marco find the perfect place. Full review...

Dead Rules by RS Russell

2star.jpg Teens

Jana Webster knows that she will be with her boyfriend Michael Haynes for eternity. She even introduces herself as being part of Webster and Haynes. She knows that nothing can come between them – not even her death! So when she finds herself in Dead School, it's surely only a matter of time before Michael joins her… even if she needs to give him a helping hand. Full review...

Legend by Marie Lu

3.5star.jpg Teens

California. 2130 AD. The Republic of America is engaged in a vicious war with the Colonies. Life is hard for many in the Republic: plague terrorises millions in the slums while all resources are targetted at the military class. The regime is authoritarian and ruthless but the population believes that the constant struggle against a vicious enemy means that it has to be. All citizens undergo the Trial during adolescence. A high score means military college followed by privilege. A low score means life in the slums working in factories. A fail sends you to forced labour camps from which nobody ever returns. Full review...

Never Can Say Goodbye by Christina Jones

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

When Frankie is unexpectedly handed the reins to the shop where she currently works, she’s surprised to say the least. Current boss Rita is heading off for a new life (and love) in the sun, and leaving her home and business behind. It’s a swift learning curve to go from shop assistant to business owner, but with her friends, and most of the village, behind her, Frankie’s going to give it a shot. Full review...

The Great Escape by Fiona Gibson

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Hannah, Sadie and Lou have all known each other since their student days in Glasgow. That was thirteen years ago and since then, although they have kept in touch, they have not seen as much of each other as they would have liked. Sadie is married to Barney and is the mother of twin babies. She is trying to adjust to life in a country village and to fit in with all the other young mums who always appear to do things so much better than her. Lou lives in York with Spike, her boyfriend since college days. She has had to put her dreams of being a jewellery designer on hold while she supports herself and Spike (who does very little) by working in a soft play barn. She often thinks that there must be more to life but does not have the courage to break free. Hannah loves her fiancé, Ryan, but finds the open hostility from her future stepchildren hard to take and this is the reason why the imminent wedding is so daunting. They all need some time out which is why the others jump at Hannah's suggestion of a weekend away visiting their old student haunts. Full review...

Hope: a Tragedy by Shalom Auslander

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Solomon Kugel, who is almost universally known by his surname. He is about to join the list of kvetching Jewish heroes of comedy fiction, and at a very esteemed position in that list. He's a man who worries that by having had a kid he's betraying the boy's soul by bringing it into a world such as this. He's forced to live with his mother, who continually expects a second Holocaust and complains about suffering from the first, although she was not born then. He's faced with the eternal dilemma of not finding gluten-free matzo bread for his observances. He's moved to a rural location, and found houses like his are on the hit-list of an arsonist, but his new home has an even more unusual secret... Full review...

Burping Bertha by Michael Rosen

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

It all began very innocently and, well, quite accidentally. Bertha was lying in bed looking at Tiger, her cuddly toy, when she burped - and Tiger fell over. It was the precursor of a series of events which, at their peak, would make Bertha a 'multi-multi-mega-billionaire superstar' and all as a result of what was nothing more than a lot of hot air. But it's not what happens when she gets there that matters - it's the story of how she did it and it's a brilliant tale told with all the ingenuity of Michael Rosen and accompanied by the wonderful illustrations of Tony Ross. Full review...

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Grace McCleen's debut novel, The Land of Decoration paints an original, unsettling, sometimes dark and generally rather wonderful picture. Narrated by ten year old Judith, raised by her father who is a fundamental religious follower of the end of the world is nigh variety, it looks at bullying, both at school and in more general society, faith and the possible rejection thereof and the strength of childhood imagination. Full review...

The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

The important thing, when reading or reviewing books, is to take them on their own terms, and not to try and make something of them that they do not claim to be. Do not seek laugh-out-loud humour from horror stories (except by accident). Do not expect picture books to discuss the ins and outs of astrophysics. And do not demand great depth from a series of fantasy novels where the hero's first action is to steal a king on the grounds that, to be perfectly honest, no one will actually miss him very much. Full review...

Elmer's First Counting Book by David McKee

4star.jpg For Sharing

It's a lovely board book in the Elmer series and a lovely way of introducing the youngest readers to the patchwork elephant although there's only one of him and as this is a counting book he only gets to feature on the front and back covers and the first page. Full review...

Little Mouse by Alison Murray

5star.jpg For Sharing

'Sometimes, when I am being very quiet and cuddly, my mummy calls me her little mouse'. Although mostly, Little Mouse is anything but quiet, just as you would expect from a pre-school age child; she can waddle like a penguin, eat like a horse and splash like a whale in author Alison Murray's gorgeous wander through the daytime exploits of an imaginative little girl, who likes to turn the plainest of activities into something fun and adventurous, becoming her favourite animals en route. Full review...