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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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An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan

4.5star.jpg Biography

This moving memoir tells of the double suicide of both István (a Hungarian-Jewish form of Stephen) and his wife Vera one Sunday morning in October. The story is told by their granddaughter, Joanna Adorján and tells of her close fondness for them both but in particular with Vera, with whom the author shares many characteristics. The story begins with the systematic persecution of such Hungarian Jews in Budapest under the Nazi occupation and describes their perilous flight to Denmark after the Soviet occupation of Hungary in 1956. It ends with the police reports of the duty officer dated 15.10.91 with the discovery of their bodies in their bungalow in the Charlottenlund, a town of the Capital Region of Denmark. Entry is gained by a local locksmith who charged 297.02 kroner. It is the charm and lyricism with which this tale is related which makes this fateful, haunting and profoundly moving story about identity both sad and memorable. Full review...

The Killables by Gemma Malley

5star.jpg Teens

In the City, evil has been eradicated. Each of its citizens has undergone the New Baptism - having the evil part of their brain, the amygdala, removed. But even this isn't enough - the City still needs its System, which monitors every citizen and labels accordingly. Any sign of evil results in a lower classification and the lowest classification of all is "K". Ks are sent for reconditioning. After this, they disappear and are never seen again. Full review...

Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses and Other Good Stuff by Liz Pichon

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Those who met Tom Gates in the first book in this award-winning series will know that the year five lad needs no introduction, but even if you missed that book there's no need to worry. This second book reads well as a stand-alone and is just as funny and entertaining. Most of the same characters appear - from Tom's Mum and Dad and his sister Delia, his teacher Mr Fullerman and class mates Marcus Meldrew and Amy Porter. It's Mr Fulleman's awards chart which is the focus of attention this time as Tom is determined to get to the top, but Marcus Meldrew is up to no good and Tom has tooth ache. It's so bad that he can't concentrate on drawing in class. Full review...

Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

3star.jpg Fantasy

Alex Verus runs a little shop in Camden, London selling magic tricks and bits and pieces. Some of the bits and pieces are a more magical than the magic tricks, for he is a diviner (someone who sees the future). Indeed, the day that his friend Luna finds a little red artefact, his ability comes in handy. There are some very powerful people looking for that little red 'thing'. Unfortunately they aren't powerful in a nice way and they're a jump or two ahead of Alex and Luna. For the powerful ones actually know what it is. Full review...


The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

5star.jpg Teens

Mara has just started her whole life over - new city, new school, new start. It's just what the doctor ordered, and her family - though still treating her like she might fall apart at any moment - are tentatively hopeful that it's just what she needs to get back on her feet. Mara just hopes her memories return. She needs to know what happened the night her two best friends and her boyfriend died in an accident she somehow managed to escape unscathed. Full review...

The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly

3.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

You don't get to a certain age without having a bit of a past and a few stories, some of which you'd rather weren't told and others which you'd just plain rather forget about. In the idyllic Irish coastal village of Avalon we meet four women and they've all got big histories. Tess is descended from the local landowners, but now she lives with her teenage son Zach and her nine-year-old daughter Kitty and she owns the local antiques shop. It's a struggle to make ends meet when her marriage falls apart. To cap it all, her first love and the man she's never really forgotten returns to the village but they're no friendlier than they were the last time they met. Full review...

Sophia the Flame Sister (Spell Sisters) by Amber Castle and Mary Hall

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Guinevere (generally known as Gwen) is something of a tomboy and she'd much rather be out doing archery practice with the boys than practicing her curtsey and brushing her aunt's hair. Will and some of the other pages are dismissive of her because she's a girl, but Arthur is a little more kindly. One day, out in the woods with her friend Flora, she discovers the island of Avalon which is in a sorry state. The evil Morgana Le Fay has imprisoned her sisters who hold the spells which keep the island as it should be and it's now up to Gwen and Flora to rescue the Spell Sisters and return Avalon to full health. Full review...

The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor

5star.jpg Teens

Genie Magee hasn’t seen her boyfriend Rian all summer. In fact, she hasn’t seen anyone all summer – apart from the creepy worshippers of the Church of Free Spirits, whose leader Reverend Schneider has persuaded her mother she’s possessed, due to her strange mystical gift. Rian hasn’t stopped thinking of her, though, and has hatched a daring plan to rescue the love of his life and escape the town of Spurlake – but their escape will lead them into a situation more dangerous than they could ever have imagined. Full review...

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Heat, colour, smell and noise assail your senses as you join Ash and Lucky in Varanasi. They have travelled from England to visit their uncle and aunt during the holidays, and despite their Asian heritage they find the atmosphere as fascinating, frustrating and thrilling as any young person brought up in west London would do. The castles and markets are intriguing, but the poverty, the constant heat, the poor roads and the dust are beginning to take their toll. The food does not agree with Lucky, and although he loves the archaeology of the region, Ash is beginning to envy his friends back home as they go swimming and indulge in day-long gaming sessions. But right from the start the culture clash carries hints of danger and mystery, until the terrifying moment when the supernatural explodes into Ash's life and changes him utterly. Full review...

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

4star.jpg Teens

Having escaped from Portland at the end of book 1, Lena is alone in the Wilds. Having to face the unthinkable - life without Alex – she chooses to join the resistance of the Invalids in an attempt to bring down those who have made love into a disease. Flicking between the early days immediately following her escape, as she settles into the community along with her new allies Raven and Tack, and a time a bit later on when she plays a more active role in the resistance, Pandemonium has more of the thrills and excitement that made the first book an enjoyable read. Full review...

The Bliss Bakery Trilogy 1 - Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

A town with a name as ominous as Calamity Falls cries out for a shop like the one run by the Bliss family. Even before you move there you just know that if something can go wrong then it certainly will, and that however much it may look like normal small-town America on the outside, nothing short of magic will make it a happy, fulfilled place. No surprise, then, that this is where Rose lives, along with her parents, two brothers and her baby sister. And although the townsfolk don't understand precisely what goes on in the kitchen of the Bliss Bakery, they return day after day for the most delicious pastries, muffins and cakes they have ever known with a vague conviction that life is better as long as they do so. Full review...

Unsinkable by Dan James

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

This year sees the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and several books, for both children and adults, are being published based on the story of the doomed ship. In this particular book the fact that we already know fate of the majority of the travellers adds a whole new level of tension to a story which is already an exciting thriller. Not only is there the question of whether they will catch the bad guy or not, but also, and more crucially: will the main characters all survive? Full review...

Make Yourself Immune to Heart Attack by Simon Oxford

3star.jpg Lifestyle

The older you get, the more likely it is that you will suffer from some form of heart disease or even die from it. Many deaths occur without warning in people who are apparently healthy - so it's not something that you can wait to be diagnosed and plan on doing something about at that stage. Whatever your age there's a real possibility that you can make a significant improvement in your health and improve the quality of your life. I came to read this book because family members of my generation were suffering severe heart problems and it was a wake-up call that was impossible to ignore. Full review...

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed

4.5star.jpg Teens

Sixteen-year-old Zeba Khan wasn't particularly looking forward to the family holiday with her parents in Pakistan. It was eight years since she'd been there and she had only vague memories of the heat, the mosquitoes, her Uncle's home and her cousin Asif, who is eight years older than her. She's just finished her GCSE exams and - along with her best friend Susan - was planning which subjects she would take for A level and university as well as looking at future careers. She's always been happy in her Muslim faith and the lack of boyfriends, alcohol and drugs had never worried her, although she was perhaps a little envious of the fact that Susan could go out in the evenings. Full review...

The Summer of Living Dangerously by Julie Cohen

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

When I read Julie Cohen's book Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom a couple of years ago my poor toddler had to endure neglect for the day since I couldn't stop reading it. This time Julie had me risking my own health since I started reading her new book in the bath and my husband came to find me there several hours later sitting in stone cold water, unwilling to get out since I didn't want to stop reading! I do love it when you find a book that captures your imagination, but I'd advise perhaps a comfortable armchair located near to a stash of plentiful snacks would be a wise place to begin. Full review...

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 13 by Alexander McCall Smith

5star.jpg General Fiction

Those of you who are frequent visitors to The Bookbag will know that I am a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith's writing. I am supremely happy that he continues to write so regularly and reliably, providing me with much looked forward to reading matter several times through the year. This time it's the turn of Mma Ramotswe to slip back into my mind as we read of her detecting adventures in this, the thirteenth book in the series. Full review...

The Third Day by Chochana Boukhobza

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Set in Jerusalem in the late 1980s, an elderly, Jewish, celebrated cellist Elisheva is visiting Israel with her protégé, Rachel, ostensibly to give a concert performance. It quickly becomes apparent that Elisheva survived the Nazi camps by playing her music for the feared camp commander, known as the Butcher of Majdanek, and while on the surface she survived this ordeal well, it is clear that she has a darker intent with her three day visit. Through an underground network of Nazi hunters, she has managed to lure the Butcher from his home in Venezuela to visit Israel. Will they meet and what will happen when they do? Full review...

Itch by Simon Mayo

4star.jpg Teens

Itchingham Lofte - cool name, cool guy, but he's Itch to you and me - is an element-hunter. Like many kids, he's a collector-magpie, but football stickers and manga-style cards aren't his thing. Itch is a science geek and he is trying to collect a sample of all 118 elements. Itch lives in Cornwall, where he has recently arrived from London, and his element-hunting doesn't carry much kudos at his school, where he spends most time dodging the bullies. At home, Itch has a tendency to formulate disastrous experiments and the latest explosion not only removed his eyebrows but also got his collection banished to the shed. Full review...

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

4star.jpg Science Fiction

A man stands on a ship checking that an iceberg has been missed. The year is 1912, the ship is the Titanic and the man is a time-traveller hoping to change history. History is in fact changed as a result of his meddling, but not in a good way. Full review...

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

4.5star.jpg Teens

Greg is trying to survive high school, and is doing rather well at it. He's got a wonderful tactic of just avoiding pretty much everyone - never getting close to any group of people, never alienating any group either, just coasting along on nodding terms with everyone. The exception is Earl, who he makes low-budget version of cult classic films with. His life is about to be changed, though, as his mother is determined that he should rekindle an old friendship with Rachel Kushner – who’s dying of leukemia. Full review...

Little Princess: I Want to Win! by Tony Ross

5star.jpg For Sharing

The Little Princess always likes to win so, when at the castle sports day she finds herself trailing in the running race, she insists that they all run in the opposite direction and then she has least far to go. When playing table tennis with the maid, she is always allowed to win. She is so used to winning that it comes as a big shock at school when other children win the prizes for numbers, painting, science and poems. It's especially disappointing as she really tried her hardest in all of those subjects. However, some of her efforts are quite scary, unorthodox, and even a bit dangerous as she almost blows up the science lab. Luckily, there is one more cup and as that's the prize for 'trying the hardest', there is obviously only one worthy winner! Full review...

Babies In Waiting by Rosie Fiore

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Three women, three different situations, ages spanning three decades. Gemma, Toni and Louise don’t have masses in common, but come into each other’s lives when they all fall pregnant around the same time. With partners, parents, siblings and other friends not quite getting all that’s going on in their heads...and in their tummies...the women quickly form a tight support network in which all their differences cease to matter. Full review...

Jenny's War by Margaret Dickinson

3.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Jenny's home life in the East End is an uncomfortable one. Her mother Dot cares little for her and thinks nothing of giving her a slap to make sure she knows her place. Dot's boyfriend, Arthur, tries to show Jenny some kindness but has issues of his own. Full review...

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Malay Chinese Teoh Yun Ling travels to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya to meet the legendary Japanese garden designer and expert, Nakamura Aritomo. As the sole survivor of a World War II Japanese slave labour camp, Yun Ling has many reasons to hate the Japanese but some things are stronger than hatred. For, whilst in the camp, she promised her sister a Japanese garden. When life became difficult during interment, the sisters discussed and visualised the finished result to keep them hanging on. Ling's sister perished but the dream of a memorial garden drives her on. Nothing is that straightforward, though. The designer refuses the commission. Instead he suggests that she stays, as his apprentice, learning the art in order to become her own designer. Yun Ling agrees and discovers more than horticultural finesse. Full review...

CRYPT: Traitor's Revenge by Andrew Hammond

4star.jpg Teens

There are teenage spies, ghosts and gore aplenty in store for readers of this series: the books are a non-stop, fast-paced battle against all manner of supernatural nasties, where the adrenalin remains high and the body count just keeps on mounting. Full review...

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt

5star.jpg Teens

14-year-old Jenna survived a car crash which killed her best friend. Sometimes, she wishes it was her who was dead. Because the crash left her face scarred, and she can't stop feeling like a freak. As if that wasn't hard enough to cope with, her dad is out for justice and has set up a pressure group in response to the light sentence given to the driver of the car she was in - and the youth is responding with intimidation. Just as she hits rock bottom, though, 16-year old New Age traveller Ryan comes into her life. Could he be the person to see past her scars? Full review...

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

5star.jpg Biography

Framed by Jobs' iconic speech at a Stanford College graduation ceremony, and the three stories he told the students, about connecting the dots, love and loss, and mortality, this biography gives a succinct and balanced account of Jobs' life, his successes and his failures, his passions and his ideals, and his infamously polarized personality. The author actively annotates the backstory of Jobs with references from this speech, as well as future events, carefully chosen statistics, and Jobs' own reminiscence, giving a rich context to his story. Jobs' achievements are incredible and they're not simply down to his genius, but his attitudes towards life and his incredible charisma. Full review...

Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Entomologist Liz Crane has returned to her family's property on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie where she's studying the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly, which flies south, reproduces, dies, repeats this and a further generation returns to Lake Erie and the process begins again. As Liz works she reminisces about the family of which she's a part - almost incidentally - and how they have migrated. Foremost in her mind is her cousin, Amanda Butler, a gifted military strategist, who came home from Afghanistan is a flag-covered coffin, but moves on to her uncle who disappeared a decade or so before, the Mexican workers who came each year for the harvest and those members of the Butler family who came Ireland - some to grow fruit and others to become lighthouse keepers. Full review...

The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

In decades gone by, educated workers in many industries could view their careers as an elevator – rising through the ranks of a company before stepping aside and settling into a comfortable retirement. In today's vastly different job market, with much less loyalty from both employers and employees, your career is more likely to follow the model of some promotions mixed in with frequent sideways moves to other companies and perhaps even completely different industries. Time, then, for a new guide to how to handle your employment prospects. Full review...

Dark Storm by Sarah Singleton

3.5star.jpg Teens

Ellie is spending the summer with her grandparents, in the house where her mother grew up, while her dad and his new girlfriend go on holiday together. Although it's been more than a year since her mother's death, Ellie is finding it hard to move on with her life. Whilst shopping in an antique shop one day she comes across the model of an old theatre, and sets free a ghost who made the model theatre with his sister hundreds of years ago. With this model is a script for Romeo and Juliet, which the local theatre group are currently putting on. Ellie's grandparents are keen for her to join the group, and it's here she meets new friends and begins to fall in love with a ghost. Full review...

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

When Ravi and his cousin Sonny decide to open the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Bangalore as a retirement home, they don't know whether they will get any takers. However, by advertising it as a newly restored palatial hotel that will provide a life of leisure, good weather and mango gin, they soon get a great deal of interest and are welcoming their new residents. Evelyn, Madge, Dorothy, Norman and all of the others who decide to move to the hotel have their own reasons for leaving Britain but they are all excited by the new opportunity and the lease of new life that it could provide. Full review...

Muncle Trogg by Janet Foxley

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Muncle Trogg is the smallest giant in the world. He's fed up of being upside-downed by his bigger, but younger, brother, Gritt. At school, he always falls foul of the other pupils. The teachers don't treat him too much better. He simply doesn't fit in at all. With his school-leaving exams coming up, Muncle doesn't know what he's going to do with himself. However, Sir Biblos, the King's wise man, sees a spark in Muncle, and Muncle embarks on adventures that dabble in the edges of the Smalling world. Full review...

The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Set in a remote hill top town in the Himalayas where the earth has folded to create the majestic scenery, a young woman, Maya, recently widowed arrives to be closer to the scene of her husband's climbing accident. There, she encounters a rich variety of characters who seem to leap of the page, foremost of which two at opposite ends both of society and life's journey - Charu, a young peasant girl whose emerging relationship with a young cook is touching and sweet, and Maya's eccentric landlord, a relict of the Raj who may or may not be in possession of some intriguing personal letters that pertain to India's history and the departing British. Full review...

Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer

4star.jpg Teens

Rosa can't wait to get away from New York. En route to Sicily to be reunited with sister Zoe and her continental extended family, she makes sure every aspect of her American life is deleted, right down to the songs on her iPod. Arriving in Palermo, she's thrown into a sinister Mafia underworld filled with murder, corruption and clan rivalries going back more generations than you could shake a stick at. Zoe seems at home in this world but Rosa kicks against it right from the outset. Her rebelliousness is only exacerbated by the mutual attraction that springs up between Rosa - an Alcantra - and Alessandro - a Carnevare. Romance between scions of warring clans? It can't be tolerated. Full review...

The Girl King by Meg Clothier

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

King Giorgi, King of Georgia, is without an heir so he does the unthinkable. He names his eldest daughter, Tamar, as 'King' on his death. Tamar is strong, feisty and a total tomboy but, the fact remains, she's female. Therefore when Giorgi passes away the kingdom he's held together starts to crack as the opportunists equate the fairer sex with weakness and possibilities. If Tamar is to gain united lands, she must lose something in return. Is this a sacrifice too far? Full review...

Fairytale Food by Lucie Cash

3.5star.jpg Cookery

Are you looking for a gift for someone who enjoys cooking and who has an interest in fairy tales? If so, this book could well be your perfect answer. It has over sixty recipes - none of them at all complex - and they're all associated with favourite fairy tales. Instead of the usual carefully-primped pictures of the finished dishes there are lavish illustrations by Yelena Bryksenkova of scenes from the tales and I didn't find a double page spread which didn't have some entertaining embellishment. It's also a bonus that there's a gentle humour in the illustrations, as in this note from Goldilocks: Full review...

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...