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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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Earthfall by Mark Walden

3.5star.jpg Teens

They are coming. If you are caught, you will not escape. If you escape, they will hunt you down. You must not be captured. Everything depends on you. Prepare for Earthfall.

Life is chugging along pretty much as normal for Sam Riley when his father suddenly turns grey with fear and rushes off to an emergency at work. Within 24 hours, alien spaceships have appeared above every major city across the world and enslaved the entire population with a mind probe. Except Sam. Sam has no idea why he is immune to the alien signal or how he recovered from a terrible injury after a fight with one of their drones. But after a year hiding in London's sewers, he has learned how to survive. Full review...

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur by Richard Byrne

5star.jpg For Sharing

Finlay is what you might call a little dinosaur; there are certainly plenty bigger than him. One day, a big dinosaur walks past and Finlay offers to share his jelly beans with him.

But the big dinosaur wants all the jelly beans for himself and even though Finlay explains that the jelly beans actually belong to his really big friend and they aren't his to give away, the big dinosaur just puffs up his chest and tells Finlay to let his friend know that he's going to take the jelly beans all for himself anyway. Full review...

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

5star.jpg Teens

In a remote village in Zimbabwe, Deo is playing football with his friends while his brother Innocent looks on. Innocent takes a bit of looking after - deprived of oxygen during birth, he's not quite like other children and Deo is fiercely protective of him. Then the soldiers arrive, looking for a delivery of food aid and the traitors who welcome help from the evil Americans, and they destroy the entire village. Now orphans, the two boys have no choice but to flee to South Africa in the hopes of finding their long-lost father. Since their only possessions are Innocent's bix box and Deo's football (stuffed with worthless billion dollar notes), it won't be easy... Full review...

The Lonely Furrow by Pamela Kavanagh

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

The loss of the family business was no fault of the Drummond family, but by the time that they'd repaid what was owed they had no home and no means of making a living. The elder son, Nathan, lost his fiancé and there was little left for them to do but to leave Glasgow and move to a farm which had been in Florence Drummond's family for some time. They weren't farmers, but there was little choice but for them to buckle down and make the best of the situation presented to them. Full review...

The Celestial Bibendum by Nicolas de Crecy

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Diego is new to town. He's a seal, on crutches, but don't raise an eyebrow at that - you won't have enough left to raise at what follows, when he is hounded by a singing professorial claque who go about grooming him for being a very public, hopeful figure. Observing all of this is the devil (a dwarf in check dungarees, of course), who wants Diego for his own purposes... Full review...

Africa Junction by Ginny Baily

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Adele has made a mess of her life and she knows it. Working with the stresses of being a teacher as well as a single mother and having shrugged off a disastrous relationship, her life seems to be set on self-destruct. Part of the problem is that the past won't leave her alone. Adele is haunted by the memory of Ellena, a friend from her childhood in Senegal, Africa. With one unthinking, childish action, Adele inadvertently devastated Ellena's family so, in order to go forward, Adele must go back to the continent where it all began. Full review...

Monsters Don't Cry! by Brett McKee and Ella Burfoot

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Archie awoke with a shout in the night.
Only a dream, but what a terrible fright.
Well monsters may roar, may growl or just sigh,
But monsters are strong, monsters don't cry.

Archie is a funny, adventurous and brave little chap but in spite of the fact that he's a little monster – literally – sometimes when life's little twists and turns don't go his way, it all gets a bit upsetting. Because even monsters get scared; especially little ones like Archie. Full review...

Raven Boy and Elf Girl by Marcus Sedgwick

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Raven Boy and Elf Girl are on a mission. An ogre has been trampling and crashing around the place, pulling up all the trees and destroying people's homes. Many of the forest creatures have fled, and poor Elf Girl has somehow managed to lose her parents. What's more, she doesn't really believe Raven Boy when he says he can talk to the animals, mostly because all they seem to say is RUN! Full review...

Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

3star.jpg Literary Fiction

A small community in rural Hungary is unsettled. One man has too much control over the place, with too much influence on the work done there, and over all the lives lived there. His effect is still felt, even though he has been dead for over a year. So whether you are the man itching to finish a swindle and leave with the proceedings, or the doctor, confined by will to a chair at his window, making the most personal, immaculate notes about the whole existence of the community, or the housewife whose loins still mourn the influence of said man, you are unsettled - especially when the dead man is said to be returning... Full review...

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

As he has done before on several occasions, Peter Carey offers us two parallel stories in his intriguingly titled 'The Chemistry of Tears'. The two elements of the title reflect that this is a book about grief, but also about science. It's also a book about human's relationship with machines and dependence that we have grown to have on them, and the ugliness of life and the beauty of, at least some, machines. In one strand of the story, Catherine is a modern day horologist working in a London museum whose world is shattered by the death of a married colleague with whom she was having an affair. Put to work on restoring a mysterious clockwork bird, she discovers the journals of Henry Brandling, the nineteenth century wealthy man who commissioned the construction of the toy for his consumptive son. Full review...

HHhH by Laurent Binet

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

First, the title. HHhH is short for Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich - Himmler's brain was called Heydrich. In other words, it's not a case of 'behind every great Nazi there's a greater woman', but behind Hitler's own deputy was a major strength to the party. Reinhard Heydrich was the ruler of what practically corresponds to the Czech Republic, led the SS and more, and bossed the workings of the Final Solution. Any good biography of this compelling character in those interesting times - given too the subplot of those who would assassinate him - is bound to be an excellent history book. But, despite this getting a high rating, this isn't one. Why not? The author says so. Full review...

Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Not a lot of time has passed since the first instalment of Ana’s adventures with the man she calls Fifty Shades. Perhaps unusually for a follow up it’s not months or years later, in fact just a few days have gone by. Lots of things have changed, though. Successful businessman Christian is still our tortured hero and Ana, now in her first proper job, remains our befuddled heroine but they’re not Christian-and-Ana any more having parted ways at the end of book one. At the same time, a lot has stayed the same. They’re not having quite as much dirty sex as they were but the tensions are still there. He’s still incapable of letting her get on with things without interfering (you’ve got to love a guy who buys the company you work at, just to keep an eye on things). And he still has, let’s say, particular preferences when it comes to his bedroom antics. So, it seems, does Ana. With what were increasingly becoming her regular nocturnal activities now off limits, she’s started craving them. Craving things she didn’t know were possible a month or so ago. Craving things she’s aware nice girls wouldn’t…unless it’s all one big unspoken secret in the sisterhood. Craving things that, let’s be honest, a massive number of readers probably quite fancy themselves after the literary foreplay that was book 1. Full review...

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

5star.jpg For Sharing

When it's bedtime at the zoo the zookeeper goes round all the animals and wishes them 'good night'. What he doesn't realise is that the crafty gorilla has gently lifted the zoo keeper's key ring from his belt and is opening the cages. All the animals - Elephant, Lion, Hyena, Giraffe and Armadillo are tiptoeing along behind the zookeeper as he leaves the zoo and goes home to bed, completely unaware that he has all his friends with him. In fact - it's not until his wife wishes him good night and receives a lot more replies than she was expecting that the animals are found out. I'm not going to tell you the rest of the story because I want you to enjoy it for yourself. Full review...

I Don't Want to Wash my Hands (Little Princess) by Tony Ross

5star.jpg For Sharing

The Little Princess is always getting her hands dirty whether it's by playing in the palace garden, stroking Scruff, the dog or going on her potty. Whenever she does any of these, there's always someone there to tell her to wash her hands. Now, as the Little Princess never likes being told what to do, she does not take kindly to this hand washing business and she demands to know why. However, when the level-headed maid, who never puts up with any of her nonsense, tells her about all the germs and nasties and horrible things that could make her ill, she is soon found rushing to the hand basin at every opportunity. Not only that, she starts insisting that everyone else always washes their hands too. Full review...

The Dead Season: A Sandro Cellini Mystery by Christobel Kent

4star.jpg Crime

It's August and Florence feels hotter than it usually does in August - if that's possible. Businesses are shut up as anyone who can migrates to the coast, but Sandro Cellini isn't one of them. He used to be a policeman but he's now a private investigator but even this business is running very slowly. All he has to work on is the case of a young and very pregnant woman whose fiancé is missing. The manager of the local Bank won't be holidaying either - his body is discovered in the shrubbery on a normally busy roundabout - and it looks as though it's been there for a few days. Then there's a coincidence: it seems that the missing fiancé and the dead Bank manager both had the same name. Full review...

Mayfly Day by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

5star.jpg For Sharing

Here is Mayfly.
It is her first day on earth.
It is also her last

This is the way that this wonderful book starts and the reader is left in no doubt that a mayfly's life is quite an extraordinary one. We go on to discover all the amazing things that the mayfly is able to see and do in this one special day. It will see eggs hatch, lambs trying to stand, taste honey on plants and feel the warmth of the sun as well as the summer rain. These are just some of the things that the mayfly will experience in this one remarkable day. The day ends with the mayfly laying her own eggs and leaving them to hatch. Full review...

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

4star.jpg Teens

Insurgent (clever title, you'll see) begins right where Divergent left off. The social structure of Tris's world is beginning to fall apart. After the Erudite simulation attack on the Abnegation, the factions are in disarray. The Dauntless are split - half providing the military muscle for the Erudite and the other half seeking alliances with the other factions. But Amity insist on remaining neutral in the hopes of avoiding further conflict and the Candor don't have anything to bargain. The few remaining Abnegation are refugees. But there is another group - the factionless - who may hold the key to defeating the Erudite. Full review...

Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise by Mandy Sutcliffe

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

What a lovely story! Belle and Boo are always together. Belle is a little girl and Boo is her rabbit. One day Belle is very busy preparing for a birthday. Together they make a card, and some cakes, and set up a picnic in the garden. But who's birthday is it? Full review...

Home to Roost by Tessa Hainsworth

4star.jpg Autobiography

There seems to be a plethora of books about people who have moved to unusual places, or changed lifestyle in middle age for a variety of reasons. This book features a London family who have moved to Cornwall, and is the third (so far) in a series about their transition. Full review...

Whiffy Wilson by Caryl Hart and Leonie Lord

5star.jpg For Sharing

Wilson is a terribly dirty little wolf who never washes, or brushes his hair, or changes his underwear! His mum seems at a loss, demanding that he has a bath or he can't go out to play but Wilson, the naughty wolf, just runs away and hides! It is only when he meets a little girl called Dotty that he does anything about how stinky he is. She thinks he's a monster he's so smelly, and when that makes him feel sad Dotty says they can soon sort things out and takes him home for a bath! Full review...

Rabbityness by Jo Empson

5star.jpg For Sharing

Rabbit is a very rabbity rabbit. He loves doing rabbity things like hopping and jumping, washing his ears and burrowing. He also likes doing unrabbity things too, like painting, and making music, filling the woods where he lives with music and colour! But one day, Rabbit disappears. Where has he gone? The other rabbits find everything has become grey and silent without Rabbit. They find that Rabbit left behind some gifts, lots of things to make colour and music with. Together they all begin to discover that they enjoy doing unrabbity things, and that doing these things makes them think of Rabbit and they feel happy. Full review...

Outlaw: The Story of Robin Hood by Michael Morpurgo

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Have you heard of Robin Hood? Of course you have. Have you heard of Michael Morpurgo? I’m guessing the answer to that one is yes as well. This new version of one of England’s most famous legends, told by one of the country’s most popular authors, is surely a can’t miss prospect, isn’t it? Full review...

Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks by Ellie Phillips

3star.jpg Teens

Sadie Nathanson is stunned to get a card from her dad on her fifteenth birthday. Not only has she never met her dad, but to all intents and purposes he doesn't even exist. He was a sperm donor, that's all. In view of this, it's fairly obvious that the card is a mean joke, probably played by her ex-best friend Shonna Matthews. But it makes her start to think about her dad a bit more, and she decides to track him down. Full review...

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel revolves around 24 hours in the lives of Maggie and Ira Moran as they attend a friend's funeral and make a detour on the way home. As the couple spend the day together they share events from their past that put their present in context. I know this seems a somewhat sparse structure for a story but don't be put off. Somewhere between Anne Tyler's idea and its execution, something very good happens. Full review...

Time and Tide by Shirley McKay

4.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

A ship is wrecked on the coast of 16th century Scotland, the crew gone, the only man on board dying and a windmill lashed to its deck. What happened? What sort of illness does it carry? And, more importantly for the town's people, who gets to keep the windmill? It's a tough one, but university professor and erstwhile lawyer Hew Cullan is on the case. Full review...

The Tyrant by Jacques Chessex

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Jean Calmet, teacher of Latin in a lycee of the 1960s in Switzerland, is confronting his father's death. He can hardly be said to be coming to terms with it, for Calmet pere was and remains a crushing force in Jean's life, and although the death would in many similar novels be a release, here his father's cremation serves to batter Jean into a beaten state. His relations with his work, his lover, his students are all suffused with not a sense of loss but a sense of continuing and growing dominance by the ghost of his father. The authoritian presence seems to grow as a spectre rather than diminish through his death. Full review...

Make and Do: Bake by Kathleen King

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I love the idea of kids cooking. There's going to be mess, probably a bit of waste and you're going to have to bite your tongue an awful lot, but it really is the most amazing fun. Best of all, though - from an early age kids learn that they can go into the kitchen and make something which they can eat. They don't need to go to the shops and buy a ready meal or to a takeaway for junk food. They can make something themselves. It's a life skill. Full review...

Daily Mail Tax Guide 2012/2013 by Jane Vass

5star.jpg Business and Finance

In its annual report H M Revenue and Customs announced that it will shed many more staff by the year 2015 so it's now more important than ever to ensure that you are paying the right amount of tax and that you are claiming all the allowances and reliefs to which you are entitled. I spent most of my working life in HMRC and the dedication and professionalism of the staff is second to none but when resources are spread more thinly it's difficult to say that something will not give. You can, of course, go to the HMRC site where you will find a lot of help and information - and it's free. You might wonder then, why you should buy a book which, on the face of it, does the same job? Full review...

Creepover: Truth or Dare by P J Night

4star.jpg confident Readers

When playing Truth or Dare with her friends at a party, Abby Miller tells them she has a crush on Jake Chilson. When she gets a text in the middle of the night warning her to stay away from him, or else, she can't believe it would be any of them - but nobody else knows. Could it really be the ghost of Jake's ex-girlfriend Sara, who was tragically killed when a car hit her? As more and more strange things start happening to her, Abby wonders whether she believes in ghosts or not... Full review...


Denver by David McKee

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Denver, who was extremely rich, lived in Berton Manor. He was so rich that he was able to employ a chauffeur, a cook and some gardeners. When he invited friends to dinner he was able to employ more people to serve all of the food. This was very good for the village of Berton as he was paying the people who live there. Not only that, he always did his shopping in Berton, presented prizes at the local school and, at Christmas, dressed up as Santa and handed out presents. It seems quite obvious that many people in the village were able to benefit from his wealth. Full review...

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It would be hard to imagine any book by Frances Hardinge being anything but excellent. She has a knack for creating bizarre characters whose actions, somehow, make sense because they live in utterly fantastic but well-structured worlds. If you then add to the mix, as she does, a determined and thoroughly endearing young heroine for whom you simply have to stand up and cheer, then you are guaranteed a pleasurable and thought-provoking read. Full review...

Shrinking Violet by Lou Kuenzler

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Violet is very excited. She has finally grown sufficiently to be eligible for a scary ride called Plunger at her family's local theme park. She persuades her parents to take her there, accompanied reluctantly by her teenage sister... then, just as they are about to get on the ride, the fulfillment of Violet's dreams, she starts to shrink. And finds herself staring face-to-face with a worm. Full review...

The White Lioness (Kurt Wallander) by Henning Mankell

3.5star.jpg Crime

Louise Akerblom was a young housewife, a mother, pillar of the local Methodist church and an estate agent. It was the last which would cause Kurt Wallander to investigate her disappearance and which would gradually bring to light a chain of events which led back to South Africa, to renegade members of the South African Secret Service and an ex-KGB agent who would do anything to live in South Africa. What they have in common is a determination to halt Nelson Mandela's rise to power even if the result is a blood bath. It didn't seem quite so complex on that Friday afternoon in 1992 but it would be one of Wallander's most complex cases and one which could cost him very dearly. Full review...

Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by A F Harrold

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

The number of times the fictional cliche of the boy who ran away to the circus has been used are beyond count. Here though is the boy who appears, from his clown mother and strongman father's point of view, to have run away FROM the circus. The truth, of course, is more unusual. In trying to return a dropped library book, Fizz gets enamoured of the opportunity at his local branch, but this captivation leads to a captivity of a more physical kind... Full review...

Underground Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube by Andrew Martin

4.5star.jpg History

Although he was born in Yorkshire, Andrew Martin has long been enthralled by the London Underground. His father worked on British Rail, and Andrew himself therefore had free travel on the system as well as a Privilege Pass which entitled him to free first-class train travel on the national rail network. Having lived in London for twenty-five years, commuting to various newspaper offices in his employment as a journalist, a job which has included writing a regular magazine column, Tube Talk, he is well qualified to write this entertaining and enlightening social history of the world's most famous underground railway. Full review...

Scarlet by A C Gaughen

4star.jpg Teens

Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. But what if they weren't all men? What if Will Scarlet, the violent youngster who can throw a knife with the same accuracy as Robin shoots a bow, was a girl? Full review...

A Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Kitty Aldridge's A Trick I Learned from Dead Men is a touchingly written, quirky story set in the world of funeral homes. The narrator is twenty-something Lee Hart. He's not the sharpest tool in the box, but his life has been tough. His father left when he was young and his mother has recently died of cancer leaving him, his step-father, a sofa-bound television make-over show addict and his deaf and wayward younger brother, Ned to fend for themselves. Lee lands a job as a trainee at the local funeral home helping Derek prepare the dead for burial or cremation. Far from being a dead end job though, it is here that he learns, ironically, about life and love, in the form of the delivery girl from the local florists. Full review...

The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway

3star.jpg Historical Fiction

Hugh, the Earl of Briarly, has acknowledged his mortality after a nasty accident, and has decided to take a wife. Not being a very sociable person - he likes horses better than people - he asks his married sister Carolyn to produce a list of eligible young ladies. She does so, and then invites them and various other friends to a house party. Full review...

The Good Wife's Castle by Roland Vernon

5star.jpg Crime

We start with a father's suicide, a child watching as he steps of the chair in the milking room with the noose around his neck. A father who died for shame. Full review...

Bringing the Summer by Julia Green

5star.jpg Teens

Freya is returning home from a summer spent with her grandparents, ready to start her A levels. The train she is travelling on stops suddenly and Freya is horrified when she realises that a girl has committed suicide on the line. A sense of obligation leads her to attend the girl's funeral. There, she meets Gabes, a gorgeous boy who goes to her college. Freya is instantly attracted, not just by Gabes, but by his whole, slightly bohemian, family, so different to her own. But there's also a more dangerous attraction. Theo, Gabes's older brother, makes his own interest in Freya very apparent. Theo is very different from Gabes - unpredictable, dark, wild. Full review...

The Puppy Diaries: Living with a Dog Named Scout by Jill Abramson

4star.jpg Pets

Jill Abramson had a dog whom she adored - a White West Highland by the name of Buddy - and after his death she wasn't certain that she wanted another dog. Would she bond with the newcomer? Would she always be comparing the pup with his predecessor? But - times change - and in 2009 Jill and her husband Henry brought home a Golden Retriever by the name of Scout. Over the following year Abramson wrote a column about raising Scout for the New York Times website and it's this column which forms the basis for 'The Puppy Diaries: Living With a Dog Named Scout'. Full review...

White Dolphin by Gill Lewis

5star.jpg Teens

Things aren't going too well for Kara. She's mocked at school for her dyslexia. Her father is struggling to find work and they're cooped up living with judgemental Auntie Bev. And, worse of all, Mum is not around. A marine biologist, she disappeared on an expedition along with several of her colleagues and no bodies were ever found. Kara clings on determinedly to her belief that her mother will return some day, much to the frustration of everyone around her, and her only solace is sailing in her father's boat, Moana. Full review...

Going Too Far by David Lukens

3.5star.jpg Teens

Adults of a certain age remember a time when kids were respectful when you met them in the street. They certainly didn't answer you back, skateboard on the pavements and take drugs, so the idea of electing a sheriff - the man in overall charge of the police in a town - who pledged to get tough on these kids appealed to them. In fact, what's not to like about the idea? It takes crime off the streets, makes the town a safer place and it must be better that kids are taught to obey the law. Common sense, when you think about, isn't it? Well, there is another side to the story. What if these kids are just having a bit of innocent fun in an area that was little more than a traffic island? What if the drug taking is hardly serious? What if one of the kids dies? Full review...

The Black Book of Modern Myths: True Stories of the Unexplained by Alasdair Wickham

3star.jpg Popular Science

A collection of 'Modern Myths' from around the world, Wickham's Black Book covers a wide range of phenomenon, from ghosts to liminal creatures, poltergeists to demons. As an aficionado of all things paranormal, this should have been right up my street. However, I found myself struggling to get into it, and putting it down for something else on more than one occasion. Full review...

Me and My Sisters by Sinead Moriarty

5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Louise, Sophie and Julie. Three women. Three sisters. One a successful business woman. One a successful trophy wife. One a successful mother of four. All of them seem to the others to have it all. All of them have more troubles than the others could ever imagine. Full review...

Paddington Races Ahead by Michael Bond

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Far be it from me to suggest that a bear we all know and love is cashing in on the London Olympics AND the Jubilee, but here he is on the front of a rather splendid book, racing along - and waving a Union Jack. He's a bear of good intentions, but somehow they seem to get him into difficult situations which are always of his own making. There was the matter of the shaving cream which it should have been possible to get back into the tube - and for something which cleans it shouldn't make such a mess. We won't even discuss why the London bus had to be evacuated or what happened when Paddington was mistaken for a Peruvian hurdler. Full review...

Nutmeg by Maria Goodin

4.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

Meg was rather underdone when she was born. Her mother ate lots of eggs during pregnancy, in the hope of giving her a good glaze, but instead she came out clucking like a chicken, and was fortuitously caught in a frying pan by the gas man... Full review...

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Charlotte Rogan's debut novel The Lifeboat takes an unexpected look at life on a lifeboat of a sunken liner, midway between the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania. In many ways, a lifeboat presents an ideal situation for a novelist. You have a set number of characters and clear boundaries. But there's only so much interest in 'we were scared' and 'oh, look here comes another big wave'. Her solution is to take the story as one of moral and ethical choices rather than an out and out adventure. As her narrator, Grace Winter, concludes 'it was not the sea that was cruel, but the people'. Full review...

Things We Left Unsaid by Zoya Pirzad

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Life in Iran is good for Armenian Clarice Ayvazian. She lives comfortably in an oil company town, devoting her middle class life to her engineer husband, teenage son and young twin daughters. Her mother and sister, Alice, drop in from time to time during the course of the day, but are perfectly manageable for her (in small doses). However, when an elderly woman, her middle-aged son and his tween-age daughter move in across the road they bring turmoil in their wake and Clarice's perception of her happiness is torn apart. Full review...

The Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

There are two things you need to know about Stashower's Harry Houdini. Firstly, he is a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, and much more importantly, he is utterly certain of his own ability to do whatever he sets his mind to. Therefore, when he finds himself involved, albeit in a minor way, in a murder, he immediately decides it is up to him to solve the case. It never occurs to him that he might fail, because that is simply not an option for the Great Houdini. Full review...

The Red House by Mark Haddon

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Richard and Angela - brother and sister - are reunited at their mother's funeral. Richard is well-to-do and recently remarried with a teenage stepdaughter. Angela is the main breadwinner in her family as her husband scrapes a wage by working in Waterstones and somehow they and their three children get by. Richard is aware that he hasn't much left in the way of family and tries to build some bridges with Angela by way of offering that the eight of them should have a week's holiday in a cottage on the Welsh borders. So, there's four adults, four children and a lot of emotional baggage. Oh, and there's Karen - Angela's stillborn daughter who would have been eighteen that week. Full review...

Fear by Michael Grant

4.5star.jpg Teens

Darkness is falling in the FAYZ. The dome that isolates the children from the outside world is turning black, and Sam, Astrid and the rest know that this could be the worst thing yet to happen to them. I'm leaving the plot summary there, because it deserves to be read with as few spoilers as possible. Full review...

Pot-San's Tabletop Tales by Satoshi Kitamura

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

We love all things Japanese in our house having visited the country a few times and come home laden with books and movies and general cute knick-knacks galore! So I was excited to read this story to my little girl all about Pot-san, a teapot, and his other tabletop friends who have lots of adventures together! Full review...

Big Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

In Stuart's previous adventure we saw him discovering his Uncle's magical secrets. Now that Tony Horten's tricks have been found, Stuart is able to investigate how they actually work. During these investigations he discovers that they are rather more magical than you might initially think, but the magic of each item lasts for only one adventure each...will Stuart and April be able to uncover all of the secrets of the tricks and discover who their rightful owner is? Full review...

Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World by Ian Bremmer

4star.jpg Politics and Society

We're all used to terms like 'G7' which then became the 'G8' - the group of countries which met periodically to thrash out global problems - frequently with America being expected to take the lead where military muscle or finance was concerned. We even nod knowingly at the mention of the G20 - formed with the good intention that a larger group would be able to tackle such issues as climate change. We know where good intentions generally lead but there wasn't even sufficient agreement amongst the nations to all head off in the same direction. So when a point was reached where America was no longer financially able or politically willing to play global policeman what was left? Full review...

Nothing But Fear by Knud Romer and John Mason (translator)

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The Danish writer/actor Knud Romer has a gallery of fascinating relatives which collectively feature in Nothing But Fear. This biographical novel is a collection of memories from his grandparents' era, moving forward, to that of his parents, including World War II and his own childhood in 1960s and 70s small town Denmark. The vignettes aren't in chronological order but that's because memories normally aren't. The stories are narrated almost as if they're fresh from the mind, ensuring a natural flow. The interesting thing is that no matter how fascinating his other relatives are my mind's eye always seemed to return to one: his mother, Hildegard. Full review...

The Greatest Love Story of All Time by Lucy Robinson

2.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

It was the blurb on this one that had me interested, mentioning Fran’s 30th birthday (mine’s a few months away) and the fact she’s bluffed her way into a very posh job (something some might say I’ve just done too). I thought we might be kindred spirits and even if we weren’t, I thought I might be signing up for some fun, flirty chick lit which is never a bad thing.

Until now. Full review...

Secret Breakers: The Power of Three by H L Dennis

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The back cover of this book says it is the 'Da Vinci Code for kids' and that's not a bad description. Secret messages, codes, helter-skelter journeys to well-known places, and baddies lurking round every corner . . . plenty of action and adventure, mixed in with generous dollops of facts and information which will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy having their brains challenged as well as their imaginations. The legend of King Arthur, the house where the famous Enigma code was cracked and a fabulous sea-side building created for a prince are only a few of the clues the three teenagers will encounter on their journey towards the truth. Full review...

Opposed Positions by Gwendoline Riley

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

There is a reason why Gwendoline Riley has something of a cult following. She is technically innovative and very good at what she does, but the subject matter is invariably dark and downbeat which prevents mass market appeal. In that respect Opposed Positions is very much business as usual then. The subject matter most evident here is misogyny and the damaging impact it has both directly and indirectly on people. It's painful to read at times; it feels as if the narrator, an occasional novelist, Aislinn Kelly, is picking at the scab of her life and her family in a way that feels shocking and, for all the wry observations, remains uncomfortable to read. Full review...

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

5star.jpg Teens

Karl is seventeen and hopelessly caught in the throes of first love. The object of his affections is Fiorella, a girl who seems above him so many ways. Fiorella's family is both healthy and wealthy, while Karl's father is dead and his mother gets by but not much more. Fiorella is a bright girl on her way to university, while Karl is dyslexic and has left school to work as a blue collar apprentice plumber. Fiorella is articulate, while Karl is reserved. Full review...