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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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Iggy and Me and the New Baby by Jenny Valentine

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Flo's little sister Iggy seems to have just one thing on her mind at the moment and that's babies. She's desperate for Mummy to have another baby but Mummy says that two are quite enough - 'one under each arm in an emergency'. Actually, Iggy has something else on her mind too. She longs to grow. At one point she was the smallest in her class - which meant that she was the smallest child in the school. She will do anything to grow - however odd it might seem to everyone else! Full review...

Breaking The Devil's Heart: A Logic of Demons Novel by H A Goodman

4star.jpg Fantasy

In this afterlife, Heaven is pretty much hands off. Angels whisper sweet nothings into human ears but don't go much further than that. If the living don't act on Heaven's advice, the angels simply practise what you might call courageous restraint. Hell, on the other hand, is much better organised. Set up like a sizeable corporation, its demons are purveyors of the Formula and relentless targets push the demons into becoming exceedingly effective - and dodgy - salesmen. Drink too much of the Formula and you're in big trouble - sinning all over the place. Full review...

MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Welcome to the world of Web 4.0 - a totally immersive world of virtual reality, jacked into your spine, and the perfect place to escape, live and work - as opposed to the near-Apocalyptic conditions on Earth, with global warming, over-population and anarchic ruin everywhere. Jonah uses the Metasphere to go to school by day, and his rollerskates to try and win race prize purses by night. But the world is about to turn upside down for him. For the inventor of Web 4.0, who alone can control and profit from this other reality, is out of prison, and the 'terrorists' against him are stepping up their activities too. Secrets in both worlds will conspire to drag Jonah in, but in an existence where you can be killed virtually or IRL and they both have the same result, the danger he faces is only going to mount up... Full review...

Meltwater (Fire and Ice) by Michael Ridpath

4star.jpg Crime

A group of internet activists decided to base themselves in Iceland whilst they prepared their latest exposé. This time it was a video of a purported Israeli attrocity which needed verifying and preparing for publication. All would have been well - or as well as such things ever are - if one of the group hadn't been murdered on a visit to a volcano. It was a volcano which caused the second problem - not the erruption of the small, pretty one which the group had visited with fatal consequences, but the big, ugly one which no one could pronounce and which disrupted air traffic all over Europe in the spring of 2010. Yes. That one. Eyjafjallajokull meant that travel too and from Iceland was exceedingly difficult and it disrupted the investigation of the murder. Full review...

The Other Side of Silence by Sylvie Nickels

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Pippa Eastman went to Australia to get away from her domineering father, the historian Joseph Eastman and it was there that she met Jude, the son of two Ten Pound Poms. Their relationship was good, but not exactly committed on either side. It was about having fun. Familial ties were surprisingly strong though and when Joseph Eastman developed Alzheimer's Disease Pippa returned to the UK to care for him. Slightly to her surprise, Jude followed her - determined to track down the alcoholic father who had left him and his mother in Australia. It's only after her father's death that Pippa finds herself in search of her father's life - and trying to establish that he wasn't a murderer. Full review...

The Spook's Blood: Book 10 (Wardstone Chronicles) by Joseph Delaney

4star.jpg Teens

One might've thought that having bound The Devil in a massive underground pit and cut his head off, life would become a little easier for Thomas Ward, Spook in-training. Although the Fiend has undoubtedly been weakened, he has many loyal servants set on putting him back together so that he can reap terrible eternal vengeance on the few brave enough to fight him. While witch assassin Grimalkin, a dark and unlikely ally, evades the Fiend's minions and keeps his head separate from his body, it is up to Tom, Alice and The Spook to work out a way to destroy him permanently. But Grimalkin cannot run forever, and the Fiend's most powerful servants are encircling Tom and his allies, forcing them to fight with everything they have, just to survive. Full review...

Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss

4star.jpg For Sharing

It's not an easy life being a spider. You have to avoid vacuum cleaners, daddy longlegs, and people with big shoes. There are good things too: you get to have fun with your best friend, Fly, and spend time with your loving family. Diary of a Spider takes us through a few months in the life of a young spider, taking in the fun and adventure. Full review...

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Books about Shakespeare vary hugely both in terms of approach and quality. Some focus on historical fact, while others play rather more loosely with the romance of his life. Fortunately for readers, Jude Morgan's books are rather more reliably excellent. What's more, he has a track record of fiction that concerns great writers, having previously tackled the Brontës (The Taste of Sorrow) and the romantic poets (Passion). So my expectations were already quite high coming into his The Secret Life of William Shakespeare - expectations that he has again surpassed. Full review...

Boat Works by Tom Slaughter

4star.jpg For Sharing

Imagine seeing just a little bit of a boat. It's not enough for you to decide whether it's big or small, or what it does, but on the opposite page there's another clue. 'I have two oars' - and there they are for all to see. But look more closely. You can fold that second page out for yet another clue: 'I have a rope which ties me to the dock' and there's the rope, strong and hairy, with a complex knot. Now you can fold out the second clue to reveal that his is a rowboat, by the name of Nelly, tied up at the dock. Neat, eh? Full review...

Life On The Line by Jeremy Bullard

4star.jpg Travel

Jeremy Bullard began his working life as a Chartered Accountant but eventually realised that the most exciting part of the day was his journey to work on his moped. Next came a spell as a IT Consultant into which he put heart and soul and only just escaped with his sanity. A mental breakdown and a spell in The Priory convinced him that he had to rethink his life choices and high on the list was a long-distance trip on a motorbike. The first two trips - from London to Cape Town and the reverse - were aborted and we join him as he attempts his most ambitious journey. He's heading from New York to the very south of South America. Oh, and he's taking in the Galapagos and Easter Island. Full review...

The Sultan's Wife by Jane Johnson

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Alys Swann is leaving her native Holland to accomplish the marriage her mother arranged for her in London. Alys's parents are English but fled to Holland when her late father discovered he was on the wrong side during the English Civil War. The trip turns out to be more adventurous than Alys would like as she's kidnapped by pirates and delivered to Moroccan potentate Sultan Moulay Ismail who's a little mentally unstable (and that's an understatement). His plan for her is as a welcome addition to his globally sourced harem. There she meets Nus-Nus, eunuch and the Sultan's scribe, who has problems of his own. A local apothecary dies in a most unnatural way and Nus-Nus seems to be the only suspect. The royal court has always been a dangerous place but, for Nus-Nus, and indeed Alys, staying alive has suddenly become more of a challenge than it seemed before... and that's saying something. Full review...

The Wrong Man by Jason Dean

4star.jpg Crime

Ex-marine James Bishop worked for an elite protection company. The idea behind his last mission was to protect multi-millionaire Randall Brennan and his daughter Natalie but, instead, he found himself framed for murder. Who? Why? These why may be questions that need answering but that's not going to happen whilst he's serving a life sentence. However, where Bishop is concerned, that's only a minor blip compared to the task ahead. Full review...

Troubletwisters: The Monster by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This book really should be required reading for anyone charged with bringing up children with magical powers — especially if they've already saved the world a time or two. In a nutshell, it shows what happens when you answer all the said young people's questions with some vague promise to explain everything when the time is right. As if that's going to satisfy them. Full review...

Britain for Sale by Alex Brummer

4.5star.jpg Business and Finance

Buy British, we're constantly told, and many people do - the French, the Germans, Qataris, Chinese... If you want to buy British you'd be hard pressed to use a British electricity company, the people shifting North Sea oil to you might be foreign, the trains near you may be foreign-operated, and so much of what's in the shops you buy from would of coursed be sourced from abroad, and shipped through foreign-owned ports. Whether or not the country is going to hell in a handcart, it's moving in piecemeal stages to exterior business interests, and the British citizen gets the worst of the deal. Full review...

Sparrow: The Story of Joan of Arc by Michael Morpurgo

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Joan of Arc knows she's special. She knows that she has been chosen to save France - the voices tell her so. But she also knows that she has a lot to do to convince the Dauphin and the noblemen who protect him that it's time to make a stand for their country. Can she become a heroine? Full review...

The Golden Hour by William Nicholson

5star.jpg General Fiction

Maggie is nervous about committing to a live-in relationship, terrified by the idea that there must be something better out there. Dean is terrified of losing the love of his life and old Mrs Dickinson is just, well, terrified. Henry is frustrated by rabbits in his garden, Alan is frustrated by work, and Liz is frustrated by old Mrs Dickinson, who is her mother... Full review...

The Glimpse by Claire Merle

5star.jpg Teens

Ana's Dad helped invent the DNA test that helps to divide Society into two categories: Pures and Crazies. Pures are people who are 'normal', and Crazies are people who carry genes for depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Having lived as a Pure all her life, when Ana finds out her test was wrong her world falls apart. Now, marrying Jasper, a Pure-boy, is her only chance of a normal life. But will Jasper still want her now she's a Crazy? Full review...

Dirt by David Vann

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

We're back in the mid-nineteen-eighties in a suburb of Sacramento and Galen lives with his mother on the family walnut farm. The farm's not what it was, largely having been left to its own devices since the death of Galen's abusive grandfather some years before. Galen's father is something of an unknown quantity - his mother won't even discuss who he was or tell Galen anything about him, but then she's able to shut her mind to most things which she finds unpleasant. Her mother has been moved from the farm to a nursing home - she's still quite active but her memory is going. Suzie-Q's sister, Helen is determined to get her hands on the family money for the benefit of her seventeen-year-old daughter, Jennifer. Full review...

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

4.5star.jpg Teens

The Comonot Treaty is approaching its 40th anniversary but the state of play between humans and dragons is still parlous. The people in Goredd still revile and distrust the dragons who walk among them in human form. For the dragons, humans are like cockroaches - easily crushed individually, but surprisingly resilient when they band together. Humans are impulsive, emotional. Dragons are impassive, logical. It's not an easy fit and the fragile peace is at risk after the murder of a Goreddi prince. Dragons are suspected of the crime. Full review...

Bear's Underwear Mystery: A Count-and-Find-it Adventure by Todd H Doodler

3star.jpg For Sharing

Bear receives a mysterious message: 'Follow the trail of underwear. Find all TEN and you'll be THERE'. He's delighted to be involved in a mystery and goes off hunting for the white pair which is number one. Once they are found he's off in search of the pair with blue stripes, then the pair with green spots, another in purple plaid and so on... Each page has a number tab for extra fun. Full review...

Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Romans by Tony Robinson

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You could be mistaken for thinking Tony Robinson had written books like this before, for he was doing 'Horrid History'-style TV programmes before the official ones were made. This series fits so well into his erudite yet family audience-friendly manner, and this second book takes us in a primary school curriculum-suiting way into the world of Rome. A lot is in these books, from trivia for all ages (I didn't know, or had forgotten, that all those Julius Caesar reliefs and statues are of him in a wig as he was bald), to the delectable gross-out (the posh man's cuisine) to the foregrounding of the obvious difference between them and us (in a word, slavery). Full review...

The Seeing by Diana Hendry

5star.jpg Teens

It's 1956 when Natalie comes storming into the quiet seaside town of Norton and slap-bang into Lizzie's life. Natalie is from the wrong side of the tracks and reserved, well-to-do Lizzie is immediately drawn to this unconventional girl who wears her poverty and neglect like a badge of courage. As the two girls grow closer over the summer, Natalie reveals a shocking secret - her odd younger brother Philip has the gift of second sight and can see "left over Nazis" lying in wait, ready to start another war when the time is right. Natalie says it's up to the three of them to rid Norton of these LONs. Full review...

Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Egyptians by Tony Robinson

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You could be mistaken for thinking Tony Robinson had written books like this before, for he was doing 'Horrid History'-style TV programmes before the official ones were made. This series fits so well into his erudite yet family audience-friendly manner, and this launching book takes us to the strangest of worlds - yet one only a museum visit away, that of the ancient Egyptians. A lot is in these pages - complete with adult stuff glossed over (just how in-bred were those Ptolemys?!), the gross-out being relished (making mummies, and some alleged Egyptian medicines) and the obvious differences between them and us foregrounded so we can empathise with them (and at the same time remember it's harder for most of us to sleep on our roofs than they would have found it). Full review...

The Economist Book of Business Quotations by Bill Ridgers (Editor)

4star.jpg Business and Finance

It's not so much a book of business quotations as a book of business aphorisms. There's a prime example on the dust cover: J Paul Getty's 'My formula for success? Rise early, work late, strike oil.' It's arranged alphabetically by subject matter from Accountants and Accountancy ('Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions' A A Latimer) through to Work-Life Balance ('For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.' Lily Tomlin). Most entries are short and pithy and few run to as much as half a page. Full review...

Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

When Emmi sends and email to cancel a magazine subscription, she has no idea what a slight typo in the email address will lead to – a life-changing, potentially marriage-wrecking, all-consuming online love affair with the man whom she emails in error. What starts as an insignificant, casual message quickly becomes something much more important to both her and Leo as two people who have never met start to share their secrets and wishes, dreams and fears with each other, not just because they can but, it seems, because they have to. Full review...

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

3star.jpg Confident Readers

Everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs, but in this version, when the wolf comes along and huffs and puffs, he actually blows the little pigs right out of the story. In fact, they float across a number of pages before eventually ending up in the middle of Hey diddle diddle! However, they don't find this nursery rhyme to their liking so they move on to a story about a prince who kills a dragon. Having just escaped from their own dangerous enemy, the three pigs realise that they can't possibly leave the dragon to be slain, so they take him with them right the way back to their own story where, with the help of their new friend, they definitely don't allow the wolf in. Full review...

My Dearest Jonah by Matthew Crow

4star.jpg Crime

Jonah and Verity start to write to each other as part of a pen-pal scheme. They may only meet on paper but, as they reveal themselves and their pasts through their letters, they become the only constant in each of their existences, and what existences. Jonah has a troubled past (to put it mildly) including a stint in prison and a father serving a life sentence. Verity is the product of working class parents with aspirations which she has failed or refused to meet, splitting her working life between the local coffee shop and the local strip joint. Their futures begin to appear a lot brighter than their pasts but then clouds gather to prove that appearances can be deceptive. Full review...

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

3star.jpg Teens

Meg Lytton comes from a family of witches. Her mother, who died in childbirth, renounced her gift in order to marry. But Meg's Aunt Jane continued to practise and has taught Meg to hone her skills. Sent to serve the Princess Elizabeth - in confinement at Woodstock, suspected of treason against her sister - Meg soon finds that her royal mistress has a strong interest in the occult and encourages her to continue. Elizabeth is beset by danger and must tread a delicate path through intrigues and religion. Meg, too, walks in peril. The ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent has taken an uncomfortably close interest in her and if he were to discover her secret, he would send her straight to her death. Full review...

The Curse of the Bogle's Beard by Siobhan Rowden

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This is the book that takes the disgusting granny stereotype to its farthest lengths. Barnaby's gran is fond of purple to look queenly, digs her nose in his ear when she talks to him, and is rather hairy, very burpy and incredibly bossy. She also has nothing good to say about her daughter's choice of husband - Barnaby's father - who has decided to ignore the invitation to inherit the family's pickled vegetable factory and has in fact vanished. Could an old diary Barnaby's found of someone's very brave and very beetrooty life hold a clue? Will Barnaby overcome his nerves to explore Nan's mansion on his own? And quite how far will she go at preserving certain things? Full review...

The Killing Moon: Dreamblood: Book 1 by N K Jemisin

4star.jpg Fantasy

Ehiru is a Gatherer. He visits those who are dying to help them pass away peacefully. He sends their souls to a safe place for eternity, while taking their dreamblood to heal others. Most people in his city, Gujaareh, are happy with this. Then he Gathers a foreigner who's unwilling, and claims that the order of priests he belongs to are corrupt... could this barbarian be correct? Full review...

The King who Wouldn't Sleep by Debbie Singleton and Holly Swain

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

'Many years ago, in a palace far across the sea, there lived a king, a queen and, of course, a beautiful princess'.

In fact the princess is so beautiful and the king loves her so much that he resolves to watch over her every single day and night until he is able to find her the perfect suitor. In true traditional tale style, princes travel from far and wide to try and win the hand of the princess and, more importantly, the approval of the king. Unfortunately, even though there are all sorts of princes – tall, short, strong, weak, blond, bald and so on – not one is good enough for the king's much loved daughter. Full review...

Tilly's Moonlight Fox by Julia Green

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It's a difficult time for Tilly. She's just moved house, losing contact with her best friend as a result, and now her mother, who is expecting a baby, is too ill to leave her bed or even spend much time with her. Tilly is a sensitive, generous girl who tries hard not to get in the way or be a nuisance because she understands that her father needs to give all his time to his wife, and to sorting out their new home. Lonely, unhappy and frightened by all the bewildering things that are happening, she finds herself thrown back on her own company, unable to share her worries. Full review...

Funeral Note: A Bob Skinner Mystery by Quintin Jardine

4.5star.jpg Crime

When a man's body was exhumed from a shallow grave in Edinburgh the initial reaction was that it was murder - I mean, why else would you dispose of the body in that way? But then, why would you bury it with obvious care and tell the police where it's buried? When the postmortem showed that the man had died from natural causes it seemed that it was case closed - but Chief Constable Bob Skinner didn't always think in straight lines. He had more pressing problems to deal with though. It seemed obvious that an Inspector on his force was corrupt and on the personal front it looked as though his marriage was heading for the rocks. Full review...

Rory's Boys by Alan Clark

5star.jpg Humour

Rory Blaine, grandson of Lady Sybil Blaine is gay, free, single and loving it, as he tells himself a dozen times a day. He may be middle aged but he's still got it. He's a partner in a successful advertising firm and so, so over having been thrown out of home when he was a teenager; yes, over it – totally and completely. When he hears his grandmother is dying, he decides it's time to remind her (and her considerable wealth) of his existence. The tardy but intensive attention seems to pay off when he's left the ancestral pile. But the stately home wasn't left to him quite in the way that he thought. There are so many strings attached it resembles a marionette: if he wants to keep it he must transform it into the first retirement home for elderly gay gentlemen and he also seems to have acquired his first resident, whether he's wanted or not. Full review...

A Bunch of Fives by Helen Simpson

5star.jpg Short Stories

I will come straight out with it at the top of this review and state that I am a big fan of Helen Simpson. So this book, which is a selection of five stories from each of her five collections, is right up my street. All I’ve got to do now is convince you that you need to read it too! Full review...

End Game by Allan Hendry

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

A decade ago arms dealer Peter Rossi and Bill Rawlings, theologian, were in rough terrain two thousand feet above the Dead Sea. Rawlings was looking for something, but what, or where? It still wasn't entirely clear to Rossi when it was necessary for them to make a dramatic escape from a group of men - and the resulting carnage would be the stuff of nightmares for Rossi for many years to come. A decade later and at the other side of the world Bradley O'Connor, billionaire computer scientist, was forced to land his vintage plane on a mountain track in heavy snow and in the cold and lonely night which followed found his plane surrounded by a group of men eerily similar - had he but known it - to those Rossi and Rawlings had encountered. Full review...

Little People by Jane Sullivan

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Unemployed governess Mary Ann rescues what seems to be a child from the currents of the Yarra River in Australia. However, the 'child' turns out to be none other than Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, 'midget' and star of PT Barnum's touring 'Lilliputian' show. As a token of gratitude for her act of heroism the troupe's tour manager, Sylvester Bleeker, offers Mary Ann work and a solution to her dilemma. For she is not only out of work and alone... and pregnant. She's made to feel welcome and a sense of belonging at last although all isn't what it seems. She may well be everything that Tom Thumb and his wife Lavinia have been looking for but that may not be a good thing. Even the title itself isn't all it seems and has an additional meaning, not just a reference to the small of stature. Mary Ann gradually realises that, as a lone single parent, she would be destitute (and everything that meant at that time) without the troupe. She too is a little person, but of no account rather than reduced height. Full review...

Winston Windsor and the Diamond Jubilee by Melissa Wareham

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The Queen has quite a few corgis (and one dorgi) but her best-loved dog is Winston Windsor. Winston Windsor is devoted to the Queen, obviously, but his heart has been stolen by Wilma the poodle who is owned by the man who supplies fruit and vegetables to the Palace. When the Queen decides to change supplier (please step up the organic farmer based at Highgrove...) Winston realises that he will never see Wilma again. An unwise escape from the Palace in pursuit of his lady love leaves him in the dog pound with Flossy the Rottweiler (a difficult name for a boy, don't you think, particularly when you've been beaten up by a Chihuahua?) and Harry. When the dogs unearth a plot to kidnap the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee day they know that they have to get back to the Palace and warn the Queen - but how? Full review...

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton

4.5star.jpg Teens

Emma's not thrilled to be moving across the Atlantic to LA - unlike her mother and her younger sister Bex. Her mum has a new job and Bex is set to meet with a Hollywood agent. All Emma has to look forward to is a reunion with Oscar, the dorky boy she knew when growing up. When she meets Oscar, though, he's unexpectedly cute... and then TV star Alex Hall appears on the scene as well. With two boys interested, great weather, and locations from movies and TV shows at every turn, maybe LA is actually a pretty good place to live... Full review...

The Super Swooper Dinosaur by Martin Waddell and Leonie Lord

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

'One day, Hal and his little dog, Billy, were out playing when the sky darkened and...'

The next thing Hal knows is that an enormous winged super swooper dinosaur has landed in his garden and wants to play. Well, you don't really want to argue with a dinosaur that you have only just met so Hal agrees. The first game that the super swooper suggest is Hide-and-seek but it soon becomes apparent that it won't be very successful as the dinosaur is too big to hide anywhere in the garden and is easily found by Hal every time. It's time to think of something else but the next idea, dino-dancing, is equally unsuccessful when Hal's new playmate ends up dancing on the roof. Paddling is equally problematic when the super swooper lands in the little paddling pool with an enormous splash which completely soaks Hal's mum Full review...

The History Room by Eliza Graham

5star.jpg General Fiction

The novel begins with a key scene from Meredith’s childhood and then springs forward to the present day and the incident in the history room. The prank sets the tone for the whole novel – sinister in many subtle ways and having several layers of meaning. The cast assemble around the fall out from the prank and each character is beautifully drawn. Hugh, Meredith’s husband, is suffering the results of horrors he experienced in Helmand. Meredith’s immediate family are also traumatised by the death of her mother. In this highly charged atmosphere, it’s hard to know whether they are taking the prank too seriously or if it does indeed imply worrying occurrences within the school. Add in the presence of strangers in the form of new pupils and new staff, and before long even the most long-held relationships begin to suffer as a result of all the suspicions that are brought out by the prank. Full review...

Goddess Girls: Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Turns out Mount Olympus isn't so very different from our world after all. Lots of young gods and goddesses all together, making friends, discovering how to use their abilities properly, and having the occasional argument. It has eccentric teachers, handsome boys, and mean girls — in other words, it's middle school! Full review...

Adventure Island: the Mystery of the Drowning Man by Helen Moss

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The great thing about adventure stories, as opposed to fantasies, tales of superheroes and even the more dramatic end of the teen-spy spectrum is that young readers can easily imagine themselves joining in the action. Pulling a drowning man from the sea, saving a film star, finding a treasure map and discovering dinosaur bones are all possible — even if, to be honest, they're not very likely. Full review...

Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

Tansy was brought up by her great-aunt Nancy, who is in her nineties at the start of this book. Tansy lives with her fiancé Justin, but time is racing by and she is beginning to despair of ever getting married or having babies. Justin is under his demanding mother's thumb, and Tansy loves getting away to the village where her great aunt owns a small shoe shop. Full review...

Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready

4.5star.jpg Teens

Age gap relationships - who'd risk them? Zach is only a brief moment older than Aura, but in that instant the world changed, as Aura and anyone younger can see and speak to ghosts - while Zach might as well be poison to them. Over two books Aura has accepted being with Zach and not her dead rock-star boyfriend, who has finally, permanently, moved on. Last time they even found out a lot about how and why the Shift, as that moment is called, happened. Now we're to consider the present and the future - what it would mean for Zach and Aura to really get together, and what the Powers That Be (whoever they are) are expecting of them, together and apart. It's the last in the trilogy, so a lot of secrets will be revealed, a lot of threat will be faced - and it'll be emotional. Full review...

Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

'Don't expect this to be the kind of story that goes: and then, and then, and then.' And yet... Once upon a time I collected a couple of Palahniuk books, upon his first, Fight Club-inspired flush of British success, and never got round to reading them. And then the book reviewing gods conspired to give me Pygmy, Tell-All and Damned to peruse. And then I still didn't go back through his past works. But then he revised Invisible Monsters, his second-written and third-published novel, and I got to look at it after all. Full review...

Three Strong Women by Marie N'Diaye and John Fletcher (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

As it says on the tin, this powerful novel revolves around three women, connected by their strength and two countries and diverse cultures (France and Africa) but also other, more subtle factors. (More of that later.) First there's lawyer, Norah, returning to Africa at the behest of her estranged father. There has never been love lost between them, mainly because her father prefers to ignore his female offspring; therefore his reason for the summons is a mystery, until... The second story is that of African teacher, Fanta, forced by an event beyond her control to leave Africa and settle in France with her husband Rudy. Then the final section belongs to Khady, widowed after three years of marriage and sent to France by her Cinderella-esque mother-in-law. As Khady's status as a childless widow is financially unattractive, it has been deemed that she would be of more use sending money back from Europe... once she has entered France as an illegal immigrant. Full review...

My Family and Other Freaks by Carol Midgley

4.5star.jpg Teens

Danielle has an embarrassing family, a dog who's in love with an Ugg boot, and a love rival who she can't possibly live up to – or can she? Determined not to be beaten in her efforts to secure Damien's affections, Danni hits on a plan – only for it to go horribly wrong, landing her with the nickname of 'Dench The Stench'. Surely things can only get better – can't they? Full review...

Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry) by Simone Elkeles

3.5star.jpg Teens

Luis Fuentes is a risk-taker who meets a feisty girl whom he falls in love with. Unfortunately, a gang called the Latino Blood are also interested in him for rather different reasons, and Nikki doesn’t approve of them. Who will win out – the gang, or the girl? Full review...

Clarity by Kim Harrington

4star.jpg Teens

The tourist season at Cape Cod is about to start and for Clarity 'Clare' Fern and her family, this is really important. Clare's family are psychic, not the phoney kind who take your money and give you a false prediction about tall dark strangers - the genuine kind. Clare's mother can read minds, her brother Perry can talk to the dead, and Clare can see memories linked to objects. Their family business is entertaining the tourists, and the summer rush pays the winter bills. Full review...

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

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Harold and the Purple Crayon is a classic picture book that celebrates the power of the imagination. Harold draws his own journey with the crayon. When he gets hungry, he draws himself a picnic. When he wants to walk through a forest, the crayon helps out. His slight figure walks across the plain white pages of the book creating everything that the reader sees. But the things Harold draws don’t always do what he likes, and he has to think quickly to reach the safety of his bed at the end of the tale. Full review...

Snip Snap, look who's back! by Mara Bergman and Nick Maland

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Were the people scared? You bet they were!

So says Mara Bergman when the alligator from Snip Snap! What’s that? returns for further slightly scary fun. The original story is a sure fire hit as a read aloud and fans will definitely want to try this sequel. Full review...

Next by Keith Gray

5star.jpg Teens

That Keith Gray hangs out with all the cool people, you know. Hot on the heels of one fabulous anthology of short stories all about virginity, Losing It, comes Next. The topic this time is life after death and it's another preoccupation for young people. What's next? What will it be like? How will those left behind manage and cope? Each of the cool people contributes an idea of what death may bring. Full review...

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

4.5star.jpg Teens

Adam is a teenage entrepeneur with a keen eye for a get rich quick scheme. His best friend Lita is an aspiring novelist who also writes an anonymous blog. There's definitely no romance between them - Lita may have broken up a couple of Adam's relationships without him realising it, but that's for his own good. In fact, Lita's convinced Adam knows nothing about romance, so when he comes up with the great idea of writing a self-help book which explains what boys are looking for in a girl, she wants nothing to do with it. Of course, if she took more of an interest, she might notice there are a lot of parts with a significant resemblance to a certain blog... Full review...

Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue 2012 by Hugh Jefferies

5star.jpg Business and Finance

Now in its 27th year of publication, the Great Britain Concise Catalogue provides a comprehensive listing of all issues from the 1d black and 2d blue of May 1840 to the Children’s Comics issue of 20 March 2012. As a halfway house between the very basic ‘Collect British Stamps’ and the multi-volume specialised edition, this lists the main variations of each issue, alongside miniature sheets, special first day of issue postmarks, postage dues, booklets, and the regional issues from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, as well as the Channel Islands and Isle of Man prior to their postal independence in 1969 and 1973 respectively. Full review...