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Book Reviews

Posted by on in Book Reviews

Greg takes a look at the first book in the Guardians of Ga'hoole series. Did he find it a HOOT... No, I'm sorry, I can't do this, no owl puns, I'm so sorry!

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Today I’d like to talk about one of my favourite series of books, the Asian Saga by the late author James Clavell. I first encountered these books when I was living abroad in Japan when my roommate was reading the book “Shogun”. I picked up a copy myself a few months later and promptly fell in love, tracking down the rest of the saga over the next year or so and devouring each of them.

I’ve since re-read the whole saga at least once, but certain favourite books have been re-read a good few times. Clavell sadly passed away in 1994 and was apparently planning a few more books in the saga, this really is a loss as the novels are some of the most entertaining and well-written books I have ever read.

The series consists of six books and it is more appropriate to refer to them as a saga as the series is not in the traditional sense of a continuous story with the same group of characters, but each takes place in different country, and often in a different century. Clavell may not have intended the saga to be so far reaching after the first three books, as they are largely independent of each other, but with the last 3 books he worked to weave them all together to make a coherent narrative and it works incredibly well.

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Of all the legions in the Horus Heresy series, the ones who keep getting the short end of the stick are the Iron Hands. With its legionaries often stuck playing second fiddle to a book’s true protagonists, with no character study of Ferrus Manus in sight, and even the Death Guard having been offered more time in the limelight of late. This book is the one which finally corrects that, and it was well worth the wait despite the lack of Ferrus. However, what makes this one truly interesting is its focus upon aspect all too often overlooked in Warhammer. A genre which is key to the franchise but is far too often brushed aside in many tales: Horror.


Set in the aftermath of the Drop Site Massacre, the book follows the surviving astartes of the Shattered Legions. Having been scattered to the winds and reduced to guerrilla tactics, few survived the great betrayal and they now fight in the name of retribution. However, the scars of that nightmare conflict remain fresh and the Iron Hands of the Veritas Ferrum find their hatred directed as much at their fellow survivors from the Salamanders and Raven Guard as their arch foes. However, as they enter the Pandorax system, none among them truly realise that true damnation them on the world of Pythos…


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Much like Angel of FireKenobi is a book which becomes infinitely more entertaining once you realise what the author is attempting. Taking stylistic elements and genre conventions of Wild West tales, Miller shows elements of the universe in a very different light. While Star Wars tales have always retained certain basic elements of the Wild West, especially in scoundrels like Han Solo and Tatooine itself, the novel wholeheartedly embraces it.

Set only a short time following the events of Revenge of the Sith, the novel's opening sees Kenobi returning to Tatooine with Luke. Handing over the infant to his aunt and uncle, the Jedi then attempts to enter exile far off, isolated from all others. However, after so many years in service to justice, the Jedi can hardly ignore calls for help. Especially when lives are at stake.

You'll soon be able to see the Western tropes not long after starting the book. There's a landlord with too much power, a streak of avarice and a spoiled, cruel offspring, Kenobi is a stranger new to the town with a desire for justice, there's a decent family trying to make a living in a harsh wasteland, there's Tusken raiders besieging farms, and things are becoming more complicated with every passing day. Most of the analogues fit together surprisingly well, and once you fully realise just how closely the book is trying to make itself into a sci-fi western, it generates its own kind of charm. Sure it might be a little cliched at times or delve a little too deeply into certain tropes, but that's what everything Star Wars does, and it tends to do it well. In many respects it's handled in a Firefly manner, blending together it and science fiction extremely close together, far better than anyone would have guessed.

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Hello and welcome to The Book Bag! Today, we’re reaching all the way to the bottom! Come, have a bite to eat. We’re serving up something very tasty. Oh, yes, it is delicious. That odd taste? Simply some oregano. That sharp part? That’s not a bone! I think that’s just undercooked broccoli. Also, surprise! You’ve been eating...my famous mashed potatoes! Unlike the protagonists of this book, I do not practice “evolved eating.”


To imagine the family in this book, just think of the Addams family and modernize them slightly. Also, take out the weird house, odd servants, and kooky inventions. Just add in some expensive silverware and shady business dealings. Got it? Good! Today, we’re going over The Savages! They are a family who practices cannibalism, but they despite that word. The Savages prefer to think of it as “evolved eating.” Unfortunately, their daughter is dating a vegetarian and might become one. To add to their familial woes, Ivan has accidentally killed someone with a “harmless” prank meant for his sister. A private investigator has been tailing them, so they really don’t need that at the moment.

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Hello and welcome to The Book Bag! Today, we’re reaching all the way to the bottom! I love it when authors deliberately try to make it seem as though their stories could be entirely real. My first encounter with this was the Harry Potter series, all the way back in first grade. In the books, Muggles (or “non-magical beings”) encounter magic, their minds are wiped. So, the books could be real and we’ve just been mind-wiped! For all I know, I met Harry Potter at the library yesterday! The point is, I know that the books are not real but it’s fun to imagine that they are. The Lorien Legacies series takes it one step further by naming the author as Pittacus Lore, an ancient Lorien who is hiding out on Earth...possibly. In reality, Jobie Hughes and James Fray collaborated to create the series. Now, what is it?


The Lorics are an ancient alien race. However, an evil race of aliens known as the Mogadorians attack their planet. Only nine Loric babies and their Cepans (captains/mentors) are sent with them. The Cepans will train them to use their powers (also known as Legacies) to defeat the Mogadorians, who are hunting them. If they succeed in slaying them all, they will conquer the Earth. The various titles of the books (I Am Number Four, The Power Of Six, The Rise Of Nine, etc.) come from the Loric teenagers themselves. They were referred to only as their number. On Earth, they move from town to town when potential Mogadorians arrive, changing their identities. Finally, the Lorics can only be killed in numerical order. Once one of them dies, the others have a horrific scar burned onto their ankle as an involuntary warning signal. Three have already died. Number Four is the protagonist.

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Hello and welcome to The Book Bag! Today, we’re reaching all the way to the bottom! Hey, kids, do you like vampires? You do? Great! Do you like clever authors? You do? Great! Do you like funny stories that have suspense and action? You do? Great! This book has all of that!


Suck It Up is a YA book created by Brian Meehl. You may recognize his name from Between The Lions, The Magic School Bus, and several Jim Henson productions. I am not afraid to admit that while reading this book, I was so happy, that I checked to see who wrote it and squealed in delight upon seeing what he worked on.

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Hello and welcome to The Book Bag! Today, we’re reaching all the way to the bottom! During my research for this review, I found out that Hank The Cowdog is more popular than I thought. The author, John R. Erickson actually lives on a ranch and presumably draws from his own experiences for the stories. He wanted the stories to be read aloud to children. Additionally, some Hank The Cowdog books are specifically made just for an audiobook. Also, some of Hank’s adventures have been turned into stage plays! The series officially started in the nineteen-eighties. Some of the books were animated for CBS. Did this newfound knowledge make me biased in reading three of the books? No, because I did my research after reading the books!


To begin, even if you don’t count the exclusive audio books, musical CDs, or plays, there’s still sixty-nine books in the series. Normally, I would read every book in the series in order to do a proper retrospective, but that may be challenging in this case. Despite that, this isn’t necessarily a retrospective. I consider it to be similar to my first review, Ungifted, where I go over a series that I liked as a child to see if it still holds up now. That being said, I went to my local library, found the books, and selected three of them: The Case Of The Missing Bird Dog, The Case Of The Mysterious Voice, and The Case Of The Perfect Dog.

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Trying to give a brief analysis on Rocket Girls is simultaneously extremely simple to outline, but also surprisingly complex.

On the one hand its an amalgamation of various tropes and ideas any avid watcher of anime can instantly pick out, from the exaggerated caricatures of people to the hefty dose of zaniness which is thrown into them mix. It’s also lightly written, skipping a lot of the real meat you would expect to find on a on a book of its length and keeping details to a bare minimum.

On the other however,  Nojiri wrote it with clear self awareness of just how the book was going to be seen and visibly wrote many sections to appeal to a young adult audience. What’s more is that many ideas present involving space travel were well ahead of their time, and for the most part the science is surprisingly accurate and in-depth.

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Posted by on in Book Reviews

Hello and welcome to The Book Bag, where we’re reaching all the way to the bottom! Last time, I reported that I found two oddly similar books at the library. Here’s the backstory. I was searching through the section for new teen books and I found a fictional book about a teen who was scarred by being on a reality show as a child. Some time later, I found a different book about a teen who was scarred by being on a reality show as a child. The authors were different, the main characters were different, the plots just happened to be similar. Instantly, I knew that I had to compare these books in a review. It’s time for “Book Vs. Book!” I’m focusing on Reality Boy and Something Real.


Firstly, Reality Boy. This book was incredibly hard to read. I can’t empathize that enough. Our protagonist’s home life is horrible. His parents are neglectful, his sister is a sociopath, and he has anger issues. I am not sure how realistic the portrayal was, never having had anger issues. I can say that he feels angry for most of the book, he has fantasies about killing people who anger him, and certain other things that might spoil the ending.

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