My Year in Books 2023 by Octavia

Here is my year in books. Some I have reviewed, some I haven’t, most I loved but a few I didn’t but this is what I read throughout the year. Click here to read My Year in Books 2023

Wildoak

by C.C Harrington, paperback, £7.99, for 8-12 years, (reviewed by Octavia) Wildoak is a beautifully told story about the magic of nature, the language of trees, the wonders of the Cornish countryside and a young girls plight to save a lost, endangered Snow Leopard. Maggie struggles daily with her stammer. Talking to people is so hard, yet she can always communicate with animals both big and small. In fact, she has an affinity with nature, particularly a very special forest called Wildoak. When she is sent away from her home, an adventure begins that will teach her that her stammer will not always hold her back, for she has bravery, strength, and kindness. This book should be read in all schools. It is the perfect story for children aged 8 and over to teach them about endangered species, deforestation and about stammers. I urge you to read this, right to the end pages. Also take a minute to admire the gorgeous cover.

October, October

by Katya Balen, paperback, £7.99, for 8-12 years (reviewed by Octavia) I was sitting just starting to read October, October and a customer in the bookshop saw and said, he’d just read it and it was pretty perfect. He was right. This book is really lovely. Here we meet October who lives wild in the woods with her beloved father. They thrive amongst nature, living in tune with the wildlife and trees. Until the accident that is. October must then survive living in the city and going to school. Making friends isn’t easy after life in the woods. However, the Thames River and the treasure it holds, the history of Mudlarks and finally a friend, brighten October’s bleak new beginnings. There’s also an owl within this story. An owl that is also a survivor. The writing and descriptions of her feelings but also of both her woodland and London surroundings are stunningly well written. For children from the age of eight, up to grownups, this is a book to get lost in.

No 4 FOR GROWN-UPS

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, paperback, £9.99

No 5 FOR GROWN-UPS

Spotting and Jotting Guide-Our British Birds by Matt Sewell, hardback, £9.99

NO 1 FOR CHILDREN

Skandar and the Chaos Trials by A.F. Steadman, hardback, £14.99 (for ages 8-13 years)

NO 2 FOR CHILDREN

I am Hattie the Hare by Pam Ayres, hardback, £12.99 (for ages 1-5 years)

NO 3 FOR CHILDREN

The Story Orchestra-Peter and the Wolf illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, hardback sound book, £16.99 (for all ages)

NO 4 FOR CHILDREN

A Season for Scandal by Laura Wood, paperback, £8.99 (for young adults)

NO 5 FOR CHILDREN

Dog Man-The Scarlet Shedder by Dav Pilkey, hardback, £12.99 (for ages 7-12 years)

Crow Lake

by Mary Lawson, paperback, £9.99, for adults (reviewed by Octavia) For those who loved Where the Crawdads Sing, Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, has a similar feel. An atmospheric setting and very well told and balanced story of generations bought up surrounded by the tall trees of a lake deep in Northern Ontario. Farming families live isolated, but mostly in tune with the land and traditions of life there. However, our narrator Kate and her family have seen such tragedies. Their own that will forever change their paths in life but also an ongoing awareness of the awful misgivings going on at a neighbouring farm. Kate and her brother Matt have a special bond and affinity with nature. A passion that leads to Kate’s future freedom from the lake through study. Whilst others must remain tethered to the past and the draw of life by the lake, for better or worse. An extremely well written story of love and loss.

The Secret History

by Donna Tartt, paperback, £9.99, for adults (reviewed by Octavia) A must read’ I had been told and I’m inclined to agree. Brilliantly entertaining, dramatic, yet well-paced, this book is dark and irksome. Here we meet an extremely eccentric group of classics students who live on the cusp of a frightening reality, obsessed by history yet living in the present day in a decadent and extreme fashion quite unlike their student peers. Led by a Classics lecturer, who they are somewhat fixated with and who is probably not the most promising role model, this book takes you far from the student campus life, on a thrilling, yet disturbing journey into their misfit minds. Am incredibly well-crafted thriller. A modern classic in fact!

The Muse

by Jessie Burton, paperback, £9.99, for adults (reviewed by Octavia) I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was elegantly written and moved seamlessly between the past and present storyline, from London to Spain, painting a vivid picture of both the places and the people. Burton creates some wonderful, eccentric characters from the art world and tells the story of a long-lost painting that holds many secrets for those surrounding it.

The Red of My Blood

by Clover Stroud, paperback, £10.99, for adults (reviewed by Clare)  All of us who love Gifford’s Circus remember the shock of hearing of the death of circus founder Nell Gifford in 2019 aged 46. This visceral memoir is the work of Nell’s sister, journalist, and author Clover Stroud, mapping her heart on the page in the aftermath of Nell’s death. A love letter to a precious sister, it’s also a rallying cry against the stigma and hushed tones that surround death in our sterilised modern lives. Clover is a writer who translates into words how life feels. This book is her account of struggling to understand where her sister has gone following her death. It plays out against the daily domestic backdrop of home and family that is Clover’s signature style. The metaphysical mixed in with dinner needing to be cooked and washing-up in the sink. Inspired by the quests of long-ago knights, she begins working out how to live in a world at once familiar yet utterly transformed by not having Nell in it. This is no misery memoir despite the sadness it documents. On the contrary, it fizzes with life. While I would recommend it to anyone who is grieving, its exploration of the mystery of death and the tenacity of the human spirit is universal. Ultimately this book about death is all about living.

Lost on Gibbon Island

by Jess Butterworth, paperback, £7.99, for 8-12 years (reviewed by Anthony) For fans of animal and survival books, here is an amazing new adventure book by Jess Butterworth. When 12-year-old Lark gets shipwrecked and ends up on a deserted island, with only a baby gibbon for company, she faces many dangers – brutal storms, scorching sunshine, and jellyfish-infested waters. With dwindling food and water, she must plan to find her way off the island before it’s too late. This beautifully descriptive story was a big hit at bedtime for my 8-year-old son. We enjoyed following Lark on her adventure and were willing for her to overcome the harsh challenges she faced and find her way home.