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


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.

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.

Sapiens – A Graphic History

by Yuval Noah Harari, David Vandermeulen, Daniel Casanave, hardback, £20.00, for 11 years and older. (reviewed by Clare) This thoroughly entertaining book is a graphic novel version of Yuval Noah Harari’s global bestseller ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’. A brilliant journey through 14 billion years of history, it deals with huge themes in an accessible way and charts the story of how humans came to conquer the earth over all other species. Encapsulating physics, biology, chemistry, history, and sociology this book effortlessly educates the reader while painlessly expanding minds (even those of reluctant teenage homo sapiens). Big ideas are reframed in clever and funny ways including human evolution explained via the medium of a reality TV show and early human species categorised in the style of Top Trump cards. Perfect for YA readers it would be equally at home on a ‘grown-up’s’ bookshelf. A great gift for any curious minds in your life

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.

Wigglesbottom Primary – The Sports Day Chicken

by Pamela Butchart, Paperback, £6.99, for 6-9 years (reviewed by Anthony) This latest addition to the “Wigglesbottom Primary” series from, Blue Peter award winning duo, Pamela Butchart and illustrator Becka Moor, sees 3 brand new short stories, where the Year 2 children run a race against a chicken at Sports Day, eat green toxic slime at lunch (it is really Halloween custard!) and discover that fellow pupil Anne Marie is an ant queen and one of her subjects is called Lady Gaga! Never a dull moment at Wigglebottom Primary, these short stories, with vibrant illustrations, are laugh out loud tales that help to engage young readers and build on their confidence as independent readers. Books in this series are always a popular choice for my two sons.

Six Crimson Cranes

by Elizabeth Lim, paperback, £8.99, for young adults (reviewed by Polly) This book is a perfect mix of adventure, magic, and romance. A princess in exile, six enchanted cranes and the beginning of a love triangle. What more could you want from young adult fantasy fiction? This is the first in the series and so far, this author has not disappointed. From amazing descriptions of an enchanting world to the descriptions of the amazing clothes worn by the characters. If you’re not already obsessed with magic and dragons this book will definitely make you. Even though this book is based on an adventure where one sound could ruin everything, humour and joy is embedded into the pages as Princess Shiori’anma’s quick witted remarks make you laugh, and her unruly behaviour makes you love her instantly. I highly recommend this book as not only is the cover beautiful and looks amazing on your shelf but also, it’s a book that grabs your attention and won’t let go until you’ve finished.

The Inheritance Games

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, paperback, £8.99, for young adults (reviewed by Polly) If you enjoy mystery and the idea of a crazy rich family being annoyed at you for inheriting all their money, then you will love this book and the rest of the trilogy as much as I did. And to make it even better there are four extremely handsome boys for you to obsess over in this popular young adult fiction. Grayson, the boy who is perfect and expected to receive the large inheritance, Jameson, the out-of-control boy who enjoys going slightly too far in everything, Xander, the boy who builds machines to do the simplest of tasks in the most complicated way possible and Nash, the oldest brother who always wears a cowboy hat. The main character, Avery’s life completely changes when she becomes the world’s richest teenager in a matter of minutes with no idea why a man, she had never met left her everything that was meant to go to his family. I recommend this book if you like puzzles as this whole series is a game set by a man for his grandchildren to play and involves the most outgoing games you could imagine.

Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow Book 1

by Jessica Townsend, paperback, £7.99, for 8-12 years (reviewed by Emily) Morrigan Crow has always been feared by the people of Jackalfax- blamed for bringing bad luck to everyone who lives there… and she’s destined to die on her 11th birthday. However, Morrigan’s life changes when she is transported to the magical city of Nevermoor. Follow Morrigan’s story as she is given the chance to join the Wundrous Society- a secret group of people, all like her. Yet Morrigan lacks the one thing she needs to pass the four trials she needs to in order to join the society- an exceptional talent. Will she succeed?

Chaos and flame

by Tess Gratton and Justina Ireland, paperback, £8.99, for young adults (reviewed by Emily)   A perfect book for any fantasy lover. Prepare to be swept away into a world of romance and adventure, where mythical beasts are all too real. Darling Seabreak is a survivor- no thanks to House Dragon- and has been planning her revenge for years. But will her resolve remain strong when she is unwillingly taken under the wing of the outgoing High Prince Caspian and the distrusting Talon- both from House Dragon?