Book Reviews – October And November 2023

October was exceptionally busy, leaving me with minimal time for reading—only two books, to be precise. Consequently, I opted to postpone my end-of-month reviews. Despite a similarly hectic November, I made a conscious effort to prioritise my reading. As a result, I have nine books for you to consider as your next read. Let’s delve into my book reviews for October and November 2023! Grab a cup of tea; it’s a lengthy one!

Book Reviews - October And November 2023
Book Reviews – October And November 2023

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1. The Once And Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow

In the year 1893, witches are but a distant memory, their once-powerful ways reduced to mere superstitions. Women now seek influence at the ballot box, leaving behind the old arts of witchcraft.

However, when the Eastwood sisters, join the suffragists in New Salem, they embark on a path that rekindles the forgotten magic within them. As shadows close in and ominous forces threaten their very existence, the sisters must delve into ancient magics, form new alliances, and mend the bonds between them to survive. 

Witches may have faded from memory, but in their quest for equality, these sisters may bring their magic back to life. There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Discover a captivating tale of feminism and witchcraft in this compelling historical novel.

Review:

The first of my witchy reads for October, ‘The Once & Future Witches,’ is perfect for any reader who loves stories about sisterhood and magic. Think ‘Charmed,’ but without the actual physical powers. However, this tale goes far beyond the scope of family loyalties and unity. It’s a story about womanhood and how, over the ages, we have been made to feel less, smaller, and inadequate. There are politics and evil involved (although one could say politics and evil are the same things), but my favourite part is the potion-making. Clearly, a lot of research on herbs and natural resources was carried out to make this book, somewhat believable.  

What makes this book truly stand out though is, that, at the beginning of every chapter, the author cleverly included a famous nursery rhyme, slightly altered to fit in with the theme. Harrow puts forth the idea that all those nursery rhymes told to us by our mothers are, in reality, spells. I really loved that aspect of the story, giving it a unique feel.

Downside? I think this story could have been wrapped up sooner than it actually was. I do feel like the author prolonged the ending, and in the process, somehow the plot lost a bit of its ‘magic’—no pun intended.

However, I had no qualms about giving it 4 stars, and I highly recommend it if witchy reads are high on your preference list.

2. The Discovery Of Witches – Deborah Harkness

In this enthralling narrative of passion and obsession, we meet Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches. Her journey begins when she stumbles upon the long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, hidden deep within Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The discovery of this ancient tome triggers the emergence of a fantastical underworld, one that Diana bravely explores alongside her partner-in-adventure, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

Review:

This book had been on my Kindle for years, patiently waiting for me to overcome the intimidation of it being part of a trilogy. I’ve been known to abandon a series if the first book doesn’t completely capture my attention. However, this book has also become a very popular TV show and was recommended by a few friends. Alas, it was time to dive in.

Now, I have to be brutally honest—I gave it a 3-star rating, and I think I was being generous. The issue is, that this book was written by a historian, so there was an abundance of in-depth information about history, Oxford, and whatnot.

The main character, Diana Bishop, was as confused as a chameleon in a box of Skittles. She starts off strong main character, refusing to practice magic and needing no one. Then, she falls for the vampire (hmm, where have I read this before) and realizes she can’t practice her magic, which turns out to be a lot. More than your average witch I would say. As for the vampire, we are led to believe that he is mighty powerful, the one everyone is afraid of, and yet not once did I get to witness his mighty prowess.

And, as if that weren’t enough, the story went from dark to cheesy in a jiffy. Without giving too much away, our main characters ended up in Diana’s childhood home with Diana’s aunts and a whole lot of ghosts. It’s basically an enchanted house, which I wouldn’t necessarily mind, but it didn’t go with the flow of this particular story.

It wasn’t a complete waste of my time though; the plot had potential. However, with the dumps of history and the magical house, I think I’ll give books two and three a pass!

3. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure, blind since age six, memorizes her Paris neighbourhood through a miniature model crafted by her father. As the Nazis invade, father and daughter escape with a perilous secret. Meanwhile, Werner, a German orphan with a talent for engineering, faces a brutal military academy. In a distant walled city, an old man discovers new worlds amid impending danger. Doerr’s blend of imagination and keen observation unfolds a captivating and devastating elegy for innocence as lives collide unpredictably in the engulfing war-torn landscape of Europe.

Review:

Another book that had been sitting on my TBR list for years. However, this one did not disappoint. I can’t believe I almost passed on reading it and only did so after being encouraged by my friend, Nikki. ‘This book is spectacular, you have to read it!’ Well, okay then. I am so glad I did.

All the Light We Cannot See is a carefully constructed book, masterfully executed to make the time jumps and changes of POV seem effortless

Set in WWII, Doerr has crafted the stories of two characters that will linger in my heart for a long time to come. The more I read, the more I felt profound sympathy for both characters—the blind French girl and the talented orphaned boy. Both stories brought tears to my eyes, and I immediately fell in love with their courage and perseverance.

The writing in this book is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s fast-paced with no frills; instead, it is raw and authentic.

The narrative is unsettling, provoking deep emotions and leaving a lasting impact on me. It made me pause and reflect on how challenging and unjust life was back then. My father was a young boy of five during the Second World War. He, along with my grandmother, aunts, and uncle, was evacuated to London. I remember him telling me horror stories of his experience. This story, although entirely different, felt as though it brought me closer to the memory of my own dad and the incredible journey that was his life.

Without a doubt, a 5-star rating for this masterpiece. And if you’ve seen the TV show, please note that I only managed to watch two episodes before giving up on it. It cannot compare. Give this book a chance; you will not regret it!

4. The Pumpkin Spice Cafe – Laurie Gilmore

When gifted the Pumpkin Spice Café by her aunt in Dream Harbor, Jeanie seizes the opportunity for a fresh start from her mundane desk job. Logan, a local farmer, usually avoids town gossip. However, Jeanie’s arrival disrupts his routine, and despite resisting her upbeat charm, he finds himself drawn to her. Will Jeanie’s happy-go-lucky attitude win over the grumpy but gorgeous Logan, or has she found the one person in town impervious to her charm and pumpkin spice lattes?

Review:

After being fully immersed in WWII for a week, I needed an easy read. Something that didn’t require me to think a lot. Rom-coms are the ideal pick, and if based in an autumn-inspired background, even better!

The Pumpkin Spice Cafe ticked all the boxes for a feel-good romance book. It made me laugh and swoon! The main female character was loveable enough and the male main character was gorgeous (or at least that’s how I imagine him). 

Admittedly, I was sad when I got to the end of the book. I could have easily kept on reading about these characters and their love lives. On the bright side? There is a sequel coming soon.

5. Keep It In The Family – John Marrs

Book Reviews - October and November 2023

Mia and Finn renovate their dream home, but a shocking message hints at a sinister past. Investigating, they uncover the house’s history as a murder site. Despite the trauma, Mia can’t let go of the past, fixated on the crimes above them. As they unearth a dark truth, Mia becomes desperate for answers, willing to confront previous tenants to protect her family. The danger, however, looms terrifyingly close, and she must navigate the secrets shrouding the attic to unveil the mystery.

Review:

This one was hard to digest. Not because it was badly written or boring, but because the subject matter was unlike anything I have ever read about before. I could almost say it made me anxious, mostly because even though I knew I was reading a book, the fact that this happens all too often in the world we live in wasn’t lost on me. 

John Marrs has an exceptional talent when it comes to making the reader second-guess what they think they know. There are several time jumps in this book, so masterfully crafted that it keeps you turning the pages. You may not exactly know what you are reading, but you have no choice but to be fully captivated by the thrill of the story.

I have read plenty of thrillers and mystery books in my time, and hands down this author takes the price for the best thought-out plot and execution of the story. Not to mention, just when you think you have it all figured out, Marrs throws in an unexpected twist that will have your mind doing backflips on repeat. 

Keep It in the Family was a 5-star read for me . While I was reading it, even before finishing, I was already encouraging friends to download it.

6. The Endurance Of Wildflowers – Micalea Smeltzer

Book Reviews - October and November 2023

Meeting Thayer Holmes changed my life in ways I never imagined. Our journey, though challenging, is uniquely ours. We’ve faced the impossible and emerged stronger. Yet, happily-ever-after isn’t a destination—it’s an endless road trip with inevitable bumps. Some are bigger than others, but as long as we have each other, none of it matters, right?

Review:

This was a short read, 123 pages to be exact. The only reason I read this was because I had thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series. They were both heartfelt romances, with a spice factor, but also full of real-life situations that made the characters relatable.

Unfortunately, this short novella felt like a combination of words meant to fill in the gap between more books in the series. It touched on an important subject but did not delve in too deeply, which meant that the ending felt rushed.

However, if you are a fan of this author and have enjoyed her previous work, I recommend reading this too. It’s a short and easy read, but don’t expect a mind-blowing experience.

7. Wild Hope – Donna Ashworth

Book Reviews - October and November 2023

Wild Hope, Donna Ashworth’s inspiring collection, offers wisdom for finding hope, peace, and self-acceptance during challenging times. In this powerful anthology, Donna, the bestselling author of I Wish I Knew, shares love and understanding. She reminds us that amid daily struggles and overwhelming bad news, we have much to hope for. Through poems like ‘Surrounded by Treasure’ and ‘Rope Ladder,’ Donna emphasizes the goodness in people and the impact of small acts of kindness. She gently guides us, no matter how busy, to prioritize self-care and self-acceptance. In the darkest moments, Wild Hope becomes a beacon, illuminating the path toward light.

Review:

If there’s a book that deserves to be recommended over and over, Wild Hope is it.

Poetry isn’t a genre I have ever delved into before, but after reading some of the author’s material on social media, I couldn’t help but indulge in her latest book.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be ‘truth.’ I feel as though every word used by the author is coated with a heavy layer of honesty about life, with all its ups and downs and in-betweens!

Wild Hope is a compilation of heartfelt words that will touch your inner soul and make you feel like you are reading magic. Within the pages of this book, you will find a source of hope that will bring tears to your eyes and make you realize that life is just that—a series of Wild Hopes. This book and its content have the ability to carry you through the dark days that threaten to swallow you whole, or at least that’s how it feels to me.

This past year has been a combination of challenges and navigating stormy weather. To have come across this jewel now, when the dust has settled and my life seems to be back on track, feels like a Godsend. Do yourself a favour and gift your soul with the wonderful and amazing work of Donna Ashworth.

8. The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches – Sangu Mandanna

Book Reviews - October and November 2023

In unlikely places, Mika Moon discovers magic. Abiding by three rules—hide your magic, keep your head down, and stay away from other witches—she’s adept at being alone. However, an unexpected invitation to teach young witches at Nowhere House entices her into a different life. As she grows fond of its quirky residents and the prickly librarian, Jamie, the prospect of belonging feels real. Yet, with magic comes danger. Is it worth risking everything to protect the found family Mika didn’t know she was looking for?

Review:

This book gave me all the right feels, hitting me unexpectedly hard. Yes, it’s a book about witches, but it’s more than that. It’s also a story about finding your tribe. Mika Moon is one of those characters that makes you want to embrace them and give them all the love they lacked as a child. This story is a blend of love, heartbreak and new beginnings, emphasizing the significance of finding one’s place in the world.  

The magic system, the potion-making, and the three young witches in the story captured my heart instantly.  Three girls from different backgrounds with a shared common struggle: being witches with no idea how to control their magic.  As Mika guides them to love and accept their magic instead of fearing it, a subtle metaphor emerges, highlighting the importance for young individuals to believe in themselves and embrace their uniqueness, despite society’s expectations.

At its core, the story revolves around the profound love shared among its characters. People from diverse backgrounds with one common goal: to embrace, nurture, and love these three young girls. 

This book will surely leave a lasting smile on your face. A 5-star rating for me and I can’t wait to read more books from this author. 

9. Confessions Of A Forty-Something F####P – Alexandra Potter

Book Reviews - October and November 2023

A novel for women questioning how life led them here and why it’s not as imagined. Nell’s life is a mess in a world of perfect Instagram images. Amid everyone making gluten-free brownies, she starts a secret podcast and forms an unlikely friendship with Cricket, an eighty-something widow. Determined, Nell vows that things will be different next year, but first, she has a confession to make.

Review:

Described by the Telegraph as ‘The new Bridget Jones of our times,’ when I picked up this book at Bristol Airport, I thought I was in for a laugh. Don’t get me wrong; this story and its main character, Nell, made me laugh out loud, in the middle of the night (my husband wasn’t impressed). However, I was unexpectedly surprised at the rawness in this book. Being a forty-something myself, and at times feeling like a ‘fuck up’—excuse my language—everything portrayed in this story felt rather relatable. 

There have been moments in my life when the path forward seemed anything but clear. Times when I’ve questioned, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’ Add perimenopause and a generous dose of brain fog, and you’ve got yourself a lost forty-something soul with nowhere to go and a colossal to-do list.

Seriously though, this book, while maintaining a core of brutal honesty and humour, also brought a few tears to my eyes. In my opinion, a perfect blend for an exceptionally captivating read.

Conclusion:

So, there you go, my book reviews for the months of October and November 2023. While not all the mentioned books received a 5-star rating, they came close. Undoubtedly, my favourites include “All The Light You Cannot See” and “Wild Hope.” My December TBR is quite packed. Check out our recommendations for the top Christmas reads, and enhance your Christmas this year with a good book… or two!

Happy reading!

Milly

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