January 2023 in Books

January 2023 in Books

Last year I got a little behind on my reading (understatement of the year!). This year I’ve decided to be a little more proactive about reading and I’m going to aim to read one book a week. Hopefully, by chronicling my book buying and reading here, it might spur me on to continue.

Books Bought

Books I bought in January 2023.
Books I bought in January 2023.

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews
(Published by Raven Books)

Described as a “beguiling tale of superstition, myth and murder from a major new voice in historical fiction”, this sounds right up my street. It’s also got a beautiful cover in gold, green and blue. I think this one is going to be my next read.

The Library of the Dead (Edinburgh Nights 1) by T. L. Huchu
(Published by Tor)

When there’s a recommendation from Ben Aaronovitch on the cover, you know it’s going to be a good read! 

The Dark Flight Down (The Book of Dead Days – Book 2) by Marcus Sedgwick
(Published by Orion Children’s Books)

I bought this book as I got to the end of The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick only to discover there was a sequel!

All In Your Head: What Happens When Your Doctor Doesn’t Believe You? By Marcus Sedgwick
(Published by Hawksmoor Publishing)

I picked up this book after reading up on Marcus Sedgwick. I discovered he had ME/CFS (like me) and this is his final book.

The Darlings of the Asylum by Noel O’Reilly
(Published by HQ)

The Darlings of the Asylum by Noel O’Reilly - Special edition from Goldsboro Books.
The Darlings of the Asylum by Noel O’Reilly – Special edition from Goldsboro Books.

I discovered this book whilst browsing the Goldsboro Books website and I fell in love with the cover and the description. This is a signed, numbered, limited edition with sprayed edges. Look how beautiful it is!

Books Read

Books I read in January 2023.
Books I read in January 2023.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
(Published by Orion Children’s Books)

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick

“The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead days, when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our lives. A lot can happen in the dead days.

Accompanied by his servant, Boy (who has no name and no past), Valerian, the magician, must save his own life, or pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. But will his sorcery by any match against the demonic power pursuing him?

Set in dark, dangerous cities and in the frozen countryside of a distant time and place, The Book of Dead Days conjures a spell-binding story of power, corruption and desperate magic.”

I was introduced to this young adult book by TikToker and author Martin Knights (go follow him if you’re on TikTok!) and I ordered it straight after seeing his video. I started The Book of Dead Days during the very days in which it is set… the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Perfect timing! 

Best read by candle or torchlight, the setting is very atmospheric and eerie. The city certainly isn’t a place readers would want to traverse alone, never mind with a man whose life is teetering on the edge because of some unknown entity.

Whilst the book might be about Valerian and his fight to save his own life, the main protagonist is Boy. He has an unwavering need to do everything Valerian orders him to, despite his cruel treatment.

With The Book of Dead Days containing short, sharp chapters, I found it a relatively quick read. As the book is sectioned into each day, it helps ramp up the impending doom Valerian must be feeling. The story goes at a nice pace and the anticipation had me wanting to read on and not put the book down.

It was only at the end of the book that I realised it has a sequel. Yes, I had to go and order it straight away.

The Dark Flight Down by Marcus Sedgwick
(Published by Orion Children’s Books)

The Dark Flight Down by Marcus Sedgwick
The Dark Flight Down by Marcus Sedgwick

“Boy has survived the terrors of life with the magician Valerian, dark magic and deadly chases through gloomy catacombs and death-fields, but he is still on the run.

In the mesmerising conclusion to The Book of Dead Days, he is incarcerated in the Emperor Frederick’s palace. It’s a world of untold splendour, of closely guarded secrets and terrifying revelations now laid bare by the whirlwind furies of the Emperor. Holding all their lives between its pages, the book waits to deceive its next reader.

So dance, my dears, dance,

Before you take the Dark Flight Down…”

The Dark Flight Down follows straight on from The Book of Dead Days and ties up a few loose ends left by the first book. Sometimes sequels don’t live up to the books that come before them, but this one does.

It has the exact same atmosphere and intrigue as the first book. Again, the short chapters had me racing through the book. I didn’t want to put it down.

I did have an inkling about part of the ending, but it was still a joy to read.

Sadly, author Marcus Sedgwick died in November 2022.

Once Upon A Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller by Oliver Darkshire
(Published by Bantam Press)

Once Upon A Tomb by Oliver Darkshire
Once Upon A Tomb by Oliver Darkshire

“Some years ago, Oliver Darkshire stepped into the hushed interior of Henry Sotheran Ltd on Sackville Street (est. 1761) to interview for their bookselling apprenticeship, a decision which has bedevilled him ever since.

He’d intended to stay for a year before launching into some less dusty, better remunerated career. Unfortunately for him, the alluring smell of old books and the temptation of a management-approved afternoon nap proved irresistible. Soon he was balancing teetering stacks of first editions, fending off nonagenarian widows with a ten-foot pole and trying not to upset the store’s resident ghost (the late Mr Sotheran had unfinished business when he was hit by that tram).

For while Sotheran’s might be a treasure trove of literary delights, it sings a siren song to eccentrics. There are not only colleagues whose tastes in rare items range from the inspired to the mildly dangerous, but also zealous collectors seeking knowledge, curios, or simply someone with whom to hold a four hour conversation about books bound in human skin.

By turns unhinged and earnestly dog-eared, Once Upon a Tome is the rather colourful story of life in one of the world’s oldest bookshops and a love letter to the benign, unruly world of antiquarian bookselling, where to be uncommon or strange is the best possible compliment.”

This was a great read! We get to know not just the ins and outs of the rare bookselling world but also the staff, the customers and the books which pass through the doors of the shop. It really is atmospheric and I came away from the book feeling like I had already visited Sotheran’s and gotten to know the staff. This is a must-read for any book lover!

The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu
(Published by Tor)

The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu
The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

“When ghosts talk, she will listen . . .

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghost talker – and she now speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan . . .) as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets. And in the process, she discovers an occult library and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?”

Narrated by the protagonist, Ropa, I found the writing style jarring, to begin with, but I got used to it. The story seemed a little slow at first but it ran at quite a pace in the second half of the book and I really enjoyed it.

It turns out it’s the first book in a series, so I guess I’ll be adding more books to my TBR pile!

Books Listened To

Mortal Monarchs: 1,000 Years of Royal Deaths by Suzie Edge
(Published by Wildfire)

Mortal Monarchs by Suzie Edge
Mortal Monarchs by Suzie Edge

“How the monarchs of England and Scotland met their deaths has been a wonderful mixture of violence, infections, overindulgence and occasional regicide. In Mortal Monarchs, medical historian Dr Suzie Edge examines 1,000 years of royal deaths to uncover the plots, accusations, rivalries and ever-present threat of poison that the kings and queens of old faced.

From the “bloody” fascinating story behind Oliver Cromwell’s demise and the subsequent treatment of his corpse and whether the arrow William II caught in the chest was an accident or murder, to Henry IV’s remarkable skin condition and the red-hot poker up Edward II’s rear end, Mortal Monarchs captivates, grosses-out and informs.

In school, many of us learned the dates they died and who followed them, but sadly never heard the varied—and oft-gruesome—way our monarchs met their maker. Featuring original medical research, this history forms a rich record not just of how these people died, but how we thought about and treated the human body, in life and in death.”

Mortal Monarchs brings us an entertaining and interesting account of how each of the monarchs of England and Scotland met their death, from hot pokers in unmentionable places to long drawn-out illnesses. I chose to listen to this on audiobook because I discovered Suzie on Tiktok last year and love watching her videos. She narrates the book and she’s very enthusiastic about the subject and easy to listen to. Suzie’s next book, Vital Organs, is out later this year.

What did you read in January 2023?

53 comments

  1. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t finished a single book in 2023 so far! I have books on the go, the main one being the last of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. It’s 800+ pages and, even though it’s a paperback, heavy to hold, so I can only read it in short bursts.

  2. Alan Rolfe says:

    I’m afraid my reading tastes are rather more populist. I like the good thriller from the likes iff John Grisham or James Patterson. I’m present reading the first of a series of books by Ellie Griffiths.

  3. Since we first became bookish friends, you seem to have changed your reading habits somewhat, as this little selection has definitely moved away from the murder mysteries / psychological thrillers you used to regularly feature.

    Whilst none of your choices would be my ‘go to’ titles, I do quite like the sound of ‘The Leviathan’ – ‘Once Upon A Tome’ – and the book by T.L. Huchu, who was an author I read as Tendai Huchu, when he first began writing, definitely in an alternative genre. I might check this one out, just to see what he is up to these days!

    Enjoy your reading 🙂

    • Nikki says:

      Oh no, I still enjoy murder mysteries and thrillers, I just didn’t read any this month. I’ve always enjoyed quite a range of books, but this month seemed to be an urban fantasy and non-fiction month.

  4. Ginnie Hart says:

    I’m most impressed by your reading accomplishments and aspirations for this new year thus far, Nikki. BRAVA. The only book I have read this month is C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces” (maybe my 6th or 7th time), which I try to read once every 5 years or so. I have my sights now on rereading Elizabeth Cunningham’s Maeve Chronicles (4 novels about Mary Magdalen), after my cataracts’ surgery on Thursday. You’ve inspired me! And peace to you as you live with ME/CFS!

  5. Once Upon A Tome sounds quite intriguing, the others though aren’t really my cup of tea. I’m ashamed to say I only read three books over the last 12 months and one of those was more photos than writing, but it was about two little rescue dogs so I couldn’t resist 🙂

    • Nikki says:

      I didn’t read much last year, so I thought I’d try and make up for it this year. I’d definitely recommend Once Upon A Tome. I lent the book to my Dad and he started reading it straight away and finished it a couple of days later.

  6. Kris P says:

    I love posts relating to books. Unlike you, I buy most books on Kindle, with my principal exception being garden-related books. (I used to buy many books in hardcover but, in the process of our last move, I gave up that habit!) I’m currently reading The Villa by Rachel Hawkins but books I’ve enjoyed this year thus far include ‘A World of Curiosities’ by Louise Penny, 2 books by Clare Pooley, and 2 books by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett. I looked up a couple of your selections, one of which was available in Kindle format and one which wasn’t (‘The Leviathan’). It’s surprising to me that so many of the books recommended by readers outside the US aren’t available, at least initially, in Kindle form 🙁

  7. Kelly says:

    I’ve heard good things about The Leviathan and have it on my wishlist. Quite a few others here sound quite good to me, as well. I hope you’ll provide reviews as you read each one!

    • Nikki says:

      I’ll probably keep to a monthly round-up like this with mini reviews. I’m currently reading The Darlings of the Asylum and I think The Leviathan will be my next read.

  8. Beverley says:

    ‘The Darlings of the Assylum’ has such a beautiful cover as does the ‘Leviathan’. I’m adding them to my reading list. I shall be reading ‘A Month in the Country by J L Carr’ next.

    • Nikki says:

      I’ve read the first few books in the Rivers of London series but I need to catch up on the latest ones. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ben Aaronovitch a few times at various book events, one of which the narrator of the audiobooks was at too.

  9. Angie says:

    Nikki – thanks for your visit to my blog! I admire your reading goal! I am currently reading Winter World by Bernd Heinrich, and I just started One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Earlier this month, I finished the last of the Call the Midwife books, which I was reading and discussing with our daughter.

  10. Sharon says:

    You are on a roll with your reading, whilst I am slowing down again. Currently reading a Bronte detective novel called the Red Monarch, part of a series. It’s good, I’m just not prioritizing my time. X

  11. Ann says:

    I’m still on my first book of 2023, so I am truly impressed Nikki! I promised myself to do better this year, but I just seem to lack the time. xxx

  12. Denise Bush says:

    These sound really interesting. I think the synopsis of ‘The Leviathan’ piques my interest most. I like historical fiction and the mystery & murder part sounds intriguing!

  13. CherryPie says:

    I got a little bit behind with everything in the second half of last year. I still haven’t quite got going again this year.

    Good luck with your reading intentions 🙂

  14. Shelley says:

    That’s an interesting assortment of books you read! Congrats on setting the book/week goal and meeting it.
    I’ve been reading Dan Antion’s Dreamer’s Alliance Series (Books 2 & 3) in January. They might be some books you’d enjoy too.
    Thanks for the suggested readings…I’ve started with adding the Once Upon a Tome to my TBR list.
    Happy reading to you!

  15. Hi Nikki – you have quite a stack to read! I moved to mainly Kindle, except for picture-books! So much easier to carry and even to select a book to read, and I can always pick up where I left off on my phone if I’m stuck on the tube, for example.

    However, my novels still get physical sales, so I know and respect that there’s plenty of people out there who prefer the tactile qualities of paper.

    Let me know if you’d like a pack of a few of my novels at any time – though I’d need an address!

    Best wishes,

    Ed

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