TOP PICKS – October 2023
Welcome to this month’s Top Picks!
Every month, we’re going to share with you our favourite reads of the month. We’ve rounded up our contributors and asked them each to recommend just one favourite read of the month. Somehow, we’ve reached the end of yet another month!
A big thank you to Nils for coming up with this feature, and our contributors for taking part!
Beth: A Midwinter’s Tail by Lili Hayward
I’ve had such a busy reading month, but it’s been very mixed as I’ve DNF’d three books this month, finished four and on a fifth now, and all my reads have been really different. I read my first ever Agatha Christie, Hallowe’en Party, and it wasn’t what I expected and was a little disappointed, but other members of the book club who are Christie fans reassured me it was quite different to her other work.
The book that didn’t disappoint me though, and that in fact I am now low-key obsessed with, was A Midwinter’s Tail by Lili Hayward. I had tried to read lots of spooky-ish things this month, but this book was set around Christmas and was the perfect reminder that actually, that’s the time of year I love best and can’t wait for. It was such a heart-warming tale with lots of Cornish folklore and a magic cat. So you can see why I’m obsessed.
Nils: The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton.
This month was a bit of a weird one as I also DNF’d two books fairly early on. I did however read A Midwinter’s Tail by Lili Hayward with Beth and it was so warming and festive, I also read Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison which was a fantastic werewolf novel with a side of romance and sisterly bonds. I just finished reading Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi which is great historical horror dealing with demon possession, fantastic for Halloween.
However my favourite read this month was by far The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton. This one features Wicken League Witches going up against Wisteria Society Pirates in a bid to steal a powerful amulet. Once again I loved the cheeky roguish characters, the whimsical world, the banter and the sizzling romance.
Theo: Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr
I managed to squeeze in a trio of speculative fiction books this month amongst other reading. Two of them have Hive reviews coming out over the next few weeks – Kraken Rider Z by David Estes and Dyrk Ashton and This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede and the two illustrate some of the range of fantasy fiction sub-genres. The former is a progressive fantasy of a protagonist bonded with a mythical creature mixing a training school type narrative with some heady geo-political dangers. The latter is a Romantasy full of lively banter, chiselled good looks and a courteously punctual impending armageddon.
However, my third book and pick of the Month is Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr, which I picked up when I got a second specific recommendation from a friend (see people – word of mouth does work). It’s a darkly elegant multiple timeline story of reincarnated souls having another shot at not fecking up their destinies – under the gentle shepherding of an enigmatic herbalist. The worldbuilding is beautifully evocative of a kind of dark ages Britain, with a few fae thrown in for good measure. The magical elements unobtrusively enhance a story that is really about people, their lives, loves and lunacies.
Julia: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
I haven’t done much reading this month, which makes the choosing much easier!
I have finally gotten around to starting all those Terry Pratchett books I bought… years ago? Going Postal was my first choice and it was just utterly amazing. I loved the lovable rogue of a main character, and oh those small puns strewn all throughout the book! The new audiobook version is simply fantastic, and I already can’t wait to listen to more!
Hil: The Secret Service of Tea and Treason by India Holton
Mixed month for me – I had some books that I was really excited to start that my attention just kinda slid away from and I’m not overly anxious to revisit. I devoured Sigils of Spring by A.K. Faulkner (book 7 of the inheritance saga), and enjoyed The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub.
The book that got my most DMs this month (and is therefore my pick) is another by India Holton: The Secret Service of Tea and Treason, which can be summarised as “what if Mary Poppins was a spy and very, very lusty?”. It continues the series from the League of Gentlewomen Witches (see Nils’ pick!), from the point of view of two previous side characters. It’s utterly daft and very charming. The set-piece combat scene at a ball and flawless execution (in all senses) of a paso doble, was simultaneously utter ridiculousness, and perfection.
[Beth: To complete the trilogy, narrowly missing out on my top pick had been the first book, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels!]
Jonathan: Revelations by Roz Kaveney
This month’s top read has to be Roz Kaveney’s Revelations, the brilliant and earth-shattering conclusion to her Rhapsodies of Blood series, which cements it as one of the essential modern works of fantasy in my eyes. I am also reading Joel Lane’s superlative short story collection When Furnaces Burn, brought back into print by the wonderful Influx Press.
Cat: Evocation by S.T. Gibson
This month seems to have been so busy, with heaps of new books to be talking about! But my favourite has got to be Evocation by S.T. Gibson. Gorgeously written, with characters that I loved (#TeamMoira), I was absolutely thrilled to find out that it’s the first in a trilogy! An engaging story full of heart and genuine tension, I was so sorry to reach the final page. My review is lurking until closer to release, but do preorder if you can.
What was your favourite read of the month? Share with us in the comments!