My Favorite Reads of 2023

If you know me or follow me on Instagram, then it’s no surprise that I love reading. I read 131 books in 2023 and while that’s a lot of books, I don’t worry too much about the number. I never want reading to become a chore or find myself frantically reading through crappy books just to hit a goal. While I did read some total duds this year (looking at you, Ginger Duggar), I also read quite a few books that still have me thinking about the plot and the characters. Here’s my most favorite reads of 2023!

Saving Noah by Lucinda Berry

“Meet Noah—an A-honor roll student, award-winning swimmer, and small-town star destined for greatness. There weren’t any signs that something was wrong until the day he confesses to m*lesting little girls during swim team practice. He’s sentenced to eighteen months in a juvenile s*xual rehabilitation center. His mother, Adrianne, refuses to turn her back on him despite his horrific crimes, but her husband won’t allow Noah back into their home. In a series of shocking and shattering revelations, Adrianne is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. Just how far will she go to protect her son?”

This book is one big trigger warning. And also so completely heartbreaking and thought provoking. I found myself teetering on the edge of a full out sob at one point thinking about what I would do as Noah’s mother. This isn’t an easy read, but it will be one that challenges you.

Finding Me by Viola Davis

“In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever. This is my story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. This is the path I took to finding my purpose but also my voice in a world that didn’t always see me. As I wrote Finding Me, my eyes were open to the truth of how our stories are often not given close examination. We are forced to reinvent them to fit into a crazy, competitive, judgmental world. So I wrote this for anyone running through life untethered, desperate and clawing their way through murky memories, trying to get to some form of self-love. For anyone who needs reminding that a life worth living can only be born from radical honesty and the courage to shed facades and be you.”

This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read (listen to it if you can!). I’ve always loved Viola Davis and think she is such a gifted actor. After reading this book and knowing what she went through growing up, her success is even more impressive and so well deserved.

ACOTAR Series by Sarah J. Maas

“When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a terrifying creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not truly a beast, but one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled her world. At least, he’s not a beast all the time. As she adapts to her new home, her feelings for the faerie, Tamlin, transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But something is not right in the faerie lands. An ancient, wicked shadow is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it, or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.”

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of A Court of Thorns and Roses but if you’ve only read the first one in the series-don’t stop! Honestly, I liked the 2nd book, A Court of Mist and Furry, even better than the first one. Just beware, if you are a closed door romance girly, the books get spicer as they go on 🙂

The Perfect Son by Freida McFadden

“Mrs. Cass, we were hoping your son could answer a few questions about the girl who disappeared last night. Erika Cass has a perfect family and a perfect life. Until the evening when two detectives show up at her front door. A high school girl has vanished from Erika’s quiet suburban neighborhood. The police suspect the worst–murder. And Erika’s teenage son, Liam, was the last person to see the girl alive. Erika has always sensed something dark and disturbed in her seemingly perfect older child. She wants to believe he’s innocent, but as the evidence mounts, she can’t deny the truth–Liam may have done the unthinkable. Now she must ask herself: How far will she go to protect her son?”

Freida McFadden has become well known for her mystery books with a twist and this one is no exception. I kept second guessing myself about what was going on and the ending was wild!

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

“Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father’s beekeeping business. Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start. And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely. Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.”

I know a lot of people are Jodi Picoult fans and while I’ve read a couple of her books, she’s typically not an author I seek out regularly. This book was recommended to me by a co-worker and it was completely different than what I expected in the best possible way. At one point I audibly gasped out loud and there were several times I found myself tearing up which speaks to the high level of character development and the author’s ability to connect readers to the story.

Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale

“Cassandra Penelope Dankworth is a creature of habit. She likes what she likes (museums, jumpsuits, her boyfriend, Will) and strongly dislikes what she doesn’t (mess, change, her boss drinking out of her mug). Her life runs in a pleasing, predictable order…until now. She’s just been dumped. She’s just been fired. Her local café has run out of banana muffins. Then, something truly unexpected happens: Cassie discovers she can go back and change the past. One small rewind at a time, Cassie attempts to fix the life she accidentally obliterated, but soon she’ll discover she’s trying to fix all the wrong things.”

If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be heartwarming. I fell in love with Cassie over the course of the book and her flaws made her totally relatable. Her inability to keep track of where she was in the past is something all of us could relate to and I thought how she was able to rewind time was cute and clever.

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin

“Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers. As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be. This lyrical, unflinching tale is for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong.”

I found myself rooting so hard for April while also wanting to shout at her for some really dumb decisions. The People We Keep is a great reminder that our life is an unwritten book and the people we meet along the way help write our story.

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

“Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders. But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them. With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant. She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise. Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret. Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.”

I would never have called myself a fantasy girlie but after reading ACOTAR, I was open to giving other books in this genre a try. To be honest, I loved Fourth Wing even more than ACOTAR and although the book starts off with a strong hook, it took me a minute to visualize the setting and characters. I LOVED the incorporation of dragons and their relationships with their riders. I listened to this on audio and the voices of the dragons really made this book.

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mike Brammer

“What’s the point of giving someone a beautiful death if you can’t give yourself a beautiful life? From the day she watched her kindergarten teacher drop dead during a dramatic telling of Peter Rabbit , Clover Brooks has felt a stronger connection with the dying than she has with the living. After the beloved grandfather who raised her dies alone while she is traveling, Clover becomes a death doula in New York City, dedicating her life to ushering people peacefully through their end-of-life process. Clover spends so much time with the dying that she has no life of her own, until the final wishes of a feisty old woman send Clover on a road trip to uncover a forgotten love story—and perhaps, her own happy ending. As she finds herself struggling to navigate the uncharted roads of romance and friendship, Clover is forced to examine what she really wants, and whether she’ll have the courage to go after it.

You might be thinking, how is a book about a death doula a must read, but hang with me. I went into this book thinking it would be sad and depressing, but it was actually the opposite and I even found myself laughing out loud. The storyline was unique, the characters were realistically flawed (are you noticing I love this), and the potential for romance between characters was spot on.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

“In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her large, painfully empty house nearly a year after her husband’s death in a car crash. Everyone in town, even her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and Evvie doesn’t correct them. Meanwhile, in New York City, Dean Tenney, former Major League pitcher and Andy’s childhood best friend, is wrestling with what miserable athletes living out their worst nightmares call the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and, even worse, he can’t figure out why. As the media storm heats up, an invitation from Andy to stay in Maine seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button on Dean’s future. When he moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. To move forward, Evvie and Dean will have to reckon with their pasts, the friendships they’ve damaged, the secrets they’ve kept but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance, up until the last out.”

For some reason, I love stories where one character has to move in or live with the other-even better when they’re a complete stranger. This book made me laugh and cry and I was honestly sad when it was over.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

“Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.”

Like Saving Noah, Girl in Pieces is not an easy read and contains several topics that can be triggering. Although this book focuses on self harm, it’s really a story about how to love yourself especially when you feel like no one else does.

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

“Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it. So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart safe: stay busy, work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone—she isn’t sure her heart can take it. And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again. Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future. Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed. After all, love is never a matter of time, but a matter of timing.”

I’ve read several books that involve time travel but this one was my favorite. The way in which Clementine is connected to the past and present is so creative and the relationship between Clementine and her aunt really moved me. To me, this was the perfect definition of a “Romantasy” book and I could definitely use a sequel.

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

“Lucy Hart knows better than anyone what it’s like to grow up without parents who loved her. In a childhood marked by neglect and loneliness, Lucy found her solace in books, namely the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson. Now a twenty-six-year-old teacher’s aide, she is able to share her love of reading with bright, young students, especially seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, who was left orphaned after the tragic death of his parents. Lucy would give anything to adopt Christopher, but even the idea of becoming a family seems like an impossible dream without proper funds and stability. But be careful what you wish for. Just when Lucy is about to give up, Jack Masterson announces he’s finally written a new book. Even better, he’s holding a contest at his home on the real Clock Island, and Lucy is one of the four lucky contestants chosen to compete to win the one and only copy. For Lucy, the chance of winning the most sought-after book in the world means everything to her and Christopher. But first she must contend with ruthless book collectors, wily opponents, and the distractingly handsome (and grumpy) Hugo Reese, the illustrator of the Clock Island books. Meanwhile, Jack “the Mastermind” Masterson is plotting the ultimate twist ending that could change all their lives forever.”

This book is like Willy Wonka meets National Treasure meets Matilda. It sat on my ‘want to read’ list for a while and I don’t know why I waited so long to read it. It’s got a little bit of everything-riddles, relationships, romance-and the connection between Lucy and Christopher is so touching. This was the author’s debut novel and I am counting down the days to her next book which comes out this spring.

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