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The 2023 Bookish Bests List

2023 went by in an absolute blur.  That’s no surprise, though, or at least, it isn't for me.  Years lately are going by faster and faster and they don’t seem to be getting happier and happier.  And 2024 is an election year, for book’s sake.  Here we go.

For the first time, I spent all of 2023 listening to audiobooks primarily.  I have had less and less time to sit down and read, so audiobooks became my primary way to consume stories.  Compared to my best physical reading year, I have more than doubled the amount of books I was ever able to read.  In my best solely physical reading year, I read a little over 80 books.  I topped 2023 at 202!  That’s absolutely fantastic for me.  The problem, however, lies in what I read.  

Out of over 200 books I read this year, just a little over 25% of them were good enough to me to rate 5 stars.  That’s not enough reading in a year that I’ve truly enjoyed, and in retrospect, it feels very much like I’ve wasted much of my reading time consuming books I just didn’t love. I’m going to try to change that for 2024 by embracing the DNF and quitting by 25% if a book is not catching me.

I’ll still count the reading minutes and pages toward my reading log, but my time is too valuable to spend reading stuff I’m not ecstatic about.

This year, because I just want to absolutely gush about all of the books I LOVED, I’ll be listing all of my 5-star fiction reads.  The series books will be grouped by author.  I seem to have a lot of 5-star series reads this year.  Stay tuned on the blog for a top 10 post later in the week!

Without further ado, my 2023 5-star reads:

Hayley Reese Chow’s Odriel’s Heirs Series, including:

Burning Shadows

Idriel’s Children

Night of Ash

Time’s Orphan

Chow ripped my heart out in every book and these were compulsively readable.  I can’t recommend them enough.  I believe the first in the series, Odriel’s Heirs, is still available for free on Kindle, so run and grab it while it’s still free.  You won’t be wasting money if you don’t like it.  You’ll like it. 

J.J. Fischer’s Nightingale Trilogy, including:



Calor was so good that I read it a second time this year.  I hardly ever reread books.  These are good enough for rereads.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series, including:

The Eye of the World

The Great Hunt

The Dragon Reborn

The Shadow Rising

I was told to read this series well before the author passed and Sanderson completed the last three books. I also bought them all and have had them in my attic for over ten years.  Ten.  Years.  I need to write the person who recommended them to me and express both thanks and apologies for not picking them up immediately.  I am a dweeb because these books are fantastic. 

A variety of Katherine Center’s books, including:

The Bodyguard

Hello Stranger

Things You Save in a Fire

How to Walk Away

The Lost Husband

Katherine Center has a distinct place of honor among my reading list, as I usually read fantasy.  I binged every single one of them this year and can't wait for the next one to release in Summer 2024. I’ll gladly stay in the real world if Katherine Center writes the story.

Sarah K.L. Wilson’s Bluebeard’s Secret Quartet, including:

Dance with the Sword

Give Your Heart to the Barrow

Die with Your Lord

Wilson’s books are Exhibits A-Z on how romance can be scorching and not be sexually explicit.  I had to fan myself a lot reading her Bluebeard Series.  My goodness.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations Series, including:

The Crown Conspiracy


Better known as Theft of Swords (they were first published as indies but later by Orbit as omnibus copies).  Sullivan is firmly on my favorites list with these two books, and I absolutely love his Esrahaddon.  I can’t wait to read the rest of Sullivan’s books.

And last for the series list, but certainly not least, there’s Laurisa Brandt’s Birthright of Scars Duology:

Birthright of Scars:  Rising

Birthright of Scars:  Choosing

The rest of the best list are one-offs by various authors:

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

I’ve not read Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle books, though I did try to get into them when they were first published and couldn’t.  To Sleep in a Sea of Stars blew me away and I can’t wait for the sequel.


Of Manners and Murder by Anastasia Hastings

Hastings impressed me with this cozy historical mystery.  I’m excited for the second installment coming later in January 2024.

Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee’s novella left me wanting more in this universe.  I do so hope there are more from this world.

The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

Holland’s horror was very subtle and impressive.  Nothing was too overt and the tale left much to the imagination.  I’m not sure why the GR rating isn’t higher; I just loved this one.

To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn

None of Quinn’s Bridgerton books came close to this one for me.  In the books, Eloise is my absolute favorite Bridgerton.  I’ll definitely reread this one some time in the future.

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Anything Marillier writes exudes excellence.  While I didn’t love this one quite as much as Daughter of the Forest, it still is a great sampling of a fantasy novel.  Retellings should take lessons from Marillier.

The Starless Crown by James Rollins

While I loved Rollins’ first book, I started the second Moonfall book and didn't make it far into the story. I may pick it up again, but I don't think it will be soon.

Infinity Gate by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey mesmerized me with this parallel universe sci-fi bombshell.  I’m chomping at the bit to see what’s next.

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Dunmore’s debut was fantastic, but the rest of the series petered out for me.  I didn’t like any of them.

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

I’ll endeavor to pick up the rest of Cronin’s book starting more in 2024.  The Ferryman gave me serious Shutter Island vibes but in space.  Great book.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

I’ve only read two of Lawrence’s books before, Red Sister and Grey Sister.  They were excellent, and this was much better, which is a drop in the bucket for how well it was written.  Lawrence is solidly on my favorite fantasy authors list, and his 2023 release is one of my favorite reads for the year.

Realms of Wrath and Ruin by Alli Earnest

Earnest, like Chow, is an unmerciful author I find myself returning to each time she publishes a book.  I’m a sucker for the Gate Chronicles series.  I can’t wait to read what torture Earnest has in store for me next.

Beyond the Filigree Wall by Melissa Wright

Though I own a ton of them, I’ve only read on of Melissa Wright’s books.  Beyond the Filigree Wall gave me a bit of a kick in the pants to read the rest of them because it was absolutely amazing.

After the Forest by Kell Woods

2023 was the fall of Grimm retellings, and Kell Woods blew the rest of them out of the park with this one.  Hands down my favorite fall read this year.

Bonesmith by Nicki Pau Preto

Preto surprised me with this YA fantasy.  YA has been putting me off lately, and I’ve not read too much of it this year.  Though I don’t think Bonesmith should be classified as YA—it’s more of an NA novel—it was still spectacular to me.  I hope FairyLoot does the sequel and it’s signed.

Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

I loved Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone.  Though I’ve tried a few of the author’s other books and not liked them even in the slightest, I still give each of them a try because I know I’ll either love them or hate them.  I loved this one.

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck

Hinck’s Dream of Kings won a ton of literary awards this year, and they were all well deserved.  The book stayed with me long after I read it.  Highly recommend this one to read for anyone who loves fantasy retellings.

The Skull by Jon Klassen

Klassen makes the list with this early reader because I watched a staunchly reluctant reader devour it several times in a row.  I will read any kid's book that does that, and not surprisingly, I loved it.

The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft

Bancroft’s The Hexologists reads similarly to Emily Wilde, with its quirky characters in gaslamp/Victorian settings.  It’s also witty beyond measure and incredibly clever.  


“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

An oldie but a goodie, Irving’s classic tale read nothing like Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.  It was really a commentary on upstarts in small communities who think they’ll worm their way into the established families through marrying the rich man’s daughter.  I was quite surprised and impressed with the overall story in its original form. Though, I do love Burton's rendition as well. I should watch that for 2024's Spooky Season...

“Carmilla” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

So many vampire things in literature came before Stoker’s Dracula, and “Carmella” is the start of my quest to read them all.  

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Bunyan’s classic has been on my list for a while.  I recently saw a retelling of it and plan to read that one as well.  This could easily be horror as well as allegory.

Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels

I finally put Daniels’ debut under my belt in preparation for the release of The Rom Con.  Surprisingly, I loved the first one better.  Meet You in the Middle reminded me so much of The Hating Game, which I absolutely love, but it’s a political instead of a publishing rivalry. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anything Doerr writes I have a feeling will be five stars from me.  Cloud Cuckoo Land was unputdownable, and though this one wasn’t as good to me as CCL, that fact by no means diminishes its literary excellence.  

Peterkin and the First Dog by Simon King-Spooner

King-Spooner’s book came out of left field at me.  I did not expect to love it as much as I did.  I found it to be absolutely stellar and encourage anyone with young readers who need something that’s age appropriate but still challenging to pick this one up.  Top shelf for Peterkin.


Phew!  What an end to the year!  I hope to read as many books this year as last, but I’m not going to sweat it.  I don’t want to just jam reads into my lineup that don’t appeal to me, so I’ll read what I read and be happy about it.

I hope everyone has a great 2024 reading year!

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