Friday, January 19, 2024

Best of 2023 ~ My Top 10 Favourite Books & A Yearly Wrap-up

I've wrapped up all the books I've read all year through my Monthly Reads and I've been sharing reviews on everything I've rated 4.5 and 5 stars (so my top 10 might not be a total surprise, as I'm sure you've seen these around here)! 

Best of 2023 ~ My Top 10 Favourite Books & A Yearly Wrap-up
I purchased all these books featured

I read 112 books in 2023 - a good mix of older and newer books and from every genre you can think of! I read a little bit of everything - fantasy, romance, contemporary, and historical fiction, so a little bit of everything in there! For my favourites, they are all adult books this year and mostly magical realism and contemporary fiction! 

Here is a closer look at the books from number 1 to number 10 in the order of my love:

Best of 2023 ~ My Top 10 Favourite Books & A Yearly Wrap-up

The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab ~ This is an adult fantasy novel, it's both a carry on of the Shades of Magic trilogy, but the start of it's own series - the Threads of Power series; (I would recommend the Shades be read first though because this book is layered and the more background story you know, the better for this!) This book takes place 7 years after the Shades of Magic and while we mostly stay in the present moment, there is some flashbacks throughout the years. We are in a world with different Londons, we go back to our favourite characters and mostly in Red London, but there is a current plot to overthrow the throne and Maresh crown - all of the characters do what they do best to stop this and it's so detailed, but everything just builds up so well. I was happy to see Kell and Lila so much, but the new characters we meet are amazing and I cannot wait to see where this next book takes us! So well written!

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears ~ This is a non-fiction memoir, of course highly anticipated from Miss Britney. I will have a full review of this one coming soon! Her story has been dictated by everyone but her up to this point and so it was perfect to hear her side of the story and understand what was going on. What her family did to her (as well as the media, the paparazzi, everyone in her life basically) is so difficult - she had paid off all their debt and still had to take more. Forcing her to work, while simultaneously claiming she was incapable of caring for herself is so wild - if someone is that incapacitated, should they have been forced on to world tours and in recording studios just to line her father's pockets (who made more during that time than she did?!) I'm glad she could finally share her side of the story! 

Beartown, Us Against You and The Winners (The Beartown Trilogy by Fredrik Backman) ~ These are a contemporary fiction series set in a small, remote hockey town. Of course, these are much more than a book about hockey - its about the characters, choices we make, how we respond to crisis, friendships, family, love, toxic masculinity, violence, everything is touched on in these books and handled so well - Fredrik Backman is a master with words and these books were so impactful. We meet everyone in Beartown - a small town focused on hockey when an act of violence changes everything before the most important game. It's about the characters and the response to violence, how sides are chosen, and standing up for what we believe in. We meet this variety of characters from all different backgrounds drawn together by one thing - this is a huge multi-pov story, but I found it easy enough to follow and the characters and setting will pull you in. In book two, Us Against You, things start to get a little political (I found this part a little slow at first), but eventually deals with issues around sexuality, toxic masculinity, love and lose. Then, in the third book, The Winners, we are two years past the events of the first book and we are watching our characters from the first two books all come together and move forward. I cannot express how connected to these characters and their stories I was (were talking yelling at them, crying, laughing - all of the above!) Amazing books. 

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune ~ This is a fantasy/magical realism book that defies ages - I would classify this as suitable for young adults and adults! This book is truly a delight - all I can say is that I don't know how a book surrounding death can be so full of love! This book is heavily surrounding death, so if that's not something that works for you, I would be aware - we encounter our main character, Wallace, at the end of his life as he meets a reaper and a ferryman who are there to assist him in passing through to the afterlife, or "the whispering door". Wallace realizes that perhaps he didn't live his life the way that he wanted, and he wants to make amends and is not quite ready to pass. Eventually Wallace is given a seven day timeline to get his affairs in order and be ready to move on and we following everything from there. This is full of a lovely cast of characters and each is loveable and fun in their own place - we really see our main character find life after his death and work on his personal redemption. We have an absolutely loveable ferryman, a sarcastic hilarious reaper, and some ghosts that complete the amazing found family.

Venco by Cherie Dimaline ~ This is an adult magical realism book - my favourite author writing about feminist witches coming together to take down the patriarchy?! We meet a woman who finds a magical spoon and is taken on a whirlwind road trip with her Grandmother. While the coven is coming together, they are also being chased by the last benandanti, male witch hunters with somewhat magical powers of their own. They are racing the clock and each other - he is conniving and sinister, but irresistible too. This book is about finding the magic in the monotonous and making your own future. Loved the characters, story and want more, more, more! 

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna ~ This is a super sweet, magical realism, cozy fantasy read! We meet a witch, Mika Moon who has grown up alone, as she's always been taught that witches are too powerful if they are together for too long. She has used coping mechanisms of not getting too close to anyone and move around often. But, she gets a job offer she can't refuse - she is helping three young witches control their power. As she gets to know the girls and the other staff that work in the manner, there is of course this lovely found family element that is just totally heart-warming. The extra characters are fabulous - and of course, the love interest is a broody librarian with a grumpy/sunshine feel. There is good buildup and tension, the fallout was unexpected (just a different way), but it all wrapped up so nicely. Like a lovely, warm witchy hug!

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt ~ This a contemporary fiction book and this follows Tova, a woman in her 70s who cleans at the local aquarium to keep herself busy, and Marcellus, an octopus in the aquarium who Tova makes a connection. We also follow Cameron, who makes his way to their town and unexpectedly in to everyone's lives. Tova has had a difficult go, but her cute but matter-of-fact perspective was fun to read. This is the story how their lives interconnect and their stories come together. It is a slow build as everything comes together, but I loved everyone's lives and small town six-degree-of-separation type stories. Lovely and I love octopuses. 

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros ~ This is an adult fantasy romance (or romantasy) We are introduced to our main character, Violet as she is getting ready to go in to a high stakes, often brutal and violent, war college where she is attempting to be a dragon-rider! When they are selected, they also manifest a power in themselves that can only be called forward through their dragon. It's fast paced, there is a bad boy love interest, a potential love triangle with a best friend and a small group of tight knit peers working together. Through the romantic tension, there is also some political stakes that are at play, with groups of people not getting along and outside threats to their empire that they may be called to protect at any time. It's a little trope-y, but honestly, those of use that grew up with Hunger Games, Divergent, ect. will probably enjoy all the similar tropes in this with a little more romantic tension (and steamy scenes) added in too!

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova ~ This is an adult magical realism/fantasy novel and I really enjoyed this! This book follows the Montoya family and them all being called to Orquidea's funeral while she is still alive - she bestows them all a gift and some a bit of her magic. This leads to them following her legacy and fighting the curse that follows their family. It is complex because there are so many family members and duel timelines. As the stories converge, we see more magic, more complexity, but also more family and more love. I love the connections and discoveries of the characters as well as the magic and the discoveries of what is coming for their family. There is layers and complexities, but it also is such gorgeous and descriptive writing, you can see everything and feel all the magic while you are reading it!

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston ~ This is an adult romance, and I've loved this author's transition from YA to Adult - it's romance, but tame and not super spicy which I enjoy! Our main character finds herself grieving the loss of her Aunt and moving in to her apartment, when the apartment surprises her and brings her back in time 7 years - she meets someone and they have a whirlwind Summer romance, but he's already experienced it, and she is meeting him simultaneously in the past and present. I loved our characters, their story, and their connection! Really enjoyed this one!

Best of 2023 ~ My Top 10 Favourite Books & A Yearly Wrap-up

I also have a little list of the 5 Worst Books I read this year (these were all 1 star DNF's for me - I read enough to know they were not good or to my liking):

The Circus Train by Amita Parikh ~ This is an adult historical fiction set on a circus train during WW2. I was really excited for this book (circusy vibes, historical setting, disability rep and a girl discovering herself) but sadly I had to stop reading this at 40%. I really kept giving this a go and nothing kept happening in the story. This book was trying to do too many things and it all got convoluted without the storyline moving forward. I did read spoilers and it sounds like things happen eventually, but I kept pushing myself to listen and I'm not sure that the spoilers intrigued me enough to keep going. Personally, I felt disconnected from the story and felt no connection to what was happening or the characters.

At Midnight: 15 Beloved Fairy Tales Reimagined by Dahlia Adler ~ This is a young adult fantasy/fairytale retelling (although some I read that were contemporary). This sounded right up my alley, but sadly I just couldn't get in to these stories - I heard they were darker, but honestly these were generic contemporary retellings and i just didn't get in them. I did dnf and reading some and skimming others. What's great is that the originals are included so you can read both. Unfortunately just not for me!

Love Your Life by Sophia Kinsella ~ This is an adult romance novel and it was terrible - I thought it started out with a cute concept, but the characters were so basic, and as soon as she fell in love way to quickly it was a no for me. (I think her cute quirky characters were funny in the Shopaholic series, but didn't work in this). I see what the rest of the book is going to be - they are going to struggle in their relationship based on having nothing in common seeing as how they fell in love in a day in Italy. Not enough Italy for me and it just wasn't good, sadly.

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst ~ This is a contemporary fiction (and apparently a romance, but I will be honest I did not get that far). I personally really tried to get through this, I finished 182 pages and almost quit twice before I did. This was not good at all. The characters were insufferable (perhaps they get better in the end, but nothing likeable the first half at all and no signs of improvement), the descriptions of Italy felt like they were just the most stereotypical descriptions you could find, and the story was repetitive. Sorry this sounds mean.

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll ~ ☆ - This is a mystery thriller - I really gave this so many chances, but it was pretentious and the characters were really unlikeable. It was supposed to be about a serial killer and somewhat the girls trying to identify him but 45% in the plot has not moved forward at all. I couldn't finish.

So, those are the best and the worst of my year. I also keep track of a few other things, including catching up on some favourite authors backlists - I was able to do that with one author this year, Adrienne Young. I am working on it with a few more this year! 

Then, I've also tried to stay up to date on series I'm reading - if I enjoy them, then I want to read the next ones as soon as possible so the story is fresh in my mind! And it's worked - I finished the following series: Saint, Sky and Sea, Unhoneymooners, The Strangers, Elements of Cadence, Moon of The..., The Witch Haven, Beartown, Once Upon A Broken Heart, Foul Lady Fortune and The Book of Tea. I only have a couple outstanding series to finish up next year where we are waiting for the next book or it was just released. 

On that note, there is always a few series I start but don't enjoy a book to keep finishing, this year those were - The Gilded Ones (just too long until the second one and the story didn't hook me enough), Meet Me in Italy (Our Italian Summer was the first in this series and I DNF'd it, so i'm not interested in anything else), Stealing Shadows (this was an old thriller series that I re-read the first one and liked it, with a psychic solving a crime, but I didn't want to read anymore), and Spectacle (a travelling circus series that resolved nothing in the first book and didn't hook it!)

So, I am going in to 2024 with a goal of 100 books (I'm not bothered if I don't reach it - just a number and I've read over 100 the past three years). I'd like to read a mix of old and new books again, get through some of my back list. I'd also like to make sure I'm at least reading one non-fiction a month! No crazy goals, I just like to enjoy reading! 

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