The 10 Best Books & Series I Read in 2023

by - December 31, 2023

As 2023 comes to an end, I'm taking a look back at the year. One of my favorite ways to do this is to pick my favorite books and series from the year before. It's become a bit of a tradition for me since the first time I published a best of book post for 2019, and it's one of my most favorite posts of the entire year. That said, it's not an easy post, especially when I've read a significant amount. Usually, I do a best books so far post in the summer, but I didn't get around to it this year because, well, life, so this year's best of books post had to start from scratch.

My reading looked a little bit different this year. For one thing, I launched my One Woman Book Club. If you're not familiar with it, I decided that my TBR list had gotten way out of control and came up with a way to start clearing it out. I chose twelve books from my TBR and spread them out over the year. I'm happy to say that four of the ten best books I read this year came from my book club.

This year's best of books has historical fiction, realistic fiction, mystery, and fantasy in pretty equal measure. Let's get to it! In no particular order, here are my favorite books and series from 2023.

The Night Tiger
Author: Yangsze Choo

This historical fiction novel is one of the best I've ever read. Set in 1930s Malaya, it follows the interconnected lives of Ji Lin and Ren. Ji Lin is secretly working as a dancehall girl to pay off her mother's debts, while Ren is on a mission to find his dead master's missing finger. That finger ends up in Ji Lin's possession, and she enlists the help of her stepbrother, Shin, to return it. Ji Lin and Ren's paths eventually cross, but it's a fateful night. The relationships in this book are so complex, and the way the author wove the mysteries around the legend of the weretiger was fantastic.

Author: T. M. Cromer

This became one of my most favorite magical series, and it's for grown-ups! The series starts with the five Thorne sisters working to revive their mother from a magically-induced coma after she was shot with a poisoned bullet. Their father/uncle (you need to read the books to understand that) pairs each sister with their one true love to retrieve the artifacts needed to wake their mother, his one true love, Aurora. Then there is the rekindling of several relationships in the next books while the family takes on the Witches' Council and a group known as the Desorcelers whose mission is to eradicate all witches and warlocks.

Author: Emilia Finn

It should be no secret by now that Emilia Finn is one of my favorite authors. I love 99% of the characters she creates, and this series is no exception. It's part of the Rollers' world with some crossover into the Mayet Justice series, of which I've only read the first book. Straight-up crime books aren't really my thing. In each of these books, the male main characters are seeking redemption of some sort and find it in their better halves. Each can be read as a stand-alone since there's no over-arching plot line but there are spoilers in some of the the other books, so it's best to read them in order.

Author: Jess Walter

This is the first entry from the 2023 One Woman Book Club. It was the pick-of-the-month for March. This was one of the best-written dual timeline books I've read. The present timeline was told in chronological order, but the past timeline was not always in order. However, I never felt lost or confused with the storyline.

In the 1960s, an actress who believes she is dying checks into a run-down hotel on an isolated Italian island. Turns out, Dee is not dying but rather pregnant by actor Richard Burton, and the set doctor lied about her condition to get her away from him. The studio expects Dee to end the pregnancy, but she keeps the baby, marries an author she meets at the hotel and passes the baby off as his. The story follows all the things that happen after that while revisiting the events of the past that explain the why.

Author: Juliann Whicker

This series was formerly titled the Rosewood Academy of Witches and Mages. I read it back in May, and fell in love. It's very different from other books I've read in an almost crazy way. I think the best word to describe the series is quirky. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Anyway, Poppy isn't a typical witch. She doesn't actually have any magic, but she enrolls in magic school anyway. Her goal? Find an unlovable mage to marry in order to meet the requirements of her grandmother's will so that she can save her home and mother. But underneath the lack of magic, Poppy has a huge secret.

Author: Bill Rivers

This is our second entry from the 2023 One Woman Book Club. Jack doesn't want his oldest brother, Pete, to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. When his cousin Frankie comes to spend the summer from the city, Jack enlists him in his plan to turn Pete into a hero so he'll get to stay home. But that summer turns into much more than saving Pete.

Author: Marie Mistry

This is the series that introduced me to an author who's quickly becoming one of my favorites. Since reading this witchy pirate story, I've read two other series by Marie Mistry. This is the story of Nilsa, an assassin sworn to serve the Moon Goddess. When the high priestess of the local Moon and Sun covens are both killed, Nilsa is the prime suspect. To save her life, she takes refuge on board the Deadwood, a notorious pirate ship that also serves as the home of the mates she's been told she would never have. What starts as a journey to discover the priestesses' killers turns into a much bigger quest to save an entire species from an evil queen.

Author: Eden Appiah-Kubi

This is another of my One Woman Book Club picks. It is a modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I thought the author did a really nice job of paying homage to how modern the original book was for its time. It's a nice parallel to the original story, but the author did a wonderful job working in issues that could only be part of the modern world.

EJ is a resident assistant at Bennet House, the only all-women dorm at Longbourn University. Her two best friends, Jamie and Tessa, are also residents. EJ is a black woman pursuing a career in engineering; Jamie is a trans woman pursuing a career in theater; and Tessa is an astronomy major with major guy troubles. When Jamie meets and falls for the son of a Hollywood producer, EJ is begrudgingly paired up with his best friend, an actor fresh off a very bad, very public break-up with a famous singer. Yep, you guessed it - EJ and Will are our modern-day Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Their first meeting is horrendous, but they agree to be civil for the sake of their best friends. What follows are a lot of bumps in the road for both EJ and Will, together and separate.

Author: Lisa Barr

This was my One Woman Book Club pick for September, and it was right up my alley. I can't resist books about journalists!

Jules Roth has just graduated from journalism school, and there's only one job she wants - to be part of Dan Mansfield's investigative team. Her first assignment? To help Mansfield investigate Woman on Fire, the last painting of Ernst Engel, the leader of the German Expressionist movement who was executed by the Nazis. The painting has been missing since World War II and features a former Miss Germany who was executed for having a relationship with a Jewish banker. But they're not the only ones looking for the painting, and their competition will stop at nothing to claim it.

Author: Frost Kay

Last, but certainly not least, is a series that hasn't been featured on the blog yet as I just read it in December, but this world of reimagined fairy tales ensnared my imagination from book one. So if you have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings like me, you should absolutely check these out.

The first three books are a reimagined version of Snow White, except Snow White isn't actually one of the characters. Instead, it's told from the perspective of the huntsman...but she's a woman. Tempest is the first-ever female hound, and as such finds herself the unwilling recipient of the corrupt king's desire. In an effort to put him off, she accepts the mission to dismantle the Dark Court, except what she finds there is nothing like what she expected and her mission soon changes to take down the king. Tempest is not the main character in the next three books, although her presence is definitely there. Book four is a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast; it's pretty straightforward other than having some elements of Jack and the Beanstalk worked in. Book five is a reimagining of Robin Hood in which the leader of the merry men is female. Book six is a Little Red Riding Hood-Cinderella mash-up and a nice ending to the overall story arc.

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