I shared my disappointing reads of 2023 already, now its time for my delights of 2023!
This are the books that got me excited about reading, the ones that I am still thinking about long after I finished them! It’s actually quite the mixed bag, I definitely don’t stick to one genre!
🏆 My All Stars of the year!
Last Christmas I was deep into the Wallflowers series. Devil in Winter is the best in the series, and earned a place in my Favourite Romance Books of All Time list (which I just made up but might start compiling). It has my favourite socially anxious Wallflower, and an irresistible love interest with foot warmers, back massages and emotional growth.
I brought in 2023 with my Bunny review (my first spot of literary analysis since 2009!). All’s Well was my second Mona Awad didn’t disappoint. Bunny is still my nearest and dearest, but All’s Well is also a heck of a novel and I had a great time analysing it! In particular the descriptions of life with chronic pain have stuck with me, this was so viscerally written that it was no surprise to learn them came from Mona Awad’s lived experience. It also has a lot of bonkers Shakesperean magic with a sympathetic protagonist becoming the villain in her own story. It’s wild, highly recommend!
My First Lisa Jewell! This is still my favourite. The audio production was perfection (Joanne Froggatt I bow down), the characters felt complex, raw and real, and the mystery kept me guessing to the end. I was so gripped at one point it had my sitting still to listen to the climax of the mystery, I never sit still with audio books!
I didn’t rate 5 stars but I’m still thinking about these
🌟 These books all gave me a spark of something that resonated.
I had a great time with the unreliable narrator! Sam is such a slippery customer, both a victim and villain, with an elastic relationship with the truth. This novel really plays with memory, and how they can me manipulated and become unreliable. I read this around the same time as 1984 & Animal Farm and found some unexpected comparisons with how Sam rewrites history! Like Louise O’Neill’s other work this is a complex story, heavily grounded in messy reality.
Perhaps this one is a bit left of field, but Paris Hilton’s story really had an impact on me. The memoir itself I found brilliantly written and captured the voice of Paris, who read it like she was talking right to me. Her descriptions of her time in the troubled teen industry (and the sex tape) were powerful, and inspired a blog post where I attempted to untangle my thoughts. I recommend this, even if you have no interested in Paris Hilton!
A little big of light relief after most of the others on this list! Book Lovers was an unexpectedly enjoyable rom-com. I loved it for the maturity of the characters and their open and honest communication, building a healthy relationship that has depth! The main character did not sacrifice anything of herself or her ambitions, and its also hot! Its imperfect but I found it a lot of fun.
Time-travel is used as a literary device to powerfully contrast the lives of enslaved people in 19th Century Maryland. The writing style is concise, plain and lays bare the brutal, violent reality of life. This one has really stuck with me. I visited the International Slavery Museum this year and thought about Kindred as I viewed the displays. Incidentally, that is the best museum I think I’ve ever been to, its in Liverpool, highly recommend!
Good Behaviour is an odd one for me. I gave it 3 stars based on my personal enjoyment level, and yet I also am still thinking about it a month later! There was fun and humour in the unreliable narrator revealing the real story in everything she observes but fails to understand. I gave it a lower rating because I found all the characters rather miserable and mean spirited (and its hard to have sympathy for the landed gentry!), which I think was the point but didn’t make for a good time. But, I would still recommend it because I do think its a masterpiece… so make of that what you will!
I hope you had a great reading year! What were your top reads, do we overlap on any? I’d also love and reading recommendations!