Hello, fellow bookworms. It’s hard to believe that 2023 is over already. There’ve been highs and lows but overall it was a really great year for books. I’ve read well over one hundred books this year, many of them reviewed right here on Cosmic Circus for your perusal. So whittling it down to my top 23 was hard, almost like picking a favorite child (okay, not that hard but still hard). Now without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my top 23 novels of 2023.
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Argylle by Elly Conway
Argylle is an exciting spy-action-adventure-treasure hunt. The story is interesting with real-life mystery (ever heard of the Amber Room of the Nazi treasure train?) thrown in, which makes it extra intriguing to me. For some added mystery, Argylle is the inspiration for a movie that comes out just over a month after the book releases. But the movie’s not based on the book, per say, it’s a prop of sorts in the movie.
Oh, and Elly Conway? That’s a nom de plum, no one knows who they really are. But it’s rumored to be a famous actor, possibly even one of the stars of the Argylle movie (with some theories thinking it’s Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Conway in the movie). So, a spy conspiracy novel with its own conspiracy theories? The swirling layers of real-world mystery alone make this a fun read. And the story was pretty good too!
Read my review of Argylle by Elly Conway here, and find out why you should read it before the film releases!
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The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I know that The Color Purple wasn’t released in 2023, but this is a list of my favorite books I’ve read this year, and I read it in December. (Heads up, it’s not the only older book, but most are new) Not only did I read it in 2023, but it was the first time I read it at all.
And I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner. It was a phenomenal book that dealt with a lot of issues that I wouldn’t have expected for its time, and dealt with them in ways I wouldn’t have expected. It was both sad and uplifting and even if you see the new movie, I still recommend reading Walker’s original words.
Fourth Wing and Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
Yarros brought us Violet, a young woman who is desperately trying to prove herself. Along the way, she falls for exactly the wrong guy, has her entire worldview turned upside down, and turns into a living legend. Fourth Wing was a wild adrenaline and sex-soaked adventure that is definitely worth picking up to spice up a long night.
The sequel to Fourth Wing, Iron Flame, takes Violet further down the rabbit hole of defining herself. She does a lot of growing and faces conflict of a more familial type. But that’s not the only problem she has, pretty much everyone wants to kill her. Plus, she’s trying to figure out if there could ever be a future with the “bad boy” she fell for. Not to mention trying to learn to trust anyone again after all the betrayals she’s faced. A solid follow-up to the first book in the series.
Red Rabbit by Alex Grecian
A witch hunt that plays both sides, Red Rabbit has us rooting for the witch but also hoping the team of accidental witch hunters escapes unharmed too. Alex Grecian brings together his group of witch hunters in a very accidental fashion, and they stay together more out of stubbornness than any actual conviction in what they’re doing. But the story is compelling and enjoyable with an ending that feels good even when the particular fates of each character might be a little sad.
Read my full review of Red Rabbit by Alex Grecian here.
Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine
This book was rather tough on me at certain points. But it was a great mystery and a great scary story with an ending that I loved. It also had a really important message about listening to women about their own bodies that Valentine gets across in Delicate Condition without feeling preachy. Just a fantastic overall story.
Read my full review of Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine here.
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem
The Jasad Heir is a great story! It’s filled with excitement, fun, and romance, but it has so much more. The book deeply examines things like prejudice, justice, genetics, and free will. But because of Hashem’s wonderful writing, it never becomes a heavy or depressing book. It’s a novel that is definitely worth reading.
Read my full review of The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem here.
The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson
First released in the UK four years ago, The Lost War is Anderson’s debut novel. I had a hard time putting this book down for multiple different reasons. Not only was the story and mystery provocative, but I wanted to spend more time with the characters themselves. Then there was the huge twist at the end, top-notch writing.
Black Cat: Discord by Cath Lauria
Black Cat is a hilarious anti-hero who knows how to have a good time. Her intelligence comes through in the way she plans everything down to a tee and always has every contingency covered. Her humor is great too. She’s always looking for a good time. If she’s not enjoying what she’s doing, it’s not worth her time. Happily, Black Cat: Discord is more than enjoyable and is worth both her time and yours.
Read my full review of Black Cat: Discord by Cath Lauria here.
An Unkindness of Magicians and A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard
An Unkindness of Magicians is a fantasy with a lot to say. But it was still fun. The main character is aware of her shortcomings, just as she is aware of her strengths. She may be socially inept, but she is extremely confident too. I just loved her and her complete focus on her goal. I strongly recommend checking out Howard’s An Unkindness of Magicians.
The sequel to An Unkindness of Magicians, A Sleight of Shadows continues to follow Sydney’s life after sacrificing her magic. It turns out that she didn’t quite achieve what she set out to do in An Unkindness of Magicians. So now she must find a way to end it once and for all, magic always has a price and the bill has come due.
The Road to Neverwinter by Jaleigh Johnson
A book that provides backstory to the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie earlier this year, The Road to Neverwinter is a wild adventure all its own. It’s a great stand-alone story. So if you choose not to read The Druid’s Call (another companion book) or see Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, you can still enjoy The Road to Neverwinter. The characters are fun and richly painted. The adventures are dangerous and exciting. Johnson crafts a thrilling and funny story that anyone can enjoy.
Read my review of The Road to Neverwinter by Jaleigh Johnson here.
The Druid’s Call by E.K. Johnston
Another book that served as backstory to the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie, The Druid’s Call is also a stand-alone tale. It is a tale of fantasy and magic that’s also a fight for home and a search for identity. Seeing Doric realizes that the elves care for her, seeing her lose her fear and protect those she loves, is beautiful and makes for a sweet (but not sappy) story.
Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Alina is a great character. She’s not perfect, and she knows this, which makes her really relatable. She doesn’t try to be funny, but her reactions often are anyway. It kept some of the heavier ideas of classism, prejudice, and mental abuse from being overwhelming. These themes are all woven into the story, but Leigh Bardugo does so in such a way that it doesn’t feel preachy or forced. It’s just part of the reality of Ravka. And that’s what helps get the point home without most readers even noticing it. Which is part of what makes Shadow and Bone so great.
Siege and Storm is a study of the battle between light and darkness. But darkness is the flip side of light, two opposites that only really exist with the definition of the other. Alina teeters on the brink of two possible futures, and it is exhilarating to see her teeter between the two.
The Shadow and Bone trilogy is a truly wonderful tale. Bardugo has great pacing with her story. It never feels boring, but it’s not overwhelming either. I especially loved how the story was all wrapped up at the end of Ruin and Rising. Everyone is given an ending, and it feels fitting for each character. They all get exactly what they deserve and it feels right.
Read my reviews of Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo here. You can find Brian’s review of season 2 of the Netflix series linked below.
The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith
The seventh book in the Cormoran Strike series, The Running Grave sees our two favorite detectives once again take on a case that no one else can handle. But instead of being hired to solve a murder (although that happens too eventually) Robin and Strike are asked to help a father get his son out of a cult. They decide the best course of action is to send Robin into the cult undercover. The Running Grave pairs a fascinating view of the psychology behind cults with a tantalizing mystery for another Strike home run.
The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne
I loved this book from the very beginning which is why it made my list of top reads in 2023. There honestly wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this story. By the end of The Book of Gothel, I was crying and felt so happy because I forgot for a minute that it was fiction. Books that touch this deep don’t come along every day. It has earned a favored spot on my shelf. This story of empowerment and finding your true power is truly inspirational.
Read my review of The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne here.
Queen of Deception: A Legends of Asgard Novel by Anna Stephens
Queen of Deception is an action-packed novel in the Marvel Universe, from Aconyte books. The Asgardians are always good for an exciting tale, but I loved how Stephens chose to write about the women of Asgard. She placed these powerful women in a society where everything about them was unwelcome and set them loose. Watching them fight stereotypes and enemies alike was so exhilarating.
Read my review of Queen of Deception by Anna Stephens here.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Fawcett created a strong and unique character in Emily Wilde. Her story took some unexpected turns as it weaved through different faerie lore and the play between Emily’s focused, standoffish personality and Bambleby’s social, lazy attitude was hilarious. I was often in stitches as the two of them faced off. Fawcett’s faeries are not the floaty, air-headed nymphs of most modern media faeries. Her faeries are dangerous and that makes them all the more interesting.
Read my review of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett here.
The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery
The Last Firefox is definitely a book that is aimed at the 7 to 12 age range, and it’s perfect for that demographic! The story is exciting and fun. Charlie has problems that kids can relate to, then the fantastic gets mixed in with a firefox to make it a real adventure. And he has some real character development by the end as well. The nice thing is that the story wasn’t stupid or annoying (looking at you Captain Underpants) so this is a nice book to read with your kid.
Read my review of The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery here.
The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston
Here is a book written by River Song, a character in Doctor Who, about Melody Malone (and Alex Kingston, the author, plays River Song in Doctor Who so that just adds to the weirdness). In The Ruby’s Curse, Melody and River influence each other to the point that River isn’t sure where Melody stops, and she begins, or who’s more real. But this is a real book that can be read in the real world now, which adds another level of complexity to the story when you’re thinking about it. It sounds a little weird, but it’s a really good read and not that hard to get when you’re reading (as opposed to when you’re trying to explain it!).
Read my full review of The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston here.
Shield Maiden by Sharon Emmerichs
We’ve all heard of Beowulf. While Beowulf is considered one of the first heroes, most people don’t realize that we don’t even know his whole story, most of his tale is lost. Sharon Emmerichs tried to imagine some of the story that we’re missing. The result is Shield Maiden, a tale of a young woman just beginning to realize her true power, both in battle and love.
Read my review of Shield Maiden by Sharon Emmerichs here.
And that’s the top 23 of my favorite novels I read in 2023
So those are my favorite reads this past year. I highly recommend reading all of them! You’ll find worlds that you didn’t know existed, and come away with a broader view of the one we live in. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may even grow. It’ll be great, I promise. Now I’m looking forward to all the new books I’m going to read in 2024! I wonder which ones will make my top 24 of ‘24?
What were your favorite books you read in 2023? What books are you looking forward to in 2024? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.