Here we are at the end of 2023 and I have great books to recommend. This includes the top ten for the year and a few disappointing books I also read. Enjoy!
This annual Top Ten Books of the Year blog post of book reviews is so fun to create. I love going back through the books I have read to find my favorite ones of the year.
There is no common thread in this list. It’s just great writing, great stories, and books I loved!
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Beartown by Fredrick Backman
It’s the story of a small town whose main and only love is hockey. The community is in dire need of something to pin hopes on and this rests on the shoulders of teenage boys on the junior hockey team.
The teens are heroes in their community and revered by all. They hope to take this fame right into a hockey career. Nothing, it seems, is more important than hockey. In fact, the whole premise of this book is the junior championship game that this team could possibly win.
The book is perfection. 5 stars!
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
Ray McMillian loves playing the violin and pursues his dream of becoming a professional musician.
At every step, he is met with resistance. And trauma. And the joy of music.
As a young boy, Ray played the violin provided by his school and was told stories by his grandmother about the violin his grandfather owned. She promises he can have it – if he can just find it in the attic.
And then the violin disappears. 5 STARS!
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Tova Sullivan’s husband has died and she begins working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. She enjoys her tasks and the animals in the aquarium.
Tova meets Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus that lives in the aquarium. Marcellus is quite a mischievous octopus and regularly escapes his enclosure to move about the rooms. He is also quite a thief. And he is hilarious!
You should listen to this book! The voice of Marcellus is amazing. 5 stars!
All the Broken Places by John Boyne
Eighty years after fleeing Poland with her mother, Gretel Fernsby is living with a secret.
The chapters of this amazing book alternate from present-day to Gretel’s past, telling her story slowly as it intertwines with current events.
I found this book moving, heart-breaking, and very well-written. I could not turn the pages fast enough. 5 stars!
The Nightingale by Kristan Hannah
This is the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, living in France as WWII begins. One stays in their home and takes care of her child and neighbors, while the other becomes a courier for the resistance.
The invading Germans procure their home and a commander takes up one of the bedrooms while Vianne continues to struggle to feed her child and herself. Isabelle joins a group that carries secrets to others and eventually leads downed airmen to freedom over the mountains into Spain.
The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
The book begins in Black Earth County on the Alabaster River where a body is found that has been partially eaten by catfish. The man, who was killed by a gunshot, is a much-hated local named Jimmy Quinn. It is 1958 when the death is reported to the sheriff, Brody Dern. As the investigation begins the gossip spreads through Jewel and blame is quickly placed on Noah Bluestone.
Beautifully written book! 5 STARS!
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
I must tell you upfront that this book is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The writing style is mesmerizing and I read and reread parts of it.
It begins with the last days of the Civil War when slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. This includes brothers Prentiss and Landry.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult
This is the story of Lily and Asher. It’s also the story of bee-keeping which was fascinating.
Everyone has a secret in this story – all for different reasons. And about midway into the book you will read it and, if you are like me, you will want to start over from the beginning and see what clues you could have possibly missed.
5 stars for this exceptional book!
Go As A River by Shelley Read
It is 1948 when young Torie walks to town and meets Wilson Moon. This fateful meeting, a chance moment in time, changes her life forever.
This book was beautiful, thought-provoking, and one I will never forget. I held my breath as the pages turned, as I cried, and as I read and read again the words this author gifted us.
The story of Victoria was heart-breaking and yet hopeful. The book is mesmerizing. I highly recommend that you try this one. It is one of the best books I have ever read.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
The story is set in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Demon is a boy born to a teenage alcoholic with little means to care for herself, let alone a baby.
At age 10, Demon enters the foster care system when his mother dies. This is one of many locations Demon will live as he grows to adulthood.
5+ stars for this book. I predicted it would be my favorite of the year way back when I read it in March. And, I was right!
Most Disappointing Books of the Year!
Every year brings a few books that were highly anticipated and yet did not live up to their hype.
Here’s My List:
- Happy Place by Emily Henry – Normally I love this author’s book but this one was not a favorite of mine.
- Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena – This one focused on a 3rd grader as a main character. The child did not behave like any third grader I have ever known ( And, I taught 3rd grade for 20 years.) It made the book hard to believe- but then again, everyone was lying.
- Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – too slow for me and I did think it was a tad boring.
- Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros – The best thing about this book was the dragons. It was 300 pages longer than needed and not as good as the first in the series.
So, have you read any of these? You cannot go wrong with any of the books on my Top Ten List of 2023!