Saturday, January 13, 2024

Best Books of 2023, Pt. I: Backlist & Honorable Mentions


Today, I'm excited to share Part I of my favorite books of 2023! This post will feature the best backlist books I read (meaning published prior to 2023) and what I'm calling my "honorable mentions," aka the five star reads that weren't quite my absolute favorites, but were still some damn good books that I loved. I read a grand total of 136 books last year, so it's always a struggle to narrow down to my favorites, thus the need to create multiple posts to share them all. I read a lot of incredible books last year and I'm excited to share some of the ones that really stood out to me with you. 

Without further ado, let's check them out!

Backlist Titles 
(pre-2023 release, in no particular order):


1. Black Tide by KC Jones: I had a NetGalley eARC of this from before it was released in 2022 that I simply did not end up getting to as I'd meant to (oops), so I finally made up for that and read it last year... and promptly began kicking myself for holding off on reading it for so long! This was a ridiculously tense and suspenseful read that I, quite literally, could not put down. I hadn't been this hooked on a book in a really long time and I had the best reading experience with it. I never expected it to grab me the way it did. I do have one very big gripe with this book about something that happens at the end, but if I can put aside my frustration with that, everything else was truly a winner. 

2. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb: I liked Assassin's Apprentice, but I didn't love it, so it took me a couple years to get around to moving on this sequel, Royal Assassin, and how I loved this one! Royal Assassin was the perfect sequel that I couldn't put down and really made me start to love Robin Hobb's writing. This has so much character development for Fitz, which is exactly what I wanted from this series, as well so much furthering of the many different plots of planning and royal subterfuge that were first mentioned in the first book. I went on to read the third book right after this one because I'd loved it so much, but this was still the better book.


3. Master Artifice by Justin Call: I truly think this is one of the best dark fantasy series that everyone is sleeping on! I'm not sure how it still seems to be somewhat flying under the radar, but it really shouldn't be because it's incredible so far. This is the second book in the series and it continued to blow me away with how Justin Call has plotted out this story and has crafted such a fascinating cast of characters with an even more compelling world and magic system. I am loving what's happening with this series and can't wait to keep reading it!

4. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: I had a feeling that this would be a really thoughtful and well-written memoir, but I didn't expect it to resonate with me as much as it did. There are a lot of personal reasons I connected so much with this book, but I especially liked hearing her talk about a consistent theme that plagued her through life regarding what she was meant to do and what was expected of her–I think these are very common themes many of us can understand. I loved hearing about her perspectives on life dealing with all the anxieties and obstacles that plague us all. This was 

2023 Honorable Mentions


1. Rubicon by J.S. Dewes: I really loved Dewes' The Last Watch and was really excited to have something set in a world. This ended up being a truly incredible and adventurous military sci-fi story that I couldn't put down. I really loved this book's exploration of what life means, especially in the face of the form of immortality explored within the story. I think this would appeal to any sci-fi fan, especially someone looking for something that's both high action and full of edge of your seat moments as well as thought-provoking and something that'll leave you thinking about it long after finishing. (Review)

2. The September House by Carissa Orlando: This was such a pleasant surprise of a haunted house horror book! I worried that this would go down a similar path as many other books of a similar premise, but just when I thought it was doing something I was tired of, it zigged and zagged in so many delightful ways that I happily finished this book feeling like my mind was a little blown. If you like horror and haunted houses, please give this one a read! 

3. Red Rabbit by Alex Grecian: This was such a unique western folk horror type of thing and I had such a great time with it. There's a big cast of characters to follow and plenty of different storylines as well, and all of them worked really well in the story and provided a lot of interesting perspectives to explore.  I loved the slow pacing and atmosphere of the story, as well as how Grecian managed to really build up tension very slowly and with an ease that made the book feel effortlessly uneasy the entire time. Truly a great read! (Review)


4. Medusa's Sisters by J.A. Bear: There are so many Greek myth retellings out there right now, and this is absolutely one of the best ones. I really loved the focus on more than just Medusa and that we actually got to see what the lives of her sister's could've been like. We get a very clear look into the harsh world of the gods and how everyone connected to them has a variety of different expectations and experiences. It was a beautiful story of family, tragedy, and so much more. It's definitely a book that will have me looking out for more from J.A. Bear in the future! (Review)

5. The Sword Defiant by Gareth Hanrahan: I really enjoyed Hanrahan's previous trilogy, The Black Iron Legacy, so I was excited to see not only something new from him, but also something a little different–and it definitely delivered! The world building in this is very different from his previous trilogy, but just as intricate and in-depth. The imaginative depths of Hanrahan's mind continue to impress me and I had such a great time getting to know the new characters in this book, as well as all the world-building and new magic system that is introduced. I am really curious to see where this series goes! (Review)

6. The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft: New Josiah Bancroft is always a reason to celebrate, and The Hexologists absolutely held up to my excited expectations. This was a very different book in scope and general theme from The Books of Babel, but it was still written with Bancroft's incredibly clever, amusing, and attentive prose and made for an amazing time. I loved getting to know these two new endearing characters and exploring this new world and all the magic that exists within it. I really look forward to continuing this series. (Review)


7. Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology edited by Shane Hawk, Theodore C. Van Alst: This was an incredibly anthology of short dark fiction from a collection of highly talented indigenous authors, all of whom brought unique perspectives and ideas to each story. There was so much variety in this collection that I never had a chance to get bored or find myself wishing for something else. Each story will leave you feeling unsettled and uneasy and it's exactly what I wanted from this collection. I appreciated that there was some information about each author at the end of each story, as it allowed me to easily look them up to see if they had any other work to check out, as well as learn more about the many different cultures these stories feature. Truly a fantastic anthology! 

8. The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson: This was such a fun start to a new fantasy trilogy. I loved this entire cast of characters and was completely invested in the storylines of each one. It feels a little more rare these days than it used to for me to find new big fantasy stories that really capture my attention and make me excited to see where they will go, but this was one of them and I am so eager to get my hands on a copy of the sequel (which is already out!) and continuing on this journey. 

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite reads of last year? Feel free to link any of your favorites lists below, and stick around for Pt. II, which will be up Tuesday!


  1. September House was a big win for me too! And I read Black Tide when it came out and loved it. Rubicon is on my catch up list for this year😁

  2. I actually have not read any of these, but congrats on a great reading year!

  3. Ah man, I wish The Sword Defiant had worked for me too. I ended up not finishing it. I like his Black Iron Legacy books though. I have one more to go.

  4. AWESOME list! I loved Never Whistle at Night as well!!