First, let me say that choosing only 10 books from among the 120 I’ve read/listened to this year was a daunting task. At first, I titled this post “best” books, but then I wondered how I’d define “best,” so I changed it to “most memorable.” After all, isn’t that what a good book does, keep popping up in the weeks and months after you’ve read it?
As authors, one of the best compliments we can get is that our book is remembered over time. We speak of “classic” books, but aren’t they just stories that have embedded themselves in our cultural psyche over time? Stories that won’t let us go in terms of theme or character or some other factor we might not be able to put into words.
Of course, these choices are very personal. What makes a book resonate differs from person to person, so the books in the list are mine, however, I’d bet they’ll connect with many of you, my faithful readers, as well. Check them out. Try a few. Perhaps you’ll find a new favorite author or maybe just a story for the moment. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy the list and why they made it.
May your 2023 be filled with stories and characters that transport you to exciting new places to experience exciting new things! Happy Reading!
These are listed in no particular order. They’re all topnotch in my book! (See what I did there?)
The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham – Historical Romance with a mystery. A rollicking good story with a caring, bookish heroine you’ll love! Want to see or hear more? Rebecca and Rebecca reviewed the book and interviewed the author. Click HERE for the podcast or HERE for YouTube.
When the Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer – A Time Travel Historical Romance. The unique premise hooked me and the deep characters and lovely settings kept me reading – well, listening. A fabulous journey through pre-revolutionary Williamsburg and pre-WWI NYC and England that deals with a new type of time travel–time crossing where a person is born in two time periods and must choose one at a certain age. Fascinating with a redemptive love story to boot!
Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig – Military Thriller with a hint of the supernatural. Wow! This book grabbed on and didn’t let go. It was action, action, breathe, action. All the way through. The characters, Iskra and Leif, have huge, fascinating backstories, an in spite of each other romance, and the stakes are monumental. The ties to Biblical prophecy intrigued me as well. If you’re a writer, I’d encourage you to study this book for tips on incorporating backstory seamlessly and how to create an epic stage with global stakes. So well done!
Rain by Dana McNeely – Biblical Historical Fiction. Award-winning, beautifully-written story of Elijah and the prophets of the Ba’als told through the eyes of a young boy.
Dust by Kara Swanson – YA Fantasy – Not a Peter Pan retelling, but a Peter Pan what-came-next story. Another award-winning tale that dug deep, dealing with inner darkness and the destructive consequences of deception.
The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel – Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction. A beautiful story of healing set mainly in a Cornish bookstore over the course of one summer as one woman fights to save a failing bookstore and another chases down a literary secret. Together, they might save each other with the help of a couple of male friends.
Driving Force by Kate Angelo and Lynette Eason – Romantic Suspense. This book wins for best animal as a character. When ex Air Force commando Grey Parker hires Christina to be his sniffer dog, Boss’s bodyguard, Christina doesn’t know how to react. Grey has her tongue-tied and stumbling over herself. Old insecurities rise as her attachment to both the dog and the owner grow. I loved the way Kate Angelo tackled difficult issues like disabilities and the coping mechanisms of someone forced to use a wheelchair. Everything about the dog was fascinating and he quickly became one of my favorite characters. If you enjoy your suspense liberally laced with romance and high stakes, you’ll love Driving Force. All the more if you treat animals like family. Don’t miss this high stakes story. It will inspire you!
Tacos for Two by Betsy St. Amant – RomCom. What happens when a part Mexican woman who can’t cook inherits a food truck that sells Mexican food, then the guy she’s dating online opens a competition truck and pays her to give him cooking lessons? Read Tacos for Two and find out. Engaging, funny, and surprisingly deep with poignant moments throughout.
Sunburst by Susan May Warren – Epic Family Adventure. This book makes the list because of the amazing cultural and setting details of the heroine Noemi’s homeland of Nigeria. The plot is typical Warren, with non-stop action, but it slows just enough to give us an insider’s look at Nigerian customs and family life. Then bombs go off and we’re back in the chase. Book 2 of the Sky King Ranch series, you won’t want to miss book 1 either.
The London House by Katherine Reay – Time-Slip Romance (sort of). Using diary entries and letters Caroline and Matt research a family ghost and discover that the coverup and subsequent distance and grief that have pulled 3 generations apart, were all based on a lie. Exceptional story with farreaching consequences. The truth really did set everyone free in this wonderful story of WWII and modern-day Europe.
I read and listened to so many fantastic books this year, I couldn’t just give the top ten. Here are the next ten. All of these had something about them that touched me, just not quite as much as those above. If you’ve read any of the twenty books in this blog, drop me a note and tell me your take on it. Or, send me your top books of 2023. I’d love to see which stories touched other readers’ hearts.
A Texas Christmas Carol by Karen Witemeyer – Historical romance novella. An award-winning, feisty Texas retelling of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
Nightfall in the Garden of Deep Time by Tracy Higley – a genre mash-up of historical/contemporary romance with a time travel element. Written for creatives of all types, this story will fill your empty places and perhaps impart the courage to continue despite the discouragement within and without.
A Different Blue by Amy Harmon – to label this contemporary romance seems not to do the story justice. It’s a novel of exploration and discovery for the characters and the reader. Blue doesn’t know who she is, just that she’s different. The story attempts to discover whether “different” is bad, good, or irrelevant.
I Will Find You by Susan May Warren – Epic Adventure Thriller. Book 2 of the Epic Adventures of RJ and York, this was my favorite of the trilogy. Danger, intrigue, global stakes and exotic settings are wrapped around a story of inner struggle from both RJ and York between who they were, are, and will become even as they fight the darkness around them.
Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray – Romantic Women’s Fiction. A love triangle that isn’t cliche or overdone. Quite unique and character driven. It touched me.
Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reese – A tale of Appalachia where the setting takes over and becomes a character in the story. A bit of the supernatural mixed with some romance and mystery. I enjoyed this taste of the old ways and how they influence the new. Anti-racism with a twist.
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen – Historical Romance. I loved how this story came full circle so many times. A wonderful example of how to connects story elements in hidden ways and return to them later to create satisfying loops.
The Fabrication of Eden Pruitt by K.E. Ganshert – YA Fantasy. Fast-paced with lots of science, futuristic scenarios that seem all-too plausible, and yummy characters. I wrote a blog about this title.
Windward Shores by Sharon Hinck – YA Fantasy. It had everything: likeable characters, a unique and super interesting magic system, deep backstory, good pacing, and new creatures in an imaginative setting. Award-winner.
The Debutante’s Code by Erica Vetsch – Regency Mystery with a hint of romance. This one took me by surprise in a good way. I enjoyed the rich detail of the high society balls and residences. Quirky side characters added humor and interest to the mystery and antics of the hero and heroine in their attempts to solve it. The Rebeccas reviewed this title and interview the author, so find out more there.
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I pray your 2023 is one in which you move forward toward your dreams, whatever they may be, and abide in the Giver of Dreams, the Lord Jesus Christ.