Reviews, Uncategorized

Top Books of 2023

Of the 60+ books I read this year, there were so many fantastic ones. It was hard to narrow down the list, but this year I’m going with a top 6. Here they are!

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Fantastic, female empowerment

Topping the list is The Change by Kirsten Miller. This book is like hitting a punching bag and letting out all the pent up rage you’ve been holding inside…. Imagine if menopause gave you superpowers. Need I say more? A band of middle-aged women decide enough is enough and put their actual, and even their supernatural, abilities and talents to work to stop the misogynistic and power-hungry men who are raping and murdering women in their small, sea-side town. Empowering and triumphant. Fierce and freeing. Wonderfully ridiculous in the most delicious and satisfying way. Couldn’t love this book more.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Gut-wrenching young adult story

I don’t read many young adult books, but this one absolutely gutted me. Carver’s three best friends, Eli, Blake and Mars, were killed in a car accident. Worse, Carver may be at fault since he was texting the driver when the accident happened. Now, along with blaming himself, Carver is hated by everyone at school, hounded by reporters, facing possible criminal charges, and suffering from embarrassing panic attacks. On top of that, Blake’s grandmother wants Carver to join her for a “goodbye day” to celebrate all the things Blake loved, and give him a proper goodbye. It’s such a nice thought, the other families want one too. But they don’t see how these days are tearing Carver apart. If you are ready for a good cry, give this book a read. Soul-affirming and heart-crushing at the same time. 

All the Broken Places by John Boyne

Moving and powerful sequel

While not necessarily a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, All the Broken Places picks up the story of Gretel, the daughter of the Nazi commander in charge of the fated concentration camp all those years ago. Gretel, now in her 90’s and living a quiet life in London, never refers to her violent and shameful past. When she meets a young boy who needs her help, she considers revealing all of her secrets in order to protect him–something she has fought against her entire life. A fascinating and suspenseful story that will keep you sprinting to the end, with more twists and surprises than you’d ever think possible. 

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

Deep, hopeful apocalyptic fiction

On a seemingly ordinary day, every person on Earth receives a box with a piece of string inside. The string corresponds to the length of your life. Nothing, it seems, can change what the string foretells. Everyone must decide what to do with this knowledge, if they choose to look in the box at all. Plan for a long future? Make the most of your final days? Or only choose to associate with those who will live as long as you will… A creative and thoughtful look at both the debilitation and freedom of predestination, and a story about deciding what matters, living for the moment, and about whether knowledge actually is power. 

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd 

Mysterious and haunting historical fiction

Set in dual timelines–in 1629 aboard a Dutch East India ship, and in a fishing village in 1989 on an island off the coast of Western Australia–the lives of two children overlap across history. Mayken, a young passenger aboard the doomed ship, Batavia, is shipwrecked on the same island where Gil, orphaned and mourning the loss of his mother, will end up living with his reclusive grandfather hundreds of years later. Exploring the island and its small community, Gil learns of the shipwreck and the ghosts that supposedly walk the shores. Mysterious, haunting and based on true events, this was a magical story that stayed with me long after I finished reading. 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Touching and heart-felt fantastical fiction

Tova Sullivan, the dedicated night custodian at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, is lonely and a little lost after losing both her husband and her 18-year-old son. In the long hours of the night, Tova finds herself talking to the sea creatures–in particular, Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus who seems to not only be listening, but responding. What follows is a sweet, sad and ultimately hopeful story, partly told in Marcellus’s dry and strongly opinionated voice. Never would I think a story told from the point of view of an uppity octopus would rank high on my list of favorites but this one somehow manages to be believable, endearing and inspiring. 

I review books all year on Instagram @jessicamaffetoreauthor if you are looking for more great books to check out!