Yup, it’s that time of year again, when I look back at the books I’ve read and compile a list of my own personal TOP TEN books.
I must admit it’s getting harder and harder to whittle my list of favourite books down to only 10, especially as according to Goodreads I read 105 books this year and I gave 34 of them 5 stars!
This year I have picked the 10 books that tick one or more of the following requirements; made me gasp, made me cry, made me laugh, it’s thought-provoking, it’s heartbreaking or heartwarming and more importantly months after reading it, I’m still thinking about it and still recommending it.
So in absolutely NO particular order these are my personal Top Ten Books of 2023.
The Strangers in Her House – John Marrs – publication date 13th February 2024. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
A stranger has infiltrated your family…and now he’s taking over.
Paul’s just here to help, or so he claims—sent by a charity for vulnerable people to do odd jobs for elderly widow Gwen. But for Gwen’s daughter Connie, there’s just something about Paul that rings alarm bells from day one. He’s a little too kind, a little too involved…Worse still, Gwen seems to have fallen under his spell.
The last thing Connie wants is a stranger meddling in the safe routine she’s built around Gwen. She loves being the one Gwen turns to for cooking, cleaning and company. But the more Paul visits, the more Gwen is relying on him. By the time he conveniently finds himself between homes and has no choice but to move in, Connie is certain he’s trying to push her out completely.
It’s her word against his, though, and as her attempts to unmask him become ever more desperate she’s not the only one left wondering if she’s lost her grip on reality. But when events start spiralling rapidly out of her control, should Connie wage all-out war on Paul and risk losing Gwen forever—or has that been his plan all along?
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang – publication date 25 May 2023. Publisher: The Borough Press
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song–complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society. R. F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.
Everyone Here is Lying – Shari Lapena. Publication date 25 July 2023. Publisher: Transworld
Welcome to Stanhope – a safe neighbourhood. A place for families.
William Wooler is a family man, on the surface. But he’s been having an affair, an affair that ended horribly this afternoon at a motel up the road. So when he returns to his house, devastated and angry, to find his difficult nine-year-old daughter Ella unexpectedly home from school, William loses his temper.
Hours later, Ella’s family declare her missing.
Suddenly Stanhope doesn’t feel so safe. And William isn’t the only one on his street who’s hiding a lie. As witnesses come forward with information that may or may not be true, Ella’s neighbours become increasingly unhinged.
Who took Ella Wooler?
Nothing will prepare you for the truth.
Over My Dead Body – Maz Evans. Publication date: 3rd August 2023. Publisher: Headline.
Hello? Can you hear me? Probably not. I’m Dr Miriam Price . . . and I’m dead.
The local police, who couldn’t investigate their own nostrils, think I drank myself into an early grave. The nerve! I was murdered. I was just too plastered to know whodunnit, that’s all.
Unless I prove to my inquest this week that my death was no ‘misadventure’, I’m condemned to 50 years in Limbo. I have to find my killer – but I can’t communicate with any living human. Well, there’s one, but she barely qualifies . . . Winnie – my neighbour and nemesis. It seems the dying can interact with the dead, which is helpful news for me, if not stellar for Winnie. Oh well. She’ll live. Maybe.
Suspects? How long have you got? My saintly husband, who’d reached his limit? My best friend, who was anything but? My secret lover, or his wife? My disgruntled colleague? The mother who wrongly holds me responsible for her child’s death? Professor Plum? Your guess is as good as mine.
So Winnie – slap on your deerstalker and strap on your granny pants. Let’s catch a killer! Assuming we don’t kill each other first . . .
In The Blink of An Eye – Jo Callaghan. Published 19th January 2023. Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
In the UK, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds.
Just gone. Vanished. In the blink of an eye.
DCS Kat Frank knows all about loss. A widowed single mother, Kat is a cop who trusts her instincts. Picked to lead a pilot programme that has her paired with AIDE (Artificially Intelligent Detective Entity) Lock, Kat’s instincts come up against Lock’s logic. But when the two missing person’s cold cases they are reviewing suddenly become active, Lock is the only one who can help Kat when the case gets personal.
AI versus human experience.
Logic versus instinct.
With lives on the line can the pair work together before someone else becomes another statistic?
So Pretty – Ronnie Turner. Publication Date: 19 January 2023. Publisher: Orenda Books
Fear blisters through this town like a fever…
When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.
Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.
Make Me Clean – Tina Baker. Publication Date: 16 February 2023. Publisher: Viper
She will leave your surfaces sparkling.
But she may well leave you dead…
Maria is a good woman and a good cleaner. She cleans for Elsie, the funny old bird who’s losing her marbles, with the terrible husband. She cleans for Brian, the sweet man with the terrible boss. She cleans for the mysterious Mr Balogan with the terrible neighbours. But if you’re thinking of hiring her, you should probably know that Maria might have killed the terrible husband, the terrible boss and the terrible neighbours. She may also have murdered the man she loved.
She didn’t set out to kill anyone, of course, but her clients have hired her to clean up their lives, and she takes her job seriously – not to mention how much happier they all are now. The trouble is, murder can’t be washed out. You can only sweep it under the carpet and pray no one looks too closely…
The Woman on the Ledge – Ruth Mancini. Publication date: 4th January 2024. Publisher: Penguin.
A woman falls to her death from a London bank’s twenty-fifth-floor roof terrace.
You’re arrested for her murder.
You tell the police that you only met the victim the previous night at your office party. She was threatening to jump from the roof, but you talked her down.
You’ve got nothing to do with this tragedy.
You’re clearly being framed.
So why do the police keep picking holes in your story? Even your lawyer doesn’t seem to believe you.
It soon becomes obvious that you’re keeping secrets.
But who are you trying to protect? And why?
Kill Show – Daniel Sweren- Becker. Publication Date: 29 September 2023. Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
THE NATION IS OBSESSED. WHAT HAPPENED TO SARA?
A MISSING GIRL
On a crisp April morning, Sara Parcell disappears without a trace. No one saw a thing.
A NATIONAL OBSESSION
Desperate, her family agree to take part in a reality TV show following Sara’s case. Cameras swarm the house. Viewers tune in. The addiction begins…
A HIDDEN AGENDA
As the show gains traction, what began as a small-town crime becomes a global sensation. Everyone who knew Sara is questioned on camera – but the producers want more. Hungry for twists, they delve deeper into the story – and soon, it takes on a life of its own.
Where is Sara? What do her family know? And how far will any of us go to create a good show?
Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt – Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker. Publication Date: 11 May 2023. Publisher: Macmillan.
The final novel in the Seven Sisters series is here. Spanning a lifetime of love and loss, crossing borders and oceans, Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt, co-authored by her son Harry Whittaker, draws Lucinda Riley’s saga to its stunning, unforgettable conclusion.
1928, Paris. A boy is found, moments from death, and taken in by a kindly family. Gentle, precocious, talented, he flourishes in his new home, and the family show him a life he hadn’t dreamed possible. But he refuses to speak a word about who he really is.
As he grows into a young man, falling in love and taking classes at the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris, he can almost forget the terrors of his past, or the promise he has vowed to keep. But across Europe an evil is rising, and no-one’s safety is certain. In his heart, he knows the time will come when he must flee once more.
2008, the Aegean. The seven sisters are gathered together for the first time, on board the Titan, to say a final goodbye to the enigmatic father they loved so dearly.
To the surprise of everyone, it is the missing sister who Pa Salt has chosen to entrust with the clue to their pasts. But for every truth revealed, another question emerges. The sisters must confront the idea that their adored father was someone they barely knew. And even more shockingly: that these long-buried secrets may still have consequences for them today.
In this epic conclusion to the Seven Sisters series, everything will be revealed.
All the above books have been reviewed in full on my blog. Click here to read more reviews.
Below is a snapshot of all the books I have read during the year. My eternal thanks to all the authors and publishers who allowed me the opportunity to read some absolutely incredible books this year.