Timy's Top 10 Reads of 2023

Timy’s Top 10 Reads of 2023

Keeping with traditions, we will post our separate top 10 reads of 2023 lists throughout January. This year we’ll have 3 such posts for you: Jen’s, Bjorn’s, and Timy’s (aka mine).

Our only rule was that any book on these lists has to be read during 2023, regardless of when they were published and by whom. And we had to love them, obviously. Maybe. I mean, when you keep shouting at the author in private for things they did, it’s surely a sign of love, right? Even if you call said author names… *ahem* Anyway. First up is Timy’s Top 10 Reads of 2023!

Timy's Picks

Before I get to my list, let me bore you with some statistics. You know how much I like to torture you guys 😉

2023 was a weird reading year. As I finally got my arse out of burnout, I started reading a lot. The first breaking point came in the summer (pun intended, if you know, you know. I also promise I’ll stop referencing it.), when things slowed down a bit – though, I had SPFBO to keep me on my toes. But I had a bit of an insane tempo, and by the end of the year, I crashed. Apart from audiobook rereads I didn’t touch any book since the end of November… I’m hoping that I’ll climb out of this slump sooner rather than later.

So, 2023 looked to become one of my record years, but it nearly was.

I’ve read (fully or partially) 66 books in 2023 (21 more than in 2022, but SPFBO Phase 1 books (except semis) not included). 9 of those were a DNF and 1 I put aside for later. 3 were beta reads out of which 1 was published during 2023. I had 12 books that were rereads – 1 I read twice this year (for the first and second time), and 1 I read 4 times (first time and the rest all within 2023). Out of the 63 books (I took out the betas), 34 were trad published and 29 were indie/self-published. A pretty even number all things considered. My average rating was 4.2 (like last year, but this time I included SPFBO semis and finalists, not my eliminated books, also no DNFs and betas).

Across the 66 books, I read 29 audiobooks (8 more than in 2022), 33 ebooks, and 4 physical books (3 were rereads). I reviewed 40 books (rereads not counted), which is MUCH better than what I had in 2022 (15). I just hope I didn’t celebrate getting out of burnout by working myself into another one ????

A quick word about how I did with reading challenges – I set my GR challenge to 40, which I overachieved, lol. I once again completed The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2023 edition, and did pretty well with Womble’s TBR reduction challenge. I updated my Reading Goals for 2023 with all I achieved ICYMI.

But enough about the numbers, I know you are all here for the books. I had a surprisingly few 5* reads (10, not including the rereads). You’d think that it was my work done, but I dug a bit deeper. I put together my top 10 list based on how much of an impression a book had on me. And so, not all of my top ratings made to the list, and a few lower ones did. I also decided not to include my betas, since it seemed unfair to put them on the top 10 list when I was involved with them (and that’s why I will not review my betas, sorry, I love you, but I can’t be 100% partial).

But since I can’t help myself, here are some books that deserve special mention:

  • Card Mage: Slumdog Deckbuilder by Benedict Patrick – it would have made my top 3 100% if it weren’t for the fact that I beta read it.
  • The Wise Men of Gotham by Craig Schaefer – I loved this sequel to The Hungry Dreaming.
  • Double or Nothing by Craig Schaefer – the 7th book in the Faust series, which got me through some shit time last summer. Excellent as any of the books so far. Did I say set that I’m a huge Schaefer fangirl?

Now, without further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2023 more or less ordered with my absolute favorite at the bottom:

Salt in the Wound by Benjamin Aeveryn

This book appeared in my life totally out of the blue. One day I was just scrolling down on Twitter and suddenly this absolutely stunning cover was there with a link to an ARC request, and there was just something calling out to me. I went in almost totally blindly with no idea what to expect. Being impressed with this debut was not in the cards, but here we are. I loved the atmosphere, the setting, the ideas behind the story and it was very well executed too! Grimdark with a bit of Arthurian spice is not something I saw coming. Luckily, I have the sequel waiting for me, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Salt in the Wound by Benjamin Aeveryn

Our world is lost to time. Only our myths remain.
Centuries after the rain turned, civilization is a distant memory.
Once rain was a symbol of hope and harvest. Now it brings only death. Shadowy rainwights form in rainfall, hunting for victims with their long teeth and claws.
Humanity survives in sheltered cities and canvas-covered towns. Travel between these patches of limited safety is rare and dangerous.
It’s what Galahad lives for.
While seeking a lost cache of salt—a fortune he plans to use to build a shelter over his hometown—Galahad is betrayed by the friends he holds dearest.
They leave him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he lives.
Torn between seeking justice or revenge, Galahad knows one thing for certain: that treasure is his, and he’ll do anything to reclaim it.

Salt in the Wound is a very promising debut novel from Benjamin Aeveryn. Sure, it needs its edges to get smoothed, and a little bit more meat on the worldbuilding, but he got the vibe down and his characters are very relatable, if not necessarily likable. Aeveryn got something special and very imaginative here, so definitely worth keeping an eye on him and the later books in the Rainfallen series.”

divider

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

I read two of Olivia’s books this year – Half a Soul, the first in her Regency Faerie Tales series, and her newest, The Witchwood Knot. It was a tight race between the two to make it to my top 10 list, but eventually, I decided on Half a Soul which had a more lingering impression on me.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

Pick up HALF A SOUL, and be stolen away into Olivia Atwater’s charming, magical version of Regency England!

Half a Soul is a great mix of romance, mystery and fantasy. Neither gets the upper hand, but they also don’t cancel each other out. Atwater knows exactly what she is doing, and waves the plotlines together in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. That, and the two main characters that makes this book a joy. They have flaws, they are far from perfect, they stand out from society but this is also what makes them endearing and relatable. I definitely won’t wait years to pick up the next book.”

divider

Four Seasons in Japan by Nick Bradley

The only reason this book is not in my top 3 is that there were some elements that really didn’t work for me. However, I absolutely loved Kyo and Ayako’s story. Nick Bradley was a new to me author, and I will definitely keep an eye out for more from him.

Four Season in Japan by Nick Bradley

Flo is sick of Tokyo. Suffering from a crisis in confidence, she is stuck in a rut, her translation work has dried up and she’s in a relationship that’s run its course. That’s until she stumbles upon a mysterious book left by a fellow passenger on the Tokyo Subway. From the very first page, Flo is transformed and immediately feels compelled to translate this forgotten novel, a decision which sets her on a path that will change her life…

It is a story about Ayako, a fierce and strict old woman who runs a coffee shop in the small town of Onomichi, where she has just taken guardianship of her grandson, Kyo. Haunted by long-buried family tragedy, both have suffered extreme loss and feel unable to open up to each other. As Flo follows the characters across a year in rural Japan, through the ups and downs of the pair’s burgeoning relationship, she quickly realises that she needs to venture outside the pages of the book to track down its elusive author. And, as her two protagonists reveal themselves to have more in common with her life than first meets the eye, the lines between text and translator converge. The journey is just beginning.

From the author of The Cat and The CityFour Seasons in Japan is a gorgeously crafted book-within-a-book about literature, purpose and what it is to belong.

Four Seasons in Japan is a slice-of-life kind of story where we get a glimpse into the life of a rural city through a boy who thinks he failed, and his grandmother who is determined not to fail. Into the life of a translator living in Japan coming from a different culture. We watch how their life changes as the seasons do. It’s not a long book, and I breezed through it in a weekend (a rare occurrence these days), as I was hardly able to put it down.”

divider

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

While I was trying to be fair and include only one book/author, I couldn’t bear leaving out Daughters of Night as this book kicked off what became an obsession with Shepherd-Robinson‘s writing. Throughout 2023 I read all 3 (so far) of her published novels, and I doubt anything will knock her down from my list of favorite authors. She really is sooo good with historical fiction/murder mystery.

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

From the brothels and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham, as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . .

Lucia’s fingers found her own. She gazed at Caro as if from a distance. Her lips parted, her words a whisper: ‘He knows.’

London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly-paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker, Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.

But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous than she can know . . .

divider

Rich Men, Dead Men by Michael Dylan

Since we are talking murder mystery, let’s continue with a crime thriller set in modern times. Michael Dylan is the pen name of Mike Shackle, an author I’m familiar with. Both because we met in person, and because I enjoyed his grimdark series, The Last War. As it turned out, I needed a good crime thriller like a drop of water in the middle of the desert. Thankfully, Rich Men, Dead Men didn’t disappoint.

Rich Men, Dead Men by Michael Dylan

It doesn’t matter how rich you are when death knocks at your door.

A killer stalks the streets of London, murdering the richest people in the capital. Is this the work of a serial killer or just someone angry with the super rich? Or is there another reason why billionaires are being killed every three days?

Detective Inspector Simon Wise, reeling from the death of his partner and harbouring more than a few secrets of his own, is assigned to the case. But the killer leaves no clues as to their identity, only bodies in their wake and each new death sends Wise’s team in startling new directions.

As the pressure mounts on Wise to get a result, has he got what it takes to solve the case before the murderer strikes again?

RICH MEN, DEAD MEN is the first book in the DI Simon Wise Crime Thriller series, set on the streets of London. If you like gripping police procedurals, complex characters, and shocking twists, then you’ll love Michael Dylan’s thrilling debut novel.

This gripping page-turner is perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James, Joy Ellis, L.J. Ross, Alex Smith and J.M. Dalgliesh.

 

“I was either glued to the screen of my Kindle or to my earphones as I was listening, thoroughly enjoying myself. I was a little bit disappointed by who the culprit turned out to be as I saw that coming, but still, the plot was well built up and the investigation and the chase itself put me on the edge of my seat, so I’m not complaining. Rich Men, Dead Men also set up the stage for the sequel, which makes me excited to read it in the very near future. I owe Dylan a big thank you for rekindling my love for the crime genre.”

divider

Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton

I don’t often read memoirs, but I was curious about Beyond the Wand. Tom Felton seems like a nice guy and it’s always fun coming across his posts on social media. I was not disappointed by his book. Especially as I listened to the audiobook which he narrated himself and I think if anything else, that is what really made it an unforgettable read. He talks about his years on Potter, about his family, about his mental health struggles and despite him being a world-famous person, it’s really easy to identify with him. I only wished it was at least twice as long because I would have loved listening more.

Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton

From the magical moments on set as Draco Malfoy to the challenges of growing up in the spotlight, get a backstage pass into Tom Felton’s life on and off the big screen in this #1 New York Times bestseller.

Tom Felton’s adolescence was anything but ordinary. His early rise to fame in beloved films like The Borrowers catapulted him into the limelight, but nothing could prepare him for what was to come after he landed the iconic role of the Draco Malfoy, the bleached blonde villain of the Harry Potter movies. For the next ten years, he was at the center of a huge pop culture phenomenon and yet, in between filming, he would go back to being a normal teenager trying to fit into a normal school.

Speaking with great candor and his signature humor, Tom shares his experience growing up as part of the wizarding world while also trying to navigate the muggle world. He tells stories from his early days in the business like his first acting gig where he was mistaken for fellow blonde child actor Macaulay Culkin and his Harry Potter audition where, in a very Draco-like move, he fudged how well he knew the books the series was based on (not at all). He reflects on his experiences working with cinematic greats such as Alan Rickman, Sir Michael Gambon, Dame Maggie Smith, and Ralph Fiennes (including that awkward Voldemort hug). And, perhaps most poignantly, he discusses the lasting relationships he made over that decade of filming, including with Emma Watson, who started out as a pesky nine-year-old whom he mocked for not knowing what a boom mic was but who soon grew into one of his dearest friends. Then, of course, there are the highs and lows of fame and navigating life after such a momentous and life-changing experience.

Tom Felton’s Beyond the Wand is an entertaining, funny, and poignant must-read for any Harry Potter fan. Prepare to meet a real-life wizard.

divider

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

It took me a little while to get on the bandwagon, but once I jumped there, I was clinging on it for dear life. I’m wary of hyped books, because they tend to be hit or miss with me, so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one. To my utter relief, I *loved* it. So much so, that I relistened to the audiobook later in the year. It definitely earned its place on this list, as this was exactly the cozy witchy rom-com I didn’t know I needed.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family–and a new love–changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

“Ultimately, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches turned out to be the big cozy blanket I hoped it would be, a warm and familiar hug needed on cold winter days. Very highly recommended if you are after something uncomplicated yet heartwarming and uplifting. It surely will become one of my comfort reads.”

divider

The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird by Louisa Morgan

There was never any question in my mind about which books would be in my top 3, although they are pretty much interchangeable. The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and also it was the last book I read in 2023 that wasn’t a reread. I discovered Louisa Morgan‘s work last year, and I was super interested to see if I would love her other books as well. Well, we can fairly say I do. I can’t wait to see what else she’ll bring to the table!

The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird by Louisa Morgan

A woman’s ability to see ghosts draws her into a journey of redemption and unexpected friendship in this unforgettable story from the acclaimed author of A Secret History of Witches.

Beatrice Bird is plagued by ghosts. It’s a gift she’s had since she was a small child. Unfortunately, it’s a gift that has grown more intense, shifting from flashes and feelings to physical manifestations she can’t escape. 

In a desperate attempt for relief, Beatrice flees her home, her partner, and a psychology practice in San Francisco for a remote island with only nuns and a few cows for company. She sees as few people as she possibly can. She doesn’t call home. Then she meets Anne Iredale, a timid woman who has lost everything that matters to her.

For the first time in a long time, Beatrice’s gift will be called on to help someone in need. The path to healing awaits both of them—if Beatrice can find the courage to take the first step.

“And after everything is said and done, it’s just impossible not to have some kind of emotional reaction to this book. It’s written with such precision and care to have the maximum effect, that nearly a day later of finishing it, I’m still under its spell. And I don’t think The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird will leave me anytime soon. I really hope that people will pick up this book and experience Louisa Morgan‘s genius.”

divider

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

What can I say? I love me ALL the historical fiction, and I’m not even sorry. The Square of Sevens was my other most anticipated read of the year, and boy was I excited to get my hands on it. To say I had very high expectations is the understatement of the year. And Shepherd-Robinson delivered once again.

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s The Square of Sevens is an epic and sweeping novel set in Georgian high society, a dazzling story offering up mystery, intrigue, heartbreak, and audacious twists.

‘ My father had spelt it out to me. Choice was a luxury I couldn’t afford. This is your story, Red. You must tell it well . . . ’

A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar.

Now raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendour of Bath, her fortune-telling is a delight to high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?

The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red’s quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads into her grave danger . . .

The Square of Sevens is undoubtedly one of my favorite reads in 2023. It got everything I love – mystery, historical fiction, secrets, intriguing characters, and excellent writing. I could barely put it down and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The Square of Sevens is a masterpiece that begs you to reread once you are done with it. Whatever Laura Shepherd-Robinson writes next, I’ll be in the frontline wanting to put my hands on a copy, because I just can’t get enough. I very highly recommend her books to any mystery/historical fiction lover.”

divider

A Rake of His Own by A.J. Lancaster

After listening to the audiobook 4 times this year, I don’t think there was even a sliver of doubt that A Rake of His Own would be my favorite read in 2023. In 2022 The Lord of Stariel, the first book of the series made my top 10 list. This year I started from the beginning and read (and loved) the whole series. Each would have earned its place on this list, but none more than the 5th, standalone novel in that series which is a romance and mystery mix telling the story of Marius Valstar and Prince Rakken. It made me laugh out loud, it made me stay up as long as I could to listen, and when I was down and needed a pick me up it was there, too. Not even talking about how much I love these two idiots.

A Rake of His Own by A.J. Lancaster

Marius Valstar doesn’t know which is worse: the dead body in his greenhouse or the naked fae prince on his desk.

The only rakes of interest to Marius are garden tools. Not fae princes. Certainly not the arrogant, selfish fae prince he has the misfortune to have a history with.

But when Prince Rakken turns up naked and bleeding in Marius’s college the same day a body appears in his greenhouse, scruples must take second place to solving a murder that could unravel the delicate balance between humans and fae.

Marius’s own developing magical powers are more hindrance than help – as is Rakken’s bloodied past. Forced to work together, they must forge an uneasy alliance if they are to track down the killer. But how can Marius trust the man who represents everything he’s trying to avoid?

A Rake of His Own is a steamy m/m gaslamp fantasy featuring a melodramatic fae prince, a beleaguered botanist, and an enemies-to-lovers romance. It occurs chronologically after the events of The Stariel Quartet, but can be read as a standalone.

“These two grew on me more than I could have imagined and I’m 100% sure I’ll reread this one repeatedly whenever I’ll need a bit of lift me up. I will also make sure to keep an eye out for any upcoming books from A.J. Lancaster, who just got herself on my favorite authors’ list. The Stariel series had been the perfect escape and warm hug I needed this year. And while the first Stariel book, The Lord of Stariel filled a Downton Abbey-shaped hole in my heart, the fifth book, A Rake of His Own left a Marius and Rake-shaped one in its place.”

divider

And that concludes Timy’s Top 10 Reads of 2023.

Let us know which of these books you’ve read or would like to read and what you think about them!

If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, please consider signing up to our monthly newsletter or follow us on social media:

You can also support us on Ko-fi so we can keep maintaining the Asylum!