BookAnon.com’s Top 23 Fiction Books Of 2023!

I wound up reading 180 books this year, so culling those down to even 46 was a bit of a challenge. I really do encourage you to check out them all, even the ones I rated as 1* are ones that you may enjoy, should you disagree with my thoughts on the books at hand.

With that noted, here are the 23 fiction books that stuck out the most to me this year, limited to one per author in cases where a given author (Jeremy Robinson and Laura Drake in particular) had multiple releases this year that were truly phenomenal. Listed in the order I read them in, which *mostly* means publication order, but not *completely* – indeed, at least one of the below isn’t a 2023 release and wasn’t an ARC! (SHOCK!!!)

The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon
From my review on Hardcover.app:

If We Don’t Get A Sequel, We Riot! Or we at least start jokingly pestering McKinnon until she finally caves and gives us the sequel this story demands. And I in particular have a history with more than one author of eventually getting my way in these matters – through nothing more than constant begging. ๐Ÿ˜€ Read this book, and join my campaign!

Paradise-1 by David Wellington
From my review on Hardcover.app:

LONG – And Still Only Tells One Part Of The Story. The biggest thing I was left with at the end of this book was whether I was satisfied with the tale here – and thus the book should get the full 5* rating- or whether I thought it was a cash-grab that only told one part of the story and demands money to get the rest of the story (which I’ve seen in other books and written about in other reviews, though I note here that neither of these refer to books from this author) and thus should get a star deduction. Obviously, I ultimately sided with it being a complete tale *so far as it goes*, and I personally would love a sequel that picks up moments after this book leaves off.

Update: Book 2, Revenant-X, is currently slated to release in November 2024!

The Syndicate Spy by Brittany Butler
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Near Future Examination Of Toxic Femininity. Did I grab you with that title? Well, as it turns out, one of the more interesting lasting features of this book is, in fact, its look at feminism and how even here, noble ideals can be perverted. But the setup to get to that particular moment – and its resultant *need* for Book 2 of this nascent series – is at least as compelling, showing two women from such divergent cultures – one “enlightened” Western, the other “repressed” Muslim – and how women truly live in each, for worse – and for better – and with all of the resultant struggles within each system.

Big Trouble On Sullivan’s Island by Susan M. Boyer
From my review on Hardcover.app:

If Jimmy Buffett’s Secrets Had Secrets. Seriously, if you take the classic line from The Avengers where Tony Stark says about Nick Fury, “his secrets have secrets”, and add an equal part Jimmy Buffett coastal/ tropical “WTF” kind of vibe… this book is a pretty solid idea of what you would get there. Set primarily in and around the general Charleston, SC area, we also get a jaunt into the Upcountry around Greenville as well for a scene or two (while completely ignoring the Midlands area of South Carolina, around Columbia and Aiken, where I once lived for a few years).

Famine by Jeremy Robinson
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Here, in this book that I’ve been begging so long for, Robinson manages to again outdo the MCU in that while the follow up movie from Avengers: Endgame was a bit of a letdown, here, Robinson shows that his talent is still in full swing and truly at the top of his game. While the INFINITE TIMELINE and its conclusion, SINGULARITY, was one of the best science fiction collections ever written – and whose epic story makes it rank among the best complete stories ever written, period – FAMINE comes in equally strong, showing not a single modicum of a hint of a slide from that peak. The creatures throughout the book are fantastic, the character growth of our central team is on par with some of Robinson’s best ever work, and the final fight scene here is quite possibly one of the best creature feature fight scenes you’re ever going to encounter anywhere in any medium. It has laughs, it has high drama, the tension is razor sharp, and the flow is superconductor level perfectly smooth.

Broken Angels by Gwynn Bennett
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Modern Sherlock Holmes/ Police Procedural Blend. Here, we get yet another police procedural set in Great Britain, so the terms and some of the procedures are a bit different than American audiences generally expect, yet are in-line with other similar books I’ve read. This particular new series has a different bent than most in that its central (series titular) character is a trained tracker/ behaviorist, and his backstory and actions here are reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Original Detective. His tracking abilities are also reminiscent of the more modern day author David Wood’s Bones Bonebrake, and indeed both Lane and Bonebrake have connections to the same region of the US. This book also features a bit more of a disturbed villain than usual, and some scenes may be a bit much for some readers.

Little Ghosts by Gregg Dunnett
From my review on Hardcover.app:

What sets this book apart, really, is its take oh ghosts – how they present, what abilities they have, what they know, etc. And here, Dunnett really does a remarkable job of showing how his particular brand of ghosts could work within the overall story being told here. Overall a truly entertaining book with an intriguing take on ghosts.

Liquid Shades of Blue by James Polkinghorn
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Overall, this is a great, fun, short read perfect for a bit of escapism and perhaps a degree of catharsis. Maybe not a Dr. office read, and arguably not really a beach read either, yet perfect for one of those languid hot humid Southern summer nights. Particularly if you happen to be *in* South Florida at the time, and likely particularly with a good cigar in one hand while sipping a fine Old Fashioned. Damn, now *I* need to read this book again in that manner. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson
From my review on Hardcover.app:

In the process, it creates a truly layered and compelling world that while just as complex as our own, still allows for a high degree of escapism (for most). And yet, it is also a brutal tale of survival and betrayal, of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over and over again. Of trying to become something you want to be, even as your community and even family are doing their damndest to drag you in other directions.

Cassandra In Reverse by Holly Smale
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Neurodivergent Time Travel Women’s Fiction. I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a book quite like this one – a book with a neurodivergent main character who time jumps most similarly to The Time Traveler’s Wife (vs a true time loop ala Groundhog Day or a “glimpse” ala Family Man), but yet ultimately lands more on the women’s fiction side than the romance side, despite said main character’s main focus being on restoring the romance she loses at the beginning of the tale.

The Belonger by Mary Kathleen Mehuron
From my review on Hardcover.app:

The setting on and around Grand Turk in this book is truly amazing, for the most part it very much feels like you’re actually there, even in areas I’ve never experienced. If this book doesn’t make you want to get into the Caribbean ASAP, I’m not sure of anything short of Jimmy Buffett that could. Then, when the storm hits – the other factor that drew me into the book, as I’ve personally seen some of the devastation Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria wreaked across the Caribbean, and even had a cruise or two diverted to other ports because of the damage sustained where we were supposed to be going – the story shifts into survival mode, and here too the book is remarkably (mostly) realistic.

The Demon Crown by James Rollins
From my review on Hardcover.app:

The follow up from The Seventh Plague in the opening scene with Sigma characters is great, and really drives home the very humanity that makes this series so truly compelling. But then the action picks up dramatically, and because of the nature of the threat… never really dies down. Once again the team is split with various people going various places, so people who don’t like following multiple trains on a given story may not like that bit – though at least here, we basically follow the two halves of the Sigma team + the bad guys (a bit). One interesting feature here is that Rollins actually bakes the life span of the featured creature into the narrative here, having one chapter devoted to each stage of its development – from that stage’s perspective. And yes, there are some utterly horrific scenes here as well, as virtually anything based on Unit 731 must include.

The Paris Agent by Kelly Rimmer
From my review on Hardcover.app:

But the piece overall is truly stunning in both its breadth and its attention to minutia level details, all while weaving together a story that while the reader *knows* it is fiction… almost seems all *too* real. Particularly in certain sequences… it gets quite uncomfortable. (Though, to be clear and to alleviate some concerns, never in a sexual way. More along the lines of V for Vendetta’s more uncomfortable sequences… and then these get even worse.)

The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham
From my review on Hardcover.app:

This book is exactly what I note in the title – a solid introduction to a new British police procedural series, one with a couple of interesting hooks that will be interesting to see exactly how they play out throughout the series. The first being that our lead Investigator is a triplet with a haunted past (which we learn about through this book), the other being that while she is a British national, she has spent several years prior to the events of this tale being trained by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and working with them. Neither are exactly typical elements of any of the fairly numerous series I’ve read within this exact space, and both contribute to helping this particular series stand out a bit from the pack.

Women Of The Post by Joshunda Sanders
From my review on Hardcover.app:

This is a story probably unlike most any other you’ve encountered in historical fiction of WWII. Even if you’ve read about mail carrriers (there are a few such books out that I’m aware of, and likely more that I’m not), you likely haven’t read about *these* mail clerks. Even if you’ve read about African American servicemembers during the war, you likely haven’t read about *these* African American servicemembers during the war. Even if you’ve read about LGBT people during the war… you get the idea.

The Secret Midwife by Soraya Lane
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Lane manages to craft an Auschwitz tale that never shirks from discussing the horrors of that facility – while never showing them in brutal, sadistic detail the way an author with a more horror-genre nature might. Instead, Lane takes a page from Titanic (and a school assignment I once had that I’m fairly certain predates that movie, and which I’m coming to realize ever more that I had really done the way I want to now as an adult when it was possible as a child) in creating a dual timeline (shocker, I know, for long time fans of Lane) tale of hope and survival against the most brutal and desolate backdrop possible in Europe during that particular period. Taking inspiration from a variety of real life people who really did a lot of the things Lane has her characters doing to help people survive, Lane manages to show the goodness of some people and the willingness to risk their own lives in order to do the right thing, even in the very heart of the place doing so many very wrong things.

California Golden by Melanie Benjamin
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Another dive into the 1960s, with stops in the 1950s and 1980s as well, this is one of those books that takes that period and adds a flavor not always seen as readily. Yes, even when we eventually go to Vietnam with a couple of characters here, the book manages to show-without-showing the horrors there while focusing on its own spin on the story and era – in this case, how to move on from insta-fame and transition back to “normal” life while still in love with the surf. There is a lot going on in this book, as there was in the era, and the book manages to treat all of it in the same faded golden tones of the current (release day) cover.

The Last One by Will Dean
From my review on Hardcover.app:

To be clear, the story we get is actually *good*. It is a heart-pounding, balls to the wall, never want to stop reading thrillfest where just when you think you know what is happening… you realize you don’t have a freaking clue. But just like with the 2010s era “Robocop” movie, don’t lead me to believe I’m getting one thing and then give me something that is not only not that thing, but something very different than my expectations were when you told me I was getting that thing.

The Stars Don’t Lie by Boo Walker
From my review on Hardcover.app:

For anyone who has ever had one of those teachers worthy of a “Mr. Holland’s Opus Finale”, you’re gonna want to read this book. If you haven’t seen that movie, seriously, go back and watch it. Then come back and read this book. ๐Ÿ˜€ Overall truly a particularly well written and well told story, one that some will clearly relate to more than others – but which has enough universal truth to be truly transcendent, no matter the particulars of your own life.

The Bablyon Plot by David Leadbetter
From my review on Hardcover.app:

While this particular tale almost seems like the ending of at least Phase 1 of these heroes (and you should absolutely start at the beginning of this series, rather than jumping directly into this book), this is also a book that features some of the most complex and complicated heroes I’ve come across in fiction – which is a worthy aim as an author, and one Leadbeater pulls off remarkably well. It also has some of the most brutal, sadistic killers I’ve ever come across in fiction – which is another win, certainly for those who like that particular type of villain. And seriously, from pretty well Page 1, the stakes are sky-high and never really drop, even as different team members get different parts of this particular tale to truly shine in. Truly one of the better crafted team-based adventure series I’ve ever come across.

What You Do To Me by Rochelle B. Weinstein
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Then, we get into the tale. And what a tale it is. I’ve read several of its type over the years, of coming of age, of finding yourself, of mysterious zeitgeist happenings, of journalists looking for their big break and landing on a secret they decide to try to find the truth of, of star crossed lovers and what comes of them, of famous rockers that famously either disappear or crash and burn or crash and burn and then disappear. And yet… Weinstein manages to make this tale her own unique blend of all of the above, and a love song to the entire music industry and the songs that we all believe were written about specific people to boot. Choosing to lead into every chapter with a song referencing someone specific, then discussing so very many different artists and songs through the narrative – and even having cameos by various artists – was a great touch.

For Roger by Laura Drake
From my review on Hardcover.app:

Read this book. Think about how *you* would handle these things. Think about how *we* should handle these things… Or not. Maybe you jus need to cry, or even bawl your eyes out. Maybe these issues aren’t theoretical for you – maybe they’re as real for you as they are for the characters in this book. Maybe you’re just trying to find answers yourself. Read this book too. And may you find comfort within its words even in the midst of your own storm. But read this book, regardless.

Kinfolk by Sean Dietrich
From my review on Hardcover.app:

There are many stories to tell of Southern life, but if one is looking to read a zany at times tale that will pull the heartstrings quite a bit – and yes, even make the room quite dusty a time or two – this is absolutely one of those types of tales. What Jimmy Buffett’s fiction did for the Caribbean, Sean of the South’s is doing for the American South in general.

Finally, here is the list as one list on Hardcover.app, for those that may want to track these books there.