I read some truly wonderful books in 2023, and I want to share them (and my reviews!) with you. When you click on a book below, it will take you to Bookshop.org, so you can support both fabulous authors and independent bookstores.
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The Deep Sky
The Deep Sky is a beautiful tightly-wound mystery. It is both an intimate character portrait and a thriller. The space geek in me loves the way the voyage feels like a completely plausible extension of our current billionaire-fueled space race.
This review is from Elsie, my cat, who was the inspiration for Hera. She uses buttons to talk and has a 119 word vocabulary. All of these are words she actually uses. For the record, I also love the book:
Paper words. Good. Delicious.
Before stranger swatting friend. Then big loud sound. Sad. Cat concerned. Cat help. Friend friend let’s go outside water. Then stranger. Mad. Litterbox. Rude.
Friend let’s go laser.
More big loud sound. Litterbox. Big litterbox stranger. Cat mad swatting hunt.
All done paper words. Delicious.
Charlotte Illes is not a Detective
When former child detective Charlotte Illes stepped onto the page, I felt this immediate deep love for her. She’s clever, she’s depressed and she has no idea that she’s depressed. The friend group that loves her makes me remember the camaraderie of Nancy Drew’s friends. Each has their area of specialty and each has their own baggage. The mystery is fun and just threatening enough to be engaging but not so much as to break the coziness. It’s nice to read a book set in and around NYC that feels like the city and isn’t gritty. There’s a particular joy in reading a book and wishing you could be friends with the characters — Charlotte Illes is Not a Detective kept me guessing and left me with a warm and happy glow.
A CITY ON MARS
Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought this Through?
KELLY AND ZACH WEINERSMITH
I read this with the intention of blurbing it, but it was so useful that I kept stopping to take notes and totally missed the deadline. Consider this my recommendation to SF writers and just folks interested in space. A City on Mars is a realistic look at the feasibility of living off the planet Earth and it’s also a fun read. With cartoons!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Fonda Lee about this wonderful book in 2023. Please take a few minutes to enjoy the conversation.
THE MOUNTAIN IN THE SEA
The moment I started reading this, I started recommending it. Usually, I wait until the end to see if the author sticks the landing (he did) but with The Mountain in the Sea, the book made me think and raised thoughts and ideas in my head that I wanted to explore with other people. It’s a wonderful journey and very thoughtful.
J. S. Dewes
Rubicon and the trauma in it feel terrifyingly real. I couldn’t look away. It is such a compelling portrait of depression and then someone slowly finding their way out. AND THEN the thing happens. DEAR GOD. I read this a year ago and I’m STILL thinking about it. This is not a comfortable or easy read, but it’s very worth it.
JESSI HONARD AND MARIE PARKS
“Unrelenting” is a tapestry of emotion, that effortlessly weaves the threads of grief and obsession into a supernatural thriller. With an innovative magic system at its core, this book immerses you in a world where the boundaries between reality and the supernatural blur. In full disclosure, I picked it up because I liked the authors and was curious. Then I Just. Kept. Reading. I needed to know if Dahlia was dead. I needed to know what the Grigori were. I needed to know what the heck was going on with the living smoke that bites people. And now I need the second book.
I’m actually directing you to the authors’ site, because the price on Bookshop.org is wildly expensive, and I want to make sure you can get an affordable copy.
LEV AC ROSEN
This is a tightly plotted murder mystery in the noir tradition. It feels like a book written by Dashiell Hammet and is also gloriously gay. I love books that do two things at once. This one does three. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a coming out story. It’s a found family story. It’s satisfying on all three levels.
PLUS it feels like the 1950s. I cannot stress to you enough what an amazing job Lev does with the voice here. This book is outstanding and you should read it.
MISSION TO MARS
If you are interested in Mars and the way people have thought about Mars, this is an engaging read. It’s obviously dated, but that’s part of the appeal in some ways because it offers a snapshot of what one of the Apollo astronauts, and the head of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum thought about the possibilities at the time.