January 2023 Novel Ideas: 26 Quick Lit Reviews

January 2023 Novel Ideas
January 2023 Novel Ideas: 26 Quick Lit Reviews 29

January 2023 Novel Ideas is filled with mini-book reviews…but my personal favorite and my first 5-star read of the year was Spare, by Prince Harry. I can’t wait to discuss it with my book club.

I also got to pre-read the February Read with Jenna and Good Morning America book club picks. Both are stellar books worth your time.

Enjoy the quick lit reviews below and let us know if we convinced you to add any books to your list!

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Kirsten’s January 2023 Novel Ideas Stack


Maame by Jessica George

February 2023 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

Oof. This story about Maddie, known as Maame to her family, was immersive and beautifully complex. Dealing with friendships, racism, familial obligations, and then grief, this story swept me away.

I felt fiercely protective of Maddie while reading this book. There were times I wanted to swoop in to relieve some of the burdens of this wonderful character with a heart of gold. But it was more rewarding to see Maddie finding her inner strength and learning to prioritize herself and her dreams.

I can’t recommend this story enough – it’s going to be a best book of 2023 pick for me, for sure.

Thanks to Macmillan Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Beyond that the Sea

Beyond that, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

I’ve read lots of WWII books, but not as many books about what it was like after the war. This particular story is abut Bea, an 11-year-old sent to America during the bombings in London. She assimilates into an American family with two sons during the war years, only to be wrenched away at the end of the war.

Her time in America forever changes Bea, and she struggles to reconnect to her home country and her family. As she grows up, her American family is never far from her heart. I loved to see how she merged her two families over the course of her life. While often sad at times, it was truly a lovely tale.

Thanks to Celadon Books for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Locust Lane

Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon

This mystery is about a murder in an affluent town where local teens are prime suspects. As one would expect, the parents circle their wagons as they try to save their own children while casting doubts on others.

Told from the perspective of the parents, I was left second-guessing who the murderer was throughout the story. Ultimately though, this ended up being just an OK story for me. I didn’t enjoy any of the characters, so I just couldn’t get invested in the story, despite how good the mystery was.

Thanks to Celadon books for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The light we carry

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama

I loved Michelle Obama’s first book so much that it was listed on our favorite non-fiction book list. I was little nervous to read her self-help style advice book, but I shouldn’t have been.

With true grace, Obama breaks down ways to help unwind, prioritize, and regroup, using her own life experience as examples. She talks about the power of using your hands to free your mind, of embracing your community when you need it, and when to give yourself grace.

I found her insights to be inspiring and spot-on. I found myself wishing I had read this one instead of listening so I could underline passages to come back to when I need encouragement.

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
house of yesterday

House of Yesterday by Deeba Zargarpur

In this paranormal story, Sara is the descendant of Afghan-Uzbek refugees dealing with the impact immigration has had on her family for generations.

Whilst experiencing the divorce of her parents, she begins helping her mother flip a home. But whenever Sara goes into that home, she is literally confronted by the ghosts of her past.

She can’t stop searching for answers from the ghost she realizes is a much younger version of her grandmother, Bibi Jan. But as she tries to untangle the secrets her grandmother has held tight to her chest, her own grib on familial relationships starts to unravel.

While I was frustrated at Sara numerous times for acting like a teenager (which she is as is the audience for this book) I found the story to be a lovely tribute to the bonds of family and the traditions we never leave behind.

Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Spare by Prince Harry
The Spare

Spare by Prince Harry

I’m still reeling from the revelations and truths woven throughout Prince Harry’s narrative. His candor in taking us from the death of his mother to the death of Queen was refreshingly real and often poetic, no doubt thanks to the incredible skills of his ghostwriter.

I was struck by how much I had believed the press’s story of his life; accurate or not. To think that an entire family’s stories could be so fabricated or twisted into untruth was astonishing.

In revealing his own truths, however, he illuminated the dreadful antics of his family. Wills, Charles, Camilla, and the courtiers do not come out of this book without tarnish – and with good reason.

At the end of the day, it’s hard not to judge everyone for lack of compassion but it’s a generational cycle that needs to be broken. I felt proud to see Harry putting in the work to make sure his own children don’t go through what he did.

This is a must for fans of books about royalty.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Phaedra by Laura Shepperson

Phaedra by Laura Shepperson

I’ve been binge-reading greek mythology retellings recently, particularly those stories that reimagine the roles of women. Phaedra’s tale is one that is traditionally told to make the woman out to be the evil seductress, ultimately responsible for destroying the stepson she seduced and being murdered for it.

Instead, Shepperson takes a look at the more likely scenario – that Phaedra was manipulated by her family, her husband, and her new city – ending in her pregnancy and a trial for her life. I was captivated by this greek tragedy until the last page.

Thanks to Alcove Press for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
my not so great french escape

My Not-So-Great French Escape by Cliff Burke

I adored this story about Rylan, who is staying on a farm in France to reconnect with his former best friend, Wilder. It’s such a heartwarming story about how friendships change as we age, sometimes ending as lives and values grow.

This one did not have a happy ending for Rylan’s quest to stay friends with Wilder, but it was a wonderful lesson in being true to yourself and following your own interests. Rylan was well out of his comfort zone, but he was able to connect with new friends, learn new skills, and become a more confident version of himself.

I love that the message at the end of the day is that if you stay true to yourself, you’ll end up with people that love and appreciate the real you.

Thanks to Clarion Books for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Second Youre Single

The Second You’re Single by Cara Tanamachi

Sora is at a standstill. She’s divorced, living in a condo she doesn’t like, doing a job she’s meh about, and going on tons of terrible dates. This is why she decides to pitch an article series called #SoloFebruary to her boss.

Of course, then she bumps into a former classmate turned hunky baker. And he’s head over heels for her. This bakery romance is perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Bandit Queens

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Geeta lost her husband 5 years ago, but now her small Indian village thinks she killed him! The rumors have helped her for a few years, but now other local women are asking for her help in getting rid of their own husbands.

I found myself laughing at this band of friends and their antics. If you liked Dial A for Aunties, this one is for you!

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Twyford Code

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

Name a more unique mystery writer than Janice Hallett. You can’t because her books are unlike any I’ve ever read before. 

It’s not just the incredible mysteries that keep you on your toes – it’s HOW the stories are told.

The Twyford Code is laid out as a collection of audio file transcripts that you need to decipher to find the treasure. The ending BLEW MY MIND. The genius of Hallett to lay it out like that… I’m in awe.

Thanks to Atria Books for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
fraud squad

The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

After reading a few heavier books this month, I craved a YA book that would put a smile on my face. Enter The Fraud Squad, a story about 2 socialites who team up to convince Singapore’s high society that working-class, Samantha is one of them to help her secure her dream job.

This name-dropping, bejeweled story is like Crazy Rich Asians for teens. It was fun to revisit Singaporean high society through the eyes of young adults. It’s fluff and fun in the very best ways.

Thanks to Berkley Books for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Killers of the flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

I read this non-fiction book because it’s becoming a movie in 2023. With Martin Scorsese planning to direct, I knew this plot must be juicy and thought-provoking. Indeed, it was hard to believe I was reading a true story, the plot twists and characters came to life in a cinematic way.

While this is about the start of the FBI and its role in solving the brutal Osage murders in the 1920s, it also tells the story of the exploitative, disgusting treatment of the Osage tribe. It was shocking to read about the brutal way the Osage were manipulated – from the overcharging of goods, to the corruption of the justice system, to flat-out murder, this is a stark, eye-opening story of our countries racist roots.

This is one book that will stay with you for a long time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
exes os

Exes and O’s by Amy Lea

What a creative romance novel! I loved the slow-burn roommate-to-lovers story because of its fun premise. Tara, an avid romance novel lover, is trying to create her own second-chance romance story by attempting to re-date all her ex-boyfriends.

Her new roommate, Trevor, is a playboy who offers to be her moral support. We know they are going to get a happy ending, but the journey is what makes this story! It was so charming.

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
The Age of Vice and more January 2023 celebrity book club spoilers

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor

January 2023 GMA Book Club Pick

I wanted to like this pick, I really did, but after listening to the book for 5 hours, I ultimately gave up. It is an epic novel set in India that features a crime family and lots of corruption. It was altogether too violent and convoluted for me to enjoy.

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 1 out of 5.
sam by allegra

Sam by Allegra Goodman

January 2023 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

This is the coming-of-age story of Sam, from 7 years old until about 19 as she navigates life where she doesn’t quite fit in with her peers. She lives with her mom and younger brother, while her dad flits in and out of her life depending on if his addiction is under control.

As she grows up, Sam falls into rock climbing, scaling buildings and walls, sometimes competing on teams, and always trying to find her place in the world.

As a mom, it was so interesting to see the world through Sam’s eyes. I sympathized with her struggles but also wanted to get in there and mom her myself! I did find the closure I wanted for her at the end of the book and I was proud of her as if she was someone I actually knew!

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
River Sing me home

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

February 2023 Good Morning America Book Club Pick

Prior to reading this story, I had little concept of what the end of slavery meant in the Caribbean. I knew nothing of the apprenticeships and horrible conditions formerly enslaved people were forced to endure.

And I certainly had no idea of what it would take to reunite a family of formerly enslaved individuals who had been ripped apart when they were sold by their owners.

Rachel’s story changes that. She runs away from the plantation in Barbados to reunite with her family. She sets off on a journey to find her 5 children. What she finds out about each encompasses some of the many ways a formerly enslaved person’s life could turn out.

 I don’t think anyone will be able to read this story without shedding a tear and thinking hard about colonialism and the ripple effects it has had on generations.

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Jackie’s January 2023 Novel Ideas Stack

My January 2023 Novel Ideas stack had seven 5-star reads! I don’t think I have had such an amazing month of reading in a very long time. A few of these are brand-new releases and I highly suggest adding them to your TBR stack, but a few are a few years old and I know you can find them at your local library!

Nocture and more February 2023 book releases

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

I absolutely adored this book that is pure magic at its best. What starts as a historical fiction set in Chicago in the 1930s transforms into a beautiful fantasy about a ballerina, her violin, and the kingdom of death.

When Grace becomes the prima ballerina at The Near North Ballet Company, she is overjoyed that her dream has come true. In accepting this position, she has become a patron of master LaRosa and must move into his mansion. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. The writing is lyrical and I savored every minute. It is perfect for anyone who loves to read books like The Night Circus

Thanks to Netgalley and PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Emily Wildes

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Emily Wilde #1) by Heather Fawcett

This book was a delightful surprise! I knew I needed to read it as soon as I saw the name, but everything about it was wonderful. I loved this book.

Emily Wilde is an expert on the study of faeries who is writing the first encyclopedia on faerie lore. She has traveled to the village of Hrafnsvik to study the Hidden Ones. She is much better with her dog and faeries than she is with people so she is not happy when Wendell Bamblely shows up uninvited. He is her handsome and lazy rival who is not opposed to making things up as he goes along.

Thanks to PRH Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The house in the pines and more January 2023 celebrity book club spoilers

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Maya was days away from moving away to college when he best friend Aubrey mysteriously dropped dead in front of her. She blamed Frank, an older guy who she had been hanging out with that summer although there was nothing to prove that he had done a thing to harm Aubrey.

Now, years later, Maya is trying to overcome an addiction to the drug prescribed to help her overcome the loss of Aubrey. When she sees a video of a woman who drops dead in a cafe and Frank is sitting with her, she sets off in a spiral again and needs to prove that Frank is responsible. I love this book with a totally likable and yet, completely unreliable narrator. This is the best thriller I have read in a long time.

Thanks to Libfo.fm for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Hell Bent is the second book in the Alex Stern Series (or Ninth House Book 2). I loved the first book so much, I could not wait to read this and it did not disappoint. Often, the second book is not as good but true to Leigh Bardugo’s style, she is able to build worlds and characters that keep getting better and better with each book. This pick was an obvious choice for books like Ninth House

This book picks up shortly after Ninth House ends. Alex is Determined to bring Darlington back from hell. All she has to do is find a gateway, open it, steal a soul, and return without getting herself and everyone else killed. Simple, right? This book was non-stop action and I loved every second. Ninth House and Hell Bent are my two favorite dark academia fantasy books.

Thanks to MacMillan Audio for my review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
the last party

The Last Party (DS Morgan #1) by Clare Mackintosh

This is by far the best mystery I have read in a long time. One party, one body, and everyone had a reason for wanting him dead. This is a brilliant well thought-out mystery that reminds me of Agatha Christie or the movie clue- because everyone had motive and opportunity.

The answer is brilliant and kept me guessing until the last page- and I was still left with my mouth agape!!!

Rating: 5 out of 5.
meant to be

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

Isabelle was overjoyed when she landed her dream job in publishing as an editorial assistant. She is also the only Black employee. She has been waiting for a promotion for two years and decides she will earn that by going to the mansion of a celebrity with an overdue memoir. All she has to do is give him the right pep talk to encourage him to write the book.

This task is not as easy as it seems. Beau is standoffish, stubborn, and difficult. Soon Izzy finds herself living in his house, helping him with the book and maybe finding something that she needs as well- the confidence to ask for what she wants.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Iona Iverson

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Poole

I have to say that I think this feel-good book was my favorite pick of 2022. The writing, the characters, and the storyline are all outstanding and I loved every minute of this book.

Iona Iverson has rules for commuting on the train and they start with never talking to anyone. When a businessman starts choking on a grape, this all changes. As the characters get to know one another, we see them all change, evolve and develop friendships. This feel-good book is heartwarming and delightful in every single way.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
from scratch

From Scratch by Tembi Locke

May 2019 Reese’s Book Club Pick

I knew what this book was about before reading it and I was still not prepared for the heartbreak and beauty within the pages. This memoir is truly a love letter to Tembi’s husband who died from cancer.

The descriptions of the food, the people, and the love she had for her husband are unlike anything that I have read before. This is a five-star read if you can read through heartache. It’s one of the Netflix book adaptations I’m planning on watching.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
quiet life

A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella

Three people, all suffering from loss, have their lives come together. Chuck is deciding whether or not to spend his winter in Hilton Head without his recently deceased wife, Ella is delivering papers and working in a bridal shop while trying to find her daughter who has been taken by her ex-husband, and Kirsten has let old dreams die after the death of her father.

There was so much about this novel that I loved but the story moved a little slowly.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Which books from January 2023 Novel Ideas will you be adding to your stack?

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