Boe list his standout reads of 2023
With the year drawing to a close, I find myself drawn back to the stories that have lingered in my mind, whispering their secrets and inviting me to revisit their worlds.
While I read a lot of truly fantastic books this year, here are a few of my standout reads, ready for any page-turner to explore!
Each offers a unique journey into captivating worlds with unforgettable characters and twists sure to have your reality flipped upside down and your emotions tangled in knots.
p.s. No prior reading required! I picked only series starters and standalones, so you can grab any of these and get lost in a great story.
The Lost War by
Let’s just get this out of the way from the jump: The Lost War was everything I ever wanted in a fantasy book and so much more.
This SPFBO 6 winner clearly draws inspiration from D&D, delivering twists and turns that’ll keep you churning through pages as fast as your eyes can manage. The characters are deeply relatable, making you cheer for them one moment, laugh alongside them the next, and maybe even shed a tear or two, potentially cursing out Justin Lee Anderson for something awful that happens to them.
Renia by Karl Forshaw
When it comes to the genre of fantasy Renia is truly a breath of fresh air. This genre blending fantasy novel will captivate you as the story gradually unfolds, keeping you on the edge of your seat with every turn of the page..
Karl Forshaw has created a medieval -esque world full of steampunk elements, with a side of horror and a dash of a crime thriller all in one. Honestly the way he mixes these elements in his storytelling is as delicious as a Sunday potluck and I for one can’t wait to get in line for seconds.
Beta by M.T. Zimny
Beta is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre, blending coming-of-age action, teenage angst, and relatable characters that will make you laugh, cry, and yell at them all at the same time
The story revolves around Samantha, a teenage girl uprooted from her familiar life and thrust into the extraordinary world of New Delos, a city teeming with superhuman individuals known as Apex.
Samantha’s father’s new job at the city’s prestigious college necessitates a move, forcing Samantha to leave behind her friends and enter the halls of her mother’s alma mater, a prestigious boarding school. Adjusting to a new high school is daunting enough, but the challenges are amplified in a city where superhuman abilities are the norm.
The Stars Within by
The Stars Within is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. If you have ever had a loved one get diagnosed with cancer then you will connect and understand just how much of a gut punch the very first page of this book is and it continues through all the way to the end.
Alex did a masterful job of showing the impact of how a diagnosis of something like cancer can not only devastated a person but also have ripple effects all over within that person’s community. I think Alex truly has a gift for creating characters that you can quickly establish an emotional connection to and as a result you quickly become invested in the story as a whole which makes for a great page turner.
In the end The Stars Within is a story about willingness to protect the ones we love no matter the cost. So if you are looking for a quick Sci-Fi read that will truly pull on your heart strings and leave you questioning everything in the best way possible then look no further as this is the book for you.
Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin
The Combat Codes at its core is a martial arts based mentor/mentee storyline with some modern day Mr. Miyagi vibes. As a long time Karate Kid fan I’m 150% down for anything which brings me back to the nostalgic feelings I got the first time I watched that movie. 🙂
After reading the Combat Codes I can clearly see why this book was not only an SPFBO 6 finalist but also why Orbit decided to pick this series up. One of the biggest strengths to this book is the author’s authentic background in martial arts. As someone who has been studying and competing in martial arts tournaments since the age of 5 I can wholeheartedly say this book has some of the best fight scenes I have ever read. MMA fans will be drawn in by Darwin’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu background as it really brings each fight sequence to life in a way that you feel like you’re ringside watching the action unfold. It’s fast paced, gritty and most importantly brutality authentic to what someone might experience in the underground fight scene that still goes on to this day all around the world.
A Gamble Of Gods by Mitriel Faywood
A Gamble of Gods by Mitriel Faywood is a genre-bending feast reminiscent of a good old fashioned pot luck that offers something for everyone. Faywood starts with a generous helping of science fiction, followed by a double dose of fantasy. She also adds side dishes of comedy and romance for good measure.
Okay all jokes aside the way Faywood blends these different genres together so effortlessly it made her story come to life in my mind. All my life reading has been a struggle for me due to my ADHD. As a result, not very many books truly captivate my mind in the way that brings the story to life in my mind where my imagination takes over and the book turns into a movie rather than simply words on paper. A Gamble of Gods not only accomplished this but it made me realize my new favorite genre is one that as far as I know doesn’t have a genre name so I’m calling it Sci-Fantasy. I’ve only read a few books that blend these two together well but when it happens oh boy is it fun.
Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill
I’m sure none of you need any introduction at this point by me to Ryan Cahill’s ‘The Bound and the Broken’ series. At this point its a cult classic in the Indie community.
For those of you who might not know anything about this book yet, it’s a classic fantasy book at its core, filled with dragons, dwarves, giants, elves, etc., but written with a unique modern twist. While I enjoyed Cahill’s ability to create an expansive world, that’s not what hooked me. For me, it was his character work that made me fall in love with this series. Not only are they relatable, but I quickly found myself attached and invested in them. Due to having a hard time saying no to ARC requests, it took me longer than I wanted to get to this series, but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be spending a good chunk of 2024 getting fully caught up.
Down Below Beyond by T.A. Bruno
Down Below Beyond is a cozy standalone Sci-Fi novel that you will breeze through as T.A. Bruno nailed the pacing. I’m impressed at how expansive this world is for a book that is just over 300 pages long.
This book tackles many issues we face today, such as discerning truth from false information, what true friendship looks like and does blood make you family or is a family something more than just some shared DNA. Bruno does a stellar job at showing how one’s perception of these types of topics can send them down totally different paths. One creates hope for those it comes in contact with and the other leaves those in its path experiencing destruction and despair.
Beyond the two main characters Bruno’s writing really does a fantastic job of bringing your own imagination to life as I could clearly see the story playing out in my mind as I made my way through which is not always the case for me. The different alien races/species he created are fantastic and reminds me of the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” which is a personal favorite of mine.
Neon Ghost by Daniel B. Greene
Neon Ghosts: A Witch’s Sin exceeded all my expectations, delivering a thrilling story that left me wanting more.
At its core, A Witch’s Sin is a techno thriller woven with elements of magic, science fiction, and fantasy, all set in a cyberpunk hellscape. The story delves into political intrigue, religious fanaticism, and the complex divisions of society encompassing economics, race, and social dynamics. Honestly it was a wild ride with some great twists and turns and I’m excited to see where he takes the series in book two.
Curse of the Fallen by H.C. Newell
This debut novel is the perfect blend of dark fantasy and witty humor, packaged in a splash of revenge.
I think I might be the only person to read this but never play the game that inspired it, aka “The Witcher.” That being said, I’ve seen enough gameplay online along with the Netflix series to pick up on the inspiration.
This is another one of those series my friends read before me and then continued to tell me to “read the book” over and over until I finally found time to fit it in. Welp, just like with Mr. Cahill up above, I regret not getting to it sooner and will definitely be taking time in 2024 to get fully caught up on this series.
I still owe H.C. a proper review for this book, but I will say her character work is phenomenal in my opinion, even for a debut author who, by her own admission, doesn’t read all that much. And it doesn’t just stop there—her world-building equally matches it. I’m not gonna lie, there’s a little town in this book that I would love to go spend a week or two recovering in, if you know what I mean.