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November 2023

December 2023

Favorites of 2023


I’ve read 170 books this year! There were some re-reads, tons of  mystery series, lots of  Urban Fantasy & Romantic suspense binges but the books below were my faves of the year.  The ones in bold are the books published this year or in one case next month!

Special shout-out to Graphic Audio for their fantastic dramatization of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels and The Innkeeper Chronicles series for allowing me to revisit some favorites in a fresh way.

I’ve either borrowed from the Library or bought all these books with the exception of the ones marked as ARCs which I received for review purposes.



1.  Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews (UF, KDWY #1)

This sequel series was a delight. It was fabulous to reconnect with Kate and family.  They have new place looking for a new start but you always bring yourself.

CWs: child abductions, violence, gore, murder, past traumas.  ARC 1/17


23. City of the Lost by Kelly Armstrong (Rockton/Casey Duncan #1, WW/WM, Mystery/Thriller series).

Hidden city, hidden agendas & hidden murders.

I loved this whole series and I’m loving the follow up series.  Just loved the unfolding of the mysteries and the development of the relationships.

CWs:  Guns, murder, mutilation, medical procedures, sex work, slut-shaming, kidnapping, rape, beatings, abandonment, drugs, cop MCs. 1/17/17 


48. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood  (Mystery, Queer & disabled MCs, found family, late 1940’s NYC)

Pentecost & Parker are both super fascinating and the voice is fun despite the dark topics.   I loved each book in this series, especially the way Spotswood explores this time period in queer culture. CWs: murder, blackmail, queer phobia, beating, domestic violence, alcoholism 8/3/21


55. The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Mystery, Taiwanese-American Lesbian MC) Really engaging & engrossing. Loved Claudia and her wry geeky voice & how excited she is to be caught up a in mystery. 

CWs: murder, references to suicide, gaslighting, toxic family dynamics, 2/22/22


58. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths (WW/WM, Mystery with Rom Elements, final book in series). Whew! As this book barreled to the end I didn’t know where things would land for our central characters, Ruth, Nelson and Cathbad but I’m deeply satisfied.  I read nearly the whole series this year and it was a fantastic rich journey. I still find myself thinking about some of the relationships and dynamics all the time.  Also top-notch big gesture CWs: murder, abduction



66. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller  (WW/WM, Paris set HR 1878) Biller’s prose is clever, smart, funny & heartbreaking angsty.  I loved how Ben & Amelie have to let go of so much before they can hold on to each other!  CWs: sex work, grief, murder, past trauma: war



77. Chick Magnet by Emma Barry ( WM/WW, contemporary, chicken influencer & vet). I love the craft in Barry’s romances, the balance of lust, awkwardness, vulnerability & silliness.  Just awesome sauce. I have to catch up on her other releases for this year but this is a book I find myself recommending in person al, the time. Cw: grief, depression, bullying, past trauma: gaslighting



83. A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske (Fantasy, WM/WM, magical mystery, 1st in trilogy )

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING.  So excited to as this author straight into autobuy category!  Beautiful and engrossing! I loved the other two books in the series. Deeply fascinated by the magical world and the way the characters moved through it.

CWs: murder, torture, toxic siblings, toxic parents, bullying)



90. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries #1). Ooooh I love Murderbot already, so sympathetic and confused!  Great audio narration too by Kevin R. Free. This is will be adapted soon and wow I hope some of the magic of these books translate to the screen. I’m so deeply invested into the emotional journey of SecUnit and the impact they make on others. Every single book…worth your time.

CWs: murder, gore, slavery.



92. Wild Life by Opal Wei (eArc: Jan 24, contemporary rom, rom com in the right way!, Taiwanese-Canadian MCs,MMC has anxiety/panic attacks)

I loved Zoey, how grumpy, snarly and vibrant she is.  I fully agree with Davy that she is radiant! This author is long time fave under other pen names and I hope I get read more fun books from her 

Cw: sister had bone cancer, addiction


99. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q Sutanto (Mystery, AW).

When a terrible man in found dead in her tea shop, Vera is determined to find the killer,  unfortunately she grows quite attached to her suspects. This book I almost read again, immediately after finishing it. Just a warm hug of a book, it the hugger is bony and nags you in a loving way while poking you in the heart.

CW: murder, emotional abuse, ref. to violence.



106. Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (Thriller/heisty, 60+ assassins). When their retirement cruise turns into kill zone, they need to figure who is gunning for them & take them down! 4 women against the agency that turned on them. This is a book begging for movie adaptation. Cinematic and fun.CW: murder, violence, sexism.


108. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (AW/WM, UK set, Cozy Fantasy Rom)  Fantastic, funny, surprising & tender book. Great found family, confronting traumas & looking for a way to make things better.  Hoping we get a lot more books from this author. This is how you do secret magical societies. (CW: toxic childhoods, abandonment, loneliness).



139. The Buried Hours by R.S.

Grant (Mystery with Rom, WW/WM, ARC, 12/5/23)

Intense & gripping twisty mystery. Desperate for answers she won't be deterred. Writing as RS Grant, Rachel Grant takes a darker turn while keeping a ton of the things that made me love her previous work.

CWs: murder, abduction, brutal rape, gaslighting, coercion, human trafficking, betrayal, suicidal ideation, violence, PTSD

144. Death Below Stairs (WW/WM, London UK-Set, Victorian Era Mystery series with romantic elements)Mrs H is a very good cook but she might be an even better sleuth! She can’t help but get involved when her assistant is found dead in the pantry!  I flew through the backlist of this series and I’m now caught up and it terrible to have to wait to March to see what is next for Daniel & Kat.

CWs: imperialism, discrimination 2/2/2018


166. Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Fantasy with queer found family) This book was sweet, surprising and really enjoyable to listen to as Viv, Cal, Tandry & the crew buildup a cafe and community from scratch.  My only disappointment with the series that the next book is a prequel and not just more of Viv & Tandry! Cws: sexual harassment, extortion,secrets, arson, betrayal


I wish you a fantastic new year of reading!

December 23 Reading in Review

154. Cold Curses by Chloe Neill (UF, WM/WW,resolution). Pacing of this was installment was weird both slow and rushed at points. Some great moments and a lot of eh ( CWs: violence, murder, possession, secrets, abduction).

155. An Impossible Impostor by Deanna Raybourn ( WM/WW, mystery  with Rom, Victorian era). I loved the first half of the book and then I go super stressed & had to skip to the end & skim backwards.  Aaaack (cws: imperialism, past trauma: abandonment, lies, financial abuse.)

156. A Sinister Revenge by Deanna Raybourn ( WM/WW, Victorian era mystery with Rom).  I wanted to shake both Stoker & Veronica but I could actually read the whole book!  Now yo wait till March for more!! CWs: murder, grief, sexism.


A Graphic Audio Book Binge!

157. Clean Sweep

158.Sweep in Peace

159. One Fell Sweep

160. Sweep of the Blade

161. Sweep with Me

The innkeeper Chronicles bks 1~5 by Ilona Andrews (SFR, WM/WW). Have been enthusiastically adapted by the Graphic Audio team.

I absolutely love the worldbuilding in these books and the full cast audio  helped me notice some of the more subtle bits in this reread.

I also skimmed reread

162. Sweep of the Heart bk 6 that has not yet been dramatized!

It also almost launched me in reread of the Edge


163. Magic Bites

164.Magic Burns

165. Magic Strikes

Al by Ilona Andrews

The Graphic audio on these is also excellent with a great menacing Curran and fab cast!

166. Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Fantasy with found family) This book was sweet, surprising and really enjoyable to listen to as Viv, Cal, Tandry & the crew buildup a cafe and community from scratch.  Cws: sexual harassment, extortion,, secrets, arson, betrayal

167. The Price of Lemon Cake by Jennifer Ashley (W TransM/WW, Victorian era, UK set, novella)

Bobby & Judith have been an establish pair but this novella centers them & their relationship as they help Mrs H &  open a door once closed in Judith’s past.  Cw: sexism, transphobia.

168.  Splinter by Jasper Hyde (UF /SFR, DemiAM/BiBW, 2nd chance, Sleepy Hollow)

Loved the world building and the characters, the pacing towards the end was a bit rushed for both the rom & plot but would definitely read more in this world.

CWs: violence, murder, gore, grief.

169. Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves (mystery, UK-set, serial killer bk3) murdered boy in a bath, a dead young woman in a tidal pool. Cleeves excels in creating unsettling relationships & exploring loneliness & isolation. CWs: murder, mental illness, infidelity, obsession.

170. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves (mystery, UK-set, bk4) tangled lives, shameful secrets and private betrayals. I love Vera and how petty she can be. Did not guess the murderer but it made sense! CWs: fatphobia (whole series), murder, bullying, alcohol use, death of children.

Christmas Asopao

So I am terrible about cooking in a systematic way.  I cook by feel and taste most of the time.  I love cookbooks, but I rarely make things as written more than once. I love them for the ideas, techniques and flavor combinations.  The rest of the time I just throw things in the pot based on what I have on hand. My kids used to teasingly always ask for Mama soup, because they knew they would get something tasty even though it might not be the same as last time. Sometimes there would be swiss chard, other times chickpeas and then next gandules...but it would be yummy and warm.

On Christmas Eve I made a pot of asopao as our dinner, and since Rose is home sick I brought some over to her yesterday. She asked for recipe since she liked it so much.  My first instinct was to send her the I referred to Yvonne Ortiz's A Taste of Puerto Rico, one of the cookbooks I turned to the most over the last 3 decades of living on my own.  I always highly customize them to fit my needs and family ways of cooking.  But as I sent her a photo of recipe I realized how much I had customized it, so much that it was its own thing. 

Asopao is Puerto Rican soup served hot that is either cooked with rice in it or served over rice or in Mofongo.  It is most often made with chicken and its favorful broth is heavily seasoned with sofrito and annatto oil.

I am sorry but I took no pictures while cooking but here is my best approximation of what I made.


1/4 of cup of annatto oil (red-tinged oil made from annatto seeds simmered in olive oil) feel free to sub out a Sazon packet and olive oil or Achiotina (Lard with Annatto).

Diced onions (small onion)

Diced Green pepper (half of medium to large pepper)

(this time I added a bonus ingredient of diced celery, cause I had it)

Diced Potatoes  (chopped baby creamer & red skinned potatoes), approximately a cup

3 chicken breasts roughly chopped and tossed with adobo (can sub garlic powder, cumin, salt  & pepper)

2 cups of Gandules  (I use half a can of Green Pigeon Peas and half of can of Dried Pigeon Peas and then freeze the extras).

3/4 of cup of Recaito (I make my own which is pureed cubanel and green peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, recao leaf)

sometimes I add approximately a tablespoon of condensed tomato paste.

4 to 6 cups of Chicken broth (I actually used some of the turkey broth I had in the fridge)  plus whatever you need to cover everything well.

I start by lightly sautéing the diced onions, peppers and potatoes (and anything else I feel like) in the annatto oil  in a generously sized Dutch oven.  While it cooks, chop the chicken and toss with adobo. When the onions start to look translucent, I added the chicken.  I mix it up enthusiastically with the cooking veggies, so it gets coated with the red oil.  I then dump in the recaito & tomato paste in, followed by the broth and the gandules.  Stir it all up and simmer over medium low heat, till it starts looking good like it all cooked. I simmer mine about 45ish minutes but it could have been done sooner but the gandules were a block of ice when I dumped them in the pot.

While the soup is simmering, cook up some rice. I prefer medium grain.  I do 1 cup for 1 and 1/2 cup of water, plus salt and olive oil.

To serve, add rice to the bottom of your bowl and pour soup over it.

Buen Provecho y Prospero Año Nuevo

(also published in my mostly defunct family blog: A Coqui in Winterfell)