19 July, 2023

Best books read so far in 2023 #TBRChallenge

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Book Reading Goals:

Last year didn't go as planned with respect to the books. I could read 20 books and my goal was 30. Moving to a new place, new house, settling in, India trip twice - many reasons for not reaching the goal. So, I have set very easy goal this year - 20 books. And I finished reading 17 books already! I haven't expected that :-)

How do I get time to read with a full time job, dance school and managing family?

No, I don't get time. I squeeze in time in between tasks.

1. Driving on car for groceries/ kids pickup? - I listen to Audio books. Try Audible plus free trial if you want to experiment. 

2. Have to run mixer to make dosa batter - Kindle / Audible

3. Waiting for something to cook - Kindle / Audible / podcasts

4. Daily 15 mins before I sleep - Kindle / Print copy of book

5. 15 mins before Afternoon nap / relaxation on weekends - Kindle / Print copy

6. Got bored while working on laptop - Kindle cloud reader

I am ready to share the 5 best books that I read so far in 2023.

Pin it for later!

Here is the list of my recommendations:

1. The Night she disappeared by Lisa Jewell


On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.

My Review:

Loved this. A perfect thriller I would say. Till the last few pages, it's impossible for us to predict the storyline.

The story narrated by different people makes it still enjoyable. How the stories of 2 different people intersect at one point is interesting - Tellulah, a teenage girl who disappears, and Sophie, the girl friend of the new school headteacher. There are many other exciting characters with mystery around them.

I would recommend this to all thriller book lovers.

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2. The Maid by Nita Prose


Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

My Review:

The story seems simple and straightforward at first. An innocent and honest maid is setup as a murderer and a few friends helping her to come out of that situation.

This story says one thing loud - our kindness and honesty always help in someway.

The twist at the end is mind blowing. The characters are well etched and feel real.

Loved the book like many blogger friends who referred it.
It felt little boring in the middle but everything makes sense at the end. The title and book cover are apt.

3. The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis


Eight months since losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, 21-year-old Lillian Carter's life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists' models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But with her mother gone, a grieving Lillian is rudderless and desperate - the work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven. So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion - a building that, ironically, bears her own visage - Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family - pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.

Nearly 50 years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career - and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home - within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City's most impressive museums. But when she - along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua - is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica's financial woes, but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.

My Review:

Loved the story. From author's note, I see that the story is not complete fiction. All the art references and Frick family collection are real. The characters make this story wonderful. 
It's interesting to see how Fricks family navigates through tough times and how each family member responds to the grief. 

Lillian obviously is one amazing character. She adjusts to the roles and adapts quickly. She always does what's right. It's good that it ends well for her. 

The book cover and title are apt.

I hated Helen's character at many points but she does good for all at the end. I would love to know about RJD and why he has to turn against Lillian.

4. Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons by James Lovegrove


1894. The monstrous Hound of the Baskervilles has been dead for five years, along with its no less monstrous owner, the naturalist Jack Stapleton. Sir Henry Baskerville is living contentedly at Baskerville Hall with his new wife Audrey and their three-year-old son Harry.

Until, that is, Audrey's lifeless body is found on the moors, drained of blood. It would appear some fiendish creature is once more at large on Dartmoor and has, like its predecessor, targeted the unfortunate Baskerville family.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are summoned to Sir Henry's aid, and our heroes must face a marauding beast that is the very stuff of nightmares. It seems that Stapleton may not have perished in the Great Grimpen Mire after all, as Holmes believed, and is hell-bent on revenge...

My Review:

This reminded me of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle

It's lovely to read the continuation of one of the best novels in the history- The hound of Baskerville. I am a huge fan of original Sherlock Holmes series by Conan Doyle. I thought I will never like reading about Holmes and Watson written by some other author. 

This book proved it wrong. The narrative is similar to the original.  The suspense is maintained. Overall, enjoyed reading it!

5. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi


Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist - and confidante - to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own....

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow - a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

My Review:

Absolutely beautiful and well written!

I understand why this book is recommended by many book lovers. I loved the story and especially the characters in the book. The talented and an independent woman with self respect - Mrs. Shasthri is commendable. Mrs. Shastri's mother in law is a great women learning about the herbs and helping other women. Radha's character surprises me even some negative traits.

The author portrayed every character in a realistic way. The characters of Malik, Samir, Lala... every small and big character is interesting to know about. While I feel characterization is the best in the book, writing style is relatable and involving the reader. I would highly recommend this book to all readers.

So, that's my book round up so far in 2023. Have you read any of these? Do you like them? Any other book recommendations for me? Please let me know in comments.

Until next time,

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