That’s a Wrap! | Staff Favorites of 2023


As we turn the last page of 2023, the staff here at Pine Reads Review can’t help but reminisce about our favorite new reads of the year. From mythology to romance, check out some of our favorites below!

A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber

Release Date: October 23, 2023, from Flatiron Books; 448 pages

A Curse for True Love is the riveting finale of the Once Upon A Broken Heart trilogy. After the shocking ending to The Ballad of Never After, Evangeline thinks she has her happy ending. She has a gorgeous husband who’s the king of the Magnificent North; she’s a princess living in a whimsical castle, but something is missing. Her husband is hiding things, determined to kill Jacks before Evangeline finds out the truth. Jacks is doing his best to stay away, but Evangeline finds herself drawn to him, even though she doesn’t know why. Can Evangeline figure out who to trust and find her true happily ever after?

Sam Yanis, Pine Reads Review Writer

Check out our complete guide to Stephanie Garber’s books here!

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Release Date: November 28, 2023, from Wednesday Books; 416 pages

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love beautifully and hilariously depicts young love, vibrant friendships, and inspiring bravery, all amidst an engaging medieval backdrop. Croucher’s novel takes place centuries after King Arthur held power and follows his descendant (also named Arthur) and Arthur’s betrothed, Gwendoline. Despite being set to marry since birth, Gwendoline and Arthur are no match made in heaven; in fact, they happen to hate each other. When they are forced to spend time in Camelot together in preparation for their wedding, Arthur and Gwendoline discover that they each harbor secret (and forbidden) feelings for other members of the royal court. This reveal changes the course of their partnership, as they team up to cover for each other in a variety of schemes and hijinks that will lead readers wondering if the two will succeed in pursuing their respective royal romances.

Sam Parker, Pine Reads Review Writer, Editor, & Social Media

Iron Window by Xiran Jay Zhao

Release Date: February 28, 2023, from Tundra Book Group; 416 pages

Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow is ruthless, raging, and entirely unyielding—and I loved every second of it. It’s not subtle, nor is its main character, and it will not let you ignore what it has to say. Simultaneously suffused with humor and endearing relationships, it’s a captivating read that became an instant favorite this year. In the palpable world of Huaxia, girls are considered lucky to be paired up with male Chrysalis pilots, who operate towering mechas to defend humanity against the creatures that lurk outside the Great Wall. They’re so fortunate that their imminent deaths, caused by their male co-pilots, are glossed over by everyone in society. Outraged when her sister is killed by a Chrysalis pilot and no one seems to care, Wu Zetian signs up to avenge her death. She quickly, violently accomplishes her goal, gaining the title of Iron Widow as a result. Presented with unexpected power, Zetian tears her way through the system that has damned countless girls and works to destroy it so it never claims another.

Melia Gemrose, Pine Reads Review Editor

Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind by Misa Sugiura

Release Date: February 28, 2023, from Random House Children’s Books; 384 pages

If you’re a fan of mythology-inspired books and Percy Jackson, this book is a must-read! All Momo wants is a normal life, but her world takes a turn for the fantastical when her mother, revealed to be a banished Shinto goddess, falls seriously ill. When a shikome attacks Momo on her twelfth birthday, Momo is rescued by a talking fox, and she realizes that normal just isn’t a possibility anymore. She learns that her goddess mother has left the passageway to the land of the dead, Yomi, unprotected because of her illness. Now, once-imprisoned spirits are free, and they aren’t the nice kind. Momo (very begrudgingly) joins forces with Niko, the talking fox, and her ex-friend Danny as they embark on a quest to save her mother, unlock Momo’s divine powers, and save the world.

Aruna Sreenivasan, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director & Lead Community Outreach

Check out our review of Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind here!

Promposal by RaeChell Garrett

Release Date: April 4, 2023, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Poppy; 368 pages

Promposal captures the joy of the end of senior year and the excitement ahead without overshadowing the accompanying fear and doubt to create a refreshing read about learning to believe in yourself. After winning a competitive scholarship to the Mercer School of Business, Autumn assumes the contingency on acceptance is only a formality. But her future comes to a crashing halt when she is waitlisted. In addition, a bad breakup leaves her feeling average and unsure of what she can do in the next six weeks to prove herself to Mercer. Her counselor pulls strings for her to join the Young Black Entrepreneurs, and things really get complicated when, despite their complicated romantic past, Mekhi offers to help her turn her skill of crafting enchanting promposals into a business. Can Autumn, voted most likely to brighten someone’s day, build her new business, find love, and regain her confidence after everything seems to be disintegrating around her?

Emilee Ceuninck, Pine Reads Review Lead Writer & Editor

Check out our review of Promposal and the accompanying interview!

The Broke Hearts by Matt Mendez

Release Date: October 3, 2023, from Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; 240 pages

The Broke Hearts by Matt Mendez is a follow-up to his debut novel, Barely Missing Everything. The story follows JD and Danny as they cope with the aftermath of the events at the end of the previous novel. JD has enlisted in the Air Force with the hope that he will eventually be able to attend college and pursue his dreams of becoming a filmmaker, but military life is a hard adjustment, and the new environment offers no clear path forward. Danny is enrolled in college, but he can’t seem to find a reason to be there. He’s struggling in most of his classes, even his art class, where he should be thriving. His professor is determined to see Danny succeed, but Danny’s father’s sudden heart complications make it hard for him to see any way forward at all. When JD’s looming deployment draws him back to El Paso, he reunites with Danny, and the pair must reckon with their shared grief, their familial tensions, and the uncertainty of their futures. Written by a local author, this book is as gritty as it is hopeful, and it offers an honest and insightful view into the lives of two boys trying to chart their course through a world that isn’t built for them.

Rysi Koos, Pine Reads Review Social Media

Check out our review of The Broke Hearts and the accompanying interview

The Scarlet Alchemist by Kylie Lee Baker

Release Date: October 3, 2023, from Inkyard Press; 432 pages

The Scarlet Alchemist follows Zarin, who dreams of becoming a royal alchemist and providing for her struggling family in Guangzhou, China. She hopes to make life gold, an alchemical substance that would keep the royal family young forever. Zarin specializes in a forbidden alchemy—bringing the dead back to life—and when the prince seeks out her help, she finds that the royal family is hiding deadly secrets. Can Zarin protect the people she loves while following her heart and fighting for what’s right?

Charity Kinsella, Pine Reads Review Editor

The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan

Release Date: May 2, 2023, from Disney Publishing Group; 480 pages

I will read and love anything Rick Riordan publishes, and The Sun and the Star was no exception. Nico Di Angelo and Will Solace are demigods, children of Ancient Greek gods, and must complete a quest in the horrific depths of Tartarus. They must rescue a friend who has pleaded with Nico to save them. Faced with internal and external demons, they risk losing themselves to the darkness surrounding them. Will they survive Tartarus, or will they be trapped there forever?

Kelly Marry, Pine Reads Review Co-Lead Social Media & Writer

Check out our review of The Sun and the Star here!

The Town with No Mirrors by Christina Collins

Release Date: February 21, 2023, from Sourcebooks; 304 pages

In the secluded community of Gladder Hill, Zailey has never seen her reflection due to a ban on mirrors and cameras that fosters an environment of blissful ignorance. Despite societal rules, Zailey secretly sketches her neighbors. When she ventures outside the town’s confines in search of her forgotten past and her estranged mother, she unravels the concealed reality of Gladder Hill. Zailey grapples with forbidden curiosity and the pursuit of self-discovery, questioning the sheltered existence she’s known. As she confronts the truth beyond the town, she must reconcile her upbringing with the world she once called home in this Twilight Zone-esque allegory. The Town With No Mirrors is a 2023 must-read!

Kasey Taylor, Pine Reads Review Writer

The Will of the Many by James Islington

Release Date: May 5, 2023, from Saga Press; 640 pages

James Islington combines school fantasy, ancient Roman history, mystery plots, and adventure into his 2023 novel The Will of the Many. The novel follows Vis (at least that’s who he pretends to be) as he searches for answers in the ranks of the prestigious Catenan Academy. They want him to graduate and allow his Will to be taken and collectivized, but Vis has a different, secret mission and no plans to give his Will to an empire that killed his family. Be prepared for a well-developed story, emerging friendships, and a shocking plot twist!

Natalie Hsu, Pine Reads Review Co-Lead Social Media & Web