Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2023 To-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics


As I have said on this blog before, I don’t really do to be read lists. Whilst I may intend to tackle a certain set of books, I am more than happy to pick up this other one that caught my eye in Waterstones or the library, or that one that I began and put down six months ago, or this book that a friend recommneded, or that one which is all over social media, or – let’s face it – sometimes this random one which I opened on my kindle by mistake!

But this time of year coincides with the release of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and I do try to read along with that longlist each year – to varying degrees of success – and so this week I offer you that longlist which I hope to have read some or most of before the 14th June when the winner is announced.


Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto) 

A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animal denizens lived quite happily . . .
And then the colonisers arrived, followed by a bloody War of Liberation. New hope came in the form of a charismatic horse who ruled and ruled and kept on ruling. For forty years he ruled, with the help of his elite band of Chosen Ones. Until one day, as he sat down to his Earl Grey tea and favourite radio programme, in came a new leader, a new regime. And once again the animals were full of hope.

Glory tells the story of a country seemingly trapped in a cycle as old as time. At the centre of the tumult is Destiny, a young goat who has returned to her homeland to bear witness to revolution. Her arrival sets off a chain of events that reminds the denizens, and us, that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it. And that history can be stopped in a moment.

This has been on my to-read list since it was nominated in the Booker Prize and I have still not got around to reading it. Shame on me.

Homesick by Jennifer Croft (Charco) 

The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, Homesick is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood.

Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy’s first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.

My favourite cover of the group – and the exploration of language sounds fascinating.

Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks (Cape) 

He takes my hand, pulls me to him. ‘This is our dancing time.’

Yamaye lives for the weekend, when she can go raving with her friends at The Crypt, an underground club in the industrial town on the outskirts of London where she was born and raised. A young woman unsure of her future, the sound is her guide – a chance to discover who she really is in the rhythms of those smoke-filled nights. In the dance-hall darkness, dub is the music of her soul, her friendships, her ancestry.

But everything changes when she meets Moose, the man she falls deeply in love with, and who offers her the chance of freedom and escape.

When their relationship is brutally cut short, Yamaye goes on a dramatic journey of transformation that takes her first to Bristol – where she is caught up in a criminal gang and the police riots sweeping the country – and then to Jamaica, where past and present collide with explosive consequences.

Novels that rely on the music scene often put me off: I don’t have any real knoweldge or experience to bring to bear with them, so I’m not rushing for this one.

Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova (Atlantic)

When Holly applies for a job at the Paradise – one of the city’s oldest cinemas, squashed into the ground floor of a block of flats – she thinks it will be like any other shift work. She cleans toilets, sweeps popcorn, avoids the belligerent old owner, Iris, and is ignored by her aloof but tight-knit colleagues who seem as much a part of the building as its fraying carpets and endless dirt. Dreadful, lonely weeks pass while she longs for their approval, a silent voyeur.

So when she finally gains the trust of this cryptic band of oddballs, Holly transforms from silent drudge to rebellious insider and gradually she too becomes part of the Paradise – unearthing its secrets, learning its history and haunting its corridors after hours with the other ushers. It is no surprise when violence strikes, tempers change and the group, eyes still affixed to the screen, starts to rapidly go awry…

The reviews from the Guardian and the Telegraph are both very entralling here: ‘Festers in glorious style’ and ‘Magnificently spiky’. This in one that i am looking forward to and it may perhaps find its way to the top of my list…

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes (Mantle)

Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.

Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .

This is the first of the novels on this list that I have already read and – whilst I loved it and Natalie Haynes generally – I don’t see it progressing much further in the prize. It felt a little like a very enjoyable very extended episode of Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics which did do Medusa. It is witty, acerbic, charmingly read on Audible by the author, but I don’t feel it … added anything to what we already know of the Medusa myth. Before this novel, she was already being used as a tattoo for survivors of sexual abuse…

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (Bloomsbury) 

One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice.
If Davy had remembered to put on a coat.
If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street.
If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt.

There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever.

As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead. In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like ‘petrol bomb’ and ‘rubber bullets’. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

This looks like a novel for which I might need to steel myself: divided communities and the tensions of The Troubles can be a challenging read….

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber)  

Demon’s story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking ‘like a little blue prizefighter.’ For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn’t an idea, it’s as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn’t an abstraction, it’s neighbours, parents, and friends. ‘Family’ could mean love, or reluctant foster care. For Demon, born on the wrong side of luck, the affection and safety he craves is as remote as the ocean he dreams of seeing one day. The wonder is in how far he’s willing to travel to try and get there.

A David Copperfield re-imagining…. sounds fun!

Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh (Hamish Hamilton)

Elodie is the baker’s wife. A plain, unremarkable woman, ignored by her husband and underestimated by her neighbours, she burns with the secret desire to be extraordinary. One day a charismatic new couple appear in town – the ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet – and Elodie quickly falls under their spell. All summer long she stalks them through the shining streets: inviting herself into their home, eavesdropping on their coded conversations, longing to be part of their world.

Meanwhile, beneath the tranquil surface of daily life, strange things are happening. Six horses are found dead in a sun-drenched field, laid out neatly on the ground like an offering. Widows see their lost husbands walking up the moonlit river, coming back to claim them. A teenage boy throws himself into the bonfire at the midsummer feast. A dark intoxication is spreading through the town, and when Elodie finally understands her role in it, it will be too late to stop.

This is the second novel on the list that I have already read, and I loved it: intense dizzying and feverish – and with weaponised baking!

The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie (Fourth Estate)

Penny Rush has problems. Freshly divorced from her mobile knife-sharpener husband, she has returned home to Santa Barbara to deal with her grandfather, who is being moved into a retirement home by his cruel second wife. Her grandmother, meanwhile, has been found in possession of a sinister sounding weapon called ‘the scintilltor’ and something even worse in her woodshed. Penny’s parents have been missing in the Australian outback for many years now, and so Penny must deal with this spiralling family crisis alone.

Enter The Dog of The North. The Dog of the North is a borrowed van, replete with yellow gingham curtains, wood panelling, a futon, a pinata, clunky brakes and difficult steering. It is also Penny’s getaway car from a failed marriage, a family in crisis and an uncertain future. This darkly, dryly comic novel follows Penny as she sets out in The Dog to find a way through the curveballs life has thrown at her and in doing so, find a way back to herself.

This one, for me, sounds brilliant… and probably has the best title of the list!

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris (Duckworth) 

SARAJEVO. SPRING 1992.

Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents – whether Muslim, Croat or Serb – push the makeshift barriers aside.

When violence finally spills over, Zora, an artist and teacher, sends her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind while the city falls under siege. As the assault deepens and everything they love is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over. Theirs is a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope.

This sounds great and harrowing – the city under siege, reminiscent of The Cellist of Sarajevo – but I find the brightness and colour of the cover jarring with what sounds like bleakness within the pages. But there is something in those colours and shapes on the cover seem hard, angular or fiery…

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder)

Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.

Lucrezia is sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence’s grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.

What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.

I adored Hamnet and I love Robert Browning’s Poem My Last Duchess – and it seems that this novel is possibly based more on that poem than on history…? – so this is likely to find its way into my shortlist.

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Granta, originally published by Rough Trade) 

In I’m A Fan, a single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal hetero-normative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.

In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.

This sounds deeply intriguing, and I love the themes of identity that seem to pervade it. However, this is a blurb that doesn’t really tell you much about what to expect… and I find that frustrating.

Pod by Laline Paull (Corsair) 

Ea has always felt like an outsider. She suffers from a type of deafness that means she cannot master the spinning rituals that unite her pod of spinner dolphins. When tragedy strikes her family and Ea feels she is partly to blame, she decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave.

As Ea ventures into the vast, she discovers dangers everywhere, from lurking predators to strange objects floating in the water. But just as she is coming to terms with her solitude, a chance encounter with a group of arrogant bottlenoses will irrevocably alter the course of her life.

In her terrifying, propulsive novel, Laline Paull explores the true meaning of family, belonging, sacrifice – the harmony and tragedy of the pod – within an ocean that is no longer the sanctuary it once was, and which reflects a world all too recognisable to our own.

I must confess, I am not a fan of books from an animal’s point of view. At the same time, I have always loved whales for their sheer size and scale and grace… so I am torn here. Perhaps, had I read Paull’s The Bees, I would have more confidence in this novel. I love the cover though.

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin (Fourth Estate)

There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies – everything in between is speculation.

One night, not long after the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee their village and embark on a perilous boat journey to Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings make the crossing in another vessel but as weeks go by it becomes clear that only one party has survived the voyage.

Anh, Thanh and Minh suddenly find themselves alone in the world, without family or home. They travel on, navigating refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in Thatcher’s Britain. Here they must somehow build new lives with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn’t seem to want them?

A refugeee tale… time to gird the loins and knuckle down for a rather harrowing read, I think.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff (Allen & Unwin)

For Geeta, life as a widow is more peaceful than life as a wife…

Until the other women in her village decide they want to be widows, too.

Geeta is believed to have killed her vanished husband – a rumour she hasn’t bothered trying to correct, because a reputation like that can keep a single woman safe in rural India. But when she’s approached for help in ridding another wife of her abusive drunk of a husband, her reluctant agreement sets in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of all the women in the village….

Another great title and a catchy cover – the blurn is also intrguing and potentially sounds like a darkly comic but also tender tale. Colour me intrigued.

Memphis by Tara M Stringfellow (John Murray)

FAMILY CAN HOLD YOU TOGETHER. AND TEAR YOU APART.

Joan was only a child the last time she visited Memphis. She doesn’t remember the bustle of Beale Street or the smell of honeysuckle as she climbs the porch steps to her aunt’s house. But when the front door opens, she does remember her cousin Derek.

As Joan learns more about her family’s past she discovers she’s not the only North woman to have experienced great hurt. But she also sees their resilience and courage, how these extraordinary women fry green tomatoes and braid hair and sing all the while.

Joan can’t change the past, but she can change her future. It’s time to find her own song to sing.

This feels very American… I mena with a title of Memphis, how could it not? That’s not a criticism but it sometimes can put me off…


So, please accept my apologies that this is (once more) a list that far exceeds the required 10 – but two of these are technically already read and therefore not really on my to-read list! And this is before I consider the two books outstanding still on NetGalley, the books I should be reading for school, the books I am currently halfway through… so many books, so little time!

Please do share your comments on any of these books – which might you recommend to read first? which covers caught your eye? – or add to my reading list with additional suggestions!


Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes


March 21: TTT Rewind (Pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update.)
March 28: Books for People Who Liked Author X
April 4: Indie/Self-Published Books (submitted by Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits)
April 11: Titles with Animals In Them and/or Covers with Animals On Them (submitted by Rachel @ Sunny Side)
April 18: Non-book Freebie (choose your own topic that’s not related to books! This could be hobbies, TV shows/movies, bands/singers, food items/recipes, top ten things about you, your top ten favorite things, places you’ve visited, favorite fashion designers, etc. Take this time to let your readers get to know you a little!)
April 25: Favorite Audiobook Narrators (or, if you don’t listen to audiobooks, name people—celebrities or otherwise—who might make you reconsider.)

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