-A.M. Aguilar

Top 4 First Half of 2023

Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Mythology, and Mystery

I know I say this every time I have to post a wrap-up but it’s truly what I feel at the moment: time goes by so quickly! How come we’re 6 months into 2023 already? Surreal! Today I want to share with you my top 4 reads of the year, so far, though. I have read many books, and enjoyed them all, but only these made it to the top choices 😉 … continue reading to find out more about them!

I hope that everyone has been spending their time well and that you will all get to enjoy your summer nicely, relaxing and, overall, having fun. In my case, my college trimester isn’t over until August so I still have a couple of months left of studying and classes- but once it is, I hope to have more time to read and post reviews too 😀 ! 

I have a few post ideas in mind so stay tuned to see those during the month of June. Plus, I am always posting my reading and life updates in my Instagram stories so be sure to check those out 😉 (@thebookssmuggler). Back to the post though!

So far, in 2023, I have read 10 books total, and for today’s post, I have chosen to share my 4 and 5 star reads with you all. I hope that these mini-reviews and my opinions about these books can spark your interest and make your TBR for June and July a little bit higher 😉 . 

If you want to, you can also check out my last post: Bookstores that I Hope to Visit Once in my Lifetime! 

Now, let’s get started…

Top 4 First Half of 2023

1. House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

New favorite book unlocked! Wow, wow, WOW! I absolutely adored this one! House of Hollow is a fascinating and beautifully written mystery novel that absolutely captivated me 🙂 . I love dark and extravagant books like this one, written like a horror movie, but not being horror per se. More like disturbingly fascinating and mysterious. If you are in the mood for this kind of reading, or if you are in a reading slump of sorts, this book is bound to get you hooked! 

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember. Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children :0 . I loved the twists and turns and surprises in this book. You’ll realize how, in the end, things are much more complicated than they appear to be… 10/10. Would recommend it!


2. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I really enjoyed diving into the Fantasy genre again with a book like this! Peak worldbuilding and intricate magic system with adventures and quests to follow alongside our charming and captivating characters. Definitely one of my favorite aspects of the story! THE CHARACTERS 😀 . Every single one of them is well written and I liked reading both Zafira’s and Nasir’s POVs.

Despite the pace being a little bit too slow for my liking (it took me WEEKS to read the first 180 pages), I definitely enjoyed the second half and last chapters when the book picks up and the drama, suspense and plot-twists occur.  Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan.

If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter… :0 .


3. Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

If you’ve been here for a while then you know that I’m currently diving into Mythology-inspired Fantasy books and the Aru Shah series by Roshani Chokshi is my current obsession! Aru Shah and the City of Gold is book 4 in the series and, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you, I will just share my general opinion on this installment. If you are interested, though, you can check out my post for Top 5 April 2022 where I talk about book 1 in the series!

Full of adventure and Aru’s humor and witty attitude that I’ve come to know and love, this book was incredibly enthralling and entertaining, I couldn’t put it down once I started it. Aru’s biggest question throughout this one is: why has every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her… will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life? :0 I am hoping to begin reading book 5 this month so stay tuned for those updates! 


4. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

This book is a collection of Hercule Poirot short stories- eleven of them altogether- and each case gets more deviously clever than the last. Agatha Christie writes intriguing and engaging short stories SO very well 😉 .

The pace is fast and it always has sufficient sides to keep Poirot and Captain Hastings on their toes. The mystery genre is incredibly entertaining and I have been reminded why I adore it so much- definitely recommend this collection of stories!

First there was the mystery of the film star and the diamond… then came the “suicide” that was murder… a suspicious death in a locked gun room… a million dollar bond robbery… a jewel robbery by the sea… a phone call from a dying man… and, finally, the mystery of the missing will. All solved by the brilliant deductive powers and little gray cells of Hercule Poirot! Are you a fan of mystery as well? If you’re looking for something short and entertaining to read, I’d suggest beginning with these short stories 🙂 .


I hope you have enjoyed reading this short wrap-up for the first half of the year! I have read 10 books total, and these are definitely the top choices so far. Lately, I have been in a fantasy mood so I may read more fantastical books soon. I can’t wait to read and discover more stories throughout the year to share them with you in an end of the year wrap-up, in just a few more months 😉 .  

If you read any of the books I mentioned today, feel free to let me know. I always enjoy talking with you guys about books and bookish things 😀 ! Please stay tuned for new posts and reviews and, if you’d like to, head over to my Instagram account where I always post updates for these.

I wish that everyone has been spending their time well, that you’re all safe and sound and taking care of yourself. Spread love always, book lovers. Happy reading! 

Did you spend the first half of 2023 reading? Tell me how it went & comment your favorite reads of the year, so far, too!



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