SEASONAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS : WINTER 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or so they say. However you choose to celebrate this time of year — whether it be with long reading sessions curled up on the couch under a throw, hot drink nearby, or decking out your spaces in fairy lights and fragrant trees, as you watch holiday favourites, or even both at the same time — we wanted to put together a list of books that give us those chilly wintery vibes. Whether they bring you comfort and nostalgia, hope and joy, or frosty chills.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season; she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle; and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night …Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis – and two parts fairy godmother … 

This Winter by Alice Oseman

A short story, based on characters from Solitaire – praised as ‘The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age’ — The Times

I used to think that difficult was better than boring, but I know better now …

I’m not going to think about the past few months, about Charlie and me, and all of the sad. I’m going to block it all out. Just for today.

“Happy Christmas,” I say.

The festive season isn’t always happy for Tori and her brother Charlie. And this year’s going to be harder than most.

The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish

Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.
Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.

When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince…but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The NutcrackerWinterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

After a storm has killed off all the island’s men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Northern town of Vardø must fend for themselves. 

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are pushed together and are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence. 

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1620 witch trials, The Mercies is a feminist story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization
.

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

As this is a sequel we are not including the synopsis! Look it up at your own peril.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

With A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens created a modern fairy tale and shaped our ideas of Christmas. The tale of the solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of the season by a series of ghostly visitors and given a second chance, was conjured up by Dickens during one of his London night walks, who “wept and laughed” as he composed it. Taken to readers’ hearts for its humour, compassion and message of redemption, it remains its best-loved book. 



This is obviously not an exhaustive (though it feels like it! I’m tired) list and so we wonder : what is one book (or series) you aren’t seeing listed on anyone’s recommendation round-up for this season? Is there any special read you’re planning to get to in the next few weeks? Did anyone else notice all of these covers are various shades of blue? Let us know!


THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.



Title : The Near Witch
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Near Witch (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 12, 2019 (reprint)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 star review

This was Schwab’s debut and it certainly reads like one.

While I like the concept of this story and enjoyed how it unfolded in the beginning, it did start to lose me because of the insta-quick romance and the various antagonists, particularly the one who was our main character’s age. Almost every character felt rather flimsy, to be honest, almost as insubstantial as the witch. The few exceptions were a few female characters; the lead wasn’t bad but I preferred the old crones of the town and the sense of sisterhood both in the family and that permeated the general atmosphere. It was a nice counterbalance to the fact that 98% of the male characters were terrible — I don’t mean terribly written but just terrible people.

What added an extra heaping of disappointment was the fact that the love interest was one of the the only male characters that didn’t quite suck and in the added bonus short story? Well. I had felt something for him in THE NEAR WITCH but in THE ASH-BORN BOY it sort’ve all faded away. Wasn’t a fan of that short.

I get the point was likely to just preserve the original and reprint, as opposed to revise something that once existed, but I think this could’ve been made so much better. And it’s a shame it wasn’t. This could’ve been great.

The setting and sordid history of it all gave me some Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic vibes, but YA, and I was very into it. Schwab does well with imagery and description. But thankfully her characters have come a long way since these early days. I’m glad I read it, particularly having just revisited another early series of hers (which thankfully was just as good on reread), but this wasn’t quite it.

MONTHLY WRAP UP – NOVEMBER 2020

Micky here, I just want to drop in to say it’s been a difficult month reading wise for me, I have done literally nothing for the blog and Hollis has been carrying it all. She is a star shining brightly in my sky. I’ve been seriously ill in hospital with COVID that didn’t gel well with me already having severe asthma. I am kind of recovering but I still have pneumonia. Some of my reviews below are from reads I did in October but released in November. I have little to show for my month as when I have read, I haven’t felt able to do a full review but I hope you will be patient with my paltry attempts. Much love!

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.



☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr — see Micky’s review here
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black — see Hollis’ review here
The Archived by Victoria Schwab — see Hollis’ review here
The Unbound by Victoria Schwab — see Hollis’ review here
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett — see Hollis’ review here
A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane — see Hollis’ (rounded up) review here
Crush by Tracy Wolff — see Micky’s review here
Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour — see Hollis’ review here
Havoc & Happiness by Wren Handman — see Hollis’ review here
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson — see Hollis’ review here
Bound By Forever by Samantha Young — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire — see Hollis’ review here
The Roommate by Rosie Danan — see Hollis’ review here
Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas — see Hollis’ review here
rock by Anyta Sunday — see Hollis’ review here
Christmas Island by Natalie Normann — see Micky’s review here
Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer — see Hollis’ review here
Master of One by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

The Guy On The Left by Kate Stewart — see Hollis’ review here
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers — see Hollis’ review here

u n r a t e d

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke — see Hollis’ review here
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid — see Hollis’ review here

DNF



additional reads not reviewed for blog : Eleven
total reads by Micky : Sixteen
favourite read of the month : Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
least favourite read of the month : The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa (DNF, no review).
most read genre : Contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : nineteen
favourite read of the month : Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
least favourite read of the month : The Guy On The Left by Kate Stewart
most read genre : urban fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – DECEMBER 1, 2020

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.



A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir is the fourth and final book in the Ember in the Ashes quartet! For those who fell behind in this series (not naming names, cough, Hollis..) this is a great time to dive into a binge.

How To Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole is the first book in a new series, Runaway Royals, which seems to be a spinoff from her Reluctant Royals series. Which is about, you guessed it, royals!

Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker is a novella in Tucker’s Simple Wild universe which is already a bonus for fans. An extra bonus? It’s a holiday themed story!

Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre is about neighbouring couples with a focus on the women; one who has everything and the other who wants what she doesn’t have but is within her sight. It sounds like yet another dark twisty offering from this prolific author.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!