Aside from Halloween, I have a hard time thinking of most books as seasonal, unless they are directly set in a specific season. I know of many YA books that are set over the summer, but not so many books that are set in the winter. I know a lot of people like to read cozy stories, often romances, specifically in the winter or read anything Christmas-related. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Christmas-themed books, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider my winter reads particularly cozy. I wonder if that has to do with participating in reading challenges, so what I read at the start of winter is basically the “leftovers” that I hadn’t got to in the rest of the year. In January and February, I tend to go for a mix of books that I’m very excited for and some of the challenge prompts that I’m least excited for to get them out of the way early. Seasons really don’t come into it at all, unless there is a very obvious connection to a specific season. I was surprised to see how tricky it was to find much that was winter-themed, despite a TBR of over 2500 books!
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.
1) The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge
I chose this book as a winter read mostly because of the creepy black-and-white cover art which heavily features dead trees. It is also set in a snowy area of Norway, and it is meant to be a ghost story. It is about a girl named Martha who can tell things about people by touching their clothes, beginning the day she has an accident where she falls from a tree and becomes partially blind. Wanting to understand her new ability, Martha travels to visit her grandmother Mormor, only to discover that Mormor has died a strange boy is now living in her cabin, and a scary creature is on the loose. I generally tend to read ghost stories more toward Halloween, but I think this one builds a good case for being a winter read. Not only is it set in a snowy setting, but it will also be released in the winter (January 2019), and has a wintry cover as well. I only discovered this book very recently, but it sounds really interesting.
2) Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle
I’ve never really looked for books set on New Year’s Eve, but I’m sure there are quite a few. This book is about a high school senior named Kendall who is returning from a semester in Europe, and Max, who is taking a gap year before going to college. Kendall and Max witness an accident during the holiday season, which convinces them to perform random acts of kindness for strangers, pulling them closer as they explore the city. Although both are involved in other relationships, they find themselves bonding more and more as New Year’s Eve draws closer. To be honest, I added this one to my TBR without really knowing much about it but now that I’ve actually read the synopsis in detail, I’m very excited to give it a try. I’ve noticed that most of the reviews have commented that it strongly involves a love triangle, which is a trope that is way too overused, but I don’t mind if it is actually done well. It definitely seems like this one is worth a try.
3) The Secret Daughter of the Tsar: A Novel of the Romanovs by Jennifer Laam
On the one hand, I’m very excited to try this one because I’ve always loved reading about the Romanovs, but on the other, I’m not a huge fan of alternate histories. This book is an alternate history of the Romanov dynasty, changed to include a fifth daughter who was smuggled out of Russia before the revolution. It focuses on three main characters: Veronica, a historian who is investigating the claim o f a man who says he is an heir to the throne; Lena, a servant who became Empress Alexandra’s confidante; and Charlotte, a ballerina living in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941, who is pursued by a German officer obsessed with the fate of the Romanov family. The plot summary on Goodreads confuses me a bit since I’m not 100% clear on the connection between the three stories, but I chose it as a wintry read because of the snowy cover art. My issue with alternate histories of events that I already know well is that I tend to find they throw me off when they conflict with what I already know happened, but this one sounds very intriguing.
4) Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
This book is a little outside my comfort zone, but I added it to my TBR anyway because it came very highly recommended by several of the reviewers I follow. I’m usually not at all interested in books that are based on sports, but this one seemed too good to pass up. It is a graphic novel about a boy named Eric Bittle (known at Bitty) who has joined his college’s hockey team. Although he is a talented skater, he is not a great hockey player. Bitty is also gay but has not come out yet, and he is a vlogger who talks about what is happening in his life. This book follows Bitty through his first two years of college, but it is based on a webcomic with more content available online. I think this book is the perfect winter read because it has both the wintry setting with the focus on hockey, and the cozy aspect of a romantic subplot. All of the reviews I’ve seen for this one talk quite a bit about how adorable this book is, so it definitely seems like a cozy winter story.
5) Since We Last Spoke by Brenda Rufener
This is another book that I decided fits the winter themed mostly because of the snowy cover, but it also takes place as least partially in the winter. It is about Aggi and Max, who finally admitted they had feelings for each other last December and thought their love was perfect, until a fatal car accident involving their older siblings changes their lives. A restraining order between the two households prevents the two of them from even speaking to each other, but after a year of silence, they begin to rebuild their relationship at a party hosted by a mutual friend. When Aggi’s younger sister runs away from home, triggering their father’s rage, Aggi and Max need to confront each other and their families to try and bring everyone back together. I mostly added this one to my TBR on the cover art alone since I thought it was very cute, but it seems like this can be a very interesting story with a little more depth than the usual YA romance. I’m definitely interested in giving this one a fair chance.
6) Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
I’ve had this book on my TBR for almost three years now, but haven’t picked it up yet. I think I even own a copy of it, so there is really no excuse! It is about two sisters, Meredith and Nina, who go on to live very different lives, until their father’s illness brings them back together with their cold and disapproving mother. When they were children, the only connection the girls had was the Russian fairy tale their mother used to tell them at night, which their father now makes them promise to listen to one last time, and all the way to the end. The girls soon realize that the story is not a fairy tale, but the story of their mother’s life in Leningrad, and it involves a secret that will change how they see themselves and their family. The first Kristin Hannah book I ever read was The Nightingale, which quickly became a favourite, so I’ve been looking forward to trying more from her. Considering how long I’ve been meaning to try this one and the fact that I probably have my own copy, I may need to bump it up much higher on my priority list.
7) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is another book I’ve had on my TBR for quite a while, but kept putting off because I wasn’t in the mood for an “issues” book. It is about two best friends, Lia and Cassie, who are “wintergirls” because of their tiny bodies, competing to see who can become the thinnest until Cassie dies, leaving Lia behind to cope with the loss and her own struggles with anorexia. It has been a very long time since I read a book that dealt with anorexia or eating disorders in general. I’ve read Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak many years ago, but I honestly have no memory of it except I vaguely remember thinking that I found it a bit overhyped. I actually would like to read it again since I’m pretty sure I rushed through it too quickly and didn’t really read it properly. I think that’s been a huge factor in why I’ve been putting off reading this one for so long, since I wasn’t sure I’d really like it that much either. I’d consider this one a winter read because of the icy cover art, and because the darker themes can suit the darker winter weather.
8) What Light by Jay Asher
I’ve been putting this one off for a very long time too, mostly because of my general aversion to Christmas stories. However, I loved Thirteen Reasons Why and really enjoyed The Future Of Us, so I’d be interested in reading more from Jay Asher. This book is about a girl named Sierra whose family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, and travels to California with her family every holiday season, forcing her to divide her time between her two lives. When Sierra meets Caleb, a boy who has some horrible rumours about his past, and needs to decide whether she can look past the rumours and accept him for who he is now. Honestly, I think there is good reason that I haven’t read this yet, since it seems like a fairly typical YA story (which I don’t really mind) without much to particularly grab my attention. The Christmas setting is not a huge attraction for me, unfortunately, so I’m hoping that the rest of the story is strong enough on its own to keep my attention if or when I finally read it.
9) Inside by Alix Ohlin
I cannot for the life of me remember when or why I added this one to my TBR, but I thought the snowglobe on the cover was a good fit for the winter theme. It is a book about a therapist named Grace who stumbles upon a man who has tried and failed to hang himself, and soon realizes that her feelings for this stranger may be a little more complex. At the same time, Grace’s teenage patient Annie runs away from home to become an actress in New York, and her ex-husband Mitch decides to move to the Arctic to help a struggling native community. The reviews for this one have been very mixed, so I’m a little on the fence about how much I even want to read it, especially since I have no memory of even adding it to my list in the first place. On the off-chance that anyone has tried this one, please let me know if this one is worth it! This may be a bit biased (being Canadian myself), but I found the fact that it was labelled “Canadian fiction” a bit off-putting, since I rarely enjoy the Canadian books that I read, for some reason.
10) The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
One of the things I’ve always associated with the holiday season is toy soldiers, probably because of the many cartoon versions of The Nutcracker I used to see. This book was released last February, and immediately caught my attention because of the toy soldier on the front cover. It is set in 1917, where Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium opens every year at the first frost. Papa Jack is a man who creates and sells magical toys every year, with his sons Kaspar and Emil who are now old enough to join the family business. When a homeless young girl named Cathy arrives, the Emporium takes her in, following the lives of Cathy and the family over the span of decades and through the world wars. It is not a book that I’ve heard very much about, despite it being out for almost a year already, but it sounds very interesting. It reminds me a bit of the Drew Barrymore movie Babes in Toyland, (which was a childhood favourite for me!) although much more serious. I’m not often a fan of magical realism, but I’d be willing to give this one a try.
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