Do you like to read seasonally? At this time of year, I enjoy reading books about the holiday season, as well as moody, atmospheric winter stories. If that sounds up your alley, then I have a great list of Christmas and winter reads that you should pick up this holiday season!
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.
~ My Thoughts: This books has a lovely winter backdrop of Leningrad, while at it’s core being about family and the power of the bond between sisters and mothers. I’m always a fan of Kristin Hannah books, and this one is no exception.
Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall
Nick Winters and Noel Carter have known each other their whole lives. After years of shared family holidays, working together on the Winters’ Christmas tree farm, and being each other’s safe haven, they wouldn’t dream of crossing the line from friends to something more….
But when Nick comes home for the holidays after serving overseas and finds that his long-term girlfriend has decided to get her stocking stuffed elsewhere, Noel is there to pick him up and show him that instead of a Blue Christmas he can still have a Wonderful Christmastime without his cheating ex.
A night on the town and an impulsive kiss later has Noel thinking that perhaps this year they’ll be rockin’ around the Christmas tree as a couple, but only if the ghost – er rather – girlfriend of Nick’s Christmas past doesn’t decide to haunt their holiday….
~ My Thoughts: This was such a cute Christmas romance! I loved the characters and the story. The side characters were also fantastic, which is great since this is the first in a series. I also love books that talk about music! This is a super cute holiday pick!
There’s Something About Merry by Codi Hall
Merry Winters has the holiday blues. She’s spent the last year learning to love herself, and now she’s ready to find the right guy. But the pickings are slim in Mistletoe, Idaho, and it’s just her luck that the man who catches her eye is the stoic new foreman at her family’s Christmas tree farm. Too bad he wants to keep a 39-and-a-half-foot pole between them.
Single dad Clark Griffin isn’t looking for romance, but he wouldn’t mind a friend to snuggle with on a cold winter’s night. When he signs up for online dating, he doesn’t expect to connect with the sassy, crafty Knottygirl25 and get wrapped up in every message she writes.
But when Merry turns out to be his blind internet date, his surprise causes him to miss his chance under the mistletoe. Can a little Christmas magic give these two a second chance at a first impression?
~ My Thoughts: This is the sequel to Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist. This one follows Nick’s sister, Merry. It was super cute and sweet! If you want a feel good Christmas romance, this is a great read. It is not necessary to read the first book first, but it will give you some good backstory.
The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
When the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.
Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.
At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr. McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family?
~ My Thoughts: I thought this was a super sweet Christmas story! While it has some romance, at its core this book is about the importance of family and finding the things that make you tick. And, as always with Jenny Colgan, I love the Scottish backdrop!
Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes–as everyone does–that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.
But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…
Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict–but how?–and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears–and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?
Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris–a cherished packet of letters in hand–determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…
~ My Thoughts: I love epistolary novels, and I don’t read a ton of WWI historical fiction, so this is a really fun read! I loved the format and the characters. If you are a fan of books written in letters, you will enjoy this novel.
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.
So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in and try to make the best of it.
Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.
Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm–and one another.
~ My Thoughts: This is such a great winter mystery! It is a closed door mystery, very reminiscent of books like And Then There Were None. If you are looking for something a little more murder-y for your winter reading, this one is a great pick!
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
~ My Thoughts: Ruta Sepetys is an amazing author, and she always chooses parts of history that I know very little about. This book is about the prison camps in Siberia during WWII, and it is as heartbreaking as it is beautifully written.
*This book has also been released with the title of Ashes in the Snow, just so you know if you go looking for it!*
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
~ My Thoughts: As a giant fan of the movie Labyrinth (with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly from 1986), when I heard the premise of this book, I was immediately intrigued. Upon reading it, I was pleasantly surprised in the best way possible. It has very loose ties to the story in the movie, but it is a story completely its own that caused me many tears and revelations.
If you want to read my full review of this book, check it out here!
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.
~ My Thoughts: This was a very atmospheric wintry novel that was full of beautiful imagery. It has a very fairy-tale feel to it, and the Russian setting is perfect for a moody winter read.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart – he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone – but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
~ My Thoughts: The character growth in this novel is quite beautiful, especially in the character of Mabel, who became one of my favorites. I will admit, the ending left a little to be desired for me, but I still feel that it was extremely well written and is definitely worth the read. The Alaska backdrop makes for a delightful winter setting.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.
Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
~ My Thoughts: I am generally not a horror fan, but this was a really great read! The winter was almost as much of a character in the novel as the actual people. If you are looking for more of a mystery/ghost story/horror book for the holiday season, this is a good pick.
The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey
Professional organiser Kate Stone has never – NEVER – been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour.
Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home.
But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen…
~My Thoughts: This is thoroughly satisfying chick lit! It has a cute premise and a sweet romance, all wrapped up in a Christmas-y bow. This a great pick if you want something a little bit light and fluffy.
Have you read any of these? What is your favorite Christmas or winter read? Do you like happy, cheery reads at the holidays or dark and moody?
Let’s chat in the comments!
Love and happy reading,