The heat of summer and fall have finally abated. This is, after all, Southern California, and I hear we’re in for another La Nina season, which means it’ll be a dry winter for us. But we’ve had a surprising amount of rainfall and some unexpected storms the past few weeks. It’s been chilly and rainy, but definitely not enough to get us out of our drought that’s probably been going on forever because this is a desert, after all. Anyways, winter is definitely here.
I’m not much of a mood reader, but seasons do have a way of making me think of certain kinds of books. I’ve written of books that feel like summer reads to me and books that feel like autumn reads, so now it’s time for winter reads. Even though March will hit and it’ll start to feel like summer again. Probably. Or maybe it’ll be February and a beach-y Valentine’s Day?!
Anyways, as popular as they are, I despise holiday reads. No clue why; I just don’t like them. But I do adore books with exotic, especially tropical, locales. Preferably without a holiday attached to it. Winter also makes me think of sweet romances, whether they’re in a romance novel or not (because Valentine’s Day, AKA my favorite holiday). Actually, I prefer them to not be romance novels. Lastly, winter also makes me think of snow, in a wistful never wanting to actually live in the snow again kind of way so they’re goo reminders to never move out of California again. But it’s nice to remember winter comes with snow, all while enjoying temperatures that can and will climb into the 70s and 80s while the sun shines brightly with not a cloud or raindrop in sight.
Let’s dive in and explore some indie books and books published by the big publishers that make me think of winter!
The Exotic Locales
First of all, I realize this is really subjective. I live in the US, so most places outside of the US are considered exotic to me. Except China. As a teen visiting Beijing with my family, I seriously thought we were going to die while crossing a road, so definitely not the kind of locale I want to revisit for a vacation via book.
Some bets were made to be lost
Kate Lamonica isn’t Koti James’s type. Too small. Too dark. And heaps too much work. So it’s an easy bet that he can be her friend for six weeks without making a move on her, no matter what his mates would have said.
Kate can’t believe she’s made the bet at all. New Zealand had seemed like the perfect escape from the stalker who’s threatened first her peace of mind, and then her life. She doesn’t need any more trouble, so why has she agreed to spend time with a Maori rugby player who’s far too handsome and charming for his own good—and knows it?
There’s more than one game Koti’s good at playing …
Note: This STAND-ALONE romance, like New Zealand, contains some steam. If that isn’t your cuppa, maybe visit another country … err, book.
This is the first book I think of every time winter hits. It was also the first one that kicked off the idea I like reading about exotic locales when it’s cold outside. I’d love to go to New Zealand one day, but I’ll settle for this book for now.
1980s LONDON. A SENSELESS MURDER, A BIZARRE DISAPPEARANCE AND A MYSTERY DECADES IN THE MAKING.
William Wells, a gifted but risk-averse US college dropout living an unadventurous life in London, stumbles upon a mysterious timepiece with the ability to alter time. When the Timepiece’s previous owner is brutally murdered by unknown assailants, Will flees, only to see his girlfriend, Abigayle, vanish before his eyes when she comes into contact with this remarkable watch.
He now finds himself alone in an unfamiliar city, wanted for a murder he didn’t commit and the prime suspect in a woman’s disappearance. Whether he knows it or not, Will does have one advantage – control over the most powerful force in the universe: time. The only problem is that he has no idea how to wield it. Those that do, members of a secretive and long-forgotten organisation, are also on his trail and there are no lines they won’t cross to recover The Timepiece.
This is set mostly in London and Ireland. Sounds like a great vacation to me! I’ll just forget all the rain I experienced the last time I was in the UK.
Families are dying because of a secret they kept. Can Darya find the murderer before he gets to her?
It was crazy really, for Darya to think she could have some peace and quiet at Heliconia Lane. Yes, it was located in a beautiful corner of South Goa—by the beach, no less—but after her Aunt Farideh disappeared twenty years ago—from this very place—nothing has been the same again. And now her uncle was dead under bizarre circumstances as were two of the neighbours on his street.
What was happening? Was there a murderer on the loose? Why were people dying? Was it connected to her aunt’s disappearance in some way?
And most importantly, was Darya going to be next?
A cosy, Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, Kiss of Salt introduces Darya Nandkarni, an amateur, and accidental detective, who is clever, spirited, resourceful, yet troubled and vulnerable. Her adventures will make you laugh, cry, gape, and marvel, and you won’t be able to put down the book until you’ve solved the mystery along with her in the beautiful side-streets of Goa.
Seriously, what an incredible locale! I’d never heard of Goa, India before, but it sounds absolutely lovely and beach-y and now I really, really want to go and experience what Darya got to. Sans the mystery, of course.
A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.
When Jessamyn Teoh starts hearing a voice in her head, she chalks it up to stress. Closeted, broke and jobless, she’s moving back to Malaysia with her parents – a country she last saw when she was a toddler.
She soon learns the new voice isn’t even hers, it’s the ghost of her estranged grandmother. In life, Ah Ma was a spirit medium, avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a business magnate who has offended the god—and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it, whether Jess wants to or not.
Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business, but dealing with her grandmother is just as complicated. Especially when Ah Ma tries to spy on her personal life, threatens to spill her secrets to her family and uses her body to commit felonies. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny – or the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.
This is set in Malaysia during the summer. I could really feel the heat while reading it. Perfect for keeping warm thoughts on a cold winter day! And a delightful exotic locale, as well.
Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes—or misfortunes—in tealeaves.
Ever since she can remember, Vanessa has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.
After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric Aunt Evelyn shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to California and bonjour to Paris. There, Vanessa learns more about herself and the root of her gifts and realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.
Romance plus an exotic locale, and Paris definitely makes me think romantic thoughts. But Paris is definitely a place I’d like to spend some more time in.
“You may wonder what my least-favorite student was doing in my living room. In a twist of fate that might seem hilarious if it happened to someone else, he was now my stepson.”
Professor Molly Barda is looking forward to a quiet summer in Mahina, Hawaii working on her research and adjusting to married life. But when a visit from her new husband’s relatives coincides with a murder, Molly wonders what she’s married into–and realizes she might have a killer under her roof.
Okay, this one is set in Hawaii so it’s not exactly exotic, but it is definitely more tropical than where I live, so I’ll count it!
A mythical Hawaiian Tiki bar, and it’s eclectic patrons help tell the story of our young hero as he discovers love in the tropics. Tiwaka, the parrot, trades chocolate covered nuts for words of wisdom and watches the wild and often mystical adventures unfold. You’ll laugh, cry and insist on buying your plane tickets immediately, to Tiwaka’s Tiki Bar & Grill.
And another one set in Hawaii. This is a fun one about a Tiki bar and a parrot, and I have some fond memories of reading this during my first winter when I lived on the East Coast. Definitely made me want to take a tropical vacation!
On December 26, 2004 the earth erupted under the waters of the Indian Ocean.
For Canadian aid worker Ayla Harris, her first overseas mission to post-tsunami Indonesia presents the perfect opportunity for escape. A failed romance with a married man and a strained relationship with her twin sister have left her suffering a general sense of ‘detachment’.
But a late night call on the eve of her departure reminds Ayla the bonds of love can be tenacious. It turns out her wheeler-dealer brother-in-law, Robert Trasque, has gone missing in Thailand.
However, it is the injured orphan Mahdi who restores Ayla’s soul with a single word: mother. In his child’s eyes she discovers the extent of her connection to the world.
From the devastated tourist beaches of Southeast Asia to the graveyard that was Banda Aceh, Ayla sets out on a personal mission – to find her sister’s gold-hungry husband and return him to his family.
In the midst of universal tragedy, what is the value of a single life? Can Ayla expose a killer and avoid becoming the next victim as she and her team struggle to bring hope to a region that is drowning in despair?
Set during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia, this is definitely an exotic locale, but also a rather devastating story. This does focus more on the facts of what happened than the fictional story, but it feels very realistic.
The Sweet Romance
From the USA Today bestselling author of the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles comes an extraordinary new series filled with elemental magic, mythic creatures, and heroic gargoyles.
This is Kylie’s big break. Thanks to an enchanted tree, the journalist and her gargoyle companion, Quinn, have a secret lead on the story of a lifetime—if they’re brave enough to follow it.
However, she’s not the only one chasing this story. If anyone is going to write a high-profile article, Kylie’s rival, Nathan, believes it should be him. And he’s willing to play dirty to get his way.
To beat Nathan, Kylie and Quinn must work fast. Yet with every new lead forcing them deeper into a deadly maze of murder, warped magic, and monstrous beasts, rushing could prove fatal.
Kylie is determined to publish her dream story, but is it worth dying for?
I adore the romance between Kylie and Grant. Since it’s a trilogy (this is the first book, but there’s also a prequel that isn’t necessary, but is a lot of fun), it’s a bit fast, but oh so cute and sweet, with the occasional really nice “view.”
Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse is part one of the Guardian Cadet Series, an exciting fantasy with action adventure, heapings of magic, and a delightful slow burn, heart-warming romance.
Merry wants to be a Guardian, there’s just a few things standing in her way: her gender, her secret heritage, her penchant for questioning authority.
Her repeated petitions turned arguments with the Guardian Commander have got Merry exactly nowhere and, as her second year of study at the Five Towers University nears its end, Merry is starting to worry she won’t have a job after Graduation. Or at least not one beyond her current gig as a bartender.
When a Guardian Colonel comes to Merry for help, the logical thing to do is agree, after all Colonel is only one step down from Commander. But when that help includes searching the places that will put Merry’s security most at risk she has to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.
Until the Colonel sweetens the deal.
Okay, best romance ever. I’m still dreaming of this one. It was so sweet and so achingly real and natural. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely fall for romances that feel authentic, and this had authentic written all over it.
THE GOD QUEEN RETURNS. SO, WHY IS EVERYONE SQUELCHING HER POWER?
In a backwater Earth town, Rei Ettowa dreams of traveling across the stars to destroy Infiernen – the knight who murdered her brother.When Rei discovers she is the reincarnation of the prophesied God Queen, she relishes her newfound ability to channel lightning for revenge. Unfortunately, blazing through a battlefield clashes with the Federation’s plan for Rei and the others like her. All the gods are to be trained as diplomatic figureheads to sway voters, not agents of war. Infiernen must remain untouched.As Rei navigates her new role in the Federation, she finds herself drawn to Bronx, a handsome young man who can barely control his powers. He is also yet another target of Infiernen’s wrath. Unable to let go of her brother’s murder and desperate to save Bronx, Rei searches for Infiernen, only to discover a shocking secret the Federation has been keeping from her.Furious by the Federation’s secrets, she’s out for revenge. But not everything is as it seems. What else could the Federation be hiding from her?
A sci-fi story about gods being reincarnated and lovers being reunited (that’s just a small thread of it), it has an incredibly real, beautiful, natural, and mature romance.
Proof that a mother’s love is with us through it all…
For lovers of meaningful contemporary romance with a dash of spirit. This novel conveys an important and uplifting message of positivity and hope. ~ Sublime Book Reviews
Meet Savannah, the thirty-something owner of Life Celebrations, a party planning business. Despite losing both parents as a teenager, Savannah is creating a positive life for herself, surrounded by friends and co-workers who are now her family. But she also has a secret—as much as she wants to settle down and have children, she is afraid of getting sick too, and having to leave them without their mother, as she herself was left behind years ago.
Her mother is Deirdre Rose. She continues to watch over Savannah, who feels deeply connected to her mother whenever a dragonfly crosses her path.
Now meet Ben, a good-looking, talented recording artist who is already a household name. Yeah, he’s famous, but he’s also painfully lonely. He trusts few people because it seems everyone wants something from him instead of getting to know who he really is.
As fate would have it, Savannah and Ben cross paths at a yoga retreat in the Massachusetts Berkshires.
They are drawn to each other’s creativity and outlook on life.
She sees beyond his celebrity and he admires her strength in what she’s had to overcome.
What happens when the retreat ends and they’re forced to go their separate ways?
Will they be able to make a long distance relationship work?Can Savannah put aside her fears, and will Ben allow himself to be truly vulnerable?
Above all . . . what message do Deirdre Rose and Dragonfly have for both of them?
Such a sweet, mature romance! I loved how they met and how they worked out their relationship. It’s almost sickeningly sweet, which makes it absolutely perfect for Valentine’s Day.
When a time travelling Jane Austen gets stuck in modern-day Bath it’s up to avid Janeite Rose Wallace to save her… because she’s the only one who knows that Jane exists!
Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…
But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.
Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!
I seriously swooned when a scene at the end echoed my favorite scene in my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion. Still my favorite romance scene.
From the USA Today bestselling author of The Summer House comes a story about finding lost loves, chasing dreams, and the people who show up when they’re needed the most. The Memory Keeper is the perfect escape for fans of Debbie Macomber, Pamela Kelley, and Susan Mallery.
This year, for her birthday, Hannah Townsend is leaving the icy New York City sludge for sunshine! She’s got tickets for two to Barbados, and she’s all packed and surprising her beau Miles Monahan at the airport for a week of cocktails, sandy beaches, and the music of steel drums.
But her life is turned upside down in the span of that one morning. Hannah is rocked by the news that her beloved grandmother is very sick, and Hannah needs to come home to her small Tennessee town right away to be with her family and help run her gran’s dilapidated flower shop. It also means she has to face Ethan Wright, the best friend she’d left behind so many years ago. If that isn’t enough to deal with, she discovers her boyfriend is seeing someone else.
With flights grounded and rental cars in great demand due to the winter snowstorm, she’s stranded at the airport. On her birthday, instead of waking up in a stylish beachfront hotel in Miles’s arms like she thought, she finds herself packed like sardines into a car, with two passengers, on a ride-share from LaGuardia Airport to her hometown of Franklin, Tennessee.
When everything seems to be going wrong, it’s the kindness of a handsome businessman from Hannah’s past named Liam McGuire that might just save her. But a new development that threatens Gran’s shop and secrets surrounding Liam could alter both their lives forever.
A heartwarming, sweet romance that will have you laughing, crying, and best of all, hugging those around you a little tighter. If you loved the feel good Christmas movies based on Jenny’s books and are looking for more feel-good, small town romance, look no further!
This is kind of the epitome of a winter read to me. It doesn’t have an exotic locale, but it has a lovely, snowy small Southern town set around Valentine’s Day with a lovely, mature romance. (I’m starting to sense a theme. Are you?)
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling New York Times bestselling rom-com by Lana Harper.
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?
But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
This is full of magic in a small Midwestern town, and a seriously serious and sweet sapphic romance I fell for and really wanted more of. Who cares if it should feel more like a fall read?! I’ll be thinking of this one this Valentine’s Day.
The Snowy Reads
Once upon a winter’s night, a lost cowboy finds himself in Purgatory Bend. Patrick Doolin is plagued by a wound that won’t heal, but winter is the season of miracles. As Patrick wanders through Wyoming, he meets Fawna Darling, the mysterious granny witch, who channels the folk magic of her ancestors. With nowhere to go and a secret Patrick doesn’t yet understand, he seeks shelter with Fawna in the snowswept prairie. Forbidden to fall in love, they form an eternal bond in the dreamscape, but when the bluebirds sing of summer and threaten their empire of dreams, they are faced with an impossible decision. Will Patrick stay in the land of the living, or will he cross over the prairie? Summer is the season of surprises, and Fawna’s childhood sweetheart, Dezi Ketchum, longs to win her heart too. When winter melts across the gold-slick prairie, Fawna searches for answers under the rose moon. Caught between fire and water and flesh and fantasy, she follows her heart and ventures into uncharted territory.
I mean, “snow” is in the title. This is set during the winter, as it slowly melts into spring. I’m not into Westerns, but I really loved this one and it really felt like winter, thanks to Grendolyn’s absolutely incredible ability to weave words into magic.
In a world that’s lost its magic, a former soldier turned PI solves cases for the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in an imaginative debut fantasy by Black Sails actor Luke Arnold.
Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help.
Walk the streets of Sunder City and meet Fetch, his magical clients, and a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.
This is a world with no magic, and we enter it when it’s really cold. It’s so cold and snowy I almost felt like I was going to see my breath, while reading it inside my nice hot Southern California home where the low is usually in the 30s, in the middle of the night. The second book felt even more frigid.
After the gasp-inducing cliffhanger ending of The Frozen Crown, the exciting conclusion to the epic story of Askia—a warrior, witch, and queen-to-be—as she confronts the monster that stole her throne…and is holding her prisoner to steal her magic.
The Empire of Vishir has lost its ruler, and the fight to save Seravesh from the Roven Empire is looking bleak. Moreover, Askia has been captured by power-hungry Emperor Radovan, who plans on making her his wife simply so he can take her magic as his own, killing her in the process. Aware of his ex-wives’ fates, Askia must find a means of avoiding this doom, not only for the sake of Seravesh, but now for Vishir as well. She must put both nations first and remember Ozura’s advice: you must play the game in order to survive. Askia was born a soldier, but now it’s time to become a spy.
But it’s hard to play a game where the only person who knows the rules wants to kill her.
And time is a factor. The jewel Radovan has put around her neck will pull her power from her in thirty days. Worse, Vishir might not even have that long, as the two heirs to the throne are on the verge of civil war. Without any hope for help from the south, without any access to her magic, alone in a hostile land, Askia is no closer to freeing her people than she was when she fled to Vishir. In the clutches of a madman, the only thing she’s close to is death.
Yet she’d trade her life for a chance to save Seravesh. The problem: she may not have that choice.
A much better read than the first book, this is set in a cold, snowy, wintry country and made me feel quite chilly. I could use a nice, thick, velvet gown now.
When their father is murdered by imperial soldiers, two siblings set out on opposite paths–one will destroy the Empire forever and the other will save it–in this thrilling new epic fantasy.
Sonya is training to be a Ranger of Marzanna, an ancient sect of warriors who have protected the land for generations. But the old ways are dying, and the rangers have all been forced into hiding or killed off by the invading Empire.
When her father is murdered by imperial soldiers, she decides to finally take action. Using her skills as a ranger she will travel across the bitter cold tundra and gain the allegiance of the only other force strong enough to take down the invaders.
But nothing about her quest will be easy. Because not everyone is on her side. Her brother, Sebastian, is the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever seen. And he’s fighting for the empire.
Most of this is set in a snowy northern country reminiscent of Russia. It really felt cold and snowy.
The meteor brought more than space dust.
Verena is a grad student living in Alaska when she receives a phone call that changes her life. Her family has been keeping secrets about their origins and their purpose. Soon, she’s on a mission to save the world from Chernobog’s demonic beasts. Will she master her new magic in time? Will Owen, a man with his own demons, help her in her quest, or will he break her heart?
As she crosses the world to the snowy Ural Mountains, Verena must decide if she’s ready to lead or if the price is too high.
Fans of Ilona Andrews, K.F. Breene, and Jeaniene Frost will enjoy this urban fantasy and its smart, brave heroine.
Verena’s Whistle is a stay-up-all-night fantastical adventure, an entertaining story of finding yourself and following your destiny.
Oh my goodness, all the snow in this one, and it was all utilized so well! I definitely felt the chill from it, and absolutely loved everything it added to the story. It’s definitely not just there to look pretty.
For fans of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and David Mitchell, a genre bending, time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.
Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English-instead of French-the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.
From bestselling author Natasha Pulley, The Kingdoms is an epic, wildly original novel that bends genre as easily as it twists time.
So, this one literally jumps all over the place in time, and it’s not strictly a snowy read, but parts of it take far way up north, so it overall felt rather chilly.
What books make you think of winter? What kinds of books are perfect for curling up with during the winter?
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