As February ends, the last days of winter smother us. They wear us down, planting within us a keen desire for change, any change, anything to bring light into the darkness of the season. For some of us, snow lingers thickly around our ankles and spring is still an anticipated treat, too far away to cause us to worry about the Valentine’s chocolates we devoured a week ago. For others, sliding into a sundress, or God forbid, a swimsuit looms threateningly. Wherever you are, if the seasonal doldrums have you down, take note, for we are sending you some heartwarming book suggestions to chase away the frostiest of winter blues.
Caryn’s Pick: Bared to You by Sylvia Day
I can think of nothing better to thwart the chill of the dark days of winter than a hot and steamy romance novel. I confess to being smitten with Fifty Shades of Grey and ignored the usual derogatory commentary: “The writing could be better.” Well, geez, the writing can always be better. This statement always irks me when my friends blurt it out. My inner monologue goes something like this: After you write your own novel then you can comment on the writing! I know, I know, you don’t have to be a chef to recognize good food (really?) and you don’t have to be a writer to appreciate good writing. Well, I’m not entirely convinced.
The tease for this novel goes like this: “Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness…” And oh boy, is that the truth. New York Times and #1 International Bestselling Author, Sylvia Day, has crafted a sensual, erotic story of a love affair between billionaire Gideon Cross and the emotionally damaged Eva. Both characters are flawed to the point where they separately despair of ever having a healthy relationship, haunted by their personal demons. But the sexual chemistry at their initial encounter knocks them both off their feet, literally for Eva. It’s enough to make your panties combust. And they barely touch each other! Their sexual chemistry is like the craving for a drug and eventually they succumb to their desires. Although Gideon pursues Eva relentlessly, he insists that it’s just sex he’s interested in and he senses Eva is looking for the same. They agree to keep it casual and maybe they could even be friends, but that’s it. Yeah, well, we all know how that goes.
Struggling to overcome their deep emotional wounds, the relationship soon becomes tense and complicated. They mirror each other’s pain and the torment of their pasts threatens to tear them apart as jealousy, possessiveness and obsession take hold. The sex is explosive and passionate, their relationship stormy, but when they’re happy it’s glorious. In essence, they begin to transform each other.
I highly recommend this novel and if you like it, rejoice! There are two more in the series!
Robin’s Pick: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
I went dystopian for my pick. What better way to chase away the winter blues than to focus on someone in even worst shape. A bright red star named Calamity appears over the Earth, and a small number of humans start changing into Epics. The antagonist Steelheart is an Epic, a human being endowed with supernatural abilities. As his name suggest, Steelheart has the gift of turning anything inanimate into steel. Using his powers, he seizes control of Newcago, and turns not only building, but the ground deep beneath the city into solid steel. Steelheart surrounds himself with other powerful Epics, and they use their powers to terrorize and control the humans. The city residents live in cramped underground chambers, fighting to survive.
David is a Reckoner, part of a small group of human fighters hunting down lesser Epics, in an effort to resist Epic domination. David studies Epics, collecting data on their weakness, and documenting how their powers work, in the hopes of someday defeating them. Many years ago, Steelheart killed David’s father, but not before David learned something important, a secret Steelheart killed thousands to protect. It’s up to David and the Reckoners to use this knowledge to bring down Steelheart, or die trying.
Steelheart did something a book hasn’t done in a long time, surprised me. I find so many books are just rehashes of some other book, but this one actually managed to deliver a last-minute plot twist I didn’t see coming. Although parts of the book moved a bit slow, the overall story had a number of things I appreciated: an unlikely hero, an unusual antagonist, and some interesting world building. I’ll be reading the sequel Firelight when it comes out in the fall.
Heather’s Pick: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
This has been one of the most brutal winters of my adult life. It’s been snowing in Toronto since November and hasn’t stopped. And the cold! A record number of days below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit). Makes me wish I could afford a frivolous holiday down south. So jealous of all the people lying on a beach somewhere… until I read DANGEROUS GIRLS. If you have beach envy, this book will cure it! It’s the story of a group of teenagers who go to Aruba for Spring Break, and one of them gets murdered and another is accused of the murder. I won’t give anything away (it is a murder mystery, after all), except that Anna, the accused, spends months in jail and suddenly the idea of going on holiday somewhere with a foreign justice system seems very unappealing. I’m just gonna stay here with the snow and the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, thank you very much.
Jenn’s pick: When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
I love winter and all its associated accessories: log fires, bed, electric blankets, hot stews and roasts, soups and red wine…see, I have to stop myself. I just think that darkness seldom exists on its own–it would be unbearable if it did. (And okay, I’m spoilt, I live in San Francisco, where snow isn’t exactly a pressing concern.) This book has dark moments, but Sarah Winman’s prose is so gorgeous that you’re drawn close to vivid, eccentric characters and willingly suffer along with them as they endure heartbreaking events. It’s the story of the fierce bond between young Elly, the narrator, and her brother Joe, and her friendship with weird and wonderful Jenny Penny. The relationship with Joe is beautifully rendered–he buys Elly a Belgian hare after she confides in him that the neighbor has abused her, because he feels the pet will be a good friend. Elly calls the rabbit ‘god,’ and yes, he talks to her. The novel unfolds in England in the sixties and seventies and moves to New York, spanning forty years of quirky relationships with oddball characters that just about vibrate on the page. I attributed the depth and richness of the narrative to the author’s voice, which captures the torments of childhood and coming-of-age with searing honesty and whimsy. The secrets and traumas the children share go way beyond traditional coming-of-age stories, and sometimes their tribulations get close to unbearable. Some loose ends and off-the-wall coincidences strain belief, but life’s like that, isn’t it?