As we come upon the end of the year I find myself not wanting to read at all, let alone wanting to start a new book. There’s just something about the close of December this year that’s making me feel kind of listless; there’s probably a multitude of reasons for this, some of them involving potential shakeups in my personal life (i.e. I am anxious about a potential new job opportunity and cannot concentrate properly on anything), but in any case, I am also very excited for the beginning of a brand new year where I can start a whole bunch of new books!
The winter months in particular (January, February, maybe a bit of March) lend themselves to a particular kind of book. I try not to be too much of a seasonal reader, but I always succumb; winter in particular makes you want to cozy up with dark, cold books, and I have several books that I hope to start the new year with. I am also sticking with books I have in my possession, whether as physical copies or ebooks, because I would really like to make a dent on the books I own.
One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern tip of Russia, two girls – sisters, ages eight and eleven – go missing. The police investigation that follows turns up nothing. In the girls’ tightly-woven community, everyone must grapple with the loss. But the fear and danger of their disappearance is felt most profoundly among the women of this isolated place.
Taking us one chapter per month across a year on Kamchatka, this powerful novel connects the lives of characters changed by the sisters’ abduction: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. Theirs is an ethnically diverse population in which racial tensions simmer, and so-called “natives” are often suspected of the worst. As the story radiates from the peninsula’s capital city to its rural north, we are brought to places of astonishing beauty: densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and glassy seas.
Disappearing Earth is a multifaceted story of the intimate lives of women – their vulnerabilities and perils, their desires and dreams. It speaks to the complex yet enduring bonds of community as it offers startlingly vivid portraits of people reaching out to one another and, sometimes, reaching back to save each other.
This book has a gorgeous cover and fantastic reviews. It promises to be part thriller, part intimate examination of a small town in a locale that is not often written about. How many novels about Siberia have you read? It seems like the perfect novel to read in January.
Winter of Ice and Iron
With the Mad King of Emmer in the north and the vicious King of Pohorir in the east, Kehara Raehema knows her country is in a vulnerable position. She never expected to give up everything she loves to save her people, but when the Mad King’s fury leaves her land in danger, she has no choice but to try any stratagem that might buy time for her people to prepare for war—no matter the personal cost.
Hundreds of miles away, the pitiless Wolf Duke of Pohorir, Innisth Eanete, dreams of breaking his people and his province free of the king he despises. But he has no way to make that happen—until chance unexpectedly leaves Kehara on his doorstep and at his mercy.
Yet in a land where immanent spirits inhabit the earth, political disaster is not the greatest peril one can face. Now, as the year rushes toward the dangerous midwinter, Kehera and Innisth find themselves unwilling allies, and their joined strength is all that stands between the peoples of the Four Kingdoms and utter catastrophe.
This is a fantasy book that is far less well known; I had in fact never heard of it until stumbling across it on Book Outlet; I was drawn by the cover and title, and now the book is sitting on my shelves (along with another book by this author that I also purchased from Book Outlet). It literally has the word winter in the title, so it seems appropriate for the season, and I was also recently told by someone that this features a kind of villain/hate-to-love kind of romance, which I have been in the mood for lately. Also, YAY for standalone high fantasies!
The Demon of Darkling Reach
Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Earl of Enzie, has made a devil’s bargain: he’s going to sell Rowena, Isla’s beautiful and innocent younger sister, to a known murderer in exchange for forgiveness of his debts. Tristan Mountbatten, the infamous Duke of Darkling Reach, has a habit of marrying such women and then disposing of them…horribly. For this and other reasons, there are rumors. That he practices the dark arts; that he’s a necromancer; that he is, in fact a demon. And studying him, this notorious politician and realm builder across the table, Isla can believe it. Believe it all. Because she knows, even from that first introduction, that Tristan Mountbatten isn’t human. No one else seems to have noticed the obvious, but Isla has…and is terrified. For herself, but more so for the sister she loves. The sister who’s been more of a daughter, the sister for whom she’d sacrifice anything. So Isla makes a devil’s bargain of her own.
So, remember when I said I’m feeling really into villain romances lately? This book isn’t particularly wintry, but there’s something about its medieval-ish vibes that reminds me of the winter months. I’ve seen mixed reviews, though the reviews coming from people whose opinions I value have been full of praise, so I’m tentatively excited to start this!
Miserere: An Autumn Tale
Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina’s soul, but Catarina doesn’t want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina’s wrath isn’t so easy to escape!
This is a very bizarre sounding book that I have been meaning to read since last autumn; I had initially placed it in an autumn TBR because it has the word autumn in the title, but really, nothing about it sounds particularly autumnal. It sounds like the perfect dark read for winter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talk about it, not here or on Booktube, so it’ll be interesting to go into a book with zero expectations.
After she nearly ruins her family with a terrible misstep, Elena Spira is sent to Venice to escape disgrace and to atone by caring for the ailing Samuel Farber. But the crumbling and decaying Ca’ Basilio palazzo, where Samuel is ensconced, holds tragic secrets, and little does Elena know how profoundly they will impact her. Soon she begins to sense that she is being watched by something. And when Samuel begins to have hallucinations that make him violent and unpredictable, she can’t deny she’s in mortal danger.
Then impoverished nobleman Nero Basilio, Samuel’s closest friend and the owner of the palazzo, arrives. Elena finds herself entangled with both men in a world where the past seeps into the present and nothing is as it seems. As Elena struggles to discover the haunting truth before it destroys her, a dark force seems to hold Samuel and the Basilio in thrall—is it madness, or something more sinister?
I’ve only read one other book by Megan Chance, a very long time ago, but I absolutely loved it; this particular book has been on my TBR for a long time. It sounds like a good autumnal read, but I think it’s fitting for winter as well; the cover especially has something of the cold and damp to it. I also recall that Megan Chance’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and atmospheric, so I look forward to that.
The Empire’s Ghost
The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild. But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to recreate the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession.
Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of the greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history.
I don’t think I’ve even properly read the summary for this book, but the cover looks appropriately wintry and the very first page mentions snow, so that’s good enough for me.
Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.
One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.
With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.
In 2017, I read one Sarah Waters book and enjoyed it, and then, for some inexplicable reason, decided to purchase every single Waters book in existence, and then not read a single one. I would like to rectify this by finally reading one of her most famous works. I’ve already watched its adaptation in the Korean film The Handmaiden and adored it, so I know the twists and turns going in, but I do enjoy Waters’ writing style, so I’m hoping I will still love this. Why is this book about Victorian lesbians a winter read, you ask? I have no idea. It just feels like the right time.
An Unkindness of Magicians
In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.
Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.
This summary makes so little sense to me for some reason, but anyway, this is a very well-known and very acclaimed novel of urban fantasy that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and ages now. It’s got a very wintry cover. It sounds like something V.E. Schwab might have written. It’s also an adult novel, which makes me excited because I think I’ve heard that it’s got very dark themes!
Resenting the Hero
Moira J. Moore
In a realm beset by natural disasters, only the magical abilities of the bonded Pairs—Source and Shield—make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe. The ties that bind them are far beyond the relationships between lovers or kin—and last their entire lives…Whether they like it or not.
Since she was a child, Dunleavy Mallorough has been nurturing her talents as a Shield, preparing for her day of bonding. Unfortunately, fate decrees Lee’s partner to be the legendary, handsome, and unbearably self-assured Lord Shintaro Karish. Sure, he cuts a fine figure with his aristocratic airs and undeniable courage. But Karish’s popularity and notoriety—in bed and out—make him the last Source Lee ever wanted to be stuck with.
The duo is assigned to High Scape, a city so besieged by disaster that seven bonded pairs are needed to combat it. But when an inexplicable force strikes down every other Source and Shield, Lee and Karish must put aside their differences in order to defeat something even more unnatural than their reluctant affections for each other…
This is such an obscure book and its cover is absolutely fucking bizarre, but there’s something so endearing about it at the same time. I actually bought this book because I was weirdly drawn to the awful cover. I feel like this is gonna be a fun romp, which isn’t really on brand for winter, but perhaps it’ll break up some of the monotony from all the other dark books I’m going to be reading.
So that’s it! This list is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive; since it is meant to cover three months, these are of course not all of the books I will be reading over the course of three months but rather a select sample of the ones that I really hope to get to! A lot of them are backlist books, as I find that I get so distracted by new releases I forget about all these older books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages and ages. Hopefully I can get a jumpstart on all these as the new year begins!