Thematic Recs: Wintery Books

Winter seems to have finally set in, and in true winter style, it’s dark by the time I finish work, and my whole family have come down with nasty colds. 😦 In celebration of the season, however, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourite Wintery reads. Which is to say, not necessarily books that are set during winter, but books that have that chilly, shivery quality to them, that makes you want to stay inside and huddle up by a warm fire, and just keep reading~! 😀

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe1) The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. A winter classic! In this story, when the Pevensie children first visit Narnia, they find that it’s been cursed by the White Witch, so that it’s always winter, but never Christmas! Naturally, this is something that needs to be rectified. 😛

Maggie Stiefvater//Shiver2) The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. An unusual werewolf story, where, instead of transforming on the full moon, Sam – one of the two main characters – and his pack become wolves whenever the weather gets too cold.

Paullina Simons//The Bronze Horseman3) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. For those of you who want something a bit more adult, I’d definitely recommend the first book in this amazing trilogy, which follows the life of a young Russian girl, Tatiana, and her lover Alexander, through the years of World War II, and, in particular, the Siege of Leningrad. This book mostly gave me the shivers because it’s so emotional and powerfully written, but a significant part of the book is also set during a very bleak winter.

Keith Austin//Snow, White4) Snow, White by Keith Austin. This book follows a young boy – John – who’s living in London when it’s hit by a freak snowstorm, and a pack of mysterious wolves is creeping steadily closer. A really great, atmospheric book, for slightly younger readers.

John Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson//Let It Snow5) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle. And last up is something a bit more cheerful than the rest of the books on this list! Let It Snow is a collection of three (connected) short stories, all set in (and around) the same small town. My personal favourite was the last of the three (The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle), but they’re all really cute, and come together in the best possible way.

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September Wrap Up

Well, September has been a bit of a let-down, especially after August, which was a really great reading month. I did manage to read quite a bit (though not as much as I usually would – once again, I got distracted by video games), but for much of the month, I felt like every book I’d read was either terrible, or a disappointment in some way… I probably just had my expectations too high for the latter ones. :/ But in any case, this September, I managed to get through a grand total of five novels, and five comic books. Here’s what I thought of them:

Ryan North//Adventure Time vol. 1Adventure Time Volume 1 by Ryan North. Wacky adventures with Finn & Jake in the land of Ooo! I actually don’t know too much about Finn & Jake, as, generally speaking, I prefer the genderswapped uiverse (with Fionna & Cake), but this comic was super-fun, and I’m looking forward to the next volume. 🙂3 starsHolly Bourne//SoulmatesSoulmates by Holly Bourne. A romance between two teenagers whose relationship is threatened by… government agents who monitor weird, unbelievable sci-fi crap? I feel bad for rating this book so low, because I really wanted to like it – there were a few moments that made me laugh (particularly in the first few chapters), and Poppy & Noah’s romance was surprisingly cute, once I managed to get past the part of the book where they were just being obnoxious gits to each other… The writing was okay, but most of the characters were unbearable. And all the government stuff? It completely ruined the story. 😦 Holly Bourne also seemed to be trying really hard to push a feminist message with this book, but it was never expressed properly (usually just coming across as man-hating instead) and just fell completely flat. I ended up feeling like I’d just wasted my time reading this book… which is something that (fortunately) doesn’t happen often. :/1 starSarah J. Maas//Queen of ShadowsQueen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas. The fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, which follows the assassin Celaena Sardothian – and saying anything else about the plot of this book would be spoilery, so I’ll keep it to myself~ 😉 That said, I felt that this book was a bit of a let down after Heir of Fire (which was definitely the best in the series so far). I still enjoyed the book a lot, and plot-wise it was as epic as I was hoping, but in regards to the romance (which, let’s face it, is an important part of this series’ popularity), I wish that Maas could take back everything that happened in Queen of Shadows… 😦 On a more positive note, though, I found Dorian’s perspective surprisingly interesting, and I really hope that that’ll continue for the rest of the series; Elide was an interesting new character, and I’m looking forward to seeing her interact with Celaena; the climax was absolutely epic; and Manon has now been solidified as my favourite character (though I wish that she and Petrah had met up again at some point) – and her’s was probably my favourite perspective to read from.4 starsKatie McGarry//Chasing ImpossibleChasing Impossible by Katie McGarry. The fifth book in the Pushing the Limits series, which follows Abby – Isaiah and Rachel’s friend from Crash Into You – and Logan, one of Ryan’s baseball friends in Dare You To. Abby is a drug dealer, and is struggling to keep her friends and loved ones safe from the dangers of her world, while Logan – an adrenaline junkie – is hiding his diabetes from his friends, because he doesn’t want to be seen as vulnerable. Abby & Logan’s story was great, too – I really liked both of them in the previous books, and they were both very sympathetic leads here. Chasing Impossible wasn’t quite as good as some of the better books in the series (i.e. Crash Into You and Pushing the Limits), but it was definitely better than the worse ones (e.g. Dare You To and Take Me On), and I had a fun time reading it.4 starsKazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 1Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi. The story of two siblings – Emily and Navin – who move to a new house with their mother after their father’s death. The house, however, turns out to be connected to a parallel world, full of monsters, and when their mother disappears one night, Emily and Navin must cross over in order to rescue her. This was a great start to the series: Fun, but with a slightly ominous atmosphere hanging over everything that happened – I found myself constantly holding my breath, waiting for something terrible to happen, which really added to the experience. In terms of the art, I’m not a huge fan of the character design, but it is growing on me, and the backdrops and the monsters are all wonderfully creepy. I’m definitely looking forwards to seeing where this series goes. 🙂4 stars

Kazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 2Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi. The adventure continues! This volume wasn’t quite so creepy, but the story is progressing very nicely, and I really liked Leon, the new character who was introduced in this book. I’m also pretty intrigued by Trellis, and I’m hoping he’s going to be joining the crew at some point~ 🙂4 starsKazu Kibuishi//Amulet vol. 3Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi. In which Emily & the crew search for the sky city of Cielis. This is the last of the volumes that I’ve managed to get hold of so far, which is a shame, since I’m really eager to read the rest of the series, now! And this book was even better than the last two – I came very close to giving it five stars~ 😀4 starsNeil Gaiman//Sandman vol. 7The Sandman, Volume 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman. A book that’s been on my currently-reading list for quite some time – not because I haven’t been enjoying it, but because I find the Sandman books quite heavy sometimes, and consequently I have to be in a very particular mood to pick them up. This volume follows Dream and Delirium as they go on a journey in search of their missing brother Destruction… And I really liked it. A lot more than I liked some of the other volumes (though I doubt anything in this series will ever live up to the perfection that was volume 2). But most of all, I thought it was great to get some new insights into Delirium’s character. She’s definitely one of the more intriguing members of the Endless.4 starsKate Cann//FiestaFiesta by Kate Cann. The first book in the unoriginally-named Beach series, which was mostly terrible (though it was still better than Soulmates). This was my Library Scavenger Hunt book for September, so I’ve written a proper review of it – you can read it here.1 starKeith Austin//Snow, WhiteSnow, White by Keith Austin. A slightly odd tale about a young boy (John) who starts seeing strange images in the mirror – and then his whole world starts to change. Surprisingly, this is only vaguely connected to any fairytales, and I didn’t notice any Snow White references at all (though there is an enchanted sleep at one point). Instead, it pitches itself as a horror story… I didn’t actually find it too scary, but it was quite eerie, and the writing was very atmospheric. A pleasant surprise at the end of what has, quite frankly, been a rather underwhelming month. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here.3 stars

Review: Snow, White by Keith Austin (Spoiler-Free)

SNOW, WHITE3 stars

Keith Austin//Snow, WhiteSUMMARY

Twelve-year-old John Creed has been having problems at school for some time – his prominent stutter and the scars on his face from the car crash that killed his parents combine to make him a prime target for bullies. And to make things worse, he’s started noticing something strange: Many of his classmates’ reflections have wolf heads.

Thankfully, he’s also managed to make a friend recently – Fyre King, a classmate who’s eager to help him find a solution to his little wolf problem… but she has secrets of her own…

STORY [3/5]

First off, I should reiterate what it says on the cover: This is not a fairytale. There is a vague connection to fairytales that reveals itself about halfway through book, but it is in no way major enough to consider this a fairytale retelling or re-imagining of any kind (and there’s no connection to Snow White at all), even though the title and tagline are clearly meant to bring fairytales to mind. That said, I also wouldn’t consider this a horror story – it’s just not scary enough.

What it does feel a lot like is a mystery novel. The story begins almost like a crime drama, with a scene of a man being killed by a giant wolf, before we’re introduced to the actual main characters – and this aspect of the story was very compelling. I feel like a big deal was made of Fyre’s secret, however, only for it to be revealed in the least dramatic way possible, to a resounding “meh” from the rest of the cast, and Caspar’s trouble with his father played out only marginally better…

In the second part of the book, the tone shifts drastically, and the book almost seems to become an action story, with the main cast all fighting for their lives, which was a somewhat jarring transition that I didn’t entirely appreciate. I did, however, really like the ending, which took an unexpected turn and surprised me pleasantly.

CHARACTERS [3/5]

Our main character is John Creed, whose circumstances – the scars and the stutter and the visions – are quite interesting, but whose personality is rather bland. He is, however, a very likeable protagonist, and children in his age group (12 to 13) would probably also find him quite relatable.

His friend Fyre is cut from a similar mould. She stands apart from most her peers because she’s an albino (though she’s never actually been unpopular), and decides to befriend John because she finds him interesting… and because her mother asked her to. Cool and confident, she makes a good foil for John’s shyness, and their friendship is quite sweet to read about.

Lastly, there’s Caspar Locke, who is both Fyre’s ex-boyfriend and John’s chief antagonist. Unlike most books that heavily feature bullying, we actually get to see things from his perspective occasionally, and these brief sections were some of my favourite parts of the story. Caspar initially comes off as just your typical schoolyard bully, but we quite quickly learn that there’s a lot more going on with him (though, thankfully, the book doesn’t try to use this as a way to excuse his behaviour).

WORLD-BUILDING [2/5]

Snow, White is for the most part set in modern-day London, and therefore doesn’t really require much world-building. There is, however, talk of a parallel universe in the second part of the book – a kind of dark fairytale world where the wolves originally came from, and that was once ruled by an Ice Queen. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the two worlds were very well combined. When the parallel world is first brought up, it seems quite out of the blue, and it’s a shame that we only ever see glimpses of it. I did appreciate the brief history that Austin gave us of it, but I think the book would have been improved if we’d actually gone there.

WRITING [3/5]

The writing is enjoyable, but somewhat inconsistent – the book is divided into two parts (and a prologue and epilogue), and Austin’s writing style changed noticeably for each one. The first part of the story focused on the mystery of John’s visions, and was written in an eerie, haunting style that I really liked. Part two read more like an action novel, which I wasn’t such a huge fan of, but the descriptions of John’s abilities were both striking and inventive, and the pacing was quick and engaging.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [3/5]

An interesting book conceptually, that’s quite well built-up in the first half, but suffers somewhat from too many different styles and genres being mashed together in the second, and from some slightly bland (though likeable) characters. Though it’s pitched as a Young Adult book, I think that younger readers are probably more likely to enjoy it.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy will probably like the chilly atmosphere of Snow, White, particularly in the first part of the book – though in all other ways this is a very different kind of story. You might also enjoy this if you liked Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods or Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper & the Spindle.