Winter Reads: Books to Warm Your Heart—Or Chill Your Bones

Aubrey Brumblow

As the weather in Georgia falls from a crisp, comfortable 60 degrees to a shiver-inducing, arctic 30 degrees as we grow closer to the holidays, it’s definitely time for some seasonal reads. 

Whether you prefer tales of hauntings, sociopathic Robin Hoods, humorous dragons or heart-wrenching relationships, here is a list of 2019-2020 winter releases to warm your heart—and a few that will chill your bones.

Tales that will Warm Your Heart

Before Christmas

“Reverie,” Ryan La Sala

Release: December 3, 2019

Genre: YA fantasy, LGBT+

Length: 416 pages

Announced as “Inception” meets “The Magicians” in its synopsis, Ryan La Sala’s debut tells the story of Kane Montgomery, who was found half-dead in a river. He can’t remember anything from the past few weeks, and reality seems different somehow. The only ones who might be able to tell him the truth about what happened are three classmates who he’s not sure he can trust.

When Kane is dragged into fantastical worlds that suddenly materialize out of nowhere, he realizes he must stop reality from coming apart.

“Meg and Jo,” Virginia Kantra

Release: December 3, 2019

Genre: Adult, fiction

Length: 400 pages

A modern retelling of the classic novel “Little Women,” best-selling author Virginia Kantra’s novel follows the four March sisters, each very different in personality, as they live separate lives. Meg and Jo, however, struggle respectively with domestic bliss that may not be all that blissful and New York ambitions as a journalist that aren’t going so well.

When their mother’s illness brings them back home, they’ll rediscover what really matters. This tale is all about the power of sisterhood and family.

After Christmas

“Kingdomtide,” Rye Curtis

Release: January 14, 2020

Genre: Adventure, fiction

Length: 304 pages

A tale of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, Rye Curtis’s debut novel follows the lives of two women—a sole survivor of a plane crash and a park ranger determined to rescue the survivors.

72-year-old Cloris Waldrip is alone in the harsh Montana wilderness, armed with only her wits and ingenuity. Park ranger Debra Lewis is a recently divorced addict who finds purpose in following the breadcrumbs Cloris leaves behind, hoping to save the older woman. Even when hope begins to fade, both women still refuse to give up. 

“Infinity Son” (Infinity Cycle #1), Adam Silvera

Release: January 14, 2020

Genre: YA fantasy, LGBT+

Length: 368 pages

Two New York brothers, Emil and Brighton, have always idolized the Spell Walkers, vigilantes with powers who work to rid the world of specters—monsters that violently steal the essence of endangered magical creatures. The cycle of fighting makes it hard to live peacefully, so all Emil wants is for the fighting to stop, while Brighton wishes to join the fray.

In a twist of fate, Emil manifests the powers that Brighton has always longed for. The first in a series, this installment will be all about brotherhood, love and loyalty.

“Highfire,” Eoin Colfer

Release: January 28th 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy

Length: 384 pages

From the author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a humorous adult fantasy novel about a vodka-drinking dragon who crosses paths with a 15-year-old boy on the run from a corrupt sheriff in the Louisiana bayous.

Once a magnificent creature known as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie, this dragon now spends most of his time lighting cigarettes from his recliner and goes by Vern. Another thing? He is also the last of his kind. 

Young Everett “Squib” Moreau is just trying to survive without letting his saintly single mother know he’s decided to work for a shady smuggler—but then his boss is murdered by a corrupt constable. To keep him silent, the murderer goes after Squib, but then Squib is miraculously rescued by…a dragon, of all things.

“Run Me to Earth,” Paul Yoon 

Release: January 28th, 2020

Genre: Historical fiction

Length: 272 pages

Award-winning author Paul Yoon delivers a historical fiction novel about three orphans in 1960s Laos who serve as motorcycle couriers, a job that involves rescuing civilians and searching for medical supplies. When their evacuation is secured by a doctor, they go their separate ways across the world. 

Described in the synopsis by Hernan Diaz as a “beautiful, aching novel” that spans decades and is a “breathtaking historical feat,” this book is not one you’ll want to miss. 

“Yes No Maybe So,” Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed 

Release: February 4th, 2020

Genre: Young adult romance, contemporary

Length: 448 pages

Two authors co-wrote this upcoming YA romance: Becky Albertalli from “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda” fame and Aisha Saeed, the “New York Times” best-selling author of “Amal Unbound” and “Written in the Stars.”

“Yes No Maybe So” is about Jamie and Maya, two teens from different cultures who volunteer (or, more accurately, whose parents force them to volunteer) to help their local state senate candidate. Jamie’s awkward with talking to strangers, preferring to stay behind the scenes, while Maya is having the worst Ramadan ever. Her parents are separating and her summer trip is canceled, which incites her mother to volunteer Maya to help out. 

As the polls get closer, so do Maya and Jamie. The synopsis describes this book as a “resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance,” so definitely keep an eye out.

“Alice By Heart,” Steven Sater

Release: February 4th, 2020

Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy, retelling

Length: 240 pages

You may recognize Steven Sater as the Tony Award-winning co-creator of the rock musical “Spring Awakening.” A YA adaptation of his off-Broadway musical,“Alice By Heart” is a celebration of the imagination.

London, 1940. World War II is in full throttle, and fifteen-year-old Alice Spenser and her best friend, Albert, take shelter in an underground tube station. To comfort Albert, who is quarantined due to tuberculosis, Alice tells a story she knows by heart: “Alice in Wonderland.”

As Alice sinks deeper in the escape of “Alice in Wonderland,” her worlds blend. Is the Red Cross Nurse demanding she go back to bed—or is that the Queen of Hearts demanding off with her head? Alice will soon have to choose between staying in Wonderland forever or facing her painful, war-torn reality.

Tales that will Chill Your Bones

Before Christmas 

“Just Watch Me” (Riley Wolfe #1), Jeff Lindsay

Release: December 3rd, 2019

Genre: Mystery, thriller

Length: 320 pages

If you liked “Dexter,” then this book is right up your alley. Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter book series, which features a serial killer who hunts bad guys, has begun a brand-new series—this time about a thief who steals the unearned valuables of the corrupt rich.

In the first book, Riley Wolfe’s set his eyes on the Crown Jewels of Iran, which should be impossible to steal–even for Riley. Not only does he have to deal with the formidable security, but he also is being pursued by a brilliant and relentless cop.

Before it’s over, either Riley will become a legend—or end up dead. 

“The Dead Girls Club,” Damien Angelica Walter

Release: December 10th, 2019

Genre: Horror, thriller, mystery

Length: 583 pages

1991. Heather Cole and her friends are the Dead Girls Club—obsessed with serial killers and imaginary monsters. Heather knows the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch, isn’t real. But her best friend, Becca, says she can prove the Red Lady does exist.

Then Becca is killed.

Thirty years later. Heather hasn’t told anyone that Becca was right that night. The Red Lady was real. She wants the past to stay buried, but then a familiar necklace arrives in the mail. The last time she saw this necklace was the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Someone knows the truth about what happened, and they won’t rest until Heather pays.

After Christmas

“Things in Jars,” Jess Kidd

Release: February 4th, 2020

Genre: Historical fiction, mystery, fantasy

Length: 384 pages

“Things in Jars” is a Gothic mystery set in the dark underbelly of Victorian London. A female detective is pulled into a world of crooked anatomists and surgeons. An extraordinary, supernatural child is kidnapped. 

Bridie Devine, a detective, must solve the puzzle of the kidnapped Christabel Berwick—the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick and whose powers have attracted the unwanted attention of collectors. In order to find the young girl, Bridie might have to unearth a past she’s prefer to keep buried and call on the aid of a crazy cast of characters, including a seven-foot-tall housemaid and a tattoo-covered ghost.

Read this book if you want to explore what it means to be human in inhumane times.

A Classic Tale

And, of course, we must include a classic. What kind of winter book list would this be if we didn’t include “A Christmas Carol”?

A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens

Release: December 19th, 1843

Genre: Classic, fiction, fantasy

Length: Varies upon edition

Once upon a time, a well-known English author wrote an enduring classic that really kickstarted the trend of holiday-themed books. Charles Dickens began writing this book in October of 1843 only to finish it before December 19 that same year. In Victorian England, social class differences were absolutely vast, so it was obvious why Dickens focused on the ideas of money and charity.

“A Christmas Carol” is the tale of the lonely miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who refuses to spread cheer during the holidays. His heart was broken in the past, and he’s never gotten over some of the bitter happenings in his life. Now, he focuses only on money, but he never spends it on anything fancy, preferring to hoard it. 

However, when the ghosts of Past, Present and the Future show him various clips of his life, he begins to realize what is truly important.

Now that you have an idea where to start with your reading, get ready to snuggle up by the fire this Christmas break. Happy Holidays and happy reading, everybody!