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Books to Read in Front of the Fire

Cindy Burnett
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The Sun Down Motel

Simone St.James crafts a creepy, mysterious tale that is perfect for reading by the fire.

Cold weather always makes me want to hunker down under a blanket and read. Something about cooler temperatures makes reading even more enjoyable for me. This week I chose five books that are the perfect reads for sitting in front of a fire or snuggling on the sofa under a warm blanket. I focused on books that are set in cold climates or scarier books that will keep you turning the pages.

Here are five books you can curl up with during this cold spell:

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: Baneberry Hall, a Victorian mansion in a remote area of Vermont, is the setting of Riley Sager’s latest thriller. Twenty-five years ago, Maggie and her parents Ewan and Jess Holt lived in the house for three weeks before fleeing in the dead of night never to return. Following their dramatic escape, Ewan wrote a non-fiction account, entitled House of Horrors, recounting the terrors and evil hauntings they experienced while living at Baneberry. Following Ewan’s death and with no memory of the events that he relays in House of Horrors, Maggie returns to the house determined to put the past behind her and prove that the property is not haunted. Alternating between the chapters of House of Horrors and Maggie’s present-day inhabitance of Baneberry Hall, the story slowly unfolds as Maggie begins to experience the events that happened in her father’s book and begins wondering if Baneberry is actually inhabited by ghosts. The story starts slow but picks up momentum as the creepiness factor ratchets up, and I thoroughly enjoyed the clever and unexpected ending. 

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan – Callahan’s beautiful, magical, and captivating new book Once Upon a Wardrobe delves into the question of what inspired C.S. Lewis to create Narnia. Megs Devonshire studies math and science at Oxford and relies on facts versus intuition; when her terminally-ill brother George becomes infatuated with a new book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and implores her to find out how Narnia came about, Megs finds herself visiting C.S. Lewis, an Oxford don, and his brother Warnie hoping to answer George’s questions. Instead of providing her answers directly however, Lewis tells her stories about his own life growing up which she then relays each weekend to George. While Megs struggles to find the connections, George helps her understand the stories that Lewis relates and how they led to the creation of Narnia. This is an absolutely beautiful book.

Shiver

Shiver is the perfect winter read with its French Alps setting.

Shiver by Allie ReynoldsShiver is a closed circle mystery set in the French Alps which brings a group of friends together for a reunion. Upon arrival, the friends realize that nothing is at it seems and that someone will go to extreme lengths to solve a mystery from the past. The plot, the characters, and the mystery itself are all skillfully developed and kept me on the edge of my seat. I do not know very much about snowboarding, and it was fun to learn more about it – Reynolds includes just the right amount of detail. The French Alps setting is very vivid, and the toggling back and forth between the past and present works very well to slowly unveil the relevant details to the reader. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it. 

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James - The Sun Down Motel is a creepy, rundown motel serving as a pit stop for travelers on their way through Fell, New York that also provides a place for locals to hide out. But as Viv and Carly, two women 35 years apart, learn there is someone or something else living at the Sun Down, and they both are determined to find out who or what is haunting the motel and why. St. James’ pacing is perfect, and the book is awesomely creepy but not overly scary. The Sun Down Motel is one of my favorite books - the characters are so well developed, and I rooted for both Viv and Carly as they sought to understand what was happening at The Sun Down Motel. 

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant Kimi Cunningham Grant’s new compelling and haunting thriller stars a father and daughter duo who have been living in a remote cabin off the grid for eight years in the northern Appalachian woods. Lacking electricity and running water, Cooper and Finch’s only connection to the outside world are Cooper’s friend Jake who owns their cabin and brings them supplies once a year and a mysterious older gun-toting neighbor named Scotland. But when Jake does not show up with supplies and Finch begins to push back on their isolated lifestyle, a series of events are set in motion that will challenge the life Cooper has created for them. This tension-filled story kept me on the edge of my seat until I had turned the very last page; I read it in one sitting, and it was one of my top reads of 2021.

Stay warm and enjoy reading!

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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