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Chilly Reads to Try and Beat the Heat

Cindy Burnett
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Once Upon a Wardrobe

Patti Callahan’s beautiful, magical, and captivating book, Once Upon a Wardrobe, delves into the question of what inspired C.S. Lewis to create Narnia. 

Here in Houston, much like many parts of the country at the moment, we are melting. It is beyond hot so I thought it would be fun to focus on reads that are set in the winter and places where it is cold. I enjoy being transported elsewhere as well as contemplating when it will no longer be quite so hot here in Houston!

A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson – The first installment in a new series, this fast-paced mystery stars wildlife biologist Alex Carter, who is hired by The Land Trust for Wildlife Conservation (LTWC) to study the wolverine population on a preserve in Montana. For decades, a ski resort operated on the land until it was abandoned in the 1990s, and the owner later donated the property to the LTWC. LTWC seeks to determine if wolverines, a threatened species, are still living on the preserve. Alex finds herself housed at the derelict Snowline Resort lodge, a clever setting that ramps up the creepiness factor. While reviewing footage from cameras used to track the wolverines, Carter comes across images of a severely injured man. Eventually, she realizes she has stumbled into the crosshairs of an illegal operation. A Solitude of Wolverines will appeal to anyone who likes an intelligent and timely read.

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.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh – This psychological thriller is set at The Shore, an exclusive community of lake lodges, in Llyn Drych (also known as Mirror Lake) under the shadow of Pen y Ddraig mountain and near the village of Cwm Coed, just inside the Welsh border with England. The town has a New Year’s Day tradition of a morning swim in the freezing cold Mirror Lake, but this year the swim is cut short when the body of a man is found floating in the lake. The victim, Rhys Lloyd, a local celebrity and has-been opera singer, is the developer of The Shore with his business partner Jonty Charlton. Due to The Shore’s location on the Wales/England border, a joint investigation with DC Ffion Morgan from North Wales and DC Leo Brady of Cheshire Major Crimes from the English side results. The story is written in a dual timeline format – the events that build up to the murder are relayed in the past, while the investigation into the murder is told in the present day – which works well for the mystery. The highlights of the book are the stellar mystery, the Welsh setting with a glimpse into the Welsh culture and history, and the solid cast of characters, and this is a stellar start to a new police procedural series.

Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning – Set in the mining town of Moonstone, Colorado at the turn of the 20th century, this epic tale follows Sylvie Pelletier as she comes of age as well as telling the story of coal miners and their struggles against ruthless mine owners during this time period. Sylvie loves writing essays in school and lands a job at the local newspaper owned by Miss Redmond, who started her own newspaper when no one else would hire her. Eventually, Sylvie is offered a higher paying job as a secretary to the wife of the mine’s owner, Mrs. Padgett, and she sees how the wealthy live. As conditions at the mine worsen and violence seems inevitable, Sylvie tries to navigate between the two different worlds and struggles to choose sides amid conflicting relationships. Lyrically written, Gilded Mountain explores the always relevant topics of coming of age, belonging, justice, equality, and family while detailing a period of history not often covered in fiction.

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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