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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Cold Books to Curl Up by the Fire

Reading is a comfort to do in the winter: escaping the cold with warm layers of clothing, multiple blankets to be wrapped up in, some hot cocoa on hand, and a book that can be read for hours on a day off. Sounds like a perfect way to evade the snow!

While I love reading anytime of the year, fall and winter tend to be my favorite because fall is incredibly scenic (perfect for those aesthetically themed photographs), and winter reading can be either an escape from the snow or embrace the chilly weather.

This week I wanted to discuss the books that have some pretty cold and wintery scenes that are ingrained in my memory. These scenes are so icy that made me shiver and thankful to be curled up on my warm couch.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Zafira is a huntress disguised as a man to provide food for her people. She is the only person that can enter the woods that surround her home and return. Nasir is a prince and a deadly assassin. When both Zafira and Nasir are tasked separately to go to an island to retrieve a magical artifact that will dissolve the woods and bring magic back to their realms, they both realize the deadly stakes, but also know that it will better their communities if they succeed. What will happen when Zafira and Nasir cross paths? Will they work together or will there be animosity that will lead to destruction?

I absolutely loved this fantasy book. While it had a slower start, to world build and get a good sense of the characters, it is worth it by the end. I had to quickly pick up the sequel to finish this duology because I just had to know what happens next. The land that Zafira lives in was once a desert, but is now nothing but wintery weather and snow. It was described so well that I ended up being chilled!

Available on Overdrive, as an eAudiobook on Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

During the holiday festivities of Yuletide, in 1817, Kate, a lady’s maid at the prestigious Shackleford Park estate, is busy preparing the house and the guests that are arriving. Matt is the valet of the Steeple brothers, guests that are visiting the estate. Kate and Matt meet and start to fall for one another, but when they hear about a counterfeiting plan that is happening within the walls of the estate, will they get entangled in the scheme?

This was perfect for the holiday season if you are looking for something fun and places you in a fictional setting that reflects this time of year. I love historical fiction, and this book is a fun romance with a tad bit of a mystery mixed in!

Available at the library* for checkout.

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

When a group of teens are trapped on campus due to horrific weather, it is a chance for each one of their life-altering secrets to be found out by someone. Could a secret be the motive for murder? When the body of the headmaster is found in the conservatory, it is obvious that his death was not an accident. Could the murder be caused by Beth “Peacock” Picaah, tennis star, who will let nothing stand in her way to keep her from winning? Orchid McKee? She is hiding from not only her past, but from someone deadly. Vaughn Green – a charity student with the skills? Sam “Mustard” Maestor – the new kid with a violent past? Finn Plum or Scarlet Mistry best friends with a vendetta against the headmaster?

Sound familiar? Based on the popular board game, CLUE, readers must look at every character as a suspect.  All had the means and motive to murder Headmaster Body. Who was in the hall with the knife?

This is perfect book to mirror the cold weather outside and amplifies the eeriness of the freezing atmosphere due to the isolation of being stuck inside the manor without power and with untrustworthy characters. A really fun mystery that is a love letter to the board game and the movie.

Available as an eBook in Overdrive and Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Its Christmas Eve and Mira desperately wants to be home for Christmas to take care of her mother, who is still reeling from the loss of her twin sister from the year prior. When Mira’s connecting flight is delayed, she joins a group of four teenagers, complete strangers, to drive 6 hours in terribly icy roads and deadly weather. One of these strangers has a secret; one that could be fatal.

This book builds suspense and a feeling of constant dread overcame me. An atmospheric setting with characters that readers cannot and should not trust, is a perfect combination. Five Total Strangers was hard to put down and was overall a fantastic thriller for YA readers. The entire discussion in which the characters discuss whether or not to take I-80 was such a great addition!

Available on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

A contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Princess Jaya and her younger sister travel to an elite private boarding school in America to hide from a scandal. Jaya is convinced that Grey Emerson is the one that planted the paparazzi at the right place at the wrong time. Jaya thinks that making Grey fall in love and break his heart would be the best way to exact her revenge. Grey has grown up believing he is cursed; doomed to die when he turns eighteen. He does not know how to stop it especially when the ruby rose pendant that Jaya wears is losing its stones the closer to his birthday. Will Jaya actually fall in love with Grey? Is Grey really cursed?

This audiobook was a lot of fun! Told through both Jaya and Grey’s point of view, the story is paced perfectly. I did not want to stop listening to it and finished it within 24 hours. Their icy demeaners toward each other reflect the weather they are experiencing.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Set in a parallel universe, Lyra and her animal familiar named Pantalaimon observe an attempt on Lord Asriel’s life before he is about to present a lecture about a mysterious substance called “dust.”  When Lyra’s friend, Roger, goes missing, she begins a quest unknowingly that will take her far away from the university when she is adopted by the beautiful, but cold Mrs. Coulter, but Lyra wonders if there is any connection between this sudden change in status, the children going missing, and the dust.

This book made an impact on my teens years and I think if you enjoy steampunk vibes with a contemporary, but fantasy setting—this book is for you! Once Lyra travels to the North Pole, the reader becomes wrapped up in the cold world of the northern lights and magic.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina, an orphan, is conscribed to fight in the war with her best friend and crush, Mal. After providing a magical light in the dark and terrifying place called The Fold, she is seen as someone that could end the war. Alina is sent off to train as a Grisha, a magic wielding human, by the mysterious Darkling. Does Alina have the ability to stop the war or will she just add fuel to the fire?

The weather is cold and many of the personalities take a minute to warm up to, but overall a fun read. I enjoyed this book a lot and Leigh Bardugo’s other series, Six of Crows that partially takes place in an ice prison in which a heist is about to be performed in. Both are great books if you enjoy a high fantasy read.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

An instant classic! This is a tale told through the eyes of Death during World War II in Germany. He follows the young life of orphan girl, Liesel, with her new foster family. Liesel dreams to learn how to read during this dangerous time and begins to learn from an unlikely friend: a Jewish man that her family hides in their basement.

A beautiful and haunting book. You may have heard about this book, if you have not read it, give it a try. You may want to bring your box of tissues with you… just in case! There is a scene that takes place in a cold basement that will forever be burned in my memory.

Available on Overdrive and Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.



*check the link for available copies or to place on hold



Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.