Cold Snap: Absorbing Books To Keep You Warm
As we endure yet another variation of winter here in the UK, I thought I’d share with you some of my most absorbing reads this year. These books are perfect to snuggle up with during this latest round of cold, wet and windy weather.
I hope you find something in this list that helps you through these chilly grey days so that before you know it, the sun has some warmth and it’s Spring.
Spare – Prince Harry
The media frenzy surrounding Spare has made avoiding the reviews (which I try to do before I write my own) impossible. For the most part, the British press has been very harsh.
I thoroughly enjoyed Spare – it’s entertaining, well written and provides another view point to the narrative that the British press has fed us over the years.
The British press has raked over every word of Spare to extract the most salacious details to spin into scandals. But for me, it is not the sensational revelations that have stayed with me long after I finished reading.
For me, the most disturbing and interesting aspect of Spare was the extent that the royal family seems to live in fear – fear of becoming irrelevant and fear of change.
This fear seems to be the root cause of everyone’s misery including
Harry’s. It explains the extraordinary access the royal family have given the British press in the arrangement known as the royal rota, which started around 40 years ago.
An arrangement that both Harry and William were born into and a cause of utter misery for them both. In Spare Harry speaks with brutal clarity about the negative effects the intrusion of the British press has had on his life and his family. No wonder the British press have universally criticised the book – they could hardly praise it!
If you are old enough to remember that most fairy tale of weddings (Diana and Charles) and all the subsequent events, then I think you will enjoy Spare as another point of view. Every story has multiple sides and it is fascinating to read Harry’s.
The Jade City Trilogy – Fonda Lee
The Jade City Trilogy is a truly unique series of books. Made up of Jade City, Jade War and Jade Legacy, the series follows a prominent Triad-like crime syndicate operating in a fictional South East Asian island called Kekon. It is Asia’s answer to the Godfather - with martial arts.
If that’s not exciting enough, then what gives this series that extra twist is the fantasy element. In the Jade City universe, Kekon is the only place on earth in which jade can be found. Jewellery made from Kekonese jade gives the wearer super human abilities – generally speed, strength and reflexes - though each wearer manifests jade’s power in different ways.
What I loved about this series is that the fantasy element is woven so well into the story that it doesn’t read like fantasy at all. Like the Godfather or the Sopranos, the books take us deep into the lives of those in power – with all the politics, economics and feuds playing out in great detail.
The Jade City Trilogy is a thought experiment played out across decades, about what happens when providence provides a place with a rare and precious natural resource. It’s riveting.
Carrie Soto is Back - Taylor Jenkins Read
Carrie Soto is Back is a recent addition to the prolific oeuvre of Taylor Jenkins Read.
The story follows Carrie Soto - the greatest female tennis player in the world – on her come back from retirement. The novel delves into what it takes to get to the top and stay there – it’s full of interesting details, glamour as well as a lot of sunshine and hot weather.
Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Reid has a special skill for creating immersive settings and engaging characters - her novels are interesting, glamorous and easy to read. Reid fans will enjoy discovering the connections to her other novels – with common characters dipping in and out of her powerful women series of novels which includes The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones & The Six, and Malibu Rising. In fact, we first met Carrie Soto as an incidental character in another sun soaked, easy to read novel, Malibu Rising.
Taylor Jenkins Reid in her study. Image ©️ The Retaility.
This is a fun novel that is immersive enough to help you feel the gorgeous weather, deep enough to keep you reading, but without so much substance as to feel draining in any way.
Ninth House/Hell Bent – Leigh Bardugo
Ninth House and Hell Bent are the first two novels in a new series by another prolific author, Leigh Bardugo. This series is Bardugo’s first writings specifically for adults. Bardugo achieved fame and a huge following for her young adult fantasy novels – the most famous of which is Shadow and Bone.
This series is set among the secret societies of Yale University. Bardugo manages to vividly recreate student life on Yale’s campus in down town New Haven with forensic accuracy – and to blend this precision with the magical. Bardugo’s concept is that Yale University’s secret societies practice magic for the enrichment and benefit of members and any paying clients in the know. Certainly, living in another university town, Oxford, the idea doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
Bardugo herself studied English literature at Yale and was a member of the Wolf’s Head (not so) secret society – so the settings, as well as the description of the societies, feels completely immersive. This series is a slow burn – you sink in gradually until you’re completely submerged. Perhaps when you resurface, the sun will be shining.
Age of Vice – Deepti Kapoor
Deepti Kapoor has written an epic novel, set primarily in India in the first decade of the new millennium. The story follows Sunny, a billionaire playboy, Ajay, his personal servant, and Neda, Sunny’s true love.
While all three characters are absorbing, I ultimately enjoyed reading about the journey of Ajay – from poverty stricken orphan on the streets of Uttar Pradesh to body guard to India’s wealthiest playboy.
Deepti Kapoor. Photo by Mathew Parker.
This is a glamorous and gritty story of modern India – and the corruption that permeates its power structures. Despite the serious political themes, it’s an easy and thrilling read - but it’s not pretty. This is Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy through the looking glass….fractured, tortured, and seductive.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, you may enjoy reading my other book reviews, which you can find here.