Winter Break Reading Suggestions
Carmen Moser

 

From cute holiday-themed romcoms to murderous mysteries, self-help to nutrition, these books will be sure to keep you entertained in front of the fire this winter break.

Young Adult

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.

But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.

Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze.

So, This Is Christmas by Tracy Andreen

When Finley Brown returned to her hometown of Christmas, Oklahoma, from boarding school, she expected to find it just as she left it.

Christmas hasn't changed much in her sixteen years. But instead she returns to find that her best friend is dating her ex-boyfriend, her parents have separated, and her archnemesis got a job working at her grandmother's inn. And she certainly didn't expect to find the boy she may or may not have tricked into believing that Christmas was an idyllic holiday paradise on her grandmother's doorstep. It's up to Finley to make sure he gets the Christmas he was promised. This is Finley's Christmas. It's about home and family and friends and finding her place, and along the way she also finds the best Christmas present of all: love.

Time Will Tell by Barry Lyga

Four teens have dug up the time capsule that their parents buried in 1986 and never bothered to recover. But in addition to the expected ephemera of mixtapes, Walkmans, photographs, letters, toys, and assorted junk, Elayah, Liam, Marcie, and Jorja discover something sinister: a hunting knife stained with blood and wrapped with a note. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to kill anyone."

As the action alternates between the present day and 1986, the mystery unfolds and the sins of the past echo into today. The teens haven't just unearthed a time capsule: they've also dug up pain and secrets that someone--maybe one of their own parents--is willing to kill for.

 

The Splendor by Breeana Shields

The Splendor isn’t just a glamorous hotel, it’s a magical experience that gives its guests the fantasy fulfillment of their dreams. But The Splendor didn’t make Juliette’s dreams come true. It ruined her life.

After a weeklong stay, Juliette’s sister, Clare, returns from the hotel changed. Her connection to Juliette―the special bond they once shared―has vanished. In a moment of hurt and frustration, Juliette steals their meager savings and visits The Splendor herself.

When she arrives, she’s taken in by the lush and sumptuous hotel. But as she delves more deeply into the mystery of the place, and how they make their illusions work, she grows more and more uneasy. The Splendor has a seedy underbelly, but every time she gets close to discovering something real, she seems to hit a wall.

Meanwhile, Juliette meets Henri, an illusionist who lives and works at the hotel. Henri’s job is to provide Juliette with the same Signature Experience he gives all the guests―one tailored fantasy that will make her stay unforgettable. As he gets to know her, he realizes that not only is he ill-equipped to make her dreams come true, he’s the cause of her heartache.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Adult

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

Emily is having the time of her life--she's in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever.

But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she'd been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year's trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can't believe it's happened again--can lightning really strike twice?

Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend's motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom--even her life?

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, the “Bomber Mafia,” asked:

What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?

In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, “Was it worth it?”

Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II.

The Pegan Diet by Mark Hyman

For decades, the diet wars have pitted advocates for the low-carb, high-fat paleo diet against advocates of the exclusively plant-based vegan diet and dozens of other diets leaving most of us bewildered and confused. For those of us on the sidelines, trying to figure out which approach is best has been nearly impossible—both extreme diets have unique benefits and drawbacks. But how can it be, we've asked desperately, that our only options are bacon and butter three times a day or endless kale salads? How do we eat to reverse disease, optimal health, longevity and performance? How do we eat to reverse climate change? There must be a better way!

Fortunately, there is. With The Pegan Diet's food-is-medicine approach, Mark Hyman explains how to take the best aspects of the paleo diet (good fats, limited refined carbs, limited sugar) and combine them with the vegan diet (lots and lots of fresh, healthy veggies) to create a delicious diet that is not only good for your brain and your body, but also good for the planet.

Your Brain Is Always Listening by Daniel Amen

Your brain is always listening and responding to these hidden influences and unless you recognize and deal with them, they can steal your happiness, spoil your relationships, and sabotage your health. This book will teach you to tame the:

1. Dragons from the Past that ignite your most painful emotions;

2. Negative Thought Dragons that attack you, fueling anxiety and depression;

3. They and Them Dragons, people in your life whose own dragons do battle with yours;

4. Bad Habit Dragons that increase the chances you'll be overweight, overwhelmed, and an underachiever;

5. Addicted Dragons that make you lose control of your health, wealth, and relationships;

6. Scheming Dragons, advertisers and social media sites that steal your attention.

In Your Brain Is Always Listening, Dr. Daniel Amen shows you how to recognize harmful dragons and gives you the weapons to vanquish them. With these practical tools, you can stop feeling sad, mad, nervous, or out of control and start being happier, calmer, and more in control of your own destiny.

Contributed by Ms. Moser, Senior School Teacher-Librarian
cmoser@southridge.bc.ca