'Tis the season for gift guides, and though I have some suggestions, I feel like the winter holidays are a time for something else as well. Namely: curling up with a cup of hot something and a nice, long, delicious guilty pleasure book.
I mean, we use Christmas to justify so many things: shopping sprees, mince pies, the existence of Band Aid 30 (because the Brits are so tight-fisted, they need a double whammy of Christmas and a charity single to be persuaded to give, apparently), surely we can fit in a book as well.
And repent at leisure.
So if you'd rather indulge in something other than a box of chocolates (or, better yet, together with a box of chocolates,) here are my top picks:
1. "Sweet Magik" by Penny Watson. Romance and Christmas usually go hand in hand, but if you add evil elves trying to take over the North Pole using dark magic and a love spell gone awry, I'm all in. I wasn't a huge fan of the first Klaus brothers books, "Sweet Inspiration", and the third one called "Sweet Adventure" ended up landing on its arse for me (seriously, that last conflict!) But "Sweet Magik" is just the perfect blend of cheese and cake, with two very strong leads, a nice mixture of action and romance, and holiday cheer. If you MUST only read one Penny Watson novel in your life, make it this one.
2. "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender. Magical realism is one of those things you can't really admit to liking anymore because it's become "too mainstream." (Actually, many of the literary novels I used to read as a teenager seem a bit too pretentious to me in retrospect.) But - it's the holidays, so go right ahead and dust off your Isabel Allende. Or, if you just finished re-reading her entire bibliography, go for Aimee Bender. Lemon Cake is far from perfect, but if you like your novels to leave you with more questions than answers, then this one is for you.
3. "Saved by Cake" by Marian Keyes. This is a guilty read in only the loosest sense of the word - no Marian Keyes book should be read in secret, IMHO. But I feel any fellow cookbook lover will agree with me on this: Any perusal of such a manual will leave you jealous, ravenous, and oddly inspired. "Saved by Cake" has an extra something to it - baking helped Marian Keyes focus when she was suffering from depression and kept her sane - but beyond that, it's written in such a way, it can make the most discouraged baker want to dig out their apron. It even makes a case for meringues - meringues! - and what better time than this to try your hand at making some? (Her "Christmas Cake Without the Fear" recipe is a beauty to behold.)
4. "Scarlet" by Marissa Meyer. Asking me to choose a favorite Lunar Chronicles book is like asking me to choose my favorite type of sweet - I refuse to name preferences. That said, if these was one book that I would classify on this list, it would probably be "Scarlet", (I have a thing for second books it seems,) and for a very specific reason - out of all the couples in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet and Woolf is just the most questionable one. (They're also my faves.) That said, they're also the sexiest pair, and I just love the way the book unfolds, so it gets a big thumbs up from me this season.
5. "Twisted" by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's okay to admit your favourite author doesn't always bring her A-game. It's also okay to admit you liked it anyway. (And besides, a pencil twisted in a giant phallic shape on the cover is like the ultimate symbol of a guilty read. It just is.)
6. "Seven Days for an Eternity" by Marc Levy. It's a YA that adults can plausibly deny is YA because the characters are ancient. And the author is French, so it has a higher count of sex and mutilation than something hailing from the USA. (Though if I remember correctly the story is set in San Francisco.) God and Satan decide to settle the age old battle of good and evil by pitting their Number One agents against one another and seeing who does the most good or evil in a week. They don't expect the agents to meet and fall in love.
7. "Moon of the Spider" by Richard A. Knaak. Come on, a novelization of your favorite video game is a cash grab, and I looooooooooooooooove it. If you're not a Diablo fan, anything set in your favorite universe is fair game, and if you don't like anything published, head over to fanfiction.net. I repeat: it's the season. Repent in January.
What guilty pleasure reads will you be cracking open this winter? Let me know!
Note: Images via BookLikes.