Our Picks for Great Winter Reads

Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays has come to an end, it's time to unwind and reboot. What better way is there to clear your mind than by cozying up near a crackling fire and losing yourself in a new book? We most certainly can not think of one! Some of our avid readers here at The Storyteller's Cottage have put together reviews of our latest favorite books -- pick one up today!

Alanna Hammond on "City of Ghosts" by Victoria Schwab

Looking for the perfect book this winter? I recommend City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab. City of Ghosts takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland where the main character Cassidy visits with her parents. This beautifully haunting read introduces the reader to a unique paranormal world where unsettled spirits roam. After a near death experience, Cassidy can pull back the veil that separates the living from the dead. Her best friend is even a ghost. Cassidy ends up in Edinburgh because her parents host a TV show about the world’s most haunted places. I have never personally been to Edinburgh but this book made me want to go so badly. Schwab details Edinburgh as a truly magical and spooky place filled with a lot of history and ghosts. We get to view Edinburgh through Cassidy’s eyes as she explores the city and meets a mysterious girl who shares the same ability as her.  This encounter sends Cassidy on an thrilling adventure all throughout Edinburgh that involves an encounter with a sinister force. If you are a fan of Stranger Things or love the romanticism of Edinburgh, you will love this book!

Lana Bennett on "The Mistletoe Inn" by Richard Paul Evans

If you are an aspiring writer, hopeless romantic, or Hallmark holiday movie junkie, this one is for you! Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab your favorite blanket and cozy up...

Thirty-two year old, Kimberly Rossi, a romance writer who has ironically suffered a quite tragic romantic past herself, takes a break from her day job as at a car dealership during the holidays to pursue her dream of becoming a published author at a Romance Writer's Retreat in Vermont. Kimberly has been chasing this dream for a long time and feels this is her shot to either finally make it happen, or give up. She is most excited to hear the keynote speaker, bestselling romance author, H.T. Cowell, who happens to be the reason she began writing, though he has not spoken in public for many years. At the retreat, Kimberly meets new friends, encounters some really lame pick-up lines, and has an embarrassing introduction with a handsome writer, Zeke, who immediately takes an interest in her and her work...

"The Mistletoe Inn" is a quick and easy read to enjoy on a snowy weekend. You can also watch the new Hallmark Channel movie adaptation! (I have my DVR set already). Though slightly cheesy at times, and a bit predictable as most holiday romances are, I did enjoy this book. It grabbed me in the very beginning with an unexpected sad family history, followed by more unsettling news, but slowly begins to bring you back with the quirky, and slightly dysfunctional, developing romance. The author hits all of the emotions but keeps a a steady wit to the tone of his writing.

Logan Bennett (age 9) on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" by Dr. Seuss

This story is about The Grinch, a grumpy creature who is very lonely and lives in a cave on top of a mountain. He doesn't like Christmas because he hates when the people of 'Whoville' sing and decorate for Christmas. It makes him upset because he never had his own family to celebrate with. He also thinks they only celebrate to get presents. Cindy-Lou is different because all she wants for Christmas is for her family to be together. The Grinch decides to steal Christmas by taking the presents and decorations so nobody can celebrate. Cindy-Lou realizes it was the Grinch, and tries to encourage him to feel differently about the holiday and that it isn't only about the presents. The Grinch sees that the people in Whoville are still singing together and happy even though they didn't get their presents and he realizes that Christmas isn't about the presents, it's about being together. They also invite him to join them even though he did this horrible thing. My favorite quote from the book is, "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." I really love this story because it teaches a great lesson about the real meaning of the holidays.

Lisa Natcharian on “The Precious Dreadful” by Steven Parlato

Mining the Fascinating World of the Subconscious

“I stop short at movement in the shadows by the ice cream cooler.  Bracing for a herd of mice, or worse bats, I stiffen. There are footprints, smaller than mine, oozing up from the dust, muddy.  They lead behind the cooler… On my knees I inspect the tracks. Smudges of dried mud. Whoever made them had to be small – and walking on tiptoe. Sniffing, I note a faint chlorine smell.  The temperature drops. I expect to see my breath. I hear my name again. This time, it’s not Aidan, but a whisper from behind the freezer. Followed by this eerie giggle.”

When Teddi Alder, a slightly nerdy, slightly lonely girl perched on the cusp of summer, decides to join the teen writing group at the local library to pass the time, she has no idea that the journaling prompts she’ll be assigned will open a long-sealed well of memory.  What seeps darkly from Teddi’s subconscious changes the course of her whole life.

Local author Steven Parlato paints Teddi’s world of teenage angst with sharp, sarcastic humor.  Trying to carve out a stable life from the constantly-shifting sands that underpin her life as the only child of a capricious and unpredictable single mother, Teddi doggedly examines her own strengths and weaknesses, searching resolutely for her place in the world.

Though she has habitually leaned on her best friend Willa for direction, the addition of boys to this summer have blown the girls onto different courses.  Teddi’s bold step toward independence places her squarely in the path of not one, but two mysterious young men, who vie to become Teddi’s source of support as her summer journal opens a disturbing portal to the past.

Moving swiftly, The Precious Dreadful examines the fascinating world of the subconscious, mixing in drops of insight, sparkles of exhilaration and trickles of horror. Author Steven Parlato weaves an enthralling adventure that takes Teddi swirling through past and present, setting her as the knight in her own story, as only she can save herself.

Steven Parlato is an Associate Professor of English at Naugatuck Community College, as well as an author, poet, artist and actor.  He received the NISOD Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012, and the NVCC Presidential Medal of Honor in 2017. The Precious Dreadful is his second novel.

This young adult novel is appropriate for readers aged 14 and up (contains a few references to sex and drugs), and can be purchased through the Storyteller’s Cottage online bookstore at www.StorytellersCottage.com/shop.


“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx


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