The days are getting colder and while it hasn't quite reached sub-Arctic temperature there's a definite chill in the air - a perfect time of year to curl up with a blanket, a hot drink and a book! Today I'll be sharing my favourite books for reading on cosy days, or at least books I think would be ideal for such an occasion. I've just realised that the one thing they all have in common is that they're set in crumbling ancestral homes/castles, so apparently that is my number one criteria for a 'cosy read'.
I read these over the summer and really enjoyed them, but I think a colder setting, perhaps with snowflakes falling outside the window, would enhance the enjoyment factor considerably. The protagonist is eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce, an amateur sleuth and chemistry whizz who lives on the outskirts of the village of Bishop's Lacey with her family. The series is set in 1950 in the English countryside, which in my opinion is an ideal setting for mystery novels - you have the perfect combination of technology and olde-worldy-ness that makes solving crimes possible but not too easy, requiring a bit of legwork to piece the facts together. Flavia's skill with chemistry is also an interesting, if slightly unbelievable element that allows her to draw a lot of conclusions and so advance with her investigations.
Starting with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, every book is a self-contained murder mystery, but they are really best read in order to build up a picture of the village and its colourful inhabitants (each book also has a map at the beginning which is very helpful to situate the various events). The Flavia De Luce books are quite different from any other mystery books I've read - it's hard to explain, but they have a slightly dreamlike, whimsical quality that means the details of the plot don't always hang 100% together, but they're nevertheless completely charming.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I'm sure I've either reviewed or recommended this book before on my blog, but I'm going to talk about it again because it really is that good. It's wonderfully gothic (almost Jane Eyre-esque) and has such atmosphere and feeling, it really had me spellbound for most of the story. The narrator, Margaret Lea, is an amateur biographer whose father owns a an antiquarian bookshop. One day she finds an unexpected letter on her doorstep - it is from Vida Winter, one of Britain's most well-loved novelists who has kept her life a secret for over fifty years. Now gravely ill, she wants someone to write her story before it's too late and has chosen Margaret to come to her home and be her biographer. Margaret is somewhat reluctant to accept, as she has never even read any of Vida Winter's many novels, but she finds herself drawn to Winter's stories of her childhood, which is soon revealed to be dark and troubling.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Re-reading old favourite books is something that makes me feel all warm and mushy inside at the best of times, so returning to a series like Harry Potter (which I have read countless times) is simple a recipe for cosiness. Not to mention the fact that my absolute favourite scenes from the books and the films are set in autumn or winter, when Hogwarts always looks festive and welcoming, so I associate those seasons with the stories anyway. I'm sure I don't need to summarise the plot of these books, but if by any chance you haven't read them yet then I assure you this autumn is the time to get stuck in!