Read Harder

Read Harder Task #24: Repeat A Past Task

Howdy folks! We’re nearing the end of the Read Harder 2022 experience, but there’s one last task! Instead of making it easy for you with a single potential task, you have your choice from over a hundred (168, to be exact, give or take a few repeats) possible tasks from the Read Harder challenges from 2015 to 2021. The first go round was a little more general with tasks like “read a romance” or “read a book by a person whose gender is different from your own”, but eventually we started getting pretty particular about what you might be willing to do in order to challenge yourself as a reader.

The wonder about this particular task is that there are so many ways to take it: is this the book you reward yourself with after completing the first 23 tasks? Is this a comforting read, or are you ending the year with a bang? Are you thinking of reading in a familiar genre or do you want to pick up something you never would have thought to read before? Anything is possible with this particular task, because there are so many possible tasks to choose from. I’ve pulled together a small number of tasks (including links to the original recommendation lists if there were any) with a couple books to read in each one, but there’s a whole world out there for you!

Historical Romance By an Author of Color

cover of Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Historical romance great Beverly Jenkins’s first book, Night Song, is the story of a Kansas schoolteacher and the Union officer she can’t resist. (This can also qualify as a classic of genre fiction, which I mention a little further down.)

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera

Arriving in Paris from Santo Domingo to build her family’s rum business, Luz Alana doesn’t expect Evan Sinclair. And she certainly doesn’t expect the marriage of convenience he offers to help her and her business.

The Devil Comes Courting by Courtney Milan

When entrepreneur Grayson Hunter seeks the brilliant person that has been recommended to create the code that will take his telegraph business further into China, he’s surprised to discover that person is a woman. But they’re both more than willing to go with the flow. 

A Classic of Genre Fiction

cover of Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert

What better way to figure out what the heck is happening in the most recent theatrical adaptation than to read the source material? Young Paul Atreides and his family must move to the planet of Arrakis, where the spice is from. But there are people who aren’t happy about that. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This classic thriller novel centers a young sociopath who slowly insinuates his way into the life of a socialite. If you’ve never read a Patricia Highsmith novel, this is definitely a great place to start. 

A Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Novel

cover of Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

This exceptionally well written book follows Fen in a near-distant future in which the world as we know it no longer exists. Reminiscent of Parable of the Sower, this is the story of a girl seeking a better life in a place far from home, before it kills her. 

The Home I Find With You by Skye Kilaen

After a second civil war that has left the US broken and powerless, Van and his community work to keep alive and keep others out. When Clark arrives to stay with family, the two might have some chemistry; but trust is hard in a world where any outsider might be ready to kill you. 

A Book that Takes Place in Asia

cover of The Red Palace by June Hur

The Red Palace by June Hur

This historical mystery set in 18th century Joseon (Korea, for those of you who didn’t spend the whole pandemic downing K-Dramas) centers Hyeon, a palace nurse. After four women are murdered in the palace, Hyeon starts her own investigation to help prove the murderer wasn’t a beloved mentor. 

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Pride and Prejudice. In Pakistan. I’m not sure I need to say any more.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

LGBTQ romance novel

Cover of Meet Cute Club

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Snooty bookseller Rex surprises Jordan at the romance book club he runs after an unfriendly encounter at the bookstore. He’s hesitant at first, but he might be coming around to this whole romance novel thing. Meta AF.

Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

When staid accountant Cade and flighty artist Selena co-inherit a home and a sex toy shop, they have to figure out what to do about it…and each other.

A Humor Book

cover of Shit Actually by Lindy West

Shit, Actually by Lindy West

If you’re a fan of movies, or even just a fan of snark, you might enjoy this book. To some, this book might look like Lindy just recapping the plots of several films, but there’s more to it. Trust me. 

Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson

While anything by Phoebe is laughworthy, this book is particularly fun and interesting, for any reader. A combination of essay, memoir, and advice, every chapter has moments of hilarity and depth. 

A Collection of Short Stories

cover image of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

While each of the characters, styles, and themes of the stories in this collection are different, they all have one thing in common: excellence. There is not a skippable story in the bunch.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Stories about first and second generation Cambodian Americans abound in this collection that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. 

The Awkward Black Man by Walter Mosley

Did you know Walter Mosley wrote short stories? And not a single one in this collection is a mystery novel, at least not in the same way the Easy Rawlins books are. But they are fascinating takes on so many different kinds of Black men and the people around them. 

A Book of Social Science

book cover the heartbeat of wounded knee by daavid treuer

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer

Writer and anthropologist Treuer digs into the modern history of Native peoples on the American continent, their relationship with settler colonialism, and how that has impacted Native and tribal life today.

Belly of the Beast by Da’Shaun Harrison

Do you have thoughts about desire, desirability, race, and anti-fatness? I can assure you, after you read this relatively short book, you’re gonna. 

A Non Superhero Comic that Debuted in the Last Three Years

cover of Cosmoknights

Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer

Space Gays Fight The Patriarchy. 

That’s it, that’s the tweet.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Titular new kid Jordan knows that his new school is going to offer him more academic opportunities than his old school near home, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss his neighborhood friends. 

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

Not quite what you’re looking for, or just interested in seeing what else is out there? Visit the Read Harder Archives for all of the past tasks and recommendation lists.  And if you’re curious what I’ve been reading, you can check out my page on Book Riot proper, listen to the When In Romance podcast, or catch me on twitter (@jessisreading) or instagram (@jess_is_reading). 

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder Task #21: Queer Retellings

It’s time for another Read Harder task! This time, we’re talking about queer retellings of almost any kind—classics of the canon, fairy tales, myths and legends, we could go on. Retellings, in this list, count as anything that either uses a previous work as a jumping off point, or that uses the original source material to tell a brand new version of the same story. 

I love retellings. Give me a Jane Austen story set in the Caribbean, or Pygmalion set in a fantasy world with Chinese influences. Tell me the same love story I’ve heard before, but with a twist, or give a classical hero the depth he deserves. Pastiche is something I live for and dwell in—to the point where I spent more than half of my life reading more fanfiction than actual books, some years. And queer retellings? *chef’s kiss* They are the best of the best. This list is a good place to start in order to complete this task, but there are…a not insignificant amount of others you might want to dive into. (Some years ago it would have been like pulling teeth, but now, they’re starting to appear a little more frequently.)

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Cover of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Retelling of: The Legend of King Arthur

After her mother’s death, Bree enrolls in a pre-college residential program at UNC to get away from the memories and the pain. Witnessing a strange magical event her first night there leads her down a path towards a secret society claiming to be the descendents of King Arthur’s knights, and a young mage who calls himself Merlin. And apparently, there’s a war coming. Great.

cover of Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Retelling of: Romeo and Juliet

When Jubilee and Ridley meet at a comic convention prom, their connection is instant. But Jubilee’s family business is an indie comic shop and Ridley’s family owns one of the biggest comics chain in the country. With their parents in an ongoing feud, the two can’t help but keep their relationship a secret.

cover of Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

Retelling of: Cinderella

Cyn is a farmer who would do anything to gain ownership of her farm back from her step parents—or to at least get away from them. When a chance to attend the Prince’s ball presents itself in the form of a literal fairy godfather, Cyn uses the opportunity to get a plan rolling…but it’s not the one anyone would have expected.

A Blade So Black cover image

A Blade So Black by LL McKinney

Retelling of: Alice in Wonderland

Atlanta teen Alice is a warrior. Having trained to fight the Nightmares in the magical realm of Wonderland, she is one of the few barriers to keeping the regular world safe. When her mentor is poisoned, she has to travel farther into Wonderland than she’s ever been in order to save his life…but she also has to keep herself alive.

cover of briarley by aster glenn gray

Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Retelling of: Beauty and The Beast

When a country parson finds himself trapped on a large estate by a grumpy dragon-man type being, he’s not sure what he might find easier: getting out, or helping the dragon-man to free himself from his curse.

Peter Darling updated cover

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Retelling of: Peter Pan

When Peter comes back to Neverland after a decade away, his old home has moved on without him. Sure, Captain Hook has missed his old rival, but the Lost Boys don’t seem to need him. When war breaks out between the two bloodthirsty Neverland groups, the relationship between the two changes into something completely different.

cover of Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

Retelling of: Cinderella

Ash, left at the mercy of her stepmother after her father’s death, has little joy or comfort in the world. She meets a dark fairy, Sidhean, who could offer her everything her heart desires. But what of Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, who she learns from and comes to love, first as a friend and then maybe something else?

cover of thrall by roan parrish and avon gale

Thrall by Roan Parrish and Avon Gale

Retelling of: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

When Lucy’s brother Harker goes missing, she and her partner—in life and in true crime podcasting—go on a mission to find him. With the help of their social media assistant and Harker’s professor, they go deeper and deeper into the app Harker was investigating, Thrall. And Arthur and Professor Van Helsing go deeper into something different.

cover of Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

Drag Me Up by R. M. Virtues

Retelling of: Greek Mythology

Hades is one of the most feared people in Khaos Falls, almost to the point of being a myth. The only thing that could possibly bring him down is the vision he sees hanging from silk at a Cirque performance, who he can’t resist, and who should be with anyone except him.

cover of Nottingham by Anna Burke

Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood by Anna Burke

Retelling of: Robin Hood

On the run after a hunting accident, Robyn seeks shelter in the Sherwood Forest. But when the Sheriff of Nottingham levies a tax on the good people of the area, she takes matters into her own hands…with the help of some great women and the Sheriff’s delightful daughter, Marian. 

cover of Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Retelling of: Cinderella

Two hundred years after Cinderella married her prince, local girls are expected to attend the Annual Ball to be selected as wives. But Sophia would rather marry her best friend, Erin. When a chance encounter with Cinderella’s final descendent leaves her on the path to smashing the patriarchy, anything can happen. 

cover of The Princess Deception by Nell Stark

The Princess Deception by Nell Stark

Retelling of: Twelfth Night by Shakespeare 

When her twin brother Sebsatian, Crown Prince of Belgium, overdoses right before the royals are getting ready to bid for the FIFA World Cup, Viola decides the best way forward is to impersonate him (for some reason). Missy Duke, a reporter covering the Belgium bid, realizes very quickly that Sebastian is actually Viola, but goes along with it. Also, what are those sparks?

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Retelling of: Snow-White, Rose-Red, and Swan Lake

In this retelling of the story of Snow White and Rose Red, McLemore weaves a haunting tale of two sisters who are also rivals. Thanks to a curse, sometime in their future, one will remain human while the other is turned into a swan. When the curse draws two local boys into the fray, who knows what will happen.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

Looking for more queer retellings? Find more here, here, and here. And if you’re curious what I’ve been reading, you can check out my page on Book Riot proper, listen to the When In Romance podcast, or catch me on twitter (@jessisreading) or instagram (@jess_is_reading).

Happy reading!


Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder Task #8: Classics by People of Color

Hey there, folks! How’s your Read Harder Challenge going? Today, we’ve got classics written by people of color—who here we’re classifying as anyone whom posterity might have identified as a person of African, Indigenous, Latin American, or Asian descent. (We can get into the weeds on who “counts” later.) And in this case, people of Asian descent includes anyone from the Asian continent, from Istanbul on eastwards. 

These classics are novels, works of poetry, memoirs, treatises, manifestos, and other works that have made it through the passage of time, and which have made lasting imprints on the people who read them in their time, and who continue to do so in ours. Some of them are familiar—maybe you were assigned to read the whole thing or excerpts in a lit class in secondary or advanced education—and some are a little lesser known, unless you are familiar with the author or have been doing your research for other purposes. Some were even lost to time, and only republished recently. But each book proves that we have been here for a long time, writing for our own people and eventually for those who traded with, invaded, colonized, and tried to silence us.

cover of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Penguin Edition

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Everyone and their mother knows that Dumas was of African descent, and that he wrote this educational prison break book starring Jim Caviezel. Vaguely inspired by his own father, Alex Dumas (nicknamed Daddy Dumas by the internet), Middle Dumas (because there is also a Dumas, Fils, author of the most boring book known to man) wrote the story of a man who is falsely charged with a crime, is sent to prison until he finds his way out, and finds a boatload of treasure that allows him to make himself a count in order to enact vengeance on those who did him wrong. Because that always ends well. 

Cover of the Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam

The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam

If you’re more of a poetry person, the Ruba’iyat (or Rubaiyat or Rubayat or Rubiyat, it’s all transliterated anyway) is a collection of poems written in the 12th Century by Omar Khayyam, a Persian mathematician, poet, and all around (lol) Pre-Renaissance man. There has been a lot of conversation about the translation of the selected poems, so that might also be something worth checking out. 

cover of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

If you didn’t have to read this in high school, it’s definitely worth picking up anyway. One of the exemplary narratives of enslavement written from the POV of a woman, this autobiographical book tells the story of Harriet’s life during her enslavement, and her escape from South Carolina to the north to be with her children. 

Cover of The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Considered the first novel in existence, The Tale of Genji paints a picture of Japanese court life like no other. It is a lengthy, epic saga, centered around a prince and his search for…love. Yeah, totally searching for love. 

cover of Romance in Marseille by Claude McKay

Romance in Marseille by Claude McKay

After sitting unpublished for nearly 90 years, this novel from the Harlem Renaissance tells the story of an African sailor who becomes wealthy after suing the freight company that caused him to lose both lower legs to frostbite and the surgeon’s knife. This book has been described as one of the earliest overtly queer books about the Black experience.

Cover of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

A dramatic exploration of feudal warfare during the Han dynasty, this 16th century novel is an epic romance (in the classical usage of the word) that could match Ariosto and Roland and all those other chansons de geste for its sprawling storytelling—and also page count.

cover of The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Everybody needs a little Baldwin in their life, and this manifesto is a great entrance point. Comprised of two letters, one to his nephew about living in the world (the inspiration for Ta Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me), and the second to the American people on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this short but powerful treatise has sparked several fires in hearts for the past sixty years. 

Cover of Cogewea, the Half Blood

Cogewea, the Half Blood by Mourning Dove (Hum-Ishu-Ma)

The first novel published by an Indigenous American woman, Cogewea is the story of a woman with both Native and white blood, torn between two worlds when it comes to many things, including how to live, where to work, and who to love. 

Cover of Iola Leroy by Frances EW Harper

Iola Leroy: Or, Shadows Uplifted by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Considered one of the earliest examples of romantic fiction by a Black American woman, Iola Leroy tells the story of a young Mississippi woman who travels north for school and is sold into slavery when it’s discovered she has African blood. Freed during the Civil War, she must figure out how to live in her new reality. (Also, Beverly Jenkins told me to read this book. I’ll be darned if I don’t.)

cover of The Rig Veda, Penguin Edition

The Rig Veda

There are actually several Vedas, the scriptures that make up the basis of Hinduism. But the Rig Veda is the one you might have touched on in a high school Humanities class or other exploration of world literature. (Just me?) A collection of over 1000 sanskrit hymns, the Rig Veda is the oldest of the four.

cover image of Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen

With the film adaptation having released on Netflix last year, this would be a good novella to explore with a group, watch the film, and discuss. Or just compare on your own. The story of two women walking a thin line between two worlds during the Harlem Renaissance, this will enrapture you with every turn and you won’t be the same when you’re done. 

cover of The Arabian Nights

1001 Nights (or The Arabian Nights)

Most of us have seen Aladdin, but might not be as familiar with the text from which the idea originally sprung (and was twisted to Disney’s whim). Told by Scheherezade as she hopes to not be killed by the king, the 1001 Nights are a collection of stories filled with mythical beings and daring adventures. And of course, the ultimate story of daring, that of Scheherezade herself. 

cover of The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole

A free Black woman born in Jamaica in the early 19th century, Mary Seacole traveled the world, learned to be a healer (knowledge she used to help soldiers during the Crimean War), and generally had a lot of fun and interesting times. She also dealt with a lot of other stuff, because, you know, Black. But she had a helluva life. 

cover of Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

First published in 1967, this memoir recounts the author’s experience as a young Nuyorican getting into trouble and exploring the meaning of self and identity on the streets of Spanish Harlem.

Looking for more? Check out this great list of 100 must-read classics by people of color.  And if you’re curious what I’ve been reading, you can check out my page on Book Riot proper, listen to the When In Romance podcast, or catch me on twitter (@jessisreading) or instagram (@jess_is_reading).

Happy reading!


Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Our Queerest Shelves

Queer Book Club Picks

Hey there OQS fam! I’m Jess, and I’m filling in for Danika today. Don’t worry, she’ll be back soon. But I’m excited that I get to share a few books and some awesome (and a bit of less awesome) queer book news with you on this lovely Thursday. 

First, I want to highlight the Trans Women of Color Collective. They focus on uplifting and supporting primarily trans women, but are working to bring joy and support to all oppressed groups. Their primary goals include fostering kinship and community and supporting healing and restorative justice through arts, culture, media, advocacy, and activism. And yes, they take donations.  

Queer Book Club Picks

In a couple of my other lives, I lead book club conversations—two in my role as a librarian, and one in my primary Book Riot life as the co-host of the When In Romance book club. We’ve had some great conversations over the years, but here are some of the recent successes from our 2021 discussions.

my brother's husband volume 2

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

This two-volume graphic novel is probably Tagame’s most popular work, but is very different from his usual fare. In this all ages manga, the erotic horror mangaka introduces us to Yaichi, a young father who goes through his own journey of understanding when he hosts his Canadian brother-in-law, Mike, after his twin brother has died. The graphic format allows for a quick read, but the story itself packs quite an emotional punch, as we experience Yaichi’s relationship with his ex wife and his daughter, his late brother, and his new family member. 

cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

If you’re interested in a text that’s a little less approachable, but which will definitely lead to some heavy conversation, Ocean Vuong’s novel, told as a letter to the narrator’s mother, is a go-to book club choice. The narrator, who only goes by Little Dog, bounces around time while telling the page all of the things he could never tell his mother to her face. All about his traumatic upbringing, his queer awakening, and the joys and tragedies of his coming-of-age. It’s not an easy book, but that’s what book clubs are for, right?

cover of Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

YA is always a fun thing to bring into a book club, especially if it’s full of people who are used to reading something more like Ocean Vuong. In Be Dazzled, Raffy is a young cosplayer extraordinaire—much to the dismay of his artist mother. While she believes his arts and crafts projects are overly pedestrian and not true art, Raffy’s goal is to win the biggest cosplay competition in Boston—not only for recognition and potential sponsorship, but also to beat his ex, who he taught everything about cosplay. Told in a dual timeline, we get to see how the messy teens came together and fell apart, and how the right costume can change a lot of things.

cover of Ace by Angela Chen

Ace by Angela Chen

While this isn’t the Asexuality 101 type of nonfiction book that some people in my book club expected, this wildly accessible book explores the concepts of asexuality, desire, and love through anecdotes, interviews, and other elements of storytelling by an excellent investigative journalist. It’s also a great way to jumpstart conversations about the aro/ace spectrum, which is one of the branches of the family that gets the least attention, advocacy, and love. 

cover of Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae

Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae

Jae’s novels are hefty things, but super easy to read. This one, which follows the development of the relationship between two women who meet via (as the title suggests) a wrong number text, never goes where you might expect. A slower moving, quiet love story, it’s also about each woman’s development into someone better than they were at the start, and how their worlds change for the better because of it.

Links, Links, Links

This is an interesting essay about bisexuality on the page. 

More challenges to books on public library shelves, this time over the glorious creation that is Check, Please!

Reads Rainbow reviewed Operation Hyacinth.

Queer power couple Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman talked about Millman’s book Why Design Matters and have a special conversation with Saeed Jones and Chanel Miller. You have to buy a ticket to see the recording, but you’re also supporting 92Y.

An interview with Xiran Jay Zhao over on The Quiet Pond.  

Mariko Tamaki is starting an LGBTQ+ comics imprint.

Myriam Gurba’s Mean has been optioned for  development for television.  

Some of the kids are alright. For now. 

This is a great interview with author Sarah Glenn Marsh about YA horror, diabetes rep, and more. 

More from Reads Rainbow, this time Gay Adult Fantasy recs

Halloween may be over, but it’s always a good time to talk about sapphic witches

Over on Book Riot

All 850 books a Texas lawmaker wants to ban from schools, including “any book that mentions LGBTQ people.”

Books about the rural queer experience.

Check out these queer nonfiction comics!

Here are some good tips about choosing the right children’s books about gender identity.

Not surprised but still disappointed in this list of 10 most challenged books of the last decade.  

From the vault: some queer essay collections to check out for Nonfiction November. 

And don’t forget to check out our newest podcast, Adaptation Nation!

New Releases

All of Us Villains book cover

All Of Us Villains by Amanda Foody (bi rep)

This book has been pegged as The Hunger Games with magic, but also is about villains??? In a remote town, seven families each select a champion to compete over a wellspring of magic. While this tournament to the death is a tradition, this time around finds the champions the center of worldwide attention—which changes everything. 

cover of Love and Pride by RL Merrill

Love and Pride by RL Merrill (sapphic rep)

When pop star Unice Love and producer Lydia Pride come together to make a holiday track for charity, sparks fly. But between the two of them, plenty of baggage and barriers exist between them and a future that includes a happily ever after. (Note: this novella was previously released in the Love is All anthology.)

The After Party by AC Arthur (queer rep)

Calvin by JR Ford and Vanessa Ford (trans rep)

Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsby (sapphic rep)

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro (queer rep) (Paperback release)

The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert (achillean rep)

Hear’s The Thing: Lessons on Listening, Life, and Love by Cody Alan (gay author)

Love in the Big City by Sang Yun Park (gay rep)

The Reckless Kind by Cary Heath (ace/aro rep, gay rep)

Slug and Other Stories by Megan Milks (queer short stories)

What We Pick Up by Stacy Brewster (queer short stories)

With Honor and Integrity: Transgender Troops In Their Own Words by Máel Embser-Herbert (trans author)

You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson (nonbinary author)

That’s plenty for this trip out, yes? If you’re interested in more about me, you can find me on twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, and definitely check out my work on Book Riot proper and the When In Romance podcast. There’s definitely plenty of queerness abound in all of those places, though you’ll have to be prepared for a LOT of romance. Until next time we meet, happy reading!


Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

Kissing Books

Peace, Love, and Romance Novels (In 2021)

This is it, folks! I hope everyone who celebrates is having the kind of Christmas Eve they wanted and those who don’t are having a good Thursday (and that whatever weirdness that’s been happening because of the planets is finally subsiding). Next time you get a Kissing Books email from Book Riot Romance, it’ll be in the hands of the awesome PN Hinton, and I am so looking forward to seeing what she does with the place.

Let’s do this.

Over on Book Riot

You probably already know about the romances that are included in this list, but it’s always nice to see awesome romance included on lists of great historical fiction.

What does your Goodreads say about you

I wrote about fat positivity and offered up some recommendations for that task on next year’s Read Harder Challenge.  

Do you need reading prompts for 2021? Here are some to start with.

Have you read Brigid Kemmerer?

Check out this list of playlists to listen to while reading! I might have to try a few of these.   


The Worth Saga Box Set 1: In the West by Courtney Milan

If you haven’t yet read The Worth Saga, or just want a digital collection of all of them, you can get two full length books and three amazing novellas (plus a bonus short story!) for 4.99! This set is subtitled “In the West” and includes six stories about the Worth family and their extended family and friends: Once Upon a Marquess and After The Wedding are the full-length novels directly about the Worths, then you get Judith’s friend Daisy in Her Every Wish, Adrian’s ancestor in The Pursuit Of… and the delightful Mrs. Martin from After the Wedding on her own adventures. (And young Theresa Worth gets some page time, too.) Over a thousand pages for less than five bucks. You definitely want this. 

Bonus deal: If you haven’t read Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Wrapped you are definitely in for something wonderful. That holiday novella and the books in the Fit trilogy are all 99 cents through the rest of the year. 

New Books

It’s a quiet week, but we’ve still got some books to talk about, whether they’ve dropped out of nowhere or I missed them the first time around. 

The Longest Night by EE Ottoman

After years of regularly writing to each other, two men find themselves together at Yuletide. But even though they know almost everything about each other, their new situation is awkward at best. Their attraction, however, is pushing them towards each other as their time together continues.

Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye by Jacqueline Middleton

After a messy divorce, Leia leaves New York for London. Ready to dive into a fashion career and avoid love at all costs, she isn’t ready for Tarquin Balfour to show up. A man looking for love and commitment, he just wants someone to see past his money and into his heart. And you know how it goes from there.

Falling For You by Té Russ

Harrison is grieving for the loss of a grandfather he’d only recently gotten to know. When he visits the family orchard to be with the family, Fallon literally falls into his arms. The second-in-command at the orchard, and the man’s protege, Fallon is grieving hard for the man who helped her realize her own path. The pair find some solace in each other, and in the orchard during the beautiful Massachusetts Autumn.

The Christmas Chevalier by Meg Mardell

Alvy Lexington has moved far, far away (at last as far as one can be and live in the same city). As a member of a wealthy London family, he would prefer to be able to live in an area where he wouldn’t be recognized and called a name he’d prefer not to be called. But when he meets an old friend who needs a place to stay and work to do, all of that work and caution go out of the window.

And there are a few more new releases I look forward to checking out, too!

Holiday Wish by Leila E. Hart

The Office Party by Whitney G.

To Marry a Madden by Sherelle Green

All I Want for Christmas: An Anthology by Lucy Eden and friends

Christmas Nibbles: A Steamy Paranormal Romance Christmas Anthology

While I won’t be writing Kissing Books anymore, you can still find me Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, and you can still reach me at! It has been an amazing pleasure writing this little newsletter for romance readers over the past four years, and I look forward to reading it on Mondays and Thursdays alongside the rest of you 😀

May 2021 bring us what we all want: rest and sanity. And romance. Novels.

Kissing Books

Operation Ride a Raindeer

It’s the last Monday of KB for 2020 (there’s one more coming on Thursday before Book Riot goes on break until the new year). I started watching Chicago Typewriter, which is about a grumpy writer and a haunted typewriter (and so much more) and I’m going to have to find something to read about people’s past lives that wasn’t written by Jude Deveraux. 

Let’s talk about book stuff! Hopefully we won’t get some kind of world-changing explosion on Christmas Eve this year. *fingers crossed* *knocks on wood*

News and Useful Links

If you missed it last week, the full Bridgerton trailer is out! And the Bridgerton Twitter account is amaze, so even if you don’t plan to watch the show, enjoy that bit of joy. 

Preach, Alyssa.

There’s still time to vote for the readRchat best books of the year.

And time to nominate books for the Swoon Awards.

What academics can learn from romancelandia

And work from academics who are romancelandia!

Check out this interview with Denise Williams, author of How to Fail at Flirting

Speaking of interviews, here’s one with Talia Hibbert

Nicola Davidson showed us the cover of her next book, Wicked Passions

And here’s the cover of Jasmine Guillory’s upcoming book, While We Were Dating. (And a bonus interview with her, too!)

Roxane Gay is starting a book club, and looksee whose book is on it!

There’s still time to check out some wishlists

And romance adjacent: There’s a new trailer for season two of A Discovery of Witches!


Ho! Ho! Ho! by Rilzy Adams

If you’re looking for a short, sexy read that is more “set during” the winter holidays than “about” the winter holidays, this book is well worth the 99 cents. A woman on the verge of divorce spills her heart out to a bartender and then never sees him again. At least until the next year, when they run into each other on the sidewalk. He’s the one that got away, but she’s spent her year acting upon her post-divorce goals, in what she titled Operation Ride A Reindeer. He, being perfectly secure in his own amazingness, asks her to tell him about it over dinner. (Note: this book includes detailed sex scenes between the female protagonist and people who are not the male protagonist.)


This is our last Monday together which means it’s my last time doing recs! Thanks so much to those of you who reached out with well wishes and to tell me your favorites. I’m so glad to have been able to introduce so many of you to some of my favorite authors and stories. 

cover of syncopation by anna zebu

Syncopation by Anna Zabo

Syncopation brought me (and many others!) into the world of Anna Zabo and the Twisted Wishes trilogy. While it’s not their debut, it was the book that brought them on my radar. And I haven’t turned around since. It was my first romance ever featuring an aromantic romantic lead (and yes, it works), and I love how Anna makes their relationship work for allo/aro couple. 

cover of get a life chloe brown

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Talia’s first traditionally published romance made a heck of a splash with readers, whether they read primarily tradpub or were familiar with her indie work. Get a Life introduces us to the Brown sisters (and is fabulously narrated by Adjoa Andoh if you go that route). Chloe is fat and Black and has fibromyalgia. She has lived her life very sheltered, but realizes that there is more to life than what she currently allows herself to see. I am more partial to Dani, her pink haired, bisexual academic sister, but every book a reader, amirite?

Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

There have been a lot of notes about Rebekah Weatherspoon over the last few years, but Haven and the rest of the Beards and Bondage series have made a heck of an impression. (Interestingly, offline, Rafe has been the one my IRL folks have hollered to me most about.)

cover of an extraordinary union by alyssa cole

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

My favorite thing to see over the past few years has been “thanks for introducing me to [author]” no matter who the author was. But the number of times Alyssa’s name made it into my inbox particularly delighted me! I have been spreading the good news for what feels like decades but it has actually been less than five years since I first read one of her books. I’m so glad that out of all the authors whose books I’ve been pushing, Alyssa has been able to meet so many different romance needs, whether you’ve been looking for contemporary, spec-fic, or historical.

I’d love to keep hearing from you about your favorite romance books and news! Catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi!

Kissing Books

Some Questions About That BRIDGERTON Trailer

It’s Thursday and I haven’t yet started a new K-Drama. I did potentially find another Ultimate LDR story to consume, but I’m not sure if I’m right yet. 

Let’s talk about some books!

Over On Book Riot

Margaret might thank Nora Roberts in the title, but let’s thank Nana as well!

Alison has some questions about that Bridgerton trailer. (Though if the chatter on Twitter is true, the answer to number five is VERY.) 

Laura takes us on a deep dive of a romance series about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and I gotta say, while I knew about this series before now, I have never been as interested as I currently am. 

And Trisha and I had our last convo of 2020, where we talked about Romancing the Runoff and The KFC Romance Movie.


Mangos & Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera

If you haven’t yet checked out Adriana’s queer holiday novella set in the world of a holiday cooking competition, now’s a good time! This year, it’s got a new cover (look at it! Fire!). Oh, and did I mention there’s only one bed? So yeah, 2.99 for all kinds of tropey rivals to lovers goodness! 

(Transparency note: I am working with Adriana on a nonfiction project in the distant future.)

New Books

I can’t tell if publishing is slowing down for the holiday or if I just didn’t add any new romances to my want to read list twelve years ahead of time like I usually do! Perhaps that’s to my benefit, though, because pulling together this week’s list of new books is like digging into a goldmine and discovering diamonds!

The majority of this week’s notable releases are self-published (with a couple exceptions from independent publishers). If you tend to wander more towards tradpub romance, maybe try something from this list!

The Unbroken Rose by Christina C. Jones (HELLO WHERE DID YOU COME FROM)

Nothing But the Wolf In Me by Nikki Clarke

Love and Other Moods by Crystal Z. Lee

The Naughty List by Ellie Mae McGregor (Hot Santa, okay?)

The Christmas Arrangement by AJ Morrow

Sizzle by Aja

Forever Your Duke by Erica Ridley

If You Dare by Sandy Lowe

Her Marine Next Door by Aliyah Burke

Door of Bruises by Sierra Simone (Apparently some of y’all have been waiting for this one with Bated Breath — and I guess now that the series is done I should read the first one, huh?)

The Marquis, the Minx, and the Mistletoe by Ava Devlin

Millennial Struggle by Dhara Shah

Truth, Lies, and Second Dates by MaryJanice Davidson

Cash in Hand by TA Moore

Mine to Keep by Rhenna Morgan

My True Love Gave to Me by Dahlia Rose

Love at the Library by Amanda Kai (Gotta love a library romance!) 

Make the Yuletide Gay by Ivy L. James

Wanton by Jaci Burton

Beastly Beauty by Romy Lockhart (I don’t often pick up books labeled reverse harem, but I am v dot curious)

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi! And don’t forget to let me know what books you’ve loved most from my Kissing Books tenure!

Kissing Books

Passing the Baton

Hey hey romance lovers! It’s Monday. The King DOES have an HEA (if anyone was wondering), and after that and Crash Landing On You I am ready to begin the futile search for Ultimate LDR stories, either in print or on the screen. I guess the next level of extreme would be people who live in different time periods. Or something.

Books, let’s talk books!

News and Useful Links

Sil and Beth hosted the #MyRomanceBook2021 chat on Twitter and collected ALL OF THE RESPONSES in a single google doc. Get ready. Your TBR won’t be able to handle it. 

Alyssa Cole and Rebekah Weatherspoon IG Chat!

Read an excerpt of Tasha L. Harrison’s newest, If She Says Yes

And have you seen the cover for Farrah Rochon’s The Dating Playbook? Bonus interview content, too. 

If you don’t subscribe to Talia Hibbert’s newsletter (and you do that kind of thing), I definitely recommend you do so. Her last one included some exciting information about her stable of 2021 releases and I’m sure we’ll hear more in the future. She also shared this Goodreads column, which she put together herself!

Sonali Dev revealed the cover for Incense and Sensibility with a cute video. 

There’s a new romance merch shop in town and my body is ready. I might need that Hand Flex shirt. 

There’s still time to join the Romancelandia Holiday Fairies

Beverly Jenkins = LEGEND

If you have access to Lifetime (or want to rent it on Amazon), I totally recommend watching Christmas Ever After. It’s about a romance novelist who uses a wheelchair and a man who looks just like the one on her covers (which are painted). It’s adorable and fun and Ali Stroker just looks so delighted to be there the whole time. I don’t completely understand how Izzy’s series works, but that’s a minor thing. 


Weave The Dark, Weave The Light by Anna Zabo

If you’re looking for a weird-ish winter book to enjoy, check out Weave the Dark, Weave The Light by Anna Zabo for 99c (or nothing if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). It’s brief, but it’s full of all that Zabo Goodness—a touch of angst, a touch of vulnerability, and a lot of good writing. If you’ve been missing their writing like I have since reading Reverb, this is a good balm to hold you over.

And speaking of holdovers for the next new book, if you haven’t read Alexis Daria’s holiday novella that takes place in the world of Dance Off (starting with Take The Lead ), Dance All Night is also 99 cents. 


So I realize this sort of qualifies as burying the lede, but I’m passing the Kissing Books baton for 2021 and onward. I have absolutely loved every word I’ve written, and every connection I’ve made with you all. Have no fear, though; there will still be KB in the coming year, and you, my wonderful readers, will be in good hands going forward!  (And if you’re looking for me, you can still find me on the When In Romance podcast and I’ll try to write as much regular romance content for Book Riot proper as I can.)

With that said, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite books that you all have recommended to me when I’ve asked for your favorites, and I want to know what your favorite books that I’ve recommended have been over the past few years. I want to round those up next week (December 21, Winter Solstice, which will be my last Monday send) for everyone to see, and to keep for myself for fuzzies, of course. 

Thanks for sending me your beloved books, either from one of my lingering questions or because there was something you thought I just needed to read. I’ve had a blast checking them out. A lot of my emails are from publicists (who are all awesome in their own right!) so it’s nice to get something directly from one of you all (or a note on twitter or instagram!). 

Entreat Me by Grace Draven

I cannot for the life of me find the original recommendations for this, but I remember mentioning that I was going down a Beauty and the Beast hole and multiple people told me I had to read this one. My favorite things in a good retelling of this story are a badass beauty character of any gender and a beast you can empathize with, and this had both. The worldbuilding was interesting, there was no “you must be my prisoner” deal, and I’m not gonna say I wasn’t happy for the…sexual intimacy…between Louvaen and Ballard. I’m still on my Quest To Read Them All, but this one still sits very high on the list of my favorites. 

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert

I mentioned that I had found my happy place in Geek YA several months ago and one of you recommended I check this one out to get that same feeling with adults. I’d already had a copy (lol what else is new) so I sat down to read it very shortly after that recommendation. Two gamers who don’t particularly like each other forced to travel cross country together for a convention and learn about each other and themselves along the way? Of course I was going to love it. 

Happiness in Jersey by Jacinta Howard

One of you recommended this series by Jacinta Howard when I was looking to build out my repertoire of Black romance authors who wrote Black Romance. I was totally excited to see a new adult series with black characters, about a group of people in a band of all things! Jacinta’s characters are that blend of fascinating and flawed that make you root for them to find success in whatever they’re going for, even if you kind of can’t stand them, and the way she writes chemistry is :fire-emoji: I sadly haven’t made it through the whole series, but I’m looking forward to more.

Shout out to everyone who has ever written back with a suggestion, recommendation, or to just say hi or thanks. I’ve appreciated each and every word of encouragement over the four years I’ve been doing this thing, and if you recommended a book, I definitely put it on my to-read list…I just might not have gotten to it yet. Story of my life, right?

I’m still around for a couple weeks yet. So. As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at

Kissing Books

The 2021 Reading Log is Here!

It’s New Book Day! There are a bunch out this week that I’m pretty excited about! And there are other things to be excited about too, this week!

Over on Book Riot

Read Harder is up! There are multiple romance tasks (and a fanfiction one! Your girl is excited.)

Take this quiz to figure out which holiday romance to read next

These were the most popular bookish things from Book Fetish this year.

Book blankets!

The 2021 Reading Log is here! I have been terrible at maintaining Goodreads but my spreadsheet? On point. (We won’t talk about all those empty “completed date” fields, okay?)


cover of a solder's scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

I’ve talked a lot about Cat’s books over the past few years, but it’s been a while, and now’s the perfect time to do it because her first book is on sale! You can hang out with Jack and Oliver for a whole two bucks! Get to know the Turner clan and then just go ahead and dive into the rest of them (you get more than ten books to read next)!

New Books

I know I’m like, always excited about the new week’s batch of books, but this particular one is pretty great. Some of these are sitting right next to me, waiting for me to offer them my time, while others are waving in the distance, calling for me to come for them. I probably won’t be able to resist…eventually.

Her Pretend Christmas Date by Jackie Lau

Julie’s roommate loves to set her up. Like, is certain she can find Julie The One. Julie is still recovering from Unicycle Adrian (the unicycle wasn’t the problem) from years before, but agrees to go on a date with Tom the pharmacist. He’s exactly the kind of guy her parents would love and they do the opposite of hitting it off. But somehow, when she’s talking to her mom a few days after their date, she tells her that he’s her boyfriend. She can just “break up” with him when the time is right, right? Too bad her whole family keeps asking if he’s coming to their family home for Christmas. What do you do when your family won’t let go of the boyfriend you essentially made up? Call up the real Tom and invite him to visit your hometown, of course.

This is pretty fun in all the best Jackie Lau ways, even if Julie is kind of a baffling human that I don’t always understand. Also, all of Jackie’s promo for the book calls Tom “starchy” and I love him for it. He’s my starchy fave. And that cover. Don’t you just love that face?

I haven’t finished it so don’t have a complete list of CWs, but can say that Julie’s relationship with her parents is fraught because of her life and career choices.

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year Volume 6 Edited By Rachel Kramer Bussel

When I saw the list of names involved in this year’s edition of BWEY, I just knew I had to get my hands on it: Naima Simone; Mia Hopkins; Olivia Waite; Zoey Castile; Elia Winters; Katrina Jackson. That’s like, a third of the stories. You aren’t even ready. Are you ready? The theme this time around is “adventure” and boy, do each of the authors take it some interesting directions. 

I should note that not all of these stories have HEAs, but they’re still great reads. 

Okay, then there’s the rest of what’s out this week:

If She Says Yes by Tasha L. Harrison

Santa’s Helper by Shae Sanders

Trapunzel by Tanzania Glover

Deathly Touch by CC Solomon

Burying the Hatchet by AC Thomas

If We Were Perfect by Ana Huang

Son of Krampus by Ellen Mint (I am TOTALLY judging this by its cover but a Krampus Romance WHAT)

Angels in the City by Garrett Leigh

Alicia: His Troublesome Fate by Chencia C. Higgins (if you haven’t read her shifter books, definitely check them out)

Layla by Colleen Hoover (I was hesitant to call this romance but she says it’s if a suspense novel and a romance had a baby so we’ll see?)

The Queen’s Triumph by Jessie Mihalik (I’ve been wondering if there’d be a third book in that series)

An Unexpected Temptation by Sophie Barnes

Tempt by Ainsley Booth

Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 5 by Sinclair Sexsmith

#Blocked by Savannah Thomas

A Recipe for Pounding My Butt by Chuck Tingle (Yes, he responded very quickly to the whole Colonel Sanders fiasco)

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi!

Kissing Books

So Much Pining

It’s a Monday in December, and that’s about all I can say about it. We’re back to sportsball as a background, so no fun anecdotes today. At some point I’ll finish The King and be able to tell you if it has a HEA (if you’ve watched it, I’ll take that one single spoiler). Otherwise, it’s been quiet on this side of the world.

Let’s talk book world!

News and Useful Links

NPR’s Book Concierge is live and there are some familiar titles there!

Nora Roberts isn’t on Twitter, but she was trending late last week because someone tried to explain publishing to her…on her own blog. Poor Debra has already been meme’d, so if you’ve been wondering why there are tee shirts with “I have personally explained the process to you, Debra” on them, that’s why. 

I might be overly excited about this book announcement specifically because it features an all female mariachi band. Like, yes, I’m happy for the book, but that is super exciting. 

Maureen rounded up some holiday romances for EW.

If you’ve got a little to spare this year, join the Romancelandia Holiday Fairies, or submit a wishlist if you need a little help on your end.

There’s also The Ripped Bodice’s Tamponukkah.

There’s a new holiday movie featuring a romance author who uses a wheelchair and a man who looks just like one of her cover models! It’s a Lifetime movie, which means I don’t think it’s findable if you don’t have access to cable, but it might show up on Hulu?

Christmas BINGO, anyone?   


Race to a Christmas Reunion by Brenda Jackson

Get a Brenda Jackson holiday novella for 1.99 right now! Race car driver (get it? Race to a reunion? Eh? Eh?) Myles returns to his hometown for a wedding, only to come face to face with the girl he left behind. The wedding brings them together again and again, and their fire still burns. Will they try again? I love Brenda Jackson’s drama, and I am always on the lookout for romances with racer protagonists, so this one sounds like a winner! 

Book Recs

I was making a list of holiday romances for the day job and asked the internet for recommendations for Winter Solstice romances, that were actually about the Solstice and not a Christmas story with random references to the Solstice. I got a few recommendations and was able to start reading them!

Wanting a Witch by Lauren Connolly

Keta is a vampire. She was turned in part thanks to Roe, a nurse who is also a witch. In years past, when Keta was near to death thanks to a vampire attack, Roe called the only vampire she knew to come save the woman, and now Keta is back in town, standing on Roe’s doorstep. Her intention had only been to thank her for saving her life and move on, but there is an immediate connection between the two that neither is willing to move on, even as Roe invites Keta to stay in her home as long as she needs to. And as the Solstice nears and Keta still hasn’t left, both women are afraid their feelings are one sided. 

This is a sweet story about two pretty lonely people who blossom from their exposure to each other. The way they start to fit into each other’s life grows almost organically, and it’s fun to watch them pine. So much pining. I love it. It’s a pretty short read, too, so you can just have a seat and enjoy the quick slow burn (I know that phrase doesn’t make sense but it’s slow for them, okay?). 

CW: Estranged parents; neglectful parents; blood drinking; safe self-injury; on-page sexual activity; hospital-related references; discussion of suicide

Another reader recommended Holly and Oak by R. Cooper, which involves a coven’s darling golden boy and the vaguely outcast rebel who are keepers of the town’s strongest magic and totally in love with each other (but think they can never be together). Or at least that’s how I understand it. I’ll be picking it up soon. I expect more pining in this one, too 😀

PS – Alexis Daria wrote a cute short story called Solstice Miracle but I can’t find a working link to it anymore! Let me know if you’ve read it recently…

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi!