Aside from a recommendations post, this is a check-in post. How are you dealing with this pandemic? Let me know how you’re feeling!
It feels like the world is upside down right now, and personally, I’m really anxious about the whole situation. Here in the Netherlands, schools have shut down, as well as things like bars and restaurants, and people are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. I’m already a huge homebody and I normally work from home, so things won’t really change for me. But it’s all still really anxiety-inducing, because my autism makes changes difficult for me and this is one of those situations where you’re not at all in control of what happens next.
You’re likely anxious too, or stressed otherwise, or maybe you just suddenly have a lot of time on your hands because of social distancing. I wanted to be helpful, so I made a list of my ultimate comfort reads, which I think are the perfect books to read right now to hopefully help us feel a little better.
I made lists for multiple genres that I read when I need comforting, namely:
- YA contemporary
- Adult romance
- Sci-fi & fantasy
- Graphic novels
Middlegrade is on of my favourite genres to turn to when I’m feeling anxious. The stakes usually aren’t too high, and the books are usually really feelgood.
Anna Meriano – A Dash of Trouble
Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.
Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.
Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.
And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?
Honestly, I would recommend picking up all three of the books in this series – A Dash of Trouble, A Sprinkle of Spirits, and A Mixture of Mischief – and binging them. This is such an adorable, feelgood series, with a lot of baking. If that’s not comforting, I don’t know what is. I would especially recommend the audiobooks!
Birdie Milano – Boy Meets Hamster
Fourteen-year-old Dylan Kershaw’s idea of a dream holiday includes at least three things: beaches to bask on, cosmopolitan culture, and a chance for romance (or at least his first kiss) with another boy. Unluckily for Dylan, this year his mum’s treating the family to the least dreamy holiday ever: a £9.50 break at Starcross Sands, Cornwall’s Crummiest Caravan Park.
But Starcross Sands might not be so bad after all, especially if Dylan can win the heart of Jayden-Lee, the gorgeous boy in the caravan next-door. There’s only one thing standing in true love’s way: the park’s massive hamster mascot, Nibbles, who seems to have it in for both Dylan and his romantic chances. Dylan’s best friend, Kayla, claims that appearances can be deceptive: so is Jayden-Lee just as lovely beneath the surface, and what could be lurking under Nibbles’ furry face?
I would recommend this book and its sequel, Boy Meets Ghoul, because they’re really lighthearted and funny. They have a lot of slapstick-like humour, and the absurdism might just be what cheers you up!
Lisa Jenn Bigelow – Hazel’s Theory of Evolution
“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it illogical.”
Hazel knows all about life on Earth. She could tell you anything from what earthworms eat to how fast a turkey can run. That’s because when she’s not hanging out with her best friend, Becca, or helping care for the goats on her family’s farm, she loves reading through dusty old encyclopedias. But even Hazel doesn’t have answers for the questions awaiting her as she enters eighth grade.
Due to redistricting, she has to attend a new school where she worries no one will understand her. And at home things get worse when she discovers one of her moms is pregnant. Hazel can’t wait to be a big sister, but her mom has already miscarried twice. Hazel fears it might happen again.
As Hazel struggles through the next few months, she’ll grow to realize that if the answers to life’s most important questions can’t be found in a book, she’ll have to find them within herself.
This one is a little less lighthearted than the other MG books I’m recommending, but I still wanted to include it, because I ultimately thought it was a really heartwarming read about family. I loved reading about this baby ace so much!
Sarah Kapit – Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
In this perfectly pitched novel-in-letters, autistic eleven-year-old Vivy Cohen won’t let anything stop her from playing baseball–not when she has a major-league star as her pen pal. Vivy Cohen is determined. She’s had enough of playing catch in the park. She’s ready to pitch for a real baseball team. But Vivy’s mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won’t give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy’s amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back! Now Vivy is a full-fledged pitcher, with a catcher as a new best friend and a steady stream of advice from VJ. But when a big accident puts her back on the bench, Vivy has to fight to stay on the team.
My most recent MG read was Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!, which is about an 11-year-old autistic girl who wants to play baseball with the boy’s team. I thought it was a very endearing book as well as a very empowering one. I’ll be posting my full #OwnVoices review soon!
Barbara Dee – Star-Crossed
Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.
Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.
As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.
My last MG rec for today is Star-Crossed, which is about a baby bi who gets cast to play Romeo in the school play, while her crush is playing Juliet. It’s a very cute read!
I read a ton of YA contemporary, so this list will be slightly longer, as I just had so much to recommend!
Lana Wood Johnson – Technically, You Started It
When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.
A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.
There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .
I’ve already read this book twice, I loved it so much. This book is written in a very unique format: the entire book consists of text messages between Haley and Martin. This was very fun and refreshing, and I thought it was so well done! The book has anxiety rep, as well as a demisexual MC and a bisexual love interest.
Elizabeth Acevedo – With the Fire On High
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
This book honestly feels like a warm hug. Even thinking back to it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And it’s written by Elizabeth Acevedo, so you know the writing style is superb. Check out my full review of With the Fire On High as well!
Simon James Green – Alex in Wonderland
In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben… who, as Alex’s bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.
Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems…
If you liked Boy Meets Hamster, this is pretty much the YA equivalent: a hilarious romcom about a gay boy. I thought this book was so funny. It’s all kinds of ridiculous, but in the best way possible.
Claire Kann – Let’s Talk About Love
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
How could I not include Let’s Talk About Love on this list? Alice’s Cutie Code alone is to die for, and the romance is one of the fluffiest I’ve ever read, I loved it so much!
Amy Spalding – The Summer of Jordi Perez
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Pérez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.
Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?
But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?
Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Pérez (and the Best Burger in Los Ángeles)?
I also absolutely need to recommend one of my favourite f/f romances! It’s a sweet and funny contemporary that’s really low on angst or conflict. The book is centered around fashion as well as food, and I absolutely loved this. It’s one of my favourite books with a fat main character.
Mia García – The Resolutions
New Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.
From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.
Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.
But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.
A more recent read I would recommend is The Resolutions. I absolutely love the more “slice of life” kind of contemporary, as well as the focus on friendships. You can read my full review of The Resolutions as well.
Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed – Yes No Maybe So
New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.
Another recent read I’d recommend is Yes No Maybe So. This book has two really loveable main characters, and I really liked the focus on politics. Still, the political stuff was done in a low-stress kind of way. You can read my full review of Yes No Maybe So as well.
Sandhya Menon – When Dimple Met Rishi
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
This contemporary is almost a classic by now, but I still wanted to recommend it, because I think it’s becoming a classic for a reason: it’s really good! And if you’re enjoying this, you might as well read Sandhya Menon’s other books as well – all of them are really feelgood!
Jen Wilde – Going Off Script
A TV writer’s room intern must join forces with her crush to keep her boss from ruining a lesbian character in this diverse contemporary YA romance from the author of Queens of Geek.
Seventeen-year-old Bex is thrilled when she gets an internship on her favorite tv show, Silver Falls. Unfortunately, the internship isn’t quite what she expected… instead of sitting in a crowded writer’s room volleying ideas back and forth, Production Interns are stuck picking up the coffee.
Determined to prove her worth as a writer, Bex drafts her own script and shares it with the head writer―who promptly reworks it and passes it off as his own! Bex is understandably furious, yet…maybe this is just how the industry works? But when they rewrite her proudly lesbian character as straight, that’s the last straw! It’s time for Bex and her crush to fight back.
Jen Wilde’s newest novel is both a fun, diverse love story and a very relevant, modern take on the portrayal of LGBT characters in media.
One of my favourite authors for comfort reads is Jen Wilde. I’ve loved all of her books so far, and Going Off Script is her most recent one. If you’ve ever been angry about a TV show queerbaiting you, this is the book for you!
Ashley Elston – 10 Blind Dates
Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.
Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.
When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.
This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?
Okay, I know, this is a holiday read. But I still wanted to recommend it, because: 1. Can’t we use a little bit of Christmas vibes to feel better?, and 2. The book is still really good even if you’re not reading it around Christmastime. It was just a really fun read, and it was very focused on family, which I always really love.
My favourite genre to deal with my anxiety at the moment is adult romance. I’ve read 5 different books this past week alone. This list is also slightly longer, just because I’ve gotten so much comfort out of these books and I think you might too!
Adriana Herrera – American Dreamer
No one ever said big dreams come easy
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
This book is approximately 94,000 words
My first romance rec is one that I actually read over the past week and it helped relieve my anxiety a lot. I would actually recommend the entire Dreamers series (the fourth book is set to come out on March 30st, so you still have some time to catch up)! I listened to the first two books on audio and that was an especially great experience, so I would very much recommend going the audio route for these!
Xan West – Their Troublesome Crush
In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together.
Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.
My second rec is another romance I read over the past week, and this one was a really good fit, especially because it had amazing autism rep! I read it in one sitting and honestly, this book oozes kindness. So it’s a really great read if you’re feeling anxious.
Roan Parrish – The Remaking of Corbin Wale
Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.
Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.
When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.
* * *
Ten percent of all proceeds from this title will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.
I read this book around the holidays as well, but I think it works great at anytime of the year. What I loved most about this, is the autism rep. I adored seeing a love interest who’s pictured as being genuinely attractive not despite of his autistic traits, but because of them. The MC never infantilized him and felt attracted to every aspect of him, including his neuroatypical behaviour. The MC also always respected boundaries. All of this felt so accepting and respectful, and it was wonderful to read.
Lyssa Kay Adams – The Bromance Book Club
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
If you’re looking for a funny romance, I would highly recommend The Bromance Book Club! The sequel, Undercover Bromance, just came out last week, so you could even binge them!
Talia Hibbert – Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Of course you can’t miss one of the best 2019 romances: Get a Life, Chloe Brown! It’s such a witty book, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. And very heartwarming too!
Chace Verity – Team Phison
For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.
One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.
But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson could possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.
Another holiday read that would work great at any time of year is Team Phison. You could read this one and Team Phison Forever back to back for ultimate enjoyment. I thought this was such a sweet m/m romance!
Mina Waheed – Graham’s Delicacies
Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.
Jen goes to work, agonizes over college, and looks forward to the stolen moments in the kitchen. There she can watch Emilie bake love into every morsel. Their delicate friendship takes a step towards a budding romance, but will Jen’s anxiety help them survive their first hurdle?
James has never been kissed but he wants to be. Especially by his co-worker Sam, who he can’t talk to without turning into a little jerk. Sam is made of all the good stuff, but will James’ deepest insecurities allow him to kiss the boy?
Alex won’t let some foodie with a video camera bash their beloved bakery, even if it means to be petty. Except they’re nowhere ready for Yujin, the one who got away and is now romancing them. Will Alex’s pride let them see the gold heart the bashful king hides?
One of the first romances I read and still one of my favourites is Graham’s Delicacies, which is an anthology with three amazing stories. The stories are also really queer and really diverse!
Beth O’Leary – The Flatshare
Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
I particularly loved the premisse of this book, and it really delivered. I really liked both of the main characters and the book had quite a lot of depth to it as well.
Annabeth Albert – Arctic Heat
A lasting connection needs more than simply surviving a winter together—they’ll have to outsmart danger, let down their defenses and open their hearts.
Owen Han has a fresh lease on life—he’s kicked cancer’s ass and is roaring through his bucket list. The former investment banker hopes to find his next challenge in Alaska, volunteering alongside park rangers and fulfilling his childhood dreams of snowy winters and rustic life. Of course, those dreams did tend to feature big strapping mountain men in vivid detail…
Ranger Quilleran Ramsey would like to be anywhere other than dealing with newbie volunteers. And really, the only thing he needs less than a green volunteer “partner” is the flirty attentions of a buff city boy who doesn’t look ready to last a week, let alone an Alaskan winter. They’re all wrong for each other, even if Quill’s traitorous body enjoys the flirting more than it should.
As the weeks pass, the two snowbound men give in to temptation. But can their seasonal romance last until spring? For them to have a future together, each will have to trust the other…while hoping that the harsh elements and omnipresent dangers don’t destroy what happiness they’ve found in the moment.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
What better thing to read during an isolation/quarantine than a book where the two main characters have to hole up together for the winter, and maybe, possibly, fall in love in the process? This is the third book in a series that you can absolutely read out of order (I’ve only read this one so far), but of course you could also opt to read the entire series!
Casey McQuiston – Red, White & Royal Blue
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.
I can’t make a list of comfort reads without including my ultimate comfort read: Red, White & Royal Blue. I’ve already read this book four times, and I know it will be many more. It’s funny, and it’s heartwarming, so I think this is the perfect book to take your mind off things.
SCI-FI & FANTASY
I’m not the biggest SFF reader when I’m feeling anxious, but I did make a list of a few SFF books that haven’t been anxiety-inducing for me, aka they haven’t been too suspenseful and haven’t needed me to focus on them too much.
TJ Klune – The House in the Cerulean Sea
A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
One of the most feelgood fantasies you could ever read is The House in the Cerulean Sea. It comes out tomorrow, so this is an excellent book to get to treat yourself! One of the most comforting tropes ever, to me, is the found family trope. And TJ Klune is the absolute best at writing that. This book is filled with the most loveable found family ever, and it’s such a hilarious read as well.
M.K. England – The Disasters
Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.
But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.
On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.
They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
While The Disasters is a high stakes sci-fi, it also has a lot of banter, so I would still really recommend this if you’re looking for a comforting read.
C.B. Lee – Not Your Sidekick
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
Not Your Sidekick has another one of my favourite f/f romances. While this is a sci-fi, it’s not very suspenseful, so I thought this was a really relaxing read. This is the start of a very diverse sci-fi series, and you can binge the first three books: Not Your Sidekick, Not Your Villain, and Not Your Backup!
Amanda Foody – Ace of Shades
Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…
And she’ll need to play.
While Ace of Shades is a pretty high stakes book and also pretty suspenseful at times, there’s something about it that makes it feel really entertaining rather than has me resort to biting my nails in suspense. The setting is very fun, and I really like the characters. This is one of those few and far between books where the sequel is even better than the first book!
Lauren James – The Quiet at the End of the World
How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.
Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .
What I loved most about this book is how hopeful it is. Usually, dystopian sci-fi tends to be quite anxiety-inducing for me, but this wasn’t at all. I can only describe the pacing as relaxed, and there was little conflict in the book. It’s mainly centered around Lowrie discovering secrets about her world, and her coming to terms with being one of the last humans.
Quick side note: the basic premisse of this book is that a virus made the world’s population infertile, which has resulted to the main characters being the last humans on earth. If this is something you can’t handle right now, maybe give it a pass.
Graphic novels are my favourite things to turn to when things get really bad. And maybe you’re reading more in the following weeks than you usually would, in which case I’d recommend reading a graphic novel every once in a while just because it’s a different format, so you won’t lose the motivation to read.
Wendy Xu & Suzanne Walker – Mooncakes
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
As far as a fantasy graphic novel goes, this one is quite relaxing because it focuses on relationships (which are wonderful), and it doesn’t have a lot of conflict. I also love the art, which is very soft looking.
Katie O’Neill – The Tea Dragon Society
From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.
Read this for the most soothing art ever, and the most loveable story. And if you finish this, you can also read The Tea Dragon Festival, which is a prequel!
Keezy Young – Taproot
Blue is having a hard time moving on. He’s in love with his best friend. He’s also dead. Luckily, Hamal can see ghosts, leaving Blue free to haunt him to his heart’s content. But something eerie is happening in town, leaving the local afterlife unsettled, and when Blue realizes Hamal’s strange ability may be putting him in danger, Blue has to find a way to protect him, even if it means… leaving him.
I just… I loved this so much? This is exactly what I look for in a graphic novel: it’s sweet and funny, and really diverse, and I loved the romance and the banter and the friendships. The characters are just so great: Hamal is the kindest person ever, Blue is so loyal yet so dramatic, and the Oscar for the best side character goes to the funniest grim reaper I have ever seen.
Molly Ostertag – The Witch Boy
In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.
When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.
This is such a lovely middlegrade which uses a fantasy story to unpack gender roles, toxic masculinity, and the importance of accepting people for who they are. The main message is clear: if someone tells you who they are, believe them, and accept them. If you’ve finished this, you can also read the sequels: The Hidden Witch, and The Midwinter Witch.
Alice Oseman – Heartstopper
Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
From the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence comes a bind up of the first two chapters of Heartstopper, an ongoing webcomic.
Another book that I couldn’t not include, is Heartstopper. I always go back to this comic whenever I’m feeling low, and it always makes me feel better. Bonus: if you don’t have money to spend on books right now, the entire comic is free to read on Tapas!
I’m wishing all of you all the best for the coming time. I hope you and your loved ones will get through this alright. Please stay inside as much as you can, and please stay safe!
What are your ultimate comfort reads?
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