Ultimate Comfort Reads Rec List, Part 2!

In March 2020, when the pandemic first really hit, I wrote the Ultimate Comfort Reads Rec List! Now, at the end of 2021, I’m not feeling much more hopeful than I did then, and I have a feeling many other people could also still very much need some comfort, so I decided to write a follow-up post with more recommendations for comforting reads in different age ranges and genres. This list has no fewer than 50 recommendations, so hopefully you’ll find something that makes you feel better!

I used the same structure as last time, which means I’ll be giving recs in these categories:

  1. Middlegrade
  2. YA contemporary
  3. Adult romance
  4. Sci-fi & fantasy
  5. Graphic novels

MIDDLEGRADE

I firmly believe you can never be too old to enjoy children’s books, and I tend to adore middlegrade novels, even though I don’t read them as often as I’d like!


Supriya Kelkar – That Thing About Bollywood

Bollywood takes over in this contemporary, magical middle grade novel about an Indian American girl whose world turns upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into glamorous song-and-dance routines during everyday life.

You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents don’t get along, and it looks like they might be separating.

Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens, something magical, maybe. When Sonali gets upset during a field trip, she can’t bury her feelings like usual—instead, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood song-and-dance routine about why she’s upset!

The next morning, much to her dismay, Sonali’s reality has shifted. Things seem brighter, almost too bright. Her parents have had Bollywood makeovers. Her friends are also breaking out into song and dance. And somehow, everyone is acting as if this is totally normal.

Sonali knows something has gone wrong, and she suspects it has something to do with her own mismanaged emotions. Can she figure it out before it’s too late?

That Thing about Bollywood
Cover image That Thing About Bollywood

I always love contemporaries with a slightly supernatural twist, and this was a really fun and charming one, with a main character who goes through a lot of growth.


Sarah Kapit – The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family

Fans of the Penderwicks and the Vanderbeekers, meet the Finkel family in this middle grade novel about two autistic sisters, their detective agency, and life’s most consequential mysteries.

When twelve-year-old Lara Finkel starts her very own detective agency, FIASCCO (Finkel Investigation Agency Solving Consequential Crimes Only), she does not want her sister, Caroline, involved. She and Caroline don’t have to do everything together. But Caroline won’t give up, and when she brings Lara the firm’s first mystery, Lara relents, and the questions start piling up.

But Lara and Caroline’s truce doesn’t last for long. Caroline normally uses her tablet to talk, but now she’s busily texting a new friend. Lara can’t figure out what the two of them are up to, but it can’t be good. And Caroline doesn’t like Lara’s snooping—she’s supposed to be solving other people’s crimes, not spying on Caroline! As FIASCCO and the Finkel family mysteries spin out of control, can Caroline and Lara find a way to be friends again?

The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family
Cover image The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family

I ended up reading this entire book in one sitting. This is such a cute middlegrade novel! The Finkel family is a big, Jewish, neurodivergent family: the dad has ADHD and the two sister are both autistic. This book had representation I’ve never seen before: the two autistic sisters both have a POV and one of them is non-speaking and uses a speech device. I also enjoyed reading about the family’s Jewish traditions, as the dad was Ashkenazi Jewish and the mum, and her sister and niece who lived with them, were Sephardic Jewish, and the book delved into the differences between those.


Hena Khan – More to the Story

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

More to the Story
Cover image More to the Story

Little Women is a very comforting story to me in general (though I’ve never actually managed to read the original book), and More to the Story is a stunning Muslim retelling of it!


Mae Respicio – Any Day With You

A story about a creative girl who hopes that by winning a filmmaking contest, she’ll convince her great-grandfather not to move back home to the Philippines.

Kaia and her family live near the beach in California, where the fun of moviemaking is all around them. Kaia loves playing with makeup and creating special effects, turning her friends into merfolk and other magical creatures.

This summer, Kaia and her friends are part of a creative arts camp, where they’re working on a short movie to enter in a contest. The movie is inspired by the Filipino folktales that her beloved Tatang, her great-grandfather, tells. Tatang lives with her family and is like the sparkle of her special-effects makeup. When Tatang decides that it is time to return to his homeland in the Philippines, Kaia will do anything to convince him not to go.

Any Day with You
Cover image Any Day With You

This story is so heartwarming and it’s exactly why I genuinely think middlegrade tends to have the most genuine and profound and important books. It taught me a lot about kindness and about how important family can be.


Jazz Taylor – Meow or Never

A heartwarming story of secret pets and secret crushes… and learning to take center stage!
Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Meow or Never: A Wish Novel
Cover image Meow or Never

This was an amazing sapphic middlegrade with a Black girl as a main character who struggles with social anxiety and has panic attacks because of it. It’s about making friends for the first time, and about what you can overcome and what you actually can’t overcome, and how that’s okay and you deserve to be accomodated.


B.B. Alston – Amari and the Night Brothers

Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?

Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.

Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.

With an evil magican threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1)
Cover image Amari and the Night Brothers

This was one of my most anticipated middlegrade releases of the year, and I loved it so incredibly much. I really took my time reading this because I was transported into the world, with the intricate world building and detailed writing. This story really jumped off the page, so much so that I feel like I’ve watched a movie, and it has everything I could ever want from middlegrade SFF.


Gail D. Villanueva – Sugar and Spite

Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?

Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.

And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.

But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…

Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.

Sugar and Spite
Cover image Sugar and Spite

I love how messy kid main characters are allowed to be, this was really great! Perfect for fans of Love Sugar Magic, which I recommended in the previous comfort read post.


Benjamin Dean – Me, My Dad, and the End of the Rainbow

The rainbow-filled, JOYOUS debut from a hugely exciting new talent. Perfect for 9+ readers and fans of Elle McNicoll, Lisa Thompson and Onjali Rauf’s bestselling THE BOY AT THE BACK OF THE CLASS.

My name’s Archie Albright, and I know two things for certain:

  1. My mum and dad kind of hate each other, and they’re not doing a great job of pretending that they don’t anymore.
  2. They’re both keeping a secret from me, but I can’t figure out what.

Things aren’t going great for Archie Albright. His dad’s acting weird, his mum too, and all he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad’s pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow, an adventure away.

Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it…

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow
Cover image Me, My Dad, and the End of the Rainbow

I spent a lovely afternoon reading this book, and I was sad to see it end. It’s an incredibly wholesome book, told in a fresh, inviting voice that pulled me in right away. The Pride section of the book was my absolute favourite. It was full of colour and adventure and really jumped off the page


Lyla Lee – Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Fresh Off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in this first novel in an adorable new chapter book series about Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl who is starting a snack business!

Mindy Kim just wants three things:

  1. A puppy!
  2. To fit in at her new school
  3. For her dad to be happy again

But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. On her first day of school, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed isn’t exactly popular at the lunch table. Luckily, her new friend, Sally, makes the snacks seem totally delicious to Mindy’s new classmates, so they decide to start the Yummy Seaweed Business to try and raise money for that puppy!

When another student decides to try and sabotage their business, Mindy loses more than she bargained for—and wonders if she’ll ever fit in. Will Mindy be able to overcome her uncertainty and find the courage to be herself?

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business (Mindy Kim, #1)
Cover image Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

If you’re open to reading chapter books as well (so aimed at a slightly younger audience than middlegrade), I would highly recommend the Mindy Kim series by Lyla Lee. There are six installments out now, with a seventh to come, of which I’ve read four, and they’re VERY adorable.


Kit Rosewater – The Derby Daredevils. Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

A highly illustrated middle-grade series that celebrates new friendships, first crushes, and getting out of your comfort zone

Ever since they can remember, fifth-graders Kenzie (aka Kenzilla) and Shelly (aka Bomb Shell) have dreamed of becoming roller derby superstars. When Austin’s city league introduces a brand-new junior league, the dynamic duo celebrates! But they’ll need to try out as a five-person team. Kenzie and Shelly have just one week to convince three other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels. But Kenzie starts to have second thoughts when Shelly starts acting like everyone’s best friend . . . Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team. With lots of humor and an authentic middle-grade voice, book one of this illustrated series follows Kenzie, Shelly, and the rest of the Derby Daredevils as they learn how to fall—and get back up again.

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils #1)
Cover image Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

Another chapter book series I’d recommend is The Derby Daredevils. It’s a fast, fun read but it was poignant at times too, and it’s just really adorable. This first book has a sapphic main character who has a trans dad!


YA CONTEMPORARY

I have a feeling I’ve read slightly fewer YA contemporary books this year, in favour of reading more adult romance, but it’s still one of my favourite genres and one that brings me a lot of comfort.


A.R. Capetta – The Heartbreak Bakery

Teenage baker Syd sends ripples of heartbreak through Austin’s queer community when a batch of post-being-dumped brownies turns out to be magical—and makes everyone who eats them break up.

“What’s done is done.”
Unless, of course, it was done by my brownies. Then it’s getting undone.

Syd (no pronouns, please) has always dealt with big, hard-to-talk-about things by baking. Being dumped is no different, except now Syd is baking at the Proud Muffin, a queer bakery and community space in Austin. And everyone who eats Syd’s breakup brownies . . . breaks up. Even Vin and Alec, who own the Proud Muffin. And their breakup might take the bakery down with it. Being dumped is one thing; causing ripples of queer heartbreak through the community is another. But the cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they, check the pronoun pin, it’s probably on the messenger bag), believes Syd about the magic baking. And Harley believes Syd’s magical baking can fix things, too—one recipe at a time.

The Heartbreak Bakery
Cover image The Heartbreak Bakery

My favourite experience is and will always be reading a book exactly when you need it. I read this book exactly at the right time for me, and it felt like a warm bath. This was sweet and magical and very very queer, and I loved every second of it. It was so amazing to read a romance between two non-binary characters!


Meredith Ireland – The Jasmine Project

Jenny Han meets The Bachelorette in this effervescent romantic comedy about a teen Korean American adoptee who unwittingly finds herself at the center of a competition for her heart, as orchestrated by her overbearing, loving family.

Jasmine Yap’s life is great. Well, it’s okay. She’s about to move in with her long-time boyfriend, Paul, before starting a nursing program at community college—all of which she mostly wants. But her stable world is turned upside down when she catches Paul cheating. To her giant, overprotective family, Paul’s loss is their golden ticket to showing Jasmine that she deserves much more. The only problem is, Jasmine refuses to meet anyone new.

But…what if the family set up a situation where she wouldn’t have to know? A secret Jasmine Project.

The plan is simple: use Jasmine’s graduation party as an opportunity for her to meet the most eligible teen bachelors in Orlando. There’s no pressure for Jasmine to choose anyone, of course, but the family hopes their meticulously curated choices will show Jasmine how she should be treated. And maybe one will win her heart.

But with the family fighting for their favorites, bachelors going rogue, and Paul wanting her back, the Jasmine Project may not end in love but total, heartbreaking disaster.

The Jasmine Project
Cover image The Jasmine Project

This was so cute it was almost too much for me. I absolutely loved seeing the main character come into her own and learn her worth and daring to have dreams. I loved seeing her huge family all work together to make her see how amazing she is, even if secretly setting her up with boys was maybe not the best idea. The family group chat cracked me up so much!


Emery Lee – Meet Cute Diary

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

Meet Cute Diary
Cover image Meet Cute Diary

In the beginning of the book, Noah says he has his blog, the Meet Cute Diary, as a way “to bring love to trans kids in need”, and I feel like that’s also exactly what this book is going to do. It feels revolutionary to me to have a trans book that’s this happy. I cannot express how much I needed this book and the main reason for that is just how much it’s filled with trans joy and how much it’s a book about a trans MC that’s so goddamn fluffy.


Axie Oh – XOXO

Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.

Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.

When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.

XOXO
Cover image XOXO

This was just as cute as I hoped it would be, and maybe even better, because it didn’t just focus on the romance, but also on the rest of Jenny’s life – her family, her friends, her ambitions – and those didn’t take a backseat to the romance. I also loved that we not only got to know Jaewoo, but also the rest of his group!


Sarah Kuhn – I Love You So Mochi

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.

She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

In I Love You So Mochi, author Sarah Kuhn has penned a delightfully sweet and irrepressibly funny novel that will make you squee at the cute, cringe at the awkward, and show that sometimes you have to lose yourself in something you love to find your Ultimate self.

I Love You So Mochi
Cover image I Love You So Mochi

This was one of those books I ended up enjoying even more than I expected. I listened to the story and felt absolutely transported into it, and it was surprisingly emotional, but not in a heavy way.


Gabriela Martins – Like a Love Song

This debut paperback original romance follows a Latina teen pop star whose image takes a dive after a messy public breakup, until she’s set up with a swoon-worthy fake boyfriend.

Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?

Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.

Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?

Like a Love Song
Cover image Like a Love Song

10/10 reading experience, exactly what I want out of a YA romance! This was such a sweet, comforting read, but also one with a lot of psychological depth and a lot of character growth. I loved that most of the drama happened outside of the romance, and I absolutely adored bisexual icon William with his goofy socks as a love interest.


Julian Winters – The Summer of Everything

Comic book geek Wesley Hudson excels at two things: slacking off at his job and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local used bookstore, is threatened when a coffeeshop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his annoying brother needs wedding planning advice. When all three problems converge, Wes comes face-to-face with the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.

Now, confronted with reality, can Wes balance saving the bookstore and his strained sibling relationship? Can he win the heart of his crush, too?

The Summer of Everything
Cover image The Summer of Everything

Julian Winters is the king of adorable, fluffy contemporary romance. This was such an uplifting, heartwarming and, above all, nerdy and fun read. The main character is amazing – it’s impossible to not love this gay nerd who’s named after Wesley Crusher. And the setting? Most of the book is set in an indie bookstore! I feel like Julian Winters’ writing gets exponentially better – this is perfect if you want to read something wholesome.


Sarah Suk – Made in Korea

Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.

There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.

Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…

What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.

Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.

But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.

Made in Korea
Cover image Made in Korea

Exactly what I want out of a YA romance, I had so much fun with this! I especially loved seeing them make actual mistakes as I feel like YA protagonists sometimes “have” to be a little too perfect for their age (or for human beings, tbh).


Vitor Martins – Here the Whole Time

The charm and humor of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Dumplin’ in this body-positive YA love story between two boys who must spend 15 days living with each other over school break.

What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe gets it — he’s fat. Not chubby. Not big-boned. Fat. And he doesn’t need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That’s why he’s been waiting for this moment ever since the school year began: school break. Finally, he’ll be able to spend some time far away from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on his favorite TV shows, finishing his to-be-read pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he’ll never actually put into practice.

But things get a little out of hand when Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself — but maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to win over Caio, too.

Here the Whole Time
Cover image Here the Whole Time

I heard such good things about this book, but I was not prepared for how incredibly relatable this book would be. It starts off super awkward and ends up being extremely sweet and wholesome, and I loved the entire experience.


Elise Bryant – Happily Ever Afters

Jane the Virgin meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this charming debut romantic comedy filled with Black Girl Magic. Perfect for fans of Mary H. K. Choi and Nicola Yoon, with crossover appeal for readers of Jasmine Guillory and Talia Hibbert romances.

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just…gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?

Happily Ever Afters (Happily Ever Afters, #1)
Cover image Happily Ever Afters

I had an amazing time listening to the audiobook, and I want this book to be translated immediately. It gave me all the To All the Boys vibes, with a main character who wants to be a romance author, and a boy who’s an amazing baker, baking stuff that I could practically smell, it sounded so good.


ADULT ROMANCE

Throughout the pandemic, adult romance books have brought me the most comfort and I’ve been picking up a lot more of them than I ever did before, and enjoying them so much!


Olivia Dade – Teach Me

Their lesson plans didn’t include love. But that’s about to change…

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens’s high school, she’s determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose’s beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who’s never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher–and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons–about trust, about vulnerability, about her past–to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

Teach Me (There's Something About Marysburg #1)
Cover image Teach Me

I’ve read a few of Olivia Dade’s books so far, but this is still my favourite. It was funny, it was wholesome, and I loved that this book starred slightly older main characters (they’re both in their 40s).


Cat Sebastian – The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

Critically acclaimed author Cat Sebastian makes her trade paperback debut in a stunning historical romance about a reluctantly reformed highwayman and the aristocrat who threatens to steal his heart.

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying.

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit.

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts withstand the impediments in their path?

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb (The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, #1)
Cover image The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

This book was one of my first times reading historical romance, and I think one of my goals for 2022 should be to read more of it, because I’ve absolutely loved the ones I’ve read so far! This one especially was an immediate comfort read, because it was so funny and lovely.


Alyssa Cole – How to Find a Princess

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Alyssa Cole’s second Runaway Royals novel is a queer Anastasia retelling, featuring a long-lost princess who finds love with the female investigator tasked with tracking her down.

Makeda Hicks has lost her job and her girlfriend in one fell swoop. The last thing she’s in the mood for is to rehash the story of her grandmother’s infamous summer fling with a runaway prince from Ibarania, or the investigator from the World Federation of Monarchies tasked with searching for Ibarania’s missing heir.

Yet when Beznaria Chetchevaliere crashes into her life, the sleek and sexy investigator exudes exactly the kind of chaos that organized and efficient Makeda finds irresistible, even if Bez is determined to drag her into a world of royal duty Makeda wants nothing to do with.

When a threat to her grandmother’s livelihood pushes Makeda to agree to return to Ibarania, Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas. When they finally make it to Ibarania, they realize there’s more at stake than just cash and crown, and Makeda must learn what it means to fight for what she desires and not what she feels bound to by duty.

How to Find a Princess (Runaway Royals, #2)
Cover image How to Find a Princess

I’ve read… a lot of Alyssa Cole books this year, but How to Find a Princess was for sure my favourite.


Roan Parrish – Better Than People

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, waking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

Better Than People (Garnet Run, #1)
Cover image Better Than People

I’m a huge homebody myself and I also have anxiety, and while the anxiety rep was… a lot, sometimes, I did end up loving it, and especially how it was handled in terms of the expectations from a new relationship. I just loved the characters, and the pets, and I can definitely see myself revisiting this if I’m in need of comfort.


Alexis Daria – You Had Me At Hola

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

You Had Me at Hola (Primas of Power, #1)
Cover image You Had Me At Hola

I always get really intrigued by books, especially romances, about famous people, but then I often feel disappointed when I actually read them. The way it was portrayed here was just so delightful though! It had a great balance between the glamour of the TV world and portraying the characters as real people with real problems and real feelings. Especially Ashton was a very loveable main character, he was amazing.


Anita Kelly – Sing Anyway

After a lifetime of failed relationships, non-binary history professor Sam Bell is committed to a new (non)romantic strategy: Thirst Only. It’s the actual drinking where things get too complicated, where Sam inevitably gets hurt.

Sam is good at being thirsty, though, especially when it’s karaoke night at The Moonlight Café, otherwise known as Moonie’s to its largely queer regulars. Moonie’s is fun. Comfortable. Safe. Except for tonight, when one by one, all of Sam’s friends abandon them. Disappointed, they prepare to leave—until their #1 karaoke crush catches their eye…

For Lily Fischer, karaoke at Moonie’s is the only time she can step outside of her quiet shell. When there’s a mic in her hand, she’s no longer merely a receptionist harboring big dreams. At Moonie’s, Lily can pretend to be someone else: someone bold, who takes what she wants. And tonight, what Lily wants is the way Sam looks at her across the room as she sings her signature opening song, like they see her exactly as she wants to be seen. Like Moonie’s Lily is real.

As the night progresses, both Sam’s and Lily’s personal fears are tested, and the real world outside of Moonie’s looms. But maybe sometimes, the real world should be a little more like karaoke. It’s not always about knowing all the right words or having the perfect voice. Maybe all Sam and Lily need is a little courage to pick up the mic, and sing anyway.

Sing Anyway (Moonlighters #1)
Cover image Sing Anyway

I had so much fun reading this! I absolutely loved the characters and the writing style, they had some great conversations about being non-binary and being fat, but mostly I was just really cheering them on from the sidelines.


Kris Ripper – The Love Study

What happens when the search for the perfect date goes perfectly wrong?

Don’t miss this charming romantic comedy from critically acclaimed author Kris Ripper.

Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

The Love Study (The Love Story #1)
Cover image The Love Study

I loved this book so much! It was funny and comforting, which was exactly what I needed when I read it, but it also resonated with me a lot. I loved the genderqueer representation. But what I loved most, and what I could really relate to, being aromantic, is that a (romantic) relationship shouldn’t have to look the same for everyone. It’s something that can be molded to what the people in the relationship need from it. It’s something you get to define for yourself.


Julie Murphy – If the Shoe Fits

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be, #1)
Cover image If the Shoe Fits

I’m so glad Julie Murphy decided to venture into adult romance! This was a delight. I especially loved that it was low on the fatphobia, because sometimes that can be a really overarching theme in books with fat rep and it’s nice to see something overwhelmingly positive instead for a change. I also loved how, even though this was a Cinderella retelling, Cindy actually has a really good relationship with her step mother and step sisters. Overall a super fun read!


Emily Henry – You and Me on Vacation

TWO FRIENDS
TEN SUMMER TRIPS
THEIR LAST CHANCE TO FALL IN LOVE

12 SUMMERS AGO: Poppy and Alex meet. They hate each other, and are pretty confident they’ll never speak again.

11 SUMMERS AGO: They’re forced to share a ride home from college and by the end of it a friendship is formed. And a pact: every year, one vacation together.

10 SUMMERS AGO: Alex discovers his fear of flying on the way to Vancouver.
Poppy holds his hand the whole way.

7 SUMMERS AGO: They get far too drunk and narrowly avoid getting matching tattoos in New Orleans.

2 SUMMERS AGO: It all goes wrong.

THIS SUMMER: Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. A trip that will determine the rest of their lives.

You and Me on Vacation is a love story for fans of When Harry Met Sally and One Day. Get ready to travel the world, snort with laughter and – most of all – lose your heart to Poppy and Alex.

You and Me on Vacation
Cover image You and Me on Vacation

This book had NO right to make me this emotional. I was told this was a romcom, yet I cried several times and just felt so incredibly emotional over it, and yes, I loved that about it. It’s still also a romcom, and a really funny one too, just one that also takes your heart and squeazes it until it hurts.

Combining the friends to lovers trope and the trope of following the characters throughout the years, with a healthy dose of mutual pining added to it, just hit all the right spots for me. I had expected to enjoy this, maybe even a lot, but I hadn’t expected it to touch my soul in the way it did. I related so much to both Poppy and Alex, and I love them so incredibly much!


Charlie Novak – Strawberry Kisses

Patrick’s To Do List:

  1. Tell family I’m gay
  2. Make giant cake for anniversary party
  3. Convince Connor to be my fake boyfriend for the weekend
  4. Try to keep my hands off Connor
  5. Make sure Connor doesn’t find out I’ve been in love with him for the last three years

Connor’s Steps for Success:

  1. Perfect pole routine for Chrome Stars
  2. Continue search for perfect music
  3. Survive weekend with Patrick’s family without mauling him while sharing a bed
  4. Prevent feelings from exploding like a glitter bomb
  5. Make sure Patrick doesn’t find out I’ve been in love with him forever

Strawberry Kisses is a 78,000 word standalone, contemporary MM romance featuring a sweet pastry chef, sassy pole dancer, a nosy but loving family, fabulous make-up, fluffy feels, and copious amounts of cake.

Strawberry Kisses (Kiss Me, #1)
Cover image Strawberry Kisses

This is one of the sweetest and fluffiest books I’ve ever read! I was in PAIN from the cuteness!! It’s my most recent addition to this post, since I only recently read it, but I just had to include it, because it’s such a perfect comfort read.


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. A lot of these are paranormal romances, because I’ve been slowly getting into these over the past year.


Elizabeth Lim – Six Crimson Cranes

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Peniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes, #1)
Cover image Six Crimson Cranes

I sat down to read the first few chapters of this book, but I was drawn in immediately because the book starts in a very engaging way, and before I knew it, I had finished the entire book in one sitting. It’s a chunky one too, but I just couldn’t put it down. This book gave me all the magical fairytale vibes you might be expecting from the cover, and it turned some tropes on its head in a really interesting, fresh way that I adored.


Talia Hibbert – Mating the Huntress

This Halloween, love bites back… hard.

Chastity Adofo knows a monster when she sees one. As soon as Luke Anthony wanders into her family’s coffee shop, she recognises the evil lurking beneath his charming smile and fantastic arse. The handsome werewolf is determined to have her—but she’s determined to cut out his heart.

Little does she know, Luke’s plans for her are far more pleasurable than murder. And when the full moon rises, all bets are off…

Warning: Mating the Huntress is 30,000+ words of red-hot, Halloween-themed romance. This novella contains one flirtatious, cursed creature of the night, one badass, knife-happy heroine, and forbidden lust at first sight. Please read responsibly!

Mating the Huntress (Monsters and Mates, #1)
Cover image Mating the Huntress

Every time I review a Talia Hibbert book, all I can say is Talia Hibbert never (and I mean NEVER) disappoints. All of their books HIT. This was everything I could want from a paranormal romance.


Becky Chambers – A Psalm For the Wild-Built

In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new Monk and Robot series gives us hope for the future.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)
Cover image A Psalm For the Wild-Built

Becky Chambers absolutely excels at cosy sci-fi that makes you ponder about the meaning of life. This book actually helped me a lot to realize that my value as a person is not determined by my productivity, which is something I struggle with a lot. This was just such a kind-hearted read and I absolutely loved it.

A huge bonus for me is that the main character uses they/them pronouns and the book is written in 3rd person POV, so you actually see their pronouns used a lot, which was very validating.


Charlie Adhara – The Wolf at the Door

A former FBI agent is partnered with the enemy in this suspenseful male/male shifter romance from debut author Charlie Adhara.

Hunting for big bad wolves was never part of Agent Cooper Dayton’s plan, but a werewolf attack lands him in the carefully guarded Bureau of Special Investigations. A new case comes with a new partner: ruggedly sexy werewolf Oliver Park.

Park is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf oversight organization working to ease escalating tensions with the BSI. But as far as Cooper’s concerned, it’s failing. As they investigate a series of mysterious deaths unlike anything they’ve seen, every bone in Cooper’s body is suspicious of his new partner—even when Park proves himself as competent as he is utterly captivating.

When more people vanish, pressure to solve the case skyrockets. And though he’d resolved to keep things professional, Cooper’s friction with Park soon erupts…into a physical need that can’t be contained or controlled. But with a body count that’s rising by the day, werewolves and humans are in equal danger. If Cooper and Park don’t catch the killer soon, one—or both—of them could be the next to go.

The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf, #1)
Cover image The Wolf at the Door

I basically inhaled this entire series in one weekend. They’re quick reads and I absolutely loved the romance.


Ryka Aoki – Light From Uncommon Stars

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

Light from Uncommon Stars
Cover image Light From Uncommon Stars

This book was very different from what I expected, because I’d seen it described as cosy sci-fi. Because of that, I expected it to be more sci-fi heavy, but it’s more of a contemporary with SFF elements. I was also expecting something super cosy, but it had quite a lot of transphobia (all addressed, of course!). It was still a really good read though – perfect if you like weird books, and it had a sapphic relationship between two elderly women, which is not something I’ve really seen before!


Rien Gray – Her Wolf in the Wild

The Hounds of God MC live outside the law and protect their own. They only have three rules:
(1) look out for each other
(2) obey the club president
(3) never show a human your werewolf form.

Christiana Arjean needs to get out. She tried to fix her relationship, but making a break for it is her only shot. She almost doesn’t make it, until a butch biker with a shock of white hair tosses Christiana on the back of her bike. Micah is as mysterious as she is attractive, and Christiana wants to know what’s under that tough exterior.
Micah Nubilo knows a little bit about keeping secrets. Rescuing Christiana is a bad idea, and letting her hang around is even worse. But there’s something calling to Micah: an impossible bond no werewolf should ever feel for a human, even one as beautiful as Christiana.
Their growing intimacy is threatened when they realize their pasts are connected in ways they never could have imagined. Christiana and Micah must fight against threats both outside the pack and inside themselves for a chance at putting it all behind them and finding a way forward—together.

Her Wolf in the Wild
Cover image Her Wolf in the Wild

I’m still slowly getting into paranormal romance, so I didn’t quite know what to expect from this, but it was a delight! I’m a big fan of werewolves, especially because of the found family trope that’s often used, as was the case here as well. I absolutely adored Micah’s entirely queer little wolf pack, they were all amazing! Four sapphics, a trans guy and a non-binary person!!

In terms of the plot this book is on the intense side, because Christiana is coming out of an abusive relationship and is being hunted by her ex. I personally didn’t find this a particularly heavy read though, because the wolf pack and the romance bring a lot of comfort.


Everina Maxwell – Winter’s Orbit

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

Winter's Orbit
Cover image Winter’s Orbit

This book was a 5 star prediction for me, and I’m so glad I was right!

I took my time reading this so that I could really savour it, and I loved the slow build-up of Kiem and Jainan’s relationship. I was hesitant to put much faith in the comp to Red, White & Royal Blue, as this is a sci-fi novel, but honestly, I could really see the comparison from the start. Of course it’s a very different book, but it does have a similar feel to it. And it’s for sure a new favourite for me.

Reading this book was a frustrating experience at times, because I wanted Kiem and Jainan to JUST FUCKING TALK TO EACH OTHER. But it made a lot of sense to me why they didn’t – especially from Jainan’s point of view it’s clear to see why he doesn’t easily trust Kiem. And seeing them learn to trust each other was really amazing to see, and I love how this was spun out – I kept wanting them to talk to each other, but at the same time, every time I got JUST enough to keep me happy for a while.


Lana Harper – Payback’s a Witch

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove, #1)
Cover image Payback’s a Witch

This was such a well written, atmospheric read, with amazing world building. There were all these details about the town that really built the scene and made it so easy to visualize. It was impossible not to love the main character, who had so much depth to her. Aside from this being a romance, it’s also about whether or not you can grow into your full potential if everyone who’s known you your whole life has boxed you in with their ideas of who you are and should be, which I found really relatable.

But the romance. Omg, the romance! I loved this sapphic romance SO much!! I could really feel the chemistry between them, and there was this scene which was basically like “show me all of your tattoos and explain them”, and just… Yeah, you should probably just read this!


Jenn Burke – Not Dead Yet

Dying isn’t what it used to be.

Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.

His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.

As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.

Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1)
Cover image Not Dead Yet

This series is probably my favourite paranormal romance I’ve read so far. It just has such an amazing romance and found family, I absolutely adored the characters.


Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Raybearer (Raybearer #1)
Cover image Raybearer

This book is a MASTERPIECE. I feel like I’ve read a book series with 5 installments with how much happened in the book, yet I never got confused or overwhelmed but it was always just as engaging and interesting. So many twists and turns, such masterful storytelling, I’m honestly blown away. (And I can add that the sequel is just as good!)

From the very first page up until the very last, I felt absolutely transported into this story. I loved everything about it – the strong cast of characters, the amazing world building, the intrigue and the many twists and turns. I could never do it justice in a review, but I hope it’s clear that I’d HIGHLY recommend this.

If you’re going to read this book, the audiobook is an absolute must. It’s so SO good. I personally listened to the audio while reading along in my physical copy and it was so immersive.


GRAPHIC NOVELS

If I need to relax quickly, my go to solution is reading a graphic novel (or two, or three).


Mari Costa – Life of Melody

Life of Melody is a queer romantic comedy & fantasy graphic novel by Mari Costa about a fairy godfather and a beast raising a child.

In the fairy realm, a Fairy Godparent is tasked with fulfilling fairy tales in the human world. The human protagonist’s own motivations and wishes are of little consequences to the fairy working their case. As such, humans are regarded as pretty difficult to work with by the fairies, who otherwise don’t seem to know much about them. The fairy Razzmatazz decides that the perfect solution to get around how unaccommodating humans can be is to raise the fairy tale protagonist from infancy to her 18th birthday. Despite his superiors telling him the idea is completely crazy, he commits to it, and by extension, commits to becoming co-parent with a beast named Bon, who found the child at the same time as him.

Life of Melody
Cover image Life of Melody

This was the absolute softest story, I adored it so much! Will definitely be one of my go-to graphic novels when I’m in need of a comforting read.


Molly Knox Ostertag – The Girl From the Sea

From the author of The Witch Boy trilogy comes a graphic novel about family, romance, and first love.

Fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: She can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.

Then one night, Morgan is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl named Keltie. The two become friends and suddenly life on the island doesn’t seem so stifling anymore.

But Keltie has some secrets of her own. And as the girls start to fall in love, everything they’re each trying to hide will find its way to the surface…whether Morgan is ready or not.

The Girl from the Sea
Cover image The Girl From the Sea

This was so very very cute, and it did make me cry at the end.


Olivia Stephens – Artie and the Wolf Moon

After sneaking out against her mother’s wishes, Artie Irvin spots a massive wolf–then watches it don a bathrobe and transform into her mom. Thrilled to discover she comes from a line of werewolves, Artie asks her mom to share everything–including the story of Artie’s late father. Her mom reluctantly agrees. And to help Artie figure out her own wolflike abilities, her mom recruits some old family friends.

Artie thrives in her new community and even develops a crush on her new friend Maya. But as she learns the history of werewolves and her own parents’ past, she’ll find that wolves aren’t the scariest thing in the woods–vampires are.

Artie and the Wolf Moon
Cover image Artie and the Wolf Moon

This was a perfect comfort read with a touch of suspense. I really loved this graphic novel. I found it so interesting to see how the werewolf lore intersected with Blackness, and how the dynamics between vampires and werewolves worked as a metaphor for white supremacy. At the same time, it’s a really cute, comforting story with a touch of suspense and mystery, and it has such a cute romance between two Black girls.


Crystal Frasier & Val Wise – Cheer Up!

A sweet, queer teen romance perfect for fans of Fence and Check, Please!

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms
Cover image Cheer Up!

Sapphic cheerleaders? And one of them is trans? I couldn’t download this fast enough.

And I really enjoyed this! It’s fast-paced and funny, and I loved the art work. It really pulled me in and I laughed and cried reading this. It has the grumpy x sunshine dynamic, and it works SO well! These girls used to be friends before, but they grew apart, and now that they’re both on the cheerleading team, they’re reconnecting and falling in love. I absolutely adored the romance, and I loved the discussions on being trans and how hypervisible Bebe feels as a trans girl when she just wants to be herself, not be the center of attention.


Trung Le Nguyen – The Magic Fish

Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn’t a fairytale.

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?

A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

The Magic Fish
Cover image The Magic Fish

Please read this. It’s so quietly beautiful, the text, the art, the main story and the fairytales are woven together so masterfully, it will warm your heart. It’s a new favourite graphic novel for me for sure.


Ari North – Always Human

First serialized on the popular app and website WebToon, Always Human ran from 2015-2017 and amassed over 76,000 unique subscribers during its run. Now reformatted for a print edition in sponsorship with GLAAD, Always Human is a beautifully drawn graphic novel about a developing relationship between two young women in a near-future, soft sci-fi setting. Always Human is drawn in a manga-influenced style and with an incredible color palette that leaps off the page!

In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications—but some people have “Egan’s Syndrome,” a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these “mods” and are unable to use them. Those who are affected maintain a “natural” appearance, reliant on cosmetics and hair dye at most to help them play with their looks.

Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen’s bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain . . . always human.

Rendered in beautiful detail and an extraordinary color palette, Always Human is a sweet love story told in a gentle sci-fi setting by a queer woman cartoonist, Ari North.

Always Human
Cover image Always Human

This was a perfect comfort read. I especially loved the art work.


Natalie Riess – Space Battle Lunchtime

Collecting the first four issues of Natalie Riess’s delectable series, SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME! Earth baker Peony gets the deal of a lifetime when she agrees to be a contestant on the Universe’s hottest reality TV show, Space Battle Lunchtime! But that was before she knew that it shoots on location… on a spaceship… and her alien competitors don’t play nice! Does Peony really have what it takes to be the best cook in the Galaxy? Tune in and find out!

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion
Cover image Space Battle Lunchtime, vol. 1

I’m living for middlegrade graphic novels! This is such a quick, light read, I really enjoyed it. It’s so creative, and even if there isn’t much depth to the story or the world building, it’s very detailed and fun! This series has two sequels as well (althought I haven’t personally read volume 3 yet).


Rey Terciero & Bre Indigo – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Little Women with a twist: four sisters from a blended family experience the challenges and triumphs of life in NYC in this beautiful full-color graphic novel perfect for fans of Roller Girl and Smile.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are having a really tough year: with their father serving in the military overseas, they must work overtime to make ends meet…and each girl is struggling in her own way. Whether it’s school woes, health issues, boy troubles, or simply feeling lost, the March sisters all need the same thing: support from each other. Only by coming together–and sharing lots of laughs and tears–will these four young women find the courage to discover who they truly are as individuals…and as a family.

Meg is the eldest March, and she has a taste for the finer things in life. She dreams of marrying rich, enjoying fabulous clothes and parties, and leaving her five-floor walk-up apartment behind.

Jo pushes her siblings to be true to themselves, yet feels like no one will accept her for who she truly is. Her passion for writing gives her an outlet to feel worthy in the eyes of her friends and family.

Beth is the shy sister with a voice begging to be heard. But with a guitar in hand, she finds a courage that inspires her siblings to seize the day and not take life for granted.

Amy may be the baby of the family, but she has the biggest personality. Though she loves to fight with her sisters, her tough exterior protects a vulnerable heart that worries about her family’s future.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Graphic Retelling of Little Women
Cover image Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Yes, I did need to include yet another Little Women retelling in this post. No, I’m not sorry.


Ngozi Ukazu – Check, Please

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey
Cover image Check, Please vol. 1

How could I not include Check, Please on this list? Don’t forget to also pick up volume 2 – it’s a duology!


Grace Ellis – Moonstruck

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

Magic to Brew (Moonstruck #1)
Cover image Moonstruck, vol. 1

I really really loved this! The art is honestly incredible, I loved it a lot. And the characters and setting are amazing, so imaginative and fun. This comic series has to sequels as well, and again I haven’t read the third one yet.


What are your ultimate comfort reads?

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