Highly Engaged

Book of the Month March 2021

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Kissing Books

Lift Every Voice

Hello again! Hope that the rest of the week went well for you. I am doing fine myself because the weather is so nice that you wouldn’t even know that last week my city was effectively shut down due to the snow storm. Thanks again for the outpouring of love, support, prayers, and well wishes that were directed towards us here; it was very much appreciated. My heart goes out to those who have extensive damages that they didn’t or may not have been prepared for. And it goes out even more for those who lost loved ones during this time, since I know that is a difficult thing to go through.

Since I spent most of last weekend mentally recovering from the snowstorm, I missed the rumblings in the romance world when they were happening, and spent Sunday trying to catch up on the major drama that went down.

And I’ll be honest with y’all, I grappled with if I should bring it back up. One reason is that it was a powder keg that would require delicate treatment. Another is that I’m, or was in some cases, subscribed to a number of the panelists that were involved and have my own mixed feelings on how it all went down. Ultimately though, I realized that I had to take that aspect out, since it is still Romance news with topics that need to be addressed.

The Black Prose Club held a live stream romance panel over on their YouTube channel. While the title may have read as just romance, based on the history of the channel and panelists, the intention was to showcase and uplift Black Romance Authors. It started off well enough, but soon fell apart when the question of what actually defined Black Romance was raised. The first panelist to speak answered perfectly; it is a romance written by a Black author involving one or more Black people in love with a HEA or an HFN ending. This has always been widely accepted to be the correct definition of the genre.

Once that statement was made though, there was little talk of Black romance afterwards, and it was almost dismissed entirely. That’s a problem because the panel should have worked to lift up all types of Black romances, be it straight, poly, LGBTQ, or any other sub-genre. But it didn’t happen. In fact, there were a lot of damaging and disparaging things said about Black romance. For all the talk that Black people are not a monolith, it came across that this was the case for Black romance. Which rightfully upset a lot of people.

Besides the fact that this romance panel hosted and led by Black women had little to no talk about Black romance, the problem that Romancelandia had is that this isn’t the first time some of these panelists have made what are viewed as inflammatory statements against Black romance. And honestly? Some of the comments did come across that way. And that’s not okay, especially in this month on a panel that seemed designed to do just the opposite.

Most of the panelists admit that they didn’t actively read or seek out Black romance either, which also left a bit of a sour taste. More work could have been done to find BookTubers who primarily read Black romance or, at the very least, read more than some of the panelists here. What we ended up with were discussions on dark romance, specifically of the Mafia variety, and monster smut. And, while part of that is on the hosts, the panelists need be held accountable too. If they knew that this wasn’t a subject that they could speak at length on, they should have bowed out of the panel.

Multiple mistakes were made by everyone involved, which happens since we’re all human, and it could have been handled so much better. The next day, the hosts came out with another live stream, taking ownership and accountability, as well as promising that they were going to do better next time. Most of the panelists were there in that live stream, and apologized for their hurtful words as well as on social media. So, they stepped up, owned up and are working to do better. And for those that have done that, I believe some credit is due.

With all that in mind, I’m going to end with my recommendations for the week. In keeping with my earlier statements, I’m going to recommend indie Black romances to uplift these voices. I know this is something that I need to work on myself and will work to boost the signals here with authors.

cover of A Taste of Her Own Medicine by Tasha L. Harrison

A Taste of her Own Medicine by Tasha L. Harrison

This is an age gap romance between the recently divorced Sonja and Atlas, the teacher for the entrepreneur class she enrolled in. This was a quick read with a lot of banter and steamy build up between the two. I did enjoy the spin on the age gap as well as the confidence that Sonja developed through the story, plus that Atlas was consistently supportive of her in all her endeavors. This was a good example of a believable relationship that I would classify as a HFN.

Layover by Katrina Jackson

This is a short quick read but wow does it pack an amazingly sweet emotional punch. It follows travel blogger Lena in a 24-hour delay where she meets up with Tony, a podcaster she has been talking to online over the last few months. Even though their meeting is sweet, their connection is real and their story has a wonderful HFN ending.

One. Two. Three. Love. By Tuesday Harper

This is a polyamorous story about the relationship between Camille, Draya, and Mack. While all of them want the same peace, balance, and love in their relationship, do they have what it takes to put in the work to ensure that it happens? I haven’t read this one yet personally, but it sounds like another emotionally driven read that will leave you wanting more.

This is of course not a comprehensive list, but hopefully it helps to open the doors for you to other authors in this apparently still overlooked genre. I hope that we all can move on from here and continue to grow. As always, feel free to follow me over on Twitter under @PScribe801. Until next time.

Book Radar

Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington are GOOD AND EVIL and More Book Radar!

Happy Thursday, star slough! I hope you have been having a fabulous week. I’ve been reading books and watching a lot of Modern Family, because you know how it takes me a decade to catch up with what’s popular. Pretty soon I’m going to check out this Taylor Swift everyone is talking about! (I kid, I kid.) The real reason is that I’m an impatient little monster and prefer to watch things after every single episode is available to me.

Moving on, I I have exciting adaptation news, cover reveals, and book talk. Plus I’ve included a picture of orange gremlins, some trivia, and more! Whatever you are doing or watching or reading this week, I hope you good bob and we same place again very now. – xoxo, Liberty, Your Friendly Neighborhood Velocireader™

Trivia question time! What is the name of Xandra’s dog in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch? (Scroll to the bottom for the answer.)

Deals, Reals, and Squeals!

interior chinatown

Interior Chinatown author Charles Yu has established a prize for young Taiwanese American creative writers.

Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson have joined the Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret movie.

Amblin Television is making a show based on Walter Mosley’s Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series.

Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington have joined the cast of The School of Good and Evil.

Mila Kunis will star in the adaptation of Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive for Netflix.

Here’s the cover reveal for Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices, an anthology of Arthurian retellings edited by Swapna Krishna and Book Riot’s very own Jenn Northington!

Farrah Rochon announced a new book with Disney-Hyperion.

Here’s the first look at Netflix’s The Irregulars, based on the Baker Street Irregulars from Sherlocks Holmes.

The Horror Writers Association has announced the finalists for the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards.

the vanishing half

HBO has picked Aziza Barnes and Jeremy O. Harris as the writers for its potential series based on Brit Bennett’s novel The Vanishing Half.

Anthony Bourdain’s crime novel Gone Bamboo to become a TV series.

Hillary Clinton to publish a political thriller with author Louise Penny.

An animated adaptation of The Great Gatsby is in the works.

Here’s the first look at the upcoming adaptation of Lisey’s Story by Stephen King. And speaking of King, Edgar Wright will direct the remake of The Running Man.

Disney+ is making a sequel to their adaptation of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

Book Riot Recommends 

At Book Riot, I work on the New Books! email, the All the Books! podcast about new releases, and the Book Riot Insiders New Release Index. I am very fortunate to get to read a lot of upcoming titles, and learn about a lot of upcoming titles, and I’m delighted to share a couple with you each week so you can add them to your TBR! (It will now be books I loved on Mondays and books I’m excited to read on Thursdays. YAY, BOOKS!)

Excited to read: 

Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond (St. Martin’s Griffin, October 5)

I’ve adored Gwenda Bond’s books in the past, so I am really looking forward to getting my hot (pun intended) little hands on her upcoming romance novel about a young woman named Callie who meets a Satanic cult while running her family’s escape room business and a handsome young man named Luke who offers to help drive the cult off before the bring about the destruction of the world. And it turns out Luke is perfect for this particular task, because he is the actual son of the Devil himself. So, the question is, should Callie date the hot son of the Prince of Darkness if the end of the world is a possibility anyway? INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.

What I’m reading this week.

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian 

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode

Song stuck in my head:

Dark Runs Out by Amy Stroup. (Also, I’m still really into listening to songs I loved when I was young. You can listen to a lot of them in this playlist I made!)

And this is funny:

I’ve watched this too many times.

Happy things:

Here are a few things I enjoy that I thought you might like as well:

  • Modern Family: This show makes me laugh a lot. I am a big fan of people falling down and/or getting hit in the head.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Okay, so this is in no way a happy thing, but it’s just what I need playing in the background while I do jigsaw puzzles. I have now made it to the middle of season five and I am still into it. After watching so much Murder She Wrote recently, I’m enjoying the crimes coming to them, not just happening everywhere they go.
  • Jigsaw puzzles! I have moved on to two-in-one puzzles, where you have to separate the pieces to make two entirely different puzzles.
  • Purrli: This website makes the relaxing sounds of a cat purring.

And here’s a cat picture!

I’m letting them drive these boxes even though they don’t have licenses.

Trivia answer: Popper.

You made it to the bottom! High five. Thanks for reading! – xo, L

Canada Giveaways


We’re giving away five copies of The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Santa Montefiore to five lucky Riot readers!

Enter here for a chance, or click the cover image below!

Here’s what it’s all about:

From #1 bestselling author Santa Montefiore comes a sweeping historical novel for fans of Outlander, The Crown, and Jojo Moyes.

England, 1932: Grace Hamblin, the beekeeper’s daughter who lives with her father on a beautiful rural estate, is rocked by tragedy that leads her into the arms of her childhood friend, Freddie. But there is another man she can’t shake from her thoughts…

Massachusetts, 1973: Grace’s beautiful, impetuous daughter Trixie is in love with a rockstar, but when tragedy strikes and he has to return to England, Trixie and Gracie are confronted with the choice of whether to put love or family first.

The Kids Are All Right

Kidlit Deals for February 24, 2021

Hey kidlit, pals! I can’t believe that it’s the last week of February already. I hope that you’ve managed to keep warm and safe during this very cold month. I have a collection of book deals that I hope you’ll love, so stock up on some great middle grade novels and picture books! As always, these book deals don’t last long, and you should get them while they last.

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and LeUyem Pham is just $1! And if you haven’t already read this fun series, most of the books are under $5.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama and Loren Long is a lovely picture book that’s just $5.

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin is a funny picture book about some barnyard animals who discover a typewriter. I love this book–it’s my favorite baby shower gift–and it’s $5.

The Misadventures of Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Fletcher is a fun modern family middle grade novel! Grab it for $5.

Want an entertaining mystery heist novel? The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson if $4.

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez is a heartwarming chapter book for under $5.

Looking for an award winner? Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes is another great book just under $5.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt is just $1, a steal for a middle grade novel about a kid who made a mistake and must learn how to deal with the consequences.

Award-winning author Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance is $4.

May B by Caroline Rose Starr is a beautiful historical novel in verse about a girl who is inadvertently abandoned on a Kansas farm in the middle of winter, for just $5.

Happy reading!



We’re giving away $100 to spend at the bookstore of your choice! The bookstore you select must sell e-gift cards. All you have to do is sign-up for Unusual Suspects, our mystery/thriller newsletter, and get news, deals, and reading recommendation

Enter here for a chance, or click the cover image below!

Riot Rundown


In The Club

In the Club 02/24/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. How is everyone this week? In Portland we’re getting some actual sunshine and slightly warmer temps, and I know I’ve changed as a person when I see 45 degrees in the forecast and go, “Oh word? I don’t even need a scarf!” For those of you still recovering from the hell of winter storms, I’m thinking of you and hoping relief finds its way to you soon.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I’ve mentioned before that I love me some Food Tik Tok, right? Well one of my favorites right now is a creator by the name of Hajar Larbah (Tik Tok username @moribyan). She makes all sort of delicious foodstuffs, including a lot of recreations of popular restaurant foods. I die. My recent favorite recipes (there are… so many) are chicken shawarma, which I’ve always been needlessly intimidated to make??, and yellow rice like you’d get at a Halal cart. My mouth is so happy! Make and share with the club.

Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Should

When planning out this week’s newsletter, I already knew what books I wanted to recommend but couldn’t really put my finger on… why?! I knew I wanted you to read and discuss them because they’re all really great books, but what was the theme that was lumping together in my brain? After lots of consideration, I’ve landed on this: just because we can do a thing, does that mean we should? Let’s get into it.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I made a face and went “eeew!” out loud a few times in the first few chapters of this book. Why? Because “eew” is how I feel about a husband stealing his brilliant scientist wife’s research and then using that information to not only clone her (seriously, bro?) and but then cheat on her with! that! clone! The squick factor gets turned all the way up when we find out the clone is pregnant. It all gets just a little more complicated when the wife, Evelyn, gets a panicked call from Martine: she’s just killed the husband Nathan and needs help… err… cleaning up the mess. It does not go how you’re thinking it will. Whew.

Book Club Bonus: Well then! There’s so much to talk about here: bodily autonomy, consent, a woman’s right to choose, and of course: the ethics of scientific research. There’s a lot of grey area in this kind of innovation, and this book dives straight into the murky bits.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I thought a lot about this book when I heard it was being adapted for film (yiiiiiikes, if you know, you know), and again last week when the Perseverance rover landed on Mars. It’s about a Jesuit priest and linguist who leads a scientific mission to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. I was told to prepare for a catastrophic end, but I was so not prepared! Space exploration is super cool and all, pero this book is all, “what if it went horribly wrong?” Like rull wrong. So wrong. Theeee most wrong. I can’t get the wrong out of my brain and it’s been literal years since I read it. (TW: violence, sexual assault)

Book Club Bonus: I don’t want to tell you too much here because you need to experience it for yourself. Once you’ve taken a day or two to process this one, write down and discuss the ways in which this book is an indictment of colonization, an examination of faith, and what it says about the way we define humanity.

catherine house

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House isn’t your run-of-the-mill educational institution; admission is highly competitive and its demands super intense: once students arrive, they must disconnect from the outside world and remain on campus for their full three-year tenure with no outside contact. No phones, no internet: they must dedicate themselves wholly to the Catherine House way. This sort of immersive education maybe sounds like a cool, edgy and immersive idea, but like… I sense problems! This has been described to me as weird and labyrinthine with major gothic vibes all set in a creepy old house, so what I’m saying is I bought it immediately.

Book Club Bonus: You may have sensed, as I did, that there are some sinister secrets in this story, and you’d be right. The school is determined to keep a history of shady experiments hidden at all costs, and if only THAT were a thing that only happened in fiction. Discuss! You know what to do here.

Suggestion Section

Need some swoonworthy picks perfect for your romance book clubs? Say no more!

How about some queer picks? These audiobooks are great for LGBTQ+ book clubs.

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Thanks again to our sponsor Read Bliss, a community created by romance fans at Harlequin Books! If you’re looking for a way to connect with fellow romance readers and authors, Read Bliss may just be the bookish community you’re looking for. Stay up to date on the latest in romance book news, genre discussions, book-tuber videos, reading challenges and more with fellow lovers of swoons!

Read This Book

[2/24] Read This Book: THE WEDDING DATE by Jasmine Guillory

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Did you know February is National Wedding Month? Although the most popular months for weddings are June, August, and September, most proposals occur between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which leads to February becoming the most popular time for wedding planning. Also, thanks to Valentine’s Day, February 14th is a popular day for both proposals and weddings. 

The Wedding Date Book Cover

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Drew Nicols is still sans a plus one for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding where he also happens to be a groomsman. Then, on a chance encounter in an elevator, he finds the perfect solution in Alexa Monroe who agrees to be Drew’s wedding date for the weekend. Following the wedding, they both go their separate ways. Drew returns to his life as a pediatric surgeon in Los Angeles, and Alexa heads back to Berkeley where she works as the mayor’s chief of staff. However, after having more fun than they both expected, Drew and Alexa can’t stop thinking of one another. 

The Wedding Date was one of the first books I read during the first big COVID-19 quarantine. This delightful rom-com helped take my mind off of the uncertainty and panic I was feeling during that time. Like all of the romantic comedies I’ve read recently, I had a hard time putting down this book, and I finished it in almost record time. If you are looking for the standard rom-com fare with the cute boy meets girl meet cute, then this book is a must-read for you, too. 

I instantly loved Alexa and Drew’s connection. Even though the agreement was just the one date, I knew there would be more to this love story. Plus, I just wanted these two kids to work out as soon as they were flirting in the elevator. Since this is a literary rom-com, I was sure Alexa and Drew would be together in the end, but there were plenty of expected (and a few unexpected) bumps along the way. By the time I finished The Wedding Date, I knew I wanted to read more of Jasmine Guillory. With a debut novel that checks all of my romantic comedy boxes, I became an instant fan, so be prepared for more Guillory reading recommendations in the future!

Until next time bookish friends,


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Unusual Suspects

Mysteries Rooted In Place

Hi mystery fans! I have two mysteries rooted in settings that vividly come alive, and both start with missing person cases. So get toosh comfy to armchair travel to New Zealand and Tasmania for some serious page turning.

Quiet In Her Bones by Nalini Singh

This is the perfect beach read to escape your winter situation. Aarav Rai is a 26-year-old bestselling crime author whose mother disappeared–with a quarter of a million of his father’s money–when he was a teenager. Was she a missing person who should be presumed dead or a woman in an abusive relationship who took money and ran?

Those have been the questions left behind in an Auckland, New Zealand, cul-de-sac. Except now Nina Rai’s car has been found with her body inside at Waitākere Ranges Regional Park adding new questions: did she die in a car accident; was she murdered? Aarav has plenty of theories from his crime writing brain, but he was recently in an accident and is having memory issues–including around what he remembers from the night of his mother’s disappearance. But he does remember her screaming.

And so we’re taken not only into Aarav’s thoughts and memories of his childhood but also into the cul-de-sac of wealthy neighbors as he tries to unravel everyone’s secrets and dirty deeds…

I love small communities and watching all the secrets being exposed, so this was already my catnip, and then it had the added bonus of a great location we rarely get to armchair travel to. Aarav is an interesting, layered, on-and-off unlikeable character forced to face his complicated feelings and memories of his childhood and parents.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Raj Varma, which is always my go-to format for settings I am unfamiliar with in hopes to hear proper pronunciations. I really liked Varma’s voice, accent, and that he did not do high pitched women’s voices.

(TW alcoholism/ domestic abuse/ statutory (19/16)/ dog death questioned as poisoning, no graphic details/ past suicide, detail/ past eating disorder, detail)

The Survivors by Jane Harper

I love that I can count on Harper to deliver an immersive, page-turning, atmospheric mystery every single time.

I’m not going to give a lot of plot away on this one because a lot is revealed in fragments and I loved collecting the pieces as I was getting to know the characters. Kieran Elliott has returned home to a small south coast town in Tasmania. His father has dementia, being looked after by his mother, and he’s come home with his girlfriend Mia and new baby daughter to help pack up the home.

He’s not only dealing with the current situation and emotional toll of an ill parent but it’s also forcing him and the community to face a past many would rather bury. There was an accident. There may still be a missing person. There have only ever been questions and accusations. And now there is a murdered woman. Kieran is about to learn that you can’t run away from an unresolved past…

I loved watching Kieran and Mia reconnect with people they hadn’t seen in a long time and all the complexities involved, the tension of a place trying so hard to forget the past, the family dynamics, the complicated nature of grief, all playing out along the ocean coast, which can quickly turn from tranquil to violent.

(TW parent with dementia/ drowning/ suicide on page)

From The Book Riot Crime Vault

Women Have Always Loved Reading Thrillers—Just Ask the Victorians

Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2021 releases. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

If a mystery fan forwarded this newsletter to you and you’d like your very own, you can sign up here.