Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #18: Read a Comic or Graphic Novel that Features Disability Representation

Graphic and comic formats work so well for stories featuring disabled characters as both a visual manifestation of what it means to be disabled and a metaphor for how disability can affect mental and cognitive function. I am disabled; I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and a host of other chronic health conditions. While there are no graphic representations of POTS (which I am here for publishers and illustrators!), I love finding and reading comics featuring disability representation.

I’ve chosen nine of my favorites, but it was hard to narrow it down! I decided to choose a variety of disabilities, so no two books on this list have protagonists with the same disability. Some of these are graphic novels, some graphic memoirs, and I’ve even included a sexy nonfiction centering disability. All of these are accessible and enjoyable whether you read comics all the time or if this is your foray into the genre. Though more books with disability representation are being published, it’s still rare, and often depictions lean into ableism and stereotypes about what it means to be disabled. These books present a nuanced glimpse into disabled life, each one as different as can be from the last. I hope you find one you love!

Cover of Lighter Than My Shadow by Green

Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green

*content warning: SA*

In this searing graphic memoir, illustrator Katie Green describes her relationship with food and how she developed an eating disorder. From childhood, Green became fixated on routine and order, needing to keep her food separated and counting to ensure she chewed food evenly on both sides of her mouth. In her teen years, this fixation turned into a need to control all aspects of her eating and body weight. Her combination of depression and anxiety led her to descend ever deeper into anorexia and later into binging after a trusted therapist sexually assaults her.

Cover of The Oracle Code by Nijkamp

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, illustrated by Manuel Preitano

Despite my love for graphic and comic formats, I struggle to get into the superhero genre. The Oracle Code is a rare exception. It’s a really clever YA mystery. When Barbara Gordon, or Babs, is paralyzed after a gunshot wound, she enters the Arkham Center for Independence for rehabilitation. Babs initially pushes all friendship overtures away, but soon befriends another patient, Jana, who tells her sinister stories at night. When Jana disappears, Babs realizes something wrong is happening at the Arkham Center.

Cover of Invisible Differences by Dachez

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger’s, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color by Julie Dachez, illustrated by Mademoiselle Caroline

This contemporary graphic novel translated from French is based on the author’s experience with Asperger’s, a form of Autism. Marguerite has always struggled with social situations, and it hasn’t gotten any easier in her late twenties. She’s elated to finally receive an Asperger’s diagnosis; she finally has answers! But no one else seems to feel the same way. This fantastic story depicts the daily ableist microaggressions people on the spectrum experience.

Cover of Clementine Book One by Walden

Clementine, Book One by Tillie Walden

This is another graphic novel where I had zero frame of reference for, yet thoroughly enjoyed it. I have never read nor watched The Walking Dead, and I didn’t even realize this was based on the series until after I’d read it! *embarrassed face* Clementine, who is a leg amputee, navigates an apocalyptic future full of zombies in this entertaining YA graphic novel. Though she shuns friends, she nevertheless finds herself one, who leads her to the North, where three teen girls are attempting to rebuild a town and want their help.

Cover of A Quick and Easy Guide to Sex and Disability by A. Andrews

A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability by A. Andrews

At just 72 pages, this really is a quick and easy guide. Did you know disabled people have sex? I mean, this is such an obvious statement, but if you’re in any way shocked to learn this, you need to read this book. In addition to busting some myths about sex and disability, Andrews also gives tips for having sex with disabled folk. It’s queer-inclusive and a fun read.

Cover of Dear Scarlet by Wong

Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression by Teresa Wong

This intense graphic memoir chronicles Teresa Wong’s experience with postpartum depression. I also had PPD, which morphed into anxiety after a year or two, and I connected with Wong’s illustrations even as we had very different experiences with the mental illness. It’s a moving, slim read that I frequently recommend to people considering becoming parents.

Cover of Allergic by Lloyd

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter

This is one of my favorite 2022 middle grade reads. Maggie loves animals and dreams of becoming a vet. When her parents finally let her have a dog, she discovers she has severe pet allergies. This diagnosis affects so much in her life: her understanding of herself, her budding friendship with a new neighbor, and her experiences in a new classroom. I have severe pet allergies, and I really identified with Maggie.

Living with Viola cover

Living with Viola by Rosena Fung

Fung draws on her own experiences with anxiety and being the daughter of Chinese immigrants in this moving middle grade graphic novel. Livy has an alternate identity — Viola. Viola is a physical manifestation of Livy’s anxiety, and haunts her as Viola starts a new school. Livy is trying to make friends, but Viola undermines her every chance she gets.

Cover of Stargazing by Wang

Stargazing by Jen Wang

This charming middle grade graphic novel is about two Chinese-American friends — Moon and Christine — who could not be more different. Christine is a perfectionist, while Moon is spontaneous. When Moon’s behavior becomes ever more erratic, she winds up in the hospital. Will their friendship survive?

If you’d like to extend your disability reading beyond the Read Harder challenge, check out Rioter Kendra Winchester’s list of introductory books about disability (I love all of these), as well as my list of ableist disability tropes I’m tired of reading.

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #17: Read a YA book by an Indigenous author.

The past couple of years have been great years for Native and Indigenous representation in YA. A novel about an Ojibwa teen won YA’s highest honor in 2022, and a YA speculative novel about a Lipan Apache teen was a National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor book in 2021 and 2022. But despite these amazing awards, YA still has a ways to come in terms of Native representation. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, fewer than 2% of all kidlit and YA published in 2021 was written by Native or Indigenous creators. And when you go searching for these books, it can be difficult to find more than a handful being published in any calendar year. So while we love to see that award hype, we also need to see an increase in actual books published, too,

Luckily, there are people like Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation), who does a lot to uplift Native voices in kidlit and she’s at the helm of a new imprint at HarperCollins called Heartdrum whose mission is to “emphasize the present and future of Indian Country and the strength of young Indigenous heroes.” Heartdrum published its first YA book in 2022, and hopefully it won’t be the last. By incorporating these YA reads into your TBR (beyond Native American Heritage Month in November!) you are showing publishing that these books matter, and that there is a demand for them. We hope that you don’t stop at just one to satisfy the Read Harder challenge, but add a few of these books to your 2023 reading list!

cover image of Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis lives in two worlds: The world of her white mom, and the nearby reservation community where her father’s family resides. When she delays going off to college to help out with her sick grandmother, she finds her world rocked by a shocking murder and an investigation into drug use on the reservation — an investigation that she gets pulled into, despite her misgivings. As she peels back the layers of complicated truth about her community, she finds that not everything is as it seems. Bonus: Keep an eye out for Boulley’s next book, Warrior Girl Unearthed, out in May!

The Things She's Seen cover image

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Beth died in a car accident not too long ago, but she lingers in this world, haunting her dad, who is the only other person able to see her. When she encourages him to go back to work, they find themselves in a small Australian town, trying to solve the mystery of a building destroyed by arson and a young woman who’s recently appeared with no name and no past, but a haunting story of her own to tell. Bonus: If you enjoy this book, check out Ambelin’s book The Interrogating of Ashala Wolf!

Hearts Unbroken cover image

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Louise has been through too many crushes and boyfriends who have said or done racist things, so starting this school year she’s determined to forego boys and focus on her job at the school newspaper. But when a new guy intrigues her and the town faces racist backlash over the casting of the school play, Louise learns that there’s no guarantees when it comes to guarding your heart. Bonus: Leitich also has a new YA novel out in 2023 called Harvest House, and it’s set in the same world as Hearts Unbroken!

the summer of bitter and sweet book cover

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson

Lou is working at her family’s ice cream shack this summer, trying to avoid her ex-boyfriend and the letter that recently arrived for her from her biological father, who is in prison. When her former best friend King also makes a surprise reappearance, Lou finds herself drawn to him. But she can’t ignore all of the things she’s been avoiding forever.

cover of the marrow thieves

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

In a dystopian future where most of the population have lost the ability to dream, Native people are being hunted for their bone marrow, which restores the ability. Frenchie and his friends are making their way north, where they hope to find safety, but one of them holds the secret for ending their days on the run once and for all. Also look for the sequel, Hunting the Stars!

Give Me Some Truth cover

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth

Carson and Maggi both have their own reasons for wanting to get away from their reservation, but both also realize that their best bet is to win the Battle of the Bands. Despite lots of family circumstance and a racist restaurant owner, they’re determined to give it their best shot…and find unexpected love and friendship along the way. Gansworth is also the author of If I Ever Get Out of Here and Apple (Skin to the Core).

Elatsoe Book Cover

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe can raise the spirits of dead animals in an alternate U.S. shaped by magic. When her cousin dies in a car accident, his ghost informs her that it was actually murder, sending Ellie on a harrowing journey to uncover the truth about his death, and shine a light on the secrets of her town. Little Badger is also the author of the award-winning A Snake Falls to the Earth!

Cover of Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Bugz is shy, self-conscious, and feels out of place in her reservation community. But online, she’s a confident gamer who is skilled and respected. When a fellow gamer moves to the reservation, a Chinese teen sent to Canada to live with his aunt, the Rez doctor, the two meet IRL and are drawn to each other. But living online and navigating real-life conflict isn’t so easy, and when Bugz is faced with a huge betrayal, she has to figure out where she stands.

Want more great recommendations? Check out our round up of MG and YA graphic novels by Indigenous creators!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #16: Read a Romance with Bisexual Representation

Hello readers! Task #16 is a fun one: read a romance with bisexual representation. As a bisexual reader with a queer spouse, this is my jam! I am always on the lookout for new bisexual romances, and there have been a lot of good ones in the last few years. Since I am perpetually behind on my reading, I asked my fellow Rioters for suggestions, and narrowed it down to these 10 titles, some of which I’ve already read and the rest of which I want to!

My favorite thing about “bisexual” (or pansexual or queer) books is the variety of gender pairings. As a cis woman married to a cis man, I especially like M/F queer romances, but I absolutely enjoy F/F, M/M, and F/NB or M/NB pairings! (I haven’t read an NB/NB book yet, but I look very much forward to finding a good one!)

I hope you find the perfect book for your TBR in this list. I’ve tried to include not just a variety of pairings, but also in time period (although these are admittedly mostly contemporary), tone, and tropes. Enjoy!

cover of behind these doors by jude lucens

Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens

This is an M/M Edwardian historical romance, with class differences between the two leads. Maurice, based on the novel by E.M. Forester, is one of my favorite movies, and this book sounds like a great comp for it — I can’t wait to read it!

the cover of Delilah Green Doesn't Care

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake 

This F/F hometown romance takes Delilah, a successful New York–based photographer, and throws her back into the small town she grew up in when she agrees to photograph her stepsister Astrid’s wedding. Then she is reintroduced to Astrid’s friend Claire, and things go awry for them both. This one sounds so fun!

cover of A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

This one is an M/F second-chance romance about childhood friends and young lovers who haven’t seen each other since he walked out 13 years ago. They reconnect, at first just working together…then sleeping together…and eventually wondering if there’s a chance for more.

cover of The Love Study by Kris Ripper

The Love Study by Kris Ripper

In this M/M romcom, perma-temp Declan is tired of temping, and tired of everyone talking about his fiancé leaving him at the altar. Then he agrees to let popular nonbinary YouTuber Sidney, who hosts an advice show, set him up on a number of dates and discuss them on the show. Unfortunately, the dates are all meh…because Declan only has chemistry with Sidney.

Payback's a Witch cover

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

In this F/F romance, Emmy is a witch who exiled herself from her hometown due to the presence of her crummy ex, Gareth, but she returns for a spellcasting tournament in order to help out her family. Then she meets Talia, who just broke up with Gareth after learning that he was also seeing Linden…and she and Linden both want revenge, so they team up with Emmy, who finds herself drawn to Talia.

Book cover of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes; illustration of woman in breeches and tails jumping into the arms of a man similarly dressed

The Perfect Crimes of Marion Hayes by Cat Sebastian

In this M/F Georgian era historical (and hilarious) romance, thief Rob blackmails duchess Marian and is surprised to find her utterly charming in the letters they exchange — and shocked when she kidnaps him and ties him up to prevent him from participating in her planned highway robbery of her own husband. When Marian is forced to shoot her husband in the robbery gone wrong, she only has Rob to turn to for help.

cover of The Romance Recipe

The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett

In this steamy F/F romance, Amy is trying to save her restaurant and hires hot new reality TV chef Sophie, who is tired of being a public figure and confused by her attraction to her new boss. I love a book where a main character learns a lot about themself, so this one is going on my teetering TBR!

cover of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

In this delightful M/F romance, single mum Rosaline wins a spot on a baking competition show, and quickly finds herself hooking up with fellow contestant Alain. But it’s her steady friendship with Harry that she finds herself relying on.

cover image of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

In this M/F romcom, Dani just wants a friends-with-benefits situation. After she’s rescued from an elevator by hot former rugby player Zaf — and video of the rescue goes viral online — she thinks she’s found one. Unfortunately, he wants more than just sex…and he’s very persuasive.

You Made A Fool of Death with Your Beauty book cover

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

This M/F romance explores grief as much as it does love. Feyi lost the love of her life five years ago and is finally ready to date again. She agrees to a vacation in the tropics with the man she’s casually seeing, but once there, she finds herself drawn to his father, who is also grieving a lover who died.

Still need more options? I found a few books from 2019 (just before my arbitrary cut-off for this list) that are just as great: Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon; Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau; and Working Title by Holley Trent. 

Happy reading!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #15: Read a Historical Fiction Book Set in an Eastern Country

Ever since a little before middle school, historical fiction has been one of my favorite genres. Back when I was a little one —which wasn’t that long ago *ahem* — I remembered that most of my historical fiction reading was set in Medieval Europe, usually England, and sometimes China.

Even though the libraries I had access to at the time didn’t have much in the way of variety concerning historical fiction, I gobbled the books up nonetheless. I found tales of court intrigue and betrothals, quests for jewels and the occasional dragon gripping and they actually made me more interested in school work — suddenly the chapter we’d covered on whichever Medieval queen became that much more interesting since I’d just read a historical fiction novel that imagined her, immersing me in her life as a teenager.

As much as I had enjoyed these books, I’d always wished there was more variety concerning setting. I wanted to read about what it was like to have lived in places like ancient Egypt and India,1800s Polynesia, and other parts and times of the world I’d never been. As my love for historical fiction has traveled with me into adulthood, I still feel the same way. Luckily, with increased diversity efforts (although they’re not enough, let’s be real), there have been many more books published that are set in different times and in different places all over the world.

This challenge will get you started with some of these historical fiction novels based in the eastern world, and includes everything from historical mystery to historical fantasy.

The Red Palace Book Cover

The Red Palace by June Hur

With lots of hard work and studying, 18-year-old Hyeon has overcome the disadvantages that come with being an illegitimate daughter in 1758 Joseon (Korea). As a palace nurse, she hopes to eke out a living and maybe even gain favor with her estranged father. These hopes are interrupted, though, when four women are killed in the palace in a single night and her mentor and friend stands accused. To prove her friend’s innocence, she starts her own investigation where she meets young inspector Eojin. The two work together to find out the murderer in this YA historical mystery.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel cover

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Here, one of the most loathed queens in Indian mythology, and a character in the epic poem Ramayana, is granted her origin story. While Kaikeyi is raised on tales of the grandeur and omnipotence of the gods, she begins to doubt them as she sees the unfairness of how women are treated. After her mother is banished, she discovers a power particular to her and begins to carve out a space for herself, despite the constricting world around her. But to do so comes at a price.

Bonus points for R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War and Babel saying that this is “One of my favorite books of 2022 so far!”

Beasts of a Little Land Book Cover

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim

The intricately woven events of this novel are set in motion in 1917 when a starving Korean hunter saves a young Japanese officer from a tiger…

Following that, Jade is sold as a young girl to a courtesan school and eventually meets the orphan JungHo, who begs on the streets of Seoul. Jade goes on to become a well-known performer and JungHo gets entangled in the fight for independence. As battles wage on and Korea modernizes, Jade must decide which is more important to her — a higher social standing or the sincerity of a long-time friend.

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur cover

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi

In 1969, Malik is fresh out of private school and headed to apprentice at the Jaipur Royal Palace. The balcony of the palace’s new cinema collapses on opening night, but the explanation doesn’t make sense to Malik. His intuition, no doubt well-developed from having lived on the streets as a child, is telling him something more sinister is afoot, and he sets out to prove it.

The Mountains Sing cover

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

This follows several generations of the Trần family as Việt Nam struggles through war. When Trần Diệu Lan fled with her six children, it was to escape the Communist Land grab. Then, in Hà Nội, the family she fought so hard to keep together — as well as the country — becomes splintered by the war. This shows the horrors of war, but it also has moments of hope and tenderness.

The Map of Salt and Stars cover

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

Once Nour’s father dies of cancer in 2011, her mother, a cartographer, wants to be closer to family. She moves Nour and her sisters from New York City to Syria, but the country feels differently compared to how it was when Nour’s mother lived there as a girl. Soon violence breaks out and Nour’s house is destroyed. Now her and her family must travel across several Middle Eastern and North African countries seeking a new home.

More than 800 years before Nour, Rawiya is a teen girl set on improving living conditions for her and her mother. She disguises herself as a boy and becomes an apprentice to a map maker. While helping to construct the map commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily, she will travel across the Middle East and North Africa, coming across beasts of mythology and historical figures.

As Nour and Rawiya’s paths run parallel to each other hundreds of years apart, we see the young women braving the unknown in search of a new place to belong.

Golden Kamuy cover

Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda

This historical manga would be a great choice if you’re also trying to knock out Read Harder challenge #8 (Read a Manga You Haven’t Before). Following the end of the Russo-Japanese War in the early 1900s, veteran Saichi Sugimoto struggles to survive in the Hokkaido wilderness. When he finds a map that leads to a bounty of Ainu gold, he sets off to find it. But he’s not the only one trying to get their hands on the treasure, and to improve his chances against the likes of harsh wilderness, soldiers, and criminals, he’ll need the help of Ainu girl Asirpa.

Note: if you’re unfamiliar, the Ainu are a group of Indigenous people from the northern region of Japan.

cover of Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth

Alharthi was the first female author from Oman to be translated into English, and this book won her the 2019 International Man Booker Prize. In it, we follow three Omani sisters, each with their own idea of marriage. Through them and their families, we see the history and culture of Oman as it shifts from a slave-owning patriarchy to its present-day iteration.

If you want more historical fiction options, which, of course you do, check out our list of Japanese historical fiction or 10 of the best historical fiction books from 2022. For a constant stream of books by and about people of color, sign up for the newsletter In Reading Color.

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #14: Read a Book with Under 500 Goodreads Ratings

Hello, readers! For the fourteenth challenge, we’re going to read a book with fewer than 500 ratings on Goodreads. That’s it! That’s the only guideline! For some people, that freedom is a joy. For others, it’s probably an instant anxiety: there are too many choices. I hear you, my spicy-brained friends, and I’ve got some ideas for you. 

For this one, I’m going to tell you how to find low ratings books on Goodreads. (Please note: this does not mean books with low star ratings, but books that have only been rated 500 times or less. They can have any average star rating!) Now, these instructions assume that you use Goodreads. There are some book recs below for anyone in other situations!

Let’s shop your Want to Read shelf. After all, you’ve already established that you want to read these books! Let’s see if you have one that will work. Here’s how to do that on a computer or your smartphone.

On your web browser, navigate to “My Books” (at the top left of the page) and then click on “Want to Read” under Bookshelves. Now you’re going to sort by the number of ratings. To do this, scroll to the bottom of the page, just below the last book listing. There are two drop-down menus; one determines how many books are shown per page — it defaults to 30, and you can increase this number if you want to. The other is the one we want: the default sorting option is “Date added,” and you want to change it to “Num ratings.” Once the change takes effect, your “Want to Read” shelf will be sorted by the number of ratings, but it will go from highest to lowest! Click the arrow at the top of the “Num ratings” column and it will switch to lowest to highest.

On the Goodreads mobile app, the process is slightly different. Tap the “My Books” tab at the bottom, then select “Want to Read.” At the top, you’ll see the way the books are sorted. I believe these also default to “Date Added.” Tap on that and select “Number of Ratings.” Then tap the word “Reverse” at the top right and you’re all set!

My books with the lowest number of ratings tend to be books that haven’t come out yet, books that just came out, books that were self-published and haven’t caught on, books from academic presses, older books that aren’t still big, and cookbooks. I’ve chosen a few books with under 500 ratings, shopping all of my shelves (because I’m sure I’ve read some books you haven’t read). I have omitted books that aren’t out yet, as well as very recent releases.


cover of Lovers Choice by Becky Birtha

Lovers’ Choice by Becky Birtha

This collection of 11 short stories for adults by children’s author Becky Birtha, originally published in 1987, explores Black lesbian girlhood and is beautifully written.

cover of The Parker Grey Show by Kristen Buckley

The Parker Grey Show by Kristen Buckley

In this “chick lit” from 2003, screenwriter Kristen Buckley gives us a twentysomething heroine just trying to make rent and pining for a TV doctor, who has to save her kidnapped best friend.

cover of vow of celibacy by erin judge

Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge

Tired of her sexual conquests never turning into romance, Natalie takes a vow of celibacy and explores her recent relationships a lá High Fidelity


cover of The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott

The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott

You probably remember Rocky & Bullwinkle, the cartoon variety show from Jay Ward Productions. In this book, Keith Scott, who has voiced Bullwinkle since original actor Bill Scott (no relation) died, gives us the complete history of moose and squirrel.

cover of Black Love Matters by Jessica P. Pryde

Black Love Matters, edited by Jessica P Pryde

In this book of essays on Black love in the romance genre, Book Riot writer Pryde brings together contributors, including romance novelists Beverly Jenkins, Jasmine Guillory, Piper Huguley, and Kosoko Jackson, as well as academics Sarah Hannah Gomez and Carole V. Bell, among others.

cover of Vincent Price by Victoria Price

Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography by Victoria Price

In this biography, Price’s daughter traces his six-decade career as well as his personal life, including his love of cooking, his art curation, and his work with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Children’s and YA

cover of A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

When Hailee’s family wins the lottery, she is excited to finally be able to get the things she wants. No, needs. But her parents’ decisions about how to spend their newfound fortune don’t line up with her expectations, and suddenly she’s in a new (private) school and everything is different.

cover of Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater and Sophie Escabasse

Each book of the lower middle grade Derby Daredevils series focuses on a different team member. In this first installment, Kenzie dreams of playing roller derby, but she has to put together a team of at least five in order to even try out.

cover of Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding

Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding 

In YA and romance author Amy Spalding’s second novel, 2013’s Ink is Thicker Than Water, Kellie feels out of place in her family, but a job at her stepdad’s tattoo parlor might help change that.


cover of Jerk from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky

Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky

This book is indispensable in my kitchen! The dry seasoning recipe alone is worth the price of the book, and there are dozens of other amazing recipes for meat, vegetables, and desserts.

cover of Cheryl Days Treasury of Southern Baking

Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day

Rioter Susie Dumond told me about this book, and it’s now the one I turn to, even for recipes I already had a go-to version of. (Chocolate cake? Hers is richer. Cornbread? Perfection.)

cover of The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

This is more than a cookbook; it’s a history of Palestine and a window into the food, which is, of course, the culture. I’ve only cooked one recipe from this book, but I’ve read it like I would read a memoir or anthology.

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Happy reading, from my shelves to yours!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #13: Read an Author Local to You

When I was younger, I always envisioned authors having a super glamorous life. I blame the movie She-Devil for this and Meryl Streep’s amazing portrayal of Mary Fisher.

Now that I’m older, I’m very well aware that they’re just like every body else. Some have day jobs in addition to writing which means that their days are filled with those tasks and they manage to sneak in writing when they can. Which is something I completely understand. Still, I admit that I get a giddy thrill whenever I find out about a local author. I can’t help it; it’s interesting to think that someone whose book I just finished also shops at the same local grocery store as me. 

That said, and as you likely already anticipated, this list may not be applicable to you unless you happen to also live in the Austin,TX area. So, a bit of research will need to be done to find options for you that fit this prompt. There are a few ways that this can be done, such as checking an author’s webpage or even looking to author blurb on the back of a book. Libraries are also a good source of this information, both from themed displays and the always help staff. And let’s not forget indie bookstores, especially the ones that will let authors sign their books when they come in and then proudly display them.

In doing that research you may be surprised to find how close one of your favorite authors may be to you. Which isn’t to say to go look for their actual physical addresses, because that would be very Annie Wilkes, something I do not recommend.

For this list, I included authors that live in a city close enough that I could drive there and back in one day. Enjoy!

cover image: woman in victorian red dress running away towards a doorway

A Studying Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Genres: Adult Romance, YA, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery

Best Known for: Lady Sherlock series, which A Study in Scarlet Women is the first of. In this book, we’re introduced to Charlotte Holmes who takes up sleuthing to clear her father’s and sister’s names after they’re accused or murder. The series follows her and the other mysteries she solves.

Tall, Dark, Deadly cover

Tall, Dark, & Deadly by Kharma Kelley

Genre: Paranormal Romance.
Fun Fact: Community Founder of the Inclusive Romance Project

When Chloe’s former vampiric gang draws her unwillingly into a plot to open up a mysterious box, she is caught between her old life and her new one. Further complicating this is her handsome boss Ethan and the mutual attraction they are unable to ignore.

cover image for More Than You'll Ever Know

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez

Genre: General Fiction

This gripping novel is told in alternating time lines. In 2017, true-crime writer Cassie finds herself drawn into the story of Lore, a woman who, in 1985, had two different lives, husbands, and families. She managed to keep these lives separate until her secret is discovered and one husband is arrested for murdering the other.

cover image for The Devil Takes You Home

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias

Genre: Barrio Noir
Fun Fact: Accredited with the creation of the aforementioned genre

After a tragedy changes the trajectory of his life, reluctant hitman Mario agrees to one final job to hijack a cartel’s cash shipment. This job could leave him dead or with $200,000 dollars, but he isn’t in a position to turn it down. As he and his two other partners go on their journey, their motives and hidden secrets become apparent, ensuring that none of them will return the same.

The Spite House cover

The Spite House by Johnny Compton (February 2023)

Genre: Horror

Eric and his two daughters are on the run from their former life. Not being able to give references makes it hard to find a job, so when Eric hears about a caretaking position for the allegedly haunted, he sees it as the perfect opportunity to make some money; that is if the paranormal activity doesn’t drive him and his family mad.

stargazers cover

Star Gazers by L.P. Hernandez

Genre: Horror

Fun Fact: This book was the first novella released in Cemetery Gate’s My Dark Library series.

When a forum post about someone’s neighbor staring at stars all night is made, it’s quickly dismissed as bad fanfiction. Then the nocturnal activity begins to spread worldwide leaving the “stargazers” changed the next day. When it affects Henry’s city, the war veteran must use all his skills to save his family from this new and unknown danger.

Cover of The Ghost Tracks by Celso Hurtado

The Ghost Tracks by Celso Hurtado

Genre: Horror

Fun fact: Takes place near San Antonio’s famed haunted train tracks.

Erasmo lives with his beloved grandmother who he just found out has cancer. In a desperate attempt to help pay for her medical expenses, he sets up a paranormal investigation business and quickly finds out there is more to his home town than meets the eye.

Hell Hath No Sorrow like a Woman Haunted cover

Hell Hath No Sorrow like a Woman Haunted by R.J. Joseph

Genres: Romance, Horror

Fun Fact: Co-host of the Genre Blackademia podcast

This collection of short stories all feature Black women and their brushes with the supernatural. Sometimes they’re the victims. Sometimes they’re the monsters. And oftentimes, they’re both.

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As with all my other lists, this is by no means comprehensive because there are a lot more local authors, both indie and traditionally published, in my area. But that just goes to prove that once you start trying to find out which authors live in your area, you will be overwhelmed with what you find. And, even if you can’t use this list for this specific task, I hope that it helps to fulfill others. Good luck on knocking this year’s Read Harder Challenge out and, as always, happy reading and stay hydrated!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #12: Read a Nonfiction Book About BIPOC and/or Queer History.

Today, we’re highlighting task number 12, which is to read a nonfiction book about BIPOC and/or queer history. This is a big topic and I wish I could give you a hundred books to try, but alas, there are not that many here for you. If you keep scrolling, though, there are a few links at the end to help you find others that might be of interest!

There are a lot of nonfiction books nowadays that focus on contemporary social justice, and in the past few years, especially, those have been heavily the focus when it comes to books by BIPOC and queer authors about BIPOC and queer people and concerns. But while we have to talk about contemporary issues, there’s so much history that we just don’t know, because nobody took the time to research it, or if they had, it was decided it wasn’t worth teaching. Thankfully, we’ve been able to discover the histories of more people, places, and movements than ever before, and there are countless options for this particular category. 

So, in honor of that “and/or” in the task description, here are eight books that focus on the history of BIPOC members of the queer community. 

cover of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton 

This detailed history digs into the history of transness in the African American community by highlighting some of the Black trans folks who lived between the mid nineteenth century and the present day. It compares the exposure to the names of prominent and tragic white trans people to that of Black trans people living at the same time, and digs into the correlation between anti-Blackness and anti-transness. 

cover of Q&A

Q&A: Voices from Queer Asian North America edited by Martin F. Manalansan IV, Alice Y. Hom, Kale Bantigue Fajardo

This is not a true history book, but does contain several perspectives on the history of queer Asians in the Americas through analysis, personal essay, poetry, and more. Its predecessor, Q&A: Queer in Asian America, was published by Hom and a different colleague, and was published in 1998.

And the Category Is cover

And the Category Is…: Inside New York’s Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community by Ricky Tucker

This volume highlights the past and present of Ballroom culture, recently made famous by shows like Pose and Legendary. Using elements of oral history and archival study, Tucker discusses the connection between queer Black culture and the shifts and swings in house music and culture over several decades. 

Reclaiming Two Spirits cover

Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America by Gregory D. Smithers

This is the book that “decolonizes the history of gender and sexuality in Native North America.” Delving into the precolonial history of how gender and sexuality were expressed in various Indigenous groups, Smithers explores the meaning of holding onto the traditions that were all but erased by settler colonialism, genocide, and erasure. 

new cover of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

Black women were doing a lot at the beginning of the twentieth century. “Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage.“ Hartman looks into a group of Black women at the turn of the century and how they effected a whole century’s worth of change through their own desires for a better way to live.

Cover of Borderlands/La Frontera: the new Mestiza, fifth edition

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa

First published in 1987, this combination of essays and poetry delves into life on the Mexican border, both in the past and in Anzaldúa’s present. She examines history and the future, and queer life in straight spaces, in language that will breathe the same full life into stories for centuries to come.

Queer Brown Voices cover

Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism edited by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

This collection of oral histories gathers nearly-lost knowledge of days past. Using oral history and personal essays, 14 queer activists highlight the work done in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, by themselves and their (often lost) peers. 

cover of Black. Queer. Southern. Women.

Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History by E. Patrick Johnson

This oral history collection looks at the past and present of “racialized sexual minorities” in the American South, through their own words. E. Patrick Johnson has a whole catalog of books exploring the lives past and present of Black queer folks, so this one might just be a jumping off point if you’re interested in a deep dive into Queer Black Studies. 

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There were about 30 other books about either BIPOC or queer history on this list before, including several from the [insert group] History of the United States series, so you know there are plenty books in this category to read. You just have to find the one that speaks to you!

And if you really need more, here are some links to check out:

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023: Task #11: Read a Cookbook Cover to Cover

Today’s Read Harder task is “Read a cookbook cover to cover.” Which works out great for me, because I only read cookbooks cover to cover. I know they’re designed for dipping in and out of to find recipes that look appealing, and of course when I’m looking for a specific recipe in a cookbook I’ve already read, I go straight to the page I need. But the first time I pick up a new-to-me cookbook, it’s introduction to index, all the way. I like to see the story the writer is telling, the way they move through different meals of the day or different categories of ingredients. (I also used to try to read Choose Your Own Adventure books cover to cover as a kid, and I never put albums on shuffle. I like things orderly!)

I’ve chosen ten recent and new cookbooks that look like they have interesting stories to tell, as well as fun new dishes and techniques to add to my repertoire.

Smitten Kitchen Keepers by Deb Perelman

Smitten Kitchen: Keepers by Deb Perelman

I’ve been reading the Smitten Kitchen blog since blogs were, you know, a thing, so the parasocial attachment is real. She’s still the first place I go when I don’t know what to cook, so I’m excited to add a whole new batch of recipes to that well — especially that pound cake she keeps talking about.

Koshersoul cover

Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty

I’ve only heard good things about this book, which explores Black and Jewish cuisine and the intersection between them — but also how food and culture shape each other, and the inventive cooking that arises out of migration and diaspora.

The Woks of Life cover

The Woks of Life: Recipes to Know and Love from a Chinese American Family: A Cookbook by Bill, Judy, Sarah, and Kaitlin Leung

Another blog book! This one is by the Leung family, who are behind the popular blog of the same title. Chinese food is a go-to comfort food for me, so anything that can help me get more of it in my life is a plus.

Rise & Run cover

Rise and Run: Recipes, Rituals and Runs to Fuel Your Day: A Cookbook by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

NYC marathon champion Shalane Flanagan and nutrition coach Elise Kopecky’s previous book, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. is one of my favorite cookbooks to reference, so I need to add their latest collaboration to my collection. As a runner, I love their emphasis on flavor and enjoyment instead of counting calories or excising “bad” foods.

On the Curry Trail cover

On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World by Raghavan Iyer

I know just enough about curry to know that it’s an extremely broad term that my occasional forays into cooking butter chicken have barely scraped the surface of. This cookbook about “the diaspora of curry” — from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas — sounds enlightening and fascinating.

Africana cover

Africana: More than 100 Recipes and Flavors Inspired by a Rich Continent by Lerato Umah-Shaylor

Speaking of cuisines I know very little about, African cuisine is too often overlooked and ignored in the Western world. Africana has over 100 recipes from all over the African continent, which obviously encompasses a massive range of cultures and flavors, and I’m excited to try as many of them as possible.

The Core of an Onion cover

The Core of an Onion: Peerling the Rarest Common Food — Featuring More Than 100 Recipies by Mark Kurlansky

Okay, this isn’t exactly a cookbook, but it does include 25 recipes, and also I loved Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, on the history of the oyster industry in New York City, and more importantly, I absolutely love onions. Bring on the alliums!

First Generation cover

First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home by Frankie Gaw

This is another cookbook I keep hearing good things about and another cookbook that arose out of a popular blog — Little Fat Boy — but the main reason I bumped it up on my TBR is because it has the most beautiful dumplings on the cover, and I could eat dumplings every day of my life and never get sick of them.

Cooking at Home cover

Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave): A Cookbook by David Chang and Priya Krishna

Okay, this one is cheating a little bit, because I already own it, but I’m including it because it’s designed to be read straight through. What’s included in this book are less recipes and more techniques for how to make lots of basic staples that you can portion out, freeze, reheat, and repurpose to get a wide array of meals on the table quickly. Also, the back and forth notes between Chang and Krishna are charming.

I'll Bring the Cake cover

I’ll Bring The Cake: Recipes for Every Season and Every Occasion by Mandy Merriman

And of course, we have to end with dessert! In the battle between cake and pie, I am always and forever Team Cake. This book gives you a little bit of a shortcut by starting with box mixes, which, let’s face it, are sometimes the tastiest option. And it’s publishing just in time for my birthday! You know, just in case anyone feels like throwing me a party.

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…Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving now. I’m gonna go cook something.

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #10: Read a Book You Know Nothing About Based Solely On the Cover.

Admit you: you’ve judged a book by its cover. We’ve all done it. Most of us will still read a book even if the cover isn’t pleasing to our brain, if it’s been highly recommended or the synopsis hooks us. But having a cover that sinks its hooks into our eyeballs and yells “WELL DON’T I LOOK INTERESTING” certainly helps. You know the ones. And now you’re going to get a chance to read one of them as a task for the 2023 Read Harder Challenge: read a book you know nothing about based solely on the cover.

Getting the design right for a cover must be a difficult job! You have to convey a mood for the book, as well as give an idea of what’s inside, or even straight-up include something from the book itself. It’s especially hard when the title gives nothing away. A book called “Adventures at the Magical Raccoon Café” gives a designer a lot to work with, as opposed to a book called something like “Grand Love” or “Big Time.” Then you really need the artwork to catch the eye, because the title certainly won’t.

This is going to be an easy task for you because there are so many books with gorgeous, eye-catching covers being released every week! Below, you’ll find 10 I chose for myself based on what made my brain sit up and go “OOOOO” when it saw them. These are all upcoming 2023 releases, so maybe you’ll also find books to add to your TBR! Have fun with this challenge, and happy reading!

cover of Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy; illustration of a stained glass window image of a nun smoking a cigarette, done in reds and purples

Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy

This one stood out to me immediately, because the nun is smoking. As someone who knows nothing about nuns, I don’t even know if nuns smoke cigarettes? But something about this cover made me think that they don’t. And that made me think this nun must be a badass. (Spoiler: I have read this book since I chose it for this list, and the nun in question is indeed a badass.)

cover of Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez; image of red hand with long pointed yellow-painted fingernails that are on fire

Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell

What is this book saying? Is it about a monster with claws? A manicure gone horribly wrong? Nail polish is flammable, after all. None of the words in the title give away anything that is conveyed in the illustration. But something about it has me transfixed. Maybe because it’s so cool how the nail color matches the font.

cover of Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns; illustration of South Asian person looking in car rear view mirror with a pine tree air freshener hanging from the mirror on fire

Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns

Here’s another fun illustration that captivated me. Something about the look the person in the illustration is giving, combined with the pine tree air freshener on fire, tells me this is a car ride I don’t want to take. So maybe it’s about a murderous ride share driver? The most ominous thing might be the upside-down smiley face.

cover of Sucker by Daniel Hornsby; image of the title with a tiny bit of blood on the bottom of the letter L

Sucker by Daniel Hornsby

I am a sucker (pun intended) for vampire novels, and at first glance, this title combined with that bit of blood has me thinking this might be one. It also has that sorta 1970s, early 1980s font, so perhaps it’s historical? The bloody ‘K’ could also just mean there’s murder, or it kind of looks like a thorn? But I’m guessing vampires.

cover of The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw; illustration of a plague doctor and a long-haired skeleton holding a skull over a pile of skulls

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

I don’t know what is happening here but also I need it as a tattoo right away. I am fairly certain the figure on the left is a plague doctor, so perhaps the long-haired creature on the right is Death? And its adding another skull to its pile of dead people it has collected? The style reminds me of the dwelling of Gung the Magnificent from The Amazing Screw-On Head, my favorite 22 minutes of television, which is probably why it appeals to me.

cover of Maeve Fly by CJ Leede; illustration of rows and rows of pointed teeth surrounding a person licking a giant eyeball

Maeve Fly by CJ Leede

Here’s one that really illustrates the point that taste is subjective. Because some of you might look at this and think, “Gross, no thank you.” But I look at it and think, “GIVE IT TO ME NOW.” Even though I don’t know what it’s about, I love the strange and unusual. (I myself am, et cetera, et cetera.) I’m going to guess it isn’t a Victorian-era romance or a children’s book. The title is a play on “mayfly” but does it actually have anything to do with insects? Will someone really lick a giant eyeball? Inquiring minds want to know!

cover of The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade; illustration of a young Black woman's face surrounded by blue flowers and a butterfly

The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade

This one I want to read just because the cover is beautiful. It doesn’t really tell me anything about the book, aside for the tag line at the top: “She came back. Is it a miracle…or a curse?” Did the character come back from the dead? College? Cleveland? Do butterflies and flowers really have anything to do with the story, or are they just pretty? I’m okay with the latter, because it got me to notice the cover.

cover of The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter; illustration of face and shoulder of a woman with a body made out of various fruits

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter 

This one already has my vote for my favorite cover of 2023. What does it even mean??? I’m guessing the person in the book isn’t actually made from fruit, but perhaps they’re a chef? Could it be a horror novel? Maybe someone is turned into food, like Alice becomes cake in that old Tom Petty video. I’m getting a bit of sinister vibes from it, too, or perhaps just weird vibes. Whatever it is, it’s GORGEOUS.

cover of She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran; illustration of an Asian woman with flowers growing out of the corners of her mouth and a tear running down her cheek

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

Here’s another one that made me say “WOW” when I saw it. This young woman has flowers in her mouth — they appear to be growing out of her mouth, indicated by the vines in her skin? I don’t think she is happy about it, because she’s crying. Or maybe she loves having flower lip accessories and she’s crying about something else. I must know!

cover of Gone to the Wolves by John Wray; scratchy, heavy metal font

Gone to the Wolves by John Wray

And this last one does all its talking just with its font. This one appealed to me because it looks like something I was doodling on my notebook in high school while I should have been paying attention in class. It’s very heavy metal, and in fact, I did look at the synopsis for this one after the cover jumped out at me. And it is about heavy metal, so A+ job, cover designer!

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For more exciting new books you might want to read, awesome covers or not, check out our weekly New Books newsletter, or subscribe to All the Books! on your podcast player or choice!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder #9: Read an Independently Published Book By a BIPOC Author

Our Read Harder task today is to read an independently published book by a BIPOC author. If you’ve never read an indie book before, you might have some qualms about them: that they’re not well written, or about things that nobody cares about. What you might not have considered is the white supremacy at the center of traditional publishing: publishers who tell authors from historically and systemically excluded groups things like “we don’t need your book, we already have a Black author;” “nobody’s interested in reading that story;” “now’s not the right time.” They say these things to people who already have fewer advantages than white authors in general. And so, some people turn to self-publishing. 

For the sake of this list, I am only including books that are individually published by the authors themselves. Some people consider smaller boutique presses independent, and therefore might consider their books technically independently published, but these authors don’t have the support of a staff to have their books edited, completed, covered, and marketed. These are all people who had sole discretion over the production of their books (and sometimes hired out assistance with editing, formatting, and cover design).  

Note: you’ll notice that most of these are romance novels. Well folks, with a few exceptions, the indie publishing world outside of the romance borders is quite a white place. Also, romance is where the majority of digital indie publishing currently lives.

cover of that time I got drunk and saved a demon by kimberly lemming

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming

If the title makes you think this is a silly story, you are absolutely right! But it isn’t just silly; it’s fun and heartfelt and scary and sexy, too! Cin (short for Cinnamon) is a spice farmer (lol) who — you guessed it — gets drunk and accidentally rescues a hungry demon from the centuries-long curse. And then he recruits her to help him slay the witch who cursed him. Road trip!

cover of Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

If you want your story to run a little darker, here’s the first in a new series setting the machinations of the Greek gods in a modern underworld. We start with Hades and Persephone — the man who runs the darkest corners of Khaos Falls and the aerial dancer who sets his world on fire. 

cover of Mail Order Opt Out

Mail Order Opt Out by Yvette de Oro

If you’re looking for a fun romp across the plains, look no further. When Lorena shows up to help out at a ranch hosting more than its usual number of guests, the last thing she expects is that the ranch owner’s grandmother has set up a scheme for several young women to show up in their own private season of The Bachelor.

cover of heartbeat braves

Heartbeat Braves by Pamela Sanderson

The first book in a series of romances set at the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center, Heartbeat Braves sees two feuding employees with fiery chemistry forced to work together to help ensure the Center’s future. There aren’t many Native/Indigenous/First Nations romance authors, and Pamela Sanderson’s skillful writing of both relationships and Indigenous social issues are a lot to strive towards matching. 

cover of a summer for scandal by lydia san andres

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres

Did someone say a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the Caribbean at the turn of the twentieth century? Involving a fierce meet-dislike between a woman who secretly writes a serial and the man who publicly tears them apart (but might also secretly love them)? 

cover of When Tara Met Farah

When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi

Food vlogger Tara just wants her parents to be proud of her, but their skills in STEM and her failing math grade do not mesh. When she discovers that she’ll be sharing space with Farah, one of her mother’s new grad students, she isn’t very pleased. But they strike a quid-pro-quo bargain and end up spending a lot of time together in the meantime. 

cover of la boriquena

La Boriqueña by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

How about a comic book? La Boriqueña is the story of Marisol, a Boricua college student who travels to Puerto Rico for a study abroad program. While she’s on the island, one thing leads to another, and she ends up getting superpowers. 

cover of White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter

White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter

Bootlegging in the hills of Appalachia and a marriage of convenience between warring families. What more could a person ask for? Well…honesty, communication, searing hot sexytimes, and some violent warfare might make it the best thing ever?

New co er of Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

This novella is a delightful little story about a woman named Pinky and the biker who comes into her family’s restaurant. They have instant, intense chemistry, but there are secrets afoot, and he’s not exactly the safest guy to be around. 

cover of behind these doors by jude lucens

Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens

If you want a completely different change of pace, check out this Edwardian story of love and society. Aubrey Fanshawe is in a…special kind of relationship with his best friends, Lord and Lady Hernedale. But when he meets journalist Lucien Saxby, he becomes the living embodiment of that Bugs Bunny heart-eyes meme. 

cover of hiding in the smoke

Hiding in the Smoke by Ofelia Martinez

Bar owner Sofia lives by one rule: she’ll go home with anyone she wants, as long as they know she’s not in it for the long haul. One night, and one night only. When she tells this to rock star Bren, he’s fine with it. Until morning, when he realizes she was…serious about that. He wants more, and will do anything to prove to her that he’s worth it. 

cover of All I've Wanted All I've Needed

All I’ve Wanted All I’ve Needed by AE Valdez

You would think Harlow would be happy; she’s the girlfriend of a famous baseball star and has everything anyone could want in life. But that’s just it. It seems like her role is just that of the girlfriend to the famous baseball star. So she sets off on her own path of self discovery. 

cover of Little Fire

Little Fire by Hollee Mands

This first book in a fantasy series features a grumpy archmage with a hidden heart of gold and the woman relying on him to survive when they both end up trapped in the Shadow Realm. There are wars to fight and secrets to uncover, but their need for each other might overshadow all the rest. 

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If you’re looking for more, I can’t help but recommend the entire oeuvre of some of my favorite authors, including Katrina Jackson, Christina C. Jones, Nicole Falls, Jackie Lau, Courtney Milan, Alexandria House, Chencia C. Higgins, Robin Covington, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Carla de Guzman (and the entirety of #RomanceClass), and Kennedy Ryan. Happy reading!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.