This post gives a list of my favorite books I read in July 2019.
This list definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but also includes non-fiction, space opera, and historical romance. I am putting rereads and audiobooks in separate categories. I link to reviews where I have written them; and also where I have only posted trigger warnings, so you can easily find those. If I have not yet reviewed, I am using affiliate links to Amazon. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
I’m listing rep at the end of my descriptions. If you spot something incorrect, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I am not intending to out anyone; I get author info from the web and the book bio. If an author would like me to remove any info listed, please do let me know. I want to note that I use the word fat as a neutral descriptor when listing rep, and use the word queer when a character or author identify that way or when I am unclear about their identity but know they fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
For folks looking for stories with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description.
- Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan (2019 historical f/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this romance, which centers two older women, one working class, one aristo, who are both trying to deal with the same terrible man. (He really is quite terrible.) It’s as much about them joining forces and finding ways to depend on each other despite their substantial differences as much as it’s about them falling in love, and I found it delightful. (Rep: Queer older women MCs. Bisexual hapa woman author.)
- Playing House by Ruby Lang (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) I loved reading all the urban planning talk, the architecture talk, the discussion of all the intricacies of NYC neighborhoods, and the premise that they would geek out together about this stuff while pretending to be potential buyers. I liked the quiet slowness of the story, enjoyed spending time with the characters, enjoyed their attraction to each other before they clearly made a move, and liked the way their relationship evolved. (Rep: Asian American MCs. Queer Asian American man secondary character. Asian American woman author.)
- Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes (2016 writing craft book)*** I hadn’t read this, and it has been recommended to me countless times, so I gave it a try; it’s quite clear in the way it lays out classic beat structure for genre romance. I found it interesting to note where it seemed useful and which beats I felt especially resistant towards.
- “Orcs, Britons, And The Martial Race Myth, Part II: They’re Not Human” by James Mendez Hodes (2019 essay)*** This longread about race in D&D and it’s descendents and the influence of Tolkien on it was really compelling. (Part one was about race in Tolkien and it’s roots, and I haven’t read that yet.) I especially liked the stories about engaging with the way race was working in game design as a player of color. (Rep: Filipino-American author.)
- “When They See Us Yesterday: The Black Imagination Beyond State Violence” by D’Shaun Harrison (2019 essay)*** Harrison writes wonderful essays and I really hope there will be a book soon. This piece focuses on state violence and how media attempts to imagine a different world for young Black men. (Rep: Fat Black queer non-binary author.)
- “Saying Something: Trans Characters in YA Fiction” by Clarence Harlan Orsi (2019 essay)*** This has useful thoughts, and bits that felt rather off to me, esp the elision of diffs between trans authored and cis authored books and different waves of trans YA, and leaves out SFF YA altogether. Worth a read, but I’d take with several sprinkles of salt. (Rep: Trans man author.)
- “How Do You Solve a Problem Like the RITAs?” by Jennifer Prokop (2019 essay)*** This essay is essential reading for anyone interested in genre romance awards and the way race impacts how book awards work. It is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work on the part of a romance reader and thinker I deeply respect, and I really appreciate everything that went into this project.
Second Chance Romance
- Home Field Advantage by Liz Lincoln (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) I have enjoyed this series a lot, and really like the friendships between the football players in it, the way the heroes are generally so respectful and invested in treating the heroines ethically, and I’ve enjoyed watching each of the romances unfold. This is a second chance romance centers an addict in recovery and his ex that he just can’t get out of his head, who dumped him without ever explaining why and it has a casual to lovers arc. The addict/ACOA dynamic didn’t quite work for me as well as I hoped, but I could not put this one down, enjoyed their chemistry, and it was lovely to spend more time with this team in the respectful, kind bubble they create, which is quite unusual for sports romance. I would gladly read more in this series, and there’s a secondary character I really hope gets a book. (Rep: Hero with addiction. Heroine with trauma related to being ACOA.)
- The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) This book has so many of the hallmarks of Rai’s work in general: complex nuanced characters, gorgeous prose, great chemistry, a lovely mix of humor, heat and heart. I fell hard for Rhi, the way she managed her trauma history really resonated for me as a trauma survivor, and I love prickly grumpy angry guarded heroines. Samson is a bit clueless and fumbling and also adorable and sweet, and I thought he was a good match for her, once he figured out how to get out of his own way. I loved all the moments we saw Rhi’s relationships with other women, especially her BFFs and her colleagues at work. This is a trauma recovery story as much as a romance, and I appreciated that arc especially. (Rep: Black woman trauma survivor heroine. Samoan American hero. Many POC secondary characters, including a couple queer ones. Desi woman author.)
- Mr March Names the Stars by Rivka Aarons-Hughes (2016 contemporary m/m romance novella)*** I loved rereading this with a buddy, and unpacking the a-spec representation, discussing the ways we experienced this book as a-spec readers & why it felt so cozy to us. This epistolary romance is one of my fave comfort rereads, and I know I will be rereading it again soon. (Rep: Homoromantic asexual pagan man MC. Black panromantic asexual pagan trans man MC. Non-binary secondary character.)
- Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (2013 space opera) I really enjoyed this reread. I especially appreciate the representation of chronic pain in this story, and the way the MC has a romance with the ship. I also really liked how complex and fraught her relationship with her sister was, and the way she endeavored to find a way to be herself while grappling with deeply imbalanced power dynamics. I didn’t really like her other romance arc, even moreso than on first read. (Rep: Black queer woman MC with a chronic pain condition. Queer woman love interest. Japanese American autistic polyamorous ace-spec bi queer woman author with fibromyalgia and PTSD.)
- Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts, read by Angela Dawe (2010 contemporary m/f romance novel) This is my all time fave comfort reread, I love all the baking details (she describes all the steps to making pastry cream), and the found family. Friends to lovers and brother’s best friend tropes. The narrator is one of my all time faves as well.
August TBR (I likely won’t get to all of these, but it’s nice to have goals. )
Buddy Read/Group Read
- Craft of Love by EE Ottoman (buddy read)
- Izzy and the Right Answer by R Cooper (buddy read)
- Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (#RomanceSparksJoy)
- Three-Way Split by Elia Winters (#PolyamBookClub)
ARCs to Read
- A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian
- Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade
- It’s a Whole Spiel ed by Katherine Locke
- The Opposite of Drowning by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae
- Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
- Dalliances and Devotion by Felicia Grossman
- Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (ARC, also for YARC19 & Romance Book Bingo)
- The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
- All Hours by Andie J Christopher (ARC, also for Ripped Bodice Bingo)
- Page of Swords by Ainsley Booth and Sadie Halle
- The Takeover Effect by Nisha Sharma
- What Makes You Beautiful by Bridget Liang
- The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo (also an ARC)
- Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh (also an ARC)
- Miss Dominguez’s Christmas Kiss and other stories by Lydia San Andres
- Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
- One Day to Fall by Therese Beharrie (also an ARC)
- The Chai Factor by Farah Heron
- Stage Presents by Aidan Wayne
- I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
- Selected Stories by Grace Paley (A)