If you have been here for a while, you know that this tag is a blog tradition this time of year. It’s a way to see which of my goals I completed and what I still need to work on. I’m using this as an opportunity to shout out to a booktube channel I found while I was looking for the questions. The channel is Lauren and the Books.
Best book you have read so far this year
It is heartbreakingly beautiful and makes the LGBT+ community what it is today.
Meet the leaders and activists on the front lines of the LGBTQ movement, from the 1960’s to the present, through stunning interviews and compelling black and white photographs compiled and presented by OUTWORDS, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the stories of LGBTQ people.
The 75 individuals featured in THE BOOK OF PRIDE—including marriage pioneer Evan Wolfson, trans icon Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stonewall-era rabblerouser Mark Segal and legendary anti-DADT activist Grethe Cammermeyer—fought battles frequently under the threat of violence and persecution.
By capturing these accounts, we honor an important chapter in American history and ensure that the story of the LGBTQ community is safeguarded for generations to come. The brave and determined activists celebrated in THE BOOK OF PRIDE inspire each of us to resist all forms of oppression with ferocity, and to do so with great pride.
Best sequel you’ve read so far this year
Brendon Lowell loves love. It’s why he created a dating app to help people find their one true pairing and why he’s convinced “the one” is out there, even if he hasn’t met her yet. Or… has he? When his sister’s best friend turns up in Seattle unexpectedly, Brendon jumps at the chance to hang out with her. He’s crushed on Annie since they were kids, and the stars have finally aligned, putting them in the same city at the same time.
Annie booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle to spend time with friends before moving across the globe. She’s not looking for love, especially with her best friend’s brother. Annie remembers Brendon as a sweet, dorky kid. Except, the 6-foot-4 man who shows up at her door is a certified Hot Nerd and Annie… wants him? Oh yes.
Getting involved would be a terrible idea—her stay is temporary and he wants forever—but when Brendon learns Annie has given up on dating, he’s determined to prove that romance is real. Taking cues from his favorite rom-coms, Brendon plans to woo her with elaborate dates straight out of Nora Ephron’s playbook. The clock is ticking on Annie’s time in Seattle, and Brendon’s starting to realize romance isn’t just flowers and chocolate. But maybe real love doesn’t need to be as perfect as the movies… as long as you think your partner hung the moon.
New release you haven’t read yet from this year, but you want to
Some couples are a match made in heaven.
Moira and Kenzie are convinced the only place they’re a match is in hell.
Raised as the shining prodigies of warring highland dance schools, the two grew up with blaring bagpipes as the backing track for a feud that took them all the way to the world championships.
Moira could never keep Kenzie’s icy glares from getting under her skin, and Kenzie could never hold back an eye-roll as she watched the crowds fawn over her rival’s happy-go-lucky charm.
Starting college has forced both women to hang up their kilts, but when their local highland dance association announces a scholarship for a life-changing amount of money, they find themselves back onstage for one last season.
The stakes are higher than ever, but between shooting daggers at each other’s backs and insults at each other’s faces, their eyes start lingering, their hearts start pounding, and the sparks begin to build into a fire neither of them can control.
Hell could freeze before either woman would admit their attraction, but that won’t stop them from using it to play dirty—and getting caught in the crossfire of their feelings along the way.
After all, sometimes the devil wears tartan.
Most anticipated release for the second half of 2022
A girl enters a reality dating competition to get revenge on her cheating, royal-adjacent ex-boyfriend, and ends up falling for another girl on the show—in fact, the girl he cheated on her with.
It’s been two years since Maya dumped her cheating ex-boyfriend Jordy, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country, and in the lead up to the wedding he captured hearts globally as the eligible younger brother. So, when Maya receives an invitation to be a contestant on Second Chance Romance, a new reality show in which the now-famous Jordy will re-date his ex-girlfriends in an effort to find “the one that got away,” she isn’t interested…that is, until she realizes she can use this opportunity to exact her revenge. If she can make it to the finale, she can reject Jordy and publicly break his heart. As far as Maya’s concerned, it’s payback with interest: just what a guy like Jordy deserves.
But when she gets to the set, she’s confronted with the one person she hasn’t accounted for: Skye, the beautiful, charismatic girl Jordy cheated on Maya with. How is she supposed to live with this girl for six weeks? Sharing bunkbeds, for crying out loud?
Except, of course, there’s more to Skye than she lets most people see. Skye has her own reasons for being careful with her heart, and might be more willing to take Maya’s side than it initially seems. If they can sustain their reluctant alliance—and keep their unexpected chemistry from interfering—they might just have a chance to take Jordy down.
Biggest disappointment this year
Kristi Cross has had the hots for her friend, Cameron Jackson as long as she can remember, but she knows she’s not his type. She’s nothing like the women he dates. So when he suggests they play for a kiss over a game of Hearts, Kristi can’t resist. Even if she loses, she wins. Because she’s finally going to taste him.
Of course, one kiss can quickly become something altogether steamier, especially when both parties are on the rebound
Biggest surprise this year
n this compelling and thought-provoking debut novel, after a terrorist attack rocks the country and anti-Islamic sentiment stirs, three Black Muslim girls create a space where they can shatter assumptions and share truths.
Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.
Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.
Favourite new author
Nolon King writes psychological thrillers designed to have you on the edge of your seat. His stories are dark, twisty, and often decidedly close to home.
When not writing you will find Nolon drinking black coffee and observing humans in their natural habitats.
Newest fictional crush
I don’t get crushes that enough in real life or the fiction world, but I really liked London from Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly.
The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)
Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.
After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.
As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.
Newest favourite character
Lottie Lemon would have to be a character that stands out.
My name is Lottie Lemon and I see dead people. Okay, so I rarely see dead people, mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety.
And for some reason those sweet, fluffy albeit paranormal cuties always seem to act as a not-so-great harbinger of deadly things to come for their previous owner. So when I saw that sweet orange tabby twirling around my landlord’s ankles, I figured Merilee was in for trouble. Personally, I was hoping for a skinned knee—what I got was a top spot in an open homicide investigation. Throw in a hot judge and an ornery detective that oozes testosterone and that pretty much sums up my life right about now. Have I mentioned how cute that detective is?
Lottie Lemon has a bakery to tend to, a budding romance with perhaps one too many suitors and she has the supernatural ability to see the dead—which are always harbingers for ominous things to come. Throw in the occasional ghost of the human variety, a string of murders and her insatiable thirst for justice and you’ll have more chaos than you know what to do with.
Book that made you cry this year
The inspiring true story of one man’s treacherous boyhood journey from a rural village in Ghana to the streets of Barcelona—and the path that led him home.
Ousman Umar is a shaman’s son born in a small village in Ghana. Though his mother died giving birth, he spent a contented childhood working the fields, setting traps in the jungle, and living off the land. Still, as strange and wondrous flying machines crisscrossed the skies overhead, Ousman dreamed of a different life. And so, when he was only twelve years old, he left his village and began what would be a five-year journey to Europe.
Every step of the way, as he traveled across the Sahara desert, through the daunting metropolises of Accra, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Casablanca, and over the Mediterranean Sea aboard a packed migrant dinghy, Ousman was handed off like merchandise by a loose network of smugglers and in the constant, foreboding company of “sinkers”: other migrants who found themselves penniless and alone on their way north, unable to continue onward or return home.
But on a path rife with violence, exploitation, and racism, Ousman also encountered friendship, generosity, and hope. North to Paradise is a visceral true story about the stark realities of life along the most dangerous migrant route across Africa; it is also a portrait of extraordinary resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges, the beauty of kindness in strangers, and the power of giving back.
Book that made you happy this year
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Most beautiful book you’ve bought or received so far this year
Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet
Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.
Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.
But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?
What do you need to read by the end of the year?
Harry wants nothing more than to write Hollywood screenplays. He knows the first step toward achieving that goal is winning a screenwriting competition that will seal his admission into the college of his dreams, so he’s determined to spend his summer free of distractions—also known as boys—and finish his script. After last year, Harry is certain love only exists in the movies anyway.
But then the cause of his first heartbreak, Grant, returns with a secret that could change everything—not to mention, there’s a new boy in town, Logan, who is so charming and sweet, he’s making Harry question everything he knows about romance. As he tries to keep his emotions in check and stick to his perfect plan for the future, Harry’s about to learn that life doesn’t always follow a script.