Comfort Rereads ~ Outside the Margins with Kaje Harper

Join Prism Book Alliance® as Kaje Harper goes Outside the Margins today.

Hi everyone. I’m Kaje (pronounced “cage” by the way.)

I’m not new to Prism Book Alliance, but this is the first time I’ve been invited to do a post for Outside the Margins. I’m an M/M author, and I’m also a big reader. Especially now.

Books have always been my comfort food. Well, books and chocolate, but they go well together. In these stressful times, I often find myself reaching for a favorite story to get me though the day. I’ve done that since I was a kid. (Which is one reason I also run the Young Adult LGBT books group on Goodreads – to connect people, especially teens, with stories that will resonate.)

Of course, some people don’t reread much. My husband is a big proponent of reading a book once, slowly and deeply, and moving on. But for me, there’s nothing better than grabbing an old favorite story to get lost in all over again, safe in knowing what – or more often whom – I will find there.

It’s always interesting seeing what other people pick for their comfort reads. For some, it’s a book with lightness and warmth. Something like Avon Gale’s Breakaway about a delightfully awkward Canadian hockey player. Or Lisa Henry’s Adulting 101 featuring a smart, scatterbrained and obsessive young man, with really crappy impulse control, and a good heart. Fun and sweet.

I have some of those on my comfort rereads shelf. But when I need a book to lose myself into, I find that, ironically, I often go for something angsty. I was trying to figure out why. And I came up with three reasons.

For one, the deeper emotions in the story give me an excuse to feel what I’m suppressing. To put anger and pain and frustration and fear into a different place, in a story. And one that ends well. For my comfort reading I like the pain in the middle, but I do want that happy ending. A confirmation that we can be a little broken, or a lot broken, and come through okay.

Secondly, those stories pull me under deeper. I can be distracted from the light, sweet reads more easily. While some readers may be engaged by the fun and warmth, I find that hurt-comfort is what pulls me in and glues me to the page. That’s why you’ll find books like Amy Lane’s Chase in Shadow, or My Cowboy Heart by Z.A. Maxfield, or Glitterland by Alexis Hall, on my comforts list. When I’m there, in the story with Chase, staring at that red door inside his head, then for the span of that book, I’m nowhere else in the universe.

And I think a third reason is the type of characters who populate the angsty stories. Because what reassures me in tough times is the reminder that the world contains good people. No, not just good – extraordinary people, with compassion and integrity that goes bone deep. Yeah, fictional characters, but created out of the ideals of the writers, to remind me of what we humans strive for. It’s in the darker books that the main characters are really tested. Here is where they are damaged, bent, and broken, and here is where they hold onto the essential decent core of their personalities, and rise again.

I love a character with flaws, but I also like to see, underneath those, that human ideal. Men like Axel and Bayden, in Kim Dare’s Axel’s Pup, who find trust despite their differences, and build a relationship. Men like Joe in Amy Lane’s Sidecar, who may be damned slow to see what Casey really needs, but whose big hands and bigger heart have room for lost boys and abandoned babies. Women like Ista in Lois McMaster Bujold’s fantasy novel Paladin of Souls, who is one of the most whole and well-rounded and strong women I’ve met on any pages. Men like Terrance in The Butterfly King by Edmond Manning – a man who has sacrificed so much to do the right thing, and who has the poison of resentment and fear to purge, before his true heart can shine out.

My comfort rereading is rarely about the plot. It’s about spending time with beloved characters like those. About refreshing my soul with a belief in integrity, equality, strength, and love, brought to me by the words of authors who believe in those qualities too.

My rereads shelf is over 200 books long. Some are lighter, but many are these favorites that hurt so good. I’m grateful to all the authors who’ve created for me a source of light, in dark times. I hope, for some readers, that my own stories will be the same kind of comfort. And that outside the books, we will come together as a community, and support each other,

I’ll be here on the 29th of each month this year, sharing thoughts and favorite books, and whatever else comes my way. This time, I’d love to hear about your own comfort reads. Light? Dark? Cute kids? First responders? Other worlds? What book do you open when the skies are dark and the rain falls? What author can give your heart a moment of sanctuary in their stories?

  • Kaje Harper

Jan 29, 2017

 

~Kaje Harper

About Kaje Harper

Comment Contest
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
This post may contain affiliate links.
Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews.  The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.

48 thoughts on “Comfort Rereads ~ Outside the Margins with Kaje Harper

  1. I’m all for cute stories when I’m feeling down. Amy Lane, Harper Fox, LB Gregg or yours, Kaje. One of my favourite comfort books is Muscling Through by JL Metros.

    • I love Muscling Through – there is such essential goodness to Al’s heart that shines on the pages. I rated it 4 stars at first, but I’ve reread it so often I had to up it to 5.

  2. I’m not a big re-reader but I do reread a series of MM stories originally posted on nifty.org. The entire series is called the Foley-Mashburn saga, As far as I know, it’s never been published but I adore the entire series because of its positive message and especially the characters. I LOVE the characters. So, every year I read all 13 episodes in a row.

    • Amy Lane writes men who speak to my heart 🙂

      I know some people do like the light stuff best for the warmth, and she does that just as well as the dark.

  3. I love rereading things too – the ones of read the most are Mary Calmes’ A Matter of Time and Change of Heart series – finally broke down and bought them in paperback 🙂 But I also enjoy Amy Lane’s Promises and Little Goddess and Andrew Grey’s Senses and Farm series, Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run and of course your The Family You Choose and Hodden Wolves 🙂 Reading is my happy place – hope and love always

  4. For years, I used to reread ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy every year, because I enjoyed it every time I picked it up. I gradually moved on to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series, and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, then Julie Czerneda’s Migration series. Nowadays, I usually pick up a JD Robb and get immersed in Eve Dallas’ world, or Thea Harrison’s Elder Races, and I have to admit, I’ve read Kaje’s ‘Hidden Wolves’, ‘The Rebuilding Year’, AND ‘Life Lessons’ series at least 5 times in the past couple of years. I love being able to reassure myself that things CAN turn out right, even if my world is a little bit tilted at the time I’m reading. I’m even more grateful to be able to escape into a HEA in today’s climate and appreciate all of you authors who provide that inspiration and hope for us!

  5. My favourite comfort read is Cameron Danes falling, and for many of the reasons you mention. Its spending time with those characters you have come to love. Better than hot chocolate and a fleece blanket. Nearly as good as the above with a kitten on top. Its a safe point in a difficult world.

  6. I especially like when authors (N.R. Walker, Amy Lane, Jay Northcote, Leta Blake, Lucy Lennox, L.A. Witt, Charlie Cochet, Sloane Kennedy, K. Sterling, Aimee Nicole Walker, Lynn Kelling, Rhys Ford) write a series.

    Not only do you get to read about couples, but you get to revisit them as they interact with friends and families.

    Or in the same town… Surf Bay (Ashley John), Bluewater Bay (assorted authors), and Tucker Springs (assorted authors).

    • I’ve really enjoyed the Bluewater Bay series – I’m impressed with the authors who play together in the same space and bring in each other’s characters. I think The Burnt Toast B&B is my favorite.

      But it’s interesting you single those out, where I tend to binge read the voice of one author at a time. Reading Rainbow.

  7. I re-read a lot for a variety of reasons. My comfort reads fall into three categories:

    When I’m feeling lonely and/or unloved, I head for low angst HEA romances. Jayne Anne Krentz, Betty Neels, and other old school category romance authors.

    If I feel like my world is collapsing beyond my control, I choose to bury myself in fantasy worlds. McCaffrey’s Pern, Wrede’s Enchanted Forest, and a plethora of paranormals involving shifters, magic, and/or dragons. I like series for this in order to really escape.

    When I need something as I am about to step out of my comfort zone, I choose books from my shelf that I’ve mentally called Adulting 101. I need the reassurance that being an adult and owning my choices can be done. Your Rebuilding Years and Life Lessons series are there as well as many other m/m authors who thoughtfully allow their characters to confront and deal with real life issues.

    • <3 That's true – sometimes you need a different book for a different effect. I also grab fantasy sometimes to just be long gone from anything real world.

      And I'm honored to be on your "Adulting" shelf.

  8. I am a big re-reader. I have my list of favorites The Long Way home
    by Z A Maxfield is an old stand-by. Your Hidden wolves series is
    a fav. Also Marie Sexton’s Promise and Strawberries for Dessert.
    I like to revisit. Loosing Allromance web site is like loosing an
    old friend. I feel lost no where to find new books to read and no
    where to find my favorite Authors new books.

    • ((Hugs)) Have you checked out Queeromance Ink? It’s a new site I have been advising J. Scott Coatsworth in constructing to give ARe readers a place to go find books – just getting started – developing the site with about 60 authors and 200+ books listed, but the vision is to become a site to help readers of LGBTQ romance do searches, get book links, and find new releases.

      http://www.queeromanceink.com/

  9. I re-read many books. Sometimes to re-visit old friends, sometimes to get ready for the next one in the series, and sometimes just as a way to combat anxiety at night by giving my brain a safe place to go. Thank you for your list of some of your favorites…i am going to check out the Paladin of Souls as soon as I read book one. My current re-reads are Frog by Mary Calmes and Last, First Kiss by Diane Adams. Plus I found Keira Marcos, followed her to her website, which led me to fan fiction, so I am reading some of those over and over. I can’t believe I have lived for so long in this M/M world without finding fan fiction! I just found LitRpg as a category on Amazon this past week, but am still looking for some that are M/M.

  10. Hey Kaje! I love this post. I think I’m going to enjoy having you on the OTM roster 🙂

    As you and some others have mentioned, the appeal of a re-read for me is usually the character(s). When I’m upset, I don’t really care what they’re doing/saying or how the plot is developing; I just want that familiarity of thought and tone.

    I haven’t had a lot of time for second (third, fourth etc.) looks in the past few years, but here are some books I’ve returned to over different periods of my life…

    The Giver, Lois Lowry
    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
    From the Corner of His Eye, Dean Koontz
    A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
    The Gift, Danielle Steele
    11/22/63, Stephen King
    The Third Twin, Ken Follett

    I look forward to exploring the titles everyone else has replied with!

    • Boy it’s been years since I reread Little Women, but I used to love Jo and the whole world that the book creates. That’s a cool list of yours.

  11. For some unknown reason I am doing a lot of comfort rereading. I am rereading all my Matthew j metzger. The other day I reread him/us by sarina bowen et. Al. I reread the Avon Gale hockey books. Blank spaces by class Lennox is suddenly a comfort reread. The Anne bishop “others” series for no rational reason. I am also planning to creep back into Lilah pace’s prince books.

  12. For me, TJ Klune’s Bear, Otter and the Kid series is my ultimate comfort re-read: the perfect way to experience every emotion in one book (or three). Like nearly everyone else has said, anything by Amy Lane gets re-read and re-read: the knitting series for total comfort and Johnnies for a touch more angst!

  13. <3 That's true – sometimes you need a different book for a different effect. I also grab fantasy sometimes to just be long gone from anything real world.

  14. Boy it’s been years since I reread Little Women, but I used to love Jo and the whole world that the book creates. That’s a cool list of yours.

  15. Ah, the sweet comfort of the re-read, when you already know the plot and you want to reconnect with beloved characters and ideas! I usually re-read in times of distress (when I plunge into favorite books as if I had a whispered conversation with old and dear friends): in that case, I usually go for sweet or angsty, depending on my state of agitation. Sometimes, I re-read just because…I am a voracious reader, so my list keeps expanding, but I share with you, Kaje, the love for Axel’s Pup (particularly relevant in these times of rage, hate and intolerance) and Sidecar. Your Wolves Series and that gem of Rejoice Dammit are also favorites as is the Dark Horse series by Kate Sherwood. Have you tried the Ganymede Quartet (8 books), by Darrah Glass? How about the Falls Chance Ranch series, by Rolf and Ranger? Wolfsong, by JT Klune? Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run series? The Memoirs of a House Boy series, particularly the last book of the series, Christmas at Leo’s, by Gillibran Brown? Beings in Love seres by R. Cooper? How to Howl to the Moon by Eli Easton? There are so many of them I turn to “in times of trouble”.

    • I might add, anything by TJ Klune, particularly Bear Otter and the Kid series or Amy Lane (the Johnnies, the Knitting, etc) warms my heart when I am in need of comfort.

      • Great list – yes, “Dark Horse” absolutely, hurts so good. Gillibran Brown, even if I want to shake him sometimes. Eli Easton – especially “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song”. Not so much Cut & Run – that’s the reading rainbow effect. I haven’t tried the Ganymede Quartet (8 books), by Darrah Glass. Must add to the (massive) TBR. Thanks.

  16. Great list – yes, “Dark Horse” absolutely, hurts so good. Gillibran Brown, even if I want to shake him sometimes. Eli Easton – especially “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song”. Not so much Cut & Run – that’s the reading rainbow effect. I haven’t tried the Ganymede Quartet (8 books), by Darrah Glass. Must add to the (massive) TBR. Thanks.

  17. Thanks to this list I have now read Adulting 101 and all 6 Will and Patrick Wake Up Married serials! Lots of laughs, thank you! I would suggest Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson for fans of Adulting 101. Same type of age group/humour with a hilarious group of friends.

    I agreed with a bunch of the books other people re-read (Muscling Through, Dark Horse series, Frog [also Acrobat]). We all seem to like different Amy Lane books (thank goodness she is so prolific!) so I will say my comfort re-read from her is the silly little Turkey in the Snow. Avon Gale and Alexis Hall are auto-buy authors for me, but their books are not necessarily books I re-read.

    I do re-read pretty much everything by yourself, Heidi Cullinan (Nowhere Ranch, Love Lessons series, Special Delivery series, and Carry the Ocean [where is my sequel *sob*]) James Buchanan (Hard Fall series, Cheating Chance series), Alan Chin, Roan Parrish, and the whole Faith and Fidelity series by Tere Michaels. I re-read lots of Megan Derr (the Kria series, Unbreakable Soldier series, High Court series, plus short stand alone like Ink and Paper, and Backwoods Asylum), and her wife Sasha Miller’s book Battle of Will.

    If I’m reading MM, I usually like books where being gay isn’t illegal and I don’t like it when there aren’t any interesting female characters. But I read everything, so I will keep trawling through the suggestions and find more new favourites! Thank you!!!

    This is getting way too long, but wanted to add a few non MM re-reads:
    – YA = On the Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta, amazing author), Graceling series (Kristin Cashore), Seven Realms series (Cinda Williams Chima)
    – Fantasy = anything by Patricia Briggs. I love her voice, even in the early stuff she now finds embarrassing, lol!
    – Fiction = early Ann Patchett (Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, and Patron Saint of Liars), anything by Vikram Seth (f*cking genius, what CAN’T he do?)
    – Romance = Elise Dee Beraru, please write another book one day… I loved The Hero’s Best Friend and liked The Hungry Heart so so much. These were the books that made me rethink my bias against romance a few years ago and I’ve gone down the rabbit hole since then!

  18. I am more similar to your husband. I read book once and move on. Basically because I’m more intrigued with new/shiny/unread stories rather than going back to read what I already know. Or when nothing unread seems good enough, I prefer to hunt new/unread Steve/Bucky fanfics over at AO3. I think the only books I’ve ever picked-up to re-read, though I only skim through few chapters are Adrien English books, especially book #4 and #5

  19. I don’t tend to re-read as much as I’d like to, since my TBR pile is always so huge! However, my memory is terrible, so re-reading is necessary to refresh it, and it’s almost like reading it new!

    LotR is my big fantasy re-read. Just so much there to immerse yourself in! I must have read it 20 or more times over the years–but primarily many decades ago when there just weren’t that many books available, particularly in Fantasy/SF, and before any m/m romances.

    Lately, my re-reads often come in the form of listening to the audio version, since I can do that while driving or just relaxing and resting my eyes–or getting ready to sleep.

    M/M romances and super-comfort reads–

    I adore “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song”–oddly because I tend to prefer big long multi-book epics. But this short, sweet tale has so much packed in! Small-town pros and cons turn to absolute magic in the holiday season. Prodigal son. Older/Younger. Private crusty rancher. Young porn star. Distinctive and wonderful voices for all the characters… Just wow.

    I also love Eli Easton’s “How to Walk Like a Man.” What a crazy, but genius idea to have dogs who take human form! And how can you NOT fall in love with those doggy-like traits of loyalty, unconditional love, protectiveness, love of pack? This book isn’t the first in the series, but: former army dog! who loses his partner!!! Can you possibly tug at heart-strings more?

    Re-reading because I first read them long ago and want to enjoy again: Josh Lanyon’s –anything and Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycop series. I probably should re-read the Cut & Run series but haven’t yet…

    But back to my own quirky tastes–
    The m/m books I’ve re-read the most were Hoffmann’s Raised by Wolves series (first book: “Brethren”). Talk about falling into a complete and detailed world, in this case of 17thC buccaneers sailing from Port Royal, Jamaica. (I love history, and there’s lots of it here that is well-grounded in the period, but not at all hampered by it.) Complex and crazy characters to fall in love with. So much hurt/comfort and other guilty pleasures! Love-love-love. Like LotR was life-changing for me, this series also does that. I even went to Jamaica to see Port Royal (yeah, obsessive much?), although sadly, not much left there due to that huge earthquake that put much of it into the ocean centuries ago…

  20. These are such great recs! Can I add a freebie, ” love is all you need to destroy your enemies” by Shadydave on AO3? It’s a Dresden / night vale crossover and a work of art.

  21. Very good article, Kaje. I’ve always enjoyed reading books many times over. In the last few years my comfort re-reads are stories written by Lucien Parhelion, a disappointingly little known author. The stories are mostly short, but cleverly written, with smart, charming or appealing characters. I always feel good after reading them again.

  22. I like to reread things when I am stressed or tired because I already know how much of an emotional investment they will be and how they will end, without having to concentrate too much. There can be angst, but I like a happy ending for my rereads. I love the Lyn Gala Claimings series. I love Megan Derr’s Princes of the Bood and Kria Verse. For Amber Kell, I’ll grab the Thresl books. For Kim Dare, I have a soft spot for Axel’s Pup, Duck, and Yes! I love your Nor Iron Bars A Cage. There is a fun superhero book called Eddie by Skylar Jane. I do read many new books too–I swear.

Leave a Reply