Book Recs (2021)

I haven’t had time to share last year’s recommendations until now, so I’m sorry if I made you wait. To sum up, last year was even worse than the previous one for me, so I haven’t read as much, but I was more careful about the books I chose. This was my seventh year reading Romance with LGBTQ+ characters, so I hope you like my recs.

If you’re looking for more, feel free to ask in the comment section or check the posts I made for the previous years. Here you have year one, year two, year three, year four, year five and year six.

And here you have 2021, or year seven, in no particular order:

Collage with 12 different covers in two rows. The covers belong to the following books:
"If It Ain't Love" by Tamara Allen.
"Seducing the Sorcerer" by Lee Welch.
"Peter Cabot Gets Lost" by Cat Sebastian.
"Honeytrap" by Aster Glenn Gray.
"Play It Again" by Aidan Wayne.
"Slippery Creatures" by KJ Charles.
"Boyfriend Material" by Alexis Hall.
"Blind Tiger" by Jordan L Hawk.
"The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting" by KJ Charles.
"Common Goal" by Rachel Reid.
"Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances" by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole.
"Proper Scoundrels" by Allie Therin.
  • If It Ain’t Love: Another book by Tamara Allen, whose “Downtime” I recommended some years ago, when I published my third list. This short story is also historical and very sweet. The main characters belong to different classes that have become even more distant during the Great Depression. But this is a story with a very hopeful ending that will make your heart feel warm and cozy, so there’s no need to be intimidated by the setting.
  • Seducing the Sorcerer: You know I helped beta-read this Fantasy Romance, but I couldn’t not add it to this list. I’ve read it at least twice and it was a wonderful experience every time. It even made me enjoy reading again after one of those horrible months in which I couldn’t, so I wanted to share that feeling with you all. This book has magic, political intrigue, some light BDSM, older protagonists and many horses.
  • The Cabots: I was surprised when I learned Cat Sebastian was going to release a couple of books set in the USA during 1959 and 1960 (and one of them a road trip, even), but I’d never doubt this author. I knew I would love them, and I wasn’t wrong. The Cabots are a political family, but these books focus on the black-sheep members of the family. Both stories are super sweet and will make you believe in mankind once more.
  • Honeytrap: A Historical Romance that starts with a soviet agent and an FBI agent falling in love during the Cold War? Sign me up! This love story that spanned several years had a lot of angst, a VERY slow burn, and too many goodbyes, but it was also so delightful it’s already on my To-Be-Reread list. You’ll find realistic portrayals of very charming characters, amazingly detailed writing and some historically accurate content warnings in this novel.
  • Play It Again: The first Contemporary Romance in this list, so you know it has to be good! I really enjoyed this sweet, low-tension, fluffy romance. I love reading novels with gamers, youtubers or ace characters, and this one had everything. Some light reading about a blind youtuber who talks about accessibility, his hilarious sister, and an adorable gamer with anxiety was exactly what I needed during this terrible year.
  • The Will Darling Adventures: If you’ve ever read my blog, you knew this was coming. KJ Charles is an evergreen in all my lists, both because I love all her books and because she publishes so many per year. This wonderful series is set in the 1920s, right after the war and the pandemic. The main characters are a mysterious aristocrat with too many secrets and a bookseller with PTSD that always keeps his emotional support knife at hand.
  • Boyfriend Material: This Contemporary Romance will soon have a sequel, and I’m looking forward to it. You know I really like Alexis Hall, so I was curious to see what a Fake-Dating romcom by him would look like, and it didn’t disappoint. The characters are fun, charming and have family issues. Some content warnings may apply.
  • The Pride: Another author I always recommend. This new series is related to the Hexworld books I mentioned some years ago. Both series belong to the same universe, but while Hexworld was set in an alternate 1890s New York and focused on the Metropolitan Witch Police, The Pride takes place in 1920s Chicago and focuses on the underworld gangs controlled by familiars. I was looking forward to learning more about the familiars that are deemed dangerous, and this answered many questions.
  • The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting: I’m not really complaining about KJ Charles publishing so many amazing books, but I worry that one year she might take over the whole list. I’d have to make two lists then, because I’m unable to choose between her books. This Regency Romance is hilarious, and the characters are SO relatable. Who hasn’t tried to protect a niece from a fortune hunter only to end up falling for him instead? No one? Well, you can still read about it in this enjoyable novel.
  • Game Changers: It’s been a while since I last read an Ice Hockey Romance series, and I really liked this one. So far, each book features a different couple, and the series keeps getting better and better. Since each couple has a different dynamic, everyone will be able to find their favourite tropes sooner or later. But please, do read the books in order. The characters know each other, so you will spoil the previous books if you don’t start with the first one.
  • Hamilton’s Battalion: I think this might be the first anthology I’ve recommended among my favourite books because it’s almost impossible to love every story in an anthology, but Hamilton’s Battalion manages to do just that. It might help that it only has three short stories, but why would you need more when this book is just perfect as it is? Three Historical Romances with diverse characters that help Eliza Hamilton collect the stories of her late husband’s soldiers. If you liked the musical, you should read this one.
  • Proper Scoundrels: In my previous list, I recommended the Magic in Manhattan series, and I’ve been looking forward to the release of this spin-off since then. I managed to read it just before the end of 2021, and I realized I had to add it to this list, even if it would take me a bit longer to post it. In this Paranormal Romance, you’ll reencounter two survivors who will find each other. They seem to be too different to be able to find common ground, but they’ve survived family expectations, traumatic experiences and the Great War. Are they so different after all?

I hope you liked the list. Last year, I didn’t try to sail into uncharted territory because my brain wasn’t up for it. In fact, there were several months in which I wasn’t able to read at all, but I did manage to enjoy new books by my favourite authors and other series that some friends recommended. Fortunately, I’m now able to read books I know I will like, so friends and reviewers I trust are invaluable. I seldom start a new book without their approval these days, so I’d like to thank them all.

Just a reminder that these are 12 books or series I’ve read and enjoyed during this last year, but they might have been released before 2021.

As always, let me know if you need any particular CWs, or if you want more personal recommendations.

Art – Oracle Project by Juliet García Art

It has been a while since my last art post, but I come bearing good news. This time, I’m sharing an illustration of the two main characters from the Oracle project:

Two characters are tending a horse and a mule that are putting their heads out of some precarious-looking wooden stalls. The sun is setting behind the mountains in the background, and a warm orange light bathes the scene. 
The horse is closer to the back. A short  young-looking man with blond curls and fancy clothes in green and gold  is slipping the horse a carrot with his only hand while he whistles.
Closer to the front, a big fellow with darker skin and a scar near his right eye is scratching the mule's chin while holding a bucket with more carrots. His hair is long, straight and black, his eyes are brown, and he's wearing practical clothes and a leather armour.

As I said on my previous word count posts, this WIP is my oldest one. It’s been going on for over 10 years, and I’ve mentioned that I started it in 2014, after my decade-long hiatus. But did you know that some parts of the story were recycled after I scrapped an even older story?

That old story was going to be an Epic High Fantasy trilogy, but the new one is a Fantasy Romance and I’m so glad I decided to change it! I’ve always enjoyed opposites-attract stories, so the new main characters couldn’t be more different from each other.

I’ve spent so much time with them, they feel like family to me. And they’re the reason I started writing for real! I needed to get them out of my head if I wanted to be able to focus on anything else, so I started writing about them, and now we’re here.

This beautiful artwork was done by Juliet García Art, whose style is perfect for a story that’s heavily influenced by Epic Fantasy sagas, as you can see. Please do check her art and commission information on the following sites:

November 2021 Update

I can’t believe it’s been less than a month since I posted my last update and this year is almost over! Well, I still haven’t assimilated we’re not in 2019 anyway, so maybe it’s not that surprising.

This month I have good news: I achieved my two goals! Both the October’s challenge I hadn’t finished yet and my secret challenge, which was… transcribing the notebook I finished in September. After adding all the information to my Scrivener projects, I updated my word count here, and I’ll tell you more about it soon.

I also backed up all my projects to the Cloud, made a new reference file for the Academy project and organized a giveaway on Twitter.

I had the feeling that I’d done very little during November, but writing this post made me realize I was wrong. I’ve had better months, but this is a very busy season at work, so I should be proud to have done so much.

I’m still looking forward to the winter holidays, though.

Anyway, my goals for December will be: transcribing the notebook I finished in October… and finishing one more notebook!

I’ll try to keep my posts up and work on this year’s ranking as well, so there will be more activity on my blog before the year ends.

A hearth with glowing embers and fire licking the wood. The wall in the background seems to be made of some kind of stone, but it's too dark to see properly.

Word Count – October 2021

I was wondering whether I should post another word count update after the one I shared two months ago because there weren’t many changes during these months. But I’ve made the graphs anyway, so why not.

Here is the updated version!

Line graph on a purple background that looks like someone used a paint roller on a lilac wall. On the x-axis, 6 different dates appear: November 2020, January 2021, March 2021, June 2021, August 2021 and October 2021. The number of words appears on the y-axis, which ranges from 0 to 150,000. There are 8 lines with different colors and all of them but one overlap.
Blue: It's the highest by far, since it starts from the 100,000 line and rises a little more before stabilizing. There is another slight rise towards the end.
Gray: Starts as the second highest, around 25,000 and goes up quite a bit from January to March, then stagnates, then goes up again.
Turquoise: Starts as the third line, but immediately stagnates and is overtaken by all of the rest except one.
Orange: Very stagnant. It overlaps with the turquoise at the beginning and with the green one in the middle, then becomes the last project according to the number of words.
Green: It overlaps with several at the beginning, with the orange one in the middle and with the yellow one before the end. It has a steep increase and goes from the last position to the fifth position. 
Yellow: It overlaps with several at the beginning, then it stagnates, but it rises a lot later on and ends up together with the green one.
Brown: Overlapped at the beginning. It is not known where it comes from, but it ends up in fourth position. Violet: Goes from the last position to the second position.

As you can see, all projects have seen a slight increase, but they stayed in the same position. That might change by the end of December, though.

All in all, I’m glad I keep moving forward, even at my slow pace, because these have been very difficult months. I’m looking forward to the holidays so I can write more!

Now that all my projects have over 20000 words, I want to try to take them over the 40000 line.

By the way, you can see more about my projects here.

Vertical bar graph on a purple background with flowers outlined in a darker shade of purple. On the left, one can see the names of the projects. Below, the number of words. The bars grow towards the right and have stripes with different shades of blue representing the different months.
The bars go from longest to shortest.
Oracle: Either doubles or triples the length of the others, but it is because of the first stripe, which covers 2014-2020.
Sanctuary: It has five distinct stripes and has managed to surpass 50,000 words. The first to achieve it after Oracle, even though it started recently.
Brothers and Alcalá: usually very evenly matched, but Alcalá has a very wide third stripe, while Brothers has a fifth stripe that helps it go a little further, managing to get third place.
Feathers: It does not have a second stripe, but it has a very visible fourth stripe because there was a month in which I only added words to this project. 

Fireflies: Used to be pretty even with the Heroes Project, but has a much wider fifth stripe that makes it more even with the Feathers Project now. 
Academy: Very narrow third and fifth stripes, while the fourth is nonexistent.
Heroes: has a wide first stripe, but not many more shades of blue afterwards.

In this second graph, you can see how words got added to each project. For this new period, I used light blue once more. This way, the pattern will restart now that they’re separate enough. The last light stripe on the right is very narrow, but please take into account that it covers a period of two months, while the first light stripe on the left covers everything I wrote from 2014 until a year ago.

Knowing I had a very long hiatus before 2014 and a shorter one afterwards, it’s not like I was writing much during those six years. Still, I feel like I’m doing much better now that my daily goal is just 100 words and I don’t force myself to stare at a blank page for half an hour every day.

I might make regular Word Count updates like this one just so I can check which months are better or worse.

Aesthetics – Feathers Project

I hope you liked my third aesthetics post, because I wanted to share another one.

This is the one I made for the Feathers project:

A collage with 9 different squares over a sand-coloured background.

First row, left to right:
Footsteps on the top of a dune.
A dark forest with very tall trees hidden by the fog. 
A path among the snowy pines.


Second row, left to right:
A European wolf with yellow eyes.
The central square has "Feathers. Sol Vera" written in a cursive font directly on the background.
A raven.

Third row, left to right:
A fortified city surrounded by an oasis in the middle of the desert.
A green forest; you can see the sun in the background, the light filtering through the trees.
The sun setting over a snowy landscape.

According to the last Word Count Update, this is my fifth project in number of words. I have started a sort of draft because it doesn’t require as much research as my other projects, so I wrote quite a lot this year (as you can see on my word count posts) hoping I could finish it.

Like many of my WIPs, the Feathers project started as an attempt to write a quick High Fantasy short story, just like the list says, but now I think it might become a novella. In it, you’ll be able to find magic, animals, loneliness and very few characters. And, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve finished the outline and started writing a draft of a draft, so maybe I should update the page where my WIPs are listed…

Anyway, I really like the characters, and the narrator is very fun to write, but I know it’s a very weird story and I wonder if people will be able to enjoy it.

Also, there’s a lot of walking involved, and transitions are very difficult to write, aren’t they? Still, I’m learning a lot and I hope I’m making them more enjoyable to read than they are to write.

Writer life goals, I guess…

Disclaimers:

I’ve made all of these collages using free stock photos (and a couple of personal photos) on Canva, so to my knowledge all of them were free to use. Please let me know if that’s not the case for any of the photos.

All of these WIPs are still in progress, so everything is tentative. Things may change as the stories and the characters develop. Also, the images I’ve chosen might not be 100% accurate, but they have some elements that might be important within the story.

October 2021 Update

It’s been three years since I started writing these updates that are now a monthly tradition. They might be boring for you all, but they’ve been a huge help for me.

Learning to choose feasible goals has made an impact in both my writing and my mental health. For instance, last month one of my goals was to postpone my other goal if I thought it was too much, and that’s exactly what happened. I wanted to finish two challenges, but I made it to one and a half. I want to finish the other one during this month, because who cares which month it is if I can finish? Only me, right?

A year ago, I also started adding my Word Count on these update posts, and it was so helpful that I’ve made separate posts so I can add graphs and everything! I’m still surprised every time I see them. I’m writing more now than when I had big goals I could never fulfill, but it took me years to learn how to make them feasible enough for me.

I’ve been very busy during the month of October due to medical reasons, but I managed to finish another notebook and one challenge, so I think it’s more than enough. November will be a busy month as well, so my new goals will be to finish the other challenge and… well, to be honest, I’m not sure about my second goal. There are two other things I want to do, but I don’t think it will be feasible, so I’ll need some time to decide which one will be my second goal. I’ll let you know next month!

Spoiler: It’s not NaNoWriMo. That’s not feasible at all, unfortunately.

I hope you all enjoy NaNoWriMo if you attempt it, though!

Two jack-o'-lanterns, eyes, mouths and noses glowing in the dark.
Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Aesthetics – Academy Project

I hope you liked my second aesthetics post, because I wanted to share another one.

This is the one I made for the Academy project:

A collage with 9 different squares over a green background.

First row, left to right:
Blurry snowdrops among the green grass bathed by the light of dawn or dusk.
A small cemetery, with a few tombstones and a mausoleum in the background. 
A striking purple gladiolus flower.


Second row, left to right:
A basket full of yarn.
The central square has "ACADEMY. Sol Vera" written in an art noveau font on top of a square that's a darker shade of green than that of the background.
A close-up of a violin.

Third row, left to right:
A neat stack of old books on a wooden table.
A green lane in front of an old university building.
A whirlwind of books and notebooks, all open on some surface, like someone is in the middle of studying.

After the last Word Count Update, this became the project with the second lowest word count among those in the list, so I’m trying to find some inspiration via this aesthetics post. I’m surprised it did so good on my earlier word count posts, because it used to be a knock-off of my Alcalá project at the very beginning (over two years ago). I had an idea for a story and I’d been wondering whether it would be better to tend towards fantasy or historical romance. In the end, I said “Why not both?”.

So yes, the Academy project started as the High Fantasy Romance version, but now it has very little to do with the other project. This one has magic in it! Yes, there’s a university of magic.

I wanted to finish one of my stories for The Pact, so I started this one thinking it would be easier. It’s all fantasy, right? So it doesn’t need the enormous amount of research a Historical Romance does, I thought.

And maybe I’m right, but then things got complicated and the story ended up needing a lot of research I haven’t finished yet. Well, I guess you never really finish doing research for your book. Not even once the book is published and suddenly you find something you could have used in your book. Ah, how I long to be able to feel those regrets…

Anyway, this one is an enemies-to-lovers set in a fantasy world where there’s a university, there’s magic, and there’s they-were-roommates. I’m still struggling with some of the plot points, like deciding how evil the villain is (I think I mentioned that in one of my posts and, well, it was about this story), but making this collage I realized the villain was not that important. I had started to think like the main character, while I should have a broader perspective.

I know better now, thanks to these aesthetics posts!

Disclaimers:

I’ve made all of these collages using free stock photos (and a couple of personal photos) on Canva, so to my knowledge all of them were free to use. Please let me know if that’s not the case for any of the photos.

All of these WIPs are still in progress, so everything is tentative. Things may change as the stories and the characters develop. Also, the images I’ve chosen might not be 100% accurate, but they have some elements that might be important within the story.

September 2021 Update

Better late than never, so I’m sharing my delayed monthly update now! Last month was much better in general, although it had its dark moments.

I’m still not able to use my laptop, so I’ve started a new notebook. I was so glad to finish the previous one, that I had all the motivation I needed to start another of my bigger notebooks. I’m not using the pocket notebooks at the moment because I have to stay at home most of the time, so I don’t need to carry the notebook everywhere. I’ll save the smaller ones for the future! Since I’ve filled half of the notebook already, I think it’s a good approach.

During September, I got to share a new aesthetics post for my Heroes project, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

I also shared the word count post I promised, but I wonder if I’ll be able to check the new word count during this month. I had to reorganise the house a bit to be able to use an old computer to make that one… So I could try, but I don’t have much free time right now.

By the way, I do have some really good news: my dear friend Lee Welch has been the first to honour The Pact we made and publish a new book! And I even got to beta-read it, which was very enjoyable, and also an honour. Please find out more about it here. I got to re-read it after the release, and it was an amazing experience. Loved every minute! Thank you for sharing your work!

During September, I also got to attend some online lectures by Spanish writers, and one of them mentioned something that I thought might be helpful in my case: making a playlist for each project in order to listen to a couple of songs before I start writing. Apparently, it’s very useful when you need inspiration and/or motivation, so I’ve been working on making some for my projects, but it will take a long time to finish them. Still, I’m having fun and it totally counts as writing because I need to check the plot and the characters every time I add a song.

And now it’s time to choose my goals for the following month, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to work on them every day. I’ve joined some October challenges on my Spanish account, so I guess my goals are to complete them, but also to delay the daily challenges until the weekend if I don’t have enough time.

Hope you all enjoy autumn (or spring if you’re in the southern hemisphere)!

Red and fluffy squirrell in the snow.
Photo from Pexels