Book Recs (2020)

You all know by now that I love reading and sharing my happiness with others, so sharing my favourite books of the year is a must for me. Especially this year, when it’s been so difficult to read and finish books with all the terrible things that have happened. This was my sixth year reading Romance with LGBTQ+ characters, so I bring you some pretty good recs, I think. Enjoy!

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

And here you have 2020, or year six:

Book covers of my favourite 2020 reads.
  • Winterbourne: Another series by Joanna Chambers, whose books I recommended some years ago, when I published the first recommendations. This series is historical as well, and very seasonal, so it’s a good time to read it. The main characters belong to different classes and wouldn’t have to cooperate if it weren’t because the mill owner’s brother is about to marry the aristocrat’s sister. Of course, starting a secret relationship is the easy part: the hardest thing is to keep it secret… when you’re snowed in with your relatives for Christmas.
  • Lilywhite Boys: Just assume that I’m going to add all books by KJ Charles to these lists. I have yet to read one I wouldn’t recommend. This series is basically about betrayal and deceit, so prepare to be amazed by the mystery and the plot twists. The Lilywhite Boys are three men who work together to steal jewels, but find themselves in the most unprofitable position of falling in love with the protagonists of these three books.
  • Page & Sommers: Only one book has been published, but Cat Sebastian is another of my favourite writers and I know I’m going to love the whole series, so I invite you all to join me and read the first book already. If you love a good Historical Romance or a good Mystery Romance… why not both? Here you have a spy, a country doctor with PTSD, and a murder they have to solve.
  • Lucky Charm: Another author I recommended on my last list, but this book is very different from Team Phison: a deaf actor from the silent films era discovers a childhood friend is burgling his home. As a compensation, the burglar accepts to steal a lucky charm from a director who has fired the actor. This is a short story, so it was perfect to read during lockdown, when I couldn’t concentrate enough to read longer books.
  • Magic in Manhattan: A new author who has become one of my favourites! I’m really enjoying this series that mixes Fantasy, Romance and Historical. Well, you know that’s my favourite mix, but when it’s done right it’s just… *chef’s kiss*, and Allie Therin does it right. Loved the characters, loved the Manhattan 1925 setting, loved the villains and how the magic worked… and I’m looking forward to the third book of the series!
  • The Craft of love: Yet another author that has returned to my rec list. “The Craft of Love” was the sweet novella I needed during lockdown. The main characters are a cis bi woman who is a quilt maker and a trans man who is a silversmith. There’s a lot about craftsmanship and mutual admiration in this Historical Romance that will make your heart feel warm and cozy.
  • The Greenhollow Duology: Another superb debut author with a series that mixes Fantasy, Romance and Historical. If you like forests, the Victorian Period, myth, legends and folclore, you will love this series. Also, these are novellas, so they’re easier to read for those of us who are not able to keep our concentration for a whole novel at the moment.
  • Something Human: This book is set in a Fantasy world, but I swear it feels like it’s a Historical setting. It’s a true enemies-to-lovers in which two survivors of a battle find and help each other after being enemies on the battlefield. Of course, the two of them are wrong to assume that keeping their own secrets will help them keep their distance as well and, in any case, their friendship and budding romance have an expiry date, and that day is approaching.
  • Rath and Rune: Of course I had to add this series by another of my favourite authors. This is a Whyborne & Griffin spin-off, also set in Widdershins, but they’re so different that I just had to add it on this list. Whyborne and Griffin are not even in Widdershins while the series takes place, but it’s been wonderful to go back to a place that feels like home. Plus, we get to see how the Ladysmith Museum works, and the main characters are a librarian and a bookbinder. I could cry! I might have cried! Not because it was a sad book, but because it was so good.
  • The Last Kiss: I’d enjoyed Sally Malcom’s New Milton series, so I was looking forward to her first Historical Romance, and it did not disappoint. You might think the aftermath of the First World War is not a very cheerful setting, but this book is full of hope and happiness, even through all the terrible difficulties the three main characters have to face in order to achieve their happy endings.
  • Proper English: This is a spin-off novel that focuses on the lesbian couple from “Think of England”, but again it is so different that it deserves its own mention. First, because it’s not part of the same series, and second and most importantly, because it’s the first F/F novel we get from KJ Charles (there was a short novella before this one), so it deserves proper recognition… because Pat and Fen are back to solve another murder! Well, this book actually takes place before the events in “Think of England”, so it should be the other way round, but you know what I mean.
  • Feminine Pursuits: I’m sure you all knew about Olivia Waite, but she has been a discovery for me thanks to this wonderful F/F Historical Romance series that focuses on the jobs that were or weren’t available to single or widowed women in the Regency Period, and the general difficulties of living in such a repressive era, especially as a woman. The level of historical detail in this series is astonishing.

Are my lists becoming more personal as the years go by? Maybe, but with everything that has been going on this year, I didn’t feel like making a post that was too formal, so I hope you enjoyed the fangirling.

Just a reminder that these are 12 books I’ve read and enjoyed during this last year, but they might have been released before 2020. As you know, I had reader’s block for a few months, and I managed to overcome it temporarily by reading (and rereading) more books by some of my favourite authors.

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

December 2020 Update

I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays despite the pandemic, as well as taking care of yourselves and others. I’m not going back home this year, but I’m spending the holidays with my partner, so I was looking forward to them. We’ve ordered some Spanish food online so we don’t feel that far away and we’re planning to meet our friends online.

As for writing, I’ve been focusing on the Sanctuary project since my last monthly update, and I managed to write quite a bit. The short story is starting to look more like a novella! I now have half a draft, a few outlines and character arcs, and even some reference images and maps.

I downloaded OneNote for my smartphone, and I’m now using it to take track of the research links and to take notes. I’m still using my loyal notebooks, of course, but my insomnia worsened and I needed something I could use in the dark. And the app has been useful, since it synchronizes automatically with my laptop. By the way, I’m using the online version on my laptop because it’s free. Just in case that’s relevant to your interests.

Right now, I’m working on making a timeline for the Sanctuary project (I write my scenes out of order, so I hope this helps to keep track of what happens when) and a post with my favourite books among those I’ve read during 2020.

That reminds me… I also achieved my two goals for this month, as you might have seen thanks to Twitter and my notebook update. My goals for next month will be: to finish the book recs post of 2020 and to get myself some art for my projects as a Christmas present. I’ve always thought my stories were not worthy of art, or that at least I should wait until I finished one of the stories before commissioning anything. But I realized that looking for the barely-related images for my Projects page made me happy, so next year I’m gonna try to do it the other way round and find the motivation to finish a WIP in art.

A winter road crossing a pine forest covered in snow.
Photo by Ruvim Miksanskiy on Pexels.com

Eleventh Notebook

Mafalda notebook with a yellow cover and Mafalta looking at a starfish.

After my previous notebook, I started this one because it had been a present from a friend. I chose it before Quino passed away, so it unfortunately took a new and much deeper meaning while I was using it.
It was a pretty nice notebook, with a good size, blue and green pages signed by Mafalda, a document pocket with Mafalda’s face, and a couple of comic strips inside. By the way, the Spanish text in the cover means “And why don’t we start building a better world?”, which is why I thought it would be good to do some world-building next.

Don’t think lockdown has been that good for my writing inspiration. Holidays were, though. And I’ve also used this notebook for my research, which just involved reading and taking notes, so I’m still a turtle writer. Don’t worry.

Anyway, I wrote down several ideas and questions, mostly for the Academy and Sanctuary projects. I also wrote sample outlines and used them with these projects. However, I’m having some trouble with the Academy outline because I tried to merge two characters into one to fix something, and suddenly some other things didn’t make sense. Fortunately, I think I have realized what the problem is, but I ended up so frustrated I couldn’t continue working on Academy any more (and isn’t that the story of my life?), so I focused on Sanctuary then, and I’m still working on it.

November 2020 Update

It’s been a while since my last update, but this time it’s not due to anxiety or a lack of news, but because I can’t use my computer at the moment. I’ve ordered a new laptop (I’d been postponing it for years), but it won’t arrive until New Year, maybe.
During these two months I have participated in both the reading challenge I mentioned and a writing challenge on the Spanish side of Twitter. I made a Twitter thread for those of you who might be interested:

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On this blog, you might have seen I made a new page for my WIPs. Organizing things visually for my blog helped me organize things in my head as well, so it’s been really useful. For real! I even check my own WIP page from time to time to remember what I’m working on.

I’ve also been reorganizing my Scrivener projects while I wait for my new computer to arrive so I can transfer everything and start working as soon as it’s here. I made another short thread about it here:

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I always feel like I don’t do enough because I’m a slow writer and haven’t even started with the drafts, but I realized that, when it’s about my friends, I always tell them that taking notes, working on the outline and doing research also count as writing. I usually don’t check the word count, but I did it now in order to see for myself how hard I’ve worked during this last decade… and I must confess that the results surprised me.


Here is a list of the words I’ve written so far on each project, including research, notes, ideas, etc.:

  • Heroes: 14000
  • Fireflies: 8500
  • Brothers: 19000
  • Alcalá: 5000
  • Oracle: 99000
  • Academy: 15000
  • Feathers: 8700
  • Sanctuary: 6000

I know it’s not much, but that’s a lot for me, especially after these difficult years. So if you’re also a slow writer or just don’t appreciate the work you do, I recommend to look at the whole picture from time to time. All your work matters and you’ve put in much more effort than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Since I cannot use my computer, I’ve been writing a lot on my notebooks and I finished my 11th notebook recently. I’ll make another post to talk about it in more detail.

So, to sum up, I chose some achievable goals last time, but I’m still glad I completed them. My next two goals will be to finish reorganizing my projects and transcribing my 11th notebook so I can transfer everything when my new laptop arrives.

"November" written with dead leaved on the ground.
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels.com

Writing Projects

I’ve talked about my projects before in this post, and I’ve given more details in my notebook updates, but I keep losing track of my ongoing projects because there are so many of them. I saw Spanish authors sometimes have a Future Projects page on their blogs, and I decided to copy the idea because, if it’s difficult for me… no one else would be able to follow, right?

Anyway, I’ve created a list, and now each project comes with a provisional placeholder title, a short explanation and a free stock image. Being able to visualize my projects like this is amazing, and I’m already looking forward to working on them again, so I’m glad I did this.

Hope you like it too!!!

A wolf.

Feathers

A High Fantasy short story

This one is short and has very few characters. Animals, magic and loneliness are important.

I’m working on the outline, but let’s be honest, I’m not a plotter. If only inspiration would take me here…

A volcano erupting against a starry sky.

Oracle

A High Fantasy Romance

This is my longest and most ambitious project, and the first one I started plotting. It’s been years in the making, so it’s had lots of changes, and it will probably have many more before I’m done with it.

It’s going to take a while because it’s a looong story with slow-burn and pining.

Madrid's Plaza Mayor.

Brothers

A Historical Romance

This one will also be set in Spain some centuries ago. If all goes well, it might even have more than one book, each featuring a different couple.

I’m already working on the research phase of this project, but I still don’t know how long it will take.

Want to see more? You can browse through all of them in my new “Projects” page here. And I’ve added the link to the blog’s menu, so you can check them out whenever you want.

September 2020 Update

I’m back with an early update because this blog has been too lonely since June. July was a productive month, actually. I started reading and writing again, and even filled a whole notebook with new ideas, but then I was too tired and overworked to do anything else.

The summer holidays were good and necessary, but I tried to do too much to make the most of the lockdown situation. In the end, I didn’t do even half of what I wanted to do, mainly because I have listed all the stuff I haven’t been able to do in years. Obviously, a short summer holiday wasn’t going to be enough.

But let’s go back to writing. I’ve started to second-guess all those life-or-death decisions I never feel 100% sure about, like using first or third person narrator… or having more than one POV… I sometimes feel like, with every notebook, I take one step forward and two steps back. I try not to overthink, but I can’t help it. I tell myself (and others) that a good story is a finished one, but I haven’t been able to finish anything. I feel like I’ve lost track of how many stories I’ve started. So I’m going back to setting goals.

In the following month, I want to try participating in the Spanish #LeoAutorasOct challenge, which means I will read stories published by authors who use she/her pronouns (yes, NB authors who use she/her pronouns are included). There’s a bingo, too, but I might cheat a bit and cross out more than one option per book. I say cheat, but is it really cheating if the rules state that it’s allowed?

My other goal will be to make a list of future projects. I saw it’s a thing that some Spanish authors do and hopefully it will help me remember what I have in mind because I keep losing track of everything. And lockdown isn’t helping.

I hope you all had a nice summer, and remember to get the flu shot if you can!

Bicycle in the center of a path through the forest. The trees are tall and have green leaves, but the ground is covered with fallen leaves.
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Tenth Notebook

Kimmidoll notebook with a grey cover with green plants and a pink bird. There is a grey ribbon bookmark attached, and at the end it has a kimmidoll wearing a kimono with the notebook's pattern.

I got this Kimmidoll notebook ages ago, when they were still slightly popular, and the pages are already yellowing. The notebook actually fits inside the grey cover, so it could be reused for another notebook, but I don’t have any other notebook that can fit inside.

Anyway, I filled this one with lots of notes because I’ve been doing some research, reading about writing Romance, the history of Madrid and mythology. I also found some notes about how to cope with lockdown, mental health and self-care.

Remember I said I’d decided to write and read what I enjoyed? Well, I was enjoying reading non-fiction, since I’ve always loved learning, and I’ve been writing some random scenes out of order, and it’s been good. I haven’t been writing the story I wanted to finish, but I have for the longest High Fantasy one I’ve been thinking about for years. I started wondering, again, whether I should have one, two or more POVs, so it will take much longer to write.

I’ve come to accept that this is how it works for me. It will take me a long time to finish anything, but if this is what I need to keep enjoying it, that’s what I’ll do. If it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself, it’s because I am, but I’ve realized that, after deciding I’m going to take my time and follow inspiration, I started writing more in my notebook. I finished it sooner than I expected and I’ve already started another one, so this new method might be working!

Yes, I write less often. Yes, I write only what I feel like and don’t try to focus on one project any more. But somehow, I’m also writing more than when I was trying to force myself to write daily for the same project. So maybe this is my method.

Maybe you think I could have posted this sooner given I finished the notebook so fast, and you’d be right. I had planned to post this back in July, but I’ve been too busy at work and didn’t have time to finish transcribing the notebook. I just can’t sit down and stare at a computer for so many hours. It’s not good for my mental health.

Anyway, now I’ve finished this, so I can celebrate and move forward!

June 2020 Update

Last “monthly” update was April because I skipped May’s. I guess there wasn’t much to tell. I was still unable to read, but I did write a bit and started a new notebook. I had some free days and, although I spent them in lockdown, I’m sure they’re the reason I was able to relax enough to keep writing despite the anxiety.

I decided that I’m not going to focus on finishing anything at the moment because I’m no good at it. If I feel like writing a scene, that’s what I’ll do. If I feel like doing some research, that’s great. I’ve just decided not to care if what I’m doing is good or useful. I just want to enjoy what I’m doing.

In June, work has been busy, but I’ve been able to concentrate more. Maybe I’m getting used to working from home, but I’m still too exhausted to write afterwards and I definitely don’t want to stay all day in front of the same computer.

Compared to April and May, I’m feeling a bit better now, but maybe I’m misremembering because the bad times have passed… I did have some some dark moments that required an emergency therapy session. I’m doing much better now, though, so I’m focusing on that!

At least I’ve been reading again, which I take as proof that I’m doing better.
I realized I was unable to enjoy new books, so I’ve been re-reading some old favourites. With the help of my book recs posts, I’ve been able to make a rather long list of books I want to re-read. Since I didn’t even want to re-read books when I was at my worst, this is a good sign for me.

Let’s hope I can keep it up during the month of July!

Blue butterflies among mushrooms.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com