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!
This will be the last of these posts, because we’ve finally reached 2019. I may start yearly book recs posts next year if you’re interested, but this is it for now. When you see the list, you’ll notice that last year was very difficult for me and I needed shorter books and lots of feel-good stories.
If you’re looking for something different, 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 and year four.
And last, but not least, here are the best books/series I discovered during my fifth year as a Romance reader:
Red, White and Royal Blue: Another fun read, this time a New Adult novel that probably you all know and love by now. In case you don’t because you’ve been living under a rock, it answers the question of what would happen if, in an alternate universe, the son of the President of the USA fell in love with the Prince of Wales. It may not be very realistic, but it’s enjoyable and it made me happy, which is what matters most at this moment.
Briarley: A Beauty and the Beast retelling. The main character is a parson and a veteran from the First World War. He gets lost in the British countryside and ends up in a cursed mansion. When he’s about to run away, he sees the perfect roses by the gate and picks one for his daughter. Briarley Hall’s dragonish master accuses him of theft, and in the end the parson decides to stay and help him and his servants break the 100-years curse by getting a dog.
Team Phison: If you like Contemporary, you’ll love this series about a tender couple who meet while playing videogames and fall in love little by little, as they learn to face their insecurities and the age gap between them. Any of the two books has a deeply satisfying ending and I loved the couple’s found family, so give it a try if you need something soft and cheerful.
Salt Magic, Skin Magic: John Blake is an industrial magician who can befriend and listen to inanimate objects. He’s investigating a young and dissipated nobleman, looking for proof that he’s using magic for nefarious purposes. Fortunately (for John’s heart, at least), it turns out the attractive nobleman is the one under a mysterious spell that prevents him from leaving his father’s estate. But does the spell come from the fairies, curses, a hedgehog?
In Other Lands: A hilarious YA novel that mixes our world with the Borderlands, where mermaids, elves and unicorns live. The characters are very fun to read and show a very well-developed growth through the years. I especially enjoyed the matriarchal society of elves; its depiction always made me laugh out loud and startle people around me.
Unfit to Print: Somehow related to the KJ Charles books I read during my third year (there’s a book written by one of the MCs). New and diverse characters. One of the MCs is a lawyer, the other sells pornography. They’re forced to work together to solve a murder and a disappearance, hoping they’re not too late to save the second boy who has gone missing. The main obstacle is not the case, however, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Abroad: Very interesting New Adult duology about a Russian Jewish immigrant who discovers his sexuality while he’s studying abroad in London. The story uses other three POVs (the others are his black boyfriend and his bisexual best friend) to treat serious topics like immigration, racism, homophobia and mental health.
Smoke Signals: Very fun story about a dragon who is a game hoarder and the customer support employee who has to install all of his platform’s videogames because the dragon has just learned there are digital games he didn’t know about and needs to own all of them as soon as possible. It’s short, so I don’t wanna spoil it, but I assure you it’s fun.
No Rulebook for Flirting: A novelette set in Spain, with a trans MC and lots of board games. Low conflict and a very happy ending that was exactly what I needed. Very recommended for those who want a short romance with banter, flirting and a comforting resolution.
Signs of Love: Very interesting idea, using zodiac signs as a basis for creating the characters and exploring different tropes with each couple. The result is a fun New Adult series that appeals to all kinds of readers. You’ll find very sweet characters with cute and light-hearted love stories that are easy to read and will make you laugh.
Regency Imposters: A new series by Cat Sebastian. Don’t judge a book by its cover, because this series is also brimming with queer characters. As always, very good anxiety representation and wonderful deep characters with the most exciting and sweetest love stories in this Historical Romance series where things (and people) are never what they seem.
Dark is the Night: Probably the darkest series I read last year, so please feel free to ask about CWs if you want. Apparently it’s YA, but I didn’t realize when I read it, so I’d say it’s a Paranormal Romance set in a haunted boarding school with very real and very dangerous ghosts, as well as other darker mysteries. Very likable MCs and very despicable villains.
Because isolation, depression and anxiety are now affecting all of us, I thought it would be a good moment to share my favourite reads from last year. When I was having a hard time and feeling guilty for not being able to read the way I used to, these books helped me feel better. You’ll notice I enjoyed shorter reads, mainly with light and fun romances, plus many of them are YA or NA. I hope everyone can find a book that will make them feel better, be it from this list or elsewhere. Take care and stay healthy! Happy Pride!
A bit late, but I wanted to finish transcribing my ninth notebook before I wrote this, so it’s taken a while. Since my last update, I’ve gone back to work (now from home) and realized I suffer from what I’ve seen people call Quarantine Brain Fog. My sleep pattern is in a what-is-a-pattern state, I forget all sorts of things (words especially) and, even though I’ve never been able to comprehend linear time that well, right now time has no meaning whatsoever.
One good thing that came from all this is that I’ve been putting my mental health first, so I’ve stopped writing from Monday to Saturday. From Monday to Friday I try to focus on my job, then I get upset because I can’t, and then I try to rest until I feel well enough to go to sleep. On Fridays and Saturdays I’m exhausted. So it’s not until Sunday when my batteries have recharged enough for me to write. And I’m enjoying it when I do, it’s just… I can’t do it while I’m working.
My goal now is to keep writing as long as I’m enjoying it. And that happens when I’m well rested, so I’m making sure I rest a lot after work. The difficult part is not feeling guilty. Although it somehow feels easier now that we’re all in it together. Knowing that this is a normal reaction to the pandemic and quarantine and that I should be careful with a few specific things helps a lot. People share their experience and advice everywhere, even on newspapers, and I’m more aware of my emotional state, even if the ups and downs are always unexpected and I can’t read anything right now.
So yeah, it’s been a slow process, but I’m writing, and even though I only write for some hours on Sundays, I managed to fill the second half of a notebook. This is more than I’ve written in the past 5 months, so I’m thinking I should accept this is my new pace. Although it’s slow… if it works, it works.
If you were looking forward to seeing more posts about notebooks, you might have noticed it’s been a long time since my previous one. I was going to say this was due to me catching up with the present once I finished my eighth notebook, but then I realized it’s been 10 months.
Of course, I had several months of non-writing because… we can call it writer’s block because I don’t know if it was anxiety, burnout, depression… or all/none of the above. Plus, I don’t want to bore you with the details.
What I wanted to tell you is that this notebook was a present from one of my best friends, who has always supported my writing. The cover is smooth and water resistant, and there is a little secret:
I started it last September, and I did mention the notebook in my update back then. I thought I was going to finish soon, but life happens. I managed to meet my goal of reaching the middle of the notebook in October, but I didn’t even post an October update. I started writing again in March, so I’ve finished the other half of the notebook since then. It’s a welcome change.
Anyway, about what I wrote in it… Remember I said I wanted to focus on one or two of my unfinished stories and finish them? Well, I did remember, but I didn’t do it anyway. I started working on them, but then I had some interesting ideas for a different one, so I had to write those down. As a result, this notebook is again a representation of my inner chaos and I haven’t finished anything at all.
Still, I’m glad I’m writing and having ideas again, so I’m not really complaining. It’s hard to come up with words these days, so I feel fortunate for this tiny, flimsy light in the middle of the dark.
I’ve been quiet for a long time and just came back to post some book recs for people who want to read during their quarantine/lockdown/isolation. I wanted to contribute somehow, as I regret not having written something I could share for free, but I wasn’t planning on doing anything else (not even updates) at the moment.
However, I started checking my old updates and realized they’ve helped me a lot. I had previously noticed, while checking what I’ve read to make my book recommendation posts, that January and February are the worst months for me. Now I’ve noticed that every year I stop updating around October. October, November and December are very busy months, which might mean my anxiety peaks and that’s why January and February are bad months for me.
I always get sick around February and March, too. Although I can see now that I start feeling better during March. Usually, anxiety and depression get more manageable as the days get longer and warmer. Does that mean I have Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, it is a mood disorder, so it can be related to my anxiety and depression even if I don’t have SAD (because I still have anxiety all year round, so it’s not a seasonal thing). It’s clear that the lack of sunlight affects me more than I thought, so I’ve bought one of those light therapy things, but I’m not sure if it’s the right thing for me. Do you have similar issues and is there anything you recommend?
In any case, I just wanted to explain how the monthly updates are working quite well for me. I’m sorry if it gets boring for you people, but I’m learning a lot about myself and my seasonal patterns. I see bullet journals have become quite popular nowadays. Do you have one and does it help you in this way?
I think some of you may welcome the chance to add more books to your TBR lists while we are quarantined. I know I love all the recommendations and free ebooks being shared around, even if my Kindle has 100 unread ebooks! For those of you who are new here, I’ve already shared three lists with book recommendations: from my first year as a Romance reader, the second year, and the third. Each post has a list with 12 books or series that became my favourite ones that year, so feel free to check them out as well. Some of them are free while we are quarantined.
And now, here are the best books/series I discovered during my fourth year as a Romance reader:
Seven Summer Nights: This was the year I found out Harper Fox is a must-have in every Best of Romance list, and this is my favourite Harper Fox novel. It’s set after the Second World War, and it’s a hopeful, wonderful read. There’s an archaeologist with a rescue dog, a biker vicar, amnesia, PTSD, magic, legends… If you like books where the town is more than just a setting, you are going to love this one.
The Remaking of Corbin Wale: One of those books that help restore your faith in humanity. Reading this novel will make you feel cozy and warm inside, because it’s like slowly kneading and baking a bread you know will taste delicious. A taste of what can be found in this novel: sweet MCs, a bakery, Chanukah, mental health issues and possibly even a bit of magic.
Seducing the Sedgwicks: As I mentioned, Cat Sebastian had already become one of my favourite writers, so I knew I’d also love this soon-to-be trilogy. In it, there’s another family of siblings who find love in the place they least expected. The cover I chose for the image above belongs to the first novel, which is an amazing m/m retelling of The Sound of Music. If that doesn’t make you want to read the book immediately, I don’t know what to tell you.
On a Lee Shore: After reading (and loving) another book by Elin Gregory the previous year, I decided to try the rest of them. My favourite one was this pirate slow-burn m/m Historical Romance novel with very charming characters and a very interesting setting. Believe me! You’ll enjoy seeing how the relationship changes and evolves over time, and learn a lot about naval battles on the way.
Love Lessons: Another series by an author I’d discovered the previous year. It’s the first Contemporary Romance on the list, as the action takes place in a USA university campus. The series explores the different relationships sprouting among students. There are lots of LGBTQ+ characters, some opposites-attract relationships, disabled characters with good representation, and one of my beloved favourite-character-that-I-used-to-hate sequels.
Aubrey & Lindsey: Another Historical Romance. This one can also be read as a wonderful m/m retelling of North & South (and not George Bernard Shaw’s play). The main characters are sweet and lovable, and the relationship works perfectly, even when the class difference is one of the most important issues the main couple has to face. Fortunately, they’re both very aware of where they stand, and the admiration and love they feel for each other might not be everything they need, but it’s a good first step in the right direction.
SPECTR: Another great series by Jordan L. Hawk. This one is formed by action-packed Urban Fantasy novels that read a bit like a TV series: there are seasons, and each novel would be a new episode, with some unbelievable cliffhangers between episodes, and some plot twists in the final book of each season. The second season is as good as the first one, if not better, and you still have time to join the third season.
The Doctor’s Discretion: An amazing m/m Historical Romance. The main characters, one of the first black doctors in the USA and a disabled army surgeon, have to learn to work together if they want to finish the job. Soon, they learn they have more in common than they thought, and they understand each other so well that, when the surgeon meets a patient who is going to be experimented on before being confined to an asylum, they will have to prove the depth of their trust while they try to save the patient.
Family of Lies: I loved the first novel and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. This Fantasy Romance made me laugh almost non-stop. The level of banter is off the charts, and all the characters are very complex and interesting, especially Sebastian’s family. Just a warning: this book doesn’t give you anything for free; you have to work for it, but every time you discover something new is so satisfying… you will be glad you did your work.
The Dark Collector: Another Contemporary Romance, this time a short one with a bit of BDSM. There are some difficult topics in this one, and I’m not talking about the BDSM, but about the death of a loved one, the relationship between the model and the artist when it’s not just a job, the objectification of the muse through the eyes of the viewer… and of the muse himself. It can get a bit dark at times, but it’s a very enjoyable novella.
Mended with Gold: Another warm and cozy Contemporary Romance. This one is set in New Zealand and feels like a breeze of fresh air that smells of the sea. A professional photographer with PTSD buys a house after finding a mysterious man sleeping inside. The man turns out to be a comic book artist who makes him feel, thanks to his unique view of the world, that maybe it’s fine if he isn’t the man he used to be.
Band Sinister: A very fun Historical Romance full of wonderful characters that learn to live under the enormous weight of expectations in different ways. One of the MCs has anxiety, and his sister has written a Gothic novel based on their neighbour, who belongs to a hellfire club called The Murder. Worrying about them finding out becomes secondary when his sister breaks a leg while trespassing. Now the two of them must spend several weeks with The Murder, and he doesn’t quite know if he wants to find out which rumours are true.
That was a very good year, as you can see. For some reason, I get the feeling the books I enjoyed most were less dark and more hopeful in general. Might be because my anxiety was very bad at that moment.
And we’re getting closer to the present day. Only one of these left now, so I’ll come back to it in another moment. As always, let me know if you need to know about CWs, or if you want more personalized recommendations.
I usually share the posts I make here on Twitter, but this time I’m doing it the other way round. Just in case you might be interested in what I’m doing over there at the moment.
But first, some background. You all already know how important the Whyborne & Griffin series is to me, right? I mean, I’ve certainly mentioned it before (here and here, for instance). Well, the final book of the series was released a couple of days ago and, when I was about to start reading, I realized I wasn’t ready for the series to end.
So I did the only thing I could do: I started re-reading the whole series. And because I had to do something with all those overflowing feelings, I decided to livetweet as I go.
It’s the first time I do something like this, because I’m always afraid nobody is going to be interested in what I think and people will find me annoying. But I’m trying to care less about what others think about me. I guess the important thing is to have fun and enjoy it myself, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far. However, I’m but a beginner, so feel free to tell me if there’s anything I could have done better.
If you want to check the thread out (I made a thread so it’s easier to mute for those who feel spammed), it starts here:
Before I start, I need you all to know that this is one of my favourite books ever. The first #paranormalromance I've read, so it really changed my life, and I've been following the series for years. I'm drowning in FEELS. pic.twitter.com/F75dWzJgok
Not a very fruitful month, but more than the previous one. I’ve finished the outlines I intended to write, but they’re very vague. With points that read “Shit happens, but they solve it somehow”. You know, not very detailed. So I’m not very happy with them, but that’s not the only thing I’ve done.
I’ve been gone on a research trip that helped me with one of the stories, which is starting to sound more and more interesting to me. This research trip involved going to a beach in Northern Spain, so it was nice. And I bought some books, did some reading and had some good ideas that sound like they’ll be fun to write. I’m looking forward to it, but I do need free time.
I did start a new notebook and I’ve filled a quarter of it, so I should be proud, but I want to do more. It feels like it’s never enough, and I’m the first to tell my friends off when they do this to themselves, so I’m trying to follow my own advice and take it easy.
And now that I mention taking it easy… I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo because it’s the opposite… and I’m not going to officially start this year, but I do wonder whether it’ll be good to have a month in which I prioritize writing, even if I do it on my own and I don’t finish the story.
So I have two new goals for October: to get things ready so I can start writing in November (maybe I can make a better outline and work on research), and to fill at least half of my new notebook.