Book recs – Year 4

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:

Collage with the 12 covers of the books mentioned below.
  • 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.

Twitter – Livetweeting

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.

Deosil preorder banner.

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:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

September 2019 Update

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.

Hope you all enjoyed the end of summer!

Photo by Brett Schaberg on Pexels.com

August 2019 Update

I’m afraid I haven’t been able to achieve the goals I’d set for the month of August. That is, writing two outlines for my two short stories.

At first, I was terribly busy and didn’t have time at all. Then I went away on holidays, but it was a road trip and I have motion sickness, so no writing. And after that… well, the month was gone. I’d already mentioned I was going to be very busy and I set easy goals, but I was still unsure. And yeah, I was so busy I had to do overtime at work.

September looks a bit less busy so far, but I’ve been writing things unrelated to the goals I’d set. Still research and outlines, but, maybe unsurprisingly, not for the stories I’m supposed to be writing.

So I’m going to count that as a win, because I didn’t overwork myself, my anxiety is mostly under control, and I’ve managed to write a bit, even if it’s not what I’d intended to write. For September, I’m going to set the same goals. And I’m going to start a new notebook!

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About Fan Fiction

Ten months ago I wrote a post about Romance that was my personal love letter to the genre, and now I want to do the same for fan fiction.

Fan fiction (or fanfiction) is another type of writing that, like Romance, is condemned and vilified by those who believe they have the intellectual higher ground. Given that most fanfics also depict a romantic or sexual relationship between two or more characters, I believe many of those who deride fanfiction are the same who look down on Romance.

Of course, we all know that some people have different issues with fan fiction, mainly ones that stem from legal concerns. Many are scared of plagiarism, which —for the record— is very different from fan fiction. Others don’t want to share their own characters and ideas with random people from the Internet. But I think there are some issues that may be caused by people not being familiar with fanfiction; they don’t understand what fanfiction really is about and where it comes from.

Fanfiction is not something new created by the weird people of the Internet. The term fanfiction predates the creation of the world wide web by half a century. The name first appeared in 1939 and fan fiction became an important part of fandom culture in the 60s thanks to Star Trek, but derivative fiction written with characters and settings established by a previous author or based on a non-fictional subject that attracted many followers has been an important part of mankind’s literature since the beginning of the written word. Think about Shakespeare, the fake sequel to Don Quixote, the Arthurian cycle, and even the apocryphal gospels. When the novels published in installments were popular, people used to write their own additions and endings as they waited for the following chapter to arrive; sometimes they would send them to friends and family, and that is how the Brontë sisters got published. So we admire writers who have composed fanfiction and we call some derivative works “classics”, but still the mention of the term fanfic makes people sneer.

And nevertheless, we keep writing fan fiction.

Like many of us, I started reading fan fiction because the canon was not enough. Not satisfactory enough, not happy enough, not gay enough… And, somehow, I ended up discovering a community of people who wrote both fanfics and Romance novels that covered all my needs. I made new friends, read fanfics whenever I was too stressed for anything else, went back to writing… discovered that what I used to write for my school friends was basically fan fiction… then started to write in English and, eventually, decided to write my own original stories. And here we are.

Fanfiction is an important part of fandom, of literature, and of our lives. And that is why AO3 winning a well-deserved Hugo Award made me so happy and emotional this week. The fact that people have started to notice and appreciate fan fiction globally, and that they’ve awarded a site that was created to fight against censorship and other limitations is a huge step. But don’t just take my word for it. You can read some cool articles about this on Polygon, Vox and The Mary Sue.

So… have you ever read or written fanfiction? Has it helped you in any way?

The Hugo Award won by Archive of Our Own.
Our Shared Hugo Award. Photo taken from the OTW’s tumblr post.

July 2019 Update

My goals for July were to finish transcribing another notebook and, being up to date, to decide what to write first. But I’m pretty bad at decision-making, so I made a list and divided the stories I wanted to write into four groups. Group 1 had all the long stories, so that was out of the question. Group 2 had medium-sized stories with several ideas. Group 3 had short stories that needed more development, and Group 4 was formed by mere ideas. I wanted to choose one particular story from Group 2, but I knew I’d need a lot of time to do research (not as much as Group 1, but still), and I think I’m not ready for that yet. Maybe the problems I had with my PhD still affect me.

Somehow, world-building doesn’t feel so insurmountable at the moment, so I’ve chosen two fantasy stories that will just need some preliminary research. I didn’t want to choose one so soon, so my goal will be to write the two outlines during the month of August, and then decide if I want to write one of the stories, both or none.

I’ll keep you updated!

By the way, July has been a good month in general. I feel more positive nowadays, and I have more good weeks than bad ones per month. I even felt curious about my own notebook and I had fun transcribing it. That’s great news for me!

I also participated in my first Pride Parade ever! It was a lot of work, but I had fun and shared candies and rainbows with lots of people. Unfortunately, I’m very busy at work at the moment, but I’m taking care of myself. It’s always good to have friends that remind you to take a break now and then. My month could have ended badly if it weren’t for them.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Eighth Notebook

Cover of the Embellished Manuscripts notebook with a draft by Chopin and his signature.

The Embellished Manuscript collection is back! This one has the music sheet of one of Chopin’s Polonaises on the cover. Beautiful, right? I’m in love with this notebook. Chopin means a lot to me because I’ve studied piano in the past. I’ve probably told you I touched a piece of music handwritten by Chopin once, right? It was in one of the Writing Workshops I attended as a teenager. A historian brought one from her private collection and I was shocked when she let me hold it in my hands. You may laugh, but in that moment I thought that no one had trusted me with something so important before. I still feel humbled and honoured whenever I think about it.

Ahem, well, let’s get to the most important part in a notebook: what’s inside.

Of course, there’s always a lot of ideas and worldbuilding for the long fantasy story, so no need to keep telling you that. What I find interesting is there’s always something I’d forgotten I’d written. In my previous notebook, the new stories I found weren’t worth your time, but in this one I saw a couple I haven’t dismissed completely yet.

One of them looked like fun, but I didn’t know where it was going. At first I thought it was related to a fantasy story I had, but I’m not sure now.

Then there was a long outline for a thing I restarted in a different notebook (my current notebook), so I haven’t transcribed that one yet. I feel a bit like cheating because it took a quarter of the notebook, but I’m not going to write an outline 4 times.

I also found some notes I took during one of my research trips and a couple of weird dreams I’d forgotten about, so it was quite fun.

June 2019 Update

Holidays were a bit stressful for me because I got sick, so I spent a couple of weeks recovering and getting used to work again.

Once I got into it, transcribing the seventh notebook wasn’t hard at all. The Pact ™ has kept me motivated, even if I’m still doubting and second-guessing myself. I know making decisions is an important part of writing, so I’m trying to ignore my constant misgivings and keep pushing forward. Well, at least when it’s about transcribing my notebooks… because I still haven’t decided which project I want to draft for The Pact.

I know the doubts will be there with anything I choose, and if I have to choose between writing a draft and thinking it’s not the right one, and not writing anything… well, I’ve done the not writing already, so it’s about time I finished a draft, right? And they’re all going to feel wrong, so the only thing I can do is… try to do my best.

Anyway, you may have noticed I’ve posted not only one, but two posts with book recommendations. I wanted to share good books to read during Pride Month. My goals for the month were to finish transcribing a notebook and to post the Year 2 of Books I Loved as a Romance Reader. As you can see, I’ve been a bit of an overachiever; I did both, and then also posted Year 3 for Pride Week.

But Pride is not over for me! And I didn’t just mean it in the metaphorical sense. It’s still Pride Week in Spain, and we still have to celebrate it in Germany, so I’ll try to keep it up.

After reading this, my own post, I’ve decided my goals for July will be 1) to finish transcribing another notebook and, since I’ll be up to date by then, 2) to decide what to start writing first.

I also want to do something for German Pride, but I don’t know what. I don’t want to stress anyone with more book recs, so what would you like to see?

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