Book Recommendations

Sunday book recommendation

Today’s book recommendation is so very British, I think it’s impossible to read it without a cup of tea. So go make a cuppa of your favorite tea, light a couple candles, and curl up on the couch with this book. It’s also one of the few books that have gripped me from the first page lately, so it deserves extra credit for that.

takingstockIt’s 1972.

Fifteen years ago, teenage Laurie Henshaw came to live at Webber’s Farm with his elderly uncle and settled in to the farming life. Now, age thirty-two, he has a stroke in the middle of working on the farm. As he recovers, he has to come to terms with the fact that some of his new limitations are permanent and he’s never going to be as active as he used to be. Will he be able to accept the helping hands his friends extend to him?

With twenty successful years in the City behind him, Phil McManus is hiding in the country after his boyfriend set him up to take the fall for an insider trading deal at his London stockbroking firm. There’s not enough evidence to prosecute anyone, but not enough to clear him either. He can’t bear the idea of continuing his old stagnating life in the city, or going back to his job now everyone knows he’s gay.

Thrown together in a small country village, can Phil and Laurie forge a new life that suits the two of them and the makeshift family that gathers round them? Or are they too tied up in their own shortcomings to recognise what they have?


Quote from Taking Stock by A.L. Lester

Taking Stock is a lovely, lovely book. It’s slow and gentle and quiet, and everything that I love in a story. It has found families and hurt/comfort, two of my favorite tropes. But most of all, it’s full of the kind of romance I love the most. There are no grand gestures or the cliched over-the-top things associated with romance. No, it’s a quiet kind of love. It’s two men sitting at a kitchen table, one massaging the other’s hand and arm, and they talk. It’s one man being there for the other when he’s needed, whether the other man wants to admit he needs help or not.

Very carefully, very gently, he put his hands on the curved knobs of Laurie’s shoulder, warm under his shirt. Laurie could shake him off easily if he so desired. Phil didn’t say anything. He just offered silent support.

Laurie was thin under the soft cotton. They stood for a while, doing nothing but breathing and looking out the window. Gradually Laurie relaxed and as he did, he swayed back, just a little, until some of his weight was resting on Phil. It felt nice, to take the weight for someone else.

Eventually, Laurie dashed his good hand over his face. Wiping his eyes, Phil thought. “Tea’s getting cold,” Laurie said.

Quote from Taking Stock by A.L. Lester
Quote from Taking Stock by A.L. Lester

Taking Stock is about ordinary people overcoming extra-ordinary circumstances. Dealing with whatever shit life throws at them the best way they can. It’s full of warmth and friendships and support, and most of all, it’s a quiet, wonderful romance.

This is a definite re-read for me. This is five glorious stars and a heart full of love for Laurie and Phil. Buy this book, read it today. You won’t regret it.

About Nell

Reading slump

I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Since the summer, really, since my university courses. I should have realized this would happen: it happened the last time I took literature courses at university and was forced into required reading, and it happened again this time. In my defense, I didn’t know one of the courses would require such an excessive amount of reading, considering it was a writing course. And yes, I understand and acknowledge and agree that reading is very important for a writer, but when a writing course consists of 75% reading and 25% writing, something has gone wrong if you ask me.

So I haven’t read a lot this fall. Oh, I’ve read books, don’t misunderstand me. But compared to the usual amount of books and fanfic I’m usually consuming, I’ve read very little. I’m 12 books behind schedule on my Goodreads challenge to read 200 books this year. And usually 200 books in a year would be no problem at all.

Very few books or stories grip me. I’ve downloaded a gazillion samples from Amazon, read them and discarded them again. I’ve searched my favorite tropes and ships on AO3, but nope. And to be honest, I’m starting to despair. Especially since I’ve planned a Christmas thingy for my blog, but have reading to do to complete it. Now I fear that I have to scrap those plans, and I don’t want to.

But the other day I stumbled upon a video recommendation in my YouTube feed, titled How To Get Out of a Reading Slump. It was as if the YouTube algorithm read my mind and provided me with exactly what I needed (for once, it never happens, but needle-haystack and all that). YouTuber gabbyreads has made a list of 7 action points for you to try if you’re in a reading slump, and I’m definitely trying them out. I’m linking the video at the bottom of this post for you to watch if you want; it’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time if you’re in a similar situation like me, but I’m writing out her suggestions here, too, in case you don’t like watching YouTube videos.

  1. Take a break. Spend some time doing some of your other hobbies.
  2. Re-read a favorite book, even if it hasn’t been long since you read it. It will remind you why you love reading in the first place.
  3. Read short books
  4. Try an audio book, maybe listen to a favorite book on audio
  5. Read something that’s easy to get through, something lighter. Maybe a thriller with shorter chapters, or a romance that makes you smile
  6. Read something out of your comfort zone. Choose a genre you usually don’t read
  7. Try to find an atmosphere that makes you want to read

Those are excellent and thoughtful suggestions, and her arguments for each item on the list are interesting. Some of them won’t help me. I already read mostly short books, and audio books drive me crazy because I’m a fast reader and audio is sooooo slooooooow, and my preferred genre is romance, so number 5 won’t help either. And taking a break, spending time on one of my other hobbies? What other hobbies? Reading is my hobby. But yeah…maybe I’ll try to find those watercolors I bought earlier this year and give it another go?

I’ve already got number seven figured out: I curl up on the couch, light some candles, make a cup of tea, and put on a YouTube fire. That works perfectly.

So I guess that leaves number two and number six. And number one, if I can find my watercolors. I’ve found The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Scribd for number six. I don’t read Gothic novels, at least not anymore, but I watched another YouTube video where the creator said she knew of the story but had never read it, so she decided to change that and loved it. It’s the same for me, so I’ll try it.

And when it comes to re-reading a favorite, I’ve made a list of eight books, hoping I don’t need to re-read them all to get back into the swing of things.

8 favorite books

Tell me: do you have any tricks of what you do when you’re in a book slump?

And here’s the video I’m talking about:

About Nell

#TBT: In My Arms Again

A reviewer gave In My Arms Again five stars and said it was “engrossing, atmospheric, and utterly heartwarming.”

Trapped in a growing sense of restlessness, Oxen the hunter is lonely. Feeling like he’s waiting for something—or someone—he’s unable to focus on getting ready for winter. But when a handsome and very ill stranger collapses on his doorstep, everything changes.

The stranger, Vinge, is from a Pegasus family but has never been able to transform. As soon as he awakens, both men feel an instant connection, and it grows deeper as Oxen nurses him back to health. Something profound within each man calls out to the other, but neither of them knows what it is.

The questions surrounding Vinge and their deepening relationship are many. Why is Vinge so familiar to Oxen when they clearly have never met? Why are they both reluctant to take the first step to a real commitment?  And what will it take for the true depth of their connection be revealed?

M/M paranormal historical fantasy / 21809 words


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add to goodreads

A pegasus shifter who can’t shift. A lonely hunter. An unexpected familiarity.

As I feared, the effect of the fever-reducing tea wanes even quicker this time, and soon the stranger grows restless. His legs move under the covers, his head whipping from side to side, and he mumbles something I can’t make out. I hurry over to his side and kneel by the bed. Carefully, I place my hand on his shoulder and squeeze.

“Honored stranger.” I keep my voice low and movements slow, so I won’t scare him. His eyes move rapidly under his eyelids and he turns his head toward my voice. It’s the most reaction I’ve gotten from him so far.

He struggles to free his arms from under the covers, and I lift the rabbit fur to help them out in the open. He calms a little when his arms are no longer restrained, so I take the opportunity to study him.

His color is much better than before; the grayish tinge and the fever roses are gone. I lay my wrist against his forehead and sigh in relief as he’s no longer burning up.

I sit back on my heels.

Curious. Very curious.

Maybe my fears that the tea hurt him were unfounded. Instead, it seems as though it has helped him, but at an accelerated pace.

Never in my life have I seen someone with such a high fever recover so quickly.

I brush away a strand of hair from his face. “Who are you?” I whisper.

When he seems to be sleeping restfully again, I get to my feet, but as I turn to leave, a tug on my sleeve and his faint voice stops me. “Do not leave. Please.”

The sound of his voice makes me jump, even though it’s more like a whisper than anything else. I look down on him; his arm out, hand holding my sleeve, eyes still closed.

“Do not leave,” he repeats.

“I will only fetch you some water, stranger. You must be parched.”

He tugs on my sleeve again as if to stop me, but after a moment he releases his grip. Crossing the floor with a few hurried steps, I pour fresh cool water from the flagon into a bowl.

His eyes are still closed when I kneel next to the bed again, but I can tell he’s awake by the way his head tracks my movements.

“I will lift your head and help you drink,” I explain before touching him again, and he tilts his chin down, giving me permission. I slide my hand around his neck, cup the back of his head, and ease it off the bed. He drinks in deep gulps until the bowl is empty, and when I lower him back down to the pillow, he sighs.

“Thank you, Hunter.”

I stiffen at his words. “Do you know me?”

Slowly, he moves his hand from his side and lays it on his chest. “I feel you,” he says.

“How?” My head is spinning with all the questions this man’s arrival has brought. For every passing hour, they multiply, and I can no longer keep track of them all.

The stranger doesn’t answer my question — somehow I knew he wouldn’t — so I try another approach. “I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I know not who you are.”

His pries his eyelids open, long eyelashes fluttering like a hummingbird’s wing. Even in the dim light of the cabin — cast only by the flames in the hearth — I can make out the color of his eyes: so dark they’re almost completely black, generously sprinkled with flecks of gleaming gold, and despite the obvious tiredness, his gaze is bottomless and intense. It pulls me in and settles some of the restlessness in my chest at the same time.

And when he looks at me, I understand what he’s talking about.

I can feel him, his presence. As though his heart beats next to mine in my chest. As though his breath mingles with mine when it leaves my mouth, as though I see myself through his eyes. As though I know him.

“My name …” His voice falters.

“… is Vinge,” I finish, a gasp escaping at my own words.


Writing Update

Writing update

Hi everyone, I hope you had a great weekend. It started out nerve-racking, but by Saturday it looked up, when the American election finally was called in favor of Joe Biden. That’s worth celebrating and me and my husband did even if we’re not Americans.

I’m a NaNoWriMo participant this month. Keep your fingers crossed I’ll win!

But I was going to talk about writing, and not politics. This month, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and the goal is to write 50 000 words in November. Earlier years, I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo which happens twice a year: in April and July. The difference is that in Camp you can choose your own word count goal, and don’t have to aim for 50K if you don’t want to. I’ve always felt that 50K, approximately 1667 words/day, in a month is an unattainable goal for me, so I’ve never signed up for it. But in July, when I wasn’t even going to participate in Camp NaNo but got talked into it (and set a low goal of 5000 because I was studying at university and didn’t think I’d have the time to write at all) I accidentally wrote over 50 000 words. Accidentally, you wonder? Yeah, that was when I started my morning writing habit and finished three stories in July. So I thought Why not try “real” NaNoWriMo this year?

And so far so good. I’m ahead, and the NaNo website has calculated that I “only” need to write 1534 words/day (instead of 1667) to finish on November 30. My total word count as I write this blog post is 18062 words, so 3000 words ahead of where I should be to avoid falling behind.

I’m currently writing a short story (it won’t be over 15000 words) and I’m on the last chapter. The problem is that I can’t make the last chapter work. I wrote 750 words on it yesterday that I scrapped this morning because I was unhappy with them. And this morning I wrote 1800 new words for my last chapter, and I’m not really sure I like them either. These might be redeemable, though, the ones yesterday weren’t. I’ll think on it until tomorrow and then decide.

My Meet Cute Chronicles that I wrote about in my last writing update – and by the way, I settled on it for a subtitle, so thanks to you who weighed in 😍 – are moving forward. They Met in the Library is submitted to JMS Books and will be published on January 13. They Met in the Park is with beta readers, and They Met in the Woods only needs one last read-through before it’s ready for betas.

Wanna read the blurb?

Adrian, book-lover extraordinaire, adores his job at the small community library. He gets to share his passion with other people and help them with all book-related questions and issues. When a big, hulking man walks into the library, looking terrified, Adrian’s skills are tested in a completely different way.

Manne’s relationship with books is uneasy, to say the least. He’s dyslexic and events in his past have made him fearful of books and turned libraries into his worst nightmare. But when the quirky, bowtie-wearing librarian steps in to help, the experience turns positive.

Their banter is easy and their chemistry instant. But can an accidental meeting turn into something more? Can someone who has trouble reading ever fit into the life of a man whose passion is the written word?

I also have some very good news: my story Always You made it to this year’s Top Ten Gay Romance anthology! Yaaaay, that makes me so happy. As usual, JMS Books bundle together their top ten selling short stories from the year, and I’m thrilled you guys loved Thom and Lee so much they are featured in the anthology. It’ll be released on December 30 and is already available for pre-order on JMS website. I’ll post the link below.

2020 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology, and the anthologies for the three previous years. Is it just me, or do the covers get cuter and cuter each year? 🙂

2020 Top Ten Gay Romance brings together the best-selling short stories published by JMS Books that year.

From first love to true love, from submission to sensual, from heat to sweet and everything in between, the couples in these stories are sure to keep you turning the pages as you fall in love with them.

With stories by Kris T. Bethke, Ofelia Gränd, Nell Iris, Shawn Lane, Marco May, J.L. Merrow, Amanda Meuwissen, K.S. Murphy, Elizabeth Noble, and K.L. Noone, this head-over-heels collection goes beyond bedtime reading. Whether happily ever after or happy for now, there’s an ending for everyone in here!

It’s the fourth year in a row one of my stories have been included in the top ten anthology and that makes me so happy I’m doing a butt wiggle in my office chair as I write this. And if you haven’t read the anthologies from 2017-2019, now’s the perfect time to buy them: use the one time coupon code NeedMoreBooks that gives you 50% off one purchase (valid through November 14) and you’ll be albe to buy 40 (yes, you read that right, FORTY) stories super-duper cheap. It’s a bargain! So clickety-click the links below, and don’t forget to add the coupon code when you check out!

Buy links

2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020

About Nell, Miscellaneous, Takeover

5 things and 1 Facebook Party

Happy Saturday, everyone. This post starts with five things I’ve loved lately, and ends with one huge Facebook Party. First the list:

Rocketman. My husband and I watched this movie a couple weeks ago, and I really loved it. I don’t watch a lot of movies (or shows), so my hubby tries to find things he knows will entice me, and Rocketman was definitely one of those things. If we’re comparing musical films, i.e. Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, I think I liked BR better, probably because I like Queen a little more than I like Elton John. Because objectively, Rocketman was a better movie. The scene below was fabulous. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it?

(PS: I’ve had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on repeat in my head since we watched it. Doesn’t matter if I listen to anything else, it’s still stuck. So I’m getting a bit annoyed now, tbh 😀 )

My new fountain pen and the new ink. I can almost hear you guys: But Nell, don’t you already have a thousand fountain pens? Hush, you! I’m a writer, and writers need pens! Also: I was in need of some serious retail therapy, so I indulged 🙂

(I was going to post pictures of my pen and my ink bottle, but it’s a depressingly gray day here today and barely any daylight, so all the pics I’ve taken look like crap. So instead I snagged pics from Lamy’s webpage)

Fountain pen plus fabulous ink

An older Andy Bell (singer of Erasure) with a white beard 😍 I loved him when he was younger and flamboyantly gay, and I love him in a daddy beard. It doesn’t hurt that their new album is the best they’ve released in 20 years or so.

The re-release of Shifting Silver by Brandon Witt. I already own this book, I bought it back in 2017 when it was available through Dreamspinner Press. But because DSP stopped paying their authors, Brandon Witt pulled his titles and has worked on re-releasing them. And because I love this book so much – I love all books I’ve read by this author but Shifting Silver is my absolute favorite – I decided to buy this re-released version, too. I often do that with books I really love. Or buy one ebook and one print book. Anyway, when it came up for pre-order months ago, I one-clicked it faster than the speed of light. Then I forgot all about it, so when it showed up in my Kindle app a few days ago, I was ecstatic. I re-read it and it was as great as I remembered it. If you haven’t read this beautiful story, you really should. Buy it here.

Shifting Silver book cover

YouTube write-ins / write with me: Some days, my beloved morning writing crew has real world stuff they need to deal with (jobs! kids! sleep!) and can’t join me in my writing mornings. And since I prefer the company, even if it’s virtual, I’ve watched write-with-me videos on YouTube on these lonely mornings. Mostly on authortuber Kate Cavanaugh’s channel. I found her when one of her videos, I tried writing like Stephen King for a day, showed up in my YouTube feed. I enjoyed it, so I stayed with her. She’s done more “I tried writing like” experiments ever since, and other writing experiments, too, like 24-hour writeathon for example. She posts regularly and puts out high quality content, which are two things that make me happy. So if you want to follow an authortuber, I highly recommend her channel.

Now for the Facebook Party: today, Love Bytes Reviews celebrates that they’ve reached 1000 members in their FB group by putting on a huge party. It starts now, 9 am CET (Central European Time) November 7, and will continue until tomorrow, November 8 9:45 am CET. Each author has 15 minutes to party, so as you probably understand, considering it’s going for over 24 hours, there are a lot of authors participating.

If you want to party with me, my fifteen minutes start at 3:30 pm CET / 9:30 am EST, but I’d definitely recommend you popping by whenever you have the time. You can expect Giveaways Galore! 🙂

So come join us. Here’s the link to the group.

Screenshot Love Bytes Lovers Facebook group