We are (depending on your timezone) mere hours away from the New Year and we here at A Take From Two Cities want to take a moment to say..
Whether you’re having a quiet celebration with your household, hanging out on your own, making a virtual splash, or out with a group, we are raising a glass to you and hoping you are all having a great (and safe!) time.
Here’s to not only a fresh start in 2023, and hopefully a few less disasters (echoing this from last year because sadly it bears repeating), but also a ton of great books and a lot more laughs.
Hi, Hollis here! A few years ago I bemoaned all my started-but-unfinished series and went to some painstaking effort to shelve them on GR to keep track. I quickly discontinued that effort but the fact remains that we as readers, and we here at A Take from Two Cities, start so many series and only manage to finish some. Whether that’s because said series are yet to be completed, delayed, or just forgotten about amidst all the other new releases, who can say. But to keep us (me) accountable, I want to start a blog series not unlike our Five On Our TBRs but where we (I) try to complete (at least!) five series a year.
This was once again successful for me in 2022 and overall this endeavour continues to keep me not just accountable but motivated. Honestly, it’s only the thought of having to type “I failed” in this box that I pushed on and completed the fifth series on last year’s list. Now that’s motivation.
Topping my list for series I’d like to complete in 2023 are :
Starting this list off with the repeat and that is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Well, not the main trilogy, at least, as I snuck that in right near the end of the year. But I would like to push on with at least one of the two spin-off trilogies (Imriel’s Trilogy and Namaah’s Trilogy). If all goes well, I’ll tackle both. But, once again, I’m not committing to that on paper.
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas is next on my list. I have a rocky relationship with this author (some buddies witnessed me hate-reading the end of the main A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy and I have yet to read on..) but it has haunted me that I gave up on this series around Queen of Shadows and I just need to finish it. It might not be a great ride towards completion, not to mention reliving those early books!, but I remember enjoying, more than disliking, everything I read prior to quitting and I do hope I have some fun with it.
The Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown. I completed the main trilogy upto Morning Star but never tackled the series after the series expanded; and now with the penultimate instalment releasing next year (May 23, 2023!), this feels like the best time to catch up.
Next up, The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole. I started this series back in 2015 (!!) and before I could get caught up (I’ve read upto book three) I think the author ended up getting pulled into other commitments. When I added this series to this draft post, months ago, we still hadn’t had any news about book six — but I’m here now to edit this to say we now have a release date (April 18, 2023). I have no idea if this YA (NA?) post-apocalyptic Arcana-based love triangle series will hit the way it did way back when but there’s only one way to find out.
And lastly, for this round up, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Inheritance Games series. This YA mystery series is probably the newest/most recently published offering on this list (book three came out in the fall) and it’s mostly on here because I had books two and three checked out from my library just the other day when I realized.. maybe, for this kind of story, with all the twists and turns and reveals that occurred in book one, maybe I need to go back and binge so I keep it all straight. And so here we are.
Micky here and I’m squeezing into this one because I have 4353 series unfinished or so it feels. I do have a problem and I think it’s because the minute I start thinking of series to finish, my mind goes to series I want to start. Thus my problem expands.
My list for 2023 goes like this:
First up is Grace Draven’s Fallen Empire series. I’m a big fan of Draven and tend to enjoy this author’s writing most in her full novels than her short stories.
I’ve been meaning to catch up on the two latter Daevabad books for a couple of years and now we have short stories just out, so I feel very left behind on the love for this. I remember book one being quite dense storytelling but good.
This is a series that’s still got releases coming but as I got up to date with this author’s Mercy Thompson series and I remain in love with it, carrying on with this off-shoot series needs to be my next priority.
The Tomorrow’s Ancestors series is a super fresh take on evolution in the future clashing with the beginings of humanity. I loved book one and I want to see what happens in the next two books.
No pictures for my final series plan as I’m in tune with Hollis here, finally having picked the Throne of Glass series back up. I’ve recently enjoyed book two and want to see it through in 2023.
Are there any series you’re prioritizing this year? We’d love to know!
As we are seconds away from closing the door on 2022, we got to thinking about all the books set to release next year that we know of. There are so many! And so many still yet to be announced that we will also be excited for. However..
As usual, we are challenging ourselves to narrow down an anticipated list of only ten titles. Yes. Ten. Yes, we know, that’s not even one title per month. It’s a horrible exercise. Let’s begin!
Hollis’ Top Ten Anticipated Releases of 2023 (in order of publication) :
The stunning sequel to Lyndall Clipstone’s Lakesedge, for fans of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely
At the lake’s edge, I made my promise. In the forest, I will fall.
The curse that haunted Lakesedge Estate has been broken, but at great cost. Violeta Graceling has sacrificed herself to end the Corruption.
To escape death, Leta makes a desperate bargain with the Lord Under, one that sees her living at his side in the land of the dead. And though he claims to have given her all he promised, Leta knows this world of souls and mists hides many secrets.
When she discovers she is still bound to Rowan, Leta goes to drastic lengths to reforge their connection. But her search for answers, and a path back home, will see her drawn into even more dangerous bargains, and struggling to resist the allure of a new, dark, power.
Title : Forestfall Author : Lyndall Clipstone Series : Lakesedge #2 Format : Physical Page Count : 416 Genre : Fantasy Publisher : Titan Books Release Date : October 11, 2022
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
Headlines: Life under Unwelcome family Triangles
This rather dark fantasy du0logy continued with Forestfall and after book one which I enjoyed, I was pretty invested in this story. I don’t know why in retrospect but I really didn’t expect the love triangle we got, partly because I thought I knew where the female MC’s allegiances were; I was wrong.
This story continued in the land of the Lord Under and I did like reading about life there, where Violetta found herself and the family of the Lord Under. I didn’t like the separation between her and Rowan but we were set up for that previously.
Violetta’s conflicted feelings, her actions and the fast-paced journey to resolution didn’t hit the high I felt with book one but I was glad to see this duology to it’s end. I found it less dark than book one, probably because the corruption lost it’s fear in me as a reader.
Overall, this wasn’t as strong as book one for me, but I am glad I followed it to its conclusion.
We just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best. Whether you celebrate Hannukah, Solstice, Christmas, or nothing at all, we are thinking of you and hoping you are (again and always) well, safe, and hale.
Every year holds it’s trials and tribulations, some losses and (hopefully) some wins, and all of that seems to come to a head around the holidays. So if you’ve had a hard one, and this time of year is making it even harder, you are in our thoughts.
It isn’t true, she wanted to whisper. To lean forward and nuzzle her cheek against his temple. To press him against the wall and mold her body to his. I am not his. I will never be his.
Serilda and Gild cannot break the curses that tether their spirits to Adalheid’s haunted castle. There they remain trapped for eternity. On the night of the Endless Moon, the Erlking means to capture one of the seven gods and so be reunited with his lover, Perchta, who has been banished to the underworld.
But it soon becomes clear that the Erlking’s hunger for vengeance won’t be satisfied with a single wish, and his true intentions have the power to alter the mortal realm forever.
Serilda and Gild have no choice but to thwart his plans, all the while solving the mystery of Gild’s forgotten name, and freeing all the ghosts kept in servitude to the dark ones. As the evil forces gather, it seems only their love is strong enough to sustain them . . .
Title : Cursed Author : Marissa Meyer Series : Gild #2 Format : eARC Page Count : 539 Genre : YA Fantasy Publisher : Faber Children’s Release Date : November 8, 2022
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
This is a conflicted opinion again from me regarding this duology and I find myself coming out in the 3’s again, which makes me sad. There’s things I love about this duology and a couple of issues that override the love which I’ve outlined below.
I liked: The characters, from His Grim to Serilda, Gild, the children and more The storyline was strong I liked the darkness and gore that surfaced regularly
I struggled with: The overly long, convolutions of what is a solid plotline in the main Deep description Both of these issues made it a very pacey read
The struggles are exactly what I felt with book one when I was hoping to be lifted into a more steady and straight forward pacing.
Opposites become allies to fool their matchmaking friends in this swoony reimagining of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.
Jamie Westenberg and Bea Wilmot have nothing in common except a meet-disaster and the mutual understanding that they couldn’t be more wrong for each other. But when the people closest to them play Cupid and trick them into going on a date, Jamie and Bea realize they have something else in common after all—an undeniable need for revenge.
Soon their plan is in place: Fake date obnoxiously and convince the meddlers they’re madly in love. Then, break up spectacularly and dash their hopes, putting an end to the matchmaking madness once and for all.
To convince everyone that they’ve fallen for each other, Jamie and Bea will have to nail the performance of their lives. But as their final act nears and playing lovers becomes easier than not, they begin to wonder, what if Cupid’s arrow wasn’t so off the mark? And what if two wrongs do make a right?
Title : Two Wrongs Make a Right Author : Chloe Liese Series : The Wilmot Sisters (book one) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 326 Genre : contemporary romance / retelling Publisher : Berkley Release Date : November 22, 2022
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
I wish I could say that most of the fault with this one lies with me for literally having read a banger of a contemporary romance right before this one. But also.. this just wasn’t all that great. Now, again, that could be me as I’ve had a rocky road with Liese’s other series, lots of twos with only a few three stars as stand outs, but this one felt really rough — particularly in the case of the writing, especially in the beginning, but said roughness wasn’t limited to just the writing, nope. It also really stretched the concept of a Much Ado About Nothing retelling. I guess that’s why it’s called a reimagining?
But, as a warning, if you expect a modernization of the play? Or even something that looks like Ten Things I Hate About You? Don’t. This homage is a sprinkle instead of a full shower. And truthfully I’m not even sure why the author bothered (except to lean into a whole Shakespeare-retelling themed series, I guess) because it really just reads like a forced hate-to-fake-dating-for-reasons-which-leads-to-love between a quirky colourful female lead and the starchy stiff-upper-lipped giant of a man who is actually Perfection Personified, including his giant donkey kong dong, neither of whom had much personality outside of their tropes and some various representation (autism and anxiety, respectively) and the bit of emotional baggage from past relationships they either have to work through, confess to, or use as window dressing.
Please note I’m not downplaying the existence of the toxic and abusive relationships that are depicted. I actually thought the one playing out in the background was one of the few things that felt authentic; except I wish the villain of the piece, the supposed Claudio, was less.. one-dimensional? I feel like the author tried to be subtle in the beginning, despite Beatrice not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about him and the relationship, and then we veered right into evil villain monologuing after only one awkward slash concerning scene. Which, hey, speaking of which, I wish Jamie, aka Benedick, had actually done something with the information he had, the behaviour he had witnessed, because I kept waiting for that shoe to drop and it never did. And I’m honestly still shocked by it.
Additionally, I was pretty annoyed by Beatrice’s hypocrisy. Sure, she was right about one half of the couple being shady but judging the quickness of someone else’s relationship only to later on accept, without blinking, the bee thing (IYKYK)? After a month? How is that any better?
I realize I’m being a little harsh but honestly I’m left feeling extra (extra) annoyed by how the conflict was resolved at the end and that could be colouring some of the tone of this review. Because so much of it was just stupid and or bonkers or both. Ahem.
I will say, there was something included in the sex scenes that I don’t see enough of on page and that was cool. No, I’m not spoiling.
But anyway, I couldn’t recommend this. If you want tension with the fake dating, you won’t get much. If you want the dynamics that existed in the “source material”, you won’t find them. Witty clever banter? Missing! Have some lame chess puns instead. But if you want a fake dating romance between opposites with some mental health/neurodivergent rep, I mean.. this is an option. And maybe it was cute in the middle. I don’t know, I will admit nothing. Will I read on? Probably. Because that’s just how I am.
Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!
As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.
An interior designer learns to rebuild her love life from the ground up with zero blueprints in this new romantic comedy by Ashley Herring Blake, author of Delilah Green Doesn’t Care.
For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she’s been focused on her career—her friends might say she’s obsessed, but she’s just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn’s renovation that will be broadcasted on a popular home improvement show, Innside America, Astrid knows this is the answer to everything that is wrong with her life. It’ll be the perfect distraction from her failed love life, and her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her nod of approval.
However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru’s granddaughter and lead carpenter for the inn’s renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family’s inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into a little light sabotage, ruffling Astrid’s perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other turns into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she’s expected to lead, or the one she wants?
Title : Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail Author : Ashley Herring Blake Series : Bright Falls (book two) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 368 Genre : LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance Publisher : Piatkus Release Date : November 22, 2022
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
So basically what I learned from skimming reviews of this book is that this one worked where Delilah Green Doesn’t Care didn’t. But the opposite is also true. Those who loved the first in this series, didn’t have a great time with this one. But I’m happy to call this a win (book one was fine for me! lots of potential. just had some issues). And the main reason why? Astrid fucking Parker.
Once again, Blake comes in clutch with her stars. Astrid Parker stole my heart just like her stepsister did. And broke it, too. Much feels were had, some tears were shed. I could agonize over exactly how to describe how much Astrid got to me but honestly she was just great. Her whole self-discovery, her reflection, her relationship with her mother.. everything just worked. And speaking of things that worked, this time I was also on board with the love interest, too. Especially because when something is stirred up as potential conflict.. Jordan, while understandable harbouring some doubts, doesn’t stew and isolate and suspect. She goes to Astrid and they have a conversation sans any drama and conflict (and, actually, there’s a second scene that in any other book would’ve ended with a big blow up and didn’t.. huh). Like adults, gasp. And that’s yet another point in this book’s favour; the immature childish behaviour that plagued Delilah Green Doesn’t Care? None of it existed in this one. Huge plus.
Worth noting, too? The third act breakup actually works. And no, this isn’t me having a character growth moment; I am perfectly fine with the plot point if it makes sense without feeling manufactured or stupid or due to miscommunication. And Blake did it well with this story. So, hah.
Weirdly, for a story that centered around this whole renovation show event, those scenes and the associated characters really don’t stand out in hindsight. They were fine, sometimes fun, especially when there were instances of Astrid and Jordan squaring off for the views, and being encouraged by the showrunner, but it just shows how strong the main characters were to just totally outshine the majority of the plot scenery. Their dynamic, their chemistry, was just that strong. Ten out of ten.
Truly, I have little to no notes about this one. I am just soaking in this good feeling. Definitely recommend. And very glad there are more books to come in this series.
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It’s inhabited by the race that rose from the seed of angels, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman who recognized that she was pricked by Kushiel’s dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre’s path has been strange and dangerous. She has lain with princes and pirate kings, battled a wicked temptress, and saved two nations. Through it all, the devoted swordsman Joscelin has been at her side, following the central precept of the angel Cassiel: Protect and serve.
But Phèdre’s plans will put his pledge to the test, for she has never forgotten her childhood friend Hyacinthe. She has spent ten long years searching for the key to free him from his eternal indenture to the Master of Straights, a bargain with the gods to save Phèdre and a nation. The search will take Phèdre and Joscelin across the world and down a fabled river to a forgotten land … and to a power so intense and mysterious, none dare speak its name.
Title : Kushiel’s Avatar Author : Jacqueline Carey Series : Phèdre’s Trilogy (book three) Format : physical Page Count : 750 Genre : fantasy romance Publisher : Tor Fantasy Release Date : March 14 2004
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 3.5 star review
I’m going to complain a bit about repetition in this series, and most of it seemed to be in this final book (which I guess makes sense as it’s the culmination of this particular series), but here’s my own bit of repeat-y nonsense : the plot for this one came back to me as I read it. Maybe it’s like songs on the radio. You might not hear it for a decade, or think of it in that span of time, but with the sound of the melody, the lyrics are unearthed from within your brain and you can sing along. I guess it’s like that. I’ll stop assuming I have no recollection of things going forward. Here’s hoping Imriel’s Trilogy is likewise buried in my brain somewhere, too. But if not? Hey, bonus, I get to experience it a-new.
Overall, though, this was maybe not the best series to binge. Carey does a good job of weaving in past events, dynamics, and more, multiple times within her books, likely because the page count is so massive that it’s understandable you would forget things along the way. But if you’re reading these ceaselessly, one after the other, by the third one? You’re a bit tired. Not helped by the fact that even if the locales differ, it is a bit samesies in the sense that Phèdre risks all, endures all, poor Joscelin is along for the ride (because vows), they usually have a falling out (some worse, or more dramatic, than others), but eventually all is well. Queen gets mad, Queen forgives, here is your HEA. In that sense, this was the least interesting of the three because there was no real tension, we knew how things would play out almost exactly, which explains why I put this down the most of all three of them, but. But I still picked it back up.
I’ll admit I did skim some of the more story-based mythology as Phèdre traveled from one place to the next seeking knowledge, the Name of God, to rescue her childhood friend. It was a change of pace from the darkness and violence that we had endured prior but equally it did make for an odd balance of a story. But I think that is kind of represented by the whole series. Sex, and violence, and pain, yes, but also religion, and mythology, and learning, and knowledge. It’s a complex and layered universe Carey’s created and you can’t say she didn’t put in the work, and the endless research, in and around the more angsty romantic titilating bits. But even those have purpose. Even in the violence there’s reason and understanding and it’s.. well, it’s a lot.
I will definitely be pushing on with the various series but I am not sad to be taking a break, mayhap even for the rest of the year (little that remains of it). This isn’t a series, or a universe, I could really recommend but it does compel in some ways. It is interesting. And yes, layered, in every way. I don’t want to doubt my younger self but I wonder how much of this I really understand back in the day. But whatever it was, it left an impression because here I am all these years later rereading them. And I’m not mad about it.