Hi friends! We wanted to celebrate this special month and value, respect, recommend, and celebrate our LGBTQIAP+ friends, readers, and authors. Both of us read a diet of LGBTQIAP+ reads year round but it’s a nice time to celebrate! We wanted to tell you about some of our favourite reads (some of which need more love!) in a variety of genres and then tell you about some of the reads on our TBR. We have linked the books suggested to the relevant GoodReads page.
We meant to do this a few times a year but it’s been longer than we thought since the last post, so here we are showing what’s risen to the top of our TBRs and has us buzzed.
We’ve found that breaking down our TBRs can be something that inspires us to pick up reads hidden or briefly forgotten. ‘Five on my TBR’ is something that we have done a few times on bookstagram and we got it from someone else, but eeek, we’ve no idea who. We thought it’d be nice to have a running occasional feature where we pick five on our TBRs and you tell us yours.. and no doubt that will cause some adding to tbrs!
So, what the hell Micky with King of Scars? My excuse is Rule of Wolves is out now and I can binge the two. ACOSF is waiting for hype to die along with my arc list so I can finally get to it. As you can see I have a mix of newer and older releases which I’m happy about, we all have a backlog after all. Do we share any excitables?
This blog series has been really successful for me! For someone who does not follow TBRs.. I’m, well, surprised. Once again, I’ve kept two from the last post, which seems to be a trend for me, as I absolutely intend to get to the Lewis and the Lam & May.. when the sequels release in August. Yes, surprising no one, I’ll be bingeing! The Draven is overdue but after my buddy’s lacklustre experience with this hugely anticipated release, well, I’ve put it off. But it has to happen. We’ve waited too long for that book to drag it out any further. The Williams is a recommendation from my buddy, see her review here, and the Pearson is a spinoff from a series I’ve just recently completed as part of my five series to finish in 2021 goal!
Tell us the top five books on your TBR! Do any of ours make your lists?
Hi Micky here – first off, can I ask you to just spend some time reading this post, it matters such a lot to me. Trigger warnings for hurtful jokey descriptions related to asthma, diabetes, spinal deformities, cleft lip and palate. Please take care of yourself and consider whether this will hurt you to read the post. If so, please close the post and know I am advocating on behalf of these issues.
This blog post has been about a year in the making, and I have been collecting screenshots/photos along the way. I want to emphasise that it has been more than a year I’ve been thinking about it, but one instance was the final straw and I started planning. Yesterday, a friend had an experience and I thought, I have to write this now.
The problem that I’m talking about is when authors want to make a quippy, jokey statement, have banter-ish dialogue or describe the condition badly for maximum effect and use people’s medical vulnerabilities to do this. I’ll tell you my personal experience and then I’ll share other people’s experiences. What I can tell you is that this hurts. This isn’t about being ‘butt hurt’, I actually think this is gross writing behaviour and perhaps a little lazy in the humour department. Again, I reiterate, this hurts. It hurts people with these medical conditions and what I learnt from my friends on bookstagram that I discussed this with, is that it hurts parents of children with some of these medical conditions. Suddenly, my experience fades and I feel horrified for parents reading these things about their children. Please, I ask, just think about that from a parental perspective for a minute.
I am not tagging authors in this blog post or anywhere that I share it to but neither am I hiding the books that contain instances of this. I’m not about cancelling any author but I won’t recommend particular books that I consider to have harmful representation. I can tell you that myself and few other individuals have contacted authors and publishers about some examples and had good responses. I’ll share that too. After all, this blog post is ultimately about sharing in the hope of reeducating and encouraging change. We need editors to be highly aware of these issues, so that these problems can be removed before publication too. Publishers also have a responsibility here in my opinion.
First up we have Code of Conduct by April White. I have severe asthma, and thanks to a combo of asthma and COVID at the end of last year, I nearly died. I read this before (or DNF shall we say) and showed it to my husband. His words to me were that actually it didn’t make him ‘horny’ when I sit upright in bed overnight trying to breathe, taking inhaler after inhaler; he actually feels scared. Funny that. I do think this author could have made a joke here without using asthma, it was just a lazy way to make the point of humour. What I do want to tell you is that I contacted April White and told her how I felt about this and you know what, her reply was almost ideal. She apologised first of all and she said she would totally take this on board in her writing in future. I would have liked this line revmoving from the ebook, especially considering it’s indie published, but you can’t have everything, I guess.
Next up, I shrink in horror the amount of times I’ve recommended this book and I have two booksta friends who were/would be horrified by this. I have loved this author’s work and so the churned up stomach feeling I have now, has been difficult. I feel guilt over recommending this book to a friend who it directly hurt. That’s on me for missing this when I read it years ago. I’m so sorry for that.
I can attest to the beautiful faces I think of so fondly, of children I have looked after with cleft lip and palate who grow up to be beautiful adults (children’s nurse and academic here). That’s not a throw away comment, they really do have gorgeous faces. In addition, the reference to a spinal deformity in that way is awful.
Sadly, staying on the theme of cleft lip or cleft lip & palate (it can happen together or separately). Another friend shared her experience of reading in horror at the misrepresentation of cleft lip in a child when her child had this too. I can only imagine how this must have felt.
I can tell you that my friend saw ‘monster face’ and that hurt her in respect of her child. I can also tell you from an accuracy perspective that babies and children with a range of cleft lip abnormalities can 100% smile….beautifully. Now you can argue that this was conveying a reaction in the story, I would argue back that this phrasing was unnecessary and highly insensitive.
Now we move onto how diabetes is sometimes flippantly represented in literature, this time in YA. Diabetes may be one of the more common long term conditions the public know about, but did you know that 500 people die prematurely from diabetes every week in the UK (Diabetes UK, 2018)? That really is no joke and yet here we have an awful example but with a really good outcome. Authors and publishers take note, this was the ideal response.
My friend’s child has diabetes and has had some very scary episodes with her child. When she read this flippant comment (that was totally unnecessary), it hurt her so much. She wrote to the publisher who responded by contacting the author, then removing it immediately from the ebook and stating it would be removed from any future print copies. What I can tell you is that there were other asthma jokes in this book too though, that I don’t think were removed.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you. I had four further examples that I haven’t used just because I think this blog post would be too long but in the space of a year, this is what I’ve come across myself or though conversation with friends. That indicates to me that there’s probably a lot of examples, probably other medical conditions too in other books that we know nothing about.
What can we do about this? Both myself and my friend who have contacted authors or publishers have had good responses, so I think that says that readers will be listened to on this. We can only tackle these issues by using our voices as readers and challenging this.
Thank you to my amazing booksta friends who let me use their experiences in this post, I admire you so much.
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 us 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 accountable, I want to start a blog series not unlike our Five On Our TBRs but where we try to complete (at least!) five series a year.
Topping my list for series I’d like to complete in 2021 are :
Libba Bray’s The Diviners series. This will necessitate a reread of book one but considering how long ago I read that? It’s needed.
Sabaa Tahir’s The Ember in the Ashes series. This will also require a book one reread but now that the final book is out (!), there’s no time like.. well, 2021.
Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles has been on both my finish series list, my reread list, and my physical TBR list. If I can smash these out? Hoo boy, success. For this one, at least, I had read books one AND two. But I’ll reread both before embarking on the finale.
Emma Chase’s Royally series. This was one I was all excitement about after finishing book one and then I never picked up anything else. Whoops. This should be a fun easy contemporary series to smash through though to break up all these fantasy reads.
And lastly, for this round up, Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands series. I really enjoyed book one, back in 2016, and then never continued. Shame gif.
Are there any series you’re prioritizing this year? We’d love to know!
It is with much angst and wringing of hands that we present our Top Ten reads of 2020.
For clarity, these are books we read in 2020, not necessary books published in 2020, and presented in no particular order.
Micky’s Top Tenof 2020
My absolute top read of the year was To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars by Christopher Paolini. I believe it took years to write and it felt like sci-fi perfection to me. It truly was a series in a book and months later I remember so much detail and most of the intricate story line. I loved it truly!
While I did enjoy quite a few reads this year I found putting a “top” list together really hard. Whereas last year there was, indeed, hand wringing to narrow down my five stars, this year it was more, “what books do I still think of, regardless of top marks”. A big tell is the fact that two of these aren’t even out yet! But regardless, all of these books helped to make 2020 a little more bearable.
Have you made a top ten, top three or top fifty? Let us know some of your favourties.
Hollis here. Despite the title, this isn’t a post where we plan to poo-poo on authors who have disapponted us. It’s more to be reflective on the books we were initially anticipating or desperate for.. and how they fared in execution vs expectation. Also please know that if any of these books, or authors, are your favourites, that’s great! Every reading experience is different.
Worth noting is some of these books might have been three stars. But if we expected it to be a five, it’s kind of disappointing to only like, not love, it. Please bear that in mind. Disappointment doesn’t mean hate; but there might be some on those in this list, too. And so with that disclaimer out of the way..
In order of publication, here are the books that disappointed us in 2020 :
While this looks fairly intense when you pit it against our total books read for the year — for Micky (232) and Hollis (235) — it’s not actually that bad! Do you have a list of any disappointments, say top five? Let us know in the comments!
We are (depending on your timezone) mere hours away from the New Year and we don’t know about you — though we kinda do.. — but here at A Take From Two Cities we are hoping for a much better year than the one we’ve all (barely) survived.
Whether you’re having a quiet celebration with your household, hanging out on your own, or virtually with a big group, we are raising a glass to you and hoping you are all safe, well, and content (we almost said “happy” but the bar is low..).
Here’s to not only a fresh start in 2021 but also a ton of great books, maybe a little less need for social distancing (if we are lucky!), and a lot more laughs.
As we are seconds away from closing the door on 2020 (which was officially The Worst), we got to thinking about all the books set to release next year that we know of (which, admittedly, at this point only really spans the January to June-ish portion of 2021, as usual). There are so many! And so many still yet to be announced. So while we know we will have a few of these anticipated release posts throughout the year, Hollis thought to be a little.. mean.
I’m challenging myself, and my blog buddy, to narrow down an anticipated list of only ten titles. Yes. Ten. That’s not even one title per month. Ten. Dix. Dieci. Diez. T e n.
Hollis’ Top Ten (ONCE AGAIN WITH REGRETS) Anticipated Releases of 2021 (in order of publication) :
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 well and, particularly this year, safe and hale.
This has been a rough few months for us all and for some of you this holiday season may be adding to that; especially for those of you on your own or unable to celebrate. You are all in our thoughts.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or so they say. However you choose to celebrate this time of year — whether it be with long reading sessions curled up on the couch under a throw, hot drink nearby, or decking out your spaces in fairy lights and fragrant trees, as you watch holiday favourites, or even both at the same time — we wanted to put together a list of books that give us those chilly wintery vibes. Whether they bring you comfort and nostalgia, hope and joy, or frosty chills.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season; she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle; and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night …Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis – and two parts fairy godmother …
This Winter by Alice Oseman
A short story, based on characters from Solitaire – praised as ‘The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age’ — The Times
I used to think that difficult was better than boring, but I know better now …
I’m not going to think about the past few months, about Charlie and me, and all of the sad. I’m going to block it all out. Just for today.
“Happy Christmas,” I say.
The festive season isn’t always happy for Tori and her brother Charlie. And this year’s going to be harder than most.
The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish
Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders. Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.
When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.
Winterspell by Claire Legrand
The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince…but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.
New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.
Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
After a storm has killed off all the island’s men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Northern town of Vardø must fend for themselves.
Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty evil.
As Maren and Ursa are pushed together and are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.
Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1620 witch trials, The Mercies is a feminist story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.
Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.
As this is a sequel we are not including the synopsis! Look it up at your own peril.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
With A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens created a modern fairy tale and shaped our ideas of Christmas. The tale of the solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of the season by a series of ghostly visitors and given a second chance, was conjured up by Dickens during one of his London night walks, who “wept and laughed” as he composed it. Taken to readers’ hearts for its humour, compassion and message of redemption, it remains its best-loved book.
This is obviously not an exhaustive (though it feels like it! I’m tired) list and so we wonder : what is one book (or series) you aren’t seeing listed on anyone’s recommendation round-up for this season? Is there any special read you’re planning to get to in the next few weeks? Did anyone else notice all of these covers are various shades of blue? Let us know!