And the best series award goes to… Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews

Micky here. The Kate Daniels series has been a non-labour of love for me this year. After about 2.5 years of Hollis telling me to read this, gifting me book one, I finally bit the bullet and started MAGIC BITES (see what I did there). From that point on, it has been a lesson in restraint as I would have liked to have binged the series one book after another. What I’ve done in the main is one or two per month. I actually think this has made me enjoy it more, savouring the stories, anticipating the next…

If you don’t know anything about the series, let me enlighten you. This is a paranormal/fantasy series with the most kick-ass heroine I have ever adored – Kate Daniels herself. This is a world of crazy, powerful magic and Kate is an elusively special person, you don’t know for quite a while who or what she is but that’s all part of the charm. She is full of snark and humour, she’s super strong, honed like a weapon but she has a heart that shows sometimes. This is a world of shapeshifters, vampires (like you’ve never known them before), witches and many weird and powerful beings, good, bad and definitely ugly. I also want to say as a bit of a scaredy cat, this series can be pretty gory.

There is a love story woven through this series but I am not going to say who. It is deliciously slowly burning and it has taken my breath away many times. However, let me just say, the love story is rarely in the fore, it is the foundation and it is superb.

This is a series with Kate at the fore in the main books and quite a number of novellas, usually dedicated to the side characters, many of whom I love and was delighted to get some focus on. We have put a series list at the bottom for anyone wanting to know the series reading order.

Hollis, you know this series better than me, having read then re-read it. Give us you thoughts, musings and adoration please.

I mean, I can’t say it better than Micky herself already has. This series really has something for everyone. For the die hard PNR or UF fans, those who are fascinated by other cultures and the various mythology and folklore and want to see more than the standard Irish/Celtic infusions come out to play, for the modern day snark and humour, and definitely the Shippiest of Shippy couples. And there are a lot of them!

For me, though, I think what makes this series so great, and so enduring, and definitely rereadable, is the ensemble cast. Not only do these authors offer up novellas and extras but the non-leads get plenty of time in the main books, too. They triumph, they suffer, they find love, they lose it, they die, all alongside Kate. They are an integral part of her and her world and they make it all the richer for it. Sometimes they are her friends, sometimes they are in her way, and sometimes bonds are tested and may break. But it’s always interesting, often fun, and occasionally heartbreaking. Also, there are plenty of cameos. Thought this one character was nothing more than a footnote in a random scene and you’ll never see them again? Hah! Guess again. The eater eggs, the follow ups, the relevance to the big picture.. it’s all meticulously planned. It’s scary, really.

If you want a series that will make you laugh (and laugh and laugh.. and laugh), cry, will creep you out, break your heart, and have you clamouring for more, you definitely need to give Kate Daniels and her crew a try. And, once you’ve run out of things to read (because sadly this is our reality now..), there are plenty other fascinating and funny series by these authors still to try.

Recommended Order of Full-Length Novels & Novellas/Shorts

A QUESTIONABLE CLIENT (book 0.5, found in the bind-up SMALL MAGICS)
MAGIC BITES (book one)
MAGIC BURNS (book two)
MAGIC STRIKES (book three)
MAGIC MOURNS (book 3.5)
MAGIC BLEEDS (book four)
CURRAN POV (with alt-POVs [1-9] taken from books one to four)
MAGIC DREAMS (book 4.5)
MAGIC SLAYS (book five)
MAGIC TESTS (book 5.3, also found in the bind-up SMALL MAGICS)
MAGIC GIFTS (book 5.4)
GUNMETAL MAGIC (book 5.5)
RETRIBUTION CLAUSE (book 5.6, also found in the bind-up SMALL MAGICS)
Curran Twitter and/or Curran Texts (book 5.7)
MAGIC RISES (book six)
MAGIC STEALS (book 6.5)
MAGIC BREAKS (book seven)
prequel to MAGIC SHIFTS (book 7.5, Curran POV #10)
MAGIC SHIFTS (book eight)
MAGIC STARS (book 8.5)
MAGIC BINDS (book nine)
IRON AND MAGIC (book 9.5, also first in The Iron Covenant series)
MAGIC TRIUMPHS (book ten)


Are you already a fan of this series? Do you have a favourite character or book? Or, if you haven’t yet started, do you think we convinced you to give it a try? Let us know!

CLASSICS FAN OR NOT?

For someone like me (Micky here), English classics are integral to why I like reading. I studied Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for two years in high school and rather than putting me off, Jane Eyre became my favourite book and remains so to this day. The analysis of the characters, narrative, context and storyline only made me fonder of the book as a whole. That truly started off my love of books but it also got me inquisitive about English classics. Also, I am English, so reading about my country and the culture in a different era is usually enjoyable and sometimes discomforting.

I’m definitely a romance fan and so my leanings in this era of writing do tend towards those with a love story as part of it. I have often struggled with Dickens and Thackerey for example but I adore the Brontes, Austen, Gaskell, Eliot and Hardy. Here are my top ten English classic favourites.

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  9. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

I’m also a fan of some international classics and here are my top five.

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  4. Little Women by Louisa May Allcott
  5. Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

I find that now if I am going to read a classic, I have to readjust my expectations of how the read will pan out. With contemporary fiction, things often happen fast and with classical fiction you have to invest more time to the pacing. If anyone ever asks me where to start with English classics, I always recommend Persuasion by Jane Austen, its a shorter read and easy to get into with one of the best and original second chance romances ever created.

Hollis, for once, has little to say! Personally my all time favourite is PERSUASION by Jane Austen. I love the book, I love the adaptation (the Sally Hawkins version!), and I will forever recommend it. The only other classic that has come close, for me, is PRIDE & PREJUDICE. I want to say that NORTH & SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell makes this non-existent list, as I’m a huge huge fan of the adaptation, but the book put me to sleep after twenty pages. Yikes. I’ll just bow out now while I’m ahead and before admitting to how few classics I’ve actually read.. oh, too late.


Are you a classics fan? Do you have a favourite?

PROCRASTINATION CENTRAL – HOW LONG ON YOUR TBR?


We don’t know any serious bookworms (we are very serious, I hope you know this) that don’t have a procrastination problem when it comes to their TBR. We can procrastinate about hyped books, friend’s recs and gifted books (Hollis is really good at this one). Whatever your reason, most bookies have some books that have been on their TBR rather a long time. Let’s talk about them and why we behave in this weird way.

Micky here. I procrastinate for procrastination’s sake, I think. I get all sorts of stubborn, internal adolescent rebellion for no reason whatsoever if I feel pressured to read a book I’m just not feeling at that time. Sometimes I’ll jump on a hyped book like it’s chocolate but more often than not I need to wait for the hype to die down and sometimes it’s taken me a couple of years to reach for a book after this. Big books also scare me, like the 800-1000 page books, because I think of all the other books I could be reading when I’m reading a tome. Anyway, that’s my psychology and now I’m going to list the books that have been on my TBR (that I own) for the longest time.

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
GAME OF THRONES by George RR Martin
THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER by Renee Ahdieh
FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK by Melina Marchetta
THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon
THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon
LEFT DROWNING by Jessica Park
MARROW by Tarryn Fisher
FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund
GOD’S EYE by Susan Fanetti
NIGHT OWLS by Jenn Bennett

Now, Hollis is extremely organised with her reading, probably the opposite of a procrastinator but lets ask her if she has a book or two to list. Er.. Hollis!

I would just like to go on the record that this post feels like a personal attack considering there are certain books a certain someone has gifted me that she is fully aware that I haven’t read. Yet. Her name rhymes with.. you so fine you blow my mind, hey!

But anyway, I honestly couldn’t tell you why I procrastinate on some books vs others. I know my major reading flaw is to prioritize things I need to read vs want to read but I’m also not a mood reader (as discussed before) so this never really feels like a huge bother, y’know? That said, there’s also some pressure felt to love said recommended/gifted books and maybe I’m shying away because I have a tendency to poop on peoples’ parades. Anyway, excuses aside, here’s the list of books that have been specifically recommended to me (because the other list, of things I just want to read, is wayyyy too long) and are literally on my kindle and that I’m terrible for not yet attempting.

53 LETTERS FOR MY LOVER by Leylah Attar
THE LOVE EXPERIMENT by Ainslie Paton
THE OPPOSITE OF YOU by Rachel Higginson
AURORA TERMINUS by S.E. Fanetti
UNSEEN MESSAGES by Pepper Winters
WHITE WOLF by Lauren Gilley
AFTER HOURS by Cara McKenna
AMERICAN QUEEN by Sierra Simone
CAPTIVE by Jex Lane
EVERYDAY HISTORY by Alice Archer
literally every single Emma Scott book (sorry Melissa)


What book tops your procrastination/shame pile? More than one, feel free to share! We’re all in this together.

COVER LOVE – FANTASY EDITION

This post doesn’t need much more introduction than the title, really. We’re here to showcase the pretties — fantastical ones. We’re not here to talk about the insides or how much we loved, or hated, the book itself. This is strictly about the packaging. The pretty pretty packaging. And we’re not even going to say anything. So, without further ado, here they are.



What fantasy title would you add to our cover-love list?

SHE SAID, SHE SAID… #1 OPPOSITES

For today’s blogchat, we thought it would be fun to give you a fuller flavour of when our differences in books have been stark; so much so, it’s been so funny it hurts. We like the same books often, we love the same books sometimes, but when we are opposites on books we have the most interesting conversations. We have never been annoyed that the other doesn’t enjoy a beloved book; there may be a moment’s disappointment but we usually have a fun discussion.

WARNING, NO FEELINGS WERE HURT IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG POST.

This is a post for the readers and not authors. Not a moment’s disrespect meant to any author mentioned in this post. Because isn’t it just part of life that we don’t like the same things? If a book isn’t for me, that’s not to say it’s not a good book or not written well — maybe it’s just not my kind of thing. Both of us have a Goodreads shelf for this – baa baa black sheep!


THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah — Micky gave it 5 stars | Hollis couldn’t deal, left it unrated
FOOLISH HEARTS by Emma Mills — Hollis (5 star) loved this | Micky gave it a shrug emoji (2 star)
AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jallaluddin — Micky (5 star) loved this | Hollis (2 star) tolerated
REAL by Katy Evans — Micky 5 starred (and reread!) this one | Hollis gave it a generous 2
ALEX, APPROXIMATELY by Jenn Bennett — Hollis shouted her 5 from the rooftops | Micky 3 star didn’t hate it
SERIOUS MOONLIGHT by Jenn Bennett — Micky (4 stars) thought it super cute | Hollis (3 stars) wanted more
THE PERFECT FIND by Tia Williams — Micky (4 stars) laughed her way through | Hollis tapped out at 9% (unrated)
THE OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS by Justin A Reynolds — Hollis (4 stars) loved how this was told | Micky (2 stars) thought it was too repetitive
MISTER WESTON (formerly TURBULENCE) by Whitney G — Micky (5 star) was absorbed af | Hollis (1 star) couldn’t even finish
ACHE FOR YOU by JT Geissinger — Micky (5 star) lost herself in this read | Hollis (2 stars) rounded up
WHITNEY, MY LOVE by Judith McNaught — Hollis gave 4 stars for the great parts that were great | Micky has some PTSD for this 2 star read
BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman — Hollis (5 star) was enthralled by this complex story | Micky (1 star) couldn’t understand why
A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN by Sarah J Maas — Micky (4 stars) can’t wait for more | Hollis (2 stars) was just glad it was over
THE BOY AND HIS RIBBON by Pepper Winters — Micky (4 star) found it addictive despite some of the plot elements | Hollis (1 star) barely clung to her sanity
THE TAKEOVER EFFECT by Nisha Sharma — Micky‘s 4 star hopes were realized | Hollis hopes were 1.5 star unrealized


So here we are in our opposites glory, our ratings bared for your perusal. Does this resonate with you? Do you find it uncomfortable to be in opposition rating-wise with your book buddies?

There is a sequel post to come. Watch out for SHE SAID, SHE SAID… #2 MAGNETS where we show our glowy similarities.

BACKLIST BABBLE – The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

With all the focus on upcoming titles or new releases, it’s easy to forget the books that came months, if not years, before. Books we loved, are only reading now for the first time, or are even rereading.

So in that vein we here at A Take from Two Cities are going to start a semi-frequent (aka whenever we feel like it) feature called Backlist Babble where one, or both, of us are going to babble a bit about a backlist title (or series) we love.

In my case (hi, Hollis here), I’m usually rereading old favourites because a spinoff has been announced or there’s a new book being added to the series. A perfect example of that? The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

With the announcement of KING OF SCARS, which expanded the Grishaverse once more after the addition of the Six of Crows duology, it felt like the perfect time to reread the books that started it all. Books I remember loving so much when they released — which, in the case of the first book, SHADOW AND BONE, was back in 2013 — but, honestly, had only vague recollections of beyond some of the major key plot points. So I dove back in and, colour me surprised, but I think I liked them better with the passage of time.

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I had some trepidation that SHADOW AND BONE a) wouldn’t live up to my memories (vague as they were), b) I would just find it too.. I don’t know what word I’m looking for but.. less. It wouldn’t be on par with the writing or pacing of SIX OF CROWS or CROOKED KINGDOM, and c) I would hate Mal. Because I remember really disliking him.

And, okay, maybe point B is kind of valid but the rest? Nope. I enjoyed the heck out of this. It’s a very nostalgic read for me that I obviously wanted to still like but also wow I had forgotten that pretty much everything I (mostly) remembered of this series actually takes place in book one. I have no idea where book two goes. It’s like my brain just stops here and jumps right to the very end of book three. Weird.

Also, Mal? Not that bad.

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I think the reason I had forgotten book two entirely was probably because of how I felt about Mal the first go-round. And yet in hindsight.. I find SIEGE AND STORM to just be mostly heartbreaking. With, like, a lot of hilarity and banter. Fun mix.

I absolutely understand why this is the least liked (?) of the series for so many people. There’s a lot of seemingly tropey or dumb YA behaviour but I actually found it really believable considering the circumstances and the emotional turmoil. I mean, it isn’t without some frustration but it didn’t make me roll my eyes or anything.

For all the emotional upheaval and darkness, there were also these lovely light moments. Like in the beginning and then.. well, okay, that was probably it, but the banter, and Nikolai, really saved this one from being too dark and heavy.

Definitely my favourite of the series.

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I’m so satisfied by the ending in RUIN AND RISING. It makes me think of another well-known trilogy that deals with stress and PTSD and loss and shows such a realistic place for the characters to end up. With a happy ending of sorts, sure, but not unmarked. Not without missing pieces. And not without lost friends. There were still breaks for levity and hilarity but again, things are dark, things are hopeless, things are heartbreaking. Until they aren’t. Or until it just is.

I’m so glad I reread this because I had forgotten so much of this series. And I am much better equipped to tackle not only my reread of the Six of Crows duology — and maybe pick up on some of the nuance I might have thought I understood but probably didn’t the first time around — but particularly KING OF SCARS. After everything that went on in this book for Nikolai.. wow, yeah, happy rereader is very happy. It was fun, too, to relive and see how this story built from where Bardugo started it off and also see where she was maybe already planning to take it.

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And, of course, a reread wouldn’t be a reread without discovering some new, or overlooked, extras by an author who has fleshed out a world so well. So after reading the original trilogy I also read the beautiful bind-up of the Grishaverse novellas in THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS.

I had previously read maybe half of the stories within this collection but only remembered one or two really well. Revisiting them was a delight, though, and the new ones were just as fabulous. While these stories are all set within the Grishaverse, they are still essentially folktales or retellings, little fantastical bites of magic and myth and slightly twisted tales of morality, so even if you’re not familiar with Bardugo’s world, you can (and will!) definitely still enjoy.

Additionally, beyond the magic of the author’s words, what makes THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS not just great but amazing are the illustrations the evolve on the edges of the pages throughout each story. Stunning. Gorgeous. A total package of whimsy and wonder and heartbreak; of strong girls and brave girls, overlooked girls and betrayed girls.

If you’ve yet to read, or read some or all of the novellas back when they were ebooks, I would highly highly recommend you treat yourself to buying or borrowing a physical copy.


And thus wraps my Backlist Babble for The Grisha Trilogy! Hopefully you enjoyed this feature and we hope to have more to come soon. If you have any suggestions for a back list title for us to read, or revisit, let us know in the comments below.

Also, brief word of caution, neither of us have yet to read KING OF SCARS so no spoilers please!

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