FIVE SERIES TO FINISH IN 2021

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!

TOP TEN READS OF 2020

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 Ten of 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!


And here are the rest…

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Goldilocks by Laura Lam
The Court Of Miracles by Kester Grant
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars by Christopher Paolini


Hollis’ Top Ten of 2020

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Love at First by Kate Clayborn (review pending for January)
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
This Is Not The End by Sidney Bell (review pending for January)
Wire Wings by Wren Handman
Beach Read by Emily Henry
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy
The Book of Orlando by Laura Lascarso

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.

SEASONAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS : WINTER 2020

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 NutcrackerWinterspell 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!


UNFRIENDING BOOKS – part one (of likely many)


Reading is such a subjective pass time, what’s my love is often Hollis‘ meh or hate and vice versa. That said, we’re still entitled to dislike books. If we liked them all, it would be great…but would we really appreciate other books as much?

In this feature we wanted to just give a flavour of those books we’ve unfriended, then you can get to know more about our tastes and what doesn’t float our boats. If you’re a blogger or bookstagrammer, we’d love you to use the tag and have a go #unfriendingbooks.


Micky here with some of the books I’ve unfriended and why…

Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught. There is no book I hate more than this one because abuse is written as love and I hated the hero beyond my wildest nightmares. If you want to know more my GR review is here.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney and this is a strange one. There’s nothing really wrong with this book, other than I should never have picked it up, it definitely wasn’t for me. I’m a scaredy cat, this scared my inner cat, especially as it was on audio and the serial killer had a pov using a voice distorter. Nightmare territory.

Dark Notes by Pam Godwin. Again, abuse written as love, power over a minor. You can probably see I have a problem with these themes and shouldn’t read them but the blurb didn’t tell me what this was going to be like. Also, it had a piano on the cover which renders me helpless. My GR review is here.

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan and this viewpoint is a really unpopular opinion but one that I stand by with gusto. The palliative care situation was butchered in this book, in a most unrealistic way. I have clinical expertise in this area so I know this needed much better research and a direction change in the writing.

While we’re here, lets mention that’s why I hated The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. A side story delved into children’s pallitative care (my job for 15 years, I have a PhD in the subject) and it was painfully unrealistic. I understand that these books are completely enjoyable without this insight so please just go ahead and enjoy them; I just can’t.

Adding a note for the same old reason (sorry) about Full Tilt by Emma Scott. The weeks running up to a characters death were completely unrealistic but the death itself was beautifully written. Even so, it’s still a thumbs down for me.

Another unpopular opinion about This Is How We Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I love sci-fi but I just didn’t get this one, I’ll quote my own review by saying it was a love story between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters…

Now that’s enough spouting from me, let’s hand over to Hollis.


Whiteout by Adriana Anders was a book I picked up earlier this year because Micky had such a good time reading it but alas.. we did not get along. You can see our double review here and decide for yourself! This suspense thriller adventure is set in the Yukon and.. that’s about all that recommends it for me. So, not at all, really.

Infinity Son was, like I think for many of us, a total disappointment. What should’ve been exciting queer fantasy just was.. well, queer fantasy, but not particularly exciting and definitely not enjoyable. A one star should make it obvious that I’m disinclined to continue the series but I’ve yet to decide if I might read on or not..

The Fantasyland series by Kristen Ashley. Yes, this was a five book series, yes I read them all (reviews can be found on GR if you’re curious enough to hunt for them), yes it was quite the adventure. I liked some, hated others, even sorta hated the ones I did like. But it was a series I thought had the best chance of winning me over considering I was already dubious about the author’s others works (later, Micky and I tried to read the Honey series.. elle oh elle to that disaster) and ultimately I’m just unfriending the author as a whole. But at least I saw this series through to the end!

Swear On This Life by Renée Carlino is memorable to me because Micky and I were reading this at the same time back in 2016 and ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum. She with a five star, me with a one star. This had flashbacks, reunion with childhood friends, a story-within-a-story.. all things that should’ve worked, and none that did.

The Duke’s Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley is book four in the Mackenzies and McBrides series, a historical romance series I thought would be a new favourite and was excited to binge (I think there are currently eleven books, as well as novellas? not sure if it’s even complete yet..), but which pretty tanked any momentum to continue on back in 2017. I ranted quite a bit in my one star review on GR. Granted, my enjoyment was steadily decreasing after book one so maybe it was just inevitable.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff was yet another disappointment considering it should’ve once again been something right up my alley. Historical, women-centric, some action, some romance.. but no. Poorly drawn characters, ridiculous circumstances and events, forced love stories.. and more. You can check out my thoughts here.

Last but not least (for this round, at any rate!) is The Binding by Bridget Collins. Another that appealed to me on almost every level, the concept of magic, the vibe, the cover!, but yet failed, because the elements that were featured in the marketing of this book just didn’t seem to live up to the reality. This one didn’t net itself a one star but it wasn’t far off. This read also pre-dates the blog, like most of this list, but I have a review on GR here.


What have been some memorable book unfriendings for you? Or maybe some recent ones? We’d love to know!

SEASONAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS : AUTUMN 2020

Photo by Alisa Antonon Unsplash


Happy cozy and/or spooky season to one and all! 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 glittery skulls, pumpkins, as you reach (or watch!) murder mysteries or thrillers, or even both at the same time — we wanted to put together a list of books that give us autumnal vibes, terrifies us, or just put us into the seasonal mood, in the hopes that we can spread some cozy comfort or spooky thrills.


UPROOTED by Naomi Novik is a fantasy story that is incredibly atmospheric and descriptive and also perhaps a wee bit terrifying because of what the author describes, and how. You might never walk through a forest at night again.

Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces series, both books one and two, focus on a specific season theme and book one is set in the fall, complete with scarecrows and haunted houses, but book two, set in the winter, has ghosts and chilling nightmares to haunt you with. This series is MG but will still get that pulse racing!

NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo is a dark academia story, though definitely adult in theme as opposed to the author’s previously YA releases, and it is.. well, dark. There are ghosts, magic, secret societies, and homicide investigations galore. This recommendation may require you to check out some trigger warnings if you are in need of them.

THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL by KJ Charles is a queer historical paranormal that spans twenty years of ghost hunting, mysteries, occult, and more.

SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand is spooky and bloodthirsty and heartbreaking and sexy and feminist and full of asskickery and girl power and representation and magic and monsters. This would make an absolutely great Hallowe’en read.

UNSUB by Meg Gardiner might be the only true horror that gets added to this list but it earns that distinction for a reason. You want pulse pounding? You want twisty? You want mindfuckery? Look no further.

I don’t think SADIE by Courney Summers is actually set in the fall but somehow the book still makes me feel like it is. Maybe it’s the telling of it, the Serial podcast style of the mystery, I don’t know. Maybe just because it feels tragic and you want to bundle yourself up as you read it, keep the chill from your bones. Either way, it’s a story definitely worth reading.

THE BONE HOUSES by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a YA story featuring gravediggers, a remote village, and a curse that brings the dead back to life. This was basically written to be read in the fall! Which makes sense as it had a September 2019 release. Clever.

The Locked Tomb trilogy by Tamsyn Muir (even though we still have to wait for the final book!) is definitely seasonally appropriate with it’s goth skull aesthetic and space monsters galore. Book one, in particular, is basically a big haunted house Clue-style mystery.

Rather than list individual thrillers, which would extend this post well past the point that anyone would continue reading, we’re just going to shout out particular authors or series you should try if you haven’t already! Basically, anything by Karin Slaughter (start with Grant County before you read Will Trent), Lisa Gardner (all her series cross over but I think it’s best to start with DD Warren and split off from there), Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series covers a whole host of paranormal adventures and types, and, to wrap up, we’ll finish with A.R. Torre’s Deanna Madden series is a sexy and dark Dexter meets FIFTY SHADES OF GREY mash-up that will keep your pulse pounding.


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? Let us know!

A LOVE LETTER TO LIBRARIES

Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

You know when your friend moves away and although you’ve always loved them, you appreciate them more? Who’s feeling like this about their library in pandemic times? Us, that’s who! Hollis and I are going to tell you a bit about our habits and why we use and love our particular libraries.

Yes, we can still access all the ebook and audio goodies. They have also been a treasure in these times but our libraries have been through thick and thin with us. All those times when we couldn’t get a book any other way, we requested it and ta da…there it was. When a book was so expensive we couldn’t justify it, there it was. When they bought something we requested, that’s the best feeling. Getting us something from another library in the district, no problem!

Micky here. My local library is in the small market town I live on the outskirts of. It’s a 15 minute walk from home, 2 minutes in the car. It has fantastic opening hours, lots of computer space, kids activities (I use to take my kids to story time and sing-a-long stuff), groups that meet there AND I used to have PhD supervision there with my supervisor who lives in the same area. The best thing about it is the range of YA, fantasy and sci-fi books, I love browsing the stacks. Biggest shoutout to Crompton Library!

Up until about three years ago you could hear me moaning a lot about the poor ebook and audio library services for my area. I don’t think they listened to me in particular, but they generally invested in the future of this kind of library media. We now have BorrowBox app which is okay but not as good as Libby or OverDrive, but it will do. We do however, have a pretty fab selection of books on ebook and audio, usually without a huge wait and they are renewable which I love. Here’s what I’ve borrowed lately (I didn’t get to them all) and what I’m on hold for.

Hollis, unlike many, has been blessed by the library gods pretty much from day one. Toronto has a ton of branches, intra-library own if your local is too small to carry a title at all times, and our OverDrive system is pretty topnotch. We might not always have something right away (though the turnaround time between new release and availability is generally quick, particularly for popular authors or buzzy titles) but the amount of books that get added each and every day? Astounding.


So tell us, are you a library user, either long-time or newly converted? Or are you a click-and-buy and to hell with potential wait times? Let us know!

UK BLOG TOUR – LEGENDBORN author Tracy Deonn tells us her top 5 YA fantasy books!

We have such a great video for you today from Tracy Deonn, author of Legendborn. Today she’s talking exclusively to our blog about her 5 top YA fantasy books and Hollis and I are super-excited to find we have some in common with Tracy.

You must have seen this book by now, it’s all over Instagram, Goodreads and book groups, with good reason. The cover is a visual feast of colour, magic and the main character.


First of all, here’s the synopsis:

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.


Now lets see Tracy Deonn’s Top 5 YA fantasy book!

So here’s a recap:

  1. The Grey King by Susan Cooper
  2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  4. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
  5. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

We both love Uprooted and Shadow & Bone, so we are checking out these other titles and adding to our tbr!


Micky’s review will be coming to the blog soon and in the meantime here are the buy links for Legendborn. Please do check out the other tour hosts too. They’re going to have a range of different features for each post.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for the #gifted copy and this epic tour they’ve organised. We couldn’t be more excited to get reading.

FIVE ON OUR TBRS

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. 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!

Check out our first post here.

Micky’s five


THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US by Tricia Levenseller
SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid
SEVEN DEVILS by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam
THE BEAR & THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden
SWEET BLACK WAVES by Kristina Perez

Let me just address the fact that I’ve only read one from my last 5 on our tbrs…and let’s move on. It’s a big deal for me to commit to BEAR as I am bruised from many sides with bookie friends poking me to read this one (Hollis needs me to do this, she’s only been asking for years). I want to, but I want to love it and I feel a little trepidation. I’m a recent fan of Laura Lam and so SEVEN DEVILS is a no-brainer for me.

Hollis’ five

SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid
THE FIRST SISTER by Linden A. Lewis
SEVEN DEVILS by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May
THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin
BLOODY ROSE by Nicholas Eames

Since our first post of this nature, I actually managed to read three (+ two as one was a series opener) of my original five and while I thought to leave the other two on this list, I’m only going to leave one — the TJR. Because I still don’t know what’s stopping me from reading that one. THE FIRST SISTER is a recommendation from my blog buddy extraordinaire, see her review here, SEVEN DEVILS because I want (need) feminist ensemble space opera in my life, THE OBELISK GATE because I finally read book one in The Broken Earth trilogy and loved it, and BLOODY ROSE because book one in The Band series was a fantastic fun and I’m hoping to buddy it with the friend I read KINGS OF THE WYLD with.


Tell us the top five books on your immediate TBR! Do any of ours make your lists?

THE EDELWEISS+ EXPERIENCE… AND IT’S NOT A LULLABY

So Hollis and I feel kind of in control with NetGalley, with the odd ‘it controls me’ moments. Edelweiss+, however, is a totally different kettle of fish. Now, we know that this is a platform less used by readers and more used by book professionals but there are some blogger/reviewers only (like us) on there.

So what’s different about Edelweiss+, I hear you say? For starters, it’s a pretty clunky platform and definitely not as user friendly as NetGalley. It does work on the same principles though; you see a book, you request it, and ideally the publisher will grant access. Instead of ‘read it now’, it also has a ‘download’ option rather than request for some select titles.

What has been Micky’s experience, is that getting declined is the default (see the left of the photo above *laughs/cries*). For example, say for every ten that are requested, access might be given to one or two. Why continue? Well, there are publishers that use Edelweiss+ and not NetGalley, or favour Edelweiss+ more.

Unlike NetGalley, your profile is very basic and there is no running tally or reads, reviews or percentages. I miss that element, I like competing to get myself in a better position! Now over to Hollis who has had a better experience than me (somewhat), which is probably to do with regional issues.

Micky isn’t wrong, I have had some better experience. For a while it was all books, all day, download download download! Now? Less of that. I do think there is some logic behind the “provide a reason for your request” box but realistically I don’t imagine your enthusiasm sways anyone. I think it’s just hit or miss.

I have no screenshot to show you because I clear my dashboard, refusing to linger over the rejections, but I, too, would prefer there was some kind of feedback ratio to indicate that, strong profile or not, I’m reading and reviewing what I’m given. Maybe there’s something on the other side of the screen? Hard to tell. But I’ll keep clicking, keep enthusing over new titles, keep hoping those books that only show up on Edelweiss+, as opposed to NetGalley, might make their way onto my kindle.


What has been your experience? Do you use Edelweiss+ or have you thrown in the towel?

THE NETGALLEY SHUFFLE

We all know the struggle. You log into NetGalley, particularly when you first get started, and go a little.. click-happy. Suddenly you’re drowning in ARCs, approvals coming every which way, and your feedback ratio drops and drops and you don’t know how you’ll ever reach that recommended 80% milestone. Heaven forbid you hit a slump and take a break from ARCs only to keep clicking, keep requesting, and thus the cycle repeats.

We don’t know how it happened but here’s our humblebrag : Micky & Hollis are both in the 90%+ margins. Micky has been approved, and read, almost double what Hollis has, but still. It does get easier to keep that percentage high, and have it stay that way, the more you get approved for, the more you read or keep pace with said approvals, but it can be equally easy to request, clicking on more — no matter your %.

Neither of us know the magical workings behind NetGalley, we don’t have any particular tricks, but we wanted to open the floor to you and see if there’s something you’ve learned, something you’ve struggled with, and help each other out. There’s lots we still probably don’t know and we always find it interesting when publishers post recommendations or suggestions to improve your profile (you can sometimes catch these threads on twitter).

It’s easier said than done to just say read what you click, keep an eye on publishing dates so you don’t overload yourself in back to back months, but part of the fun is stumbling through these trials and errors and learning from them. Or, like us, even with our high percent, crying over a month with sixteen ARCs and no end in sight. It happens to us all! That said..

Here are our Top Ten Tips for Netgalley :

  1. Take the time to write a strong profile. Have a photo of yourself — publicity assistants tell us it helps to see who you are. Add a bit of relevant stuff about yourself, how you enjoy sharing your love of books. We started ours with no blog/bookstagram presence, just reviewers, so don’t feel you don’t have enough to have a go. Add all your social media links that are relevant to books. There’s a section just for that.
  2. Go slow, it’s so tempting to click on everything you find even slightly interesting. Try and resist the urge to do that. Our rule of thumb is.. do I really want it, do I really need it?
  3. Try and read and review the arcs before release, ideally a week or two at least. What publishers are looking for is your views before release, to build up reviews and get the word out there! I (Micky) try and stay a month ahead with my reviews but I can be the week before, Hollis is much more organised than me at this.
  4. Keep a tally/list of how many arcs you have due and once you get to a number that is your threshold for enough that month DON’T LET YOURSELF REQUEST MORE. Micky keeps checklists for this, Hollis uses a dedicated Goodreads shelf to keep track; whatever works for you. We map our physical arcs into this too.

5. You don’t need the elusive 80% to get approved by publishers. It is definitely something to aim for but you will still get approvals without it.

6. Share your completed reviews on publication date with the outlets suggested by that publisher e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones. Publishers need you to do this and it is part of what you are signing up to do.

7. Be honest. You don’t need to bump up the rating to please the publisher, honest reviews are sought. We have not had a reduction in approvals from publishers who might have had a low rated review from us previously and neither of us shy away from those one-star ratings.

8. As you fall deeper into the reviewing rabbit-hole, maybe you do start a blog, or a bookstagram, so make sure to add those links in the relevant section. Cross-post your reviews to all your platforms, tag authors/publishers when you do (in positive reviews only, please!!), and update your Bio routinely with any change in stats (followers, subscribers, etc).

9. Don’t read only arcs, you will exhaust yourself with deadlines and potentially put yourself in a book slump. Make sure there’s room for reading the things your like, your owned tbr, maybe library books, a mood read or a re-read.

10. The same goes for blog and bookstagram tours connected to NetGalley arcs, don’t sign-up to everything, give yourself some space. In reality, you can be late with netgalley arc reviews but you can’t for a blog tour. Keep the pressure manageable.

We’d love to know your experiences, how you do the NetGalley shuffle! We are happy to answer any questions you have. Watch out for our Edelweiss blog feature coming soon where we expose this different creature of a platform and tell you our experiences with that.