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 incredibly successful for me in 2021 (I finished all five!), and kept me not just accountable but motivated.
Topping my list for series I’d like to complete in 2022 are :
Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. As we’ve come to expect by now, this will necessitate a reread of book one and book two, as I read these back in highschool in [year redacted]. I may also attempt to read past the main trilogy (books four to six and seven to nine both have their own arcs, I believe) but I’m not committing to that on paper.
The Middle of Somewhere series by Roan Parrish. This was one of my early(ish) forays into discovering m/m authors and I only got as far as book one because I was flitting from one thing to another. While I haven’t loved everything by this author, I hope this series might turn out to be a win.
The All Souls series by Deborah Harkness. I bailed on book three after how disappointed I was by book two but almost all my bookie friends say this was a very good end, so. I need to get on this one. And the fourth book, companion, too, I guess.
Danielle L Jensen’s Malediction Trilogy was such a huge find at the time of it’s release because.. troll YA fantasy? How cool! Book one was so also good. Sadly I remember nothing about book two which might explain why I held off on book three. Unlike the last few this is an owned physical series so if this doesn’t end up satisfying..? Well at least I get back some shelf space.
And lastly, for this round up, Ellie Marney’s Every series. This is a YA reimagining/modern retelling of Sherlock Homes (sorta) except it’s about Watson and Mycroft and I absolutely went nuts for books one and two. To the point that I wouldn’t shut up about it. And then I never read book three. Much like another series on this list there’s also now a fourth book that I believe is less connected to the main series and more a companion? I’ll tackle that, too.
Last year’s edition of this post made it seem I was a “one and done” series reader. But almost this whole 2022 edition is spotlighting “Hollis has a book three problem”. I guess you can be both!
Are there any series you’re prioritizing this year? We’d love to know!
We’ve found that breaking down our TBRs can be something that inspires us to pick up hidden or briefly forgotten reads. ‘Five on my TBR’ is something that we have done a few times on bookstagram but it originated with someone else, though, eek, we’ve no idea who (if you’re the creator of this, please let us know and we will credit you!).
We always have the best intention to include updates in this TBR series more often than we do but, as always, it’s been longer than we thought since the last post. Nonetheless, here we are showing what’s risen to the top of our TBRs and/or what has us buzzed.
So, what the hell Micky with King of Scars, it’s still lingering, nevermind the sequel. The Dark Lady is a middle grade from an activist I admire massively. I’ve read the first book in the Isles of Storm & Sorrow, so I want to push myself to finish Venom & Vulture as they’re all published. Do we share any excitables?
Instead of having the same two books on this TBR list reappear once again, I’ve ditched them for now (Seven Devils, because the sequel is no longer out in August but pushed to January, and The First Sister, because it’s a trilogy, not a duology, and I’ll be waiting to read until fall of 2022 because I’m just like that). But otherwise? This series has been pretty successful so far! Here’s hoping it continues.
Also, I realize there are only four listings up there but the Jemisin is actually a three book omnibus so it’s technically a total of six books I’m holding myself accountable (ish) for completing. As for the rest, the Stiefvater is an embarrassment, I can’t believe I still haven’t read it, the Sutherland because fall is coming and I think that book is supposed to be spoopy, and the Robert, well. That’s hype train, baby.
Tell us the top five books on your TBR! Do any of ours make your lists?
Well, we made it! We’ve survived the first half of 2021. And much like last year this feels a much bigger achievement because.. you know. 2021 has been A Lot.
Here we go!
What is the best book you’ve read so far in 2021? M : Surprising no one, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir H : Unlike last year, I can definitely just pick one. Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane.
What is the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021? M : Fire by Kristin Cashore, yes I’m very late to this series. Oh and before I forget, Hollis is cheating below. H : I’m providing a well rounded answer, this isn’t cheating. For best sequel I’ll say I Walk Alone by Wren Handman. For the best prequel it’s Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. For best end-to-a-trilogy it’s Parousia by Laura Lascarso. And for the best companion/not quite a sequel, it has to be Act You Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.
What’s a new release you haven’t read yet, but want to? M : It’s a total shocker but I’m glad to say I haven’t been spoilt for A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas and I plan to give that chunker some attention during holiday over summer. H : Like last year, I went to our Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases of 2021 list and, with exception to those not released yet, I’ve read all of mine! Wow. The anticipation for those last two, by Klune and Hoang, is huge though. Two (very different) new releases I’m excited to dive into, though, are Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater and The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian.
What is your most anticipated release for the second half of the year? M : I’m looking forward to The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik and The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang. H : See aforementioned answer above. I neeeeeed The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang and Under The Whispering Door by TJ Klune and also Battle Royal by Lucy Parker.
What has been your biggest disappointment? M : Probably Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, in part because I was looking forward to it and also because I’m so far removed from most people’s opinions on this one. H : It’s not my lowest rated of the year (so far..) but it’s the one that I think I was most surprised about considering I expected it to be a new favourite (and it was one of last year’s most anticipated) and that’s The Ippos King by Grace Draven.
What has been your biggest surprise? M : I’m going to be unconventional here and name a 31 page novella – Ring The Bellby Josie Jaffrey. A dystopian tale told brilliantly in those few pages (also warning for tough reading). H : I recently read The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. I haven’t really liked their books for years but this one was a surprise; in the best way. I really enjoyed it.
Do you have a favorite new author (debut or new to you)? M : Ariadne by Jennifer Saint was a bombshell of a Greek Mythology retelling, grim and not pretty but still, it was something memorable. I’m definitely looking forward to her next book. H : I’ll give two answers (surprising no one). I read Sarah Hogle’s sophomore release Twice Shy and it was so different to her debut but so delightful. She’s cemented herself as a must-read author for me. For a debut author, I think I’ll give it to Xiran Jay Zhao. I read an ARC of Iron Widow recently and it was big time wow. It could of course all go to pot in the next instalment or maybe you’ll be seeing their name in this spot again next year after book two. Who knows!
Who is your newest fictional crush? M : Shane Hall from Seven Days in Juneby Tia Williams, this man’s words were 100% swoon-worthy. H : Um, I mean, not new but with this year’s release of Ilona Andrews’ Blood Heir, I have to give it up to Derek for being an enduring crush. For an actual new crush? I’ll give it up to Wesley from Sarah Hogle’s Twice Shy.
Who is your newest favorite character? M : Rocky from Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir and the sad thing is, I can’t even explain who Rocky is because they’re a major spoiler and not mentioned in the blurb. You’ll just have to read it! H : Like the question above, she’s not new, but because she officially has her own book..? Obviously it’s Julie/Aurelia from Ilona Andrews’ Blood Heir.
What book has made you cry? M : Now it’s my turn to cheat, crying with exasperation at Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. I still have ranty feelings. H : Almost everything I read makes me cry. Better question would be which book didn’t make me cry. But I think the one I cried the most over recently would be Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.
What book has made you happy? M : All Rhodes Lead Hereby Mariana Zapata was one of her triumphs in my opinion. It wasn’t heavy on the angst but warm on the everything. H : People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry, I think, has made me the happiest. But it was a struggle to think of an answer to this which probably says a lot. Note to self, make a “made me happy” shelf on GR.
What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)? M : Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones – The Folio Society Edition. H : I don’t think I’ve bought a single book this year! Yikes. But my bestest blog buddy sent me a copy of The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart and that is one pretty book (which I still need to read, double yikes).
What books do you need to read by the end of the year? M : I want to read the next two in the Sevenwatersseries by Juliet Marillier, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Dark Lady by Akala and The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. H : I’m going to steal from our last Five On Our TBRs post (again) and say The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis, Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May, and Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson. The first two have been dogging my heels for a while now but I’m waiting on the sequels so I can do a mini binge. I can’t explain why the Pearson is still outstanding, especially after having finally finished/read The Remnant Chronicles series, which is what precedes this one. But it’s definitely going to happen before the end of 2021.
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.
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!