Mid year book freak out

I found this quiz over at Maxxesbooktopia in 2017 and thought it was time to redo it.

Just to be clear, I’ve excluded all re-reads. So this only covers books read for the first time in 2021.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021?
Zyon by Michelle Frost and Michele Notaro

Zyon (Kingdoms of Pelas #1)

It’s a fantasy story about a human who is captured and imprisoned with three non-human beings.  The other three, who are also prisoners (slaves?) are required to fight in arenas for entertainment.  As the story progresses, it teaches us to not judge a book by its cover (because there are four different species involved), but also that first impressions are often misleading.  At this stage it is the only book in the series, but the blurb on Goodreads makes it clear there are more books to come and they will continue the story with the same characters.  If another one comes up, I’ll pre-order it without hesitation.

Best sequel of 2021 so far?
This is tough, because I’ve read some fantastic sequels this year, but I’m going to go with Cry Wolf by Charlie Adhara.

Cry Wolf (Big Bad Wolf, #5)

This is the fifth book in Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series, and it did not disappoint.  The humour that has been such a key feature of the series was brilliant again, the plot was fast paced and full of action, and the characters are fabulous.

“That’s the third hug of the day, you know,” he said, curiosity burning in his expression. “My diary entry tonight is going to be rife with exclamation marks and hearts.”

This is a fantastic series that I highly recommend.  My ratings so far:
The Wolf at the Door: *Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Starw*
The Wolf at Bay: *Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Starw*
Thrown to the Wolves: *Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Starw*
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: *Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary*
Cry Wolf: *Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary*

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to read?
Luca by L A Witt

Luca (Gentlemen of the Emerald City, #1)

I pre-ordered this, and it released last week.  As soon as I’ve finished the book I’m currently reading, this is my next read.

The blurb says:
Ethan
Hockey season is over, and that means one thing—returning home to my empty condo. With nothing to distract me from this loneliness, it’s going to be a miserable summer.
Then I hire Luca for one night.
At least, it was supposed to be one night.

Luca
Ethan isn’t like my other clients (not that I have many these days). He’s nice. He’s genuine. He doesn’t treat me like I’m here to earn my pay.
When he asks me to make this a regular thing for the summer, my wallet doesn’t leave me much choice.
But I’m pretty sure my heart isn’t supposed to get involved.

Most anticipated release of the second half of 2021?

Archangel’s Light by Nalini Singh.  I’m so excited for Illium and Aodhan’s story.  This is huge!  I thought it was further away in the series, honestly, but it’s due to release in late October, and it’s freaking exciting!  I can’t wait!  This is book 14 in the Guild Hunter series, and I’ve really enjoyed the series.  So far all the books have been m/f and this is the first book that will be m/m.  And the lead-up to this book has been intense.  We’ve all become attached to both Illium and Aodhan over the series, and we knew (hoped?) they’d end up together, and now they will.  Squee!

Archangel's Light (Guild Hunter #14)

I’m also looking forward to Cliff’s Descent by Dianne Duvall which is book 11 in the Immortal Guardians series.  Cliff is someone who we all wanted to have a happy ending but we didn’t think it was possible, so the fact that he’s getting his own book suggests that something will change, and that will be a huge turning point for the series.

Cliff's Descent: A Vampire's Tale (Immortal Guardians, #11)

And of course Played by Cara Dee which is the fourth book of the Auctioned series.  There will be five books in the series, so this is not an ongoing series like the others above.

Played (Auctioned, #4)

Biggest disappointment?
That would be Spellbound Dreams by Jessamyn Kingley.  This was book 21 in the D’Vaire series, and it fell decidedly short of what I hoped for.  I didn’t like the plot (with the majority of the book spent in a dream world) and I didn’t like the characters (I actively disliked Rorie, and I felt that Rennie wasn’t true to character).  If it hadn’t been part of a series, I wouldn’t have finished it, but I knew there was information in there that progressed the overall story arc, so I forced myself to finish it.

This has been an inconsistent series for me.  It is definitely character-driven, and some of the characters are so good that you are totally drawn in and can’t resist reading the next book and the next.  But it seems like every person in the whole bloody series has a unique title (why can’t they just be dukes or duchesses, why do they have to be Seneschal Duchess and whatever-else Duke?  It drives me insane and makes the books so unnecessarily wordy!), and then some of the books just…don’t have enough conflict or aren’t interesting enough, I guess.  Yes, we want to read about the characters, and yes, we want the continuing overall story arc (which is really just a chronological timeline, not a story arc), but each book needs to have a solid plot and conflict.

So far I’ve read 23 novels and 3 novellas in this series, for a total of 26 books.  Here are my ratings so far:
*Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary* x 3
*Stary**Stary**Stary**Stary**Starw* x 13
*Stary**Stary**Stary**Starw**Starw* x 7
*Stary**Stary**Starw**Starw**Starw* x 2
*Stary**Starw**Starw**Starw**Starw* x 1
I guess that’s not too bad.  Only three out of 26 have been below a three star, and more than half have been four or five stars.  Okay, I feel better now.

Biggest surprise?
Well, truthfully it’d probably be Zyon, but since that was my answer to the first question, I’m going to go with Luckless by Cari Z.  It’s set in a (future?) dystopian America, where humans and dragons work together to defeat the monsters that attack them.  Evan was a dragon rider, but his dragon died.  Evan is ostracised now, and still grieving.  Then he meets Lee.  I did see the twist coming, but it’s well handled, and I really enjoyed this.  Which is weird, because I don’t normally enjoy dystopian fiction.  I would love to read more in this world, but it looks like it’s a standalone novel.

Luckless

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?
C I Black.  I started reading her Dragon Spirit series in June, and I haven’t put it down since.  I’m on the fourth (and at the moment, last) book in the series now.  I will definitely be trying some of her other series while I wait for the next one in the Dragon Spirit series.

Newest fictional crush?

Grey from C I Black’s Dragon Spirit series.  He’s tortured (if he was human we’d say he had PTSD) and sweet, but also really tough and fierce.

Newest favourite character?

Okay, I can’t choose just one!

Cato Smith from Barbara Elsborg’s Unfinished Business series.  Cato is hilarious, brilliant and down-to-earth, but also, did I mention hilarious?

Cameron Wano from Jay Hogan’s Auckland Med series.  He is the no-nonsense, makeup-wearing head nurse of Auckland’s biggest hospital’s ER department.  He doesn’t take shit from anybody, and he is fucking fabulous.

Book that made you cry?
I can’t remember if I literally cried (that’s pretty rare for me), but these books were seriously heart-wrenching.

A Heart’s Desire by Kris Michaels

Shatter by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott

Crossing the Touchline by Jay Hogan

Declan – Heart of a Tiger by J R Loveless

The Endless Road to Sunshine by Nicky James

The One That Got Away by Nicky James

Book that made you happy?

The Segonian by Dianne Duvall.  The cliffhanger teaser we were given at the end of the previous book had me hanging out for this book, and it didn’t disappoint.  I really enjoyed this.

I’ve already mentioned Cry Wolf by Charlie Adhara and Crossing the Touchline by Jay Hogan.  Both of those books made me happy for different reasons.  Cry Wolf is so cleverly humorous, and Crossing the Touchline made me proud to be a New Zealander.

Small Change by Roan Parrish was feisty and it made me want to be a better ally to those who need it.

Favourite book to movie adaption you’ve seen this year
Ooh, tough. I don’t watch many movies. Even though it was a miniseries, not a movie, let’s go with The Queen’s Gambit.

Favourite review you’ve written this year?
Although I didn’t enjoy the book itself, my favourite review is the one I did of Henchman’s Mate by Sammi Cee and Brittany Cournoyer.

Here’s what I wrote:
You know how you hear about heroines who are too stupid to live? It’s not generally a problem I come across in books. Perhaps I have a generous nature and allow that people can make mistakes or that they’re approaching situations from different perspectives than the reader and therefore make choices we disagree with. But Darren? Darren is seriously too stupid to live.

He meets Cy in a club. Describes him as ‘the most dangerous specimen I’d ever seen’. Cy makes it clear that he’s not interested in Darren and Darren ‘accepts’ that but continues to chatter away to him. The bartender warns him away from Cy, but he pays no attention. Then Darren witnesses Cy kill a man outside the club. Not only does Cy kill the other man, but he transforms into a demon to do so. When Cy realises that Darren has seen him, he says ‘Come with me if you want to live’. Okay, not in those actual words. He actually says ‘If you want to stay alive, you need to come with me’ but it was funnier in the pseudo Terminator voice I imagined in my head. And yes, the author(s) does make a Terminator reference later in the book.

So you’ve got a guy who looks ‘tall, dark, and scary’ (and yes, that’s a quote), who just transformed into a demon and killed a guy, saying ‘Come with me if you want to live’. So what does Darren do? He gets in the car and goes with him. *Facepalm* I mean, seriously??

Darren has the presence of mind to think ‘I should call my mum and tell her who I’m with and where I am, in case anything bad happens’. Oh wait, no, he doesn’t. He thinks ‘If I don’t come home, my mum will worry and send the cops out to look for me and they might arrest this really nice man who has done nothing wrong’. *Headbang* I just…can’t. So Cy takes Darren’s phone. At this point, Darren should be shitting himself, but he’s not. He’s just like ‘If you’re going home to sleep, I’m gonna be so bored because I can’t read my book on my Kindle app now that you’ve taken my phone.’ I paraphrased. *RollEyes*

Even Cy doesn’t understand Darren’s naivety. ‘You watched me kill a man not half-an-hour ago, and it’s your accommodations that have you unhinged. Do you not fear me?’ But of course Darren is too stupid to live and of course he doesn’t fear Cy the killer demon. Le sigh.

The book goes on in this vein, until eventually Cy takes Darren back to Darren’s home a number of days later. During this time, Cy has been texting Darren’s mother so she won’t worry, but he hasn’t given Darren back his phone. Oh, and Darren has had multiple opportunities to leave, but hasn’t, because, you know, why would he? *Rolleyes* Anyway, apparently Darren’s mother found it obvious that it wasn’t Darren texting her because Cy texts differently. Was she worried that her son disappeared and some random stranger was pretending to be her son and telling her that her son was fine and not to worry? No, of course not! Obviously he was fine and she shouldn’t worry. *Headbang* Seriously, what the fuck??! I can see where Darren gets it from at least.

There were some good components to the book, such as the dream meetings, the father’s plans, the other demon and so forth. But none of that was enough to make up for not one but two characters who were too stupid to live. Two stars.

Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year?
The one with the most beautiful cover was probably The Dragon Masquerade by Jessamyn Kingley:

The Dragon Masquerade (D'Vaire)

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
There’s no ‘need to’, but here are some of the ones I want to finish:
How Not to Die by Michael Greger (32% read)
Pursuing Flight by C I Black (59% read)
Luca by L A Witt
Slow Heat by Leta Blake
Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T J Klune
Played by Cara Dee (pre-ordered, releasing in July)
Cole by L A Witt (pre-ordered, releasing in July)
Cliff’s Descent by Dianne Duvall (pre-ordered, releasing in July)
Archangel’s Light by Nalini Singh (pre-ordered, releasing in October)
The Shattered Crown by Maxym M Martineau (expected release in December)

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