A Month of Reading: April Book Reviews (Part Two)

Picking up where I left off yesterday, today’s batch of books include both fantasy and romance titles:

FantasyShadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell and White Sand Volume 1 (graphic novel).

RomanceFire in His Kiss (also fantasy), the new Beauty novella quartet (also fantasy), Sonata for a Scoundrel, and Wrong Turn, Right Direction.

Reviews are in order of date read. (My star ratings are explained here.)

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Fire in His Kiss  by Ruby Dixon 4.5-Stars

I reviewed the first book in Dixon’s newest post-apocalyptic dragons-on-Earth series last month and while it was enjoyable, I was left unimpressed with the world building and had hoped Dixon would start explaining why, or at least who, these dragons are. With Fire in His Kiss she managed to do just that.

“Emma pulls out her gun with shaking hands and points it at Dakh. ‘W-what the f*ck is he?'”

This book reveals quite a bit about the dragons’ past lives before they were forced onto Earth. The exact cause of the cataclysmic event called the Rift is still unknown, but that’s okay–for now. We also discover ways that non-fort dwellers are hiding from attracting the attention of dragons.

“This is about my survival, and I’m just going to have to suck it up. Women have been trading their bodies for safety ever since the Rift. I’m no different from any of them at the end of the day.”

The story revolves around Sasha Kennedy (the human) and Dakh (the dragon) as they bond, and as Sasha learns to trust Dakh. If you haven’t read Dixon before, this involves a lot of sexy-time scenes. We’re also introduced to Emma Arroyo, another human female that Sasha befriends, and are left with a yummy cliffhanger involving her.

“Without you, I am lost. Without you, I am alone. With you, I am whole.”

Fire in His Kiss is on Kindle Unlimited and most definitely worth the read. It’s a standalone, but reading Fire in His Blood first (also KU) will help with understanding the setting more.

“Dammit, Kael, I am not kissing you if you’re gonna go around eating everyone. What the f*ck, baby.”

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The Beauty Quartet
Beauty in Spring by Kati Wilde 2.5-Stars
Beauty in Summer by Ella Goode 2-Stars
Beauty in Autumn by Ruby Dixon 3-Stars
Beauty in Winter by Alexa Riley 1.5-Stars

Inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, four authors offer their sexy interpretations of that classic fairy tale…

The Beauty quartet, released throughout April, is four novella-length stories by four different romance authors. I saw the synopsis of Dixon’s story at the back of Fire in His Kiss and thought it sounded interesting. Each story is available either for $0.99 or via Kindle Unlimited.

Beauty Quartet

These are quick reads, each taking about 30-60 minutes tops. Each story has a beautiful heroine encountering a “beast” of some sort. There’s not much in-depth plot development (some lacking more than others) and the majority of each story is filled with sexy-time (because how else are you going to “tame” a beast except with the power of a vagina?). All the stories end resolved with a HEA.

Beauty in Spring: Cora Walker returns to the manor she once resided in and encounters her first love, Gideon Blake. He’s changed, is demanding, and harbors a dangerous (yet obvious unless your name is Cora) secret. Oh yes, she’s also tethered to the manor by her necklace unless he decides to set her free.

My take: The necklace part of the story was odd; I would have rather she stuck around of her own free will, and that detracted a lot from the story for me. Though I guess it would have completely ruined part of the plot if she were free. *shrugs* Kudos to Kati Wilde for working in roses.

Beauty in Summer: Bellamy Beaumont has some shady parents that “acquire” a job for her at a strange company… that happens to be run by a wolf pack, with its alpha (I discovered this means pack leader), Adrian Garrett. Adrian sniffs Bellamy and decides that she’s his after some angst.

My take: I might enjoy Ruby Dixon’s shape-shifting fireblood dragons, but Ella Goode did not sell me on the shapeshifting wolf genre. It’s a story, but there’s not much to it.

Beauty in Autumn: Willow lives in a place where there’s always lived a beast within the cursed forest, and the villagers hold an annual Harvest Festival where a new “bride” is selected from among the youthful women. These brides head into the forest, never to return. Of course, Willow is chosen, but a wise woman assures is that as long as she never looks upon the beast, she’ll survive and break the curse.

My take: If you’re going to only pick one of the four, choose this one. It’s definitely not the best thing I’ve read from Dixon, but I enjoyed the mystery of the beast. We never quite find out (though there’s hints at the end), and I’m okay with that. What I appreciate about this story above the other three is that Dixon didn’t use a shapeshifter as her “beast”, so it felt more like a fairy tale. Kudos to Dixon for working roses into the story.

Beauty in Winter: Fiona Lamb has lost her job and family. Offered a contract to work for Reid Gold and earn back a family heirloom he purchased, she signs her life away. Upon meeting Reid, his cursed-to-never-shift self finally shifts into a wolf, Fiona doesn’t freak out as much as a human rightfully should, and eventually they have sex. But don’t worrythere’s two epilogues with more sex.

My take: I think this was the shortest of the quartet stories, and my least favorite. They had an insta-connection and she’s totally cool with him ravaging her within an hour or so. I don’t expect a plot with a shapeshifting wolf to be realistic, but at least make me believe something. Despite my sarcasm above about the epilogues, they did make the ending more palatable.

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Sonata for a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson 4-Stars

Another April reading group challenge was to read a book where music had importance. After combing through a suggestion thread, I picked up Sonata. This is the story of Clara Becker, an impoverished woman who also happens to be a composer (in the 1830s) and must publish her work under her brother’s name.

“It was a ritual now. Nicholas would play it, and the music would no longer be hers.”

When master violinist Darien Reynard decides to hire her brother, Nicholas, on as a dedicated composer, Clara is dragged along to keep the Becker family secret safe.

“The music that had lain silent and waiting on the page leapt to his instrument and then into the room, taking life as it took flight, a spiraling twist of melody that held them all spellbound.”

This story has a lot of beautiful prose. I like to imagine it flowed as beautifully as Clara’s music did. While Clara and Darien become romantically involved, the musical plot does not drop into the background and remains important throughout.

“Inside her, a melody unfurled; a dove winging eastward in the clear air.”

“It was a grain of sand she would polish into a pearl, a secret treasure against her heart.”

Sonata for a Scoundrel is a great book to read for anyone who enjoys music and romance. There is a second book, Mistress of Melody, in this series, but it appears to follow completely new characters so I haven’t checked it out… yet. 😉

A wild sonata clamored in Clara’s blood—music so sweet and fierce it consumed all other thoughts.

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Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson 4-Stars

This novella is set on the planet Threnody in Sanderson’s Cosmere universe. It can be purchased as a standalone or is included in his Arcanum Unbound collection (which is where I read it).

Silence Montane runs an inn beside a dark forest of deadly shades. There are rules to stay alive among the shades, and she’s had experience breaking them in the past yet living to tell the tale. Silence is more than just an innkeeper, though, and as she pursues a dangerous gang into the forest in the dead of night she must make difficult choices to protect her family.

“Staring into the Forests seemed to make them . . . retreat. The darkness of their depths withdrew, the stillness gave way…”

This is a rightfully creepy story. Apparently there’s a backstory to these shades somewhere but I have yet to come across it. Silence is a strong leading character and you’ll be falling off your seat by the end of her tale.

“It did not help to think of what the men had done…that would make her angry, and she couldn’t afford to be angry. She needed to be cold, quiet, and efficient.”

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White Sand Volume 1 by Brandon Sanderson 3-Stars
graphic novelization by Rik Hoskin; illustrations by Julius M. Gopez

I picked up White Sand recently from a Humble Bundle book deal. There’s an excerpt of it in Arcanum Unbound, but that doesn’t do the full volume justice. This graphic novel, released last year, is an adaptation of an unpublished story Sanderson was working on in 1999.

Sand Masters harness the power of sand on the light side of the planet Taldain, using it in in various feats of magic. The story follows Kenton, who is the weakest Sand Master yet survives an attack that kills nearly every other of his kind. He meets a group of travelers from the darkside, one of which is Khriss, an explorer in search of answers.

White Sand is a quick read, and the story highlights Sanderson’s unique approach to magic. Kenton needs more personality, but hopefully that will begin to show in Volume 2. Also, what is up with the lightside people all being white and the darkside people all being black? I enjoyed it yet don’t feel attached to these characters, and won’t be rushing to grab Volume 2 upon its release.

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Wrong Turn, Right Direction by Elle Casey 1.5-Stars

Oh, Elle. The first two Bourbon Street Boys books were great, but these last two? Ugh. I really looked forward to this one (book #4) because Thibault was always such a perceived force in the other stories, but here his personality is just mindboggling, while Tamika is fairly unlikable.

Tamika Cleary works for a Russian mob boss, and bumps into Thibault Delacroix on the day her unexplained stomach pains turn out to be labor pains. The rest goes like so: baby, danger, live with Thibault for safety, withhold vital information that might save her life, danger, I guess I really like you, continue to withhold info, etc.

Here’s my chapter 26 highlight: “I don’t know why you think that me possibly having a few secrets means you’re functioning in the dark.” Oh, I don’t know sweetie, maybe because this is a ridiculous way to extend the plot?

I don’t know what else to say. Maybe my hopes were too high for this book. Maybe Elle Casey lost her groove. Maybe Thibault was always a pushover. Maybe I just won’t pick up book 5 if it ever exists, since a potential new character was introduced in the background.

(Who am I kidding, it’s on Kindle Unlimited so I’ll probably pick up future books anyway.)

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That’s it for April! Not sure if I’ll continue doing the round-up posts for most of my reviews, but if I do I really need to start taking notes immediately after reading (because wow, these took a long time to post).

If you missed part one of my April book reviews, check it out here!

 

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