Cheri Reviews A Queer Kind of Justice by Rebecca S. Buck


For the past several years, I’ve participated in an A-Z title challenge, a challenge I have consistently failed to complete. It almost always comes down to the evil letters Q, X, and Z. This, the fifth year, I was determined to succeed. On December 30th, I found myself with just the letter Q left. It was the closest I’d ever come to reading a book starting with every letter of the alphabet so I set off on my quest to find a book I could read in just a few hours since I had family commitments for New Years Eve. The first place I looked was my collection of comics and graphic novels because, obviously, they’re short. When that didn’t pan out, I hit my bloated NetGalley list and found the perfect book for the occasion: A Queer Kind of Justice. I’ve read a few of Rebecca S. Buck’s books and already know that I enjoy her style and the topic of the book intrigued me. Here’s the blurb if you’re interested:

A diverse cast of lesbian, bi, and trans women, on both sides of the bars and through the centuries, find life-changing moments of love, hope, fear, excitement, passion, desperation, and inspiration. Prison. The very word sends shivers of fear through the soul. A place of gloom and shadows, where freedom is taken, humanity is lost. A place of cruelty and pain, of claustrophobia, soul-searching, and waiting. A place where guilt and innocence fade away, identity is transformed, and the voice that cries in the darkness is no longer heard. One aspect of human existence that has endured through the centuries: incarceration, implied guilt, punishment. But when all is lost, so much can be gained. It is in prison that the colours of freedom become sharper and brighter, more alluring because they are distant. It is here that impossible relationships become reasonable, that hopes are kindled by a word or a glance. It is where senses are heightened, as alert to danger as to love, to fear as to passion. It is where everything is at once ordered and disordered—and queer is only relative.

I wasn’t disappointed at all. Not only could I read through the short stories quickly but each one of them was different and interesting, focusing on various events and periods of time, as well as different aspects of being LGBTQ. I found each unique story engaging, entertaining, but also informative. I particularly liked the text from the author at the end of each story giving a bit more about the time or characters, some of which I did know a bit about.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I definitely recommend this book. And it starts with Q so that’s a big bonus for those of you who participate in A-Z challenges! Thank you, Ms. Buck, for helping me to finish my challenge with a well-written, well-researched, super entertaining book.

I was given a copy by the publisher quite a while ago through NetGalley for review. Yes, I’m very bad at timely reviews. Very bad.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of A Queer Kind of Justice by clicking here.

Corey, Kitty, and Sequella Review Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey


Sequella: Wow, another sequel in the Chronicles of Alsea already. Amazing! Unfortunately it is still sitting untouched on my eReader.

Corey: What’s wrong with you? I’ve already read Catalyst, re-read Vellmar the Blade, and re-read Catalyst again. Or at least my favorite bits.

Sequella: Show-off! Real life is happening.

Kitty: And some nice alien bits there be. Also, Corey, you sound like a judgmental speed reader.

Corey: But… This is it! The novel that fills in all the adventures of Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr. Lhyn Rivers out in the Universe while Lancer Tal and Bondlancer Salomen Opah were finding each other in the Without a Front books. And the framing is perfect: The first three days of the Alsean version of a honeymoon (“Alsean bonding break”) for Tal and Salomen in which family share stories –

Kitty: – and everyone avoids explaining to little brother Jaros why Tal’s neck looks like a treecat attacked her.

Sequella: So we get Tal and Salomen time? That makes me want to chuck real life out of the window and start reading immediately!

Corey: Right. Okay. So on one hand, all the shifting relationships amongst Ekatya, Tal, Lhyn, Lead Templar Lanaril Satran, and Lead Guard Vellmar are explored in the moment. On the other hand, Ekatya and Lhyn each share a wrenching story about their lives after the Voloth war described in the first Alsean book The Caphenon. A very early scene in which Ekatya helps Lhyn survive a PTSD-like episode lets us know she experienced something traumatic. And yes, it turns out to be VERY traumatic. Whew.

Sequella: How Sci-Fi is the book. Do we get new races? Societies?

Corey: Some of the tech aspects of FTL travel are explained (and felt), and you definitely get a dose of Space Opera political shenanigans and a military-style raid on a planet. Not so much world-building. I enjoyed the action, but my re-reads were all about the aftermath. So emotionally intense.

Sequella: Is this a book mainly about Ekatya and Lhyn, or is a new couple introduced, like it happens so often in Lesfic?

Kitty: Ahem. Dr. Wells.

Corey: Oh stop it, Kitty. You are so homosexist. Who knows who the ship’s chief surgeon is into? And there’s so much to learn about Ekatya, Lhyn, Tal. Salomen, Lanaril, and Vellmar… who needs new couples? One of my favorite moments is when Salomen points out to Tal that the Lancer doesn’t get to decide how to handle the connection between herself and Ekatya… That is something that involves all four women, including Lhyn. And the tensions between Ekatya and Lanaril are nasty intense. So awkward when your wife’s best friend makes you uncomfortable. Frankly, these books are developing into the ultimate friends-and-lovers-and-tyrees emotional mash-up. I adore it all.

Sequella: What about other kick-ass female characters?

Kitty: Dr. Wells…

Corey: Yes, Dr. Wells. But also so much more Lhyn, who is a warrior in her own way. I craved even more Lhyn. We finally get her perspective, but during such unusual and harrowing circumstances. Really, I wish I knew Ekatya and Lhyn as well as I feel I know Tal and Salomen.

Sequella: So Kitty and Corey, who of you liked the book better? Kitty, how many bookmarks did you place?

Corey: Oh, don’t get her started. Me, I highlighted 20 quotes that just made me squee and bookmarked 6 scenes for their (non-sexual) intensity. Basically, they make me cry or clutch my heart. The first time I read the book, the action sequences carried me along but I came back to re-read the emotions.

Kitty: I bookmarked two make-out scenes.

Corey: Sigh. Is that a spoiler? Bottom line, Sequella, is that life may be happening but you need to pause and go visit Alsea RIGHT NOW.

You can download a sample or purchase Catalyst by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


While poking around on NetGalley some months ago, I saw Before the Fall and thought it sounded interesting. The fact that the author wrote on the TV show Fargo helped in my decision to request the book since some friends have said good things about it. By the time I got around to reading it, I had forgotten everything the blurb said except there was a plane crash and a man saved a little boy. I also listened to the audio book instead of reading the ebook. One of the benefits of being terribly delinquent in NetGalley reading is that the audio books are sometimes available at my public library.

The blurb on Amazon is pretty long but here it is if you’re interested:

On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

I just read the blurb again and I have to say there really wasn’t any pulse-quickening suspense and I didn’t think the relationship between Scott and the boy was fragile or at the heart of the novel. Scott was certainly at the heart of the novel but after the crash, he didn’t have that much contact with the kid. What was at the heart of the novel, for me, was the way the right-wing, Fox News-like anchor (think Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh had a love child) twisted the facts of the story, and the law, to advance his own agenda. Sensationalism and ego were all that mattered to him and maybe it was just a bit too close to reality for me. I spent a lot of time grinding my teeth or talking out loud during his sections.

Along with finding out about what had been going on with the passengers and crew before the crash and what Scott and a few others were up to after the crash, there was also the mystery of what happened to cause the plane to drop out of the sky. There was really no point in the book prior to the reveal that I had it completely right. So not only were the characters well done, the mystery was well done, too. And while some words and phrases were used a bit too often for my liking and some scenes seemed to drag or made me wonder why they were included at all, in general, the writing and language were enjoyable. The moving back and forth between before the crash and after worked very well. I was never irritated, that I can remember, when a time or POV shift happened and I liked the author’s choice of omniscient POV. I’d definitely read another book by the author. All things considered, I’m a satisfied reader!

You can download a sample or purchase Before the Fall by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie


I picked this book up from NetGalley a LONG time ago and then I forgot about it. Recently, I found the audio book at the library and figured it was the universe’s way of telling me to check this one off my lengthy “to be reviewed” list.

Suffer the Children is a horror story that focuses on a few families in a what seems to be a smallish town. It starts out right before all of the prepubescent children of the world die. It moved over the globe in shifts but all of the children in this town dropped at the same time. And then they came back a few days later. That’s when the story really begins.

I thought the book was a lot of fun to read. It’s mostly told from the POVs of various adults – parents or medical professionals – and, a few times, from kids. The kids’ POVs I found a bit problematic simply because many times there were words and phrases or other things put forward that didn’t fit for a kid to say or notice or know and it broke that illusion for me. The adult POVs, though, I loved. They showed some great evolution in thought and justification.

There were some things that either weren’t explained very well – like why some industries were expected to not be present anymore because the kids died or why there was a shortage of food and supplies in the grocery store – and others were tough to swallow and went beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

Ultimately, I had a great time reading this book. It was a lot of fun. It was sort of like a good, cheesy, horror movie. There was some humor, a lot of blood, some engaging characters, controversy, and evil kids. I definitely recommend it for fans of the horror genre who are looking for a lighter read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy. The audio book narrator did a good job of bringing it to life so I can definitely recommend the audio version if you prefer reading that way, like I do.

You can download a sample or purchase Suffer the Children by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Roundabout by Gerri Hill

Like all Gerri Hill stand alone romances, I went into The Roundabout with mid-range hopes. Her books are rarely stellar but they’re almost always enjoyable in a “light, easy to read with moderately engaging characters who I want to see succeed and be happy” sort of way. The description of this one, which I’ll add just below, seemed like it might be like a reverse of one of my absolute favorites from the author, No Strings. That was enough to make me put away the other two books I was reading and focus on this one. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Megan Phenix—bar and grill owner in gay-friendly Eureka Springs—is labeled as “playing hard to get” and finds herself the object of much unwanted attention. If only she were seeing someone…maybe the women would leave her in peace.

Leah Rollins thinks fifty is too young to retire, so instead, she opens a store in the touristy shopping district of Eureka Springs next to the popular Phenix Grill. She soon learns that Megan Phenix is a bit on the grumpy side as they spar over parking spaces and anything else they can find to argue about. When Leah catches the attention of the multitude of single lesbians in town, she searches for a way out. Could the grumpy grill owner next door be the answer to her problems?

Megan and Leah strike an unlikely alliance and conspire to rid themselves of the unwanted attention by fake dating. Can they pull it off?

As they pretend to date and convince everyone in town that they really are a couple, the pretense becomes harder to hold on to. But there’s just one problem…they don’t really like each other.

There seemed to be some potential for a pleasant reading experience but, for me, it never panned out. I had some problems with this book that covered the plot, the characters, and some editing issues. Two of the biggest problems I had with The Roundabout were Megan being a completely unlikable character for nearly the entire book and the whole Facebook/blackmail scenario. First, Megan is constantly rude to everyone – family included. To call her grumpy is an understatement. I was probably 75% through the book before she acted like a decent human being. I don’t know why anyone would want to be friends with her, let alone ask her out even if she was the youngest available lesbian in town. And she treats Leah terribly while Leah, for a reason I don’t understand, is nice to her and doesn’t seem to mind the treatment. She says a few times that she enjoys annoying her but I don’t know what she gets out of the interactions.

I felt like very little time was spent letting the characters get to know each other and develop the chemistry that they ended up with. There was lots of space devoted to telling the reader, often in the same basic words, about Leah not knowing what she was going to sell in her shop – right up until it was time to open – and how Mary Beth was crazy or how Megan was pissed about the parking situation but not much showing positive, one-on-one experiences with the two leads. It seemed like Leah decided that Megan was cute and that was enough to move forward. Megan spent a lot of time complaining about everything and, after the attraction started to feel mutual, saying that “this can’t happen.” I never felt connected to the characters or to their relationship.

The second thing that I struggled with was the plot arc dealing with blackmail photos posted on Facebook. I found it disturbing and creepy that everyone except Megan found it funny and cute that someone stripped, posed, and photographed a passed out, drunk woman and then repeatedly posted pictures – each more revealing than the next – publicly in order to blackmail her into going on a date with her. To have even Megan’s sister, a friend of the blackmailer, tell her to just go out with her and maybe she’ll stop, felt so dirty and wrong to me. I found nothing funny about the situation and it made me feel negatively toward every person who thought it was okay to do something like that or to not do whatever they could to make it stop.

Lastly, and these things may not bother most people but they were pretty distracting to me, there were lots of repeated words and information. About halfway through, I started looking words and phrases up to see how many times they were used. If I took a shot of tequila, the drink that got Megan into the blackmail situation, every time the word “smoky” was used to describe Leah’s eyes, I’d have ended up in the hospital. Like I said, stuff like that may not bother you as a reader but, for me, they kill an otherwise good story. Where I was already having a tough time caring about the characters, it made the experience even worse.

I wouldn’t put this one on my re-read list but I will keep reading Gerri Hill’s books. Her hit-to-miss ratio with me is still pretty good when it comes to her romance novels.

You can download a sample or purchase The Roundabout by clicking here.

I received a copy of The Roundabout from the publisher for review.

CAB Reviews A Kind of Justice by Renee James

Book blurb:
“Against all odds, Bobbi Logan, a statuesque transgender woman, has become one of Chicago’s most celebrated hair stylists and the owner of one of the city’s poshest salons. She is finally comfortable with who she is, widely admired in her community, about to enjoy the success she deserves.

Then her impossibly perfect life falls apart.

In the space of a few weeks, the Great Recession drags her business to the brink of failure, her beloved ex-wife needs help in facing a terrible tragedy, and a hateful police detective storms back into her life, determined to convict her of the five-year-old murder of John Strand—pillar of the community—and a sexual predator.

As the detective builds an ever more convincing case against her, both of them will be shaken by revelations—about themselves, about their own deeply held secrets, and about the bizarre ritual murder of John Strand.”

I didn’t realize this was the second book in the series, despite it clearly stating that in the title. Although, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the first in the series, I did find myself wondering about the details of Bobbi’s back-story. As a result, there is a strong possibility that I will go back and read “Transition to Murder.” Having said that, I was sucked into “A Kind of Justice” from the outset. Bobbi Logan could have been written as a caricature of a stereotypical transgender woman. However, the author takes the time to make sure Logan is a well-developed and interesting character, juxtaposed against Detective Wilkins who is vulgar, crude, and obviously bigoted against the LGBTQ community. As the reader, we get to see the story develop from two distinct points of view: Logan’s and Wilkins’.

On a personal note, I found it interesting that I assumed based on Wilkins attitude that he was white, when in fact he is black. This made me re-evaluate my own point of view/prejudice. I was also happy to see Wilkins’ character development throughout the storyline. The author was able to move him from being a completely bigoted arse to a somewhat sympathetic character in a manner that felt natural.

Overall, I was impressed with the flow of the story and the characters themselves. I’d give this 4 stars and I will definitely keep an eye out for new stories coming from Renee James.

I picked this book up from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of A Kind of Justice by clicking here.