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 Poppy Jenkins (Goodreads Review)


I loved this book. First off, the characters are just wonderful. Except maybe Sam, I didn’t like her but I suppose my dislike for her still means she was well done. Poppy and her family and friends were lovely and each featured character felt unique and real. Rosalyn was tougher to connect with – being that she’s a good guy and a bad guy all at once for much of the book. Being, myself, a person who often comes across as unlikable, I felt a bit more for her than maybe some other readers. But one thing is undeniable, Poppy and Rosalyn have some kick-ass chemistry.

I would rate this one a 4.5 if Goodreads offered the choice but there were a couple things that prevent me from rounding it up to a full 5 stars. But I had to debate it for a while. This romance had just about everything for me and the author’s voice, writing style, and sense of humor will keep me coming back for more.

I definitely recommend this book to any lover of romance novels.

I received a copy of the book from the author for review purposes.

Cheri Reviews Capturing Forever by Erin Dutton


I’ve been following Erin Dutton since she first started publishing. I truly loved Fully Involved and A Place to Rest but have been disappointed to varying degrees by the rest. I’ve read all of her books with the exception of For the Love of Cake. When I saw that Capturing Forever dealt with a long-term couple who had separated but are now interacting with each other again, I decided to give it a shot. I’m one half of a long-term couple and like to see folks work out their issues to come back together. I also like that the plot is something different from the norm; a rebuilding and repairing rather than the excitement and unknown of the first time.

Here’s the blurb:

Jacqueline Knight is driven and ambitious, always focused on getting to the top. But when her father’s failing health demands her attention, she must consider putting her career on hold. Though she struggles with her new responsibilities, she won’t admit she can’t do it alone. And the last person she wants to accept help from is her ex, Casey.

Since their breakup eight years before, Casey Meadow s has concentrated on co-parenting their son and making a new life for herself. While she’s happy to offer her help, spending time with Jacqueline threatens to open the box in which she’s locked away their past relationship.

Will the lessons learned in eight years apart be enough to mend the mistakes of the past?

I was drawn in pretty quickly and came to care about the main characters, Casey and Jacqueline. The blurb, I think, is misleading though because Jacqueline very quickly accepts Casey’s help and comes to rely on her. They become a team in taking care of the man that Casey considers her own surrogate father since she lost her parents many years earlier. Throw into the mix their twenty year old son, Sean, a mutual good friend, Casey’s jealous girlfriend, and Jacqueline’s casual sex partner and there’s plenty of drama and potential obstacles to our leads reconnecting as friends, let alone anything deeper.

I was happy and feeling like the author had recaptured the story telling that made me such a fan early on. That is, however, until I got to about 80% in. At that point, Jacqueline’s feelings of self-pity and her inability to talk about the biggest thing that she felt stood in their way got to be too much for me. I don’t want to go into it too much for fear of spoilers but it was the same thing we see so much of in romance novels: intentional lack of communication for use as a plot device when it doesn’t feel authentic.

Along with the communication issues, the conclusion was rushed. All of the important stuff about the relationship and how they were going about making the problems of the past not follow them into a new relationship were glossed over in a couple of paragraphs as narrative instead of letting us see the changes. More attention was given to how seeing each other in different outfits made them aroused than how they were actually making it work. I cared about the characters and their relationship and wanted to experience them fixing the things that tore them apart, not to have it all neatly wrapped up for me. I remember feeling this way about several of the author’s books over the past few years.

So, while I went into the book with low expectations based on the past few books, I was very pleasantly surprised with the first 70% or so and then completely let down by the last 30%. The plot was predicable – I called nearly everything that was going to happen within the first few chapters – and I would have been ok with that if the conclusion hadn’t been so rushed and the communication issues would have felt legitimate.

If you enjoyed the author’s previous work, you’ll very likely be happy with this one. I’m sure I’ll read more from Dutton in the future, and probably pick up For the Love of Cake at some point, too. I can’t seem to help myself.

I received a copy of Capturing Forever from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase Capturing Forever by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh


I started this book last year sometime and put it away. It just didn’t grab me. I received a copy through the publisher, via NetGalley.com, and started immediately. But after two sittings, I put it down and promptly forgot about it. It stayed on my “quit but will go back” shelf until a few weeks ago when I saw the audio book was available at the library and decided it was time to give it another shot. This time around, with the help of a couple of pretty good narrators, I was able to stick with it.

Here’s the blurb:

The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.

What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.

The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.

This is definitely a book about secrets and family in a small community. Lots of secrets. The best part of this book, I think, is the way in which the author reveals them. There’s not a lot of “ah ha!” moments or fast-paced action scenes but, instead, a nice, slow build up that allows the reader to live in the heads of the characters. We know what they know. Of course, we suspect more and sometimes we’re right, but not always, and everyone was not what they seemed. What was definitely consistent was the role that the bonds of blood and commitment had with the cast of characters. I felt like I truly understood why they acted in the way they did and I don’t think I had to suspend disbelief a single time. I didn’t like them all and was disgusted by several of them but they felt genuine in their actions and thoughts.

I’ve gone back and forth between 3.5 and 4 stars and have decided to go with four. Here’s why… The main characters, Lucy and Lila, were written well and were both engaging POVs. I liked that they were done in first person, while the other POVs were in third. It set them apart and I felt more involved in their stories.

The secondary characters who were given POVs were pretty well done, too. Although there were a couple that I didn’t really think were necessary: Crete and Gabby. The rest added to the story and gave some important information in a way that was entertaining and felt natural within the book.

As for the feel of the book, it was dark but I don’t think it was nearly as much of a mystery as I had thought it would be and, while there were a couple of places that had me sitting near the edge of my seat, there wasn’t anything that could be called thrilling. Suspenseful would be a better description, I think.

Ultimately, I enjoyed and would recommend this book to friends who like something a bit darker. I do wish it had been more intense, though.

You can purchase or download a sample of The Weight of Blood by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2aAKB8N.

Cheri Reviews The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

I received this book quite a long time ago from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review. Unfortunately, I’m really, really far behind on all my reviews so I was pleased when I saw I could get the audio book from the library. I have much more time for ear reading and I enjoyed the narrator’s work on The Winter People so it was a win-win!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon (skip it if you want to be surprised. I won’t give anything away):

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

This is the first time I’ve read the blurb (the misspelling of Sylvie’s name isn’t mine but Amazon’s) and it’s pretty spot on. I’m glad I didn’t read it first because I had no idea what was going on. The story is told in three different time frames: the 1950s, the late 1980s, and 2013-2014. There are also quite a few POVs. Between the jumping times and changing points of view, I was nervous that I’d be yanked out of the story and have a hard time actually connecting with the characters. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t an issue at all. I became very quickly involved in the stories – Rose and Sylvie, teen-aged Piper, Amy, and Margot, and the grown-up versions of them all.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you’ve not jumped on the bandwagon and read this yet. I’ll say that I enjoyed this book more than I did The Winter People, which I did like. I felt that the story was tight and plausible – which can be tough to do when you’re talking about supernatural stuff. There were plenty of twists and I was so into the story that I didn’t want to stop and think my predictions through too much. Some stuff I had figured out but even a few of those didn’t turn out exactly like I thought. And the creepy, spooky feel of the book was fantastic. It reminded me of when I read Stephen King books in the 80s and 90s – the things that scare one the most are the things that could actually happen and this felt like that.

Besides the horror/supernatural stuff – which, by the way, is never very graphic – there’s a lot to do with family and friend dynamics. Honestly, there was a lot to like about The Night Sister.

I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a well-written, entertaining, and creepy story with characters who feel genuine and complex. I hope Ms. McMahon has another book in the works.

Cheri Reviews My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni


I bought this ebook, and the audible version, for a few dollars back in October of 2014. I really didn’t know what it was about – I still haven’t read the blurb! – but I saw friends of mine putting it on their lists and giving it pretty high ratings so I figured for the price, I’d go ahead and grab it. I’d eventually get to it. It sat on my TBR list until a few days ago when a friend mentioned she was going to read it and I decided to join her.

In a nutshell, this is the first in a series featuring the protagonist, Tracy Crosswhite. She’s not the only one in the book with a POV but she’s the main character. She’s a homicide detective in Seattle who’s sister disappeared twenty years earlier. She always felt that the man convicted of her sister’s murder had been framed and the focus of her life seemed to be proving it. The discovery of her sister’s remains takes Tracy back to her hometown and forces her to deal with people and feelings she thought she wouldn’t ever have to face again.

After that, lots of stuff happens that you’ll have to read about if you decide to pick up the book. By the way, it’s still dirt cheap or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Before I get to the things that I liked, there were a few things I didn’t care for. The author uses some of the same words and phrases to describe things. For example, it got a tad annoying to have each person blowing on and flexing their freezing fingers and how their bodies were numb or going to shut down. Or talking about the sashes of doors and windows. There are plenty of other examples but it got to the point where I would roll my eyes and just move on. There were also several places toward the very end that felt overly cheesy and melodramatic with the intent of emotionally manipulating the reader but didn’t actually make me feel anything.

There are also loads and loads of flashbacks. Most of them didn’t disrupt the flow and I felt that they added to the story the way they were done. But if you’re someone who absolutely hates flashbacks, you may want to download the sample to see how it goes for you.

I recommend reading this one with your eyes instead of the audio. I listened to a good chunk of the first half and had a tough time knowing when I hit a transition to the past since there were no announcements and I needed cues from the narration to place me in the right time. The narrator also made all the characters who Tracy views as antagonistic sound like total douchebags. Definitely one for the eyes.

The good parts far outweighed any of my negative feelings about the stuff above. The mystery was well done, I thought. I made my pick for the bad guy fairly early but quickly dismissed that one. After that, I just didn’t know and I was very satisfied with the way it played out. I thought the action bits were exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. I was certainly engaged throughout and had a tough time putting the book down.

All in all, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It was by no means perfect but it kept my attention and had me yelling out in surprise or shock several times. Once I got to about 60%, it was nearly impossible to stop. Not to say that the first half wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as quick-paced. Once things get moving, they don’t stop.

I absolutely think it’s worth a read and I’m looking forward to starting the next in the series soon.

You can download a sample or purchase My Sister’s Grave by clicking here.