Cheri Reviews Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Over the past several years, I’ve discovered that I love British crime/detective/mystery books. L-O-V-E them. The language, the settings, and the cultural differences from Americans make them my go-to books when I’m looking for something new to read. It was for this reason that I first noticed Missing, Presumed on NetGalley. I received an ARC many months ago and started it but just wasn’t in the right frame of mind so I put it away. Once I put it down, I mostly forgot about it. Until, that is, I saw the audio book was narrated by Juanita McMahon, who I love. That was enough motivation to get me to jump in with both feet, er, with both ears.

There were no false starts with the audio and I had a tough time pausing for life’s little interruptions like feeding and caring for my child and sleep. It wasn’t that the action was non-stop or that the case was so incredibly engaging, but that the development of the characters and story that had me hooked. And Ms. McMahon, of course.

Here’s the blurb:

At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows that this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.

I won’t give any spoilers away but I will say that, while I had a good idea of what happened to Edith, I didn’t know why until it was revealed. I was a bit disappointed in the way the case panned out but I did still enjoy the journey. For me, the big draw was the human aspect of the book. Was Manon whiny at times and did I want to smack her for some of her choices regarding dating and relationships? Sure, but some of those scenes and decisions helped to flesh out her insecurities and desires and needs. I also enjoyed learning more about the other POV characters.

I generally hate when anyone compares a book to the standard The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl so I’m sorry to do that here. But I only want to compare them with regard to the dark feel of the stories and the way I felt very much in the heads of some of the characters. The biggest difference, I think, between those books and this one is that not everyone in Missing, Presumed is an awful human being who I would like to see harmed. There were very few instances of me seriously wanting to hurt characters in Missing, Presumed.

I certainly look for the next book by Ms. Steiner.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with the ebook to read and review. And thanks to Juanita McMahon for finally getting me to experience it.

You can download a sample or purchase Missing, Presumed by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought it sounded interesting and that I might enjoy it. It was different from my usual blood and guts mysteries and lesbian romances so I figured I’d give it a shot. I never would have guessed that I would be swept away in a fantastic fairy tale of sorts.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

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.

After the first couple chapters, I couldn’t have stopped reading if I’d been ordered to. The language, the characters, the setting, the history, every single thing about The Bear and the Nightingale made me want it to never end. The way the author wove the story reminded me of Neil Gaiman at his best. I feel at a loss for words to describe how great I think this book is. I’ve talked several people into picking it up with phrases like “it’s incredible” and “just trust me, it’s fantastic and you’ll love it!”

I did a mix of listening to the audio book (which is wonderfully narrated) and reading the ebook and I’m happy I did it this way. I was able to get the voice and pronunciations in my head and still see how the words were spelled. Whichever way you decide to be absorbed into the story, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This book is just wonderful and that it’s a debut novel is even more special. From what I saw on the author’s Goodreads page, there’s a sequel already nearing completion. You can bet I’ll be snapping it up as soon as I can.

I can’t think of anything else to say except I hope everyone who enjoys fairy tales, good versus evil, strong female characters, and beautiful writing will give The Bear and the Nightingale a try.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to discover and fall in love with this book.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Bear and the Nightingale by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Strawberry Summer by Melissa Brayden


It’s been a couple years since I read a book by Melissa Brayden. I’ve enjoyed a few of her older books but her newer books seemed to be filled with characters that sounded so much alike that I couldn’t have told them apart without dialogue tags. I’ve always thought the author was a good storyteller but that wasn’t enough for me anymore. So what changed my mind and got me to give it another try? I’d heard from a couple of friends that this book was different; the characters each had their own distinct voices. That’s it. That’s all it took. So I requested a copy from NetGalley and cautiously began.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Just because you’re through with your past, doesn’t mean it’s through with you.

Margaret Beringer didn’t have an easy adolescence. She hated her name, was less than popular in school, and was always cast aside as a “farm kid.” However, with the arrival of Courtney Carrington, Margaret’s youth sparked into color. Courtney was smart, beautiful, and put together—everything Margaret wasn’t. Who would have imagined that they’d fit together so perfectly?

But first loves can scar.

Margaret hasn’t seen Courtney in years and that’s for the best. But when Courtney loses her father and returns to Tanner Peak to take control of the family store, Margaret comes face-to-face with her past and the woman she’s tried desperately to forget. The fact that Courtney has grown up more beautiful than ever certainly doesn’t help matters.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this book takes over as my favorite of Brayden’s books. I was a huge fan of Heart Block but this one steals the prize.

The characters were a joy to read and get to know. Maggie’s family is loving, supportive, and charming. They’re the family we all wish we had, through good times and bad. Maggie is flawed and mostly self-aware, even though she counters it with denial, she’s not maddening about it. I was never overcome with the desire to shake her or Courtney and yell at them for making stupid choices or not talking to each other.

The first person POV was well-done and Maggie was a very real, human, complex character. It was a joy to be with her as she grew and dealt with joy and pain. As a matter of fact, all of the characters that we spend more than a few minutes with had depth and this made Maggie’s experience – our experience in her head – more engaging. I also think the structure of the story was a big success. Stories told in two different time frames can give a reader whiplash but that’s not an issue here at all.

There were even some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, which is always a bonus. And an even bigger bonus is that I don’t believe I had a single bullshit-calling moment. All in all, this book has everything that I require for a spot on the “I’m in a funk and need to re-read a favorite book” list. And that’s something I didn’t expect when I started reading it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for the opportunity to read and review this one. I’m very glad they did.

You can download a sample or purchase Strawberry Summer 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 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.