Cheri Reviews Spark by Catherine Friend

Catherine Friend’s book The Spanish Pearl is one of my favorite lesbian novels so when I saw on NetGalley that there was a new time-traveling book coming out, I jumped on it. And I devoured it in one day.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Jamie Maddox is worried about her grip on reality. Has her consciousness really been transported back to 1560, landing in the body of Blanche Nottingham? Not good, since Blanche, a lady-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth I, is plotting a murder. The other possibility that Jamie faces? She’s had a psychotic break that has trapped her in an Elizabethan fantasy while another personality—let’s call her Blanche—has taken control of Jamie’s life and is jeopardizing everything.

Jamie is repeatedly zapped back and forth between the present and 1560 (or in and out of that twisted fantasy). Betrayal, murder, thunderstorms, and two doctors complicate everything as Jamie and Blanche battle to control Jamie’s body. Just as Jamie is running out of both hope and time, help—and love—come from a most unexpected place.

Sounds pretty interesting, right? I thought so, too!

There were some similarities with The Spanish Pearl but once the book got going, the only real commonality was time-travel and being very entertaining. The POV stuck with Jamie Maddox (who, by the way, shares her name with another current Bold Strokes Books author) and through her we are given wonderful glimpses of Queen Elizabeth I, the intrigues of her court, and some pretty visceral descriptions of what life was like then. I laughed several times, cussed a few characters out, and truly had a great time while reading this book.

If you’ve read any of Catherine Friends work before and enjoyed it, I have no doubt you’ll love this one. If you haven’t read anything by the author, this is a good place to start. Oh, and see if you can catch Jamie’s nod to The Spanish Pearl.

A big thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review Spark. It certainly brightened my day. I’m still smiling.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Spark 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.

Corey Reviews Soul Selecta by Gill McKnight


Soul Selecta is an odd novel. A funny, stimulating, enjoyable read, but still a little odd. I like odd, however, so it’s all good.

The publisher’s blurb simply states “Soul mates are hell to work with,” and I salute this truth in advertising. The story opens with a prologue set in Sappho’s Seminary for Artistic Young Ladies (654 B.C.) and imagine every drama that ever could happen in a girls’ boarding school. The author efficiently hits them all, then zooms to the Elysian Fields and the first-person narrative of the Soul Selector. Our narrator lays out the rules of soul mates finding each other and announces that “herding horny cats is easier.” Yes, it’s that kind of book.

By chapter two, we are introduced to American high school student Jesse Colvin. I was rather peeved, because I dislike YA novels, yet I was enjoying reading about Jesse (totally against my cynical will). Jesse is the soul mate of one Norrie Maguire, living 3,000 miles away in Ireland. The Soul Selector begins herding…

The story switches back often to the Soul Selector and the rather hilarious Gods and Goddesses and their minions who make her job more difficult. Aphrodite is a hard-assed bitch. No one likes the slovenly Ares, God of War, who cannot be bothered to get off the couch and end all those destructive skirmishes on Earth. Eros is a sullen, pimply pubescent punk. Death is a frivolous, shy, fluffy, colorful dresser who just hates conflict. And our intrepid Soul Selector just wants to get her soul mates together, despite all the gods and goddesses and other interfering players on Mount Olympus.

Then, a moment arrived in the story and I dropped my kindle and asked my cat, “Wait. What just happened? Wait.” Then I grabbed the kindle up again and read furiously. Spoilers, sorry, I must not tell you more. Go buy the book and find out for yourself.

Soul Selecta ignores most lesfic plot arcs and completely entertained me with trashy Olympian gods, young lesbian love, some hot sex, a conundrum, and enough twisty fun that I consulted several times with my cats about what might happen next. Recommended.

You can purchase a copy of Soul Selecta by clicking here.

Sequella Reviews Jae’s Shape Shifter Books


I admit, it took me a while to turn my attention to Jae’s shape shifter stories. Even though I liked all of her books I’ve read so far, I kept pushing them to the back of my reading pile. I have no idea why…

After finishing Second Nature, I immediately turned my attention to the second full length novel, True Nature. And when I say full length novel, this actually means a really long story in Jae speak, much longer than the usual ~80.000 words you find in lesfic romance.

True Nature revisits wolf shifter Kelsey Yates who made an appearance in Second Nature, where she almost killed Jorie, one of the lead characters. Struggling with distrust from her boss, high expectations from her parents, and part of her past, Kelsey sets out to rescue an adolescent shape shifter boy from his adoptive mom, Rue. Of course, circumstances are different than they originally appeared and slowly, a relationship between Kelsey and Rue develops.

For me, what stands out in this book is the relationship between Kelsey and Rue. I would have expected the shape shifter, Kelsey, to be the stronger character of the two. Especially since she is a wolf shifter, and they tend to be invulnerable and on top of everything in other fantasy novels. This is not the case here. Kelsey is not interested in following her Dad’s role as alpha of the pack at all. Instead, she is drawn to Rue’s strength and dominance and is happy with an omega position.

Chronologically, Manhattan Moon happens before True Nature. It’s not important in which order you read both books though. In Manhattan Moon, we meet two characters that have been shortly introduced in True Nature. Shape shifter Shelby, a psychiatrist, and Nyla, a human nurse, work together at a hospital in New York. The attraction between them grows, but Shelby knows that she needs to protect the Wrasa secret and should try to find a “more suitable” mate instead. Jae perfectly captures Shelby’s struggle about not wanting to do the “right” thing and you will feel yourself wincing whenever she might get confronted by fellow Wrasa about dating a human.

Nature of the Pack is a short story that starts where True Nature ended. If you’re not ready yet to let Kelsey and Rue go, you definitely need to read it. Although, it’s way too short for my liking!

You miss Jorie and Griffin? The book ended too soon? I know that feeling. At least there is Natural Family Disasters with a collection of five short stories connected to Griffin and her family.

You can download samples or purchase all of Jae’s books by clicking here.

Alberta Reviews 96 Hours, Heart Block, and Second Nature


96 hours by Georgia Beers

96 hours is set in the first days and weeks of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Abby Hayes, a young woman in her late twenties, is on a return flight from London to New York to visit her mother for a few days. After having quit her job a few years before so she could experience life and travel around the world, she’s what you would call a free spirit. On the same plane, Erica Ryan is returning from a business trip that didn’t quite turn out as planned. Living for her work and ready to be home so she can continue to work on a solution for her product, she’s more than a little frustrated when all of a sudden the plane is redirected to a small town in Newfoundland. With nearly 7,000 other passengers they learn of the 9/11 attacks and try to cope with the horrible reality of the aftermath. Trapped for nearly a week in this small town, Abby and Erica have to learn to work together to make the whole situation as bearable as possible.

I started this book a bit apprehensively since I was afraid it might be more about the attacks on the Twin Towers than about the characters and I wanted to read a novel not non-fiction. I needn’t have worried. Georgia Beers uses the backdrop of 9/11 as a setting for two very different characters to look beyond their own perspective. It is never a tool to paint the world in black and white and good and evil – something I unfortunately have come across while reading stories set around the attacks. One of her main characters describes this best when she sits in a bus in New York a few weeks after 9/11 and is devastated by the hateful looks some passengers throw at everyone that looks like someone from the Middle East.

The secondary characters are equally well developed, with their own backgrounds and perspectives. Something I came to expect from Georgia Beers’ books. Her characters are always well developed and seem very real – no superheroes, no perfectness. Everyone could be someone you might actually meet in the grocery store or on the street. The whole story has a very slow pace since most of it takes place within a week. As a reader that gave me the chance to experience this claustrophobic atmosphere along with the characters, the waiting around, not knowing what to expect.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in reading about three-dimensional characters in a very difficult situation and a slowly developing romance. If you are looking for an action-driven plot in the midst of 9/11 this is not the book for you.


Heart Block by Melissa Brayden

Emory Owen, owner of a multi-million dollar news agency, isn’t all too thrilled that she has to take care of selling and cleaning out her late mother’s mansion. Never having been close to any of her family and especially not her mother, she’s not willing to invest too much of her time into her childhood home. When a friend recommends a cleaning service to take care of the house, she accepts right away.

Sarah Matamoros is a young woman, working for her mother’s cleaning house business. She tries to balance her life around the job, taking care of her eight-year-old daughter Grace and finding enough time for her large Mexican family.

When she meets the owner of her newest project, Emory Owen, she’s at first taken aback by the aloof, all-business like behaviour of a daughter that has just lost her mother. As time passes, the two so very different women get to know and love each other. But is that enough to overcome the obstacles of two very different worlds?

Having read Melissa Brayden’s “Waitng in the Wings”, which I really liked, I was curious whether she’d be a one-hit-wonder or if her second book would be equally as interesting. And it is. Her characters are well developed and especially the little girl was most definitely not a plot device – which in the books I’ve read is unfortunately quite often the case with children. I especially liked the way Emory developed new insights throughout the book. There were a few problems I didn’t really get since simple communication could have solved them pretty easily but it didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment. The book features interesting secondary characters in real worlds as well, with jobs, friendships, responsibilities and families.

All in all I’d like to recommend this book to anyone that’s interested to read a story that’s – much like the author’s other book “Waiting in the Wings” – not your formulistic lesbian romance.


Second Nature by Jae

Jorie Price is a writer of fantasy books, working on her newest project – a book about shape shifters.

Griffin Westmore is a real life shape shifter, assigned to stop Jorie from publishing her novel since it comes very close to the reality of their world and might endanger her species. When she realises that there is more to her assignment than trying to stop Jorie from finishing her book, she starts an investigation into her own ministry – a decision that puts her, as well as Jorie’s life into mortal danger. But there is only one way to save them and that involves trusting a human with her greatest secret and at the same time trusting her own estranged family to support her decision.

Second Nature is not your typical lesbian romance novel. Having read several of Jae’s previous books, I was curious if she’d be able to draw me into her fantasy world as well with her writing skills. She did. Developing not only interesting and three-dimensional protagonists and secondary characters, she also created a very complex and thought-out setting – a world where shape shifters exist in a parallel world to “regular” humans. She manages to make their worries to be found out believable and their struggles with their identity very convincing. After all, those are circumstances, a lot of minorities that have to hide in an unfriendly society have to face. So I wouldn’t consider that a fantasy aspect.

But even though this part was not fantasy for me, the rest of the book most certainly is. The characters are not humans with an additional skill – like an additional sense or special powers like Spiderman or Harry Potter, who are first and foremost humans, no, they aren’t human – at all! They are as much animal, if not more so, as they are human. So if you are not into the fantasy genre, this book is not for you. One of the protagonist’s for example is a cat shifter. Which means, even in her human form she walks like a cat and only tries to disguise it and she sees colours like a cat does and not like a human.

If you are new to this genre – like I was – and you are willing to open your mind to this world then you’ll find a novel full of suspense and action, of romance and fleshed-out cast of characters and a storyline that had me reading until late at night. And if you are already a fantasy fan then you’ll love this book.

Morningstar by Darcy Town

Let me start by saying that I have read the whole series, and yes, I really, really liked it. Loved it.

The Morningstar trilogy is about fallen angels, mythical creatures, religions re-interpreted and completely upended. There is a lot of sex (all kinds of it), drugs, violent behavior and events, lack of morals..

What’s great about the story:
The characters are well written and their journey and history make them well-rounded and multidimensional. You do come to care about them. Actually, I dare say you sometimes care more about the secondary characters than the main ones, but you will love all of them, and I wouldn’t discard any of them too early. They all grow throughout the trilogy. There’s a definite good plot there that you just have to follow and see how it unfolds. And you won’t be disappointed.

The spin that the author puts on religions was a big attraction to me but I have to say that this is not for everyone and some may feel lost early on because of it. This group of creatures is just as interesting (and sometimes more) as any bunch of werewolves or vampires. Also, the “victor writing history” approach when talking about Lucifer may be offensive for some. The sex, violence, and mixture of all religions may also be a turn off for others. If you’re still reading at this point, you may be like me and should just read all three books.

What could be improved on:
It could be better edited. I completely disregarded a bunch of things because I loved the plot and characters, but I am aware that others would be unable to get past it.

There are definitely some scenes that I would do without. They unnecessarily lengthen the story.

And voila! I’ve made my case and I really hope you take a chance on this. But remember: it has to be all three books! Just the first one is really not enough.

Reviewed by Incognito

Check out Darcy Town’s Amazon Page