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 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 A Quiet Death by Cari Hunter


Cari Hunter is my go-to author for lesbian fiction’s mystery/thriller category. Each and every one of her books is engaging, fast-paced, well thought out, and well written. A Quiet Death, the third in the Dark Peak series, is no different.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

In book three in the Dark Peak series, things are looking up for Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding. Dating each other seems to be working, their families are behaving themselves, and the worst of the post-Christmas crime wave is over.

The discovery of a Pakistani girl’s body out on the moors changes all that. No one knows who she is, who hurt her, or how she came to be there. As pressure mounts on East Derbyshire Special Ops for a quick resolution, it becomes ever more apparent that the case won’t provide one.

With the Pakistani community closing ranks, and threads of suspicion reaching farther than anyone could have predicted, the investigation leaves Sanne facing an ordeal she may not survive.

A Quiet Death takes place pretty soon after the events in Cold to the Touch and finds Sanne and Meg happily engaged in committed coupledom. As we knew they would be, they’re perfectly suited and there’ll be no drama between them so no worries there. The ups and downs in this book are solidly focused on the case at hand. Hunter doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and A Quiet Death deals with one that, personally, is one of the toughest to read about: trafficking women for sex. I can handle lots of graphic details when reading mysteries and thrillers but rape is a bit gut-wrenching for me. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that. The author does a great job of letting the reader know what’s going on but there are no graphic descriptions. And I didn’t notice until very late in the book that they weren’t there. The case is the thing and I was completely wrapped up in the thoughts and actions of the detectives. The EDSOP team was a joy to witness and the addition of a POV for Sanne’s boss, Eleanor, gave me even more insight into the case as well as some of the characters. There was never a point when I wanted to get away from her POV and back to Sanne or Meg’s.

I heavily suspected that I’d enjoy this book since I’ve not yet been disappointed by anything written by the author and I was right. Hunter has not only a talent for bringing her characters to life and dropping the reader into the scene but also for balancing dark, deadly serious story lines with levity and humor so the reader doesn’t get lost in despair over the heartbreaking cases. I look forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.

You can download a sample or purchase A Quiet Death by clicking here.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley.

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 Far from Home by Loreli Brown (Goodreads Review)


I’m really torn on the rating of this one. I think it’s better than just three stars and it’s the characters and the inclusion of and handling of anorexia bumped it to a pretty solid 3.5 for me. I debated on whether I should round up or down – since Goodreads seems determined to never allow for .5 stars – and while there were a few things that really pulled me out of the story on numerous occasions, the strength of my emotional connection with the characters pushed me to round up.

I thought that Rachel felt like a genuine and complex character and, even though the book is told in first person POV, I was comfortable with my level of understanding of Pari, too. For me, the most compelling part of the book was the way Rachel’s anorexia was handled. I don’t know anyone – at least I don’t think I do – who has suffered with the illness but I feel like I’ve gained some insight into the condition and a bit of what it must be like. I thought the author did a great job of keeping it in the forefront but never in any sort of preachy way that may have felt forced or contrived.

So what were these things that pulled me out of the story and prevented me from giving it a solid 4 stars or more? Well, the first person POV used with present tense was the first thing. It didn’t mess me up all the time and I mostly got used to it but everyone once in a while – YANK! – right out. But probably the biggest thing was some of the word choices. There were times when phrases or passages seemed like they had the wrong words mixed in. One example was something along the lines of Rachel noticing that Pari was tired and the phrase “she could tell by the weariness of her cheeks” was used. Or words really close to that – I don’t have the book open in front of me but it was the weariness of her cheeks. That pulled me out of the story so badly that I had to text a friend to make sure it wasn’t just me because I don’t know how cheeks can look weary. There were a few places where I felt like the author was trying to make a passage feel more poetic but the actual words didn’t do it for me and I spent more time wondering what words would have made it flow better or make more sense than I did being immersed in the scene. Things like that.

I was typing up the last sentence of this little review when I remembered that I wish so hard that there had been another chapter or three between the last chapter and the epilogue. How wonderful would it have been to experience what they went through to get to that epilogue? I’m not the sort of person who needs everything all wrapped up with a bow but damn, what a bunch of important things to not address. At least that’s how I feel about it.

So after reading all this you may be wondering why I still rounded up… It’s the story, the characters, and how I felt while reading it. Also I didn’t see any typos so that’s a bonus.