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 Good Behavior by Blake Crouch


I’d seen the name Blake Crouch before but had never felt motivated to actually read his work. That was until a familiar face on the cover caught my attention: Lady Mary from Downton Abbey wearing a low-cut dress and a bit of a bad-ass attitude. I hit the “request” button on NetGalley and was soon on my way. But then I talked a couple of friends into reading it with me so I put it off until it was released and the audio book was available. I do love audio books.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon if you care to read it:

Fresh out of prison and fighting to keep afloat, Letty Dobesh returns to her old tricks burglarizing suites at a luxury hotel. While on the job, she overhears a man hiring a hit man to kill his wife. Letty may not be winning any morality awards, but even she has limits. Unable to go to the police, Letty sets out to derail the job, putting herself on a collision course with the killer that entangles the two of them in a dangerous, seductive relationship.

Good Behavior comprises three interlinked novellas (The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab), which together form a novel-length portrait of Blake Crouch’s all-time favorite character creation, Letty Dobesh. This edition is the complete Letty Dobesh collection.

There’s a lot to like about Good Behavior. Letty is a flawed, but likable, character. She’s a crystal meth addict who struggles daily to stay on the wagon. She has a son but lost custody of him the last time she went to prison. And she’s a very good thief. Letty is filled with self-doubt and low self-esteem but still manages to land on her feet – barely.

I wished I had been able to spend more time with her and hope more of her stories are published because I enjoyed all three of the novellas included in this book. Each one showed off a bit more of Letty’s quick thinking and determination and I may even have a little crush on her. At least I wanted to hug her a lot.

I did have some problems with the book, particularly the last story. Throughout the book, only non-white characters were identified by their race or color and these were the only ones who consistently spoke in some sort of culturally stereotypical way. The Black man in the final story used words like “homie” and other slang phrases that no other character used. Everyone else, regardless of education level or class, spoke in standard English. I found this unfortunate and wished someone along the editorial chain had pointed it out to the author. This is a classic example of white privilege that maintains the concept that white is normal and everything else is “other.” The third story was my favorite as far as plot and situations but I was regularly annoyed and offended by the representation of Isaiah.

Do I still recommend the book? Absolutely. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting and was a bit sad to have it end. Letty Dobesh is a great character. The author interjects after each story about how it fits – or doesn’t – with the television show on TNT. While I didn’t enjoy having him break in like that, I suppose it will help me not be ticked that the show doesn’t match the book since now I’ll know why.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer (which has become one of my favorite publishing houses) and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Good Behavior.

You can download a sample or purchase Good Behavior by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

I had pretty high hopes for this episode of the Tracy Crosswhite series. It started out with someone stumbling upon a body in a crab trap – even though I had some problems with a sophomore in high school having $1500 saved up to buy a boat – and with Tracy’s team working together to solve the case. We were even teased with Katie Pryor maybe being a part of this one (she’s not).

Unfortunately, this is likely my least favorite of the full-length books in this series. I know that some of the things that bothered me may be edited out. I read an ARC a few months before the scheduled publication date (I’m writing this review in the beginning of October). But the things that didn’t work for me the most are directly related to the handling of Johnny Nolasco and the plot of the story, particularly the who-dunnit and why.

Of course, I can’t give away any spoilers but what I can say is that I was left scratching my head and re-reading sections to see if I missed something. I was pretty happy at 70% through, I still wasn’t completely sure who was bad or good because there were at least two plausible options. But around the 80% mark, my frustration and disbelief grew. That continued until the end when all I could do was shake my head and be glad it was over.

I liked the idea of the story and think it had potential to be an interesting book – the best book in the series, maybe. There was no action or edge of your seat moments, but the investigation and inter-departmental politics were interesting. There were great team interactions and we got to watch Tracy and Dan move forward with their relationship. Unfortunately, all that good stuff couldn’t make up for the way the actual crime was handled. It was very disappointing for me.

I received The Trapped Girl from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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

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.