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 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 The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

My buddy, Andy, has been telling me how much she loves the work of Robert McCammon for a few years now. I never really cared to give him a try. Shapeshifter spys, post-apocalyptic tales, and ghost stories haven’t really been my preference over the past few years so I’ve not paid much attention to poor Andy’s suggestions of Mr. McCammon’s work. Well, that changed a week ago when we were looking for something to discuss on the next Cocktail Hour podcast. I told Andy she could pick the book we would read and discuss. I have to be honest and tell you that I subtly tried to talk her into picking something else but she stuck to her guns and I resigned myself to slogging through a long-ass boring book. I was just thankful that I had Audible credits available. How wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Before I go further, here’s the blurb:

On the eve of D-Day, a British secret agent with unique powers goes behind Nazi lines Michael Gallatin is a British spy with a peculiar talent: the ability to transform himself into a wolf. Although his work in North Africa helped the Allies win the continent in the early days of World War II, he quit the service when a German spy shot his lover in her bed. Now, three years later, the army asks him to end his retirement and parachute into occupied Paris. A mysterious German plan called the Iron Fist threatens the D-Day invasion, and the Nazi in charge is the spy who betrayed Michael’s lover. The werewolf goes to France for king and country, hoping for a chance at bloody vengeance.

It just didn’t sound like something I’d want to read. But regardless of my apprehension, it grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I hated to hit the pause button to go to work, pick up my child, or go to sleep. I dreamed about wolves and nazis and thought about what was going to happen next and kept modifying my predictions about what Iron Fist was. I dropped a tear at one point when one character discovered that he lost his family to Allied bombing. My stomach roiled during the descriptions of some of the “entertainment” on display for some upper echelon Nazis and friends. But mostly I cheered when the bad guys got what they had coming to them. There were lots of bad guys so there were lots of ass kickings to go around.

Probably the weakest part of the book, for me, was the wolf-shifter part. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it, to be sure, but there was just so much going on during the WWII portion of the book that I hated to have to wait to find what happened next! I guess calling Michael’s younger years weak is unfair, maybe it’s the slow part. The book wasn’t perfect; there were some words and phrases that were over-used and Michael was mostly the perfect man – I mean he even performed oral sex without being asked! I was ready for the book to end when it did but not because I just couldn’t take any more – the story was over and everything was wrapped up and I was ready to wish them all well and move on.

I’ve already purchased Swan Song. A massive “thank you” to Andy for picking such a good book for us to read. I’ll probably not doubt you again. Maybe. Probably not. You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Wolf’s Hour 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.

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

Silver Moon is the story of Becca Thornton and menopause, wolves, sexy female neighbors, ex-husbands, and divorces and how she deals, or does not deal, with all of them. I have to emphasize that this is the story of Becca and no one else.

Silver Moon is an easy read which has a lot of potential but feels like an introduction, the pilot episode of a series. The premise is completely original, the type of lead character, also, is original for this type of fiction: there is no young, beautiful, glamorous, and commanding female lead. No rich one either. This woman is down-to-earth, struggling with the changes in her life, her feelings for her female neighbor, her divorce and how her ex-husband sees her. And with how she sees herself. She will not always make the right choices and I found her often frustrating in how she faces issues, but she’s always very real and that is refreshing.

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I borrowed the audio book of The Little Stranger from my local library last month and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it. I truly enjoyed most of Sarah Waters’ previous books. Some to a greater degree than others, but still found enjoyment in reading them. I read several reviews and some people claimed it was her best work to date and others said it was a huge disappointment. I nearly quit listening after the first few chapters. It’s LONG and I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit that much of my time to something I wouldn’t end up liking.

Well, I’m glad that I stuck it out. The Little Stranger centers around a Georgian mansion in the mid 20th century. Our narrator, Dr. Faraday, seems quite obsessed about the house and, after a call to take care of a supposedly ailing housemaid, becomes close to the mother, son, and daughter who own it. But there seems to be something very wrong going on at Hundreds Hall and after an unfortunate incident with the family dog and a visiting child, the occupants of the house are witness to, and sometimes victims of, well, something. At least that’s what the Ayers’ and their servants think. Dr. Faraday, however, is quite unconvinced.

On the whole, I found The Little Stranger engaging and at times a bit spooky. There were several instances when I completely stopped whatever I was doing while listening to focus that much harder on the scene being described. On another note, if you have an urge to pick up the audio book, the narrator did a great job. I think my only real complaint – that may be a little strong – is that the author has Dr. Faraday go into such minute detail while describing events that took place when he wasn’t there. But now that I’m thinking of it, maybe there’s a reason for that. Hmm… I hadn’t thought of it before. Well, you’ll have to let me know what you think. Feel free to post a comment or find me over at Goodreads where we can hide the spoilers!

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters