Cheri Reviews Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn

Per usual, I received this book from NetGalley months ago. I can’t say no to an interesting NetGalley blurb, apparently… So when it finally comes to the top of my TBR list, I’m ready for some good horror. Dead Souls doesn’t disappoint. Before we go any further, here’s the blurb from Goodreads.

When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he’s the devil, she figures it’s just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition, Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she’s now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar “dead souls”—those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim, and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in…and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.

I finished the book a few minutes ago and everything is a little jumbled up in my head. I liked Fiona much more than I thought I would. She was smart, but not too smart, you know? She felt like a real person. The other Dead Souls were interesting from what we got to know and see of them. I do wish we would have gotten a bit more about a few of them but then I’d probably complain about too much info being given that had nothing to do with the story. As it was, I think this was a nice, tight, exciting ride.

The first half has more of a leisurely pace while we get the foundation we need but at about 45% through, whoo-eee, the story takes off and doesn’t stop until the last sentence. There are plenty of twists and turns, too. I had a great time reading this book.

I read the first 30% of the book with my eyeballs but when I saw it was available on Audible, I spent a credit and started over with Julia Whelan reading it to me. She did a good job but I don’t think I enjoyed the audio any more or less than the ebook. Whatever your format preference, if you enjoy dry humor, gory horror scenes, sympathetic-ish characters, and edge of your seat scenes, you’ll very likely dig this book.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Dead Souls by clicking here.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this fun book. Maybe this will encourage a few late sales to make up for my inability to publish a review as a book is released. 🙂

Cheri Reviews The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy and I cannot wait for the third book. I’ve let my thoughts percolate for a while and my level of love for this series hasn’t diminished in the slightest. If you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale already, you should probably do that before reading the second book. You can check out my review for that one here.

Before I go any further, here’s the blurb for The Girl in the Tower:

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

The second in the series moves Vasya right into the middle of political intrigue and incredible danger. And she rises to the occasion just like I knew she would. I cheered for her and cursed those who tried to hurt her. Throughout the book there was so much beautifully written action and complex relationships that I didn’t want it to end.

What I love the most about both books in the series is how gorgeous the writing is. Arden weaves tales that are not only interesting and fun and emotional but so lovely to read. There are always passages that I read over a few times simply because I don’t want to move on from the images or emotions the words have evoked. This woman can write. It doesn’t matter if she’s describing a tree or a person or a shoe (I don’t specifically remember a shoe being written about but you get what I’m saying), the language is beautifully done.

I suppose you can tell that I definitely recommend this book. I think everyone who enjoys action-packed fantasy or fairy tales with a kick-ass heroine should read this series. And everyone else, too.

You can download a sample or purchase The Girl in the Tower by clicking here.

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a copy.

Cheri Reviews Artemis by Andy Weir

I was excited to get into this book when I got it from NetGalley. But then I got even more excited when I found out that Rosario Dawson was going to narrate it. She’s got a great voice. So I waited. What a fantastic job she did. She made Jazz and the rest of the characters come to life.

I was going to include the blurb but it’s long so I’ll give a quick summary without giving anything away.

Jazz Bashara is a woman who knows how to get what people want. She’s a super-smart smuggler with many skills. Sort of a less strong Xena, if you will, but much more straight and with lots of knowledge of science and metallurgy. When she agrees to pull off a job that will set her up for life, all hell breaks loose and she finds herself on the run.

If you read Weir’s previous book, The Martian, it shouldn’t surprise you that there’s lots of science going on in the story. Initially, I thought that aspect was pretty cool, but it did get to be a bit much for my non-scientist brain. It gave a lot of authenticity to the story but, after a while, I could feel my attention waiver until something else happened.

I guess I should get the things I didn’t care for out of the way and then I’ll get to the things that really worked for me.

Besides the heavy science-talk, I found a lot of what happened very predictable, especially the last several chapters. I was talking back to the narrator to let her know what was going to happen because, surely, Jazz should have figured it out by then. The only other thing I can think of right now is that some things were repeated that didn’t need to be. Just little things, but they still stood out to me. It’s a weird thing that my brain does that very well won’t bother the vast majority of readers but there you go…

Ok, now the good stuff! Weir builds Artemis so completely. Like I did with The Martian, I had to remind myself a few times that the city and characters were all pretend. Fantastic world building and Jazz is very well fleshed out. I was a bit sad when the book ended. I wanted to spend some more time with these people. And, of course, did I mention what a great job Rosario Dawson did?

Even with the little things that I didn’t love, I will still read this one again. I enjoyed it that much. And Jazz is a character I’ll want to spend more time with.

Big thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook. And thanks to Rosario Dawson and Audible for doing such a great job on the audio!

You can download a sample or purchase Artemis by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Eyes Like Those by Melissa Brayden

After a long spell of avoiding Melissa Brayden romance novels, I was so pleasantly surprised by Strawberry Summer that I took the plunge with her new one, Eyes Like Those. I was still wary, though, because it sounded an awful lot like the basic theme of the Soho Loft series, which is what pushed me over the edge in the first place.

Here’s the blurb:

When it comes to love, no one is in charge.

Isabel Chase is reeling. She’s just been offered her dream job as a staff writer on one of the hottest shows on television and quickly trades in the comfort of New England for sun, sand, and everything Hollywood. While stoked for what could be her big break, the show’s stunning executive producer has her head spinning and her feelings swirling.

Taylor Andrews is at the top of her career. Everything she touches turns to gold and the studios know it. Just when she’s on track for total television domination, Isabel Chase arrives in her office and slowly turns her world upside down. Isabel is intelligent, sarcastic, and dammit, downright beautiful. Unfortunately, she’s the one person that can take away all Taylor has worked for.

Will Isabel’s success lead to Taylor’s downfall? Or perhaps Isabel is all she needs…

The feel of the book is very much like the first book in the Soho Loft series with some exceptions. This is set in California and Isabel is a new addition to the group. The biggest exception, for me anyway, is that the group of friends don’t all speak with the same voice. What I mean by that is that they all have their own speech patterns and voice. Kiss the Girl was mostly killed for me because, without dialogue tags, I couldn’t tell who was speaking. The entire group of friends sounded exactly the same. That’s not the case here and it made me very happy.

Like Kiss the Girls, there were some very obvious clues about which pair of friends would be the subject of the next novel. And if not the next, definitely one of them. I believe I also caught foreshadowing for another member of the group in the epilogue. We’ll have to see how that shakes out.

So, what did I think of the story and protagonists? Mostly I enjoyed the book a lot. I never connected or loved Isabel but I did Taylor. Taylor felt very real to me and I saw parts of myself in her. I wanted to hug her and hoped for her to be happy. The journey of the romance was fun to be a part of and there are some very funny bits throughout the book. And there’s even a bad guy you’ll love to hate.

I think that anyone who enjoyed the Soho Loft series will love this one. It’s a pretty light read but still gets you in the heart parts.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for providing the ebook.

You can download a sample or purchase Eyes Like Those by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Perfect Rhythm by Jae

Jae is the author of one of my very favorite lesbian romances, Backwards to Oregon, but I’ve not read several of her newer books. When the cover was revealed, I thought it was great and decided to keep it on my radar. Then when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at it. One of the main characters in a lesbian romance being asexual definitely piqued my interest. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.

In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.

Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?

A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.

I knew the bare bones about asexuality so it was nice to get to know Holly and get a better understanding of some of the relationship hurdles she and other ace folks deal with. Besides the issues dealing specifically with asexuality, this is a pretty standard lesfic romance. Not too much angst but lots of relationship building and outside things going on that help to move our leading ladies toward finding love with each other.

Jae is a master at the slow building romance while giving the reader plenty of time to get to know the characters. The best part is that the reader isn’t beaten over the head with info dumps or flashbacks; everything happens organically and feels like we’re learning about our new best friends. There were a few times when I felt that some of the information about asexuality felt a bit too educational. But now I do feel like I understand the issues that asexual people and their non-asexual partners must go through.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this review is that I know that many of my friends haven’t read Jae in a while and I think they’ll like this book. Besides, more visibility and inclusion of the B,T, and A aspects of LGBTQA spectrum are needed. I think Perfect Rhythm is a great addition.

You can download a sample or purchase Perfect Rhythm by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

Confession time… This is my first real exposure to anything Val McDermid related. I’ve been aware of her for many years but never watched Wire in the Blood or read any of her books. I got very tempted to watch the TV show at one point because of my massive crush on Simone Lahbib but never did. I’d heard mixed things about her books and was never motivated to give one a chance. Until, as has been happening more and more for me, I came across Out of Bounds on NetGalley. I hesitated momentarily because it was the fourth in a series but a well-written book should be able to stand on its own. And, yes, this one did.

As soon as I heard the sample of the audio book, I knew that would have to be how I’d consume this book. I love Scottish accents. Helen Stewart from Bad Girls (see above reference to Ms. Lahbib) nearly had me drooling when she said “serious” and “suit.” It was hard not to pause and grin every time the narrator for Out of Bounds said “serious.” *sigh*

Anyway, here’s the blurb from Amazon:

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

Of course, I won’t give anything away about either case so no worries of spoilers here. Instead, I’ll tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I loved how many strong, smart, capable women were present and how they didn’t argue or fight among themselves. They were supportive and believable. I liked them and was happy that Karen had them in her life. I found the cases and the methods used to solve them interesting.

I definitely appreciated getting just enough information on the characters that were in previous books to help me understand the relationships. Info dumping to bring new readers up to speed sucks but there wasn’t any of that here. We found out what happened to Karen to make her depressed and lonely and were able to be a part of her moving on.

McDermid’s writing is smooth and vivid. Not once did I feel like I was being led around by the author but, instead, following characters who felt as real as I am. I’ll be hitting my local library once I’m done posting this to see what other offerings might be available.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing the ebook ARC.

You can download a sample or purchase Out of Bounds by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

I picked this up from NetGalley a very long time ago and after it sat on my TBR list for a while, I couldn’t remember what it was about or why I had been intrigued enough to request it. When I came across the audio version and listened to a sample, I decided it was time to give it a shot. I’m so happy I did.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth….
The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.
Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways…

This book isn’t the type I normally read. It’s a general fiction, leaning toward women’s fiction I suppose. No blood and guts (except for a cut finger), no edge of the seat action, no lesbian romance. Just a very well written, well narrated book whose characters will stay with me for some time to come. I can even see myself wanting to reread it in the future. The only thing I didn’t care for was the narrator’s American accent. It was pretty awful. But she kicked so much ass on every other part, I didn’t really even care.

I can’t fully describe how I felt while listening to this book. Even though there were a lot of POVs and it’s a long book (nearly 17 hours of listening), I stayed engaged and curious. I smiled and laughed and even had a knot in my gut a few times. No tears though. While we spend the most time with Angela, I grew to care about every other character nearly as much. Such a beautiful, flawed, and loving family. I’m going to miss Angela.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook copy.

You can download a sample or purchase Hello from the Gillespies by clicking here.