Cheri Reviews Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Over the past several years, I’ve discovered that I love British crime/detective/mystery books. L-O-V-E them. The language, the settings, and the cultural differences from Americans make them my go-to books when I’m looking for something new to read. It was for this reason that I first noticed Missing, Presumed on NetGalley. I received an ARC many months ago and started it but just wasn’t in the right frame of mind so I put it away. Once I put it down, I mostly forgot about it. Until, that is, I saw the audio book was narrated by Juanita McMahon, who I love. That was enough motivation to get me to jump in with both feet, er, with both ears.

There were no false starts with the audio and I had a tough time pausing for life’s little interruptions like feeding and caring for my child and sleep. It wasn’t that the action was non-stop or that the case was so incredibly engaging, but that the development of the characters and story that had me hooked. And Ms. McMahon, of course.

Here’s the blurb:

At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows that this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.

I won’t give any spoilers away but I will say that, while I had a good idea of what happened to Edith, I didn’t know why until it was revealed. I was a bit disappointed in the way the case panned out but I did still enjoy the journey. For me, the big draw was the human aspect of the book. Was Manon whiny at times and did I want to smack her for some of her choices regarding dating and relationships? Sure, but some of those scenes and decisions helped to flesh out her insecurities and desires and needs. I also enjoyed learning more about the other POV characters.

I generally hate when anyone compares a book to the standard The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl so I’m sorry to do that here. But I only want to compare them with regard to the dark feel of the stories and the way I felt very much in the heads of some of the characters. The biggest difference, I think, between those books and this one is that not everyone in Missing, Presumed is an awful human being who I would like to see harmed. There were very few instances of me seriously wanting to hurt characters in Missing, Presumed.

I certainly look for the next book by Ms. Steiner.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with the ebook to read and review. And thanks to Juanita McMahon for finally getting me to experience it.

You can download a sample or purchase Missing, Presumed 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.

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 Edenland by Wallace King


I’m definitely one who enjoys historical fiction. When I saw Edenland listed on NetGalley, I decided to take a chance. Here’s the blurb from Amazon, if you’re interested:

Born a slave, Bledsoe had never left Our Joy plantation, and a daring escape offers his only chance for liberty. On the run he encounters Alice, an Irish indentured servant, committing what appears to be an act of murder as she burns down a shack in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.

Faced with the threat of capture, Bledsoe and Alice become reluctant allies. An epic tale unfolds as their quest for freedom pulls them from swamp to city, from North Carolina to Virginia. Somewhere between injustice and loss, they discover a hidden place that seems an Eden, where their bond and love are forged.

But the Confederate army is on the march and soon tramples their tenuous freedom. Separated, they are cast into fates they never imagined. Through it all, the hope of deliverance drives them onward and the memory of their Edenland remains, burning bright against the darkness of slavery and the American Civil War.

I had pretty high hopes for this book but they didn’t pan out. I feel like I dredged through each of the 466 pages as if moving through molasses. There were a few entertaining sections, usually having to do with Alice being completely inappropriate or bumbling, but beyond that, the characters moved from place to place, encounter people, conflict ensues, and they’re off again – sometimes together, sometimes apart.

Besides the slowness of the telling, I never felt the chemistry or connection between Bledsoe and Alice. I don’t recall them ever genuinely liking each other or getting along and then, boom, they’re in love. Or maybe just Alice was in love since Bledsoe seemed fairly unfazed by their separation. Regardless, it didn’t feel legitimate to me at all. Neither did the many coincidences that happened throughout.

If you’re looking for a sweeping adventure or action-packed journey through the south during the civil war, this isn’t it. It was interesting to experience what life was like for various types of people during the era but it was a slog for me.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this one.

If you’re still interested, you can pick it up on Amazon through the Kindle Unlimited program which includes the audible version. The narrator does a good job except I increased the speed because he reads incredibly slowly. Which, of course, didn’t help the slow-moving story…

Cheri Reviews The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks

Sci-fi isn’t really a go-to genre for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d like this book. I had never heard of the author and I didn’t read the blurb before I stared – I like to be surprised. If you want to read the blurb, here’s what Amazon has:

I don’t know what the humans are so cranky about. Their enclosures are large, they ingest over 1,000 calories per day, and they’re allowed to mate. Plus, they have me. An Autonomous Servile Unit, housed in a mobile/bipedal chassis. I do my job well: keep the humans healthy and happy. “Hey you.” Heyoo. That’s my name, I suppose. It’s easier for the humans to remember than 413s98-itr8. I guess I’ve gotten used to it.

Rob Dircks, best-selling author of Where the Hell is Tesla?, has a “unit” with a problem: how to deliver his package, out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to guide him. Oh, and with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. It’s a science fiction tale of technology gone haywire, unlikely heroes, and the nature of humanity. (Woah. That last part sounds deep. Don’t worry, it’s not.)

Not much to the blurb but there’s lots to the story. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away.

I was engaged right from the start and absolutely loved hearing Heyoo’s interpretations of things that are very human. Quite possibly my favorite were his theories on the meaning behind the song “The Wheels on the Bus.” I’ll never listen to it in the same way again.

There was so much that I enjoyed while reading this book! The humor is fantastic and I laughed out loud many times. The science fiction aspects were interesting and I was immersed in the world that Heyoo and Wah lived in. I cared about the characters and the outcome and was a little sad when I got to the end of the book. Speaking of the ending, very well done! I didn’t see the final resolution coming until a few seconds before it happened. And the ending almost made me tear up a bit. I’m still smiling after nearly an hour.

Probably the most pleasant surprise was how much I enjoyed the narration. Some authors should definitely stay away from narrating their own work but not this one. His voice is great and his sound effects definitely added to the work.

What a fun, entertaining, feel-good book. Mr. Dircks has a new fan.

I received a copy of the audio book from the author for a possible review.

You can download a sample or purchase The Wrong Unit 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.