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 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 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 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 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.