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My name is Chelsey and I am the creator of Charming Chelsey's! I read and review anything and everything that I find to be "charming." I accept ARCs or already released books for review, and I'm also available to participate in any blog tours or book reveals too. If anything, please don't hesitate to email me any time for any reason at: charmingchelseys(at)gmail(dot)com

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: The Valiant

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)Author: Lesley Livingston
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: The Valiant # 1

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

“Are you a weapon or a target? Choose!”

“Be brave, gladiatrix, he said, And be wary. Bright things beget treachery. Beautiful things breed envy. Once you win Caesar's love, you'll earn his enemies' hate.” 

“This is Rome. Treachery and opportunism and backstabbing run in her veins like lifeblood, and if you've never had to live your life constantly looking over your shoulder, then you have no idea how dangerous it can be.”

“There is no thing called dishonor. No thing called honor. There is only winning. Only losing. And if you lose, you don't leave a freshly made bed for your enemy to sleep in.” 

“There is only forward. Only tomorrow. No yesterday, no going back. And nothing of value is left behind, so nothing is truly lost.” 

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I watched quite a few video reviews and read several reviews on Goodreads before I finally decided to give this one a try. I was first and foremost intrigued by the main character, Fallon. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic king and the younger sister of one of the fiercest female warriors that ever lived. Fallon wants nothing more than to follow in her sister’s footsteps. After a night of chaos, Fallon is kidnapped and nothing about her life is ever the same again. Let me just say that I am not into books that detail a lot of action, but this one kept my attention the entire time. The author writes Fallon as a character that you will root for. She is fierce, but still flawed. She steps into battle as a young, naïve girl with much to learn and triumphs as a victor who still has far to go in her journey fighting for Julius Caesar himself.

Fallon’s character was my favorite part of this book. I loved following her as she was betrayed, heartbroken, learned to love, and learned just what she stood for and what she didn’t. There was just a touch of romance, which I enjoyed as well. I do not like romance as overkill in novels, but this was just enough to keep me enticed by the characters and wanting more from the next book in the series. There is a lot that I cannot spoil about the characters and the way their lives change. I can see a great change in Fallon from the beginning of the book till the end and that is very satisfying for me as a reader. Only great authors can keep me that involved in the lives of their characters. This is the first book I have read by Lesley Livingston, but after all my research I can see that many other readers love her other books just as much.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little LiesAuthor: Liane Moriarty
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Berkley

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

“Reading a novel was like returning to a once-beloved holiday destination.” 

“It’s because a woman’s entire self-worth rests on her looks,” said Jane. “That’s why. It’s because we live in a beauty-obsessed society where the most important thing a woman can do is make herself attractive to men.”

“Champagne is never a mistake.”

“Nothing and nobody could aggravate you the way your child could aggravate you.”

“The only woman who deserved a philandering husband was a philandering wife.”

I was inspired to read this book after watching the first few episodes of the show on HBO. I had to stop because I had a strong urge to unravel the mystery on my own time instead of waiting for the show to end. So, I headed out to the bookstore and started reading. It took me no time at all to get through the 400+ pages that make up this book. This book has something for everyone. Essentially it follows the politics between a number of Kindergarten moms, which sounds crazy I know, but the story is very pleasing and the murder mystery is what will ultimately reel you in – YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! I love all three of the “main moms” that the story follows: Madeline, Celeste, and Jane. The story is told from each of their perspectives, so you get an intense look into the secrets of their lives.

The deeper you dive into this book, the more powerful the writing and story line becomes. You will rack your mind trying to guess who has been murdered and who is to blame, but I promise you will never guess. The writing is fast-paced and makes 4oo+ pages feel like a breeze. I fell in love with both Madeline and Jane right away. Celeste took me some time to get used to just because of what she puts up with in her marriage, but I won’t spoil that for you. The children are also a key point in the story and really make it extra edgy because they are involved in a little drama of their own. I am now anxious to see if HBO lives up to the book, but I can tell you they probably won’t. This is a great book that really does deal with some complexion themes and issues, while still being highly entertaining and even comical at times.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: Reign of Shadows

Reign of Shadows (Reign of Shadows, #1)Author: Sophie Jordan
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Reign of Shadows # 1

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

“The world was a merciless place. Hard and cruel. Except when you found someone to trust and love. Life, however fleeting, possessed meaning then.” 

“Life is full of regrets. They’ll cripple you if you let them.” 

“She was . . . is beautiful. Like her mother. Like you.” He touched me then, pressing one finger directly over my heart. “You have it in here.” He coughed violently, his hand dropping away from me. “It’s a beauty that nothing can take away. Not this world or its monsters.” 

A Rapunzel retelling based in a world with little to no sunlight?! I had to find out more about this book that promised to be full of fantasy, romance, and a kick butt main character. The book is only 292 pages and I ended up finishing pretty quickly. The story was easy to fly through and even easier once I developed a strong connection to the two main character. Sophie Jordan builds the main character, Fowler and Luna, slowly as she unveils the mysterious world they are living in. Luna becomes loveable a lot sooner than Fowler, but pretty soon his good traits shine through as well. They are both resilient and have had to learn to adapt to a world that is nothing if not harsh and cruel. They develop a strong bond and are forced to work together if they are ever going to outrun the dwellers.

Luna is a phenomenal main character. Readers learn something pretty pivotal about her within the first few chapters and it entirely changes the way you read the book and the way you think about her character. Fowler is rough around the edges and somewhat disliked by all at first, but readers soon get to see inside her back story and know why he has such a hard outer shell. The world was completely fascinating to me and I have already ordered the next book in the series because this one leaves off on a huge cliffhanger. I have to know what is going to happen! I have read a lot of mixed reviews about this book, but I must say that I am not one for a whole lot of action and adventure, but the journey that Luna and Fowler have started on is thrilling and intoxicating. Yay for my first Sophie Jordan novel!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: Caraval

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series: Caraval # 1

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.” 

“No one is truly honest,” Nigel answered. “Even if we don't lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.” 

“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”

“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.”

The month of February left me in one of the biggest reading slumps I have seen in a while. I knew that I was going to have to find a really great book to bring me out of it. This book was all that I needed to bring me out of this slump. I was completely swept away in this world, in the game, and by the loveable and some not so loveable characters. The circus-like/magical world that is Caraval left me reminiscing back to my first days reading Harry Potter when I was fascinated by a world so different from my own. One of the best parts of the book were the letters that we exchanged between our main characters; it brought such a magical, nostalgic feeling to the journey. I was so impressed with this story. I actually hugged the book after I finished reading it because the story was so endearing and will forever be one of my favorites.

The best part of this story was that when you are about one-third to a half of the way in you have so many questions that you will be dying to know the answers to. You will start to try and figure things out, but you will probably, like me, get to the end and have very different things happening that what you first expected. There are so many fascinating characters that you will meet along the way; Scarlett was my favorite and I must say that I only admired her more by the end of the story. She felt like a very real person with flaws and dreams and expectations. I loved everything about this book and was so shocked by the very last pages. I am beyond thrilled to see where the story goes from here!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: Passenger

Passenger (Passenger, #1)Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Series: Passenger #1

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

“It's our choices that matter in the end. Not wishes, not words, not promises.” 

“In the whole course of history, war had always fallen on the shoulders of the young.” 

“The only way out is through.”

“A snake could shed its skin, but never change its color.” 

“You are my passenger, and I will be damned before I let any harm come to you.” 

I really wanted to love this book. I loved some parts of it, but most of it I found myself flipped through the pages, counting how many pages I had left until the finish. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be reading “Wayfarer”, which is really a tragedy in itself because it looks so good. I loved Etta and I loved Nicholas, but I felt like the story was lacking a lot. There was very weak characterization and a lot of fluffy writing that I felt was totally unnecessary. This book took me forever to finish and I think a lot of that was due to the “fluff”, for lack of a better word. I greatly enjoyed any and all dialogue shared between characters, but anything other than that was painful to get through.

I think what I really wanted from this book was more action. I loved when Etta and Nicholas were travelling and I loved finding out where they were headed next and seeing their reactions when they got there. I would actually say that I wanted more of that. I wanted to know more about their pasts, their secrets, their personalities, etc. The story could have been really innovative but there was nothing there to keep me intrigued. I have chalked this book up to the pure conclusion that Alex’s writing style is just not for me. I would love to hear from others about “Wayfarer”. I still feel like I want to give it a try, but I am a little gun shy after finishing this one.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Book Review: Something In Between

Something in BetweenAuthor: Melissa De La Cruz
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

“I like how he looks into my eyes like he’s seeing past the image everyone else sees – into who I really am.”

“There’s never a moment you can’t choose who you want to be.”

“It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?”

I usually find myself reading a lot of YA Contemporary in the Spring, but I found myself really in the mood for some with all the winter weather we have been getting. This book is unlike anything I have ever read, being an immigration story, and by the end of the book I found out the author’s story is not too different from our main character’s story. I was intrigued from the first chapter, and even though there were a few slow spots, I was very entertained and invested in finding out what happened to Jasmine and her family. I really appreciated being able to read this book from Jasmine’s perspective. She is an “undocumented”teenage girl with the hopes of living a version of her “American dream” and being able to attend Stanford and change the world for the better. I felt like her character really grew by the time we reached the end of the story, and I must say that I always ecstatic when authors are able to do that in such a short amount of time.

There is a romance in this book, but I will say that it does not take away from Jasmine’s story in the least. She does not use Royce to “get over” her problems or to help define her in anyway. He is a great character and really adds to Jasmine’s complexity. Some parts are “mushy gushy”, as my ten-year-old self would say, but overall the love story is done very well and you will find yourself rooting for a happy ending for the two of them. What I must say that I loved even more than these two characters was Jasmine’s honesty and realness. She took into consideration how others viewed her and she tried to look at her status in America from other people’s perspectives. She was not angry at people against immigration, but instead tried to see things the way they would see it and only wanted to change things for the better. I loved the ending and “everything in between” – see what I did there?!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark CrownsAuthor: Kendare Blake
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Three Dark Crowns # 1

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

“Three dark queens
Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends

Three dark sisters
All fair to be seen,
Two to devour
And one to be Queen” 

“I want revenge." She whispers, and her fingers trail bloody streaks down Natalia's arms.
"And then I want my crown.” 

“Only a king-consort is fool enough to love a queen, he says quietly.” 

“No one really wishes to be a queen.” 

I have read, watched, and listened to so many reviews where readers say they did not enjoy this book. However, I am so glad that I went ahead with my gut feeling and read this book because I absolutely loved it. I have not had much experience with high/dark fantasy, but I am thinking that 2017 might just be the year for it. I had read over and over that the book starts slow and doesn’t get better throughout, but I, on the other hand, felt that the “slowness” was necessary in order to build the world and lay the foundation for this series. This world is so intricate and complicated and completely mystical that in order to full appreciate this series, you really have to understand all the tiny details. There are also a ton of characters that are introduced in this first book, but I was not confused or put off by that in the least.

You go into this book knowing that the underlying fact is that not all three of these sisters will be queens. Two must die. I have so many mixed emotions about where I think this series is going to go from here. I have read several reviews where people say they could not connect or disliked all three of the sister queens. I am right the opposite. I think they all were extremely developed and they all have attributes and/or things in their lives that made me empathize with them and root for them. I have a prediction of what I think will happen based on the ending, but I have no way of knowing if that will even play out how I think it will. I am so excited for more to come from this world. My 2017 reading year has started off with a bang!


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