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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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Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: Forks, Knives, and Spoons

Forks, Knives, and SpoonsAuthor: Leah DeCesare
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: SparkPress

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond. Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves and not to settle in love or life.

“She’s collecting a whole place setting.”

“He’s sweet, smart, and confident, too. See? Knife!”

“And remember, Amy, every guy is thinking about getting a girl into the napkin!”

This charming little read follows Amy York and her best friend Veronica Warren as they tackle their freshmen year at Syracuse University. Amy introduces her new friend to the Utensil Classification System that was taught to her by her fun-loving father. This system classified guys into several categories based on their actions, characteristics, and overall demeanor: forks, knives, and spoons. But what every girl really wanted was the perfect steak knife. Veronica, at first, thinks this is ridiculous, but when she finds out the guy she has been dating for so long is not the perfect Prince Charming she thinks he is, she and Amy navigate a series of broken relationships, bad dates, and some unspeakable things together just like best friends should. This book follows the two girls into adulthood as they mature and take on all life’s ups and downs.

These characters are phenomenal and are truly relatable and loveable. I couldn’t possibly choose which girl I loved more; I enjoyed following both of them as they grew up and entered into new relationships, ventured into new careers, and learned things about themselves through the relationships they now have. I think that friendships are very important to the experiences we have in life and these girls have a relationship that is very realistic. They complement each other’s flaws and are there for each other’s disappointments. We need more books like this in world today – books that allow women to realize they are not alone in classifying men and hoping and praying for the perfect one that meets all of their expectations, but in the end learning that finding someone to go through life with that you are sure is never going to leave your side ends up being just the right kind of partner we each need.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U GiveAuthor: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

“What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?”

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” 

“I can't change where I come from or what I've been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?”

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right. Maybe.” 

“Black Jesus hangs from the cross in a painting on the hallway wall, and Malcolm X holds a shotgun in a photograph next to him.” 

I teach 12th students in an urban district that was heavily affected by the #blacklivesmatter movement over the past year. I felt it was pretty pertinent that I read this book. This book follows Starr Carter, a high school junior who witnesses one of her best friends being shot and killed by a police officer. The entire book is her struggle in dealing with the aftermath of this. The book is extremely easy to read and the 444 pages fly by very quickly. Angie Thomas writes perfectly from the perspective of a teenage girl struggling with so many issues. Starr lives in the ghetto but attends a prestigious private school, so she is constantly balancing two sides of herself. The friend that was killed is being talked about all over town and people are saying he was selling drugs and had joined a gang, and Starr struggles more than anything with the fact that they had drifted apart so much and she feels she could have done more to help him. This book was real and raw – and that’s the best way I can think to describe it.

The book goes through many aspects of Starr’s life. I am so glad that I read this book, and I am now recommending this book to my students. Starr dealt with a lot of angst in dealing with how or even if she should speak out about what she witnessed. I have a lot of students who wanted to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement, but didn’t always know how to go about it. The book also deals with things like rioting and how that can affect a community. This book was at times heartbreaking, but I understand the importance of reading and sharing something like this. There are so many characters to love and even some that you will most certainly dislike (King – the gang leader). Starr was such a wonderful character who was meek and stayed in the shadows at the beginning, but emerged as a strong, brave girl who learns the value of speaking out and speaking up for what matters to you most!

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.


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