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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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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review: Beyond All Dreams

Beyond All DreamsAuthor: Elizabeth Camden
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House

Sweeping and Romantic Historical Drama from an Award-Winning Author 
Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help. 

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. 
Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress. 

From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for themselves?

What kind of barbarian voted against librarians?

She was doing it again – calming him with her cool wit and steady logic.

She was like a balm on inflamed skin, soothing his frustration and making him think of wild, improbable things like autumn walks in sun-kissed gardens.

Elizabeth Camden’s books caught my attention in 2012, and I haven’t missed a new publication since. Her newest book, Beyond All Dreams, captures a world and setting that is new to me but that was both intriguing and educational. Anyone who loves and appreciates books as much as I do will of course love this book simply because our heroine, Anna O’Brien, is a librarian working in the Library of Congress. I was mystified with the setting because it was unlike anything I have read prior. Camden perfectly captures the hustle and bustle of what is Washington, DC and allows readers to vividly imagine what life would be like working inside the Library of Congress. Politics is not really my forte, but Camden makes Anna’s world inviting and mesmerizing.

Camden is the master of character development. Anna and Luke, our male counterpart to Anna, complement each other’s flaws, weaknesses, strengths, and dreams. Luke is a powerful representative for the state of Maine, so the fact that these characters have a political background makes them and their conversations and interactions that much more interesting. Anna and Luke both hold true to their morals and values and I found myself really appreciating this characteristic in both of their characters. This book took me no time at all to read and was utterly satisfying!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by Litfuse and Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: Ensnared

Author: A.G. Howard
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series: Splintered # 3

After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles... and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—a parallel dimension filled with mutated and sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

Insanity is the most pristine clarity.

Everything – our lives, our loves, our futures – hinges on one word alone: IF.

The littlest things I once took for granted have become priceless treasures.

“I don’t want those things from you. I love your faults and imperfections. Your kind heart. The scars that match mine, and the struggles to find ourselves. I want your humanness. Nothing else.”

Here we have the last book in what I believe is probably one of the best fairy tale retellings, especially Alice in Wonderland retellings, that I have ever read. A.G. Howard is an author worth recommending and reading for so many reasons, but especially because of her creativity and vivid imagination. I am a huge fan of worldbuilding, especially fantasy worlds like this, but I must say that I have not read about a world this wicked and twisted in quite some time. This entire series has been very captivating, in fact after finishing each installment I was left with a major book hangover! This is Wonderland like you have never seen, read, or imagined it before.

This story is truly spellbinding and the words and characters feel as if they could jump right off of the page. I cannot say much, for fear of giving too much away, but I will say that this last installment in particular has many exciting twists and turns and events take place that I never saw coming at all. This book presents a bit more sinister side of what was originally intended to be Wonderland. I cannot imagine this world written any other way. Howard successfully wraps up all loose ends and readers are left with no questions concerning the plot or Alyssa’s story. Please do yourself a favor; pick up this series!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Amulet Books in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: The Magician's Lie

The Magician's LieAuthor: Greer Macallister
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

“Life is always better than death. Always. No exceptions.”

“But this is life, and when bad things come to us, there isn't much choice. You survive them or you don't.” 

Time would tell, in any case.

If we didn’t acknowledge things that we didn’t want to be true, we could keep them hidden in the dark. I’d learned that at my mother’s knee, after all.

Captivating. Truly captivating. This murder mystery involving the female illusionist, Arden and her recently deceased husband, is a historical fiction novel to be reveled among the best of the year, I am sure. The story did not start or go how I expected it to, but the fluidity of it all was marvelous. Macallister drops readers right into the action and works backward as she switches the point of view between Arden and the Officer that arrested her, Officer Holt. Arden quickly begins in telling the story of her childhood and moves into her adult life; some readers did not appreciate this at all, but I found her knack for storytelling both mysterious and suspenseful, but I could see why others would get bored with it easily. Between Arden’s various flashbacks, the story weaves in the interrogation and how Arden and her husband came to know one another. I haven’t read anything quite this captivating in a while.

Arden appears to be so mysterious and completely unpredictable; however, there are times when her character is completely vulnerable and you cannot believe that you are reading about the same person. I questioned over and over in my mind as I read if I really believed Arden’s story or not. She was handcuffed while talking to this officer, for what felt like years, and I was constantly questioning why a famous illusionist would allow herself to be handcuffed? Arden truly had me puzzled at times and I loved feeling that way; I did not know what to expect from her next. I highly recommend this book to be added to your 2015 reading list.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: Best Kind of Broken

Best Kind of Broken (Finding Fate, #1)Author: Chelsea Fine
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Series:  Finding Fate # 1

Pixie Marshall wishes every day she could turn back time and fix the past. But she can't. And the damage is done. She's hoping that a summer of free room and board working with her aunt at the Willow Inn will help her forget. Except there's a problem: the resident handyman is none other than Levi Andrews. The handsome quarterback was once her friend-and maybe more-until everything changed in a life-shattering instant. She was hoping to avoid him, possibly forever. Now he's right down the hall and stirring up feelings Pixie thought she'd long buried . . .

Levi can't believe he's living with the one person who holds all his painful memories. More than anything he wants to make things right, but a simple "sorry" won't suffice-not when the tragedy that scarred them was his fault. Levi knows Pixie's better off without him, but every part of him screams to touch her, protect her, wrap her in his arms, and kiss away the pain. Yet even though she's so close, Pixie's heart seems more unreachable than ever. Seeing those stunning green eyes again has made one thing perfectly clear-he can't live without her.

“And I am yours,” she says quietly. “Even when you don’t want me. I’m still yours.” 

“You are not my friend, Pixie. You are a piece of my heart and a part of who I want to be.” 

“Because love isn’t something that needs to be said out loud!” Her face flushes with passion. “It’s something you just know. It’s an unspoken thing. It’s humble and quiet and constant…” She goes back to slaughtering the mushrooms, but lowers her tone a bit. “I mean, you can’t just say you love someone and make it true. That’s not how it works. Real love doesn’t need to be declared or confessed. Real love just… is. You know?” 

“Winning is an effect of trying. You have to want it badly enough to go through pain, discipline, and failure to find it. To confront it. To claim it. But most of all, you have to fight for it. Everything else—anything else—is absolute surrender.”

A love story that is perfect for Valentine’s Day! Pixie, Sarah to people who don’t know her well, and Levi have a history together. They were both involved in an accident that caused them to lose someone that they both held near and dear, Pixie’s best friend and Levi’s sister. They both blame themselves for what happened that night and neither can get past it enough to realize how perfect they are for one another. So when Pixie returns home to work for the summer in her Aunt Ellen’s inn and moves in next to the inn’s other live-in Levi, you can imagine all the memories, both good and bad, that were rekindled between these two. What I loved most about this New Adult love story is that feelings were not instant between Pixie and Levi; they had to work to get past differences and see the good in each other.

The beauty of this story is that it is written in alternating point of views. I loved being able to see and hear both Pixie and Levi’s thoughts. They are both obviously broken, hence the title, but it is nice to watch them work through their brokenness and learned to be healed and help each other heal. The fact that I knew these characters shared a tragic event allowed me to sympathize with them even more. I have found a new favorite author in Chelsea Fine; she writes characters, sexual tension, and emotions in a way that will have you missing this story long after you have finished reading it. I will definitely pursue the other books in this series to be released this year.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Forever in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Frostfire

Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles, #1)Author: Amanda Hocking
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Kanin Chronicles # 1

Bryn Aven is an outcast among the Kanin, the most powerful of the troll tribes.

Set apart by her heritage and her past, Bryn is a tracker who's determined to become a respected part of her world. She has just one goal: become a member of the elite King’s Guard to protect the royal family. She's not going to let anything stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss Ridley Dresden.

But all her plans for the future are put on hold when Konstantin– a fallen hero she once loved – begins kidnapping changelings. Bryn is sent in to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?

He’d tried to kill my dad, and now I would stop at nothing until he was brought to justice.

“Things are far more complicated than they seem.”

“Sorry, I should be letting you get on your way,” Konstantin said apologetically, and my heart sank when I realized this brief exchange would soon end, leaving me feeling even more like Cinderella than ever before.

This is my second series by Amanda Hocking, and honestly the woman hasn’t written a book that I have disliked yet. I must say that I more excited for this series than the previous one I read by her, however. Something about Bryn Aven’s story just wrapped me in right from the beginning and wouldn’t unhand me until the very last page. Bryn is a tracker and it is her job to return changelings back to their parents and help them adjust to a normal life in their new surroundings. Bryn is an exceptional character because right from the start readers can see that she is a rebel and does not necessarily believe in everything that her king and queen would like her to. Bryn immediately struck me as a character that I would love and appreciate and I do, mostly because of her bravery and honesty.

Bryn’s world is full of royalty, secrets, power, adventure, and even a little romance. I am a huge fan of world building and I tend to never get bored of it, so of course I was in love with this first book in what I am sure will be an exciting new series. Hocking’s work is utterly fascinating in my eyes; she can go from one fantastical world to another and give readers so many new and exciting characters to love and adore. Plus, if you love inspiring heroines, then Bryn is sure to be a character that stays with you long after you have put the book down. If you are interested in all I have said so far, then you might also be interested to know that the rest of this series is releasing this year! No long waits!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce, #7)Author: Alan Bradley
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: Flavia de Luce # 7

Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

“The universe has rolled over and let me rub its tummy.”

“A week away from home and my list of people to poison was already up to two.”

“I have seen numerous dead bodies in my lifetime, each more interesting than the last, and each more instructive. This one, if I was counting correctly, was number seven.”

“Who can say no to a personal matter? Even God is curious about such things, which is why He listens to our prayers.” 

Flavia de Luce is finally twelve years old and is leaving Buckshaw and being shipped off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy. Although Flavia is sad and troubled after leaving Buckshaw, she soon discovers that there may be a purpose for her after all at Miss Bodycote’s when a dead body falls out of the chimney in her room. Flavia quickly meets an interesting cast of new characters and learns some interesting things about the school and her mother’s experience there as a young girl. Many clues unfold and Flavia starts to narrow down her list of suspects and tries to get to the bottom of this heinous crime. I couldn’t ask for a better sleuth than Flavia! She continues to shock and amaze me.

I would recommend reading these books in order because I did not and there are things that I feel I should have known going into this seventh book, especially things about Flavia’s mom, Harriet. I am going back and reading the books in order, but could not resist reading this one now. I was very pleased with the mystery and loved that a few storylines were going on side by side. Flavia is one of the most well-written characters that I have read in a long time, especially since she is only twelve. I did miss Buckshaw, Flavia’s childhood home, in this story but Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy was a nice change of scenery and several new characters were added as well. If you are looking for a new series to pick up in 2015, this would be at the top of my list!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte Press in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: All The President's Menus

All the President's Menus (A White House Chef Mystery, #8)Author: Julie Hyzy
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Berkley
Series: A White House Chef Mystery # 8

It’s an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. But when a tour of the White House kitchen by a group of foreign chefs ends in murder, it’s Olivia Paras who finds herself in the soup… 

Due to a government sequester, entertaining at the White House has been severely curtailed. So executive chef Olivia Paras is delighted to hear that plans are still on to welcome a presidential candidate from the country of Saardisca—the first woman to run for office—and four of that nation’s top chefs.

But while leading the chefs on a kitchen tour, pastry chef Marcel passes out suddenly—and later claims he was drugged. When one of the visiting chefs collapses and dies, it’s clear someone has infiltrated the White House with ill intent. Could it be an anti-Saardiscan zealot? Is the candidate a target? Are the foreign chefs keeping more than their recipes a secret? Once again, Olivia must make sleuthing the special of the day…

“Diplomacy has to start somewhere.”

As Executive Chef at the White House, I was responsible for feeding the First Family and – whether they be friend or foe – all the home’s guests.

“Your instincts tell you something is amiss. And your instincts haven’t failed you yet, have they?”
The White House always has the best cuisine with Olivia Paras working the kitchen. Ollie’s life has totally transformed over the course of this series; she is now married to her secret service agent, Gav. In this eighth installment, I can hardly believe this series is already on its eighth book, Olivia is charged with entertaining a group of chefs from Saardisca and making sure they have an enjoyable time, without getting into any trouble, at their stay in the White House. These chefs are to watch and learn the ways of the staff at the White House and see if they can’t learn a thing or two. Ollie tries her best to keep out of trouble, but as we all know it always finds her. When one of the visiting chefs collapses and dies right under all their noses, Ollie is the first one on the track, searching until she finds an answer to the mysterious death of the foreign chef.

One reason that I have been such a dedicated follower of this series is because I simply love the inner workings of the staff in the White House kitchen. Ollie is a great character all around and I just love following her as she leads her chefs and as they prepare so many wonderful dishes that we get to read all about. As readers, we also get a bird’s eye view into some of the most elaborate dinner parties thrown in the White House. None of these books have ever disappointed me. I could tell that Hyzy dropped some subtle hints as to things that might be changing in upcoming books, but I am confident that she will continue writing stories that we love and enjoy!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Berkley in exchange for my honest review***


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