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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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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The Butterfly and The Violin

The Butterfly and the Violin (Hidden Masterpiece, #1)Author: Kristy Cambron
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Series: Hidden Masterpiece # 1

And then came war . . .

"Today." Sera James spends most of her time arranging auctions for the art world's elite clientele. When her search to uncover an original portrait of an unknown Holocaust victim leads her to William Hanover III, they learn that this painting is much more than it seems.

"Vienna, 1942." Adele Von Bron has always known what was expected of her. As a prodigy of Vienna's vast musical heritage, this concert violinist intends to carry on her family's tradition and play with the Vienna Philharmonic. But when the Nazis learn that she helped smuggle Jews out of the city, Adele is taken from her promising future and thrust into the horrifying world of Auschwitz.

The veil of innocence is lifted to expose a shuddering presence of evil, and Adele realizes that her God-given gift is her only advantage; she must play. Becoming a member of the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz, she fights for survival. Adele's barbed-wire walls begin to kill her hope as the months drag into nearly two years in the camp. With surprising courage against the backdrop of murder and despair, Adele finally confronts a question that has been tugging at her heart: Even in the midst of evil, can she find hope in worshiping God with her gift?

As Sera and William learn more about the subject of the mysterious portrait--Adele--they are reminded that whatever horrors one might face, God's faithfulness never falters.

Sleep became a welcome escape.

Sera thought she’d been searching for a lost painting that couldn’t have been worth anything to anybody. Now it was worth the equivalent of one hundred million dollars?

Could snow hold memories? Adele wondered. It fell down around her now just as it had on so many other nights she’d waited for him.

Surely the snow held memories. Adele didn’t question it anymore. Not after she’d been loaded on the train to the work camp – she knew it to be truth now.

Kristy Cambron takes readers through a time in history that always stands out and is still talked about today. She covers World War II, one of my favorite parts of history to read about, and remembers a time when Jews were discriminated against and unthinkable evil was brought about their nationality. This story switches back and forth between two separate time periods: present day and World War II. The story is told from alternate viewpoints and ultimately the stories are connected in a way that you could never imagine. It is a truly beautiful story that ended up wowing me so much more than I first expected. Adele’s story takes place right in the middle of Hitler’s reign and Sera’s story takes place in modern times, but both of these women are strong and have passions that keep them moving forward!

The best part of this story is how much the two main characters, Adele and Sera, have in common. They both place a strong emphasis on their faith and look to God for guidance in all things. They also both face the aftermath of betrayal, as they were both betrayed by someone that they loved desperately. I enjoyed Adele’s story so much more, but I found myself having to pause and really allow all that was happening to soak in. Of course, we all know that World War was not pleasant for many people living in Europe, even if you were supposedly part of the Nazi party. Adele was caught trying to aid a Jewish family and much of the story deals with her punishment for that. It is a truly deep and heartbreaking story.

Regardless of your faith, if you are a World War II era fan then you need to pick up a copy of this book. The words, imagery, and story in general are so rich in all aspects. This is a series, I have recently found out, and if all the rest of the books have a story like this one to tell then I think we are in for a real treat. Kristy Cambron is a fresh, new voice in the world of true literature. The pacing of this book was almost perfect, and that is something that we all know is hard to find. I was glued to every word on every page.

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Stepsister's Tale

The Stepsister's TaleAuthor: Tracy Barrett
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire. 

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

You are a Halsey. You are the last of the Halsey line, you and your sister. You have much to live up to. Never disgrace the Halsey name.

“She doesn’t feel like a sister. And it’s strange having that man around.”

And where do I go? Jane asked herself. Who will comfort me?

This Cinderella retelling offers a new twist at an all too familiar story. This time we hear from Isabella’s, Cinderella in this story, stepsister, Jane. We get a different perspective in this story; one where “Cinderella” is no longer the poor, pitiful, innocent little girl that we all came to know and love. She is painted in this story as a spoiled rotten child full of vengeance and resent towards her father because he decided to move her way out in the country with no servants and certainly no fancy food and ball gowns. This story will have you feeling sorry for a different character entirely. You might just find yourself feeling sorry for both of Ella’s stepsisters.

The pacing of this book was slow and I kept expecting something more exciting to happen. The most action that I witnessed for a while was the fact that Jane, her sister, Maude, and their mother, were always on the verge of starvation, but the pacing crept along quite slowly. While I loved Jane, I didn’t care too much for their mother. She let the girls be bullied and did not seem to care for them as much as any mother should. I felt so sorry for the girls and I just really couldn’t stand the way that their mother treated them, especially when her new husband is around.

My favorite part of this book was Jane’s character. I loved seeing the story from an alternate point of view and actually feeling sorry for the stepsister and disliking Isabella. Jane was strong and fierce, and did all that she could for her family. I would go as far as saying that Jane was the reason they survived as long as they did. She also showed a taste for adventure and curiosity, which is always nice in a character. I did not dislike this book, but I wish there had been something more to pull me in from the beginning.

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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw DogsAuthor: Mary Jane Hathaway
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Howard Books
Series: Jane Austen Takes The South # 2

From the bestselling author of Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits comes a new and comical contemporary take on the perennial Jane Austen classic, Emma.

Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’ misgivings and throws herself into the project. 

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parent’s very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back? 

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.

 Utter disaster on a cake platter.

Caroline stuck her head into the cold spray of water. No, she wasn’t ready for any kind of serious commitment. She wanted to have a good job and be professionally fulfilled before she vowed a lifetime of love to another person.

As for not working so hard, deep down he knew that no amount of vacation would fix what was happening in his heart.

“You love, completely, and everything is secondary. At least, that’s what happens with the best kind of love.”

I know that I have been reviewing a lot of books this summer and giving them pretty high ratings, but the fact is that they deserve it! This summer has just been full of really awesome books that deserve to be read and talked about. This book also deserves the five cupcake rating that it received. The second book in the Jane Austen Takes The South series is just as good, if not better, than the first which I read and reviewed just last month. The second installment is reminiscent of Jane’s Emma, but with its own twists added along the way. And of course, with a huge part of the South thrown in as well. The Southern Belle inside of me greatly approves of these books and cannot wait for the next to be released in November!

Do not mistake this series for an actual retelling of Jane’s books. I see this as a good thing, however, because Hathaway takes parts of Jane’s stories and writes obvious nods to them, but her books tell her stories too. There is an obvious influence of Jane Austen and I am not trying to discredit the fact that they are in fact looked at as retellings, but I enjoyed them more because they tell a different story, one that is new and fresh while still nodding to the literary classic that so many of us love and treasure.

Jane Austen would love these books! The characters are classic and have so many virtuous traits; they felt like friends. I could see this story playing out before me as I read the pages, almost as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a book. Everything felt so alive and real; the writing was better in this book than in the first one. Things felt more appropriately paced and only the ending felt a little rushed. Romance is not the first genre that I usually pick up, but if I were given more authors like Hathaway I certainly would!

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Mark of Distinction

Mark of Distinction (Price of Privilege, #2)Author: Jessica Dotta
Publication Date: May 1, 2014
Publisher: Tyndale House
Series: Price of Privilege # 2

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

When Julia discovers that Lord Roy Pierson, her guardian and one of most influential men in England, is the father she has never met, she begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

Truth comprised of bare facts is rarely more flattering than legend.

I had no idea my story would cause such an uproar.

London is not the same city that it was then.

Then, like a true member of the gentry, unaffected by the ripples of change, he rose, bowed, and left.

These books are truly written with the appeal of a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte novel. Victorian society is always one of my favorites to read about because of the vintage feel it always brings. Not only that, but also for the scandal that usually accompanies any mystery set in this era. Julia Elliston’s story and life have captivated and I cannot believe that I have to wait for the third book in this series to be released. This is why I usually wait for the entire series to be released before I begin reading; I cannot stand the anticipation.

My favorite stories about the Victorian era usually have to do with the scrutiny that women were placed under during the time. Julia’s life is much like this. A women’s reputation could easily be diminished in this time because women had a place and role and anyone who dare stepped outside of that would be immediately ostracized. Julia is a brilliant character whom I love following around the streets of London. She knows how to manipulate the world she lives in, and she quickly realizes that it is a man’s world. Her character is so “gutsy”, for the lack of a better world, and I like to think that if I had lived in this time period I would have been just like her.

I must admit that I was scared that the sequel would not live up to the first book in this series, which I read last year. However, I devoured this book just like I did with Born of Persuasion. I laughed and gasped and did everything in between. You know it is a good book, or in this case series, when you are thinking about the plot and the characters long after you have put the book down. Jessica Dotta, I have to meet you because you are brilliant!

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

Book Review: Boomerang

Boomerang (Boomerang, #1)Author: Noelle August
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Series: Boomerang # 1

The first book in a sensational New Adult trilogy from Noelle August

Welcome to Boomerang.com, the dating site for the millennial gen with its no-fuss, no-commitments matchups, and where work is steamier than any random hook-up

Mia Galliano is an aspiring filmmaker. Ethan Vance has just played his last game as a collegiate soccer star. They’re sharp, hungry for success, and they share a secret.

Last night, Ethan and Mia met at a bar, and, well . . . one thing led to another, which led to them waking up the next morning—together. Things turned awkward in a hurry when they found themselves sharing a post hookup taxi . . . to the same place: Boomerang headquarters.

What began as a powerful connection between them is treated to a cold shower courtesy of two major complications. First, Boomerang has a strict policy against co-worker dating. And second, they’re now competitors for only one job at the end of summer.

As their internships come to an end, will they manage to keep their eyes on the future and their hands off each other, or will the pull of attraction put them right back where they started?

I want someone who just wants me, without question. And I want to want him back. And just go for it.

I want the kind of love that feels like an arrow snapping from a bow – sharp, inevitable, soaring.

I wonder if Ethan feels like I do sometimes. Like I’m playing at adulthood. At being confident in totally strange situations.

I'm screwed because of his smile, because of that dimple that deepens when he laughs, his straight, even teeth, perfect except for one slightly turned incisor...I'm screwed, most of all, because of his kindness, which radiates from every pore. His passion, when he lets himself talk about things he loves...I'm screwed because of him, all of him. My body and my brain are conspiring against me here, but I can't let myself give in to them.

Boomerang is the start to a wonderful New Adult series that is sure to please many readers. The New Adult genre has really taken readers by storm here lately, and I too am on this bandwagon because the genre is just exquisite. The first book in this series tells the story of Mia and Ethan, who share a crazy, exciting night together and then find out the next day that they are both working an internship at the same place, Boomerang, a dating site started by a young business guru. To make matters worse, they soon find out that only one of them will be hired on in the fall, so they are competing against each other. As they spend more time together, they start to fall for each other and that only complicates things so much more.

The opening pages of this book pulled me in with their humor, wit, and promise of a fun, fast-paced story. I soon discovered that the entire book promised all of this as well. The book was so well-written that the words just flew off the page and I was finished with the book before I knew it. I was sad to finish this book, and I tried to postpone finishing it as long as I could. This book is the perfect beach or pool read for the summer. I was very excited to see that this is going to be a series because not only was it so easy to read, but I fell in love with the idea of Boomerang, the dating site, and all the drama that goes on there.

Mia and Ethan went well together; their personalities complement each other so well. Neither wants to outright admit their obvious feelings for each other. This was not an instant romance, but the chemistry was their all along and that is how I think a true romance should be written. I was able to fall in love with the characters as they were falling in love with each other. They were both thoroughly developed, and readers are able to see a little into their pasts and home lives. This is going to be an amazing series that many readers will be raving about soon!

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: Unmasking Juliet

Unmasking JulietAuthor: Teri Wilson
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family's chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabella’s and the Mezzanotte’s. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy's confection dynasty. 

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabella’s in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family's struggling business, and Juliet figures it's a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet's fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet's not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she's ever tasted…

There at the Mezzanotte Masquerade Ball, Juliet Arabella was swept off her feet by a man whose name she didn’t even know, carried away on a wild grape-scented river of kisses, sweeter and more decadent than any chocolate she’d ever tasted.

But a lifetime of loathing told her things weren’t quite so simple.

Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

Some things were just better left unsaid.

A cute retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but this time we have the Mezzanottes against the Arabellas. And in this particular retelling both families are owners of rival chocolate shops; this was an interesting twist on the well-known family feud. Shakespeare has never been one of my favorite, but for some reason I love to read retellings of his famous plays. Juliet Arabella has worked in her family’s chocolate shop all of her life, and she is all too familiar with the everlasting family feud between her family and the Mezzanottes. Leo Mezzanotte has just returned to help his family run their chocolate shop, and he and Juliet cross paths upon his return. They find that they have a strong chemistry together and can’t seem to stay away from one another.

Between the backdrop of the chocolate shops where Leo and Juliet worked and the fascinating Napa Valley setting, I was swept up in this story right off the bat. This book put me right in the world of fancy chocolatiers. The descriptions were absolutely wonderful and I especially loved seeing the world of chocolate from the different viewpoints of the feuding families. Also I should mention, don’t read this book when you are hungry, or especially if you have a sweet tooth!

This is a fun, entertaining, summer read. The plot unfolds little by little and you slowly find out about the feud between the families and get some history as to why they are where they are now. It started out a little slow, however it picks up so quickly that you forget any moment where you felt that the story might have dragged. I especially liked Juliet’s voice; I thought it had a touch of naïveté to it, but this made her all the more likeable. She seemed sweet and innocent and I loved watching her fall in love for the first time in her life!

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

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review: The Prime Minister's Secret Agent

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (Maggie Hope, #4)Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Bantam
Series: Maggie Hope Mystery # 4

For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is a gripping new mystery featuring intrepid spy and code breaker Maggie Hope. And this time, the fallout of a deadly plot comes straight to her own front door.
World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.

Maggie had heard the expression heartache before, of course, but never thought it would be so literal.

Maggie Hope had thought that summer in Berlin was hell, but it was nothing compared to the inferno of darkness that now raged in her own head, even as she was “safe as houses” in Arisaig on the western coast of Scotland.

“And for that I’m going to make her pay.”

I have yet to be disappointed with a book in this series. Maggie Hope has quickly become my hero and one of my most favorite characters of all time. Whenever a new book releases, I drop whatever else I am reading until I can get through Maggie’s next story. This is the fourth book in this series, and I hope that MacNeal will continue to write these books for many years to come. In this book Maggie is back at the estate in Scotland where she received her training many years ago, and now she is training young girls just like herself. However, Maggie is forced to take some time off for relaxation purposes and because her emotional state is just one huge mess. During her visit to Edinburgh, however, Maggie’s close friend gets caught up in a deadly plot and it will be up to Maggie to once again save the day!

I am currently in the mood to read historical fiction and the Maggie Hope book usually take care of that for me. MacNeal does a phenomenal job of weaving in fact and fiction. A lot of things she describes in these books is in fact and will allow readers to gain a history lesson while reading. A lot of her characters are real, while other are fiction. Winston Churchill will always be one of my favorite characters from these books. I like that MacNeal can easily talk about facts relevant to the war while still bringing in fiction elements whenever she needs to.

Maggie’s character has really changed over the series and after everything she has been through has changed her demeanor a tad. This is only to be expected after all she has witnessed, heard about, and been a part of. I really hoped that things would slow down for Maggie in this book and that wish was somewhat granted, but Maggie, while she was supposed to be vacationing and resting, can’t help but to get herself mixed up in another mystery that needs to be solved. I did enjoy the short time that she was at Arisaig instructing the young girls to train and fight just like she did. I wish we could have spent more time there.

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


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