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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, January 21, 2018

Book Review: The Wife Between Us

Authors: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

The instant New York Times Bestseller! 

"The Wife Between Us bests The Woman in the Window in the didn’t-see-it-coming plot twist category." ―USA Today

"The best domestic suspense since Gone Girl." ―In Touch Weekly

"A jaw-dropping psychological thriller." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review 

"Fiendishly clever...in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. This one will keep you guessing." –Anita Shreve, New York Times bestselling author of The Stars are Fire

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.
Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies.

“I was happy, I think, but I wonder now if my memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.”

“I won’t ever do anything to hurt you.” She knew that even on their wedding day, she’d never made a more sacred vow.

I’d never been the woman he thought he’d married.

“Even when I’m not there, I’m always with you.”

I have recently developed a love and adoration for mystery/thrillers. I can’t wait for the next “big hit” to be released and for January, I believe I found it. This book was unique and twisty at every turn. The novel is divided into three major parts and at the end of each part something huge was revealed. The book is told between alternating viewpoints, going from past to present, and really nothing is there to distinguish when one of the main characters starts veering back into her past thoughts, but I must say that it is not complicated to follow at all. You would think that it would be – but the pacing was so easy to follow. The beginning of the book is not very fast-paced; it takes some time for the pace to pick up, but once it does, you are in for a roller coaster ride.

There is not really much I can say about the characters or plot of this novel without giving too much away. The plot is so intricate and finely pieced together that even the slightest hint could give something away. I can say that I was rooting from the wrong person from the start and more people than I expected came into play in the final “home run” of the story. I was so impressed by the author’s ability to take me on a thriller-ish/twist of a ride. I knocked off one star/cupcake because I thought the epilogue at the end was unnecessary. I liked where the story ended and I didn’t want it to go on any further. It was almost like they gave away too much – I wanted to guess a little bit more than they allowed me to do. Overall, great read and took me no time at all!

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book Review: The English Wife

The English Wife: A Novel by [Willig, Lauren]Author: Lauren Willig
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he's the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he's recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she's having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay's sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

“What a very odd thing,' said Janie, 'to live and leave no mark.” 

“It was very hard to rant while accepting a cup of tea.”

“It hurt to kill a dream, like tearing petals off a rose in full bloom.” 

“It wasn't the big decisions that set the course of one's life; it was the slow accretion of all the little ones.” 
I went into this book thinking it was going to be a slow burn, and at times it was, but more than not, the plot, action, and alternating points of view were invigorating and made it very hard to put this book down. We start with the murder of a rich, influential man in New York society and the disappearance of his wife, Annabelle, and are then wrapped in a world filled with intrigue and more secrets than we can count. I greatly enjoyed the time period and setting – New York in the Gilded Age. Money bought you power and place in society. The theme of class and wealth play heavily into the telling of this deeply intriguing and riveting tale. As I mentioned previously, the story is told through two lenses – Janie, the deceased’s sister, in present day only weeks after the murder/suicide and then the other point of view is from the deceased himself many years before. It was highly entertaining, the chapters flew by quickly, and there were characters I loved and others I despised.

Janie and Annabelle were two of my favorite things about this book, being that I am a character driven reader. Annabelle is missing, presumed dead for most of the novel, but readers will learn a lot about her life through past recollections. At first I wasn’t sure if I would like her, but she grew on me quickly once I learned about her life and hardships. Then there is Janie. Janie started as a meek, easily overtaken young woman who was under the complete control and manipulation of her hateful mother, but by the end of the novel she blossomed into a lady willing to do whatever it took to bring the right people to justice. This is the first Lauren Willig book that I have read since the Pink Carnation series, and I must say I love this standalone novel and will read whatever she publishes next.

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice

Author: Kristy Cambron
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Not all illusions happen on the stage.

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage toescape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.

“Prepare to be amazed by The Illusionist's Apprentice.” —Greer Macallister, bestselling author of The Magician's Lie and Girl in Disguise

“Secrets always come up for air. They're never content to stay buried for long.”

“If there was no darkness, there would be no opportunity for light to overcome it.”

“Our mother used to say that a hero doesn't always have to slay a dragon to save the day." She swept a lock of hair behind her ear in an honest gesture, then pursed her lips and looked back at him, her gaze endearing. "Sometimes he just walks through the fire alongside you, and that's enough.” 

Our story follows Wren Lockhart, an elusive young woman who is secretive in nature and lives quite reclusively in order to hide secrets of her past life. All readers know to start with is that her real name is Jennifer Charles, a name which she is terrified for the wrong people to learn, and that she was the protégé to the famous and revered Harry Houdini. The book opens with an action-packed scene in which a local illusionist claims to bring a dead man back to life. The local police soon discover this was actually a murder and quickly start turning to local illusionists for answers – thus how Wren was brought into the investigation. The story captured me in the beginning because of the lyrical writing and vivid character descriptions. I was sure this was going to be a five star read, but was disappointed once I reached the middle of the novel.

While the premise of the story is extremely intriguing, I just began to feel uninterested about halfway through the novel. I began to get frustrated with Wren for how closed off she was and how cold she came off to the people in her life who were just trying to serve justice and discover the truth. While I did like her character description, I was so over her off-putting ways. I was also very disappointed that we did not learn more about Harry Houdini. I hate when authors do this – they tease you with things like “apprentice to escape artist Harry Houdini” and then only showcases him in maybe five or six chapters. I was very disappointed with this. However, I can see myself giving another Kristy Cambron book a try because her writing is very poetic and easy to follow; however, this book will not be making my favorites list for 2018.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Book Review: To Catch A Killer

Author: Sheryl Scarborough
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: Erin Blake # 1

“A twisty, cold-case mystery custom made for fans of Sara Shepard, PLL and Veronica Mars! The edge-of-your-seat plot, sinister backstory and smart, brave and irreverent main character made this whodunit unputdownable.”―Justine Magazine

In To Catch a Killer, a contemporary mystery by debut author Sheryl Scarborough, a teenage girl uses forensic science to solve the cold-case murder of her mother. Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case―which remains unsolved―fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

If you want to spot a liar, just remember that concealing the truth is like swallowing a slow-acting poison. It might take a while, but it will get them in the end.

“It’s okay that you like him,” Spam says. “Serial killers are really popular. They get prison married and everything.”

Fifty percent of human DNA is identical to the DNA of a banana.

The start of this book did not match the ending for me – thus the 3 star review. It is a fast-paced read, the characters are likeable, the mystery has its high points, and the writing is detailed and easy to follow. However, I figured out the killer about fifty pages in and it was underwhelming to say the least. Let’s talk about some of the positives first. I loved the idea behind story. Erin’s past was morbid and completely built this awesome character with quirky tendencies and hobbies that consisted of experimenting with DNA testing and her love of forensic science. The details and tidbits that were shared about Erin’s love for forensic science were much needed and appreciated – so interesting! Her two best friends were eccentric and supportive of her ideas and were totally best friend goals. At the start of the novel, I was enthralled and could not put the book down. The writing was fast and the details were downright creepy and hard to think about. Overall, an amazing start to what I thought would be a 5 star read.

However, about fifty to seventy pages in I verbalized aloud, to myself of course, who the killer was – I was right. By this point, I was starting to deflate. I was also getting irritated with how everyone was characterizing the main character as becoming obsessed with the murder mystery – it was like the author was trying too hard to prove that Erin was keeping secrets. We get it; we already know the secrets. The romance was insta-love and it was a bit unbelievable. I really would have liked more of a buildup to their relationship instead of “oh, everyone thinks you murdered our teacher, but I don’t so let’s start dating.” With all of this being said, I enjoyed the first part of the book but not so much the last half.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King

Author: Tricia Levenseller
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King # 1

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I've gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map―the key to a legendary treasure trove―seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

In Daughter of the Pirate King, debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

“Lass, you've the face of an angel but the tongue of a snake.” 

“Even a man who’s spent his whole life at sea has reason to fear her when she’s angry. But not I. I sleep soundly. Listening to her music. The sea watches over me. She protects her own.”

“Oh, the ridiculous things one has to do when one is a pirate.” 

What a way to start off 2018! I am an avid lover of the Pirates movie collection and have been really looking for some swashbuckling reads lately to ease the fact that no more Pirates movies will be released. I have watched and read several reviews of this novel and thought I would give it a try since the main character Alosa was described as a “female Capitan Jack Sparrow”, and I must say that I agree one hundred and twenty-five percent. Alosa is fierce and will definitely be one of my favorite female characters of the year. The book is action-packed right from the first page and much of this action follows Alosa – she kicks anyone’s butt in her path, but what makes this so great is that she is a believable character. Levenseller has given readers a character with a past, and a rough one at that, that allows them to understand just why Alosa is so brutal!

It is obvious that our author, Tricia Levenseller, is a fan of the Pirates movies just like many of us, but that is not to say that this book is a reimaging of those movies. This story is original and completely unique. When I first picked up the book I was worried that I would not enjoy a story that was told aboard a pirate’s ship the entire time but there is never a dull moment. I am usually not an action/adventure reader, unless it is done well. I find myself skipping over those parts in many books that I read – but NOT THIS ONE! Alosa is my new best friend and if I am being completely honest I read this book in anticipation for its companion release at the end of February not knowing just how much I would love this story.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: Bonfire

33876540Author: Krysten Ritter
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

“Some of us are out of place even when we are home.” 

“The problem is that people think in black and white. They think they can have the good without the bad. But everything that's good for one person is probably bad for someone else. Life isn't like the Bible says it is. It isn't a choice between good and evil. It's about choosing which evils you can stand.” 

“Memories are like fire, and need only a little oxygen to grow.” 

“Any self-help book in the world will tell you that you can’t just run your past away.” 

After hearing much hype about this debut novel, I was more than thrilled to pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised with the mystery/thriller that Krysten Ritter provided and I think she is often being underestimated because she is an actress. The story was very intricate and took some careful planning. Ritter’s pacing is quick and right to the point, which is an absolute must have in a thriller for me. The main character is smart, but lacked some development and often times fell flat for me when reading. She had potential, but I wanted to see her fleshed out more as the protagonist. I was most intrigued by Kaycee Mitchell, the girl who disappeared before the story ever started. I wanted to know more about her background and was pleased when I finally began to understand her purpose in the story.

The conclusion was somewhat what I expected and then not at the same time. Abby, the main character, starts piecing together parts of the puzzle a little at a time and then it all hits her like a pitcher of ice cold water. I must say that I love when a story ends this way. Abby works on discovering the clues as the plot unfolds and is then brought to this startling conclusion, giving readers enough time to make educational guesses towards the mystery as well. The ending was suspenseful and did not disappoint. I was pleased with the ending and felt that all my questions were successfully answered. I am ready for what’s next from Kryster Ritter.

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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Review: City of Lies

Author: Victoria Thompson
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Series: A Counterfeit Lady #1

An exciting new series featuring woman-on-the-run Elizabeth Miles—from the beloved national bestselling author of the Gaslight Mysteries.

Every woman plays a part—but some are more dangerous than others…

Like most women, Elizabeth Miles assumes many roles; unlike most, hers have made her a woman on the run. Living on the edge of society, Elizabeth uses her guile to relieve so-called respectable men of their ill-gotten gains. But brutal and greedy entrepreneur Oscar Thornton is out for blood. He’s lost a great deal of money and is not going to forgive a woman for outwitting him. With his thugs hot on her trail, Elizabeth seizes the moment to blend in with a group of women who have an agenda of their own.

She never expects to like or understand these privileged women, but she soon comes to respect their intentions, forming an unlikely bond with the wealthy matriarch of the group whose son, Gideon, is the rarest of species—an honest man in a dishonest world. Elizabeth knows she’s playing a risky game, and her deception could be revealed at any moment, possibly even by sharp-eyed Gideon. Nor has she been forgotten by Thornton, who’s biding his time, waiting to strike. Elizabeth must draw on her wits and every last ounce of courage she possesses to keep her new life from being cut short by this vicious shadow from her past.

She was helpless, with no one to save her but herself, and no strength to rely on except her wits. She allowed herself one moment of bitterness at the plight of females who were always at the mercy of unscrupulous men. Then she began to plan.

“And tomorrow everything will be better?” “Everything will be clearer at least.”

Tomorrow would be soon enough to start pretending affection in front of other people.

And the very worst part was all of that only made him want her more. 

After reading most of the Victoria Thompson’s “Murder” series, by this author, I was happy to hear that she was starting a new series using a slightly different time period but still focused in New York. This first third of the novel is extremely dark and often made me cringe with her depictions of life for some not so fortunate people in the 20’s. It was not an easy time for these women, and Elizabeth, our protagonist, is changed by her time spent with the suffragists as she embraces their cause. I think the book is being pitched as more of mystery, but I must say that this novel gets “thrillerish” in various parts. We all want to think of the 1920’s as a time of glitz and glam, but we often forget what women and other minorities had to endure as times were changing.

An unconventional heroine as the lead will draw me in every time. Elizabeth takes readers on a journey through the 1920’s and really allows for an in depth look into the lives of suffragists and all they were fighting for. This book was entertaining, fun, and somewhat cozy even if it had its dark moments. The main character is endearing and easy to support as a leading lady. If you love historical fiction that is based in historical fact that is suspenseful with unforgettable characters, this is will be a book for you to pick up 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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