Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Off The Menu

Author: Stacey Ballis
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade

As the executive culinary assistant to celebrity Chicago chef Patrick Conlon, Alana Ostermann works behind the scenes—and that’s just the way she likes it. But with developing recipes for Patrick’s cookbooks, training his sous chefs, picking out the perfect birthday gifts for his ex-mother-in-law, and dealing with the fallout from his romantic escapades, she barely has a personal life, much less time to spend with her combo platter of a mutt, Dumpling.

Then a fluke online connection brings her RJ, a transplant from Tennessee, who adds some Southern spice to her life. Suddenly Alana’s priorities shift, and Patrick—and Dumpling—find themselves facing a rival for her time and affection. With RJ in the mix, and some serious decisions to make about her personal and professional future, Alana must discover the perfect balance of work and play, money and meaning, to bring it all to the table—one delicious dish at a time…

I have always been drawn to books about food! I just love to read them and this one was a prime example of why they prove to be some of my favorites. The first thing that I was drawn to on the cover was, of course, the dog and the cupcakes/muffins; I really don’t know which they are? I was thinking to myself how is a dog going to play into this story? I found that the answer was: in the cutest way ever!!! Being a girl, I couldn’t help but love the polka dotted oven mitt and I knew that our main character was going to be vivacious and full of style! I immediately read the back cover and learned that our little cuddly mutt on the front cover is named “Dumpling,” how charming!

The word for this book is definitely “intimate”. The characters and the settings were so easily relatable and the main character, Alana, was the best of all. She had such a charming disposition and was such an easy going person; I feel like she and I are really good friends. Her life is so organized and even though it got to be a little chaotic at times she was more than capable of keeping her ducks in a row. She had a wonderful career and a huge, loving family; what more could she need? Oh, and not to mention a sweet little dog named Dumpling who completely adored her. But she was missing her Prince!

Alana really had a passion for cooking and she really was devoted to her career. She had high demands and expectations for herself and others around her. Alana had really made a name for herself within the food industry and she was glad to be able to finally take the time to pride herself in that. The way that she talked about food and the dishes she was preparing was quite magical. You know when you can just tell that someone loves what they do? That was Alana! And a huge credit to Stacey’s writing; it is quite brilliant. I was so enticed by every dish that was prepared and when Thanksgiving dinner was prepared and served I am sure that my saliva almost reached the pages of the book.

Alana is very family oriented and she after being about half way through the book I felt like I was a part of it. She had a wonderful relationship with her parents and her siblings and her nieces and nephews admired her to no end. I wanted Alana so badly to be able to fall in love and finishing the puzzle of her life. She wanted it so bad for herself as well and was trying so hard to be patient with life and not to rush anything with any particular man. It is characters like Alana that I begin rooting for. She had her life together and was happy in herself, but like every woman still longed for the company of a soul mate. And who can blame her? Such a loveable character, Stacey!

When RJ came along I was immediately ecstatic for Alana. This sounds like we are best friends! I just loved her story and her character all around. She had fallen in love and it was clear from the pages before she even knew that she was. I won’t spoil the details of their relationship for you. It takes its ups and downs, but then again what relationship doesn’t? Once anyone starts to fall in love it seems that their life begins to twist and twirl like a rampant rollercoaster flying out of control. Alana makes some tough decisions but only comes out to be a stronger person because of it! I was overly pleased with this book. It was such a quiet and quaint read for a hot summer day!

***Thank you to the publishers at Berkley Trade for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway

Hello Charmings!! Yep, you guessed’s time for another giveaway! This giveaway is entitled Lazy Days of Summer and we all know what those feel like…lounging by the pool or sleeping until 12! This giveaway is for ONE lucky winner and the prize will be a July New Release. The giveaway is INTERNATIONAL provided that The Book Depository ships to your country. Now enough of the small talk, let’s get to the books!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something Strange And Deadly Blog Tour: Review, Interview & Giveaway

Hello all my little charmings! I am here today to kick off the blog tour for Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. This tour is hosted by Shane from Itching For Books! I am here with a review, author interview, and yes, a giveaway of the book! Be sure to enter and check out all the other amazing blogs on the tour (:

Author: Susan Dennard
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

I knew in January that I would inevitably read this book. The cover is so alluring and I love how many covers this year have involved elegant girls in beautiful ballroom gowns. This black dress looks almost as if it just fades into the sides on the cover. I had read that they were originally going to call this book The Spirit-Hunters and I am here to say that I am so glad they didn’t! Something Strange and Deadly coincides so well with everything about this book and what better way to captivate a reader than to have them know that there is something very strange and deadly brewing?

Eleanor Fitt is neither extravagantly wealthy nor overly attractive but all that matters to her is that her brother Elijah returns home to Philadelphia safely. Eleanor lives in a time when the Dead can be called out of their graves to physically walk the Earth again. They are hungry and impatient! The opening line of this book had me startled and completely fixated on the next two hundred or so pages. A woman is shouting, “The Dead!!!” and after this the reader learns that the Dead, have in fact, risen. What a great way to snag your readers, Susan!

Eleanor was a wonderful character. She was crafty, not too overly confident, and just curious enough to land herself into some rather sticky situations. She carries herself like a lady and never takes anyone’s discouragement simply because she is a woman. She fights the dead and gets herself mixed up with a gang of people known as “Spirit-hunters.” Nothing seems to bother Eleanor because her bond and commitment to finding her brother safely is all that she can seem to focus on. Eleanor is drawn to everything that her mother believes she should not be and continues to defy her mother’s wishes, thinking that she knows best for her family. She is such a smart character and can really persuade the opposite sex!

Daniel Sheridan is a young man working among the Spirit-hunters who is a rather intelligent inventor with a slightly awkward personality, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. He is very intuitive and wants to crack the code for getting rid of the Dead for once and all. He meets his match when he is faced with Eleanor Fitt, however! The two of them make such a great team, when one isn’t trying to outsmart the other that is! Daniel is a diamond in the rough, but what is amazing is how Eleanor learns to appreciate him even though he is a tad rough around the edges. I actually love Eleanor all the more because even though her mother is trying to persuade her to marry into a higher class and wealth, Eleanor refuses seeing the beauty in someone as tattered and broken as Daniel Sheridan.

Within the first couple of chapters I thought that this was for sure going to be a zombie horror story. However, I was wrong and that is not a bad thing. I’m not one for horror stories myself! On the other hand, I did love the spirit/voodoo world that made up Philadelphia and all the characters that inhabited it. It was almost like a Victorian England/ New Orleans mix. There were talk of Necromancers, powerful black magic, and magic using electric forces and water! I loved the magical realm that was incorporated in the story. There was also a ghost story mixed in as well, but I will not spoil this for other anxious readers! Such a great historical context added too and Philadelphia was such a pivotal place when it came to our independence as a nation.

Me: If you could describe "Something Strange and Deadly" in three words, what would they be?

Susan: Gothic, adventurous, and sweeping.

Me: Describe your main character, Eleanor Fitt, in three words.

Susan: Too-curious, impulsive-to-the-point-of-stupidity, and fiercely loyal! (Okay, more than 3 words, sorry!!!)

Me: If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Susan: Isaac Asimov! He's my hero (I even named my dog after him). He wrote >400 books in his life--AND he was a professor of biochemistry. How the man managed to accomplish so much, I don't know. I'd have to ask him that during dinner. ;)

Me: Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.

Susan: Well, I started writing for myself (and my sister. She read so many terrible stories!) when I was ~13 years old. I knew I wanted to write sweeping tales with strong heroines, and when I went off to college, I thought I'd pursue creative writing. But THEN, I fell head-over-heels for marine biology and ecology. Thank goodness I did, since grad school was where I met my husband. Not to mention, science took me all around the world--from Antarctica to Fiji to Belize. So many amazing experiences! I only got back into writing when my husband and I moved to Germany and I couldn't work. Never one to sit around and do nothing, I dove headfirst into writing for publication. :)

Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for writing this book?

Susan: It came from a dream! How cheesy is that?! I dreamt my brother was missing and the only people who could help were a ragtag group of outcasts. For days, the dream stuck in my mind--begging me to write it--so finally I did. I sat down, wrote out the basics, and then fleshed it out into a full story.

Me: In your writing process, which comes first: the world, the characters, or the plot?

Susan: Every book is different. SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY began with a cast of character and basic plot (see question #5), and then I had to build a world and develop the full plot for it. SCREECHERS (my work in progress) started as a world, and then I populated it with characters I cared about. From there, the plot grew very organically.

Me: Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Susan: In SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, I loooooved writing Daniel. His interactions with Eleanor were just so fun to craft because I know all the things going through his mind. You all won't know his full backstory--YET--but trust me when I say everything he does has a reason. ;)

Tip of the Tongue Answers:

Favorite book?
A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster

Favorite color?
Seafoam green

Ideal vacation spot?
Disney World (I looooove Disney World!!)

Favorite movie?
ANASTASIA (hottest cartoon hero EVER!)

Animal that best describes your personality?
Dolphin. Or at least I've always wanted to have a dolphin for a friend. ;)

Now for the giveaway….!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Revell Blog Tour: Perfectly Ridiculous

Author: Kristin Billerbeck
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company
Series: Universally Misunderstood # 3

Daisy Crispin is at a crossroads. In one direction lies the Promised Land--life at college, away from her embarrassing and overprotective parents. In the other direction is reality--her strapped bank account, an ailing father, and family priorities. Daisy knows the "perfect" daughter wouldn't have to think twice. But maybe Daisy was never really perfect on any level, because she does not want her life to look the way her parents think it should. She won't let that stop her, though. Now that she has been given an exciting free trip to Argentina before going to college, she's thrilled--until her parents decide to go along with her. Hilarious and all too true to life, Perfectly Ridiculous gives teen girls more of what they want and love to read from Kristin Billerbeck.

I love how the title is an oxymoron in itself! How can something be perfect and ridiculous? Love it! The sunglasses are the awesome finishing touch! What more evidence do you need on the cover of a book to tell you that it is in fact a summer read? If you look closely in the lenses of the sunglasses you can see beautiful buildings and huge palm trees; the icing on the cake. I love books where the main character leaves the state or in this case the country. I just love reading about all of the culture that the characters see and become a part of!

I am still trying to decide how I felt about this book as a whole. There are parts that I loved about it and parts that I didn’t care for so much. The storyline was very realistic and could happen to any recent high school graduate. Daisy Crispin is about to head off to college and wants to have one lasting summer before she has to plunge into the books again. She thinks that going to Argentina will be the ultimate experience before her freshman year of college, until she learns that while she is there she must complete an entire week’s volunteer work for her college scholarship. She, like most teens, begrudges this at first but doesn’t quite see the beauty in it until her week is almost up.

Daisy and her best friend, Claire, go to Argentina looking to socialize and get something other than what they bargained for. Daisy is forced to volunteer in a rundown town on the outskirts of Argentina. She witnesses life as it really is for the famished and homeless there. This is an eye opener for her as it would be for anyone. She sees children who are abused and people who barely have food to eat. This was one of my favorite parts of the book because Daisy was put into a situation that was new to her and her character was allowed to grow and expand. This was a maturing process for her. She learned to cook and even though it was morbidly awful the starving townspeople could have cared less. She really grew as a person through her experience.

Daisy is also in the middle of two guys. One that she wishes would stop disappointing her and actually hold true to his word and the other who she meets while on her trip. I did not like the first guy at all, Max was his name. He seemed to have a lot of family issues and that took up a lot of his time, but I still did not like the way he handled things with Daisy. He lied to her when he had no reason to. J.C. is who she meets while in Argentina and I absolutely loved him! I think he helped to bring out the best in her. I can really appreciate that in a male character.

Now for what I did not like about the book. Well first off, Daisy’s parents insisted that they accompany her on the trip. And yes, I understand that they are only concerned for her daughter and what could happen to her, but really I believe that she should have had this experience on her own. Secondly, throughout the book Daisy would pause and the font would change to what I suppose was her handwriting and she would enter her thoughts into her diary. She was already narrating the book! I did not think it was necessary, neither did I like it. Some parts of the book were enjoyable, but there were others that I just could not get on board with.

Available July 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stacking The Shelves (9)

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews, in which we share the books that we have bought, received, or borrowed from the previous week!

Goodreads | Signed Copy from Author

Goodreads | From Publisher

Goodreads | From Publisher

Goodreads | From Publisher

Friday, July 20, 2012

Giveaway: The After Wife

Do I have a treat for you all today? Yes, I do! The publishers of Random House Publishing Group have provided me with a copy of The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer to offer to all my charmed readers for a giveaway! This is a hardcover edition and it is so lovely (: This giveaway is open internationally!!

Thanks again to the publishers at Random House for providing me with a copy of this wonderful book! Good luck to all who enter and I am so excited to provide you all with another fabulous giveaway!!

Book Review: Witchsturck

Author: Victoria Lamb
Publication Date: July 5, 2012
Publisher: Corgi Children’s

Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practice the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.

Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret.

I love to read anything to do with witches or warlocks and I always have. One of my favorite things to study about was always the Salem Witch Trials, and even though this book is not about the trials the cover did remind me of them. I am fascinated with the fact that people were terrified of anyone that they believed to be a witch or even anyone who studied the craft. I, still to this day, cannot believe that women burned at the stake for accusations of witchcraft. I knew that this book would have to be something along those lines, so of course I was sold!

To start off I am just going to be up front and honest that this story fell really flat for me. I guess my expectations were just too high and I could not wait to get into the story, but it was not able to hold my attention nor was the story line anything to brag about. I was expecting more action and more witchcraft and maybe even more witches. It was the same story line that you see with most historical fiction along the lines of, main character is a witch she is trying to hide from witch hunters because she does not want to be burned at the stake. Yes, there were added details such as Meg trying to protect Lady Elizabeth from accusations of treason, but they were just not enough to support the weak plot.

I feel that I am being really harsh with my judgment of this book, but if you are a reader of Charming Chelsey’s you know that I hardly ever ridicule a book. I usually enjoy the characters first and foremost and even in that department I was disappointed. Meg Lytton is the young witch whom the story revolves around, but her character was neither fun nor enjoyable. She often seemed timid to me and never really embraced herself as a witch. Also the male character, Alejandro de Castillo, was dull as well. These characters, I felt, were just taking up space on the pages. They did not give me a reason to love them and want to follow them throughout the book. Alejandro is not a man that I would want to call my beau! At times I felt like he was too skittish and afraid to really make clear his feelings for Meg.

When I read about witchcraft in books I want the author to go into detail about what type of witches they are and what kinds of magic that they possess. This should be a world where the author’s imagination can really flourish. It was obvious that Meg and her Aunt Jane were in fact witches, but they hardly ever practiced the craft and I believe that there should have been more of that. Meg did complete a few spells, but I would have liked for it to be more in depth. This is a world where the main character possesses a gift and I just felt like she did not put it to use enough.

I am not saying that this book is altogether horrible. The story line could have been amazing! And there were things that I did enjoy. I liked the Lady Elizabeth who had been exiled by her sister, the Queen, Mary. If some of you are familiar with this story you that Mary is whom they derived the term “Bloody Mary” from because there was a significant amount of bloodshed during her reign. I thought that was very brilliant of the author to bring these two sisters and their story into it because that was a very alarming time during history. I am not saying that you should not pick up a copy of this book because you should. Everyone’s opinion will be different from mine!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: Secret Letters

Author: Leah Scheier
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion

Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters.

But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits--and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective--to save her cousin's reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.

Ok, anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, sign me up! I mean honestly the man is a crazed genius and this book totally fits in the Victorian Era that I imagine every time I am transported to Sherlock’s world whether it is by a movie or within this book. Actually, all it took was the title for me here! Who can resist the word, “secret”? We are all about secrets and usually everybody has at least one or two that they would never share with anyone. The magnifying glass on the front cover gave away a little bit of the plot because I immediately assumed that we would be dealing with some type private investigating; that is just what automatically comes to mind when I see one. I guess I can thank Hollywood for that. This book is historical fiction that takes place in a Victorian London, which I believe I should have been born into. What is not to love about it based on the cover alone?

I absolutely love this author! Leah is probably one of the kindest that I have run across since I have been blogging! Her writing is just as sweet as her nature. She took a storyline with a Sherlock twist and made it a masterpiece. When an author takes an already well known piece of literature like Sherlock Holmes or any fairy tale, they are taking a chance in retelling it. All of the classics are already great so to rewrite one with a modern day twist or even a spin off in any context or genre is taking a huge risk. Leah, you did not disappoint, at least not in my opinion!

I have always wondered how authors go about writing mystery novels because they, of course, have to know the ending before they write it or at least have a good idea of where the story line is going to take them. Often times readers can pick up early what is going to take place in novels such as this. I was completely enthralled the entire time that I was reading this book. Even though I could guess which characters were involved I still was shocked and thrown off track by the end of the book. Leah added tiny little surprises that were waiting for readers within each chapter.

Dora is not your typical main female character. She is confident in herself but has a subtle way of showing it. This, again, is a time period when women were not meant to share the same professions or maybe even hobbies as men. Dora was a skilled investigator and she knew that, but she had to be careful as to how she let others on to her little secret. She is very inquisitive and like Sherlock, she does not give up when she knows there may just be a clue in her midst. Dora comes off as a mild mannered female lead and that is a nice change opposed to the attitude and sassy heroine that we are so used to reading about. Dora is a delicate character; however, she is also extremely clever but is not one to brag about any of her exquisite qualities. She allows her detective to do all the talking!

Peter Cartwright was the male opposite to Dora, as he was a young investigator as well. Peter was, at first, a quiet and cunning character. Later on readers learn that Peter’s past had a lot to do with shaping him into possessing a more harsh exterior than most young men his age. I loved the way that he treated and valued Dora’s investigative skills. Even though she was a woman and most would have frowned upon him doing so, he allowed her to help him and trusted her judgment throughout the story. Sometimes the best characters have more depth to them than meets the eye. Writing characters like these two deserves an award or a freshly baked cake or something commendable at least!!

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (10)

Waiting on Wednesdays is a weekly book meme that lets readers just like you guys know what to be expecting and waiting anxiously for. It is hosted by Jill over at Breaking The Spine. Want to participate? Grab the logo on her page, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave your link on her blog!

Author: Tiffany Trent
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

I love the steam punk atmosphere that I can see on the cover of this book. I was immediately drawn to the woman on the front when I first spotted this cover on Goodreads. Her outfit is just so eccentric and the colors chosen give the book a very “Sherlock Holmes” feel. In most of his movies London always appears to be dark and gloomy and I get the same sensation here as well. Plus, I love a good, strong, and witty female character and this one looks and sounds like she is a keeper! What is everyone else waiting on?