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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, December 31, 2013

Book Review: Billionaire Blend

Billionaire Blend (Coffeehouse Mystery, #13)Author: Cleo Coyle
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery # 13

Landmark coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi has served her share of New York’s rich and famous, but even she is surprised by her explosive introduction to a mysterious Internet billionaire

When a car bomb nearly kills tech whiz Eric Thorner, Clare comes to his aid and receives a priceless thank you. Not only does the billionaire buy her a barista’s dream espresso machine, he hires her for an extraordinary project: creating the world’s most expensive coffee blend.

The police quickly arrest Eric’s alleged attacker, yet death continues to surround the unlucky mogul, leading Clare to question whether a fatal fall and another lethal mishap are premeditated murders or merely freak accidents. Clare’s boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, has a theory of his own—one Clare refuses to believe.

Meanwhile, Eric jets Clare around the world on a head-spinning search for the very best coffee, and Clare gets to know his world—a mesmerizing circle of money with rivalries that could easily have turned deadly. But is this charming young CEO truly marked for termination? Or is he the one making a killing?


As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?

This was one time I didn’t argue with my ex. I hit out plank deck.

Good thing, too, because if my ex-husband knew who I was going to speak with and why, I’d have another explosion on my hands.

“Because the device wasn’t designed to blow up the car so much as roast the occupants alive. And burning to death is one hell of a horrible way to die.”



This series was one of the first cozy mysteries that I ever read and played a big part in my love of them! I have followed this series from the start, and I have only missed a few installments, which I hope to go back and catch up on soon. Each book is all the more intriguing than the last and always leaves me wanting more. Cleo Coyle does a wonderful job of keeping her avid fans and readers engaged and hooked on the series, as each new mystery gets more and more suspenseful. In this installment, Clare Cosi, owner of Village Blend Coffeehouse, gets tangled up in a suspenseful mystery when she learns that someone is trying to kill the mysterious billionaire/tech wiz that she is working alongside to brew the world’s most expensive coffee blend. She and her boyfriend and NYPD detective work together as they get caught up in chaos and mayhem while trying to stop a potential killer!

I truly believe that many of Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries can be read as standalone novels. She does a terrific job in writing them so that they flow and make sense to first time readers. This is just a side note that I have always appreciated about her.

I also always enjoy the bevy of charming recipes that can be found in this book. I swear cozy mystery authors really know how to lure readers in! I have a few of the recipes bookmarked to try after the New Year!

I find that sometimes the beginning of her books can seem to take off a slow pace, but I promise once you really dive into the novel the action starts to twist and turn in ways that are unimaginable. Once the main action has hit center stage the story doesn’t slow down again until the final page. Her books are always fast on their feet once the mystery is introduced! I love this part about her books. Some people might despise slow beginnings, but I can see how it is necessary when the author needs to set up the scene and his or her characters!

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






Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: Undressing Mr. Darcy

Undressing Mr. DarcyAuthor: Karen Doornebos
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade

Thirty-five-year-old American social media master Vanessa Roberts lives her thoroughly modern life with aplomb. So when her elderly Jane Austen centric aunt needs her to take on the public relations for Julian Chancellor, a very private man from England who’s written a book called My Year as Mr. Darcy, Vanessa agrees. But she’s not excessively diverted,” as Jane Austen would say.

Hardbound books, teacups, and quill pens fly in the face of her e-reader, coffee, and smartphone
.

Until she sees Julian take his tight breeches off for his Undressing Mr. Darcy show, an educational striptease” down to his drawers to promote his book and help save his crumbling estate. The public relations expert suddenly realizes things have gotten
personal. But can this old-fashioned man claim her heart without so much as a GPS? It will take three festivals filled with Austen fans, a trip to England, an old frenemy, and a flirtatious pirate re-enactor to find out.


The conversion has begun. It’s in your blood. Resistance is futile.” He looked into her eyes and took a step backward. “You’re becoming an Austen fan.”

Sex sells, even to smart, liberated women, and Mr. Darcy was the smart girl’s pinup boy.

Was Vanessa the only American woman who didn’t swoon over men with British accents?

She had gotten a glimpse of the man beneath the Darcy trappings, and, oddly enough, she liked what she saw.

This was just the taste of Jane Austen I needed to bring in the New Year! I wouldn’t consider myself a rabid Janeite, much like Vanessa’s aunt in this story, but I do love reading a good Jane Austen retelling every once in a while. Of course this is a modern retelling with a few added twists, and what I enjoyed most was the walk through Jane’s life as our heroine, Vanessa Roberts, visits London! Vanessa’s Jane Austen-centric aunt has asked her to take on the public relations for Julian Chancellor, who has just written a book called, My Year as Mr. Darcy. Vanessa half-heartedly agrees. Little does she know where this new journey will take her and all the things that Jane Austen is waiting to teach her!

My favorite part of this book was learning all about the Jane Austen conventions that I am sure go on every year here and in London. As I mentioned earlier, I would not consider myself an avid Janeite, but I do have an interest in her books and her life. I learned many, many things just by reading this book. I got to witness the lives of people who really do love and admire Jane Austen to the utmost. This was a perfect inside look into a Janeite’s passion for someone like me. I developed a stronger understanding and more knowledge of what the term “Janeite” really means.

The revelation for me and the main character, Vanessa Roberts, came at the end of this book. Vanessa finds herself in England for the celebrated ten day Jane Austen festival. Vanessa is set about on a scavenger hunt through London when all of life’s woes begin to weigh heavy on her. She begins to questions all the things going on in her life. Vanessa realizes somewhere in the midst of all this what Jane Austen really means to her aunt and she begins to realize the lesson that Jane Austen was trying to teach her as well!

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

 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Out To Lunch

Out to LunchAuthor: Stacey Ballis
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade

A touching and hilarious novel from the fabulous Stacey Ballis about best friends, true love, and the joy of food—for fans of Jen Lancaster, Jennifer Weiner, and Emily Giffin...

Jenna has lost her best friend.
With Aimee gone so tragically young, Jenna barely knows where to turn. Aimee was the one who always knew what to do—not to mention what to wear. The two built a catering company together and had so much in common—well, except their taste in men. Jenna never understood what the successful, sophisticated Aimee saw in Wayne, with his Star Wars obsession and harebrained business schemes.

And gained her best friend’s husband

But Aimee has left a shocking last request: Jenna now has financial custody of the not-so-merry widower. True, Wayne needs someone sensible around to keep him under control, but what was her dear departed friend thinking?

The thing is, as she gets to know Wayne better, his latest moneymaking idea actually starts to intrigue her. Her attractive new lawyer boyfriend doesn’t approve of it—but then, Wayne doesn’t approve of her attractive new lawyer boyfriend. Now Jenna has to figure out what direction her life is going to take next. And she can’t help asking herself: What would Aimee do?


But this space is full of love and kindness, and I can feel Aimee’s faith in me, and I face the room to say what needs saying.

“Aimee has always been the source of my best and deepest laughter. She has been my secret-keeper for more than half my life. The sister I never had, my conscience, my sounding board. We have traveled the world together, literally and figuratively. She is my hero.”

Wayne. She gave me custody of Wayne.

Because if I’m going to help these people heal at all, it’s in the kitchen.


Stacey Ballis won my heart in her last book, Off the Menu! It was one of those books that I got through in one day simply because I refused to put it down. I love books that have anything to do with food and I love the author’s vivid descriptions of the food she writes about. This story was a little more heart-wrenching than her last as it follows Jenna who has just lost her best friend, Aimee. Aimee suffered from a liver disease and gave up her fight. In her passing she left Jenna with a rather odd task: being financially responsible of her less than merry widower, Wayne. Jenna thinks this is strange, but as much as she loved Aimee she is willing to take on the task. She sees quickly how much Aimee really knew what she was doing!

One thing that I found particularly tasteful in this book was the “voice” of Aimee. I am still unsure if she was meant to be a ghost or if this was just Jenna’s coping mechanism, but it was a way for me to get to know Aimee after her passing. I enjoyed reading and hearing her thoughts and responses to Jenna’s actions. I was able to understand the type of friendship that these two shared through this “ghostly” communication. Some might say it was unnecessary or unrealistic, but I think it added a certain spark and twist to an already intimate story!

At first Jenna does not take well to Aimee’s husband, Wayne. When I learned all that Jenna knew, I sided with her. However, by the time I reached the end of the book I had a different view on the scenario and Wayne’s character. At first I thought, how is this character going to be anything I want to read about? But I believe that is one reason that I am attracted to Ballis’s writing skills; she makes me appreciate characters and details that at first seem minute.

The food descriptions and recipes are always a nice touch as well!

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





Monday, December 23, 2013

Review Post: Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink

Keep Calm and Carry a Big DrinkAuthor: Kim Gruenenfelder
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: There’s Cake in My Future # 2


 In Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink, Kim Gruenenfelder's delicious follow-up to There's Cake in My Future, Seema, Nic and Mel are back, adjusting to their new lives as a bride-to-be, a mother-to-be, and a recently single girl looking for love

It's been almost a year since Mel, Nic and Seema pulled their magical charms out of the cake at Nic's bridal shower and most of their happily-ever-afters seemingly came true. Seema is about to marry Scott in an elaborate three-day affair. Nic is glowingly pregnant. And Mel... well, Mel feels as if she accidentally veered off the rails of her life at some point and isn't sure how to get back on. She recently became single again, she's been threatened with a layoff from her teaching job, and she has to find her own place now that Scott is moving in with her roommate, Seema.

Nic thinks Mel just needs a new cake charm to bring her good luck. . . and decides to rig the cake pull at Seema's bridal shower. Desperate for travel, Mel asks for the passport charm. But, once again, the cake proves to have a mind of its own, and she pulls a charm she doesn't want, and cannot use. Rather than be bound by the charm's prophecy, Mel realizes she, and she alone, is responsible for her destiny. A spur of the moment decision takes her to Paris and then Maui, where she finds herself on an adventure that she never could have imagined, experiencing the trials and tribulations of a life suddenly and perfectly unplanned. And, along the way, she begins to learn that, however nonsensical it may seem, the cake is never wrong...


But perhaps the worst thing a bride can hear on her wedding day just came from me, her maid of honor: “Okay, I need to tell you something. But you have to promise me you won’t freak out.”

Who was the first bride who passive-aggressively hated her maid of honor so much that she decided to wrap her in an explosion of taffeta?

Who’s the love of your life?
Who’s the guy who just popped into your head?
Who’s the man you would spend the rest of your life with, if it were totally under your control?


And just before I fell asleep, while I was in that hynagogic state when you’re neither asleep nor awake, I thought about Paris. And the charm. And the charming man in the other room. And my future started to make a little more sense. 


I was in the mood for something light, contemporary, and sure to make me smile. I found that in Kim Gruenenfelder’s newest book. Mel, Nic, and Seema were just the dose of medicine I needed; their relationship is real and sometimes catty! Mel, the main character in this book, is definitely my favorite as most of this book is told from her point of view. Seema is about to marry the man of her dreams, Scott, in a flashy three day affair and Nic is about to give birth to her first child. Mel is the only one of the group that has nothing major going on in her life and almost feels like she is out of the loop. That is until Seema’s wedding kicks into gear and Seema’s brother, Jay, rolls into town. Mel has had a crush on Jay for as long as she can remember, and this time around Jay is finally noticing her too. Will it be fireworks and all that Mel hoped for? Or will she find that Jay has too many “tricks” up his sleeve?

Kim Gruenenfelder has won my heart with her passion and ability to write quality chick lit! I just find myself wanting more of it these days and I end up reading some chick lit that I eventually put down and decide not to even review. This book is the epitome of “chick lit” or women’s fiction as it should be. It doesn’t portray the women in it as whiny or complainers, but instead as realistic women would act. When Gruenenfelder, through the character of Mel, describes the “clingy” stages that women go through when first entering a relationship I said, “Man, she hit the nail on the head.” Sure, Mel does make herself appear too vulnerable at times, but what woman in love hasn’t?

 Again, I love the emotion and humor that come with Gruenenfelder’s book and the relationships she creates. All three women had something entirely different happening in their lives, but they each took the time to comfort and talk with each other. They offered honest advice and it wasn’t always what the other one wanted to hear, but isn’t that what friends are for? I liked listening to Seema and Scott talk about their wedding because I am planning my own, but ultimately Mel and her “man issues” was my favorite! This book took me no time to finish and I enjoyed every last page!


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




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: Real Vampires Know Size Matters

Real Vampires Know Size Matters (Glory St. Clair, #10)Author: Gerry Bartlett
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Series: Glory St. Clair # 10

Just when curvaceous vampire Glory St. Clair has her life semi-on track, a woman from her longtime lover Jeremiah Campbell's past steamrolls into town on a mission to win him back. Normally Glory wouldn't feel threatened by a mortal with amorous intentions, but Jerry's ex just happens to be a beautiful voodoo priestess with evil spirits at her beck and call-and a serious lack of conscience when it comes to getting what she wants.

With her mother in the picture now, desperate to get Glory up to Olympus, Glory has her hands full. This time not even her new powers may be enough to help Glory cook up a solution that will help her keep the man she loves.




If she has a little life left in her…I shifted and flew into the night sky. Either way, Ray and I were in a hell of a mess. And I’d thought voodoo was my biggest problem.

Weapons, I needed weapons and I sure wasn’t using my fangs this time.

A voodoo priestess. What next? I should know better than to ask that question.

I have only read a few of the books in this series. I hope to start picking more of them up soon because I have not read one that was not fun and entertaining yet. The newest book in Bartlett’s series is just as humor and action-packed as the rest of them. Glory St. Clair gets a run for her money when a beautiful voodoo priestess, who used to date Glory’s longtime lover, shows up with evil spirits right by her side. Glory realizes she will have to defend herself and her man!

Even though I have only read a few of the books in this series, I realize that they all have things in common: they make me laugh. There are so many humorous situations and punch lines that I could not help but read until I was finished with the entire book. We are even introduced to new characters in this book and run into all types of mythical, magical beings. Gerry Bartlett keeps Glory and her gang on her toes constantly and you just never know what types of twists and turns will be thrown in the path!

I still enjoyed this book, even though I have not read every one that has been released. I will say that I do think it would help if I could go back and read all of them. I think that the world and all the deities would make a lot more sense then. The books can still be read and understand just fine, which says something for Bartlett’s writing skills! If you need a good taste of the paranormal world, then pick up the latest in this series today!

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




Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Rosemary and Crime

Rosemary and CrimeAuthor: Gail Oust
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Piper Prescott # 1

Murder comes well-seasoned in this charming mystery featuring a smart and spunky new amateur sleuth, small-town Georgia spice shop owner Piper Prescott

Piper Prescott, a transplanted Yankee living in the South, has got her sass back.  She might be down, but don’t count her out.  “Change of life?” she asks.  Bring it on.  Recently divorced, Piper decides to pursue a dream she’s secretly harbored: owning her own business, Spice it Up!, a spice shop in her adopted hometown, Brandywine Creek, Georgia.  But Piper’s grand opening goes awry when the local chef who’s agreed to do a cooking demo is found stabbed.  Not only did Piper find the body, she handled the murder weapon and doesn’t have a witness to her alibi, making the case look like a slam dunk to brand new police Chief Wyatt McBride.  Desperate to uncover the truth—and prove her innocence—Piper enlists the help of her outspoken BFF Reba Mae Johnson to help track down the real culprit.  The pair compile a lengthy list of suspects and work to eliminate them using their own creative brand of sleuthing techniques including stakeouts, breaking and entering, and one very unorthodox chocolate pie. When Piper narrowly avoids being a victim of a hit-and-run, she knows she’s getting closer to the truth, but can she catch the killer and clear her name before she becomes the next victim?

A captivating start to a new series featuring an unstoppably fabulous new crime-solving heroine, a colorful cast of small town characters, and more than a pinch of Georgia charm, Rosemary and Crime is sure to delight fans of Donna Andrews and Jessica Beck.


How naïve of me not to think murder! Murder was something for books, newspapers, television. Not something that happened in peaceful, safe Brandywine Creek, Georgia.

A handful of this, a cupful of that. Spicy sweet cinnamon, tangy cloves, licoricelike star anise, Szechwan peppercorns: I poured all of the ingredients into a coffee mill, which I reserved exclusively for grinding spices.

Nothing like a good funeral to bring out the Who’s Who of Brandywine Creek society, I mused the following Wednesday.


This exciting new mystery series from author, Gail Oust, is light, quick, charming, and totally satisfying! The brand new heroine in the cozy mystery world is Piper Prescott, who after just coming through a divorce decides to use the money she received from her recent divorce settlement to open up a lifelong dream of her hers called Spice It Up! Piper has worked long and hard to prepare for opening night, and even goes out of her way to get one of the most famous local chefs, known for his womanizing and hot temperament, to agree to prepare a demonstration for opening night. Everything is going according to plan, until Piper finds her help stabbed to death lying on her kitchen floor.

My favorite part of this book, and probably will remain so throughout the entire series, was Piper and her best friend, Reba Mae. These two were two peas in a far out pod! Reba Mae was very outspoken and often told people exactly what she thought without thinking twice about it. Their friendship was endearing; Reba Mae was constantly standing up for Piper and was at her side through it all. They complement each other very well. They could easily be described as the Rizzoli & Isles of the cozy mystery world!

This new series is very charming and hits home! The small town and high attention to detail make for an interesting setting and provides readers with a place and characters that they are sure to love. I can only imagine where the series will go from here. I keep checking back on Goodreads to see if any information has been posted about the next book in the series! This cozy mystery does not fit the normal, predictable mold, but offers readers with a deeper, richer context and more developed characters they are sure to love!

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




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: The Housemaid's Daughter

The Housemaid's DaughterAuthor: Barbara Mutch
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful, yet divided land, The Housemaid's Daughter is a startling and thought-provoking novel that intricately portrays the drama and heartbreak of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption.



It seemed to me that this might be the worst thing about war: that friends could be enemies-in-waiting.

And I would feel the tune rise in my hands and join her in the tumbling cascade down the piano.

So I embrace this new life, and these new people.
Soon, I hope, we will no longer be strangers to one another.

I was very intrigued and interested to read this book, but I had no idea that it would amaze me as much as it did. I read a book back in April that was set in South Africa, and I was fascinated by the culture and setting. This story takes place during apartheid and of Ada and her mother, servants in the Craddock household. The Madam, woman of the house that Ada serves under, takes Ada under her wing and treats her as an equal. She even takes a great interest in the young girl and teaches her to read and play the piano when the local school turns her away. After Ada’s mother passes away and the Madam leaves for quite some time, Ada is approached by the master of the home. Ada and her mother face great turmoil and awful situations while living and serving in this home. This book is not for the faint of heart; it brings a sincere, strong message with it.

This book reminds me greatly of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Barbara Mutch is a wonderful storyteller and pays great attention to detail. The story is reminiscent of The Help, but has qualities that set it aside and make it all the more unique. The situations that the characters face are different but can be compared in several ways. If you enjoyed Stockett’s book, then this will be one that you will not want to miss either. The racial discriminations and prejudices are just as strong and prevalent in this book. The issues are real and are explored in a realistic way.

This book is a work of fiction but many of the incidents and issues raised within its pages are things that really occurred and to more than one young girl, person, or family. The time was well-written and appeared to be very realistic. I did not live during apartheid but I know the extent of its despair and I believe that Mutch portrayed that very well. The places that are depicted in this book are very real and I found parts of it to be very educational. The characters just added to the times and culture; they made it seem all the more real.







Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Murder, She Barked

Murder, She Barked (A Paws and Claws Mystery)Author: Krista Davis
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Series: Paws and Claws Mystery # 1

The Sugar Maple Inn in Wagtail, Virginia, is the country's premiere vacation hot spot for pet owners who can’t bear to leave their furry friends behind. But this tourist town smells trouble when a killer goes on the prowl....

Holly Miller's life has gone to the dogs. She has no job, her boyfriend's former flame is sniffing around, and a scruffy but loveable Jack Russell Terrier is scattering crumbs all over her borrowed car. Just when she thought things couldn't get worse, a troubling phone call about her grandmother sends her rushing home to the family inn on Wagtail Mountain.

The staff—and a frisky Calico kitten named Twinkletoes—adopts Holly and her new dog on arrival. But someone in this friendly town is bad to the bone. One of the employees at the inn has been killed in a hit-and-run accident—which is looking anything but accidental. Now Holly and her furry companions will have to nose out the murderer before someone else gets muzzled.


The calico kitten sat at the midway landing of the stairs and regarded the dog regally, twitching her tail to demonstrate mild annoyance. She didn’t budge, though. The kitten stared down the impish dog, who scrambled to a stop and wisely retreated a few steps.

When I finally rested my head on the down pillow, the dog crept up onto my chest. I ran my hand along the rough fur on her back, wondering if I would be able to sleep with a dog on top of me.

Adorable stores and restaurants lined the sides of the walking area. Wide sidewalks provided ample space for pedestrians, benches for the weary, and outdoor tables at restaurants. In the center, a green grassy section stretched away from me. Trees lined the sides, and a charming gazebo graced the center.

This book is for the pet lover in all of us! I was anxious to see Krista Davis, the author of the fabulous Domestic Diva series, take a new direction and just knew that I had to get a copy of this book and check it out. This is the first book in her new Paws & Claws mystery series which is set in Wagtail, Virginia, a town dedicated to pets and their owners. She really did a great job of making this feel real and seem very relatable. Holly Miller is our new leading lady and amateur sleuth. She receives an urgent call from her grandmother early on in the book, and is forced to head back to Wagtail Mountain. This is where the journey begins!

I have to give most of the credit to Twinkletoes, a frisky calico kitten, and her sidekick Trixie, a loveable Jack Russell Terrier. These two really do steal the show. They are fun-loving animals that Krista Davis said she modeled after her own cat and dog. They add so much humor to the story, and any animal lover is sure to enjoy their presence. Furthermore, they bring out a fun-loving side of Holly as well. I don’t know if I am more anxious to continue the series because of Holly or because of these two mischievous, yet heartwarming animals!

I loved the setting that Krista Davis has created in this book, but of course I already knew that she was the diva of detail! Everything seems so believable. She must base a lot of her stories, settings, and characters off of her actual life experiences because it all feels like I could reach out and touch it. I think this is what makes her writing seem so wonderful to me because the towns and people she creates could be right down the road from me. I am looking forward to the next book in this series!

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




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Review: Secrets of the Southern Belle

Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off MomentAuthor: Phaedra Parks
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Gallery

Who is always perfectly put together and never at a loss for words? Who is professional, courteous, and harder working than anyone else? Who’s Christmas cards arrive the day after Thanksgiving, year after year? Y’all know she’s got to be a Southern Belle.

A Southern Belle takes care of herself and makes sure people treat her right. She always gets her way, even if her man thinks it was his idea. (That’s a win for you both.) But, darling, you don’t have to be raised in the South to be the same fun-loving package of looks, charm, and determination that makes a Belle a Belle. That’s what this delightful little book is for!

Ladies, take it from Phaedra Parks, the smart, confident, and always poised star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Life as a Belle is simply better for you and for the people around you. So let’s imagine you’re rocking on the front porch, with a tall glass of sweet tea and a plate of ladyfingers, because Phaedra’s got a thing or two to tell you!


A few times I have used some choice words that aren’t in the Bible. The point is, we keep trying, every day, to live up to the Southern Belle ideal.

Nobody knows everything, and if you think you do please make sure you rename yourself “Queen Perfect.”

Everybody knows…The Southern Belle loves her three P’s: pearls, panty hose, and pumps.

Know how to tell if pearls are real? You rub them gently between your teeth and if they feel slightly grainy, they’re genuine. I promise nobody will do this to you at a party, so you’re safe with the synthetic version.

I have made it my goal to try and read more self-help books in the coming year. I decided to start with one that appealed to my already innate nature: being a Southern Belle! I really dislike reality television, so I had no clue that the author of this book was the star of the T.V. show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, but honestly this did not deter my interest in reading it. This book called to me from the first moment I saw its cover!

The advice that Parks gives within this book is valuable, professional, and relatable. She shares things that could be really beneficial to anyone, not just Southern Belles. I love how she has everything sectioned off, it’s organized by section, and she even provides bulleted lists when necessary. I am an extremely “listy” person, so this makes me happy and keeps me entertained. She speaks to every part of life from the social aspects, the work field, and even about personal relationships. She covers every category!

What I instantly loved about Phaedra Parks and her writing is that she is completely honest! She admits that while she knows what it takes to be a proper, respectable woman, she sometimes fails at being a Southern Belle herself. I can tell what type of person she is through her writing, and I think this speaks volumes for her and her passion on this topic!

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





Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: The Pursuit of Mary Bennet

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride & Prejudice NovelAuthor: Pamela Mingle
Publication Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

With warmth, wit, and infinite charm Pamela Mingle brings to the page Pride and Prejudice's reserved and awkward Mary Bennet and proves that there is always room for another Austen spin-off when it's this good

For most of her life Mary Bennet has been an object of ridicule. With a notable absence of the social graces, she has been an embarrassment to her family on more than one occasion. But lately, Mary has changed. She's matured and attained a respectable, if somewhat unpolished, decorum. But her peace and contentment are shattered when her sister Lydia turns up-very pregnant and separated from Wickham. Mary and Kitty are bustled off to stay with Jane and her husband. It is there that Mary meets Henry Walsh, whose attentions confound her. Unschooled in the game of love, her heart and her future are at risk. Is she worthy of love or should she take the safer path? In her journey of self-acceptance, she discovers the answer.


Sometimes anger is a living thing. It rose up in my chest and made me want to chew thorns.

Papa hadn’t moved; it was as though his hands were stuck to the desk. But at the sound of Jane’s voice, he rose. “I never thought Lydia could cause the family any more harm or disgrace herself more than she already has. I see I was wrong. Apparently there is no end to her folly.”

Our hands clasped together. I would have liked to etch the memory somewhere, so no one could take it away from me. I would have liked to hold it inside forever.

I knew I was in a fair way to risking my heart and should flee back to Longbourn.

Mary Bennet truly is the overlooked sister! I must be honest in saying that after I had read a few chapters into this book I actually put in the movie version of Pride and Prejudice just to see how she was portrayed because I did not remember her that well! So this book means that Mary Bennet finally gets some time in the spotlight, and I was intrigued to read it because honestly the only Austen retellings I have read mainly feature Jane and Elizabeth, so reading from Mary’s perspective was a very nice change. In this particular retelling, everyone thinks that Mary is going to end up a spinster, stuck at home with her mother and father, until the handsome Mr. Henry Walsh starts to pay her an extra amount of attention!

As always with Austen retellings, my favorite parts were definitely when one or two of the Bennet sisters were in a room together. I love that their personalities are all so different, and I love that Mingle stayed true to the way that I believe Austen had each sister imagined. I was excited to see and hear more from Mary Bennet. She is sometimes reluctant to speak her mind, but that is just because of the criticism she sometimes receives from her mother and sisters. There were times in this book that I wanted to reach inside the pages and give Mary Bennet a little push!

Mr. Henry Walsh was such a charmer. I was so happy for Mary when I realized the connection between these two. Readers always hear and talk about Jane and Elizabeth, and they are phenomenal characters, but it was nice to see someone like Mary, who usually gets no fame, step up to the plate and find her Prince Charming. I loved their subtle attraction towards each other. This was by no means insta-love, but felt real and brought a cozy feeling to me upon reading about it! I was very pleased with this book and Pamela Mingle’s writing. This was my second read by Mingle, and I believe she has a knack for retellings. Check out her other book, Kissing Shakespeare, after you pick up a copy of this one!

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




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