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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, October 22, 2017

Book Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish

Author: Liv Constantine
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Harper

The mesmerizing debut about a coolly manipulative woman and a wealthy "golden couple," from a stunning new voice in psychological suspense.
Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve.

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.


Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

And she hoped that tomorrow night, there would be more fireworks than the ones in the sky.

That was the first time I saw it – that little smile that played at his lips, and the look in his eyes that read Victory.

She wanted to be very much out in the open, to be Mrs. Jackson Parrish.

Amber was already unzipping her skirt as she heard the lock click.

Lately I have been all about the thriller novels! Not only is it perfect for Halloween, but I would be completely and utterly shocked if Hollywood does not pick up this story for the big screen. Y’all, I am sitting here gushing out loud about what I just finished reading. I am so in love with this story and how it kept my attention the entire time. The characters were unreliable yet believable and enchanting yet repulsive. Amber is our leading lady and the character that causes all the drama. She comes to this quaint town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut and decides she has had enough of her ordinary, mundane life. She sets her sights on the elusive Daphne Parrish and soon wants everything that Daphne has, including her husband Jackson. There are subtle hints from the very beginning that Daphne is running from something and could have mental health issues or a dangerous past.

I love books like this one that feel like you are sitting and having a good ole’ gossip sesh with your best friend. It is a quick read and will be perfect for a chilly autumn day or a day laying in the sun on the beach. Small secrets are revealed as the plot unravels; some I expected, but some I never saw coming. Amber is understandably very distasteful; I mean she is trying to steal someone’s husband, but she also has a quality about her that makes you want to trust her or pity her. It’s like as the reader you know and can sense that she is crazy and a psychopath, but you still want to be her friend. This book was a perfect little segue into a week of Halloween/thrillerish reads for me!

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

Book Review: What Can I Bring?

Author: Elizabeth Heiskell
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Oxmoor House


Become one of the most sought-after guests in your circle and be asked back time-after-time with a little bit of help from Elizabeth Heiskell.

It is usually the first question you ask after receiving an invitation to a gathering or event: "What Can I Bring?" Now you'll have the answer! Based on the popular monthly feature "What Can I Bring?" in Southern Living magazine, no matter what the occasion, you'll have the perfect dish. From housewarming party to garden party, a new baby, a wake, a wedding, christening or anything in between, Elizabeth delivers over 100 delicious recipes, including appetizers, mains, sandwiches, desserts and more, that are sure to please a crowd, no matter how big or small. Additionally, these are all dishes that can be prepared in advance and travel well.

But let's not forget the most important question: What can I bring to my own table? Whether you're looking for some new ideas for dinners to please a fractious family or want to make Sunday brunch a more special event, What Can I Bring? has you covered.

Recipes include Elizabeth's take on Sour Cream Coffee Cake (perfect for welcoming a new neighbor!), delicious salads - Chicken, Shrimp, and Pimiento (you won't go wrong at the church picnic), amazing sides, including Lemon Rice and Spoon Bread (perfect for rounding out the potluck table), and comfort food that no one will be able to say no to, including Vegetable Beef Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, and Chicken and Dumplings, plus an array of desserts so good that that's the only thing people will remember about the meal.

Above all, these are all delicious dishes, served straight from the heart, with no stress required.


When a friend invites you to a party, it’s an ingrained response to ask, “What can I bring?” and most times the response will be, “I have it all taken care of.” That doesn’t mean don’t bring anything. It just shouldn’t be something the host feels compelled to serve that evening. These recipes can be set aside or set out, depending on the host’s preference. Either way, you’ll impress.

“I like to died the first time I put these fried deliciousness in my mother.”

Yes, I know, I know. This recipe uses instant pudding and a box cake mix. Don’t judge me. Sometimes I’m in a hurry and need something quick and easy. This is a cake you can take to a friend who’s going through a hard time or the one that you forgot was going through a hard time months ago. Always better late than never! And no one will know it wasn’t made from scratch.

This book was so beautiful and filled with such rich and inviting images that I often forgot that what I was reading was actually a cookbook. The cookbook definitely has a southern theme and all of the food is your typical southern fare but with a little added flair – Sausage, Eggs, and Grits Soufflé, Pound Cake with Fresh Peaches & Cream, and Mississippi Mud Brownies...just to name a few. A lot of the recipes that are shared in this book are a bit healthier than us true southerners are used to. The book features tons of appealing images to enhance the recipes and to show what a finished/fully prepared and dressed plate could look like. This book would be the perfect gift or edition to someone’s home that loves to cook, entertain, or enjoys reading cookbooks.

The absolute best part of this book was the small anecdotes that accompanied each recipe. The author put a lot of time into writing and sharing her experiences with each recipe and much care went into grouping the recipes into different sections of the book like “Moving Day”, “Under the Weather”, and “Dinner with Friends”. There are several different sections in the cookbook and a small write up introduces each section and gives a slight explanation of what readers can expect to see next. This cookbook is not gluten free or fat free; I felt like I need to make this clear even though most people associate southern cooking with lots of salt, sugar, and saturated fats! The 3 S’s! This book will be a perfect gift for the upcoming holiday season.

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


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: Dream Spaces

Author: Victoria Hagan
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Rizzoli


Breathtaking new interiors from this iconic designer, called “the reigning queen of restrained elegance”

In her much-anticipated second book, Victoria Hagan features an exquisite selection of new interiors that embody the “soft modern” look that distinguishes her work.  A major force in the design community, Hagan is the master of juxtaposing old and new, showing luxury through simplicity, and creating homes that reflect their owners’ lives.

In these appealing, timeless projects—including a New York penthouse, a Nantucket beach house, and a Western ranch—formal architecture is loosened up with a generosity of spirit and an appreciation for the whimsies of style. Throughout, Hagan discourses on the spirit of the unexpected detail—a vintage mirror or a unique chair—that adds soul and modernity. After twenty-five years of running a successful business, she shares her philosophy on attaining good taste and expressing an attitude through her work.

Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces is a beautiful and inspiring collection of this design superstar’s work and a must for every interior design library.

You can’t always compete with nature, but you can at least try to create the perfect collaboration.

I am so associated with interiors that people are often surprised to find out that one of my greatest passions is not even indoors. It’s outside: nature. When I look out and see almost nothing but water and sky, that’s heaven. I adore the color and light, unpredictably changing all day long.

To me, walking the line between contemporary and vintage, familiar and unexpected, is a crucial part of executing the perfect getaway. I don’t want to just give people an escape; I want to give them ways for their minds to wander once they get there.

These interiors designed by Victoria Hagan are bold, clean, modern, and completely breathtaking. Hagan showcases her amazing versatility by including interiors from places all over like New York, Nantucket, and even shows off some of her western charm. She goes from clean, white spaces to cozy log cabin interiors and everything that she designs looks inviting and charismatic. Many of the images included in the book show windows with beautiful views that allow readers to fantasize and image themselves traveling the world and visiting this luxurious locations.

A lot of the interiors shown in this book are open and full of space, allowing me to imagine living in a space like this myself. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of design because of the appreciation I had for all the small details in the rooms. The fresh white flowers on the nightstand, the towels placed adorningly near the bathroom sink, and even the firewood stacked neatly by the fireplace. Anyone looking for inspiration or ideas for their own dream space or home will find solace flipping through the pages of this book. I wrote down so many ideas and my husband and I spent an hour or more discussing many of the images that we fell in love with for our own dream home.

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


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Scribner


Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

“Baloney,” he said, kissing her again. “You were having the time of your life.”

She heard the muffled jingle of coins in his trouser pockets. His hand was a socket she affixed hers to always, wherever they went, even when she didn’t care to. Anna stopped walking, stunned by the power of these impressions. Without thinking, she lifted her fingers to her face, half expecting the warm, bitter smell of his tobacco.

“Some men find it a bitter pill to swallow, working for me,” Styles said. “They don’t like the change in times.”


What a feast of a book! Such beautiful and lyrical words jump off the page from the first sentence to the last. This is a lovely, gorgeously-written book that effectively interweaves three separate but connected characters, each with their own stories, all tied to the desire for reinvention. Manhattan Beach is a historical novel that tells the story of Anna, a young woman who works at a naval yard during World War II with a fierce determination to be a professional diver. It is also the story of her father, Eddie, a man who seeks out opportunities on the edges of organized crime to do work that is more or less legal and Dexter Styles the quasi-legit gangster he works for. But this is not a story about organized crime. Set in New York City during the Great Depression and the early years of the Second World War, this historical setting will appeal to fans of any world war setting. Egan’s look at a woman’s place in this world is what made it such a phenomenal read for me!

The quality of the writing is brilliant, as mentioned earlier. Egan manages to make Manhattan Beach a reality for readers, transporting them there through words, descriptions, and vivid use of imagery. Her characters come alive, although I was always hoping for more emphasis to be solely placed on Anna, an exquisite and fully developed character. The heroine is fascinating, standing out not only for her quest to become a diver, but for her strength to build her own life away from the confines of what is to be expected from a “woman” in this era. Egan’s portrayal of the work happening on the home front while a war is waging elsewhere, is inspiring and truly factual. Her research and care with these topics is evident and appreciated by readers.

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


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs

Author: Sophie Donelson
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams


From the country’s most popular interior design magazine comes a stylish, in-depth look at what it takes to make any room beautiful. House Beautiful Style Essentials: What Every Room Needs is an inspiring and hardworking handbook that shows readers how to create the rooms of their dreams by revealing what “every room needs.” Chapters like “Every Room Needs a Hiding Place” provide clever ideas for storage and organization, while sections like “Every Room Needs Something Shiny” give examples of how reflective surfaces can enhance and enlarge any space. Simple yet elegant advice from some of the biggest names in the interiors world is paired throughout with stunning photography of the best and most beautiful rooms featured in the magazine. From a room’s overall look and color down to its smallest details, House Beautiful Style Secrets provides tips, tricks, and secrets on how to cultivate a comfortable home and uncover the potential of every living space.

All the colors in the world are out there waiting, it just takes a bit of magic to bring them out.

Why can’t it be all about you?

Touch is literally the most sensual of senses. Don’t neglect it. Whether underfoot, beneath your hand, or caressing your cheek. Texture makes a connection.



There is COLOR on EVERY page and I am in love. This book and all its wonderful interiors showcase so many different styles, attitudes, and ideas. I was immersed right from the start and tabbed so many pages to come back to for a more extensive look. I absolutely LOVE how the book is organized. Each new section starts with “every room needs” and then fills in the phrase with things like “grand gesture”, “a splash of unexpected color”, among many others. Everything was so well organized and easy to follow. The pictures were beautiful and eye-catching. A lot of the rooms that were showcased held several wonderful pieces and I found myself going over a room three or four times before flipping the page.

The captions and writing on various pages were informative and explanatory as related to the room they referred to. The patterns and fabrics showcased were vibrant and varied in style, texture, and color. I never ran out of things to compliment in each room. This book would be perfect for anyone who has a love for interior design, someone who wants to admire and take in the latest trends, or anyone who is looking to spice up their own living space and needs a few recommendations. I am completely mesmerized by all this book has to offer and am excited for others to share in this experience with me.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: Beth Webb: An Eye For Beauty

Beth Webb: An Eye for Beauty: Rooms That Speak to the SensesAuthor: Beth Webb
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Rizzoli


The first book from the acclaimed Atlanta interior designer, known for elegantly collected interiors.

Beth Webb believes that regardless of who we are or what kind of style we prefer, beauty and comfort are paramount for any home. Because each room is an environment, her design elevates the everyday by speaking to the five senses. In this lavishly illustrated book, Webb explores the fundamentals of creating a home in which every element we see and touch, and how the room makes us feel, enhance our ability to live well.

Drawing from her background in the fine arts, Webb offers insight into how form, line, and scale render a space timeless and promote a sense of well-being. There should be texture, calm colors, and plenty of visual moments to keep the eye moving. There should be impeccable tailoring and polished details. And most important, there should be soul, meaning that the house must reflect its owners and their evolving lifestyle. Webb gracefully shares ideas, images, and stories illustrating these principles throughout this rich visual resource and design reference.

Nature has her own kaleidoscope of textures, infinitely varied and profound.

The process of reinventing spaces always requires a deftness of hand. With a gentle touch, reminders of the past, and abundant texture, this renovation serves its purpose to provide embracing, welcoming surroundings for this family’s foreseeable future.

Our bodies feel quality. We instinctively know when we’re swathed in exquisite sheeting or swaddled in the ultimate cashmere throw. Even if we can’t put a name to the sensation or described the difference, we aspire to it nonetheless. Such is the primal, instinctual understanding of beauty and luxury.


The myth of a house that possesses the fragrance of a dream home isn’t a myth at all. It’s a verifiable reality, as any real estate broker will attest. Citrus, fresh-cut pine, and cinnamon are just a few of the scents that professionals advise sellers to use as they help put prospective buyers in the right mood to imagine their lives within the space.


Beth Webb’s book is filled with so many appealing images that showcase her take on utilizing space in a home and creating and designing rooms that are appealing to the senses. Beth fosters a strong belief in the old-fashioned cliché that “less is more” and refers to having a balance of “the precious and the practical” for everyday living. Beth even has a section of pages in which she addresses the scent of a home and how scent often serve as an emotional trigger for us. She has literally thought of every possible thing to address that makes a house a home and the images she has chosen to highlight her style are simple, yet so breathtaking. Her style is a little more varied than mine, but this is part of the reason I enjoyed the book so much.

This book only lost one star/cupcake from me and I must say that this came because of two reasons. The first reason that this book did not meet a five star rating from me was because of the limit of color in the rooms that were showcased in this book. Beth Webb purposely chose the all-white or almost all-white approach and does explain why, but I must say that I must prefer a better use of color. Color makes me feel more at home and at ease. I also did not like the fact that I could not put a label on Beth’s style. It is classical, traditional, contemporary, and modern all at once. This is just my own personal pet peeve, but I would have liked it if her style and these photos were more easily categorized. However, this book still received a four star rating from me because after much deliberation I decided that this was a credit to Webb that she was able to successfully transcend a mixture of decorative styles.


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


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Book Review: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #1)Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Series: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding # 1


"I would say it's a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness."

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper's great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn't exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor's control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there's a lot Alastor isn't telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a tale of betrayal and revenge, of old hurts passed down from generation to generation. Can you ever fully right a wrong, ever truly escape your history? Or will Prosper and Alastor be doomed to repeat it?

“See how many doors open, Alastor said, when someone with influence and ideas comes along with a key? Fortune can be hoarded, or it can be shared.” 

“I was no stranger to lies. In fact, I think if you were to line up all the lies I’d been told in my life, the ugly chain of them would probably stretch from Redhood to Jupiter.

“Come, servant. The moon sets, and the fiend rises.”

“It got bad. Real fast.”

This book was perfect for the upcoming season and gave me serious Hocus Pocus and Series of Unfortunate Events vibes. I fell in love with Prosperity Redding, our main character, from the very first chapter and never felt a lull in the story. I have read several other reviews that said the story was slow, but I must say that I strongly disagree. From the beginning of the novel, the readers are immersed in the lives of the Redding’s and all the good luck and bad luck that comes with them. The town that Prosper lives in is so charming and cozy and the descriptions are full of Halloween and fall festival vibes. I think this is what hooked me the most. Prosper was such a funny, charismatic character and the descriptions were so vivid and jumping completely off the page.

The ending of the book left on a pretty huge cliffhanger and of course I am heavily anticipating the next release in the series. This book has just enough “spooky” elements to be scary but not too scary for the middle grade audience that it was written for. Prosper goes on quite the adventure and I usually get lost in the action – I am more of a background story reader, meaning I like the small details about a character, a town, or a curse instead of the action that usually ensues after the world building. However, I must say that I was along for the ride the entire time. The pace was just right and enough twists and turns were happening to keep me guessing as to what was going to happen next. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did!



Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: Versailles

34227567Author: Catherine Pegard
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Vendome Press

Versailles is one of the most photographed places in the world. Yet masses of tourists make it virtually impossible to imagine the splendor of the palace as it existed from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, in the 17th century, until the fall of Napoleon III in 1870. Now, four talented photographers were granted unlimited access to Versailles when the château was closed to visitors, and their work allows privileged access not only to the private suites of Louis XV, the boudoirs of Marie-Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, the celebrated Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, the charming Orangerie, and Marie Antoinette’s bucolic Hamlet, but also to mysterious chambers and hushed apartments never normally seen. Captions describe daily life at Versailles and the momentous events that have taken place there, all published in a sumptuous oversize format befitting its majestic subject.


The queen, who was distinctly bored by these dinners, had a podium for musicians installed.

At dawn on 6 October 1789, the famished crowd – furious with ‘the Austrian woman,’ and having waited all night in the rain – broke open the gate of the Princes’ Courtyard. When the queen found she could not open the door to the Antechamber of the Grand Couvert, which had quickly been bolted, she had to turn back to the king’s apartments, which gave her time to escape.

Only the king was allowed to sit in this carved and gilded walnut chair that recently became part of the Versailles collections. It was never used in his absence, and the other members of the council sat on the folding stools commissioned from the Foliot family.

The king was a man who concealed his thoughts: the Duc de Luynes described him as ‘impenetrable not only in his secrecy, but also very often in the movements of his soul.’ 


This beautiful, absolutely mesmerizing book was something very new and very different for me, but I feel like I have been missing out on a part of the book world and I will forever regret that it took me this long to find books like this one. This book is filled with incredibly detailed photographs that display the ambiance and luxuriousness that make up Versailles, the Sun King’s palace. I have always had a profound interest in Marie Antoinette, which I know is what led me to request this book in the first place. However, I was not expecting to be swept away in the pages of this marvelous find. I have never been to France, let alone the palace of Versailles, but by spending the few hours that I did reading and enjoying this book, I felt as if I were walking the mirrored halls and corridors myself.

At the bottom of each page, there is a detailed, historical description of each photograph. I learned so much history just from the few sentences that I read per page. I found myself pausing periodically to read and re-read each little snippet, hoping that I missed nothing. I was most of all mesmerized by the close up pictures of the embroideries and little trinkets that belonged to the royals. The photographs were so crystal clear that I was left in awe and astonishment when I realized they were not actually sitting before me. As I flipped through the pages, it was so hard for me to believe that this palace has been around for as long as it has. It all seemed so real and so modern, which I attributed to the quality and crispness of the images I saw before me. Anyone would appreciate the marvelousness that is this book – I cannot wait to read and view many more books just like this one. I will forever cherish its beauty and magnificence.

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


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: The Dazzling Heights

The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2)Author: Katharine McGee
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Thousandth Floor #2


All that glitters is not gold.

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.


“Even if nothing happens between you and Atlas, you aren’t really going to let that girl get away with trying to seduce him and steal from him, are you?”

I can’t take anyone for granted every again, she promised herself, except that she was already losing the people she cared about.

It made her feel surprisingly vindicated, proving that the only boy who’d ever rejected her wanted her after all. Finally. It was about damn time.

He needed a drink if he was going to keep getting further tangled in the Gordian knot of these highliers’ screwed-up lives. 

Like most second books in a series, this one let me down in more ways than one. We start with the usual cast of characters: Watt, Leda, Rylin, Avery, and Mariel. However, we have a new face on the scene, Miss Calliope Brown, who brings with her mystery, a little bit of drama, and intrigue. The drama in this book is at an all-time high, but this book lacked the intensity that the first one carried all the way through. I liked that a new character was brought onto the scene and let me say that she is worth the hype. I loved the fleshing out of Calliope’s character and the drama that she added in the lives of our friends. On the other hand, I disliked the relationship progression between Avery and Atlas. In fact, Atlas annoyed and frustrated me. He seemed a bit whiny and I grew to dislike him very quickly.

My biggest issues with this book was that it was predictable; I saw the end coming a mile away. McGee did not seem to add any more depth to any of these main characters. The angst that I felt in the first book between many of the characters was just not there this time around. The first book had a crazy, ridiculous ending that was totally unexpected, for me at least, and left me DYING to read the next book. The ending of this book was a bit of a letdown. Please don’t think that I hated the entire book because that is not so. Like I said, I loved Calliope’s character and I LOVED that McGee decided to incorporate another big city like New York City with a thousand floor tower. A short period of the book is spent in Dubai and I thought it was nice to see a short snippet of life in another city.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: A Study In Scarlet Women

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Lady Sherlock #1


With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
 

“Do not undervalue what you are ultimately worth because you are at a momentary disadvantage.” 

“Worrying about outcomes over which I have no control is punishing myself before the universe has decided whether I ought to be punished.”

“That the loss of a man, even if he had been the love of her life, was not the end of a woman's existence.” 


A gender bender Sherlock Holmes retelling? Sign me up! Everything that I love about literature is in this book: Victorian London, ladies in beautiful dresses, mystery and intrigue, and a heroine that defies the rules society has laid out for her. While this story is primarily a historical fiction novel, Sherry Thomas also weaves in some appealing romantic undertones as well. The writing is eloquent and the descriptions are so vivid that you might find yourself stopping to reflect over the beauty of the lines you have just read. Charlotte is just like the famed Sherlock Holmes with highly impressive deduction skills and odd social habits that makes her all the more endearing. In the opening pages, Charlotte Holmes does something quite scandalous that hooked me and kept me waiting around to see just how fleshed out her character would be.

The writing/narration was difficult to follow in the very beginning, but I quickly attributed that to plot/background building. This is the first book in the series, so a little bit of background is necessary in setting the stage for the brave Miss Charlotte “Sherlock” Homes. Charlotte is a bit of a snarky character and I absolutely adored seeing and reading her interactions with other characters. The dialogue and witty banter was the best part of this book, aside from seeing Charlotte defy the odds for women during this time period. The chapters moved quickly and the mystery was solid all the way through. I am surprised it has taken me a year to read this book, but the second in the series was just released and I am so anxious to read it next.

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: The Wardrobe Mistress

The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie AntoinetteAuthor: Meghan Masterson
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin


It's Giselle Aubry's first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette's newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it's a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen's wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.

From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.

But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything...maybe even her head.

The Wardrobe Mistress is Meghan Masterson's fascinating and visceral debut, not to be missed.

“I turn away from the smell of death, pressing my lavender scented handkerchief as tight as I can against my nose.” 

“There must be no repercussions to this,” says Marie Antoinette. Her quiet voice slides through the room like the whisper of a steel blade.” 

“I falter in the doorway, swept with memories of my reckless behavior last time I saw him. I sipped wine from a bottle. I kissed him. And as my pulse flutters with excitement, I know I would do it again, given the chance.” 


Ever since middle school, and discovering my love for history and all its wonder, I have been in love with anything referring to Marie Antoinette. This story paints an entirely different picture than the one that history has left us of the “let them eat cake” Queen of France. This story gives us a caring, loving woman who just wanted peace and unity amongst her people. The book follows Giselle, the newest wardrobe lady, for the Queen. Giselle is fascinated by learning more about the infamous Marie Antoinette and while others pour all their energy into hating her, Giselle is enamored by what seems to be a sad, lonely woman who just wants love and admiration. Giselle is surrounded by many people, some of her closest friends included, that are supporters of the revolution so she is often torn regarding the new King and Queen of France.

As much as I would have loved to have read the story from Marie Antoinette’s point of view, Giselle was a happy second. Her character was naïve at times, but quickly grew into a rather loveable dynamic character. She is surrounded by people who would have her think ill about the Queen, especially her uncle who has charged her with spying on the Queen. I loved the detail that Masterson gives readers about the revolution and how she covers important events like the storming of the Bastille. The action leapt off the page and I was glad that the fact was mixed with fiction. The best part of this book by far was the romantic relationship between Giselle and Leon – two young lovers with opposing political viewpoints. Such a beautifully written tale that took me no time at all to read!

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


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Emma In The Night

Emma in the NightAuthor: Wendy Walker
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.
 


“Sorry happens after something bad has happened, after people have let it happen. It had become contemptuous to me, all these I’m-so-sorries.”

"The truth can evade us, hiding behind out blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it. If we really try to see." 

 "Some people needed to believe I was dead because it was too hard to wonder." 

"Not knowing, not seeing, being deceived—it makes you question everything you have come to trust. It makes you doubt your own judgment, and the truths you have come to believe in, which sometimes are so deeply embedded, you don't even know they're there, shaping your thoughts."
This story was far more than I bargained for – but it an absolutely good way! The story starts with the return of Cass, one of the two Tanner sisters that disappeared three years prior to the opening of the book. The story is told from the perspectives of Cass and her psychologist, Dr. Abigail Winter. I found Dr. Winter’s perspective the most fascinating because at times I thought Cass seemed to be unreliable. Dr. Winter was very intriguing because she suffered an upbringing very similar to Cass and her relationship with her mother and her sister, Emma. The entire book focuses around Dr. Winter and the police investigator assigned the case trying to locate Emma and find out what exactly happened these two sisters disappeared. Right from the beginning, I knew that Cass was hiding something and only a little was being unveiled at a time. The pace of the book seemed to go a little slow at times, but the whole book on encompasses about 6 days after Cass returns. A lot happens in those 6 days.

What I loved about this book was that there were a lot of characters involved in the Tanner sister’s lives that could have possibly played a part in their disappearance and it was up to readers to help decipher who wanted the girls out of the way or out of their lives. Their mother was a completely despicable character and I wanted to repeatedly slap her – she did not act bothered, concerned, or even emotionally torn over the disappearance of her daughters. Many characters in the story were questionable and came with shady motives, which is a huge reason why I enjoyed reading. I had my suspicions all the way through but kept being pleasantly surprised with every twist and turn.

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


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: Pieces of Happiness

Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and ChocolateAuthor: Anne Ostby
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday


A novel of five lifelong friends who, in their sixties, decide to live together on a cocoa farm in Fiji, where they not only start a chocolate business but strengthen their friendships and rediscover themselves. 

"I've planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don't you join me? Leave behind everything that didn't work out!" 

When Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth each receive a letter in the mail posing the same question, the answer is obvious. Their old high school friend Kat--Kat the adventurer, Kat who ran away to the South Pacific as soon as they graduated--has extended the invitation of a lifetime: Come live with me on my cocoa farm in Fiji. Come spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers once again, free from men, worries, and cold. Come grow old in paradise, together, as sisters. Who could say no?

Now in their sixties, the friends have all but resigned themselves to the cards they've been dealt. There's Sina, a single mom with financial woes; gentle Maya who feels the world slipping away from her; Ingrid, the perennial loner; Lisbeth, a woman with a seemingly picture-perfect life; and then Kat, who is recently widowed. As they adjust to their new lives together, the friends are watched over by Ateca, Kat's longtime housekeeper, who oftentimes knows the women better than they know themselves and recognizes them for what they are: like "a necklace made of shells: from the same beach but all of them different." Surrounded by an azure-blue ocean, cocoa trees, and a local culture that is fascinatingly, joyfully alien, the friends find a new purpose in starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. 

A story of love, hope, and chocolate, Pieces Of Happiness will reaffirm your faith in friendship, second chances, and the importance of indulging one's sweet tooth.

“I’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!” 

“So I’m going to send this now, stroking my fingers across the stamps once more for luck, and hoping the wind will send you to me.”

The enthusiasm in his words, but most of all, this is what I saw: This is for me. He loves me. The sweet, heavy pleasure it takes months to cultivate, a long and laborious process: the love in the glistening fat brown cocoa bean. It’s all for me.

“Can you taste the flavor of papaya and coconut? Can you hear the wind whistling through the palm trees on the beach? Can you see the arc of the horizon, where the Pacific Ocean meets the sky?”


A lovely story about five elderly women who have taken up residence on a cocoa farm in beautiful Fiji. I love books about friendship and the binding powers of the relationships we hold most near and dear – these five women are stages in their lives where they are experiencing heartbreak, loss, the effects of old age, and regret. The leader of the pack, Kat, decides to invite them all to her farm in Fiji where she hopes they will forget the worries of their past lives and maybe live out their last days together building a chocolate empire. The book starts out a little fluffy and readers might think they will get tales of happiness, charm, and sparkle, but I was surprised by how many secrets these women have buried and are still trying to hide from each other all of these years. I think the book sends a great message about finding what is important to you and tuning out all the rest. The story focuses around living your days with no regrets, secrets, or people that weigh you down.

The novel is written between alternating viewpoints of each of these women and a maid/hired help that lives close by and helps take care of Kat and her property. After reading each of the backstories of these women, I can genuinely say that I felt sorry for some and felt anguish for others because they lived for others or let others dictate their lives. Each women has something that I would say she regrets or some way that she wishes her life were different, but the greatest part was watching them evolve as they learned to adapt to living on the cocoa farm and working together as a unit. Each of them finds some piece of solace in their new lives and it was all so magical to read about – such an amazing and riveting read!

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



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