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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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Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoAuthor: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books

From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

“I’m under absolutely no obligation to make sense to you.” 

“Relationships are complex,” Evelyn says. “People are messy, and love can be ugly. I'm included to always err on the side of compassion.” 

“What's that saying? Behind every gorgeous woman, there's a man sick of screwing her? Well, it works both ways. No one mentions that part.” 

“You have to find a job that makes your heart feel big instead of one that makes it feel small.”

The book is my favorite so far of 2017! Yes, it is that good! I loved everything about this story and am a new fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid. The story follows the famous movie star, Evelyn Hugo. I loved her character – she was ruthless, unapologetically abrasive, and the envy of all of Hollywood. Evelyn Hugo is ready to share her life story with the world and hires none other than Monique Grant to interview her and publish her autobiography. You don’t find out until later in the book why she wants Monique, who is a low level journalist and not well-known at all. When you find out, you will be utterly shocked! Most of the story is focused on Evelyn telling her stories and the book is sectioned off by each of her seven husbands and how they all came about. Evelyn’s character is all that readers would expect her to be and so much more.

The details of this book were so intricate that there were times I could not stop reading. I had a hard time stopping to do menial tasks like answer the phone or cook dinner. It was that good and I wanted to finish it that badly. Each of Evelyn’s husbands came as a shock to me because she married them all for different reasons and through different seasons of her life. Finding out/realizing her BIG secret helped me make sense of everything and also made me wonder if this is what Hollywood is really like? Full of secrets and scandal and looking around every corner and over your shoulder because someone is always looking out for their next big story. Taylor Jenkins Reid does a phenomenal job of allowing readers to get to know Evelyn and to become heavily invested in her life and story! Hands down the best book I have read this year!

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes

The Daughter of Sherlock HolmesAuthor: Leonard Goldberg
Publication Date: 6, 2017
Publisher: Minotaur Books

1910. Joanna Blalock unknowingly is the product of a sole assignation between the late Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. After the nurse and her ten-year-old son see a man fall to his death in an apparent suicide, elderly Dr. John Watson and his charming handsome son Dr. John Watson Jr. invite her to join their detective team. From hidden treasure to the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880, the group devise an ingenious plan to catch a murderer in the act while dodging Scotland Yard the British aristocracy.

“There is no need to be brief or delicate with Joanna. My daughter-in-law is looking forward to your interview, for she is fascinated by such events. As a matter of fact, she has delved deeply into the subject of suicide for the past several days and has read every book, text, and monograph she could find that deals with this unpleasant act.”

“Reading about a mangled body and looking at one are two different things, Sir Henry.”

“But the enchanting charm and beauty of Irene Adler was inherited by Joanna.”

I AM SHERLOCKED – only true fans will understand! I am always looking for anything from novels to T.V. shows that take me to Sherlock’s world. I have loved everything I have ever read or watched that revolves around Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character. This book was definitely a twist on the character that I have never read before – yes, Sherlock has a daughter. In this book, Sherlock Holmes has since passed, but his faithful friend, Dr. John Watson is still around as is his son Dr. Watson Jr. These two vibrant, intelligent men team up and join forces with Mrs. Joanna Blalock while they solve a murder that is more than a little bit fishy. It is no secret that Mrs. Blalock is the offspring of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, as this is divulged to readers almost from the very start of the novel. Her character is fleshed out entirely and she is nothing short of a Sherlock clone. She is fantastic!

I loved Joanna’s voice and her character in general. She is just as witty and as hyper-analytical as Sherlock Holmes and I commend the author, Leonard Goldberg, for attempting and succeeding to write someone as brilliant as Sherlock. The portrayal of Dr. Watson and his son is something that I am sure true Sherlock fans will appreciate as well. I was filled with nostalgia as all the characters were being introduced and proceeded to enter in conversation and investigation with one another.  Their relationships are contagious and will have you smiling and laughing as you read. The mystery itself is easy to solve and really comes as no shock, but reading about the characters as they find clues and make discoveries is really the pleasure that comes in reading this novel!

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Make Your Mind Up

Make Your Mind Up: My Guide to Finding Your Own Style, Life, and Motavation!Author: Bethany Mota
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books

From tips on life, love, and everything in between; to original DIYs, recipes, and style hacks; to the incredible story of a girl next door turned Internet sensation, Make Your Mind Up is the ultimate guide to rocking your look and ruling your world—from inspirational YouTuber, designer, entrepreneur, and digital influencer, Bethany Mota.

When Bethany first propped her camera on a stack of books and pressed record on her family’s handheld camera in 2009, she didn't realize her life was about to change—forever. After uploading her first video to YouTube at just thirteen years old, Bethany quickly became one of the Internet’s go-to beauty, style, and lifestyle vloggers. Since then, she has filmed countless room tours and tutorials, traveled the world, experimented with hundreds of DIYs, designed her own clothing line, gone on an international tour, competed on Dancing with the Stars, and created health, beauty, and wellness content for multiple platforms.

But before Bethany found her #MotaFam online, life wasn’t looking so great: After being intensely bullied in school, the already shy Bethany retreated further into her shell, suffering from crippling anxiety and a lack of self-confidence she just couldn’t shake. From growing up on a dairy farm in small-town Los Banos, California, to figuring out how to overcome anxiety and find her voice, to finally breaking out of her shell and learning to forge her own positive path, Make Your Mind Up is more than just a heartwarming memoir or lifestyle guide—this is a portrait of Bethany’s life, exactly how she lives it.

Each time we bravely express a new side of ourselves, we reach a whole new level of confidence.

You can face what’s freezing you, push past it, and create something great.

I’m embracing the body I have, and it feels so good.

I have a theory now: If you include activities in your life that work your whole body – whether it’s yoga, aerial, rock climbing, or dancing – you’ll feel gratitude for what your body is capable of – and when you realize how much you need all your muscles for everything you do, you will be proud of the strong body you have.

This lifestyle guide absolutely blew me off my feet. From the amazing graphics, recipes, graphics and all the way to the organization of it all, this memoir was so well-written and so inspiring. Bethany is so transparent as she shares her fears, her most nervous moments, and how she has learned to stay so confident. Reading this memoir took me no time at all because of the sheer pace and flow of her words – reading this is just like having a conversation with your best friend. This book is filled with healthy, clean eating recipes, fitness tips and routines, style tips, and several amazing beauty looks from hair to makeup. I loved the headings of each section in her book – things like “We’re the boss of our emotions” and “Trends are for setting.” She put so much of her personality in this memoir and that is what makes it worth the 5 star, or cupcake, rating!

What I loved most about reading this book was the fact that in the midst of giving advice on several different topics, Bethany also shares her own funny, practical life stories as well. She even shares a few embarrassing stories which I really loved because it allowed me to see all sides of her. I hate when celebrities want people to think they live the perfect lives and never have an off day. She really approaches this as a down to earth person and not some famous person who is better than her readers. She is so realistic with all of her tips and really tries to relate to readers. The book itself is very neatly organized and the graphics and color schemes used are very appealing to the eye. I loved every single thing about this!

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: The Young Wives Club

The Young Wives ClubAuthor: Julie Pennell
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Atria

In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you’re lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side in this charming debut novel perfect for fans of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Desperate Housewives. 

Laura Landry’s quarterback husband was her ticket out of Toulouse. But when a devastating football injury sidelines him, they’re forced to move back to the small town she was so desperate to leave. As Brian starts drinking instead of rehabbing his knee, Laura must reevaluate what her future looks like…and if it includes her husband.

For years, Madison Blanchette has been waiting for bad-boy musician Cash Romero to commit to her. When wealthy George Dubois asks her out, she figures she may as well wait in style. Life with George means weekend trips to New Orleans, gourmet meals, and expensive gifts. At first she loves how George’s affection sparks Cash’s jealousy, but when George proposes to Madison, she finds herself torn between two men…

All Claire Thibodeaux wants is to be the perfect wife and mother. If she can do everything right she won’t end up like her mom, a divorced, single parent trying to make ends meet. But when Claire’s husband Gavin, a well-respected local pastor, starts spending late nights at work and less time in their bed, she can’t help but fear that history is about to repeat itself…

Gabrielle Vaughn never thought she’d end up with someone like her fiancé. The son of a prominent congressman, Tony Ford is completely out of her league—which is why she lied to him about everything from having a college degree to the dark truth about her family. She knows she has to come clean, but how do you tell the love of your life that your entire relationship is a lie?

As these young wives come together to help each other through life, love, and heartbreak, they discover that there are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart.

“Things change. And you can’t regret anything that you’ve done. You make decisions based on what you can see in that moment. Sometimes the view shifts.”

“Do not let yourself get lost in this marriage, and don’t forget to follow your own dreams.”

“You should never feel guilty about doing things for you. When you love yourself, it’ll be so much easier for you to love someone else.”

This book was a quick, summer read that was light and full of charming characters that it was easy to love and support. The story flips between four perspectives – friends that are all involved in somewhat committed relationships and are each dealing with their own struggles but bond together through their friendships to help each other make some pretty tough decisions. You might be thinking that the 4 POV’s could get confusing, but they don’t and each parallel story is very easy to follow. Each character is at a completely different point in her life, but they are bonded by similar life altering feelings and issues. The chapters are short and are really easy to get through. I was satisfied with the ending of each girl’s story. I felt that they all made the right decisions in their love lives and each of them showed some type of mental or emotional growth.

The only issue that I had with this book was the young age of the characters. Most of them were 18 or so and one of them even dropped out of high school in order to marry her husband and follow his football career. I must admit that I hated this fact, but did not let it deter me from reading and enjoying the entire story. The best thing about this book is how character driven it is. You get a lot of back story about each character and insight into their lives and the lives of the people they know and love. They felt so real and allowed me to hang on waiting to see how each girl’s story line would play out. I feel like I should mention that this is a debut author, and I am personally looking forward to more from this author.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: Creating Calm In The Center Of Crazy

Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy: Making Room for Your Soul in an Overcrowded LifeAuthor: Nicole Johnson
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Zondervan

Are you working harder than ever but feel like you’re accomplishing less?

Does your morning routine make chickens running around headless look sane?

Is your deepest sense of calm found in the bathroom with the door locked?

Do you check social media more than five times per day? Per hour?

Author, speaker, and actor Nicole Johnson knows what it’s like to feel as if you’re drowning in crazy. When she couldn’t catch her breath or stay awake long enough to talk with her husband, let alone God, she sought to find new ways of “being” in her life. Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy is a voice of possibility and peace for women seeking to find a calm spiritual center in a crazy, runaway world. As a wife and mom of young children herself, Nicole recognized that life had become out of control. And, with the help of a crisis, she started her journey to create the very calm she was craving.

Nicole’s voice is authentic, humorous, and practical, and at the same time deeply spiritual and real. She brings rich storytelling together with her desire to find calm, and in the process discovers a deeper faith. Her personal story grounds the book as she abandons mere tips and tricks (and the empty promises of time saving apps), to explore new practices—like creating a room of her own, setting technology boundaries, rediscovering the spiritual disciplines of quiet and still (they’re not bad words)—and then extending those practices to provide a safer, stronger refuge for calm to dwell.

Nicole’s journey is shared with relatable stories, insightful help, and practical ideas that explore the inner life of a recovering crazy busy woman finding her way to calm and a deeper relationship with God.

I am something. I came into this world as a deeply loved child of God. I was designed with a purpose and for a purpose. I have great worth and value that is mine to accept or reject. I do not have to prove this, I do not have to earn this or even maintain this; my work is to trust this with my whole heart and live from this place of trust.

One thing I discovered during that time is that when the mind can’t make sense of something important, it is very reluctant to let it go.

We can come to know more about God than we have ever dared to believe if we gave God the opportunity to respond to us. This would deepen our knowledge and our faith, but to do this we must be still.

Nicole Johnson’s voice is like that of a best friend – reassuring, calming, and so relatable. I flew through this book, marked it up with hundreds of tabs, and enjoyed my time listening to the advice that she had to give. This book was new for me, but I have made a “mid-year resolution”, yes, I made this a thing, to try and read more non-fiction and self-help books. If this book is any indication of the types of self-help books on the market, then I think I will have no problem fulfilling this resolution. Nicole’s pacing is wonderful and she takes you through different parts of the struggle to find calm and tune out crazy. What I loved most about this book was that Nicole shared bits and pieces of her life in order to illustrate how she was battling crazy and in turn striving to find calm in the midst of chaos and heartbreak.

I must have tagged over one hundred places in this book where I felt that I could relate to what Nicole was saying or she said something very inspirational and I wanted to mark it to come back to later. Her writing is so soothing and it feels just like you are enveloped in a meaningful conversation with a very good friend. She talks about her flaws and where she falls short, which allowed me to realize that no one is perfect and if others can rise from failure and heartbreak, then I can too.  This is a book based around her relationship with God as well, and when she started to talk about God’s hand in our journey, this is when I really found myself speed reading. It was so inspirational and uplifting and just what I needed for a quiet summer afternoon!

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book Review: Into The Water

Into the WaterAuthor: Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Riverhead Books

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

“Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.” 

“No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.” 

“Yes, it is. It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a fucking cliff?” 

Let me be honest in saying that I have not read The Girl on the Train, but I LOVED this book. Now knowing that I have nothing to compare this to, I know that a lot of readers were disappointed with this book in comparison to Paula’s debut novel. But everything that people hated or disliked about this book, I, in turn, loved. There were about 9 or more alternating perspectives that switch in almost every chapter of the book. A lot of reviews that I have watched or read say that people found this confusing and disliked this, but I actually thought it was one of the best parts of the novel. I loved being able to keep up with all this plot lines and watching them unravel into a final mind-blowing ending. This novel had so many wonderful things about it and honestly I think many readers are being too harsh on the author and her writing. I think the fact that she chose to write from so many different perspectives was brave, courageous, and creative – this is not done often and she does it so well!

No one in this story is a “good” person. Through each character’s perspective, readers learn more and more about their backgrounds and how they are connected to all the murder/suicides. The plethora of characters gave me so much more to be invested in. Hawkins wrote teasers about each of the characters that made me curious and would not let me put the book down. I loved the premise of this body of water in this small, sleepy town that had been the final resting place of so many “troublesome” women over time, beginning with the witch trials. The book had a creepy vibe, but was not scary or horror-ish at all. I was surprised by the ending – a huge twist that you will want to be sure to stick around for!

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: Dating You Hating You

Dating You / Hating YouAuthor: Christina Lauren
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books

All’s fair in love and work. The first standalone romance by New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Beautiful Bastard) is a sexy, compulsively readable romantic comedy that dives headlong into the thrill and doubt of modern love.

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you will get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, raucous, and hilarious romance style at its finest.

"Simply put, Evelyn Abbey is my former almost-girlfriend-turned-archnemesis-turned-tentative-ally whom I would now very much like to permanently seduce."

His smile is warm and slow, and when it reaches his eyes, something inside my chest turns over in defeat.

"And it hit me. I hate it there. I love what I do - I love you - but I hate P&D. It’s like trying to work in the middle of a dodgeball game." 

Christina Lauren is one of my absolute favorite contemporary authors. They are actually a writing duo of two best friends. I have never read a book of theirs that I rated below 4 stars. This book was such a fresh take on the romance genre and I loved the idea of the plot. The story follows Carter and Evie, both who work in the crazy world of Hollywood. They end up being thrown together in this high-powered world when their companies are merged together and they are fighting for the same position. They meet before they find out about the merger and immediately connect. The story follows them as they fight to make their relationship work in spite of all that is happening around them. The book alternates between both of their point of views. I usually do not like this in books, but of course Christina Lauren is an exception because they keep you hooked and make you feel vested in the lives of their characters.

I love how realistic this story is, especially today. The plot is so modern and even though I don’t live in a big city like L.A., I can only imagine that things like job mergers happen a lot. It’s hard to say which character I liked more. There were several times during my reading that I felt sorry and elated for both of them. Carter and Evie are both amazing at their job and the whole time I was reading I was biting my nails trying to decide which character I thought would win out. I was getting really nervous about how the book would end, but I can say that I was extremely pleased with how the book ended. This was such a quick read that was perfect for the beginning of summer. It only took me a few days to read!

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review: Becoming Bonnie

Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Forge Books

From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh--and just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Oscar award-winning film, Bonnie and Clyde--Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo!

The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc's.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it―perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling―she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life―like her country―is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

“Bonnelyn,” he repeats. “Well, that name ain’t pretty enough for the likes of you. I reckon Bonnie suits you better.”

But I also swallow, nervous ‘bout two things: basically telling Clyde he’s free to run amok, and how my ma will react to me bringing home a convicted felon – on a Sunday, no less.

I take a step forward, stop. I know getting myself arrested will do neither of us any good. I need to be strong for Clyde – for myself – to give us a chance. So I raise my chin and say, “I ain’t going anywhere.”

I have always been intrigued by the lives of the infamous duo of Bonnie and Clyde. This novel was such a fun tromp back in time to get a look at the life of Bonnie Parker before and after she meets Clyde Barrow. The story focuses more on Bonnie and her life growing up, marrying Roy Thornton, working in a speakeasy, and after much anticipation meeting Clyde Barrow. The story will suck you in from the days of Bonnie’s naïve and innocent, church going all the way up until she is trying to avoid Clyde’s boyish charms. The story is set in the 1920’s and Walsh, the author, does a phenomenal job of making readers feel as if they are right in the middle of the speakeasy, sharing a drink and listening to Bonnie belt out a song on the stage. I could imagine everything that was being described all around me. Bonnie was a fabulous character and really embodied all that it meant to sacrifice for family. She was a truly motivational character.

The only issue that I had with the book was not really an issue and was explained by the author in the author’s note. It took forever for Bonnie and Clyde to actually meet, but after reading and having time to ponder this, I am now glad that Walsh wrote the book the way she did. It was necessary to see Bonnie in her younger days and see the development that her character went through as her experiences changed her. I loved the relationship between her and her best friend, Blanche, who ended up with Clyde’s brother, Buck. These four are also known in history as the Barrow Gang. These characters all help readers get a feel for Bonnie’s life and the type of person she was before and after she met Clyde. I also had a strong dislike for Roy Thornton, Bonnie’s husband. To my understanding, he was not a really great guy and treated Bonnie very poorly. All the more reason to love a scoundrel like Clyde who treated Bonnie like a Queen!

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: Forks, Knives, and Spoons

Forks, Knives, and SpoonsAuthor: Leah DeCesare
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: SparkPress

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond. Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves and not to settle in love or life.

“She’s collecting a whole place setting.”

“He’s sweet, smart, and confident, too. See? Knife!”

“And remember, Amy, every guy is thinking about getting a girl into the napkin!”

This charming little read follows Amy York and her best friend Veronica Warren as they tackle their freshmen year at Syracuse University. Amy introduces her new friend to the Utensil Classification System that was taught to her by her fun-loving father. This system classified guys into several categories based on their actions, characteristics, and overall demeanor: forks, knives, and spoons. But what every girl really wanted was the perfect steak knife. Veronica, at first, thinks this is ridiculous, but when she finds out the guy she has been dating for so long is not the perfect Prince Charming she thinks he is, she and Amy navigate a series of broken relationships, bad dates, and some unspeakable things together just like best friends should. This book follows the two girls into adulthood as they mature and take on all life’s ups and downs.

These characters are phenomenal and are truly relatable and loveable. I couldn’t possibly choose which girl I loved more; I enjoyed following both of them as they grew up and entered into new relationships, ventured into new careers, and learned things about themselves through the relationships they now have. I think that friendships are very important to the experiences we have in life and these girls have a relationship that is very realistic. They complement each other’s flaws and are there for each other’s disappointments. We need more books like this in world today – books that allow women to realize they are not alone in classifying men and hoping and praying for the perfect one that meets all of their expectations, but in the end learning that finding someone to go through life with that you are sure is never going to leave your side ends up being just the right kind of partner we each need.

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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U GiveAuthor: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

“What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?”

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” 

“I can't change where I come from or what I've been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?”

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right. Maybe.” 

“Black Jesus hangs from the cross in a painting on the hallway wall, and Malcolm X holds a shotgun in a photograph next to him.” 

I teach 12th students in an urban district that was heavily affected by the #blacklivesmatter movement over the past year. I felt it was pretty pertinent that I read this book. This book follows Starr Carter, a high school junior who witnesses one of her best friends being shot and killed by a police officer. The entire book is her struggle in dealing with the aftermath of this. The book is extremely easy to read and the 444 pages fly by very quickly. Angie Thomas writes perfectly from the perspective of a teenage girl struggling with so many issues. Starr lives in the ghetto but attends a prestigious private school, so she is constantly balancing two sides of herself. The friend that was killed is being talked about all over town and people are saying he was selling drugs and had joined a gang, and Starr struggles more than anything with the fact that they had drifted apart so much and she feels she could have done more to help him. This book was real and raw – and that’s the best way I can think to describe it.

The book goes through many aspects of Starr’s life. I am so glad that I read this book, and I am now recommending this book to my students. Starr dealt with a lot of angst in dealing with how or even if she should speak out about what she witnessed. I have a lot of students who wanted to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement, but didn’t always know how to go about it. The book also deals with things like rioting and how that can affect a community. This book was at times heartbreaking, but I understand the importance of reading and sharing something like this. There are so many characters to love and even some that you will most certainly dislike (King – the gang leader). Starr was such a wonderful character who was meek and stayed in the shadows at the beginning, but emerged as a strong, brave girl who learns the value of speaking out and speaking up for what matters to you most!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: The Valiant

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)Author: Lesley Livingston
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: The Valiant # 1

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

“Are you a weapon or a target? Choose!”

“Be brave, gladiatrix, he said, And be wary. Bright things beget treachery. Beautiful things breed envy. Once you win Caesar's love, you'll earn his enemies' hate.” 

“This is Rome. Treachery and opportunism and backstabbing run in her veins like lifeblood, and if you've never had to live your life constantly looking over your shoulder, then you have no idea how dangerous it can be.”

“There is no thing called dishonor. No thing called honor. There is only winning. Only losing. And if you lose, you don't leave a freshly made bed for your enemy to sleep in.” 

“There is only forward. Only tomorrow. No yesterday, no going back. And nothing of value is left behind, so nothing is truly lost.” 

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I watched quite a few video reviews and read several reviews on Goodreads before I finally decided to give this one a try. I was first and foremost intrigued by the main character, Fallon. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic king and the younger sister of one of the fiercest female warriors that ever lived. Fallon wants nothing more than to follow in her sister’s footsteps. After a night of chaos, Fallon is kidnapped and nothing about her life is ever the same again. Let me just say that I am not into books that detail a lot of action, but this one kept my attention the entire time. The author writes Fallon as a character that you will root for. She is fierce, but still flawed. She steps into battle as a young, naïve girl with much to learn and triumphs as a victor who still has far to go in her journey fighting for Julius Caesar himself.

Fallon’s character was my favorite part of this book. I loved following her as she was betrayed, heartbroken, learned to love, and learned just what she stood for and what she didn’t. There was just a touch of romance, which I enjoyed as well. I do not like romance as overkill in novels, but this was just enough to keep me enticed by the characters and wanting more from the next book in the series. There is a lot that I cannot spoil about the characters and the way their lives change. I can see a great change in Fallon from the beginning of the book till the end and that is very satisfying for me as a reader. Only great authors can keep me that involved in the lives of their characters. This is the first book I have read by Lesley Livingston, but after all my research I can see that many other readers love her other books just as much.


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