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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, October 5, 2015

Book Review: The Haunted Season

The Haunted Season: A Max Tudor Mystery (A Max Tudor Mystery, #5)Author: G.M. Malliet
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Max Tudor # 5

Max Tudor must contend with his new role as a father as well as a murder all too close to home in Nether Monkslip in the next installment in G. M. Malliet's wildly popular seriesAgatha Award-winning author G. M. Malliet has charmed mystery lovers, cozy fans, and Agatha Christie devotees everywhere with Wicked Autumn, A Fatal Winter, Pagan Spring, and Demon Summer, the critically acclaimed mysteries featuring handsome former-spy-turned-cleric Father Max Tudor. Hailed as “wittier than Louise Penny, lighter than Tana French, smarter than Deborah Crombie” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Malliet is a top-notch writer whose work gets better with each book.

Something sinister is stirring at Totleigh Hall, the showcase of the English village of Nether Monkslip. Usually, the Lord and Lady of the manor are absent—high tax rates, it is murmured with more than a trace of envy, force them to live on the continent for most of the year. But Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor’s invitation to dinner at the Hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. But before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar’s talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever novel.

It was fall, and the patchwork fields around Nether Monkslip were changing color from gold and jade to bronze and topaz in that strange alchemy of the turning seasons.

In the long run, mankind did its worst work, and told the most lies, when trying to justify its actions, to impose a certain outcome.

And he was taken aback by the look on her face. If he hadn’t known better, he might have thought it was a look of the purest venom. The look was directed straight at Awena.

Malliet delivers just what readers need in order to get ready for Halloween in the fifth book in this series: murder, mystery, intrigue, and some truly enticing characters and picturesque detail. I do not want to give too much away regarding the murder mystery, but I will say that it was one of the most memorable that I have read this year. Pay close attention as you read; Malliet will give away hints, clues, and foreshadows what is to come in her writing. Max Tudor, our main character, has returned, of course, and thrown in the mix are his new family dynamics: his wife, Awena, and their new baby, Owen. I love following a series like this and watching their lives change book after book. I believe that none of the books will ever touch the first in the series, but this one comes in a close second.

Malliet’s writing style is very eloquent and sense of characterization is astounding. She can flesh out a character like no other. Max Tudor gets better and better with each book, I believe. I feel as if I learn more about him the more situations I see that Malliet puts him in. I always feel that some things just ended up being too coincidental, thus why the book only received a four cupcake rating, but this is the feeling that I am left with after reading many cozy mystery novels. Some things are just predictable and you can guess what will happen, but it does not take away the joy of getting all nestled down in a blanket and losing yourself in the story. The ending of this book left me hungry for the next; I hope I do not have to wait a whole year to read it!

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Heiress

The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor, #1)Author: Roseanne M. White
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Ladies of the Manor # 1

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.

A warm breeze gusted up the street. Brook touched her hat to make sure it was secure, then let her fingers fall to her necklace. A baroness, daughter of an earl. Of all the scenarios she had entertained, that had never been one of them.

He reached out and took Brook’s hand. More, he let his lips quiver. “Welcome home.”

Yet when Thate turned the car onto the long drive, she could have sworn something clicked inside her, like a piece of a puzzle finding its place. One part of the picture that might someday reveal who she really was. One small hint that made her wonder all the more at the blank spaces.

Roseanna White is an author to watch for; this was the first book of hers that I have read, and it left me mesmerized long after I had closed the pages. I love the Edwardian Era and if a book is pitched that way, it almost always guarantees a read from me. Brook Eden is just the kind of heroine that everyone wants to read about: smart, trying to find her place, brave, and modest. Her whole life she has been searching for a place to really feel like she is accepted and belongs, and in this story her lifelong friend, Justin, gives her the gift of identity. Justin deduces that she might just be a missing heiress, and thus the adventure begins. This book has so much to entice readers: mystery, romance, loss, the need to belong, and self-discovery. This time period is always beautifully written, and White certainly has done her homework. She paints a picture that you will want to start at for hours!

Both Brook and Justin are likeable characters and wonderful to follow on this journey of truth. Brook Eden is confident and very independent and just wants the answers that she has long desires. With the death of her mother, she is left with a box of letters that she is told will be very important to her. This box of letters sparks an adventure and leaves readers with many questions. This is one of those stories that you will find impossible to put down simply because you need answers to the questions that circulate Brook’s existence. I am very excited for the next books in this series, and hope that I do not have to wait too terribly long to read them!

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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: Beastly Bones

Beastly Bones (Jackaby, #2)Author: William Ritter
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Series: Jackaby # 2

The highly anticipated follow-up to the “rich world” of the “lighthearted and assured debut,” featuring an “irresistible character” whose first thrilling and original adventure “demands sequels.”

“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investigator, those might have been simple instructions, but in the time I’ve been his assistant, I’ve found very little about Jackaby to be standard. Following his lead tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.

Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do.

“I guess I forgot about being frightened because it felt good to finally be in the adventure.”

"Failure is not the opposite of success- it is a part of it."

I could not wait to get my hands on this novel, and it was just what I needed to get in the mood for the upcoming Halloween season. Jackaby was a wonderful debut novel, but I think Beastly Bones took the prize. I was again captivated by Jackaby and Abigail; they make a great pair and readers never know what types of creatures or paranormal phenomena they will encounter on an adventure with these two. We get to see all of the same faces that we met in book one, and this time they are back with much more action and adventure. Not to mention, we open the very first chapter with some shape-shifting kittens. Yes, I did just say that. Like I said, there is a never a dull moment where Jackaby and Abigail are concerned. This feels just like a good ole’ Sherlock Holmes novel and completely captivated me from the very first page.

The story in this second installment to the series was even better than the first! There are so many things to love about this book: quirky characters, lots and lots of paranormal happenings, romance, and some good old-fashioned romance is thrown in the mix as well. We were given a hint of romance in the first book, and this one took us a little deeper down that road. I love when an author can evenly balance all of my favorite genres and wrap them up nicely into one: historical fiction, mystery, and romance. Abigail Rook very well may be one of my favorite female narrators. I love the spunk and spirit that she brings to each and every book! I cannot wait for the next one.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Girls

Pretty GirlsAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

The compelling new standalone novel from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of Unseen and Cop Town.

With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved.

But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

“People did not change their basic, core personalities.”

“Your mother and I had always been secretly pleased that you were so headstrong and passionate about your causes. Once you were gone, we understood that these were the qualities that painted young men as smart and ambitious and young women as trouble.”

“Lydia supposed his headstone had been ordered. Something large and garish made of the finest marble and phallic shaped because being dead didn't stop you from being a dick.”

“You couldn't turn on the TV without hearing about the missing teenage girl. Sixteen years old. White. Middle class. Very pretty. No one ever seemed quite as outraged when an ugly woman went missing.”

This was my first Karin Slaughter novel, and I will say that she kept me intrigued and entertained about 70% of the time. I have just recently gotten into the thriller genre and am still new to all the authors that are out there. I loved the premise behind this book, but at times felt that it was too graphic and too much for me. Some of the characters in this book are into some pretty horrible things, and I was shocked by some of the things I read. I will say that Slaughter can make readers feel sorry for her protagonists so easily. I found myself lying awake at night wondering and worrying about so many people in the world who have faced the things that Claire, Sam, and Lydia faced. The villain in this book is the character that I had the most problem with. I rated this book a 3 out of 5 because of him. He was the most predictable character that I have read in all of 2015.

Not all of this book was disappointing to me, however. I absolutely loved how the story was told. Claire, Lydia, and their dad, Sam, alternate telling their sides of the story. Sam’s entries date back to the disappearance of his daughter, Julia, who is also the older sister to Claire and Lydia. His entries were so believable as they were filled with grief and torment. He seemed like such a real character; he said and did all the things that you would expect any parent to do in a situation like his. His parts were sad and depressing, but they were completely necessary to the story. Claire and Lydia were so very different from each other, but it was nice to see how each sister dealt with their sister’s disappearance. I enjoyed those parts. I hated the villain, as I suppose was Slaughter’s goal, but he was just too predictable and downright disgusting. Needless to say, I will try another Karin Slaughter novel soon!

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: Tonight The Streets Are Ours

Tonight the Streets Are OursAuthor: Leila Sales
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven't met yet.

Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

"Love means sometimes sacrificing the things you want in order to make someone else happy. It means being there for someone, even when maybe you don't feel like it, because they need you."

“Like all stories, the one you’re about to read is a love story.”

“You were promised a love story. And this is mine.”

“But that's the thing: when you swear to take someone's side no matter what, sometimes you have to go to war for them.” 

“Hurting people, really, deeply hurting them - that isn't something you do on purpose. It's just a by-product of living.” 

I will always have high hopes when I go into a Leila Sales novel. She never disappoints. This book was such a fun, fast-paced read for me; I was done with the book after two nights of reading. The story follows Arden, a girl who is fiercely loyal and tends to be the dependable person in most of the lives of the people she knows. She soon realizes how unhappy she is and how no one is there for her like she is for them, and she is able to find comfort in a blog called Tonight The Streets Are Ours. The blog is written by a boy her age named Peter. Arden becomes completely enthralled by his words and when he blogs about his recent break-up, she decides, spontaneously, to take a road trip to meet him. They spend time in New York City and do everything imaginable in the span of just one night. Arden realizes that Peter is not who she thought he would be, but she quickly learns that she is not the same person that she thought she was either. This was, overall, a great coming of age story. Arden grows so much in the span of just a few pages and her journey into finding herself is definitely worth a second read.

The book started off a little slow to me, but of course, seeing the four cupcake rating, it ultimately picked up speed and captivated me. Arden’s story was told so beautifully and readers will root for her 100% of the way. She feels so underappreciated and this road trip allows her to discover so many things about herself. I guess you could say that this is what I love and advocate for most of all: self-discovery. I did not care for Peter, especially after Arden finds out his secrets. But I will say that his character was a nice building tool for Arden; he allowed her to grow and learn to look past what she sees as flaws in herself. I will say that this book is not my most favorite by Sales, but it is so worth the read!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: A Curious Beginning

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery, #1)Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: NAL
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery # 1

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

One cannot innovate new improvements without understanding old failures.

I felt in this new adventure I was rousing to life again. I was a butterfly, newly emerged from the chrysalis, damp winged and trembling with expectation.

You have large opinions for so small a person.

Music and needlework. I am astonishingly lacking in traditional feminine accomplishments.

Veronica is not your ordinary Victorian heroine. She is headstrong, opinionated, and is not shy about the number of lovers she has taken in the past. Veronica has no desire to be tied down to a husband, nor does she have a desire to start producing children and keeping a house. When her last living relative passes away, Veronica decides to branch out on her own and experience some freedom and live on her own terms. Little does Veronica know, she is about to step into a spider web of adventure, action, murder, and deception. After a situation that could have ended in her demise, Veronica is left in the care of a gentleman who refers to himself as Stoker. Together these two must solve the murder of a man they both had a connection to, while also trying to find out who is after Veronica and what they could possibly want with her.

Stoker and Veronica made the perfect pair. Stoker does not really know how to handle a woman like Veronica, since she is so much different from what is normally expected of her gender during this time period. They share a lot of witty, sarcastic, and sometimes nagging banter, and to be completely honest this was one of my favorite things about the book. The mystery sometimes took second place to my feelings about the dynamics building between Stoker and Veronica. The entire book was well-written; Raybourn has such a knack for providing vivid and unbelievable details while still keeping you interested and excited about the rest of the story. She takes Veronica and Stoker to so many interesting places, and continues to make readers picture every single place in their minds. I am very excited for the other books in this series!

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

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: Chivalrous

Chivalrous (Valiant Hearts, #2)Author: Dina L. Sleiman
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Valiant Hearts # 2

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man who will break her spirit.

When handsome, good-hearted Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, Gwendolyn spies in him the sort of fellow she could imagine marrying. Yet fate seems determined to keep them apart. Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

“Brave Warriors, as we commence the game today, be honorable, be courageous, be chivalrous, and be strong. But most of all, go hand in hand with the God of all creation.”

“I prefer to think of a man and woman standing side by side, offering mutual support.”

“I do not wish to watch a tournament. I wish to fight in one.”

Gwendolyn Barnes is ready to be free from her father’s constraints and most of all free from his hopes of landing her in a secure, lasting marriage. Gwendolyn wants things her way and wants the freedom and adventures that her brothers have. She is not at all interested in being “tamed” by some man, nor will she settle for it. Her life is only begun, so when she gets the chance to disguise herself as a knight and enter a jousting tournament to prove her true strength, she jumps at it. However, she soon discovers that her opponent is Sir Allen of Ellsworth, the only man whom she has ever found herself enamored with – will she be able to go through with this? Can she walk away from this handsome, valiant knight and lead a life without love or happily ever after?

If you missed the first book in this series, do yourself a favor and get them both! I loved the first one – Dauntless – but I must say that I found myself even more wrapped up in Gwendolyn’s story. I loved the historical background in this book – all the talk of knights and jousting made me long for more medieval stories. Gwendolyn’s desire to become a knight instead of someone’s trophy wife was powerful and her character was brave beyond words. These books send really strong messages about courageous females surpassing the social norms that were placed on them during the times in which they lived. I love a strong, independent heroine. Gwendolyn was the cherry on top of the pie for me!

However, Sir Allen is not without his many affluent virtues – he and Gwendolyn together made a perfect pair. Their interest in one another turns into a massive adventure when they concoct a plan to try and overthrow the kingdom. They were a perfect match and their many character traits complimented one another. There is so much in this book to love: the plot, the characters, their roles in society, the adventure, and the ending! I cannot wait for more from Dina!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers and the author, Dina L. Sleiman in exchange for my honest review***


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