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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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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Review: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreAuthor: Matthew Sullivan
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Scribner

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.



The clerk was right about one thing, she thought: it really does help to know what you want.

 
“Joey wasn’t stealing books,” she said. “He was cutting them up.”


Lydia’s skills as a bookseller came mainly, she believed, from her ability to listen.


When I first picked this book up I expected a cutesy, cozy story that takes place in an adorable bookshop filled with loveable people – I only got the loveable people part! In the opening pages our protagonist stumbles upon a suicide (this is not a spoiler!) and the story/mystery ensues from there. The story follows Lydia as she unravels the clues and mystery behind Joey’s suicide. The book alternates between past and present narratives because a HUGE part of the story focuses on Lydia’s childhood/backstory, which she tries so desperately to keep hidden. This book carries so many feelings and themes within its pages. It has moments of great sadness and other moments filled with joy and hopefulness. Some of the characters bring wit and humor to the story and others lead readers down a darker path. Suicides usually give me an uneasy feeling simply because of the darkness that I associate with that type of death, but I feel like the author did an excellent making the story about something other than a morbid, sinister death.

 
I was fully invested in Lydia’s story and loved how it was slowly unraveled as I read. I am such a fan of books that present a secret or some mystery that needs solving at the very beginning and only leaves me hanging on every word, unable to put it down until I have all of the answers. I felt that this was one of those books. The story is full of many colorful characters and I greatly enjoyed the multi-level storyline. I really did not know much about the story going in and I suggest that for everyone. This story is so much more than just a mystery, but focuses a lot of identity as well. I loved Sullivan’s writing and I felt that he really developed his character beyond my expectations. The entire novel was extremely well-paced and he is definitely an author I would pick up again.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: We Crossed A Bridge And It Trembled

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from SyriaAuthor: Wendy Pearlman
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Custom House

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.


 
It reached the point that corruption was in everything – everything. There was corruption before, but not to that extent. Everything was getting worse. Things just added up. The glass of water overflowed. There were so many problems that it was ridiculous. Someone had to go out and just say, “No!”


For them, it was better that we do nothing than do something that would make us think or dream. Their goal was to make sure that people’s only interest was eating, drinking, and making sure their kids were safe.


The young man said to himself, “If this old man is braver than me, I’m going to kill myself.” So he went out. He started shouting. And then everyone else went out, too. Imagine you have a deck of cards and all the cards go flying everywhere. That’s what it was like.


 
As a high school English teacher, I get the pleasure of seeing and educating hundreds of new students every school year. Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and educating my first Syrian student. He was an extremely smart, gifted young man who taught me the ways of life in Syria and gave me an appreciation for my own freedom and homeland – America. He and I spent hours over the course of a semester talking about life in Syria and the challenges and obstacles that these people faced – I was enamored by his conversation and felt privileged to know him. Because of this, I knew that I wanted to read this book. This book is such an easy read and one could fly through it in about a day; however, I chose to take my time while reading and mark up the pages with sticky notes and my comments and reactions towards what I was reading. Every couple of pages or so a new Syrian citizen is introduced by name, occupation, and location. They share their account of the demonstrations that took place in Syria in 2011. They are real, raw, emotional, and some are just downright heart wrenching.
 
Some of the entries are so short that you might wonder how any type of message could be conveyed in such a short period, but trust me when I tell you that some of the shortest entries were some of the most poignant in my mind and were the ones that I was finding myself going back and reading over four and five different times. It was so interesting to me to see people from all different walks of life, who live in different areas, and work in extremely different careers all experiencing the same terrible happenings and feeling much the same way about it. I was inspired to do more research on the demonstrations after reading this book. I plan to place this book atop my “favorites” shelf. I was so moved upon reading and will likely share snippets with my student this coming fall semester.
 
***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Custom House in exchange for my honest review***
 
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: The Underground River

The Underground RiverAuthor: Martha Conway
Publication: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Touchstone


Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.
Sometimes now I wonder whether, like swimming, when you first submerge yourself in a new environment you lose some of the power of your senses – your ears clog, you shut your eyes – as you try to get used to it.

When a man gives me money and I give him a ticket, we’ve made ourselves a deal: I will try to make him believe something that is not true, and he will try to believe it.

I loved to swim. I liked feeling the slight pressure of the water like an eggshell around me, and I liked being at a distance from everyone else.
The Ohio River was the literal, physical separation line that divided free and slave states in the United States. The author, Martha Conway, takes readers back to the 1830’s when slavery was prominent in the Southern states and many slaves were trying to escape to the free North. Through the main character May, readers are taken on a traveling steamboat theater called The Floating Theatre where May serves as a seamstress among other things and eventually gets swept into an intriguing and dangerous life of transporting slaves to freedom. May is a timid girl who finds herself, so to speak, during her time on the traveling theater. She develops as the story progresses, which I absolutely love. I adored seeing her go from a girl who could not or would not speak up for herself, to a girl who was bold and brave and did daring, courageous things that no one would even consider doing.

My issue with this novel is that the meat, or the actual adventure of May traveling down the Ohio River transporting slaves, does not happen until more than halfway through the book. I kept looking at the page numbers and wondering when we were going to get to the angst and danger. I really wanted the story to be more action-packed because the topic is so interesting and needs to be written about, but I was often bored at certain points during the book. The author spent a lot of time building the world and May’s time meeting all of the people who would be important in her upcoming “adventures”, but I don’t think all of it was absolutely necessary. I also wanted the journeys she took transporting slaves to be more exciting, but they fell flat for me as well. However, as I stated earlier, May’s character was phenomenal and I loved seeing her become so invested in something so important.

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



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Book Review: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly WomanAuthor: Anne Helen Petersen
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Plume Books

From celebrity gossip expert and BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen comes an accessible, analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an acceptable woman.

You know the type: the woman who won't shut up, who's too brazen, too opinionated, too much. She's the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of unruliness to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures. With its brisk, incisive analysis, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.

It would have to rattle the presumptions of patriarchy, challenge the norms of femininity, occupy the heart of unruliness. It would have to be the sort of gesture, argument, and gut punch that’s historically come from an incredibly rare, and all the more valuable, sort of female celebrity. A woman, in other words, like Madonna.

I spent the bulk of my adolescent life internalizing the fact that girls who crossed that invisible line would become pariahs: excised from their communities and families, unable to find work or companionship.

It’s one thing to admire such abrasiveness and disrespect for the status quo in someone else; it’s quite another to take that risk in one’s own life.

My views on this book are very conflicting and opinionated, so I am stating that up front. This book is essentially about a handful of women that are defying what it means to be “accepted” and “adored” as the model woman in society. Each chapter promotes a different woman who is “too” something – too fat, too slutty, too strong, etc. While I love the way that the chapters are setup, I do not love every woman that this book promotes. Some of the women mentioned, like Melissa McCarthy, who is often criticized for being “too fat”, are women I can really hang my hat on. I love what she stands for and how she has defied all odds and made herself a successful movie star despite her body type. However, some of the women promoted in this book are not women that I want to follow in the quest to defy societal standards set for women. Women like Kim Kardashian are not women I want to see leading the battlefront in a fight for women’s rights.
 
However, that is solely my opinion and everyone is entitled to one. The book is expertly written and the research Petersen conducted in evident in each chapter as she catalogs each of these women and their lives. Each chapter has a vibrant spirit about it and the author’s voice absolutely shines through. The only issue that I had with the author was the fact that she labeled herself as the typical red-blooded American woman: white, straight, college educated, etc. It was hard for me to get behind someone who was pushing so harshly for a change in the way women are viewed, but it didn’t seem to me that she was adding to the fight – just writing about it. Again, this is just my view on the matter. Her writing was superb and very easy to follow and I would love to read more from this author.
 
***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Plume in exchange for my honest review***
 

 
 
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***


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