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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, September 22, 2014

Book Review: All's Fair In Love and Cupcakes

All's Fair in Love and CupcakesAuthor: Betsy St. Amant
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Zondervan

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

There was more to life than vanilla buttercream. Or at least, Kat Varland used to believe so.

Once upon a time, she created magic with flour and sugar and eggs. With cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla. Every measured cup was instinct, every whisked ingredient inspiration.

Baking held promise, potential. Power.

A story full of love, sacrifices, chances taken, and changes made lies in wait for you with this charming new book by Betsy St. Amant. This story belongs to Kat Varland, a woman stuck baking plain vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry cupcakes when her heart yearns to experiment with new, exciting things. Her long time best friend Lucas sees fit to enter Kat in an up and coming competition in which the winner will be rewarded with an internship in one of New York’s finest bakeries. This sweet contemporary romance was just what I needed to start off this fast approaching fall season. From the characters to the cupcakes, I was so pleased with the outcome of this book and left wondering how I have never stumbled upon a book by Betsy St. Amant before!

Between Kat and Lucas, I could not tell you which was my favorite. I did appreciate how caring Lucas was towards Kat and how he knew her so well. He made some huge sacrifices for her and gladly stood beside her as she found out just how brave she really was. I love to read stories where one partner is very supportive of the other’s dreams. Lucas won me over immediately because of adoration of Kat and because he was able to quickly get her to realize all the potential she had. Betsy St. Amant builds their relationship perfectly. Nothing is rushed but instead the pacing is perfect and completely believable.

The end of this book packed a twist that I honestly did not see coming. I did a little research and found that the author is writing the story of Kat’s sister, Stella. I am hoping that Kat and Lucas reappear in this story as well. Her writing was enough to keep for hooked for a lifetime and I have researched her other books and bookmarked them already. When someone can write and describe cupcakes like this woman, I make an immediate commitment to read any and all books that she publishes. Brace yourself for a book that will suck you in and make you want to bake a few dozen cupcakes!

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: Tried & True

Tried and True (Wild at Heart, #1)Author: Mary Connealy
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Bethany House Books
Series: Wild at Heart # 1

Saddle up for a wildly fun ride with the Wilde sisters!

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister—and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It’s a risk—they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as “boys”—but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.

Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?

Good grief, she’d lived through a Civil War battle. How could climbing on a roof bother her so much?

She threw her arms around his neck. The only solid thing in the whole wide world. And she cried.

Strange woman. Strange and fascinating. Strange and fascinating and beautiful.

Today was the beginning of a new day and a new life. She felt reborn. She was a woman and she was going to live like one, and no one was going to stop her.

A brand new series by Mary Connealy about three sisters portraying themselves as men, serving in the Civil War, and claiming land out West; what could be more interesting to read? As all my loyal readers know, I love stories about sisters. This new series is going to feature the Wilde sisters: Kylie, whom this book is about, Shannon and Bailey. Kylie is unlike her sisters in one regard; she is tired of pretending to be a man. She wants to wear her hair long and wear long, flowy skirts and she doesn’t know how much more she can take. Aaron Masterson, our male lead, puts a damper on the Wilde sister’s plans when he comes calling one day on business and discovers their secret. Will he, in good conscience, be able to pretend he doesn’t know what they are doing and lie to the U.S. government?

I want to back up a minute and make sure you understand why Kylie and her sisters were dressing up and parading themselves as men. Their older brother Jimmy was killed and their father encouraged them all to dress up as men and enlist to serve, hoping they would take revenge on the men that murdered their brother. The girls are all noble and do as he wishes. The girls all have brave, strong hearts and I admired their dedication to their father and their deceased brother. Kylie and her sisters attempted to do things that women were just not allowed to do in the 1880’s. They served in the Civil War, built their own cabins, and tried their hand at living off the land out West. While the book was fiction, it was still inspirational and had a great message behind it centering on family and dedication.

Connealy’s writing is extremely detailed and very realistic. She submerses readers in the wild, wild West by allowing them to experience everything that the Wilde sisters encounter. My grandmother was always a huge fan of books set in the West, but it was just never my cup of tea. However, I have to retract that statement upon reading and finishing this book. I now have a brand new appreciation for this setting. I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series, but I cannot decide which sister I want to read about more. If the romance was as heartwarming and the action was as mind blowing, then it will not matter to me whose story I get next!

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Screwdrivered

Screwdrivered (Cocktail, #3)Author: Alice Clayton
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Series: Cocktail # 3

Readers back for a third round of the bestselling Cocktail series will enjoy a madcap romantic comedy about bodice ripping and chest heaving, fiery passion and love everlasting. Plus a dash of paperwork filing and horseshi—wait, what?

By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice.

When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they?

There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.

In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian.

Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?

I’d been in a romance novel this entire time, but I had the wrong book. This was my book. This was my story. This was my man.

Who wants a Superman when you can have a Clark?

Why ride a Cowboy when you can ride a Librarian?

The third book in this fresh, hot series is sure to have all fans of romantic fiction on their feet. Vivian, our feisty, fun heroine, has her eyes set on two men, both very different in background and appeal. We have Hank and Clark. Hank is the sweltering hot cowboy who first catches Viv’s eye, but he is lacking when it comes to stimulating worthy conversation. Then we have Clark, a hot historian/librarian who runs the historical society and is just as nerdy attractive as he is book smart. She is attracted to both men, but realizes she can’t have them both. Her life is turning out to be more of an adventure than she expected.

Vivian was my favorite part about this book because as far as heroines go she has been one of my favorites this year. She is very relatable and has the same fantasies that I am sure many young girls have. She pictures her life being everything like a romance novel, and in the end it really turns out like one. She dreams up all these crazy romance novel scenarios in her head and I just loved how big of a hopeless romantic she was. This would be the perfect movie; it has that romantic comedy vibe all the way through.

Alice Clayton’s writing is just to die for. She uses language that is easy to follow and allows you to fly right through the pages. I read the first book in this series, accidentally skipped the second, and this book read just as good. The characters are well-developed and it was very easy for me to pick a side when it came to Viv’s love choice. There were so many parts in this book where I laughed out loud and didn’t really have a choice in the matter. A lot of the language between the characters is flirty and packed with sexual innuendos, but that’s what makes this book a dirty little pleasure!

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: Can't Look Away

Can't Look AwayAuthor: Donna Cooner
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Point

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

In September, my parents moved me and my dead sister to Texas.

No black thunderstorm gathered in the distance. No ominous music played in the background. No sense there was a car coming down the road half a mile away with a drunk driver behind the wheel. Everything was fine. And then it wasn’t.

A few houses have pumpkins out on the doorsteps and fake spiderwebs strung from porches. It’s the only sign of fall. (Just because I am ready to do this to my own house!)

Lights. Camera. Action. Showtime.

Torrey Grey is a teen beauty vlogger who loves sharing her passion on YouTube with all of her followers, or at least she did, until her sister suddenly dies in a car accident. This story follows Torrey and how she learns to deal with the grief and slowly place her life back together. I did not expect this book to fill me with as much emotion as it did. The struggle that Torrey faces is really brought to life through the pages of this book. Torrey tries to pick up her life and continue on with it like she was before, but she finds out rather quickly that this will be a lot harder than she first thought it would be. This is a wonderful story for anyone who has had to deal with any kind of grief at all.

Torrey and her sister did not have the best or closest relationship, but Torrey still cared for her sister and that became apparent after her death. Torrey wanted her sister to be just like her and to develop an interest for beauty and fashion just like she had; however, Torrey’s sister had little to no interest in those types of things and just beat to the sound of her own drum. The story was heartbreaking, especially hearing about her sister’s death. I do not have any siblings, but this book put that sibling relationship in perspective for me. Even if you are not close with them, you still feel infinitely connected. I found tears rolling down my cheeks after reading certain lines and thoughts from Torrey.

This is not just a story about the death of Torrey’s sister, but it is also a coming of age story for our main character as well. It was interesting to watch how Torrey tried to fit the pieces of her life back together and her number one aspiration was to fit in with the popular crowd. I was upset with Torrey quite a few times because of some of the decisions she made just be considered popular, like ditching her true friends. But just like most struggling teenagers, Torrey had to realize some things the hard way. Luis, Torrey’s love interest in the book, brought an interesting perspective to the story and in fact he became a light in Torrey’s ever-darkening world!

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: One Night More

One Night More (U.S. Marshals, #1)Author: Mandy Baxter
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Zebra
Series: U.S. Marshals # 1

Savvy, hard-riding, rule-breaking—they’ll go anywhere and do anything it takes to protect and serve. But this U. S. Marshal has just met his match—and playing for keeps is one sizzling game…

Getting saved from disaster by a handsome stranger—Harper Allen has no problem with that. But when he leaves without a word or a clue to his real identity, the newbie reporter writes it off as the best one-night-stand she’ll never have again. Until a year later, when Harper comes face to face with the man assigned to hide her from a senator’s killer…

Galen Kelly hasn’t forgotten a single sensual minute of his night with Harper... or that she betrayed him. But with the FBI also on their trail, he’s got to pretend he’s never met her or risk both their lives. But as danger closes in, Galen may not be able to protect himself from taking the biggest risk of all…

This was a night of firsts. Her first time to be roofied – or almost roofied – at a bar. First time to make out in a cab. And her first sexual encounter with a total stranger.

Was she crazy to trust a perfect stranger?

She took a deep breath and slowly raised her eyes to his until their gazes were locked. “Girlfriend?” she ventured, her voice cracking in an adorable show of nervousness. He chuckled. “Single.”

Brand new series that starts off with a bang! Harper Allen is a journalist that is out one night for a good time with some of her closer friends when she meets a very handsome stranger and they have one crazy, wild night together. She doesn’t see him for one entire year, until, ironically, he is placed in charge of protecting a reporter that is in danger and that reporter just happens to be Harper. Galen Kelly, our handsome, husk hero is a U.S. Marshall who has the looks, the brains, and the brawns. He is pleasantly surprised when he finds out that the woman is assigned to protect is the same woman who he had a one night stand with one year ago but hasn’t quite been able to forget her. Already I am sure you have realized what an interesting and compelling storyline this was!

A lot of reviews that I have read have not been in favor of Harper because of some of the decisions she makes in favor of her job. She puts herself in harm’s way more than once just to get a story, and some of her choices aren’t the best but I will say that she sets the stage for a lot of the suspense and adventure that ensues within these pages. I think Harper and Galen make a nice couple and they even each other out nicely. Harper is bold at times, but Galen is just the shot of medicine she needs. He can easily put her in her place and I liked that in their relationship.

This book was filled with suspense, danger, and intrigue, but it also had its humorous side. Harper and Galen shared many interesting conversations that made me forget everything else that was going on around them and all the danger that Harper was actually in. They shared a strong chemistry right from the start, obviously because their relationship started off with a one night stand. Honestly, I usually do not care for this in books but they, and Mandy Baxter, made me change my mind. I really enjoyed how she built their relationship off of one intense night!

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: The Wedding Soup Murder

The Wedding Soup Murder (An Italian Kitchen Mystery, #2)Author: Rosie Genova
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Series: An Italian Kitchen Mystery # 2

Victoria Rienzi came home to the Jersey Shore to write a new book, learn the family restaurant business, and practice the fine art of Italian cooking. But when delicious dishes are paired with murder, Vic has a little too much on her plate…

When Vic asked her nonna for more responsibility in the kitchen, she didn’t mean forming a thousand tiny meatballs by hand for the family’s famous wedding soup. The dish is to be served at the reception for a close family friend at the exclusive Belmont Country Club. And once there Vic has to deal with a demanding bridezilla and clashes in the kitchen—between the staff and servers, between two egocentric head chefs, and between the country club president and…well…everyone.

The wedding comes off without a hitch—until the body of the club’s president is found on the beach below a high seawall. Now Vic will need to use her noodle to find out who pushed whom too far…before she’s the one who lands in the soup!

“C’mon, Vic, you don’t need my help. You’re the girl who’s got it all under control, right?” “Right,” I said through my teeth. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I swung around at the sound of her voice and came face-to-face with the Iron Lady herself – Elizabeth Merriman.

Great, I thought. I can’t even have the satisfaction of hating her.

In book two of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries series, Victoria Rienzi is working diligently preparing for her dentist’s daughter’s wedding. She is slaving away making Italian meatballs and fanciful desserts all to be served at the lavish wedding at the Belmont Country Club. All is going well, the soup that Vic prepared is a hit, and everyone is having a great time, until the club president, Elizabeth Merriman, is found dead. Victoria spends a lot of her time writing her beloved mystery novels, but here lately she finds herself starring in a lot of them as well. This mystery is the best one in the series yet!

What makes these books so interesting to me is the fact that Vic aspires to be a mystery writer herself, but she can’t catch a break from solving mysteries long enough to write one of her own. For some reason this just makes the story and plot so much more interesting to me. I love that Vic has ambitions and this makes her character all the more real for me. The fact that Vic also has Sofia, her sister-in-law, is another plus. These two leading ladies are the perfect duo and together their wit and charm cannot be beat.

I have to give it to Rosie Genova; this is the second book in the series and the second time she successfully fooled me. Three-fourths of the way through this book I was convinced that I had it all figured out; she proved me wrong. Genova has a clever way of throwing in those crazy twists right at the last minute, and this murder mystery definitely showed me that not all cozy mysteries turn out the way I think they will. I was pleasantly surprised by the end and I am so ready for the third book in this amazing Italian Kitchen Mystery series! Thanks for a great read, Rosie!

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review: Feuds

FeudsAuthor: Avery Hastings
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Feuds # 1

In this breathless story of impossible love, perfection comes at a deadly cost.

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or “Imps.” A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother’s legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he’s a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis—her father’s campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors—but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis’s friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world...in Avery Hastings's Feuds.

The FEUDS – which technically stood for Fights Established Under Demolition Sites – were held in various arenas that had been hastily constructed in the basements of the crumbling buildings that used to comprise the city, before reconstruction and modernization efforts made Columbus one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the New Americas.

Heat coursed through his body. Music pounded in his ears. The kiss wasn’t what Cole had thought it would be. It was way, way better. He’d heard more times than he could remember that Prior girls were cold. But that kiss had left him reeling, his head thick and foggy like he’d had too much to drink, and he could feel a sharp wetness of his lips where the nerves were still reacting.

Winning would mean the world to her dad. It would make him smile. It would bring her mother back to life, if only for an instant. And that was everything.

This story reminded me so much of Romeo & Juliet, only the story is set in the future. Davis, the main character, is a prior which means she is part of the genetically enhanced upper class that lives in wealth. Then there is Cole, who is the opposite of a prior, also known as a gen. They are also referred to as “imps” by some of the priors, this word is meant to be derogatory. A relationship between a gen and a prior is of course forbidden, and the punishment for anyone involved is imprisonment or possibly death by hanging. A lot goes on in between Davis and Cole meeting, but inevitably they do and inevitably they realize they share an instant connection. Their relationship has to remain hidden and in the end Cole has to decide if he is willing to betray Davis and all of the feelings they share for one another.

The beginning of the story started off slower than I would have liked, but I completely understood because of the world building that was necessary. Davis didn’t jump right off the page at me, and this shocked me because usually the heroines do, but once I had learned her entire past and realized her dream to be a dancer and how much she had worked for it, she became a lot more likeable. I can always back characters if I know they have ambition and determination. Her world became interesting to me once I began to put things together and see how influential and powerful her father was within the city they lived in. The action, adventure, and romance definitely picked up towards the middle and end of the book.

Not only did Hastings have to build Davis and her story but Cole’s story as well. The story between these two characters is magnificent and I am curious to see what happens next, seeing as this is a series. The book ended with an enormous cliffhanger and I must say that I was left unsatisfied. So many questions were left unanswered and I am going to be waiting very impatiently for the next book to release. I do not say this with dislike, but rather with this overwhelming anxiousness because of the extremely complex twist that Hastings threw in right before she ended the story! This was a great series opener that kept me intrigued and pulled me in more and more as the story and the characters developed.

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


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