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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 29, 2015

Book Review: Tiny Little Thing

Tiny Little ThingAuthor: Beatriz Williams
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.
But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.

“I do what I’m supposed to do. Girls like me, we wear our pearls and we write our thank-you notes the very next morning, and we fall in love with only the best sort of young man, the kind of man who’s going places and will take us with him. And when he asks us to marry him, we say yes.”

Like most of our caste, Mrs. Hardcastle invests lavishly in certain things, things that matter, things that last – jewelry, shoes, houses, furniture, the education of the next generation of Hardcastles – and not in others.

Me. The Tiny of two years ago, a Tiny who had existed for the briefest of lifetimes: not quite married, slender and cream-skinned, bird-boned and elastic, silhouetted against a dark sofa of which I can still remember every thread. About the make the most disastrous mistake of her life.
I am left speechless after finishing what I consider to be one of the most engrossing novels that I have had the privilege of reading in 2015. The characters and their secrets pulled me into this Kennedy style family and left me feeling so incomplete and lost when the story was done. This book will proudly sit atop my favorite’s shelf and will be read over and over again. The story follows Christina “Tiny” Hardcastle in her life being married to a rising politician and the story is definitely her own for she has secrets of her own and a past that she wishes to forever keep hidden. Beatriz Williams never ceases to impress me with her eloquent dialogue and character descriptions; reading her novels is like stepping into a brand new, adventurous world.

Tiny’s character was one that I easily connected to because of the way she told her story. It was easy to follow her and even easier to become invested in her life and in her tangled web of secrets. You will find yourself rooting for her, especially by the end when you learn what other secrets the Hardcastle family is harboring. Tiny has so much pressure on her shoulders because her husband Frank is running for office, and it is her ultimate duty to keep her deep, dark secrets from coming to light. I was very pleased to also find out that in November of this year, Williams is releasing a novel that follows another of Tiny’s sisters; I am beyond excited and cannot wait!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, June 26, 2015

Early Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black CloakAuthor: Robert Beatty
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

A spooky mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate.

"Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there and they will ensnare your soul."

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in the shadowed corridors of her vast home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate's maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore's corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore's owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak's true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina's hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

And sometimes, just sometimes, she longed not just to listen secretly to the people around her, but to talk to them. Not just to see them, but to be seen.

She must have made some sort of involuntary gagging noise, for the man in the black cloak suddenly turned and looked at her, seeing her for the first time. It felt like a giant claw gripped her around her chest. The folds of the man’s hood shrouded his face, but she could see that his eyes blazed with an unnatural light. She stood frozen, utterly terrified.

The man whispered in a raspy voice. “I’m not going to hurt you, child…”

I wish that I had the chance to read more middle grade books, but unfortunately I only get to sample a few good ones a year. While I did not fall absolutely in love with this book, I did enjoy it very much and I think any middle grade student would love it just the same. I was drawn to this book because of the setting: Biltmore Estate. I grew up about thirty minutes south of Biltmore and my parents still live in the area today. I could not wait to immerse myself in a novel that took place so close to home. I think what I was expecting more of was some added detail and history about the Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt’s, and the elaborate furnishings that make up the stately mansion. While I will not say that there was none, there was not enough. Serafina had the opportunity to explore the mansion undetected, and I would have like to have seen more of the estate through her eyes.

Mystery lies in wait for you once you open the pages of this book. I will say that one thing the author did exceptionally well is to keep readers on the edge of their seats. I can definitely see middle grade children thinking this is out of this world exciting. The mystery and the suspense was so well written that even I, a twenty-four year old woman, wanted to read in the daylight. The mystery of the man behind the illustrious black cloak was enough to make me cling to the pages long past the time I should have shut the book and moved on to daily chores. I do hope Robert Beatty writes more books that take place in the beautiful North Carolina Mountains, since he is a native there as well.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: Hearts Made Whole

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope, #2)Author: Jody Hedlund
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Beacons of Hope # 2

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

“We can't do anything on our own to be righteous. But that when we turn to Him, He'll fill us with His goodness.”

“My father always said that our enemy, the devil, is doing his best to get us to look to everything and everyone else to save us from our pains and sorrows. The devil doesn't want us to take those pains to the Lord, because he knows that when we cry out to God with our need, He'll rescue us from the pit.” 

“You will absolutely not lose your keeper job simply because you wear skirts and have the ability to bear children.”

Jody Hedlund’s historical fiction novels never cease to amaze me. This was one of the most emotionally moving books that I have read in 2015. I am even more enthralled with the idea of being a lighthouse keeper. Caroline Taylor, our heroine, makes it sound so rewarding as a job. However, we are stuck in 1865, when women are not allowed to have such roles. Caroline faces a tough situation because she has depended on this job for so long, not only for herself but for her family as well. I love a good story where women go beyond the social norms of the time. Caroline is no different. Jody Hedlund often succeeds at phenomenal character development, and this book is no different. Caroline felt like an old friend.

Now to oppose Caroline’s female protagonist we have Ryan Chambers, a Civil War veteran who is coming for her job. Ryan doesn’t expect such an outspoken women like Caroline when he shows up to begin his new job. Ryan was just as loveable as Caroline. He comes to Windmill Point wounded emotionally from the war and with too many battle scars to count. Both characters have to learn to invest feelings in the other in order to make their new arrangement work. I eagerly read their stories and couldn’t for them to embrace the love that God had set before them. This was a charming story about God’s love and grace.

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

Book Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

The Summer of Chasing MermaidsAuthor: Sarah Ockler
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…

When you don’t feel like talking, no one can force you, no matter how many stories and secrets might be locked inside.

For centuries poets and fisherman alike have written about the loneliness of the sea.

Outside, clouds drifted over the moon, and in the new darkness the ocean hissed. Black as ever, my words remained.
The heroine makes this book everything that it is. Not only is she diverse, unique, and brave but she has survived an accident that has left her without a voice, and most importantly the voice that allowed her to sing. This book seems like a nice, light summer read, but some of the issues that this story covers are realistic and deep and will cause you to appreciate life more and more. Elyse was, of course, my favorite part of the story. From the beginning pages, she appears to readers as strong, capable, and determined to live her life regardless of all that has tried to stop her in the past. She is the perfect role model for anyone who reads this book. Everyone should try to be as selfless as Elyse on any given day.

Elyse’s love interest, Christian, on the other hand, was a little bit harder to love. He is a bit cocky and you might have your doubts about him at first, but he does have charming ways and I do believe he will grow on you just like he did with me. Elyse and Christian do not see eye to eye at first, but in my opinion those romantic interests are some of the best ones to read about. Their love begins to grow and the barriers they break through together are enough to make any reader swoon and cry. This is when the story becomes heartbreaking and sensitive. This book has snippets that will remind you of The Little Mermaid and is perfect to kick off the summer season!

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: Opening Up

Opening Up (Ink and Chrome, #1)Author: Lauren Dane
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Forever
Series: Ink and Chrome # 1

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lauren Dane delivers Book #1 in her Ink & Chrome erotic romance series.

The men of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop are great with their hands... and they're not afraid to get dirty.

PJ is exactly the kind of woman Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn't need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ has some of the best custom detailing he's ever seen. But the chemistry between them won't be denied, and soon he's introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she's ever experienced. PJ finds she can't get enough, but how far is too far before he consumes her completely?

And by the looks of it, Asa wasn’t the only one who found PJ Coleman rather delightful.

PJ took in the ridiculously badass alpha male across the room from where she and her sister had just been handed drinks at the bar.

She took note of the septum piercing and the tattoos on both arms visible from the elbows, where he had his shirtsleeves rolled up. It was necessary, for reasons of some sort, that she get a better look.
Lauren Dane serves up some steamy characters in her newest series. Her writing is as fabulous as always and her new characters and storyline will draw you in just like always. Our heroine, PJ, is strong, independent, sexy, and most of all smart and witty. PJ is how I picture any kick butt heroine and of course admire her sassy attitude and demeanor. Asa Barrons is the perfect hero to combat PJ’s sassiness! He is hot, bossy, and pierced! He is the co-owner of an elite motorcycle shop and is all that any girl like PJ could want or ask for in a man. These two amazing characters create some truly steamy scenes and add a lot of feisty dialogue into the mix. They had me laughing the whole way through. Both of them can be a bit sarcastic and all the witty banter they share is enough to prove it.

The Twisted Steel shop that Asa co-owns and works at was the perfect setting for this new series. Some books just allow a setting to really come to life and feel like home; that is what happened here. I cannot wait to revisit the shop in other books in the series. The crew that lives and works there feel like close personal friends and family. I loved being dropped right in the middle of their conversations whether they were heated and fiery or calm and relaxing. The book is full of conflict between so many of the characters and so many eventful things take place that it is hard to put this book down. I definitely cannot wait for more in this series.

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter Society

The Scarlet Letter SocietyAuthor: Mary T. McCarthy
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Polis Books

Meet Maggie, Eva, and Lisa, founders of The Scarlet Letter Society. Named as such due to their various infidelities, both physical and emotional, the “SLS” is these women’s refusal to be shamed like Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic tale of forbidden longing. Maggie is twice-divorced and juggling three lovers — one of whom is her first ex-husband. Eva is trapped in a loveless marriage and has turned to her young intern and a seductive French chef for satisfaction. Lisa dreams of one day becoming a mother, but her husband has more romantic interest in her footwear than he does in her. Once a month, these women meet at their local bookstore to discuss love, life, and literature. Through their friendships and liaisons, they attempt to gain insight into the curveballs life has thrown their way, and how each of them can find emotional and sexual fulfillment. A witty, insightful, and steamy novel about a group of women who have chosen to forge their own paths, and must deal with the ramifications of their past and present choices, The Scarlet Letter Society is for anyone who’s found their fairy tale isn’t quite what Disney had in mind.

They’re simply known as “The Scarlet Letter Society.”

The foot fetish had been a favorite topic at Scarlet Letter Society meetings. And it was funny, sort of, except for the part that it was actually happening to her.

“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread.”

Mary McCarthy’s debut novel was everything I hoped it would be. I was anticipating a guilty pleasure read when my eye ran across this novel on Goodreads, and a guilty pleasure I got! This novel tours the lives of three women who participate in a monthly book club called The Scarlet Letter Society, where they allow the story of the adulteress Hester Prynne to inspire their mission. All three of these women, Lisa, Maggie, and Eva, are having affairs outside of their marriages and they meet monthly to discuss their many issues, travesties, and small victories. The story, however, is about more than just the cheating that goes on behind the scenes, but more about the troubles that each woman faces within her own marriage. Each of them are struggling to answer questions that have long gone unanswered. This club serves as a journey for these women, and together they find out more about themselves than they ever knew to be true.

The story is full of humor and talks about big issues that many families in today’s world face. Each of the leading ladies gets to talk readers through various chapters. The alternating viewpoints was very well-written. You might find yourself automatically connecting to one of these women over the others, and you might find yourself feeling sorry for them as well. This book was so easy to breeze through and when I was done I found myself still thinking about the characters and their stories. This book is not for the faint of heart and because I know a lot of readers that do not like stories that have anything to do with cheating spouses, I tell you to proceed with caution. However, I had no issues with this book and even though I disagree with the idea of stepping outside of a marriage, the reality is that it happens every day. Mary T. McCarthy handled a very tough topic in a very professional way!

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: The Cherry Harvest

The Cherry HarvestAuthor: Lucy Sanna
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

A memorable coming-of-age story and love story, laced with suspense, which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II, when German POWs were put to work in a Wisconsin farm community . . . with dark and unexpected consequences

The war has taken a toll on the Christiansen family. With food rationed and money scarce, Charlotte struggles to keep her family well fed. Her teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to earn money for college and dreams of becoming a writer. Her husband, Thomas, struggles to keep the farm going while their son, and most of the other local men, are fighting in Europe.

When their upcoming cherry harvest is threatened, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit.

But when Thomas befriends one of the prisoners, a teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate, the implications of Charlotte’s decision become apparent—especially when she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Karl. So busy are they with the prisoners that Charlotte and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with dreams and temptations of her own—including a secret romance with the son of a wealthy, war-profiteering senator. And when their beloved Ben returns home, bitter and injured, bearing an intense hatred of Germans, Charlotte’s secrets threaten to explode their world.

“Let the record show you – you – are making a bargain with the devil.”

It wasn’t a new dream – it came with the rustling of branches, raccoons in the tree or deer in the brush below – but this time the eyes belonged to Nazi prisoners. Leering, laughing.

“When those Nazis are in your orchard, I might just come by with Papa’s rifle and shoot them out of the trees.”

Very rarely do I find a book that grabs me from the first page and does not allow me to move away until I have finished the novel. The story was so rich and vast and had me so enamored in its history and detailed language. The novel follows the Christiansen family as they face a war that is raging in Europe. They are a tight knit family living in Wisconsin, raising a cherry farm, and trying to rise above the rations and horrible news that keeps finding its way home from the war front. The cherry farm is operating without workers because so many people are off to war, so it is up to Charlotte and Thomas to ensure that the cherry farm continues in operation. All types of conflict arises when German POW’s are sent to work on the cherry farm and our main character, Charlotte, is forced to face her internal conflict and all the struggles that come along with these Nazi soldiers working right under her nose right on her family’s land.

There are so many raw emotions that will be awakened inside of you as you read this book. You will experience the struggle of family members left at home during war time and then you will experience the wounds of war when one of the Christiansen men come back home carrying all of his war burdens directly on his shoulders. This story is so engrossing and can sometimes be so honest and real at times that you fear for what people must have witnessed and experienced during World War II. I have read many novels set during WWII, but none as powerful and as moving as this fictional account. Do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in this book.

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


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