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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, November 20, 2017

Book Review: It's All Relative

Author: A.J. Jacobs
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.”

A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”

That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history.

Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.

“Whether he’s posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs” (Entertainment Weekly). Now Jacobs upends, in ways both meaningful and hilarious, our understanding of genetics and genealogy, tradition and tribalism, identity and connection. It’s All Relative is a fascinating look at the bonds that connect us all.

Family is complicated.

“So many of the families nowadays are so bizarre and so dysfunctional or so made up, so nontraditional. Maybe that’s the best word. Nontraditional.”

I wish my brain had a bigger cerebral cortex.

My social security number has been used countless times by countless companies and government entries. It’s no secret either, I guess.

This book is really something different for me and my blog, but here I am to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised and loved every minute of A.J. Jacobs’ story and journey through his genealogy. In the past year or so, I have really gotten into learning and researching my own family tree and I think this is ultimately what led me to request this book. This book is addictive, fascinating, and will really expand your world.  If you want to read a funny, refreshing, sometimes painfully honest (yet still funny) account of families and the foibles of family history read this book. Lots of research has gone into this book, and it is appreciated by this reader.

With the combination of humor and brilliant research, do I really need to sell you more on this book? It's a fun, fast read that mixes wit and scientific research behind why humanity came into being and how we are all really related. There were so many moments while reading that I paused and considered just how much the phrase “life is a mystery” is a reality that many of us do not ponder often enough. This book will enlighten you as much as it entertains you.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: Every Breath You Take

Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Series: An Under Suspicion Novel

“Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke are back with their fourth book in the New York Times bestselling Under Suspicion series; Every Breath You Take follows television producer’s Laurie Moran investigation of the unsolved Met Gala murder—in which a wealthy widow was pushed to her death from the famous museum’s rooftop.

Laurie Moran’s professional life is a success—her television show Under Suspicion is a hit, both in the ratings and its record of solving cold cases. But her romantic break from former host Alex Buckley has left her with on-air talent she can’t stand—Ryan Nichols—and a sense of loneliness, despite her loving family.

Now Ryan has suggested a new case. Three years ago, Virginia Wakeling, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the museum’s most generous donors, was found in the snow, after being thrown from the museum’s roof on the night of its most celebrated fundraiser, the Met Gala. The leading suspect then and now is her much younger boyfriend and personal trainer, Ivan Gray.

Ivan runs a trendy, successful boutique gym called Punch—a business funded in no small part by the late Virginia—which happens to be the gym Ryan frequents. Laurie’s skepticism about the case is upended by a tip from her father’s NYPD connection, and soon Laurie realizes there are a bevy of suspects—including Virginia’s trusted inner circle.

As the Under Suspicion crew pries into the lives of a super wealthy real estate family with secrets to hide, danger mounts for several witnesses—and for Laurie.

Virginia Wakeling had fallen – or been thrown – from the roof of the museum.

“Good luck with your show, Laurie. My biggest regret of my career is not going up to the roof with Mrs. Wakeling. I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night, picturing her falling.”

“Thank you so much, Laurie, for your time and for keeping an open mind,” he said. “It means so much to me.” This time, when he shook her hand, the grip was tight enough to burn.

I have never read a Mary Higgins Clark novel that did not keep me completely satisfied from start to finish. The murder in this novel is from three years ago and finally wraps up Laurie’s personal story and even though we had to wait until this book to find it, I must say that it was worth the wait. I often feel that I have read so many murder and mystery books that it is sometimes hard to stump me, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I was guessing at the murder/killer the entire time. I am so easily captivated by books like this that make you turn the pages so quickly and hate that the book is coming to an end.

The suspense created through Laurie’s search for all the answers was the best part of this book. Laurie is one of my favorite mystery leading ladies because of her subtly “real” nature. After reading about her, I feel that we are friends and honestly, these are the best characters to follow. Her character has grown and changed, in my opinion, and over the course of a series, it rightly should. I have read several of Mary’s books and I will continue reading them as long as she keeps writing them.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: In The Midst of Winter

Author: Isabel Allende
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books

New York Times and worldwide bestselling “dazzling storyteller” (Associated Press) Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

In the days of when Richard lived in Rio de Janeiro, people drank as a matter of course. It was a social obligation, part of the culture, a necessity at every meeting, even business ones, a comfort on a rainy evening or at a hot noon, a stimulus for political discussion, and a cure for a cold, sadness, frustrated love, or a disappointment in soccer.

In the meantime, the streets and beaches of the erotic city of Rio de Janeiro teemed with life. In February, the hottest month, people went around almost naked. Beautiful, youthful, tanned, sweating bodies; bodies and more bodies on exuberant display.

The young woman who Richard was never to forget was not one of the most beautiful of the girls he met during those caipirinha nights, but she was lively, with an uninhibited laugh, and keen to try whatever she was offered.

No one asked her about the years she had been away, no one wanted to know where she had been or what her life had been like. That parenthesis in her existence was completely erased.

“In the Midst of Winter” is an extraordinarily enjoyable novel, beautifully written, about three people brought together for a few days due to a snowstorm. Through a compelling mix of history, mystery, romance and humor, Allende emphasizes the resilience of the human spirit, as her characters transform from their histories of tragedy to their futures of love, hope and humanity. The narrative shifts between three main characters. Richard Bowmaster is a 60 year old human rights scholar that has recruited 62 year old Lucia Maraz, a lecturer from Chile, to his university. Evelyn Ortega is an undocumented Guatamalan refugee that works as a domestic. This novel surrounds themes of love, friendship, family, and the things that bind us. Allende’s prose is lyrical, as always, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors to read because of her ability to weave multiple story lines into one beautiful tale. The book tackled topics like aging and what that means to us, immigration and the struggles that are associated with it, and lastly, our hope through it all. The story is moving and completely heart wrenching at time; each character is carrying something that wears them down and the story follows how they finally deal with it and are relieved when the burdens are lifted. This book is perfect for the upcoming winter season, as it is set during a huge snowstorm and it is also very relevant because of all the information in our news about immigrants and refugees in the past few years. I am already looking forward to re-reading this uplifting story.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review: Grace Kelly Hollywood Dream Girl

Author: Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman
Publication Date: October 24, 2017
Publisher: Dey Street Books

The definitive visual biography of Grace Kelly’s unforgettable Hollywood career, chronicled in 400 extraordinary black-and white and color photographs, including many never-before-seen.

"Mr. Hitchcock taught me everything about cinema. It was thanks to him that I understood that murder scenes should be shot like love scenes and love scenes like murder scenes."—Grace Kelly

No movie star of the 1950s was more beautiful, sophisticated, or glamorous than Grace Kelly. The epitome of elegance, the patrician young blonde from Philadelphia conquered Hollywood and won an Academy Award for Best Actress in just six years, then married a prince in a storybook royal wedding. Today, more than thirty years after her death, Grace Kelly remains an inspiring fashion icon.

Filled with a dazzling array of photographs, many from original negatives, Grace Kelly showcases the legend’s brief yet significant acting career as never before. Blending pictures and memorabilia, this breathtaking compendium traces every step of her artistic journey, including her early television appearances, her breakout role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952), her exceptional collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock on her most indelible films—Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland (1954), Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart (1954), and To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant (1955)—and her performance in the musical High Society (1956) alongside Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

A stunning gallery of more than 400 prized and rare photographs and illustrations—precious childhood snapshots, previously unpublished Edith Head and Helen Rose wardrobe sketches, original portraits, scene stills, on-set candids, wardrobe test shots, vintage magazine covers, and rare reproductions of exhibitor’s showmanship manuals showing how film studios marketed Grace Kelly as a star—Grace Kelly captures this beloved luminary’s eternal beauty as never before, and is a fresh, celebratory look at her remarkable career and her enduring cultural influence.

“I think the thing that most people forget is that when all of this is happening to Grace, this extraordinary excitement about her career being generated and roles with the world’s most famous leading men and the world’s most respected directors, she was just a girl in her early twenties.”

“Grace had a lot of beaus and boyfriends who were actors and human beings, dress designers and this and that. But there wasn’t this one person who could fulfill this childhood image that a great many of us have about wanting that one man in our life to be special – and really to be the old prince on the white charger.”

“There was an innate aristocracy – elegance – about her. Not only in comportment and manners, but also in thinking and being. It has been a cliché to say that Grace Kelly looked like a princess. But she did.”

“Grace, without any direction, she just went over, climbed up the fire escape, climbed in one of the windows and sneaked into the door and then looked over across the way to Hitchcock and said ‘Is that what you mean?’…She seemed to know the movements before Hitchcock had anything to say about it.”

This has to be the most comprehensive book covering Grace Kelly’s life and career that I have ever read. I have read and enjoyed a few other film books written by Jay Jorgensen, so of course I had to check this one out as well. Grace Kelly was an iconic lady and rivals others like Audrey Hepburn. She had a sophisticated air and flair to her and was loved by many who followed her stardom. I must admit that I do not follow Grace Kelly’s films like I follow and admire Marilyn Monroe’s or Audrey Hepburn’s, but after reading this book I cannot wait to view more of her films. Jay Jorgensen’s work is inspirational and really does Grace Kelly justice in all aspects of her life.

The book is strategically and chronologically organized and tracks Grace throughout many momentous periods of her life. Full of incredibly rare photos, with her Hitchcock films receiving feature content, this fantastic book is a must for Hitchcock fans, movie fashion historians, and anyone who loves a high quality book on Hollywood’s glorious past. The small snippets that were written about her movies, her love life, and how she was perceived by the media were very informative and the quotes that were shared by others about her were poetic and so eloquently written. Many people had such wonderful things to say about Grace Kelly and it was so heartwarming and powerful to read.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review: The It Girls

Author: Karen Harper
Publication Date: October 24, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow

From New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper comes a novel based on the lives of two amazing sisters . . .

One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire . . .

The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world . . .

Together, they were unstoppable.

They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.

Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.

Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.
But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.

Yes, after being abandoned by one man and losing another to death, she would be married only to her passion for design from now on.

And, for one mad, shattering moment, there was no one or no thing in the world besides this man she loved.

Elinor had cheekily claimed she felt she had “It” when she lying nearly naked on her most recent tiger skin. Today, Lucile felt she had “It,” too.

Beginning in 1875 and spanning several decades, The It Girls by Karen Harper is a fictionalized novel about real life sisters, Lucy (Lucile) & Elinor (Nellie) Sutherland. This is an intriguing novel that begins in 1875 and continues several decades into the early twentieth century, covering the Great War (WWI) and a few years beyond. The theme of this novel is very much about the idea and bond of sisterhood. Karen Harper has woven together an intricate story about these two sisters who lived lives that were very out of the ordinary for the time period. They were supporting themselves financially, were unmarried, and were breaking other gender norms. They were truly ahead of their time.

The sisters suffer through a tragedy together; Harper takes readers on an interesting journey as their lives progress after the sinking of the Titanic. The sisters are complicated, complex, and very competitive; wealth and success are very important to both of them and it often gets in between them and causing family problems. Because the sisters are so self-centered and ambitious, the drama is high and it makes for an intense reading experience. Harper paints an accurate picture of the historical times, which further adds to the extremity of the sisters and their need to defy all odds set against them. I loved the glamorous, glitzy settings and lifestyles that are portrayed, and I recommend The It Girls to anyone who loves historical fiction or reading about strong, intellectual women who break tradition and find their own place in society.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Review: Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast

Author: Hamish Bowles & Chloe Malle
Publication Date: October 24, 2017
Publisher: Knopf

A stunning new collection of beautiful houses and gardens that have appeared in the pages of Vogue over the last decade, with more than 400 full-color photographs. 

Lavishly illustrated, Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast is an irresistible look at some of the most spectacular houses and gardens whose owners come from the worlds of fashion, design, art and society to be published as a book for the first time.

Here is Tory Burch’s stylish and informal Southampton estate, Lauren and Andres Santo Domingo’s glamorous duplex in Paris, Dries Van Noten’s romantic house and garden in Belgium, Alexa and Trevor Traina’s dramatic and colorful San Francisco house, Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber’s lakeside Canadian cabin, shoe maestro Bruno Frisoni and designer Hervé Van der Straeten’s modern house in the heart of Tangier, Stella McCartney’s grand English country garden, Olya and Charles Thompson’s richly patterned Brooklyn house, and the old-world Wilshire estate of Gela Nash-Taylor and Duran Duran’s John Nash Taylor and many more. 

These breathtaking houses and gardens have been photographed by such celebrated photographers as François Halard, Oberto Gili,  Mario Testino and Bruce Weber among others; such writers as Hamish Bowles, Joan Juliet Buck, Plum Sykes, Jonathan Van Meter and Chloe Malle give you an intimate view of the owners and how they live. This book is a look at some of the world’s most iconic houses and gardens—not only rich in ideas for all readers but a resource and inspiration for designers, architects, and landscape architects as well.

As the pages of this book reveal, interior designers quote from the past just as fashion designers have – sometimes with academic reverence, other times with soaring imagination.

In their eclecticism and diversity, these lifestyle portfolios not only reflect the very different personalities of the people who created and live in these environments, but also hold a mirror to the fast-changing times and the fashion and societal trends that Vogue – and more recently its website, too – has reflected so potently across the years.

What a difference a decade makes.

Firstly, I loved the diversity of this book. Readers will get to travel from the country to the city and then to the coast, just as the title implies. The photographs showcase a vast array of beautiful homes, landscapes, and the people that populate and created them. The people’s lives that are showcased in this breathtaking book are famous and well-known for many different reasons, and a look into their worlds is sure to entice and enrapture all readers. A look into Cindy Crawford’s home and lifestyle was by far my favorite section of this book. Her home in Ontario was picturesque and inviting. There is a full page photo of her children jumping from a huge boulder near her home; the feeling communicated in these pages is cozy and completely down to earth, something one might not expect from the life of this famous supermodel.

The images are exasperating and breathtaking. There are hundreds and hundreds of images that showcase the insides of brilliant homes and their architecture and design, images of lavish and lush gardens, and images of the notably remarkable people who inhabit them. Going back to the diversity that was mentioned above, readers will feel a sense of having witnessed every design and architectural style after reading over this book. Some homes were cozy and remote, some were modern and completely ahead of their time, some were traditional, while others had a rather Victorian feel to them. I greatly enjoyed seeing the different tastes of these monumental people.  

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: A Secret Sisterhood

Author: Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Co-authors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.

Through letters and diaries that have never been published before, A Secret Sisterhood resurrects these forgotten stories of female friendships. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always—until now—tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

As writers today, we know that we owe a great debt to the lives and works of female authors of the past.

In their friendships, these women overcame differences in worldly success and social class, as well as personal schisms and public scandal.

In piecing together the lost stories of these four trailblazing pairs, we have found alliances that were sometimes illicit, scandalous, and volatile; sometimes supportive, radical, or inspiring – but, until now, tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

This literary treat of a book examines some of the fabulous female friendships that spurred the lives of some of the most well-known female authors like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf – just to name a few. However, do not be misled by the front cover of the book; these women did not have personal relationships with one another, as most were not even of the same time. The authors of this book focus on telling readers about the support systems these women formed while trying to make a breakthrough as a female in the writing world. I am sure that this book will excite all types of literary lovers, especially new authors.

The information in this book has been well researched and is all the more relevant because the authors are also best friends and worked together to create something to promote and display the need for friendship. It's important to see the effect of gifted women on each other through the ages, reaching out to each other and encouraging one another. In this way, Midorikawa and her co-author Emma Claire Sweeney, have made an important contribution to discussing the works of these much studied writers. The material was fascinating and a lot of the research shown here was information that I have never ran across before in my studies of some of these authors. I was totally fascinated and walked away feeling like I had learned so much!

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


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