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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***

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: The Essential Marilyn Monroe

Author: Milton H. Greene
Publication Date: October 16, 2017
Publisher: ACC Art Books

Milton H. Greene (1922-1985), famous for his fashion photography and celebrity portraits from the golden age of Hollywood, met Marilyn Monroe on a photo shoot for Look magazine in 1953. The pair developed an instant rapport, quickly becoming close friends and ultimately business partners. In 1954, after helping her get out of her studio contract with 20th Century Fox, they created Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. Milton and Marilyn were much more then business partners, Marilyn became a part of the Greene family. By the time their relationship had ended in 1957, the pair had produced two feature films, in addition to more than 5,000 photographs of the iconic beauty. There was magic in Milton and Marilyn's working relationship. The trust and confidence they had in each other's capabilities was on full display in each photo.

Greene passed in 1985, thinking his life's work was succumbing to the ravages of time. His eldest son, Joshua, began a journey to meticulously restore his father's legacy. A photographer himself, Joshua spent years researching ways to restore his father's photographs as well as cataloging and promoting Milton's vast body of work all over the world. As a result, Joshua established "The Archives," a company committed to the restoration and preservation of photography. After spending nearly two decades restoring his father's archive, Joshua Greene and his company are widely regarded as one of the leaders in photographic restoration and have been at the forefront of the digital imaging and large-format printing revolution.

Now Joshua Greene, in conjunction with Iconic Images, presents The Essential Marilyn Monroe: Milton H. Greene, 50 Sessions. With over 250 photographs, including many never-before published and unseen images, newly scanned and restored classics, as well as images that have appeared only once in publication, Greene's Marilyn Monroe archive can finally be viewed as it was originally intended when these pictures were first produced more than 60 years ago. These classic sessions - 50 in all - cover Monroe at the height of her astonishing beauty and meteoric fame. From film-sets to the bedroom, at home and at play, Joshua has curated a lasting tribute to the work of a great photographer and his greatest muse.

Poignant and powerful, joyful and stunning - these breath-taking images of an icon stand above all the rest and The Essential Marilyn Monroe: Milton H. Greene, 50 Sessions will sure to be a book that will become the platinum standard in photography monographs.

Although known as the world’s premiere sex symbol, Marilyn was serious about developing her skills as an actor.

These photos show a side of Marilyn rarely seen by the public: the young freckle-faced star sans makeup.

Marilyn hated wearing high heels. Her personal preference was to go barefoot or to wear a simple pair of flats. 

Let’s be honest. There is one thing we can probably all agree on; Marilyn Monroe is one of the greatest icons to have ever lived. This book is lavish and luxurious and everything else that you would expect. Marilyn Monroe fills these beautifully matte pages like the sun fills the sky: effervescent and spellbindingly. I have always been entranced by Marilyn’s life, the photos I see, her films, and the secrets surrounding her that could never quite stay behind closed doors. This book features jaw-dropping photos that I have never seen, and trust me, I thought I had seen them all. Marilyn is characterized in so many different ways throughout these pages; she can be seen laughing in pure candid fashion, she can be seen in a childish pose that allows readers to see her truly beautiful personality, and she can of course be seen posing as the sexy trendsetter that we all know her for today.

The classic photography that adorns the pages of this book is spectacular; it carries a sense of nostalgia that is so often missing from popular photography today. This book is going to lovingly sit atop my coffee table and I hope many who enter my home are as entranced by its pages as I was. If you are a true Marilyn Monroe fan or love the transcending style of classic photography, this is beautifully bound book is a must have for your collection.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish

Author: Liv Constantine
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Harper

The mesmerizing debut about a coolly manipulative woman and a wealthy "golden couple," from a stunning new voice in psychological suspense.
Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve.

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

And she hoped that tomorrow night, there would be more fireworks than the ones in the sky.

That was the first time I saw it – that little smile that played at his lips, and the look in his eyes that read Victory.

She wanted to be very much out in the open, to be Mrs. Jackson Parrish.

Amber was already unzipping her skirt as she heard the lock click.

Lately I have been all about the thriller novels! Not only is it perfect for Halloween, but I would be completely and utterly shocked if Hollywood does not pick up this story for the big screen. Y’all, I am sitting here gushing out loud about what I just finished reading. I am so in love with this story and how it kept my attention the entire time. The characters were unreliable yet believable and enchanting yet repulsive. Amber is our leading lady and the character that causes all the drama. She comes to this quaint town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut and decides she has had enough of her ordinary, mundane life. She sets her sights on the elusive Daphne Parrish and soon wants everything that Daphne has, including her husband Jackson. There are subtle hints from the very beginning that Daphne is running from something and could have mental health issues or a dangerous past.

I love books like this one that feel like you are sitting and having a good ole’ gossip sesh with your best friend. It is a quick read and will be perfect for a chilly autumn day or a day laying in the sun on the beach. Small secrets are revealed as the plot unravels; some I expected, but some I never saw coming. Amber is understandably very distasteful; I mean she is trying to steal someone’s husband, but she also has a quality about her that makes you want to trust her or pity her. It’s like as the reader you know and can sense that she is crazy and a psychopath, but you still want to be her friend. This book was a perfect little segue into a week of Halloween/thrillerish reads for me!

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

Book Review: What Can I Bring?

Author: Elizabeth Heiskell
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Oxmoor House

Become one of the most sought-after guests in your circle and be asked back time-after-time with a little bit of help from Elizabeth Heiskell.

It is usually the first question you ask after receiving an invitation to a gathering or event: "What Can I Bring?" Now you'll have the answer! Based on the popular monthly feature "What Can I Bring?" in Southern Living magazine, no matter what the occasion, you'll have the perfect dish. From housewarming party to garden party, a new baby, a wake, a wedding, christening or anything in between, Elizabeth delivers over 100 delicious recipes, including appetizers, mains, sandwiches, desserts and more, that are sure to please a crowd, no matter how big or small. Additionally, these are all dishes that can be prepared in advance and travel well.

But let's not forget the most important question: What can I bring to my own table? Whether you're looking for some new ideas for dinners to please a fractious family or want to make Sunday brunch a more special event, What Can I Bring? has you covered.

Recipes include Elizabeth's take on Sour Cream Coffee Cake (perfect for welcoming a new neighbor!), delicious salads - Chicken, Shrimp, and Pimiento (you won't go wrong at the church picnic), amazing sides, including Lemon Rice and Spoon Bread (perfect for rounding out the potluck table), and comfort food that no one will be able to say no to, including Vegetable Beef Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, and Chicken and Dumplings, plus an array of desserts so good that that's the only thing people will remember about the meal.

Above all, these are all delicious dishes, served straight from the heart, with no stress required.

When a friend invites you to a party, it’s an ingrained response to ask, “What can I bring?” and most times the response will be, “I have it all taken care of.” That doesn’t mean don’t bring anything. It just shouldn’t be something the host feels compelled to serve that evening. These recipes can be set aside or set out, depending on the host’s preference. Either way, you’ll impress.

“I like to died the first time I put these fried deliciousness in my mother.”

Yes, I know, I know. This recipe uses instant pudding and a box cake mix. Don’t judge me. Sometimes I’m in a hurry and need something quick and easy. This is a cake you can take to a friend who’s going through a hard time or the one that you forgot was going through a hard time months ago. Always better late than never! And no one will know it wasn’t made from scratch.

This book was so beautiful and filled with such rich and inviting images that I often forgot that what I was reading was actually a cookbook. The cookbook definitely has a southern theme and all of the food is your typical southern fare but with a little added flair – Sausage, Eggs, and Grits Soufflé, Pound Cake with Fresh Peaches & Cream, and Mississippi Mud Brownies...just to name a few. A lot of the recipes that are shared in this book are a bit healthier than us true southerners are used to. The book features tons of appealing images to enhance the recipes and to show what a finished/fully prepared and dressed plate could look like. This book would be the perfect gift or edition to someone’s home that loves to cook, entertain, or enjoys reading cookbooks.

The absolute best part of this book was the small anecdotes that accompanied each recipe. The author put a lot of time into writing and sharing her experiences with each recipe and much care went into grouping the recipes into different sections of the book like “Moving Day”, “Under the Weather”, and “Dinner with Friends”. There are several different sections in the cookbook and a small write up introduces each section and gives a slight explanation of what readers can expect to see next. This cookbook is not gluten free or fat free; I felt like I need to make this clear even though most people associate southern cooking with lots of salt, sugar, and saturated fats! The 3 S’s! This book will be a perfect gift for the upcoming holiday season.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: Dream Spaces

Author: Victoria Hagan
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Rizzoli

Breathtaking new interiors from this iconic designer, called “the reigning queen of restrained elegance”

In her much-anticipated second book, Victoria Hagan features an exquisite selection of new interiors that embody the “soft modern” look that distinguishes her work.  A major force in the design community, Hagan is the master of juxtaposing old and new, showing luxury through simplicity, and creating homes that reflect their owners’ lives.

In these appealing, timeless projects—including a New York penthouse, a Nantucket beach house, and a Western ranch—formal architecture is loosened up with a generosity of spirit and an appreciation for the whimsies of style. Throughout, Hagan discourses on the spirit of the unexpected detail—a vintage mirror or a unique chair—that adds soul and modernity. After twenty-five years of running a successful business, she shares her philosophy on attaining good taste and expressing an attitude through her work.

Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces is a beautiful and inspiring collection of this design superstar’s work and a must for every interior design library.

You can’t always compete with nature, but you can at least try to create the perfect collaboration.

I am so associated with interiors that people are often surprised to find out that one of my greatest passions is not even indoors. It’s outside: nature. When I look out and see almost nothing but water and sky, that’s heaven. I adore the color and light, unpredictably changing all day long.

To me, walking the line between contemporary and vintage, familiar and unexpected, is a crucial part of executing the perfect getaway. I don’t want to just give people an escape; I want to give them ways for their minds to wander once they get there.

These interiors designed by Victoria Hagan are bold, clean, modern, and completely breathtaking. Hagan showcases her amazing versatility by including interiors from places all over like New York, Nantucket, and even shows off some of her western charm. She goes from clean, white spaces to cozy log cabin interiors and everything that she designs looks inviting and charismatic. Many of the images included in the book show windows with beautiful views that allow readers to fantasize and image themselves traveling the world and visiting this luxurious locations.

A lot of the interiors shown in this book are open and full of space, allowing me to imagine living in a space like this myself. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of design because of the appreciation I had for all the small details in the rooms. The fresh white flowers on the nightstand, the towels placed adorningly near the bathroom sink, and even the firewood stacked neatly by the fireplace. Anyone looking for inspiration or ideas for their own dream space or home will find solace flipping through the pages of this book. I wrote down so many ideas and my husband and I spent an hour or more discussing many of the images that we fell in love with for our own dream home.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Scribner

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

“Baloney,” he said, kissing her again. “You were having the time of your life.”

She heard the muffled jingle of coins in his trouser pockets. His hand was a socket she affixed hers to always, wherever they went, even when she didn’t care to. Anna stopped walking, stunned by the power of these impressions. Without thinking, she lifted her fingers to her face, half expecting the warm, bitter smell of his tobacco.

“Some men find it a bitter pill to swallow, working for me,” Styles said. “They don’t like the change in times.”

What a feast of a book! Such beautiful and lyrical words jump off the page from the first sentence to the last. This is a lovely, gorgeously-written book that effectively interweaves three separate but connected characters, each with their own stories, all tied to the desire for reinvention. Manhattan Beach is a historical novel that tells the story of Anna, a young woman who works at a naval yard during World War II with a fierce determination to be a professional diver. It is also the story of her father, Eddie, a man who seeks out opportunities on the edges of organized crime to do work that is more or less legal and Dexter Styles the quasi-legit gangster he works for. But this is not a story about organized crime. Set in New York City during the Great Depression and the early years of the Second World War, this historical setting will appeal to fans of any world war setting. Egan’s look at a woman’s place in this world is what made it such a phenomenal read for me!

The quality of the writing is brilliant, as mentioned earlier. Egan manages to make Manhattan Beach a reality for readers, transporting them there through words, descriptions, and vivid use of imagery. Her characters come alive, although I was always hoping for more emphasis to be solely placed on Anna, an exquisite and fully developed character. The heroine is fascinating, standing out not only for her quest to become a diver, but for her strength to build her own life away from the confines of what is to be expected from a “woman” in this era. Egan’s portrayal of the work happening on the home front while a war is waging elsewhere, is inspiring and truly factual. Her research and care with these topics is evident and appreciated by readers.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs

Author: Sophie Donelson
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

From the country’s most popular interior design magazine comes a stylish, in-depth look at what it takes to make any room beautiful. House Beautiful Style Essentials: What Every Room Needs is an inspiring and hardworking handbook that shows readers how to create the rooms of their dreams by revealing what “every room needs.” Chapters like “Every Room Needs a Hiding Place” provide clever ideas for storage and organization, while sections like “Every Room Needs Something Shiny” give examples of how reflective surfaces can enhance and enlarge any space. Simple yet elegant advice from some of the biggest names in the interiors world is paired throughout with stunning photography of the best and most beautiful rooms featured in the magazine. From a room’s overall look and color down to its smallest details, House Beautiful Style Secrets provides tips, tricks, and secrets on how to cultivate a comfortable home and uncover the potential of every living space.

All the colors in the world are out there waiting, it just takes a bit of magic to bring them out.

Why can’t it be all about you?

Touch is literally the most sensual of senses. Don’t neglect it. Whether underfoot, beneath your hand, or caressing your cheek. Texture makes a connection.

There is COLOR on EVERY page and I am in love. This book and all its wonderful interiors showcase so many different styles, attitudes, and ideas. I was immersed right from the start and tabbed so many pages to come back to for a more extensive look. I absolutely LOVE how the book is organized. Each new section starts with “every room needs” and then fills in the phrase with things like “grand gesture”, “a splash of unexpected color”, among many others. Everything was so well organized and easy to follow. The pictures were beautiful and eye-catching. A lot of the rooms that were showcased held several wonderful pieces and I found myself going over a room three or four times before flipping the page.

The captions and writing on various pages were informative and explanatory as related to the room they referred to. The patterns and fabrics showcased were vibrant and varied in style, texture, and color. I never ran out of things to compliment in each room. This book would be perfect for anyone who has a love for interior design, someone who wants to admire and take in the latest trends, or anyone who is looking to spice up their own living space and needs a few recommendations. I am completely mesmerized by all this book has to offer and am excited for others to share in this experience with me.

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


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