Review: Next Year in Havana (Blog Tour)

Next Year in Havana.jpgAfter the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a familysecret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

February 6, 2018
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction

AbtrennungStarting this book, I didn’t know much about the history of Cuba or even its culture. Chanel Cleeton makes sure that you are going to pick up so many pieces of Cuba along the way of reading the book. Alternating between Marisol’s POV — the present — as well as Elisa‘s POV, as a reader, you are instantly drawn into two worlds. One, the one of Marisol, seems to be carefree and somewhat melancholic. As a member of the Perez family, she never had much to worry about; it isn’t until her grandmother’s death however that she is catapulted back into her family’s history. Traveling back to Cuba, a place she only knows from stories, she can finally see the country of her dreams for herself — only  to realize that there are so many layers of Cuba.
Something that really surprised me was the author’s realistic approach to the situation in present Cuba, as well as the political undertone to the book. Chanel Cleeton draws a perfect picture of the many facets of Cuba, vividly painting its lush, lively culture and twisted history, and she sure did an amazing job in making the setting as authentic as possible.

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Book Talk with Tessi: THE FALLEN PRINCE

TFP RWB Banner.jpg

I am more than THRILLED to be part of the blog tour in celebration of Amalie Howard’s The Fallen Prince book release! In case you didn’t know, TFP is the second book in The Riven Chronicles, following The Almost Girl which I liked very much.


There is barely any book out there that has left me with such mixed feelings. While the book did not exactly trigger one rollercoaster ride of emotions in me, it still left me breathless in the end. Oh, and can I just say how fascinated I am by the world Howard created?

But let me start from the beginning.

The book picks up about one year after where the story left off, but since no major changes have happened since, Riven is still on the run to find her father. Having read The Almost Girl almost two years ago already, I found it rather hard to get back into the story after such a long time. Of course there were some things that I still remembered from The Almost Girl such as Riven being a badass fighter/assassin or her inner struggles after the loss of many loved ones; nonetheless I did wish the book would have provided some memory aids especially in the first one or two chapters.
Unlike the first book, The Fallen Prince focuses on more serious themes than the first one. It revolves more around the question of how human Riven is rather than on how willing she is to save herself and her loved ones. You can tell that Riven has matured a lot by gaining more responsibility and empathy instead of focusing on her senses only. I often wished however that she would have just let her stubbornness go instead of keeping all of her anger to herself. That probably would have made the plot more exciting since the first half of the book was pretty predictable to me. There were times where she reminded me more of an unforgiving attack dog than a badass fighter but after all she has been betrayed by a lot of people.
We are also introduced to new characters who — like the other secondary characters — came a little too flat in the beginning. Maybe it is inevitable due to the book’s technology theme, but it sometimes felt that the book’s atmosphere was too clinical, leaving not a lot of space for emotions and big character developments.

On the romantic side, Caden and Riven are obviously still hot for each other (like really hot!) but again, I sometimes felt that Riven’s voice drifted too much to that of little whiny girl again. Caden is one of the few characters who can make her self-conscious, but instead of admitting to all of her feelings, she decides to let rationality run over emotions. This of course made Riven a fiercer and determined character but it also turned the book more into a one (wo)man show — which is not necessarily bad but it might have allowed more space for the secondary characters. (Note: I love badass heroines. Riven is a perfect example of why you only need yourself to be strong, but love can make you even stronger!)
Then on the other hand, I often asked myself if I would have acted differently if my DNA has been altered and changed. It always raised the question on how far scientists would go in order to create the perfect fighter.
However the book still follows a very fast-paced plot so the reader is literally thrown back into the story with no time to question small details. The last hundred pages or so are so worth of the reader’s patience. It didn’t fail to surprise me with new twists, more action-packed scenes, intrigues, new betrayals. You know what makes a good villain? If the villain has a deep motive to be evil and is convinced that whatever he does, it is for the good. The way they were shaped in the book — so three-dimensional — I couldn’t help but admire the author’s evil genius brain for coming up with such huge plot twists.

Overall, I still find it hard to give a proper review on the book without revealing too much. The book showed pieces of the best but also of the worst of humanity, making it so much more than ‘just’ a YA scifi book. Also, the world-building was the perfect blend of technology, scifi and fantasy. While there weren’t any dragging parts in the book, the first half of the book was still very predictable and foreseeable. However, the questions that were raised throughout the book — how far can science go? What makes a human human? — make up for the little ‘flaws’ in the story, adding a deeper meaning to the whole story. If you are looking for a book that is one of its kind, this one is for you.

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terTHE FALLEN PRINCE - coverms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the
rightful ruler of
Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for hiscrimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself.

Get the book here, here, here, here or here.

Amalie Howard - headshot

AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 25 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts.She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national silver IPPY medalist. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, THE LORDS OF ESSEX. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.

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[Bloggeraktion]: Essenz der Götter aka #TeamDivinus

Gestern Morgen erhielt ich eine mysteriösen Brief der ungefähr so aussah:


(Um ehrlich zu sein, sah er genauso aus)

Nun, Martina Riemer hat sich zum Start ihres neues Buches “Essenz der Götter” eine tolle Bloggeraktion ausgedacht: Es wurden Briefe verschickt, in denen ihr eurer Bestimmung folgen könnt und ich bin stolz, verkünden zu können, im Team der Divinus zu sein!!


Wenn du auch den Ruf der Götter gehört hast und die Essenz in dir spürst, dann bist du bei uns genau richtig! Wir sind die Divinus – Nachkommen der Götter und gewillt dich in unsere Reihen aufzunehmen! Einzige Voraussetzung: Ein Blogger müsst ihr sein! Auch die Titanus – Nachkommen der Titanen versuchen ihre Reihen zu füllen. Doch wir wissen das zu verhindern, denn auf das Gewinnerteam warten unglaublicher Ruhm und natürlich tolle Gewinne. Z.B. das:


Was müsst ihr tun, um auch ein Divinus zu werden?
  • Verfasse einfach einen Blogpost, in welchem du zu erkennen gibst, dass du auch ein Divinus bist
  • Meld dich mit dem dazugehörigen Link an mich zurück, entweder in den Kommentaren oder per Mail (tessireysiia @

Hättest du gerne noch mehr Infos zum Buch und der Blogger Aktion? Dann schau doch bei Martina, der lieben Autorin von Essenz der Götter vorbei oder besuche die Haupttrainerin der Divinus: Katja. (Diesen Satz habe ich überhaupt nicht schamlos von Nina @ book:blossom übernommen.)

Ich hoffe sehr, dass viele Divinus den Ruf der Götter folgen werden und die Essenz in sich spüren, damit wir bald den Titanus zahlenmäßig überlegen sind! Also:

Sei ein Divinus und mach uns stolz!


Review: Into the Fire


Title: Into the Fire

Publication date: September 9, 2014

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Ashelyn Drake

ITF-CoverSeventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | iBooks
Into the Fire

AbtrennungThere are books that start off slow but turn out to be a real page-turner, and there are books like Into the Fire that start off with a BANG and still manage to keep you engrossed throughout the story.
Cara’s rebirth is getting closer which means she cannot afford to let new people into her life, especially boys like Logan. See her brother, Jeremy, who has just undergone his own rebirth — within minutes he has forgotten all about their close relationship. The pain that not only Cara, but also her family felt was almost seizable and it was seriously gut-wrenching seeing her helplessly watching her brother re-navigating in life again. Actually, the worst thing she could do is imprinting on a boy — but it happens and I really felt the cruelty and irony in falling heads over heels in love.
I’m usually not into those stories where a girl is torn between duty to her family and love, but in this book, each emotion is real, true to the MC’s life and background, both raw and edgy. I did not just know what emotions Cara felt, I lived them. I was able to empathize with her anger as well as her confusion although her relationship toher mother could have been better developed for my taste: I clearly saw that her mother meant well but some passages just felt too overblown — I mean I sometimes just wanted to jump up and tell them to speak with each other instead of avoiding confrontations. Nonetheless, Ashelyn Drake managed to bring the characters to life in a way that left me thinking about them long after I have finished the book.

Also, the book is told from dual POV which I really did not expect, namely Cara’s and Logan’s POVs. Both voices were so refreshing to read although I do have to say I enjoyed Logan’s voice slightly better. There is just something about the sarcasm and bluntness in the way he thinks and speaks. Cara’s voice has a sadder and more melancholy shade which clearly fits the plot, and it was so much fun seeing her loosen up in front of Logan. You just feel the chemistry between them, why they can’t keep their hands off from each other, and adding Drake’s casual writing style to that it was just the perfect love story I needed to read.

I do, however, have to say that the book’s focus is more on the romance than on the mythical phoenix aspect which was a little bit disappointing for a mythology geek like me. The thing is, the book felt more like a contemporary book for me and is strongly based on the characters’ development whereas the world building somewhat lacked in detail and originality. I know it sounds a little bit contradictive to what I have said before, and to do the book justice, I really did not feel bored for a second while I was reading the book, nor did I feel the urge to skip some pages. Nonetheless, I really would have liked to learn more about the phoenix mythology although we do get to know the “basics”, aka reincarnation etc..
That being said, I do have to say I really enjoyed the way the author embraced the mythology by creating the hunter theme and thus increasing the tension in the book: There are phoenix hunters who are on the prowl to kill people like Cara’s family to “steal” their life times.

The pacing in the last few pages was seriously mind-blowing and as unpredictable as a rollercoaster ride. I wished the same fast-paced action had happened earlier since I felt almost overwhelmed by the huge number of twists in the last few chapters as well as the ENORMOUS cliffhanger, but I did enjoy reading the ending though. Nonetheless, I really would not have minded it if there would have been a clearer answer to Cara’s phoenix conflict, especially since many actions at the end of the book felt a little bit too rashed and pressed, leaving many questions unanswered. The ending does however perfectly reflect the wonderfully developed dynamics of Cara and Logan’s relationship and I was surprised how Ashelyn stayed true to Logan’s sarcastic voice despite the dramatic situation.

Ashelyn Drake’s writing is commanding and stunning — I could not pull myself away from the book’s hypnotic grasp. While I would not exactly call the book’s plot “innovative”, the book is a unique twist on the phoenix theme though, making Into the Fire an exhilarating and refreshing novel and ultimately, an unforgettable read!



Ashelyn DrakeAshelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some drk chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway on this blog tour!

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Author Guest Post: A Whispered Darkness by Vanessa Barger


Title: A Whispered Darkness

Publication date: August 26, 2014

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Vanessa Barger

A-Whispered-Darkness-CoverWhen Claire Mallory’s father leaves, her mom moves them to a new town and into a dilapidated Victorian house.The old house creaks and whistles, and smells well — like it’s been abandoned for years. But as the nights grow longer and the shadows take on substance, Claire wonders if the strange sounds and occurrences might be more than the house showing its age.Just as things start to pick up in Claire’s love life, her mother becomes possessed. In an attempt to save her mother and their new home, Claire enlists the help of two boys, each of whom is interested in Claire for different reasons. As she chooses one boy over the other, something dangerous is unleashed, and the spirits make their move.They aren’t content to moan and scream inside Claire’s house, or even control her mom. They want a taste of freedom, and she’s their key to getting it. But is Claire strong enough to fight off the evil spirits, or will they claim her and her mom before it’s all over?

So y’all know A Whispered Darkness also includes a little twist of YA horror…and the easiest way I can personally connect with scary stuff is…well, horror movies. But what are actually the author’s own thoughts on such movies? Vanessa Barger was kind enough to answer this question in this post — and guys, be prepared to fall off your chairs because the post is HILARIOUS!Banner (2)

Okay, so I have a confession. My name is Vanessa Barger, I write YA Horror (and other things), and I’m terrified of scary movies.

No, really. It’s kind of stupid really. I’m…well… let’s leave off the age, but suffice to say, I’m old enough to know that Dracula does not live in my closet with the other monsters. But horror movies… I have this strange and weird fascination with. I don’t like slasher flicks. At all. If there’s a lot of shock and gore, I won’t watch. The Saw movies? Nu-uh. No way.

Of course, I will admit to turning Nightmare on Elm Street on a few months ago. Bits at a time. When I thought something scary was coming, I flipped it back to the Food Network.

Probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen was The Ring. Some of you are probably snickering. Let me explain – I think the Ring (if you haven’t seen it, watch out. Spoilers! Lol) bothers me because when I was a kid there was a ghost story told at a sleepover once about a possessed cassette tape that killed people. I don’t remember the details anymore. It was probably a really bad retelling in the dark with flashlights while people’s training bras were being soaked and shoved in a freezer. But I remember it scaring the crap out of me.

Then in college a group of us head to the movies. It’s a Saturday in a big theatre in Northern Virginia. There are a LOT of people. We get in the long line, and four of them are headed to the Ring. Me and another girl are planning on seeing Bond. We don’t do horror flicks. Halfway up, Bond sells out, along with everything except The Ring and some other adventure flick.

We decide on the adventure flick. The person in front of us buys the last two tickets.

We are now stuck seeing The Ring with everyone else, or sitting and waiting in the lobby. Not a fun prospect.

The movie itself has a decent plot. I liked the mystery aspect. Then they talk about watching a movie and dying in seven days. Somewhere that sleepover memory is triggered. And a friend shared her coat with me, so I could hold it in front of my face for the scary parts. Except one. The big one. The ghost pops out of a TV after seven days to kill the main character.

Oh, crap.

So there I am, seven days later, asleep on my aunt’s couch for Thanksgiving, watching the minute hand creep along in the dark and staring at a blank TV screen. I just kept repeating that if I made it past midnight and she didn’t pass out, I’d be safe.

As you can see, I’m safe.

I’ve gotten better about watching horror flicks. Like my tolerance for spicy food, I’m working on it. But I’m never going to be able to watch them all the time. I’d never sleep.

To me, what makes a horror flick good is its ability not so much to scare you in that moment, but its ability to scare you later. You know, hours later when you’re home, not thinking about it and you get into bed. Suddenly it’s dark and there’s a creak, and you remember the movie and shadows begin to look sinister and you see teeth gleaming in the dark.

That’s what I’m going for. If I can scare myself a little when writing it, I’m hoping you are scared a little when reading it, and a little more later, when you’ve put the book down and are settling in for the night.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you have a horror movie you think I must, MUST see, feel free to let me know. But no promises. 😉

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Giveaway Information:  Winner will be drawn September 26, 2014

· Four (4) winners will receive a digital copy of A Whispered Darkness by Vanessa Barger (INT) · One (1) winner will receive a digital copy of A Whispered Darkness by Vanessa Barger AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card or B&N Gift Card – Winner’s Choice (INT)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVanessa Barger was born in West Virginia, and through several moves ended up spending the majority of her life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of George Mason University and Old Dominion University, and has degrees in Graphic Design, a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a Masters in Technology Education. She has had articles published in Altered Arts Magazine, has had some artwork displayed in galleries in Ohio and online, and currently teaches engineering, practical physics, drafting and other technological things to high school students in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She is a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and the Virginia Writer’s Club. When not writing or teaching, she’s a bookaholic, movie fanatic, and loves to travel. She has one cat, who believes Vanessa lives only to open cat food cans, and can often be found baking when she should be editing. Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: My Tethered Soul by Dorothy Dreyer


Title: My Tethered Soul (Reaper’s Rite #2)
Author: Dorothy Dreyer
Publication Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books

My-Tethered-Soul-CoverIt’s been months since Zadie faced her sister’s Reaper, months during which she’s been under her mentor’s magical protection. But now that she’s turning seventeen, that protection is about to run out.When dark forces lure Zadie to wander at night, she’s manipulated into committing unspeakable acts. With her friends and family at risk, Zadie must try to use her powers to break free from the Reaper’s grasp, or surrender to the Reaper’s Rite, which can only lead to death.
My Tethered Soul (Reaper's Rite, #2)Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | iBooks


My Tethered Soul is one of those books I find hard to put my thoughts into words. I really enjoyed reading My Sister’s Reaper (the first book in the series), so guess how excited I was when I finally got my hands on the second book! And indeed, it definitely exceeded all of my expectations; however there were some passages that were pretty predictable.

The story picks up a few days before Mara’s seventeenth birthday, a significant day for Vilas. After defeating Mara’s reaper Zadie now has to deal with her own one, which, on the other hand, has found some way to manipulate her and make her do terrible things. I was really fascinated by the reaper’s powers, or rather the mind game thing he was playing on Zadie: The way it influences Zadie’s emotions really intrigued me right from the beginning, or simply the fact it makes her lose control over her body at night. I could really feel her defenseleseness, but it also provided some great space for some “friends time” where her closest friends could actually show off their best sides. It was amazing to see how commited and supportive they are of her (especially her BFF Naomi and her boyfriend Gavin), and even volunteer to “babysit” Zadie at night (those passages, by the way, were also some of the most priceless and hilarious scenes in the whole book). Add to that Lilura’s dry humor that we have already met in the previous book — there is nothing I can complain about the secondary characters – at least those who we have already met in My Sister’s Reaper!

What is more, the setting turned out to be much darker and sombrer than in the first book in the series and much more fast-paced than the previous books. Seriously, there were so many creepy scenes and it still makes me shiver when I think about them!

The storyline was both intriguing and brilliant, however, it did not totally blow my mind. There were just too many scenes that were really predictable and follow that typical paranormal genre pattern. Nonetheless, there were so many things about the story I enjoyed about the book, making it a unique and fun read.
Such as the family dynamics, especially the relationship between Zadie and her sister. You see, having been haunted by a Reaper, it is not easy for Mara to open up to other people again, but for me, Dorothy Dryer did a great job in capturing her fears as well as depicting how she and her sister slowly find trust in each other again.
Also, I was really surprised the book picks up further on Zadie and Mara’s relationship(s) to their mom. For me, this aspect was especially well-elobaborated since I kind of could totally empathize with Mara’s mixed feelings and coldness — she never conceals her emotions, not even from her own family, and I really liked that honesty. Oh, and did I mention she does get a boyfriend in this book? Their relationship is priceless! (Hint: Clash between coldness + badass-ness = lots of fun time).
I think it’s exactly that black and white thing that makes the story interesting. Moreover, Dorothy Dreyer manages to complement the dark reaper/witch theme in the book with her quirky and humorous writing style, making it a real page-turner.

That being said, I do have to say there is one thing that was really bugging me while I read the book which is….well, the rising frustration throughout the book, which Zadie, of course, is facing as well. There were so many moments in this book where I literally jumped up and screamed at Zadie to please pleeeease break free from the reaper’s spell (okay, kind of), or basically, just to do something. This frustration, in a way, also affected her character development, which was a little bit too slow for my taste since she quickly finds herself at the end of her tether (title pun intended).
Then, on the other hand, there were moments where she acted just too rash for my taste; the reasons for some choices she made were too blurry even though it was quite clear the outcome of those certain actions would be…self-defeating I guess? But despite my complaints, I do feel Zadie had been an incredible character. With all the flaws and strengths she had, Dreyer definitely created a well-developed protagonist.

We also meet some new characters and most of them turned out to be really great characters, mostly because of their eccentricity (okay, that sentence sounds kind of strange..). However, I sometimes felt as if Dreyer tried to “squeeze” those characters into the book in order to (i) give the story some change and (ii) enable the whole main cast a Happily Ever After. For me, this, as well as quite a lot of scenes with them in it felt a little bit too imposed. It felt a bit like watching a play — as if there were some stage directions that say that one person has to be rebellious, one person has to hate Zadie and her friends, one person has to immediately be friends with them etc. In this way, the ending of the story was pretty predictable.

But overall, I really enjoyed reading My Tethered Soul, despite its flaws and predictability. It definitely does the awesomeness of the first book justice and it is a fantastic conclusion to My Sister’s Reaper. If you are a fan of paranormal books with a little horror twist in it, I can’t recommend you this book enough!


Giveaway Information:  Winner will be drawn September 13, 2014

  • Four (4) winners will receive a digital copy of My Tethered Soul by Dorothy Dreyer (INT)
  • One (1) winner will receive a digital copy of My Tethered Soul by Dorothy Dreyer AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card or B&N Gift Card – Winner’s Choice (INT)

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AboutTheAuthorDorothy Dreyer has always believed in magic. She loves reading, writing, movies, and spending time with her family and friends. Dorothy DreyerHalf-American and half-Filipino, Dorothy lives in Germany with her husband and two children.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: One Smart Cookie by Kym Brunner

Sixteen year old Sophie Dumbrowski, is an adorably inept teen living above her family-owned Polish bakery with her man-hungry mother and her spirit-conjuring grandmother, who together, are determined to find Sophie the perfect boyfriend.But when Sophie meets two hot guys on the same day, she wonders if  this a blessing or a curse. And is Sophie’s inability to choose part of the reason the bakery business is failing miserably? The three generations of women need to use their heads, along with their hearts, to figure things out…before it’s too late.BOOK INFOsmartcookie_cover

Young Adult Contemporary

Published by Omnific Publishing

Released July 15, 2014

Amazon | Barnes and Noble


One Smart Cookie is a book I’ve been really excited for to read. Having many Polish friends myself, I just knew I had to get my hands on this book, and man — it definitely gave me some HIGHLY ENTERTAINING reading hours.

Summer vacation have finally started and Sophie Dumbrowski has sworn to make her summer unforgettable – such as by getting a boyfriend. Or simply having a good time with her best friend, Teegan. What she definitely does not expect is to be fired by her mother on the very first day from her workplace in their family-run Polish bakery – or to be “ditched” by her BFF for a potential boyfriend. Now it is time for Sophie to find a new job (her mother won’t pay for college which is a nightmare!) as well as her own boyfriend. And yes, this of course results in a complete mess.

There were so many aspects in the story that were simply adorable. First of all, Sophie herself. Her wit and repartee captured me from the very first page and it was so much fun seeing how she deals with the mess she’s finding herself in, especially when it comes to getting used to her new job in a pet shop. She never minces her words and always does exactly the thing she feels is right, which often results in more than hilarious situations and I really admired her for her boldness. Also, the dialogues between her and her mother: priceless!

Busia, Sophie’s grandmother, was probably my favorite character in the whole book. Her Polish accent as well as her superstitious character were just freaking adorable and I can honestly say that she is one of the cutest and most endearing characters I have ever met. It was so much fun seeing her making the “deals” with Dola for Sophie! Anyway, I guess this is exactly what I liked about the book: The hilarious, yet somewhat serious clash between Polish culture and the Chicago environment which is reflected in the family dynamics in the Dumbrowski household. Needless to say, it sometimes felt like watching a ticking time bomb just about to explode; yet, you cannot deny the charm of the three generations being together.

That being said, I have to say that both love interests were rather that sort of flat characters for my taste. I would say that there is some chemistry between her and Gio (who himself has a Italian background) at the beginning and I really enjoyed reading the dialogues between them, especially since they both can relate to that “feeling sometimes out of place due to the immigrant background”-thing. Unfortunately, after a while, their relationship fades to the background as Nick comes into play, but luckily, he turned out to be quite an interesting character. I could clearly see the excitement or appeal of this love triangle but it would not have hurt if Sophie had gotten her priorities together earlier: After 50 pages or something I was into the book I knew exactly with who she’d end up. Nonetheless, the excruciatingly funny mess she gets entangled with, including many funny dialogues, made up for the predictable parts of the book.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how many times my mouth got all watery each time Polish pastries such as Kolszki or Pączki were mentioned. Seriously, Kym Brunner has got some talent in describing delicious food and as a self-declared food maven and food lover myself, this definitely added to my admiring for her writing.

I loved seeing Sophie finally wake up; seeing her pulling herself together and “finding her true self”. However, the ending was a little bit too rush and I felt as if it was missing some depth. It was too much of that happily-ever-after although there were clearly some pending conflicts. Nonetheless, I really liked how smoothly things ended.

All in all, if you are looking for a quick and fun summer read with a hilarious immigrant theme, you should definitely check this book out!



As the saying goes, I’m pretty much an open book. What do you want to know?

HOMELAND: I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois (Woo-hoo! Best city in the world!), but currently live in a northwest suburb that’s still close enough to get to the city in 40 minutes. Almost all of my stories take place in and around Chicago since it’s the only region where I’ve lived. I wish I could write a story that takes place in Greece, but I’d need to go there first. (Hint, hint, Husband)

SPARE TIME: I love to read and write obviously, but I also LOVE movies and reality TV. There, I said it. Point fingers all you want, laugh at me, but my brain wants what it wants and I’ve never been a good disciplinarian. Just ask my students or my lovely daughters, who laughed all the way out of the house after they did a few loads of laundry as “punishment.”

FAMILY: I’ve been blessed with three beautiful daughters, a very tall, intelligent, and debonair husband (who might read this so I have to be really nice so I can get that trip to Greece), and two adorable dogs. Life’s pretty damn good, for which I am super thankful.

WORK: Starting at the tender age of 14, I’ve been employed. First, as a hot dog wrangler (Sammie’s in the Portage Park area of Chicago), then an old-fashioned sign maker and cashier for PG Berland’s Paints, then in high school as an A-Accurate Answering Service operator (loved the job – hated the perverts who used to call and breathe heavy) and finally, for most of my life. . . a teacher. I’m teach 7th grade reading and writing all day long! And they pay me! What could be better than that?

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Guest Post: Fragile Destiny by Suzanne Lazear

I’m so excited to be part of the Fragile Destiny Blog Tour today! Fragile Destiny is the third book in the Aether Chronicles by the amazing Suzanne Lazear and I’m beyond thrilled to be hosting her here on my blog today. I remember sitting exactly in the same roofed wicker beach chair I’m sitting right now almost exact on the date two years ago, devouring Innocent Darkness (the first book in the series) and just being totally blown off by the Steampunk world she created. It was actually one of the very first Steampunk novels I ever read and I was simply amazed by Suzanne’s writing. But anyway, before I start getting more  nostalgic, here’s a little bit more about Fragile Destiny:

FDFragile Destiny, Book 3, The Aether Chronicles Releases 8-8-14 from FluxBroken into pieces and hidden in the mortal realm long ago, the Staff of Eris bestows vast powers on whoever possesses it. King Brogan, V’s treacherous uncle, is trying to rebuild the staff. If he succeeds, the consequences for the Otherworld will be dire.In a desperate effort to keep the Otherworld safe, Noli and V plot the daring theft of a jewel that is needed to complete the staff. But Brogan is not so easily defeated. When he and Noli finally come face to face, the balance of power shifts, and Noli must consider joining forces with an unlikely ally in order to save the Otherworld.


Suzanne’s Guest Post

The Music of FRAGILE DESTINY Music has always been an important part of my life. I play several musical instruments. I compose a little (though nothing fancy.) I’m always humming and dancing around. It’s only natural that music leaks into my books. For example, my main character, Noli, plays the piano, though it’s never brought up much. It’s not crucial to the story, but it’s something she does, just like many girls of the time. “Do you still play the piano?” Vivian added. “I remember always being jealous that you were so much better than me.” “Were you now?” Noli hadn’t had lessons in years. I also like to make playlists for my stories. These playlists feature songs I think represent characters, scenes, or even the book of the book. FRAGILE DESTINY has a lot of love and kissing; I like to joke that this is “the book where everyone gets some.” However, there’s also a heck of a lot of change going on in this book. Lots of coming to terms with the end of one chapter of one’s life and the beginning of a new one (even more so than in book 2). Characters have to grapple not only with rough choices but the consequences of their actions and I hope I captured some of that in this list. Here’s my playlist for FRAGILE DESTINY:

  1. Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional
  2. Memory by Sugarcult
  3. It Ends Tonight by All-American Rejects
  4. It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
  5. Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips
  6. Angels of the Silences by Counting Crows
  7. Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls
  8. Carry on by Fun
  9. Demons by Imagine Dragons
  10. Praise Chorus by Jimmy Eat World
  11. All for Love by Serena Ryder
  12. Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
  13. Breaking the Habit by Linkin Park
  14. You’re Gonna Go Far Kid by the Offspring

Can you guess what songs go with which characters and scenes? I try very hard not to repeat songs on book playlists and there’s a lot of crossover (Fun’s Some Nights is Kevighn’s anthem for the entire series). However, I had to include Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. This is such a beautiful, romantic song and I think it goes perfectly with a particular scene that I’ve been waiting three books to write (and I know you’ve been waiting for it, too.) I hope you enjoy this playlist. What songs would you include? ~Suzanne AboutTheAuthor SuzanneLazearSuzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now from Flux. FRAGILE DESTINY releases 8-8-14. For more information on the series visit or Find Suzanne on Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram 

Other Tour Stops:

Aug 5: Pageturners blog

Aug 6: The Attic Reviews 

Aug 7: Kate Tilton blog

Aug 8: Bookish Things And More 

Aug 9: Mundie Moms

Aug 10: Night Owl Reviews

Aug 11: Book Raptured 

Aug 12: Bitten By Books

Aug 13: Anonymous Interests  

Aug 14: Awesomesauce Book Club

Aug 15: Tizzy Potts 

Review + Giveaway: Before You by Amber Hart



Title: Before You (Before & After #1)
Author: Amber Hart
Genre: Contemporary YA Romance

Before-YouSome say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.
Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don’t care.Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.
At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.
Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.

Purchase Links

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You know those books that really get under your skin? Before You is definitely one of those. It kept me engrossed from the very first page right through to the end and I just know I love this book!

Being Faith Watters means embodying perfection. As the daughter of the town pastor, Faith has to be perfect in all possible ways — at school, with her boyfriend, among her “friends”, in the church community. Sounds pretty lame, right? I do have to admit, too, that I was a little bit sceptical about her character at first, as well as the concept of the story in general: The synopsis reminded me too much of that of the Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles and Faith appeared to be pretty shallow. But let me tell you: Faith is actually one of the most three-dimensional characters I have ever met (and so is the whole book!). I really liked how much she grows throughout the story, how she comes to realize that she does not have to live her life behind the perfect mask, that people will still love her despite her flaws and mistakes.
Since her mother abandoned her family, Faith has sworn not to let any person too close to herself again — hence her life behind that perfect facade. And this all crumbles down when she meets cocky and badass Diego Alvarez. I just could not wait for this moment, to see her just being herself, but I also grew to admire her for her selflessness and authenticity.

Diego Alvarez turned out to be a really fun and interesting character. Having grown up in Cuba and being an ex-gang member, Diego has sworn to leave his past behind, but also not to expect too much for his future — until he meets Faith. The moment they meet each other for the first time, you just know they are the right person for each other. You are just waiting for the moment where they will show their true colors; their chemistry was amazingly perfect. I loved everything about their relationship: Their mutual understanding as well as the strength in their love. And I especially enjoyed reading those passages where Diego teases Faith! Firstly, because of…well, their seemingly different personalities at the beginning. It was like a clash between a – pardon me – jerk and a prudish nun and this had proved a recipe for extremely amusinng conversations. Secondly, because of that awkward, yet funny and totally amusing cutural clash. It is inpiring to see how their relationship survives (up to a certain point relatvely mild) racism, danger and loss.

Also, the “secondary characters” were so not secondary. I loved everything about Melissa, Faith’s best friend. She is actually the only person who knows about Faith’s secrets and dark past (except her parents of course) and I adored the way she pushes Faith to open up to other people again. She decisively adds to Faith’s character growth — whose broken family background I really did not expect.
Javier, Diego’s cousin, was just the perfect wingman you could ask for and I’m so excited he and Melissa will be featured in Book 2!

That being said, Amber Hart just knows how and when to reveal some certain information; how to keep us readers on tenterhooks. I was dying to know why Faith’s father did not intervene in some certain aspects in her life — or why he actually did, but which only resulted in Faith’s unhappiness; why Faith just does not stand up for herself.  Maybe it was exactly that depth of the story that totally caught me off guard. I was, perhaps, a little bit biased about the story (I expected a quick and fun summer read) but I definitely did not expect the well-developed plot.

Before You is such an intense read. The romance is intense. The characters are intense. The plot is intense — seriously, I can’t say how many times I had to gasp while reading the book because each chapter just contained a new surprise or revelation. I was surprised by many turns of events throughout the book although the plot was a little bit predictible. See, I knew there would be a clash between both Diego’s and Faith’s past, between their different “cultures” as well as their differnet family backgrounds but I definitely did not see the way the story ended coming!

Amber Hart, I forgive you for each moment you made me cry in the book, for each heartbreaking and heartstopping moment that tore me emotionally apart because the ending was just perfect! It might be a little bit over the top, nonetheless it was just the most awesome conclusion to the whole story.

The last thing I want to say is: OMG, I can’t wait to read Book 2, After Us. There’s actually a little excerpt at the end of Before You so if you don’t want to make the mistake to be book hungover or to suffer from book sequel deprivation, please don’t read it. Seriously, someone please give me Book 2. Any time now. I’ll be waiting.



Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.

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