Review: THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES by Suzy Vitello

Series: The Empress Chronicles #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Published September 4th 2014 by Diversion Books
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo

In this dazzling first book in the EMPRESS CHRONICLES series by the author of THE MOMENT BEFORE, one courageous girl seeks keys to the past to unlock the future…

When city girl Liz is banished to a rural goat farm on the outskirts of Portland, the 15-year-old feels her life spiraling out of control. She can’t connect to her father or his young girlfriend, and past trauma adds to her sense of upheaval. The only person who seems to keep her sane is a troubled boy who is fighting his own demons. But all of this changes in one historical instant.

One-hundred fifty years earlier, Elisabeth of Bavaria has troubles of her own. Her childhood is coming to a crashing end, and her destiny is written in the form of a soothsaying locket that has the ability to predict true love. But evil is afoot in the form of a wicked enchantress who connives to wield the power of the locket for her own destructive ends.

When Liz finds a timeworn diary, and within it a locket, she discovers the secrets and desires of the young Bavarian princess who will one day grow up to be the legendary Empress of Austria. It is in the pages of the diary that these two heroines will meet, and it is through their interwoven story that Liz will discover she has the power to rewrite history—including her own…

Readers of books like Rachel Harris’s MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY will love THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES

Okay, I have to admit, during the first few chapters, I was bored. But eventually, the story of Liz and Sisi's life got me hooked. I love how the author connected Liz from the present and Sisi from the past through Sisi's diary that Liz found in her doctor's office. Even I would be obsessed in someone's story if I found the real diary of that person. Through Vitello's writing, I've clearly seen how history repeated itself with two different persons with similar fate, plus the part where the present can change the way things happened in the past.

I never thought reading a historical fiction for the first time would give me these emotions I cannot explain. I feel so sad, sorry, and empty. I cannot imagine how Sisi dealt with the things that happened to her. The moment when she's to do everything for the sake of love, to be reunited once again with him... On the other side of the story, I feel glad for Liz when she was able to overcome her fears and face them. But I feel like I need to see more of what will happen to her and Cory... if they would experience the same thing... if they would have the same fate as Sisi and Count S. 

Because I wanted everything to slowly sink in, I read two chapters per night from this book - one from Sis's POV and one from Liz' POV. I felt sad most of the time. The air that surround me while reading The Empress Chronicles felt cold and empty. This is one of those books that I need want to read and I'm glad I did because I love sad and tragic love stories. Yes, I torture my heart with sad stories.  I even borrowed a copy of the real Sisi's diary from a friend because I am so intrigued with what really happened to her. This is such a heartbreaking story and I NEED THE SECOND BOOK ASAP.


Suzy Vitello

Suzy Vitello is a proud founding member of a critique group recently dubbed The Hottest Writing Group in Portland, and her short stories have won fellowships and prizes (including the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Award, and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship).

Twitter: @suzy_vitello


Writing A New Chapter In My Life: Learning Modern Calligraphy

Hello, there! Lately I've been contemplating about new things I wanted to try, things I wanted to learn. I recently attended a Lettering and Typography workshop (thanks to the amazing team of Works of Heart!) and I learned so many things about the anatomy of letters. I've always loved lettering and scribbling at the back of my notebooks so I'm not actually new into the art of lettering. I just wanted to enhance my skills and know more about them.

Until I saw my favorite author, the gorgeous as ever Jodi Meadows posting pictures of her calligraphy works on Instagram. I fell inlove with the art of beautiful handwriting. I showed her the picture below, and she told me that she's contagious. I couldn't agree more! I got my basic calligraphy tools from La Bella Scrittura, a group of ladies showcasing the art of calligraphy. They are so kind to answer questions of newbies and give us tips as well.

Quote from one of my fave books, Infinite by Jodi Meadows

A line from Ed Sheeran's song, Thinking Out Loud. Yes, I'm a Sheerio.
I tried brush lettering as well, but I bought a very cheap brush so I never really got into it. I have yet to buy a nice brush pen, preferably Pentel brush pen.

Well, I am spending more time practicing on controlling the pressure and flow of inks because I'm really having a hard time doing so. I'm a left-handed human, which means I can always smudge the ink if I'm not careful. I'm more fond of using an oblique holder, which is made for lefties like me! I first used the nib Vintage Hunt 22, which is advisable for newbies. Right now, my favorite nib is the Brause 66EF because of its smooth touch on paper. Esterbrook 355 is also good for newbies. I also tried Leonardt 40, also known as the Blue Pumpkin and I'm not a fan. It's hard to control the flow of the ink because of its very fine tip. (Trivia: The Hiro #40 Nib (Blue Pumpkin) nib no longer has "Hiro stamped on it, instead it now has "leonardt".)

Also, I'm always taken to the ink spatter land! I hate it when the nib got caught up with the paper. Anyway, I'll be attending a workshop by La Bella Scrittura so I'm really looking forward meeting Ms. Aileen (@theleftieadvantage) personally! Why? Because she's an experienced calligrapher. And left-handed too. I'm so excited!

Here's my latest work, another quote by Jodi Meadows from her book Asunder. It's my favorite book in the Newsoul trilogy and this quote is perfect for me in many ways -- family, friendship and lovelife.

Ink used: Eternal Higgins (Black)
Nib: Brause 66EF

Welcome to Ink Spatter land! Ugh, look at that smudge on the last word.
Oh, I'm hoping that next time, the ink that will form these beautiful words will land on my skin, not on paper. If you know what I mean. :)

How about you? What other activities are you up to lately, aside from reading? I'd love to know thru the comment section below!


Winter 2015 HarperCollins Preview!

Last Tuesday, we (PH Book Bloggers) were so lucky to finally meet our book fairy from HarperCollins International, Ms. Sarah Woodruff! She invited us to a blogger event wherein she gave us a glimpse of the upcoming titles from HarperCollins. We also had some games and bookish trivias that added to the fun. Plus, she brought piles of ARCs for us! And chocolates! And a pizza party! This was probably the BIGGEST event of the year for us and we cannot give enough thanks to National Book Store for this amazing opportunity. This is the first time that we had an event with HarperCollins that's why we were so happy and thankful.

ARC Party!!!
Sarah also conducted a mini raffle draw and guess what? I was drawn to receive a signed book from Harper! Kate from The Bookaholic Blurbs is the luckiest since she will receive a box of books from Harper! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Here's the list of the upcoming titles from HarperCollins:
*** My most anticipated titles!

I'm a little bit sad, though. I wasn't able to snag an ARC of The Orphan Queen, a new book coming from my favorite author of the Newsoul Trilogy, Jodi Meadows. But Kazhy from My Library in the Making is so generous enough that she said she'll give me her ARC of The Orphan Queen once she's done reading it! I don't know how to thank her for this. Perhaps I'll buy her any book that she wants? :)

PH YA Book Bloggers with Sarah from HarperCollins + our acquired ARCs


Cover Reveal: THE HEIR by Kiera Cass

Kiera Cass surely knows what the element of surprise is all about! A lot of readers assumed that The One would be the last book in The Selection series! Well, here comes The Heir and its gorgeous cover. Now, my grabby hands are itching for May 5th 2015!

Series: The Selection #4
Expected Publication May 5th 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

You can read the official announcement plus behind the scenes of the cover photoshoot here!


Kiera Cass

Being married. Cake. The smell of Autumn. Motherhood. Books. Elephants. Back rubs. On demand movies. Actually going out to movies. Faith. Cinnamon rolls. My family. Butterflies. When my kitchen is clean. Crayons. Pink. Tote bags. Dancing. Organizing via color coordination. That my wedding dress was tea length, not floor. Baking. My house. Writing utensils. Paper. India. The sound of water. Making videos. Buttons. The word Episcopalian. Making people laugh. Layering clothes. British accents. Pinterest. Animation. Fireworks. The smell of the Ocean. My wedding rings. Aprons. Reasons to get dressed up. Sex. Pop music. Stars. Taking walks. Daydreaming. Stickers. School Spirit. My friends. Living in a small town. Japan. Singing. Painting my toenails. Pranks/ practical jokes. Painting. Stretch canvas. Costumes. Dipping my fingers in melted wax. Style. Soda. Spending an hour typing at a coffee shop. Musicals. Back to school season. Mopeds. Good hair days. Naps. Not walking up but looking at a beautiful staircase. Driving alone. My ankles. Playlists. Spending entire days in pajamas. Holidays. Telling stories. Spontaneity. Theme parks. Bookshelves. The word copacetic. Boxes. Empty journals. Surprises. Doing things in groups. Doing things alone. Getting real mail. Decorating. Small forks. A good hug. Gift cards. New Years Goals. Going out to dinner. When someone else remembers some great story about me/us that I’ve forgotten. Toy stores. Fireplaces. Breakfast foods. Journaling. Crying for a good reason. Doorbells. Pointless adventures. Voting. My birthday. Reasons to make wishes. Recycling.

Author Links:

What ca you say about the cover? Don't you think The Selection series covers just keep getting better? :)



(c) Source
(Just a quick post in lieu of my reading slump... and because I find this GIF very funny)

Have you ever tried watching a movie based on a book that you read? I'm sure many of you already did. But have you experienced hearing negative comments from other viewers inside the cinema, saying how bad the movie is and that they won't even bother reading the book?

I hate it when books are judged by their movies. There is this time when I was inside my favorite local bookstore and while browsing the shelves, I heard this girl wanted to buy a certain book so much. But then her friend told her that the movie was bad, so most probably, the book was bad, too. They had a long conversation about it (and I was there, listening the whole time) In the end, the girl didn't buy the book, saying she realized what her friend said must be true. I wanted to throw (not literally) the book onto their faces and make them read to see how good the book is. 

We all know that when books are set for filming, there are scenes that are cut. Sometimes, it's okay if the scenes were not so important, but there are also times when the part that was cut was the most anticipated part of the readers. Remember the butterknife scene in Divergent? *sobs*

Okay, I know that not all of us are avid readers, but we should never ever discourage someone who wants to read just because its movie sucked. That what chances are for, right?


(ARC) Review + Giveaway: NOT IN THE SCRIPT by Amy Finnegan


Series: If Only. . . #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published October 7th 2014 by Bloomsbury Children's
Format Acquired: e-ARC
Source: Publisher (Thanks, Griffin, Jean, and Amy!)

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.
Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.
When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.
This novel in the deliciously fun If Only romance line proves that the best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

This book is probably one of the cutest romance novel I've read! I had so much fun reading and the characters were funny as well. This is such a great read because this is not your typical insta-love and insta-sex books. I was smiling the whole time reading!

"You never know. You can't help who you fall for."
Emma, our main character, is a famous actress that's known for her lovelife issues: she was always dumped by guys and she never seemed to learn from them. On the other hand, she's not like the other TV stars -- she's not a spoiled brat, and she's not a bitch. In fact, she's a friendly, and sweet woman to her co-starts and everyone around her. While Jake (Hot guy alert!) here is a model gone to being an actor who doesn't really want to be in the industry if it weren't for the money that his family needs. There is also Emma's bestfriend, Rachelle, drooling all over her dream man and what she (they) call "The Bod". Who is he? Secret! :P Then there's Brett, a famous actor known for his good looks and charm for girls AND Emma's long time crush. But when they finally worked together, Emma realized she's no longer attracted to him, although she's still uncomfortable being around him. And, uh, Kimmy. Yeah. The bitchy actress. But you'll have to read the book to know why I don't hate her even though she's a bitch! /winks/

"No one knows their future. That's what makes life so fun."
I love how all the characters in this book are... flirty. Yeah, flirty in a cute and funny way. This book talked about family, friendship and romance all at once, without the kinky parts that you can usually read in other romance books. You will also learn a lot of things especially when it comes to the media and actors, how everything you can read about these artists are not always true, how they feel about them, and most importantly, how they deal with them (paparazzi).

"Tell [her] I couldn't help falling for you, no matter how hard you tried to push me away. That I can't imagine being with anyone else, ever again. . .and that you turn me inside out every time I even think about you."
From strangers to workmates to friends to lovers, the relationship between Emma and Jake is nothing but swoony!Watching (reading) them from each other's perspective, you'll get to know them very well (as if you're actual friends!), and will enjoy every page of this book!If you want a light, romantic and funny read, Not In The Script is the chick lit that will definitely make you love it from the beginning until the end!


Amy Finnegan

Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT (Bloomsbury, Oct 2014), came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation, and Parenthood.

You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author). She is represented by Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.


Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

1 Winner will receive a $50.00 Amazon Gift Card
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(ARC) Review: BLACK ICE by Becca Fitzpatrick

Genre: Young Adult Mystery, Thriller
Published October 7th 2014 by Simon and Schuster UK
Format Acquired: ARC
Source: Author c/o National Book Store and Simon and Schuster UK

Britt Phieffer has never been that adventurous, but that's about to change. Wanting to impress her ex-boyfriend, Britt convinces best friend, Korbie, to take a trip with her and go trekking through the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming.
But when a freak storm leaves the girls stranded they seek shelter in a cabin, and find two knights in shining armour, Shaun and Mason, who are also hiding out.
But all is not as it seems, and Britt quickly discovers that the guys are there for reasons other than hiking…dangerous reasons that mean they need to get off the mountain, fast. In exchange for her life, Britt is forced to guide them down, and as they set out on a harrowing journey through the cold and snow, Britt realises the only way to get out of this alive is to pretend she is on their side. 
But playing nice is hard, especially when Britt is unsure whether Mason, gorgeous and sexy, is the enemy or an ally. And as she begins to lose track of who is in control it is only a matter of time before things turn deadly…

Here comes a new book by the author of Hush, Hush saga which gave us a hint to who the original bad boys were: the Fallen Angels. I love Hush, Hush (review to come!) and I met Becca in person. She's a very nice person and she has lovely hair! So when I learned about this new book, which falls under a completely different genre, I felt ecstatic to see if she can also pull this one off.

I considered five (5) things to give one (1) star each while reading Black Ice:

1. First five chapters. I haven't read mystery/thriller books for about 2-3 years so I considered the first few chapters if it is indeed interesting. I hate it when I get bored at the first chapters of a book, it triggers my reading slump mode on. In Black Ice, I didn't notice I was already past 5 chapters. This is a total page turner. 1 star: check!

“If I had known things would turn out this way, I would have trained harder. I would have learned to take care of myself. But I guess that's the point, isn't it? You never know what you're going to have to face, so you'd better be prepared.” 
2. Characters.  Britt, our main character, is probably one of my favorite characters from now on. She's a strong, intelligent woman who knows what to do in a particular situation. When she and Korbie, her bestfriend, got lost and trapped in that mountain, she didn't show any signs of fear. She knew that panicking will do them no good. Instead, she thought of every way to get their way out. She thinks fast, she acts fast. Korbie, well, Korbie is the kind of person you need but don't need. Does that even makes sense? Mason, on the other hand, is the mysterious type. I find it hard to read him and understand what his real motives are. But he certainly knows how to read people.

3. Plot. It's been a while since I read a thriller book and this one really caught my attention. Plus, I love Britt's character. And solving the mystery through the clues she found while she was held captive. Finding out who these two fugitives are, Britt is more than the vulnerable, weak, cry-baby Calvin thought of her all this time.

“They say that when you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. They never tell you that when you watch someone you once loved dying, hovering between this life and the next, it's twice as painful, because you're reliving two lives that traveled one road together.”
4. Twist/Revelations. When I read the prologue, I was intrigued who the killer was, what he wants, and why is he doing these horrible things. And well, at first, I thought the killer was the "good guy" and he's just pretending to be innocent. I didn't thought the suspect was "him". And to think that his motives are not that of a big deal, I know that there are cases like this, having too much pressure that people around you are expecting too much from you.

“I like having you around, Britt. That's the truth. I'm not leaving you. Even if you were a pain in the butt, I'd stay with you. It's the right thing to do. But it turns out I find you likable and interesting, and while I'm not glad you have to go through this, I'm glad we have each other.” 
5. Romance. To those who read Black Ice and wanted to slap me, I know, I know. Hehe. But, I just can't help but like how the romance was built in this captivating crime fiction.

“Because those four days in the mountains, they changed us. I gave you a piece of me. And you must have given me a piece of yourself, too, because you wouldn't have come here otherwise. You would have let go. I can't let go of you, Britt. And I don't want you to let go of me.”
There you go. I didn't expect that Becca would actually pull off this new book, but boy I am wrong! I wasn't disappointed that this is a standalone because I am perfectly happy and satisfied with the way it ended. :)


Becca Fitzpatrick

(c) Hazel of Stay Bookish