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2 May 2015

Review & Interview: 'Chasing Athens' by Marissa Tejada (2014)

In Athens, Greece where rich culture and a crippling crisis collide, a heartbroken American ex-pat is inspired to stay after her new husband literally walks out on her. That abrupt decision leads her to through a humorous, touching and cultural journey that forces her confront her disappointing past and redefine the true meaning of home.

When Ava Martin’s new husband unexpectedly ditches her months after they’ve relocated across the world to Greece, the heartbroken American ex-pat isn’t sure where home is anymore. On the verge of flying back to the States with her tail between her legs, she makes an abrupt decision to follow her gut instead and stay on in Greece. She soon discovers that the tumultuous, culture-rich Mediterranean country is coloring her life in a way no place else can, changing her forever. But is it where she belongs?

Ava’s newfound independence throws her into the thick of Athenian reality, where she has brushes with violent police riots and gets a taste of both the alluring islands and the city nightlife. Despite pressure from her mother, uncertainty over her impending divorce, and unresolved issues with her long-estranged father weighing on her, she’s determined to make it on her own. With the help of two very colorful Greek friends, she laughs and learns while facing culture shock, language barriers and the charm of Mediterranean men, until a life-threatening medical emergency back home in sleepy Ithaca, N.Y., forces her to decide where she truly belongs—and what truly matters.

If you ask me, one of the best things about books is that they offer readers the chance to travel to places they might never get to visit in real life. I've been to amazing locations such as New York, Hawaii, Hogwarts, Rome... All thanks to some fabulous authors who managed to have these places come alive on paper. When I was contacted by author Marissa Tejada about possibly reviewing her novel 'Chasing Athens', which was released by Musa Publishing in April 2014, I straight away looked forward to picking up this read. Not just because it promised to be a fun chick lit read, but also because of its scene setting: Athens. I've never been to Greece, so I was excited to travel into the world of main character Ava and give the novel a chance! I'm also excited to welcome Marissa Tejada to the blog today for an author Q&A, so be sure to scroll down!

Thirty-year-old Ava Martin has left her family, job, and friends behind in New York to start a new life with her husband Greg in Athens, Greece. She tries her best to learn the language and to make new friends, but then Ava's life is suddenly turned upside down again when her husband announces he wants a divorce and leaves her all alone in Athens. Ava isn't sure what to do, should she head back home to New York and try to pick up her old life, or should she give Athens a chance and build a new life, focusing on just herself and what she wants for a change?

I really enjoyed reading 'Chasing Athens' since it has all the necessary elements for an entertaining women's fiction read: a protagonist readers will be able to relate to, a fun group of secondary characters, a captivating storyline and, always a nice extra, a great scene setting. The book is set in Athens, and it is obvious from the detailed descriptions and authentic feel that the author is familiar with the city herself. I've personally never been to Athens, but could easily imagine myself walking down the streets, tasting the Greek atmosphere, and this really added something to the reading experience as a whole. 

Ava is an interesting protagonist and I'm sure numerous readers will be able to relate to her in one way or another. She's dealing with a divorce/break-up and trying to find her own way in a strange city. She's on this emotional rollercoaster and she not only gets to discover Athens, but she also goes on a journey of self-discovery, trying to see what she wants from life. The book also includes a fun cast of secondary characters, including Ava's Greek friends Nikos and Eleni. As mentioned before, this book basically has everything for it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to hopefully picking up more of Marissa Tejeda's books in the future!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Marissa Tejada!

I'm really excited to share my author interview with Marissa Tejada, author of 'Chasing Athens', with all of you today! :)

Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘Chasing Athens’?
Here’s a little synopsis:

In Athens, Greece where rich culture and a crippling crisis collide, a heartbroken American expat is inspired to stay after her new husband literally walks out on her. That abrupt decision leads her through a humorous, touching and cultural journey that forces her confront her disappointing past and redefine the true meaning of home.

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
From my first year living abroad as an expat, I knew I wanted to write something about my experiences.  I love romantic comedies and women’s fiction so it was natural for me to write within those genres. 
I found out quickly that Greece is a place of beauty within its culture, people, destinations and traditions. However, not every Greek moment is perfect and I wanted to portray that too. It’s a time of crisis, uncertainty and desperation. As a woman living abroad, all of these extremes pull together creating an experience that I has made me who I am today and influenced me to write Chasing Athens.

As for my own experiences, I had to make the tough decision whether or not I should stay on in Greece. I had a marriage that fell apart while I was living abroad and while I was planning on going back to the U.S., a big part of me was telling me to stay in Europe --although many factors were influencing me otherwise.  I think that feeling of belonging to a place can be an unexpected surprise.  When we live abroad, out of comfort zones, we learn so many things about ourselves that would have never been uncovered. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the main character, Ava?
Ava was sheltered much of her life with a lot of family drama surrounding her upbringing so she had a lot to learn from the start of the book where she found herself suddenly as a newly and fully independent women living abroad.  She learns to rely on people that care for her and that opens up a whole new world and helps her to move on and figure out the life that she wants to lead.  She has her insecurities and not “seeing the reality” of a situation gets her in trouble.  However, she’s open-minded and fun.

Can you also tell us a bit more about the cast of supporting characters in the novel? Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Ava has two best friends named Nikos and Eleni who help her through her crisis and show her the ups and downs of Greece through their eyes as Athenians.  I really loved writing Nikos and Eleni into the story.  Nikos is a great guy best friend. Eleni, to me, is the strong Greek woman personality that does not take no for an answer.  She is actually based on a friend of mine.  Her “gusto” gives some scenes a lot of color. 

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
I did do some research on Mexican culture since Ava’s heritage is part Mexican.  I also had to rely on my Greek friends to help me with the Greek phrases and expressions I used.  I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I suppose traveling to some of the places mentioned in the book like Hydra island, Mykonos island and destinations in Athens would be considered research too!  

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
I am working on a continuation of Chasing Athens.  I’d love to complete Ava’s expat journey.  I love that readers have told me that they would love to know what happens next too.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I’ve come to relish a piece of advice from writers much more experienced than me when it comes to getting published: set realistic goals and expectations for your book to define what success means for your book. Every writer has a different story, different goals and dreams when it comes to setting their first book out into the world.  Define those goals and don’t compare them with anyone else’s. Your goals are your own and can only be defined by you.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
I really enjoyed reading Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael. I don’t read much historical women’s fiction but this one drew me in completely and I learned so much about Charlotte Bronte’s amazing life as a woman author during her time.

Which book could you not live without?
Ah, so many! If I had to choose one I’d have to say The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I love his writing and this novel in particular is an absolute favorite of mine.

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘Chasing Athens’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Humor. Culture. Self-Discovery.

Thanks so much, Marissa!

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