Try a Chapter Book Tag

April has been an amazing reading month for me because I read ten (short) books, but they were mixed reads from the okay-ish to the most amazing ones. On the other hand, the beginning of May wasn’t that great because I enjoyed a single book and dnf-ed or even deleted two of them. Therefore, after two failed attempts to read two confusing cosy mysteries, I found myself wondering what book I should read next. Finally, I figured out that the best way to find out what book I’m in the mood for is by trying a chapter from a few books I’m interested in. I found the Try a Chapter Book Tag on Booktube, where you pick up five or more books you are excited about, read the first chapter of each book (including the prologue), you give your opinion about what you have just read and decide what book you want to continue reading. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? If you find yourself being in a reading slump or you just don’t know what to pick up next, feel free to give it a try. It’s actually useful, even when you want to get rid of unread books.

I cheated a bit because five books are too many for me, so I’ve picked up only four and those are:

  • You & Me Forever: A Sweet Romance Collection by Megan Linski, Pamita Rao and other six authors, which is a young adult romance anthology comprising eight short stories and a novella. I wanted to read something light and summery, so I thought that this book would do the trick.
  • The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb is the first instalment in Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi’s historical paranormal romance From this author I also read The Necklace of Goddess Athena, which is one of my favourite books set in Greece. I’m looking forward to reading this novel because I have a soft spot for Greece in general.
  • Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence is the first instalment in a historical romantic thriller series entitled The Troubadours Quartet and it is written by Welsh author Jean Gill. This book has troubadours, romance, political intrigue and it is set in Medieval France, after the Second Crusade. Therefore, it should be something up my alley.
  • The Treasure of Gwenlais is the first instalment in M. T. Magee’s young adult epic fantasy series entitled The Rienfield Chronicles, a story inspired by Celtic folklore.

Here’s what I have to say about each chapter I’ve read:

Check Mate by T. Ariyanna is the first short story in the You & Me Forever anthology. In the first chapter, Liz and her best friend Daisy chat on the phone about a foster child who has run off from the correction facility he stayed in. Liz is the daughter of the chief of police and she is frequently asked by her classmates about certain cases, but little does she know what fate has in store for her. After the assailant sneaks into Liz’s room and tries to hold her hostage, Liz shows her self-defence skills and frees herself. I liked the way she stood her ground and didn’t feel intimidated by the strange boy who seemed to be her age. The story is suspenseful and I’m really curious to read more.

In the prologue to The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb by Effrosyni Moschoudi, Sofia recalls a strange dream she had a night before. She was standing on the pier where she worked, but the pier changed its size and it seemed like everything around her changed, a terrifying storm broke and in Sofia’s place stood a woman dressed in black who looked pretty much like her. What does this dream mean, who is that woman and why she was in pain? Meanwhile, in the first chapter, we move from 1987’s Greece to 1937’s England, where Laura Mayfield’s story takes place. Laura moves to Brighton with her ill mother, Ruth, who needed a milder climate for her weak lungs. I think this story will be a slow read, but the writing is beautiful and I enjoy reading about alternating timelines.

In Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence by Jean Jill, sixteen-year-old Estela de Matin runs away from an abusive household, wants to start afresh and leave her old identity behind. On the road, she encounters Alénor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France, and her loyal guards, who were travelling from Carcassonne to Narbonne. They eye Estela suspiciously because she might be plotting a robbery with other bandits in hiding or she might be a thief because she carries a mandora, a musical instrument like a lute. After the queen orders the girl to play and sing a song, Alénor of Aquitaine invites Estela to come with them to the court. At first, this book was a little hard to get into because I don’t know that historical period too well, especially the politics, but the idea of a girl troubadour is something I’ve never heard of and I’m curious to read how Estela will get along with Dragonetz, the queen’s commander and her troubadour.

The Treasure of Gwenlais by M. T. Magee contains a prologue in which we are told who the most important characters are, which kingdom they protect or belong to, who are the enemies and which are the stakes of this first book. In short, Princess Laurel of Gwenlais is rescued from the claws of a monster by Caleb, Prince of Heathwin, “the Chief and Commander of the Sentinels who protected the two Kingdoms of Gwenlais and his own realm of Heathwin”. (Loc. 149) Meanwhile, the Sentinels lead by Prince Aiden gallop towards the village to kill the monsters (Rabkins) and to count the casualties. The first chapter is very long, so I paused when I came to a page break, but the novel is worth reading because it’s a high fantasy and it seems to have a complex world.

And here is what I’ve decided:

After reading the chapters and prologues, I decided to read Check Mate by T. Ariyanna because I like the suspense and the story is pretty short. Then, I think that I will choose Ms Jean Gill’s novel because I want to know what happens to Estela at the French royal court and how the past will influence her future.

Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Book 2 of The Chronicles of Narnia 

Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Author: C. S. Lewis

Illustrator: Pauline Baynes

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Children’s Books

First Published in 1950

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Series: The Chronicles of Narnia

Rating: 5/5 stars

I’m almost sure that many of you love C. S. Lewis’ fantasy book series The Chronicles of Narnia, so I wanted to surprise you with my review for the second book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I haven’t read the rest of the books, but you can write in the comment section why you love this series or which book is your favourite.

As you already know, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel which revolves around the lives of four siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie) who are sent to the countryside to escape the Blitz. While they explore the old house of Professor Digory Kirke, the children find an empty room where the only item of furniture is a wardrobe, which is actually a secret passage to the enchanted land named Narnia. It’s always winter there, but Christmas never comes. Gradually, each of the four siblings enters into this fairy-like world, where they encounter Tumnus the faun, Jadis the White Witch or the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia, Mr and Mrs Beaver, Aslan the Lion or the true King of Narnia, and other magical and mythical creatures.

The kids initially go on a mission to save Tumnus from the witch’s castle, but when some old prophecies need to be fulfilled and spells to be broken, the siblings undergo adventures they have never dreamt of. I also want to add that there are very obvious religious symbols in this fantasy novel, but I won’t get into that. If you are interested in this topic, please check out Raluca’s article posted in two parts about J. R. R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Lord of the Rings.

Though I loved the movie and watched it a few times before actually reading the novel, I also enjoyed most of the book for the depiction of Narnia, its characters, but also for the beautiful writing and plotline. Until next time!

De Vorbă cu Adela de la Vanilla Moon Books

Notă: imaginile din postare mi-au fost trimise de către Adela.

Cu puțin timp în urmă am descoperit canalul de Youtube al Adelei de la Vanilla Moon Books prin intermediul scriitorului Oliviu Crâznic, a cărui carte, Ceasul Fantasmelor, era amintită într-unul din filmulețele ei. Am urmărit cu interes mini-recenziile din vlog și am fost impresionată de stilul dezinvolt al Adelei de a vorbi în fața camerei și de vocea ei dulce și copilăroasă. Apoi i-am vizitat blogul (Vanila Moon Books), care, atât prin designul  său magic, cât și prin conținut, te va purta într-o lume fantastică.

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Cum s-a născut pasiunea ta pentru lectură?

Adela: Nu ştiu dacă se mai practică acum, dar pe vremea când m-am născut, unii părinţi le puneau în faţă bebeluşilor mai multe obiecte. Se spunea că obiectele alese de copil vor arăta ce va aprecia mai târziu, în viaţă. Eu am întins mâna spre un creion şi o carte. Toate astea mi le-a povestit mama când deja eram cititoare convinsă şi făceam încercări de poezii sau romane. Dar ca să îţi răspund concret la întrebare, am început să citesc de la 6 ani şi jumătate, după ce am învăţat singură să citesc. Toţi membrii familiei citesc şi mi se părea un mod firesc de a petrece timpul liber.

Cum ai descoperit comunitatea BookTube?

Adela: Acum vreo patru ani, cred, a distribuit cineva pe Facebook un clip amuzant al lui CassJayTuck, o parodie despre poziţiile de citit. Am dat „Subscribe” ca să fiu la curent cu ce videoclipuri mai face şi am început să o urmăresc constant, recenzia ei video m-a făcut să citesc The Fault in Our Stars când la noi nu se făcea încă vâlvă în jurul ei. Apoi, am descoperit treptat şi alţii care făceau clipuri despre cărţi şi am început să îmi doresc tot mai mult să vreau şi eu să fac asta.

Îmi place foarte mult sistemul tău de rating pentru cărțile citite – de la o floare de vanilie la cinci. A existat vreo carte care nu a meritat nici măcar o floare?

Adela: Da, din păcate se publică multe cărţi proaste şi inevitabil, am dat şi peste aşa ceva. E nevoie şi de ele câteodată, măcar să îţi aminteşti cum să le apreciezi pe cele excepţionale. Am un raft pe Goodreads cu cărţi pe care le-am considerat o pierdere de vreme, dacă sunteţi curioşi.

Între o carte clasică și una dintr-un gen cu mai multă priză la public (fantasy, aventură, mister, Young Adult) ce ai alege să recenzezi?

Adela: De regulă, nu scriu recenzii la clasici. Despre ei s-a vorbit atât de mult, încât e cam greu să spui ceva cu adevărat nou. Mă rezum doar să îmi expun părerea în câteva vorbe in clipurile în care vorbesc despre lecturile lunare. Cărţile cu priză la public le recenzez dacă am multe de spus despre ele sau dacă le-am primit de la autori/edituri/librării/companii de promovare. Dacă nu, ajung şi ele tot în clipurile lunare. Citesc cel puţin 5 cărţi pe lună şi nu îmi ajunge timpul să filmez câte un clip pentru fiecare.

Care este autorul tău preferat?

Adela: Agatha Christie. O iubesc atât de mult pe scriitoarea asta, încât am ales-o ca subiect pentru atestatul la limba engleză. A avut o viaţă extraordinară şi mă fascinează tare mult. Am în plan un clip în care vorbesc despre ea.

Am înțeles din Q&A-urile de pe canalul tău  că ești studentă la Farmacie. Cum reușești să împaci facultatea cu pasiunea ta pentru lectură? 

Adela: Nu e nevoie să le împac, din fericire nu se ceartă una cu alta. Îmi iubesc facultatea, iubesc lectura şi faptul că iau o pauză din învăţat ca să citesc îmi dă apoi spor să învăţ. M-am obişnuit să îmi inchei ziua măcar cu câteva pagini dintr-o carte, oricât de ocupată aş fi.

Ai vreun motto după care te ghidezi în viață?

Adela: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

Și ultima întrebare. De ce ar trebui să te urmărească iubitorii de lectură pe Youtube sau să îți citească recenziile de pe blog?

Adela: Sunt întotdeauna sinceră în părerile pe care le exprim, atât pe YouTube, cât şi pe vlog şi mă bucur că am reuşit să stabilesc o legătură destul de strânsă cu oamenii care mă urmăresc şi au încredere în recomandările mele. Pe lângă cărţile în jurul cărora se face vâlvă, citesc şi cărţi mai puţin cunoscute şi care de foarte multe ori sunt mai bine scrise sau cu subiecte mai neobişnuite. Pentru că abordez aproape toate genurile de literatură (mai puţin non-ficţiune), este câte ceva pe placul fiecăruia.

 Sursă imagini: Adela, Vanilla Moon Books

Review: Gates of Heaven by Pamita Rao

A Fantasy Action Adventure Series

Book 1 of Balthasar Family Saga

 

Title: Gates of Heaven

Subtitle: A Fantasy Action Adventure Series

Author: Pamita Rao

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Year of Publication: 2015

Published by P.S.R. Publishing Limited

Series: Balthasar Family Saga

Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book after I signed up for the author’s no-spam newsletter.

Warning: This book contains mature content not suitable for children!

“It was a myth well known to anyone in Tireol that the enchanted forests hid the gates of heaven created by gods. The gods used the gates to travel between various realms to observe and guide the life force that they helped create.” (Loc. 165-166)

Gates of Heaven is the first instalment in the fantasy adventure series Balthasar Family Saga written by Pamita Rao.  On Planet Myrth, King Creed reigns over the entire land, but his thirst for power didn’t quench with the vast territory he already owns; he also wants to conquer other realms beyond Myrth. To make his greedy wish come true, he needs to pass through the gates of heaven, which are located somewhere in the enchanted forests, but they reveal themselves only to enlightened people.

Though Creed learned to use dark magic from the sages while he was exiled by his father, King Balthasar, he has never found the magic gates like the former king did many years ago. When Queen Elora gives birth to a son, Creed’s trusted sage’s prediction comes true. Neelahaim will possess more powers than his father and he will be able to pass through the gates to unknown lands. What would a twisted totalitarian ruler like Creed do to make sure that he will not let the opportunity to go through the gates of heaven slip through his fingers? To plot the killing of his newborn son, of course, by performing a dangerous ritual through which his son’s powers would be transferred to him!

However, the queen senses what Creed is up to, so she has a plan of her own, meant to keep him safe with the help of her estranged family. Here’s where Alaira and Horace (Elora’s sister and brother) step into the picture; they are as skilful and intelligent as the queen herself, but they are more like tricksters. There are also Freddic and Klink who help their friends not only to get into the castle but also to return safely to Nimah.

Creed, the King of Tireol, is the main villain of this story even if most of the time he seems evil without reason. An explanation would be his belief that King Balthasar loved his subjects more than him. I said before that Creed is a tyrant, a greedy person who uses his power and dark magic to get what he wants without caring if he causes suffering or destruction around him, and for some strange reason I compared him with Emperor Nero because they are both cruel and selfish.

In contrast, Queen Elora is a skilled warrior and an intelligent woman, but she accepts to marry Creed in order to keep her family safe. Even if she doesn’t love the King, she has strong motherly feelings towards her son, for whom she risks and sacrifices everything including her freedom. Though Elora wasn’t able to see her family again after marrying Creed, she can’t ask anyone but her dear sister to protect and take care of her child.

As for Alaira, I don’t have a lot to say, though she’s the protagonist of the story. She is brave like her elder sister, skilled in the arts of swordsmanship and archery, a true trickster, but a girl with strong family bonds and a soft heart for her father (Reddan), siblings and her nephew. She promises to protect the child even if it means risking her life to let him live.

The plot follows different characters, that’s why we have multiple points of view: Freddic (Alaira’s friend and love interest), Creed (King of Tireol), Queen Elora, Alaira, Horace etc. The pacing is fast, the story is very visual, but there were some weird word choices especially in the first half of the book, which made it difficult for me to focus on the story. Here are a few examples just to give you an idea: “she sensed darkness in him” (Loc. 372), “You do not deserve to rule this throne” (Loc. 553), “she turned her to him” (Loc. 564), “to sneak the prince from under the king’s nose” (Loc. 652). The main themes of the story are: good vs. evil, love for one’s family, courage, devotion, and the sense of belonging to a community.

Now let’s talk about world-building. On Planet Myrth, which initially made me think of a science-fiction setting, we have Tireol, Taelk, Griesmal and Nimah. People work in small but loving communities; they trade goods with the aristocrats for protection (as Freddic’s family did). In this world there are also slaves and servants, who are beaten by the guards and noblemen, there are sages like Drahim, and magical creatures like trolls and Ghimish. There are myths, pretty vague beliefs in gods, history of Tireol (the story about Balthasar) and some politics, an essential part of every fantasy novel. Even though the book can be read like a fairytale, it has mature content such as macabre or death scenes which are not suitable for younger readers.

To wrap it up, I hope that my review stirred your interest in reading Gates of Heaven. It was a pretty interesting book for me, though there were some things I didn’t understand or resonate with, but if you’re a fan of high fantasy or adventure, give it a chance.

Review: The Necklace of Goddess Athena by Effrosyni Moschoudi

A New Adult Supernatural Mystery

 

Title: The Necklace of Goddess Athena

Subtitle: A New Adult Supernatural Mystery

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Time Travel

Year of Publication: 2013

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2014

Self-Published

Rating 5/5 stars

Time ….” Poseidon shook his head. “You mortals! You’re bound to it and keep forgetting it is only an illusion.” (Page 305)

“Man was made of flesh and bone on purpose! Time is his prison but also his best friend. He cannot make sense of his feelings, his accomplishments or his losses without it.” (Page 327)

If you’re in the mood for adventure, fantasy, mystery and Greek myths, I recommend author Effrosyni Moschoudi’s novel The Necklace of Goddess Athena: A New Adult Supernatural Mystery, which has elements of all these genres blended in. The result is a page-turning book with characters and situations which can stir the interest and imagination of readers of all ages who love Greek myth retellings or placed at the threshold of two very different worlds.

Time travelling siblings Phevos and Daphne are sent by their father, Efimios on a mysterious journey which takes them from ancient times to modern-day Athens and the only rule they have to obey is to follow the signs Athena will send them. After they land in an orchard, Phevos and Daphne meet its owners, other two siblings, Ksenia and Manos, who will befriend them, due to the coincidental loss of their parents in the same period as Efimios’ wife. Do Phevos, Daphne, Ksenia and Manos have to unknowingly go on the same path to seek the truth about their parents? What secrets will surface from the past and how will they affect the children’s lives?  Only by reading the book you will find out.

This is a coming of age story especially for Phevos, who has to learn to understand and to interpret the signs the two gods send him through dreams, riddles or other kinds of signs which we would consider being pure coincidences, but Phevos was taught not to believe in coincidences. The gods always know when it’s the perfect time to show the way, in order to make the divine plans come true. Until all the signs are revealed one at a time, Phevos and Daphne have to adapt to modern life in Athens, to find a job, and they will even fall in love with other characters from this peculiar world. However, sooner or later, the two worlds will meet and memories from the past will help both characters and readers understand how they shaped the present and how they will influence the future.

The main themes of this novel are faith (if Phevos didn’t have faith that the gods will guide him through, he would have definitely missed the signs), love in many of its forms (motherly love, brotherly love, platonic love, etc.), loss and longing (which are the main reason some of the characters suffer, whether it’s about missing their parents, their spouse or a child) However, the book has also many moments of humour. I love the way Phevos is struggling at first to speak and understand Modern Greek, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t understand the meaning of words like tourist, shower or hotel. And there are also gorgeous gems of philosophy sprinkled here and there, which work perfectly as inspirational quotes for the reader.

I know that some people are not fond of poetic writing, but I enjoyed it very much because it felt like a melody to my ears. Besides the interweaving of magical elements in the story, I also adored the depiction of Athens with its people and their everyday life, the vegetation and the cityscape, which seemed so accurate that it brought me back to places I visited in Greece two years ago. Though most of the characters don’t have many flaws, I grew fond of them, their good nature and their ability to adapt to harsh situations life threw their way. I know it sounds very odd, but I would have liked to meet some of them in person and to befriend them because I had a wonderful time learning about their lives and observing how they reacted in different situations.

The Necklace of Goddess Athena is an easy read for readers of all ages who still believe in fairy-tales, myths and the power of love that helps you find the truth about one’s disappearance and the way to bring them back in your life if that’s possible. Reality and fiction meet in fairy-tales and myths, and Mrs Moshoudi’s novel is no exception. Hop on this wondrous journey from Antiquity to present-day Athens, befriend most of the characters and be prepared to see Athena and Poseidon appear in front of your eyes and hear them speak in prophetic tones.