Review: Riapoke by Bryan Nowak

Controlled by a demon, a town institutionalizes serial killing to free an evil trapped beneath its surface. A suspenseful, paranormal thriller

Title: Riapoke

Subtitle: Controlled by a demon, a town institutionalizes serial killing to free an evil trapped beneath its surface. A suspenseful, paranormal thriller

Author: Bryan Nowak

Genre: Paranormal Thriller, Suspense

Year of Publication: 2017

Self-Published

Rating: 3/5 stars

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review. Thank you, Bryan Nowak, for sending me this book!

“Just be careful up that way. On the other side of the lake, there is a little town called Riapoke. I’d steer clear of it. They are not particularly friendly to strangers up that way. (…) Just stick to the resort while you’re up there and you’ll be fine.” (p. 17-18)

Meghan Johnston and her seventeen-year-old son Kyle go on a trip before the boy leaves for college, in order to spend some quality time together. They drive to Hideaway Resort, a secluded resort in the Virginian wilderness, but along the way, they hear some strange stories about Riapoke, a small town on the other side of Lake Oleander and the mysterious disappearances that took place there. What will this mother-son vacation have in store for them? Will they listen to the warnings and stay away from the obscure town on the other side of the lake? Read and you will find out.

Meghan Johnston has been separated from her husband for twelve years; therefore she became the overprotective parent who suffocates her child with love. Kyle, on the other hand, loves being spoiled by Meghan, but he is a teenager now who needs independence in order to explore the world around him and to date girls. Therefore; it’s not hard to imagine that the boy is not too thrilled about this trip, but their adventure in the quaint town of Riaopke will certainly be an experience neither of them will forget. This journey will help both mother and son to strengthen their relationship and teach Kyle to become a responsible person.

There are some important characters in this story, but the most intriguing one is Reverend Donny Swenson is the Head of Riapoke, of the Church of the Master and anything you can think of because he controls the entire town, perform the sacrifices for the Master and manipulates the whole community to get what he or the Master wants. This character will give you the creeps for sure because he does disturbing stuff an ordinary priest would never do. At first glance, you might think that Donny is a kind and hospitable person, but when you fall into his trap, you realise that it’s too late to escape your fate. However, his intentions don’t lack reasoning and motivation because there is a prophecy he is eager to fulfil both for himself and the Master and it seems that Meghan and Kyle have the profile of the two people the prophecy talks about. Furthermore, the reverend is the only one who can communicate directly with the strange creature and can appease it because Donny’s office is connected to the underground cave in which the Master dwells and awaits its next victims

The place is more like a cult compound than a town. The whole shebang is run by a guy named Reverend Donny Swenson. He’s literally the head honcho of everything around here. He’s in charge of the police, fire department, garbage, even controls the local school board.” (p. 99)

The idea of a secluded town that institutionalized serial killing is very intriguing for a reader who enjoys thrillers, but I felt pretty detached from the story whether it’s because of the characters I couldn’t warm up to or the overall plot which didn’t always grip me. However, this doesn’t mean that the book is bad, but it was just not my cup of tea. While I was exploring this thriller, I realised that I don’t particularly enjoy reading about strange cults and human sacrifice. On a more deeper level, this book questions religion authority/power and manipulation in a secretive and secluded town, good and evil, the importance of having a family who should be bound by love, redemption, (lack of ) humanity and many more.

Riapoke has plenty gruesome scenes; therefore it’s not advisable to be read by a younger audience. The story is told from multiple perspectives (Carl, Waylon Anderson, Meghan, Donny, Matthew and Mike), which help you understand the plot better. I didn’t have a favourite character or scene, but the last quarter of the book was really dynamic and intense, while the ending turned the whole story on its head.

 If you love paranormal more than I do, you might enjoy this book, so pick it up if you are interested.

Review: The Storm by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 3 of The Lady of the Pier

A WWII romance novel

 

Title: The Storm

Subtitle: A WWII romance novel

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!  The Storm is the last book in The Lady of the Pier trilogy where every book is a sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this review contains spoilers from the first book

After moving to Brighton, Sofia has vivid nightmares comprising of snippets of the Lady’s life. Annika, her Sweedish roommate, who is a paranormal enthusiast, offers to help Sofia and find out the truth about the mysterious Lady and the bizarre dreams the Greek girl experiences. The Lady haunts Sofia more aggressively than before because she wants Sofia to give Danny another chance, but the Greek girl is tired of Danny’s insecurities. Annika becomes Sofia’s friend and she encourages her to take a leap of faith just like the Lady demands of her because who knows what might happen next.

“I strongly doubt this is likely to go away. Sorry to say this Sophia . . . but you’ll remain knee deep in trouble unless you take heed. Spirits, when haunting someone as relentlessly as The Lady has been haunting you, don’t give up easily. In fact, from what I know, the more you resist her, the scarier the manifestations you’re likely to face. (…) You don’t want to play tough with spirits, Sofia! It’s already turned scary.” (p. 39-40)

Meanwhile, Laura and Maggie pray for Christian and Eric to return safely to England from France. Terror strikes the two women every time they hear of a British ship that has sunk after being hit by the Germans. After hearing some good news about Christian and Eric, Maggie advises Laura to write to Christian and even to take her child and move to Devon to start a new life with him. However, Laura is not thrilled about this idea because she is afraid for her and Freddie’s life because Charles is capable of anything including killing her or harming the child. Though Maggie is Laura’s best friend, I think that she is a bit naïve at times because she doesn’t realise how vengeful and cruel Charles can be. Maggie feels guilty for the wrong advice she gave Laura in the past, but she finds a way to make her friend a little happier by trying to build a bridge between Laura and Christian. Will Christian finally learn the truth and forgive Laura for the mistakes she has done in the past?

“Laura never discussed it with Maggie, but now she’d daydream endlessly about the tiny chance of seeing Christian again. She hoped it could happen somehow, but her pride would never allow her to reach out to him, or even to ask Maggie to intervene.”  (p. 108)

The story is different from what I’ve read before due to the two distinct yet familiar plotlines, the paranormal aspect of the trilogy and the details you have to discover and put together to uncover the big picture. One of my favourite scenes is the one where Sofia encounters some of the people who knew Laura Mayfield and she begins to understand why the spirit chose her to come to Brighton and fight for Danny’s love. It’s really an emotional moment for both Sofia and the reader because past and present seem to meet through memories and meaningful objects for Laura, her family and old friends.

However, there is something I didn’t like. Though the love triangle is well-built and makes sense in Laura’s story, I don’t think that it was that necessary in Sofia’s story. I understand that, by meeting Jeff, Sofia deviates from the path the Lady asked her to take and thus the nightmares intensify and force her to take action. But I still didn’t like how Sofia swings back and forth between Danny and Jeff. She gives Jeff the wrong message and she makes the two guys jealous of each other. I know that both Sofia and Danny are pretty insecure and apprehensive about their relationship, but it felt a bit disappointing to see a love triangle be used as a plot device.

In the end, The Lady of the Pier trilogy triggers various feelings within the reader, ranging from heartbreak, sorrow, anger, disappointment, but also sympathy, love and hope. If you love romance novels and emotional rides, then this is a trilogy you will enjoy.

Review: The Flow by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 2 of The Lady of the Pier

A WWII British drama

Title: The Flow

Subtitle: A WWII British drama

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 5/5 stars

WarningThe Flow is the second book in The Lady of the Pier trilogy where every book is a sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this review contains spoilers from the first book.

In The Flow, Laura and Christian are back together again, but Ruth, Laura’s mother, is not willing to accept her daughter’s choice because she still hopes that Laura will marry someday a rich and influential man like Willard and not a poor peasant like Christian.  However, Ruth’s health declines and Charles jumps at the opportunity to get close to Laura again, according to his wicked plan. But Laura seems to be more mature and wiser than before, leaving her ambitions behind because she realises that her dream of being surrounded by rich people was just an illusion, which almost ruined her relationship with Christian and caused her a lot of trouble.

“The dreams she had initially held when she came to Brighton, to be part of the rich and fortunate crowd, had all stemmed from her mother. They had crept into her heart over the preceding years of hardship, like a poison (…). It was the same poison which had nearly made her lose Christian.” (p. 30)

Despite her mother’s discontentment, nothing made Laura happier and complete than being by Christian’s side. Unfortunately, she had to learn her lesson the hard way. We know that Laura is a hard-working woman, but she is also willing to sacrifice herself for the love of her nearest and dearest. For example, she skips classes at the society to take care of her mother, whose health is deteriorating rapidly. When Charles invites Laura to Lakeview Castle, she is somehow obliged to go, despite her gut feeling and Christian’s plea to refuse. But what Willard has in store for Laura is more than a private party; it’s a trap which will change the protagonist’s life forever. Some decisions are crucial without us knowing it and unfortunately, this is the case with Laura. Though this is just the second book of the trilogy, I think that her decision to go to Willard’s castle was like the first piece of domino that fell causing a chain-reaction of events which led to the end of this amazing story.

I rooted for Laura because she becomes a strong woman who learns how to confront Willard, despite all the misery and heartbreak he causes her. Trapped in a life she loathes, Laura turns to poetry and the few people she can rely on or love: Maggie, Paul, Meg, Ian, James and Freddie who is the apple of her eye. After what happened, it looks like Christian was right after all, but Laura can’t fix anything for now and even though she still loves Christian, he becomes nothing more than a memory to her due to the current state of affairs and Laura regrets her foolish mistake deeply.

“They’d both made wrong decisions. Some were down to misjudgement and others were due to pride and insecurity, not to forget the cruel hand of fate. (…) Fates had been cruel, and it was no use lamenting any longer.” (p. 140-141)

Charles is arrogant, manipulative, controlling and jealous because he doesn’t only plan to bring Laura back and force her into a loveless marriage, but he makes her life a living hell, especially after he has a sort of revelation about Freddie and he is still jealous of Christian who is out of Laura’s life for now. Yes, Charles is a despicable human being and a psychopath, but he also loves music and has a good taste for arts in general. That doesn’t make him more human though. If ruining the life of a kind and loving woman wasn’t enough, he also tries to make a profit after World War II breaks out by taking people’s pieces of jewellery in exchange for food.

This time, I enjoyed Laura’s story a little more than Sofia’s because of what happens to her in Willard’s castle and the consequences she has to endure. That certain event is narrated pretty vaguely, but it still made my hair stand on end when I read about it and I was very disgusted by Charles’ actions. I also think that Laura chooses the wrong man, not only because she fell into Charles’ trap, but she tried somehow to protect Christian from Charles’ quick-temper and extreme jealousy.

It’s really hard to judge Laura for her mistakes because any woman in her place living in that time period would have tried to save her reputation, which was something crucial in society’s eyes. Laura wants desperately to make everyone happy by neglecting her emotions and sacrificing her own happiness. But not everything is lost because Maggie remains Laura’s best friend who helps her cope with the miseries she endures every day from within and the outside world. Maggie is for Laura the shoulder to cry on, but also the bearer of hope. Even if Christian thinks that Maggie took sides, she cannot tell him the truth about Laura because she cares too much for her friend and respects her wish to keep the secret well-guarded. It’s a pretty delicate and complicated situation from which Laura doesn’t seem to find a way out.

“Maggie thought she was remarkably brave, the bravest woman she’d ever met. Life had only granted Laura happiness in tiny treat-size chunks while tossing pain at her by the bucket loads.” (p. 212)

In contrast to Laura’s complex and emotional story, Sofia’s almost looks like a cute contemporary romance, but this doesn’t mean that her story is uneventful. Sofia goes back to Athens and waits for her final year of studies to be over, in order for her to move to England for her Master’s Degree. In her spare time, Sofia writes letters to Loula back in Corfu and with Danny in Brighton, the cheeky lad she fell in love with. Sofia is still visited by the mysterious lady sometimes at night, but also during the day when Sofia reads her poems aloud. However, this doesn’t mean that the girl feels comfortable with this unusual presence. It becomes an obsession which she doesn’t want to share with a lot of people because she is afraid that they might think she is mad.

 “She felt her in her heart all the time now, yearning for her lost love and lamenting for past mistakes. (…) The Lady’s grief was overwhelming sometimes, making Sofia sad for no reason at all, especially at night when the world around her grew quiet and there were no distractions.” (p. 25-26 )

It’s really hard to cope with the longing you have for the one you love and Sofia knows that too well. But distance isn’t the only culprit to Sofia’s heartache. Danny seems to grow cold and doesn’t respond to her letters after a while. On the other hand, Loula makes remarkable progress in learning English, so she and Steve send each other letters back and forth, a perfect long-distance relationship Sofia would die for if I weren’t so hard to read Danny’s mind. Besides Danny’s silence, Sofia’s love for him is put to the test too when she meets another Brit who may want to steal her heart. The previous experiences that pulled Sofia out of her comfort zone made her more courageous, confident in herself, bold and more independent than before. These characteristics are reflected in her attitude towards her father because she is no longer afraid of him, but she’s determined to talk him out of his plans for her future and convince him that a Master Degree in Art and Design in Brighton is more suitable for her.

“It was all about taking the leap of faith. It said that the fear that stops us from doing what we really want is often not based on reality. We shape our fears in our heads, but things are so much easier than we think.” (p. 216 )

Besides the themes mentioned previously, there’s also the theme of war, which will also appear in the third book. Fortunately, for people like me who feel uncomfortable reading detailed descriptions of war scenes, this isn’t that kind of novel. The narrator just mentions a bit of context and certain events to help the reader get into the atmosphere of the novel, but they are not the main focal point of the story. Another interesting thing is that, despite the turmoil and the fighting, the story shows us that even during hard times, people still live their lives as normally as possible: they go to the cinema or are caught in an unhappy family life like Laura. Even if the war is seen through the women’s eyes waiting anxiously for news on the radio or letters from their husbands who are fighting on the battlefield, it’s still a heart-wrenching read.

Review: The Ebb by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 1 of The Lady of the Pier

A Greek Summer Beach Read

 

Title: The Ebb

Subtitle:  A Greek Summer Beach Read

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

She stood on the pier under torrential rain, in a long, black dress that flowed in a fierce wind. Huge waves crashed ferociously against the piles underneath. Murky, foaming seawater, mixed with seaweed, rose up from the wash in sharp tongues, threatening to take the woman down to the depths with them. (…)She held her hands open wide, as if waiting to embrace someone, yet no one came. A wistful melody and faint singing could be heard, as the woman called out to someone. Her expression was remorseful and pleading, her arms stretched out in front of her, or pounding at her chest.” (p. 5-6)

And now it’s time to talk about the first trilogy I’ve completed this year and a five-star-read that will certainly be included in my top favourite books of 2017. The Ebb is the first instalment of Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi’s paranormal romance/historical romance trilogy entitled The Lady of the Pier and it comprises of two plotlines set in different time periods. The first plotline is set in Corfu (Greece) in the late 80s and it follows Sofia Aspioti’s life, while the second plotline is set in Brighton in the late 30s and it revolves around Laura Mayfield’s life.

Sofia Aspioti is a twenty-one-year-old student at Athens University who goes to Corfu every summer to spend time with her grandparents and many relatives. But going to Corfu isn’t all about hanging out with friends or going to the beach, it’s also a refuge from Sofia’s overprotective father who always checked in on her to be sure that everything is alright. It seems to be a summer like many before: Sofia spends time with her best friend Loula, an outgoing teen who is the opposite of shy and introverted Sofia. Loula suggests that Sofia should look around and admire the cute boys strolling around the tavern or the beach, but finding a boyfriend is the last thing on Sofia’s mind because her father would find out quickly if she were flirting with someone. Uncle Yiannis, who seems to be her father’s informant, senses Sofia’s every move and his presence gives her the creeps. Overwhelmed by so many restrictions including dating, Sofia is forced to play the role of the submissive girl who always acts properly and never crosses the line.

However, in August, while Sofia and Loula are having a chat about work at Karavi, the tavern where Loula and Sofia’s cousin Akis worked, Sofia spots two Brits going to the beach. Even though she was apprehensive of falling in love with a flirt, the boy who catches her attention is Danny, the carefree lad who listens to Rick Astley’s Never Gona Give You Up and dances hilariously annoying his friend Steve in the process. Sofia feels unconsciously interested in him, but is there more besides her envy/admiration for his non-conformist way of living?

Meanwhile, in the story set in 1937, we follow Laura Mayfield, a young lady who moves to Brighton with her mother Ruth because the older woman is very ill and she needs a milder climate to live in. Very soon afterwards, Laura gets a job in the West Pier Pavilion, but on the pier, she will also find something else. Though the way Laura meets Christian Searle is very cute, Laura is a very annoyed by his boldness and constant teasing which gives her the impression that he is a bit rude to her. Finding out that both of them work in the same area angers Laura more, but, as they get to know each other, she understands that Christian is not the cheeky devil he seems to be on the outside. However, things will get more complicated for Laura and Christian’s relationship when opportunity strikes and Laura is offered a job at the theatre, where she mesmerises everyone with her enchanting voice.  When Viscount Charles Willard appears into her life, Laura has to choose between true love and the chance to climb the social ladder as she secretly dreamed of.

This book, as well as the entire trilogy, is up my alley because it has everything I liked in a well-built and written novel: stunning descriptions of Corfu and Brighton and the vivid atmosphere of each setting, two female protagonists who are shy and naïve at first, but life gives them opportunities to take risks and grow, outgoing male characters who pull the protagonists out of their shell and give them the freedom they long for, wonderful secondary characters who make you laugh or your heart melt and villains who are well-built and have strong reasons to act like they do. When it comes to themes, the most important ones are the second chance at love, family and family secrets, friendship, love and so on.

I won’t talk about the similarities between the primary and secondary plotline because I don’t want to spoil your read, but they are subtle for the new reader and obvious to the seasoned one who has finished the trilogy. I think that the idea for these two stories connected to each other by Sofia’s strange dreams and bitter-sweet poems is a really interesting concept I haven’t read about before. I enjoyed this motif because it gives the reader hope that, at least in a book, anything is possible.

In this first book, the pacing is a bit slow, but I wasn’t bothered by it because I let the poetic writing fill my mind with breath-taking imagery of the sea, the impressive West Pier in Brighton and the quint yet picturesque Greek islands Sofia and her friends visit. There are references to songs and singers from the 30s and 80s, Greek culture and cuisine and family businesses which didn’t seem to change over the course of time. If I hadn’t known that the story was set in the 80s, I would have sworn that the story was set in present-day Greece.

My favourite character is Sofia because she is shy, studious, but also nostalgic for the past and a bit too cautious. However, I can understand her because she doesn’t want Uncle Yiannis or the other villagers to see her hanging out with Danny who accepts to be discrete in order to avoid gossip and trouble. Nevertheless, they have the time of their lives: they explore new places and fall in love with each other. Though I had a hard time liking Danny at first, I enjoyed picturing their first kiss and rejoiced when he made Sofia step out of her comfort zone.

“Only time would tell if this blazing fire would eventually die on the altar of ephemeral summer love, or if, by any chance, it had the power to kindle for a while, then light up anew, this time to burn forever more.” page 242

The way Ms Effrosyni Moschoudi describes the tranquil life of Sofia’s grandparents made me love them instantly and made me think of my grandparents. Although I don’t know what is like spending the summer in the countryside, the story pulled me in and I pictured myself being there with Sofia and meeting the kind-hearted Kyriakis. Here’s a quote that reminded me of my gran: “She always found her granddaughter too thin. That gave her an excuse to pile up the food on her plate and to treat her to homemade sweets almost every day too. Not that Sofia minded of course.”  (p. 34)

In the end, I hope that my review convinced you to pick up the first instalment in The Lady of the Pier trilogy and if you want to know which are my answers for The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag, please check them out!

 

Review: Enchanted by K.K. Allen

Book 1 of The Summer Solstice

 

Title: Enchanted

Author: K.K. Allen

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult

First Published in 2014

Self-Published

Series: The Summer Solstice

Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite themes is family secrets and boy what a life-changing secret the protagonist is about to discover in the book I’m going to review today! Enchanted is the first instalment in K.K. Allen’s Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy trilogy entitled The Summer Solstice. In this novel, we follow Katrina Summer’s story, a teenage girl who is unaware of the special bloodline she comes from for almost sixteen years. After her mother’s unexpected death, Kat moves to Apollo Beach, Florida, to live with her estranged grandmother Rose, she has never met before, a respectable yet mysterious lady, who acts cold towards her at first, but things will change as they get accustomed to each other. As Kat’s sixteenth birthday approaches, she experiences strange visions and vivid nightmares whose hidden messages she’s unable to grasp.

At first, Katrina is an insecure teenager and she feels a little awkward in the wealthy neighbourhood she moves in because she used to live a modest life in a bubble her overprotective mother built for her in order to hide the truth from her. Kat was also in foster care for a while and she went to public school, but she was laughed at and considered a weirdo. As time goes by in Apollo Beach, Kat befriends Alec Stone, the cute boy next door who helps her adapt to her new life, but she can’t tell him anything about her visions or her secret powers because it would reveal the true identity of the inhabitants of the community. Encouraged by Rose and her friend Charlotte, Kat learns about the family history of The Summers and she’s trained to control her powers. Of course, like any teenager, Kat makes some mistakes that almost cost her life and her visions and nightmares gradually come to fruition like horrible prophecies or trials she must go through in order to show her ability to right the wrong and to become a better person. Kat will also meet a lot of outlandish people through her wealthy grandmother, who is an important figure in the community and most people admire her for her involvement in keeping the town healthy and safe. Kat basically enters into a period of transition from the quiet and uneventful life she has lived with her mother, to the one that leads to her life-purpose: “there is a circle of life before you and it all begins on the day of your sixteenth birthday.” (Loc. 999)

I know that this review is a bit vague, but you need to discover the book at your own pace and I assure you that you won’t regret a single second that you have read it. However, all I can say is that reading about the stories and legends Grandma Rose told Katrina gave me chills down my spine. To a certain point, I felt confused and my head was full of information which is actually a good thing because I felt that the author did her research well. Though Kat considers her grandmother to be a bit insane when the woman talks about the special powers her granddaughter has inherited from her ancestors, in the end, all makes sense and the only thing Kat has to do is learn to master elemental magic and accept her new identity.

The writing is beautiful, visual and full of colour while the story is suspenseful and a real page-turner that doesn’t let you put the book or your reading device down. The characters are well fleshed out, the situations are realistic with the exception of the visions and nightmares that torment Kat, which make your heart skip a beat; Kat and Alec’s relationship is sweet (not excessive like in other books) and you root for them and, you cannot help yourself but love Grandma Rose even when she is stern with Kat. Charlotte is also a lovable character, even more than Rose, because of her kind and affectionate nature that makes me think she is a mother figure to Kat.

In short, the experience I had with his book was amazing and besides a few editing slips, I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The parts about magic and the stories about The Summers’ family history and Kat’s ancestors are truly fascinating and I had to pause for a minute or two to take it all in. The descriptions of Apollo Beach and Tampa Bay were so vivid that I was transported there through K.K. Allen’s writing. I highly recommend this young adult contemporary fantasy novel to anyone who loves elemental magic, myths and family secrets. There are still some unanswered questions and some fresh ones at the end of this first instalment, but there are two more books to satisfy one’s curiosity. I would really like to pick them up somewhere in the near future.