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 in 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 with 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 a 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 the 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.

Review: To Read or Not to Read by Vincent Hobbes

Title: To Read or Not to Read

Author: Vincent Hobbes

Genre: Horror, Short Story

First Published in 2011

Published by Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

Rating: 4/5 stars

“I rent time for people to read, Frau McClain. Time for people who have no time to spare.” Strauss’ eyes twinkled. (Loc. 192-193)

I picked up To Read or Not to Read by Vincent Hobbes a few years ago and I rated it pretty low because I didn’t know at the time that I was reading a short story belonging to the horror genre. However, now I thought that I needed to reread it and re-evaluate the story because I grew up as a reader and I’ve read a more diverse range of books than I used to four years ago.

This story revolves around a quaint little bookstore named Strauss Books after its German owner’s name, Mr Günter von Strauss, a secret place known only to a few people. Despite the fact that Strauss is a mysterious and eccentric old man who rips out pages from the books he stacks to keep his clients safe, he is very polite and friendly to the people who enter his bookstore, including Shelby McClain, the woman whom we follow throughout the entire story. Should she follow her instinct and leave this odd place or should she give in, pick a book and see what happens? Are Mr Strauss’ books magical as the customers claim? Read and you will find out!

I love the concept of a magic bookstore, where you can buy time to read and experience the book of your choice for a few minutes. It’s a bit like in Eliade’s novella, where time flows differently after you close the door behind you and the rules of the outside world just vanish away. The story has a steady pace, it’s suspenseful, the writing is simple but it suits the narrative well and the characters have distinguishable voices. I personally wanted to learn more about the German librarian, who seems to be a kind of link between two very different worlds.

I hope that this review sparked your interest in reading this short and enjoyable book. Personally, I’m glad that I finally gave it a second chance, it was definitely worth it. Happy reading everyone!

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I actually had a book review planned for this Friday, but I changed my mind because June and July are two crazy months for me, so I opted again for a book tag which suits this time of the year. Plus, I’m always happy to talk about the current state of my TBR pile.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag was created by two booktubers (Chami and Ety) and it comprises of fourteen questions, mostly regarding the books you read in the first half of the year. I read twenty-six books until now including the dnf-ed ones, so I think that I have enough material to answer properly to each and every question.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

This year I wanted to read all the first instalments in the series I own because I plan to continue only the series or trilogies I’ve found unique and enjoyable to explore further on. For the best book I’ve read until now I choose The Essential Book Blog by Ken J. Howe, Saul Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton, which is an easy yet informative guide for each new book blogger or newbie author and it teaches you anything from how to build your own blog, what your review should include, how to get traffic on your blog, how to get books and even how to earn money through your blog. Personally, I can’t wait to review this blogging guide and reread some of the sections in order to apply them to my blog.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.

 

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I will not be as generous as I used to be with the 5-star ratings and by far, there are just three books that had the wow factor I was looking for. The first 5-star sequel I rated in 2017 is Escape from Sudan, the 9th book in Mike WellsLust, Money & Murder series because I was on pins and needles while reading this book. It really was a roller-coaster of emotions for me and Elaine’s (almost impossible) mission through such a war-torn and dangerous country made my adrenaline levels increase.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I’m not very interested in new releases for now because I have a lot of unread books sitting and collecting dust on my shelves and many eBooks on my Kindle too; so I prefer to stick to those.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

I read Mike Wells’ blurb for Panacea, the 11th book in the Lust, Money & Murder series, which is set in Ukraine and the book, is going to be released in September. This is the only sequel I’m excited to devour.

5.  Biggest disappointment.

 

Well, I have a few disappointments and dislikes reflected on my ratings and on my dnf-ed shelf, but the biggest one came from an author I haven’t read before. I’m sorry for the repetition, but I was extremely disappointed by Isabel Allende’s Zorro. How can a book about California’s famous bandit be so boring with so many info-dumps, lifeless characters and no hook? I loved the fact that Diego is mixed-race, but besides that, his friendship with Bernardo and how his father met his mother, I didn’t find anything of interest in the chapters I read.

6. Biggest surprise.

 

The biggest surprise was The Rocker Who Holds Me by Terri Anne Browning, a book which didn’t deal only with the dissolute lives of rock stars, but also with abuse, heartache and lack of communication. I really love it and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock star romances.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

My new favourite author is K K Allen who wrote Enchanted, the first instalment in The Summer Solstice. Besides her beautiful and visual writing, I enjoyed spending my time with her well-built characters, the plot was extremely interesting and the elemental magic blew my mind along with its complexity. The ancient wisdom passed on to Katrina is a combination of Greek myths and Wiccan beliefs. For those of you who are wondering, the review is coming soon.

8. Newest fictional crush.

Nik from The Rocker Who Holds Me might be a potential fictional crush because he is talented, caring and a very hot guy, but he makes Emmie suffer a lot. On the other hand, she is afraid to talk about her feelings for him.

9. Newest favourite character.

I’m currently reading The Lady of the Pier trilogy written by Effrosyni Moschoudi and though I root for both protagonists of the two alternating stories, Sofia Aspioti is very dear to my heart, not just because she is Greek, but she is also a book nerd, a hardworking student, an animal lover and she also writes poetry. She is shy and very cautious because she is aware that everything she does might reach her strict father’s ears, an overprotective parent who forbids her to stay out late or to do anything silly. Despite the restrictions that suffocate her life, Sofia longs for freedom and adventure especially after meeting Danny, an outgoing and non-conformist British tourist whose laid back attitude makes Sofia fall for him.

10. Book that made you cry.

Though I’ve shed a tear occasionally when I read about Sofia’s kind and loving grandparents from Corfu who reminded me of my own, none of the books I’ve picked up in the first half of the year made me cry hysterically for a certain character or situation.

11. Book that made you happy.

 

It’s hard to say that one of my recent reads made me feel happy, but You & Me Forever is a collection of romantic YA and NA stories written by eight authors including Megan Linski and Pamita Rao, a book that made me feel good most of the time because the short stories range from sweet to dark and they are easy to read especially while you are travelling. I highly recommend it for the summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I adore the new covers for The Lady of the Pier trilogy; they are so gorgeous and suit the novels perfectly with that beautiful and mysterious woman standing on the pier.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Besides the books mentioned above, I want to continue reading the two remaining novels from the Try a Chapter Book Tag and afterwards to flip through or even reread some classics I’ve read a few years ago, but I haven’t reviewed yet.

 14. Favourite Book Community Member

For now, I’ll give a shoutout to my best friend and awesome reviewer, Elena from eLitere.ro who has great tastes in books and movies. Check out her website and show her some love!

If you enjoyed this book tag, give it a try and leave your answers below in a comment or through a link to your blog or YouTube channel. Have an awesome weekend! See you next time!

Recenzie: La țigănci de Mircea Eliade

Titlu: La țigănci

Autor: Mircea Eliade

Gen: Paranormal, Realism Magic

Anul apariției: 1962

Anul apariției acestei ediții: 2006

Editura Cartex 2000

Rating: 5/5 stele

De ceva timp, am avut un chef nebun să citesc ceva de Mircea Eliade, însă după atâtea romane în limba engleză mi-a venit ideea de a reciti nuvela fantastică La țigănci,  pe care am văzut-o într-o versiune dramatizată la teatru, în perioada liceului. Așa cum poate știți, protagonistul nuvelei este Gavrilescu, un profesor de pian care își duce traiul de pe o zi pe alta, având sufletul înecat în banal și în neîmpliniri atât financiare cât și artistice. Gavrilescu este un om nefericit, care are adesea monologuri interioare, deși intră în conversații și cu ceilalți călători, tânjind după puțină atenție, și se simte sufocat de viața sa mediocră și plină de rutină, pe care o duce.

„Eu, cum vă spuneam, reîncepu Gavrilescu, trec regulat cu tramvaiul ăsta de trei ori pe săptămînă. Pentru păcatele mele, sînt profesor de pian. Zic pentru păcatele mele, adăugă încercînd să zîmbească, pentru că n-am fost făcut pentru asta. Eu am o fire de artist…”

Totuși, Gavrilescu este însetat de cunoaștere, iar subiectul despre casa misterioasă a țigăncilor îi stârnește curiozitatea să afle mai multe informații. Măcar așa mai poate ieși din cumplita rutină care îi macină existența. El pare uneori a fi absent sau pur și simplu distrat sau visător, de parcă ar încerca să evadeze cumva într-un spațiu prielnic sufletului său de artist. „Sînt artist, spuse Gavrilescu (…) Pentru păcatele mele am ajuns profesor de pian, dar idealul meu a fost, de totdeauna, arta pură. Trăiesc pentru suflet…”

Motivul arșiței, care apare obsesiv pe parcursul narațiunii și de care se tot plânge Gavrilescu, poate semnifica viața sa mediocră, iar admirația profesorului pentru Colonelul Lawrence al Arabiei poate fi dorința lăuntrică a protagonistului nostru de a ieși din cotidian și de a explora locuri necunoscute precum la țigănci, un loc obscur considerat un subiect tabu și rușinos de către unii dintre călătorii din tramvai. Gavrilescu îmi pare un personaj destul de ciudat cu monologurile și conflictele sale interioare. Pare destul de confuz, zăpăcit și pe alocuri enervant cu obsesiile lui cu privire la arșiță, neîmplinirea sa profesională și autoînvinovățirea constantă referitoare la deciziile greșite luate în trecut, care au dus la viața lipsită de satisfacții din prezent.

Bordeiul țigăncilor este spațiul sacru în care legile din lumea profană nu se mai aplică: timpul trece mai lent, oglinzile, paravanele, pereții și covoarele își schimbă forma, consistența și uneori par să se întrepătrundă; iar cele trei fete (țiganca, grecoaica și evreica) par a fi niște preotese care ascultă „spovedania” legată de trecut a lui Gavrilescu și îl ademenesc într-un joc aparent infantil (protagonistul trebuie să ghicească cine este țiganca)… joc pe care bărbatul îl pierde de fiecare dată. Fetele se învârt în cerc precum niște iele, iar Gavrilescu este prins în vârtejul supranatural pe care nu îl înțelege și căruia nu îi poate rezista.

„(…) încercă sa se oprească, să se smulgă din mîinile acelea care-l învîrteau în iureș, ca într-o horă de iele, dar îi fu peste putință să se desprindă. Simțea în nări dogoarea trupurilor tinere și parfumul acela exotic, depărtat, și auzea în el, dar și în afara lui, pe covor, picioarele fetelor dănțuind. Simțea de asemenea că hora îl poartă ușor, printre fotolii și paravane, către fumul încăperii, dar după cîtva timp renunță să se mai împotrivească — și nu-și mai dădu seama de nimic.”

Ceea ce urmează jocului fetelor reprezintă scena cea mai interesantă și misterioasă din nuvelă datorită elementelor suprarealiste care dau senzația de oniric, dar și de o posibilă halucinație. Cineva scria pe Goodreads că Gavrilescu ar fi putut simți efectele opiului, deoarece Eliade obișnuia să consume acest narcotic, însă nimic nu este menționat clar în nuvelă. Putem face totuși speculații, iar indiciul de la care putem porni este faptul că țiganca îl sfătuiește pe Gavrilescu să nu bea prea multă cafea. Poate că baba i-a pus ceva în acea cafea sau poate că protagonistul a început să halucineze tocmai din cauza cafelei.  Pe de altă parte, mi-ar fi plăcut să cred că visul ciudat al lui Gavrilescu este un simbol al purgatoriului sau chiar al iadului – întunecat, cu o căldură sufocantă, unde obiectele din decor prind viață și se mișcă singure – însă Gavrilescu îmi pare din ce în ce mai derutat după revenirea la lumea reală, în loc să fie mai liniștit și purificat.

„Eu venisem aici din simplă curiozitate. Mă interesează lucrurile noi, necunoscute. Mi-am spus: Gavrilescule, iată o ocazie să-ți îmbogățești cunoștințele. N-am știut că e vorba de jocuri naive, copilărești. Vă închipuiți, m-am văzut deodată gol, și auzeam voci, eram sigur că dintr-un moment în altul… înțelegeți ce vreau să spun…”

Eugen Simion spunea că nuvela lui Eliade este „o alegorie a morții”, iar ultima parte (de la întoarcerea lui Gavrilescu în planul profan până la sfârșitul cărții) are simboluri clare în această privință: de la moartea sau plecarea din București a cunoscuților protagonistului, întâlnirea cu birjarul care a fost dricar în tinerețe, până la revederea cu Hildegard, marea iubire a lui Gavrilescu. Ea este acea prezență nepământeană pe care Gavrilescu practic putea să o aleagă de la bun început când intrase la țigănci, însă el a ales-o la sfârșit, pentru că nu mai avea altă opțiune. Până și baba îi spune lui Gavrilescu despre Hildegard că: „Mai e doar nemțoaica. Ea nu doarme niciodată…”

Nu-mi vine să cred că încă mă fascinează această nuvelă datorită suspansului și misterului pe care povestea le degajă și datorită simbolurilor care fac această lectură o experiență inedită la orice vârstă. După atâția ani, deși încă mai știam în mare despre ce era vorba în nuvelă, am rămas surprinsă de detaliile pe care le-am uitat; așa că, implicit, am redescoperit povestea. Mai mult, am privit-o dintr-o perspectivă nouă, ceea ce nu se întâmplă cu toate cărțile, deoarece anumite impresii din școală sunt greu de schimbat.

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: A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid

Title: A Wounded World

Author: Crit Kincaid

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published by A Work Day World

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The world has wounded this boy terribly, Marsh, and he can’t forgive it. He’s angry and obstinate and fears nothing— even and especially me. I just can’t make this boy see and act for his own good. He hides from the world in that bloody garden and paints the moments of his life, ignoring his past and thereby rejecting his future.(…)”  (p. 170).

What would you do if you lost it all in a terrible car crash and had to live with the haunting guilt that you weren’t able to do anything to save your loved ones from the cold hands of death? This is the story of Norman Albert Steves, the protagonist of the debut novel entitled A Wounded World, written by Crit Kincaid. Tormented by constant nightmares where the teen (who prefers to be called Normal) lives over and over again the terrifying last moments of his family’s life, the guilt and self-hatred, but also the acute feeling of loneliness that comes along with the pain and loss. Normal is stuck between his memories and his fears. If this wasn’t enough, the only relative the boy still has, Granny Rachel, who suffers from ALS, can’t take care of him anymore, due to her declining health. Thus, the teen is forced to face his greatest fears. How will this hypersensitive and talented boy cope with this world that always seems to hurt him and who will manage to bring him back into the light?

He’s like that graveyard cat, who hunts mice amongst graves at night and occasionally ventures out into the bright light of the living world. But even then, he stays in the shadows, avoiding contact, forgetting that his natural place is with the living and not with the dead.” (p. 186)

I won’t give away more details because this is one of those books where you need to plunge into it without knowing too much about the story. What I can say is that I felt a deep connection with Normal because anyone who lost a loved one in their childhood can relate to this boy’s story along with the fear of being abandoned or losing the loved ones who are still alive. There’s also the fear of the past and the temptation to run away from it in order to suffer less. There are also other situations that made me relate to Normal. For example, he was bullied at school because he stuttered, while I was laughed at because I was visually impaired. The paranormal elements are amazing and to be honest, if it weren’t for them, I would have given this book a much lower rating.

A Wounded World is a paranormal young adult book I highly recommend to anyone, regardless of what genre you love to read because any reader will find closure and a different message, depending on each person’s life experience. Young Adult books don’t usually appeal to me that much, but I’m impressed by how many themes and issues are intertwined and discussed in this book in a way that makes you pause and think about each one of them.

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.