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 book-tubers (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 KK 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 created by BookParadise, 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.