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: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

A Romance of Russian Life In Verse

 

Title: Eugene Onegin

Original Title: Евге́ний Оне́гин

Subtitle: A Romance of Russian Life In Verse

Author: Alexander Pushkin

Translated by Henry Spalding

Genre: Romanticism

First Published in 1833

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Published by Delphi Classics

This Work is included in The Works of Alexander Pushkin

Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: This review may contain a few spoilers!\

For me, literature is like a locked chest in which every book is a priceless jewel that awaits to be discovered, analysed and treated with care. Let’s allow ourselves to welcome a bit of romanticism in our lives every once in a while, even if it’s fictional. Therefore, allow me to tell you a few things about a book very dear to my heart and its author. Before I came across this novel, I thought that Russian literature is hard to read and understand, but time shows me every now and then that generalisations are foolish and unjust.

Eugene Onegin (Евге́ний Оне́гин, pronounced Yevgeniy Onegin), with its subtitle A Romance of Russian Life In Verse, is a verse novel written by Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, published in serial form between 1825-1832 and as a complete novel in 1833. The edition that inspired this review is Henry Spalding‘s 1881 edition — the first English translation of Eugene Onegin. The book comprises of the following sections: the Preface, Mon Portrait, A Short Biographical Notice of Alexander Pushkin and Eugene Onegin.

Mon Portrait is a poem written in French by Pushkin when he was fifteen years old and the auto-irony found there may help us understand the resemblance between Pushkin and Eugene Onegin. Even though the poem suggests that the Russian poet may be the true source of inspiration for his beloved protagonist, no character can be completely identified to its creator.

In A Short Biographical Notice of Alexander Pushkin, we are informed that the poet was born in 1799, in Pskoff (though in other sources Moscow is his birthplace) in an aristocratic family. His literary talent may be inherited because his father and uncle were friends with poets such as Dimitrieff and Joukovsky; not to mention that Uncle Vassili Pushkin was a minor poet. Pushkin was not too fond of school, but of general reading, learning languages such as French, English, Latin, German, Italian and Spanish and writing poems. Besides poetry like Ruslan and Ludmila or The Gypsies, he also wrote prose and drama, of which I will mention The Queen of Spades (1834) and Mozart and Salieri (1832) Pushkin’s life was very tumultuous as it happens with all great writers and composers who changed our world. He moved from place to place, whether in Russia or Bessarabia because he often fell out of favour with the Tsar and some of the noblemen. A very intriguing fact is that Pushkin seemed to have foreseen his death when he wrote about Lenski’s death in Eugene Onegin (Canto VI) As well as his character, Pushkin was a literary genius who hastened to challenge his presumed rival to a duel without giving himself time to seek the truth. Therefore, the Russian poet’s life was prematurely cut short at the age of 38 because he wanted to save the reputation of the woman he loved.

Eugene Onegin comprises of eight cantos with eight titles, eight mottos and 86 notes of which I will talk about later on. The story is set in St. Petersburg at the time when Eugene Onegin is about to inherit his uncle’s estate in the countryside. Eugene is eighteen years old and he lives his life eccentrically and to the fullest: he dresses like a London dandy, spends the money he has inherited on expensive dinners, likes going to balls, and he enjoys ephemeral pleasures. He is selfish, superficial, and snobbish and behaves like his favourite characters. However, Onegin is an educated young man who speaks fluently in French, knows how to dance the mazurka and is adored by the ladies. Life is pretty uninteresting for Onegin in his uncle’s mansion because the young man loves more hustle and bustle of the city than the tranquillity of the countryside. But things are about to change when he befriends his neighbour, Vladimir Lenski, a handsome young man, a dreamer, an admirer of Kant and poet of genius, who has just returned from Germany.

Though Eugene is often bored by his new friend, he indulgently listens to Lenski’s heated poems about the glory of man and love. Eugene also hears that his friend is in love with a young woman named Olga Larina. When Lenski is invited to Olga’s house, he takes Onegin with him to meet his fiancée and her family. Olga is very outgoing and sociable; but she has a sister, Tatiana, who is her opposite. Tatiana is introverted, romantic and melancholic like Svetlana (a Russian Lenora, a poem written by Joukovsky) and she is also an avid reader of romantic novels.

Onegin’s presence has a big impression on Tatiana, who begins to be fond of him. Being touched by love and eagerly wanting to know how Onegin feels about her, Tatiana writes a passionate love letter to him, but she doesn’t receive any reply; thus her anguish grows. When the two eventually meet in the garden, Eugene politely rejects her love, saying that he is not worthy of her, that he only has brotherly love for her and that their union would bring grief to both of them. Lenski tries to bring Eugene and Tatiana together again, but Eugene is fed up with balls because of the atmosphere and guests who gossip about him and Tatiana. In order to take revenge against Lenski who had forcefully brought him to Tatiana’s anniversary, he dances and flirts with Olga to make his friend jealous. Lenski is hurt by Eugene’s gesture; therefore he challenges him to a duel. Unfortunately, this will not be a good idea because Lenski and Onegin’s friendship will end abruptly and innocent blood will be uselessly shed. What will happen next? I will let you find out for yourselves.

Henry Spalding’s edition informs us through the help of 86 notes about Russian culture, how rich and poor people lived in Imperial Russia and there are also many literary allusions, which the Russian poet hides between the lines of his novel. For example, Onegin is considered a Russian Childe Harold — Byron’s protagonist from an eponymous narrative poem — or Tatiana is seen as Lenora from Burger’s well-known poem. There are also references to Ovid, Horace, Homer, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Richardson, poets who are friends of Pushkin and his own works such as Ruslan and Ludmila and The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.

The narrative voice is very close to the reader, witty but also a master of words. Although the narrator is anonymous, he tells us that he is a close friend of Onegin’s, who knows the entire story of his life. He is very fond of the protagonist because he calls him my Eugene or Onegin mine. The digressions found in the story serve as small breaks from the main plot and they are mostly about society, love and literature. The narrator calls his muse between the storyline and the digressions as if he were an ancient poet. At the end of the novel, he apologises to the reader for living Onegin in an uncomfortable situation and also for the grammar mistakes, if there are any.

I really enjoyed this verse novel because it was easy to read and I finished it faster than I have expected. Eugene Onegin is a priceless jewel of Russian literature and everyone should read it. If all of Pushkin’s works are as magnificent as this one, I will read more of his books.

Review: Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer

Book 1 of Montana Romance

 

Title: Our Little Secrets

Author: Merry Farmer

Genre: Historical Romance, Western

First Published: 2012

Self-Published

Series: Montana Romance

Rating: 4/5 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! This book contains adult themes and language!

Today I’m going to review Our Little Secrets, a western and historical romance novel written by Merry Farmer, which is the first book in the Montana Romance series. “I think both of you have guilty consciences that like to make up terrifying stories.” (p. 192)

It’s 1895 and Charlotte Baldwin, a runaway heiress, arrives in the frontier town of Cold Springs, Montana, hoping to find shelter from the man who is constantly following her and she wishes to start over as Charlie, a new identity that might keep her out of danger… or so she thought. Charlotte meets Michael West, the owner of the general store, a man who seems to live a quiet life – the kind of life Charlotte dreamed to have for so long.

Destiny has a strange way of bringing people with dark pasts together and here it makes no exception. Partially due to lust, partially due to practical benefits for both sides, Michael and Charlotte decide to exchange vows for a marriage of convenience, the only rule is not to intrude or to ask any questions about each other’s past. Will such a marriage work? What do they have to hide or be ashamed of? “All he needed to do was make her believe what she wanted to believe, and that was something he was very, very good at.” (p. 53)

Without spoiling your read, I’m only going to say that the book was pretty good even though I personally found the second half better because it was more alert than the first half. The first part introduces us to the little frontier town, its people who enjoy gossiping about the other inhabitants, Michael’s friends and enemies, the way they perceive Charlotte, but also the overall secrecy that poisons both Charlotte and Michael’s minds and hearts with doubts and questions about their partner’s past. Though I understand why the two strangers wed so fast, I personally would have wanted them to know each other a little because it would have saved them from some of the complicated situations they had to face.

In the end, Our Little Secrets actually came as a surprise because I hadn’t expected to like it this much. For the tense moments, entangled situations and the way the characters react, I give this book four stars. If you know or think that you will enjoy this genre, then don’t hesitate to pick up this book!

 

Review: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Title: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Poetry, Romance

Self-Published

Year of Publication: 2015

Rating: 4/5 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!

Though I read the entire Lady of the Pier trilogy back to back and I consider it one of the best stories I’ve read this year, I’m going to review the Poetry from The Lady of the Pier first to give you a flavour before reviewing each of the three books. In short, this small volume comprises of ten romantic poems, an excerpt from The Ebb and a bonus short story set in Sifnos Island.

Even though you can read the poems without picking up the trilogy, I think that they make more sense after discovering Laura and Sofia’s story. Because this is a poetry collection, I cannot review it in detail, but I can give you a sneak peek into the novel to make you understand the context in which these poems were written. In short, this paranormal romance revolves around two women coming from different time periods and different countries: Sophia lives in Greece in the late 80s while Laura lives in Brighton (UK) in the late 30s. One night after meeting a cheeky Brit named Danny, Sophia is visited in her dreams by a mysterious lady dressed in black who stands on a pier and recites verses. The poems Sophia hears in her sleep are linked to the important events in the woman’s life and the feelings these poems will stir inside you range from happiness and joy, to sadness, nostalgia, regret and despair; while the main themes are (lost) love and death.

In An Old Promise. Joanna, a posh  American widow travels to Sifnos after many years because there’s an old promise she has to keep. The first time she went to this majestic Greek island, Joanna was twenty-one and she fell in love with a young man, but they lost touch with each other and carried on with their lives. Will Joanna’s trip to Sifnos help her relive or mend the past she was so fond of? This s a story about memories, love and a second chance at happiness. The writing is good, the depictions of Athens and Sifnos are vivid and, if the poems from the fist part of the book broke your heart and made you feel emotional, this story will mend it and warm it with its beauty and an ending filled with hope. This story is also a metaphorical love letter to Greece, its beauty and the magic it casts upon those who visit and fall in love with it. The only two complaints I have with this short story are the fact that the story was a bit too sugary and that Costas was too emotional and a bit unrealistic as a male character.

Those were my thought on this short volume. Stay tuned for more reviews and other bookish content! I post new articles every Wednesday and Friday. Until then, happy reading everyone!

 

Review: Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Ann Verge

Title: Heaven in His Arms

Author: Lisa Ann Verge

Genre: Adventure, Historical Romance

First Published: 1995

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2014

Published by Bay Street Press LLC

Rating: 4/5 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! This book contains adult themes and language!

“All single men in the colony must marry within a fortnight of the arrival of the king’s girls. If they don’t, they’ll be denied their precious fur trading licenses.” (Loc. 500-501)

For today’s post, I’ve chosen to write a review for an adventure/historical romance entitled Heaven in His Arms, written by Lisa Ann Verge, which is set in Quebec in the 17th century, a place of which I’ve never read anything before.

Genevieve Lalande’s past is filled with grief, terrible events and circumstances that led her to a miserable existence on the streets of Paris. Her only chance to escape from the wretched underbelly of the French society and to begin a better life is to switch places with a king’s girl (Marie Duplessis) in order to become a mail-order bride and to be sent to Quebec, the newest colony in King Louis XIV’s possession.

“Every year since she’d arrived in the Salpêtrière, dozens of girls had been given a dowry by the king and sent off to the Caribbean islands or to the northern settlements of New France, to marry and settle in the colonies.” (Loc. 61-62)

Even if Genevieve will be forced to marry a stranger when she arrives in Quebec, she accepts to do so because anything seems better than a life of poverty, theft and constant humiliations. She went through a lot of hardship in the past to be afraid of the unknown, whether it is the place where she will be settling down or the man who will choose her as his bride.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, André Lefebvre has to marry and settle down into the colony, due to an ordinance sent from France, if the fur trader wants to keep his license. Obviously, André hates this new law because he is a man who loves freedom, pleasures of all kinds, venturing into the unknown parts of New France, and he’s not at all interested in raising a family of his own. Though André tries to avoid such a marriage of convenience, he reluctantly obeys the ordinance for his trade’s sake, picks up the sickly Genevieve and quickly marries her, secretly hoping she will die soon. So much for a warm welcome, eh?

But André doesn’t know that Genevieve can play dirty too and he can’t fool her that easily because she’s also tenacious – she looks for him and insists to go with him on the voyage he planned for so long. Even though André doesn’t want her around, partially because he lusts for her and partially because he’s afraid she won’t survive the journey, Genevieve’s presence is actually useful sometimes because she has skills that surprise her husband who thought that she would have a hard time adapting to the expedition.

In fact, Genevieve somehow belongs in the wilderness because she is a free-spirited, courageous woman like the native Indian women and even though she makes silly or apparently innocent mistakes, she knows what she is doing most of the time. I think that her attitude and adaptability to any unexpected situation is a lesson for misogynistic André, who wrongly compares her to the whiny Frenchwomen who needed comfort, protection and coquetries to be happy: “This woman was as unpredictable and as stubborn as this great stretch of untamed land. A man could spend a lifetime making love to her, and it would be like riding these rapids—wild, exhilarating, bordering on the brink of control.” (Loc.1852-1853).

I’m glad that I’ve read this book. I don’t have many complaints about it, except for Genevieve’s pet name – Genny – that sounds very American to me and not quite French and the sex scenes after André, Genevieve and their crew arrived at their destination. I understand that the purpose of those scenes is to show that the relationship strengthened and that the two lovers had their duties as a married couple, but sometimes these sex scenes dragged a little. However, the rest of the story was very interesting and I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much.

Overall, it was a pleasant read that made me imagine what Canada looked like before the country we all know today. The characters made this fictional journey pass very fast, in good company, and Genevieve and André’s relationship made the experience steamy and unique.

Review: The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins

Detroit Detective Stories

Book 1 of The Greektown Stories

 

Title: The Greeks of Beaubien Street

Subtitle: Detroit Detective Stories

Author: Suzanne Jenkins

Genre: Family Saga, Mystery

Year of Publication: 2012

Published by: Jenkins Associates LLC

Series: The Greektown Stories

Rating: 3/5 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! This book contains adult themes and language!

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is the first instalment in Suzanne Jenkins’s mystery/family saga series The Greektown Stories which revolves around Jill Zamos, a Greek American detective who lives in Detroit with her large family. In this first book, she works on the case of a murdered young woman named Gretchen Parker, whose lifeless naked body was found in a remote alley. At first glance, the premise of the book should form the main plot of the novel. However, there’s also a secondary plot through which we enter into the universe and day to day life of Jill’s family. Even though I’ve enjoyed reading about Jill, her father Gus who owns a grocery store and the lives of their other relatives, I felt that their family history (seasoned with problems like infidelity, misunderstandings and rivalities between the in-laws) overshadowed the plot about Gretchen’s death. There’s also an esoteric aspect thrown into the novel (Jill has visions linked to the murders) which don’t make sense here. I think that a detective should work with evidence and logic to solve a case, not with visions. However, Jill is not only superstitious and spiritual, but also intelligent, observant, professional and caring when it comes to her father and her brother who suffers from a mental disorder.

If you think that some of the issues of the Zamos family are a bit questionable, such as a dark secret that threatens to break the family apart, just wait and see (I mean read) how Gretchen’s life has been. It’s such a disturbing issue that my mind wasn’t capable of imagining it.  I know that I’m very vague, but I don’t want to get too deep into the subject because it makes me cringe. Though this book is part of a series, I hoped that the narrator would state clearly who actually killed Gretchen Parker, but the ending was very abruptly and I was still left with unanswered questions. That’s definitely not a good sign for a mystery book.

I really feel that there are too many characters and stories for a single book (or first instalment) and I totally understand why other readers were disappointed by this book because they were predominantly interested in the mystery. Though the two plots are loosely linked to Jill and the theme of family and its dark secrets, they belong to very different genres and as much as I would like to tell you otherwise, they don’t go well together. It’s like the author couldn’t decide if she wanted to write a mystery or a family saga and ended up writing about both.

Even though the novel needs another round of editing, I enjoyed reading about Jill’s extended family, her childhood, the relationships between the in-laws, traditions, Greek cuisine, Jill’s colleague Albert Wong who is a gay Asian American character I liked and Alex, Jill’s Polish boyfriend who loves art, but ended up working at the morgue. Most of the characters are pretty well-developed and there were some I liked such as Jill, Gus and Albert, but there were also some I really despised. However, now, after a few months after reading the book, I can’t say that I remember all the relatives Jill has.

In the end, I think that the novel would have been better either as a mystery or as a family saga, not both. I’m not particularly recommending it because it has some disturbing stuff in there and not everyone has the stomach to read about that subject. Also, I’m not planning on reading the rest of the series.

Review: George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley by Helen Fox

Title: George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley

Author: Helen Fox

Genre: Children’s Books, Middle-Grade

Published by AG Books

Year of Publication: 2016

Rating: 2/5 stars

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Helen Fox, for sending me this book for review.

Towards the end of July, I received a message through my contact form from Ms Helen Fox, an author from the UK, who asked me to review her middle-grade book and I gladly accepted it. The book I will be reviewing today is entitled George the Orphan Crow and the Creatures of Blossom Valley and it was published in 2016.

This is the story of George, an orphan crow who loses his parents at the beginning of the book, but he soon finds shelter in the enchantingly beautiful Bloom Valley and his new friends keep him company and make him forget about his grief. Bloom Valley is not only a magical place, but a welcoming community comprised of hardworking and friendly animals. George learns a few things about the valley, its inhabitants and their customs. As time goes by, he becomes more courageous through a series of events which take place both inside and outside of Bloom Valley. The magical valley is said to be linked to a legend of a bygone kingdom, but George is a newcomer, so Thelma the spider, who is the head of the creatures, hesitates to tell him this secret; therefore George will have to learn about it the hard way.

I like the way Penny Wood, Bloom Valley and other lands were built with the exception of the legend. For example, Bloom Valley has villages, schools, a hospital where Tawny Owl takes care of her patients and the ambulance cart is pulled by four hares; there is a Music Hall which also serves as a court, the squirrels protect the ivy surrounding the valley like sentinels and all animals gather on every evening before sunset to sing their Good Night Song. Even if this beautiful valley is full of animals that welcome and help the ones in need, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any tensions between them. The ladybirds think they are discriminated by Thelma who protects the butterflies from harm: therefore Rosa the ladybird and her daughter Heather plot to kill the butterflies, especially Princess Estella, to hurt Thelma whom they despise to death.

Though Thelma has her reasons to protect the precious butterflies, I still don’t understand why the ladybirds, the grasshoppers and the wood flies want to destroy them. Those butterflies are harmless and not very intelligent if you ask me. I mean we seldom hear the princess speak and when she does, it’s not enough to be considered an important character in the story. When it comes to the villains, they are pretty cartoonish, especially Rosa and Heather who seem evil just for evil’s sake: they are vain, egoistic and manipulative. They hate everyone and feel they are persecuted because Heather attempted to drown Prince Orpheo, her secret crush and Thelma was apparently rude towards Heather, accusing her that she was bullying the butterflies. Ever since Rosa came to Bloom’s Valley, she had been questioning Thelma’s authority and dismissed the veridicality of the legend. On the other hand, Gaspar the grasshopper and his gang talk like old-fashioned gangsters, while Hugo the wood fly and his gang talk funny too but they are also pretty annoying. They seem like extremists or an anarchical group who love to fight no matter if they are right or wrong.

‘We mustn’t let the privileged walk over the ordinary. The spider needs to learn that the wood flies are as important as any of her creatures and we have a right to invade anywhere, if it means a better life for our people.” (Page 109)

But now, let’s return to the good guys. Though George talks a bit maturely for his age (yes, he lost his parents prematurely, but still), I like the fact that he easily befriends other inhabitants of Bloom Valley such as Bond the squirrel and head of the guards, Conti the tenor frog, Speedo the snail who loves entertaining and telling stories on the White Rock, Alphie a fellow crow, Thelma whom I’ve mentioned before, and also a character who doesn’t live in the valley, Plato the wise Owl. Though I felt sorry for George’s loss, I liked Plato a little more because he knows the entire history of the place, he has the role of a judge when an animal crosses the line and he has always something wise to say. Most of the other characters are developed and have a back-story of their own. The funniest characters are Conti and Speedo. Conti makes strange quacking sounds when he speaks, but he is one of George’s most loyal friends who would do anything for the crow; while Speedo is afraid of heights, but he is grateful for what George did to help him to fulfil his greatest wish.

Other positive aspects of this novel are the scenes from the first chapter which are filled with terror and grief and the way the animals see their fellow birds drop dead made me think of a shooting or a massacre seen from their perspective. The trial scene was very interesting with both female and male representatives of each family sitting in one of the three tiers and taking the role of the jury, while Plato the Owl was the judge. The writing was pretty good with visual and audible imagery added to the descriptions of all the places in the book. Also, the characters have great names such as Plato, Bond, Thelma, Conti, Speedo, Alphie, Orpheo, Swift, Gaspar, Willard, etc.

And now I’m going to reveal the main reasons for this low rating. After the consequences of the trial, the plot went in a very strange direction that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s true that the plot was pretty disjointed from the first chapters, but I thought it would get better eventually. Yes, I liked how George took action in a few scenes and saved the lives of innocent animals, but from those scenes to wood flies invading Bloom’s Valley just because of a lie that got out of hand it’s a bit far-fetched  I know that this is a fictional story, but that invasion felt surreal and unbelievable. The second part of the book was very confusing because no one told us why those butterflies are so important and why everyone wants to kill them. I understood that they have royal blood, but, in most cases, the villains attempt to destroy them just to take revenge on Thelma. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy twists in any story, but I didn’t understand the necessity of that invasion. Was it added just to show how spiteful the wood flies are and how brave the inhabitants of Bloom Valley are? Maybe the author wanted to show how easily a misunderstanding can lead to conflict and the intention might have been good, but the conflict ended abruptly and anti-climactic.  Furthermore, I wonder, how many wood flies does it take to injure or fight against larger animals like birds, squirrels or spiders?

“Stop it! What are we fighting for? Our leaders lied to us. They have led us into death and destruction. I don’t want to die. No one wants to die.” (Page 113)

As for the legend of the lost kingdom, it is a strange mixture of fairy-tales, Greek Myths and witch stories that confuse the reader even more. “I am the High priestess of the Council of Tartarus. At long last, we now have your land and shall reign over it for many years to come.” The High Priestess, circled the valley on her broomstick examining the surroundings. Then she raised her wand and cast her spell. (Page 128)

Unfortunately, this is not the only identity crisis this novel has. Besides the confusing legend, the book wants to be a fable comprising of themes such as grief, environmental issues, friendship, animal rights, gender equality, the problem of refugees and conflict. I would be all for those themes if they were woven well into the story, not forcefully stuffed into the plot confusing the reader. Because this book is targeted towards younger readers, it’s a no-brainer that morals play an important part into the story. However, I felt that the book was a bit too preachy at times and I’m not sure how kids would react to that. Also, even though I liked a few characters, the story was pretty hard to get into, not only because of the plot but also because of the dialogues that didn’t sound natural. Kids have shorter attention spans than adults; therefore if the story doesn’t keep them engaged, they abandon it and read something else.

“It’s all the humans’ fault”, an old crow said. ‘Mindless young folk throwing live cigarettes on the forest floor. No respect for nature, no regret for lost life. Don’t they listen to their parents and school teachers who tell them that without nature there won’t be life? Look at what they’ve done to us, the misery they’ve caused.” (Page 33)

In the end, I will let you decide if you want to pick up this book or not. Personally, I felt very confused and disappointed after finishing it.

Review: Social Anxiety by Grant Anderson

 Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness

 

Title: Social Anxiety

Subtitle: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness

Author: Grant Anderson

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Self-Help

Year of Publication: 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars

In a world where social interactions are crucial, whether you are involved in your school or college projects, at work with your colleagues or practically anywhere else, you need to have social skills if you want to be noticed. But what happens with those people who don’t feel comfortable around new people or in social situations that seem normal for most of us? Things, like speaking in public or eating with your boss and colleagues, are very challenging and stressful for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, those who feel more comfortable avoiding certain situations than confronting them.

As a shy and socially anxious person myself, I picked up Grant Anderson‘s book Social Anxiety: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness hoping that I will learn how to be more confident and, if possible, not make a fool of myself that often when I’m speaking in front of a group of people, as it usually happens. However, the best part about reading this book is that the author himself suffered from social anxiety, but he worked very hard to overcome his biggest fears. So come with me on a journey where you will learn more about this life threatening disorder because it can easily ruin your social life and I guess that nobody wants that.

Mr Anderson’s book comprises of an introduction, four chapters with several subchapters, a conclusion and two bonuses. Because this is a nonfiction book, I’m going to briefly present the chapters and the sub-chapters in order to let you decide if this book is for you or not. In the Introduction we learn that millions of people suffer from social anxiety, being unable to control their fear regarding social situations and to live a normal life. As I mentioned before, the author himself suffered from this disorder, but he sought professional help, tried many methods of treatment and reduced his anxiety. Now he is a psychologist who supports people who are struggling with the same problem as he did. Anderson shares with the readers what he knows about social anxiety and how other people learnt to break free from it.

The first chapter is An Introduction to Social Anxiety, a mental disorder that usually occurs between adolescence and early adulthood and it seems to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors linked to the way a person’s brain is wired, emotional traumas or “being overprotected as a youth and not forming proper skills to deal with social situations” (Loc. 124). The psychologist also presents a few lists of the main triggers of social anxiety, emotional symptoms, physical symptoms and behavioural symptoms from which you can highlight the responses your mind and body gives you in certain stressful social situations you encounter. I have to say that it feels a little strange when you read about things you experienced several times in your life, but admitting that you have a problem is part of the process, as Mr Anderson wrote. He also advises us to seek professional help in order to understand how severe our disorder is and what type of treatment works for us.

In the second chapter, the author presents the methods of treatment and medication for social anxiety disorder. The methods of treatment the psychologist talks about are: Challenging Negative ThoughtsLearning to Control Your Breath, Facing Your FearsBuild Stronger RelationshipsChange Your Lifestyle and CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In the third chapter, you can read about Social Anxiety Setbacks and Maintaining Your Progress. Your problem will not go away in the first sessions of therapy or in a few days after you begin practising the techniques mentioned above. Though the skills you achieved through time can keep your anxiety under control – if the treatment is constant – the slips or setbacks will occur, but you can overcome them by analysing each thought rationally and seeing if it is worth worrying about your fear or dark scenario. Avoiding negativity in these situations is very important for your progress. The fourth chapter is about Social Anxiety Triggers And Stories on How People Were Able to Overcome Them and there is also a Conclusion and two bonuses at the end of the book, which I’ll let you discover on your own.

To wrap it up, this book was amazing and I’m glad that I read it at the perfect time in my life. Even though I knew a few techniques to control my anxiety, the down-to-earth language used by the author, the style and the examples he gives, they really make me feel better and makes me believe that my fear of public speaking can be defeated through perseverance and support.