Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

Edgy, are we?

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Hope I can do this…

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Why The Good Pirate?

This is the Foreword from my latest children’s book The Good Pirate. It is a story about a good man who tries to be a pirate, but along with the story, you can find tongue twisters, fun activities and word games…

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Foreword

Everybody I know has always loved stories about pirates. Sinbad, Bluebeard, Jack Sparrow… any favourites? Naturally, most of us have romantic notions of pirates as cheeky adventurers, sailing the high seas all around the world, with more mischief than malice in every untamed streak of our hair. Pirate stories make us laugh in the face of danger, and treasure maps awaken our inquisitive minds.

As a teacher, I often tell my students stories. If told well, they inspire wonderful discussions, before and after reading, so that learning about life and language becomes easy and fun. My good pirate George came to life a few years ago, as part of my teaching materials, combining topics of summer, weather, sea animals and the pirate’s life.

The modern society sometimes robs our children of certain stories, judging them as too serious, violent, or offensive. On the other hand, our children are exposed to so much violence and harshness in all other walks of life. Children need stories; they help them form and realize ideas of a better world.

What matters most is to get the children to think and feel. If we get them to think and feel, creatively and critically, about themselves, everyone else, and the world around us, then we have done our job as parents and educators. Setting challenges and examples, and inspiring children to question things from an early age is what they need. Providing them with answers is crucial, as well as guiding them to find the answers for themselves. The questions children pose are never wrong; so let’s keep the answers right, too.

Having received wonderful feedback on my first children’s book Winky’s Colours, and its ‘think’ sections at the end of each chapter, I have implemented the same here, hoping they help readers, adults or children, get more from the story itself. There are even some additional materials at the end of the book (riddles, word games, illustrations, tongue twisters), which might help educators and parents engage the children in the reading challenge. So… yo-ho-ho, and off we go!

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A WOMAN’S WEAKNESS by Molly Gambiza – my review no.28

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FINDING STRENGTH IN YOUR WEAKNESS

Molly Gambiza is an author who has a lot of important things to say, especially about the position of girls and women in the world, and the need for tolerance in relationships and various cultures. Her family background, and the cultural differences between her homeland and Great Britain influence her work a lot, giving it a recognizable touch and becoming her trademark.

She offers a unique view on the life cycle of a young woman born in Africa, according to local customs and education system, later searching for happiness and success in the great, big world, and ultimately her marriage, where she realizes it all comes down to people and their souls, regardless of their geographical position or cultural herritage. You are either a decent human being, or you are not. The beginning of Eva’s marital story enfuriated me, because abuse is simply intolerable in my mind, but it is shocking how often we still come across it and how widespread it still is.

The story of Eva is dramatic. What I particularly like about the author’s position is that Molly Gambiza, although having empathy and sympathy for her character, tells the tale without forcing the reader to empathize, without begging for sympathy or cajoling us into compassion. She merely states the facts as they come to Eva, and the way Eva experiences and interprets them. She builds her characters as life happens, no mercy and no delays. Although the timeline might profit from some tweaking, and there is more telling than showing at times, as far as the author’s style is concerned, this book shows obvious progress in the writing craft from True Colours, another important social message by the same author. The language here is brutally stripped of all lyrical beauty for the single purpose of telling a tragically shocking tale of male-female inequality, nurtured by centuries of  tradition and  biggotry, which ignores changes in life and times. What paints the language into a particular style are the colourful expressions, often translated into English from the author’s African vernacular. It will be interesting to see how Molly Gambiza further develops her stories, characters and style. 

The value of Woman’s Weakness lies in the reality of the story (sad, but true), as well as the believable characters, all of them, from the sleezy ex-wife and gossipy neighbours, to the stern parents, the horrendous mother-in-law, and the abusive, misguided husband. Whether Molly Gambiza has witnessed some of these scenes herself, or merely met people like her characters, is irrelevant. Why she tells her stories is what matters, and I am sure her readers will recognize the value and message, and learn a lot from her stories. Molly Gambiza shows us that the woman’s need to be loved can be her weakness. But she also lets us know that love, when it is true, is not a weakness, but strength, and that you need to respect and love yourself, first and foremost, not clinging to others for evidence of self-worth. Because whatever we are and do, that is what we teach our children.

Sadly, I know women whose weakness remained their weakness, and destroyed their lives, and the lives of their children. Perhaps if they had read stories like this one, they would have discovered some inner strength and recognized their own value, and the true impact of their decisions. We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be ourselves.

Book on Amazon

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THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K.Rowling – my review no.27

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LIFE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE

It took me a while to get into the story, I give you that. Not because I expected it to be like H. Potter at all. I never did. I did expect the level of writing to be on that level, which is what I got, because an author either has a unique style or perishes, and J.K. Rowling definitely has a unique style, and I love it (even when Robert Galbraith takes over). There are lines in her books that stay with us forever.

It took me a while to get into the story because it is exactly what it is – a tapestry of small-town politicians weaving their petty power struggles at the expense of the rest of us. I could see it all from the very beginning,  the delicate descriptions of mannerisms and appearances, the way her characters talk, how they interpret facts. What I had been hoping for was that it would be a satire, more humour and cynicism, and far less reality. But great books don’t always give us what we want and hope for. They give us what we need.

There is nothing casual about Casual Vacancy. Strange marriages of interest, social differences, slum suburbs, measly narrow-minded souls scheming, teenagers struggling to get out of the grim pattern of drug and sexual abuse they were born into, sad and tragic attempts at true love… all muggles, no magic, just the grim side of life, if we do nothing about it. And it makes you want to do something about it – makes you want to smack the living daylights out of some people, hug some people and tell them it will be all right… People, you see? Not characters, because they are.

You may find yourself setting the book aside to let some moments sink in and to settle your mind. There are scenes you will see too clearly and close your eyes to them. But the book will call you back. Once you cross the first third of the book, you will devour it. Once you finish reading, it will be one of those books that will leave you staring into blank space, breathing deeply. Every single detail in the book finds its place, every single person has a role, every single event sinks into place. J.K. Rowling is a master in this – things always fall into place. No spoilers here, but beware of the role of the lost computer as you flip the final pages! I still choke up and it’s been quite a while since I read the book.

Bowing to the mastery. Truly am. It takes gutts to write a book people may not like or appreciate. True authors do that. They write stories out of them, for better or worse. She did.

Book on amazon

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Neil

Neil Newton, author of Railroad, talks about what bothers him most in life. Do read on – there is much to think about here.

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What bugs me: time lost.

By Neil Newton

Sometimes wisdom comes from odd places. There is a very good face book page called Collective Evolution, a page I recommend. A particular post that caught my attention listed the main regrets of retirees. The list turned out to be what you would expect, based on many other previous similar posts. But there was one regret that was a bit higher up on the existential chain. Paraphrased, this particular regret was about living the way that “the world” wanted, not in a way that would be true to the person you are.
A bit lofty, I’ll admit. But I think that most people would admit some slippage in terms of “being true to oneself”. The horrifying conclusion of the oft recurring regret is that many people live their lives with the advice of the ages ringing in their ears and make the same mistake their ancestors did; they wait and hope that…something would will make it right. And it goes on.

The other bit of wisdom came from an even more unexpected source. I was watching a classic movie station that is featuring film noir for the summer. Film noir is a strange animal; its birth marked the first signs of the film industry graduating from a mostly sanitized view of American life to a study of life’s underbelly, something that has been common faire in the movies since the late sixties. The protagonist in this particular movie is an angry violent cop, so out of control that he is living on the edge of being thrown off the force. The conscience of the piece is a veteran cop who is a happily married man who makes his family his anchor in life. Catching the angry cop after one of his beat downs of a suspect, he reads him the riot act. Disgusted, our angry cop ask him, “How do you live with the job.” He’s told, “I live with other people, this is just a job. You only get out of life what you put in, from the heart.”

Silly watching a black and white hard boiled middle aged cop from a movie made in 1952 and me feeling exposed. At the age of 56 I  find myself feeling the press of time but I also found myself feeling the anticipated grief for generations who are just reaching adulthood and those that have yet to come into this world. I am angry that we aren’t taught to teach our children to take reasonable risks and to try to find themselves. Or at least to try be happy.

It’s common wisdom that we all make decisions that provide the trajectory of our lives; there are always choices, they say. So if things don’t work out, it must be our fault.  But choices, good choices, are informed, something that only comes from experience.  If there is a reason that young adults sometimes meander, having dysfunctional relationships and taking only what crumbs come their way, it is often because they have been taught that the one thing that would teach them how live, life experience and risk, is a bad thing.

So what bugs me? We are a society full of conflicting messages. We treat our children like helpless morons till they reach majority and then we expect them to quickly make informed decisions about school, career, relationships with no guidance and no experience. What bugs me more is that we are often lousy stewards of our children’s growth. Encouragement to try various careers by job shadowing is an idea that has not become a trend nor will it in most parts of the U.S.

At my age there is precious little that I can do to change the trajectory of my life. Living from the heart requires years of practice. I can feel sad for myself, but I am watching teenagers and young adults struggling to figure out which way to turn. And, in many cases, I can see them beginning to waste time in the way I did.

In cultures that we would consider primitive because they don’t have cable and cellphone, young men and women are put through rituals that bring them to adulthood, psychologically, gradually and in a timely fashion. Could we do the same? I leave that question to your imagination.

What bugs me? It can be best expressed in the last line of one of the better poems I’ve read: “In all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

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Thank you, Neil. You truly have given us food for thought.

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The Wheels on the Marketing Bus Go Round&Round

Reblogging this from the BooksGoSocial web blog… Telling it like it is, even though it may not be what I want to hear;)
HOW BOOK SELLING REALLY WORKS

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Elizabeth H.N.

So pleased to have a new guest here today, sharing what annoys her most in life today. Elizabeth Horton-Newton, author, family woman, social activist and multitasker is here to blow off some steam.

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What Bugs You

By Elizabeth Horton Newton

The question of what bugs me started me thinking. I thought it would be easy to come up with a pithy response. Imagine my amazement when I could not think of a single thing. Not one to give up easily I thought harder. I set my standards lower. Suddenly my brain was overrun with annoyances. People who cut me off in traffic, people who take the last cookie in the jar, people who don’t offer their seat on a bus to the elderly or disabled, drivers who are not disabled parking in handicapped parking spots, people who allow their children to run wild in malls and stores… I could go on. Yet, these seem such minor irritations. In fact, they are minor. I turned back to the drawing board.

I reexamined my list and found every entry had something in common. At their root they were all instances of rudeness based on self absorption. It seems to me in recent years people have become so self-involved they cease to consider what effect their actions may have on others. It’s a new type of selfishness, practiced on a regular basis right there in front of everyone.

I can’t say precisely when the shift came; if it was sudden or if it happened gradually over time, unnoticed even by those affected. Did it begin with adults behaving badly, teaching their children by example? Or was it children who first ran amuck, somehow undisciplined or unable to be disciplined?

Perhaps this self concern was always present beneath the surface, concealed by society’s morés. At some point it was no longer rude for people to put their desires first. Please note I did not say they put their needs first. That would be understandable to a degree. I’m talking about the crowds at Filene’s bridal dress sale known as the Running of the Brides in Boston. True, Filene’s has gone bankrupt, but while it was still in business it created a mad rush every November. Women who were not even engaged would trample one another in an effort to acquire a designer wedding dress at a ridiculously low price.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, is now known for injuries and deaths resulting from people fighting to get the sale item they must have to make Christmas complete. After all, they promised their child Santa would bring the ridiculously expensive toy for them to open on Christmas morning. By January the toy may lay forgotten on a playroom floor. People have been trampled, severely injured, even killed by aggressive shoppers who have no concern for others. The goal is to get the best while paying the least at any physical expense. There is a website that tallies the deaths since 2006.

You may wonder if this qualifies as simply being rude. It is perhaps the most extreme example of self gratification resulting in the most horrifying examples of rudeness. No thought is given to others in the drive to acquire some material object. Humanity goes by the wayside and instead homicidal consumerism takes over.

So, the next time you cut someone off on the highway, jump in front of another person in the grocery line, the next time you take the last Danish at a company breakfast or an extra cookie “for later”, give your actions a second thought. Did you hold the elevator door for someone hurrying to get on or did you pretend you didn’t hear as he asked you to wait? Did you look away on the subway as an older man or woman struggled to stand, hoping someone else would give up his seat? Did you park in a handicapped spot thinking you would only be a moment in the store? Do you want your child to emulate your behavior? Are you doing other selfish things unconsciously as your child looks on? Are you perpetuating rudeness with your behavior?

What bugs me? Rude, thoughtless behavior by people who are so self-absorbed they can’t see beyond their own desires and comfort. Does it bug you?

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Thank you, Lizzie! I can’t say I disagree with you;)!

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Time

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My head pounds heavy
With the grains of time’s sand
Sifting without mercy,
Sand layering my throat.

My heart feels trapped,
Pressed in a corset,
Time pulling the strings
Tighter and tighter.

I would scream,
If I had the breath.
I would shout,
If my mouth wasn’t so dry.

The vice crushes my lungs,
Bit by bit as I fight it,
Yet I know not to budge,
But stay true to my dream.

My soulcage is horror,
Metalic and cold,
And my timer is ticking,
Ticking, keeps ticking…

The time to act is now,
And I know this will pass.
I just hope I break free
Before Time passes me by.

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MONTY & ME by Louisa Bennet – my review no.26

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Pure joy to read! Intense, insightful and fun!

Monty and Me took me by surprise, not only because of the fact that it is a crime story told from the perspective of a dog (how cool is that, all you dog fans out there;)?), but by its wonderfully positive humour and charming style. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this ARC which I received in exchange for an honest review.

By page 18 I had already realized that I had smiled, giggled and even laughed more than 10 times. Anyone who loves either reading or writing knows full well it is not an easy task to get laughs out of printed pages. Louisa Bennet does humour naturally, her wit is unforced and clever, her tone so easy to follow that reading goes quite easy and you simply breeze through the text.

Monty, the accidental detective, is not just a dog, but a fully-fledged character, and one you will grow to like from his initial accounts of his duck and food addiction, through his interpretation of human behaviour, to his emotional description of his owner’s murder, and on and on. I am trying to avoid spoilers as best I can, but cannot, so let me just mention a few I instantly fell in love with – Monty and Betty chatting, the interpretation of the nickname Legless, Mr Google, Monty’s account of his rapport with his new owner, his judgment of Rose’s mentor and his sexist attitude, Dante the intellectual magpie being seduced by a… stopping now, before I spill the beans.

To those who take a stern view to an adult mystery being told with humour and through the eyes of an animal, either give it a chance and have some open-minded fun, or stop taking things too seriously, or avoid this book. To those of you who love animals and mystery, you will enjoy this book for more reasons than one. Although to some it may seem like two books blended together (one more child-like with animals talking and one an adult mystery), for me it is not. I love the blend.

Normally, I love an author who shows the story appealing to all of the readers’ senses. As should be expected, this author does all that,  but puts particular emphasis on scents, which works out splendidly, because Monty uses them not only to interpret situations, but people’s character, past and present. The scent descriptions attached to feelings such as fear and sadness are simply amazing! But it is not only a book with animals in it, don’t get me wrong. The bounty and complexity of human characters, their behaviour and inter-relations only gain in expresiveness and impact by adding the animal view on things. The author weaves her tapestry very cleverly. Human relationships are completely convincing – Leach and his stern, yet fair, attitude towards Rose, an interesting rapport between Rose and Varma, not to mention Rose’s romantic crush and her family history. I especially enjoyed the very illustrative and intriguing description of teenager Finn from the very first time we meet him.

As more animals get involved in the investigation, the reader becomes more curious about how the murder mystery will be solved, how Monty will communicate his findings to Rose, or even who finds the killer first – humans or animals. The murder case being linked to the possible extinction of bees is quite up to date, and might even interest Morgan Freeman;), and as the initial crime escalates more and more, the reader comes to a nail biting finale! I would not sleep till I finished the last 70 or so pages, written in an excellent pace, more and more intense by the end. Then there’s the calm before the storm and then… Bang!
If you are looking for sex and gore in your mystery, you might not find all that here. If you like dogs, you will love this. If you like intense mysteries, you will love this. If you like clever books which mix genres, you will love Monty and Me. If you like fluency and wit in writing, you will love this book. I for one am looking forward to the next mystery solved by Rose and Monty!

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Monty and Me on Amazon

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HOW TO LEAD A SATISFYING LIFE by Shiv Harsh – my review no.25

Breathe, think and live a better life

Sometimes you just need to read some non-fiction, and you don’t want it to be the newspapers, historical facts or guidebooks. You want it to be relaxing, inspiring, and you want it to make you think, but not burden you.

This book is told from a very interesting perspective – explaining the Gita in everyday life situation and terms, as the author Shiv Harsh sees it. It made me remember the saying that you never know anything really well till you are able to explain it in very simple terms. The author manages that admirably. Whether you know the writings or not, whether you are a religious person, or simply a person who likes a pro-active outlook on life, this book will be a good read for you. Although, I have to say, this book would stand its ground even without references to the Gita.

It may not solve the world’s issues, or your life’s, because it does not profess to do so at all. Do not expect bombastic, magical solutions. It does not preach religion, it does not lay blame, it does not release you of any guilt, nor does it tell you everything will be alright. But if your mind sometimes feels like muddy waters, this will definitely help you clear it out. What I especially like about it is that, despite its seeming brevity, it is so packed with thoughts and lines, that it will make you stop, pause, think and rethink. If you want to get this book’s true worth, you will not rush through. Even if you do, you will probably re-read soon enough. I kept wondering if the world would be a dull place if we all had our emotions under control, if we all really persevered in this perfect serenity and moderation. It definitely is something to strive for, for the sake of our own peace. Doing what we dream off doing, no excuses, no delays. Being who we are, respecting what others are. Keeping a healthy mind and soul in a healthy body because we can, not thanks to pharmaceuticals… To be completely honest, there were places in this book where I found myself, and I didn’t really want to. But it made me think. The lessons in the final summary all make sense.

I know several people I will recommend this book to. Not to preach, but to inspire them to pause, take a deep breath and decide what they want to remove from their lives, and what to keep steering in or toward. Bit by bit, life by life, is how the world CAN change. We may as well try!

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This book on amazon

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