Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

MARGOT GETS AN UNEXPECTED VISIT by Lieve Snellings – my review

This book is a lovely approach to combining a children’s nature encyclopaedia of animals with a children’s story. 

Getting children to actually meet and communicate with Margot the Groundhog, thus being acquainted with forest animals, and also introducing the animal to human activities such as sports can easily be used in a classroom, or as fun reading for children who truly love nature. There is enough plot here for two separate books, so I do believe it would profit from being split into two parts or two books, and it would strengthen the focus of children on each of the aspects. The characters are lovely and children can relate to them.

Two aspects of the book give it that special flare – 1. beautiful photos of the nature and animals instead of illustrations (some are filtered and have additional sticker effects which the kids will find fun), 2. the obvious love the author has for nature and animals, and wants to convey that love to the children. The text is placed on the photos which sometimes makes it slightly difficult to read, but not so much it would deter you from the story. Considering the fact that the author is turning it into a series of adventures, this is a very promising start.

The overall layout and the intent of the book are commendable, and I can easily see it as a well-loved gift for any child aged cca 4-10 who enjoys nature and loves to discover facts about animals.

This review is written for the Readers Review Room, awarding the book the blue bookworm.

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No dillydallying – reading 2 review

Happy to say I am one of the reviewers’ team on Readers Review Room site. You can see my book recomendations here. I kindly invite authors in search of honest reviews and book support to contact Traci Sanders from  and all those who enjoy reading ebooks of all genres and can offer a brief review, to join our review team. 

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Why kidlit?

​You don’t write a childrens’ book because you’re in it for the money. You write it because you’ve told this story to children before, you’ve talked to them about it, you’ve asked them their opinions, their predictions, their solutions for problems, and you’ve seen that gleam in their eyes when their hearts and minds open to life. 

Now I may have kept Spikes for Hank to myself and my little learners, but I thought ‘why not see if anyone else really feels it’. 

So when I receive a review like this, from someone who truly gets it as a parent and sees its potential, my heart smiles.

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STYLING WELLYWOOD by Kate O’Keefe – my review

Just went through the basic elements of a proper chicklit with some friends. Here is the unofficial list: romance, sex, humour, drama, fun, friendship, intelligent and relatable heroine, at least two cool guys, interesting setting. So let’s go through the check list with Styling Wellywood. (Neat title, by the way.)

Romance certainly blossoms in this book, on more levels than one, as the heroine is challenged to reinvent herself, fall in love with her hometown, deal with her friends and family and their relationships (some surprises there;)), not to mention finally admitting who is right for her. Check.

Sex is there, quite steamy although with… aah, no, no spoilers in this review. Let’s just say you will find it, quite soon in the book, although it does not drive the story. Check.

Humour stems directly from the authors witty writing style, charming similes, and of course, funny situations developing from the ridiculousness of human inability to communicate emotions clearly. Not laugh-right-out situations, so no fear of choking on your beach cocktail, but enough to give you a cheeky smile which will attract some attention of those checking out you and your book. Humour – check.

Drama – there is an underlying dramatic plot which may not be evident from the start, but which unveils itself, connecting new friendships and old ones. It gives the story a serious touch, but it is justified. And the friendships are not only of the galpal kind – the male-female motive is there too, and so is a charming development with the heroine’s parents. So drama, family & friendship – check.

Fun abounds all around. Parties, events, dates, family get-togethers… What I was intrigued by was how the personal stylist career of the heroine evolves, and although related to shopping and looks, the author also shows the confidence booster element behind this particular profession. The clients’ list is charming, but no spoilers:). Fun, check.

Heroine and the guys. Yes, all there. Agree or not with some of her decisions, eventually the heroine will justify your trust and make you proud, and although she can be gullible, hormone-smittened and stubborn, she is a positive girl, after all, and you will connect with her. The guys are colourful – I know my favourite, and you will definitely pick yours.

As for the setting, the little town in New Zealand will quickly grow on you as you fall in love with the comedy and drama of its inhabitants. The final scene setting is cute and quirky, and many a guy and girl may have dreamed of it, although it is not predictable. Check.

Overall, this chicklit has all the spices you might expect, with a charming set of characters, twists and turns, and will make your holiday fun. It might even inspire a romantic streak; you never know!

This review was written for the Readers Review Room and earns the author a goold bookworm.

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BILLY HAS A BIRTHDAY by James Minter – my review

Bullying and abuse has never sit well with me, so any attempt to stop it is appreciated. James Minter has composed a series of stories about negative behaviour and positive outcomes, and Billy Has a Birthday deals with overcoming bullying. 

This chapter book is intended for children 8-11 and can be used in a family or classroom situation, or the children can read it by themselves. There are even additional activities available to help engage the children. A simple, everyday situation, a boy’s 10th birthday, and an average family setting should make the children feel safe while reading, and, if guided well by the educator or parent, the child who reads it might open up about being bullied or witnessing bullying, which is what is usually the most difficult thing to do – open up and ask for help. Despite keeping the story simple and using likeable illustrations, the author does not embellish the boy’s fear of the bully, the complications it causes and explains the real punishment which befalls the bully himself. 

In my opinion, a sensitive topic like this one should be discussed both in families and schools, and this book is a good tool to help One might claim children want more suspense from stories – such as dragons, zombies, pirates, etc. All that is well and true, but children know that is just fancy, fabrication, fantasy. It is seemingly simple books like this one that stir up real emotions because, to children, they are almost non-fiction. They will relate and react. It is up to us to be there and steer them towards positivity.


STORM PORTAL by Michael R. Stern – my review

Incredible story! Although I am not a History teacher, I am never going to look at my classroom door the same way! Congrats to author Michael R. Stern on Storm Portal! I have always loved time travel tales, and can happily report this one gives a fresh perspective on all the possible controversy and allure of it.

As a History teacher accidentally opens a time portal within his classroom, the author leads us into a twist-filled, well-paced and intelligently written story, with characters that grow on you, starting from the teachers and students, to the amazing presidential couple and detail team. The setting of the school and lessons as crucial turning points can be discussed on a metaphorical level to infinity, but suffice it to say that most people I know would love history taught this way (even only at discussion level, time portal excluded), and most students I know would love learning from someone who genuinely cares what they think.

The language is simple and not distracting from the events, but only seemingly simple on the surface, because the author has a cunning way with words, and/or has worked with an excellent editor who applies the ‘less is more’ principle perfectly. Character development is great and seamless, and (spoiler alert) Ashley keeps question marks blinking in my mind with his yearbook; great way to entice readers to sequels. Dialogues are clever, witty and often deliver exactly what the reader wonders about. The history parts revolve only on U.S. history (this time), but the author does not fail to point out the connection between world events.

What impressed me was the pace – a somewhat playful, lingering initial rhythm gains in strength, drama and intensity as the plot thickens, and using the storm as the trigger to time travel, with its possibly dangerous aftermath, reminiscent of ancient tragedies, adds to the ominous power and the vast potential of all the what-ifs that ensue. By the end, I forgot I was actually (only) reading:). History became an action/spy thriller!

As a reader, don’t you love a book which makes you want to meet the author and ask him tons of questions? A book which makes you feel as if you’d crawled inside it or at least leaves you wanting to read more? A story which even makes you want to meet the characters? Well, if you like all that, plus history and time travel, dig in! Good to know there are sequels.

As a reviewer for the Readers Review Room  it gives me great pleasure to award this book the gold bookworm. Congrats, Michael R. Stern. It takes guts to tackle time travel, and you aced it!

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Readers Review Room

Congratulations to Traci Sanders on pushing forward with the Readers Review Room! I’ve found many wonderful #books there and am proud to be included in the #reviewers’ team! So happy to say that the #readers/reviewers at RRR are volunteers of all ages who get to read vetted books for no charge and write honest reviews. 

Thinking of applying? Email form

The exclusive newsletter is out.  Congrats to Karen J. Mossman, author of the month, and to all the reviewers who volunteer their time to support authors write more books and excel! 

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Reviews anywhere

Finally caught some time to check out my #goodreads #author page. Pleasantly surprised by some reviews. Seeing as I am not one to check my reviews all the time, I had not ‘liked’ them before (naughty author, naughty;), as I was not aware of some of them at all. My favourite unexpected reviews are for The Threshold and Winky’s Colours. 
Please know that reviews help authors a lot, guiding them on their path of improving their craft, finding their target audience, but also as proof to other readers that books are being read and what may be good in each. I am truly grateful to anyone who leaves at least a line or two.

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REJECTED WRITERS TAKE THE STAGE by Suzanne Kelman – my review

When a book starts off with this chapter title – FROZEN YETIS & SCOTCH TAPE SHENANIGANS, you know you are in for a fun(ny) ride. If you have had the chance to read the first book in the Southlea Bay Series, The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, and liked it as I did, then you are looking forward to each of these chapter titles, each of the darling characters and their quirky mishaps and strong friendship. If you enjoyed Suzanne Kelman’  witty writing, you will have high expectations. 

And the author sure delivers. Yet again. Her charming tale of a group of average (ha-ha) small-town ladies, an unlikely bunch but a band of bonded pals nonetheless, joins to save a member of their Rejected Writers’ Book Club from financial ruin and losing her family farm estate (turned into a dog shelter). Do they simply pitch in with money? No. They are average people with average incomes. Do they go begging online? No. They are average (some even elderly) ladies on a remote island with an age-appropriate reluctance for social media. They set up a charity musical. Can they dance, sing or direct? No, but why should that stop them, especially with their town matron Doris pushing and pulling them all? Enough spoilers from me – let me just say the story will have it all – from feathery boas and a run-down theatre to a love triangle, catastrophe and (re)birth. And fear not, the author skillfully introduces a few segments which can help you follow even if you have missed the pleasure of reading the first part.

What I love most about the series are the characters – a cast of everyday people we all know and love, or love to hate, and I am happy to find some new ones in this book, a very welcome addition to the Southlea Bay family. I admit I would have slapped Marcy, the vixen, on several occasions, and yet she did make a certain process possible eventually. (Come to think of it, I could have even knocked some senses into Dan a few times, but yes, we all know such naive men, too.) Doris is the sort of lady we all get annoyed by, but when trouble comes knocking, you always want them on your side, Lottie and Lavinia are unique in their duality, Janet is the not-always-loud voice of reason, Martin is phenomenal and so on. Gladys is my absolute favourite although she’d (only) be getting supporting role award if it came to filming this. (What’s the hold-up, by the way?)

There is friendship and kindness in this book which is so rarely found these days; and that good feeling is what you are left with after you read it. The laughs, the giggles and chuckles, too. It reminded me in spirit to The Darling Buds of May, one of my favourite TV comedy series. So there – if you want to feel like that, read it. You may just hug your family more, call your friends again. Or simply tickle someone, just for laughs. Well done, Suzanne Kelman! Comedy with heart is not easy to do. We should all laugh more often. Thank you.

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The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance by Glen Barrera – my review

Can you resist the title – The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance? I couldn’t, which is why I added the book to my TBR pile even before I had the time to read it. My only regret now is not having read it sooner. Let me try to be brief so you can go and get this thriller and enjoy it the way I have.

Hector is a young, well-trained assassin with a shady past and partial lack of ordinary social skills who encounters an unlikely group of ex-military pals and their families, only to find himself questioning his own mission. Not only will the author sail you successfully through the numerous plots and subplots, twists and turns, concerning the good old money scams of enormous proportions, where any means is supposed to justify the end, but he will make you care about the characters, just as he makes Hector care. I hated my own eyes when they got tired of reading and having to go to work in the midst of the action scenes, and I am still trying to decide on my favourite character (Morgan and Lucy take the lead, but only by an inch). 

This thriller has it all – all shades of good and bad, tough and likeble heroes (both female and male), a rich variety of gruesome villains, cliffhanger moments, actions with guns blazing and foreheads sweating (great writing overall), intelligent romance where you hope for it, skillfully crafted dialogues… And one thing I truly admire – attention to detail in the midst of chaos. Lana’s lipstick on the glass Parks uses, Annie’s Christmas decorations… The author has a way with words that suits me just like when you find good rock tunes which fit your taste. I am not one to hang on first lines, but this one had me reading well past my bedtime…

“Nazar ran his tongue over cracked lips as he considered, for intellectual exercise, the varied forms of torture yet to be discovered.”

Movie-like and better, with all the suspenseful feel of a movie and the great quality of the written word, this is a treat for any thriller fan with a taste for intense, intelligent action mysteries. Looking forward to more.

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