Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

Are We Nuts? By Gisela Hausmann – my review

Well, this is a tough one to rate and review. Not because it’s not a good book at all, but because it talks about things which hit only too close to home in a worrying way, teaching a serious lesson in a seemingly child-like setting. However, it is NOT a children’s book at all.

Imagine being so frustrated by the current political, economical and ecological world situation that you decide to write a semi-satirical fable about it, using squirrels as the synonym for humans and word-playing with the names of famous politicians, past and present, to illustrate your point. You use fable to speak of heavy, unpleasant things you see happenning around the world, especially concerning climate changes. Why would you use this somewhat light approach for bitter truths? I guess not to go mad, shout the reality from rooftops and be called crazy. This way you may merely be called ‘the crazy author’, but there is nothing ‘mere’ about it – crazy artists have often spoken out about unpleasant truths and actually started huge changes.

Knowing Gisela Hausmann’s previous books, the non-fiction manuals on business correspondence, marketing and social networking, I believe her to be an unrelenting, adamant, meticulous researcher of data, who always corroborates her statements with facts and figures. This is a fictional fable (hm, hm, sort of), which in early squirrel world description shows the author’s lovely knack for landscape depiction, but I am positive Hausmann had done a lot of research before turning it into a fable. Although certain paralels with US politics were a bit above my current understanding of personnae and events (not much of a political person myself), the strong environmental warning within the book is obvious, world-wide and will not be ignored.

The fact is that this kind of a political fable may not be palatable to everyone, but it cannot be ignored. It is quite easy to imagine a think-tank of various scholars sitting around a table discussing the real-life details depicted in ‘Sciurus States’ and why they matter in understanding snd tackling current events. The hashtag suggested by the title is provocative and inviting us not to meekly swallow any lie we are served, and I am somehow rooting for it to catch on. Gutsy, quirky and difficult to ignore!

Are We Nuts? link

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Tearful and grateful

Still tearful over this latest review for The Forest of Trees. It is so wonderful to see how different readers find different characters to love in this story. It fills my heart with so much joy and gratitude. Thank you to all who read and review books. You may not know this, but your reviews are often the tipping point – either we keep writing or we give up and stiffle the stories within us. Thank you for encouraging my creative yawp!
https://amzn.to/2nS6dAo
#book #review

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Review pause

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The 9th Hour by Claire Stibbe – my review

Detective stories have been among my favourites ever since I can remember. This book is the first in a series, so, although its lead detective Temeke is quite an acquired taste, burdened with plenty of faults and not many likeable habits, his pitbull-like persistence and dedication might just make you a fan and follower of his further cases. Although my personal favourite would be his assistant partner Malin, as I found her more relatable at times. It will be interesting to see them grow in further books.

The crime in The 9th Hour is a series of particularly gruesome killings of teenage girls, with much to stomach – at one point it reminded me of The Silence of the Lambs. The author displays a veritable knack for telling parts of the story from the killer’s point of view, and, as disturbing as they may be, they impressed me the most. The villain is vile and fascinating, powerful and disgusting. His victims are shockingly naive, yet perfectly plausible, and not all of them what he expected them to be (yay!).

It is a risk for an author to let us know who the killer is from the start and then let us wait it out to see how, when or if he will eventually be caught, but intriguing and engaging just the same. Like me, you might find yourself having all these brilliant ideas on what you would do and who you would call; you, that is, or any other famous detective you’ve already met/read.

But Stibbe makes the detectives painfully human and susceptible to mistakes, just like the rest of us. Temeke and Malin are given no superhero powers, extraordinary abilities or phenomenal gadgetry and financial support to solve the crime. At times, even their own police department is a questionable resource of support, be it due to resentment, envy, laziness or mere inability to fathom the extent of malice in the crime itself. What is memorable, especially in the final showdown, is their tenacity, persistence and a sheer need to catch this mentally brilliant and emotionally damaged killer, also a fallible human being but unpardonable.

This is not a detective story for the faint-hearted, make no mistake. But if you enjoy an intense thriller and a pair of detectives, which obviously grows as it goes, considering the awards the author has won for the sequel, meet Temeke and Malin by all means.

This book on Amazon

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Patches by Kathryn Curzon – my review

What a wonderful, soothing, therapeutic story for children, but also adults, on how to help someone dealing with sadness. A beautifully told narrative about a kind, loving woodland creature who finds someone so sad he or she is practically invisible, and then, bit by bit, day by day, not forcing it but being there… patch by patch, sadness is gone and friendship heals hope. Lovely metaphor with imagery suitable for children. I enjoyed reading this, and I congratulate the author on managing to sustain a picturesque and serene tone, inviting to be read, maybe not out loud, but with a loving whisper. Recommended to all.

This book on Amazon

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Song Hereafter by Jean Gill – my review

All is well.

If I were able to write a brief book review, the line above would probably be the shortest ever but would cover everything.

After reading four books in this series, what I can definitely say, as a fan of this type of historical fiction and Jean Gill’s dedicated writing style, is that this is the perfect ending to a phenomenal series. And yes – all is well. The writing is excellent, the characters are strong, developed fully and with all facets and dimensions, the plot is strong and unfaltering, the details of historical research, descriptions and relationships, both private and political, are astoundingly vivid and intriguing. Now, you may read this book without having read the previous three, but why deny yourself the absolute literary and emotional journey of reading the entire series?

I remember thinking how exciting history can be while I was reading the first book. By the time I got to the fourth book, I was no longer thinking that, because Estela and Dragonetz, along with an entire myriad of splendid heroes and villains, were no history for me. They were real, they were vivid and alive, and closing the book after that last page felt like saying goodbye to friends. Yes, that’s the kind of book it is – you don’t read it, you live it.

I can honestly thank the author for alowing me to travel to all those distant places (old Wales is absolutely striking in this book), experience extraordinary customs and witness amazing events, but most of all – meet the admirable, passionate, courageous people (oops, characters) I will always miss. The great thing about books though is that you can always revisit them.

(You can read all my reviews for the Troubadours Quartet books, as well as some other great books by Jean Gill, here on this blog.)

Book link

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Yahooty Who? – my review

I stumbled upon this cute book in my search and downloaded it based on the very optimistic cover and blurb.

Although primarily driven by beautiful illustrations and a cute little house ‘elf’ Yahooty, the wonderful visual aspect of the story is accompanied successfully with lovely rhyme, which flows smoothly for the most part. The story itself does not contain a traditional plot, but is phrased as suggestive questions for the little readers (or listeners). I enjoyed the playful tone, lots of useful vocabulary which will help expand the children’s own, and the repetitive pattern which will definitely engage the kids.

Yahooty must be in kahootz with parents though, especially regarding certain house cleaning tasks, so a parent might even get the idea to get kids to help with cleaning in hopes of actually meeting Yahooty. Just sayin’;).

Book link

PS: found this on their Twitter:

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Meter of Corruption by Wolf Schimanski – my review

This is an action-driven, high-speed, adrenaline-filled thriller, with brutal villains and non-negotiable justice delivered upon them. Although the language style may not be my kind of music, this is the hard rock’n’roll for all thriller fans, stripped of linguistic fineries, but led by brutal plot twists and merciless characters, quite unique in their perception and delivery of justice. The action scenes are the strongest part of the writer’s arsenal, and it’s a great thing that this is only one part of a series, because his action fans will be hooked and want more.

Book link

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Seeing every tree – my book seen through the eyes of Jean Gill

This has been an extraordinary experience – being interviewed by a person I admire. Jean Gill drilled me about my book The Forest of Trees, but more importantly, about some life issues I consider very important.

Seeing every tree

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Plaint for Provence by Jean Gill – my review

(Warning : this is not going to be a short review. Books like this deserve all the respect a reader can provide. However, for those who enjoy short reviews – this is an etremely intriguing historical fiction about love, life and death. Read it, but it would be a shame to skip the first 2 books in the series.)

It took me a while to completely get into the book. At first I thought it was just my temporary mood, and trusting the process and all of Jean Gill’s books I’d read before (especially Song at Dawn and Bladesong, the first two in this series), I knew the story would grab me. And boy, oh boy, did it! To be honest, it is difficult to get it out of my head now.

By the time I was one third into the story, the feeling of the calm before the storm had crawled into my bones, and the faith of the characters seemed to rest solely on my ability to read it all till the end in one single read, which I practically did. And never regretted one second of my book-induced insomnia!

The growth of the characters from book 1 to this one, their relationships, political powerplay and the social changes are followed through perfectly. Estela and Dragonetz are fascinating in their strengths and weaknesses, their entrepreneurial spirit and the way they grow together as a couple but also individually. DeRancon and Hugues keep balancing the see-saw between good decision and wrong choices, constantly pulling at yournerves as they interact with others. Malik, Gilles and Sancha are so strong in their loyalty and staying true to themselves. The rulers, would-be rulers, nobility which is more or less noble, servants who remain below the radar actually pulling the strings from the shadows… all of this is written with precision, perfection and passion.

Just read the initial chapter to see what I mean – the interchange between measly messengers over a drink is so well guided – it shows the author’s authoritative command of researched historical facts, beautifully flowing syntax which abides by the vernacular of the time without losing its natural twists and turns, a phenomenal sense of showing the big picture through the simplest details and making history alive and exciting by engaging all of the reader’s senses – you can see their faces, smell the stench of travellers robes, hear the hushed voices eager to divulge their information but bound by secrecy, feel their excitement and fear at the impact of their news… And this is just chapter one! (Ending the book with another important messenger situation is a cliffhanger which will make you want to dive into book 4 immeditely.)

The introductions into chapters are something some readers might skip, but I particularly enjoyed them. Again, a sort of calm before the storm. As Estela’s interest in science and medicine grows, she reads all sorts of medical texts, which the author shares in introductory paragraphs very briefly, but so up to point that it would be a pity to miss them. Not only do they offer a glimpse into the way people of the time thought and lived, but the remedies and maladies mentioned often serve as an introduction into the events which follow, in a perfectly well-masked manner. The author pays a lot of attention to customs in this book (women’s medical issues, hunting and working with birds of prey, money making, etc.), but historical fact never turns this book into a history coursebook. In fact, it serves the story, builds it up and grows naturally with the plots and characters.

The intimate moments between characters, their sensuality, tenderness, debates, concerns, doubts, conflicts make you feel especially privileged to witness. I mean, you get to witness a liege talking to a ruler, a villain whispering a threat into your heroine’s ear in plain sight of a full court of noble guests.

After a while, you realize each and every chapter ends on a very cleverly planted cliffhanger which transports you into the next one and then the next one. Let me just repeat my own words from the time when I finished the first book – history has never been more exciting!

I cannot choose my favourite quote or my favourite character, although the punishment Hugues deserves from Estela for his sexual advances is still one of my favourite scenes. No more spoilers, I promise.

The ‘calm before the storm’ feeling, by the way, stayed with me till the very end, which shows the author’s genius as book four is out, so I am definitely getting it. Now!

Plaint for Provence

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