Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

NICI' S CHRISTMAS TALE by Jean Gill – my review

SOMEONE TO ADMIRE, INDEED

And I am not talking about Nici the dog, the main character in this short story. Although I may as well, all things considered. I am talking about the author, Jean Gill. As a long-time fan of Jean Gill’s writing, I can honestly say this lady is one of the few people who leave me speechless and grateful to be able to witness their genius at work. She respects her characters and readers, and does her absolute best every time, without being arrogant or smug about it. This story is yet another proof of it. It is written just as it should be, wholesome, decent, discrete and revealing at the same time, offering you the life of a character in all its humbleness and relevance. I am not going to retell the contents to you, just offer my views on its creation.

The way this story is written is such a clever way of fitting a prequel into a spin-off sequel, to use the words so often used for various series of stories, be they movies or books. It can be read as a stand-alone, but, in my opinion, its richness will best be appreciated by fans of The Troubadours series (this reader included), as it tells parts of the original stories from the point of view of the main heroine’s loyal canine companion Nici, a character and protagonist of all the 4 books in the series in his own right. It will be like watching a familiar movie filmed with a different camera, from a different angle, and discovering things you hadn’t noticed before.

Reading Nici’s tale, at first, my mind must have felt like that of a dog’s, when it sniffs trails and traces around, looking for nothing special yet waiting eagerly to hit that special spot and then follow it through. And it did, of course. As Nici tells his story to his puppies, and you read about him hearing a girl sing, the entire thing just leaps into its rightful place and you blaze through the text with your heart warm and that feeling of peace in your chest. The tone is evocative of The Troubadours, the details and events well-paced, and overall – it is a wonderful haven for fans of the Troubadours series… As you reach the end, and I mean the very final line, it is just perfection. Full-circle for me, as the last line of the story links to the first book by Jean Gill I had read and fell in love with.

What I love about Nici’s Christmas Tale, as well as all of Jean Gill’s writing, is the way you can relate to the characters and events, regardless of the time or species in the book – she has that amazing, effortless ability of sneaking in lines about life and its timeless issues that just stop you and make you think, not just about the story, but about life and your own choices. I will try to explain, without giving away any spoilers. At one point, Nici tells his children about a herd tragedy, and you can feel his survivor’s guilt in the words, just as you would a human’s. It might even help you understand somebody in your surroundings.

We can all learn a lot from Nici, and from Jean Gill, too. About how to respect all life, how to cherish friends, family and kindness, and how to learn from our mistakes and appreciate our own growth.

I will leave you all with just one quote this time, with the author’s permission, but this one speaks to me the most.

‘Such a small thing to cling to, hope.’

(On a more personal note…

This story arrived to me last Christmas and it would have been a delightful read even then, were it not for the fact that I was unable to see then, due to a health mishap. As many of Jean Gill’s reader fans, I am delighted with her newsletter every time it hits my inbox (one of the few I actually do read and even answer sometimes), and this tale was the author’s gift to readers. See? Delightful surprises sometimes lurk in newsletters, where you least expect them;). I am happy to have been able to read it now. So well-fitted to the entire timeline.)

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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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