Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

DANCING QUEEN by Charlotte Roth – my review

This book took me a while to get into, and, when I finished it, it took me a while to decide how to review it. Here is why.

The story of Fiona, an overweight 35-year-old girl stuck in a boring job, and her colleague and semi-accidetal friend Stu, who struggles with being skinny, is a warm one, written with heart and introducing some memorable characters as their friends, family members and dance competition.

What originally drew me to the book was the title, and having loved dancing all my life, the possibility of Fi and Stu changing their lives through dancing showed lots of promise. Along the way, the author also shows us the difficult family situations and past secrets which haunt them both, and manages to develop a deep and lovable friendship, not just between the two of them, but more people than they may have expected. Fiona’s growth as a person is a commendable motive and leaves the readers with a sense of accomplishment and optimism. References to popular music and descriptions of dance costumes added a light touch to the serious issues which are resolved in the second half of the book. This is not a light chicklit with the promise of a romance, although there are funny situations, fun and friendships throughout. The silly, kind-hearted aunt stuck in the 80s, a best friend with a sweet-tooth ritual, Fi’s brother-in-law living in the shade of his ambitious wife – they all add to the charm and are the best part of the story. 

However, this feels more like a family drama for me, and would have been much more if treated as such all the way. As it is, the book does not live up to its full potential. There are some inconsistencies in character speech patterns, several vulgarisms which do not blend in but stand out as unnecessary, the buzz word ‘like’ is used too often, and certain relevant plot twists could have been introduced with more pace and care (avoiding spoilers here). Telling the story in first person is also a tricky thing – the author’s opinion sometimes blends into the character’s, and there are times when you are not quite certain if it’s the character thinking something or actually retelling it. I missed some of the characters from the beginning of the story in the end; it seemed logical they would be there. The tone changed from witty to dramatic abruptly, as if changing genre mid-book. Having dropped hints sooner, about some deeply rooted issues the characters deal with, would have made them more relatable, the plot more convincing and the story would send its otherwise wonderful message (of chasing dreams and not giving up) with much more impact than it does for me.

So why bother writing a review if I decide to be this picky? Well, because I kept reading to see what happens in the end, because I am sure there are girls out there who will be motivated by Fi’s story, because I love how the author plays with the detail of the dancing shoes (linking past, present and future), because Stu and Lance are just so lovely you’d hug them, because I could see Annie in her legwarmers and I could hear the music. So yes, this book shows a lot of promise. It may not be perfect, but then again – none of us are. It has heart, it has charm, it shows promise.

This review was written for Readers Review Room and its potential earned it a blue bookworm from me.

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FORTUNE KOOKIE by Jean Gill – my review

Well this was a surprise! Quite an unexpected turn of events in book 2. I read Left Out and loved it, so I eagerly awaited to read book 2 in the series. Mind you, even if you skipped book 1, you will have no problem reading this one.

The well-loved characters of Jamie and Ryan are back, along with a bunch of others – their families, friends and teachers. They have continued their development, and I relished the tiny nuances in character changes the author displayed. I was happy to see Kelly return, and little Sam’s addition to the cast is wonderful. Sorry to say little about him here, but I hate spoilers in reviews. Let’s just say he will put Ryan’s empathy to the test and earn your sympathies.

This time the story starts off with Jamie involving Ryan in yet another one of her projects. This time it involves saving her mother from her addiction to fortune-tellers, psychics and horoscopes, which mum spends tons of money on and hides from the rest of the family. 

Touching on very important issues of modern life, alienation, delusion, family secrets, fame searching, etc. the author could have just followed that storyline and her exquisite writing would have made it a great story. But she takes a risk and leads the story in quite a different direction, one twisting reality and magic, fact and fantasy, playing tricks with the characters and readers alike, which is a huge difference from book 1 in which the story revolves around their reality. I have to admit I hadn’t expected that, but I actually could not put the book down once Jamie discovered the power of her subconscious, and Ryan’s inquisitive nature led him into psychological experimenting with their friends. To put it briefly – keeping the story on the borderline between reality and fantasy is far from disappointing when Jean Gill wields the writing wand. 

Jamie’s confidence, instincts, intuition and strength will be tested in ways she could never have imagined, and yet – perhaps it is just the mind playing tricks on her, and us. When you set out to battle something and then find out that perhaps you yourself are part of it, it makes you question all your values, which is what happens to teenagers on a daily basis, even without the extra, paranormal challenges. As Ryan and Jamie search for a good career choice, it seems life finds it for them, just like the rest of us.

What I most admire is how the author weaves it all into a rich tapestry, leaving some to the interpretation (perhaps even to book 3?), and manages to logically connect issues such as young romance, hereditary faults and virtues, history, parental concerns, staleness in marriage, town traditions, tested friendships, science and magic, life, death and afterlife… and all this in a YA novel. Jean Gill makes you question, wonder, guess, feel, cheer for the characters. I want to know what Jamie plans to do next. I am interested in whether Ryan will manage to balance his intellectual side with his feelings. I wonder if Kelly and Gareth will remain together on their way to fame. And what of their parents, and Sam, and granny?
And on top of everything, was it all real;)? Shhhhh, no spoilers. Looking forward to book 3 and recommending this book to all teenagers, young adult readers, parents and educators, especially those with a flare for a bit of the paranormal in the normal.

This review was written for Readers Review Room and deserves a gold bookworm from this reader.

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Thank you, Goodreads readers:)

I still remember the first time I was asked if I was a Goodreads author.  It was only a few years ago and to me, it sounded like an SF question. Like something only possible in the distant fantasy or SF. 

Now… I can safely say – YES, I am. So thank you to all those who told me to persist, to stay true to myself, and to keep writing for the love of story, not money. (Not that it wouldn’t be a lovely addition;), but money is not my creative spark.)

Just found time to drop by yesterday and watched it content. Imperfect, but lengthy list, books reviewed, recommended and on the ‘want-to-read’ lists. Trust me, there is true joy in the realization that people read the books you write. No story is complete without readers.

THANK YOU to all who #read & #review

My Goodreads Author Dashboard https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8512581.Anita_Kovacevic

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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 http://readersreviewroom.com  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.

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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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