Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

World Poetry Day

How long has it been since you last read some poetry?

#poetry #meditation #songs #verse #inspiration #therapy





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Bat Shit Crazy Review Requests by Gisela Hausmann – my review

You know those people who are able to tell a great joke, keeping on a terribly serious face expression, so that, as you scramble back to normalcy from laughter, you suddenly calm down and start wondering if, perhaps, they may have been serious and actually meant it seriously? Well, I think Ms Hausmann is one of them. You may laugh at some of the cited email review requests, but some will have you thinking and rethinking quite seriously your own email writing. With a giggle or two, but still – you will think on it.

Having read several non-fiction, no-fluff books by Gisela Hausmann, marketing expert, I was looking forward to reading this one, which takes on a different route, a slightly comical one, yet still very instructive.

This is an interesting and quite helpful approach to work emails, not just for review purposes, and I would definitely recommend it to people who need practical advice, but don’t want to read a dry, fact-filled instruction book. In simple layers of text, email quote followed by a line or two in comment by the author, the book reminded me of a witty, yet tough teacher commenting on the students’ essays. Being respectful of teacherly advice, I am already rethinking my emails.

PS: the presidential campaign emails are extra added value.


The Little Blue Book for Authors 101 Clues How to Get More Out of Facebook by G.Hausmann – my review

There is never anything little about Gisela’s books. I’ve read plenty, and the occasional faults in my writing career are due to not following her advice, and some others.

Writing anything is never easy and you can verify that with any high school student out there, not to mention writers. Marketing what you write can either depress you with its abundance of traps, turn you into a proper merchant who eventually disregards art in favour of money, or you can thrust yourself into the battle with a little bit of help from the able book promoters (not any, but able, pls notice the difference) and some timely tips from marketing specialists such as Gisela Hausmann. My simile to battle is inspired by the book Hausmann quotes in her first chapter – The Art of War. I have to admit I often feel like an untrained soldier in the marketing battlefield, so I consider books such as this one good training. “…ask yourself if you can even become a player?” Hausmann says. So… see what I mean?

Now I have to say I like things explained to me as if I were a six-year-old, so this piece of advice was a wake up call:

“Don’t post anything on Facebook you would not post on a billboard next to the busiest highway in your hometown.”

The Mark Cuban video was another, slightly scary one. By tip 25 I was making notes on what I had to do about my own social media presence, and fast. What further complicated things is this:

“Though it is your business if and how you use your personal profile page, you can comment in Facebook network groups only with your personal profile page.”

I had always known this book would add more work to my to-do list, but at least now I am not wandering around in fog any more. The advice about potential employers, as scary as it may seem, is truer than we’d like to think, which adds importance to this book – it is not only for authors, but all entrepreneurs who plan their media presence.

“To succeed in this cut-throat business, you need to own your writing, your research, your knowledge, your “everything”!”

I’m in for a lot of work. Better start!

Book link

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Franky the Finicky Flamingo by Wanda Luthman – my review

What a lovely children’s book, fun for kids and helpful to parents whose children are fussy about food.

In a very gentle way, through rhyme and colourful illustrations, without laying blame or preaching, the author guides us, along with Franky, to the realization why food is important (I love the metaphor about the colour fading, which is also why the illustrations are rich in colour elsewhere). Furthermore, the children are shown that not all kinds of food are good for everyone, and the goal is to find what is healthy for your particular body and lifestyle.

Eating suitable and healthy food lets you live an active, fun-filled life, and share your adventures with your friends nd family. And keep your ‘colours’:). I can see this book used by parents, teachers, even nutritionists, especially in kindergartens. Another good one, Ms Luthman!

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Bladesong by Jean Gill – my review

My only regret after having read book one in the Troubadour series by Jean Gill was not having read the sequel sooner.

Bladesong has been quite an adventure! The final chapters of the book whooshed by so intensely and so fast that I was almost out of breath when I finished reading them. It is an amazing feast for everyone who enjoys a great political thriller, historical fiction, romance (not in the traditional ‘swooning’ manner though) and fantastic characters. I can just bet the author felt it was an adventure, too, while writing it. It feels like an incredible journey in time, through countries, customs, culture and languages, and above all – human hearts, both at their worst and their best.

I have learned to love Estela and Dragonetz in Song at Dawn (book 1 in this series) so much that the author could have spent this sequel merely describing them having tea and that would have been a joy in itself. But she didn’t. Some readers of historical fiction sometimes complain of authors going into too much detail of fact listing, politics, intrigue and history. Memo to them – historical fiction is supposed to go into researched detail. What I love about this book is that, despite or because of such dedicated attention to detail, the author never once drops the ball and loses from her focus the main characters and their destinies, emotions and thoughts, despite how far they may actually be distanced geographically. (No spoilers for those who will read this, but they will be distanced and yet… Estela and Dragonetz separated by an ocean, numerous powerful people and huge ordeal, even chapters, looking up at the same starts with the same thoughts – that was so masterfully woven into the plot, and felt like a balm on this reader’s tormented heart.)

The author displays the characters with all their faults and virtues, providing timely background and explanation, but not making excuses. Their growth and development is remarkable, and even the villains got the attention and, as weird as it may sound, the respect they deserve. The fact that this is a series allows the author time and space to develop even the tiniest detail, but she uses her time and space with every respect for her readers, never squandering a single line. By chapter 8, I already had 8 favourite quotes marked, and that is saying something. Blending detail into the bigger picture, never losing the importance of either the big picture or the value of each detail, makes Jean Gill a great strategist and general of all the battles in this book, be they the ones in bedchambers, stables, battlefields, courts or the eyes of people when they meet or avoid each other.

History is alive in these books. Alive because you can hear the languages and music the characters use, the echoes and the hushed whispers of secrets, the drums and purposeful noise of those in public display of power, the clamour of dynamic battle, the breaths of those living their lives for their partners, friends, animal friends. You can smell the scents of food and beverages offered or denied, the fresh sea breeze turning sea-sickness into health, the strong odour of physical illness and human malice, of blood flowing queitly down the streets after a vicious, unnoticed murder. You can touch the silk and cloth of dresses and robes, the cold metal of armour and shiny curves of blades… You can laugh with them all, and cry with them all, and love. And when the book is finished, you might linger in that world for a while, not wanting to be torn away from it.

I could write essays about the faulty and powerful queens, the admirable leaders, the courageous lieges, the unyielding nursemaids, the incredible horses and dogs… but you’d better read the book(s). Book three is next for me. There is so much more to know.

Jean Gill’s website

As a reviewer for the Readers’ Review Room, I gladly give this book a gold bookworm. Might as well be diamond.

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The Rejected Writers’ Christmas Wedding by Suzanne Kelman – my review

There is something melancholic about reading the final part of a book series. I’ve now read all the books in The Rejected Writers’ Southlea Bay series, and reading the final pages was like saying goodbye to old friends, or at least very good acquaintances. You know those people you always look forward to meeting again at the vacation spot you like to revisit with your family? Yes, them. This series has been like that fun vacation for me – a witty and warm account of extraordinarily ordinary friendships in small towns, where people still care about what happens to you if you miss an appointment, and where their noses are still just a little bit too much in other people’s business but, then again, their nosiness can sometimes literally save your life or marriage.

This last part in the series, so appropriately ending with a wedding, although not quite in a way you might expect, may have started off slower than the other parts, but if you have met the characters before, you will enjoy the little hints the author drops every now and then about their previous adventures. The author skillfully lets the group of local ladies, The Rejected Writers’ Club pals, prepare a wedding for their youngest member, gets her blackmailed into running away, and then allows them all to rescue the bride and groom in their own, unorthodox, ridiculous and loving way. The characters and humour are relaxing, quirky and precious – the best quality of this book and the entire series. If you are new to Southlea Bay novels, Doris will make you go bananas with her controlling obsession, but we all know people like her – a bit too pushy, and yet their hearts in the right place eventually. 

The aged Southern belles, the Labette twins, with their contradictory nature and funny dialogues, will make you laugh till you cry – I am so glad those two have a bigger role in this book. For those who have read the previous parts, the reappearance of some characters from books 1&2 will make you smile and warm your heart. The twin babies, on the other hand, add that realistic element of drama and fun, which every family goes through, especially on holidays such as Christmas. The crescendo of comical scenes towards the ending, as the plot thickens and then unwinds, is simply adorable. The sleigh ride scene had me giggling out loud, vividly described and well-timed. One thing I must mention (again) are the pun-filled chapter headings – those are a pure joy in themselves – like a funny menu, just asking to have a pop tart or cupcake made after them, or at least a cocktail. I can easily see the Southlea Bay series as a TV series, and would enjoy watching it and rereading the books.

This book made me laugh, which is a treasure in this day and age, and it is the perfect Christmas gift for people who enjoy clean, witty, light comedy with warmth and friendship, and people’s little quirkiness and prejudice dealt with through humour and kindness.

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The Little Blue Book for Authors by G. Hausmann – my review

Gisela Hausmann really knows how to write a non-fiction book. Clear, simple, easy to follow, and somewhat non-negotiable, with background research and data evident from the start. 

The Little Blue Book (I love this part of the title) offers an updated summary of advice for authors sick of wasting their precious time and money on trying to promote their books. Being one of them and appreciating the previous books by Ms Hausmann, I read this one through in a couple of hours, making mental notes on things to apply or steer away from. Some I have already discovered for myself, the harder way, but, as G. Hausmann says, nobody ever made it taking the easy route.Whether this book is a reminder for you or clarifies the mess in your head from constantly trying, as we all should, to keep up to date with marketing changes in the busy book promoting world, the advice provided will be useful. I strongly agree with the author in matters of keeping things personal – signings, style of social appearance, treating followers and bloggers. It is the only way to stand out to those who matter to you, personally and profesionally. Creating a book from scratch and then getting it out there to the public is overwhelming and time-consuming enough. Proactive advice like this saves you time and energy.

Another thing to appreciate in this (hand)book – although she retains the best advice from her previous books, Ms Hausmann constantly updates hernwork with comments on marketing changes and suggestions on which routes to take. Like a tough teacher, she will want you to get better at what you do, without delay. Take action – to achieve the best, do your best!

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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.


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

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