Anita's Haven

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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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THE DRAGON DREAMER by J. S. Burke – my review

Combining two of my most favourite elements, the ocean and fantasy, has certainly not put this author in an easy spot with me as a reader. My expectations were really high.

The author’s fascination with sealife is obvious, and it is intriguing how she intertwines it with the dragon world. There is so much lovely detail in the descriptions, and almost a science to it. I enjoyed the author’s comparison of the daily rituals of sea and dragon life with the human perspective. In fact, most of the story can be taken as a metaphor to our world, even the environmental issues, conflict and the importance of stories for the growth of a species. Although there are absolutely no human characters in this story (which took some time for me to get used to), all the characters and their relationships are developed well, with lots of love and respect. The weather threats and action sequences are intense, but it is the life described that I particularly enjoyed. This entire world has been created with amazing consistency and attention to detail.

The admirable symbiosys of skills from completely different creatures, shows us how humans should learn, united by a common goal – life on this planet. And how interesting it is that the author has both species celebrate and encourage art, creativity and healing, in contrast to humans! Dreamers they are, truly.

Any child or adult who loves to explore and go on nature adventures, will thoroughly enjoy comparing this fantasy world to nature lessons at school. Teachers could find it useful in dealing with biology, environment, even art. If your child has the heart of a zoologist, oceanologist, artist, and is a fantasy fan, this book might just be perfect for them.

What I especially liked in the story is the strong emphasis on learning and communication – each species can learn from another when willing to communicate.

Here is an interesting quote, one I wish we could implement to human life more often.

“…crowding can lead to fights. Art is good way to channel all that edgy energy.”

Dragon Dreamer

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Stolen Gypsy by Elizabeth H. Newton – my review

Wow, what a ride! This is by no means the first thriller I’ve read by Elizabeth Horton Newton, nor will it be the last. Do not expect any spoilers from this review, or me retelling the events! Just grab it and read it. It’s worth it!
When you read an action thriller and feel breathless, as if you’ve just been there or at least watched it in a fabulous 3D cinema, that’s just perfection. This one had me biting my nails, staying up all night to get to the bottom of all plots and subplots, on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to my favourite characters.

Much as I loved the villains in Riddle and Old Habits, I love, love, love the heroes and heroines of this book! Young Terza is adorable, just on the verge between a teenager and a woman, thrown into life’s adversity which forms her faster than she’d ever hoped. Tristan is strong, charming and supportive, and the balance Newton achieves between the two of them, and in developing their relationship, is wonderfully intertwined with the entire plot, filled with social issues, political intrigue and the criminal millieu. McCray and Nora, including Vanessa and the girls from Nora’s haven, they all paint a strong setting in which each detail makes a difference.

Feel like wandering into a breathlessly intense action story, with a fantastic couple at the centre and mind-blowing intrigue surrounding them? Grab this one.

https://amzn.to/2qBg0wr

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World Poetry Day

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

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

#ebook https://tinyurl.com/ybpyubg9

#paperback https://tinyurl.com/y8jqwlwt

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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.

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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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