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.)

1 Comment »

Unlimited miracles

Leave a comment »

Treasure books

Leave a comment »

How do YOU pick a book?

How do YOU pick a book? What is that decisive factor which makes you pick it up? How many times have you been wrong, or, on the other hand, pleasantly surprised by your choice?

It is always a challenge for any writer to write a blurb for their novel. How DO you put something you worked on for years into several brief sentences, which manage to attract the attention of a huge majority of readers, also conveying the essence of your story and your writing style? Mission impossible for some, me included sometimes.

However, since I myself have learned that books are like people (never fully trust the cover or what they briefly tell you about themselves;), I tend to take a look at the sneak peek, check out the text in library paperbooks or glance at the preview offered in stores.

Here is the longer version of the blurb for my novel, which I know does not do justice to the book. I merely wanted to prove my point;). Btw, the video link below is an app experiment at a promo video.

THE FOREST OF TREES BLURB:

When a family of four faces the brutal reality of their city life, they readily embrace a complete change. Emma and David Stone, with their kids Jeremy and Dot, move to a small town with their big hopes. However, small towns have their own secrets – from urban legends about The Forest of Trees to family skeletons in closets everyone knows about.

Gradually, Jeremy and Dot make some new and unusual friends, whereas Emma and David start working again, and things seem to be going for the better. But evil never rests. The Jacksons, a bigoted and brutal family of pig farmers, however scary, are not the only ones leaning towards malice. The more new friendships grow, the more villains will struggle to retain power. Will the arrival of the newcomers tip the scales in favour of the good or the evil? And how can The Forest of Trees play its part in the solution?

The life between the legendary Forest of Trees and the small town of Tillsworth is separated only by a road. All it takes to reconnect is to take that path.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwnR-_utzJA

2 Comments »

Franky the Finicky Flamingo by Wanda Luthman

It gives me great pleasure to be able to feature the latest book by award-winning children’s books author, Wanda M. Luthman. She has been kind enough to send lots of info about her Franky, so enjoy her text below. I am looking forward to reading the book, and you can read my reviews for The Little Birdie Grows Up and A Turtle’s Magical Adventure.

(Text & images below provided by Wanda Luthman.)

Do you have a picky eater in your family? Are mealtimes a battle?

I can completely relate. My daughter was super picky as a child and when she was about to be school-aged, I wanted to figure out something she could take for lunch. She liked peanut butter, she liked jelly, and she liked bread so I thought, naively, that she would like a PB&J sandwich. Oh my goodness, did we have a standoff?

Sound familiar?

Don’t despair. Determine which battles you want to pick and be patient. Here’s my story…

My newest picture book, Franky the Finicky Flamingo, was inspired not only by my child’s pickiness but my own. I know that’s not a very “grown up” kind of thing to admit but alas I am picky. Most of it is due to texture issues but some of it is actually due to taste. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a much pickier eater when I was a child. So, I’ve outgrown a lot of it. And if you have a picky eater, I believe they’re going to grow out it as well.

When I was in Elementary School, I didn’t eat the school lunches so my Mom packed me exactly what I wanted every single day and that was a cold hot dog. Not the healthiest food, but I was happy. Somewhere around Middle School, I started eating school lunches. I know she was relieved.

I can honestly say that vegetables are just not my thing. I found out as an adult that I actually prefer my vegetables raw. Part of that is definitely texture, I don’t like mushy vegetables but the other more surprising thing is taste. I find vegetables in the raw are much tastier than after they have been cooked. I have even been told they are better for you. So, who’s picky now? Am I right? LOL

The other types of food that I really don’t like are citrus fruits. They have those strings in them. I choke on them. Still to this day! And I don’t like orange juice with pulp in it. Other fruits are all good though. What about you—do you have any foods you don’t like?

One time I heard a story about a set of twins that were separated at birth. One Mom said their child was a difficult eater because they wouldn’t eat anything unless she put ketchup on it. The other Mom said her child was the easiest child to feed because she would eat anything as long as she put ketchup on it. Maybe it’s all in perspective.

I just want to challenge you today as you think about your child’s picky eating–what battle do you want to pick?

And just maybe Franky the Finicky Flamingo might help encourage your picky eater to try new foods. You can check it out today at myBook.to/Franky

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She is an award-winning, best-selling, international author who has self-published 4 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, and Little Birdie). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest.

To download a free exclusive children’s ebook by Wanda Luthman’s visit her website at www.wandaluthmanwordpress.com and sign up for her newsletter (it’ll be in a pop-up box)

Follow Wanda Luthman at

Blog–www.wandaluthman.wordpress.com

Twitter–@wandalu64

Facebook–https://www.facebook.com/wanda.luthman

Other children’s books by Wanda Luthman (available on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/wandaluthman)

The Lilac Princess

A Turtle’s Magical Adventure

Little Birdie Grows Up (won 2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal)

Gloria and the Unicorn

4 Comments »

Another gem!

Finished reading this phenomenal book today and already facing withdrawal symptoms. Isn’t it amazing how, once you’ve finished reading historical fiction, you feel as if someone stripped you of those historical robes, tore you away from the scents and sounds of those times, and left you in the technical reality of now, with all those amazing people (to realists, characters) left behind in the book? Good to know book 3 is out there for grabs. 

Take a bow, Jean Gill! Review coming soon.

#amreading 

Leave a comment »

The Power of Words

The power of words has always fascinated me. There are limitless possibilities in the use of only one of them, because its power stems not only from its lexical meaning but its historical connotations and changes, its previous contexts, media and user, its audience, location and timing. And, as is always the case with a superpower, it can be used for good or evil, and alas, misunderstood or misused as well. But whatever the effect may be, the desired one or its complete opposite, effect takes place, and it makes a change or a difference, or both. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many emotions and ideas can stem from just one word. When you see it, hear it or say it, regardless of whether its effect is immediate or delayed, it is simply unbeatable and irresistible. It’s like magic, and I do like magic, just like any other child trapped in an ageing body.  

One such word, hidden within a bundle of other wonderful and horrible, yet all impressive words, as I read it in one of my all-time favourite stories, grabbed my attention instantly. It was ‘threshold’. Mind you, in the story I was reading, it was completely unimportant, and simply denoted the entrance to a house in a description. But to me, it was that word which stopped me from reading and forced me to pick up a pen and write this story. 

As soon as I started writing it, a new world opened up before my eyes, like in those science-fiction TV-series, when a starship goes into warp and everything changes at light speed. The world becomes different and bigger, and you are transported into a place so far away from home that it seems you will never go back. Till the story is finished and you warp your way back, with the merciless blow of disappointment at your story being over, and still, quickly psyched up again over another new word and another adventure, beyond our world, yet so much part of our world. 

The Threshold is about change, which is different for everyone, no more or less than we deserve. The change is eventually always consistent with our decision on how we choose to react to that change. The threshold is always open, but what we choose to do with the door is our choice, and ours alone. 

(From the foreword of The Threshold)

Leave a comment »

Reading with Children

To parents, friends  and educators reading to children

The actual process of reading, sitting down with somebody you care about, whether it is your child, grandchild, student, or even an adult, is a wonderful experience – you share time, place, dreams, worlds… Children are especially open to gratitude. After a busy day, having their parent sit down and set this time aside only for them… there is nothing better than this! There is no better gift that you can give your child than your time and attention. 

Of course, if you read and comment along with children, ask for their opinion and challenge them to think, it is even more worthwhile, but it is not always necessary. Sometimes you are tired, you skip words and they correct you, they stop you with questions, and you really don’t feel like reading at all. But their questions, their corrections, their hillarious comments, all this will just magically wipe away your stress, make you smile and forget about everything else. 

It is the love they share with you in those moments. 

The same goes with reading to and with adults. If you read with your partner, to your mother or father, to people who can no longer read to themselves, remember – we are all children at heart! Stories have that mysterious power of waking up that honest, non-constricted, free and imaginative child, dormant but present within us. 

I have seen the magic of reading stories to all age groups, and would never trade in its power and positive effect for any technological device there is, much as I respect and use them in my teaching. Reading awakens playful freedom, sets emotions free and channels them, challenges the mind into critical and creative thinking, and lets us grow, develop and express ourselves. 

So yes, children, meaning all of us, associate books with love and affection, because this is what we share when we read together. 

And if you are ever lucky enough to have your child read to you, relish every second of that love. 

(From the afterword of Mimi Finds Her Magic)

3 Comments »

A Treasure Chest of Children’s Stories

It has been such a treat for me to participate in this latest anthology of children’s stories. I hope you find some magic in each of them! 

Watch out for First-Grader Angel, Diana the Daring (both by me) and Unicorn Rider by my goddaughter – Helena Čačić! If I am not mistaken, there is a story for each month of the year:). Thank you, Plaisted Publishing! 

#children #stories 

Leave a comment »

Just a little pre-holiday bookshelf…

Do forgive my bluntness, but I kind of enjoy watching my pre-holiday book display…

Four children’s books published so far…

And five adult books already out…

Along with plenty of short stories featured in several anthologies…

BARNES & NOBLE

AMAZON

LULU 

KOBO

BOOK GORILLA 

GOODREADS

 

Leave a comment »