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Showing posts from January, 2010

Reviews: Janet Rising and Sharon Siamon

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Janet Rising: Team Challenge (The Pony Whisperer Series 2) Hodder Children's Books, 2009, £5.99



Team Challenge is the second in Janet Rising's Pony Whisperer series. The whole idea behind the series is that Pia can hear what horses and ponies are saying, but only as long as she is touching the little statue of the horse goddess, Epona, which she found when out on a ride. I reviewed the first book, The Word on the Yard, a few months ago, and liked it. I was wondering quite where the series would go after Pia's quite spectacular horse whispering efforts on TV - Pia, Pony Whisperer - the Film? - but I needn't have worried. The action this time has switched to the yard, and to Pia and her friends' efforts to win the Sublime Equine Challenge. This is a competition for a team of four, each of whom must do one discipline from a choice of dressage, cross country, show jumping and Wild Card (where anything goes).
I liked this one even more than the first: it's …

Review: Michael Morpurgo - Farm Boy

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Michael Morpurgo: Farm Boy Harper Collins, £4.99 Illustrated by Michael Foreman


This is another book I've had for ages; in fact since I went to see War Horse when it was still at the National. Farm Boy is badged as a sequel to War Horse, but it is only in the loosest sense. Joey and Albert's histories are updated, but by Albert's son, looking back from decades later.
Having read War Horse, I was puzzled by a couple of things. The grandfather tells his grandson Joey's history. Joey is indeed won at the toss of a coin in No Man's Land, as Farm Boy says, but it is a Welsh soldier who wins him, not Albert, who only comes across Joey when he is brought into the Veterinary Corps for treatment. Albert bought Joey back from the Army after they were going to sell him and the other army horses for meat; using all his savings to do so, says his son. In War Horse, what actually happens is that the soldiers all band together to try and save Joey by buying him at auction, bu…

Reviews: Simon Weston

Simon Weston: A Nod from Nelson
Pont, 2008, hb, £7.99
Simon Weston: Nelson to the Rescue Pont, 2009, hb, £8.99
Having a quick look back at my lastest reviews, I see they're almost all historical fiction: I promise you I do read other things (though I have a couple more historicals waiting in the wings to be reviewed), and here are two.
The Nelson books are by Simon Weston, a soldier who overcame appalling injuries sustained during the Falklands War. He has written several books about his experiences, but these are his first excursions into children's fictions. The books are written with David FitzGerald, and are illustrated by Jac Jones.
These are tricky books to review: I normally end a book with a few comments charging about in my brain, but I finished the first one of these not entirely certain what I thought about it. I then read the second, hoping that would clarify what I thought, but I'm not certain that it did.
Both books are larky fantasies about Nelson, a just-r…

Reviews: Diane Lee Wilson and Kim Ablon Whitney

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Another post done at the gallop to try and get the to-be-reviewed pile down a bit; not that either of these two really merit a quick review, as they're both excellent reads.
Kim Ablon Whitney: The Perfect Distance Knopf, , New York, 2007 (pb) £3.74
Kim Ablon Whitney's website



It's very noticeable, when you look at Kim Ablon Whitney's website, that this is the only horsy title she's written. If she lived in the UK, her chances of publishing a standalone story would be virtually zero; and to publish it as a hardback (which it was originally) completely non-existent. Thank goodness for American publishers, willing to take a chance.
This is an excellent read. Granted, it meets some horse story conventions - girl at the bottom of her particular equine heap wants to be the best - but it doesn't take the easy way out by writing in cardboard, bitchy opposition, and a fairytale rise to stardom. Francie Martinez lives with her father at a top training stables, where pu…

Reviews: K M Peyton

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K M Peyton: Small Gains
Random House: appears not to be in print, but easily available secondhand

K M Peyton: Greater Gains
Random House: £5.99





This pair of books are set at the beginning of the 19th century, and are the story of Clara Garland, her family, and her Norfolk Trotter horses. It's good to see the Trotters making an appearance: horses in historical novels aren't often differentiated into breeds, but K M Peyton takes you into a rural world where matches between trotters are huge social events, and the owner of a good horse can make a lot of money. (The breed is alas now extinct, though was used to produce the Hackney and the American Standardbred.) The horses, as ever, are wonderfully drawn, and I'd love to see a return of the breed. The ability to trot up to 17 miles in an hour would be very handy if we ever have to say farewell to the car.





K M Peyton specialises in feisty heroines, and Clara is one of the best of them: I enjoyed the way she keeps her fa…

New Year Reviews

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A very belated Happy New Year: my resolution this year is to try and get down the books to be reviewed pile. I think the only way I am going to manage this is to review several books at a time, and not go on at quite my usual length.

So, here are the first reviews of this year:

Diane Lee Wilson: Firehorse
Margaret McElderry Books, 2006, £9.90 (hb), July 2010 £5.05 (pb)


Diane Lee Wilson writes historical horse books, and does it very well. Like her earlier novel, I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade, Firehorse has a feisty heroine pushing the boundaries of what is expected of women. Rachel is forced to move to Boston from Wesleydale, Illinois, which is the American equivalent of moving to London from Piddletrenthide. Rachel moves, but her horse Peaches does not move with her. Life in Boston is cloistered, smelly and seemingly completely without hope, until Rachel meets the firehorse of the title: The Governor's Girl, who has been terribly burned in a fire. Rachel decides to try …