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Showing posts from June, 2010

I do craft. Or not.

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There are a lot of blogs out there where people show off what they've made, and then there's Country Living Magazine, which I get because my mother bought me a subscription to it. The Country Living lifestyle is definitely not mine: the houses on show are filled with beautiful finds from little junk shops and gorgeous French markets; mine is filled with dog hair, books, and a few beautiful finds fighting a losing battle to be seen. Most of the women in Country Living seem to have created marvellously lucrative careers for themselves in next to no time having decided to flee the city, rather than trugging on as I do making a profit but not exactly a bountiful living.
And they also do crafts, these women. I'm usually immune to this lifestyle sort of thing. I am like the women in that old Harry Enfield skit: I know my limits. So, I'm still quite mystified by what exactly it was that took me over last weekend.
In the garden, my roses are out. I adore my roses: I h…

Sarah Dunant: Sacred Hearts

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Sarah Dunant: Sacred Hearts Virago, 2010 £7.99


I first heard this book - quite literally - on Radio 4, when it was done as a daily serial. I have the radio on while I'm working, so tend to dip in and out of what's going on and don't always fully take on board what's going on. Alas I didn't wake up out of my dream until this series was nearly over, but was intrigued, and when I found a copy in a charity shop, pounced.
It has been the most gripping read: there are rare books when you are so immersed in the world the author creates that it takes you a while to swing back into your own once you have finished the book, and this book was one of those. It is the story of a convent in the Italian city, Ferrara, in 1570. It is set just after the Council of Trent, when what were seen as Protestant heresies were condemned, and the lack of discipline in convents was addressed. As a result, many bishops cracked down on what were seen as lax practices. This process took se…

Dumbing down?

Thanks to the wonders of internet book selling, it's now relatively easy to get hold of newly published titles from abroad. Jean Slaughter Doty's much loved Mokey books Summer Pony and Winter Pony have been republished by Random House.

Jean Slaughter Doty is one of my favourite American authors, so I was pleased to see the Mokey books were going to be readily available. However, beware: the books have been republished as part of Random House's Stepping Stones series, so this doesn't mean you're going to be the original text. What you will get is nice, short sentences and simplified content.
Below are examples of how it's changed - thank you Susan Bourgeau for sending me this.
If you have a reluctant reader, then go ahead and buy, but if you're looking to recapture the magic of a book you read when you were young, hang out for a secondhand copy.
Summer Pony 2008

It was a gloomy gray day in March. A threat of late snow was in the air when the station wago…

Not all European countries are alike to Amazon

Amazon have introduced price parity for its UK sellers (price parity meaning you cannot sell your books at a lower price than you have them listed on Amazon.) This apparently does not apply to Amazon sellers in Germany.

Courtesy of Sheppards' newsletter, here is a translation of the relevant paragraph in the Amazon Seller's Agreement in Germany (translated using Google translate):

Clause 2 Are the conditions for price parity for all items that I offer on Amazon EU platform?
The conditions for price parity are valid for all items that you offer on one of Amazon EU sales platforms. The price parity does not apply to the supply of books on Amazon.de. Other parity requirements (e.g. regarding customer service and return and refund policies apply), however, even for that product category. For sales of books that fall under the French law on fixed book prices, the terms and conditions apply to price parity too, but of course these products at the item prices to fixed prices to take …

The Ponyhof

I love this blog.

Janet Rising: Prize Problems

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Janet Rising: Prize Problems (Pony Whisperer 4) Hodder, 2010

Anyone reading my reviews must wonder if I ever, ever read anything I like. All four books reviewed so far this week have seen me griping and moaning. Well, hurrah for Janet Rising. The fourth book in the Pony Whisperer series arrived this week. Pia, I think, is the Jill Crewe de nos jours. She lives with her mother, and has a pony, Drum. The unusual thing about Pia is that she owns a statue of the goddess Epona. When she has the statue, she can hear what ponies say.


In episode three, Pia's friend Bean had entered a competition in Pony magazine, and with Pia's help, won. This book is the story of what happens on the riding holiday they win. It doesn't have a cast of thousands; the fantasy is low-key; the romance even more so: what Janet Rising is brilliant at is depicting the teenage girl and making it funny and believable. She has them absolutely right: there are two sisters, Amber and Zoe, who spen…

Black Beauty - a record

Over on The Pony Book Chronicles, Black Beauty is a record! And you can win a book if you comment on it.

Review: Babette Cole

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Babette Cole: The Unicorn Princess, The Ghostly Blinkers Bloomsbury, 2010
Babette Cole's website
I've known for a while these books were in the offing, and have been looking forward to them. Babette Cole is a writer with a unique style, who takes no prisoners. Her Doctor Dog was a favourite of my children, who relished its delight in describing exactly what happens when you have worms. When Mummy Laid an Egg was also an essential prop to me in getting over my English awkwardness at helping my children learn about sex.

Babette Cole owns the Holnest Park Stud, which breeds hunters, so writing a pony book was an obvious choice. I had wondered quite what she'd put in a pony book: in an interesting comment on the mores of publishers today, although sex is allowed for infants, hunting isn't: "Bloomsbury made me take out any references to flirtation, drinking or hunting, which was a bit disappointing. They now go team chasing instead."


I really did want to like these boo…

Review: Stacy Gregg - The Auditions

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Stacy Gregg: Pony Club Rivals HarperCollins, 2010


I haven't read a Stacy Gregg since I reviewed Mystic and the Midnight Ride in eek, 2008. Have I really been doing this that long? Mystic was the first in the Pony Club Secrets series. I liked the book, but didn't like the fantasy. The Auditions, which is the first in a new series, Pony Club Rivals, is blessedly completely free of the weird and wonderful.
It's set at the Blainford All-Stars Academy, in Kentucky. This is a senior school for talented equestrians from all over the world. Entry is by competition. Stacy Gregg covers all geographical bases by having her heroine, Georgie, hail from England, setting the school in America, and having characters from Europe and New Zealand as well. Georgie's mother, Virginia Lang (yes that gave me pause for thought too) died when she had a fatal accident eventing. Georgie is determined to be an eventer like her mother, and go to Blainford, as her mother did. Needless t…

Review: Victoria Holmes

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Victoria Holmes: Heart of Fire HarperCollins, 2006
Victoria Holmes: Riders in the Dark HarperCollins, 2004
Neither book published in the UK but readily available from the usual sources.
An interview with Victoria Holmes
I am a big fan of historical fiction: probably because I am nosy, and like to know how people thought and lived. Having lived in a succession of more or less old houses, I spend a lot of time wondering about those who came before me - did the monks who built our house have their garden where I have mine? Did they grow some of the things I do if they did? Did they struggle with bindweed too?  Historical fiction which sits characters in a real time and place should go some way towards answering the question of what it was like for people who lived in a different time.    When it's good (and I give you Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts as an example) you simply do not question the time or place:  you are there with the characters.
It is a tricky tightrope to walk to get…

The garden and the O' level flower

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It's sweet rocket time in the garden. This is a plant I've had about me for years. When my parents sold the house we grew up in, we took bits of quite a few plants, and this was one of them. It hasn't entirely approved of every garden I've had since then, but I've managed to keep it going, and it loves this one, seeding itself with abandon in the more shady bits. There are flowers I associate with things and times, and sweet rocket is one. It always seems to be out during May Half Term, which was when I did my intensive last minute panic revision (if I'm honest, usually the only revision I did, as getting on with things in a timely fashion wasn't one of my teenage skills). As a break in between high speed panicking, I used to wander out into the garden and smell the rocket, which is one of those flowers which smells best in the evening. Whenever I smell it, I always remember my teenage self, attempting to put right the neglect of months in a single we…

Irises and bantams

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None of these are mine; the bantam family and irises both belong to a friend. There are seven babies, and they are all seriously cute.






The irises belong to the same friend. This is just a small selection.










Morning walk

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Which actually happened yesterday, but the camera batteries gave up on me half way round.