Review: Karen Bush & Maggie Dana

Both the books I've reviewed in this post are ebooks: a new departure for me, as I don't actually possess an e-reader of any sort whatsoever, but the authors kindly sent me the books in a format I could read.

Karen Bush: The Great Rosette Robbery and Other Stories
Kindle: £0.86
Karen Bush's website

Karen Bush has written a lot of non-fiction; The Problem Horse, The Principles of Teaching Riding and The Dog Expert to name just a few.  She started her writing career with short stories for PONY Magazine, and then (there being a limit to the amount of short stories magazines can publish) moved to writing non fiction. She combines working as a freelance riding instructor with writing.  The Great Rosette Robbery is a collection of her short stories; there's a full length book imminent.

I hope to be pretty near the front of the queue for that book, Riding for a Fall. The short stories are mostly excellent: Karen Bush obviously knows her equestrian stuff, and effortlessly places her characters in thoroughly believable backgrounds. There are 8 stories in the collection, ranging from When Practice Didn't Make Perfect, about a new pony, bought as a jumping star but who flatly refuses to jump, to The Gift Horse, my favourite of the collection, in which pony-less Lucy learns something about friendship. This story explores the classic girl-gets-pony theme, but with a twist which is possibly unique. And which involves Picasso.

The stories have a mix of backgrounds; families who have ponies and who don't, and a good mix of male and female central characters.These are traditional stories. The pony book does like to inform as well as entertain, and there's some instruction mixed in, generally lightly. Dear Diary, a tale of how to catch a pony, told as you might expect from the title, in diary form, is perhaps a little too obviously didactic, but in the other stories the instruction is imparted without you being aware you're being taught.

This collection of stories is well worth buying; they're well-written and entertaining, and do the short story's job of painting a brief but compelling picture. Karen Bush is an author to watch.

Maggie Dana:  Keeping Secrets
Timber Ridge Riders, 1
Kindle: £1.92
Nook Book $2.99
Maggie Dana's website

Maggie Dana started learning to ride at the age of 5, but loathed it - "she hated it so much, she didn't try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life." She's written a standalone horse book, The Golden Horse of Willow Farm, and an adult novel, Beachcombing. Her Timber Ridge Riders series is a re-issue and updating of a four book series originally published in the 1980s. Thus far it's only available in e-book format.

Keeping Secrets  is the story of Kate, who is living with an aunt. Her mother has died, and her father is more interested in butterflies than his only child. Kate has a secret: a horse she was looking after died, and it was her fault. Stricken with guilt, she can no longer face being around horses, but when she takes a job as a companion to a girl no longer able to walk after an accident, she has to face up to her past.

The book is an engaging and believable read. It has the requisite villain; the rich, beautifully horsed girl who loathes our heroine, but  who has a believable backstory herself. Angela's mother is one of those obsessive horse mothers, interested only in her daughter winning. Maggie Dana's depiction of a villain who has more to her than simple badness raises this book above the usual  horse story. Her heroines are sparky , and the story, with its themes of wish-fulfilment and wrongs righted, is a thoroughly satisfying read.

Maggie Dana is re-issuing the rest of the series as e-books, and if the rest of the series is as good as the first, they're well worth investing in.

If any other authors want to send me e-books, please do. A pdf is easiest for me to read on screen, but I am very happy to read paper copies if you want to send one of those.


LittleMe said…
Have gone and bought the Karen Bush short story book. I love short stories and remember reading them in Pony magazine when I was a bit (lot) younger. Thanks for the tip.
Jane Badger said…
I hope you enjoy them. It's a long while since I've read a collection I enjoyed as much.
madwippitt said…
Thanks very much for the positive comments - I was a little nervous about this as it's been a few years now since I wrote any fiction! But I really enjoyed doing it and I'm looking forward to finishing the current WiP (a non-fiction job, although it is about horses!) so I can get stuck back into the full-length story.

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