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Showing posts from April, 2013

Review - Kit Ehrman: At Risk

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Kit Ehrman: At Risk
Link to the author's website with free links for the book
Kindle UK: free Other Steve Kline mysteries on Kindle: £0.66
Kit Ehrman's website
This was a cracking read. I sat up far too long trying to finish it and find out what happened. It’s tautly plotted, has an excellent horsey background, and had me holding my breath as the denouement approached. If you like heart-in-mouth stuff, with strong, attractive characters, download this book: you really don't have anything to lose, because it's free.
Hero Steve Kline, at the age of only 21, is barn manager to Foxdale, a stable of over 200 horses. He’s very, very good at his job. The book opens as Steve is heading to the barn in the middle of the night to give a horse medication. He surprises an attempt to steal seven of the barn’s horses; is beaten up and abducted. He gets free, but with no idea of who’s abducted him. The theft is not an isolated incident: the barn is subjected to increasingly horrible incid…

Review: Jessica Burkhart - Canterwood Crest, Take the Reins

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Jessica Burkhart - Take the Reins (Canterwood Crest, 1)
Simon & Schuster, 2009, $6.99 (UK price variable)

Jessica Burkhart's website
Canterwood Crest's website

The exclusive girls' school which has elite riding on the curriculum is something that's taken off a bit in recent years, in America, at any rate. America's comfortable with its private schools: in the UK, we're not. Or at least, even if we're perfectly happy to send our children there, we're not happy to see such establishments as the setting for children's literature unless it's suitably dressed by fantasy or distanced by geography, thereby absolving us for the need to feel squeamish about the public v private debate. So, we've had Lauren Brooke's Chestnut Hill series, and Stacy Gregg's Pony Club Rivals, both set in exclusive boarding schools in America. They're now joined by Jessica Burkhart and her Canterwood Crest series, set in yes, an exclusive girls' boarding …

Mary Gervaise and the early pony book

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Just when you think you have a reasonable idea about an author, something pops up which makes you rethink. I've included Mary Gervaise in my book, Heroines on Horseback, and have recently written about her too. What I didn't know, until it turned up in a load of books I bought this week, was that she was a very early exponent of the girl plus pony story. In 1932, when The Twins in the Third was written, pony stories were generally stories told by the pony, and they weren't exactly numerous, being far outnumbered by the school story.

The Twins in the Third is a story where the ponies are an important part of the plot. They're not central: the author could just as easily have used some other device to achieve her aim of social inclusion for twins Jean and Laurie, but ponies, and the fondness the girls feel for them are there. The book illustrates a key factor of Gervaise's writing over the years: if she didn't intend to write a girl-gets-pony story, neither did sh…

Afternoon walk

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Spring has sprung, even right next to the A14.






Warm enough at last for dogs to swim.


A guest post on Patricia Leitch

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This post actually appeared as a comment on my post on 1970s pony literature. I enjoyed it so much I felt it was a shame it was buried in the comments. It deserves to be read, so here it is, and many thanks to Laura for writing it. I hope you don't mind being moved to a starring role!



I'm now a university lecturer in English Literature, though struggled with reading from about the age of 9 through to 13. Patricia Leitch's books kept me reading and thinking during that time and, most importantly, they kept alive in me the notion of a life of the imagination. The book that I loved most was Dream of Fair Horses, which I still reread.... it is really a book about what it means to have relationships that aren't driven by possessiveness.


One of the rather melancholy aspects of Patricia Leitch's work that I think I sensed as a child, but that I see much more clearly now, is her anxiety about what it means to be live as an adult woman. The books sometimes seem to share Jinny…

Mary Gervaise

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There were bits of my book which ended up on the cutting room floor, and some of them I was quite fond of.  Mary Gervaise was one author whose section was cut quite considerably. Anyone read pony books in the 1970s will remember the Armada paperbacks of her Georgia series, with photographic covers, and rather alarming bright blue spines.


These photographic covers, with their casual, Seventies children, were a world away from those depicted in the books. Georgia, Susan and Gerry seem irredeemably lodged in a version of the 1950s where women don't work, the family is central, and everything always does seem to work out. Other pony stories written at the same time, like Ruby Ferguson's Jill books, don't seem as firmly lodged in time and place. Ruby Ferguson, whatever her real opinion on careers for girls, always left you with the sense that Jill was going somewhere. Georgia, although a decent enough character, was forever stuck in early teenagerhood. When I read the books, on…

Review: Lauren St John - Race the Wind

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Review: Lauren St John: Race the Wind Lauren St John: Race the Wind Orion Books, 2013, £9.99 (hardback)
Lauren St John’s website
Race the Wind is the second in the Casey Blue series. In the much grittier first book, Casey is living in East London, in grinding poverty. She buys a horse for an American dollar (the only money she has is the sort useless in London) and after many trials, wins Badminton at the age of 17.


The sequel has very little of the spiky, difficult background that made the first book an interesting read: inevitably, as life has moved on for Casey. She no longer lives in London, but at a training stable in Kent with her mentor, Mrs Smith. Having won Badminton, she gets an automatic entry into the Kentucky Three Day Event, and when the book opens, all seems set fair for an attempt on that. However, her father’s background as an ex con, which haunted the pair throughout the first book, comes up again. He is arrested on suspicion of murder. Casey receives a blackmail deman…

Review: Chloe Ryder - Princess Ponies, and a diversion

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Chloe Ryder: A Magical Friend Chloe Ryder: A Dream Come True Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013, £4.99
Chloe Ryder's website

I was looking through the children’s books in our local Waterstone’s recently, and found a series of truly epic awfulness: the publishers of Holly Webb’s Animal Stories series have moved on from merely brandishing huge-eyed cuteness at the infant reader to straightforward manipulation of their emotions: how about these for titles? Harry the Homeless Puppy, Alfie All Alone, Lost in the Snow, The Kitten Nobody Wanted, Alone in the Night..... The series, according to the publishers, Scholastic, “realistically describes the range of emotions animals and their people feel when they are separated.” Which is fair enough, but do you really need 24 different variations on misery, albeit misery which is overcome, to make the point? When you see the books gathered together on the shelf, it’s even worse: a solid concatenation of animal melancholy.
Anyway, I’ve wanted to get that on…

Afternoon Walk

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We're getting used to living in Kettering. Actually, I like it here. Having been to school here, I would never have believed you if you'd told me I would, but I do. I like being able to walk pretty well everywhere I need to go, instead of getting the car out the whole time. I like the large library at the top of the road, with its attached art gallery, and the café opposite. I've found bits of the town I never knew existed.

Dog walking of course is not quite the same. We're lucky in that we live straight opposite the local park, so there is that to walk on, and we can cut through the sports ground till we get to a lake. The best walks though need a bit more getting to, but are perfectly achievable on foot. As is the way of these things, the fields where the best walks are will be developed. What a weasel word that is. It implies things will improve, which of course they will if you are the developer or landowner, but not so much if you are the wildlife that lives there…