Saturday, 29 January 2011

Taking Flight

This is a newly published book (well 2010) and just a chance spot on Amazon. Infact I actually saw a forum post about pony books for boys and the Author had posted this one...Always intrigued by new pony books I went to have a nosy and on account of the excellent reviews it already had bought myself a copy.

What a debut! Best book I've read since Twilight (okay i know that doesn't say much for my taste but you really need to give this one a go!)
In all honesty, although horses do form an integral part of the plot, this book is not exclusively a book for horse lovers, but it is a book that youngsters would benefit from reading.
It covers such a wide base from coping with social deprivation, living with alcoholism, low self esteem and neglect to the social divide between these youngsters living this life and those from the same wider communities who have a far more affluent upbringing and want for nothing. This book covers all of these gritty issues and more with tact and remains true to life and most importantly of all is very believable.

Declan 'The Hood' and 'Princess' Vicky might be cousins but they are worlds apart.

The biggest hardship Vicky has ever dealt with is the breakdown of her parents marriage...however a young stepmother with the same interest in horses and whom Vicky likes very much is not too much a difficulty in her otherwise perfect life. She goes to a good school, has an expensive show jumper (who she has just gotten a place on school SJ team with), has private jumping lessons and her every whim catered for.
Declan on the other hand lives a far less charmed life. Social deprivation is very real in Declans world and with an alcoholic Mother, dead Father and previous conviction for joyriding just for starters I don't need to state the obvious.

Their two worlds collide, quite literally, when Declans Mother takes an overdose and Declan has nowhere to go but his Aunt Collette's (Vicky's mother). Without spoiling it too much, needless to say it's a whirlwind ride of emotions for both the youngsters and as Declan stumbles deeper into 'Vicky's world' emotions certainly ride high with devastating consequences...

Taking Flight is such an absorbing fast pace read that you are quickly drawn into it and I found it very hard to put down indeed.

Declan is an intricate but fascinating character, and a far cry from my own upbringing and experiences (thank goodness if I'm honest) but most of all he's real, sadly very real. There are millions of real Declans out there and Declans story highlights, not only how difficult life can be for these youngsters but also that there can be a different life for them. Anything is possible and life is what you make it regardless of where you come from...this echoes throughout this excellent story.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


17th jan 2011 -Well It's a very long time since i even thought about adding anything to here but I was inspired to have another go by a wonderful book i just read and on logging in found this post from 07/05/2008 which I had clearly started but never quite got round to posting better late than never they say!

I seem to have been having a really good run of of books at the min, infact the tbr pile is slowly diminishing at long last!

It all started with Gillian Baxter's The Stables At Hampton. Much as I enjoyed The Team From Low Moor and Bargain Horses, her other books although very readable (and I did enjoy them) just didn't for me have that special quality...that spark you get from a really good book, when you just want more and can't bear for it to end.

However The Stables At Hampton nearly blew me away, it was so amazing. It is somewhat unique that it is set in the world of dressage/high school , the only other 'English' book I can think of with a similar theme is Caroline Akrill's Flying Changes, which is rather dark in tone with a very unexpected ending.

The characters are strong and well thought out, and compliment each other beautifully. Also, as in all her books, they are very believable and don't lead madly 'exotic' lives! They show emotion, work hard for a living and suffer everyday worries and hardships just like the rest of us. Ginny's determination to get away from her old life and create a better future, not only for her but also for Flash, should be an inspiration to us all. Unlike in a lot of stories she had to work hard to achieve what she did and suffered many a hardship along the way, learning important lessons as she did. Also we saw how friendship, love and trust turned Tara from a hard driven loner into a more normal and rounded person, learning to accept help from others and pass on some of the burden rather than remaining the furiously independent lady we first met.

If I Could Ride Caroline Akrill

After searching for so long I am pleased to say it didn't disappoint. Caroline Akrill has a wonderful way with words. Her books are witty and humorous while remaining very real and her characters are simply divine! It was very fitting that Caroline returned to stud and helped it's reformation into a riding centre although the ending left me itching for more and (just with her Eventer's Trilogy) to know what happens next!

For sale Or Swop Alyssa Brugman

A modern Australian story about Shelby who comes from a poor unhorsey family but longs for more. She wants a fantastic flashy pony, like her friends at the Pony Club, and is convinced her kind and steady pony Blue is the source of all her problems. However with no money for a pony Shelby has to turn to an alternative means of finding a new which ultimately leaves her ponyless and Blue missing....

Her observations of teenage/adolescent life are spot on and she really draws you into young Shelby's world. Paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter this book is so absorbing and flows so beautifully that you do not notice the hours pass by. I am now eagerly awaiting the arrival of Beginners Luck.

Treasure To The East Patricia Leitch

Not a pony book and very different from my normal reading but enchanting all the same. Patricia Leitch has often added a fantasy flavour to her pony books but this one is pure fantasy through and through. It is the story of Darien's quest (even if he didn't know it) to create a new world/save the current world from the evil that is threatening to engulf it once and for all. It is a novel which can no doubt be read on many a level and I'm sure i did not read or understand it on the level which was intended but there is a strong message of keeping faith and triumph over adversity thoughout. It also goes someway to explain some of the mystical/Celtic influences that have appeared in her Jinny books, that to be honest I always found a little strange, much preferring the ones where the story centered more around Shantih and riding such as Devil To Ride and Jump For The Moon.

Prince Among Ponies Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Classic pony fiction at it's very very best. This one was an absolute pleasure to re-read (I read it as part of a reading circle), made even more pleasurable by finding that the armada pb I had loved as a child had been somewhat abridged and there were lots of extra snippets that further enhanced my love of the story.

I was also very relived to realise that I love it now just as much as I did then. Surely it's a very strong contender for one of the best loved pony books of all time?

Abby Malone Shelly Peterson

I first came across Shelly Peterson last year when a chance buy saw me with a copy of the excellent Dancer. I assumed it was a one off and thought nothing more of it until a few weeks ago i was enlightened.....

Abby Malone is in sorts a follow up to Dancer, defiantly not a sequel that title would really be reserved for Stagestruck maybe? But nether the less it is set in the same town and Hilary (Mousie) and Dancer do, albeit briefly, appear in the story at a couple of important points. Not strictly a pony story in the true sense, although horses are a strong theme throughout. Abby Malone is 14, her mother is an alcoholic and her father in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Needless to say, for Abby life is tough, her home life is non existent anymore and consists of caring for and covering up for her Mother and she has been socially outcast by her peers. Even her best friend Leslie is not really allowed to mix with her anymore. Sanctuary for Abby comes in the form of George Farrows QH mare Moonlight Sonata, her coyote Cody and Laura and Pete Pierson, who do everything in their power to make sure Abby is not alone in her journey......

Shelley Peterson is an outstanding author, her novels are gritty and absorbing and as with Alyssa Brugman her observations of adolescence/teenage life are excellent. You go through every high and low with Abby, sometimes on the edge of your seat and nothing but a happy ending will do!

Stagestruck Shelley Peterson

I have only just started this one and it is both a sequel to Dancer and Abby Malone if that is possible? Abby because once again the story centres around Abby (or at least it does initially), who is now 16. Her life is far less turbulent now, her father is home and Mother in a much more stable state and more excitingly than anything, Mousie James has asked her to ride the magnificent stallion Dancer while she is away.

Dancer because he is once again a central character in the plot of course we see the return of Sam Owens, still intend on getting his revenge....

Add to the mix a mysterious old theatre with resident ghost and you have another unput downable novel (even if it does sound a bit weird at the moment).

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Pony book compilations

Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Normally I steer well clear of these compilations as they generally tend to disappoint. More often than not they are full to the brim of excellent extracts by well known authors.

So what's the problem you can they disappoint?

Well when you've enjoyed Silver Snaffles in the complete version why an earth would you want to read just a chapter? I also feel for the poor souls who read the extract, desperately want more, only to find it's gonna cost them £40 plus to do so.....I know it's been re released and is much cheaper but it's still pricey.

Then on the other end of the scale are the ones, like the one pictured above, The Best Of Pony Club Stories. These are new (okay they did appear in annuals but over quite a long time span so i doubt unless an annual collector you would have them all) short stories but boy is there a reason they never got fully into print (IMO). On the whole they are rather poor, and apart from an excellent story Chop and Change by JPT, this one is no exception.

A very Silver Snaffles style tale, where ponies do the narrating and tell it from their perspective. It mainly concerns two ponies who are unhappy with their owners. They engineer a plan a swop but find the grass is not always greener. Beautifully written and so different from her usual makes the books and changes it from a don't do it to buy a copy, if only for this small delight. It also boasts an otherwise unobtainable story from the pen of Primrose Cumming, but quite frankly it's it can have come from the author of such greats as Silver Snaffles and The Wednesday Pony I'll never know.

Some are better than others of course and I fondly remember this one above from being at school ( I actually think apart from The Switch Horse it was the only pony book in the school library I didn't have at home) and again it has an otherwise (as far as I am aware) unavailable short story this time by DPT entitled........... However fondly remembering and reading are quite different and the stories were not quite as good as I remembered them bar the DPT.

Then of course there are the other compilations such as the Pullein-Thompson sisters contributions such as proud riders and a pony scrapbook. These are a mixture of stories, puzzles and factual articles on choosing and looking after a pony and were probably quite exciting as a youngster (mainly due to the puzzles) but quickly lose their appeal as you get older (not to mention date terribly!) Lots of oats being ate etc.

This is one I rather like, the cover and title are enough to put anyone off but the stories themself on the whole are actually okay. The author appeared to know her stuff and kept the stories simple and to the point. It is also novel in the fact that the author wrote all the stories herself, infact she has written several compilations to which she is the soul contributor although Molly and The Misfits is the only one I've read so far.

And there not all bad as this one proves, published by Pony magazine, it is extremely good. It features new stories by CPT and Patricia Leitch along with a host of other well written excellent stories and not an extract in sight! In fact I would go as far as to say there isn't a weak story in this lovely book.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Linda Craig

I have just been reading the Linda Craig (original) series and cannot believe how much I enjoyed them!

I vaguely remember having a few of these books when I was younger but cannot really remember ever reading them......I would imagine maybe the mystery element put me off as I liked 'pure' pony books by far the most. However having acquired one in a lot with some other books I decided to give them a go and was thoroughly hooked! I would liken them very much to Nancy Drew on horseback and until it was recently pointed out to me had no idea that they were a Stratemeyer Syndicate product, hence the similarity and irony of my comparison. So far I have read the first 10 of the 11 volumes in the original 'Mysteries' series with the elusive Scorpio so far eluding me. The first six titles were published by Doubleday & Company between 1962 and 1964. The series was reprinted in paperback between 1982 and 1984 when five additional titles were added.

In 1988, Simon & Schuster revived and revised the series in paperback. The original eleven volumes were dropped and twelve new titles were issued between 1988 and 1990, albeit sadly not in the UK. I currently am eagerly awaiting the arrival 7 of these titles from Stateside. From what I can gather although they main characters haven't changed it seems Linda may have a new equine partner.....but I will have to wait and see.

The Linda Craig Mysteries see 16 year old Linda Craig as our heroine. Recently orphaned, along with her 18 year old brother, Bob, she has come to live at Ranch Del Sol with her grandparents, Dona and Broncho. The first book, The Palomino Mystery, introduces the family and also tells of how Linda acquires Chica D'Oro, her palomino filly. This is where I had to keep reminding myself it was only a story as my blood did boil at several points due to a (I hope) blatant lack of equine knowledge. Chica was introduced as a 2 year old unbroken filly, who days later was doing full days trails and was beautifully trained!!! She proceeded to become a champion show horse in preceding books but as Linda never aged a day i assume she didn't either.....maybe rules are different in USA but I thought horses under 4 couldn't be shown under saddle? All very off the point but starting very young horses and expecting too much from youngsters (by this I mean any under age of maturity ie 7/8 years) is a personal pet hate and something I am strongly opposed to. However very much like Peter Grey's Kit Hunter books, when you get over this, what you are left with are well written and enjoyable stories. The First six are by far superior (IMO) and the last four become a little contrived and far fetched almost. I guess as with so amny other series of books overkill occured. I do hope that isn't the case with the 'Adventures' books. Only time will tell.

Although the books were little changed for the UK market as you can see from the pictures every trace of 'western' riding/theme was hidden on the covers of the UK books, although the internal pics showed Linda/Chica in full western tack/clothing. I am assuming the original dust wrappers would have made an English audience think they were buying a western?....but are far superior. The publishers also added a glossary, which i must admit is useful and a nice touch as there were several references to/terms completely alien to me.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Worth the wait?

I have this week managed to finally get hold of one of the most sought after pony books of recent times. The extremely elusive Mystery On The Moor. I have been after this one for a few years now and it certainly has a 'hype' around it which I have found on past occasions brings nothing but disappointment on actually reading the story, such as with Sheila Chapman's books and rosette for Royal. Thankfully, this time it wasn't the case!

I also must apologise to someone for this review as I know this title will be covered by The pullein-Thompson archive in just a few weeks time, but I couldn't's not every day you actually manage to get hold of the most wanted book on your list! I'm hoping you will understand.

The story see's Angela Fletcher return to spend the summer as a paying guest with the Ashworths, meanwhile Jess and her sister Georgie are saying with their Gran, Mrs Hathaway. Once ponies are sorted out for everyone a great summer should be in the offing, but threat of a rabies outbreak is hanging over the country. It is also slightly marred by the fact the cottage on Menacoell, where they so often in the past had camped out, has now been turned into kennels and Mr Bates is far from friendly and won't have them near. A trip to the shops at peennecford is followed by the usual crossing of the estuary to have a gallop in the fields beyond, however this time they are greeted by birds who have been caught up in an oil spill. The friends immediately mount an operation to save the birds and help is at hand from the RSPCA. While this is going on suspicions are raised about Mr Bates and what exactly his business is. Is it as innocent as it seems and what of the rabies outbreaks? Where are they coming from and is it set to spread to the moors.......

I was all set to not like this book a single bit, I hadn't thought much of it's predecessor Treasure on the Moor, thought even less of the following book Suspicion Stalks The Moor and knew this one would be lacking the main characters from the first 5 books. However I can honestly say I enjoyed it as much, if not more than any other book in the series...and considering the times I have been thoroughly disappointed by books I have wanted so desperately it was somewhat refreshing to say the least.

The AsheyPales, as Sukey and Chris were known in Treasure, really come into their own in this book as they take over the main character slots previously filled by Louisa and Frances Burnett. They have turned from feeble city kids, struggling to adapt to their new surroundings into much stronger, dependable and infinitely more likeable characters. SuKey and Huw emerge as the new 'leaders' within the group, a void that is left by the absence of the Burnetts, older Hamilton's and the Jackson's. Danny is now fully integrated and accepted as part of the group and we see the return of the quite frankly 'horrendous' Angela. A pushy, in your face brat who more than meets her equal in the impertinent and downright obnoxious equally spoilt brat Jess. Unlike Jess, Angela has a few moments where she almost manages to redeem herself but Jess is selfish and out for herself through and through. She is also even more dislikable due to her natural ability on horseback...she immediately has the unschooled and difficult Russet going beautifully for her to further irritate the others.The Ashyplaes ponies are new reformed characters due to the help from the Burnetts and Snowman makes an interesting addition to their stable. He is a skinny mass of bones covered in warts who neither of them really want but as Sukey begins to ride him he proves himself to be a wise old hand and super all round performer...there is even a happy ending when his warts disappear!

It leaves me wondering a little whether I would like 'Suspicion' more now, knowing a little more about the characters in it, this book fills a lot of gaps in their personalities that make them appear bland and un endearing in Suspicion.The story itself covers several important issues. Firstly the devasting effects of an oil spill on local wildlife. Josephine didn't just touch lightly on the subject either as we learn about how the birds are to be cared for and how the RSPCA becomes involved. There is also the serious issue of Rabies, now laws and restrictions have changed, I guess smuggling dogs into the country is less necessary but Josephine tackled this issue well and the rabies plot was only brought fully into play at the end of the story...I won't go on and totally spoil it but suspicions were rife prior to this and the missing link falls into place in an unexpected way.............

The only thing I didn't like was the absence of the previous main characters and poor explanations of this in the case of the Burnetts. The Mitchell's had been being fazed out slowly for a while and are no great loss, The Jackson's were busy running their trekking centre and again this had been building up for some time, the older Hamilton's were away with their TV star/producer (I forget which) father, which was plausible but the Burnetts absence was due to their mother being ill and needing to recover in a warmer climate. Hello this is the 1980's, this might have been common in the 40's and 50's but did this really still happen in the 80's? I for one am not so sure but stand to be corrected. I know Josephine didn't want to bring in new characters but was made to by the publishers...I fear it was almost deja vu of the Noel and Henry series as her publishers didn't like the hint of romance between Noel and Henry and you felt a relationship was blossoming here between Frances and Felix too in the same subtle way. Whatever the reasoning the old characters were well and truly dead and buried apart from odd fleeting mention early on in this one.

The book is an enjoyable read with or without the characters of the first books and more than holds it own within the series. It showed her diversity as a writer as she shied away from her usual style of pony based story and embarked on a more adventure/mystery theme with ponies thrown in......maybe it was the what was popular and 'wanted' at the time as the Peter Grey Kit Hunter series and Linda Craig Mysteries by Ann Sheldon all got re-released in the early 1980's too but for me it will never be able to live up to and will always be a poor relative of her earlier classics such as Six Ponies and Pony Club Camp? It may be more sort after than these books but that is purely down to the rarity factor rather than content in my opinion.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Jacky Jumps To The Top

I have finally got round to doing something I have been meaning to do for ages....or at least started the Spitfire Jane Eliot titles with their Patricia Leitch re-releases.

I started with Jacky Jumps To The top as along with being my favourite Pat Leitch story (apart from Black Loch that is) it is one I read so many times as a child I almost know it word for word so the task was so much easier.

Ever since I obtained my first Spitfire, the elusive Pony Club Camp, I have been wondering if this mini books are are abridged/altered. So far I cannot find evidence of Pony Club Camp ever been re-printed either prior or post the Spitfire edition but Afraid to ride, First pony and of Course Jacky all appeared in the Collins Pony Library series.

However having now read Jacky Jumps to the top in all 3 different editions I can confirm the story was added to for the Collins version quite significantly and further minor abridgements occured in the later armada edition too.

The first thing that immediately struck me was the character Jacky was two years younger (just 9) in the spitfire edition than in the Collins and armada editions. I wonder if, although time did pass during the story, at least a year, Ms Leitch realised it was highly unlikely that a 10/11 year old would beat her peers to the leading junior show jumper title? Also Jacky struck me as extremely capable and independent for such a young age, even when she was 11. Interestingly Celia Grunter remains 10 in all 3 editions, thus going from older than to younger than Jacky.

Flicka also turns from a 4 year old in the Spitfire to a five year old, again I wonder if as an after thought Ms Leitch realised she would be very young to achieve such a feat, and not the best of examples either, competing hard and at a high level, such a young pony?

The text alterations begin at chapter 3 which begins - Jacky covered her head with the bed clothes - she didn't want to wake up. She didn't want it to be today - the day when Flicka and all the other ponies from the riding school were going to the sale at Buckly. In the later editions there an extra two chapters before this bit covering the period up to the sale and Jacky's frantic efforts to make enough money to save Flicka, not to mention Mrs Grunter also trying to buy Flicka for the dreadful Celia. Jacky is offered Flicka for £300 in this build up to the sale (the amount is £30 in the Collins and it is only mentioned as an after thought on sale day).

Chapter 5 of the later editions starts - The clock downstairs chimed half past seven - this is three paragraphs into chapter 3 of the spitfire edition and the story continues as per original for a while (apart from a £50 premium bond win becomes £500 in later eds and Mrs Grunter being prepared to pay £70 for Flicka at the sale becoming £700).Interestingly in the Armada edition there is also one final addition to an otherwise unabridged copy of the Collins. Jacky has no tack and in this edition it mentions her Father making her put her spare £200 into savings and not using it for a saddle, what happens to her change in earlier editions isn't mentioned.

At this point the Collins and Armada have an extra two chapters again which see Flicka jumping out of the Dawson's paddock and gorging herself in the feed room and her resulting bout of colic and another focusing on teaching Flicka to jump and taking part in a disastrous pony club gymkhana.

The two later editions also feature the pairs escapades out hunting, which nearly ruins Flicka's jumping career and occurs just before the try out's for the pony club team, where it all goes wrong! With Roderick's help they get Flicka back on track and from here on in the book is back to following the original storyline published by spitfire and ends with Jacky and Flicka being crowned Leading Junior show jumper Of the Year.

All in all a near perfect pony book, the stuff dreams are made of regardless of the edition you choose!

For me it has to be the armada I had growing up to be honest, much as i like the Collins pony libs......old faves die hard.

One question I would still like the answer to is - Is Patricia Leitch her real name? If so why the pseudonym ?

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Quite Beautiful

Nothing to do with pony books or anything in particular for that matter but this has to be one of the loveliest poems I've ever come across and thought i'd share it a little more.