As a young man, Henri Lachapelle is the star of La Cadre Noir, an elite group of horsemen in the French city of Saumur. But when he meets Florence, itAs a young man, Henri Lachapelle is the star of La Cadre Noir, an elite group of horsemen in the French city of Saumur. But when he meets Florence, it’s love at first sight and he gives it all up to be with her in England. Now, he lives on a London estate with his granddaughter Sarah but his dream lives on. In a stable under railway arches, lives Boo, a Selle Francais he bought as a colt for Sarah; together they train him and he gives them purpose. But when Henri suffers a stroke, Sarah must go into foster care and do whatever it takes to not be parted from Boo, even if that means hiding his existence.
Lawyer Natasha is in the middle of a divorce with her ex Mac when she finds Sarah shoplifting a packet of fishfingers. Used to dealing with underprivileged kids, she takes Sarah home to find her living by herself and a broken in flat. When she takes her in for the night, little does she know the future the three of them will have.
It may seem odd to imagine horses in the inner city but London was built up around horses and they do remain in the city today. Jojo Moyes’ story is based partly from her own youth spent at inner city stables and a moving tale of a child from Philadelphia, who overcame her lot in life to be chosen to ride for Yale before tragedy struck her family. If you don’t like horses, you may find the relationship between Sarah and Boo difficult to fathom but she completely loves that horse and is her anchor when everything else is falling apart. There were a few moments when I thought things didn’t make sense but with patience, the things I expected would happen in that situation do.
Natasha’s not the most amicable character and you may struggle to connect with her. She comes across as cold and unreasonable towards poor Mac. Yes they might be getting divorced, but they have chosen to do something together and he seems a lovely guy despite his dubious taste in girlfriends. I wanted to give her a slap at several points; her mind was so changeable! Their relationship was a little too much rollercoaster and I think she has refined her writing since.
There are a few similarities between The Horse Dancer and her new novel, The Girl You Left Behind, especially the addition of legal aspects. I could see that the things Natasha dealt with in her job were reflective of some of the things going on with Sarah but I found them a bit distracting to the overall plot.
But really, the most important character is Boo. He may never speak but he brings all the characters together, good or bad. So many times I was so worried for his safety. A wonderful talented and loyal horse, I want my own Boo! Definitely read if you like horses, or even just enjoyed the dressage this summer (although the airs above the ground are rarely performed outside displays by La Cadre Noir and The Spanish Riding School of Vienna). If you don’t really see the point of horses, I’m not sure you will care enough about what’s going on…although this book may change that for you....more
Predators I Have Known is a non-fiction outing for sci-fi writer, Alan Dean Foster, in which he regales us with tales of his encounters with the predaPredators I Have Known is a non-fiction outing for sci-fi writer, Alan Dean Foster, in which he regales us with tales of his encounters with the predators of the natural world. From diving with great whites to outrunning ants, the writing is at its best when he is obviously passionate about the subject matter.
Unfortunately, the day to day travelogue anecdotes are clumsy and a little boring. We don’t need to know the details of how he got to the places where he saw the predators, especially when nothing particularly interesting happens on the way. Nor do his descriptions of the people he meets hold any charm. At times there is even a privileged smugness to the writing. Some of the chapters also seem like fillers and I’m not convinced it was written as a whole book, there are a few occasions where information is repeated where it really doesn’t need to be.
It’s interesting enough to pick up and read a bit at a time, but only really if you have an interest in the animals themselves. It certainly doesn’t work as travel writing and there’s not enough humour or eloquence to make it a purely pleasurable read without an interest in natural history. ...more
After the death of her husband, David, Maggie struggles to run his wildlife park in Derbyshire with little emotional support. She attempts to befriendAfter the death of her husband, David, Maggie struggles to run his wildlife park in Derbyshire with little emotional support. She attempts to befriend Louisa, her neighbour, who was close friends with David but is faced with reluctance. Louisa has seen many women come and go from his life and she still harbours an unrequited love stemming from their teenage years together. David also left behind a son, Christopher, who has problems of his own and resents his stepmother now that his father is gone.
It's a strong, character driven novel. A widow trying to run her late husband's animal park, a jealous and paranoid neighbour, obsessed with her birds, a mentally unstable teenager and a male prostitute. It's an unusual cast and an unorthodox family of sorts and their actions may not always be forgiveable but they do make you care about them. It's a great example of how you don't have to like the strongest characters to enjoy a book.
Whilst the story starts out with an amusing tale of ibex loose in a Sainsbury's carpark, the novel has dark undertones and isn't about the animal park at all. There is much more about falconry however and the title comes from a falconry term:
"Diamond's story was written on his feathers – nothing sentimental or pretentious about that claim. When a falcon is undernourished, the feathers cannot grow properly. A fault line appears, even if the bird is fed again. The fault is called a hunger trace."
The characters' starvation is of a much more emotional kind, but at what point did their hunger traces occur? It soon becomes apparent that all is not right with Christopher, perhaps David saw that as his punishment but Maggie does her best with him. Maggie does fade into the background a little but her loneliness is apparent. Louisa is the strongest character of all and has been deeply affected by her past with David. Adam is simpler and kind, but still has his own problems.
The flashbacks were all well placed and at no point was it confusing whether events were taking place in the present or past. Set in Derbyshire, there is some direct speech with Northern dialect but I would hope it makes sense in its context even if you don't understand. Most of the main characters have had a more middle class upbringing and have been encouraged to lose their accents though, so it's not going to be on every page. ...more
Touches The Sky is a young, male dolphin living within a clan which follows the teachings of the Way, passed down through generations. He is an outsidTouches The Sky is a young, male dolphin living within a clan which follows the teachings of the Way, passed down through generations. He is an outsider, rescued by humans when his family were beached but he is loyal to his elders. As he trains as a Novice, those around him start to ask questions about a mysterious group of rebels known as the Guardians.
I feel a bit ambiguous about Dolphin Way. The very first page is a moving account of a beached dolphin and our main character witnessing a slow and distressing death of a friend. There are little passages that describe the underwater world with an obvious passion and charming detail. I loved the fable of how the hermit crab and the sea urchin and how they came to be and when One Eye tries to explain the concept of ownership to Sky.
Yet the dialogue ruined it for me. Sky sounded like a child, with no nuances of speech and an excessive amount of exclamation marks. I understand he was meant to be a younger dolphin but from the story he should have been an adolescent at least. The older dolphins had far too formal speech with the exception of One Eye, who was the only character I really liked. The dolphins also had the habit of stating the obvious and repeating themselves.
“And to follow the Way? Can't you come up with anything of your own? It's like you're always quoting from a lesson.” “What's wrong with that? So, they are the kind of things our teacher would have said – old wisdom – but why should that make them wrong?” Dusk was exasperated. This was exactly what drove her crazy about him.
I quite agree with Dusk and by that point more than half the book had passed with Sky repeatedly stating that so and so wasn't the Way. I think the point that humans are polluting the planet can be told in a more subtle way than having your characters mention it over and over again. When they watch the sharks being caught for their fins, and the horror of seeing one thrown back alive but without its fins, it's self explanatory without the dolphins explaining it to the reader in simplified terms.
I'm not sold on the dolphin concept of organised religion either, which is really what the Way is. It seems far too human a thing to me and dolphins don't seem particularly benevolent creatures. I have watched enough documentaries to believe in the things that the Guardians do but not to set quotas and expect other species to comply. The ocean's a big place after all.
The last 80 or so pages picked up the pace and I wish the event that happened at the end of chapter 35 had been brought forward in the story as it feels like something is happening at last. These final chapters also feel a lot more accomplished and would make me consider reading more of Mark Caney's work in future.
The cover blurb suggests this is a utopian society but it has a lot in common with some of the dystopian fiction I have picked holes in recently. I would suggest it more suitable for younger readers....more
The writing is basic but the story is touching. The descriptions of life as a Marine in Afghanistan feel very true - monotonous laced with moments ofThe writing is basic but the story is touching. The descriptions of life as a Marine in Afghanistan feel very true - monotonous laced with moments of danger. However I didn't find the military aspects held my interest and found myself putting the book down a lot....more
I think Michael Morpurgo does some of the best war fiction around. He himself says he didn't intend writing for children but wrote for himself, so thiI think Michael Morpurgo does some of the best war fiction around. He himself says he didn't intend writing for children but wrote for himself, so this book will appeal to all ages (though the very young may find too disturbing). I was on the verge of tears all the way through, I dare you not to be moved by his writing....more
It's hard to describe how much I loved this book - I could have easily stayed up all night reading it. The circus world painted by Gruen is believableIt's hard to describe how much I loved this book - I could have easily stayed up all night reading it. The circus world painted by Gruen is believable as well as emotional. The portrayal of Jacob as an elderly man was also very well done. In the end, though, the animals stole the show....more