If you have a horse crazy kid in your life, this book is the perfect summer read for him or her! Featuring a *male* protagonist who befriends a troubl...moreIf you have a horse crazy kid in your life, this book is the perfect summer read for him or her! Featuring a *male* protagonist who befriends a troubled horse, this book has got tons of conflicts and deals sensitively with issues such a loneliness, moving, making friends, and divorce.
I really, really wanted to love this book, but for me the parts were greater than the whole. I love these characters (especially, of course, Jamie and...moreI really, really wanted to love this book, but for me the parts were greater than the whole. I love these characters (especially, of course, Jamie and Claire, but also Rachel and Ian), and I understand the need to have characters besides just Claire and Jamie, so I will keep reading the series to find out what's next for them, but so much of this book felt like 'intrigue" rather than story. The novel is very episodic, with scenes that are fascinating (I.e. Hal's treatment for asthma, the fistula operation on the young slave woman, many of the Jane/William scenes, even Claire's own wounding and treatment) but don't really move the plot forward much or get the development necessary to really contribute to an overall arc. There were plenty of scenes that made me emotional (Rollo, Henri Christian, Rachel and Ian's wedding, when Jamie goes "hunting" near the end...) but the book moves quickly past them and they seemed to not carry as much weight or importance as warranted and make very few ripples in what comes after them. There were many scenes that seemed like they could have been cut in favor of developing others a bit more. Part of the problem for me is that there are so many characters and story lines here that I never got to sink into any of them (and the problem with a story like this is there are bound to be some story lines each reader is just less interested in-- for me that's the Lord John/Hal/Ben storyline). I ended up feeling like the book served more to maneuver characters into place for what's coming next and tie up some loose ends. I miss the feel of the first 4 books (my favorites), which were much less sprawling and complicated. I miss being able to really invest in the characters and settle into their world. I enjoyed this book, but not with the same passion and emotion I had for the earlier books.(less)
I loved the movie /Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken/ as a girl, but didn't learn until just recently that Sonora Carver had written an autobiography. I tho...moreI loved the movie /Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken/ as a girl, but didn't learn until just recently that Sonora Carver had written an autobiography. I thoroughly enjoyed this little book, reading it in less than 24 hours. Even more I enjoyed learning about the details of how the diving horse act worked, the connection Sonora had to the horses, and the incredible spirit and determination Sonora had, both before and after she went blind. As others have mentioned, it's not fabulously written, though I found Sonora's ability to express what was basically her life philosophy about dealing with courage/fear and her blindness quite poetic. A great read especially if you're interested in horses, circus-type acts, and people facing life's challenges bravely.(less)
I finished this book right before this year's Belmont, and it really got me excited about the potential for a Triple Crown winner. The accounts of Aff...moreI finished this book right before this year's Belmont, and it really got me excited about the potential for a Triple Crown winner. The accounts of Affirmed and Alydar's rivalry is detailed-- I felt like I got to know the key players. In particular I was really impressed with how the accounts of the races managed to be exciting, even though, of course, I knew the outcome. This was definitely an enjoyable read, though it is definitely more narrowly focused and less "story" oriented than, say, Seabiscuit, so may not have as wide of an appeal to those who aren't interested in horses or racing.
The first time I learned about orphan trains was several years ago, through an NPR story that included interviews with survivors, one of whom was adop...moreThe first time I learned about orphan trains was several years ago, through an NPR story that included interviews with survivors, one of whom was adopted by a wonderful, loving family, and one of whom was mistreated terribly. I could hardly believe this practice was even legal and that I'd never heard about it. I also remember thinking it was a great idea for a novel... I have mixed feelings about this novel. I read it very quickly and enjoyed it. There is plenty of historical detail and I felt like I could really imagine Vivian's life as an orphan train rider. Both Vivian and Molly are sympathetic characters, and over the years I've been a teacher, I've heard first-hand from some of my students that foster children *still* face abuse from their foster parents, so both girls' experience had the ring of truth. But... With two story lines and a time span that covers at least 15 years (not including flashbacks or the present-day), there was just so much story to tell. There were many places where I found myself craving more depth and less summary. Several characters are glossed over quickly (e.g. Dutchy, Jake, Terry, Vivian's final adoptive parents) or treated in pretty stereotypical portrayals (e.g. Dina), and life events that seem huge (courtship, marriage, childbirth) are summarized in mere pages. I found myself imagining scenes to fill out those times--not a bad thing necessarily, I guess, but here I think it made events that should have been very emotional fall flat. I found myself wishing to linger in these moments more to understand the Vivian's thoughts/feelings/motivations. Especially the HUGE decision she makes at the end of the WWII section. As much as I liked and sympathized with Molly, and as important as I think it is to really look at the foster care system, the modern-day story felt less compelling. Yes, it was necessary to get the satisfying ending, but I would have happily read a story that just focused on Vivian's experiences from ages 9 to 23 and really delved into her relationships and emotions. So, a good read, just not as deep and resonant as I'd hoped. (less)
I received this book as an ARC from the publisher. With its contemporary setting and elements of magic(al realism), this book isn't my usual read (I g...moreI received this book as an ARC from the publisher. With its contemporary setting and elements of magic(al realism), this book isn't my usual read (I gravitate to historical fiction), but I'll read anything with interesting characters and an intriguing plot, which this book has in spades. I loved the thrill of the suspense here. I was drawn in by the multiple mysteries: who wanted to kill Reve's husband? Why? What happened to her best friend? Why did the earlier generation of Reve's family disappear from Hawley Five Corners? And that's just the beginning! I devoured this book, staying up waaaay past my bed time to finish it and thoroughly enjoyed the ride, which is to say, the pacing is fabulous. The horses in the book are an added bonus, but it's a certain historical detail about one of Reve's ancestors that really tickled me. If I have to be picky, I'd say the book focuses more on plot (it kind of has to with everything it's got going on) and less on characters (there are just so many fascinating minor characters here!). (less)
I "read" this as an audiobook-- a treat for myself for a long solo car trip. When I got teary in Ch.2, I questioned the wisdom of this decision whilst...moreI "read" this as an audiobook-- a treat for myself for a long solo car trip. When I got teary in Ch.2, I questioned the wisdom of this decision whilst driving to a friend's wedding. But the book made me laugh (and get teary) repeatedly and the hours flew by. Hazel and Augustus (and Isaac) reminded me of so many of my favorite (shhh!) smartass students-- though perhaps more clever, more funny, more insightful *all the time* than anyone in real life could ever be. But that's the beauty of books--they're our best (and worst) selves amplified and distilled. As a middle-schooler I *devoured* all those Lurlene McDaniel books so this was in my wheelhouse--and a bit like revisiting my past-- I love a love story that will make me cry. I love feeling that connected to the characters and having the words on the page resonate with my own emotions and memories. This book does all those things, while also contemplating what it means to live well and fully. "Some infinities are bigger than others"-- yes (though this reminds me uncomfortably of Animal Farm-- "some animals are more equal than others"). I suspect had I read it instead of listened to it, I would have felt even more strongly and would have appreciated the craft more fully-- it's not just a tear-jerker, it's also well-written. Not to say the audiobook isn't wonderfully done-- it is-- but at least for me, it's easier to get lost in the book's universe when I'm reading and not distracted by things like traffic. Definitely would recommend this to teens and adults alike. (less)
4.5 stars for me. I adore unreliable, first-person narrators, and the way Silver allows Noa to slowly unspool her tangled story is fabulous-- there ar...more4.5 stars for me. I adore unreliable, first-person narrators, and the way Silver allows Noa to slowly unspool her tangled story is fabulous-- there are several dramatic plot twists in the novel and yet they felt so natural, so uncontrived, so true to this character. Noa, Marlene, and Noa's father are characters who behave in unsympathetic ways, but I felt enormous sympathy for them (well, mostly for Noa and her dad). There's not a single character here who does what's "right" or who is faultless, and that rings very true to me. While I wished over and over that Noa would just Tell The Truth, she is so ensnared in the web she has walked into, mostly on her own volition, that she can't see a way out, doesn't even seem to want a way out. And yet, even now, I'm questioning whether if I have just been completely manipulated by her! I suppose some readers might be critical of the way Marlene is portrayed--as a rather cold, calculating, manipulative woman with no moral compunction to do what is right-- but since this is Noa's story, narrated by Noa, it makes absolute and complete sense to me for her to come across this way. This book is a page turner and its intensity builds as we move toward x-day and the hoped-for revelation of "what really happened." Most of my criticisms, I'm realizing, are things I wish happened differently (like, I really wish Noa's dad made an appearance in the "present"), but I can also see the reasons why Silver wouldn't allow the character to give us that kind of easy closure but has instead created a realistic portrayal of flawed characters that allows us to question all the ways in which guilt overlaps.(less)
Lucky me, I got to read this book in manuscript form! I don't normally read sci-fi, but I always enjoy a good love story and this book successfully co...moreLucky me, I got to read this book in manuscript form! I don't normally read sci-fi, but I always enjoy a good love story and this book successfully combines both romance and the thrill of a mystery. Arissa, a Seer who has lived her entire life in hiding, is forced to reveal her identity when she rescues Jolar. He vows to help her, but in exchange she must use her telepathic skills and accompany him on a dangerous mission... You'll just have to read it to find out what happens next! MacArran's strengths lie in character development and dialog, and I love the dry humor that shines through in Arissa. Both Arissa and Jolar are very sympathetic, engaging, and complex characters. In addition, the Telleran Realm is fully believable as a world, with just the right amount of detail: I never found myself bogged down in description or questioning the logic of the setting, which is often where sci-fi loses me. It's a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable read, with deeper themes (using one's talents, being loved for one's true self, living a life of integrity) for those who want to dig a bit deeper. A perfect book to curl up with and get lost in on a rainy winter day!(less)
When I learned that this debut novel was being released just a week before my own (which also features a woman disguising as a man to fight in the arm...moreWhen I learned that this debut novel was being released just a week before my own (which also features a woman disguising as a man to fight in the army-- though in the Civil War, not the Revolutionary war), I was both intrigued (how would Myers treat the subject? what experiences would his character have? how would Myers' life inform his writing?) and worried (what if my book wasn't as good? What if people read this one and decided not to read mine?). That said, I'm so glad to have read this book. It was very interesting to see the many ways in which a woman's experience disguised as a man might play out, regardless of time period: how a woman might disguise herself, how she might enlist, how she might feel finally free despite being bound to serve the army, how she might struggle with feeling like she is living a lie even as she feels more her true self. I loved the way, especially, Myers handles Robert/Deborah's conflict over identity and whether s/he can live the s/he wants as a woman. I never felt that Deborah didn't want to be a woman-- just that she didn't want to live the kind of life women were forced to live, and that, before the army, she had never been treated as an equal. The story is told in a straightforward manner, but I especially appreciated the relationship between Deborah/Robert and her childhood friend Jennie, and the character James. This is a wonderful book for those who are like historical fiction or are interested in women's history and gender, or anyone who likes stories of courageous characters who are fighting for their own freedom in the midst of a larger societal context.(less)
I get attached easily. Yes, even to characters in books. So when I got the chance to finally pick up Look Twice, M. Garzon’s second novel in the Blaze...moreI get attached easily. Yes, even to characters in books. So when I got the chance to finally pick up Look Twice, M. Garzon’s second novel in the Blaze of Glory series, part of the pleasure in reading was the chance to spend more time with Tea, Seth, Jaden, and Dec (I never thought I’d say this, but Dec is really growing on me).
Look Twice picks up exactly where Blaze of Glory ended, with Tea and Jaden having to negotiate their family’s reaction to their relationship (which is complicated when you’re step-cousins. Or is it adopted cousins?). It’s not all trouble though since Tea does get to join Jaden on the Florida polo circuit for a few weeks. But the focus of Look Twice is not romantic love, and it isn’t horses either. And those are good things. Really. And this is coming from someone who loves a good romance and horses (obviously).
That’s not to say that those looking for romance and/or a horse story will be disappointed, as there is still plenty of Jaden’s hotness and stolen kisses in the hay loft. Nor will those after a horse story feel let down, as there’s still way more riding, training (including a fun scene with a clicker), mucking, and general horsey-ness (including a tack shopping spree [can Jaden be any more perfect?]) than you can find in the average novel. It’s just that Look Twice focuses on growing up and finding one’s own path, mixed in with sorting out the meaning of family and loyalty. It’s weighty stuff, but that should come as no surprise since Blaze too dealt with heavy themes. And just like in Blaze, the themes are addressed with complexity and sensitivity. Tea, or Sparky as her twin Seth likes to call her, can still be an impulsive, passionate, stubborn hothead, but in Look Twice she matures, which is a bit of a relief. As she navigates her conflicting emotions over her relationships with the important men in her life—Jaden, her adopted father Dec, Seth, and her biological father—we see her growing and dealing with love, hurt, jealousy, disappointment in more productive ways than she does in Blaze. It’s satisfying stuff, even when she doesn’t always get it right.
The book can probably stand alone, but especially the first few chapters will make a lot more sense (and you’ll have a better idea who all the characters are) if you read Blaze of Glory first. As with Blaze, the writing is fast paced and plot driven. I had a hard time putting it down, and the language is simple and straightforward, so you can easily gobble through in big gulps. But don’t let the simplicity fool you—I dare you not to get teary over the ending. If a book can make me cry, well, it’s got to be doing something right. Really, I don’t think reading can get more magical than words on a page becoming visceral emotions (kind of like a thought in my head translating into a transition from my horse). Don’t say I didn’t warn you though. Unless you like crying in public, don’t read the last chapter away from home. Oh, and the ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger, but have no fear—book three (Renaissance Man) is due out in late 2013. And if you read the whole series now, you can say you loved the series way before it became a popular TV show (which is, hopefully, in the works). (this review originally appeared on HorseNation.com)(less)
My favorite sentence in M. Garzon’s novel Blaze of Glory might be one that has absolutely nothing to do with horses. Here...moreBlaze of Glory is Vampire Hot
My favorite sentence in M. Garzon’s novel Blaze of Glory might be one that has absolutely nothing to do with horses. Here it is, in all its glory: “Now that’s vampire hot.” Hm. OK. It’s obviously way more funny in context. Maybe because it’s in reference to the main character Tea’s (pronounced Tay-a) step-cousin and is preceded by this description: “Jaden was taking a bale off the conveyer. He’d taken his shirt off… and I had to admit the view was impressive. His muscles weren’t huge like Kabir’s, but there seemed to be so many of them—you could have used him for anatomy class.”
Maybe I just liked the nod to the Twilight crowd, which is also pretty much the same as the intended audience for Blaze of Glory. But truly, Blaze of Glory has a lot more going for it than Twilight. Horses, obviously. Specifically jumpers and school horses and polo ponies. Also, boys bucking hay bales and a (human being) love interest who plays professional polo. And a tough cookie/smarty pants/scrappy protagonist who loves to argue, yet has a tremendous soft spot for troubled horses (Now that kind of girl doesn’t sound at all familiar, does she?). Then too, Blaze of Glory tackles a full roster of weighty issues: domestic violence and child abuse, loss (both human and equine), grief, depression, drug use, and sexual relationships, all wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about a complicated, troubled heroine. For these reasons, although Blaze of Glory is technically YA, I think it would appeal to and satisfy an older audience. In fact, I might even be a teensy worried about anyone younger than 17 (the age of our narrator) reading it, although the drug use is dealt with in an honest, non-glorifying way and the sexual intimacy is used to emphasize the right kinds of qualities (you know, love. Birth control. That kind of stuff).
The novel is fast paced and plot driven. Normally I’d call it a page-turner, but I was reading it on my Kindle, so I guess that makes it a push button book. This description is even more apt since, based on my extensive study of the greatest romance novel of all time (Pride and Prejudice, duh) and, you know, some other high quality romance novels, I can say with assurance that Blaze of Glory pretty much exhibits all the expected tropes of the Romance genre. This is sort of like how, when you ride a hunter you expect auto changes and when you ride an eventer or jumper you expect some crazed galloping between fences and when you ride a dressage horse you expect perfection. In the case of a romance novel this means that the romantic leads initially take a disliking to each other, their relationship is fraught with all kinds of verbal sparring, each character needs some sort of “rescue” at one time or another, their desire to be together is thwarted by circumstances out of their control, and, of course, it all ends happily. In Blaze of Glory, these tropes all occur in the context of horses (i.e. Tea has to be rescued from the skeevy underworld of the racetrack, Tea “rescues” Jaden’s horse from his fear of trailering, etc.). And the setting (especially the bits about polo which I know nothing about) and characters (Tea in particular) are unique enough that the story feels original. I do think some of the minor characters could be more fully developed. And if you’re expecting Art or Literature, this isn’t the book to ride off into the sunset with. If you’re looking for a totally entertaining, engrossing romance that has lots of spot-on horse action, well, then saddle up!
Oh, and word on the street is there’s a sequel coming soon. Take that, Twilight!
(this review originally appeared on HorseNation.com)
I so wanted to LOVE this book, and I did for the first 125 pages or so. There were so many ghosts in those opening pages and I was intrigued by the sl...moreI so wanted to LOVE this book, and I did for the first 125 pages or so. There were so many ghosts in those opening pages and I was intrigued by the slow reveal of information about the past and what had driven these characters (Elspeth, Jorah, Caleb) to become the people they were. The descriptions are evocative and dark and vivid. But for most of the middle, the book stagnated. The characters seem to lose their focus on their original quest (which I was fully invested in) and the minor characters we meet never quite seem fully formed (Ellabelle in particular, but also London White, and Frank--why are they all so drawn to Caleb?). I got frustrated by several places where the book seems to be asking the reader to take a leap--places where it felt like a big question was being asked--and yet the only answer I came up with was the obvious one and I thought I surely had missed something only to discover upon rereading that I probably hadn't. (For instance, when Elspeth talks to an inept preacher about how he got his job, he recounts: "'Do you hear the call, my son' he asked me." Elspeth didn't have to ask, didn't have to look at him to know his answer and that he hadn't meant it at all.") These moments of insight seem more told than felt, and I think that was really my issue with the last half of the book-- the narrative kept me at a distance from the characters and I never *felt* what they must have been feeling. That distancing made sense to me in the opening, where the characters are numbed and horrified by tragedy and physically exhausted and wounded, but that detachment continued throughout. Instead of coming to understand these characters, I just felt more and more baffled by them.(less)