Saturday, 29 December 2007

Christmas...not so bad after all?

I am not really a Christmassy person. I used to quite like it when it meant escaping work for a couple of weeks, but even that bonus is missing now that I am self-employed.

Everything about it seems to have become an irritation, from the hideously cheerful Christmas songs that begin playing everywhere from October onwards, to the desperate grubbing around trying to find a present more interesting than the usual socks, to the yearly search for the Christmas tree and decorations which never seem to be in the place you remember putting them, to the endless trailing round visiting relatives whom though you only see once a year, its still once a year too much. It's enough to have you reaching for the brandy instead of putting it in the Christmas cake! And then of course there is the orgy of eating and drinking leaving you feeling full of guilt and indigestion as a year's dieting is blown in a week.
But before you are sending me the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I do have some nice words to say about Christmas. Well, one, really. Books.

Santa has thankfully ignored the fact I have not been a good little girl and brought me a bumper crop of pony books which I have been looking for to add to my collection. These include Gillian Baxter's Bargain Horses, K. M. Peyton's The Sound of Distant Cheering and The Grey Ghost by Carolyn Henderson, none of which I have read before. But the best of all by far are a pair of books whose arrival has almost made me want to start singing Jingle Bells and wearing a pair of furry antlers on my head.
These are a first edition of Sabre The Horse From the Sea by Kathleen Herald (aka K. M. Peyton) and also by her a 1950s edition of The Mandrake a Pony.

So pass the After Eight Mints and turkey sandwiches round one more time, turn up the volume on that Christmas Compilation CD, I don't care. I will have my head buried in one of these beauties.
Maybe Christmas isn't so bad after all...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Marvellous Mongolian - an unusual pony book

Just been reading this book which must be one of the most unusual pony books I've read in a long while. Why? Well, first of all it is about a breed of horse which I've never come across mentioned in a pony book before - the Przewalski horse (also known as the Wild Mongolian Horse). This is a very rare breed which is thought to be the only true wild horse breed in the world. It must also be the hardest breed to spell too!

Secondly the book is set in many different countries, mainly in Mongolia (as to be expected) and Wales. The Welsh setting may seem a natural backdrop for a pony story, but have there been any other pony books set in Asia? Pony books rarely feature countries other than the UK, USA or Australia. The customs and setting of the Mongolian part of the story make for an eye-opening and very interesting read.

Thirdly the way the book is written is very unusual. The whole story is narrated through letters between a girl in Wales and a boy in Mongolia. This type of narrative was very common in British literature around the 18th century but today is extremely unusual. The nearest I've seen to it is in Judith Berrisford's Jackie books where the author uses Jackie's occaisional letters to her parents to update the story and move the plot forward. It may seem a little off-putting to the reader but it actually makes for a very interesting read as we see the characters and customs of two children from different sides of the world.

And lastly, in a genre that is often criticised for its cliched story-lines, the plot is also very unusual. It concerns a wild Mongolian stallion who is captured and sent to a Welsh nature reserve as part of a breeding program. The stallion comes from a wild herd which was was first spotted by a Mongolian boy. The stallion is hoped to breed with a Shetland pony who has been looked after by a girl in Wales. The boy and girl begin to exchange letters, and through them the whole story of what happens next unfolds.

Hopefully I will have time to do a full review of the book on my website. In the meantime I would recommend it as an excellent read especially if you are looking for something different.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Jackie has man trouble

I have recently been re-reading (almost) the entire Jackie series in an attempt to sort out the series order. Whilst I have been reading I have realised that Jackie (and Babs too) do not have a very good time of it with men. In so many books in the series they seem to be at loggerheads with some man or boy whom they admire but who emphatically does not reciprocate the feeling!

We see this first in Jackie and the Pony Trekkers in which the girls get up the nose of John who runs the Pinewoods Trekking centre. Despite doing a load of stable work, helping with the trekkers and lending the centre their own ponies the girls irritate him to the extent he sends them packing! Then the hapless pair encounter another hostile male in Jackie's Pony Camp Summer. They so antagonise Paul, one of the brother's of the camp's organisers that he runs off with his pony to get away from them! In Jackie on Pony Island they go out of their way to help a family who are trying to raise money by giving pony rides on the beach. Despite giving up their holidays to help and lending their ponies for the beach rides, Dave, the elder brother of the family is constantly exasperated with them, and like John at the trekking centre decides to give them the boot.

But perhaps the book in which the girls excel themselves is Jackie and the Pony Boys in which they manage to annoy not just one but three boys! After the girls have finished with them one of the boy's ponies has been lamed, Patch has caused havoc, the girls have sparked off a fight between two of the boys in which one of them falls down the stairs and knocks himself out, and Jackie has managed to accidentally knock another one of the lads down a mine shaft causing him to sprain his shoulder and putting him out of the riding competition he had been training for all summer. Despite all this, one of the boys is actually quite friendly to the girls and they, no doubt shocked that a male actually likes them for once, end up fighting over him and not speaking to each other!

Makes me wonder if JB really liked men all that much as so many of the male characters in her books were irritating, touchy or ungrateful. And it is clear that in the end Jackie and Babs will always win the battle of the sexes by rescuing or in some way saving the bacon of the man in question. (Instead of thumping them which is what I probably would have done!)

They save John from a fire, Dave is rescued from drowning and Paul gains his nerve again only after galloping off to save Misty. The girls even somehow manage to placate all three of the Pony Boys in the end!

It somehow seems fitting that Jackie and Babs stayed the eternally youthful age of around fourteen over the 26 years the series spanned. If they could cause so much trouble with men at that age I dread to think what havoc they could have wreaked on the male population if they had ever grown up!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

House moving nightmare!

Haven't had a chance to blog for ages. I am in the midst of a legal wrangle with a mortgage company after they have suddenly pulled their mortgage offer only a few days before I was due to sign contracts and move house. This is the latest in a long line of disasters and problems which have turned my latest house-move into a seemingly never-ending 16 month nightmare.

It all began when I put my house up for sale at exactly the same time as the housing market in my town suddenly died. I have endured a year of people traipsing through my home, poking in cupboards and even examining the dirty dishes in my dishwasher. I've put up with kids running riot, chasing my terrified cats, getting under the bed and in my laundry basket. I've spent so many hours hoovering, tidying and washing windows, trying to keep the place tidy, that I have vowed to live in squalor from now on! I have gone through two estate agents, have had the house up for auction twice, have had a sale fall through, have dropped the price three times and finally sold it just as I was about to despair and rent it out. I've been gazumped on the house I was buying, and ended up buying the same house from a different owner (don't ask!) - after all this I was finally starting to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that the end was in sight.

And now this. With Christmas only a month away I am facing the possibility of having nowhere to live - or what is infinitely worse, having to move in with the parents!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Goodbye sweet book!

In my last blog I was talking about what a wrench it was having to part from The Wild One in order to sell it. I have been thinking about all the lovely rare books I would have liked to keep if only it wasn't for the lure of the filthy lucre! I do envy the collector who can keep all her treasure by her side - whereas with me they are just books that pass in the night. Once I have sold them on I am full of regrets and immediately start searching for a replacement. But if I do find one you can be sure that after re-sampling their delights for a day or two, the tempation to sell again will just be too much. Guess I am just a one night stand type of girl!

Some books that I have read and then abandoned...

I'd Rather Not Gallop by Caroline Akrill (Signed
by the author)

The Wild One by Monica Edwards (First Edition)

Pony Club Camp by Patricia Leitch/Jane Eliot (First Ed)

The Ten Pound Pony by Veronica Westlake

More Ponies For Jean by Joanna Cannan (First Edition)

Janet Young Rider (republished as A Horse For the Holidays) by Patricia Leitch (First Edition)

The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton (First Edition)

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A strange ambiguity...

With the imminent publication in paperback form of Silver Snaffles by Fidra Books I have been pondering upon the ambiguous response this fashion for the re-printing of rare books inspires in me. As a reader I cannot help but be excited by the fact that I may be able to get my grubby mitts on books which had previously eluded me. As a bookseller however I can only watch sadly as the sales price of my rare copies suddenly dwindle...

I am not sure how much impact these imprints actually have on collectable editions. I think that firsts will perhaps remain un-changed, after all there have been numerous re-prints of the famous five books and the first editions still command respectable prices. I think the main difference will be seen in the rare paperback /reading copy market of which I seem to specialise. Six Ponies and Fly by Night have both dropped in price for example. With Silver Snaffles, I think it may be possible that the paperbacks and tattier hardbacks with no jackets will fall in price.

And yet whilst wondering what effect these changes may have upon me, I am at the same time waiting with eager anticipation for Fidra to re-publish more of Monica Edward's books so that I can once again read that wonderful book The Wild One. The rarest by far of all the author's books, I found an extremely tatty copy in a market for about 20p and sold it for well over £200. I read it before parting with it as I thought it would probably be the last time I'd ever get the chance! It was a sad parting as I absolutely loved the book but who can turn down that sort of profit? Now thanks to Fidra I - and many others who would never have been able to - might soon be re-reading this classic. The unselfish philanthropic part of me rejoices in the fact that such brilliant books will once again be available to the mass readership. But I can't help wondering how many 20p market and charity shop treasures will soon be left for us poor booksellers...

Friday, 2 November 2007

A Book-loving Cat

Rosie, my small female long-haried tortoiseshell has aquired a new vice. It's books. No, she hasn't learned to read. With a brain roughly the size of a small garden pea, it took her about seven years to learn how to open doors, so reading is just a tad beyond her. For some reason however, after being surrounded by books for many years she has just discovered that they smell, er, interesting. She has always had a strange fetish for smelly socks and shoes; in particular walking boots after they have been tramped through mounds of ripe cow-manure send her into paroxyms of delight. And now she has developed the same feeling about books. Lately I have had to rescue a few rather battered specimens which were unwisely left lying around and fell foul of her not so tender ministrations. After being rubbed against ecstatically, drooled over and chewed the poor things were shadows of their former selves.
Now books are strictly out of bounds and she has had to console herself with large overdoses of catnip. But at least the first editions are safe...

Monday, 22 October 2007

A pony book found...

Hurrah! After ages of searching finally got my hands on a copy of Diana Pullein-Thompson's A Pony Found. This is the last book in the series about the Fletcher family which begins with The Ponyseekers. It is an interesting series which I loved as the setting was fairly original. The family set up The Ponyseekers, a horse-dealers which rather than just trying to make a profit aims to make sure the ponies they sell are suitable for their new owners too. There were very few pony books with horse dealers as the main characters, they were nearly always the villains!

For some reason I have never actually read the third one in this series, looking at the publishing date I was possibly a little old for pony books when it was released and was probably chasing boys at the time! Now, as an old fart, I am quite happy to read them.

So I am looking forward to sitting down and reading the entire series straight off, with the dessert course being that rarity, a pony book I haven't actually read. I have that warm tingly feeling of anticipation I always get just before reading a great book. (A feeling also inspired by opening a new box of chocs - but at least pony books don't make you fat!)

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Pony Chat! New Forum Opens!

This is an exciting time for the website and myself! Due to popular demand I have set up a forum for users of the website. From now on we will be able to chat about our favourite books, discuss reviews and ask questions without having to email each other. This is a new undertaking for me so I hope everyone will excuse any teething problems! You can visit the forum at: