Monday, 8 October 2018

Book Review - The Spooky Pony Mystery & Other Stories by Jane Ayres


In the run up to Halloween, here is a great spooky read to get you in the mood. The book contains one longish story and five short ones, all featuring different characters and situations, though all horse-themed.


Unlike many writers of full length novels who can't seem to get to grips with the slightly different art of the short story, Jane Ayres has already proved, with her earlier book of stories, Horses in the Gallery, that she is a dab hand at both. This new compilation is even better than her previous. The stories are all gripping and a couple have a brilliant twist in the tale - I defy anyone to guess the ending of Horsey, for example!

This is a great read for Halloween time, or for anyone who likes a scary horse story. I must confess I do love a good ghostly yarn. Having read the works of most of the great writers of the genre, including that master of the spine-tingling tale, M. R. James, I can honestly say that this book does not disappoint, especially as horses are added to the mix. For me it was a page turning read and it certainly sent a few shivers down my spine too!

There is a really good selection of stories here, from ghostly to gruesome to downright weird. Some are light hearted in tone, like Catching Midnight and others, such as Dark Magic and Midnight Riders, are quite dark and scary. The book will appeal to both children and adults, though perhaps not for the very young ones, as some of the stories might be too grisly. The only complaint I have with the book is that I was left wanting more!

So turn down the lights, grab a hot drink and a copy of this book and be prepared for some spooky fun!


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Monday, 16 July 2018

Review by 'Tintin' - The Discontented Pony by Noel Barr


Younger readers pony story. Merrylegs is a little pony who lives on a farm. Knowing his grandfather was a racehorse, he longs for a more exciting life. When he sees a fair one day he thinks becoming a roundabout horse would be a great idea so he runs off to join the fair. However his experiences in the outside world teach him a valuable lesson about life. 


This is a ladybird book pitched at the very young and is probably more a book intended to be read to people. Brought out in 1951

It is unusual for me to review a book aimed at such a young audience, but it is a beautiful, unusual and perhaps flawed book

The book has the most beautiful illustrations by PB Hickling, they are so beautiful it is almost painful

It is impossible to review the book without revealing the story

Merrylegs (0/10 for horse naming originality) is a little bay pony, possibly an Exmoor, who lives on a farm. His job is to pull the farmer's trap to a nearby town where he sells eggs and dairy products. The pony's friends are a pig and a calf.

The pony's dam told him, when a foal, of his grandfather who was a race horse. This makes Merrylegs discontented. One day when he goes to the town there is a fair and he sees the roundabout horses. This is the life for him - popular and richly decorated (he does n't realise they are not flesh and blood horses and is upset when they ignore him)

That very night he runs away to the fair, but is caught by the rough gypsy types that run it. When he sleeps he dreams of being a roundabout horse - but, in his dreams the lack of rest and nausea inducing speed make him feel ill (the pictures convey this very well) He runs back to the farm and is happy again with his friends and the gentle farmer (who is a bit puzzled as to how his horse has acquired a new halter and lead rope)

The book is beautiful and elegiac, but as a pre-school child it made me so sad I used to cry inconsolably and my mother had to give the book away. I do think it is a bit too sad and deep for the very young children it is intended for. The farmer had a young son and I think there should have been a sequel where the pony could have gone to gymkhanas, shows and hunts and had a bit of fun with a lively youngster a bit like himself.

If it had only moderated the melancholy it would have been gold cup, the quality of the illustrations raised it from 4 to 5 for me


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Sunday, 15 July 2018

Latest authors added to website

In the last few weeks I  have added a number of new author pages to the website. There are authors of both modern and vintage books from the UK. , the USA and Australia.  See below for names and links to their web pages:

NOEL BARR - Ladybird books author who penned The Discontented Pony 

Noel Barr web page

KIMBERLY BRUBAKER BRADLEY - Newbery Honor winner. Wrote The War That Saved My Life

Kimberley Brubaker Bradley's web page

JACQUI/LOUISE BRODERICK - Author of featured star book A Pony For Free

Jaqui Broderick's web page 

PETER DE COSEMO - Author of highly rated and unusual horse book Led by the Grey

Peter De Cosemo's web page

ALICE E. GOUDEY - Acclaimed children's book author of the 1940s and 50s

Alice Goudey's web page

CHARLES KEEPING - Author and renowned illustrator of children's books

Charles Keeping's web page

ERIC LEYLAND aka NESTA GRANT - 1950s prolific author of children's books

Eric Leyland's web page 

HELEN WEBSTER - Little know Australian author

Helen Webster's web page

AMANDA WILLS - Highly popular modern author of the Riverdale pony series

Amadna Wills' web page

Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Review - A Pony For Free by Jacqui Broderick


Set in the Connemara region of Ireland. Horse mad Cait spends her time looking after the brood mares of the wealthy Danny. She longs for a pony of her own but her Dad is crippled and the family are too poor to afford one. She is also somewhat scared of riding! When Danny buys the beautiful pony Drizzle for his unpleasant son Colm to ride, Cait is envious and she is sickened when Colm and his father try to break in the pony by breaking his spirit. However Drizzle is having none of it and after depositing Colm on the ground, gallops off into the depths of the Connemara hills. Danny is enraged with the horse and tells Cait she can have the pony for her own if she can catch him. Cait is overjoyed at this news but soon realises that catching a pony roaming free in the wilds of Connemara may be an impossible task. And even if she did somehow catch him, how would she train him and learn to ride him and could she even afford to keep him? She decides she will try anway....


This was a new book from an author relatively unknown on the pony book scene, so reading this was a complete leap in the dark. However I was very pleasantly surprised and can honestly say it's one of the best new pony stories around at the moment, certainly on a par with the more experienced and popular pony authors such as Amanda Wills. It is well written and the characters are interesting and believable. The story has a very traditional, if not even old-fashioned, feel to it. Perhaps the Irish country setting, which seems to hark back to an older, simpler existance to modern life, adds to this atmosphere. Also the beautiful Connemara backdrop and the lifestyles of the people in the village bring an originality and a divergence from the run of the mill modern pony story. The plot-line of catching a pony in order to keep it has been done before, most notably in Elinore Haver's A Pony to Catch, but not enough times to make it a cliche or stock plot-line.

In fact, though traditional in feel, this book takes its own original slant on the pony story. Unlike many modern pony stories we do not have the rich bratty girl riding her posh pony and looking down her nose at the heroine. Instead we have the boy Colm who is a truly awful, almost evil character. His bullying of Cait and his dreadful deeds take this into a darker more interesting territory than the usual rivalry story-line. In fact the author turns the rich snooty girl rival theme on its head by introducing Victoria, who although rich and having two expensive ponies to ride, becomes Cait's best friend.

As well as being a pony rescue story, and focusing closely on the bond between girl and pony, there is also a fair amount of the competition element in the book, which will suit those who like to have shows and competitions in their pony stories. Even this element seems a little different to the norm, due to the Irish jumping scene being slightly unfamilar to most readers, and also with Cait's initial reluctance to jump her pony at the shows. The author certainly packs a lot of varying content into her book, making it appeal to a wide range of tastes.

In short, you don't need to take a chance on a new author by choosing this book:  I'm sure that Jacqui Broderick, if she decides to write more books in the genre, is a great pony book author in the making. Highly recommended.


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