Showing posts with label horses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horses. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Rating: WARTY!

I got this novel from the library because it sounded interesting, but in the end it was far too caricatured and too deeply gouged into the page in stark black and white crayon to take seriously. I guess I should have known it was not for me when I couldn't remember the title properly. I kept thinking it was called "The Sound of Hoofbeats" but that actually makes little sense. Maybe I should have re-read The Sound of Thunder instead? Or was that "The Language of Thunder"?! LOL!

The novel is told in dual first person PoV, which is twice as bad as single 1PoV because it's two times as unrealistic. The two narrators were the most antagonistic of all the characters of course, but this dynamic simply didn't work because it was too extreme and there were no gray areas. It resulted in a very amateurish game of writing ping-pong which was laughably combative. The premise is that a lesbian couple with three children, one adopted the other two fostered, arrive in a small town where Paula is to become the new vet. They have a series of run-ins with their neighbor, Clementine, an older woman who is haunted by the suicide of her daughter.

Whether that idea - that a foster parent can up and move to an entirely new area while still retaining the children they're fostering is something with which I'm not familiar, but it seemed unlikely to me. I don't know, though. I've never fostered children, and maybe allowing this freedom to move is the done thing in a society as mobile as the USA. It was commendable that a gay couple were considered suitable, though, so I sincerely hope this part is true at least.

What I didn't get was why this author threw in everything but the kitchen sink: gay couple, small town, adopted kid, fostered kids, lots of pets, troubled children, cantankerous naysaying neighbor, cantankerous neighing horse.... Maybe she should just have written a story about the conflict in Afghanistan?! It just seemed odd that the conflict was so stark while the potential conflicts were so rich. The one thing which wasn't added was any issue with a couple consisting of two moms - at least not in the portion I read. That's how it needs to be, but it's not always how it is. Maybe that reared its ugly head later, or maybe not. I didn't read that far.

The only weird thing about the couple for me was that the children referred to their parents as J-mom and P-mom. This was for Jackie and Paula. I don't know how the author chose the names for the parents, but I found it interesting that they were both names which have a ready masculine counterpart: Jack and Paul. As a writer I think naming characters suitably for the particular story can make an important contribution, and even tell a small story in the name itself, so I couldn't help but wonder how much thought the author had put into these names. Maybe it was none. I don't know. Was it intended to send some sort of a message or just happenstance? These components of novels interest to me and can be important if they send the wrong message to a reader.

But I digress. Again. The bane of writing! I can see how J-mom and P-mom (I think I'd rather be J-mom!) would work when they were referring to a parent who was not present, but to directly address them as J-mom and P-mom sounded stupid to me. Why not just call them mom? Maybe it was such an ingrained habit they couldn't help themselves, but that would really depend upon how long these kids had been a part of the family, so for me it was something I felt could have been handled better. This was a minor point compared with the bigger issue of the conflict, however.

Clementine, the neighbor, cannot bear to go into the barn where her daughter died. The horse is neglected, but Clementine can't bear to sell it because it's the last link with her daughter. Naturally, the disaffected trope teen with the bizarre name of Star (the horse is called Comet, of course) bonds with the horse and Clementine bans her from the property, but Star doesn't listen. We all know how this is going to end, so the only mystery in this novel is how the author brings it to that foregone conclusion, and the only answer I could see looming was using trope and cliché, painted on in ham-fisted, broad black and white strokes. It was not entertaining to read.

Some of it made no sense at all, and this was due to poor writing. We're told early in the story that Star crossed the road to stand outside the fence which corrals Comet, yet Clementine accuses her of trespassing. I didn't get how that worked. If the fence is right by the road and Star is standing on the road-side of the fence, then she's not trespassing! If she had, for example, crossed the neighbor's lawn or yard, and then reached the corral, yes she'd be trespassing, but this isn't how the arrangement is described by the author - either that or she does a poor job of explaining the layout of the property.

This is a relatively minor point in itself, but what it told me (along with other instances of lax writing) was that not enough thought had been put into this story, and this weighted it down, making it a drag for me by about a quarter of the way through, which is when I gave up. Little things do matter - if there are enough of them and the overall story itself isn't very well done. I can't recommend this one.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quincy and Buck by Camille Matthews

Title: Quincy and Buck
Author: Camille Matthews
Publisher: Pathfinder Equine Publications
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Michelle Black

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

Michelle Black's artwork in this novel is beautiful. I do not know how she did it exactly, but it looks like it's oil on canvas (for all I know, it may well be!). The painting at the end, which made Quincy look like he was smiling without making it look absurd was absolutely priceless.

My apologies to the author, but in a book like this, it's the artwork that makes the first impression! But rest assured it's not all art and no substance to the text. The story is excellent too, teaching valuable lessons about bullying and bravery as young Quincy and the older, rather meaner Buck take their riders out onto a desert trail for a nice day's ride. There's no preaching here, no strident lessons, simply a tale as soft and easy as a comfortable horse-ride on an old and familiar saddle.

I defy anyone to not like this. I rate it a worthy read.