Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Horses on the Cover

by Linda Benson

As contributors to this blog, we often review and promote our own and each others' books. But we all love reading and books and horses. As for me, I'm attracted to any book with a horse on the cover, and will usually try and get my hands on a copy to read it.

I particularly like horse stories mixed with adventure. Here are two recent reads, by authors that I was not acquainted with previously, but whose work I adored and recommend. These are adult novels - one is contemporary and one set in 1825, but they are both gritty, realistic, with lots about horses.

I was first attracted to this book not only by its cover, but because I noticed on Goodreads (a great site for readers) that one of our members, Natalie Keller Reinert, had just finished it. The author, Thomas Fox Averill, set out to research the history of old ballad "Tennessee Stud" and this novel is the result.  Here is the 5 star review that I posted on Goodreads:

I enjoyed this book as much as anything I've read this year. What a dashing story, and a great piece of Americana. First let me just say that this is one of the most creative covers I've ever seen. The lovely horse's head is appealing enough, but I was several chapters into the story before I realized that in the middle of this horse's kind eye is a reflection. And that reflection also tells a story.

I was quite intrigued by Robert Johnson's journey with the Tennessee Stud in 1825. Although this is a fictional account of a tale that might have happened, the settings and culture of the time are obviously well-researched by the author. To cross the Mississippi to the west and travel days without seeing another soul is just awesome to imagine. In our family we have hand-written notes from my great-great grandfather, who made a similar horseback journey from Ohio to Texas and back in the 1850's, and also to Minnesota, so it's amazing to think of how wild this country was in those times (not so very long ago.)

Apart from the historical aspects, there is also a young man growing up, a love story, as much adventure as one could handle, and of course the horses. Not only the Tennessee Stud, but horses of Arabian heritage, mares with deep hearts, mules, and race horses. Quite a lot to fit into a book of just over 200 pages, but the lively plot moved right along, and I was breathless just keeping up. And of course now I will go do a very modern thing, and download The Tennessee Stud tune to my iPod, so that I can relive and enjoy it all over again.

I loved this book, and for me, it's a keeper.

And here is another new book that reads like a modern day Western:

This is quite a cool cover also, right? This one is by Alyson Hagy, a new author to me, but she can really write about the West. Here's the blurb:

Will Testerman is a young Wyoming horse trainer determined to make something of himself. Money is tight at the family ranch, where he's living again after a disastrous end to his job on the Texas show-horse circuit. He sees his chance with a beautiful quarter horse, a filly that might earn him a reputation, and spends his savings to buy her.

Armed with stories and the confidence of youth, he devotes himself to her training -- first, in the familiar barns and corrals of home, then on a guest ranch in the rugged Absaroka mountains, and, in the final trial, on the glittering, treacherous polo fields of southern California.

And here is my Goodreads review (also 5 stars):

This is a Western in the best sense of the word. There are horses and horse training and horse people. There is a young man learning about himself in a world filled with both honesty and deceit, laughter and heartache, good and evil. And there are sentences describing both the beauty and brutality of the western landscape that took my breath away, and made me stop to savor them. Alyson Hagy is a very good writer, and I truly enjoyed this book.

If you belong to Goodreads, send me a friend request, because I love to share what I'm reading. Here's my profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3421565.Linda_Benson

And here is a link to horse books that I've posted on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3429089-linda?format=html&shelf=horses

Have you read any good horse books lately? Feel free to share!


TBDancer said...

I have read very little GOOD horse fiction because there is just too much bad stuff out there. I have a problem with a lot of horse movies, too. Same issues. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but only to a point. Saw a movie about a kid who wanted to ride jumping horses. He's on a chestnut heading to the fence and a bay's feet land on the ground. That sort of thing drives me crazy.

That said, the last horse novel I read was Dark Horse by Tami Hoag, and it was excellent. Her novels are very plot driven but the characters are interesting and I can never guess "who done it." She is a gifted Gran Prix dressage rider, too, and the horse bits in the novel are spot on.

Alison said...

Thanks for the reviews Linda. I am not on Goodreads (don't have time) but will continue to review books (like yours) for this blog.

I am reading "Half Broke Horses" and should post a review on it if I am not too lazy.

Margo Berendsen said...

Thanks for clueing me into two new horse books! Friending you on Goodreads...

Linda Benson said...

TB Dancer - thanks for mentioning Dark Horse. I hadn't heard of that one and will look it up.

Alison - Half Broke Horses is an awesome memoir. Love that she wrote in her grandmother's voice - so well done.

Margo - thanks! Friended you back. ;-)

Laura Crum said...

OK Linda, you inspired me. I don't know how many people have told me I should join Goodreads, so I just did. And I sent you a friend request. Maybe you could guide me in how to use this site? My big problem is that I just don't have a lot of time to read right now--and also, I'm not very clever when it comes to "social networking".

So the last "horse novel" I read was a very old one, which I read with my son. "The Good Master" by Kate Seredy. We both loved it. Previous to that I read "War Horse", previewing it for my kid--I liked it, but not as much as "The Good Master." Before that we read "King of the Wind", which I loved as a child, and it was a hit with my son, too. I will admit that the last "horse novel" that I read that was for adults (over a year ago) was very bad (in my opinion). Like TB Dancer I find it frustrating when the horse details are unrealistic--not to mention the writing was very disconnected and the plot weak. And yet I believe this book sold pretty well. So clearly I do not understand the book business (!)