Monday, February 27, 2012

Cowboys in the Ghetto

Last night I finished a book I had really been looking forward to reading: Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri.

Of course, as a horse lover, I'll read anything with a horse in it, but what had really appealed to me was that the setting was unusual - inner city cowboys keeping horses in an urban environment - so that kids who have never actually seen a prairie might get the feel of horses, and how to live by The Cowboy Way.

Things I Liked: 

I liked this book on many levels.

I loved the story of young Coltrane, who gets dumped off to live with his dad, Harper, who he has never met.

I loved the dialogue of the street kids, and how Coltrane slowly warms up to his dad.

I loved how he responded to one horse in particular who he names Boo, and how the horse brings out feelings of sensitivity in him. This part rings true, because all horse people understand how "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man" or a woman, or most especially a young punk kid with major problems in life.

I loved, loved the illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson, and I wish there were more of them. They perfectly depicted the feelings of the novel and the actual "scenes," and put us right in the thick of the story.

Things that bothered Me:

Okay, at the risk of sounding petty - I am a horse woman, and there were certain things that just, well, bugged me because they weren't correct.

First off, one of the major elements in the story is that these horses, kept in decrepit corral and stalls (which the city is trying to shut down) are mostly rescued race horses.

Dad: "They're old racehorses that normally get sold off for meat. We pool our money to buy what we can at auction before the slaughterhouse gets 'em." . . .

Son: But my mind's stuck on the meat part. "People eat horses?" I ask.

Dad: "Dogs. They get sold for dog food."

But according to this article on Wikipidia horse meat has been banned from pet food since the 1970's, and 90% of horsemeat goes for human consumption overseas. With all the intense discussion these days about the pros and cons of horse slaughter, how could an author get this fact wrong? In fact, several more times in the book there is talk about horses ending up as dog food. And now this book will sit on library and school shelves around the country for years to come perpetuating this misinformation. Are we dumbing this down for young people? Or did the author truly not know this? Surely, Candlewick, the publisher, should have checked this out.

Okay, a couple more petty little things. When Harp is getting Boo ready for Cole's first ride on a horse, he saddles him, then asks for "them stirrup straps," which he then attaches to the saddle. Well, maybe on a English saddle you'd do it like that. But on a Western saddle (which it obviously is, because not much later Cole grabs the "knob" on the top of the saddle to get on) the stirrups are already attached. (Trust me, I owned a saddle shop, I know these things.)

Worse yet, when Cole's horse spooks at a plastic bag, Harp attaches a "leash" to him (a rope that runs to the spooky horse's saddle) as if that will help. No, no, no, and NO. I could see him attaching a rope to the horse's halter and ponying him through a spooky neighborhood. That's a common thing you might do for the safety of a beginning rider. But if you attach a rope from one horse to another's saddle, you are only inviting a wreck. (Don't ask me how I know this.) 

I will shut my mouth and not mention how three inner-city boys (two of which have never been on a horse before, and one only once) can steal three horses from a barn, jump on them bareback during the night, with no halters or gear of any kind, and guide them through a corral, out a gate, and away through the park in the dark.

Now granted, I am a sixty-something white woman and not the intended audience for this book. Hopefully, it will still appeal to reluctant-reading boys who are looking for a bit of an adventure, and probably girls who are attracted by a horse on the cover (as I was.)

The story itself was great, the setting unique, and I believe it is still a worthwhile read.

But I know lots of horse lovers are going to read this book, and some things are going to bother them. So authors, if you're going to write about something you are totally unacquainted with, please get all your facts straight. Okay, I'll shut up now.

For more about how G. Neri was inspired to write this story, read here

Readers, find this book, and tell me what you think. Regardless of all my petty grievances with the facts of the book, I still give it: 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Versatile Blogger

Confession. I've had this Fantastic Award hanging in my back pocket for awhile, given to me by another writer/horsewoman, Jaye Robin Brown, who has a wonderful blog called Hanging On To Wonder. Thank you very much! I am honored!!

So, in all due haste, I will now tell you the rules of this award:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 5 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

So. Here are seven random things about me:

  1. I love all fruits - and most vegetables (not big on okra or brussel sprouts) - but my very favorite fruit to eat are Ripe Apricots - right off the tree.
  2. I have never been to New York or to Europe, but I've been to Halibut Cove, Alaska by boat and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon by mule.
  3. I have owned horses for 45 years, although I have none at this very moment.
  4. I've owned donkeys for fourteen years and will hereby state publicly that there is nothing cuter than a baby donkey.
  5. I read an average of two novels a week. I write an average of one novel a year.
  6. The book I am reading right now is My Life in France, by Julia Child. It's not one I would have picked out myself, but was chosen by our book club, and I am quite enjoying it!
  7. My newest book - The Girl Who Remembered Horses - at this moment sits at #1 on a Goodreads list called Fantasy Books Featuring Horses. This makes me happy.

Okay, and now to nominate five more blogging friends for this award!

1) On The Way To Critter Farm, written by my friend Danni, who shares my love of donkeys.
2) Wavy Lines, written by writer and blogger extraordinaire Laura Marcella.
3) Sharon Ledwith: I Came. I Saw. I Wrote. who is a fellow Musa writer, with a new book out soon!
4) Laptops and Lattes, a blog by author friend and fellow animal lover Cynthia Willis.
5) Fearless Riding, written by fellow horsewoman Beth.

Enjoy! Have Fun!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musa Books that I Love

Hi Everyone! I'm part of a Musa Blog Hop taking place February 16-18th, 2012.

Welcome, Blog Hoppers! I am a YA author with Musa's Euterpe imprint. My newest release with them is called The Girl Who Remembered Horses (scroll down for info on how to win this one) with two more books due for release this year!

But there are lots of other great Musa YA books, too! One of them that I love is Stained Glass Summer, by Mindy Hardwick.

Twelve-year-old Jasmine wants to be an artist. But, can she escape the shadow of her artistic Father to discover her own path as a glass artist?

Twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, it’s not until Jasmine finds herself mentoring another young artist that she can truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms. The story will appeal to young readers between the ages of 8-12.

And here's another, that I can hardly wait to read - Keeper of Directions by L.K. Mitchell:

Lance, a ten-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome, and his smart-mouthed, teenage sister are taken under the wing by a clan of shape-shifting Ravens who're preparing for a great war at the Arctic Circle and who've claimed Lance as the next Keeper of Directions.

While on a vacation from the U.S., ten-year-old Lance learns that a raven named Rose has been stolen from the Tower of London. The Ravens kept at the Tower are a clan of shape-shifters entrusted with keeping the natural world from the chaos of global warming, floods, and earthquakes. The Ravens' control is maintained through war with the ancient DiLong: the Komodo people. Back home in Seattle, Lance and his teenage sister Vivi are caught up with the search for Rose and the warring shape-shifters heading to battle for control over the Directions. Lance is chosen as the apprentice Keeper of Directions but have the Ravens made a wise choice? Lance has Asperger's Syndrome. Can a ten-year-old Aspie and his smart-mouthed, teenage sister help set the natural world in order?

****Now for the Blog Hop Contest!****

I'm giving away one eBook copy of The Girl Who Remembered Horses, which is getting great reviews.

In a world that has forgotten the ancient bond between horses and humans, can one girl’s dreams make people remember?

Several generations into the future, Sahara travels with her clan in a barren environment where recyclables are bartered for sustenance, and few remember horses or their connection to humans. But Sahara has recurring visions of riding astride on magnificent animals that run like the wind.

With the help of Evan, a young herder from the Gardener's Camp, Sahara discovers a crumbling book containing pictures of humans riding horses and learns her visions are real. Confronting a group of hunters led by hot-headed Dojo, Sahara rescues a wounded horse, but the animal escapes before it can be tamed.

Sahara is labeled a foolish dreamer and almost gives up her quest. Following horse tracks into a remote ravine, she finds wild dogs attacking a dying mare, and must drive them off in order to save the foal. Now she must attempt to raise the young animal, finally convince her clan of the ancient bond between horses and humans, and learn the secret of her true identity.

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below, follow me on this blog and "like" the book on Facebook. Easy Peasy!

Be sure and follow the rest of the Blog Hop, too, by visiting these great sites Feb 16-18, for more great prizes and chances to win stuff!

Good luck, everyone! Have fun!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What We're Reading

Our Book Club met last week, and over cupcakes and wine, we all decided that we truly enjoyed last month's selection: THE LOST WIFE, by Alyson Richman.

A rapturous new novel of first love in a time of war -

In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

I was totally hooked on this book by the end of the first chapter, and read it all within a day, pushing the rest of the world aside. This is what good reading is all about!

Our group has an interesting mix of books picked out for the next few months, and all of us will be reading, at one point, out of our comfort zones - books we wouldn't normally pick out for ourselves. They should make for good discussion, however. Here's what's coming up:

My Life in France, by Julia Child

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth

Before I Go To Sleep, by S. J. Watson

Gestation: Unborn Hostage, by Richard Henegan

Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See
And speaking of books and what's coming up - Later this week I'll be joining the MUSA BOOKS I LOVE Blog Hop - with recommendations and giveaways of books from Musa Publishing, including a copy of my newest book, THE GIRL WHO REMEMBERED HORSES!
Be sure and watch for it soon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learning to Text

Yes, folks, I'm one of the last to learn the seemingly innate skill (at least among young people) of Texting. I'm a person whose life does not revolve around my cell phone, and although I carry one for emergencies, I often don't even turn it on unless I need it.

But I noticed a strange phenomena. Texting was becoming a new language. I've met quite a few people lately with an intense aversion to actually speaking on their cell phones, and in fact, will not even answer a call from a number they don't recognize. Oh, how paranoid we've all become. Texting (which can be identified, and answered or replied to when it is convenient) has become the language of choice among a large segment of our population. And I found that by not learning to text, I was not in on the conversation.

Of course, I carried an antiquated cell phone with no texting package. So I hopped right over to my cellular carrier and got a new, upgraded (yes, I know it's not a really cool phone, and not a smart phone - don't laugh) phone with a QWERTY keyboard. Similar to this one:

(If you don't know what a Qwerty keyboard is, look at the five letters on the top left-hand side of a computer keyboard.) Yes! I thought. I can do this. I'm good on a keyboard, and besides being a writer, I've been a piano player since the first grade. My hands just fly across a keyboard.

So with my new slide-out keyboard (I can't do the touch screen function very well) I am learning to text. With two thumbs.

I feel so . . . so modern!!

But more than that, I can see the advantages that texting has to conversation. I can text someone a short message when they are at work or at a party, when I wouldn't dare risk a phone call. It's a non-obtrusive method of getting in touch with someone.

So pat me on the shoulder for learning a new skill - one that many of you already take for granted. Yeah, never say never. Believe it or not, though, I can't let myself make grammatical mistakes on the darn thing. I still have do search to find the darn comma, apostrophe, and period. Seriously.

So tell me, do YOU text??

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Reading Challenge

Whoa! It's February already!

And I haven't even posted my reading challenge.

Last year, inspired by the Stephen King quote -

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write.” -  

I took the 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge and challenged myself to read 111 books during the year.

I easily met this challenge, and in fact read 128 books. Granted some of these were picture books (maybe ten of them) but most were a mix of adult, YA, and middle grade fiction. All full-length novels.

I firmly believe that when you read good literature, you absorb it. Hopefully when you begin writing, your writing improves also. That's the theory anyway.

So when Goodreads repeated the challenge this year, I had no problems automatically signing myself up for 112 books. (I'm only competing with myself, naturally.)

I find that between my reading group, my new Nook, books I've received as Christmas gifts, my library check-outs, and books that I read for reviews, there is certainly no shortage of things that I want to read. So I'm pretty sure I'll reach this goal. I've already read twelve books in 2012 (although two of those were short novellas.)
If you want to find out what I've been reading lately, you can check the graph at the bottom of the right hand column of this blog. Better yet - "friend" me on Goodreads, and we can share book recommendations and see what we're all reading. Here's the link:

I love to read. Do you?
What are you reading right now?