Writing From the Right Side of the Stall

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Archive for the tag “YA fiction”

Book Review: Backyard Horse Tales: Sox, by Jackie Anton

Backyard Horse Tales: Sox (2nd edition) invites young readers into the high-profile world of competitive reining, and it is there that author and illustrator Jackie Anton finds her comfort zone, describing in vivid detail the challenges that face horse and rider in the show pen.

The hero of the tale is Sox, a Quarter Horse foal who is born with a disfigured leg, and overcomes his disability to excel as a reining horse.  Sox and his mother, Sandy, communicate to each other and to the reader, Black Beauty style, speaking in the first person.  Anton uses this conceit to describe Sox’s equine view of the world, but it’s a little self-conscious, particularly when she uses Sox’s voice to introduce the story’s human characters.

More authentic is the addition of 11-year-old Emma, the proverbial girl next door who is struggling with her own challenges.   When Emma’s mother joins the military and is deployed to Iraq, Emma must relocate to small-town America to live with her grandmother.  Emma’s diary entries give us some poignant insight into her feelings of isolation and her worry about her mother – but here, too, there is some awkwardness when we learn that Emma has been diagnosed with dyslexia.  I’m not dyslexic myself, but I would imagine that a dyslexic character might not find it easy to generate the articulate diary entries we read; she would likely choose to express herself in another fashion.

Sox and Emma come together as they grow and mature, though on the whole, I would have liked to have read more about how they overcame their challenges.  Sox’s contracted-tendon issue appears to resolve more or less on its own, and Emma’s dyslexia doesn’t seem to be much of an issue either.  (Nor does her loneliness last forever, as her mother returns safe and sound from Iraq mid-way through the book.)  Still, it’s clear that each needs the other and learns from the other as they grow from children to adults – and as Emma’s equestrian education at the farm next door progresses, she moves from riding Sox’s experienced and wise mother, to the young and cheeky Sox himself.  (Thumbs up for this valuable message to young readers that green horse + green rider is not a healthy equation.) 

Anton’s background as a rider and horsewoman shines through in the text of “Sox” — her hero is based on her own reining horse, Two Scooten Sox, who was lost to colic in 2009 — and both teens and adults will enjoy being immersed in the precision world of reining competition.  Horse-crazy young readers will love the descriptions of county fairs and horse shows, and kids of all persuasions will find the episode in which a tornado strikes at a horse show, particularly gripping.

At times, the tale of Sox feels like a story in search of an ending … but when the conclusion does come, it’s eminently satisfying.

About the author:
Jackie Anton writes the family friendly series “Backyard Horse Tales” (readers 8 to adult).  Sox 2nd Edition expands Sox and Emma’s story, and has a brand new ending. This version is enjoying excellent early reviews.  #2, “Frosty and the Nightstalker” will be out by fall of 2012. “Prelude: Backyard Horse Tales 3: Don’t Call Me Love” is an e-book available on smashwords.com and amazon.com.
Anton also pens romance books, under the pseudonym J.M. Anton. “Fateful Waters” will be an e-book in April, and in print by late summer 2012.

Backyard Horse Tales:  Sox is self-published and is available in both print and e-book editions.  Purchase Sox 2nd Edition at www.backyardhorsetales.com, or at Back to the Books online store, and enjoy free shipping.  

The first five readers to purchase Sox, second edition before the end of this Blog Tour will receive a free copy of Backyard Horse Tales 2: Frosty and the Nightstalker. Purchases will be verified with resellers Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a host of online retailers. Purchase an e-book and you will receive an e-book!  Print editions of Frosty’s Tale will be autographed before they are shipped.

More about Jackie Anton here:

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Sliding Stop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Bubba Goes Blogging: A Book Review

Oh, gentle reader, you have arrived on an auspicious day indeed.  Not only is this my very first book review (on this blog, anyway), but my very first giveaway, too!  You have to read to the end for the freebie part, no cheating.  

Featured author Jennifer Walker is the author of Bubba Goes National and Bubba to the Rescue.  Her stories have also appeared in the anthologies Elements of the Soul and The Ultimate Horse Lover. A full-time freelance writer and editor, her work has appeared in numerous magazines and websites including the Yahoo! Contributor Network. She resides in northern California with her husband, cat, dog, and Arabian stallion. 

There’s more about Jennifer and her YA novels here , or visit her Facebook fan page for the Green Meadow series.

This post is part of Jennifer’s very cool two-week Virtual Book Tour.  Jennifer will also be contributing a guest post right here on March 13th on writing for the Young Adult market, so mark your calendars, peeps!

BOOK REVIEW:  BUBBA TO THE RESCUE

As Young Adult fiction for horse-crazy girls goes, Jennifer Walker’s Bubba to the Rescue, the second in her Green Meadow series, has a lot going for it:  beautiful Arabians, an adrenaline-pumping forest fire, an intriguing mystery … and two perfect guys who love horses and horse-crazy girls so much that they never complain about all the time spent in the barn!

The latter two – one, teen protagonist Leslie Clark’s father Dan, the other her devoted (and maybe just a wee bit two-dimensional) boyfriend Alex – may be the most fictional elements of Bubba to the Rescue.  Where the story really comes alive is in Walker’s depictions of Green Meadow Stable and its equine residents, which is absolutely as her tween and teen readers would want it.

From her heart-wrenching description of Leslie’s Arabian gelding, Lucky (aka Bubba) suffering a potentially career-ending injury in the forest fire, to the ethereal appearance of the mystery horse, Spark, who materializes out of the flames to gallop home safely with Leslie, Alex, and their horses, Walker provides vivid portrayals of her equine characters, the routine of barn life and horse shows, and authentic details of stable management that reveal her extensive background in that world.  When a friend’s horse suffers a bout of colic, Leslie’s anguish is palpable, as is her pride when her mystery horse excels at his first show.

Leslie also wrestles with some typical teen challenges:  adjusting to a blended family when her father (widowed in the first in the series, Bubba Goes National) remarries, testing the murky waters of dating and formal dances, peer rivalry from a mean-spirited classmate, and feeling helpless when a friend comes under the influence of a controlling boyfriend. In the saddle, however, she is skilled and her horses perform perfectly; if I were to quibble, I would say I would have liked to have seen her struggle with her blossoming horsemanship skills just a smidge!

There also seems to be little focus on Lucky once his veterinarian declares that his recovery will be slow (as realistic a part of the horse industry as that circumstance might be).  The horse who was the heart of the first Green Meadow book gets turned out in a field and seldom mentioned afterwards; I kept waiting for his re-entry to the story, though I suspect Walker is planning Lucky’s triumphant return in the in-progress book three!

In an age where dark forces seem to be almost obligatory in teen novels, Bubba to the Rescue is refreshingly free of supernatural influences, R-rated themes, and bad behaviour.  Leslie and her cohorts are normal, modern teens, the adults in their lives provide gentle moral guidance, and there are subtle life lessons taught without hitting the reader over the head.

Although this is the second book in the Green Meadow series and builds on characters introduced in Bubba Goes National, it does well as a stand-alone volume. The pacing is brisk and never bogs down, making Bubba to the Rescue not only a page-turner, but quite an incentive to pick up its sequel just as soon as it becomes available.

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Published by Twin Trinity Media, Bubba to the Rescue (and Bubba Goes National) can be purchased here.

Digital versions for Kindle, Nook, and more can be found at Smashwords and Amazon.  And an audio version is now available here.

$1 from the every sale of Bubba Goes National and Bubba to the Rescue, between now and July 1, 2012, will go towards a fund to send a deserving young lady, Zoe Deaton, to the Arabian Youth Nationals in Albuquerque, in the last year she is eligible.  Purchase a copy today and not only will you get to read a great story, but you’ll help this young rider fulfill her dream!

BREAKING NEWS!  Comment on this post for your chance to WIN a FREE download of Jennifer Walker’s short story from the Green Meadows series, Leslie and the Lion.  Just make sure you comment, with your e-mail address, by midnight (Eastern Daylight Time) on  March 16, 2012!  One commenter will be chosen at random.

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