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review 2017-08-14 16:36
One Trick Pony - Nathan Hale 
One Trick Pony - Nathan Hale

I enjoyed this enormously: I liked the juxtaposition of multiple different cultures and societies. The premise was intriguing, the kids are resourceful, the parents believable, the robots were funny. Good set up and good payoff. I would thing this would be insanely popular since it's like to appeal to fans of fantasy and science fiction, to horse people and 

Western people, everyone really, except aliens.


My only problem with the book is a technical detail: I had tremendous trouble reading the speech sometimes. Yes, I'm old and the eyes go and dim lighting isn't sufficient anymore et cetera, et cetera, but none of that troubles me when reading anything else. I'm not confident I know what the difficulty was: whether the book pages were too small (for me), or the font size too small (for me), or the contrast not sharp enough (for me). I can't say with any certainty. But it made for an uncomfortable experience. I'm a motivated reader, so I stuck with it, but I can imagine that not everyone would. YMMV


Library copy







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review 2017-08-06 21:31
"Slow Horses - Slough House #1" by Mick Herron - Le Carré rebooted in the modern day
Slow Horses - Mick Herron

"Slow Horses" is a (very) British spy thriller, set in contemporary London, in the post 7/7 bombing world of domestic anti-terrorism.


The slow horses of the title are security service people who have messed up and have been cut out of the herd of thoroughbreds with whom they've demonstrated they can't keep up. Their punishment is being sent to work at Slough House where they are given pointless routine work that is meant to demoralize them to the point where they will resign and save the Service the trouble of firing them.


This is a depressingly plausible situation. The Civil Service call this, nugatory work, i.e. work that is known to have no value.


Slough House is run as a fiefdom by Jackson Lamb, a mercurial despot with a reputation as a dangerous field agent. Discovering why he is there and what he wants is one of the mysteries of the book. His staff are a mixed bunch but it soon becomes clear that some of them are not what they seem. In the world that these folks inhabit, little is what it seems.


The plot revolves around the abduction and threatened execution of a boy of Pakistani descent by a group of right wing nationalist extremists. This takes us into BNP, EDL deluded English Nazis.


"Slow Horses" was published in 2010 and now seems rather horribly prescient. At one point, a right wing journalist (imagine that) is talking to a Tory cabinet minister who presents himself as a bumbling fool but is actually a driving force for English nationalism (not hard to imagine who that character could be based on, The journalist says:


‘Because we both know the tide’s turning. The decent people in this country are sick to death of being held hostage by mad liberals in Brussels, and the sooner we take control over our own future, our own borders …’

Given that this predates the Brexit debacle by half a decade, that's a little scary.


The plot is cunning without ever becoming Byzantine. The storytelling keeps the tension cranked up and throws in lots of surprises. The characters and how they interact with each other are credible and compelling. This is Le Carré for the modern day, with a faster pace and a new set of issues.


"Slow Horses" is a good thriller made exceptional by the plausibility of the people and the situations. It seems like an insider's view. As one of the retired Service guys says of Le Carré in this book, "Just because it's made up doesn't mean it's not true.

"Slow Horses" is the first in a series of Slough House novels. All of them are now on my "must read" list.

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review 2017-07-18 20:48
[Book Review] The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

Rating: ★★★★★


You can read this review on my blog.

This book feels like it's been hiding on the shelf next to the classics, such as The Secret Garden and Narnia, for years now. 

It's a simple story really. It's a story about a young girl fighting an illness while the adults fight a war. But it's also a lot more. It's a story about hope and courage. It's a story about love and loss. And it's beautiful.

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review 2017-07-06 01:39
Thoughts: The Shadowy Horses
The Shadowy Horses - Susanna Kearsley

The Shadowy Horses

by Susanna Kearsley



The Invincible Ninth Roman Legion Marches from York to Fight The Northern Tribes. and then Vanishes from the Pages of History.

Archaeologist Verity Grey has been drawn to the dark legends of the Scottish Borderlands in search of the truth buried in a rocky field by the sea.

Her eccentric boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he's finally found it—not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has "seen" a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.

Here on the windswept shores, Verity may find the answer to one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time.  Or she may uncover secrets someone buried for a reason.



To start off, I just wanted to point out that, for my own reasons, I like the paperback book cover more than the Kindle version book cover featured above.  The image of a house on what looks like rocky cliffs, on a background of mist and darkness gives a much better sense of a Gothic, ghostly setting than the one of a woman's silhouette walking amidst a vague background that might be grasslands and clouds.

Anyway, moving along now onto the actual review...

The Shadowy Horses was a very interesting and great read.  It is written well, and the imagery Kearsley creates with her vivid descriptions are pretty wonderful.  They make you feel like you're right there with Verity, walking the fishing docks and the museum, or rushing through the rainy moors, or looking out her bedroom window in the middle of the night, listening to the sound of galloping hooves.

This book is extremely well written.

It also helps that the story has a very attractive premise that caught my attention immediately.

I've always been interested in archaeology, historical locales, creepy old mansions, and ghostly happenings (as much as I don't like horror).  Put all of this together, with a wandering ghostly Sentinel, and shadowy horses, with an ominous legend, that gallop in the middle of the night, and you've got really well outlined Ani-bait.

The characters weren't too shabby either, each exhibiting their own unique personalities.  I tried really hard to imagine all the different accents, with all of our main characters prominently English, Scottish, and Irish--this would probably a great book to listen to in audio given the perfect narrator.  And it looks like I learned a little bit of Scots as well, and am interested in picking up my own Scots dictionary.

The Shadowy Horses is also chock full of little history lessons, and a couple of mythical legends that I loved!  It certainly added onto the atmosphere.

Story-wise, however, I couldn't help but notice that, to be honest, a whole lot of nothing happens in this book.  There is a lot of day-to-day banality that seemed to drag on as we awaited each dig day to find something, rolled over into the night to hear the shadowy horses, then went into town for personal reasons.  The ghostly haunting by the lone, wandering Sentinel isn't as creepily bone-chilling as I'd expected--the purpose for his presence was fairly predictable, and it doesn't take a five-year-old psychic to tell you as much.  The first introduction of the shadowy horses had promise, but I kept feeling like there should have been more to it than just hearing them galloping each night.

There was very little build up to the main conflict of the book, which is evident when the conflict pops up at the end and I didn't even realize there was such a serious conflict to begin with.  And the fact that when the conflict DOES come up, there was no question about how everything would resolve; no surprise twists or anything presented.

All-in-all, I suppose I was kind of expecting a bit more, probably because of the strong start the book gives us.

To be fair, this isn't Susanna Kearsley's most popular work, and I think is one of her first few books written.  It's just the first one that caught my attention, both with the premise and the paperback cover of the creepy looking mansion (see above).  I wouldn't mind continuing to explore more work by Kearsley in the near future, if anyone's got some recommendations, though; because I most definitely will keep her on my radar.

Overall, The Shadowy Horses was a quite sort of entertainment, and I enjoyed myself, even if I felt like something was missing from this novel.




Roll #24:
Book is tagged 'gothic' on GR; summary includes mentions of ghostly sightings.

Page Count:  430
Cash Award:  $10.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $147











Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/07/thoughts-shadowy-horses.html
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review 2017-06-22 03:36
Review: All the Pretty Horses
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy

I am not what you would call the average Cormac McCarthy reader. Yes, I may fit the stereotype—white male with a beard in his thirties—but I defy most stereotypes and hope that someday I may be the poster child for “stereotypes be damned.” (It seems out of place to use quotes in a review of a McCarthy book, doesn't it?) Historically, grisly, romanticized westerns do little for me.

Like everyone else, I've read The Road. That was more than a decade ago and I thought, “eh, it's okay.” It was the first McCarthy I'd read and while I was open to the idea of returning to the author, he wasn't on the top of my list. Two weeks ago, I had no plans of returning to McCarthy anytime soon. I have a long list of books I really want to read, and between those and whatever randomly tempts me on the bookshelf, I have no time for outliers. But a strange thing happened: I wasn't in the mood for any of the books on my list. Nothing seemed right. I experienced something rare: I had no idea what I wanted to read. I spent more than an hour trying to decide what was next. I was tempted to just take a day or two away from reading. Then, as though some conscious entity grew tired of my fit, I picked up All the Pretty Horses and started reading. Divine intervention? Subconscious desire? Likely, I just wanted to surprise myself.

And was I surprised. Within an hour, I found that I was enjoying the story. Thoroughly. And for those who know me and my likes, this may be surprising. I'm an open-minded individual and will try things outside of my comfort zone, but there are some things that have burned me so many times that I expect to be displeased. A book that promises to be filled with horses and gunfights is prone to disappoint.All the Pretty Horses exceeded all my baseless expectations. Much of my appreciation was in the way the main characters, John Grady and Lacey Rawlins, converse. What pulled me in was those two, sitting around a fire and talking, riding through desolate terrain and talking. Oddly, I became very wrapped up in their simple conversation. Even though their relationship seemed unbalanced, even though Grady seemed like a contradiction, and even though I hate heat and horses, I was pulled in. And as others were added to the mix, the dynamics changed, but the conversation remained riveting.

Grady was a wonderful character, though I couldn't quite grasp how much faith I was willing to invest in his authenticity. Although I never thought of Grady as old, I had trouble shaping his image as a sixteen year old. He was far too wise and mature. The more I got to know him, the more I was convinced that such a wise teenager could exist. And, as the story developed, I began to see that underneath it all, he may have not been quite as wise as he seemed (though I'm still not sure). Multi-dimensional character: you've hooked me.

Ironically, it was only when the book picked up speed, reaching its climax, that my interest waned some. An old-fashioned shootout and the getaway on a horse: I find that a bit boring. Overall, this was such a small part of the novel that I wasn't too distracted by it.

Who'd have thought that cowboys sitting around talking would've been such a draw? Divine intervention? I'm a weird one, I guess. Now I'm actually excited to read the next book in the series.

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