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We Love What We Love (The Starless Sea Book Review)

I’ve been idly flipping through Goodreads reviews for THE STARLESS SEA because I loved it so much and I was curious about how others felt. Loved it or hated it, there is no in between!

If you’re not familiar with the title, THE STARLESS SEA is the new release by Erin Morgenstern, author of THE NIGHT CIRCUS. If you’ve read that one, you know that her writing is incomparably lyrical, her descriptions whimsical and overflowing like a fountain, her pacing… of her own choice.

Book Cover: The Starless Sea
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Naturally writing like that has its detractors (many) but THE NIGHT CIRCUS got a pass from so many because it’s also an absolutely gorgeous, haunting love story, and the desire to see the guy get the girl propels many a page-turn when someone might have tossed the book aside otherwise. How else to explain some of the exceedingly bad romance novels out there (mine might be included, depending on how you feel about them)?

THE STARLESS SEA has a love story, but it’s not the only story… and it doesn’t show up until deep within the book. This is a story about stories, and it is all the more charming and delicious for readers who find the references and love notes to the stories which have come before, both within and without its pages. This is a librarian romance.

And it’s an absolutely polarizing read, apparently!

Here are some of my favorite lines from GoodReads:

-THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR!

The writing is so abstract that I couldn’t take it anymore!

-This is a masterpiece. This is flawless. This is the kind of book that comes along once in a decade. This cracks the foundations.

-dnf around 30%

Ugh what a chore

-It’s difficult to sum up a novel that has made a home in your heart and mind and will reside there for a lifetime.

And then this is the one which actually sums up the way I’m feeling right now:

“It’s a profoundly strange thing—to feel as though you are wading through mildly entertaining novels that pass through you like falling smoke, always searching for the one that reaches into the back alleys of your soul and settles to the bottom of you like fallen leaves.

And then there it is, like a faint spark bobbing on a dark sea, calling you, beckoning.”

(Here is the full review at GoodReads.)

I’ve been reading tons of good work all year, really good work, but I’ve also been reading what feels like a lot of fluff compared to the sheer magnitude of imagination and world-building and realized dreams that is THE STARLESS SEA. Finding this book, for me, was like finally reaching Cair Paravel. It felt like reaching a golden city on a hill after decades of reading works leading up to this point. It felt like this what stories were reaching for, striving for, during all of these years of modern fantasy. An ode to what makes imagination great.

And a lot of people hated it!

Which tells you absolutely everything you need to know about books, writing, novels, reviews, and art in general.

Books are subjective. Books are like people. You love some of them, you don’t get some of them but you’d sure like to figure them out, you absolutely hate some of them, you turn away from some of them and never think about them again. Every single emotion you can have about a human relationship, you can have about a book.

Not every book you read will be a soulmate, some will be good chums and some will be enemies, but for someone else… that book will be a soulmate.

So hey… go love what you love, and shout about it! Worry a little less about the relationships that don’t work out. We all want to know what made you happy, not what made you crazy.

And if THE STARLESS SEA changes your life in profound ways… hey, I get it. Wow, do I ever get it.

Here it is at Amazon.

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First Reviews for The Hidden Horses of New York

I’m excited to share some of the first reviews coming in for my latest equestrian novel, The Hidden Horses of New York.

The Hidden Horses of New York book coverIn a lot of ways, this title was a departure for me. Readers who have been following my different series for the past decade or so will definitely have certain expectations of what a Natalie Keller Reinert novel will look like. So while this isn’t written with the same horse-only focus as The Eventing Series or Show Barn Blues, I still put my heart and soul into the descriptions, settings, and especially people and horses who populate this story.

So naturally, I’ve been curious to see what readers would think of it! Here’s what we have going on at Amazon:

“Natalie Keller Reinert books never disappoint. Not only does the author’s extensive knowledge of horses and racing give the book an authentic, realistic feel, she has an unerring feel for dialogue and plot. Highly recommend this book.”

“I couldn’t put it down! I reluctantly took a pause to go to work and do my own horse chores, but then picked it right back up!”

“Natalie Keller Reinert’s newest is a highly topical return to racetrack literature–and a soaring love letter to New York racing in particular. While the novel’s major plots entwine journalism start-ups and public perception with slaughter auctions and whistleblowing, the emotional core remains a girl and her horse. Jenny’s journey from the training tracks and prep races of central and southern Florida through each of New York’s racetracks mirrors that of her colt, Mr. November, en route to the Breeders’ Cup, as well as her relationships with her co-journalists and her industry. The author interrogates racing’s contemporary and perennial concerns while balancing family and romance plots admirably, with plenty of pulled-from-life training and backside details layered in (a Breeders’ Cup at Belmont is the cherry on top for New York racing fans). From flashy, doofy Mr. November to the police mounts of Central Park and a cowboy outfit on Long Island, this book has a horse for every reader.”

“This is my favorite book by this author. Her story telling and writing style are spot on. I was sucked in and could not put it down !”

“Loved this new novel by my favorite equestrian author! I felt like I was in the story with Jenny, all the locations were so vibrant. This was a fun and interesting read, one I really enjoyed!”

“I loved this author’s other books, but I’m not going to finish this one. No horses, characters I didn’t care about – not a quality read like her other books.”

I felt like including that last one because hey, everyone reads the same book differently. I’m actually a little concerned this reader didn’t get the correct product from Amazon, since it literally starts the first two or three chapters introducing a variety of horses. Reviewer, if you’re reading this, reach out to me and let’s make sure you received the correct download.

But nonetheless, the overall theme of the reviews is that yes, this book is working for long-time readers. Awesome news!

I’m also seeing lots of five-star ratings over at GoodReads! This is great news as I’ve always found the GR community a little tough to impress.

You can add it to your bookshelf by clicking here:

The Hidden Horses of New York

What did you think of The Hidden Horses of New YorkHave you left a review at Amazon or GoodReads yet? Your reviews keep books visible and help authors out, so thanks for the time you take to leave a few words of recommendation on the books you love!
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5 Questions with Equestrian Author L.R. Trovillion

So, here’s the thing. I love social media, because it’s given me a chance to meet wonderful people (like you, probably!) but we have to admit it, there’s a flaw in its design. All of those short sentences and catchy captions don’t give us nearly enough time to really get to know each other!

For that, I think it’s time to get back to blogs. Make a cup of tea, set aside some time to read, and enjoy some stories from people we’d like to get to know better–I think we could all use that once in a while! So without further ado, let’s start with Five Questions for author L.R. Trovillion.

L.R. Trovillion author image
Writer L.R. Trovillion creates compelling Young Adult and Equestrian Fiction

Trovillion is the author of the new Young Adult – Equestrian Fiction novel Horse Godsand previously released False Godsboth set in Maryland’s equestrian community.

Her books get great reviews with readers, who love her fast-paced, tightly-woven plots about teenage girls who find purpose and courage through equestrian life.

If you love coming-of-age stories (and who doesn’t, really) and a well-written story with plenty of horses in it, these books belong on your list.

I asked L.R. Trovillion five questions about her latest novel, her writing life, and her craft. Let’s go!

Hello! Thank you for being my debut subject for Five Questions!

First of all, thank you, Natalie, for giving me this opportunity to speak with you and for hosting me on your blog.

You have a new book! Tell us a little about Horse Gods and your inspiration for this story.

The story grew out of a unique experience. A friend invited me to accompany him and his hawk out hunting. When this bird of prey lifted off his arm to the treetops, I was amazed that it did not just fly away, free. That really got me thinking…

Freya the hawk
Freya, the inspiration for an avian character in Horse Gods

The sequel, Horse Gods, picks up the story of a new main character, Regina Hamilton. Her abusive mother, who we met in the first book, False Gods, is getting out of prison and Regina has only a few months to figure out how she can avoid having to live with her. As a minor, she doesn’t have too many options.

She falls into an opportunity at an elite dressage barn (even though she’s a jumper rider!) to work as a resident working student, if she can prove herself.

But things at this barn are not what they seem, and before long Regina finds herself in a dangerous situation. (No spoilers).

What made you decide to begin writing equestrian fiction?

L.R. Trovillion on horseback
L.R. Trovillion fits in plenty of real-life riding for her inspiration

Horses are the inspiration. I only started riding as an adult when I had a job that would support boarding and lessons, but I never looked back!

To help defray some costs, I worked as a groom for a hunter/jumper rider, which gave me a unique view into the world of big-time horse shows.

Later, my interests gravitated to dressage. I believe there is a certain magic in the horse-human connection and I hope to capture a little bit of it in my stories.

Horse Gods blends a lot of topics – you’ve got hawking, dressage, Irish mythology, and parents in prison, among other things. Was it hard to keep your plot in order and not lose any threads?

Ha, ha! I’ll have to let my readers answer that question, but I certainly hope I didn’t lose any threads! Yes, there’s a lot going on, but the various topics are all held together by one central theme—trust. The hawk, the wild mare, the Irish myths that surround Regina all symbolize various needs for and levels of trust. You see, Regina has no one to lean on, no one to help her (she thinks), and so has always just relied on herself. As she grapples with one problem after another, she slowly discovers how to trust in others as well. But that trust in people is severely tested in the end.

Can you tell us a little about your writing craft – how you schedule your time, how you plan your stories, that sort of thing?

Horse Gods ebook cover
Horse Gods, L.R. Trovillion’s new YA/Equestrian Fiction release

I would like to say that I am very disciplined and sit down to write for a set period of time every day, but that would be a lie! So often I sit down to write and a million other tasks feel suddenly more pressing—‘Oh, maybe I should clean out the closet instead!’

When I do knuckle down to write, at the beginning of a novel, I get a germ of a story idea and start building the characters around it. I like to take a main character, give her a big problem, strip her of all outside support from family or conventional means, and set her loose to make bad decisions and see what happens. Secondary characters sort of turn up on the pages and some of them become quite interesting and get to be the main character in the next book. (Spoiler: Main character in book 3 is Willow).

Sounds quite haphazard, doesn’t it? I do usually have the beginning and the end destination planned, but that whole messy middle part is sometimes surprising even to me.

What’s on your 2019 reading list? Have you read anything amazing this year?

I am fortunate to belong to a book club, which has been together for about 23 years. In that time, I have been introduced to so many amazing books, often ones I would not have picked out for myself.

Recently, one of my favorites was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I was a Russian language and literature major in college and this book captured so beautifully the culture, history, and mood of that time in Russia. Plus, I absolutely fell in love with the main character, Count Rostov! As for horse fiction, I’d have to say an all time favorite is Horse Heaven by the master storyteller, Jane Smiley.

I also love to read a lot of Young Adult. I really enjoyed The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon for her brilliant and edgy characters and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for amazing world building. On my list: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. But I’m open to other suggestions!

Really solid choices. I love Amor Towles’ first book Rules of Civility, and A Gentleman in Moscow has been on my list for ages. And of course, Horse Heaven, I’ve been very open about how much I love that one!

***

Thanks to L.R. Trovillion for that excellent look inside her books and writing process. I especially love the idea of taking a character, stripping her of help, and seeing what she’ll do next. My process is generally to take a character, give her an opportunity, then think about all the awful consequences. Either way, you can’t have a story without being well-versed in a certain kind of worst-case scenario thought process!

So, I highly recommend you take a look at L.R. Trovillion’s fantastic equestrian fiction novels. You can find them at Amazon, or visit her website for more information. On Twitter? Follow for updates and new blog posts about equestrian life: @lrtrovillion

Have you read L.R. Trovillion’s work? Do you have a question for her, or a recommendation? Be sure to comment below!

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New Book Review at my Disney blog!

Good news if you’re looking for a good read over the holidays. How about slipping away to Disneyland?

I just finished Kate Abbott’s delightful Young Adult debut, Disneylanders, and I am here to tell you and anyone that will listen: it’s a wonderful read for all ages.

You can read the full review at my Disney blog, ThatDisFamily.com.

And while you’re there, give it a bookmark or subscribe for updates. I’m switching away from the how-to Disney blog and moving into travel narratives. Get a taste of the new style with my Fort Wilderness walk, posted last week. I’m toying with the idea of a collection of Walt Disney World stories at the end of 2015!

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my full review, posted to GoodReads. Are we friends on GoodReads? Click through below and be sure to add me!

DisneylandersDisneylanders by Kate Abbott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disneylanders takes on a big topic–when are we too old for Disneyland? Is it crazy and childish to be in love with a theme park? Are we foolishly surrounded by fake bricks and fiberglass facades, or does our love for this place of dreams still have a valid role in our adult lives? And in the midst of a budding first romance and the need to get away from our parents and strike out for freedom, don’t we still all belong together, as a family, while we’re at Disneyland?

Casey is on vacation with her parents–the same Disneyland vacation they have taken year after year, but this year, things feel different. She feels pressure to grow up–possibly into a person she doesn’t really like, as her (former) best friend has done. Her parents seem more annoying and overbearing than ever before, and when she meets a teenage guy named Bert (a delightfully dorky reference to Mary Poppins that they both get), Casey finds herself embarking on her first act of teenage rebellion. There are worse places than Disneyland to do that sort of thing, I suppose.

As you, the reader, follow her characters through a tumultuous two days in Disneyland, you feel every emotion, see every land, even smell the churros and popcorn. No opportunity to examine the way that Disneyland makes us feel is ever wasted.

From ThatDisFamily.com

View all my reviews

 

 

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New “Ambition” Review Hones in on Main Character

The main character of Ambition, Jules, is a prickly young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Not the most endearing of characters, right? I was really worried about how Jules would be received by readers.

After all, there were plenty of readers who told me that they wanted Alex, of the Alex and Alexander series, to be tougher. To know all the answers. To never feel weak.

beware horsewoman
Jules in a nutshell.

And while I can understand the appeal of having a heroine who knows all the answers to look up to, that’s not the kind of stories I have been trying to tell.

There are so many of us brought up in the horse business who constantly feel that we are in over our heads, that we are facing insurmountable odds and disadvantages, that we are too tired to go on, but we always go on… that’s reality. The question is, how do we shove through these fears and weaknesses, how do we get the energy to go on, what spurs us to continue the struggle to be the best, whether we are riding, or training, or breeding?

And that’s the story. Not having all the answers, but slowly, slowly, figuring things out. Hopefully, some will be able to draw inspiration from Alex’s struggles, as well as Jules’, and take heart that they can figure it all out, too.

Jane Badger, who runs Jane Badger Books and is the author of Heroines on Horseback: The Pony Book in Children’s Fiction, wrote about Jules and her flaws and promise extensively in a recent review at her blog.

“However brilliant Jules is with horses, she is blindingly hopeless with people. She’s one of those who, because they’ve been hurt so much in the past, bites first and asks questions later. She treads, wilfully, all over anyone who dares to come near her…

“Despite Jules’ desperate, tearing ambition to get somewhere, she seems intent on sabotaging herself. She simply can’t believe that anyone can approach her simply because they like her, and not because they have some sort of ulterior motive. The dreadful irony is that Jules spends her life sorting out problem horses, but she’s the least sorted out person in Florida.

“The brilliance of Natalie Keller Reinert is that she makes you stick with this difficult, prickly, downright unlikeable girl. And if you, like me, do need to find at least something to like in a main character, stick with this book. I promise you you will not regret it….

In Jules Natalie Keller Reinert has created a barbed wire heroine who still, despite her arrogance, and her pathetic inability to see the good in people, still has something about her that catches at your heart.”

Bringing Jules to life was important to me. Sharing her was hard. Reading reviews like this and having conversations with people about why she is real and why she matters — that’s amazing.

Thanks so much to Jane Badger for her assessment of Ambition and Jules, and thanks to all of the readers out there who are making Ambition the top horse book at Amazon. I hope we make a difference to someone who didn’t quite think they could make it.

Read the entire interview and see more about Jane Badger Books here: http://booksandmud.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/review-natalie-keller-reinert-ambition.html

And don’t forget to enter to win a copy through Monday at midnight!
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@ Retired Racehorse: Horse-Crazy Doesn’t Look at a Calendar

Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana
Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana

This book review is posted over at Retired Racehorse, where I have been posting equestrian reads for years now. But for all my new readers, here is my latest review, for Maggie Dana’s outstanding Turning on a Dime:

I’m often struck by how much we share with the equestrians of the past. Our tack, our boots, the very way we sit our horses — whether we ride English or Western, we are very much in contact with our riding roots every day. Horsemanship is horsemanship, and, by the same token, the deep genetic need the truly horse-crazy feel to keep horses close to them probably hasn’t changed much in the past millennia or two, either.

But in Maggie Dana’s powerful new drama, Turning on a Dime, we’re asked to stop and consider what the modern horse-crazy life might look like in another time — one that isn’t quite so pretty and permissive as today.

Sam might be vying to become the first African-American member of the United States Equestrian Team, but really, race is the last thing on her mind. The horses don’t notice, and neither does she.

Caroline is too busy ducking away from crinolines and corsets to worry about her future role as a Southern Lady. And the war with the North is getting close to home, certainly, but as long as she can sneak out for a gallop on her mare, life is good enough.

They’re one hundred fifty years and a world of prejudice apart. But Sam and Caroline have a lot to learn about one another — and themselves — when one turn of a dime throws their lives together, and they learn how deeply their fates are entwined.

What happens when you throw a 21st-century teenager — who happens to be African-American — into an 1863 plantation house? Well, you’d think nothing good. Luckily, Caroline has a good heart, and a definite interest in Sam’s 21st-century toys. Every teenage girl wants an iPhone, even if they have no idea what it actually does. (That’s design for you.) And that iPhone will come in handy. Because Sam and Caroline are about to find out that there are more important problems than just getting Sam back to her own time, and sometimes video proof is all a person will believe.

In Turning on a Dime, one truth becomes clear: horsemanship has nothing to do with the date on the calendar, or the roles society has granted us. For those of us who proudly bear the title “horse-crazy,” horses are in our blood, and no silly laws or rules can change that. Our horses come first — everything else is just details.

Visit MaggieDana.com for more information, or pick up Turning on a Dime right here in paperback or ebook!

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