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.

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!

Taking Chances: Equestrian Writers Who Collaborate Instead of Competing

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.
The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

This post originally appeared at Retired Racehorse Blog in 2013.

I’m a huge proponent of independent publishing, not least because it has allowed horse books to enter a whole new level. Gone are the days when I could choose between a $5.99 paperback from the Thoroughbred series or a $35.95 hardcover tome on dressage principles if I wanted to have a little horsey reading time. Equestrian writers can write for equestrians of all ages.

(And on a side-note, whoever decided that horse training books should be published on expensive glossy paperstock and with beautiful slipcovers was probably some accountant reading a report about the 35-55 married female with disposable income demo that represents the majority of Dressage Today’s subscribers, not a horse-person who knows a training book is best perused in the rather dirty and disheveled confines of the tack room immediately before or after a training session.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Indie publishing lets horse-people publish horse-books that I actually want to read.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve reviewed Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana books quite often at Retired Racehorse. That’s because they’re not just excellent writers, they’re horsewomen, and they write horse books that make sense. No one is going straight to the Olympics after they went to a summer riding camp, taught an unbroken Mustang to jump logs in the woods by moonlight, and subsequently won the Grand Prix at the National Horse Show. (Any old Grand Prix will do.)

Instead, Maggie writes about tweens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up and working really, really hard to improve their riding because they know nothing else really matters in life.

Bittersweet Farm's 1st novel, Mounted
As did the first Bittersweet Farm novel, Mounted.

Meanwhile, Barbara writes about teens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up (in a much more edgy manner, because teens) and working really, really hard to improve their riding even though they’re not entirely convinced that it’s the best way to spend their time (because teens).

The books lend to one another beautifully: As Barbara said, “Maggie’s books are a gateway to mine.”

And, I’d like to think, Barbara’s books lead to mine, which are written about adults in the horse business.

No more skipping from Thoroughbred to Mary Wanless in one not-so-easy step. Horse books have a progression now.

And indie publishing isn’t just wonderful because it allows us to read books we might never get to enjoy otherwise. Indie publishing also provides for a spirit of collaboration and friendship between authors who realize that by working together, they can provide the best possible reading experience for fans. Recently, they sent me this wonderful article:

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team: YA & Tween horse book authors Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread
The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

In the world of traditional book publishing, Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana would be rival authors, both vying for the same limited space on bookstore shelves devoted to children’s and YA fiction. Very likely they’d be monitoring one another’s sales ranks and rejoicing if the other author dropped a few points.

“Hooray! Let’s break out the whips and spurs!”

But when it comes to indie publishing, all that has gone out the window. Independent authors are totally open about sharing resources and information and helping one another. Some have edited and/or proofed another’s books for free; other indies have provided their fellow authors with professionally designed covers, formatting, and typesetting (again, for free) because they believed in someone else’s book and wanted to help.

Six months ago, Barbara and Maggie only knew each other from their Amazon listings, but thanks to a chance encounter on a well-respected indie publishing industry blog, they connected in real time.

And they are loving it.

After getting to know one another via phone and email, they swapped information: Maggie has taught Barbara how to format her books for ePub and Kindle, and Barbara (whose multiple talents include writing for daytime television) has helped Maggie broaden her writing horizons. They’ve also swapped characters.

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana
The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

Lockie Malone, Barbara’s enigmatic horse trainer who stars in her Bittersweet Farm series, makes a guest appearance in Taking Chances, the seventh book in Maggie’s Timber Ridge Riders series for mid-grade/tween readers.

At some point, one of Maggie’s Timber Ridge characters will show up in Barbara’s Bittersweet Farm YA books.

And who knows where this will lead? All bets are off as these two writers set aside any hint of competition and work together to make their genres the best they can be… and they’re having a boatload of fun while doing it.

About these two horse-crazy authors …

Maggie Dana, tween horse book author, shows us how it's done.
Maggie and Smoky show us how it’s done. Photo: Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.

Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.

Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. She also writes women’s fiction and her latest novel, Painting Naked, was published in 2012 by Macmillan/Momentum.

Visit: maggiedana.com

Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle. Morgenroth writes edgy YA fiction for horse-lovers.
Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle

Barbara Morgenroth

Barbara was born in New York City and but now lives somewhere else. She got her first horse when she was eleven and rode nearly every day for many years, eventually teaching equitation, then getting involved in eventing.

Starting her career by writing tween and YA books, she wound up in daytime television for some years. Barbara then wrote a couple of cookbooks and a nonfiction book on knitting. She returned to fiction and wrote romantic comedies.

When digital publishing became a possibility, Barbara leaped at the opportunity and has never looked back. In addition to the fifteen traditionally published books she wrote, in digital format Barbara has something to appeal to almost every reader—from mature YAs like the Bad Apple series and the Flash series, to contemporary romances like Love in the Air published by Amazon/Montlake, along with Unspeakably Desirable, Nothing Serious, and Almost Breathing.

Visit: barbaramorgenroth.com

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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

 

 

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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Exciting Reviews for “Ambition”

Ambition - available May 20, 2014

I’m so excited to share the first reviews for Ambition with you!

When I read a review, I’m really finding out, at last, if I’ve accomplished what I wanted to with my story. Ambition, in particular, is a story that went through many, many incarnations as I tried to take it from a story that resonated with me, to a story that would resonate with many equestrians around the world. And that’s not always an easy thing to judge on your own, or even with the small sample size of a few beta readers.

But so far, it looks as though I may have accomplished my goal.

Here is a clip from Horse Junkies United:

Starting the novel on Thursday evening, I was finished it by Friday at noon- I couldn’t put it down! Her writing style is easy to read, and the pages flow effortlessly. Most of all though, I was thrilled with all of the horsey details that were not only abundant, but accurate! This is were you could tell that the author had experience in the sport that she was portraying, lending this to her storyline and characters, making them come realistically to life.

Read Full Review Here

And here is a clip from a review at Amazon.com:

What makes it a great read is the details riders will relate to. Every page is chock full of the nitty-gritty of horses.

Read Full Review Here

As I wrote Ambition, just as with my other equestrian novels, I wanted to be sure my readers understood I was writing for them. These aren’t books That Also Have Horses in Them. I’m not throwing in a few horses to placate the horsey folks in the crowd.

These are horse-books for horse-people.

Thanks so much for the reviews, and please keep them coming! You can find your own copy of Ambition at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes

Paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (Coming Soon)

@ 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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