"It’s the summer before college. Hannah Waer is on her own at the seven-week summer horse show circuit in Vermont. Her father wants her to learn independence and responsibility so she has to take care of her own horse—which might not be a problem if she’d ever picked out a stall, or prepared a horse for the ring. It also doesn’t help that her horse won't jump. When Hannah crashes (literally) into gorgeous and accomplished grand prix rider, Chris Kern, on her first day at the show, she’s certain her life is over. In fact, it’s just beginning. The summer becomes one Hannah will never forget—a time of first love, of hard choices, and of learning that life is what you make of it. " ~Amazon Description
"Sarah has dreamed her whole life of owning her own horse. When her trainer rescues an off the track thoroughbred from slaughter and gives him to Sarah, it seems as if all her dreams have come true. But does the quirky bay have what it takes to be a champion? Or will his checkered past ruin their future forever?" ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ What a fun start to a new equestrian series! Nicole Moore's novella, A New Beginning, is just eleven chapters and a quick read which introduces readers to the characters of Shade Break Farm. I immediately fell in love with Flynn, the off-the-track Thoroughbred rescued from the kill pen, and Sarah, the fourteen-year-old horse-crazy girl who comes to live on the farm, to learn and to work. Both Sarah and Flynn have baggage - issues that were forced upon them, but they both seem to want to overcome their hurdles together (pun intended!).
I'm a huge fan of an underdog story and I was rooting for both Sarah and Flynn from the second I met them on the page! This series seems like it will be a fun, feel-good ride! And it's obvious that Moore is an equestrian herself as the horse-terminology, descriptions, and equine personalities are spot on. I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the series brings!
"Spending three weeks of her summer in northern Michigan at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment she arrives at Foxwoode, Brynlei can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier.
While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows. Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted Top Rider Award. To make things worse, someone discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the truth surrounding the missing girl, she finds herself faced with an unimaginable choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?" ~Trail of Secrets, Dark Horse Series, Book 1 (http://www.authorlaurawolfe.com/)
Brittney Joy's Review ~ After reading Laura Wolfe's Trail of Secrets' (Dark Horse Series, book 1) description, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this story. What I found could be best described as Canterwood Crest meets Friday the 13th (minus the gore)! Trail of Secrets is a fun and creepy read! It is set at a summer riding academy and I happily absorbed the summer camp environment -- sleeping bunks filled with haughty girls, campfires, ghost stories . . . and riding lessons and trail rides! I immediately liked the main character, Brynlei, as she has a deep passion for horses as well as an abnormal emotional sensitivity -- which means she deeply feels/connects with others (animals & humans). Her sensitivity also makes her prone to the secrets hidden in the riding academy's past ... *cue creepy music*!
I thoroughly enjoyed this equestrian-themed mystery and would recommend it to anyone looking for a suspenseful, yet light read. Take it with you on vacation or read it around the fire at summer camp!
"Cowboy McKennon Kelly was the last thing Devon Brooke wanted to focus on after finding herself suddenly single. Looking for a fresh start to life, city girl and journalist Devon just wanted to go back to her country roots and focus on building a relationship with her newly acquired equine partner, Faith.
Devon finds companionship in handsome bull riding ranch hand JD and delicate Green Briar horse farm owner Sophia, both who advise Devon to keep her distance from McKennon and "mind her p's and q's" around the quiet and eerily peaceful stables. Devon thinks it shouldn't be too difficult to avoid the Adonis cowboy, but after noticing his skills and expert ways with training horses, she figures it couldn't hurt to get to know him a little bit ... right?
Devon follows the guarded cowboy to a horse show, where she is unprepared to learn she may not be the cowgirl she thought she was. After a near-tragic incident, Devon begins to realize that the more time she spends with McKennon, the less she really knows about him (or horses, for that matter), and his mystery just keeps getting bigger. Who is he really, what is it that everyone doesn't want her to know, and why is this tight-shirted, spur-jingling, weather-eyed cowboy all she can think about now?" ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ Spurs be jinglin' with this one! In this story, the main character, Devon, goes back to her horsie-roots after a bad breakup. She buys a horse she's in love with but not quite ready for -- which makes for some cringe-worthy situations and a few deep ego-bruises. But, it also made me root for Devon. I wanted to see her succeed, to learn, to grow. And through her experiences with her new horse, she learns more about herself - as a rider and as a person.
I also greatly enjoyed the western world of this book. There aren't many western horse books on the market so I was excited to get lost in a world filled with two hunky cowboys, a sassy (but naive) cowgirl, boots, buckles, horse shows, country bars, and lots of flirting, banter, and swooning. And, I've actually never read a book that specifically revolved around western pleasure. I grew up showing this discipline so it was fun to read about those specific references ... Quarter Horse Congress even plays into this story!
I'd suggest adding In the Reins to your beach bag or throwing it in your trailer to read and unwind after a long day at a horse show! I spent a few evenings on my deck, wrapped up in these characters, and sipping on a glass (or two) of wine. :)
"How can we harness the future if the past will not set us free? Opposites attract?: Laura Brown, interior designer and James Morgan-Jones, horse whisperer - and Midnight Sky, a beautiful but damaged steeplechaser. Laura seems to have it all, glamorous job, charming boyfriend. Her sister, Maggie, struggles with money, difficult children and an unresponsive husband. She envies her sister's life, but are things as idyllic as they seem? She might be a farmer's daughter but Laura is doing her best to deny her roots, even deny her true feelings. Until she meets James, but James is very married, and very much in love, to a wife who died two years ago. They both have issues to face from their past, but will it bring them together, or push them apart?" ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ I was in the middle of a flight and the middle of this book, welling up with tears and wiping my nose with my sleeve. I thought I was being discreet with my sappiness, but the woman next to me (who was also reading) noticed my sniffles and offered me her napkin. I then proceeded to gush over Midnight Sky while patting my eyes with a tiny cocktail napkin ... yes, it's that good! And, I'm certain the woman next to me purchased her own copy as soon as she got off the flight.
This is my first Jan Ruth novel and I found myself engrossed in her writing and her characters. The majority of this story is set in the English countryside (at a stable) and many scenes involve horses, but you don't have to be a horse person to love this story. The true jewel of Ruth's story is the honesty in her writing. Her characters have true thoughts, feelings, and reactions -- even those that you are not "supposed" to have as a wife, a mother, or a sister. Her characters were flawed, yet beautiful and the honesty and hardships of relationships truly touched me. They resonated with me to the point of tears and the joy of laughter.
Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed the dual point of view. Midnight Sky rotates from the point of view of two sisters: Laura & Maggie. This helps to reveal the full story and shines light on multiple women's issues: marriage, pregnancy, raising children, body image, x-wives, depression, insecurity, death, love. I mean, there isn't much that this story doesn't touch on! My only complaint is that the last chapter is a bit of a cliff hanger, but I guess that means I'll be reading the sequel (Palomino Sky)!
Some of my favorite lines from Midnight Sky:
"The words had just fallen out of her mouth, glad to escape because they'd been there for such a long time."
"He followed her into the dining room and pushed the door closed. The muffled hum of laughter and music was still discernible from the sitting room, and Laura thought it somehow epitomized the last few months of her life, that feeling of being on the wrong side of a closed door."
"Outside, the horses moved like ghosts between the trees in the dark fields, and there was a pale moon in the sky."
"'Don't you think I know that?' he said, and the brooding anger in him took her right back almost to the first time they'd met, as if all the feelings in-between had been wiped out or never existed."
"Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Young, determined, and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid - and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?
On her own at last, Jules is positive she’s poised to become eventing’s newest star, but soon finds she’s making more enemies than friends in the close-knit equestrian community. Little mistakes cost big -- her students are losing faith in her; her owners are starting to pull their horses. And then there’s the small matter of Peter Morrison, the handsome, on-the-rise event rider who keeps showing up when she least expects him.
Jules is convinced that all she needs is good horses -- not friends, not romance, not anyone’s nose in her business. But it’s just the beginning of the long, hot, Ocala summer, and as Jules tumbles through the highs and lows of a life with horses, she might find she’ll need help after all to weather the coming storm." ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ I 100% understand why Reinert titled this book "Ambition." I couldn't think of a better word to describe the main character, Jules, who is a broke, insanely-hard-working horse trainer trying to make her mark on the eventing industry. Jules drinks Diet Coke like a fiend, has a working student that doesn't respect her, rides through lightning storms so she can get all her horses worked, and vows to never date a horse trainer because she's certain he'd just tell her how to ride her horses. Yet she's making it work. Well, kind of. Jules is hard-headed and set in her ways and sometimes I wanted to give her a little shake to let her know she was being an idiot, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching her story unfold (along with her antics). Actually, I loved watching her story unfold -- the good, the bad, and the ugly were highly entertaining.
Something that really surprised me about Ambition -- a major plot twist involves a hurricane and this was probably my favorite part of the story. Growing up in the Midwest and now living in the Northwest, I've never experienced a hurricane and, after reading Ambition, I hope I never have to. I cannot imagine the horrors of a hurricane as a horse owner, but Natalie does an amazing job of describing the preparations, the fears, the destruction, and the emotional rollercoaster before, during, and after the storm. I was choked up over and over, fearing for the characters (human & animal).
Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed the I-don't-want-to-like-him-but-I-really-do-like-him relationship between Jules and Peter and was delighted to have this weaved in as a major story line in the second half of the book. I was rooting for Peter all along. :)
By the end of the book, the stubborn Jules completely warmed my heart. She learned her lesson -- but you'll have to read the book to find out what that lesson is.
Looking forward to reading more of Natalie Keller Reinert’s books!
"July Carter’s world is perfect from the back of a horse. From the ground, everything is a complete mess: her jockey mom ran off for California years ago, her dad always seems more interested in the horses than in her, and the horse July wants for herself will never be hers.
Even though the New York racing circuit has taught her not to get attached, July can’t help connecting with Kali, a hopeless filly that refuses to run when it counts. When bankruptcy rumors start swirling around the barn, the future is murkier than ever. July can’t stand losing one more thing, and Beck, the barn owner’s son, knows more about the rumors than anyone else. July will get the truth, even if she has to pry it out of him, for Kali’s sake and her own." ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ I'm a book hoarder ... I have stacks of unread paperbacks and rows of unread e-books just waiting to be flipped through and I can't seem to get to them fast enough (that dang thing called life gets in the way). So, I've had Staying the Distance on my e-reader since this summer and after reading a few short pages, I wondered why the heck I hadn't started it sooner! I loved ... loved, loved, loved! For the past week, every time I picked up my e-reader, I felt like I was going to visit old friends. I adored every single character in Dabrishus's book and that rarely happens for me. July ("Juls") is a witty, hard-working, overly organized, die-hard-horse-lover and her thoughts and one-liners cracked me up. If I was seventeen again, we'd be besties! And, Beck . . . swoon. He's my favorite kind of love-interest -- sarcastic and mildly-cocky! And he can ride ... swoon again...
Not to mention, horses are heavily ingrained in this book -- which is set in the racing world. And, I'm wondering if the author had real-world experience on the track or if she's just a really good researcher. The details about the races, jockeys, barns and training was very interesting to read and I even learned some new terminology. Actually, I want to work at Blackbridge after reading this book. ;) Furthermore, each horsie-character has its own personality. The horsie body language, personalities, and experiences are spot-on and Dabrishus is OBVIOUSLY a horse-girl! I wanted to kiss Diver, ride Kali, and watch Lighter from a distance (while someone else rode him). Actually, crazy Lighter made me laugh out loud ... chipmunk! You'll get the chipmunk reference after you read the book.
The mix of horses, a sweet love story, and family dynamics/drama kept me wanting more and I was sad to leave the characters after the last page ... good thing Mara is working on a sequel!
"In Wildwood, the third book of the Moonlit Trilogy, Tanzy’s journey races toward a final battle within the Unseen world. Tanzy Hightower has crossed the veil and entered the Unseen world to fulfill the destiny she has at last embraced, to either seal or destroy the veil between the Seen and Unseen. She is the only mortal in a land teeming with creatures who want her dead. To stay alive long enough to stop Asher, the most powerful of the Unseen, Tanzy accepts his marriage proposal and seeks refuge inside his palace.
On the Seen side of the veil, Tanzy’s allies are fragmented and lost, without leadership. They must gather forces and train an army of candidates to defend their world against unfathomable predators poised to strike should the veil holding them at bay dissolve.
While Tanzy has accepted her own inevitable death in fulfilling her destiny, her closest friends refuse to stop searching for the impossible: a way to save Tanzy’s life." ~GoodReads Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ "I don't believe in lies or secrets. They turn into weapons." This line from Wildwood basically sums up the series . . . and, Wildwood provides a lot of "weapons" - both figuratively and literally! I was privileged to receive an ARC of Wildwood and very curious to see how Jones wrapped up the Moonlit series with the third and final book. What I didn't expect was to have the last piece of this story laid out before me through multiple character's eyes ... I loved this! The multiple POV made me even more invested in the story as I saw the secrets, lies, and battles from different views. And the ending ... wooza! Jones can certainly weave a serious action scene!
I would recommend Jadie Jone's Moonlit Series (Moonlit, Windswept & Wildwood) to the fantasy/paranormal reader who also wants a twist of equestrian!
"Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together - how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can't possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior's life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death - loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he's keeping doesn't destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart." ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ So, this is my very first Nicolas Sparks novel! I've seen quite a few of the movies based off of his books ... and loved them all! I mean, who didn't bawl watching The Notebook, Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember, etc, etc?! And, with every best-selling romance novel that Sparks pumps out (and then turns into a movie), I've always pondered "how the heck does he come up with that many great love stories?" And, I've always wondered how his stories read ... what makes them so great?
So, when I started seeing movie trailers for "The Longest Ride," I knew this HAD to be my first dive into a Sparks book. A cute cowboy, rodeos, and a love story? Ummm ... YES, PLEASE!! And, I wanted to read the book before I gathered up my girlfriends, popped a bottle of wine, and soaked in the movie itself. Cause the book is always better than the movie, right? Well, this movie has Clint Eastwood's son cast as Luke (the cowboy) ... so, this may be the first time the movie is better than the book ... we'll see. ;)
Anyhow, the plot of "The Longest Ride" really took me by surprise. I actually started the book without reading the synopsis (I had only watched the movie trailer) and I didn't realize there were two separate storylines - Luke & Sofia and Ira & Ruth. While the storylines eventually intertwine, this doesn't happen until much later in the book.
Initially, the story of Luke & Sofia grabbed me (the bull rider and the city girl) and I really only wanted to hear about their story. I wanted to follow them around as they rode horses, as Luke introduced Sofia to his ranch, as they played kissy-face and their relationship grew. However, the second plotline (the story of Ira & Ruth - a 90 year old man who just sustained a car crash and talks to the ghost of his wife) really grabbed my heart strings in the second half of the book.
Overall, I was amazed at the way Sparks built his characters, introduced me to their pasts, and made me care about their relationships ... to the point that I was stifling tears and sniffles (multiple times) while finishing this book on an airplane. I'm sure the guy next to me thought I was a whack-job!
Sparks has a beautiful way with minimal description that sucked me right into every scene and every character ... making me feel cozy, warm, excited, and nervous ... all while yanking at my heart strings. I can see why his books are best-sellers ... and I'm looking forward to reading more of Spark's love stories!
And, now, I'm ready to rent the movie as soon as it comes out on DVD!
P.S. -- I'm not sure about the movie (as I haven't seen it yet), but the book is a very clean, sweet romance. Clean enough for a teen to read. :)
"Saying goodbye to the horses they love has become a way of life for Marley and her sisters, who train and sell show jumpers to make their living. Marley has grand ambitions to jump in Pony of the Year, but every good pony she’s ever had has been sold out from under her to pay the bills.
Then a half-wild pinto pony comes into her life, and Marley finds that this most unlikely of champions could be the superstar she has always dreamed of. As Marley and Cruise rise quickly to the top of their sport, it seems as though her dreams of winning the Pony of the Year might come true after all.
But her family is struggling to make ends meet, and as the countdown to Pony of the Year begins, Marley is forced to face the possibility of losing the pony she has come to love more than anything else in the world. Can Marley save the farm she loves, without sacrificing the pony she can’t live without?" ~Amazon Drescription
Brittney Joy's Review ~ Dare to Dream is truly a horse-lover's novel! From page one through the end of this book, the equine adventures never quit - whether they involve riding bareback & barefoot to the local pond for a swim, the view from the back of a pony galloping through the show jumping arena, or the every day details of loving & caring for horses. But, what I loved most about this book is the characters Lattey created - especially the three main characters! The three main characters are the Carmichael sisters - Marley, Van & Kris. All three are strong, spunky, hard-working, truly passionate girls. And, even though they face hard times and massive debt, they preserver and stick together, fighting for what they love - each other and their horses. Seriously, I want to be the fourth Carmichael sister! That's how much I enjoyed these characters ... looking forward to reading the sequel. :)
"Sixteen-year-old Meg Traherne has never known loss. Until the beautiful, talented horse she trained herself, drops dead underneath her in the show ring.
Jared Strickland has been living with loss ever since his father died in a tragic farming accident.
Meg escapes from her grief by changing everything about her life; moving away from home to spend her summer living on an island in the St. Lawrence River, scrubbing toilets and waiting on guests at a B&B. Once there, she meets Jared; doing his best to keep anything else in his life from changing.
When Jared offers Meg a scruffy appaloosa mare out of a friend’s back field, it’s the beginning of a journey that will change both of them by summer’s end." ~Amazon Description
Brittney Joy's Review ~ When I started the first chapter of Appaloosa Summer, my stomach sank a little, thinking "oh no, this is going to be another show jumping book." While I enjoy reading about lots of different riding disciplines, it seems like a large portion of equine-fiction revolves around the jumping world...and, frankly, I get tired of it. BUT, I quickly realized this book was different. In the first chapter, the main character's horse dies - he collapses underneath her, just strides before a jump. THAT, I did not see coming!
Instead of taking us into the world of show jumping, Appaloosa Summer takes us on a sweet journey of a teenage girl dealing with loss, deciphering family relationships, growing up, and falling for a boy - all in one summer....and on a quaint country island. Tudor Robins writes so beautifully simple that the characters, scenery, smells, and feelings come to life on the page, without extensive descriptions. Here are a few of my favorite lines..."Wow - happy and sad will just about knock you over when they hit together." And..."I fill my lungs with the scent of lightening-born ozone, and cool air pushing out the heat, and the earth, opening up, releasing everything that's been baked into it by the searing sun. Dirt. Life. Country. Summer." How can you not gasp when you read that? I know I did.
I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet, well-written story and actually wanted to hug my IPad after reading the last page. I'm looking forward to reading more of Tudor Robins' work ... And, I would recommend you do as well!
"SHOW JUMPING IS AN EXTREME SPORT WITH A DRESS CODE, ONE THIS GIRL DOESN'T FOLLOW . . .
Imagine being dumped by your mother as a newborn and shifted between foster homes your entire childhood. Imagine being taken in and offered hope for your future by a kind, loving show jumping socialite. Imagine falling in love with some of the most gorgeous horses in the world, and making a life in the thrilling and glamorous sport of international show jumping.
Now imagine it all being taken away.
Ebony Scott Harris is painfully close to making her dreams a reality when the only mother she has ever known mysteriously dies. She’s forced from their home to live with the gold-digging aunt, who takes her in only to ride the prized show jumpers she claims are now hers. Teetering on the edge of a hopeless depression, Ebony is saved by the discovery of a forgotten horse nearly starved to death, and an unlikely partnership with a handsome stranger, whom she must learn to trust if she is to uncover the truth about her mother’s death and reclaim her home.
But with the evil aunt selling her best and beloved horse, a maniacal ex-coach out for revenge and more savage competitors than she can count, Ebony has a lot more at stake than proving the truth, saving her horses and jumping for gold at the World Equestrian Games . . ." ~Amazon Description