Friday, December 17, 2010


Greetings, if anyone still checks this blog.

This is just a notice to let you know that I am still aware that this blog exists.

However, I have been busy either,

A) Taking classes,

B) Studying for classes,

C) Writing for classes,

D) Tutoring before and after classes,

E) Crashing from weariness,

F) Hanging out with my sister,


G) Reading my favorite blog, Jay's Good Ones.

So, there you have it.

And winter break is all booked up... mostly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hard Luck Horse

I walked over to a stack of books and grabbed the one in top without looking. Which book was it? The one I’m doing a blog-post on.

Hard Luck Horse is another one of my many former library books, so it’s got a cute sticker on the binding of a galloping horse. Ah, how I used to keep my eye out for those books at the library. But the Altadena Library that I grew up with put all the horse books in one little section so I wouldn’t have to search so hard. I loved that.

Hard Luck Horse, by Fern G. Brown is one of the few horse stories that takes place at a Western barn, as opposed to an English stable. It seems that most horse barn stories are at English barns, so I was pleased to find this one, preferring Western myself.

Cristi Barrett is delighted with the new horse at White Owl Barn, where she works. He’s a sharp little sorrel that seem to be a perfect barrel horse. (for non-horsey readers, that is a sport where riders see who can run their horse around three barrels the fastest. It’s quite poplar and many riders make money doing it. I personally have issues with it, but this book is completely fiction, so it’s okay.) Cristi has high hopes of buying the sorrel, who she names “Woody Dip” because of his habit of chewing wood and dipping his head. Her friend, Jeff, who’s also the owner’s son, hopes she get the horse as well. However, there are two problems: Cristi and her family don’t have much money, and her rival at the barn, who she calls “yukky Allison” is going to be getting a horse for her birthday, bought for her by her parents, and Allison has eyes on Woody Dip.

Cristi gets to keep Woody Dip for the riding club, though, and he’s hers until after the big show. She goes to practice with him and all goes well… until he begins making mistakes, and Allison decides that she likes Woody better than the other horse she was thinking about getting. The vet comes to check out Woody Dip before Allison buys him (it’s standard procedure to have a vet check out a horse before buying). Cristi takes another blow as the vet discovers cancer in the horse’s eye. Sorry, but unwilling to go through the expense of surgery, the barn owner decides that they’ll have to put Woody to sleep, but Cristi convinces him, and her parents to let her pay for the cost. She’ll do anything for the horse. All goes well, and Woody begins to recover. Then trouble with Allison surfaces; a new horse is in Woody’s stall at the barn, and all Cristi can guess is that Allison bought Woody and moved him to the border’s area. She and Allison have a verbal fight and both leave angry.

Everyone is practicing hard for the Junior Rodeo that is coming, and Cristi is less than happy with the replacement horse, Princess, that she has to use for the rodeo in place of dear Woody. Allison had not bought Woody, Cristi found out later, she’d bought Butterscotch. But a farmer, who lived a couple hours away had bought Woody. The girls patch it up during practice, and do well in the rodeo. As the dust settles at the end of the day, a truck comes in with a little sorrel horse: Woody Dip! The farmer brought him back, due to his kids forgetting to take care of the horse, and it becoming too much of a burden. Cristi is ecstatic to have Woody back, and they find a place for him at the barn.

“No!” yelled Dakota. “Leave him! He’s sacred. He’ll run himself out.”

Dakota was right. Breathing hard, the little sorrel soon slowed to a jog. Then he sauntered over to the log pile. Opening his mouth wide, he bit off a huge chunk of wood.

Cristi laughed. Still chewing, the little sorrel nuzzled up to her. She patted his neck and hugged him. For Cristi, it was instant love.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beyond the Picket Fence

I’ve finally gotten around to posting about one of Lori Wick’s books! Yes!

Lori Wick writes Christian Romance, both historical and modern day, and I love both kinds. I found her books while searching through the library’s online catalog, looking for something that looked like I might like. I discovered the The Yellow Rose Trilogy , but started out reading the third book before I realized that it was a trilogy. The Yellow Rose Trilogy is certainly my favorite set so far; I’ve not read all the other ones in the library. I’ll review them another time. Today I’m reviewing Beyond the Picket Fence, and Other Short Stories.

Beyond the Picket Fence has eight short stories in it:
1. "Be Careful with my Heart",
2. "Christmas for Two"
3. The Haircut"
4. "Beyond the Picket Fence"
5. "An Intense Man"
6. "The Camping Trip"
7. "The Christmas Gift", and
8. "The Rancher’s Lady"

They are a varied lot of stories, all unrelated, but wonderfully sweet. The first one brings two people, who’ve lost their first spouses, together in a musical band at a summer camp. The third one is a retelling of an incident in Lori’s husband’s childhood. The fourth one, the title chapter, is the longest (I think) and an authoress moves to a small town, and falls in love. In the sixth one, a widowed coach reaches out to encourage one of the boys on him, a boy who doesn’t have a father, and finds himself reaching out to the boy’s hurting mother as well. The last chapter, “The Rancher’s Lady” is probably my favorite; a young Australian woman leaves the sheep ranch Australia and sad memories behind and goes to Northern California to work for a friend of her former boss’s.

I like Lori Wick’s books very much. They have such endearing characters in them, as well as good plots. I especially like reading the series, because I get to keep getting glimpses of the people in the previous books. I love the men in her stories; they are such nice guys! (Too bad they aren’t real, huh?) And the women are great, as well; such sweet women, but they aren’t pathetic limp people. The books are similar to Janette Oke’s books where religion is concerned; it isn’t overdone. And I like really appreciate it that Lori Wick doesn’t have anything more than kissing and hugging in her books; I like a romance, but not a bedroom scene.

I always smile when I read Lori Wick's books. I even smile when I just see them sitting waiting for me to read them. :)

Shasta blinked and said softly, “No, sir. I’m sorry, but I don’t know a thing about office work. Morgan said you needed a jackeroo.”

“A what?” It was Kyle’s turn to blink.

“Oh, uhm, a jackeroo, a ranch hand.”

Kyle nodded slowly. Outside of a brief conversation a few weeks ago, it had been years since he’d talked to Morgan Clark, and he’d completely forgotten the little differences in their speech. He had to say one thing concerning Miss Shasta McGregor –that accent of hers was real easy on the ears.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So, I really did end up reading a book instead of doing a blog post on one. I'm most of the way through with Lori Wick's White Chocolate Moments. I do so love her writing. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

Instead of doing a blog post on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, I think I’ll just sit here reading it while the computer hibernates. . .

I guess not.

I saw Gregory Peck playing in Captain Horatio Hornblower so many years ago that I forgot just about everything about. I was too young to give this movie any thought. In fact, I don’t think I even liked it. I found it recently on youtube and watched it again, enjoying it more at twenty than I did as a kid, and judicially comparing it to the books it was made after. That is where I first “met” Hornblower, and it made no impression that first time. I now this the movie is interesting for comparisons.

My second “meeting” of Hornblower came when I was in my teens, and he was played by cute Ioann Grufford, and he had cute Jamie Bamber fighting bad guys at his side. This definitely made an impression. This was the TV mini-series that A&E had made out of the first Hornblower book, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. It was spectacular. –espcially compared to old Gregory Peck’s Hornblower movie. It was not a chick flick, as Peck’s Hornblower was. It was not in “TECNICOLOR” (don’t get me wrong, I think Technicolor is cool, but it just isn’t as good as what we have nowdays), and everything looked like it was real, not on a Hollywood set. The British sounded British, the French sounded French, and the Spaniards sound Spanish. I intensely liked the shows, but winced at the brutality that was portrayed for accuracy. “I love these shows!!! …minus some parts…” (happily the remote has a fast-forward button and a mute button). Presently, though, a part in the opening credits caught my eye: Based on the books by C.S. Forester. Oh, boy! Books!!! I had to see if they were good. Books are usually better than the movies made after them, I’ve found, so this was exciting.

I started out with a copy from the library, but I now have a copy of my own.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower takes place in 1794, during the Napoleonic Wars, in the British Navy. Horatio Hornblower (who hates his name) is only seventeen when he comes about the HMS Justinian as midshipman, in the first chapter. (The book is a series of short stories chronicling some of his exploits as Midshipman, each story a chapter.) He is shy and reclusive, and also pretty seasick. He grows accustomed to life aboard; however a bully, Simpson, also a midshipman, comes aboard, and begins to torment everybody in his rank or lower, and Hornblower becomes his specific target because of his withdrawn nature. Hornblower endures in misery, but bids his time. One evening at cards, the Simpson accuses Hornblower of cheating.

Now, Hornblower has an incredibly logical mind, and thus is an extraordinary card-player, Simpson, on the other hand, was simply not a good card-player at all, and he’d been drinking. Hornblower takes this chance, and he demands satisfaction, a duel. And with only one of the guns loaded, while the other is empty, and no-one will know which. Either he will die, or Simpson will die; either way, his problem would be solved. Forester does an amazing job of writing out Hornblower’s inner battle, the doubts and fears that assail him, and the cool, logical reasoning he goes through the night before the duel. It’s just amazing.

Obviously, Hornblower lives, but it’s still pretty harrowing until the end of the chapter. And then the next adventure begins, Hornblower is transferred to a frigate, the Indefatigable, and life gets better. “The Cargo of Rice”, where he is taking a captured French ship back to England; “The Man Who Felt Queer”, where Hornblower is part of a boarding party, capturing another French ship; “The Man who Saw God” where he finds some of the sailors making trouble and also has to work with a slightly senile, but harmless sailor, “The Frogs, and the Lobsters”, “The Examination for Lieutenant”, where fireships come and threaten the ships while he’s failing the exam; “Noah’s Ark”, where I grin… ; and “The Duchess, and the Devil” are some of the other stories/chapters in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower.

Forester has an amazing knowledge of what he writes. He actually does a play by play of the card game (not that easy to read, but impressive nonetheless). His descriptions of the weather and the ships, the movement and the men’s actions and reactions are just fantastic; I come out of his books feeling almost as if I’d actually been there. …sort of like the thrilled and overpowered feeling that I get when I go to the movie theater (I only go about once a year, so it’s pretty awesome for me).

Hornblower is a unique and complex character, one who I cannot do justice to in trying to describe. Forester’s portrayal of him is very real and shows a deep study of human character.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower is certainly the best historical fiction I’ve read, and undoubtedly the best regarding the French Revolution. It’s almost more historical than it is fiction, for how much attention Forester pays to the facts and details of that era.

Note: It has violence and bloodshed, but not too much, as well as a little profanity. I’d say it’s pretty accurate for the time without being grotesque. (Ah, and there aren’t any intimacies, shall I say, for those who mind reading such things.)

And I must say that it taught me far more about the Napoleonic Wars and several historical figures that all my years of school did.

Now…which quote shall I do? Honestly, there are so many awesome parts, it’s hard to choose… Okay, here’s a section from chapter one.

“The rest are mine,” said Hornblower, laying down his cards.

“What do you mean?” said Simpson, with the king of diamonds in his hand.

“Five tricks,” said Chalk, briskly. “Game and rubber.”

“But don’t I take another?” persisted Simpson.

“I trump a lead of diamonds or hearts and make three more clubs,” explained Hornblower. To him the situation was as simple as two and two, a most ordinary finish to a hand; it was hard for him to realize that foggy-mind players like Simpson could find difficulty in keeping tally of fifty two cards. Simpson flung down his hand.

“You know too much about the game,” he said. “You know the backs of the cards as well as the fronts.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Horse that Had Everything

After watching Errol Flynn in Seahawk, I now want to do a post about a book with ships in it. That would be one of the books in C.S. Forester’s Hornblower Series. However, I don’t feel like I could do such an exceptionally written book much justice right now, so I’ll do a simpler book.

There are basically four categories of horse books (and then countless sub-categories). There are horse books that are so completely horsey that even horse-lovers feel a little nauseous reading them. Then there are horse books that claim to be horse books, but are really just teenage stories with a horse thrown in to attract a couple more girls, ones with horse posters taped on their walls. Worst of all there are the horse books that are absolutely horrible books where a horse gets killed, sold, turned loose, or some other disaster happens; these I rate “X”. Finally, and fortunately, there are good horse books with a balance of horse and life, and everyone lives fairly happily ever after. My sister calls them “B Horse Books” after the “B Westerns” where the good guy always wins, gets his girl and rides off into the sunset, and she rolls her eyes when I read them.

Wait, make that five. There are horse stories that are balanced with horse and life, but the girls are really, really silly. That would be Bonnie Bryant’s writings. I’m not a fan. (But no offense to anybody who does like them. It’s okay.)

I’ve read all five kinds, and the good ones I go back and read again. Walter Farley, with his Black Stallion, is one of these, as well as Mary O’Hara with her My Friend Flicka. C.W. Anderson also does quality books (and they have beautiful illustrations), but sometimes they can be a little too “eqqus-centric”.

Another good horse story is by a lesser known author, Newlin B. Wildes, and it’s entitled The Horse that had Everything. My copy is an ex-library book, I have many ex-library books, actually, and it’s a nice hardcover (hardcover books always seem better and more substantial to me than paperbacks do) and it’s copyright 1966. I usually like books with older copy rights. (that’s not to say that people born in the sixties are old though!)

Most horse books are written for a female audience and have female protagonists, I’ve found, but this one features a boy as the main character, Rick Ballou. Rick lives out in the country, not too far from a Thoroughbred farm, in Vermont, and regularly visits the horses there. The owner, Slade Corcoran, is a hard man (could you guess from the name? no duh.), but the stable manager, Darwin Mears in kindly and understands the boy. When Rick’s favorite mare gives birth to a colt, he calls Rick so he can see the colt first thing; Rick heads over with all eagerness. But when he comes, he finds that the colt was born with a crippled hind leg.

Slade Corcoran is far less than pleased that a misshaped colt has been born in his barn, and if the colt’s leg doesn’t show improvement, he’ll have it put down. The colt’s leg doesn’t improve enough, but Mears convinces Slade to let Rick take the colt home and raise it.
Over the summer, Rick and the neighbor girl, Suzi, raise the colt, feeding him and leading him around, taking him swimming in the swimming pond, and all sorts of fun things. The colt, now named Sans Per, follows them around like a dog. As he grows, his leg heals, and he becomes a perfectly shaped and very swift horse.

By and by Slade comes around, regretting having given the colt away, but he doesn’t take him back. Instead, he tries to convince Rick to race the colt. Rick decides to give Sans Per a chance at racing, after all that’s what the horse had been bred for, but in the end, Sans’ interest in swimming in a pond overrules his training to reach the finish line.

The Horse that had Everything is a nice, wholesome horse book. It’s clean and idealistic. The boy is respectful to his elders, even though he’s in high-school. Suzi becomes his girlfriend, but there is NOT any smooching or other such things going from there –ahem!- . And Sans Per is a really sweet horse. It’s not a hard to read book, the words aren’t thick, but I get a lot of enjoyment from reading it.

It was at the pond that Rick and San and Suzi had their best times. It wasn’t long until the colt was towing them about the pond as they clung to his withers. Sometimes he dove under them, coming up to lift them out of the water amid shouts and screams. On rally hot days they spent the whole afternoons in the water, with breaks of lying on the grassy banks in the sun, San grazing and drying off nearby.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day, Little House books

I was pondering over which book to write about last night couldn’t decide which one to do… a horse story? The story I just finished? an adventure book? Then today while I was working with some photos to generate a truck themed Father’s Day card, the idea came to me.

As today is Father’s Day, I thought I should do something in honor of the occasion. I could do a book with a good father in it. Hmm… not many of those around, unless it’s in a book written by Lori Wick, Janette Oke, or a few others who write similar stuff. Then what about doing a book that my dad had read to me? But he read lots of books to my sister and me when we were little. I could do the most memorable book then…?

The most memorable book, or rather books, were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. But practically everybody who I know has already read them repeatedly, and probably everybody else has at least heard about them if not read them once or twice…, and there about 1,400,000 results if one types in “Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House Series” in the Google Search-bar. So it would be a little redundant for me to peck out yet another review for an already well known and much reviewed book.

What I can do however, is write about my memories of it. My younger sister and I would get ready for bed, brush teeth, don night gowns and such, and then our dad would read to us. My mom had, and still has, a complete and beautiful set of hard-cover set of the Little House books, and my dad started with the first one and read a chapter or two each night to us until we finished the whole set. Sometimes we’d sit on my bed or my sister’s bed, but the time I remember most clearly was when we were sitting on the couch in the living-room.

That couch was perhaps the ugliest of the three couches we’ve owned. It was very blocky, and it was this neutral shade of gray checked with a darker gray, and my mom put a pretty afghan thing over it to make it more acceptable, but was still slightly uncomfortable. Anyway. We had a fabulous living-room in that house, though. It had a nice fireplace with a heater insert that my granddad made and it kept the house warm during the few times it got cold in Southern California.

I remember sitting on one side of my dad, with my sister on his other side, and we had gotten to the sixth book, The Long Winter. It was cozy in our house, so it must have been during the cooler part of the year, and the heater may have been blowing with its soothing purr. We had a Trader Joe’s grocery store not far away, and we’d gotten a tub of those animal-shaped ginger cookies. Lions and elephants, tigers, and all those, but I think they’ve been discontinued. I remember eating those cookies while my dad read to us, and we were at the chapter “Where There’s a Will”, where Pa and Laura were twisting hay into tight little sticks to burn so they wouldn’t freeze during the blizzard. That chapter had a picture, not every chapter did, and to this day, every time I see the picture of Pa and Laura twisting hay, I remember those ginger cookies and that couch and the heater in the living-room.

I really enjoyed that series. If someday I ever have a family and children, I hope that my children will get to have the stories read aloud to them.

“Bend your twist a little to loosen it,” said Pa. “Then slip the ends in between the kinks and let it twist itself back tight. That’s the way!”

Laura’s stick of hay was uneven and raggedy, not smooth and hard like Pa’s. But Pa told her that it was well done for the first one; she would do better next time.