Monday, 20 June 2011

Stacy Gregg's Pony Club Rivals

I had a wonderfully giggly and escapist weekend with friends and new books. I enjoy reading for plot just as much as reading for trends in the industry. Somehow, I was never really a pony book reader, I appear to have missed Stacy Gregg and her new series Pony Club Rivals and I'd recommend them for an engaging distraction from reality. The Auditions is the first in a series and it's a beautiful updating of the boarding school story set at an exclusive riding school for future champions of dressage and showjumping. Based in the US, it recruits via a series of complicated competitions and it seems that the heroine has more chances to compete for entry than anyone. A perfect beginning of misunderstandings, false accusations and no outright victory leads on to the rocky and uncertain road to the dream school complete with the emotional turmoil of teenage hormones and the knowledge that your mother, tragically killed in a riding accident naturally, was a better rider at your age. Plenty of horsey detail and enough terminology to muddle the non-rider, but there are good friendship subplots, silly tricks and scrapes to keep the story galloping (sorry) along. You even get a couple of polo matches.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Peaceful Saturday

A free afternoon browsing in London's secondhand bookshops is joyous. Quinto had just had a huge stock delivery that was worth braving their horrible staircase for. (If you haven't been in, just take each step very slowly as the height, width and depth of each tread and riser seem to be slightly different; it's an old building). A little further down and the second survivor - Any Amount of Books - had those welcome half-price in basement stars in the windows and on the shelves. Going down their staircase is easier: it's just a matter of waiting your turn. When you do manage to join the crowds in the basement, you're almost overwhelmed by the volumes of interesting and unusual that just draw you towards the shelves. A neat heap of boxes is almost ready for unpacking and display. In spite of masses of tape and polite signs saying 'Please leave' people still start to pull at them, perhaps they remember childhood Christmases, though Any Amount staff have come up with the solution: 'Please do not open these boxes - they contain cats' which raised smiles and ensured that people kept their fingers well away. There were plenty of gems on the shelves and the contents of the boxes will be available soon enough.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sometimes, just sometimes, book recommendations are worth heeding. It's often the case that you need to match the right book to the author. I'll take one modern example first: Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White - a fascinating take on Arthur Ransome's time in Russia. It also has the most beautiful endpapers of period maps. I tried The Foreshadowing after that, but couldn't quite finish it. Then again, I've never found fantasy to be a genre I could read.

The vintage example is Dorita Fairlie Bruce who has legions of fans. I wasn't one of them: her school stories left me bored and it was a real struggle to get past Chapter Three. Then, a friend lent me Triffeny and The Serendipity Shop. Just reprinted by Girls Gone By books, they are much more interesting stories of Scotland, mostly from the social history angle as they relate to established crafts (polishing stones for beads and pottery-making) finding new ways to be relevant to young craftswomen developing alternative markets just as mass tourism arrives.