My Animals and Other Family – Clare Balding


‘I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and I suspect I had aged in dog years. By the time I was ten I had discovered the pain of unbearable loss. I had felt joy and jealousy. Most important of all, I knew how to love and how to let myself be loved. All these things I learnt through animals. Horses and dogs were my family and my friends. This is their story as much as it is mine’

Clare Balding grew up in a rather unusual household. Her father a champion trainer, she shared her life with more than 100 thoroughbred racehorses, mares, foals and ponies, as well as an ever-present pack of boxers and lurchers. As a toddler she would happily ride the legendary Mill Reef and take breakfast with the Queen.

She and her younger brother came very low down the pecking order. Left to their own devices, they had to learn life’s toughest lessons through the animals, and through their adventures in the stables and the idyllic Hampshire Downs. From the protective Candy to the pot-bellied Valkyrie and the frisky Hattie, each horse and each dog had their own character and their own special part to play.

The running family joke was that “women ain’t people”. Clare had to prove them wrong, to make her voice heard – but first she had to make sure she had something to say.

My Animals and Other Family is a funny, brave, tender story of self- discovery.

Now I dont normally go for biogs, preferring fiction; but something about this book made me want to read it.  I loved how each chapter was seperated into each different pet or horse Clare knew growing up.  It had me laughing and crying in many places.  She tells her story so well, which is easy to read and understand.  I’m horsey but not that interested in Racing, but I understood what she was on about and could easily visualise the races or mishaps Clare got herself into growing up!  She evoked fond memories I have, especially as I was a fearless tom boy growing up too who would get myself in lots of trouble sometimes involving a pony or friend.

Such a memory she has remembering so many things she did – even that or she had such a more eventful and interesting growing up than I did.  Maybe that is why I cant remember much of my childhood because not a lot happened.   Such a good storyteller and because of this I’m making My Animals and Other Family my Book of the Month for October.

My next read is A Very Accidental Love Story by Claudia Carroll


The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling

  When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy although not as much as I was anticipating.  Trying really hard not to compare to Harry Potter as JK Rowling’s long awaited first adult novel gets released with little publicity.  I think the publishers were hoping that although The Casual Vacancy is of a different genre to Harry Potter; the legacy would carry over the popularity.  However I think this is major oversight.  It is always a problem when such a well loved series could turn you into a “One Hit Wonder” should an author wish to change genre mid career.  I think should The Casual Vacancy have the same amount of hype created over Harry Potter it may have been better received.

JK Rowling has a lot of loyal fans – many who have grown up with the Harry phenomenon; now are adults so there is no questioning that the readers are there.  But I fear that many readers would be disappointed as the magic (pardon the pun) spun in Harry Potter is gone.  The book is slow in many places, feeling like I was wading through bumf to get to the good stuff.

The storey is good, current and very believable.  It mainly follows a death of a parish councillor and the lives of who nominate themselves to take the post.  There are many sub stories which following people who are affected by the council and the decisions that are made.   It’s very current covering death, council housing, drug addicts and adolescents.  The good bits are very good but it isn’t the easy read which JK Rowling fans are accustomed to.  I think hardcore fans will persevere where many will join the growing list of readers who did not finish.

I suppose it all boils down to one question: Does as author write to sell books? Or write a classic piece of literature that readers will enjoy again and again?  As Harry Potter is one and The Casual Vacancy is the other.  I’m rating this as an Okay Read.  My next book is My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding.

Chloe – Freya North

Chloë Cadwaller’s godmother’s dying wish was for her goddaughter to travel the four countries of the United Kingdom – one in each season of the year. Join Chloë on the adventure of a lifetime as she learns to celebrate the beauty of Britain and discover love, lust, life (and a man for each season).

Ah, another Freya North original.  I’m working my way through the whole back catalogue.  The early books have been re-released with updated artwork so I’m taking the opportunity to re-read.  Freya’s writing style is second to none, she has such a way of writing Chick Lit Romance without making it seem trashy or off putting.  Her humorous, witty attention to detail is refreshing – which is funny really seeing this book is about fifteen years old!  You always know what to expect with a Freya North novel.  Not in a bad way, you expect to be hooked from the first page, you expect to warm to the leading lady and falling in love when she does.  And most of all you expect to be transported to another life, which for me is why I read.  I enjoy the escapism, the questions it makes me ask about my own life as well as inspiration it provides.  Such an uplifting read, I always feel so empowered once I’ve finished 🙂

I’m rating this as a must read – more Freya North re-read reviews to come soon.  That new Rowling book has caught my eye.  I’m off to read it next.

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