Reading has been something I've managed in five minute bursts, usually while waiting for something else to happen. But this year has not been a total washout on the reading front: far from it.
There has been some fine series fiction. Victoria Eveleigh's Exmoor stories (Orion), have been republished and re-written to good effect. Belinda Rapley's Pony Detectives series (Templar) is an exciting new series for the slightly younger reader. Maggie Dana has been re-writing and re-issuing her Timber Ridge Riders books. She has a particularly good appreciation of the ups and downs of teenage life, and the latest, Wish Upon a Horse is one of her best. I particularly enjoyed Angela Dorsey's oddly named but utterly absorbing Whinnies on the Wind series (Enchanted Pony), set in northern Canada. The author has succeeded in keeping one central question unanswered in the four books I've read so far, leaving me still desperate to find out what happens.
Diana Kimpton's There Must be Horses (Diana Kimpton) is one of my stand out books of the year. Heroine Sasha is in care, and has been booted about from foster carer to foster carer. Her adoptive family have now rejected her, and she is on her way to yet another foster placement, with yet another social worker, her possessions crammed into a couple of bin bags.
I am an habitué of the parenting site Mumsnet, and one of the old chestnut topics which always brings forth heated debate is what age of child is most challenging - generally asked by mothers of two year olds, convinced that the two old is as bad as it gets. The thing about two is that most of its troubles are, although often spectacular and certainly noisy, containable. With teenagers, their mistakes can have profound and disastrous consequences not only for themselves, but for those around them. Declan, teenage hero of Sheena Wilkinson's Grounded (Island), carries on crashing through life in the same dramatic fashion he showed in Taking Flight.
Historical fiction has been well served this year: Troon Harrison has started a new historical series, and the first The Silk Road (Bloomsbury) successfully transported me to 1st century AD Asia.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I appear to have found myself a reputation as a hater of fantasy. I love fantasy; I loathe it when it's bad. 2012 has brought forth some excellent equine fantasy. Linda Benson's The Girl Who Remembered Horses (Musa) has a fascinating, and believable premise: in a post-Apocalypse world, the horse is now a rarely seen species. Humanity has to rely on its own energies to get around, and they have forgotten what horses could do for them. Elaine Walker's The Horses (Cinnamon Press), set in a Britain where the population has been reduced to a remnant, is a story with some very fine writing indeed. It comes highly recommended by the non-horsy members of my family too.
The Horses wasn't the only book to succeed with the non-horsy. My son and I often exchange books, but I never usually bother to try him with anything equine. He is off-horse; he does not do horses. That is what I am there for. However, he loved (as did I) Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races (Scholastic). Set in a fictional island somewhere in the Atlantic, the population relies on the water horses which live in the surrounding seas to provide a living. These are not romantic, gentle creatures: the water horses are killers, and the annual Scorpio races along the shore leaves horses and riders dead. The story is violent, bloody, but utterly convincing.
Reprints have been somewhat quieter this year, but if I had to beg you to read just one of Patricia Leitch's Jinny books, it would be The Magic Pony (Catnip). Patricia Leitch is an under rated, and a brilliant, writer. The Magic Pony can be read as a straightforward (and a very fine) pony story; as a commentary on the nature of possession, and as an acute look at ageing and death. It is a wonderful, wonderful, book.
There has been some cracking non-fiction this year too. Sue Millard's One Fell Swoop, is a book of brilliant cartoons about the Fell pony, which, allied to its witty and well observed text, make it a joy. I love equine travel writing, and Hilary Bradt's Connemara Mollie absorbed me from the first page. It is an unsentimental, and beautifully observed, story about the author's ride through Ireland. Susanna Forrest's equine memoir, If Wishes were Horses, is a triumph. It observes the equine world with a quiet and brilliant passion.
It's been a good year for the horse in books.