Review and Giveaway: The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde

language-of-hoofbeatsFormat: Print galley

Length: 334 pages

Publication: 12/9/2014 by Lake Union Publishing

Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis:  From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a story of the heartbreak and healing power of family. New to a small town, Jackie and Paula envision a quiet life for their kids: a young adopted son and two teenage foster children, including the troubled Star. However, they quickly butt heads with their neighbor, Clementine, who disapproves of their lifestyle and is incensed when Star befriends her spirited horse, Comet. Haunted by past tragedy and unable to properly care for Comet, Clem nevertheless resents the bond Star soon shares with the horse. When Star disappears with Comet, the neighbors are thrown together–far too close together. But as the search for the pair wears on, both families must learn to put aside their animosity and confront the choices they’ve made and the scars they carry. Plumbing the depths of regret and forgiveness, The Language of Hoofbeats explores the strange alchemy that transforms a group of people into a family.

What I thought:

This book was just what I needed this week. Although I had never read any of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s fiction, I had seen (and enjoyed) the film version of Pay It Forward. As in that story, The Language of Hoofbeats features characters who feel true to life. They are complicated and often damaged but ultimately just trying to connect with those around them in a way that is meaningful.

The chapters in the book are alternately narrated by Jackie and Clementine, each of whom has a distinctive voice and a point of view which brings something to the telling of the story, making it richer and more complete. I liked Hyde’s writing style and the diverse, interesting characters she creates here–from a lesbian couple and their foster children to the closed-minded neighbor with her neglected horse . They each have something to teach the other, and Hyde lets them tell their story in a way that doesn’t feel forced or hokey, as it could have in the hands of a less capable writer.

Reading The Language of Hoofbeats was like relaxing into a warm bath. It’s a comforting, feel-good read that left me wanting to read more by the same author. Recommended.

!cid_BE8827A0-59A9-4795-BAA9-FCE4E6BBCABFAbout the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 24 published and forthcoming books.

Her novels Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List. Jumpstart the World was chosen as a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards, received a third place Rainbow Award for Young Adult/Coming of Age Fiction and a tie for first place in Bisexual/Transgender Fiction. Love in the Present Tense enjoyed bestseller status in the UK, where it broke the top ten, spent five weeks on the national bestseller list, was reviewed on a major TV book club, and shortlisted for a Best Read of the Year Award at the British Book Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards.

Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than 23 languages for distribution in over 30 countries.

For more information on Catherine Ryan Hyde please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


I’m giving away one copy of The Language of Hoofbeats to a lucky reader (U.S. or Canada only, sorry). To enter, just leave a comment with your name and email address. Good luck!

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.

tlc book tours

Weekend Cooking: 100 Days of Real Food

100-days-of-real-foodI’ve talked about my recent cooking slump, which I think is partly a result of our move and partly my adjusting to a new schedule. Before, I always waited until I came home from work to cook, so my repertoire during the week consisted of simple to make meals, leftovers, and a regular Friday night date with our local pizza parlor.

Now that I’m home, though, I have lots more time to cook and tend to get a bit ambitious. I’m also more concerned with what I make because my girls are not longer getting a five-course lunch at school everyday, so I need to pack all that nourishment and nutrition into our evening meal. Combine that with new ingredients and products in a new country, and I think I’ve just become overwhelmed.

Luckily, I think I may have found some help. I’ve been a regular reader of the 100 Days of Real Food blog for a while now, and when I saw that its author, Lisa Leake, had put out a cookbook, I decided to check it out from the library. And it has kind of saved me. Lisa’s emphasis is on making real (not processed) food, something I feel strongly about, too. Although technically a cookbook, 100 Days of Real Food is also a kind of “lifestyle” book. She has a whole section in the beginning that explains how to make the shift to eating real food, as well as food budget tips and meal plans. She addresses all the kinds of issues and questions that people may have and presents her plan in a way that makes it seem do-able. There are so many helpful tips and concrete examples that I came away from reading the book feeling completely inspired–just what my lackluster cooking mojo needed.

But does it really work? Well, I’ve only been following her plan for a week, but I haven’t felt so good about my cooking in a long time. I took her advice and did my grocery shopping at a local farmer’s market-type store instead of my usual supermarket, and I spend HALF of what I normally spend for a week’s worth of groceries. I also have my meals planned out until next weekend thanks to her Winter Meal Plan, and I have a ton of ideas for the girls’ school lunches.

I realize that I’m gushing here, which is very unusual for me, but honestly this book helped me so much. It remains to be seen if I can sustain it in the long run, but so far it has made my life simpler rather than more complicated. If you read her blog you’ll see that Lisa is pretty hardcore when it comes to cutting out processed foods, but I think you can take her ideas and adapt them to your own lifestyle and house rules about food. And if you’re still not sure, I highly recommend reading the cookbook, which lays everything out in an easy-to-follow format.

Highly recommended!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs…

Agnes Canon’s War by Deborah Lincoln

02_Agnes Canon's WarPublication Date: October 1, 2014
Publisher: Blank Slate Press
Formats: eBook, Trade Paperback
Pages: 300
Genre: Historical Fiction

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“I saw a woman hanged on my way to the Pittsburgh docks.”

Agnes Canon is tired of being a spectator in life, an invisible daughter among seven sisters, meat for the marriage market. The rivers of her Pennsylvania countryside flow west, and she yearns to flow with them, explore new lands, know the independence that is the usual sphere of men.

This is a story of a woman’s search for freedom, both social and intellectual, and her quest to understand what freedom means. She learns that freedom can be the scent and sound of unsettled prairies, the glimpse of a cougar, the call of a hawk. The struggle for freedom can test the chains of power, poverty, gender, or the legalized horror of slavery. And to her surprise, she discovers it can be found within a marriage, a relationship between a man and a woman who are equals in everything that matters.

It’s also the story of Jabez Robinson, a man who has traveled across the continent and seen the beauty of the country and the ghastliness of war, as he watches his nation barrel toward disaster. Faced with deep-seated social institutions and hard-headed intransigence, he finds himself helpless to intervene. Jabez’s story is an indictment of war in any century or country, and an admission that common sense and reasoned negotiation continue to fail us.

As Agnes and Jabez struggle to keep their community and their lives from crumbling about them, they must face the stark reality that whether it’s the freedom of an African from servitude, of the South from the North, or of a woman from the demands of social convention, the cost is measured in chaos and blood.

This eloquent work of historical fiction chronicles the building of a marriage against the background of a civilization growing – and dying – in the prelude to civil war.

What I Thought

This story sucked me in from the very first pages. Lincoln has a gift for writing prose that is both lyrical and highly readable, and she creates some very memorable characters. It’s the story of a relationship between two people who don’t seem to fit within the boundaries of traditional society, yet who manage to find one another. The historical backdrop of the Civil War period and related events makes for an action-packed read that balances out the romantic element of the book.  Recommended for readers of historical fiction, particularly set during the U.S. Civil War.

03_Deborah Lincoln AuthorAbout the Author

Deborah Lincoln grew up in the small town of Celina, among the cornfields of western Ohio. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan. She and her husband have three grown sons and live on the Oregon coast.

Of her passion for historical fiction, she says: “I’m fascinated by the way events—wars and cataclysms and upheavals, of course, but the everyday changes that wash over everyday lives—bring a poignancy to a person’s efforts to survive and prosper. I hate the idea that brave and intelligent people have been forgotten, that the hardships they underwent have dropped below the surface like a stone in a lake, with not a ripple left behind to mark the spot.”

Agnes Canon’s War is the story of her great great-grandparents, two remarkable people whose lives illustrate the joys and trials that marked America’s tumultuous nineteenth century.

For more information on Deborah Lincoln please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Agnes Canon’s War Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 8
Review at Forever Ashley
Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, December 9
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Wednesday, December 10
Review at Too Fond

Friday, December 12
Review at Just One More Chapter
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf

Monday, December 15
Review at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, December 17
Review at Book Babe
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, December 18
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Friday, December 19
Review at Boom Baby Reviews
Interview at Layered Pages

04_Agnes Canon's War_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL



Hello, all–how has your week been? Mine was busy (but good) and we topped it off with a busy (but great) weekend.  In retrospect it may have been a little too great, as my seven-year-old just burst into tears at bedtime when she learned that she had to go back to school tomorrow. I can definitely relate.

Loving: The holiday spirit making itself felt all around me, from the lights decorating our neighbors’ homes to the carols being sung by the kids’ school chorus. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Thinking about: Slowing down. Anticipating but not hurrying. Appreciating the present moment.

Anticipating: Well, Christmas (yeah). Especially the fact that the whole family will have TWO WEEKS off from work and school to spend together. It’s going to be good.

Watching: ‘Freaks and Geeks’ on Netflix. It’s hard to believe that I have never seen this show, considering how many now famous actors got their start on it. The one who kills me is little John Francis Daly. He is tee-tiny yet looks exactly the same as he does now on ‘Bones’.

Listening to: Weezer, as we had the chance to see them in concert at the Tabernacle last night. They played a lot of old stuff at the beginning in an acoustic set, then rocked out to the new album in full-on electric mode. It was really fun.

Eating: Nothing worth mentioning. I’ve been off my cooking game lately and I’m having a hard time getting motivated to meal plan. Has anyone got a great recipe to break me out of a cooking slump?

Wishing: That there were more hours in the day (as ever). That I could spend more time with my kids. That I could somehow do everything that matters and everything I want to do, too. That weekends could last a little longer…

How was your weekend?

Library Loot: December 3 – 9

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 I’m trying really hard to reign it in at the library these days because I just don’t have time to finish everything I check out. It’s really hard, though, especially as there are so many books I need to catch up on after 10 years of limited library access in France.

The loot for this week:


I’ve got a lot of YA this week, which is unusual for me, but two of them are from authors I’ve read and enjoyed before so they’re pretty safe bets.

1. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller – I read Doller’s first book, Something Like Normal, on the recommendation of a friend and was impressed with her writing. She technically writes New Adult more than YA, but I guess my library doesn’t make the distinction (the little TH sticker means ‘Teen High School’–tips from a library volunteer). ;)

2. Countdown by Deborah Wiles – I actually got this one to share with my oldest daughter, but I wanted to read it first. It’s the first book in a trilogy about the 1960’s, which sounded cool to me.

3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - I talked about this book in my Teaser Tuesday post yesterday, but it’s the sophomore effort by a writer whose work I admire. If you’re looking for some very unique and beautifully written YA, Nelson is a good choice.

4. The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz – A modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I saw this one highlighted in a book catalog I receive and knew I had to read it.

5. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield – a re-loot from Nonfiction November that I haven’t had time to read yet.

What are you reading this week? Any good ‘loot’ from your local library?

Teaser Tuesday: I’ll Give You the Sun

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teasers:

Is this why he keeps jumping, then? To become for the briefest moment who he used to be?

This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.

from I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

I was excited to read this new novel by Jandy Nelson and so far it’s just as good as her first (The Sky is Everywhere). She has a very unique writing style and uses such unusual imagery–a bit quirky but strangely beautiful–that it’s pure pleasure to read one of her books.


The November Wrap-Up


December already–how did that happen? This year needs to slow the heck down as I am so not ready for it to be Christmas yet. Do you hear me, 2014? Brake!

November was a nice month. I enjoyed participating in Nonfiction November and starting my volunteering job at the local library. We discovered some local parks and walking trails and I even managed to get my husband to try a yoga class (score!)

I’m trying to remember that while I want to feel settled and integrated here in our new home, I don’t want it to be at the price of becoming too busy. Thus my hope is that December will be a bit slower than November–although looking at our calendar shows this will be a challenge.

On the reading front, I got off to a slow start but caught up some towards the end of the month. In November, I read:

Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I also read parts of two other books, both non-fiction for Nonfiction November, but I didn’t get a chance to finish them so they don’t count towards my monthly total. The first is a slow-going memoir that I am only reading a little of before bed each night, and the other is an interesting (so far) history book that I had to return to the library. Hopefully I’ll be able to check it out again soon.

My favorite book of the month was probably Beyond Reach, mainly because it’s the last book in the Grant County series and Slaughter really outdoes herself with the finale. Even though I knew what was going to happen because I’ve read her later books, it was still shocking and touching. So sad. I was a bit disappointed in Landline because I’ve loved everything else that Rowell has written, but this one just didn’t do it for me.

I’ve got two books to read for review this month and I’m planning to take part in an edX course about Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (my standard holiday re-read), so that should be fun. I’ve also got quite a few books out from the library which I’ll highlight in next week’s Library Loot post. Needless to say, now that I spend even more time at the library, my TBR list only continues to grow. :)

I hope everyone who celebrated this past week had a lovely Thanksgiving and I’m wishing you all a peaceful month as we wind down this year. Happy reading in December!