A Caryn Review: One Pulse Anthology

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

one-pulse-anthologySince the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, people worldwide have donated a total of more than 23 million dollars to the OneOrlando Fund set up to benefit the victims and their families.  It seems like a lot of money, but between the number of people affected, and the severity of their injuries – mental and physical – that money will be exhausted fairly soon.  Also, after the initial outcry and horror that such a thing could have happened, and for such a reason, the shooting has faded out of the headlines.  But for those who were directly affected, and for all people in the LGBTQ spectrum, the shooting is still at the forefront of their thoughts, and fears, and worries.  So I was very pleased to see Dreamspinner Press put out this anthology to raise money for various LGBT organizations in central Florida, and I jumped at the chance to review it.  Dreamspinner also has another anthology coming out in time for the 2016 holiday season, that will also benefit the same charities.

At first, I planned to do a short review on each story individually, but at a total of 31 stories (and almost 200,000 words) that just wasn’t possible.  The stories are written by a combination of well known and lesser known authors from Dreamspinner’s ranks, and run the gamut of genres.  There are contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, historical, and sci-fi works.  Most are romances, but some are not.  Most are M/M pairings, but there was also one F/F and one M/M/M/M.  Some stories were extremely good, some less so, but there was only one that I had to DNF.  My favorite was The Tithe by K.C. Burn, which was one of the fully original stories, but there were several that were in the various universes created by the authors in other published works (like Edmond Manning’s They Danced which tells another tale of the Lost and Founds, which would not have made much sense to me if I hadn’t read one of them first).  The stories ranged from1 star to 5 star ratings, and overall the anthology really is more of a 3 star read, but I give it an extra star because of the generosity of the authors and the other people from Dreamspinner involved in putting it together.  I looked at the call for submissions, and they were due only a month after the shooting itself, which is an incredibly short period of time to write something really good, so I actually expect the next anthology to be even better.

I also hope that there will be a little more detail of which organizations the money will be going towards in the next anthology.  Overall, I do recommend this collection, especially for those who like to read shorter stories.  I plan on buying the next anthology when it’s available.

The cover art, by Paul Richmond, really fits with the title of the anthology and the reasons it was written.  I like the symbolism of one pair of hands holding and caring for another, checking a pulse as a nod to the name of the nightclub, and the rainbow coloring for Pride.

Sales Links


Book Details:

ebook, 574 pages
Published September 19th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleOne Pulse
Edition LanguageEnglish

STRW December 2013 Summary of Reviews and Best Dec. Covers

Winter trees longs

December 2013 Book Review Summary and December Best Covers of the Month

December 2013 Review Summary

S series
C contemporary
SF-science fiction
YA-young adult

5 Star Rating:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, C
Grime Doesn’t Pay: The Brothers Grime, Eddie by Z.A.Maxfield C,S
Oceans Apart by Laura Harner, C, S
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)by Laura Harner, TA Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows C,S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Blue River by Theo Fenraven (4 stars)PN
Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings, (4.25)C,
Continental Divide written by Laura Harner, Lisa Worrall (4.25) C,S
Indelible Ink by Marie Lark, (4.5) C
Kick Start by Josh Lanyon C,S
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5)C
Mindscape by Tal Valante (4.5) SF, S
Model Love by SJ Frost (4.25) C
Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do Season Two  by BA Tortuga(4.25)C,S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Christmas Wish by Mychael Black, Shayne Carmichael SN, S
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding (3.75) C
Ride-Off (Polo #2) by Mickie B. Ashling (3.5)C
2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: N/A

Best Covers of December 2013:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, cover by LC Chase
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding, cover by Paul Richmond (his M/M American Gothic)
Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Mindscape by Tal Valante, cover by LC Chase




Christmas Kitsch cover

Review: Ride-Off (Polo #2) by Mickie B. Ashling

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Ride-Off coverPreston Fawkes and Konrad Schnell are finding it tougher than they had imagined to begin their new life together after their long separation.  With families to combine as well as ranches,  Preston and Kon are also dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath of Kon’s airplane crash, subsequent years of amnesia, and  their desperate need for each other that is taking priority over everything and everyone else in their life, including their children.

Kon’s son, Bandi wants to play polo but has entered the game with three disadvantages.  One is that he is older than the other players and everyone suspects that it is because of his father, Preson and his lover Ned that is getting him ahead and spots on the team instead of his talent.  Sasha Fawkes has always been the only son but now he not only has to share his dad with Kon but with Bandi and the newly arrived Paloma as well.  And Sasha is not happy at all.  He is struggling with his career as a actor and the lack of a love life and a secret that he has kept hidden from his father for years.  Then Paloma, his step sister, arrives from South America, demanding her father’s time, money as well as expertise and the situation with all the children explodes into an emotional mess with  reverberations for all.  What a Thanksgiving the Fawkes-Schnell family is having but there is more to come as an evil from the past invades their lives, shaking them to their very foundations of love and family.

Well, lets start off with the positive things about Ride-Off, the second in the Polo series by Mickie B. Ashling.  I did like this story better than its precursor.  With more family members included in the storyline, it achieved a more cohesive balance as far as characterizations and relationships than the previous story.  In fact, the Prologue is the scene of a sexual attack on another member of the Fawkes family, although the identity of this person is not revealed until later in the story.  The relationship of Konrad Schnell and Preston Fawkes serves as a foundation but not truly the only focus of Ride-Off. That job is left to their combined family of Bandi, Sasha, and Paloma  and their significant others.

Each son is given their own portion of the story, including current drama and items from the past that are impinging upon their future.  Conrad “Sasha” Fawkes is perhaps the most destabilized of all the children by their fathers intense and all consuming relationship.  He is, by his own words, pouting and upset that he is no longer just the focus of his father’s admiration and attention. I suspect how you relate to Sasha will color how highly you will enjoy this book as this character and his actions take over the story.  I found myself unable to relate to him at all in the beginning but as new information about his past is revealed, this character becomes an object of our sympathies.  And that change in outlook with help engage our affections for Sasha as the story unfolds.  Side by side with Sasha is Jeremy, a flamboyant makeup artist with his own agenda.  I adored Jeremy.  His character almost made the story for me.  His is a layered persona that just oozes charm along with a depth of character sometimes missing from the other “players” in the story.

Bandi, his older lover Ned, and Paloma the step sister who arrives to upset their relationship as well as everyone elses around her become more like satellite characters, reduced to secondary status by the stories of Kon and Preston, and Sasha and Jeremy.  In fact Ned leaves halfway through only to reappear at the end and tie up the loose threads of his and Bandi’s relationship.  Only Paloma remains strong enough of a character to hold her own against those other couples and the author’s need to tell their stories. The fact that Paloma is such a great character that she grabs our attention in a small amount of time demonstrates Ashling’s ability to create characters that achieve instant popularity with their  personas even if we may not always like their actions, something the author did with Preston Fawkes, Paloma’s father.

The sport of polo itself is reduced to a minor character here although the people on whom the story is focused are almost constantly talking about it.   People ride or practice the game in small asides but the game itself is lost in this book.  I don’t have an issue with this, just made note of it.

More problematic is the use of bdsm in Preston and Kon’s relationship.  I do have issues with this element of the story and have done my best to research it in hopes to resolve the “red flags” that popped up in the manner in which this alternative sexuality is used.  Instead of resolving my questions it only served to further highlight them.

Here’s the deal.  Kon’s son was attacked back in Russia and he has not dealt with that fact.  So he is angry, along with untreated PTSD issues from his injuries from his airplane crash.  He won’t attend “normal” therapy sessions so their friend, a doctor and Dom, suggests BDSM as a form of therapy, a way to work through his anger issues. And that raised the first flag.  I searched throughout the internet and couldn’t find any known medically approved usage of bdsm as a therapy tool.  Nor any doctor or group to proscribe its usage in this manner.  Perhaps Ashling can point to another source I couldn’t locate, but I couldn’t find one.  Now take that fact and add to it the following facts and perhaps you will start to see the real problem here.  I will list them as they are mentioned in the story:

1.  No Safe Word. Kon and Pres discarded the use of it because they only have these “scenes infrequently”. But that only makes a safe word more important, not less.  If these “bdsm scenes” are used infrequently than how are the partners to know each others typical physical responses to the violence that is occurring?  Familiarity is helpful in these situations so a partner can tell when it is getting out of control and stop the scene.

2. Intense physical fighting,rage with dry penetration, to the point one person has to be “snapped out of it” because he no longer recognizes his partner. The one person is attacking the other, substituting him for the man who sexually abused his son. (another huge flag). The author has one partner “snap” the other one out of it by kissing and saying I love you. Not a recommended procedure because you are supposed to use words that are not ordinarily in use, not ones you use in your day to day relationship.

3.  The promotion of this as a type of therapy by a doctor friend although I can’t find any mention of such anywhere on medical sites. or even dubious sites. Yes, the man is a Dom and their friend but as he is also mentioned as the doctor they went to for help with Konrad’s mental and emotional issues, he is also acting as their physician.

4.   Another issue that bothered me was making your partner “a target” of all that anger by imagining them as the person who attacked their son.  I still wonder at the damage that might inflict on a relationship.  Because the subconscious is a tricky thing and even though those scenes were infrequent in the story, a seed has been planted that could be poisonous later on.

I spoke to several people, one from the local bdsm dungeon and another familiar with the lifestyle, about the manner in which bdsm (resistance and bondage, even autoerotic asphyxiation) is used here.  Both acknowledged that they found it not only “unusual” but  in one person’s words “scary”.

It would take someone with more insight and knowledge of the bdsm lifestyle then myself to know whether the author has truly portrayed it accurately but the aspects of its use as it pertains to Jon and Preaston relationship that I have mentioned continue to bother me.  So many readers take it to be “gospel” if it is in a book.  And from the information I did gather in no way should any of the mentioned bdsm elements in Ride Off be taken as “gospel”.  Perhaps this won’t bother you as a reader but if accuracy matters, than you might want to conduct your own research and come to your own conclusions, just as I have.

Finally, there are a few other quibbles to mention.  Another sexual attack on a minor that appears at the beginning of the story and then disappears until the author trots it out again towards the end to insert a certain amount of angst and drama seems contrived and unnecessary because there are so many other good things about Ride-Off to enjoy.  I liked Sasha and Jeremy, I liked parts of Kon and Preston.  I also enjoyed the heck out of Paloma.  Weighing the finer points of this story against those issues raised by the author’s use of bdsm kept this book’s rating firmly in the middle of the scale.  If those things don’t bother you, than you might consider this a 4 star story and enjoy it more throughly than I did.

I would recommend this book to those of you who loved Fire Horse (Polo #1) and the other offerings by this author.  I would also recommend it with reservations to others looking for a story with multiple love relationships, including those with a kink, and a family saga to go along with it.  But take heed and don’t take the bdsm at face value.  Do your own research, make up your own mind. And then tell me what you thought about this story and that aspect of it.  I can’t wait to hear what you thought about it all.  Write me.

Cover art by Anne Cain is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for the series and novel within.

Book Details:

Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 18th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627982647 (ISBN13: 9781627982641)
series Polo

Oh, What a Month It Was and the Week Ahead in Reviews

What a splendid month was had in November at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  There were great author guest blogs by  LB Gregg (How I Met Your Father), Ally Blue (Long the Mile), Abigail Roux (Shock & Awe), and Shira Anthony (Encore).  The Pulp Friction group of Havan Fellows, Laura Harner, Lee Brazil, and Tom Webb started the month and will return in December to finish up the year. There was a cornucopia of contests and great books galore.  And then there was Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on the same day, something that won’t happen again for over 70,000 years.  Again, just amazing and a Astrid Amara story to help celebrate (and pickle recipes as well).

So I am starting off the week with a Summary of Reviews for November 2013.  Really, it was astonishing to see the range of books and authors reviewed this month.  There was everything from Eric Arvin’s horror fantasy The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men to Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons for Suspicious Minds, an historical novel in her Cambridge Fellows series.  December is looking to be just as strong a month as November.  I can’t wait to get started!dried flowers for november

So here is our week in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 2:           Summary of Reviews for November 2013

Tuesday, Dec. 3:          Ride-Off by Mickie B. Ashling

Wed., Dec. 4:                Blue River by Theo Fenraven

Thursday, Dec. 5:        Continental Divide by Laura Harner and Lisa Worrell

Friday, Dec. 6:              Guest Blog by Z.A. Maxfield, Lost and Found Tour/contest

Sat., Dec. 7:                   Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:


Review: Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling

Rating: 3.75 stars

Fire Horse coverWith a British mother and a hard as the ground Texas father, Preston Hawks finds himself at 10 years old scrambling to find some middle ground between his parents and a place to fit in, something that is not happening for him in Texas.  Then Pres meets fifteen-year-old Konrad Schnell at the San Antonio Polo Club.  Instantly smitten with both Konrad and the sport of polo,  Pres finds himself spending every moment possible in the company of the older boy, learning how to play and idolizing Konrad.  As the years progress, Pres’ hero worship turns into friendship and then into love.  But being gay during the 70’s is perilous to their health, especially so in Texas.  So the boys love for each other stays hidden, much to Pres’ consternation until they part when Pres is sent off to boarding school in England.

With Konrad playing professional polo and Pres in school, their relationship faces many obstacles, including the formidable presence of Preston’s father, a man who enforces his rules with his fists.  Swearing to love each other forever, only Konrad seems aware that they face a tough road to be together, as Pres blindly pleads for them to be out together as a couple.  Their divergent views start to drive a wedge between them and when a traumatic event occurs it threatens to separate them for good.

Pres knows he is a Fire Horse, born in the year 1966, and that he is either going to be incredibly unlucky or lucky in love.  And even though it may take him years, Pres knows his passion and strength will see him through to the goal that has always been his destination, a happily ever after.

Fire Horse is an extremely well written book by Mickie B. Ashling that engenders strong emotions from the very beginning.  This is a book you are either going to love or hate depending upon your reaction to the main character, the narrator of his story and your tolerance for the game of polo.  I am divided over this book, but not in the way you might predict.

I love the sections on polo horses and the game of polo itself.  I am a fan of the sport, luckily living in an area where polo is huge and games readily available to watch.  Happily for me, Mickie B. Ashling did a wonderful job of researching the game and her descriptions of the riveting play, the athleticism of man and horse, are close to perfection.  Here is an example:

Konrad treated his ponies like precious children. Later, I’d come to find out why. A polo player was only as good as his mount. The deep connection between rider and steed was never as apparent as it was in this fast and dangerous sport. They became extensions of each other, and a subtle press of knee or inadvertent pull on reins could mean the difference between making a goal and flubbing the entire match. The horses had to be as fearless as their riders, galloping headlong toward goal posts, while all around them players pushed and shoved them out of the way, screaming invectives, and doing everything in their power to prevent the opposing team from reaching the other side. Without the element of trust between horse and rider, there was no hope of excelling on the field.

“The only way you can connect with your pony is through respect.”

“What do you mean?”

“Love them with all your heart but always be their master.”

“I’m not sure I understand you, Kon.”

“Feed them when they’re hungry, soothe them when they hurt, make sure they’re always warm and dry at night, but when you’re out on the playing field, whip them if necessary. By feeling your strength and positive energy, they’ll respond with equal enthusiasm. If you show fear or weakness, they’ll get skittish and back off.”

“Do I have to do anything special to show them I’m master?”

“Love them above anything else.”

And most do feel that way and treat their ponies accordingly, as a partner. Which is a good thing for the horses considering the expense of a skilled animal and the price of a stable full of them, I find them to be treated far better than the typical racing Thoroughbred.  Ashling captures the partnership and the special bond between rider and animal that starts from the first moment they lay eyes on each other:

Konrad whistled suddenly and we stopped. “Now, that is a beauty,” he said, walking toward a frisky young mare that pranced as he approached. She was dark gray with a snowy white mane and tail. Her oval eyes sparkled with intelligence, and she bobbed her head as Kon got closer, acknowledging his presence with a flick of her tail and a flutter of long lashes.

“She’s flirting with him,” I said, astounded.

“Es una coqueta, a teaser,” Miguel said.

“She’s a sweetheart,” Kon said, stroking her gently. “What’s her name?”

“Dulce,” Miguel said. “It means ‘sweet’.”

And so the dance between man and animal starts, and Ashling gets it exactly right.  Unfortunately, I wish I could say I felt the same about Preston “Flea” Fawkes. our narrator and the main character.

As I said before, you are either going to love Preston or dislike him intensely.  I ended up somewhere in the middle, finding myself mostly exasperated with his actions, tired by his self centeredness, and most ready to deliver, ala Cher in Moonstruck, the “snap out of it” slap across that  well taken care of face.  It doesn’t help that he is the narrator of his story.  It might have given us a different perspective, and some distance from his constant musings if,  for instance, let’s say the narrator had been Ned Temple, his best friend from Pres’ days at Eton.  I felt that I needed to see him as others did because listening to his viewpoint for the entire book made me wonder why everyone else put up with him.  Instead of a brooding, handsome bisexual extrovert, I found myself categorizing him as a self involved, overly impulsive, thoughtless boy who grew into a self centered, hedonistic albeit gorgeous polo player.  From a gay boy to a man who beds everything in his path indiscriminately, I never saw him as a bisexual man because of his bed partners, perhaps because he doesn’t seem to like women.  His two marriages and subsequent children both came from drunken binges and impulsive encounters.  In fact, other than Ned and Konrad, no one really seems to like Pres at all.  So why is the reader supposed to feel any different?

When the book opens up, it is 2011 and Preston Fawkes is forty-five years old and living in the United Kingdom.  He has had a traumatic spill from his polo pony and is laying in a hospital bed.  In Chapter 6, we move from the present to 1976 in San Antonio, Texas and meet 10 year old Preston just as his life is about to change forever.  He enters the San Antonio Polo Club and finds the two passions that will haunt him the rest of his life, Konrad and polo. Both man and sport are intimately intwined in Preston’s mind and heart.  Here is their meeting where Pres is speaking of Konrad:

The kids had dubbed him Big Foot because his size-fifteen riding boots had to be custom made by a specialty shop in Dallas. He was graceless on the ground but fluid and masterful on horseback. I’d met him the day he spied me losing my balance on the wooden practice pony and then tumbling headlong onto the dirt-packed floor. The sound of his throaty laugh had reverberated in the barn, and my first reaction had been to retaliate, but his size was so intimidating I didn’t think I stood a chance. Amazingly, Konrad stopped laughing as soon as he saw my flushed face and clenched fists. What he did instead was stick his big hands under my armpits and lift me back up on the pony as if I were weightless.

Who wouldn’t fall in love with someone like that?  I got that totally. I just wish that was the Pres that continued through the story. I liked the characters of Konrad and Ned, among the few others we get to know.  Ashling’s characterizations are fully complete human beings, they have their faults, their positive aspects of their personalities and just like the people around you, you either will connect with them or wish them speedily on their way.  I think, however, that it is how you view Preston that will tell how you feel about this story of his life.

The plot of Fire Horse extends through a 35 year time period from the present back to 1976 which is a rather large timeframe.  I am not sure that Ashling did the 70’s justice, but she did pull in the beginnings of AIDS as a mystery disease and the homophobic atmosphere of the times. I liked that aspect of the story but I am just not sure that two teenage boys would have taken that first rumblings of a gay disease as serious and used condoms.  True, that was due to Konrad, a much more serious young man, still I had my misgivings.

There are some other sections of the story that had me puzzled as well.  While I can’t name specifics without giving away plot spoilers, I found some glaring holes in the plot, especially late in the story that pulled me up in disbelief.  That combined with  the dramatic “aha” moment that occurs when the book is almost 90 percent complete, then a denouement that is less than satisfying, well, let’s just say that I expected more of a payout after 33 chapters and didn’t feel that I got it.

The title refers to the Chinese Astrological Guide.  Pres was born in the year of the Fire Horse, 1966, and uses the Chinese Astrological description as a reference throughout his life.  Here is one horoscope defining the Fire Horse:


The Fire Horse is animated and sociable. He has a wild side that leads him to a life on the edge. Fire Horses are generally either incredibly lucky or ridiculously unlucky. They love the excitement of action and the change it brings. The Fire element makes them passionate about their feelings and they always take a stand in a situation. Fire Horses are never on the fence about anything and have definitive opinions about the world. Their tempers can be overbearing

As someone born under the sign of the Horse, I can understand being fascinated to a degree by the spot on characteristics ( I won’t mention which specific Horse symbol I was born under), and enjoyed the fact that Mickie B. Ashling used the characteristics of the Chinese horoscope when creating Preston.  I did not know that the Chinese had subcategories to each animal used.  There are the Metal Horse (1930 and 1990) , the Water Horse (1942 and 2002), the Wood Horse (1954 and 2014), the Fire Horse (1906 and 1966), and the Earth Horse (1918 and 1978).   I love it when a book sends me off to research new topics.  Fire Horse did that for me and perhaps, if you aren’t familiar with polo, it will do that for you too.  Look for some links for the Chinese Horoscope and Polo infomration at the end.

I really did like parts of this book, and parts of the character of Preston as well.  I will leave you with one of my favorite passages from Fire Horse.  It concerns polo, of course:

I was too young to handle the horses, but I watched the grooms with great interest. The animals were switched after each chukker to give them a chance to rest. Some ponies dealt with the grueling pace better than others, but the upshot was that a player was only as good as his mount. I finally understood what Kon meant when he’d rhapsodized about their worth. The difference between a seasoned pony and one that was still learning the ropes was obvious, even to my untrained eyes. The older animals only showed signs of fatigue when the riders dismounted. The babies had a look of sheer terror in their eyes. They had to be rubbed and talked down from their hyperactive state in time for the next round. Each chukker was seven minutes long, with only a three-minute break in between. A polo match usually lasted an hour and a half and was divided into six chukkers with a five-minute halftime. There was hardly a chance for the horses to recoup. Having three or four ponies made absolute sense when one considered the wear and tear on the animals’ nerves, let alone their bodies.

The wooden mallets were swung with forceful strokes on either side of them, and it wasn’t out of the norm to miss a swing and hit a pony inadvertently. They had to deal with that possibility, along with the constant need to keep up their speed as competitive riders urged them on unmercifully. It was no wonder the ponies were skittish and temperamental in the beginning. I was a wreck myself, filled with anxiety about my lack of skill, but blooming with hope for a future as a professional polo player. I was captivated by the sport and the men who played it.

I remain captivated by this sport, the man and the horses that play it.  I remain captivated by aspects of Fire Horse as well.  I really wavered between a 4 star and 3.75 star rating but ultimately it was Pres that drove the rating downward for me. Pick this book up and decide for yourself.

Cover art by Anne Cain. This cover is just spectacular.  Absolutely one of the Best Covers of 2013.  I would love to own the original.

Book Details:

ebook, 256 pages
Published April 12th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
1623805783 (ISBN13: 9781623805784)
edition language

Links: Chinese Fire Horse Horoscope, also Chinese Horoscopes, the Horse

Polo Links:  Maryland Polo Club, and The Polo Center, the link for all things polo in Maryland,  Or find the nearest Polo match near you and watch a game, truly a remarkable game.

Attack of the Planked Salmon and the Week Ahead in Reviews

This year we have had a real, honest to God or Goddess spring.  The weather has been seasonally cool, with light  winds and rain as appropriate.  No snow (sorry, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan), no heatwave, just spring and we are not sure how to deal with this phenomenon.  How quickly we have forgotten that it is not safe to plant annuals before the first week of May.  And board shorts and flip flops won’t be needed really until the end of May or June.  But one thing is always constant. And that is that spring and summer always herald is the advent of  the grill season.

We started grilleing a week or two ago just as the weather started turning lovely and the ponds and small spring in the backyard called to us to come out and sit a while.  And up until yesterday, all of our grilled dinners were delicious and uneventful.  Then we decided that planked Salmon would be just the thing for Saturday’s dinner.  Off we went to Harris Teeters to buy our fresh salmon and asparagus, then home to soak the planks and get everything ready.  I had gotten another flat of red double begonias for the bed in the front yard (needed some extra pop of color), and the cedar planks were in the sink, soaking away.  We had the glaze mixed and ready to go.  When the time came, the salmon and asparagus cooked beautifully and perfectly on their planks and the meal was wonderful.  We sat outside, with our wine, salmon and Bogle Sauvignon Blanc, and dogs of course  and basked in the serenity of the gardens and afternoon sun.  Then my own special hell hit me with a ferocity that would make the Hulk blink.

You see I keep forgetting that salmon hates me or that my insides hate such a rich and fatty fish.  I can eat it about once a year but no more and I already had my one salmon meal earlier in March.  Oh the idiosyncrasies of my aging mind , yeay, that’s what I keep telling myself it is but really, I just wanted that darn salmon.  It started ominously just a  few hours later.  A slight twinge and a “oh no, maybe it will pass” thought.  But I knew I was not to be so lucky and by early evening, I was commode hugging, Bluto frat boy sick.   I mean I haven’t been that nauseous since my college days of Old Frothingslosh and cemetery running.  Don’t ask.

By 10:30pm I was actively praying to the gods of Bacchus or anyone else that would listen, to let me just die in my bed before I had to race back to the bathroom, hoping desperately to make it there in time for some more porcelain worshiping.   Willow was hiding under the bed, watching with great fascination, Kirby was racing with me, thinking it was a game and Winston of course was sleeping off his bits of salmon.  Oh to be a dog, eat some grass and go on about one’s business.  And finally it passed, leaving me a wreck in the bed, and thinking “never again”.  Sigh.

So that was the great salmon attack.  But for those of you lucky enough to eat salmon with a nonchalance I admire, I have included the recipe at the end of the post.  Try it out and let me know what you think.  We used honey and it was delicious but the maple syrup would be great too.

So here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, May 6:                      Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling

Tuesday, May 7:                      Leaving Home by T.A. Chase

Wed., May 8:                           Shy by John Inman

Thursday, May 9:                   The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton

Friday, May 10:                      His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane

Saturday, May 11:                   City Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

So there you have it.  It looks to be a great week.  Now if I can just stay away from those oysters……

Here is the Planked Salmon Recipe from Epicurious.com:

yield: Makes 6 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 2 1/2 hr

2 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons mild honey or pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 (2-pounds) salmon fillet with skin (1 1/2 inches thick)

Equipment: a cedar grilling plank (about 15 by 6 inches)


Soak cedar grilling plank in water to cover 2 hours, keeping it immersed.
Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure . Open vents on bottom and lid of charcoal grill.
Stir together mustard, honey, rosemary, zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread mixture on flesh side of salmon and let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.
Put salmon on plank, skin side down (if salmon is too wide for plank, fold in thinner side to fit). Grill, covered with lid, until salmon is just cooked through and edges are browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Let salmon stand on plank 5 minutes before serving.