Sunday, 25 August 2019

Guest Blog Post + Review: The Mystery of Riverdale Tor by Amanda Wills (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

March 2019, Independently Published, 230 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book Summary
A chilling attack. A killer dog on the loose. Can Poppy find the culprit before it strikes again?
Poppy McKeever is devastated when a dog attacks the sheep on her best friend Scarlett’s farm.
Feeling guilty that she did nothing to stop the attack, she makes it her mission to uncover the identity of the mystery dog.

But first there is a new challenge to overcome – a riding competition that will push the bond between Poppy and her beloved pony Cloud to the limits.
Will the pair triumph against the odds?

And can Poppy turn detective and discover who owns the menacing hound that has been terrorising the moor before it kills again?

Nayu's thoughts 
I've read several of Amanda's books in the past (see suggested read), and a close friend had just read this book when Amanda got in touch asking if I'd like to review. I instantly replied yes please! Animal stories, including ones about horses have a special place in my heart. In real life I am not a horse rider, and I am extremely wary of them if I am near them: they are big, I am small, they could do me damage is pretty much how my brain thinks. The same isn't true for horses in stories: I like to experience all aspects of horse care because it interesting and my fictional self would ride horses daily. 

Poppy's adventure is made doubly appealing because her best friend has a farm (she possibly does, there's been a bit of time since I read the book) which is another topic I like to read about. What Poppy witnesses is horrific (not graphic, don't panic). I truly don't think it was her fault that she didn't realise what was happening at the time, or act on it, because people sometimes freeze in such situations. I can understand why Scarlett was so upset with Poppy, but it really wasn't Poppy's fault that the dog attacked the sheep. I think she was brave to investigate what was going on - with her little brother in tow, but then her friendship was on the line so she had to do all that should could because the adults didn't seem to be doing much.

There is bucketloads of emotion in the tale which I think will help readers deal with their own friendship complications, and understand that doing the right thing can be hard. Poppy had to give credit to her brother who wasn't a total hindrance to her investigation. The real culprit was a surprise, and a relief as I wanted the sheep to be safe again. Admittedly at first I thought it would be a mystery beast like a huge wildcat, so it being a dog was a little disappointment but that by no means affected my enjoyment of Poppy's tale. 

The tale wasn't all about the unpleasant parts of farm life, there were a lot of laughs to be had as Poppy trained with her pony (and Scarlett) for an event very similar to Handy Pony, which I know about through books and a family member did it when they were younger. It's an obstacle course for horses (if I recall correctly), something which Scarlett dismisses as too childish but Poppy coaxes  Scarlett's competitive spirit which has them both putting a lot of effort into the event. A big thank you to Amanda for writing a guest post and including a bunch of photos to go with it!

Find out more on Amanda's website

Suggested read
Check out Amanda's other books including The Golden Horse by Amanda Wills (Young Adult, 10/10E)

Guest Blog Post from Amanda

Many authors credit their muse for the stories that swirl around their heads, waiting to be written.

My muses are many, but they all have one thing in common – they are all of the four-legged variety!

I have been lucky enough to have pets all my life, from the longhaired tortoiseshell cat called Freddie when I was a baby, to Minstrel and Fudgie, the two cats we have now, with a few ponies, dogs, chickens, rabbits and sheep in between!

Being a passionate animal lover, I am endlessly fascinated by their characters and quirks, and I guess that’s why animals feature so strongly in my books.

The fact that I have been pony-mad for as long as I can remember was behind my decision to write pony adventure stories when I began writing children’s fiction seven years ago.

All the experts tell you to ‘write what you know’, and I knew exactly what it was like to be pony-mad and pony-less, and so the Riverdale Pony Stories were born.

Like my protagonist Poppy McKeever, I was lucky enough to have my own pony in the end, and Poppy’s beloved Cloud was based on my own once-in-a-lifetime pony, Hamilton.

Amanda with Hamilton
I owned Hamilton, a grey Connemara just like Cloud, for just over twenty years and we had so many happy times together. We may not have solved as many mysteries or enjoyed as many adventures as Poppy and Cloud, but when I’m writing the Riverdale books all I have to do is cast my mind back to my own teenage years with Hamilton and the scenes almost write themselves.

Amanda with Smudge
My first pony, Smudge, a Welsh Mountain pony, was a dab hand at undoing quick release knots. A talent that provided the inspiration for the mischievous Frank in the third Riverdale book, Into the Storm.

Amanda with Dobbie
These days I am lucky enough to ride Dobbie, a lovely dark bay Connemara, every Friday, and all his expressions and mannerisms find their way into my books.

The sheer joy of trotting down a country lane with a set of pricked ears in front of me is rocket fuel for my writing and I spend hours planning stories while I’m out riding. In fact, I regard my Friday rides as essential research. Virtually tax-deductible.

But it’s not just horses I love writing about. All the animals I have shared my life with provide inspiration for the four-legged characters in my books.

Poppy’s rather overweight cat Magpie is modelled on our own chubby cat Minstrel. Minstrel has the ability to convey her displeasure with the slightest flick of her tail or briefest narrow-eyed stare, a trait I passed onto Magpie.

Amanda's parents' German  Shepherd Ruby
My parents have always owned German Shepherds, dogs that are as brave and loyal as they are beautiful. When I wrote my only non-horsey middle grade book, Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game, I wanted my heroine Flick to have a dog. So, I gave her Gus, a gorgeous German Shepherd who accompanies her on her quest to find out what happened to her missing sister.

Fudgie, Amanda's cat
One animal who hasn’t made it into the books so far is our lovely tabby Fudgie. She is my constant companion when I'm at my desk and helps in a variety of ways, such as sitting on my hand while I'm trying to type and sprawling across the dictionary just when I need to look up a word. But it would be a lonely old business without her, and she will definitely make an appearance in a book before too long.

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