#MiddleGradeMarch Audiobook Review | “Mary’s Song” (Book One: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan Count, narrated by Caitlin Cavannaugh

Posted Wednesday, 25 March, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Audiobook Review Badge made by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in [2015] whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in [2018] before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By [2020] as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Mary’s Song” direct from the author Susan Court in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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In case you missed my Series Spotlight, let me re-share why this series appealled to me:

Let’s talk about how important *horses!* and *horse dramas!* were to Jorie when she was younger – as there came a point in my childhood where I was truly motivated and dedicated to learning Dressage, natural horsemanship, ethical care for horses and I had a dedicated eye for #horsefiction wherein I was either traversing alongside cowboys as they took wagons west into a new frontier or I was curled up inside the Children’s series of Thoroughbred, The Saddle Club and/or The Black Stallion (the series).

I could relate to these series because the lead characters had a heart for horses which mirrored my own heart and thoughts about how to be an ethically minded Equestrian whilst fusing your passion into dedicated training. I had the pleasure of riding retired thoroughbreds as the barns in which I took lessons had these available as schooling horses as thoroughbreds in order to have a happier retired life must be retrained into a new skill set. Dressage and/or Endurance racing is quite common as they expell so much energy and require a lot of focused pursuits to feel happy in of themselves.

I never lost my connection to horses, #horsefiction or horse dramas – by book, motion picture nor television series – I’ve come across more than a few and my top favourites are still: The Man From Snowy River (1982), Return to Snowy River (1988), The Black Stallion (film, 1979), The Black Stallion (Canadian tv series, 1990-93), A Horse for Danny (1995), Virginia’s Run (2002), Hildago (2004), The Horse Whisperer (film only 1998, not the book), The Long Shot (2004), Dreamer (2005), Flicka (2006), SeaBiscuit (2003), Secretariat (2010) and the Canadian tv series “Heartland” (2007-current) to name a few. One of the more dramatic entries of horse fiction as an adult reader was my readings of the at-risk (foster care) youth and the situations involving their placements (as they are hard to place) within the novel “The Language of Hoofbeats” which I found to be #unputdownable for its realism and capacity to interconnect the truth about today’s foster youth.

Whenever I come across a new series in either MG or YA Lit, I get quite excited as there is a part of my bookish heart where I hope these never lose favour with children and that today’s child can grow up in the wonderment of horse culture and Equestrian experiences as there is something magically beautiful about connecting to a horse and being connected to them as you ride together.

This is why I was truly excited to send up a boost of a signal flare to announce this series on Jorie Loves A Story – hopefully letting my fellow readers, book bloggers & followers alike know about a series like this in case they know of a boy or girl who are growing up with a fascination about horses themselves!

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#MiddleGradeMarch Audiobook Review | “Mary’s Song” (Book One: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan Count, narrated by Caitlin CavannaughMary's Song
Subtitle: Dream Horse Adventures Book One
by Susan Count
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours
Narrator: Caitlin Cavannaugh

Mary's Song is completely independent of the three Selah books. It is the story of Selah's grandmother.

A young artist falls in love with a foal that is lame, just like her. The expensive surgery the foal needs has little chance to correct the problem. Still Mary plots and conspires to raise money to save the horse, even as time runs out. She sacrifices what she holds dear - the trust of her papa, to gain her heart's desire. But she could lose everything in her struggle to save the foal.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780997088335

ASIN: B07Y2GVYSY

Also by this author: Mary's Song (Book Spotlight), Selah's Sweet Dream (Book Spotlight), Selah's Painted Dream (Book Spotlight), Selah's Stolen Dream (Book Spotlight), Selah's Sweet Dream

Also in this series: Selah's Sweet Dream


Genres: Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Children's Literature, Middle Grade, Equestrian Fiction, Horse Drama


Published by Hastings Creations Group

on 20th September, 2018

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 3 hours and 40 minutes (unabridged)

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The Dream Horse Adventures series:

Mary's Song by Susan CountSelah's Sweet Dream by Susan CountSelah's Painted Dream by Susan CountSelah's Stolen Dream by Susan Count

Mary’s Song (book one)

Selah’s Sweet Dream (book two)

Selah’s Painted Dream (book three)

Selah’s Stolen Dream (book four)

Available formats: Ebook, Trade Paperback and Audiobook (for Book One)

Converse via: #DreamHorseAdventures and #SusanCourt + #MiddleGradeMarch
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit, #HorseDrama and #Equestrian Fiction

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my review of mary’s song:

We journey back to 1952 wherein a horse crazy twelve year old girl named Mary yearns to ride the horses she is fascinated with observing through the fence line at her house. Her father, a kindly man who sees the hope of the situation in regards to her medical condition rather than the frustrated anguish of his daughter’s lost faith in a solution to present itself to give her a future wherein she could gain back what she’s physically lost. His voice is portrayed as a humbled and empathetic compassionate man who simply wants the best for his girl who dreams of horses and the freedom which carries the rider into the currents of the wind.

She might not have the regular childhood of her peers but she has a keen insight into art and the ways in which she can project her dreams into a sketch. She openly talks to her father about her fears and the reasons why she loses her belief in having a day arrive where she is not confined to a chair without the ability to rise and walk. She chooses to focus on the horses – to observe their behaviour patterns and to treat them whenever she can with treats she can throw over the fence. The horses have their own unique personalities which Count allows Mary to talk about whilst giving you the impression that it is the horses who strengthen her resolve moreso than the efforts of her father to find a way to give his daughter a second chance at life.

One of my favourite passages rather early-on in the story is when Mr Gregory (Mary’s tutor) is asking Mary how she’s able to get him to discuss horses in the middle of her lessons! The response from Mary is not only one of the most heartfelt answers I’ve heard in a horse drama of this nature (the second favourite of mine is actually the essay shared about mustangs from the film Flicka) – but it gives keen insight into Mary’s own heart and where her mind alights the most in her joy of feeling a deep attachment to horses. She was quite right too – about how horses played such a central role in History, from working horses to war horses to everyday horses who aided commoners to get round their townes. You don’t have to go too far back into our living histories to find horses as the main method of transportation and recreation, either!

I had to grin when I heard the girls’ talking about Black Beauty – as there weren’t too many stories involving horses I hadn’t personally known about myself when I was their age! Plus, the horse neighs as measures of a segue between scenes was just too delightful for words! You almost felt like you were listening to the story in the barn awaiting Mary and Laura to come round the corner and tell you its time to go for a ride! Laura likes to compete in Equestrian games but she doesn’t quite understand how Mary isn’t as confident in what she can accomplish herself. Mary tends to hold herself back even though she has the courage to try new things – especially observed when Mary talked to Laura about Laura’s sport. This was a lovely compliment to the library Mary has wherein she was encouraged to pursue collecting stories and books about horses. I must admit, I was awe-struck by how inclusive her library was in that regard! You can just see yourself agape looking at all the titles and browsing through her collection!

As the girls’ grow closer in their friendship – forged through a mutual love of horses and horse life – you get to peer into the organisation of Laura’s family horse farm. It was there where the harsher realities of farm life start to emerge into the context of the storyline. Wherein a horse who was bourne lame becomes the center of focus for both Mary and Laura; especially for Mary, as she sees herself in the horse as a reflection of public opinion about deformities and handicapped conditions which give prejudicial injustices to those who are afflicted. At least this is her perspective on it – which she goes into quite a bit of detail to explain – not just to her friend Laura but to her father and the horse trainer as well. For Mary, it is an offence of unnatural proportion to consider the worth of a person or of a horse simply based on their weakness of physicality (on that note, I agreed with her completely!) but in regards to the business of horses, she was learning a harder lesson of truth. About the perception of a breeder and the difficulties of separating business from the more humanistic quality of mercy and tolerance.

There was one scene which I flagged as being a bit more insincere on her father’s part – where Mary was vocalising her feelings on behalf of Illusion (the horse in question) and how she felt a cross-reference towards herself in regards to how much alike she was to the horse. She was simply venting her feelings and trying to get her father to understand the gravity of why she was connecting to Illusion – as she was giving the horse a voice they did not have to raise themselves whilst she was attempting to put thought to words about her own insecurities. It was a scene where I thought her father would have hugged her and told her that how humans treat children and how foals are treated by horse owners are night and day of a difference – but rather than take that path of reaction, he choose instead to show anger and resentment. In fact, he threatened to punish Mary for being outspoken on the subject which just didn’t jive with me as it felt untrue to the situation or rather a bit over the top if you’d reconsider it.

Shortly after that happened he changed his mind a bit but it was the scene itself I took issue with the most because the rest of the story was presenting as a coming-of-age novel wherein a young girl named Mary was trying to reconcile her feelings about not being able to walk and the dreams she had of owning horses and perhaps, even riding them one day. This made sense to me – despite the generation she was growing up inside because of how popular adaptive sports are nowadays. There has been a lot of progress made towards providing all riders of all abilities to enjoy the freedom of riding a horse and so, on that note, Mary’s challenging argument had credence to be heard. Perhaps that is what I took issue with the most – how her views and thoughts were being too readily dismissed.

Further along, I felt more rankled by her father’s indifference to understand Mary. I realise he lost his wife and he was a single father raising a young girl – but for whichever reason, it was hard to sort out his thick-headedness and his unwillingness to listen to his daughter. I was trying to counter this with the generation in which he had grown up inside himself – as she’s twelve in the year 1952 which means she was bourne in 1940. Not that far off from my own parents year of birth – which means her father was close in age to my own grandparents. Knowing that bit of trivia it still seems rather odd to me his entire approach to raising Mary if I counter my memories of my grandparents with his own logic as a parent. Plus, I felt there should have been more shadowing of his feelings and emotions – I think part of the issue for me is there wasn’t enough explanation for his reserved behaviour and his inability to share his emotions with Mary directly which I felt might have benefited two areas of the story – the understanding we needed for his awkward reactions and Mary’s own confusion about why she didn’t know about her own Mum as she wasn’t spoken about in the home.

Laura was a smart lass – she understood Mary in a way that most might not have picked up upon themselves as she knew that Mary needed a bit of nudging and encouragement round the edges to step outside her comfort zones. It was through their growing friendship that both girls’ started to make choices which would affect their own lives. Their willingness to put themselves on the line for a horse and to rebel against the established rules of their parents endeared them to me because of how convicted they were in their belief about what they were doing was the right way to fix a wrong. Their passion and their dedication to their cause is beyond heartwarming and it was one of my favourite parts of the overall story!

I honestly felt conflicted by Mary’s father – he had such a difficult personality! At times, he was harsh and too hard on Mary – in ways that didn’t feel like he had her best interests at heart. Other times? He was sweet and caring – almost like he had an dual personality! I was quite shocked by the ending, too – as I just didn’t see that ‘coming’ in regards to how her father finds a new bit of happiness. For me, the heart of this story truly was encompassing how Mary was self-persevering to re-write her own truth – to seek out a method of therapy which worked best for and for having the courage to defy the odds in order to find her own path back to solid ground.

Ms Count has provided such a wonderful stepping stone into this series – I hadn’t realised it focuses on Selah’s grandmother until I first started to listen to the audiobook; having read the overlooked bit of trivia! Thought it makes sense as when I was contemplating the series before starting to read and listen to it I was trying to sort out how do we go from focusing on Mary to Selah? It would make sense Mary is laying down the origin story for Selah and building on how this family generationally has a connection to horses! I do look forward to seeing how Selah is introduced and how we carry-on with the series from here. Despite a few wrinkles of angst for me as a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the narrator’s performance of the story – Cavannaugh truly brought to life everyone within the novel!

Equality in Lit and the INSPY overtures of the story:

Count openly gives young readers a strong impression about what it is like to be Mary – where she’s confined to a wheelchair and has to live differently than other children her age. She does this with a compassionate level of giving Mary her own independence and the same kind of spirit you’d expect from a twelve year old girl who longs to be doing things she cannot yet do. Not just limited to her disability but rather, she has the same kinds of dreams and goals girls’ her age would share – and you could observe her eagerness to reach certain milestones.

Peppered throughout the story are slight overtures of the INSPY inclusions of the series – where in the faith-based disclosures of the characters are gently added-in to the evolving drama and context of revealling Mary’s life in this first installment. This included a moment of prayer between the girls’ whilst they also shared their differing opinions about God and faith as well. Mary is more devout in her beliefs but I felt Laura was suffering from feeling cast aside by her family and thereby didn’t know where she stood with her Heavenly Father either. Faith becomes an important part of the evolving story but it is gently added and reflects the girls’ own journey towards understanding their own spirituality which would organically make sense in a coming-of-age story whose characters have a built-in spiritual life.

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In regards to the audiobook, directly:

About Caitlin Cavannaugh

Narrators banner made by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Photographer Neil Godding.

Visit the narrator's links to learn more about her career.

I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

This is the first time I heard Caitlin Cavannaugh’s style of narration and I was most impressed with her performance as soon as I started to listen to the story! She truly captured the heart of the character(s) rather immediately and it made a strong connection to the plot possible without having to hear a substantial portion of the story! I was wicked thrilled I felt as anchoured into her performance as I had as it was a lovely transition!

Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances:

Mary: Despite Mary’s personal resolve faltering to believe in a day where she could walk properly and without use of her wheelchair – she has a Pollyanna attitude for the part. She tucks out her emotions when she feels a rise bubbling inside her – generally whenever she feels vexed and pushed into a corner in regards to her physical condition. I liked how she had the presence to recognise her fate but also how she didn’t yield to it and still strove towards a tomorrow where she could overcome her affliction. Her voice still sounded innocent and hopeful – which I felt was a credit to Cavannaugh.

Mary’s father: I love how he’s voiced! You just want to reach out and give him a proper hug! He tries hard to find new therapies which might invigorate his daughter’s health – as she’s lost the ability to walk from a young age. She had a medical condition which did not self-correct and which has left doctors a bit uncertain how to fix now that she’s maturing into a pre-teen. He has a softened voice with his full of patience, faithfulness to his daughter and the kindness you’d expect by a man who wants to convince his daughter that sometimes it takes a bit longer to resolve the obstacles which overtake your path.

Secondary characters:

Mrs Tate (housekeeper): She was voiced like a grandmotherly or Auntie role model in Mary’s life – she was there to attempt to instill a bit of logic and reason into Mary’s life. She listens to her opinions and observations; never truly humouring her but being kind-hearted to her all the same. I gathered the feeling Mrs Tate had hoped she might have a bit more ordinary interests as she wasn’t entirely convinced Mary should be as invested into horses given her condition.

Mr Gregory (Mary’s tutor): He definitely had the typical voice of a tutor who is sometimes humouring his student’s whims and fancies. Yet, he has a keen voice and presence all of his own. I was half expecting perhaps changing voice and gender might be a harder challenge for this narrator (as it generally is for other narrators – as each narrator has their personal strengths!) – yet she surprised me! His voice felt as natural and honest as the women!

(Mary’s friend) Laura: She has a much more intense personality because she has more confidence than Mary; she’s openly blunt about what she wants to say without too much of a filter. This gets her into a bit of a fix when she doesn’t notice right away how Mary sits in chair – however, she recovers and I had a bit of a chuckle at observing their unique differences in personalities as both girls were voiced to where their individual personalities could both shine individually but also compliment each other well at the same time.

How the story sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)

I definitely felt this was a spoken narrative styling – wherein it was like listening to a staged play wherein you had multiple characters coming into scenes at different intervals but where you could denote their personalities by how they shared their voices and how they interacted with each other. One strength of this narrator is how she can emote emotions into her sentences – even if you are not reaching a rather emotional sequence, she still can give you a layer of insight into the mental state of the characters simply by how they are coming across in those earlier scenes wherein they are revealling bits of themselves without trying to be transparent.

Regards to Articulation & Performance of the story:

I loved how you feel pulled into her performance – her articulation of the different characters allows for a bit of imagination towards understanding their ages. Especially as her intonation for the twelve year old girls (Mary and ?) is truly believable! It is the first time where I could honestly say I felt I heard a younger girl through my headphones rather than trying to envision a younger character with the voice attempting to provide their lines.

I loved this switch in knowing a narrator had mastered the art of revealling an age that most narrators struggle with finding balance because it gave a beautiful layer of realism for a Middle Grade novel! I would imagine if readers were between the ages of eight and thirteen they would definitely embrace the realistic way in which they would automatically relate to the central lead and supporting cast of this story!

Notes on the Quality of Sound & the Background Ambiance:

There was an interesting segue sound within the background – a horse neighs! The rest of the production is crisp and clean – giving you a wonderful backdrop to her narration and allows you to feel as if you’re listening to a private performance.

Except if I hadn’t been colouring whilst I was listening to this audiobook I might have overlooked a few things – such as the nearly unheard production noises in the background. I can’t remember exactly what I heard as I listened to the story as I was focusing on the characters and the continuity of how the story unfolded but there were certain ‘moments’ per se where I could hear the production of the audiobook itself.

Mind, I was also more focused on finding a 4th Blogoversary gift from my Mum and Dad (a Springtime colouring book!) the month I’m celebrating my 7th Blogoversary! How I lost it for a few years is beyond me! lol Truly enjoyed colouring pages in this beautiful book by Eleri Fowler!

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

As I opted to listen to this story on audiobook, I would have to say I’d maintain this preference however, I definitely want to pick up a copy of the Mary’s Song in print to complete the collection for my bookshelf whilst giving me the further option of reading the text and listening to Ms Cavannaugh’s performance for a second time! Those are the moments I live for as it is quite a treat to be reading a book whilst you’re listening to a narrator narrate the story!

In closing, would I seek out another Caitlin Cavannaugh audiobook?

I would love to seek out another audiobook by this narrator! I instantly felt a connection to her performance when I first sought to request to become a part of this blog tour – the chapter sampler for the audiobook revealled a strong performer who understood how to relate to the context of the story. I felt she gave a firm foundation to the series whilst giving me such a clear portrait of Mary’s life and world. I would definitely like to see what else she can tackle – either keeping in Children’s Lit and/or exchanging this style for an Adult novel in a genre I already love to read. Time will definitely reveal if I find another one of her performances!

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Questions for my Readers:

What do you love most about reading Middle Grade novels?

What draws your eye into #horsedramas & stories of Equestrians?

Who are your favourite authors in Children’s Literature who are writing about horses?

Did you grow up reading horse dramas like I did and/or were you a rider?

As I am showcasing this during #MiddleGradeMarch – which stories are you focusing on during this concentration of reading strictly works of Middle Grade Fiction?

#MiddleGradeMarch banner created by Jorie in Canva.

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This blog blitz is courtesy of: Lola’s Book Tours

Lola's Blog Tours

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Selah's Stolen Dream banner provided by Lola's Book Tours and is used with permission.

This blog tour is hosting a giveaway – click the banner to find out the tour route for the blitz to visit with my fellow book bloggers who are hosting the Dream Horses Adventures series whilst also finding out information on behalf of the giveaway itself.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Mary’s Song”, “Selah’s Sweet Dream”, “Selah’s Painted Dream” and “Selah’s Stolen Dream”, synopsis for each novel, the extracts for the novels, the author’s photo (for Susan Count) and biography were provided originally by JustRead Publicity Tours and the same materials were then provided by Lola’s Book Tours which is why they are being reused with permission. Lola’s Book Tours badge was provided by Lola’s Book Tours and is used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Audiobook Review banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 25 March, 2020 by jorielov in #MiddleGradeMarch, 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Childhood Friendship, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Teacher & Student Relationships, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, the Fifties




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