#MiddleGradeMarch Book Review | “Selah’s Sweet Dream” (Book Two: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan Count

Posted Saturday, 28 March, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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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 copy of “Selah’s Sweet Dream” 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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What I enjoyed about my introduction to
the Dream Horse Adventures series whilst reading “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!

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!

-quoted from my review of Mary’s Song

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#MiddleGradeMarch Book Review | “Selah’s Sweet Dream” (Book Two: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan CountSelah's Sweet Dream
Subtitle: Dream Horse Adventures Book Two
by Susan Count
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours

Twelve-year-old Selah’s quest to be equestrian superstar is impossible without a horse. Then she spots buzzards circling in the grasslands behind Grandpa’s farm. They’re stalking a horse trapped in wire and Selah is its only hope. But the mare she rescues might be a bigger challenge to her dream than not having a horse at all.

An old friend of Grandpa’s and a world renowned horse trainer offers to work with the wild and defiant mare. Selah jumps at the opportunity. She trains with a fierce determination to equal the equestrian talent of the deceased grandmother who instilled the love of horse in her. But when the horse causes mayhem at the trainer’s facility, he sends them home. Selah must gather her courage and face up to the trainer or watch her dreams gallop away.

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

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780997088304

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), Mary's Song

Also in this series: Mary's Song

Published by Hastings Creations Group

on 15th December, 2015

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 187

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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) (see also Review)

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 selah’s sweet dream:

Quite a few things have evolved since I read Mary’s Song – as Selah is the granddaughter of Mary, having inherited her grandmother’s love of horses and her entire library devouted to horses – which we were familiar with whilst reading about Mary’s story. As we re-enter into the series, Selah is twelve years old arguing with her grandfather about how he lives on a horse farm without horses, and how sad she is not to have the experience of knowing what it would be like to have a horse of her own. The irony of course is that as we re-enter the series, her grandfather’s dog Skunk has taken the liberty of relocating a sibling group of rabbits thinking that they were better off with a dog for a Mum than their own! I had a proper chuckle over the logics of that and how both Selah and her grandfather had to return the rabbits back to their Mum!

After a sighting of a horse, Selah couldn’t contain herself with anything other than the pursuit of finding it. She even encouraged her grandfather to join her search of the woods surrounding his farm and property – though due to the density of the woods themselves and the difficulties in finding places which might have water for a horse whose been lost for a few years (as there was a traffic accident which prompted the horse to get lost) they both realised the search was going to be far harder than it first appeared. Selah can’t focus on anything else right now – her heart yearns to own a horse and to begin the journey she felt she was destined to take on especially due to the influence of her grandmother, Mary. On that note, it made sense that Mary would have inspired Selah – the only bit I was missing in Selah’s Sweet Dream is the connection to Mary and Selah.

Mary had already passed on by the time we enter Selah’s life – there are murmurs of how Selah has missed her grandmother Mary but in the beginning of the novel there isn’t a direct reference to how Selah was inspired by Mary’s history with horses or even the legacy of what Mary overcame and endured during her own childhood, which I felt was relevant for Selah to understand. I was waiting for some of these connections to arise in the context of the novel as I was hoping they might start to interconnect at some point.

Observing Selah and her grandfather – he was quite taken by how bold Selah had been to find the horse lost without hope of being found all these years but there was a part of him that was also quite reserved and was holding back from committing to enjoying the moment with his granddaughter. You could tell the grandfather had some issues and/or baggage from the past – especially in connection to horses or the culture of horses which made you curious to better understand him. In some respects, Selah’s grandfather reminded me of the standoffish nature of Mary’s father and how I had trouble understanding Mary’s father’s motives throughout Mary’s Song.

Selah was hoping finding the horse would lead into a chance for her to have her own horse but similar to the logical truth her grandfather had spoken about lost horses and owners who were still searching for their property, you had to wonder how this lost horse could become the dream horse of Selah’s. Despite the uncomfortable fix Selah and her grandfather are in they enjoyed each other’s company and my foodie heart soared finding out his favourite sandwich to make for Selah was a dearly lovely stuffed grilled cheese! I love adding onion and tomato to mine however the avocado sounded wicked divine as I could honestly eat avocado in high volumes of devourment because I just love how avocado tastes!

There is an interesting back-history with the newly found horse – of how sometimes when horses are bred they have a unique lineage which can relate back to key characters. In this story, the horse is a descendent of Selah’s grandmother’s horse which is a keen connection to both the series and the heart of connection from Mary’s Song. I love reading about horse ancestry because it is a curious thread of interest to pursue – especially as most horses have a strong ancestral line and you can trace their lineage back several generations as long as the records were kept and maintained. It was lovely this was discussed in the book as I was quite young reading horse dramas when I first learnt about how these traces exist and how you can chart a horse’s legacy through both parents’ ancestral lines.

It didn’t surprise me when the local press outlet wanted to interview Selah and her grandfather about finding Sweet Dream. It had become local lore at that point, where a lost horse was never found and being that a few years had transpired, you can see why it would make a splash in the local papers! Through that conversation you started to learn a bit more about the grandfather and about how much Selah had fallen for Sweet Dream. The uncertainties were starting to build for Selah as Sweet Dream had a temperament not fitting a twelve year old and the amount of training she required I think was a concern of the grandfather. It was one thing to rescue a horse but how do you find the balance between the rescue and what is best for the horse in the long term? Especially if they need further care past what you can provide yourself? I think this is what was weighing on her grandfather – did they have enough to give Sweet Dream and help her in her recovery or was there more going on with her than they could provide themselves?

The parents in this series are quite counterproductive – it has been awhile since I’ve encountered parents who don’t quite understand their children in a series for Middle Grade. Selah’s mother doesn’t even let Selah talk about why she’s passionate about helping her grandfather with Sweet Dream and in regards to requesting to extend her stay (during the Summer, no less!) with her grandfather I felt could have been explored differently. I am not entirely sure why her parents would demand her return when school is still out and she is having such a wonderful time helping her grandfather and drawing closer to understanding Mary (her grandmother). I felt her parents were quite controlling and for whichever reason felt that once they said their piece about a topic the discussion was closed and could not become readdressed. It was just weird – I was hoping when they came to get Selah they would be more open to talking about why Selah felt as motivated as she did to help with the horse and truly see how important this moment in her life was for her to remain with her grandfather. Her parents reactions match my takeaways about Mary’s father – each of the parents in this series seem to overrule the children without the children having a chance to defend their opinions or allow them to voice their own concerns or suggestions for the adults to consider.

Similar to how it was hard to get a sturdy line on Mary’s father – Selah’s parents also have me vacillating in my impressions of them. One moment they are short tempered and fiercely strict with Selah and the next minute they seem to be loosening their restrictive opinions and are trying to meet Selah halfway with a resolution that would suit them both. It’s quite contrary to move from having them being oppositional one moment and agreeable the next – I felt the grandfather was a better parental figure in this story as he not only weighted the good and the bad but he was more openly honest about his thoughts regarding horses, training and the concerns he had about Sweet Dream’s temperament. In many regards, despite his reserved personality he had a willingness to relent and find the middle road.

Whilst Sweet Dream required a new training protocol, her time away at a barn with Selah in tow to learn how to ride Dream after she was trained is where the story picks up a bit of speed and intrigue. It is only after they arrive at this new barn where you start to see Selah coming into her own – using her voice and finding a way to re-fuell her passion for horses to defend Sweet Dream as the antics she gets up to at the barn start to get both of them in trouble. It provides a lovely period of growth for Selah and in Sweet Dream’s case it proves that sometimes humans do not understand horses in regards to how intuitive they are towards the needs of others. Overall, the people at the barn are quite single-minded on their training schedules and do not entirely understand what it is like to tackle training a horse like Sweet Dream nor in having a twelve year old girl round who wants to learn the ropes from the ground up. I was a bit surprised in some ways that they weren’t a bit kinder to Selah as she truly wanted to learn and to thrive through the new knowledge she was gaining about horses and how they are trained.

Throughout the story, Selah proves her muster as being a young girl determined to do right by a horse she felt was her singular duty to rescue. She didn’t realise the journey they would take together once they were united as a team and that journey is what Selah’s Sweet Dream is all about – how a girl, a horse and the community they become a part of start to embrace the fortitude of believing in second chances and the grace God alights in our lives to heal ourselves and those around us.

Equality in Lit and the INSPY overtures of the story:

Quite immediately after you begin reading Selah’s Dream Horse, you start to see the impressions of how this is an INSPY narrative – as Selah openly shares her spiritual life with the readers of the book. She mentions talking to God and of having an active prayer life therein whereas she is attempting to process what is going on in her life whilst finding inspiration to make prayerful requests for things currently weighing on her heart.

The inspiration continues in the background of the story when Selah and her grandfather are interviewed for a local paper’s featured story about how they rescued the horse. The reporter talks about how there was a God wink in the story – though its referenced as something else in novel – the intention behind the reference is the same. It refers to those moments where there is divine providence or intervention happening in your life where you might not have realised it was happening or would evolve into being a special moment for you or your loved ones. In this instance it was about the interconnection between a horse and Selah’s grandmother.

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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?

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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 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: Book 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 Saturday, 28 March, 2020 by jorielov in #MiddleGradeMarch, 20th Century, Blog Tour Host, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships

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