Far Turn (North Oak: Book 5) by Ann Hunter

Far Turn (North Oak Book 5)

Title: Far Turn

Author: Ann Hunter

Publisher: Rebel House Ink

Date of publication: May 4th, 2017

Genre: Young Adult

Number of pages: 184

POV: 3rd person

Series: North Oak

Born to Run – Book 1 (review here)

Yearling – Book 2 (review here)

Morning Glory – Book 3 (review here)

To Bottle Lightning – Book 4 (review here)

Far Turn – Book 5

Where you can find Far Turn: Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

A silent killer has come to North Oak.

EHV is taking the lives of the farm’s best and brightest. Alex, Brooke, and Dejado must team together to save Promenade and Morning Glory, or be devastated by the virus.
Already rocked by Carol’s absence over the summer, Alex’s time with Dejado kindles first romance. But when Carol returns at summer’s end, she’s grown up and Alex is forced to question her own feelings for her.
Furthermore, Brad Hopkins is still up to no good, and after a close friend of the girls’ commits suicide from his bullying, it’s up to Alex to bring him down once and for all.
Or will Brad uncover her own secret and send Alex into a dark, downward spiral where Carol and Dejado cannot follow?

Find out in Far Turn

My review:

Far Turn is one of those books that left me going “Wow” at the end of it. I was warned, by Ann, that this book was a bit darker than her other ones but I wasn’t expecting what I read. When I finished the book, last night, I turned to BK and went “This book just blew my mind“. I actually couldn’t get this book out of my head for the rest of the night, it affected me that much.

Alex had kind of a rough start to the book. Promenade was brought home from his last race and almost immediately fell ill with a deadly virus called EHV (click for definition). EHV spreads through North Oak like wildfire, taking horses out left and right. Alex lived at the stables, leaning on Hilary and Dejado for support when he was struck with a different strain of the virus that was brought back by Morning Glory (aka Mags). Horses are dying from this virus and both Alex and Brooke are willing to do anything to help their horses survive. I was so upset when Chauncey was put down and when  Venus Galaxies foal died.

Alex’s friendships with Katie, Carol, Brooke, Laura, and Dejado were put to the test also. Her friendship with Katie because of Katie’s confession that she liked Alex in a romantic way and there was another confession that honestly made me very mad…considering the events later in the book. Alex’s friendship with Carol because of Carol visiting her grandmother over the summer and again, another confession that actually took me by surprise because I didn’t see it coming. Her friendship with Brooke because of Prom getting better and Mags was doing bad but that righted itself. Her friendship with Laura because well, Laura was being emotional and there was other stuff going on that I can’t get into without revealing stuff (read the book). And lastly, her relationship with Dejado because of his feelings for her.

The whole bullying situation with Brad, which goes back to book 2, gets worse in Far Turn. I do admire that Alex was secure enough with herself to not let Brad’s bullying affect her. I also thought that school’s handling of Brad was very realistic. I have 2 kids, one which was relentlessly bullied from 1st grade to 3rd grade and I can tell you, the school did jack and actually made excuses for my daughter’s bullies (it was a group thing)….like the principal did for Brad. Her bullying ended when we moved but in Alex’s (and Carol and Katie’s) case, moving wasn’t an option. And unfortunately, his bullying and harassment of Katie took a very tragic turn. I will include a link to an antibullying site at the end of the blog (if you are reading this on Amazon….sorry it won’t show and just google).

I also liked how Alex’s sexuality was handled. For the last couple of books, I did have questions if she was a lesbian or if she liked guys. Her summertime romance with Dejado and her feelings for Carol now point at maybe her being bisexual. And like I said with the other books, her sexuality is not the focus of the book. The focus is on the horses, Alex, and her friendships. That she has strong feelings for Carol and Dejado is just another aspect of the story that actually flushes Alex out as a character.

Alex’s jockeying journey was never its end. I can’t wait to see if/when she’ll get her license and I can’t wait to read about her riding. The training sounded very painful (this is coming from an overweight, middle-aged woman….lol) but it was worth it for her. She lived and breathed horses and jockeying was a natural next step.

The ending of the book was very unexpected and to be honest, I cried. Now, I was warned by the author that something was going to happen but I wasn’t expecting that. While it was very dark, it actually fit with this book and I can’t wait to see where the books go from then on. The only small complaint that I had was that the book ended on a cliffhanger. Like I said above, I closed my Kindle and said “Wow” because the ending just blew me away.

I never do this but the author’s note at the end of the book took my breath away. Again, to reiterate what she said, no one deserves to be bullied. Please, if you are being bullied, tell someone. A friend, a parent, a teacher or a trusted adult. You are not alone and you do not deserve to be treated that way. No one does. If you witness bullying, do not stay silent. Tell a trusted adult what is going on or report it. You can make a difference!!

StopBullying.gov

How many stars will I give Far Turn: 4

Why: Relatable characters and great plotlines.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Older Teen

Why: Violence. This is a dark book that has some triggers in it: Bullying and suicide are the two main ones.

**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**

To Bottle Lightening (North Oak: Book 4) by Ann Hunter

To Bottle Lightning (North Oak #4)

Title: To Bottle Lightning

Author: Ann Hunter

Publisher: Rebel House Ink

Date of publication: September 30th, 2016

Genre: Young Adult

Number of pages: 156

POV: 3rd person

Series: North Oak

Born to Run – Book 1 (review here)

Yearling – Book 2 (review here)

Morning Glory – Book 3 (review here)

To Bottle Lightning – Book 4

Where you can find To Bottle Lightning: Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Alex is almost fifteen and convinced she’s ready to train for jockeyhood. Only one man stands in her way: North Oak’s gruff old trainer, Joe Hendricks.
Joe doesn’t think Alex can handle the demands of being a real rider– she’s reckless, doesn’t follow instructions, and not exactly humble.
Dejado Augustun, on the other hand, is already licensed to ride, does as he’s asked, and does it well.
He drives Alex nuts.
No way can this Dejado guy be a match for Promenade in the upcoming Breeders Cup Juvenile. It would be easier to hate him if he weren’t so darn nice. Worst of all for Alex, he likes her, and Promenade likes him.

Can Alex overcome her pride and realize she may not be the rider Promenade needs?

My review:

To Bottle Lightning answered a lot of questions that I had leading up to it. Questions that I posted at the end of my review for Morning Glory. Questions that I was happy to find out, were answered in To Bottle Lightning.

I was really happy to see that Alex had come a long was as a person in this series. She is still battling her demons, though, and I was waiting for someone to tell her to get help. Well, color me surprised when not only did Cade and Hilary bring it up but Carol did too. I wanted to cheer when I read that scene. For Hilary to bring it up to her actually meant something to me. It meant that Hilary cared.

What I also liked was that Alex was finally getting answers to her questions. She wanted to know why Cade and Hilary weren’t adopting her and they kept telling her to ask North. Well, North wasn’t answering that question and Hilary finally had enough. She brought Alex to North and told him to answer her questions and left. Which he did and surprised Alex. If you had read Born to Run, then you already knew the secret. But I’m not going to ruin the surprise. Read the books to find out. Oh and I thought his answer why things were left the way they were was bullsh*t. Pardon my French but it was.

I also liked that the author made Alex’s friendships realistic. Her friendship with Carol, which was wonderful, hit a bumpy patch when they started high school. Alex met another girl and Carol started spending time with Dejado…..the jockey that came in between Brooke and Alex’s friendship in Morning Glory. But what I liked, even more, was that Alex was questioning her sexuality and it was done in a way that didn’t take away from the book. She was attracted to her new friend and she also had feelings for Dejado. Even her new friend asked her if she liked girls and Alex couldn’t really answer that question. I loved it!!

Speaking of Dejado, I really liked him but felt he was put in an unfair position with Brooke. Brooke had a huge crush on him and he knew it but he liked Alex. He was very honest about it with Brooke but it did end up hurting her and damaging her relationship with Alex and Dejado. Meanwhile, Alex could care less about Dejado and let him know it. Why he kept on chasing after he is beyond me but I figured because he’s a teenage boy and that’s what they do. But with Alex’s new feelings towards him, I smell romance in the air. Or could the romance be with Carol, who is getting driving lessons from him?

As with Morning Glory, part of this book focuses on a different character. This time, it is Joe. His chapters went back from the time he met Dot, his wife, to when he was offered a job at North Oaks to when Dot was diagnosed and eventually passed away from cancer to when Rowan, Brooke’s mother, showed up pregnant, at his doorstep shortly after Dot’s funeral. What got me was how deeply he cared about everyone, including Alex. That was not something I was expecting when I read his chapters. It made me feel bad for him and I kind of wished that he would open up to Brooke about how he cared about her.

I did think that Alex training to be a jockey was a great move on North’s end. She was a natural rider and she had talent. Her only issue was that she was 15 and she wasn’t trained. So having Brooke, Alex’s frenemy, was a good choice. The two girls actually bonded, which I liked. They had so much going on in their friendship that it was tough to read their scenes. Then Joe took over and Alex started bonding with him too. It was weird to read that because Joe was so against Alex in the first few books.

The end of the book was a nail biter, for sure but I loved it. I am so ready to read book 5, it isn’t even funny. I do have a couple of questions that I hope are answered in book 5:

Will Alex ever race? (the most important one)

Will she have to choose between Katie or Dejado?

Will Brooke ever get over Dejado?

How many stars will I give To Bottle Lightning: 4

Why: Another great installment in the North Oaks series. Great plot lines, great characters

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Young Adult

Why: Mild language.

**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**

Morning Glory (North Oak: Book 3) by Ann Hunter

Morning Glory (North Oak, #3)

Title: Morning Glory

Author: Ann Hunter

Publisher: Rebel House Ink

Date of publication: February 5th, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade

Number of pages: 184

POV: 3rd person

Series: North Oak

Born to Run – Book 1 (review here)

Yearling – Book 2 (review here)

Morning Glory – Book 3

To Bottle Lightning – Book 4

Where you can find Morning Glory: Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Sequel to Born to Run and Yearling

Can Alex & Brooke help Morning Glory overcome her racing slump?

When a terrible accident shakes the Showmans, Alex finds herself questioning her place in the family. Feeling like a second class citizen, she turns once again to find her solace in horse racing.
With a new filly to manage with Brooke, and Venus Galaxies’s first foal on the way, the girls must rely on each other to make things work out.
But will a handsome, foreign newcomer split them apart once again?

Find out in MORNING GLORY

To learn more about Morning Glory, check out this cool video by former jockey, Frankie Lavato:

My review:

Morning Glory picks up shortly after the events of Yearling. What I liked is that instead of focusing solely on Alex, the book shifts focus to Brooke and examines her relationship with Alex (which had been touched upon in the first two books), Laura and her grandfather, Joe….who is the head trainer at North Oaks. I thought that it was great that Brooke’s story got to be told in tandem with Alex’s because they shared so many similarities. The only thing is that Brooke was raised with love and Alex, well, if you read Born to Run, you know what happened to her.

Alex was still the wise guy as in the first 3 books but she was settling in with Cade, Hilary, and Laura. She was part of a family, something that she never had before and she was coming out of her shell. She even had a best friend (and I will get into more of her relationship with Carol a little later). Then there was a horrible accident involving Laura, and Alex was there (she didn’t cause it). Even though she saved Laura’s life, she was still shunted off to the side while Cade and Hilary dealt with every parent’s worse nightmare. I felt awful for her during those scenes because she went from being included and loved to being ignored by the person she needed the most.

Speaking of that, I really wanted to smack Hilary upside the head. What the heck was she thinking and it was almost like she blamed Alex for the accident. No words of thank for Alex, who dragged Laura out of a burning car. Just a cold shoulder and she freaked out on Alex two separate times, almost injuring Alex once when she pulled Alex from Prom. I seriously got mad and Cade explanation didn’t cut it. It took Alex taking a personal item and giving it back to Hilary while freaking out on her to wake Hilary up.

Alex’s friendship with Carol was a beautiful thing to read. Carol loved her unconditionally and wasn’t afraid to tell Alex that she needed to face her demons before they got worse and consumed her. I just couldn’t get a grip on how Alex felt about Carol. I didn’t know if it was romantic love or friendship love. There were a few scenes where it seemed like romantic love (because of the way they were written) but then it would morph into a more friendship like love. Not that it had any bearing on the story but it was definitely something that I was wondering about as I read it. And for the record, even if Alex turned out to like girls, I would let my 11-year-old read the book. As I tell her, “Who a person loves doesn’t define them. Their actions do, so never a judge a person by who they love

Alex’s PTSD and her survivor’s guilt came across very strong in this book also. My heart bled for her when Carol found her in her room on the 4th of July, hiding from the fireworks. I could not understand why she wasn’t put into therapy after the first book. She was dealing with everything by herself, well with Carol’s help, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. But again, it goes back to the theme I talked about it Yearling, about her issues not magically going away and to be honest, it was refreshing to read a book where everything was out in the open and the character was struggling to come to terms with her traumatic events (and yes, I phrased something very similar in Yearling‘s review).

I like I said above, I liked that Brooke got some love in this book and I liked how similar she was to Alex, in ways. She was independent and was able to make adult decisions at the age of 16. She also took care of her grandfather, Joe and made sure that his drinking didn’t get out of control. She was also a great trainer in training (mouthful much). But she was a teenager and made decisions that are well, teenager like. Like taking her earnings and buying a racehorse who was a dud. While I thought Joe was a jerk, because of how he treated Alex but there is a back story there, I thought he was right in telling Brooke that she needed to find another place to board Morning Glory. I also thought that North was right to do what he did towards the end of the book.

The end of the book was pretty standard and like Yearling, it did leave the book open for book 4. There are a few questions that I want to be answered that will, hopefully, be answered in book 4. Like, will Alex ever find out who North is to her? Will Joe ever accept Alex? Will Dejado make an appearance in book 4 and will he ever be more to Brooke? So many questions!!!

How many stars will I give Morning Glory: 4

Why: Complex characters and an engaging storyline kept me reading until late into the night.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Early teen

Why: Mild language

**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**

Yearling (North Oak: Book 2) by Ann Hunter

Yearling (North Oak #2)

Title: Yearling

Author: Ann Hunter

Publisher: Rebel House Ink

Date of publication: October 1st, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade

POV: 3rd person

Series: North Oak

Born to Run – Book 1 (review here)

Yearling – Book 2

Morning Glory – Book 3

To Bottle Lightning – Book 4

Where you can find Yearling: Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

A new year has come to North Oak and with it a new life for Alexandra Anderson. Will she be able to open her heart to others when it’s still battling demons from her past? Or will she go so deep into herself where no one can touch her, and risk losing Promenade in the Keeneland Yearling Sale?

Don’t miss this sequel to North Oak #1: Born to Run!

On the heels of Joanna Campbell’s beloved Thoroughbred Series, and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion comes a brand new young adult horse racing series that will sweep you away like a runaway Thoroughbred.

EXCERPT:
“I should be happy,” Alex sighed. “These folks, they’re real nice. For the first time in my life, I’m wanted. Well, they say that they want me. I almost feel needed sometimes. I don’t have to steal food anymore, or run away from what I’ve done, I’ve even got a warm bed. But the fact is… when I think of Ashley, I just want her back and nothing else. I want a life she exists in. And wanting that… it spoils what I have. I feel so ungrateful when I think of the life we could have made if we ran away from Haven together like we planned. I feel ungrateful because I would rather have a life on the streets with Ashley than a warm bed and you. I mean who in their right mind wants something like that? There’s something wrong with me.”

My review:

I am always on the hunt for a good middle-grade book for my 9 and 11-year-olds. Mainly my 11-year-old, who is an insatiable reader. So when Ann approached me to review Yearling, I gladly accepted. I am glad I did because this book was fantastic. There was no sophomore slump and honestly, that along with the vivid characters and background is what sold me on the book. Also, what sold me, was that it is a great book for anyone 11 and older (and the main reason I read it).

Alex, I wanted to reach through the book and give her a hug and tell her “It will be alright”. I am glad that the author made her as flawed as she did because it made her more relatable. I also liked that the author showed that traumatic events and losses (if you want to know what…read Born to Run) aren’t magically healed in between books. But, the author also showed how animals, in this case, a yearling named Promenade, can help a person with their healing….along with a support system and people who love unconditionally.

Now, saying what I said above, Alex was a very funny, sarcastic tween. Looking at my tween, I can say that the author is dead on with the mannerisms and attitude that Alex had. Gave me some really good laughs when I was reading. The biggest laugh was when Alex started her monthly and thought she was dying. I was outside and started laughing my butt off. Then when Hilary finds out and finds out that Alex doesn’t know anything about puberty or even had “The Talk“, she goes into Mom mode big time. Which included having Alex watch “A League of Their Own“(which personally is one of my favorite movies) and that becomes a running joke through the rest of the series. Also, Alex’s sex ed lesson was very interesting as was her reaction….lol.

The friendship storyline was fantastic and I like how the author took the time for Alex and Carol to build up their friendship. It went from Alex keeping her at arm’s length to embracing her as a friend and she was willing to do anything to protect her. Which meant standing up to Carol’s bully.

Now, I will be the first one to admit, I know nothing about Thoroughbred racing, racing farms or horses so I loved that the author explained everything in the book in ways that were understandable and interesting. From the stud services (see, I know that much…haha) to foaling to training the yearlings to training the racehorses, everything was explained in a way that never made you go “Eh”. Instead, it makes you go “Oh, well that makes sense”.

The end of the book really didn’t feel like an ending. While certain storylines were wrapped up, new ones were revealed and there are old ones that weren’t wrapped up. There was definitely an opening for book 3 (Morning Glory) and I will be posting my review of that soon!!

How many stars will I give Yearling: 4

Why: A wonderfully written middle grade book that actually brings to mind The Black Stallion series. I loved the plotlines, the characters…everything about the book.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Young Teen

Why: Mild cursing, no sex or violence

**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**