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Horse Mad Western: Horse Mad #5    by Kathy Helidoniotis order for
Horse Mad Western
by Kathy Helidoniotis
Order:  USA  Can
Whitecap, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

Protagonist Ashleigh Miller deals with missing an absent friend, and parents so focused on their new Bed-and-Breakfast business, that if it weren't for good friends Becky and Pree, she'd be the loneliest girl on the planet. Learning western riding, however, captures her interest - as does the amazing transformation of formerly grotty boy-next-door Flea, who coaches Ash for her debut western riding competition. Bratty English granddaughters of Ash's employer, Mrs. McMurray, are thorns in Ash's side all summer, and threaten her job at Shady Trails Riding Ranch.

Author Helidoniotis' knowledge of both horses and preteen challenges is evident. Horse Mad Western is the fifth book of the Horse Mad series penned by Helidoniotis, and set in Australia. Her characters are well drawn, with their own type of goodness as well as idiosyncrasies. Ash's friends are from a variety of cultural backgrounds as well, crafted without cliché-ridden, stereotypical characteristics. The writing is fast-paced, and the emotions realistic. The plot may be a little complex for some readers, as multiple, simultaneous conflicts are considered.

Themes center on friendship, trust, and embracing change. Too, Horse Mad Western is stuffed full of esoteric western riding knowledge, which a true horse lover will gobble right up, but which won't alienate the rest of us. Great book.

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