Tuesday, May 28, 2013

[Review] Silent Harmony by Michelle Scott

Silent Harmony by Michelle Scott
Published May 28th, 2013 
Amazon Childrens Publishing
Young Adult Contemporary

Small town seventeen-year-old Vivienne Taylor is a talented equestrian with Olympic dreams and a little something extra going on -she is also an equine empath, someone who has the ability to read horses, minds and moods. When she receives a full scholarship to attend Fairmont Riding Academy, a prep school with a famous riding program, she struggles with homesickness, hazing by the school's snooty drama queen, intense competition in the sport of three-day-eventing, and the not-altogether-unwelcome interest of a hot guy. On top of all of that the horse given to Vivienne via the scholarship is an animal that she cannot read or understand. When Vivienne learns that her new horse Harmony belonged to the school's vet, who recently died in a freak accident, she senses that the horse's aloof behavior may be the result of her witnessing this accident. But as a connection begins to unfold between Vivienne and Harmony, Vivienne begins to believe that the vet's death was no accident at all, but rather murder and she resolves, at considerable peril, to track down the killer. Michele Scott lives in California with her family. With her days spent in the barn or at the keyboard, Ms. Scott has forged a flourishing career as mystery writer and is also deeply involved in the world of horses and equestrian riding.

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I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My thoughts:  

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think I like it... It sounded entertaining, the premise was good and I was really excited about it, but somehow I fell on a reading slump while reading it. I had to fight through the pages because I couldn't keep my mind on task. The story wasn't bad, I mean, it wasn't like I hated the book, I just couldn't make myself sit and finish the goddamn thing. It has around 240 pages, so it's not that long and I'm a fast reader, but it took me a week. Yes! A freaking WEEK to finish it!

After doing some thinking, I came to the conclusion that there were a couple of things that prevented me from loving this book, and a few others that still kept me reading. 

The first problem is the multiple points of view. The book starts off with Vivvie's POV in first person present and it's great. I loved her, I love her voice, the way she thinks, she's passionate, she's driven and she's a really good heroine. But then, when she arrives to this new school, we get two additional POVs, Tristan's and Riley's. Both of them are written in third person present and I couldn't handle it. It drove me crazy because I was really liking the story from Vivianne's POV, but I found myself cringing every time I was starting a chapter with either of these other two POVs. The writing wasn’t THAT bad, but it made me confused and it felt a little forced.

There isn't a lot I can tell you about the plot that isn't already in the premise of the book and I think that blurb is pretty accurate. Just a little background...

Our main character is Vivianne, who lived in Oregon and attended to Thomas Jefferson High before they granted her the scholarship at Fairmont Academy (As a curious thing, I found out that Thomas Jefferson is the same high school Sam attends to in Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Small world, people! Even in fiction!). This academy is like a private school and a riding school mixed together: the kids (mostly rich ones) take normal classes and horse-related curses in the same place. I found this genius! I loved that idea.

Riley is a boy who attends to Fairmont Academy and one of the first people Vivianne mets there. I liked him a whole lot at the beginning, he is cute and smart and overall a good guy. 

Tristan is another member of the popular crowd who doesn't really like being with them, but has no choice because he made a mistake and now he has to stay with his annoying girlfriend, who happens to be the most popular kid in Fairmont. He plays the part of the love interest but I didn't really like him as such. He was okay, I guess, but I didn't fall for him and wasn't crazy about how he handled the situations he found himself in. 

The second main problem with the book: there is too much going on in the story. We have Vivianne, struggling with her new mare which won't communicate with her and trying to find out what really caused the death of the doctor. And this is supposed to be the main conflict. But then, when we get the other two POVs, we have issues all over the place. Riley's family issues, Tristan's family AND girlfriend issues, Martina's family issues and a couple of other character that appear in the book and they clearly have some issues too, but come on! The book is 240 pages! You can't develop every character's issues, find them solutions and leave everyone happy in so little space... What I'm trying to say is that the author went a little bit overboard with conflict. I know this is intended to be the first book on a series and therefore, it shouldn't have to solve every single conflict because then there would be no point in writing the next book. But, with the few conflicts we get solved by the end of this book, the author took what little room was left to solve as much as she could with the fewer words possible. So, even those conflicts that were solved felt underdeveloped and the ending was really unsatisfying for me.

Overall, I think the premise has potential and this could become a great series, but the author has to make some decisions, put some order to the messy conflicts and take it one at a time. I think there's still hope for this one.


About the author

Michele grew up thirty minutes east of San Diego in an area called Jamul. It was out there in the country that her parents bought Michele’s first horse and she learned how to ride at five. At nine years old she knew she loved to write and one day wrote a short story that she showed to her dad. She’d written it on one of his legal pads. After he read it, he looked at her and said, “You are a writer.” With those words spoken, she’s never stopped writing stories.
She graduated from The University of Southern California with a degree in communications, where she studied journalism and hoped to be a reporter. But deep down inside, she’d never given up on being a fiction author. Fate intervened and during Michele’s senior year at college she became pregnant with her first son who was born six weeks prematurely. She had to stay home with her newborn who needed constant care and it was at that time she decided to write her first book.
She contacted Writer’s Digest and ordered their correspondence course on writing a novel. For ten years Michele kept writing, submitting, attending conferences and workshops and receiving rejections but never giving up.
Finally in March 2004, Jessica Faust at Bookends signed her as a client. One month later Michele received THE CALL from Jessica telling her that she had a publisher—Berkley Prime Crime, and that they wanted to sign her for three books in The Wine Lover’s Mystery Series. “It was surreal, wonderful and a dream come true when my agent called and told me. That night my husband and I got a really nice bottle of Champagne and celebrated." Then in December that second call came in about The Equine Mystery Series.
Michele has written eight mysteries for Berkley and is currently working on her first women's fiction novel, which will of course involve wine and probably a horse or two.
Michele writes full time now and lives in San Diego with her very supportive husband, two sons and daughter.


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