Review of “Diablo” by Fallacious Rose

Let’s get psychological and play word association. What images come to mind when you hear the word “horse?”

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll think of majestic, beautiful animals galloping through green meadows, their manes billowing in the breeze. Or maybe you think of a glue factory.

But of all the things that pop into my head when I hear the word “horse,” “evil mastermind” has to be one of the last.

That’s the premise of Diablo by Fallacious Rose, a new horse tale available here.

The book follows Kim, a teenage girl who dreams of owning a horse. Though her family has failed with a horse before, Kim’s dreams become sweet, juicy reality when she moves to the country with her brother, her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, Alan, hoping to endear himself to his girlfriend’s kids and with no hypnotists in sight, Alan buys Kim her dream horse, Diablo.

The horse’s name proves to be apt. Diablo refuses to be ridden, stay in his pen, or even budge when it doesn’t suit his schedule. Despite Kim’s best efforts, Diablo turns up his nose at proper horse behavior and is, Kim suspects, secretly plotting world domination.

After a few lessons in “natural horsemanship” techniques, Kim begins to take control of not just Diablo, but of her own relationships. She makes peace with her obnoxious brother Jake, deals with the mounting tension in her family, and bests, then befriends, her rival, Ebony. Through a lot of trials and horse poop, Kim learns to control her emotions and not to base her behavior or happiness on her reactions to other people.

My favorite part of Diablo was the horse dialogue. The horses talk just like any other characters, but only some of the humans, those who are attuned to the animals and “speak horse”, can understand them. A lot of dialogue scenes play out like this:

“Diablo started hopping around on three legs like it was a novelty race and I was his partner. Only compared to his great hairy legs, mine are like twigs.

I tried to get a back leg up to look at, but Diablo just leaned on it and said,

‘You want my back hoof? You’ll get my back hoof, if you’re not careful.’ and swished his tail suggestively. It was time to move around the front end.

‘Ok. Now what about your halter?’

‘Huh? Haven’t I already told you I’m busy? What does a guy have to do around here –put up a big sign up, Do Not Disturb?’

‘Just give me your nose for a second.’ I got down on the ground in front of him, trying to get his shiny new halter over his hose while he’s chewing like it’s his last meal, and before he opens his mouth to take another great mouthful.”

The conversations between Kim and Diablo are a lot of fun to read and give the book a jaunty feel.

Another unique trait of this book is its use of horse terminology. I have about as much experience with horse ownership as I do with sponge-bathing William Howard Taft.

Through Diablo, I learned a lot about basic horse care. I didn’t know what a “grazing muzzle” or “carrot stick” was or what it meant to “plait” a horse’s tail until I read Diablo. The book teaches these terms, but never comes across as textbook-y. The horse care terminology slides easily into the characters’ world and helps it spring to life.

Diablo has a laid-back tone. It’s no Tolkien-esque adventure and instead simply lets you immerse yourself in Kim and Diablo’s world. The tone causes the story to feel more lifelike and makes the handful of intense moments, like Jake’s near-death encounter with a snake, all the more suspenseful.

If you’re in the mood for something easy, fun, and entirely unique, get your hands on some okra-flavored Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. And read Diablo. It’ll have you laughing and learning as you get sucked into a world of country living and snarky horses. Come to think of it, Snarky Horses is a great band name. I think it’s time to dig out my trombone and get the guys together…

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Review of “My Buddy Knows…Letters!” by Keith Wheeler

Living through the ups and downs of life, I always try to view things from other people’s perspectives. And while performing this psychological practice, I always come to one inescapable conclusion: it must be really weird to be four years old.

Think about it. Four-year-olds can walk and run, but their legs are still a little chubby and infant-like. They usually speak like grown human beings, but sometimes end up sounding like a drunk Cookie Monster on helium. And, though they’re new to life, they suddenly have expectations thrust upon them.

When you’re four or five years old, you have three jobs:

  1. Learn your letters
  2. Learn your numbers
  3. Don’t poop your pants

Assuming you find it within yourself to count to ten and become a true deacon of the diapers, all that’s left is to learn your alphabet. Master that and you can lord it over all the other five-year-olds forever.

Keith Wheeler’s “My Buddy Knows…Letters!” is a fantastic way to teach kids the alphabet. The book makes letters fun while still pounding that sweet, sweet learning into kids’ heads like a jackhammer of knowledge.

It starts with a simple phrase: “This is my buddy, Josh! Josh knows a lot about…letters!” Josh looks like a nice guy, even though he could really use some self-tanning lotion and maybe a fashion consultant. Regardless, he’s a welcoming figure that kids will gravitate toward.

Readers are then shown a picture of an object and, on the next page, told which letter it begins with (“My buddy knows that apple starts with A”, “My buddy knows that ball starts with B”, “My buddy knows that colonoscopy starts with C”, etc.)

But unlike other alphabet books, this one has a unique twist: it shows kids a picture of the object, and then tells them which letter the word starts with. A toddler reading this book with their parents will think “oh, that’s an apple.” just before the book tells them “Apple starts with A.”

At that moment, the wires in that kids’ head will connect and the electricity will start flowing. Pretend there’s a motionless hamster wheel in the middle of your child’s brain. Reading this book is like putting a steroid-infused hamster in the middle of that wheel and letting that rodent fly.

“My Buddy Knows…Letters!” by Keith Wheeler will alleviate some of the enormous stress your four year old endures between episodes of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” by breaking down letters in a way they can wrap their heads around. Keep an eye out for “My Buddy Knows…Numbers!”, too. I expect it to revolutionize my world in a similar way.