Ruffian: Burning from the Start by Jane Schwartz

Another one for the horse fans. If you follow horse racing, you more than likely have heard of Ruffian and her tragic ending. But whether you have or haven’t heard of this filly, reading this novel will make you a fan of her.

April 17, 1972, one of the racing world’s most impressive athletes was born. Her bloodlines traced back to equine royalty- and as a friend of mine would say, she was practically born with a tiara. Born a big, strong, healthy foal who later grew into an impressively built yearling, her connections started to take notice of her. And as she was just learning the ropes of being handled and ridden, a certain relative of hers swept the 1973 Triple Crown. As 1974 approached, the filly made her way to North Carolina from Kentucky to learn how to become a racehorse. Trainer Frank Whiteley knew after a few sessions that he had something special in his care- “the speedball, the beauty, the female, the freak.” Shipped to New York, she began her racing career at age two (as many do), and gained her name, Ruffian. She began blowing competition away and setting track record after track record, eating up the ground. But as she ran, Whiteley couldn’t help but worry about her powerhouse body set on her dainty legs, and this proved a true concern when a slight hairline fracture in her ankle caused her debut season “came to an abrupt end”.

But 1974 gave way to high hopes for her three-year-old season in 1975. She came back with avengence, sweeping the Filly Triple Crown. That year, Foolish Pleasure, a three-year-old colt, took the Kentucky Derby and became a heavy favorite for the rest of the Triple Crown series (he didn’t take the crown though, coming in second in the following two legs of the series). Due to their successes, there became a cry for a match race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure- a battle of the sexes. As the end of the season drew near, the date was finally set and the race was on.  Tragically, nobody would ever know the outcome.

Now, if you don’t know what happens next and want to know, stop reading this and go get this book. You do that, and you’ll understand exactly what I’m about to say, and you’ll appreciate it more.

Those of you still with me- when I picked up this book, I was still new to the racing industry. I appreciated the athleticism, the thrill, the legends that rose above the rest. I had heard of Ruffian, knew of her demise. But when I read the lines “Ruffian has broken down! Ruffian has broken down!” I had to stop reading because I became so emotional that I was choked up and fighting tears. Here I am, decades after this filly left her mark that day at Belmont, and her she is in black and white on these pages, leaving her mark on me now. I’ve still got a long ways to go when it comes to learning about the racing industry, and even more so about the equine industry. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that these magnificent animals have heart beyond comprehension. That horse loved to run. That horse fought her own body to finish that race. Everyone in the stands and following the race that day was impacted because they witnessed immense greatness and followed by immense destruction.

Schwartz successfully reconstructs the brightest and darkest moments of Ruffian’s life. Anyone who reads this novel comes as close as I think they can to understanding how that felt.



Dear followers…

I have not forgotten you! I have 2 books just sitting ever so patiently, waiting for me to read them. The sad news is the last 2 weeks have been a blur! Where has October gone? And how the heck did we get so close to November?! Unfortunately, after a very busy first week of the month, I ended up sick with a virus and home for 5 days. You’d think that would provide me some reading time, but I had a hard time keeping my eyes open for 3 out of the 5 days, and the other two spent trying to catch up on what I missed. Now back at work, we’re picking up for our busy season. I’m going to try my hardest to get you a review by the weekend, I promise!

As always, thank you for hanging in there with me!

Xoxo, Amanda


The End of California by Steve Yarbrough

This is going to be a short one, folks. I read this book over the course of a week, and it honestly should have been a faster read. It’s only a 300 page book, but the story dragged on and I just couldn’t get into it. It had a few promising points where I thought the story would pick up, but unfortunately, it didnt pick up enough to keep my interest.

Now, the main problem that I had trouble with is keeping the characters straight. Basically, the setting is a small town with deep roots, and the main characters all have a connection within the town. There are two main focus familes, and they are intertwined by a shadowy past. Then there are a lot of sideplot characters, and each of their stories delves into the main plot. The author changes the point of view from third to first person from chapter to chapter- sometimes page to page- and with all these characters, it got difficult to follow.

There’s a lot of deception, cheating, and grudges, but all this drama is so undramatic and confusing. It seemed like it had so much potential to make a big impact by the end to the reader, but I was disappointed. I should’ve left it on the shelf at the library.