May 26, 2008

It's TB Super Edition Samantha's Cindification

Samantha's Journey
Thoroughbred Super Edition
Written by Karen Bentley
Published: 1997

So because I hate myself I decided it was time to read the worst super edition, if not one of the worst books of the original series, in TB history.

Cover: There's not much to nitpick here, other than the horse pictured is not the horse described in the book. In the book, Samantha rides Miracle Worker, who is black, to visit her mother's grave. That's right, black. There are six black horses in this book. I counted. I also really like the rose border on the cover. It really makes me think "Kentucky Derby," you know? And in the TB universe, this is a race we can never forget.

Haunted by the past...
Samantha McLean has a terrible scare when she sees Cindy, her adoptive sister, fall over Whitebrook's track rail during a workout. Cindy's accident is frighteningly similar to the one that caused Samantha's mother's death years earlier.

Cindy's accident brings forth a flood of troubling memories for Samantha. She begins reliving the traumatic years which followed her mother's death - a difficult time when she and her father, Ian McLean, traveled aimlessly across the country in search of a place where they could rebuild their lives. Will Samantha rediscover happiness at Whitebrook Farm? Or will she be tormented forever by the tragedies of her past?
You know, several things occur to me reading this blurb. First of all, I am really sorry Cindy fell over the track rail during a workout, but what was she doing walking on top of it anyway? That is the worst possible description of a horse going through a rail ever. Secondly, the book is not actually about Samantha trying to find happiness again after Cindy's accident. Sure there is some angst, which I will get to in a second, but all that present time line stuff is solved in two extremely truncated chapters. And finally, looking at the back of this book, I realize that the way the back covers were designed would give an decent graphic designer a heart attack. They might as well add Comic Sans to the whole thing and make it official.

Plot: I really don't know what's more offensive about this book: the way Bentley destroys Samantha's character, or how freaking boring the entire plot line is. TB fans clamored for years to read the story of Samantha's life prior to her indoctrination into the Whitebrook cult, and we were rewarded with this turd. In this book it becomes screamingly apparent that Bentley is incapable of writing any character other than Cindy. In Ashleigh's Hope we can see a similar affect had on poor Ashleigh. But because Ian won't allow Samantha to ride following her mother's accident, she can't become a Super Duper Rider from Outer Space. Instead, she becomes the all powerful Horse Healer from Another Dimension, saving broken down claimers from the slaughterhouse wherever she goes, in spite of her father's admonitions not to go near anything equine.

You know, it's really not necessary to give a blow by blow summary of the action because it's all part of the same recycled formula after Samantha's mother dies: Ian tells Samanatha not to go near horses, she tells him she won't, they move to a new track, there is an ill horse in dire need of love, Samantha betrays her father to nurse the horse back to health, Ian does/doesn't find out, repeat, adding a pinch of Samantha's experiences being the new kid at school as necessary.

Man, if you thought it was hilarious watching Bentley attempt to find new story lines for every book, you'll love watching as she tries to sustain action for a mere 195 pages.

Points of Note:
  • As many of you may remember, the book opens with Samantha running happily through the forest, exclaiming to all the birds and bees because she's just been given a position as a trainer at Whitebrook. It's like reading a scene from the next Disney movie. I was expecting her to burst into song at any moment, but fortunately for us (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) Tor interrupts her before that can happen.
  • Cindy Alert: Samantha muses, "Finding the next Kentucky Derby winner in an overlooked colt will be my specialty." In that one sentence Bentley manages to reduce all of Samantha's years of experience and knowledge to tatters. She is writing a 22 year oldish woman like a 12 year old. It has begun.
  • "Samantha thought [Tor] was the handsomest guy she'd ever seen." AW, SHUCKS.
  • Samantha muses that marrying Tor means they'll be together at Whitebrook forever. Except for that part about moving to Ireland then settling down at Whisperwood.
  • Dear Samantha: If you are about to become a trainer at one of the most prestigious farms in the country, it is probably not a good idea to yell at one of your exercise riders while she's on the track working a fractious horse. I know having Cindy's attention makes everyone all gooey and warm inside, but seriously, you are acting mentally-impaired.
  • The Cindy worship continues even when Samantha is not the main character! After Cindy's accident, Samantha decides she simply can't live now that she thinks Cindy's dead. I suppose she has a point. Without Cindy, how will the rational Whitebrook trainers ever come up with the out-of-the-box solutions necessary to train their insane string of horses?
  • Okay. So I'm going to take issue with Ian's character a little here. He has no problem letting a 12 year old girl exercise ride. Then his wife dies and Samantha's not even allowed to touch horses, he's so freaked out. But, apparently he's not freaked out enough to stick around and make sure she obeys him. He's so oblivious and gullible Samantha could be training the next Breeder's Cup winner and he wouldn't notice.
  • Okay. I have noticed that every horse Bentley writes is insane. This time it's Gulfstream Waves, the horse that Suzanne is riding in her accident. All the horses that are nice either die or are losers.
  • The makeovers. Dear god the makeovers. That's all I'm going to say about that.
  • Gulfstream Waves is a former claimer who has never raced in, let alone won, a stakes race, yet he still goes into the Donn Handicap as the favorite...wha?
  • Yay. We are treated yet again to the I - Feel - Embarassed - Because - I - Am - A - Stablehand - And - Wear - Dirty - Clothes - Unlike - Rich - People trope. Also, Dear Karen Bentley: No one, especially not the daughter and wife of the favorite's trainer, would wear their stable clothes into the paddock at a stakes race!
  • Okay. So basically Samantha causes the accident that kills her mother because she decides the best way to stop a bolting racehorse is to park her horse directly in his path. She really needs to stop taking tips from Cindy.
  • In this book, the solution to every horse's health problems, no matter how grim, is to groom them and give them carrots. Excellent.
  • Cindy Alert: When Satin Doll, the first horse Samantha nurses back to health is claimed, Samantha forlornly thinks, "Satin Doll was her horse in every way that counted." Except for the legal way that says who owns the horse, dumb ass.
  • Dear Karen Bentley: No one thinks a horse is the one to watch after it wins a claiming race, and reporters would not be taking its picture in the winner's circle unless it was on fire.
  • Cindy Alert: All of the mistrusting horses in this book immediately love Samantha. Perhaps she and Cindy wear the same perfume.
  • All the other trainers and grooms on the track are perfectly willing to let Samantha work with their dangerous racehorses even though they all know Ian forbids it. That seems like a pretty unprofessional thing to do to Ian, to say the least. Also, Ian is completely oblivious if he is unaware of his daughter's actions, which the entire backside staff are aiding and abetting. Also, isn't having a 12 year old girl running unsupervised around a racetrack with excitable Thoroughbreds a liability?
  • Why are people constantly wearing riding clothes to school? No one does that!
  • Within a matter of pages a horse Bentley invented goes from Dreams of Gold to Golden Dream. I'm sorry, but that's just sad.
  • I do not buy the Townsends hiring Ian after one win in one stakes race. I just don't. I know he is a horse whisperer, but if Townsend Acres is "the best farm in the country," I think they would go with someone a little more well-known.
  • Holy crap, Bentley gets it right. Jilly did ride Wonder in the Derby! But no, Honor is not Wonder's daughter, she is Princess's. Remember that time you created that scenario, Karen Bentley? Yeah, I guess not.
  • Oh Sammy, you silly girl. Ashleigh isn't important - she does whatever the Townsends say! And yes, of course, simply laying eyes on Pride entitles you to spend your life time working with him. I'm sure the first time you groom him he will grow wings. You are indispensable.
And so we return to the present, and Tor finds Sammy cowering in Shining's stall to tell her that Cindy has lived. Great, now Samantha has a reason to live again too! Then, we are treated to the best line in TB history: "Oh Sammy, kiss me!" Though this line, coupled with the use of the word "passionate," seems racy for a book aimed at prepubescents, we can all be happy and content knowing that Samantha is going to wed herself to a cheating jerk.


Mara said...

For some reason I can't begin to explain, I've always wanted to read this book because it just sounds so annoying; I just never got around to it. I just skimmed through the first chapter and nearly died of laughter, and your review has solidified my decision. I must read this book.

Claire said...

oh mara, you do not know what you're missing. i can't believe you haven't read it. it is infamously bad.

Lei said...

And let's not forget, Suzanne's mount went from a green colt going through the rail to a stakes winner going through the rail.

The first time I ever read this book, my first reaction after reading the part about Satin Doll was: "Is Bentley that hard up for horse names that she has to channel 'Hot to Trot'?"

Anonymous said...

Mmm, angst-tacular!
So Sammy's a healer! Like the 'Heartland' girl. Wonder if Sammy does T-touch.

Monique said...

Nicely done, Claire! Yeah, this is one of the worst books ever. I keep meaning to read it in the knowledge that it will be an awesome review... but you beat me to it! hurrah! :P

Anonymous said...

you know, in the original series, Samantha makes it sound like her and her father moved from track to track for most of her life, but really, it was less than a year. the Donn is in February, and don't they end up moving to TA around Christmas? (of course, this is probably different in #5 since i seem to remember her moving there shortly after Pride ws born, but oh well).

Sam begging for makeovers made me want to throw up. and i still can't figure out how Bentley ever managed to become an editor if she can't even remember the stuff she wrote herself.

i always really liked Ian, but Bentley sure turned him into an idiot in this book. he knows just how desperate Sam is to ride again and sees her holding a fully tacked up horse and honestly believes that she just led him?

Anonymous said...

It annoyed me that after Sammy told Ashleigh about her constant moving from track to track as a 'track brat' in #5, in this book they...really don't do that much. Remington, Hollywood Park, Finger Lakes. Yeah, and Ian was so oblivious that Sammy was randomly running off and constantly busy. No, she wasn't working with horses! She was busy doing what you told her to, staying out and staring at them.