Jul 4, 2008

Chestnut Hill: Why TB doesn't suck that much, really!

Ok, so I figured I needed to find something truly terrible, something worthy to add my bit to the awesomeness that is the blog.

I bring you my review of Chestnut Hill 2: Making Strides. (I can’t find the first book, sadly, but I do own 2-6, so be prepared for the nastiness) This series is supposedly written by Lauren Brooke, the one and the same author who wrote Heartland. I, however, suspect that she handed her pen over to some 12 year-old fangirl.

But, there will be plenty of time later for me to go into detail about this, the shittiest horse series ever created. Let’s take a look at the cover!

The Cover

Nothing too much to gripe about here. You can’t go too wrong when you’re working with actual pictures of actual horses. And hey! Tybalt, our equine hero, is actually a bay. Shock. The only thing I hate about this cover is that it tempted me into buying the damn book.

The Blurb

Horses. Friends. Competition. Tradition.

Welcome to Chestnut Hill. An exclusive boarding school set among the rolling hills of Virginia. With a premiere riding program, Chestnut Hill has a long tradition of excellence. Here, the best and brightest learn to shine.

Malory has earned a spolt on the riding team and she’s found a close crew of friends, yet she still questions whether she really belongs at Chestnut Hill. Then a new horse arrives at the stable, and Malory is instantly drawn to him. But Tybalt is weary and defensive. Malory is determined to reach him, and she believes a girl called Amy Fleming can help. When it comes to horses, Malory has always trusted her instincts, and now she’s willing to bet her future at Chestnut Hill that Tybalt has what it takes to win.

It seems all innocent and sweet, right? And, for the most part, accurate. I just love how Brooke shamelessly sticks Amy (Heartland’s main character) in here. It’s kind of like she’s doing the whole self-promotion thing, especially considering how the CH girls worship Amy. Blah. Whatever. This is a bad book in disguise as a passable read.

The Girls

Malory O’Neil: she’s the star of this one. And the scholarship girl, which instantly gives her reason to feel inferior and play the “poor girl” role. She is, of course, naturally talented when it comes to all things equine.

Dylan Walsh: the Stevie Lake of this series, Dylan’s purpose is to make wisecracks and not to take anything seriously. I liked Stevie in the Saddle Club, so I should like Dylan, right? Not so. Dylan is irrational and stupid and annoying. She rides a pony called Morello, that she enjoys pretending is hers. But her aunt is the director of riding at the school, so she gets away with it.

Honey Harper: the girl from England is all demure and cute. Right now, she doesn’t have a special horse but I am sure that will be sorted out in the next book.

Lani Hermandez: well, Lani adds some Latino flavor to the series, I suppose. ‘Cause it can’t just be about rich white girls and their Louis Vuitton accessories! She is just there, for now.

Lynsey Harrison: the uber rich bitch antagonist who always has something nasty to say while wearing some monogrammed item. If Brad Townsend was a girl, he’d be Lynsey. Except, I bet he’d spell his name properly.

The Plot

So it’s Homecoming Weekend at CH, and all the girls in a tizz because they are only getting oatmeal for breakfast and they have to ride in front of the CH Alumnae later. Bitchy comments are exchanged and I can sort of understand why Lynsey acts the way she does. I gotta tell you, these girls can be nasty.

As is tradion with a Lauren Brooke series, Malory’s mother is dead, but it was two years previously, so I am spared from Amy-esque angst for now.

The girls eat hors d’oeuvres and talk shit while waiting for their class. Malory is riding bland old Hardy, who’s only a lowly school pony with the unfortunate show name of Hardy Har Har. I kid you not. Malory rides in the quadrille and then does a course on Hardy. She knocks a pole and we are sad. Plus, it gives certain girls ammo to tease the poor scholarship girl.

There is a Halloween party coming up, where the rich private school girls get to act all slutty with the rich private school boys of St. Kits (Christopher’s), their affiliated school. Malory cannot afford a costume, for shame! So she hides this from her friends. This is real drama, people.

After telling Lani that she reminds her of her grandparents dog, Malory talks about this awesome WonderHorse called Zanzibar, a name Brooke’s neice/daughter/fangirl clearly sucked from a Phantom Stallion book. She used to just randomly climb on this horse’s back in the paddock and ride it around, until her parents decided it might be safer to pay for lessons. Where Malory could ride with tack and under supervision. Like that one’s a real challenge to figure out. Anyway.

Dylan and Malory get asked to try out some new ponies by Mrs. Carmichael, Dylan’s aunt. They go and Malory finds Tybalt, who reminds her of Zanzibar! I’m telling you, a tear rolled down my cheek. Of mirth. Tybalt is all mistrustful, but Malory is convinced she can fix him and turn him into her own Super Special Horse! The horse’s owner gets all pushy and they end up taking Tybalt home with them along with Foxy Lady and Winnie.

But, this is a Lauren Brooke book and things will never go smoothly!

The girls are all excited about using Amy Fleming’s techniques to train Tybalt. You see, they were given a talk by Amy in the first book. Sort of like how some people think by watching a video on Natural Horsemanship, they can suddenly get a green Mustang off the range and train it in one day.

The girls go shopping for costumes and Malory again hides the fact that she can’t afford one. They see boys flirting with Lynsey, who is clearly living up to the whole slut reputation. Malory thinks of Caleb, a guy she used to ride with who will be at the party. He is hot. Like…. HOT. As far as Malory is concerned, anyway. Clearly she has not met Brad Townsend, who surpasses all standards of hotness like Glory does other racehorses.

Eventually, Lani confesses that she has no costume and the girls dress her up as Cleopatra. But no! Lynsey’s minion, Patience, is dressed the same! Turns out, Caleb, the hot guy, was supposed to be Patience’s date, but confuses her for Malory. Drama! Malory is all hurt and thinks that Caleb doesn’t remember her. I don’t care.

So, Tybalt has to be ridden at some stage. Lynsey gets the honor. She gets dumped and throws a prissy tantrum that the horse isn’t worthy of Chestnut Hill. Now we are scared Tybalt will get sent back to where he came from.

Hardy comes up lame and Malory has no horse to ride for the upcoming interschools competition. She asks Mrs. C if she can try Tybalt out, much to my shock. Or not. She rides and she does terribly and Mrs. C says she will have take Foxy Lady to the show instead, so all is not lost.

But, then we all have the epiphany that Amy Fleming can help! Yay! Amy works her magic with massage, join-up and herbal stuff. Tybalt is a totally new animal, thanks to love and all that crap. Malory rides him again and they do well.

Tybalt is so great and talented, that mere horses pale in comparison. Malory rides him a lesson and gets permission to take him to the show, which is always good to do on a pony that they know nothing about that hasn’t been worked hard in ages and ages. I am so glad there are books like this to instill good horse sense into impressionable young minds!

At the show, Tybalt freaks out and Caleb rescues Mallory from certain death. They debate about scratching him, but Malory cannot give up! Her ride goes badly and they mess up the course. Malory is sure that Tybalt will be sent away.

But, this is is aimed at children and we must all have our happy endings. Of course Tybalt gets to stay at CH! Mallory now has her very own special horse… aside from the technicality that she doesn’t own him, of course.

Monique’s Name-Dropping-o-meter! (Becuase it happens. A lot.)

  • Scooby Doo
  • X-Files
  • The Flintstones
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Rolex- the watch
  • The Addams Family
  • The Four Seasons

Points of Interest

  • One of their classmates is studying poetry by Silvia Plath. I had no idea they covered that in middle school. I should send my kids to CH!
  • Typical breakfast fare at CH is: French toast, waffles, muffins, THREE kinds of sausage (would that be beef, pork and vegan?) and fresh fruit!
  • What is it with horse books and fucking blueberry muffins?
  • I seriously hope I never compare a guy’s breeding to a horse’s.

I suppose I should stick with it and read CH3: Heart of Gold next. I warn you though, the books get suckier and suckier.


Anonymous said...

i didn't like Heartland, and i *really* didn't like this series. i'm trying to decide if i would have liked either of them by default if they had been around fifteen years ago. but what is with horse books set at an elite boarding school? i can think of at least one other series centered around a snobby boarding school with fancy show horses. personally, i never really saw the appeal. riding camp yes, boarding achool no.

HorsegirlDylan said...

Actually, the first book was OK. Making Strides plummeted, Heart of Gold made a nosedive, Playing for Keeps and Team Spirit didn't even chart. Basically, after book 1, it lacked a point.

Aven said...

This series kind of reminds me of these Two of a Kind Diaries books I used to read when I was...seven, eight? I can't remember. But, basically, these books are a hybrid of those and The Saddle Club. There's not much originality here - if any. And, well, Heartland wasn't exactly my favorite series. The first few were okay, but, after that, they got really repetitive. I do like Malory and Lani a lot though. Good character, crappy plot.

Anonymous said...

What drives me crazy about this series is how Patience is treated by the enemy because she reported Dylan.

I mean, seriously, jumping in the dark is dangerous! She (Dylan) or the horse (that she supposedly cares sooooooo much about) could've been injured. Yet they think Patience is such a tattler and such a loathesome person. Come on.