Mar 29, 2008

Introducing Miss Sweetness and Light: TB #12: Shining's Orphan

Shining's Orphan
Thoroughbred #12
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1995

It had to happen eventually. I know, I know, I could have skipped books 12 through 23 entirely but then what would be the point of this blog? What, indeed. So, I'm in it for the long haul. Twelve books of this:


Yeah, sure, she doesn't look menacing and annoying here. But believe me, this is Cindy's best cover. Here she's captured in her most innocent state: sleep. Here she can't scowl, glower, scream, cry, or look terrified as she does on every other cover. Here, the twins are still (happily) nameless. Here, hay looks comfortable. Here, denim is still a complete outfit. Here, we aren't crying in sheer pain . . . yet. Let's take this moment to reflect. The Thoroughbred Series as we knew it is over.
Can Cindy stay at Whitebrook Farm forever?

One night, when Samantha McLean goes to the barn to check her horse, Shining, she gets a big surprise. There's a girl sleeping on the hay between two orphaned foals!

Cindy Blake has run away from her foster home and found her way to Whitebrook Farm. She loves horses, and there isn't any place she'd rather live. Cindy begs Samantha to let her stay.

Cindy turns out to be a natural with horses, and she develops a bond with Shining. She thinks she's found the perfect home at last. But when the authorities find out where she is, they want to send her to another foster home. Can Samantha and her friends at Whitebrook find a way to keep Cindy on the farm for good?

Well, can she? What I love about the crux of the issue is that it's another one that has no answer. Yeah, Cindy stays at Whitebrook. How that happens is entirely glossed over so we can focus on the bliss of little orphan girl finding a home, despite us all hating her with a deep, seething, black persistence within another two books (as, I'm sure, someone had to like Cindy at the start).

Anyway, the plots are as follows:

1. Cindy. So she shows up, people randomly accept her without question, people love her despite her being as pissy as possible, of course she's a natural horsewoman and wow! Look at that, a mary sue. She shows up, Ian decides to foster her, there's a big to do over her living with "wild horses" despite her living with horses in her last foster home, and due to some miracle of miracles gets to stay at Whitebrook.

2. Angelique. I think Joanna Campbell has some deep seated issue with blonde women. Angelique is Tor's new student, despite apparently knowing her for years. Angelique is sort of like Lavinia if Lavinia was a home wrecker. She acts "cool" all the time, is painfully beautiful, and she wants to own Tor. She gets pretty close to that goal, if only for the fact that Tor is an idiot.

3. Mandy. She, like, falls. I know. Shocking. Then she acts all bratty about it and it takes Cindy of all people to force her to shut up already. Frankly, Mandy was worse than Cindy in this book in terms of being entirely annoying.

Oddities:

  • Ian's reaction to Cindy is remarkably relaxed. It's like, "Oh, hey, a kid randomly appearing in my living room. How about that? Now, who wants coffee?"
  • I find that the urge to stab Cindy with forks after only twelve pages is overpowering. Joanna keeps trying to give her this gritty attitude and instead of enjoying the change from happy and light to a ten-year-old's version of "get out of my face with your questions" I'm just really angry instead. Shocking, I know.
  • I have this feeling no one would be able to talk foster parents out of taking back one of their foster kids. More importantly, I have a feeling Child Protection Services wouldn't let them. Oh, Ian! Your wily ways know no bounds!
  • Okay. Cindy meets Tor and the first words out of his mouth are "Nice to meet you. Are you a steeplechasing fan?" Honestly. Tor, she's a foster kid on the lam. Do you really think she has time to watch steeplechasing?
  • Who ever uses the word "hooray" seriously?
  • Samantha is "amazed" at how at ease Cindy is with grooming and bathing horses. You know, when I was eleven I was pretty damn at ease with these tasks also and no one was in awe of me, thank you.
  • For being such a health freak, why is Beth serving fried chicken?
  • Suddenly everyone wants Cindy to stay. My biggest question is why? Yeah, not like that's ever answered or anything.
  • Cindy gets new clothes and she isn't happy about them. Ungrateful little . . . again, why do they want her so much? Why?
  • Thank God. Brad's back. I'll take Samantha, Ashleigh and Lavinia acting like pre-school children while Brad acts composed and bored over Cindy being annoying any day.
  • Great. Now Tor is in a white suit. He might be able to pull it off better than Mike, but really I don't think anyone does that whole look any justice like Brad.
  • You know how proms in movies are these insane things that never, ever happen in real life? Yeah, don't count the Thoroughbred Series out. Samantha's prom isn't boring, people. They dance the "haunting flamenco" to an acoustic guitar. When does that ever happen?
  • Okay, get ready for it: Samantha and Tor declare their love for each other. I figure this would have happened in the last book, given all that, um, happened there. But no, it's got to happen here so we can go from one emotional high to hating Tor in about two chapters. Fun, fun.
  • Samantha gets the chance to explain Lavinia's attitude again, much to my amusement. "She makes trouble for us whenever she can because she hates it when our horses do better than hers." Which is all the time. How succinct, Sammy. I almost feel that she could throw in there, "but honestly everyone will wind up hating you more than her anyway, so really she's getting a fair deal."
  • I will never get over how Cindy can see that Shining is favoring a leg and Samantha can't. Nope. Never. This whole "she's a natural!" crap is no excuse.
  • "Frozen yogurt!" Maureen yelled. Wow, Maureen. We know you like frozen yogurt, but you don't have to be so pushy about it. Here's a brief writing lesson: the word said is good. When you replace it with words like "crowed," "cried," and "yelled" all the time it makes your characters look crazy. End of lesson.
  • Yeah, who would have thought that "more papers" and a "load of red tape" would be involved in fostering a child? I mean, it's just a kid, for Christ's sake. *rolls eyes* Stop complaining, Ian! You were the one who randomly, with no input from anyone, decided to foster the child from hell, remember?
  • Factual: The Lafayette Stakes is run at Keeneland, not Churchill Downs. It is not a mile, nor was it a mile in 1995 (it was seven furlongs and is now six furlongs). It's also a Grade 3 race, not a "small stakes" race. Of course, to our Thoroughbred Series characters a small stakes race might well be a Grade 3 race...who knows.
  • Cindy begins her horseback riding lessons on Shining. Because she's gentle as a "pussycat" in a regular riding ring. Riiight.
  • Cindy's second lesson shoots her right past normal beginner lessons and straight into learning to ride the horse without reins or stirrups. Samantha says that "normally" she would wait to do this and you know what? There's no normally about it. She's never taught anyone how to ride before Cindy. What does she know? (And no, the Pony Commandos don't count.)
  • *gasp!* Mandy suddenly realizes she's handicapped and can't actually jump large fences! Tor seems to not care! Samantha is stung by Tor's supposed cold reaction to a seven year old crying! God forbid things not be cheerful every. second. of. the. day!
  • Yogurt Blues is like the Peach Pit of the Thoroughbred Series.
  • Here's the thing. Mandy's being all petulant about falling off Butterball. Everyone is telling her she just didn't have enough experience. They shouldn't be telling her that; that only reinforces the notion that she shouldn't expect to fall even after she has experience. They should tell her to expect to fall, and should expect it a lot. It's not like horses come with training wheels, and I'm sure plenty of people have figured out how to fall with training wheels. Tell her to get the hell over it already instead of trying to gag her with her firmly implanted silver spoon, okay?
  • Oh, Tor, you can leave a "sick" horse for ten minutes so you can run after your pissed off girlfriend. Instead he lets her rush off and proceeds to not contact her for a few days. How convenient that the storm brought down the phone lines. Maybe he could have enlisted Angelique's willing help to drive out to Whitebrook about three days before he did. Bastard.
  • The random mystery of Shining's Orphan: Cindy can stay! How this happened, or why remains unknown. Oh, Ian, your talents are shocking and awesome indeed.
Everything ties up so ridiculously in this book it's just hilarious. Samantha and Tor smooth things over after two pages of "oh, yeah, all of that was just a misunderstanding." Uh-huh. Yeah. Cindy arrives back at Whitebrook for seemingly no reason. Which has me curious about why we needed this kid in the beginning. She's not included in Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle, published in December of 1994. This book was published February 1995. When did Cindy enter the picture here? Why was she included, and why did this completely idiotic orphan plot come along with it?

Anyway. Book one down. Eleven more to go.

Mar 26, 2008

Oh, the drama! TB #26 Sterling's Second Chance

Sterling's Second Chance
Thoroughbred #26
by Allison Estes
Original Publication: 1998

I actually read this book a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot I had. Clearly, that is indicative of my feeling toward it.

The Cover



We have cheesy scene with Chris and Sterling. The poor mare has been given the neck of a Trakhener stallion. Or one of the dressage Lipizzaners. Christina's helmet has no strap and makes me wonder how she ever passed those strict eventing regulations or if her hat stays on her head when she goes over those 'scary' fences. (However, that would imply that she would be staying on Sterling, which she hardly does in this book...)

The Blurb


Does Christina have the heart of a champion?
Christina Reese is sure she and her new horse, Sterling Dream, are ready for their first competition. Then Christina is injured in a fall and loses both her nerve and her spot on the team. Someone needs to ride Sterling, or the team will be disqualified. When beautiful, self-confident Cassidy Smith is picked to ride Sterling in the show, Christina tries to be a good sport. But it's not easy. Cassidy is claiming that both Christina and Sterling are quitters. Will Christina and her horse get the chance to prove just how wrong Cassidy is?

You know, I think the person who actually writes these things is some high school student who is a daughter of the person who really has this job. Enough said.

It does sort of sum up the book, but what they skipped out is that Christina is a delusional, self-absorbed brat who only thinks that Cassidy is some uber-bitch. Meanwhile, Cassidy really does want to help out and she clearly knows more than Christina, which is not hard to do.

Allow me to elaborate. We have four whole chapters where Chris tries to get Sterling to behave. She refuses to hit the horse, which is, like, so cruel. It is so bad, that the thought of hitting the precious animal drives her to tears. I kid you not. Eventually, Chris gets distracted by the delusion that Cassidy and Dylan are holding hands (le gasp!) and she pushes Sterling to jump some nasty water fence, beating her with her whip as she does so.

To my unbridled joy, she falls off and breaks her arm. Yay!

We now have to find a rider for Sterling. It soon becomes clear that she is too much horse for Melanie. I mean, we know how sensitive she is, right?

The only one left to ride her is Cassidy. She does. Cassidly feels bad about riding her in the event, so there is a miraculous last-minute rider switcheroo and Christina comes second! Or something. Who cares?

Interesting Points
  • Faith is still a chestnut!
  • People seem to have really intense eyes in this book. I think the author has some latent issue about eye descriptions.
  • Dear Lord, when I was twelve, I hope I never behaved like this. And I hope that no other child thinks it's ok to act like a spoiled bitch when they read this book, either. Seriously, Christina needs a hiding.
  • This book only had three interesting points. I hope someone else can delve more meaning from it than I could.

I suppose Sterling got her Second Chance... although I still wonder what that was. It is the stupidest title ever... perhaps next to Great Expectations. Or Cindy's Last Hope...

Now, we will find out how Corageous Christina is! And how much she hates dressage! I can hardly breathe for excitement.

Mar 23, 2008

Despite nearly dying, it's the best day ever! TB Super: Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle

Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle
Thoroughbred Super Edition
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1994

Welcome to the book that forever after confuses everything. Or, more specifically, the dream that confuses everything. After reading this thing I can't help but wonder...how the hell did Karen Bentley manage to take the whole thing as canon? How? Just...gah!

Okay, I've got time later to bitch about how this book screws the entire series. On to more pressing matters. Like the cover!


It's a fairly romantic cover, although I could really do without the holly garland. Plus, it just has to keep reminding me of how unthinkable it would be to show up at the hospital to pick up your recently conscious wife and premature infant in a horse drawn sleigh in below freezing temperatures. A horse drawn sleigh is romantic and fun for about five minutes. It is not romantic and fun for a drawn out haul through town and who knows how much country when you have an infant with you. I just...need to stop looking at this.

A baby for Christmas . . .

Ashleigh Griffen and Mike Reese are expecting their first child right after the New Year. But on Christmas Eve, as Ashleigh makes the rounds of the stables at Whitebrook Farm, handing out Christmas treats to all her favorite horses, a stallion's kick puts both her life and the life of her baby in jeopardy.

Ashleigh is rushed to the hospital, where her baby is born premature. As she drifts in and out of consciousness, she dreams about her daughter's life as an Olympic riding champion. Will Ashleigh live to see her daughter become a winner, or will her dreams for her daughter die with her?

It's Christmas Eve and Ashleigh's eight months pregnant. The long and the short of the story that matters is she gets kicked in the stomach by a freaked out gelding, causing premature labor. She gives birth to Christina, a blood vessel bursts in Ashleigh's brain, and she slips into unconsciousness for an unspecified number of days. During this time she dreams about her daughter living without her. Then Ashleigh wakes up and goes home, promising her infant daughter that she'll always be there for her.

The dream is this long affair stretching over six years, wherein Christina attempts to become one of the best three-day eventers in the country and prove that she is her mother's daughter. The first section of the dream involves Christina falling for this filly of Fleet Goddess's (your classic sickly foal situation), the second part involves training the filly as a three-year-old and Christina suffering almost catastrophic injury, and the final part is all about pigheadedly refusing to acknowledge her pain threshold and becoming the great rider she knew she'd be. At the young age of 16. At her rate Christina will be using a walker by the time she's thirty.

Oddities:

  • This book jumps forward two years to when Wonder is twelve and Ashleigh is 24. However, Precocious is still described as being a "possible winner" although at this point she'd nearly be four years old.
  • You know, I made light of how simple the name Wonder's Pride was before. I'd like to apologize to Wonder's Pride, because the name Jazz Goddess deserves more mocking. Well, her dad is Jazzman and her mom is Fleet Goddess so . . . *light blub on!* Yeah, Christina is ten and all when she comes up with this name, but her friend came up with the name Determined so I'm not accepting that excuse.
  • Also, it appears Jazz Goddess (ugh) has tendon laxity. If she can stand up by herself with that condition I don't think corrective booties are necessary.
  • The supernatural hearing voices element is a little weird and out of no where. It fits in when Christina is entirely out of it after her fall, but the other time would have me wondering if I wasn't a little insane.
  • There's an instance in here where Tor walks in wearing riding breeches and a jacket over a turtleneck and then claps his hands. I just couldn't help laughing at this.
  • Who is this Whitebrook Lass and why does the whole farm seem to rely on her so much?
  • I find it amusing how everyone at Whitebrook has this almost visceral reaction to disliking Lord Townsend, even though by all that we know, Whitebrook Farm should own half of Lord Townsend because he's out of Townsend Princess. Poor Lord Townsend. Such the black sheep of the family.
  • Ross. Okay, sure, it makes sense. Brad vs. Ashleigh and Ross vs. Christina. It's natural. Unfortunately the tension there just isn't as, well, palpable? Hysterically time consuming? I kept reading about their competitive need to beat the crap out of each other and thought about how much I might really enjoy the build up to Christina/Parker later on.
  • I would have really enjoyed to see an explanation for why Samantha quit Whitebrook after Ashleigh died. That would have been an interesting, sad story. And that's what strikes me about this book. The dream is more or less a waste of time (although entertaining time...I'll give it that) but it skips the more interesting storylines. You know what could have been skipped? Part One. Joanna should have started with Part Two, dedicated a whole section to Christina's rehabilitation and near collapse due to pushing herself too hard, and then Part Three should have been the preparation for the Rolex Kentucky. Why gloss over all that good stuff so we can read about a foal with a not-so-serious problem and a ten-year-old girl with the patience of a gnat?
  • Also, a hat? Seriously? The whole plot twist is a hat flying out of nowhere and spoking Jazz, thereby injuring Christina? I was all set to see Jazz doing some typical green horse shenanigans resulting in injury. Instead it's a hat hitting her horse on the nose. I didn't know to be refreshed or annoyed.
  • Why do they keep stabbing Christina with needles to get her to sleep? She has an IV. Use it.
  • My favorite line: "Yo, crip." I have no idea why Ross says this to Christina. Although it is quickly becoming my favorite quote in the series.
  • I really enjoyed Mike's conversation with Christina about competition and not letting it drive her life. I also find it exceedingly ironic because Cindy is next and if anyone was sorely in need of that talk, it's her.
  • There's another one of those "I know it sounds crazy..." medical moments brought to us by Joanna Campbell. The nurses, despite it being "strictly against the rules" (although I don't see why, generally speaking, but considering Chris is a month premature I guess it makes some rational sense) brings Christina into Ashleigh's hospital room because they think it will help bring her out of her coma-like whatever. And in true "this only happens in the movies!" Christina accidentally bumps Ashleigh's cheek and she wakes up like she's just woken from a light nap.
  • And then they stick both weakened Ashleigh and premature Christina in an open sleigh for a ride that will last who knows how long, despite the nurses twittering stupidly about how the doctors would never allow it. I'm sure there was some pool between the nurses going on by the end of that book on how soon they'd be seeing Ashleigh & Co. back at the hospital after that.
My main problem with this book isn't the book itself. The book is pretty good despite it sort of just ending randomly and skimming over things that would have been more interesting than the things described in detail. My problem is how the dream becomes canon later on. Kevin, Ross, the eventing...they all just step out of this dream and into the canon series, which irks me to no end.

Thus I have to blame this book for all the stupidity later.

Now...now I tackle Tor's rumored infidelity and the complete ridiculousness of Cindy.

Mar 22, 2008

Whole lot of TLC goin' on: TB #11: Wonder's Sister

Wonder's Sister
Thoroughbred #11
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1994

I'll say one thing up front. It's pretty difficult to take this book seriously when its whole premise is incorrect. However, despite the whole problem of Shining not being any relation to Wonder in a sense that knowledgeable people would recognize, I still enjoyed this installment much more than others.

The cover!
It's a bit ho-hum, isn't it? Not a lot going on, but it's got the main players involved. I'm left wondering why Shining is wearing a bridle in the middle of a pasture, and I don't know what is going on with Samantha's shirt. Wonder (if that is Wonder) looks a little half thought out. My favorite part of the cover has always been that nondescript chestnut mare and foal in the background.

A horse for keeps?

Samantha McLean has been around horses all her life, but she's never had a horse of her own. So she's overjoyed when Ashleigh Griffen and Mike Reese give her Shining, the half sister of one of the greatest race horses of all time, Ashleigh's Wonder. It's her job to turn the sickly, neglected horse into a winner, and she's got her work cut out for her. Shining is stubborn and difficult, and it looks as though she'll never race.

Then a little girl named Mandy, who cannot walk, falls in love with Shining, and the filly's training suddenly improves. But as Shining prepares for her first race, Mandy's parents make Samantha a stunning offer. Must Samantha give up on the only horse she's ever owned?

Well, let's get the plots out of the way.

1. Shining.
The book opens up with Mike returning to Whitebrook with a few horses from a bankruptcy sale. One of them is Shining, a "half-sister" to Wonder, which Mike bought specifically because she's Wonder's half-sister. There's all this talk about how she could have been slaughter-bound as she's in such horrible shape, and so Mike rescues her and reveals that she's Wonder's half-sister and how they just had to have her despite her condition and how she might never race. Then he reveals her parentage. Shining is by Townsend Pride out of a mare called Brite Morn, who is apparently a granddaughter of Bold Ruler. So everyone oohs and aahs over this, remarking again that she's Wonder's half-sister! Only the thing is she isn't. Being related through the same sire doesn't make horses half-siblings. At all. Moving on.

So Mike and Ashleigh give Shining to Samantha, who then goes through the whole book retraining Shining to race.

2. Mandy
Apparently Samantha doesn't know how to not play favorites with the Pony Commandos, and so all of a sudden Mandy is everywhere. She's at Whitebrook watching the works, meeting Shining, declaring her love for Shining, and riding Shining. I couldn't help thinking that putting a six-year-old handicapped child on a barely three-year-old racehorse would be a bad idea, but naturally all Whitebrook horses are well-behaved with children so the whole thing was executed without a problem. Naturally. Then, because Mandy is also rich, her parents decide to buy Shining from Samantha. Angst ensues over trying to decide who Shining is meant for and there was a bunch of talk about special bonds and etc until Samantha decides to sell Shining. Just when she decides to sell, Mandy's parents call up and inform Samantha that their idea was (obviously) kind of stupid and they've decided to buy a pony instead.

3. Sex
Maybe it was Ian's talk with Samantha about, you know, not having sex with Tor while he's gone at Gulfstream that has me pretty convinced about this, but if Samantha was a virgin before this book she certainly isn't one by the time Wonder's Sister ends. The love-love-love! crap was ratcheted up several notches since Tor was described as "trimly muscular" in Pride's Last Race, and throughout Wonder's Sister there are enough lingering kisses and make-out sessions and terms of endearment to throw this book into the young adult category.

Oddities:

- I loved Brad in this book. Probably because he acts like the Brad I always wanted him to be from cover to cover. He's realistic, he doesn't say anything remarkably evil, and he's the picture perfect definition of cool confidence. Lavinia, you know, is still a crazy witch, but Brad is definitely what I always wanted to see.

- Suddenly Tor has a sense of humor. I don't know where it came from, but it's refreshing. I warmed up a little bit toward him in this book, unfortunately.

- Soda. Everyone is drinking it.

- Perhaps I can forgive Joanna Campbell this, as she (as far as I know) never lived in the south, but you don't wear suits and tea-length dresses to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Especially not in Kentucky.

- Pride gets a bit lost in this book. He gets a couple of pages in the limelight, but it's really shifted off of him dramatically. Although I do like Shining, and I was pretty tired of Pride, so while I find it interesting that Samantha doesn't attempt to divide her time at all I'm not really caring either.

- Leggings. Leggings, big t-shirts, and flowery shorts. I never want to have to go through this fashion again. Please, please let it stay in the 90s.

- You know, I never really liked Mandy. Plus, I don't know what her point is. If she was six years older she'd be the new main character, but she's only turning seven in this book. Completely out of the age range for our characters. So what on earth is the point to having her be such a huge part of Samantha's life in this book? Other than reaffirming that Samantha is selfless and perfect?

- Samantha should have said no immediately to selling Shining. There's no reason a seven-year-old child should have a race horse. Really. Just. . .really.

- But it's all okay! Shining wins her maiden race and all is right in the world.

So, I liked this book. I liked it more than all the Wonder's Pride books combined. Quite possibly because there was no Lavinia vs. Ashleigh cat fighting and irritating squabbling. No one looks good when that's happening and it was getting so old so fast because it was all insane and made no sense.

Now I've got a quandary. We all know who appears in a box stall in the next book. I can jump into the era of she-who-will-not-be-named, or I can put that off a little bit by going in publication order and reading Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle next. Even though it confuses the time line and jumps forward two years, which I'll then have to backtrack when I get to #12 Shining's Orphan. So what will it be? Cindy or the crazy eventing dream? Hum. Cindy. . .crazy eventing dream. . .Cindy. . . .

Okay, Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle it is.

Mar 20, 2008

We only weep tears of joy!: TB #10: Pride's Last Race

Pride's Last Race
Thoroughbred #10
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1994

Wrapping up the Pride era, we've got an aptly named book: Pride's Last Race. Because, hey, he runs his last race in Pride's Last Race. Who would have thunk it?

The cover:

I really do not like this cover. When this book came out I disliked it and the fourteen years since then has not changed my opinion. I have no idea who the blonde is (nevermind that the blonde's hair is awful) or what the hell is jabbing out of her t-shirt pocket. It can't possibly be a body part, could it? Then there's Samantha, who's over there doing something strange to the poor horse's bridle. Sammy is supposed to be turning 17 in this book, and instead she looks like she's a botoxed fifty-something who's desperately trying to smile despite her plastic surgery-frozen face. I'm assuming this is supposed to be before the Jockey Club Gold Cup, because the background sort of looks like Belmont Park, and that, frankly, is the best part of the entire cover.

Race to the finish...
Wonder's Pride has just had the best year of his life! First he ran to a stunning victory in the Breeders' Cup race. Then he was named Horse of the Year. Pride's trainers, Samantha McLean and Ashleigh Griffen, can't wait for the start of another spectacular year.
But on the verge of his five-year-old season, Pride develops a deadly illness. Pride will never race again -- he may even die! Everyone else says there's no hope for Pride, but Samantha refuses to give up on him. Can her determination save the famous horse?

This is...well, it's a silly blurb. It gets the point of the book fairly accurately, but in that sugary sweet "Oh, no! Unexpected tragedy our beloved main characters will have to somehow overcome by sitting on their hands and weeping!" way. Because, again, it's a problem no one really fixes. Sure, Joanna tries really hard to suggest that Samantha's love inexplicably caused Pride's miracle recovery, but come on.

Okay, so the plots:

1. Lord Ainsley vs. Wonder's Pride/Brad vs. Ashleigh:
The book starts out with more of the same from Pride's Challenge. In fact, it starts out directly after #9, with Ashleigh and Mike getting back from their little conference with the stewards concerning Brad and Lavinia's supposed attempt at fixing the Whitney Handicap. Nothing happens there, of course, so we're free to start in with the Lord Ainsley/Pride rivalry again. That continues through the Breeders' Cup.

2. Unexpected(!) Tragedy:
Seriously. Princess breaks her leg, Wonder loses her foal, Pride nearly dies. It's like a very emotional melt down for everyone and allows for plenty of hysterics.

Actually, if we were looking for a cohesive plot there really isn't one. The book is split in two between the petty bickering and Lavinia acting like a loon who's two steps closer to homicide every day, and the tragedies.


Oddities:

  • After Blues King wins his race, Yvonne is all about the "malicious glee." I don't know if malicious glee is something protagonists should be sporting in this series, considering how much everyone points out how often Lavinia is a "jealous witch" and what all. Pot, kettle, black, anyone?
  • "I can't believe there are people who feel sorry for her. I mean, it's tough being an only child whose mother practically deserted you, but that's no excuse for expecting to have everything your way." This quote concerning Lavinia is just so terribly annoying.
  • Ashleigh and Samantha running around with the weanlings is just too cute.
  • Ashleigh is adjusting the focus on her television? What now?
  • Lavinia remarks after the Woodward that Lord Ainsley put in a remarkable effort given the track was muddy and that he's so versatile. Ashleigh mutters, "Like she knows what she's talking about. What a phony." Did Ashleigh & Co. not say pretty much the same thing about Lord Ainsley before? What is wrong with these people? And Samantha, for the love of God no one is being overraced, okay? We know Pride can only run once every three and a half months because he's the most delicate superhorse on earth, but lay off already.
  • You know, I never liked the Pony Commandos. Probably because they just sucked up valuable plot time, and probably because their whole existence was so impossible. Okay, tiny handicapped children! We're going to put you in the hands of four teenagers who have no background whatsoever in physical therapy and they're going to endanger your lives by sticking you on horses! Are we excited yet? How they ever got insurance to go along with that is anyone's guess. Isn't there a qualified, licensed therapeutic riding center somewhere in the "heart" of America's horse country where these kids could do this and stop wasting our time?
  • Why would Lavinia want to exercise the horses? Why the hell would a Kentucky socialite want to do that? Just...what?
  • I love this. Ashleigh is always bitching and whining about how everyone else doesn't care about a horse's welfare by simply racing it a couple of times in the course of two months. Brad suggests to a paper that it's not wise to race Pride past the Breeders' Cup because he doesn't want to risk injury. And who's the pissed off one? Ashleigh.
  • "A lot of stallions aren't retired until they're five or six." Okay, two things. One: I don't know where Samantha's getting her numbers, but most dirt horses retire well before they're five. Two: If they retired Pride after the Breeders' Cup he'd be retiring and going to stud as a five-year-old. Plus, what's the point of racing him another year. He's so delicate he'd probably hit the track twice with everyone freaking out in between races about how delicate he is.
  • Contention! Mr. Townsend wants to retire Pride. For purely financial reasons (his starting fee is $30,000 and his book would be 50 mares, and I don't know how that would have worked in reality given this was 1994, but whatever) and with the logical expectation that Pride may not win all his races and could very well be injured and thus may not command a larger fee later. Ashleigh is pissed. Like...furious pissed. Ash, sweetie, even in 1994 horses were retiring at three. Pride isn't experiencing an early retirement. He's experiencing reality's swift kick to his (and your) ass.
  • *gasp!* Pride might be moved to Townsend Acres upon retirement! Don't worry, Sammy. You don't visit Pride after he retires to stud anyway, so honestly this shouldn't bother you.
  • I'm sort of starting to wonder what Ashleigh does when she's getting into these cat fights with Lavinia outside of the narrative. If Lavinia looks like she's afraid she's going to get hit what the hell is Ashleigh doing?
  • You know those rather infrequent moments when people completely lose it in front of family members and the general public? Well, Lavinia just had one of those moments and it was pretty amusing. Probably because it made no sense and yes, Ashleigh's getting her way again for seemingly no reason. Pride won't be retired and Lavinia has a melt down. It's just this sort of drama that turns the lives of our Thoroughbred characters. Ashleigh wins, Lavinia loses and everyone turns and marvels at Lavinia's bitterness like it's a curiosity they can't quite grasp.
  • So to offset the wonderful good luck Whitebrook has at the beginning of this book, Joanna throws every tragedy she can at them in the second half. Princess breaks her leg, Wonder miscarries her foal, and Pride suffers intestinal blockage/colic and is rushed to surgery. Strangely, the only thing I really wanted to see was Pride losing to Lord Ainsley once or twice.
  • You know, whenever Joanna gets into explanations for her medical miracles I always think of a quote from Days of our Lives when Dr. Rolf says: "I know it sounds crazy, but he has jungle fever." Because really, her attempt at explaining Pride nearly dying from colic and rebounding out of nowhere is pretty close to that.
So that's the end for Pride. After this he goes off to the breeding shed, never to be heard from again (more or less).

Mar 12, 2008

Danger, Danger, Ashleigh Griffen – Ashleigh #6: A Dangerous Ride

Ashleigh #6: A Dangerous Ride
Created by Joanna Campbell
Written by Mary Newhall Anderson
First Printing: August 1999

And fast on the heels of forbidden stallions and Ashleigh being grounded from riding, we have a dangerous ride coming up. Presumably, Ashleigh is no longer grounded, unless of course she’s doing something bad and sneaking another ride … but we shall find out in due course. And there’s the simple matter of what kind of ride turns dangerous?

Maybe the cover will tell us!



Ah! Ashleigh is riding Stardust. She must have been allowed to ride again. She also appears to be wearing show clothes, but looks very very unbalanced leaning over the left side of her horse like that. It’s enough to send any riding instructor into screams of outrage. Any more unbalanced, and she’s likely to tip right off Stardust. Or hey, if Stardust screeches to a halt, Ashleigh will find herself doing a faceplant in the dirt. She also looks far too big to be a 10 year old girl, and maybe even too large for that horse. Dramatic cover, maybe, like something out of a Nancy Drew mystery. But dangerous ride? Nah, maybe the summary will help us out.

The Summary:

Is Ashleigh forgetting her dream?

Ashleigh Griffen loves riding with her best friend, Mona Gardener, so when Mona starts jumping and competing in horse shows, Ashleigh wants to give it a try.

But without the right clothes, a fancy horse, or a nasty attitude, Ashleigh feels out of place. Spurred on by a group of snobby horse-show girls, she rises to the challenge, determined to beat them at their own game.

Soon Ashleigh and Stardust are jumping and showing all the time, and winning, too! But no matter how good she gets, Ashleigh still wants to be a jockey. Doesn't she?

Dangerous rides? Nope, nothing there, unless one refers to the “snobby horse-show girls.” The hunter-jumper scene can be incredibly catty most of the time; you have to have that $4,000 Butet saddle, or those $900 Cavallo dress boots -- it’s like swimming in blood-filled waters with man-eating sharks. Hey, maybe that’s it! There’s the danger! The Hunter Bitch Princesses will eat you alive! That said, the plot summary gives nothing important other than Ashleigh’s newfound hobby of horse shows and wondering if she’s giving up her dream of being a jockey. Well, frankly, considering she’s all of 10 years old, I’d say she could stick to the horse shows for a few more years, get some good riding experience under her and then go on to get her jockey license when she’s old enough. Hey, it worked for Christina, didn‘t it?

The Big Picture Plot:
Fresh from her adventures in The Forbidden Stallion, Ashleigh is now able to ride a horse again. Bully for her. Plus, it even sounds like she’s super good friends with Peter Danworth now, considering how catty and angry they were towards each other for two-thirds of Book #5. So off she goes to ride with Mona, and they end up popping over itty-bitty two-foot crossrails and Mona gets all excited about doing a pairs-class with Ashleigh. But Ashleigh turns her down because Aladdin is coming up to Keeneland, and she wants to go see him.

And so they’re off to the track, where they not-so-surprisingly run into a certain dark-haired boy (who just can’t seem to get a break even in a 2 paragraph cameo appearance) before they find that Aladdin has been stuck in the wrong stall (hey, didn’t we already see this in book #10 of the regular series?) and is throwing a temper tantrum. So they whisk him off to the comfort of Edgardale but not before Ashleigh meets a former jockey by the name of Sam Wiggens who was apparently so great he even rode Secretariat and was supposed to ride him in the Bay Shore, but oh, a tragic accident beforehand crushed that chance. Literally.

So Mona finally manages to talk Ashleigh into riding at a show, Caroline shows how talented she is at braiding a horse’s mane (and indirectly hints that while she does like horses, she’s not horse-crazy, so everyone needs to get off her back about it) and Ashleigh runs into two hunter princesses (scratch that, one is a hunter bitch princess, the other just rides really well) who criticize her clothes and her horse and her saddle (clearly Ashleigh does NOT have a $4,000 Butet) but lo and behold, Ashleigh and Mona win the blue ribbon in the pairs class. And then Ashleigh shoots off her mouth at spoiled Miss Debbie, and Ashleigh leaps into showing like there’s no tomorrow.

And at least, we find our ‘dangerous ride’ Ashleigh does something stupid, and races after Frisky who threw Mona at an A-rated show. Whoopie! Ashleigh clearly is the only person capable of catching Frisky. And off she goes to the racetrack to watch Aladdin’s race. And gets a bunch of people talking about how she will be a super jockey someday. Hooray!

Some Key Points of Interest:
  • pg. 30: Hey look everyone, it’s Brad! Poor guy can’t get a break even in a cameo. He’s “rude” according to Ashleigh. Instant clash. Yeah!
  • pg. 38: Aladdin’s sire, Royal Tee is a “full brother to Secretariat” which makes me giggle madly because he “never got a chance to run many races.” Yeah, which means either The Bride was substituted for Royal Tee or Syrian Sea was. It’s just amusing because it’s an obvious attempt to give Aladdin some kind of family relationship to some famous horse.
  • pg. 39: Sam Wiggens was supposed to ride Secretariat in the Bay Shore. Hey, did anyone ever tell Ron Turcotte he could have lost the ride that day?
  • pg. 106: Peter claims that Aladdin will be the next winner of the Keeneland Mile. Which Keeneland Mile might that be? The one that races on the grass? For horses four and up? In fact, the only spring mile race at Keeneland for males is the Makers Mark for 4-Year-Olds & up. And that is run on the grass. Research, people!
  • pg. 125: “Magic is out of Bold Ruler, Ashleigh.” ARGH! Mary, I gotta hand it to you as a writer who can pen a readable story, but for god’s sake, Bold Ruler is a stallion. Stallions do not give birth to foals. Foals come OUT OF mares. Foals are BY stallions. It’s a major pet peeve of mine when people fuck up terminology like that. Also, Bold Ruler died in 1971. For him to have sired Magic, that means Magic is 27 years old. Gee, he’s probably a bit long in the tooth to have been just off the track and doing show jumping, don't you think?
So there you have it, thrills, chills and spills! And the excitement of Ashleigh competing in the backstabbing world of Hunter/Jumper. Next up, Aladdin freaking wins the freaking Kentucky Derby!

Mar 11, 2008

Redux! TB #9: Pride's Challenge

Pride's Challenge
Thoroughbred #9
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1994

You know the book Black Stallion Challenged? Well, it was published in 1964, and I think Joanna Campbell probably had it right next to her computer when she wrote Pride's Challenge. Just swap the boys with girls and throw in a bunch of drama and petty arguments and you've got a Thoroughbred story!

The cover:

I love this cover, even if Pride looks a little bulky. He appears like a lumbering steamroller here, which makes me wonder why Lord Ainsley, in all his thin grace, never does get the better of him. The other reason I love it? Brad's on the cover! Yeah, pretty predictable of me. As far as the girl, I operated for the longest time thinking she was Samantha until it was pointed out to me by a friend that it had to be Ashleigh because this is a scene from the book. If it's Ashleigh that's great. Fine by me. It just gives more fuel to the roaring tension. Also, a side note: what are these things Brad and (possibly) Ashleigh are carrying? Could they be crops? Crops in use? I have a feeling Joanna Campbell strongly disapproved of this cover.

The highest stakes of all . . .
Wonder's Pride is ready to race again. Samantha McLean, the colt's groom, and Ashleigh Griffen, his jockey, are thrilled that he has recovered so well from an injury. But not everyone wants Pride back at the racetrack. Brad Townsend, Pride's owner's son, and his wife, Lavinia, want Pride out of the way so their own horse can reach the winner's circle. When the horses are pitted against each other in a big stakes race, Samantha knows Lavinia will stop at nothing to make Pride lose. With Ashleigh busy planning her wedding, it's up to Samantha alone to save Wonder's Pride from the scheming Townsends.

The plots in this book are many. Let me try to sort them all out:

#1: Brad and Lavinia. Yes, they get top billing this time out as their horse, Lord Ainsley, is set to ruin Pride's comeback. This is sort of unfortunate for Lord Ainsley, because I always liked his name and dark bays with flashy white markings are just so pretty, but he's doomed to play Pride's rival. Brad and Lavinia, intent on having their horse win and apparently not understanding that they benefit from having Pride run and do well also, attempt to throw as many road blocks as they can in front of Ashleigh & Co. along the way. It's very childish most of the time, on everyone's parts. Reading their adventures is like walking into a room of preschool students who all hate each other.

#2: Beth. Ian McLean is tired of being a single dad, so he runs out and gets himself a girlfriend. Samantha is mortified by this development, acts like a raging brat who isn't getting her way for three quarters of the book, and her relationship with Tor suffers as a result (although that's mostly because Tor is an asshole).

#3: Samantha and Tor. They have their first fight! And it's not cute at all. In fact, I sort of hate Tor now.

#4: Charlie's health. We all saw the foreshadowing for what happens in this book long ago, and it comes to a head in Pride's Challenge.

Oddities:

  • pg.3: Lavinia is bitching about why the Townsends are bothering to race Pride again. Because they have Lord Ainsley now. Who needs another runner, right?
  • pg.4: Ashleigh and Lavinia are about two seconds away from pulling each other's hair. Brad just stands there and watches, which has to be the best part because obviously he would be the type of guy to enjoy this sort of thing.
  • pg.7: We get a clear cut explanation for why Lavinia is a bitch: she never had a mommy's love. Let this be a lesson to all the young mommys out there: love your children or they'll grow up to be obnoxious brats you'll wind up hating.
  • Example of talking race strategy, Thoroughbred style: "If Lord Ainsley runs the same kind of race, I can expect him to start moving on the far turn and start pressuring us hard coming down the stretch." No kidding! It's, like, what all horses start doing at the end of a race. Also, it seems to me that race strategy should involve more than hoping you catch an overconfident jockey off guard.
  • I honestly don't think it's possible for Lavinia to be so immature. It's like watching a five-year-old try to rule a small country.
  • I'm a little stunned that Brad didn't want to run Lord Ainsley against Pride. It's like he has, you know, sense.
  • The Nassau County Handicap is such a blast from the past. If you follow that link you'll notice that there is no first turn and therefore no way for the horses to "enter" the backstretch.
  • Again, weirdness from Brad. Contradicting Lavinia when she wants Lord Ainsley's jockey to call foul when there wasn't one? Who is this Brad? Holy crap. It's arrogantly handsome, white suit-wearing Brad from Wonder's First Race! I didn't think I'd see this Brad again!
  • Is it wrong to giggle when Ashleigh admits to losing it when Lavinia is around?
  • Ashleigh is taking the old tradition of not letting the groom see the wedding dress a little far by not letting anyone see it before the wedding day. Given how neurotic Ashleigh is I figure she probably needed plenty of outside opinion before buying any dress.
  • pg. 86: Ah, my unsettled feelings about Tor are finally justified. While I like that a main couple finally has a disagreement (if you want to call it that) there's no reason that relationship should have survived after this page in this book.
  • pg.88: Tor has to state that Sierra's upcoming race is going to be more competitive, which I really can't help but take as a dig toward Samantha's novice race. Yes, Tor, we get that you're like Mr. Super Jumping Expert/Steeplechase Jockey Despite Never Having Competed in a Steeplechase, but get your head out of your ass already.
  • pg. 91: No, Sammy, your "hot headed temper" didn't get you in trouble. Your boyfriend is a jerk. That's pretty much the problem in a nutshell.
  • pg. 96: Congratulations, Joanna Campbell! Winner of the most awkward moment in Thoroughbred history: Sierra rears in the saddling paddock of his race, Tor falls off the horse's butt, and Samantha apologizes for getting so mad (which she shouldn't because he screamed at her because he's an asshole) and Tor is relieved? What the hell is that about?
  • Ah, there's nothing like a good victorious horse race to soothe everyone's personal troubles. Sierra wins and then Samantha tells Tor the whole back story, apologizes, he apologizes for not listening to her, but never takes back the whole yelling episode because he's an asshole and Samantha should have dumped him on page 86. Wow, will I have a field day with #12, Shining's Orphan.
  • About the mini-match race between Lord Ainsley/Brad and Wonder's Pride/Ashleigh before the Suburban Handicap . . . wouldn't it be amusing if Brad was telling the truth about Lord Ainsley dropping off the bit?
  • "Mr. Wonderful is so pedestrian. We've decided to call him Lavinius . . ." You know, Lavinius wouldn't have been such a bad name. I suppose it would mean "man of Rome", but really at this point I wish Brad would grow a back bone, throw up his hands and say: "That's it, I want a divorce on grounds of your being insane."
  • The moment has arrived! Ashleigh's wedding dress is unveiled! You decide if this is a fashion don't: "a simple ivory satin with tight chiffon sleeves and a full sweep of ankle-length shirt. The scooped neck of the gown and base of the skirt were delicately embroidered with pale pink roses. Ashleigh had pulled her long, dark hair on top of her head and crowned it with a garland of roses that matched those embroidered on her gown. From the garland a long, lacy veil frothed out like a misty halo and fell all the way to the ground." Sounds like a dress for an indoor ceremony. Chiffon sleeves? Well, it was 1994.
  • Looks like Lord Ainsley is headed to the Haskell Invitational, which is only for three-year-olds. So how they'll manage to get a four-year-old in that will be interesting to see.
  • Well, guys, Charlie's passed on. While I think he was sort of a rip off of Walter Farley's Henry Daily, he was still probably the most level-headed character Joanna was capable of writing.
  • Um, the memorial service for Charlie is going great with Ashleigh declaring she's going to take Pride to Saratoga and win the Whitney Handicap, but then she has to throw in this vengeance thing about Brad and Lavinia and that seems pretty tacky to me. Vengeance should wait until after the memorial service, Ashleigh.
  • Now Lavinia is driving a Cherokee. Someone has to got to explain to me what someone like Lavinia Townsend sees in an early 90s Jeep Cherokee.
  • Wow, if only my parents ever let me get off easy by telling me I had "every right" to act like a brat. Even when Samantha's being a bitch, it's deserved. If only I had these powers.
  • Okay, what, exactly, was spreading a rumor about scratching Pride supposed to accomplish for Brad and Lavinia? If you want to fix a race, you fix a race properly, damn it.
  • The explanation of how Jilly couldn't ride and Brad put up an inexperienced jockey is the most convoluted, impossible story I've ever heard and would have easily been prevented by owning a cell phone. Simply put.
  • Question: Lord Ainsley is owned by Brad and Lavinia Townsend (although they refer to him as being owned by Townsend Acres). Wonder's Pride is co-owned by Clay Townsend and Ashleigh. Would they really be running as the same entry?
  • Another simple way to avoid Alvero (the replacement jockey) taking the wrong instructions: have Yvonne tell him the instructions in Spanish beforehand. She's there, they've got a jockey who knows mostly Spanish . . . seems like the natural situation to think of. Does anyone think of this? Oh, no, only as an afterthought. If you can easily think of a way out of the situation you're trying to set up as an obstacle, it isn't really an obstacle.
  • And Pride seems to magically understand how much everyone hates Lavinia by flattening his ears and threatening her in the end. Excellent.

You know what would have made this story better? Had Lord Ainsley won one of those races in which he was up against Pride. Here's what should have happened: Lord Ainsley stayed in the Suburban, won the Suburban, creating lots of founded drama, then he gets his bruise between the Suburban and the Whitney, heals, enters the Whitney, and Brad and Lavinia mess with Pride's jockey just for fun. Then they'd be evil and Ashleigh & Co. would have reason to act like they are, and we'd all be happy.

Next up . . . I don't know. Pride colics or something? Eh, we'll see.

Mar 8, 2008

Self-Confidence 101: TB #8 Sierra's Steeplechase

Sierra's Steeplechase
Thoroughbred #8
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1993

Here's a book with a quick and obvious title. It tells you everything you need to know about the book in two words. Sierra. Steeplechase. Viola!

So, the cover:


This is an improvement from the last cover. We've got some action, and despite the male rider appearing to have no eyes and the strange blissful/incoherent look on Samantha's face there isn't much to complain about. Of course, the only steeplechasing I've seen were a few races broadcast from England on TVG, so I'm not about to start nitpicking on what anyone is doing on the cover. It's pleasing. I will leave it there.


There's no hope for Sierra . . .

Every trainer at Whitebrook Farm has given up on Sierra. The spirited colt just doesn't seem to have the patience for racing. Then Sierra jumps effortlessly over an enormous fallen tree, and Samantha McLean, the head trainer's daughter, knows the horse could be a champion steeplechaser.

With her friend Tor's help, Samantha begins to train Sierra for the dangerous demands of steeplechasing. But when Sierra's finally ready for his first race, Tor, the Thoroughbred's jockey, falls and breaks his arm. Now Samantha must ride Sierra in the most perilous race of her life--and make Sierra a winner!

Well, this is one of those rare blurbs that makes sense. Of course, there's not a lot of plot to pick through here, so writing the blurb must have been fairly easy. The book starts with Sierra being a pain in the butt; Samantha's in particular. She and Tor take him out on the trails and naturally there's an episode of wild bolting off into the woods. As it happens, Sierra gallivants down the trail with Samantha, completely out of control, and manages to jump a six-foot downed tree that's covering the path. This gets Tor all excited about his jumping ability again.

In the meantime, Pride is getting ready to run in the Breeders' Cup (which, strangely, is consistently punctuated correctly, as opposed to all the other books). They fly him out to California to run, only to have him stumble, catch himself with his hoof, and pull up. So Pride is out for the winter and the majority of early spring, giving Samantha time to devote herself to Sierra.

So back to Sierra. Tor and Samantha decide to train the colt to be a steeplechaser. Tor wants to jockey him, and Samantha spends almost every five pages being so happy about Tor jockeying Sierra because she knows she could never do it (her self-confidence, you see, is low for some reason). Oh, what foreshadowing! Then, just as they get Mike to approve putting Sierra in a novice competition in Lexington Tor has to go break his arm. I know, how unprecedented. With Tor out of the picture, that places the burden of having to ride the horse on Samantha. Why they couldn't get another jockey who knows what they're doing is beyond me, but it never crosses anyone's mind. At first Samantha's dad won't hear of it, but he gives in because he doesn't want to ruin Sierra's chances with Whitebrook. Because if Sierra doesn't do well in his novice race, he's going to be . . . sold! I know! The audacity of Mike to sell Samantha's favorite horse (besides Pride, and Fleet Goddess, and Wonder)!

Oddities (I didn't pick through this book, so there will be fewer this time around):

  • Samantha has been taking jumping lessons once a week (if possible) since mid-spring. About a year later she's riding a horse in a steeplechase of sixteen, four-foot brush fences. I don't even have a sarcastic remark for this.
  • Tor is really the heroic type, isn't he? I'm torn between being irked that he tells Samantha he wants to ride Sierra when she gets tossed after that six-foot miracle jump or thinking it's chivalrous and caring or whatever.
  • Brad is not in this book at all, but he's doing plenty of things that our wonderfully wholesome characters can't stop talking about. What I'm trying to wrap my brain around is why Ashleigh went to his wedding in the first place. I had to stop reading for a moment as I kept thinking about Ashleigh shopping for a wedding gift, and really the whole image was too much.
  • Why on earth does Clay Townsend drive a Jeep Cherokee?
  • There are a lot of exclamation marks in this book. Usually followed by the word "cried" so everyone comes off as exceptionally whiny and loud. Not a good combination.
  • At the end of the book, when Sierra comes in second to the jockey who made disparaging comments about Samantha and Sierra's ability, the jockey sort of offers an apology and a comment on how it's Sierra's "lucky day" (which it is, quite frankly). Samantha comes back with: "Sierra did it with heart and courage" and I almost wanted to slap her for the poor guy.
The most refreshing thing about this book: Sierra doesn't win. It was nice to see coming in second and being okay with it was within the capability of these people, because you don't see it often.

Next up: Brad vs. Ashleigh, redux! Are you ready for it? Oh, I know you are.

Mar 6, 2008

TB Gets a Brief Injection of Personality! #25 Melanie's Treasure

Melanie's Treasure
Thoroughbred #25
by Allison Estes
Original Publication: 1998

Yes, indeed. Here we are. I know I have been slacking and I personally find it bordering on tragic that it took me a whole week to read this book. It's sad when life gets in the way of my TB time...


Onward to the review!

She's his last hope...
Ever since 13-year-old Melanie Graham was sent to live with her aunt Ashleigh and uncle Mike at Whitebrook Farm, she's struggled for a way to fit in. Everything she does is wrong. She doesn't get along with her cousin Christina and riding racehorces is nothing like riding back in New York. Then she sees Pirate's Treasure. The powerful black stallion has incredible potential. But he's also unpredictable--and dangerous. Then he's retired from his racing career and turned out to pasture. Soon he begins to lose his will to live. Can Melanie break through Pirate's distrust and prove to everyone he has the heart of a champion?


Mmmkay. This is one of the poorest blurbs ever written. There was a bit more to the book than this, like... Milky Way? And Melanie never really did much riding in the book, but anyway. I can't be too fussy. At least the animal depicted on the cover really does look like Pirate. It's the right colouring! And it even looks like a Thoroughbred too, not some Quarter Horse posing as a stand in.

Plot Outline

Melanie is a horse-crazy New York girl with a slightly bitchy best friend, Aynslee. She has a rebellious streak and the two girls decide to sneak out one night and go for a moonlit ride in central park. Things go awry, however, when Melanie and her favorite horse, Milky Way, are involved in an accident. Milky Way gets killed and Melanie has a dislocated shoulder. It's bad enough her mother is dead, now her father sends her off to Whitebrook Farm, the worst place on earth with her hick cousin, Christina.

We have the typical TB scenario where Mel swears she will never ride or get attached to another horse again. However, this is slightly different as she feels that she's just plain old bad luck. So, of course being on a Thoroughbred farm is pure hell for our young heroine.

There is instant friction between her and other characters and she just refuses to cooperate in case they actually think she likes it there. But, her father is occupied with his girlfriend and work and her best friend wants nothing to do with her.

Melanie then starts working with Pirate, but he is erratic for reasons that no one can figure out. After several bad accidents, Pirate ends up wounded and they decide the best thing to do is to geld him. So, poor Pirate sinks into equine depression while he recovers. I wonder if he was aware that his whole reproductive future is now nullified.

Taking pity on him, Melanie starts sneaking visits to his paddock. She slowly starts riding him and one day, tries to jump him over a log. (Christina should have told her beforehand that jumping a green racehorse over a log is never a smart idea.) As it turns out, this works out as Mel discovers that Pirate is blind!

Melanie then gets Pirate as he is useless as a racehorse and they become the new pony girl/horse team at Whitebrook! Yay!

Interesting Points
  • As a character, Mel is the most spunky, different girl in the entire series. I felt sad that the authors couldn't keep up her interesting traits. Like her interest in art.
  • Faith is still a chestnut.
  • Aynslee is a bitch. If I had a friend like that, I would really question why.
  • Christina acts like a total, immature little girl in this book, just enhancing my overall liking of Melanie. "Don't touch her!!!" Why oh why would Melanie not be able to touch Sterling? The horse is fine. Let her be exposed to other people, you stupid 12-year-old.
  • Kevin is also characterized nicely. Shame. It seems that all the fun Estes injected into the dynamic between the Whitebrook kids died a horrible, painful death come book #36.
  • Both Anna Simms and Naomi get injured in this book due to Pirate. I guess they are pretty screwed for jockeys for a few months.
  • Estes is damned good at conversation.
  • It's nice to see that some research was actually done into the racing world. I have to commend Estes for that too. And for not giving the horses Pirate raced against names of any kind, let alone stupid ones.
  • We got a description of Melanie's room, complete with quilt! Wow!

And I am done. On to the pain that is Sterling's Second Chance, in which we learn that, sometimes, it's better to just hit the horse, rather than have our arm broken and deal with our mare's issues with water.

Mar 5, 2008

The Next Secretariat: TB #7: Samantha's Pride

Samantha's Pride
Thoroughbred #7
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1993

Welcome to another one of those books sporting a main character's insert random-word-involving-sentiment-or-higher-accomplishment-here. In this case, the main character is Samantha and the random word is either referring to the horse or to Samantha's . . . any synonym of pride, because honestly she reflects most of them.

To the cover!


I was never a huge fan of this cover, for reasons I can't exactly pinpoint. Who knows where they are, what they're doing, and why is Pride this strange muddy bay color? I keep thinking they're at some state fair.

The summary:

Will Pride's winning streak ruin him?

Wonder's Pride, the three-year-old colt of champion mare Wonder, is the newest star in Thoroughbred racing and the favorite for the biggest race of them all -- the Kentucky Derby. But when Pride wins the Derby, it looks like victory could be the worst thing that ever happened to him!
Pride's owner, Clay Townsend, wants to race Pride in the strenuous Triple Crown. But Pride's jockey, Ashleigh Griffen, and Ashleigh's friend Samantha McLean, who have watched Pride grow up, both believe Pride will suffer permanent injuries if he races too much. Can Samantha and Ashleigh stop Mr. Townsend before he races one of the greatest horses of all time -- to death?

The fantastic thing about this summary is how marginalized Ashleigh is in it. Clay Townsend is the owner and she is the lowly jockey, who is easily kicked off the horse (and, as fate would have it, she somehow manages this) at the whim of someone like, say, Brad. I would normally chalk this up to the blurb writer simply not getting it, before it became pretty clear that even the author wasn't 100% clear on things either. People in the book seem honestly confused as to who holds more power, like a 50-50 co-ownership situation is too complicated to grasp. Call me simplistic, but being told you own half a horse indicates that you're entitled to act like a co-owner with the right to demand equal say, but maybe that's presuming too much.

So, the plot:

Pride is three and he's like the best thing to hit the racing world since Secretariat. I know this because it's stated several times. He's practically the second coming. So he's pointed to the Triple Crown by the Townsends, which annoys Ashleigh & Co. for some reason because apparently just wanting to point a horse to the Triple Crown indicates that no one cares about the horse's well-being. So, despite not being grossly overraced leading up to the Triple Crown everyone whines about how exhausted he is, and then there's more whining about how he's being raced too soon after the Triple Crown, which leads to poor races and petty in-fighting and more racing that leads to even more dismal performances because Pride "isn't happy" and is under too much "pressure" because he doesn't like to be around raised voices. Then Samantha figures out that the colt is the most neurotic horse to ever touch a race track, somehow convinces the Townsends that their presence screws up the colt's delicate mental confidence, and so they give up trying to have a say in things and all is well. The conclusion: Pride was never really overraced. He was just under too much "pressure" and tore a page out of his dam's book and got pretty passive-aggressive. Physically the old boy was fine.

That's really it. There's some development between Samantha and Tor, with the first touches of show jumping added to the story. The constant droning about how difficult show jumping is compared to riding a horse around at high speeds manages to annoy me enough to resent Tor's addition to the roster of characters.

Oh, and there's Sierra. Sierra is a hot headed horse that won't settle on the track because he's bored (we know this because Samantha tells us so, and we all know her first assumption is always right). So he jumps a fence one day, and Tor gets it into his head that he's naturally inclined to jump. This is not important until book eight, when we get our second one book stand with a horse just significant enough to have 185 pages dedicated to it.

Oddities:

  • Info dumps in dialogue! Yvonne: "Things sure are different -- but so much better now that you, your father, Charlie, and Pride are all at Whitebrook. And you don't have to be around Brad Townsend anymore." Here she could have said you guys or ya'll if her accent leans in that direction. But no. Not when there's back story afoot!
  • Mentioning past events to people who already know about them! Samantha: "I could hardly stand being around Brad, especially when he tried to fire my father. And he was the one who really wanted to sell Pride." Yes, Sammy. Yvonne already knows about these things. The authors in this series are fantastically prone to stating the obvious at every turn. Who does like Brad? Honestly.
  • I don't think I've ever dried a horse with a towel. Wiped a horse's face with a rag...yes. But I have never given a horse a bath and then dried it with a towel.
  • All of Townsend Acres's hopes rest on Wonder's unborn foal and Wonder's Pride. Joanna casually completely forgets about all the horses that had been racing for the farm no more than two years previous, Townsend Pride, Townsend Prince's supposed foals, Townsend Panther, Three Foot -- everything. Because Wonder's Pride and an unborn foal must be the only beacons of hope, of course.
  • For some reason chapter 2 is devoted to Samantha taking a jumping lesson from Tor. I have a feeling there's something off about Samantha being that remarkably advanced in her first lesson when she's never jumped before, but the chapter was really too boring to go into it fully.
  • The sparks are flying. Samantha and Tor brush hands and she gets all flustered and wonders what that's all about. Samantha, you're fifteen, not dense.
  • Tor: "Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner?" No, Tor, the other Secretariat.
  • Samantha wonders to herself why the Townsends have to think of everything in terms of money. Oh, I don't know, perhaps it's because they were going bankrupt about three months ago? Perhaps that's it!
  • So all that Secretariat talk at the beginning of the book wasn't for nothing. Pride wins the Derby in a record time of 1:59, beating you-know-who's record by 2/5's of a second. The description of the race was probably the best Joanna's put out, but the record time? Who could dare nay-say Wonder and her progeny now? Poor Secretariat gets pummeled at every turn in these books.
  • Apparently no one is standing up during these races.
  • Yeah, who is that spoiled rich girl to think she can voice an opinion? Just who the hell does she think she is?
  • Of course, Pride isn't the next Secretariat because he loses the Belmont Stakes by a sliver of a nose. Brad rushes in to scream at Ashleigh about how the loss is all her fault, and in any real world he'd be right. Ashleigh would be slapped with a steward's inquiry for not using her crop. But this isn't the real world, so we'll move on.
  • *gasp!* Ashleigh uses her crop! But Pride naturally does not respond and comes in second or some other inexcusable, unthinkable finish. So, for those of us keeping count, that is one (1) use of a crop by a main character on any horse in the past, well, every book. All seven of 'em. Then Ashleigh somehow gets pulled as Pride's jockey and a new jock uses his crop several times, to the appalled astonishment of everyone and Pride comes in sixth. Thus crops are bad and never amount to any good ever, even if the horse in question has no issue with crops. Color me shocked.
  • This brings me to the question of how Ashleigh gets kicked off as Pride's jockey. She's co-owner. It's like everyone conveniently forgets this fact.
  • Get ready for the moral of the story: liking money makes you a greedy jerk inclined to abuse horses for fun and profit. Although if you're handed money don't be stupid and take it already! This has been a message from the Thoroughbred Series, brought to you by the girls at the Whitebrook Farm blog.
  • Everyone suddenly realizes that Ashleigh owns 50% of Pride. It took a lawyer to point this out to them.
  • The big problems are solved moment of the book comes when Samantha is finally heard. She convinces Mr. Townsend that Pride is the equine equivalent of a mood ring and that he's feeling "pressure" from their constant arguing. Mr. Townsend believes this, despite Pride not being subject to arguing leading up to his sixth place finish. So...whatever. The Townsends vacate Whitebrook and Pride frolicks in peace and bounces back to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
One thing that I find odd about these books is how the morals of the story don't mean very much when the main characters aren't the ones experiencing the flaws the audience is supposed to learn from. Instead these flaws are shunted off to the Townsends, who suffer all the imperfections and bad decisions and the subsequent loathing. Yeah, Samantha, Ashleigh and their group of do-gooders have their unspoken issues (the petty cattiness toward Lavinia simply because she's rich and happens to say one sentence in the book that is construed as snobby because she's rich and so on), but they're supposed to be things we're sympathetic to. Right now I'm just finding it annoying and their actions just as snobby as the supposed self-importance of the Townsends. But then maybe I've just been reading too many of these and I'm not, you know, ten.

Enough reflectiveness! We've got Sierra's super (the word "super" is Joanna's favorite word, and I aim to include it into my vocabulary more, hopefully followed by an exclamation mark if at all possible) important problems to untangle next. Onward to book eight!

Mar 2, 2008

She’s a Rebel… A Rebel with a Cause – Ashleigh #5: The Forbidden Stallion

Ashleigh #5: The Forbidden Stallion
Created by Joanna Campbell
Written by Chris Platt
First Printing: August 1999

So here’s another one! This is probably be the last one for the weekend since tomorrow is March 2nd, and that means it’s Mitch’s birthday (Happy Birthday to my pony!) and then my birthday happens to be Monday. So it might be Tuesday before my next review. But that said, here’s book #5, with what I consider to be an incredibly cheesy-ass title … but then, most of the books in this series have the most awful cliché titles in the world. Also, I’d like to know why I seem to be adapting these review titles to quotations from movies lately – maybe it makes it more fun that way. Or something.



The Cover:
Now, aside from the painfully awful title in red and white on the bottom of the cover, we finally get a cover pumped full of action and raging equine testosterone. Why, it seems to leap right out of the Black Stallion movie – except of course that Aladdin’s Treasure is a three-year-old colt, and a Thoroughbred, not an Arabian. It just screams romance though; the wild looking horse running free through the crashing waves at sunset. Which actually doesn’t ever happen in the book. Yes, Aladdin gets loose (way to go Ashleigh) and runs around on the beach, but it was in the morning, and he was fully tacked up. I’d highly doubt that he’d be running around wild and free on a beach otherwise given how supposedly valuable he is. Plus, the water looks very weird; the waves are breaking rather far behind Aladdin, but he’s able to run through deep enough water that he leaves a spray plume behind him. I don’t know if that’s possible; I’ve ridden on the beach, and usually, you have to be right down by the breakers to get a spray plume like that. Still, compared to the bland and boring inaction on the last few covers, this is an eye-catching breath of fresh air.

The Summary:

Ashleigh is torn
Ashleigh Griffen knows it's wrong, but she can't help it-she's jealous. Peter Danworth has everything: a huge Thoroughbred racing farm, money, and one of Ashleigh's favorite stallions, Aladdin.

Then Ashleigh gets amazing news. If the stallion loses his next race, the Danworths will retire him to stud at Edgardale!

Excited, Ashleigh sneaks a ride on Aladdin -- and she accidentally discovers how to run him to win. Will she keep quiet so the magnificent stallion can live on her parents' farm? Or will she give Peter, the boy who has everything, Aladdin's secret?
So where do we start? I know, let’s start by comparing the similarities between Brad Townsend and Peter Danworth. Well, to start off, they’re both filthy rich and live on big old Thoroughbred farms. Plus, from reading the back cover, you kind of get the sense that Ashleigh has a serious case of the green-eyed monster, and that things won’t start off right with old Peter just the way things didn’t go so hot with Brad. But by and large, the summary pretty much remains true to the plot, and it all unfolds pretty much spot-on through the whole book. Which pretty much gives away the entire plot on the back cover. Heck folks, save your $5 and don’t bother to get the book. You got the gist of it right there in those three paragraphs.

So speaking of which…

The Big Picture Plot:
I’m happy to say there’s actually multiple plots within this book. The previous books have been pretty much one-dimensional in that the key point of the story was for Ashleigh to whine and pout and sulk about how she doesn’t have a horse, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because of that. Now that she does have that wonderful equine friend that’s taller than 14 hands, then we move to a storyline with a little more substance. The main story plot here is that Aladdin’s Treasure, the big black stallion that Ashleigh just adores, is uber sucktastic on the racetrack. In fact, he’s so sucktastic, he pretty much reeks because he hasn’t even broken his maiden yet (but somehow despite this, the Danworths have entered him in a stakes race that he somehow meets the conditions for.) Ashleigh knows he’s this super horse and all because he’s by the same sire as Wanderer’s Quest, so it’s up to her and her family to figure out why this regally-bred horse is pretty much doing the equivalent to what The Green Monkey did, and hasn’t lifted a hoof. Therefore, our uber-wealthy friends, the Danworths (not to be confused with the other uber-wealthy friends, the Fontaines) fly the whole Griffen clan of five down to Florida on their private jet so they can get to the bottom of this mystery or else Aladdin’s Treasure will be retired at Edgardale to stand at stud (considering that he hasn’t so much as won a race at this point, if I were Derek or Elaine, I’d be insulted that the Danworths wanted to fob off a loser stallion on me considering if he’d won some races, other farms would be clamoring for him.) Which leads us to …

Peter Danworth. The good-looking son of Mr Danworth, and surprise surprise, he’s thirteen, just like Caroline. He just screams Brad-clone, you see. Everything fits, even the way he and Ashleigh clash right from the start. But lo and behold, Aladdin’s Treasure is actually his horse. And he actually cares for the horse, and doesn’t want to see him go to Edgardale. In fact, we even find out that he exercise rides Aladdin (gee, just like Brad – what is it about these rich boys who ride their daddy’s horses?) and wants to be a jockey, but will grow too tall, which leads to another source of contention with Ashleigh because she’s still little. They really butt heads when the Griffen’s return for the week of spring break, and Ashleigh has to spend time with Peter for math tutoring. Which brings us to….

Ashleigh’s not above blackmail, it seems. She really really wants to ride Aladdin even though she flunked a math quiz and has been grounded from riding. She has a few pet theories about why Aladdin is such a sucky racehorse, the chief theory involving a whip (which is as usual evil) and seems convinced the only way she can get to the bottom of the mystery is to actually sit on him herself, conveniently forgetting the fact that he’s almost 17 hands tall, and she’s all of four and a half feet which makes his head just about as big as her torso. In order to ride the horse, she blackmails Peter, and gets to ride. Which brings us to our conclusion…

Ashleigh is a friggin genius. She solved the problem of why Aladdin is such a loser. All he needed was a shadow roll. She also does stupid things like waving a whip around his face to see if he is whip shy. Oh, and falling off. There’s a reason why they call it overmounted. Ashleigh was in way way over her head. But huzzah! She solves the problem that even the super duper new trainer can’t solve. Way to go, Ashleigh. Aladdin’s Treasure finally breaks his maiden.

Some Points of Interest:
  • I got a good old-fashioned heart clench reading the description of Hialeah Racetrack being called a “first-rate place.” By the time this book was written, it was just a few short years from being shut down and closed. I’ve seen pictures of the place since then; it’s got that old-fashioned classic beauty, so it’s nice to read about it as actually being alive again. Or at a time when it was alive, or something.
  • I will never understand why these authors seem to think racehorses are just like regular horses that just run fast. Thoroughbreds don’t get “put in crossties” … that’s why you see them being held while being groomed or tacked up. Too much can go wrong in a crosstie. I was once tacking up the mare I was leasing, and she started bucking around in the crossties, she could have hurt herself. Think about it, you’ve got a possibly multi-million dollar animal, and you’re going to clip two long lines to these rings on its halter – lines that possibly will not break in an emergency – and hope that he doesn’t go bat-shit-crazy and break his neck? I don’t think so. You’re gonna get a groom or two to hold his lead rope.
  • Mike Smith? Mike Smith? This just has me convulsed in giggles. Of all the names that could have been picked for the introduction of this character, it just seems so damn amusing that the Danworth’s new trainer has the exact same name as two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile-winning jockey, Mike Smith.
  • Aladdin’s Treasure is “almost seventeen hands tall and was jet black with four white socks, a star and a stripe.” And yet, Ashleigh is able to brush his back. Let me show you a horse that is 17.1 hands tall.

See, that’s Bubba. He’s at our barn. There’s only a few inches of difference between him and Aladdin. And yet, I can barely reach this horse’s back. I cannot see over his back. And I am a foot taller than Ashleigh. But hey, maybe she was standing on a stepladder or something. Or has elastic arms like Mr Fantastic, Richard Reed.
  • Ashleigh and Peter do not get along at first. In fact, they kind of hate each other. But unlike Brad and Ashleigh, who never seem to really reconcile their animosity, Peter and Ashleigh seem to come to a friendship. Which is weird, because you’d have thought they’d try the same kind of love/hate rivalry plot as they did with the main series.
  • I said it before, and I'll say it again. Ashleigh is wasted as a jockey. If she can deliver a foal all by herself in the middle of a blizzard, she's the equine version of Doogie Howser.
So there we have it, The Forbidden Stallion. Why it had such a name like “forbidden” I’ll never know. It’s not like Ashleigh was prevented from seeing the horse, she just couldn’t ride him. But hello, she was grounded from riding horses – any horse. Not just really tall black stallions. And soon, she’ll be back in the saddle, and immersing herself in that catty bitchy world of Hunter Show Princesses. Whoop de doop.

Mar 1, 2008

With God as My Witness, I’ll Never Love Horses Again – Ashleigh #4: Goodbye Midnight Wanderer

Ashleigh #4: Goodbye Midnight Wanderer
Created by Joanna Campbell
Written by Olivia Coates
First Printing: April 1999

Churning them out like clockwork, I am, right? I’m actually a couple of books farther in the Ashleigh series, but it involves finding the time to type everything up. Since I’ve got a new hayburner in my life, I tend to think the joy of actually riding a pony takes precedence over reading about selfish, spoiled children complaining they don’t have a “real” horse. But we begin as we always do, with the cover:



It’s unfortunately another one of those very uninspiring and bland covers that were it not for the fact that is it part of a series, people aren’t likely to be very willing to leap at the chance to look inside it. Ashleigh once again has very straight and very light brown hair again, and looks vaguely how we might assume Jessica Alba looked at age 10, only with Botox treatments. The shape of her face changes from cover to cover, only here, she doesn’t seem to have cheekbones, and her skin looks very very shiny. The horse looks far too old to be a yearling and has a mottled muzzle and mottling around its eyes. Now, these are Appaloosa characteristics, and last I checked, Edgardale was a Thoroughbred breeding farm (unless an Appy teaser got to Wanderer while she was visiting another farm to be bred.) Also, the horse doesn’t really look like anything in pain, he looks like he’s zoned out, and probably wondering “Why the heck are you sticking your face that close to my eye?” Lastly, the bedding material in the stall seems to be something weird – is it sawdust or straw? Strawdust -- with all the absorbency of sawdust but with the stick-like pokiness of straw? Can I somehow market that stuff? I have a pony to support after all.

The Summary:
Was it really Ashleigh’s fault?
Tragedy has struck at Edgardale. Ashleigh's favorite yearling has been injured in a terrible accident, and Ashleigh feels responsible., The vet says the colt should be put down. Ashleigh begs for time, and devotes herself to caring for the yearling. But nothing Ashleigh does seems to help. The yearling must be destroyed. Blaming herself for the colt's sad fate, Ashleigh vows never to become attached to a horse again--it can only end in tearful goodbyes. Can any horse mend Ashleigh's broken heart?
Can I be evil, and point a finger at Ashleigh and go: “Yes, yes it is all your fault, wallow in your guilt, girl, for the rest of eternity!” But seriously folks, this summary does seem pretty spot on with the plot in the book. Horse gets hurt, girl blames self, vet wants to put horse down, and Ashleigh begs for extra time, but horse doesn’t recover and thus gets the sleepy shot, and our favorite equine-loving heroine retreats from horses. But of course, her heart is mended, because otherwise, the series would be over right then and there.

The Big Picture Plot:
Obviously, the big plot point to the story is Midnight Wanderer, the farm’s best yearling out of the farm’s best broodmare, breaking his cannon bone in an oh so tragic accident because he was ‘play-fighting’ with some other yearling. Now, the sensible thing to do is be humane to the poor creature and put him down. He’s a yearling, he’s nothing but a money sink at this point, and for a family business that relies on yearling sales to keep afloat, trying to save a colt like that would be insanity. Maybe if the Griffens were independently wealthy like Roy and Gretchen Jackson, maybe saving Midnight Wanderer would have been more feasible, but considering they aren’t, then it would have been a wiser course of action to have put him down from the start.

Which of course would mean that we wouldn’t have any kind of a story past the first two chapters. So naturally, Ashleigh must beg and plead (never caring just how expensive this kind of thing is) for his life. So yay, they slap a cast on and drug him up to high heaven. And now Ashleigh starts blaming herself for not stopping the two horses. But alas, Midnight Wanderer doesn’t heal, and even two weeks later, his leg isn’t even knitting, and the Griffens do the right thing, and let him go.

Which brings us to the semi-plot within a plot. And that’s Ashleigh’s broken hearted pity-fest. Instead of immersing herself in horses to make up for her loss of the well-loved yearling, she abandons them entirely. And it’s not until Caroline tricks her into going out to the barn by hiding her kitten in the tack room, does she realize that Stardust is now cribbing out of boredom (gee, you know, I dealt with that. Bravo, Ashleigh, if you’re lucky, you can catch it in time, if not, hello fence repair!) and she finally decides to love horses again.

Some Key Points of Interest:
  • On page 6, we are told that Wanderer’s Quest is prepping for the Florida Derby. Now, if I’m not mistaken, Wanderer’s Quest was introduced as a three-year-old turf filly running in the Providian Mile on Derby Day in Ashleigh #1. Christmas and the New Year have been and gone, Wanderer’s Quest is now officially four. The Florida Derby is on the dirt, and it is age-restricted to three-year-olds because it’s a Kentucky Derby prep race. Therefore, she’d be ineligible to run unless the Fontaines (her owners) have truly found a way to turn back the clock.
  • Ashleigh daydreams about riding Wanderer’s Quest in the Preakness. “The barriers went down and they were off, racing down the track.” I don’t know what kind of racing this author watches. The starting gate opens, and even in the old days before the introduction of a mechanized starting gate, the mesh-rope barrier thing went up. Standardbreds have this cool mobile starting gate mounted on the back of a car or truck, maybe that’s it … except even those barriers fold inwards. I don’t know of any barriers that go down.
  • Ashleigh almost administers a shot of Bute to Midnight Wanderer. My question is; what kind of parents are Derek and Elaine if they just leave serious drug medicine lying around on a desk where their 10 year old daughter can get to it? Phenylbutazone is dangerous – fatally so in some cases. Far as I’m aware, you can only get it from your vet or from Valley Vet with a prescription, and they rarely dispense it in anything other than paste/tube form. If they do give it in shot-form, I'd imagine the best thing to do is lock that stuff up, ASAP.
  • Later, Ashleigh does give Midnight Wanderer a shot of Bute. Perfectly done. Holy Jeebsus! The kid’s missed her calling! Forget about being a jockey, if she can administer a shot like that without training based off what she’s seen others do, then she’s a child prodigy veterinarian. Even I can’t do that, and I’ve owned horses for longer than she’s even been alive. Seriously though folks, it’s not just a matter of sticking the needle in the horse’s neck, Bute needs to be administered intravenously. Sticking the needle into muscle tissue can cause tissue damage.
  • There’s that mention of the Florida Derby again, and they keep calling Wanderer’s Quest a mare. Mares are age four and over, fillies are age three and under. Therefore, that does indicate that she is over age three. Hello! Age-restricted race calling again.
  • Now it’s Caroline and Ashleigh’s turn for the catty screaming. Oh the joys of sisterhood.
Well, that was a sob story (Not!) Wah, dying horse. I don’t think I cried though. We knew it was a lost cause from the beginning, because Nureyev aside, very few horses survive severely broken legs. So we never could expect miracles, and therefore no reason to cry. Now, if I wanted a tearjerker, I’d read The Forgotten Filly. That really tugs my heart strings. But moving on, Ashleigh has boy-trouble of the horse and human kind!