Apr 28, 2008

In which we fill time before the Breeders' Cup. TB #17: Ashleigh's Farewell

Ashleigh's Farewell
by Karen Bentley
Thoroughbred #17
Originally Published: 1996

Our second joint review. We find that going through the Cindy era together is better than going it alone.

Mara: I remember back when this book first came out, wondering just where Ashleigh was going. I mean, with a title like Ashleigh's Farewell she had better be going somewhere. Looking at the cover, I can't help but wonder if Ashleigh has decided to retire from racing and live in that little shack on the hillside. Perhaps she's striving to become a hermit. Also, look out! The denim is back!

Monique: I was wondering the same thing. At least Glory looks like a TB on this cover! Note Cindy's pants. They are so high, they could double as a bra. Oh, and that "The Bestselling Series" rosette thing? Yeah, that they can stick right over Cindy's face, even though she is smiling on this cover.

Who will ride Glory?
Glory is facing the biggest race of his career, and his jockey, Ashleigh Griffen, won't be riding him because she's going to have a baby. Cindy Blake, whose family owns Glory, hopes that they can find a new jockey fast.
But jockey tryouts are a disaster. First Glory bolts, then he tries to throw the jockey. Can Cindy help get Glory back on track before her dreams of a championship are lost forever?

Plots:

1. Incompetence!
Ashleigh gets pregnant and can no longer ride Glory. The sky practically falls. The rest of the book involves various jockeys who were successful before they met Glory trying to take Ashleigh's place. Then Ben miraculously appears and decides that the solution to Glory's problem is a trail ride with Just Victory. Like that's a cure all, or something. Then Felipe Aragon shows up, works Glory in company, and miracle of miracles they win the Travers by 15 lengths! Really, all of this could probably have been avoided had they worked Glory in company from the start.

2. Brad!
He somehow manages to get Ashleigh to give him half interest in Glory in exchange for letting Ashleigh keep Champion at Whitebrook. Honestly, I think breeding rights could have covered that but of course that's not dramatic enough. So now Townsend Acres owns Glory also and Cindy's all woebegone about it.

Oddities by Mara:
  • I don't know what it is, but Ashleigh insisting that Glory should know she's pregnant makes me roll my eyes. Oh, I know why. Probably because it's stupid.
  • Notice how the first thing Cindy does after discovering Ashleigh's pregnancy is to be self-absorbed and worry about her future with Glory? She doesn't even congratulate her. Oh, to be reminded of why I hated Cindy.
  • Cindy is intimidated by a girl wearing a black miniskirt, black tights, a "gold-spangled" shirt, and black "chunky" sandals. Because the girl doesn't seem to register that Cindy is actually two feet from her, Cindy pegs the girl a snob. Because she didn't notice the brilliance of Cindy, or her faded green Churchill Downs t-shirt? Exactly how many strangers is one expected to smile demurely at in the course of a day? And why doesn't Cindy have anything to wear besides dirty jeans and faded t-shirts? If she's easily intimidated by spangles, perhaps she should try...I don't know...buying new clothes occasionally.
  • Wow, am I not sympathetic to Glory's plight.
  • All of a sudden Brad's training and riding the horses himself instead of relying on "stable hands" to do such tasks for him. I guess Maddock has left the building. Also, Dandy as He Does? I know I complain about the lack of originality in some of these horses' names, but Dandy as He Does?
  • Glory's new jockey keeps holding the horse back as Mike moans about why the jockey keeps, um, holding him back while the description is outright stating that Glory is bolting. Brad mutters "because the horse is running away." See, this is why I love Brad. He calls it as he sees it.
  • Yet again, Miss Perfectly Dressed doesn't give Cindy the time of day. The horror!
  • "Cindy hated bad sports." The irony!
  • I think I have the problem pegged now. Anne (Miss Perfectly Dressed) and Cindy (Miss Never Launders Her Clothes) are both spoiled brats. Naturally this would cause some conflict before they both realize that they're inclined to fall into a friendship forged by mutual snobbery.
  • Yeah. Cindy? Snobby? No! Perish the thought!
  • The talking. During the races. Must. Stop.
  • Yes, Cindy, that one tiny second place finish has ruined Glory's career. Yup. Sure.
  • Ah, my beloved Pittsburgh is mentioned and disrespected by being called "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" as if there is another Pittsburgh. Where would this other Pittsburgh be, Karen? Where?
  • I'm trying to figure where this horse hotel (or whatever) would be if they could see the lights of Pittsburgh from their hotel room. I've determined that this is impossible.
  • Apparently the sight of downtown Pittsburgh makes Samantha cry. Not quite sure why other than the extremely vague "I was here before..." explanation that degenerated into backstory we basically already knew.
  • Champion suffers his first color change. He appears first as a dark brown, and now he's a dark chestnut. At some point in this series I think he's also described as black and mahogany, so this is just the first of many changes.
  • Cindy informs Heather that she needs to buy Ashleigh a present and Heather asks, "Why? Are you just being nice?" Clearly this concept is foreign to Heather also.
  • Yes, to ride western you must have: chaps, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. They are essential!
  • Yay. Ben has descended from on high to proclaim that Cindy should ride Glory. Yay.
  • You know, Storm's Ransom has a pretty pedestrian pedigree. His father had "few winners" and his dam's other foals sucked. Exactly what is supposed to be appealing here?
  • Karen Bentley has this obsession with the word "exquisite." With Joanna, it was Jeep Cherokees. With Bentley, it's the impulse to call every horse exquisite.
  • So Ben's solution to Glory's issues is a trail ride with Just Victory. Yeah, that makes sense. Sure.
  • People thought Just Victory's white hind hooves were a disadvantage? When did Just Victory race? The 1940s?
  • Just Victory won the Kentucky Derby by 20 lengths. Yeah, so thrilled.
  • Cindy is shocked that Felipe Aragon, Flightful's jockey, could ride Glory. Probably because he's a jockey and doesn't care?
  • Why Ashleigh gives Brad something for nothing has always astonished me.
  • Samantha remarks that Felipe is hand-riding the colt. Like this is special and unexpected. Glory freaks out at whips, or have we forgotten again?
  • We end the book with a completely unnecessary scene involving Brad yanking Glory's lead rope and checking his legs. This is supposed to be evil, but I can't for the life of me figure why.

Interesting Points by Monique:
  • In the first chapter alone, Cindy is timid once and shy twice. I think she is also coy a few times too later on... who would have thought.
  • Ok, so Ashleigh is pregnant. Wow. I didn't see that one coming. I bet I can guess the birth date and name of the kid too. ACM, anyone?
  • Why is a new jockey such a crisis? I could understand if Glory was scared, but hell. Cindy can ride him, so a jockey with one leg can too.
  • What is the purpose of Anne Tarin? So Cindy can have another person to brag to who isn't as good as she is?
  • Ah, so Ashleigh admits that she doesn't like leaving Whitebrook in the hands of the grooms. Well, you know, that took her long enough.
  • Glory loses! And it's the jockey's fault, of course.
  • Anne states that she "is used to losing horses" does she means horses that lose or horses that go away? You know, I bet some snide voice in Cindy's head asked that same question.
  • Four Leaf Clover is sold and is going to Arabia. Cindy wonders if they will keep his name. Yeah sure, Cindy. They are really big into naming expensive Thoroughbreds after My Little Pony characters there.
  • Ms. Bentley thinks that tacking "Time" onto the end of a random word makes a good name for a racehorse.
  • Yeah freaking right. If Just Victory is such a famous horse, why would his owner let a random 19 year old just ride him... and gallop him no less?
  • Miracle upon miracles! We find a jockey that listens to what people tell him and that Glory likes! Rah, rah. It's Flightful's jockey, Filipe Aragon, who is also known as Strider... wait... I am getting my books confused...
  • All ends well, aside from the fact that Glory is now co-owned by a whip-toting Brad Townsend. You know, I really wish they could think of a new device for conflict.

Monique: I suppose I am hitting Glory's Rival next. In which the rivalry never really happens and I yell out loud at the book.

Mara: Damn. I need to take another break, I think.


Apr 27, 2008

Book Rec! True Betrayals - Nora Roberts

True Betrayals
by Nora Roberts
1995


Yeah, I know this is a little out of nowhere. However, seeing as how we're on the heels of our random drug-themed installment, I just couldn't resist recommending this book for the additional reasons:

a) There are two horses in this book named Virginia's Pride and Naomi's Honor. Pride and Honor. It's just these sort of names that have me rolling my eyes, a fantastic coincidence!

b) If you could take Ashleigh, put her in a situation similar to Cindy's, and stick her in a peach outfit circa 1995, you would have the main character.

c) Brad! No, not really. Okay, let's picture two farms with a "friendly" rivalry. "Friendly" meaning sex is involved. Then let's throw in a guy that looks suspiciously like Brad, only he's an ex-con, gambler with a heart of gold and is the annoyingly possessive type. Now you've got every scandalous affair you wish had happened in the Thoroughbred Series, but didn't.

So here's the quick plot. Kelsey is a divorced 26-year-old blonde (basically me, only with a trust fund). She's reading her mail one day when she comes across a letter written by her mother. Her dead mother! But how can this be? Her mother is dead! So she immediately goes to her father, who informs her that her mother is indeed not dead. She just happened to be thrown in jail for murder during a bitter custody battle and forced Kelsey's dad to act like she had died. For the love of Kelsey, of course.

As it happens, Kelsey's mother (the aforementioned Naomi, of Naomi's Honor) owns a Thoroughbred breeding and training farm in Virginia. Kelsey goes down there and confronts her for being alive (an awkward conversation, surely) and winds up getting invited to stay for the duration, which she accepts and winds up pissing off her father's family to the point where she gets disinherited. Woe!

But not to worry! Her mom owns a Thoroughbred farm and Kelsey still has her trust fund, so it's not like all's bad in the world. Especially when she attracts the dark and handsome (my keywords; not actually used by Nora Roberts) Gabe, owner of the neighboring Thoroughbred farm.

Oh, and there's all this drugging of horses and random bonking people on the head, and out of nowhere Kelsey's all knowledgeable with the exercising and training of race horses and it really is reading the romance novel equivalent of the Thoroughbred Series. Only there are these smarmy men who keep calling women "fillies" and sex is alluded to as a horse race. That part was pretty tedious, I must admit. Plus, since when do serious Derby horses prep for the Triple Crown in Charles Town, West Virginia?

Anyway, if you're looking for some padding between taking on Ashleigh's Farewell or any other Cindy book, as I am, you'll enjoy True Betrayals. Unless you don't appreciate romance novels, even for the unintentional silliness factor. Then I just suggest turning on the Kentucky Derby next week and basking in the television's glow.

Apr 21, 2008

If it wasn't for those meddling kids! TB #16: Glory In Danger

Glory In Danger
by Karen Bentley
Thoroughbred #16
Originally Published: 1996

Mara and Monique bring to you the first joint review! So we're going to try to keep it all straight and the hilarity to an absolute maximum. Because obviously. Just look at the cover.

Mara: Isn't this cover the most unintentionally hilarious thing? The menacing shadow, the rearing horse, the look of shock and horror! I keep expecting Cindy to scream: "Back! Back evil doer!" And another thing: the proportions are all off. Either Cindy has amazingly long legs, is standing on a box, or she's actually taller than Glory. All in all, it's probably the stupidest, not to mention ugliest, cover in Thoroughbred history.

Monique: I just look at her atrocious sweater and I vomit in my mouth a little. Is it that color to blend in with Glory's spew? I don't think Cindy has enough clothes, given the fact that she thinks a 'couple of t-shirts' is enough for a whole month. Maybe she wears them stiff. Also, the man with the syringe? I am egging him on and I hope he gets Cindy instead.
Will Glory ever race again?

Cindy Blake's champion Thoroughbred, Glory, is winning every race he enters. With Ashleigh as his jockey, he burns up the track. When he wins an important race by over ten lengths, track official become suspicious. They figure the winning streak can only mean on thing. The horse is being drugged to improve his performance. Then Glory tests positive for dangerous drugs and is disqualified from the race.

Cindy fears that someone wants to put an end to Glory's career. Worse than that, the same drugs that made Glory run faster could also kill him. Cindy must find out who's trying to hurt Glory. But when Cindy starts to investigate, her own life becomes endangered, too!

The Plot, brought to you by Mara:

1. Drugs! Everyone is using them, trying to abstain from them, or in withdrawal from them. Quite a heavy topic for a book shelved in the independent reader section at Borders. So, the thing is Glory is super fantastic. Flightful is just sort of super fantastic. The difference here is great indeed, causing Flightful's trainer (who is not Brad Townsend, so he gets a bit of a reprieve in this book to go be dark, handsome, smoldering, and awesome somewhere else) gets a case of the green eyed monster and hires this vet to drug/kill Glory. Cindy catches the culprit, because naturally it would take a twelve-year-old to do what a whole team of adults and security officials couldn't. Because twelve-year-olds can do anything!

Okay, I've covered the moral of the story. Oh, also: don't do drugs, drug helpless animals, or take out a college loan.

Oddities, brought to you by Mara:
  • So, Champion is born. Ashleigh remarks on how strong he is because "most foals can hardly stand up right after they're born." Um, isn't it a fact that if foals don't stand up right after they're born there's something drastically wrong with them?
  • Wonder's Pride finally has a sire, guys. It's Townsend Prince. Sure, later on Joanna Campbell stated she'd always meant Baldasar to be Pride's sire, and that's held up as canon, but Townsend Prince? That's some serious inbreeding going on there.
  • Okay, let's keep count. The "fastest horses in the world" now include Townsend Princess and March to Glory.
  • *cough* Actually, Brad and Lavinia didn't insist on running Princess in the Blue Grass. They didn't pressure anyone to run an injured horse. No one knew Princess was injured. Is it that impossible to remember facts from one book to another?
  • Seriously? Mr. Wonderful strains a tendon in April and they're actually considering not running him in the Breeders' Cup in October because of this? Plus, he hasn't even run in anything other than a maiden race yet, which he lost, and they're assuming he's Juvy material?
  • Bentley has to degrade Townsend Princess and Mr. Wonderful to make Champion all the better. This has never ceased to annoy me. What else annoys me? The fact that Cindy named him Wonder's Champion.
  • Cindy gets called to the principal's office to talk to a reporter about her human interest story involving Glory. Because she's special, damn it. Don't forget, readers! She's special! Not to mention famous! She's a celebrity, and she tells herself this frequently. So she tells the reporter that Glory's abusers got "long sentences" and the reporter replies, "prison's tough these days." Like it wasn't before? This conversation is so absurd.
  • Max wishes her and Glory luck in their next race and Cindy brushes it off, saying that they "don't need" it. Glory's so fast, luck is not important!
  • I really, really don't remember Rory turning up in this book. He's been off at private school? Sammy runs over to hug him like they're long lost lovers, and somehow Tor has never met him before? This all seems highly unlikely. Then Tor frowns while Cindy wonders if Tor thinks Rory knows more about horses than he does. Uh, Cindy, I don't think that's what he's frowning about. I have this theory that ever since Angelique he's just waiting for Samantha to run off with someone better.
  • Now Sierra is the "most promising steeplechaser in the world"(!).
  • Ian cautions Cindy to not get a big head about her newspaper article, but his advice goes unheard. Cindy feels smug anyway. Beth reinforces her notion that she's a celebrity and takes her to school because she's too special for the bus. Then Max reinforces it. Then Cindy's teacher reinforces it. Cindy ponders how wonderful it will be to be even more famous after Glory's a champion. The urge to smack Cindy increases.
  • Cindy is walking around with Glory and gets too close to Brad's chestnut colt, and then blames Brad for walking his colt to Glory when it reads like Cindy's the one leading her horse straight up to Brad. This is so annoying. If you want to blame certain actions on a character, make it clear that they are actually causing a problem.
  • I find it amusing that everyone decides to not tell Mike about their brushes with the Townsends, or they flat out refuse to let him go places that might involve interacting with the Townsends. I keep wondering if Bentley has this fantasy of Brad and Mike beating the crap out of each other over Ashleigh.
  • Glory's allowance race is the most piss poor attempt at writing a race scene that I've ever seen. Also, you can't hear a horse's hoofbeats during a race if you're up in the stands on a crowded race day like the Kentucky Derby.
  • Aren't privacy fences the sign of lower class people trying to act upper class? If so, why do the Alexanders have one? Couldn't we call it a giant rock wall instead?
  • Glory has a half-brother! Oh, let the world shout its joy! Only, the thing is this foal is out of a mare who is not Glory's dam. The only claim to fame of this mare is she's by Just Victory. This is like a minor and insignificant relation in the real world.
  • Ben tells Cindy that she knows how much it costs to run Whitebrook. Um, no. I'm fairly confident she doesn't have a clue.
  • Who the hell drives a trailer of racehorses through Manhattan?
  • The stupidest idea in the history of Thoroughbred: Cindy wonders if she has time for a little nap in Glory's stall. Because sleeping in hay on the backside of a racetrack is so freaking comfortable, right?
  • Bentley is so bad at writing race scenes. Just, so bad. Everyone is talking to describe the action, which never happens, Glory is using himself up early in every race but somehow wins going away, and it would appear that Flightful's jockey has no idea that a crop is a strategic aid.
  • I find it amusing that Max's mom drives into New York City to go sightseeing and then parks "near" the Empire State Building. God forbid these people ever take mass transit.
  • I really doubt the crowd would boo Shining after Glory was disqualified for testing positive. This is the betting public here, which isn't the best crowd to set the moral high bar.
  • A horse usually has to finish up the track in order to say it "didn't fire." Shining finished second. A neck back in second. She just lost, okay? Say it with me, Ashleigh. Shining lost. One more time: Shining lost. Okay. Now we can move on.
  • First Whitebrook has had a bunch of big winners and now they're in financial trouble, so it's important to keep Shining racing in the big races. My are we forgetful.
  • Holy crap, a Whitebrook horse came in last. I just feel this should be documented.
  • Finally Cindy gets to sleep in Glory's stall for the night. At a racetrack. With a person sneaking around with access to heroin and (possibly dirty) hypodermic needles. Does this sound like great parenting or what? I bet you somewhere Cindy's child welfare agent is developing a nervous tick.
  • Great, now Cindy and Max are practically having a slumber party in Glory's stall. Who's going to appear with their sleeping bag next? Tor? Caroline? Brad?
  • Ooh, a black gloved hand is trying to hurt Glory! Again I'm reminded of every soap opera ever made.
  • "Put down the hypodermic nice and slow." Oh, this just kills me. Jim then throws the hypodermic down and it shatters, which from all I can tell is impossible. The needle itself is stainless steel and the syringe is always plastic unless he's got some weird glass syringe he needs for conducting quantitative chemical analysis or something distinctly non-veterinary or illicit drug use oriented.
  • The reason behind it all: Jim is the son of the guy that abused Glory. He targeted Cindy and Glory in some sort of ill conceived attempt at payback. Yes, it's deranged and makes little sense. Also, it reminds me a little of Scream. Just without the blood, knives, guns, sex and drunkenness.
  • Um, okay, the second reason behind it all: college loans! Oh, and Flightful's trainer is a poor sport.
  • And we end it with another mediocre race scene. The talking really needs to stop.


Oddities, brought to you by Monique:
  • I just ADORE how Cindy is the Official Horse Namer of Whitebrook. I mean, Rainbow and Four Leaf Clover are such catchy, grand names after all.
  • Rory! Sigh. I love the whole anti-Tor vibe. Of course, that might just be me.
  • Is it just me, or is hearing Cindy's inner thoughts about everything getting seriously old?
  • Ah! Max also wears dark green. Perhaps he and Cindy match deliberately.
  • If I was a vet and I was putting a horse down, I'd also give it to a 12 year old to hold. Because that just makes so much sense.
  • Ms. Bentley seems to think tossing in big names for veterinary drugs is impressive. I can also use Google, darling. Also, how does Cindy have this knowledge? And why? She's 12. Does she not have fun?
  • Joe Gallagher is this book's Brad Townsend. Only ugly.
  • I really like the name Flightful. It is about the best thing about this book.
  • When Shining loses, Cindy blames Ashleigh and Ashleigh blames herself. Lets just forget about her slip in the gate and Ashleigh nearly falling, shall we?
  • I also talk to horses that are far away telepathically in my mind. It works, I tell you.
  • Whitebrook has this new-found obsession with winning.
  • Beth. is. the. most. useless. character. ever.
  • Oh, when I write a book, all my characters will state the obvious too, and make it seem like a big deal. "Oh, look, Glory! The sky is blue! Wow!"
  • When Glory is freaking out, I would so have given him to Len to handle and not Cindy. But, I clearly don't have their undying faith in her awesome talents.
  • Glory breaks out the gate badly and Ian goes, "I suppose it had to happen sometime." Head, this is desk. Desk, meet head.
  • Foreshadowing! Ashleigh has nausea and headaches! Um gee, I wonder why?

Monique: Onward to Ashleigh Gets Knocked Up and Ruins Glory's Chances of Victory as he Cannot Run For Any Other Jockey. AKA Ashleigh's Farewell. I am so excited.

Apr 16, 2008

Why win by a mile? Why, indeed. TB #15: Glory's Triumph

Glory's Triumph
by Karen Bentley
Thoroughbred #15
Originally Published: 1996

I warn you now. It's long.

The cover:

It appears that the artist of this cover is under some misapprehension. Glory does not win the Kentucky Derby in this book or, in fact, ever. Even though the cover is desperately trying to suggest as such with the red roses, giant freaking trophy, and what looks like a section of the Kentucky Derby winner's circle. Despite the fact that Glory only ran in a maiden race in this book, which would get Whitebrook nothing more than a photo and a check cut for the winning percentage of the purse, the cover is a landmark because it is the first time Cindy appears with a smile. Yes! I know, I was shocked too. Cindy does have an emotional range that does include happiness. Although happiness for her does seem to be directly tied to her special horses winning by incredible margins, as all the covers and text support.

Has Cindy given up on horses for good?

Cindy Blake has finally found a home and a family she loves -- her life at Whitebrook Farm is almost perfect. Then the champion racehorse Townsend Princess is injured, and Cindy feels responsible. If only she had more experience with horses, she could have prevented Princess from racing.
After Princess's accident, Cindy won't go anywhere near her favorite horse, Glory. She's afraid she could cause him to be hurt, too. But without Cindy's training and love, Glory will never become a racehorse. Will Cindy find the courage to make Glory a champion?


Plots:

1. Glory:
So he's like spooking at anything and everything for no reason. It's also been decided somewhere between book 14 and 15 that only Cindy can really ride him and get good results. Which never fails to annoy me. Then Glory's super special previous trainer appears and tells Cindy the magic secret to Glory's success: talking! Track records are shattered soon after.

2. Princess:
She breaks her leg in the Blue Grass, and this is pretty much the only event that motivates the plot in the entire book. Which is surprising given that it happens on something like page 160 in a 191 page book. Anyway, Cindy goes all paranoid and ruins a couple of Glory's training sessions before Ashleigh tells her to get over it already. Cindy does.

3. Max:
Remember the good old days of elementary school, when the kids more mature than their years were pairing off? Perhaps not. Anyway, everyone called it "going out" back then, and I never got into it because I could never figure out where eleven year olds went in order to "go out." Methinks Cindy and Max are the ones who totally get the "going out" thing and sneer at the kids who aren't "going out" with anyone. Cindy wasn't into it in this book, but believe me, she will be.


Oddities:
  • Glory really does spook a lot, from almost everything. But I'll train that out of him with a lot of work -- and love. Yeah, you know, I could really do without Cindy's inner monologue.
  • We're six pages in and there's a hint of the Cindy/Ashleigh rivalry, to be developed to the height of insanity in Arabian Challenge. The point of contention? Who is the more perfect rider. I know, it kills me even now.
  • Heather and Cindy have the most asinine conversation about Glory. Heather: "I suppose you'll settle for another Breeders' Cup Winner." Cindy: "Maybe, but I really have my heart set on Horse of the Year." And the thing is they are entirely serious. No, really.
  • Already the bitching starts. But I want to exercise him and train him. Christ, it's begun.
  • *cough* Ian: Where have you been hiding yourself, Tor? Samantha: Good question. Yes, we all know how "busy" Tor is. Busy, busy little bee, that one. Is Angelique still around?
  • Um. Tor asks Samantha if she can take Sierra over jumps tomorrow and Cindy literally thinks: I'm glad he didn't ask me. Yeah. Because Cindy knows so much about horses and riding in her six months of experience to exercise a steeplechaser over jumps. Oh my GOD this is going to be a long review.
  • For some reason Shining and Her Majesty have taken a leap up in class and are now racing against colts in the Santa Anita Handicap. Cindy has the nerve to say she's not worried about the competition, as does Samantha. You know, why even bother saying there's competition at this point?
  • You notice how people don't exactly converse with each other? For example: Tor starts to talk about cheesecake. Tor: It's so creamy. Cindy: Yeah, really. Samantha: I'm taking Glory out tomorrow, too. As if someone was talking about training. Then Beth chimes in about shopping for their California trip. It's like dialogue is wasted on these people.
  • Cindy's all dumbstruck that Ashleigh's going to ride Glory in his first race. Who the hell did she think would ride?
  • "Go for Glory!" Okay, it's official. Karen Bentley sucks at dialogue. She just does, and it can't be helped.
  • Everyone was rooting for Glory -- it was nice. Okay, now I'm pretty convinced that she just sucks in general. This is getting painful. Of course they're rooting for Glory, Cindy. They're placating you because he's your special horse and they spent $12,000 on him as a racing prospect. Did you expect that they'd wish bad things on him? What the hell?
  • Yeah, it would be just like these people to supplement the vet's opinion on a horse's legs with their own, happier opinion. I think she just pounded the track with all she was worth. Not to mention a simpler opinion.
  • Why is there cavalletti on the path back to the barn? I'm just really confused about what Karen Bentley thinks a thoroughbred training facility looks like.
  • Butterball is now "candy-colored." I would have accepted "caramel-colored" but as it is I keep expecting him to be white and red, or neon blue or something remarkably bright and sugary.
  • Tor is setting up jumps for the Pony Commandos and then Mandy surprises everyone by posting to a trot. Everyone is amazed because posting takes "balance and strength." Does anyone else see a bit of a discrepancy here?
  • Man, if I was in Mandy's class I'd probably hate her.
  • Uh-oh. Young love. Bentley's going for the hate-hate-hate-love! route with Cindy and Max, which is only good if your characters are much older than eleven, because the love/hate relationship only works when there's sexual tension. Which there isn't with sixth-graders. Ever. I don't care if you're eleven and reading this right now and claim you have a love/hate relationship. You don't. It's impossible.
  • Fantastic. Bentley just gets through describing how close Heather and Cindy are and then Cindy "warns" Heather not to "be dumb" in the next paragraph. Friendship with Cindy is a heavy burden.
  • Max is mad because Cindy got an A on her science project and he got an A-. Really, what is the big frickin' deal? If Cindy had tripped and fallen on his science project before it was graded and thus ruined his grade for the term, that's something to be pissed about. Not two percentage points.
  • Ooh, a tuna sandwich with dill! It's like no one else has thought to put ingredients other than tuna in a tuna sandwich before.
  • Cindy assumes Lavinia is unhappy, thus striving to make others unhappy. I don't think she's unhappy. How could she be? She's wealthy, owns bunches of horses, and married Brad. Hell, that's all I want out of life, so why the hell would she be unhappy?
  • Someone asks Cindy if Shining is her horse and she replies: "Kind of. I'm her groom." The correct answer would be, "No, I'm her groom." According to Cindy she'd "kind of" own Whitebrook Farm at this rate.
  • Miraculously Ben Cavell, Glory's first trainer, turns up at Santa Anita and would "rather talk to" Cindy about Glory's training. Who knows why.
  • Ben Cavell tells Cindy that she probably knows about Just Victory, Glory's fantabulous grandsire. Cindy says, of course she does. Of course the audience has no clue about this horse, but apparently he's Bentley's sole creation and he's like the best race horse ever and won a mile and a quarter race by 25 lengths. Ben then goes on to tell Cindy that he thinks Glory will be just like Just Victory before practically disappearing when Ashleigh and Samantha come along. I have a theory now: either Ben is Cindy's guardian angel or a child predator.
  • Bentley says Shining's odds are 1.5 to 1. I think she means 3 to 2. This isn't poker, after all.
  • "There goes Destiny," Beth remarked. "I didn't mean that negatively," Beth added with a laugh. Oh, hahaha, Beth you are so funny. *sigh*
  • *cough* Samantha makes the same argument for retiring Shining at five that she was so vehemently against when Clay proposed it for Pride back in Pride's Last Race. Shocking? Nope, not so much.
  • Oh my God, she's manufacturing tears because she thinks people have forgotten her birthday and it's not even her flipping birthday yet.
  • Heather tells Cindy that Glory is really her horse because he "trusts" her. No, Heather. Unfortunately Cindy's right. She's conceited, and you're not helping.
  • Out of no where Shining runs in the "El Ricon Handicap," which is actually supposed to be spelled "El Rincon" and I don't see the campaign strategy there. It's a mile race on turf. Shining is a classic distance mare more inclined to dirt. However, here's the biggie: she freaking LOSES. I know! Shining comes in second for the first time since appearing at Whitebrook Farm. I'm almost giddy with excitement. Of course, this is just mentioned in passing as if no one cares, but you know they were besides themselves with disappointment.
  • "Boys pay attention to girls they like." Oh, really Sammy? That's a saying? I thought they, I don't know, threw various vegetables at them. Wow, was I way off.
  • Lovely. Ashleigh remarks that Cindy has a bond with Glory, kinda like she had with Wonder. And Cindy takes it as being in the "same class" as Ashleigh and Wonder.
  • So Cindy finally exercises Glory and it goes as swimmingly as possible despite the improbability of this happening and everyone remarks that Glory will definitely race when I think they should be considering the fact that he's kind of a little jerk for everyone else.
  • Mike dares to say Glory looks like a sprinter! Holy hell! Let's all go hysterical!
  • Apparently Glory's great grandsire (yeah, we get lots of unneeded pedigree talk in this book) was raced through arthritis, a heart condition, and splits. You know, that's not quite impressive enough for me. Perhaps if he won a race on two broken legs, one blind eye, and bleeding from his nose I might be inclined to ooh and ahh.
  • Odd added fact I didn't know: Mr. Wonderful has a flaxen mane. Okay, I can go with that.
  • As per the usual, every Whitebrook horse has to have exactly one month of downtime before another race. Princess races in the Santa Anita Oaks at the end of February and again in the Blue Grass Stakes in mid April. Most horses would have a race in March. There's nothing weird about the Townsends wanting a race in March. And yet their wanting a race in March means they're being money hungry and unthinking of the animal.
  • Um, first Ashleigh & Co. say Lavinia would want to scratch Princess because she gets all with the crazy rage when Ashleigh's horses win. Then Ashleigh & Co. say that Lavinia wouldn't scratch a horse if it could "lift a hoof," so what the hell?
  • And of course Cindy sees Princess limping before the race but no one else picks up on it, including veterinary experts.
  • Will Princess lose her leg? -- Is Karen Bentley aware that horses can't survive on three legs?
  • Wow. Shock of all shocks -- Lavinia is to blame for Princess's second break down. Yeah, sorry. Ain't buying it.
  • Bentley tries her hand at writing Brad, which is interesting considering he hasn't really spoken since Wonder's Sister. Unfortunately she gets it wrong. Brad never had Wonder whipped, and he was never one to really advocate whips.
  • Poor Heather. Cindy not only thinks Mandy is a better jumper than Heather, but now Max is a much bolder rider. What the hell did Heather ever do to Karen Bentley?
  • "Scare him even more than he already is -- make him psychotic," Brad laughed. You know, this whole sequence about Brad appearing out of nowhere to tell Cindy just how worthless Glory is before the big race is pretty weird. Of course, then Ben appears and in all his angelic light proclaims that Glory is the bestest horse there is ever ever ever! Brad shrugs and walks off. Oh, Brad. I love you.
  • Ha! Cindy wonders if Ben can communicate to Glory telepathically. Actually, that would explain a whole lot.
  • Ben tells Cindy the magical answer to their mystery with Glory's spooking: talk to him! Whips, you see, are no good. Wow. As if that was like cherished and sought after information no one else thought of.
  • And Glory wins the race by twenty lengths and sets a new track record. I remember reading this for the first time back in, oh, 1997 or so, and hurling the book across the room right about here.

To sum up: it's sort of like horrible fanfiction written by a dedicated yet clueless fan. I have got to go detox myself for about two weeks now to recover from this level of genuine crazy.

Apr 9, 2008

I give you Whitebrook's wonder horse: TB #14: Cindy's Glory

Cindy's Glory
Thoroughbred #14
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1995

I'm pretty convinced this book set the standard for Karen Bentley, as this is Joanna Campbell's last book. It's filled to the brim with enough general racing information, horse training technique and sixth grade math to bore one to tears. But don't worry, we've got our typical happy ending as well.

I give you the cover:


This cover was always pretty blah to me, but its only now that I'm struck by how Saddle Club it is. Not that there's anything wrong about the Saddle Club. It's just that, look, Glory is sold at the Keeneland January sale. The Keeneland January sale doesn't involve yellow handpainted banners, nylon halters, and dumpy women wearing sweatshirts, okay? It just doesn't.

Will Cindy and Glory both be able to stay at Whitebrook Farm?
Cindy Blake couldn't be happier, now that she lives at Whitebrook Farm. When her adoption is final, Cindy will finally have a loving home with the McLean family. And Glory, the stolen colt that Cindy rescued from abuse, shows more promise as a racehorse every day.
But suddenly Cindy's worst nightmares begin to come true. First her adoption is not approved. Then Glory's real owner puts the colt on the auction block. Will Whitebrook Farm and her beloved Glory soon be just another memory for Cindy?
One little note about this blurb: Cindy's adoption isn't rejected, it's just slow to finalize and they have to go through an interview. That's pretty much it.

Plots:

1. Glory. Specifically: secretly training Glory. The entire book, which covers about two months and a week, is about two eleven-year-old girls trying to condition a two-year-old racehorse. Sound implausible? Yeah, it really does. There's a lot of talk about how Cindy doesn't really know what she's doing, and how to the best of her knowledge she thinks she's doing things right and oh, if Mike and Ian find out what she's doing people will be pissed off and you know what? She's right about everything and no one gets mad and she gets her horse in the end. Yay, Cindy. Yeah. Moving on.

2. I'd say the adoption plot, but really it wasn't a plot as a mere blip on the screen.

Oddities:

  • Then Glory jumped the fence and escaped into Whitebrook land. -- I know Joanna means to imply that the land is Whitebrook's possession, but the way it's worded seems like Whitebrookland! A happy, wonderful place filled with butterflies and rainbows!
  • Yet again no one is standing up during the races. I really find this phenomenon quite intriguing as I don't think it's possible for people so invested in these races to remain sitting the entire time.
  • Don't you love how whenever something bad happens everyone suspects Lavinia? She's not even at the race and they're all making with the shifty eyes after Ashleigh's stirrup snaps off and whispering, "Maybe it was Lavinia!" Yeah. Right. Because she really cares when her horse isn't involved. Uh-huh.
  • Again with the fried chicken. Only this time it's baked instead of fried, which seems to imply then that it hasn't been fried at all because what would be the point if it's already been baked? Someone please explain this to me!
  • Why the hell are they allowing an eleven-year-old kid without much formal training take a two-year-old racehorse out on a trail without supervision? Nevermind that it's a racehorse they don't own? Sounds like a real smart plan there, Whitebrook people.
  • Joanna really got into the whole the horse tosses his head "as if to say" yay! or I am such a badass! or I love you so much you tiny, idiot girl! thing.
  • Yes, Cindy. Glory isn't winded because you only cantered him down a lane for a few minutes. I've ridden teenaged ex-broodmares who've accomplished the same. Please shut up already.
  • Okay, look. I'm a librarian. I get the huge power of information and all that crap, but I also know that you're not going to train a racehorse successfully because you read a book about it. This is sort of why I always wanted Glory to kick Cindy in the head.
  • Ah, Angelique is still around. I imagine that's an interesting side story that was never told. And, of course, Yvonne beats Angelique in their show because the blond antagonists never win as a rule.
  • Wow, what a coinkydink. Glory actually is a Glory! The astonishments never cease.
  • Okay, Ian rules out training Glory because he figures the attorneys for the owner's estate wouldn't allow it. But he sees no problem in letting his eleven-year-old foster child with little to no experience ride the horse. Yes. I know. The gap in thought is tremendous.
  • Mandy, an 8-year-old, is calling Cindy "girl." That...is very awkward.
  • Yeah, Cindy, Heather's carrying a measuring tape a quarter of a mile long. Didn't you see her hauling it around with her on the trail? To Heather's credit, her answer to Cindy's stupid question is "no, of course not." Good for you, Heather. Way not to be an idiot.
  • Okay, now the random populace is driving around in Jeep Cherokees. Seriously. What is it with the Jeep Cherokee? How crazed can one be over a car?
  • So Blues King goes from retired to going back into racing in the spring. Just like he went from being a gelding to a stallion and from coming in second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to winning it.
  • The great saving grace for this book: Cindy completely fails to breeze Glory in front of everyone on the training oval. Like, epic fail.
  • Of course, after Glory does his magic everyone convinces Ian to focus more on their next "wonder horse" than to discipline Cindy because that would involve, you know, parenting.
  • The magic number for this installment is 10,000. Unfortunately Glory is sold for $12,000, ruining the consistency and importance of the number 10,000, but otherwise it's said like once a chapter for 3/4 of the book.
So that's it, guys. There's Joanna Campbell's 14 volumes of relative fame. Now we get to go through the maddening process of rewriting Cindy, hauling Brad back into the fold and making him a twit, and making every horse the "fastest horse in the world!"

I betcha Joanna Campbell didn't think that "wonder horse" comment was going to come back and bite the series on the ass.

Apr 4, 2008

Why steal a watch when you can steal a horse? TB #13: Cindy's Runaway Colt

Cindy's Runaway Colt
Thoroughbred #13
by Joanna Campbell
Originally Published: 1995

Get ready for the crying, screaming, punching of pillows, and, of course, the scowling. We've got it all in this action-packed installment.

I do enjoy this cover, even if Glory looks like someone smudged pink paint on his coat and Cindy has that ever present scowl. Plus this doesn't exactly happen in the book. The closest we get to a scene like this is when Cindy decides to ride him bareback in the middle of the night, and she was wearing pajamas then. So, yeah, nothing more needs to be said.

Cindy's leaving the only home she's ever loved . . .

Cindy Blake wants to stay at Whitebrook Farm forever. After being shuffled from foster home to foster home, she's finally found a place where people love her and, best of all, where she's surrounded by horses. Then Lavinia Townsend accuses Cindy of stealing.

The authorities want to send her to another home. Even her new foster parents seem to doubt her. Cindy's troubles multiply when she discovers a mistreated horse on a neighboring farm and takes him into hiding. If anyone finds out she's stolen a horse, she'll have to leave Whitebrook Farm for sure!

Plots:

1. Glory. On the heels of one abused horse (Shining) we have another abused horse. Because the Thoroughbred Series doesn't recycle plotlines fast enough, right? Okay, Glory's story is a bit different than Shining's. He's part of a race fixing operation and he was stolen by Whitebrook's new neighbors. Who, despite appearing to have a shoddy system and little money, managed to purchase prime property in Bluegrass country. Anyway, Cindy spots Glory being mistreated by his "owners" who are trying to train him to do...something, I guess...and that just isn't going very well. So the horse takes matters in hand and jumps the fence into Whitebrook's property, where Cindy finds him and hides him away in a storage shed. Everyone finds out what happens eventually and discover the shady and nefarious past the horse has been involved in, and Glory's story is left unresolved by the end of the book.

2. Lavinia. So she's pregnant and on a hormone-induced rage, okay? She's screaming her head off and acting batty as usual, only she decides to vent her anger on Cindy for some reason and before you know it accuses Cindy of stealing an inconveniently placed watch. This "ruins" Cindy's life and has Child Welfare plotting to stick her in another home and just as it's decided to move her Lavinia decides to ride off on a colt...or a filly, Joanna doesn't seem to make up her mind about that...and takes a fall. Cindy runs over and saves her life. Brad starts to cry, which made me want to strangle someone and all was well. With them, anyway. I was more trying to wrap my brain around Brad being all emotional.

Oh, and Hank found the watch. So yay! Cindy can stay at Whitebrook.

3. Her Majesty vs. Shining
Shining wins, Her Majesty loses, as per the usual. Because God forbid any Townsend Acres horse actually win a race against a Whitebrook horse.

Oddities:

  • Cindy is in sixth grade and has intermediate French? In what Kentucky public school system is that normal?
  • Poor Lavinia. She's so hated by everyone that by just tossing her "perfect" hair she upsets Mr. Wonderful. I kid you not. What the hell could she be doing to surprise a horse this way? Is she whipping her head back and forth in front of the horse's nose? No one had best toss their hair near a Wonder foal. God only knows what tiny motion might upset its delicate sensibilities!
  • Glory's abuser's eyes are "bloodshot with rage" which is pretty comical in itself, but who can notice something like that given how far Cindy is from the action?
  • ...who takes off their watch and leaves it on a bench? Their "pure gold" watch, I might add. At a farm filled with disgruntled, most likely underpaid employees? *sigh*
  • Now Ashleigh drives a Jeep. That's three Jeep Cherokees. Someone has a Jeep obsession.
  • Her Majesty is now bay. Previously she was a gray. So, whatever.
  • Cindy spends the whole book coming up with names for the twins. They wind up as Four Leaf Clover and Rainbow. These are colts, by the way. There's nothing more masculine than being called Rainbow, I must say. Really. Imagine Rainbow standing at stud. No wonder Rainbow is quickly dumped and Four Leaf Clover's name gets changed.
Is anyone getting sick of the abused this or that plotlines yet? Anyone? Plus, lots of typos in this book. Many, many typos. Yet, ellipses were finally used correctly. It's one thing or another, I guess. Can't have it all with these books.

So, I wasn't terribly annoyed with Cindy in this book. Probably because she hasn't gotten entirely full of herself and Karen Bentley has yet to take over. And there was less "I'm a natural!" there to irk me. And less strange plot points to mull over in confusion, which made it a solid read. It pains me to say it because this is Cindy, and it's another abuse plotline, but that's just one gal's opinion.

Okay. Two books down.