Jun 30, 2008

Because She is Truly Awesome


Happy Birthday Mara!

:D

A Horse Called Holiday has opinions too, and you'll damn well hear them

A Horse Called Holiday
by Frances Wilbur
Published: 1992

I can't remember if I owned this book or not, but I do remember reading it way back when it was published, so I was pretty giddy when I got my hands on it today.



"Love has no limits to the wonders it performs."

The moment Middie sees Holiday, a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred, she knows he's the horse she's been waiting for. A horse she can take to the horse show. A horse who can win a blue ribbon.

But then Middie discovers the terrible truth about Holiday: he's deaf. And very, very scared.

Middie's always taken the easy way out. But this time that won't work.

She loves Holiday. But will that love be enough?

Plot:

Meredith, or Middie, is the Caboose in her family, meaning that she was born last. Which means she was a mistake. She's all about feeling bitter about her situation, feeling down because her brother couldn't go to a private college and her sister had to share a room because she had the misfortune of existing. I guess after twelve years of being told she's her mother's "little surprise" and being called Caboose has worn her into a competitive little brat who desperately wants any and all attention she can logically demand from those around her. So you can see there's a healthy dash of sibling rivalry and angry family dynamics that keep Middie motivated throughout the book.

Middie is also horse crazy and she spends most of her time taking care of other people's horses as she saves up for her own brilliant steed. She takes lessons from some old woman called Mrs. Bailey (she's a little like Charlie Burke, if Charlie had been a woman), and gets the opportunity to exercise a chestnut thoroughbred who is magnificent and pretty and several other adjectives for the summer until his owner takes him off to give to his grandson. So Middie is understandably excited. Twelve-year-old + shiny chestnut thoroughbred = supreme happiness! right? It's like the equation that works in all of these books.

Then we've got Janet, who is Middie's sister's boyfriend's cousin who's visiting for the summer. Janet is Middie's age and rides horses and wins ribbons but is apparently scared to death of horses. Go figure. Anyway, Middie convinces Janet to come down to Mrs. Bailey's place with her to watch her ride the new horse (she specifically tells herself she's not letting Janet ride the horse...oh HELL no, there is no WAY that's happening), and because Janet is a follower by nature she seems okay with being the official tag along. She's also extremely incompetent. As in: "When somebody gets hurt, I throw up." That sort of stupid. At Mrs. Bailey's, Middie discovers that the horse, whom she names Happy Holiday temporarily, is a little crazy. But Middie is smitten and ignores Janet shrieking that the horse isn't good for her and so forth.

Now, to the horse. Holiday is a horse of many names and a long history. He used to be a racehorse called Mostly Magic when he careened off into the stands one day and injuring his leg. Then he was taken off to some canyon or whatever, where he roamed around with some horses before becoming Rusty and developed a severe hatred for ravines because he fell into one. We know about this because the text is interrupted with Holiday's occasional thoughts and musings on his past and present. It is a bit unique. I suppose. Anyway. He's also deaf, which Middie discovers by accident and then proceeds to keep secret because telling someone would mean he'd be taken away. She assumes. Turns out the owner figures out he's not a kid's horse and lets him stay there while they find a buyer for him.

When the Val Verde show comes up, Middie wants to enter Holiday, but Mrs. Bailey insists there's no way in hell, so Middie decides to enter with this other horse she's been riding, Peaches. Until the owner of Peaches decides that she'd really like to ride her instead in the owner whatever group, making it impossible for Middie to ride her. Because the show is set up for charity, all of a sudden it's okay for Middie to ride Holiday in the show, which ends badly despite Holiday showing minor glimpses of brilliance while he keeps interrupting with his memories of Brian and Darryl, former owners he let down in various ways. Middie and Holiday come pretty close to winning a few shows, but his fear of ditches pops back up and ruins everything.

Enter Mike Mitchell, heir to some fabulous thoroughbred racing farm in California. He's about two years older than Middie and is awesome. He puts down the antagonist, who has a fleeting presence in the book, and is generally the best rider ever. So because Middie knows he's awesome and is winning shows left and right, she figures she'll have Mike ride Holiday over ditches and everything will be great. Only Holiday has these memories of his former owners and acts out by trying to kill Mike. Shocked and appalled, everyone starts having second thoughts about Holiday.

Then Mike's mom offers this great "push-button" horse to Middie for free, right after Holiday's owner offers him to her for free! Stuck between two free horses, Middie initially choses the other horse before she goes and falls off of Holiday again, coming to her enlightenment that she actually doesn't want to just win tons of shows and be a winner. She wants to become a better rider, and so she decides to take Holiday instead. Then Holiday gets in a fight and winds up with blood poisoning, so they have to bond in a stall through a night before he makes his normal recovery. And Middie discovers that being the Caboose was actually a good thing because she "completes the family" or something equally sappy, so she no longer has to lust after trophies in order to feel accepted.

We end the book with a fox hunt, when some idiot girl nearly gets dragged by her horse and Middie has to jump Holiday over a ditch in order to save her. Naturally everything goes well this time, only the idiot girl is a little emotionally scarred afterward. Only we don't care because she was annoying anyway.

Oddities:

  • Middie's father tells her that she has to be careful of her dark blue eyes, implying that one day she will need glasses. I had to go research this just a little bit, and besides finding out that lighter irises have a greater prevalence of macular degeneration I have no idea what Frances is talking about. I'm sure this has something to do with her being born in 1918.
  • While trying to get Holiday to not cut corners, he decides to jump a five foot fence instead. Mrs. Bailey is not pleased and Middie defends the horse by scowling and insisting, "He thought I wanted him" to jump the fence. With that sort of attitude I don't see how she could possibly know what she's doing.
  • Holiday refuses a ditch and tosses Middie. Janet notices the horse is sweating and shaking and insists that Middie whip him because he was disobedient in refusing. Like, as in holding the horse's head and smacking him repeatedly. She's a lovable one, isn't she?
  • Mrs. Bailey drives a Packard with velvet upholstery. Again, I have to remind myself that Frances was born in 1918.
After doing a Google search on her, I found out that Frances Wilbur (who did die in 2006) leased a horse called Happy Holiday way back when and decided she had to write his story, so she came up with this book. What is more interesting is she suffered a stroke before she wrote this and had to relearn how to type in order to do it.

The book actually does live up to my happy childhood memories of it, although I don't remember Janet being so annoying. She's got all these color coordinated outfits topped with ribbons for her hair, and she's constantly bitching about how Holiday is going to hurt Middie and then she needs to go curl up somewhere because she thinks she's going to throw up. Seriously, when Middie starts to wonder what is up with this girl she's not being a bitch because everyone else has to be wondering the same thing. I certainly was.

That's all. Just one more book from my childhood revisited.

Jun 29, 2008

Related: Phantom Stallion, Mustang Moon

Mustang Moon
Phantom Stallion #2
by Terri Farley

I read this some time ago, so admittedly I don't remember a whole lot. However, I know a diaper is involved, so I'm sure the rest will start revealing itself to me as I go. So, let's head out.

(Just to note: I don't give a crap about these covers, so I'm not going to bother posting them in a position of prominence. Nor am I going to talk about them. Unless, of course, something seriously crazy has to be pointed out.)

When 13–year–old Samantha returns home to her family's cattle ranch in Nevada, she's worried. She moved away two years ago to recover from a bad fall off her beloved mustang, Blackie, and she's still not sure she can get back in the saddle. Her new colt doesn't seem to like her, and the other ranchers treat her like the boss's spoiled daughter, and Blackie has been missing since that fateful day.

But that's just the beginning. When Sam suddenly finds the fate of a mysterious mustang who may or may not be the missing Blackie resting in her hands, she has to learn to be a real cowgirl, ready or not. The classic theme of a girl and her horse is set against a backdrop of mustangs, tumbleweeds, and a West that's still Wild.

I don't really know what this blurb has to do with the book. It's more of a series description than anything else. And it sure as hell isn't helping me remember much about the plot. I will continue anyway, just because it must be done.

Plot:

After the whole issue of Linc Slocum trying to capture Blackie/Zanzibar/The Phantom, the horse pretty much disappears. Being obsessed, Sam is worried about the horse because he doesn't visit her anymore. Or something to that effect. Plus she's been told that she can't roam around at night anymore because that usually tends to get her knocked in the head. Usually by the Phantom, only it's totally accidental and Sam feels the burden of unfairness placed upon her bony, thirteen-year-old shoulders. Poor her.

So, one night as she's all disobeying and such, she sees another stallion trying to beat the crap out of their fence line, freaking out all the horses. This is a big, dark stallion with a gargantuan head, which she immediately names Hammerhead. He goes away, so we can then focus on the fact that suddenly all the other horses don't seem to like Ace anymore. So they make a big to do over this and stick him in a paddock with Sweetheart, who I guess likes everyone and is therefore the social outcast of the group. Then the Hammerhead steals Sweetheart...or maybe he steals Linc's horse first...well, whatever. He steals both of them and that's all that really matters.

Linc Slocum has recently purchased a new racing Appaloosa that Hammerhead takes a liking too. Once he steals her, Linc freaks out and races to catch Sam at her bus stop so he can demand that she call The Phantom down so he can kick that horse's butt. Seriously, do people really think when they make characters do these sort of wacky things that they're actually acceptable and likely to happen in real life? Who can just magically whistle and expect a wild stallion to appear in front of you with a mad person and a bus load of middle school kids staring at you? Everyone knows you can only do that in secret glades with fresh streams running through mountain snow, and only then when you have a generous amount of pixie dust on your person. Also, you have to be in Middle Earth. I mean, we all know that.

Anyway, Linc is about ready to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the road, only to realize that everyone is staring at him, so he decides to go road rage somewhere else. Convinced that The Phantom is the one behind all this horse stealing, he makes up tons of wanted posters and distributes them around town. So The Phantom has a price on his head and is in danger again, only whats her name from the BLM is in DC and I guess there's literally no one else around that can take care of this insanity other than Sam. Which she does by taking a picture of Hammerhead and thus claims the reward. Hammerhead also turns out to be an escaped endurance horse (who, I guess has the sharpest instincts ever, or is unfortunately extremely stupid) and the mares are all returned. Only Linc's Appaloosa is pregnant and he's pretty pissed about this. She's been sullied! What a little slut.

Oh, yeah, and The Phantom and Hammerhead get into a fight and The Phantom wins, but Sam has to doctor him by sticking a diaper to his leg and he's fine. It was really a very slow book.

Jun 28, 2008

Showdown by Tilly Bagshawe

Showdown
by Tilly Bagshawe

Look, I feel a little shitty when I have to begin a post here with an outright statement such as: "This book sucks. So hard." It's just that the fact of the matter is fairly simple. This book does suck. Hard. So much so that Monique took the time to inform me that, you know, I don't have to keep reading this drivel. I can put the book down and move on and no one will judge me because this book is bad. So bad. So bad that I'm going to share it with you.


Bobby Cameron is a cowboy through and through. One of America's most skilled horse trainers, he has inherited his father's magnificent ranch in California's Santa Ynez Valley. Now, land rich but cash poor, Bobby travels the world trying to raise money to support his beloved ranch by taking jobs breaking horses for their wealthy owners. Milly Lockwood Groves, daughter of a millionaire breeder in Newmarket, England, is determined to become a world-class jockey--but her family has other plans for her, and are forcing her to take her place in British society. But Milly's life is about to be changed forever by the arrival of the gorgeous, enigmatic cowboy Bobby Cameron. Following him to America to realize her dreams, she risks losing her innocence and her heart in the process.
To start off, I am reminded of an exchange I had about this book, here in its entirety thanks to GMail:

monique: how is the romance going? you still readin it?
mara: i am. i just got done with some weird part in Florida involving a polo party and argentine women with big breasts and no moral compass sticking their hands down the asshole hero's pants.

Glorious. However, let's start at the beginning. Because while I only read a quarter of this book, that was really too much. We open up in France, where our dashing hero, Bobby, is working with this flighty filly for some asshole French trainer who'd really just prefer it if Bobby whipped the hell out of the filly and kicked her into submission. Because that's easier, and this training thing takes too much time. Bobby is appropriately disgusted with the other trainer's behavior, but unfortunately for us he's got other things to do. Like take a shower and mull over how his father sucks. Bobby, you see, is the product of his hippie mom having had inadvisable sex with his magnate dad, resulting in all sorts of wacky behavior. His dad was old when all of this happened and now he's ancient, but the old man has some attitude left and has never once informed Bobby that he loves him. And he probably doesn't. After Bobby's mom drops him off with his dad and never returns...going to live in more communes or whatever the hell she was up to...his dad just informs little Bobby that he will be his heir and that's pretty much it. Their relationship goes only so far as to be written into the will. Bobby, I guess, is scarred by this and proceeds to act out by being a complete jackass.

Now, while he's in France and fresh from his shower up at the owner's mansion, suddenly the owner's wife -- who is all young and eager to please -- magically appears in the bathroom also and starts to pull on Bobby's conveniently placed towel like a petulant six-year-old. A petulant six-year-old that Bobby decides he'd really like to not have sex with because that would be bad before deciding to hell with that and has sex with her anyway.

For some reason we are informed that Bobby really doesn't care about the needs of others, not that this matters to this woman because I guess she was only in it for the seduction. I don't get this, because it appears she put in a lot of effort for little return, especially when her husband shows up also to tell Bobby that his father died. Not wanting to get caught, he shoves the wife into a wardrobe and locks her inside, where I suppose he leaves her to fend for herself while he packs and leaves in the helicopter right outside. He's a winner, that Bobby. They're all winners.

So then we have Milly, who is a seventeen-year-old rich girl in England. Her parents own a horse farm and she's been forbidden to ride anymore after she took a nasty fall some time ago. Milly, of course, has her antagonist close by for always convenient drama. Since I forgot her name I will call her Jessica Rabbit, because that's apparently what she looks like. Jessica Rabbit, despite having breasts that probably weigh more than her head, is a jockey. For some reason. To make matters even more irritatingly stupid, Milly's brother is also a jockey and, of course, Milly wants to be a jockey too! It's like every English elite's dream in this book, which makes absolutely no sense. So Jessica Rabbit decides to have sex repeatedly with Milly's brother in order to annoy Milly. Thus we discover that all the women in this book are whores and all the men in this book are pricks. Once thought of like that it's remarkably easy to desensitize yourself from anything else even mildly offensive.

Enter Bobby into Milly's stunningly screwed up world. Bobby is now fresh from Florida, having wanted, but was forced to avoid, buxom women trying to get into his pants. It's hard for Bobby, but when the buxom women in this book have husbands armed with mallets he's really got to think about keeping his astonishingly empty head on his shoulders, you know? He's working hard, trying to keep his father's farm from falling into bankruptcy so he can turn it into a horse farm (his dad was all cattle focused and thought people who liked horses were pussies, much to poor Bobby's irritation). So his next job is with Jessica Rabbit's father's farm, but for some reason he's staying with Milly.

Milly falls in love in about two seconds flat. Unfortunately she acts like she's her age and in love, which means she's clumsy and makes poor fashion choices. Bobby, being a guest in Milly's father's home, continues on with his I-only-think-with-my-dick ways and starts bringing home as many ditsy women to his guest room as he can. Milly is upset by this...really, any host should be...but says nothing, preferring to pine away as she suffers not being able to ride (Bobby and/or horses). Until Bobby decides to help her out in that category (with the horses, I mean) and discovers that he'd really like her too, only she's seventeen. What is our hero to do? How can he get over his self-admitted urge to commit an act of pedophilia? (His words, not mine.)

Well, apparently he gets over it. Or he gets over it in California, where the legal age is eighteen. Anyway, either she has a birthday, or even Playboy starts breaking some laws because eventually she poses for Playboy, having learned to appreciate her large breasts somewhere between where I stopped reading and the end of this book.

I guess she becomes some wonder jockey in the Quarter Horse racing world and she and Bobby have sex and fall in love, only in the most despicable way possible because she has to go act like Jessica Rabbit for a while before discovering that she's an idiot and that Bobby will probably go off and have sex with some other underage girl that's not her if she doesn't stop posing for Playboy and gets her mind back to making her man happy. Thus we come to the end.

I don't know what's more frightening. That this book exists, or that it's actually the author's second novel.

Camp Saddlebrook...a new generation heaven for riding princesses everywhere

Camp Saddlebrook
Thoroughbred #28
by Dale Gasque
Published: 1998

Wasn't it around this book that the call was sounded to officially bring back racing? For some reason I have a memory of Joanna Campbell posting a note to this book's Amazon page way back when indicating something that was supposedly important. She'd consulted Dale Gasque on this book and racing would be back in #32 so we can all rest easy because Joanna's back! Yeah...I remember something along those lines. There was also a rumor that Joanna would write super editions to cover up the "giant gap" and everyone was so excited. Oh, nostalgia.


I don't have much to say about this cover other than I find it interesting how Christina is always portrayed with brown hair when she's pretty much consistently strawberry-blond in these early books. Otherwise this cover is fine. Christina looks like the annoying twelve-year-old she is, so I guess we're good to go.

Will Christina make a new friend at camp--or a new enemy?

Christina Reese is so excited. She's going away to riding camp for three whole weeks! Christina is sure it will be a blast--until she meets Eliza.

Eliza can't stand Christina's, just because her parents own a famous racing barn. She tells all the other campers that Christina is spoiled and stuck-up. But then Christina discovers a secret Eliza has been hiding--something Eliza is desperate to keep the other riders from finding out.

Christina knows she should keep quiet. But it's hard not to tell the truth about a girl who lies....

This blurb twists the truth a little (ironically) into something akin to Eliza entrusting Christina with her horrible, horrible secret and Christina, having had enough this, is implied as wondering if she should keep the secret because she's done being nice. Honestly, the blurb is more in line with what we know about Christina already (that she's typically annoying and hates taking criticism of any kind), but unfortunately it doesn't mesh with the actual plot of the book. So...we'll just get to the plot.

Plot!

Welcome to Camp Saddlebrook, where all your dreams come true! At least, if you're a riding princess. If you're not, you're wasting your time. Seriously. Just pack up and go. Thankfully Christina and Melanie qualify, so Joe the Groom takes them to camp. Immediately Christina is met with animosity, because being taken to camp not by your parents but by one of their employees is seen as rich riding princess behavior (as if the rest of the campers somehow aren't of the same ilk). Somehow Mel gets out of this, and Christina takes the brunt of all the pissiness, generally from Eliza. Everything Christina says is construed as her being all privileged, right down to accidentally informing dear Eliza that Sterling is only four. Holy crap, the horses at Camp Saddlebrook have to be at least five, therefore rules are being bent! Eliza, being a strict rule-follower, doesn't like this at all. Christina, unable to reply to this, tries to go out of her way to be nice to Eliza because they're in the same riding group (thus living in the same room and stabled next to each other) and gets nowhere fast.

So, this book spends a lot of time on camp life at Saddlebrook. There's this detailed explanation of this point system I will not even begin to describe because it was so boring. One thing I will say: if you want to feel like you're twelve again and at camp (even if you never went to a riding camp, which I surely didn't), this is your book. The most remarkable thing about riding classes at Camp Saddlebrook is the instructors seem to actually know what they're talking about and Christina, delicate riding princess that she is, doesn't cry and mope and complain when she's criticized. In fact, she feels she's learning things and quickly becomes happy in her novice class, which...just...totally not expected.

Anyway, so camp life continues. Only then Sterling tries to eat Eliza's reins, resulting in some more dramatics. Christina attempts to right things by being extra nice and goes down to the tack store to replace said reins. At first, Eliza softens up a little, but when she discovers that Christina bought some poster of a horseback riding god (I can't remember the guy's name...he's probably real for all I know) for their room Eliza freaks out about how it must be sooo nice to buy whatever you want whenever you want to.

Then we get a little bit of screen time with Dylan, who's off in another riding group and not subject to Christina's issues all the time. Instead he's got to deal with Rachel, who is trying to throw herself at him as if doing this repeatedly will somehow gain his undying affections. (Rachel's horse is named Naughty Nymph, by the way. So Christina has her work cut out for her.) However, instead of inviting Rachel to sit next to him at the upcoming fireworks display, Dylan asks Christina instead. So yay, joy, and all of that. Only by the time she goes to the fireworks show Christina is all demoralized because Eliza is pissing her off and she feels the need to sulk by herself. This leads to her going back to the barn alone, where apparently no one else is, and discovers that Flash is colicking. In true Thoroughbred heroine form, Christina saves Flash and injures herself and thereby gains Eliza's complete trust and friendship enough to find out Eliza's horrible secret: Flash is not actually Eliza's! She, like, owns an old horse she can't jump anymore! And she can't afford to buy Flash because her dad lost his job. So Christina and Melanie go into full out buy Eliza a horse mode, convincing Melanie's father to send a band down to the farm so they can raise money for Eliza. In a matter of about four days. I seriously don't know about that, but anyway.

Christina and Melanie keep Eliza's super special secret until it becomes obvious to the world that Flash is owned by someone else when the owner shows up with a series of interested buyers. Then everyone knows and shares in Eliza's emotional journey to getting what she wants. Interestingly enough, no one ever says anything about selling Eliza's old horse, because for all we know once the old horse leaves Eliza's care he'll probably be abused and then sent to slaughter. Because only the horses owned by our fantastical Thoroughbred characters are treated well.

Anyway, so the show is a success and Dylan dances with Christina and then Dylan kisses Christina. Twice. Oh, hot twelve-year-old love. Then we discover that the show made enough money to buy Flash for Eliza, only then the head person of the camp tells them they can't use the money for Flash because the show was set up as a charity for some young riders something or another. And Melanie immediately loses it and bangs herself repeatedly against a wall. Shocked by her cousin's outburst, Christina immediately goes into we can fix anything! mode and asks if there's no way for Eliza to get a loan. Yeah, because we all need to have a lot of debt by the time we're fifteen. So Camp Saddlebrook buys Flash for Eliza and sets up a loan and Eliza will get to be an instructor next year to help pay off her new debt. Christina has fixed everything, and got the guy without doing much hard work, which means this book is over.

Oddities:

  • Christina was uncomfortable with the boyfriend-girlfriend thing and didn't think of him [Dylan] that way. What? Since when?
  • Jennifer is a size one and looks like she stepped out of a Delia's catalog. Delia's in 1998, anyway.
  • Great. I hope I don't have to pee in the middle of the night. I only mention this because I think it's the first time our beloved main characters have mentioned bodily functions of any kind. As it turns out, this book is obsessed with bodily functions. Even those of horses! The reality...it's too much!
  • Eliza informs Christina that she's been working with her horse, Flash, in training level this summer. Christina literally thinks to herself that "training level didn't sound too advanced" like she wasn't bitching and complaining that she wasn't moving up to training level during the whole of Sterling's Second Chance.
  • Christina has wavy hair and Melanie has straight hair. I never once thought of Chris with wavy hair...probably because I have a feeling this is the one and only time it's ever mentioned.
  • The kids watch a video of the 1996 Badminton Horse Trials. I can't recall quite, but is this the first mention of a date in the Thoroughbred series?
  • Everyone is very touchy-feely in this book. They're constantly touching, whether they're sitting too close, shoving each other around, tackling someone, using someone as a cushion...and Melanie even put her foot on Eliza's butt. I guess this is kid behavior, because it all came with giggling and throwing food. It's just that it was very out of character for the Thoroughbred Series. Our characters don't have immature fun! They are serious and work hard and are rich but not! Somehow!
Ending this installment, I will make the point of saying this was a lot better than the other early New Generation books. There wasn't a whole lot to sit and gape at in silent astonishment, so I guess that means it's the most solid of the bunch in these early goings. Unfortunately, the constant shifts in characteristics that Christina has suffered through with each author make her seem completely unstable. Although that may be because she's just unstable in general.

Jun 27, 2008

Hatfields and McCoys...only of Ireland

So here's the deal. My backyard basically consists of a shitload of trees. Tons of them. And lately they've been falling down fairly randomly onto the major road behind the house. Tonight I guess one of them hit a power line, resulting in a lovely explosion and subsequent call to authorities with chainsaws. Therefore it is late, there are people traipsing around the neighborhood with chainsaws, and I'm not sleeping.

Thus, I thought it the perfect opportunity to lull myself to sleep by reading The Lady, by Anne McCaffrey. Only then it was so boring I found myself angry instead and after reading the first 25 pages, I decided to skip to the last chapter (located on page 447, so I imagine I missed quite a bit). This bored me to tears as well. So I decided to stop entirely and just write a review.

Granted, this is a review after I've read the first few chapters and last chapter of this megalithic waste of space that is called The Lady. So, sure, this probably isn't the best review to look toward for serious criticism of a book (but really, is that what we're here for?), and it sure as hell isn't a recap. Anyway.

They are the Caradynes, who for over 200 years have bred and trained horses of the finest caliber on Coernanagh. But all is not idyllic at hearth and home. Catriona, the youngest child, longs to ride her family's big jumpers and show horses. Her father Michael, recognizes her gift, but her mother hates the very idea. All is in a stalemate until Lady Selina Healy enters their lives, and provides for Catriona and her father a stunning example of how the reins of power can be held by a glorious, fearless woman.
Let it be known that I am not -- NOT -- reading any more stories involving the Irish for at least a year. That said, I will move on to what I know about this book.

Catriona, having possibly the most annoying little mary sue name to pop up in recent memory, is -- you guessed it -- perfect. She lives in a big house somewhere in Ireland and her parents, seemingly having forgotten what they really named her, call her Trina. I find this nickname unacceptable, for various reasons but mainly because they're leaving out the O and frankly if they wanted to call her Trina they just should have named her something else entirely. But I guess Katrina isn't sparkly and super Irish enough. Although had it been Katrina it probably would have been spelled Katryna because it just would have.

Anyway, so they live on this stupidly huge and popular horse farm and their main special stallion is called The Tulip and in the pages I read this mare gives birth to The Tulip's son, who is called the Tulip's Son for the rest of the book. I know this because I read the end. And he's still a foal, which means that the entirety of this book takes place over a course of a few months, and again I find this unacceptable.

So The Tulip's Son is super special and big and is basically Wonder's Champion. Whatever.

Then we discover that Catriona (Trina) can draw without realizing it...and I think right about there is where I lost it with this book. If you're talking to your mother and then turn to your paper and gasp because you realize your hand has been drawing a brush jump SOMETHING is WRONG with you. And I don't think it's because you're a super special mary sue, okay? Just to clear that up.

So Catriona's mom is all disturbed that her daughter's first memory is of her flamboyant crazy ass father-in-law and we soon discover that this woman is frigid and hates it when her husband walks around naked. This is, like, totally not what a good Catholic-raised 40-something woman who's gone through nine pregnancies and six children should have to put up with. She goes out of her way to make sure her prancing around naked husband isn't interested in sex with her at any convenient or inconvenient moment of the day, and she succeeds. I have this suspicion he just goes elsewhere, and having read reviews for the book I know I am completely right. Then she dies. Yay, frigid wife is gone and naked husband can go have sex with The Lady, who is Selina, who's all married and pissed off about it. I assume. Whatever.

I then skipped to the end, where Catriona magically suspects their horses are being terrorized simply because they're, like, galloping in a paddock. She can sense that fun galloping and terrorized galloping are different, so she jumps her pony gallantly over an iron fence (oh, such bravery) and runs down to the part of the paddock she didn't see to discover this rival family trying to either steal or seriously injure The Tulip's Son and his precious mother. Catriona basically holds off all of them...somehow, despite really doing absolutely nothing other than running around on her pony and shouting, before the calvary arrives that basically consists of her dad and two other people armed with whips. Thus the mare and foal go back to grazing because, you know, they're horses and don't really care. Then Selina decides to stay at the farm and have sex with Catriona's father despite still being married to her abusive husband because this is Ireland in 1970 and divorce just doesn't happen in Ireland in 1970. Oh, and Catriona draws a special uber perfect sketch of the Tulip because I guess he died somewhere in the four hundred pages I didn't read. I wonder if she drew it without realizing what her hands were doing? Seriously, she should get that problem checked out.

That's it. I'm not reading any more Anne McCaffrey books (well, I will not attempt to read any other Anne McCaffrey books, anyway). This should be easy as I can't get into any story involving dragons or magical lands, and this appears to be the bulk of her work. Which makes me wonder how this crazy Irish horse story fits in. Actually, no, wait. I don't wonder. I don't care. Plus the chainsaws have ceased and I'm going to bed.

Jun 25, 2008

Related: The Phantom Stallion, The Wild One

Monique sort of challenged me to read the entirety of the Phantom Stallion Series a while back, and I started to and will admit that I'm struggling mainly because I'm trying to read about four books at a time (in general, two of which don't even involve horses so look at me branching out!) and that is difficult, not to mention entirely unreasonable and probably a little obsessive of me. Anyway, here's the first book in Terri Farley's series:

To be blunt, the cover doesn't do a lot for me. The horse isn't a beauty, and I can't help staring at its nose because it's just so...like a cartoon? I can't pinpoint it exactly.

This horse is wild at heart

It's been two years since Blackie, the horse Sam raised from a foal, threw her in a near-fatal accident. She's been separated from her family, her ranch and the wild mustangs she loves. Now she's home again, but her beloved Blackie has been missing since the day Sam was injured.

Then, on the night she returns, a mustang comes to Sam. Is it Blackie, grown up and gone wild? Is it the legendary stallion known as the Phantom? Or could it be both?


Plots:
1. Phantom:

So this wild horse has three names, although it never gets confusing. He's "the Phantom" to mostly everyone as a wild legend, Blackie to the people at River Bend, and Zanzibar to Sam. Having more than one name would then mean he's extra special, sort of like how The Black was also Shetan, and so forth. Phantom/Blackie/Zanzibar is extra extra special, seeing how he has three names.

The story behind this guy is he was Sam's horse previously before an accident caused his escape from River Bend, where I assume he was born. Two years later he's a four-year-old stallion and apparently fantastic enough to have foals and a herd of his own already. Then comes Linc Slocum, who, despite being annoyed by wild horses in general, wants Phantom/Blackie/Zanzibar. There's a lot of general grumbling about this as he tries several different routes toward snatching the horse, none of which work. Phantom/Blackie/Zanzibar ends the book free to rear and play to his wild delight, thanks to Sam.

2. Jake & Sam:

Sam is thirteen and spunky. Jake is sixteen and part Shoshone. Slap another ten years on these kids and we would have a completely different story. Even Sam's grandmother thinks something's up, so apparently she too can see the romance covers featuring heaving bosoms and windblown hair in the future for them. Thankfully we will never see this.

Oddities:

  • You know, I'm pretty puzzled over why Sam is wearing a black t-shirt, black jeans and black sneakers too and I live in a "poor man's San Francisco." So, yeah, I'm pretty confused. Unless she's wearing heels and a dress I'm at a loss as to how her outfit is the height of city fashion just because it's black.
  • I am so utterly befuddled whenever Wyatt is mentioned simply as "Dad." Not "her dad" or "her father," just "Dad" as if I'm expected to be right there in Sam's head and should know him as my own father also. Sort of like how everyone refers to God. I've never seen this before. It kind of annoys me.
  • Astonishing! Ace actually doesn't come rushing over to Sam because he's, like, amazing and special and loves her for no reason. Clearly I've been reading the Thoroughbred Series too much.
  • It isn't at first apparent why Sam, Wyatt, and Jake go to the Willow Springs BLM place other than to criticize it and be nasty toward one of the BLM employees. After they leave we discover they were only there in the first place to show it to Sam, so why they couldn't have said that before is anyone's guess.
  • I'm pretty sure I've never seen a Quarter Horse with a head like an Arabian, nor have I seen a mustang with the features of an Arabian.
  • I was going along just fine with this fall/escaped horse turned feral before the backstory is revealed on the ride. The horse is two, Sam is ten or eleven, and she's riding it bareback off the ranch property with a torn up nightgown serving as the bridle. Yeah, nothing could have gone wrong there at all.
Overall, this book had a Flicka feel to it. I must say, I'm used to the general craziness and sugarcoated goop of the Thoroughbred Series, and despite some randomly placed comparisons to unicorns, princesses, moonlight and silver dust this has been a good change. Sam isn't annoying, despite how many wrong turns she takes, and the lines everyone has are snappy and realistic and sound like people are actually conversing with each other. However, I am a little thrown by the insistence of pitting an adult against a thirteen-year-old girl. This doesn't even work well in the Thoroughbred Series, but here it works even less given how Linc Slocum is so annoying and stereotypical in general. I mean, if I can't lust after him like I can Brad Townsend there is seriously nothing there to entertain me.

(Edited and reposted from Lost Canyon, a now deleted blog.)

Jun 24, 2008

This Book is Terrible: Unbridled Fury, TB #62

The other day I remembered that when I was younger I used to review Thoroughbred books on Amazon.com on a semi-regular basis. I imagined them to be impassioned missives to the editors/authors, eloquently expressing my rage at the deteriorating quality of the books and the depredation of my favorite characters (I happened upon Amazon.com around the time Samantha's Journey was published). Laden with nostalgia, I began to read through my old reviews...and they weren't as elegant and inspiring as I thought. But I was inspired as to what book I should review next for this blog...

This cover is perfect. When I say that I mean that is perfectly fits how truly awful the contents that lie beneath it are. Apparently the cover artist gave up on trying to figure out what racing saddles look like and instead choose to attire our beloved equine friend in something that looks like the cheap plastic play saddles that came on the toy horses I bought at the bait shop on summer vacation. I don't really know what to say about the way Melanie is holding the reins except maybe she's too distracted pointing her laser-eyes at Jinx to remember proper equitation. Seriously. I think Jinx is rearing up because Melanie is filled with the fire of Satan and is trying to force his brain to combust using only the power of her pupils. Look at her face. P.S. The horse on this cover is hideous.
Melanie's new horse is named Hi Jinx, and he sure lives up to his name.
Now that Image is injured, Melanie needs to find another horse to race. She hasn't found one she feels really connected to just yet. But all that's about to change.

While visiting Image at Townsend Acres, Melanie meets a gorgeous brown Thoroughbred named Hi Jinx - he looks just like his ancestor, the famous racehorse Seabiscuit! Melanie feels an instant bond with this powerful animal. She and Jazz have been talking about owning a horse together, so why not this one?

But before they even get back to Whitebrook, Hi Jinx starts acting up - big-time! Will Melanie be able to get him to behave before it's too late?
Great! Except Hi(gh) Jinx is never anywhere near Townsend Acres. Anyway, moving on.

Plot: Okay, so here is what I wrote in my Amazon.com review of this book way back in 2005
wow. this book was terrible. melanie's character was terrible. the plot was terrible. the writing was terrible. jinx was terrible.
This constructive criticism has only ripened with age. This book doesn't even deserve the dignified title of "polished turd." It is a full-blown piece of crap that someone dug out of the sewage system and stapled inside a book cover. And no, I will not take that back.

Melanie is all boo-hoo because now that Image is a cripple she doesn't have her own horse to race and train. As we all know, it is impossible for top jockeys to win or even ride in races if they don't have their own special wonder horse wedged up in their butt with them at every second of the day. Poor Melanie is so upset that she can't do anything other than whine, which is understandable for someone in such a terrible condition. Will they ever find a cure?

Luckily for her, Jazz is all gung-ho to invest in another racehorse. Dickerson lays it on thick that Jazz isn't really a lover of horses, but is willing to throw all this money out the window because the horses make Mel happy. This means, for all you blushing young lads and ladies, that Jazz is willing to spend millions of dollars on what to him are stinky, money-eating, poop factories because he enjoys the booty. Basically what I'm saying is Melanie has a golden poontang.

Anywho, Melanie is supposed to be busy stirring up rides because, well, she is a jockey, and a Kentucky Derby winning one at that! But she's too busy thinking about how much she wants a horse, which is obviously more important than doing her job and earning money so that she can keep Brad Townsend's grubby hands off of Image. But it's okay, her poontang power will surely protect Image. Speaking of Brad though, Melanie overhears him talking at a party (where she is supposed to be smoozing for rides) with some other dude about how there's this farm over yonder having a dispersal sale. Better yet, there is a horse related to Seabiscuit! Wowee! Melanie even did a book report on him once, which means she can totally ignore Brad when he intelligently points out that Seabiscuit was not much of a sire. Brad, being a successful horse breeder, clearly knows nothing about bloodlines because he is evil and usually impeccably dressed, so can be ignored. Maybe she should go look at the horse! Wait, no, Melanie and Jazz agreed they would wait until fall to find a new horse. It's in their poontang contract. Except here's the thing people. Melanie's the one with the poontang, therefore she gets to make all the rules. You have to read the fine print.

As per this agreement, Melanie decides to go have a look-see at this farm the next day. Boy, won't Jazz feel emasculated when he finds out! Off she goes, skip-to-my-lou, and sees this horse there that is just great. He is all by himself in a field and all dirty, those cruel, cruel, bankrupt owners. Melanie decides it is a really good idea to climb in the paddock to get all cuddly with him, especially because she knows that this is probably a very bad idea considering he is a strange horse who belongs to someone else. But she can already feel her magical poontang sense tingling about this horse, and just when they're about to make out a groom comes over and yells at her all mean like. Stupid horse abuser, telling her to be careful around a dangerous animal. Then Jinx tries to bite her. What a surprise.

Luckily for us Melanie is into danger and all that (she is dating a Chris Angel look alike named Jazz), and she decides that this colt is the colt for her, Seabiscuit bloodlines at all. It doesn't matter that she sees him in a workout trying to savage all the other horses and exercise riders. That just makes him great. Yay! A fixer upper! So she goes home and calls Jazz in Europe to convince him to buy the horse, reminding him about their poontang contract when he's all, "I don't know Mel, didn't we agree we were going to buy a sane horse this time?" So basically Melanie get the horse.

Things aren't so great though. Jinx tries his hardest to destroy the trailer on the ride to Whitebrook, and he immediately begins to terrorize every single thing on the farm once he arrives at Whitebrook. Everyone else is pretty put-off by Jinx's tendency to bite, kick, and destroy walls (the horse fucking gouges teeth marks into the stall, for fuck's sake), but Mel is beside herself with happiness that this "spirited animal" is hers I mean Jazz's.

Still flush from the honeymoon, Melanie returns to Belmont to actually fucking ride in a race, which she wins of course, before jet-setting back to Whitebrook to make sure the training barn is still standing. She returns to find that no one wants to go near Jinx. He is basically feral, if horses can be feral, in that he tries to savage everything, living and dead, that comes near him. Melanie becomes even more determined. All she needs to do is get inside Jinx's head and he'll be the next Derby winner. I have news for you Melanie: I don't think even your petite self is small enough to fit into one of Jinx's ears. I'm just saying.

Things don't really go so well when Jinx isn't trying to kill things either. When he's on the track he bolts, mostly in an attempt to ram other horses, and when he's in the gate he doesn't break but just stands there. Melanie's pretty frustrated, but it's with everyone else telling her Jinx is a lost cause, not with the fact that her horse is a homicidal maniac. She even gets in two big fights with Jazz, who tells her she's being unrealistic and unreasonable about the possibility of gentling the horse. I know Jazz is supposed to know nothing about horses and be in it only for the poontang, but in this book he comes off as a knowledgeable equestrian. Jinx isn't Sierra or Image. He does things worse than dumping his riders, bolting, or even running the wrong way on a racetrack during a race. He constantly and deliberately tries to kill everything he encounters. A horse like this in the real world would be gelded if not put down. But this is the Thoroughbred series, and the Magic Barbie Rainbow Fairy Dusty is coming, don't worry. It might even come out of Melanie's poontang!

Jinx ends up in the stallion barn, where he apparently makes even The Terminator look like a pussy. Melanie decides that maybe the way to stop Jinx from trying to kill everything is to buy him an animal friend. So, with Kevin's help (who in this book is trying to steal the magical poontang from Jazz) she buys first a goat, who Jinx simply ignores, and then a pony, who Jinx out and out tries to kill. Oops, that didn't work.

Except! Melanie is driving...somewhere...and sees some cruel-hearted bastard push an ugly ass dog out of a car and drive away. Kentucky apparently is full of animal haters. Melanie chases the dog through traffic, but then he jumps in her car, so she takes him home. Then he runs into Jinx's stall. Melanie is understandably terrified that Jinx will murder this dog, but instead Jinx decides they are best friends and even sleeps through the night! Whoopee! This means maybe he will go well on the track. Except that he deliberately attacks Fast Gun during a workout and injures him, causing a bone chip. Ashleigh is pretty pissed, let me tell you.

Melanie goes over to Townsend Acres to graze Image and lick her wounds, where she runs into Brad Townsend. Brad then offers to buy Jinx, giving the very convincing reason that his accountant says he needs to spend more money. I choose to believe that Brad is just making this up and is offering to buy Jinx because he likes to drive Melanie crazy, not because he actually wants to own the horse. There's nothing Brad loves more than making the Whitebrook crew shit their pants. And it works! Melanie goes home to bitch to Ashleigh about Brad's nefarious offer to actually pay her for this would-be serial killer and instead of being appropriately horrified, Ashleigh says Melanie should take the offer, then tells her she has two days to take Jinx off the property. Ladies and gentleman, Ashleigh's balls have dropped. For about two seconds. Anyway.

Melanie is really distraught. This isn't fair, damnit. So she takes the colt out on the track for one last ride. This time when Jinx bolts Melanie doesn't fight him. Instead she lets him run and run and run. She got the idea from Wonder's Champion, which she read the night before. Jinx gets all confused because no one is telling him what to do, so he stops and waits for Melanie to tell him what to do! Problem solved! Jinx is a different horse and can stay at Whitebrook! Even better, Jazz flew in all the way from Europe (he was beginning to doubt if Melanie's poontang really was as wonderful as he originally thought) and happens to catch this monumental turning point, and is convinced that Jinx was a worthy investment. And they all go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Well, not quite. Or something. I dunno. Poontang.

Points of Interest:
  • From Karle Dickerson, who brought you wonderful coffee-shop names such as Soda Jerks and Brewed Attitude, comes a relatively normal name: Clockers Coffee Shop.
  • The way Melanie blathers on and on about her fear that she will never find another horse like Image, you'd think she was trying to get over an old boyfriend.
  • Brad shows up at the barn in a tuxedo. Because he is just that cool. I bet he has Hammer pants, too.
  • These authors, particularly Dickerson, are always having Brad step into a pile of manure after he's said or done something snide. As a grown man who's spent his life around horses and is supposedly obsessed with staying clean, I am pretty sure Brad knows how to watch where he puts his expensively clad feet. I'm just saying.
  • At the party, Lavinia is talking to someone who looks like a mobster. I knew it!
  • In this book, there is a point where Melanie is in a hurry but drives slightly below the speed limit. Does anyone do this? Ever?
  • Melanie knows Jinx is The Horse when she sees him bolt widely down the track at Whitebrook after throwing her. This is because she saw Image do the same thing the day they met, and therefore surely this is a great sign. Because we all know how well that Kentucky Derby thing worked out for Image.
  • Christina and Melanie are always thinking about how much Ashleigh knows about horses and then immediately following that thought with one about how Ashleigh must be wrong in this case. According to this logic Ashleigh, with her vast wisdom, is never right. Ever.
  • Apparently, Kentucky is full of goat farms.
  • Cindy is not Ian's stepdaughter. I'm just saying.
Well friends, this was surely an adventure. Maybe I'm primed to tackle an Allie book next. Who knows what the future holds!

Jun 20, 2008

Christina's Courage to admit her horse has faults but she'll keep her anyway is TB #27

Christina's Courage
Thoroughbred #27
by Alice Leonhardt
Published: 1998

Some weeks ago we discovered (or rediscovered, as the case may be) what Cindy's like when she has to suffer through unneeded (in her view, anyway) advice. Her reaction: act like an insufferable brat with a suicidal impulse. This time we get to see how Christina takes it, and my money is on not well.

Here Christina thought she'd jump Sterling, but halfway through I guess Sterling had something significantly terrific to inform Christina about through their telepathic link, filling Christina with the uncontrollable urge to hug her horse while attempting to look Sterling in the eye from the horse's back as they are in mid-jump. Surely this is difficult to accomplish, but naturally Christina makes it look easy. Also, Christina has skinny little legs and her jacket looks like a red, sack-like cape. Another thing that isn't at all fascinating: Christina and Sterling don't do any jumping in this book. So I don't know why it's a jumping cover...perhaps there was a mix up over at Harper Collins.

Can Christina control Sterling?

Now that she has the horse of her dreams, Christina Reese is more determined than ever to enter high-level competitions. There's only one problem -- her horse, Sterling Dream, isn't cooperating.

Christina thought she had a close bond with Sterling, but now the mare refuses to do anything Christina asks. She balks at jumping even the lowest fences! Christina doesn't know what to do. If Sterling's behavior doesn't improve, this may be the end of their riding career!
Alright, this blurb pretty much reintroduces us to the Karen Bentley of the New Generation. Things go wrong, although we casually dismiss the fact that things go wrong because the main character is a brat who pushes herself and her horses too much before they're ready, while being nasty and forlorn whenever anyone tells her to ease up, so woe is her because their riding career might be over! OVER! Only it isn't because the book has to end on a high note and therefore she'll win and her bitchiness will be justified. Christina is a twelve-year-old bitch because she knows what she's doing, and everyone else just isn't as flipping amazing as she is and they're just bringing her down! Therefore she can be completely annoying if she damn well wants to be. It's the same Karen Bentley/Cindy Era logic that makes us all want to scream.

Anyhoo, the plot:

Christina has fully recovered from her lack of confidence, deciding that since she won her first competition she and Sterling are ready for full blown training level. This means that she essentially wants to start training for the Olympics now so she can qualify for the team by the end of summer. At least that's how it reads. She's irritatingly motivated, no matter if she and her horse are no where near ready for her grand aspirations. Sterling is going to be ready if she likes it or not, and Christina's going to be her horse's slave driver, mercilessly cracking the whip whenever Sterling decides she's not prepared to go careening off into full training with a shrieking crazy person clinging to her back. It's hard times for Sterling, because meek and terrified Christina of yesteryear has been replaced with freakishly pushy Christina armed with whatever it takes to win. It's like Cindy all over again, if Cindy had ever been into jumping.

Anyway. So Christina is all adamant that she's not going to miss a damn lesson this summer because she has work to do. Ashleigh has other plans, which involve assigning a weanling to each kid at the farm because apparently this will help pick up the slack in their forever understaffed operation. Christina immediately switches to belligerent/woe is me mode, annoyed that she has to help out at the farm because she favors her riding princess responsibilities over actually being responsible. She gets assigned a frisky little foal named Missy, who is hell on four hooves. Although taken aback that her assigned foal is apparently the devil incarnate, Christina declares that nothing will deviate her from her course to super jump riding person! Nothing. That includes Missy, I assume. So I'm sure there's going to be some scene where Christina accidentally knocks Missy out of the picture for a while but eventually performs some miracle and Missy becomes well behaved because Christina deemed it so.

Enter Mona to screw up Christina's plans. She has decided that everyone sucked during their dressage test in the previous show and will be working them only on dressage for the next two weeks. Christina's immediately with the hell, this is not what I pay you for! She wants to jump, damn it! Because she has obviously forgotten that three day eventing, which she is all motivated for, includes dressage. I guess Christina mastered dressage when she was nine, so she doesn't have to worry about that anymore. On their way back to Whitebrook after Mona's huge waste of time that is her high class riding lessons, Christina tries to jump Sterling into or over (sort of?) a stream, which she has to beat her mare with a stick to accomplish. Triumph degenerates into trying not to weep when she discovers she's scared the poor horse and has therefore lost Sterling's trust (she just knows this immediately, like they communicate telepathically and has read Sterling's mind).

Just when everything seems lost, Christina discovers that everyone thinks she's crazy and needs to lighten up a little. Even Dylan thinks this! Therefore Christina can no longer like Dylan because he's all realistic and who the hell is he to tell her that Sterling's been off the track for less than two months and needs to take it slow? He doesn't realize how naturally talented Sterling is! He's just as stupid and/or mean as the rest of all those people spouting their normal, easy-to-follow logic. Christina's just going to go show them all up and convince them all how wrong they are.

So we suffer through a fight between Christina and Ashleigh (which is mainly Christina lashing out at Ashleigh for no reason other than she's feeling particularly pissy that morning), and then Sterling won't walk around in the stream even when bribed. So fresh from utterly failing, Christina tries to work with Missy and just winds up smacking her around. Then we've got another chance for Christina to complain when Mona decides that her little dressage test is going to be a novice, and then Mona uses Christina as an example of a horse resisting its rider because Christina is NOT an Olympic rider. Shocked that someone has noticed she's actually twelve and not perfect all the time, Christina is embarrassed and fights the impulse to storm off and never return.

Sensing Christina's crazy lunacy, Mona hauls her into her office and they have their discussion, where Mona tells her all those riders Christina admires worked their asses off for years before they became the riders little girls like Christina are crazy about. Christina, having somehow missed the fact that these famous riders didn't become famous in a matter of two months, gets her little wake up call that she's got years and years and more years of work to look forward to. Instant gratification, as it turns out, isn't in Christina's cards. Much to her dismay. Hoping that now that Christina has had sense smacked back into her skull, Dylan offers to help her out with dressage and Christina's all oh my gosh, a date! Only it's not, because Cassidy is there also and Sterling tries to run over Dylan. But then, after about an eternity of traveling, Cassidy's horses finally arrive and their beauty depresses Christina so she just sulks and goes home.

After discovering that all Missy wanted was to be near her dam, Miss America, Christina realizes she's a huffy jerk who's been pushing everyone too hard and is completely at fault. Then she loses her novice dressage test in admirable fashion, I'll give her that. Instead of trying to kill herself she takes her last place finish like a pro and doesn't cry, mainly because she finally figures out that Sterling just came off the track two months ago or something and can't be expected to understand everything. So they finally get the last few things right in the test and she's all overjoyed and it's the only time I like her in the whole book.

Oddities:
  • Alice has no idea how to color hair with Kool-Aid. Granted, I’ve never done it (and I’m immensely happy about that fact), but I also know it doesn’t involve carefully pouring liquid Kool-Aid on your head.
  • Melanie wonders if the truck driver didn’t see them on the road because the tractor trailer didn’t slow down. Mel, I think all the air horns and swerving should have made it obvious that they saw you. They kept speeding up because Alice apparently hates tractor trailer drivers.
  • Melanie tells us that she’s great at making up lies for why she’s late for curfew or why she skipped school (there’s a logical reason for skipping school? I’d like to hear that one), but she doesn’t know any “late-for-lesson” lies. Oh, Mel, it’s practically the same thing. Here’s one: Trib stumbled and you fell on your ass because you’re the inexperienced one, and then Trib ran off and you had to catch him. Hey! There’s a lie I thought of and typed in a matter of seconds. What do they come up with? Sterling got a rock in her hoof and Melanie gets it wrong with: “Sterling had rocks in her head.” And this is the crafty, troublemaker of the book?
  • Dressage to Christina is basically “trotting and cantering around in a bunch of circles,” which is so far opposite of her opinion in previous books that I don’t think Alice took notes on anything worthwhile from Allison’s books.
  • “Dressage teaches your horse to be obedient, supple and balanced,” says Katie. Dylan agrees with: “Dressage teaches you to communicate with your horse and turn him into a better athlete.” Christina looks at her friends in horror, wondering who replaced Dylan and Katie with horse riding manual writers. (Incidentally, it appears Alice is paraphrasing Common Sense Dressage: An Illustrated Guide.)
  • Melanie dares to mention that Dylan looked good in his lesson and Christina runs to mark her territory, demanding if Melanie likes Dylan. Well, does she? Does she? We ALL want to know. Melanie informs us that she likes the rugged, casual type, and that a sense of humor is important (at least, her twelve-year-old self does, because I don’t think Jazz really falls in this category). Besides, Melanie likes Kevin, who doesn’t really fall into that category either. Maybe this is because no one has a sense of humor in the Thoroughbred Series, or perhaps it’s because they’re twelve and no twelve-year-old boy would ever be described as rugged. EVER. That’s just disturbing, actually.
  • I guess Melanie went from having some sort of fashion sense to a walking rainbow. At the baseball game she’s wearing purple sunglasses, a bright blue shirt and orange shorts with spiky rainbow hair.
  • Dylan’s mom owns a Jeep.
  • Now Dylan’s getting into this whole telling Christina the truth thing, which Christina doesn’t appreciate at all. Why is everyone against Christina? Why does everyone want her to fail? Whyyyy?!
  • Ashleigh asks Christina how Missy is doing and Christina says she hasn't worked with her yet, but before her mom can reprimand her Christina launches full force into her bitchy rant about how she only does things she deems important. Why can't Ashleigh understand that? Huh? HUH? Oh yeah, and Ashleigh sucks because she doesn't take Christina's Olympics dreams seriously.
  • Wracked with guilt from her blow up at Ashleigh, Christina decides to go train Missy. Only that ends up with her smacking the foal around, which you think she wouldn't have done given how she can't even carry a crop with Sterling.
  • Kevin to Christina concerning Christina's recent wonkiness in front of Dylan: "I told him you were really worried about Sterling and that any criticism of how you were handling the precious princess sent you into orbit." Wow. That's spot on. This could have inspired a back cover blurb along the lines of: Christina is worried about Sterling and any criticism of how she handles the mare sends her into a rage. Then she slaps around a foal. The End.
  • Christina couldn't believe her friend was so excited about a stupid rectangle. Christina's hatred of dressage jumps a few levels.
  • Mona's competition is going to be a novice test. Christina, how do we feel about that? Novice! Christina fumed. Why aren't we doing a training-level test? Mona was treating them like babies. Ah, that's the stuff.
  • Mona points out that Christina is stiff and Sterling is resisting, but Christina insists it's not their fault. It's the dressage's fault! Yes, that's it. It's all the fault of dressage.
  • "You know that I love you." These authors really need to not attempt song lyrics.
  • Oh, good, Christina says everything is her fault but then Ashleigh steps in to say it's all her fault because she hasn't been around. Not that Christina hasn't had time to bitch at her mom or anything. Naturally it can't just be that Christina made mistakes. Nope.
  • At the party after the dressage test, Dylan tackles Christina to the ground and says, "You're not as wet as me" and then they blush because he's sprawled out on top of her and pinning her to the ground. What a perfect ending note for this book. Really.

Best get your camping gear for our next installment or two. Christina and the gang attend Camp Saddlebrook for the next three weeks. Enemies are made, s'mores are probably consumed amidst veiled sexual innuendo...or not. You never know.

Jun 18, 2008

Annoying Riding Princess Death Match! or TB #26: Sterling's Second Chance

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

When Joanna Campbell plunked Moe down in the Thoroughbred Series out of her real life I was okay with that. When Karen Bentley erased Cindy's less annoying personality and replaced it with her own, that really pissed me off. In The Horse of her Dreams, Allison Estes tossed Maureen Mack into the fold, and in this book Cassidy Smith moved from her home in Florida to muck up the lives of our charmingly obtuse characters. I can't help but think that as Allison wrote this book, she was thinking: "Now I will surely be Cassidy's most favorite aunt! Who else would pander to a child's ego so effectively? No one, that's who!"

So I find it curious when the authors stick real people in these books, making it incredibly easy to cyberstalk those they were so eager to please by immortalizing them in print. Although, really, that's not the issue here. It's our wonderful fictional characters and their reaction to our most recent real life implant, Cassidy, that makes the story. To the cover!


Yeah, I don't care. Gray horse, little girl, no chin strap, blah blah blah.
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?
The thing about this blurb is that the whole second half of it never happens. I don't know how exactly this whole blurb process works -- if the blurb is written before the story or the story is written before the blurb, but it is very clear that someone wasn't in line. Cassidy Smith isn't "picked" to ride Sterling and Christina and Sterling don't set out to prove anyone wrong. Basically, the whole book is about Christina acting like a paranoid freak of nature, which brings me to the title. This thing should be called Christina's Second Chance or Sterling Gets Annoyed With Her Bipolar Rider, because Sterling's Second Chance implies that the horse was doing something wrong at the beginning of the story when really she was just behaving as any horse would when a complete lunatic is sitting on its back.

Plot:

Sterling is so great! She's been off the track for weeks and is training fantastically for her super shiny career in (E)venting, so Christina is all besides herself with glee only she is also crippled by a very annoying inability to treat the horse like anything other than Waterford crystal. Picking up on this, Sterling starts to test her limits and Christina isn't prepared for Sterling's moody shenanigans. But why would Sterling decide to test Christina's awesome magical riding ability? Isn't Sterling supposed to be Christina's uber special mare she's waited her whole twelve years for? She just does. not. get it!

So the issue is that Sterling keeps ducking out and refusing to take jumps. Mona's solution to this is relatively simple: a) carry a crop when you ride and b) hit the damn horse with the crop when it does something you don't want it to do. When Christina hears this stunningly realistic logic she immediately does our typical Thoroughbred character whining about abuse and how she promised herself she'd never hit poor Sterling with anything ever because Christina isn't an ugly backside groom with bad teeth, she is a horse riding princess! Hitting her wonder horse is beneath her! Sterling should just magically know what Christina wants, or so she thinks. It doesn't work out that way, so for the first three or four chapters of the book they basically wrestle each other in a truly stunning display of horsemanship antics that can't possibly hope to be followed. Mona gets annoyed with this and tells Christina to get off the horse. She's going to teach the mare something, and Christina's all weepy and tells Mona not to hit Sterling and Mona's all "yeah, whatever."

While Mona's off perfectly riding Sterling, Christina takes some time to feel offended, angry and instantly suspicious of our new character, Cassidy. Cassidy is perfect, and has already won at the National Horse Show, which Christina is instantly jealous of to the point that she decides Cassidy is lying. So Mona shows back up to make Christina ride Sterling again, but Christina is too busy convincing herself that Dylan and Cassidy are holding hands to pay much attention to the water jump she's supposed to be jumping which ends in disaster. Mona tells her to get off the damn horse because Christina is acting like a loon, but Christina ignores her and tries it again and fails even more miserably. She falls off the horse and actually breaks her wrist and boo hoo she's hurt for the first time ever.

Christina has to have a cast for two weeks, which is the end of the world because she can't ride. Since Christina has no other hobbies and is remarkably two-dimensional, you can imagine how awful this is for her. So it comes up that someone has to ride Sterling to keep her in training, and Mona instantly suggests Cassidy because she's just great and everyone loves her, much to Christina's agitation. Like hell that perfect girl is going to ride Christina's supposedly once perfect horse! She essentially tells Mona this and proceeds to ask everyone else she knows, and everyone else tells her they're busy because they all have lives outside of horses, leaving Christina in her two-dimensional world with no horse to ride. Only then she finds out that Dylan and Cassidy are going out to the movies together, and she hates Cassidy even more. That sort-of boyfriend stealing slut!

But never fear, Melanie is to the rescue. Despite Christina's completely annoying insistence that no one knows Sterling like she does and whatever else, she finally relents and lets Melanie groom the mare before she makes Melanie exercise her. Then there's another episode of shrieking and shooting looks at people and Sterling bolts around the paddock with Melanie clinging to her neck as Cassidy steps in to save the day for our two heroic and yet completely clueless main characters. Melanie's had it after Christina's shrieking fit and leaves, so now Christina has no one to ride her super precious persnickety mare...until she comes to the stable the next day to see Cassidy riding Sterling! Holy hell! How dare they, everyone and Sterling for letting that sort-of boyfriend stealing girl get on her back like that! Everyone is at fault except Christina, or so she thinks, as she has visions of dragging Cassidy off the horse. Cassidy, having a heightened sense of self preservation, gets off the horse and lets Christina haul Sterling back to the stable.

So, just as it's become stunningly apparent that Christina has lost it entirely, Melanie rides to the rescue again and tells Christina she has to let Cassidy ride the horse if she's going to enter this Foxwood event thingy when her cast comes off. Christina swallows her pride and calls Cassidy up, apologizes for her insane behavior, and Cassidy tells her she just can't help because she's still unpacking from moving or something incredibly made up. I don't blame her for not wanting to ride...we're dealing with an unbalanced twelve-year-old girl here and there's nothing more frightening. Dejected, Christina goes to mope with Sterling. Then Cassidy has her random change of heart and decides to ride. Just like that, everything is super fantastic again!

Only then Christina's cast comes off and she's paralyzed with fear. She just can't ride Sterling and insists that Cassidy ride in the show instead. Everyone seems to wait for her natural outburst, but when that doesn't come they know something's really up and go about secretly plotting to make Christina ride in the show. Their plot is revealed at the absolute last second, and it all works out because Cassidy wears the same size as Christina. Marvelous! So they force Christina onto the horse at the show, she rides around like she's on acid or something equally hallucinogenic, and finally has to use that crop she's been freaking out about and wins the show because she's a super riding princess and it's a given. Then Dylan kisses her on the cheek and the nervous butterflies in her stomach become joyful butterflies, but no one notices, thank God.

Oddities:

  • Melanie actually asks what Cassidy means when she says one of her two horses is still a little green. Sure, Melanie is supposed to be the one who isn't as knowledgeable as everyone else, but really? No. It's not a term that's applied solely to horses. She should know what it means in general.
  • The whole hang up in this book is the riding crop. If Christina had just shut up and done as asked from the get go this book wouldn't have been necessary. For as stupid and touchy as Christina assumes Sterling is, she is remarkably not stupid and touchy.
  • When Christina goes down to the track to watch Melanie pony with Pirate, Ashleigh actually gets all excited and wonders aloud if Christina has finally decided to take up racing. This is just really pathetic. Yeah, Ashleigh, after she traded Wonder's last foal for a horse she can event with she'll take up racing. That's likely.
  • Christina was channeling her inner Cindy in this book to a serious degree. All the hissing and glaring and attempting withering looks...she was on a roll. The only difference was she was trying to be a bitch whereas with Cindy it just came naturally.

That is all here. I'll be back with Christina's Courage next, and a few other books that involve perfect thirteen-year-old girls riding magnificent horses and fixing everyone's lives and whatnot. Good times will be had by all, I'm sure.

Want more? Monique's review of Sterling's Second Chance is here.

Jun 17, 2008

I'm all Hot and Bothered by Parker's Passion, TB #61

After reviewing Close Call, I remembered that there were more Parker books, and there had been this whole harrowing episode with Brad later in the series when the authors decided it was time to make his character a little more three dimensional (therefore making it even more two dimensional). The problem was, I couldn’t really remember how the whole timeline worked out beyond remembering that I really didn’t want to read Great Expectations again. Turns out that it was Parker’s Passion I was thinking of, though it should really be called Here is a Book where Brad Townsend is Awesome or Parker and Brad's Amazing Father-Daughter err Son Bonding Fun Time Jamboree!

Oh the cover of this book. I mean, good lord how awful. Here we have Matthew Mcconaughey helping Christina saddle a horse while she is wearing the same helmet that would appear on almost every TB series book cover from 58 to the very last book. Why Matthew has taken a break from his career to put a western saddle on what is supposed to be a Thoroughbred racehorse is beyond me. If only Parker’s Passion was about Parker's newfound love for barrel racing, engendered during his observations of Lyssa and Blue’s adorable antics. And with the series’ obsession with cruelty against horses, you think they’d use a fucking SADDLE PAD every now and then. Anyway.

Parker has never wanted to run Townsend Acres, but when Brad makes him an offer he can’t refuse…

Parker Townsend has always had one passion: eventing. And as he works for a legendary trainer in England, it seems as if Parker’s dreams are about to come true. But Parker’s scheming father, Brad, wants Parker to give up his “foolish” dreams if competing in the Olympics to manage Townsend Acres when Brad retires.

Parker isn’t tempted…until Brad buys two horses whose lineages can be traced back to the legendary Welton line! Horses like these would improve Parker’s chances of competing in the Olympics, and staying in Kentucky would mean more time with Christina. In his head, Parker knows that he’ll be better off if he continues with his training…but his heart has other ideas.

Plot: When last we saw Parker, our dashing anti-hero or something like it, he was off to England to train for the US Olympic team? What? Okay, starting over. Parker has been training in England with Jack Dalton for a while, but flew back to Kentucky to watch Christina lose two out of three races of the Triple Crown because it was really important to her. He bought her a fake necklace from the track gift shop to prove that he knows how much the Triple Crown meant to her, obviously in hopes of catching her on the "my horse sucks balls" rebound. This strategy worked for him because now they are back together which means he is going to get laid again. You wily fox, Parker.

Parker is supposed to jet-set back to England, but something just doesn’t feel right, you guys. Oh yeah, he just needs to talk to Sam! She will give him advice about training Ozzie that will make him feel better, Parker thinks, conveniently forgetting that he never listens to anything anyone ever says, especially Sam. Not that this matters. He books a flight to Kentucky, pissing off his instructor in England in the process.

Whee, we are in Bluegrass country! Parker bums around Whisperwood for two days and then finally gets a chance to talk with Sam. Everything will be okay now! Except not so fast! Somehow Brad has found out that Parker is in Kentucky, and, he has made sure to wait until the exact moment that Parker's sat down to talk to Sam so that he can call and interrupt in the middle of this very important conversation. Perfect! I am now convinced that Brad is a member of the CIA or the Masons or the Illuminati. In fact, he's probably their leader.

Brad demands that Parker go over to Townsend Acres, and even though Parker knows it’s a trap, his curiosity gets the better of him so he goes over anyway. I think Parker is a masochist, really. His father drives him into a rage every time they interact, and Parker knows this will happen every time without fail, but he still interacts with his father without fail. I think having pathological obsessions/habits runs in this family.

Once at TA, Parker is understandably repulsed by the spotless grounds, well disciplined grooms, tight security, and tour buses eager to visit the legendary stable. It’s all just so soulless. All horses should live in less opulent and perfect surroundings. He makes his way up to the main house and decides he is going to rebel against his father by waiting in the kitchen instead of the library. He was going to rebel by leaving once he found out he had to wait, but this plan was foiled because Brad’s told security that Parker is not allowed to leave until they speak. So basically he’s detaining his own son against his will here.

Brad takes Parker out to the paddocks to show him his two latest purchases: world class event horses. Parker is confused as to why Brad would ever buy horses that weren’t racehorses, and Brad responds by uttering one of the best phrases in TB history, “They’re yours. I bought them for you. Happy belated birthday. Merry Christmas. Happy Easter. Do you like them?”

Parker is made even more skeptical by his dad’s unexpected show of affection, and despite this impending sense of doom he still consents to riding both horses. He gets a boner for both horses but refuses to accept them, which angers Brad to no end. He simply cannot stand when one of his devious plots fails. Though he does have the last laugh, because this little episode causes Parker to miss his plane back to England, delaying his return for the second time. I am pretty sure Brad paid the police to set up the roadblock that kept Parker trapped behind traffic and then watched the whole episode from a helicopter and laughed manically.

Parker goes to whine to Christina, obviously hoping for pity sex. But, in the middle of their charming conversation in some coffee place with a bad name, Lavinia calls and dramatically announces that Brad has just had a horrible accident. Parker, proving he is a more decent human being than his father, rushes home and suffers through Lavinia’s dramatics until he can go in and see his father. P.S. It turns out Brad was laying into one of his employees when his new stallion got loose and ran him down. Score one for the horrifically abused Townsend Acres horses.

When Parker is let in to see his father, Brad is lying all broken and bruised in the middle of his dark inner sanctum. Brad seems genuinely surprised that Parker came to see him – hasn’t he been raising his son to be an asshole, anyway? Then he gushes about how the accident made him think about what would happen to TA in the event of his death – he wants to leave it to Parker. Clearly Lavinia would not be capable of running the farm, a fact Parker doubts in the light of his father's ruthlessness.

This is basically Parker’s worst nightmare, and he refuses, even though Brad dangles the two super duper event horses in front of his nose again. Parker calls his dad a total meanie face and storms out. This pisses Brad off so much that he has to resort to the worst of all possible options: he phones his groom and demands, “I want you to sell those two miserable meatballs I just bought,” referring to the eventing horses. I think this is probably the most evil thing Brad Townsend has ever said, and it even gives Parker pause. Seriously, he almost cries at the memory of his dad referring to horses as “meatballs.” I have to admit that my eyes teared up too, but it was only because I was laughing so hard.

Parker is all upset because he’s sure that Brad will send the horses to an auction for the dog food factory or to some Italian butcher who will turn them into ravioli, but he’s super poor because Brad hates him and there can’t afford to buy the horses and save them from becoming pizza toppings. He feels so guilty that he trespasses on the property of a rich eventing friend and leaves him a note in the dirt on his window letting him know about the predicament of the two wonder horses from outer space. I am pretty sure it read, "Please stop my evil daddy from turning the unicorns into pasta." Then he goes back to England.

Blah blah, boring drama in England. Parker fights with farm owner’s stupid daughter, Parker gets lectured by Jack Dalton for being a lazy loser. Parker rides and rides and rides because there is just this huge event coming up and he has to win. Parker cries himself to sleep every night because his daddy doesn’t love him and then has wet dreams about the two eventing horses. Everything is so bleak, though we can all be proud of his determination.

But wait! Who is that coming from the distance? Why, it is Clay Townsend, leading one of the horses, Black Hawke. He divined his son’s evil intentions and, as usual, instead of disciplining him he bought someone a present to make it better! That person being Parker and that present being Black Hawke. So now Parker has three horses to train, meaning that the Olympic committee will surely pick him, and Brad’s nefarious scheme has been foiled again. And for those of you worrying that the other horse ended up on top of spaghetti, it’s okay. Parker’s rich eventing friend bought him. Everyone can rest easy now.

Points of Interest:
  • Just thought I'd note that TA has never had a Triple Crown winner. K thnx.
  • Parker's old paddock boots, which are apparently the only footwear he owns, are held together by duct tape. I find this to be unacceptable, but not for the reasons I'm supposed to.
  • Brad is good at everything: knowing where Parker is and what he's doing every second, causing planes to be late, making stablehands appear and disappear, conducting his own television interview, manipulating everyone into doing exactly what he wants even when they know they're being manipulated. He's the smartest person in the series as far as I can tell.
  • Karle Dickerson must dream of owning some sort of beverage and snack franchise just so she can give it a horrid name. From the author who brought you the ice cream place inexplicably named Soda Jerks, I bring you Brewed Attitude, the coffee house.
  • Brads description of combined training is "hauling about, jumping over a few toppled trees."
  • When Parker is back in England he hears a groom whistling "Danny Boy." First of all, I'm sure they have other songs in the U.K. Secondly, that song is Irish.
  • CLAY TOWNSEND DOES NOT HAVE WORK-WORN HANDS. HE HAS NEVER DONE A FUCKING DAY OF WORK IN HIS LIFE. HE IS NOT A MYSTICAL HORSEMAN. BRAD TOWNSEND KNOWS MORE ABOUT RIDING HORSES THAN CLAY DOES. FUCK, LAVINIA KNOWS MORE ABOUT RIDING HORSES THAN CLAY DOES.
That's it for today. If there are those of you who haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. Brad's scenes alone make it worth it. I think I'll tackle The Price of Fame next. I still haven't satisfied my craving for books featuring Brad.