Mar 21, 2009

Occasionally, my faith in horse books is restored. But then it's just ripped to shreds again.

Chasing Blue
Canterwood Crest #2
by Jessica Burkhart

Home (Bitter) Sweet Home

Now that Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, have proven that they're worthy competitors for the Canterwood Crest equestrian team, Sasha's psyched to get back to school...until self-proclaimed It girl, queen bee, and owner of the I'm-so-way-better-than-you-are attitude, Heather Fox, is assigned as Sasha's riding partner.

Not. Good.

And when Heather starts spending a little too much QT with Sasha's almost-boyfriend, Jacob, their partnership is put to the ultimate test.

So recently I took a bit of a break from horse books, because I thought (wrongly) that I had to be reaching my quota on bad horse books by now. How many can I realistically read before ultimately going mad? I determined that the only way I could get back into this was to wait for a good book to come along, and so I picked Jessica Burkhart's Chasing Blue to ease me back into the grind. Jessica's series started out pretty strong, so I thought if any author could ward off the super crazy OMGWHY from overwhelming me, it is Jessica Burkhart. Plus, you know, it helps that I got this book for free.

Okay! Enough about me. Let's talk about Chasing Blue. I have really high hopes for this series, even more so now that I've read the second installment, because it has shockingly enough delivered. I wanted a book that managed to create a weird antagonistic, yet sort of functional, relationship/partnership between good girl Sasha and mean girl Heather, and I got just that. Even weirder, this relationship didn't even seem forced.

Heather and Sasha are teammates at Canterwood Crest, but they're also social rivals. Mainly, they just don't get along. So when it's announced that Canterwood is going to compete in this regional show, and Heather and Sasha are forced to partner up for practice, they're forced to face honesty. This shouldn't be that big of a deal, but we're talking about a horse book here. Honesty in most horse books is horrible. If you dare speak honestly in the Thoroughbred series, you are Brad Townsend. You are not Ashleigh Griffen, and you're not one of her protégés. You're not even one of her friends. You're WRONG. So when the girls in the advanced team at Canterwood Crest are told to grade each other on a jumping exercise, and Heather is the one person who is brutally honest, and Sasha is forced to agree with her even about her own (not a perfect ten, I'll say that right now) riding...I didn't know what to do except blink at the page.

This portion of the book I loved, to be honest. Now let's talk about the boys. A big secondary plotline of this book is a Valentine's Day dance that inevitably becomes the scene for the book's climax. Sasha is still in pre-teen love with Jacob, but Jacob keeps hanging out with Heather for seemingly no reason, rocking Sasha's tween love life to the core. Then there's this other guy, Eric, who likes Sasha and is creating tension between Sasha and her friend, Callie, who also likes Eric. It is a seventh grade soap opera, guys. Granted, it's been a long time since I was twelve, so I can't begin to judge what is going on here, but know that things don't exactly come out in Sasha's favor by the end of the book.

So Chasing Blue ends by giving Sasha some things to fix in the next book. Relationships will be tested, friendships have to be mended, and basically I always respect any middle grade horse book that doesn't try to tack on a happy ending in the last chapter of an angst-filled drama fest. Maybe this is just my experience with Thoroughbred talking. Maybe this is just a good book.

  • I was a tad suspicious of the amazing level of awesome that involved the placements of the Canterwood Crest girls in their show. I liked that they really pushed themselves and practiced and were rewarded accordingly, but it seemed a little "whoa, that's an astonishing level of good."
  • At the end, Sasha and Eric are outside in the rain in February in Connecticut. Not only this, but Eric is failing to wear a coat. He had best get his butt indoors because Connecticut in February is on average FREEZING. Living in Pittsburgh, where it it still basically winter, this makes me shudder just thinking about it.
  • Congratulations, Jessica! I liked the action sequences this time through. I followed, and I paid attention, mainly because Sasha's narration keeps it snappy so you're not bogged down too much with the repetition of "and then this jump and then that jump" which makes me want to tear out my hair.
  • Also, this just generally wins: Who falls asleep in a STALL?! Exactly, Sasha. Who indeed.

Okay, with my faith restored in the existence of good horse books, I will now continue with the regularly scheduled program of wincing and/or crying. I have the next book in Running Horse Ridge, and I suppose this now means I have to read it.


Heather said...

Yays! I can't wait to pick this up. My mind is currently numb from Horse Madness.

I'm not sure I can even buy the Running Horse Ridge series. I read the sample an Amazon of book to and it was all about the main character teaching the horse to lick her pants by spilling ice cream on them. That sounds like the set up for some illegal porn right there.

Jessica Burkhart said...

Thanks again, Mara! And btw, I saw your subject first and almost fainted, LOL. I was thinking, "Ohhh, no. I ripped her faith in horse books to shreds." :)

Mara said...

There is some serious "but the horse wants to do this so clearly it is right to let him do it and disciplining would be bad because then he wouldn't be as cute!" going on in Running Horse Ridge. Plus, the main horse acts like a large dog. There's a lot of weirdness going on there.

I'm sorry! Many of my blog titles are sort of random, but for clarification, your book restored my faith. Running Horse Ridge will probably rip it to shreds. ;)

Jim said...

That's a very good review. Thanks for the info. Seems like the series is progressing nicely. One of the things I like most about Kate Brian's 'Private' series is the love/hate relationship between Reed and Ivy, so it sounds like I'd enjoy the Heather/Sasha thing. And a love square? Hmmm...I don't know whether to be enthusiastic, or cautious. It sounds interesting, though.