May 18, 2009

For those looking for a more annoying Ashleigh...

Horse Mad Series
Vol. 1: Totally Horse Mad
By Kathy Helidoniotis
Published in US: Aug. 15, 2008

The first book in an exciting new series about the adventures of a horse-crazy Australian girl named Ashleigh.

Ashleigh Miller is mad about horses, and she craves her own. But she can’t afford one, her parents don’t know anything about horses, and there just isn’t room in her tiny back yard in the city. So, when Ashleigh’s parents tell her that she can finally have a horse of her own, she thinks it’s the best thing ever. But the good news comes at a price. Ashleigh’s family is leaving the city and heading for the small country town of Shady Creek in rural Australia.

Ashleigh’s life is about to change, and her adventures have just begun.

Ok, this is a book that tried to assassinate poor Mara, so let’s see what we’ve got…

We open with Ashleigh Miller, aged 11, in a totally BS daydream of winning the Olympics. Her instructor, Holly, yells at her for being stupid, and her nemesis, Nicki, laughs. Ashleigh shows them though with the best barrel run EVER! Her instructor and teammate kiss her ass and Nicki (appropriately) acts disgusted.

Ashleigh determines she HAS to buy a horse of her own. Her BFF Jenna, in spite of obviously not giving a rat’s ass about horses, agrees to help.

Ashleigh, being eleven, can’t get a job, so she takes odd jobs instead. Her dad says he’s impressed with her initiative. That’s gonna bite him in the butt…

So Ashleigh tries to sell her parents' stuff to raise money. Her parents, for some reason, do not appreciate this, and ground her for two weeks. Then she tries to take her money and bet it on a race. Again, her parents get upset.

Side Note: I do have to say, though, that Ashleigh’s parents really do suck. It’s a running theme through all the books.

Ash’s parents tell her she can have a horse because, oh they forgot to mention, they bought a house in the country.

Ash breaks the news to her BFF by basically saying “I’m moving away from you and getting everything I ever wanted, YAY!!” For some reason, Jenna is upset that this beyotch is moving away, and stomps off, telling her she’ll never speak to her again.

Side Note: Another running theme in these books in Ashleigh’s unhealthy amount of love for her friends. It borders on creepy, but I personally am rather hermity, so maybe it’s just me.

So Ash and her parents move, and within five minutes of arriving, Ash stalks some kids to the nearby riding school, Shady Creek Riding Club. It’s ghetto compared to South Beach, but Ashleigh decides to grace the place with her presence anyway. She tries to impress the kids there with her Twelve-Under Championship, so they put her up on a psychotic horse named Scud, who bolts and tosses her.

Yet Another Side Note: Who freaking screams when a horse bolts? Is it supposed to make the horse feel better when you're clinging to their back and roaring like a wildcat? Ash is a moron.

With a wounded ego, she then meets Gary Cho, who owns the Riding Club, and his daughter Becky. Becky is the reject of the group, so of course she and Ash will be friends later.

The horses Ash and her father go to see all fail. A Shetland, an ancient, and an insane. Ashleigh would take them all if her dad let her. I feel there would be more than three horses for sale in rural Australia, but whatever.

The kids from Riding Club go after Ash at school, dubbing her ‘Spiller Miller’ until Becky shows up to save her. She then offers to let Ash borrow Cassata, her sister's neglected Appaloosa, until she gets a horse of her own.
So, of course, Ash goes home and buys a horse off the internet. This REALLY doesn’t go over well. She is in SERIOUS trouble, you guys. Plus her parents drop the bombshell that they are running out of money and can’t afford a horse right know. This really is another case of the Miller parents ass-suckyness, because, instead of telling her all this when she was asking about going to see horses, they just blew her off. Plus, who makes an expensive move without securing a job beforehand? Epic FAIL Millers.

That’s not to say that Ashleigh doesn’t act like a total brat. She hates everyone now. Becky has to twist her arm to get her to ride Cassata, because, seriously, what’s the point of riding a horse that isn’t even yours?

‘Course, then they find a emaciated chestnut horse in an abandoned field. The vet says she’s so bad that she may have to be put to sleep. Oh, noes! Ashleigh throws a shit fit, bullies her parents into letting her keep the mare, and names her Honey. Yays. She actually even gets her parents to let her miss school, but the mare doesn’t get any better. There are a million and one horse people around, and not one thinks that a worm infested horse might need more than one tube of wormer. You know, my horses get tube wormed (what they call drenching in this book) once a year. You’d think the vet in this book would have thought of that. Seriously, Ash is a ‘tard, but none of the adults are impressing me much either.

But, tada, the horse improves after the drench. And for whatever reason, everyone is impressed with Ashleigh because of it. What’s more, Honey is actually a champion in all the local events. Ash calls her old owner, she and Becky cry at him, and he decides to give her the horse to avoid going to court for neglect or something. Oh, and the horse’s name used to be Argonaut. Lame.

Ash and Honey get put on the team for some competition, knocking one of the others off. The Three (sigh) Creepketeers vow to get Ashleigh off the team.

Ash also has the problem of money. Since her parents are asstards, she is literally paying for everything herself, doing everything just short of selling blood and prostitution. She comes up with the plan to sell homemade ribbon brow bands, which she dubs ‘Bandies’, at the competition. But, in the meantime, she decides to collect cans.

In a truly hilarious scene, she fills a plastic bag with said cans and gets on Honey. Honey responds like any horse who hasn’t been properly desensitized would: she spooks. Ash, of course, loses her grip on the reins, grabs her horse like a wildcat and screams. Honey, sensibly, dumps her. I kinda love this horse.

Anyway, her bum plumber mother manages to get a job, so Ash won’t have to whore herself. She makes a butt load of (sigh) Bandies to sell at the competition, and her friend Jenna gets the stick out off her butt and writes Ash a letter. Yays.

Ash’s old nemesis, Nicki, shows up and trash talks. The Creepketeers dirty up Honey and Charlie, Becky’s horse. Then ‘someone’ spooks Honey by tying plastic bags all around her. Then they plan on loosening Honey’s girth right before the competition, but Ash sets up some espionage and gets them talking about it on film, foils their evil plans, and wins the day.

Then Jenna shows up and Ash’s day is like the best ever! And Jenna’s going to stay over summer break! And Jenna’s going to take riding lessons! And the book ends there.

There really isn’t much I can say about this book. It is the definition of ridiculous, and I think it’ll teach kids more ridiculous misconceptions about horses than the Thoroughbred series. Fortunately, generally where Ash does something stupid, bad things happen to her. Which leads me to a request. As I review these books, I’d like to engage you readers in discussions of “Ashleigh vs. Ashleigh.” Simply put, how does Ashleigh Miller measure up to Ashleigh Griffen? Ok, readers. Ready? Discuss! Should be interesting!


Kate said...

Clearly Ash G. from the Ashleigh series days is on par with this new Ashleigh. From early TB, though...well, I don't think that our Ashleigh was that misguided and stupid, comparatively.

Heather said...

True, Ash G. had an advantage in the early books that the adults around her weren't massive 'tards. Ash M. would be much better off with a Charlie character to bitch smack her once in a while.

Molly said...

See, if my kid sold MY crap to buy themselves a horse and later went and bought one on the internet? That kid ain't getting a horse for a LONG time, since that proves an epic lack of common sense and/or responsibility as far as I'm concerned.