Mar 28, 2009

Sometimes I think I should listen to my ten-year-old self more often.

Whisper Goodbye
by Dorothy Nafus Morrison
1985

I could not get into this book. I tried. I failed. I sort of predicted this. Way back when, I had a copy of the sequel to this book, Whisper Again, and I could never make myself care about it either. However, I do have a few bullet points for this book, because I did sort of skim through it in a bored, lackadaisical manner.

Katie is forced to make the most difficult decision of her life when her grandparents decide to move. Should she move with them or remain with the horse she loves more than anything else in the world?

Katie does not want to move away to Portland. She hates the idea of leaving her school, her friends--and especially her horse.

Katie has trained her horse since birth, and now she's ready to compete in the rodeo. But Katie has lived with her grandparents since her own parents died, and she knows how much they love and depend on her.

It takes a major disaster to help Katie make her difficult choice.


Naturally, I find this summary hilarious. The first two paragraphs are essentially the same paragraph, sort of indicating to me that the summary writer was as bored with this book as I was. Katie is moving! Katie is moving to Portland...did we mention that?

Let's see if I can break this down:

#1. Katie's town is being flooded and moved to make way for a reservoir.
#2. The generic version of Wal-Mart is moving in, threatening Katie's grandfather's pharmacy, thus Katie's grandfather decides to move to Portland.
#3. Katie freaks out.
#4. Katie feels back about freaking out. Then she breaks her foot.
#5. Katie tries to find a boarding stable in Portland, but fails.
#6. Something happens, and Katie realizes that family is more important than horses.
#7. Katie sells Whisper to this girl named Stacy.
#8. Katie gets into gymnastics and moves to Portland.

That's it! Mostly.

  • I would have really liked this book if it had been at all interesting. The ending is pretty cool, considering most horse stories bend over backward to allow a perfect OMGYAY ending for the main character. You don't get that this time around. Katie just finally accepts that she can't bring Whisper with her and moves on without throwing a fit.
  • Perfect grammar! Wow, no one talks like that. If someone else said the word "shall" I thought I was going to go mad.
  • Katie has a friend who uses the word "utterly" every other page. That also drove me a little mad.

So it's not my kind of book. I still intend to try out the sequel, just to see if I can jog my memory and confirm if I ever attempted to read it.

Alysheba (1984-2009)

In celebration of Alysheba, I give you the 1987 Kentucky Derby:

In memory of Blue

Dear Mara, Monique, Lei, Claire, Elizabeth, and all of the blog readers,

Firstly, I apologize. I know it isn't the purpose of this blog, but I feel that by posting on this blog I will be speaking to people who will understand why I had to write this post. You see, our much loved gelding, Blue, died today.

He wasn't yet twenty years old, and frequently acted like a three year old. Today was a nice day, there was no mud in our fields, and the horses were taking the opportunity to kick up their heels. Dear Blue, as he took a sharp turn, fell and broke his neck. It was over in an instant, and he felt no pain.

Blue was always a goer. Impatient as he was tacked up, smacking his lips before he recieved the bit, biting you feet if you took to long getting comfortable. On the trail he was fearless, walking through any obstacles in his way without hesitation. Chomping the bit if he wasn't in the lead, dancing if we weren't going fast enough. Though he had no papers, his courage and his goodness lead to us dubbing him 'Sir Galahad Blue.'

He was a strange looking guy, bay roan-ish. As he changed colors every season, we would be asked if he was an appaloosa. We would laugh and reply, "No, he's just a technicolor dreamhorse." And he really was. Though he would go under a fence if the power was off, let himself into the barn if I wasn't fast enough, and let himself into other horses stalls if I didn't watch out, he was the best horse we could have ever asked for. I would give anything to go out to the barn tonight and face his naughtiness. I wish I had laughed more and yelled less while I could.

Blue, you were always raring to go, but now we must let you go. I know I will look for you in the fields tonight, tomorrow, forever. I hope as we end our life's journey we will meet you on the other side, and you, not us, will open the Gates and lead us into Greener Fields. With that silly smile on your horsie face. I love you always.

Mar 27, 2009

Wildfire: You really are incorruptible, aren't you?

Wildfire
2.8 Fear

Myron Yeakel is back! And he's being all predictable. Remember how there was some indication that Ashleigh would be put in an unfortunate position due to her having seen Ruben (the dead guy) walk out of Ian's house? Well, the show doesn't really build on that. Instead, Myron decides that he'd really like to fix a race, and for him to do this he'd really like it if Ashleigh took a fall.

Wonder is breaking track records all over the place, and she's been installed as the 3-1 favorite in her next race. If she wins this race, she'll be invited to the "Breeders' Invitational Stakes," which must be some fictionalized version of the Breeders' Cup. Myron corners her on the backside of whatever the local track is, telling her that she's going to come in second, and if she doesn't he will rain awfulness on her like she has never seen. Not only that, but Ian's career will cease to exist. Not only that, but if she tells anyone, "an accident" will happen. Ashleigh is suitably scared, and Myron ambles off with his sunglasses. Ashleigh doesn't tell anyone about this conversation, given she doesn't want anyone to get into "an accident."

Meanwhile, Gene gets super pissed at Brad for not having insurance on the club because he wants to do an expansion and he wants to ask for $200,000 to cover the damages from the flood. Brad doesn't see the point of asking, especially when the damage was only $60,000. Oh, Brad. He's starting to put two and two together, but Gene is being such an asshole that he decides to get an insurance guy out there anyway. Later on, the insurance guy takes the time to tell him, in person, that Gene is under investigation for fraud after having his two other clubs flood or spontaneously burst into flame. I don't know how many clubs Gene owns, but it sounds like he's got an impressive record of sabotaging all businesses in which he's been involved.

In the horse racing front, Dani and Mike are watching replays of races like they know what they're looking at. Dani's horse (we will call him Townsend Panther for lack of many options that make any sense) is sucking pretty hard, and Mike decides that Ashleigh has suddenly become the best jockey they can put on him. Dani reluctantly agrees and decides that the best way to do this is to drag Ashleigh to a fashion show that supports poor townies. Ashleigh refuses Dani's proposition on general principle. Later, Ashleigh goes to work Wonder and decides that fainting would be better than have to have Myron stare at her like she's a piece of meat.

Still not telling anyone what's going on, Ashleigh tries to convince Jean to scratch Wonder, but she's not having any of it. This is the Breeders' Cup Invitational Stakes at risk! Brad goes to visit Ashleigh, knowing something is up because he is consistently the only one who realizes anything on this show. He tells her to talk to his dad, because his dad knows everyone and is probably committing the same fraud that Myron is all interested in. Ashleigh decides this is a good idea, and goes to see Clay. Clay, of course, knows everything. He cuts a deal with Ashleigh: he will talk to Myron if she rides Townsend Panther in his upcoming race.

At the race, Clay has no good news for Ashleigh. His advice to her is to throw the race, because Myron probably has millions at stake and it would not be in her best interest to piss him off. Ashleigh has a crisis of conscience and decides, in the middle of the race, to go for it and winds up winning. Afterward, she yells at Myron, who acts all threatening for no reason because he then informs her that he changed his bet and is happy she won. Clay informed him that she "would try something crazy out there" and decided that the best thing to do would be to go along with Ashleigh? I can't decide if this is logical or not.

So Ashleigh tells Ian everything, and he tells her all about how he crossed paths with Myron and accidentally killed someone. Dani then tells Ashleigh that -- oops -- Townsend Panther is going to race next weekend against Wonder because "they" decided to? Who is they? Well, anyway, Ashleigh is still fine with riding Panther against Wonder, so we'll see how that goes.

Then Brad throws the insurance investigation paperwork in Gene's face and Brad is so right and Gene is so wrong. Brad apparently tells Mike, who corners Gene at Jean's birthday party with questions, and Gene says stupid things like how he can't believe his son would believe those obviously believable charges. Then it comes out that it was Charlie who paid off Bobby and not Gene, and Mike starts crying and runs to his room. Poor Mike. He needs a tissue. Later: Dani, Mike, Brad, and Ashleigh sit on the porch of Casa Reese and stare silently into the distance.

One random point: owners don't change their silks all the time. So far the silks for Whitebrook have been red, yellow, yellow and white and now blue and white. I found the latest incarnation of their colors quite amusing this time around, but honestly.

Mar 25, 2009

No one has friendships that compare to the Saddle Club.

The Long Ride
Pine Hollow #1
by Bonnie Bryant
1998

High school. Driver's licenses. Boyfriends. Jobs.

A lot of new things are happening, but one thing remains the same: Stevie Lake, Lisa Atwood, and Carole Hanson are best friends.

Still, even among best friends, some things do change. Stevie's love affair with her car is eating up the time she used to spend with her horse. Lisa's long-distance relationship might not last the summer. Carole's job has her so wrapped up in horses that she forgets about the people around her. Problems can strain any friendship, but these three can handle it.

Then an accident leaves a girl's life in the balance, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. Can even best friends survive this test?



Okay, this summary? Completely not what the book is about. At all. It's actually pretty impressive in that regard. It's more of a general series summary than anything else, because from this book I have a feeling Stevie might become more obsessed with her car than with horses, Carole might start straining her friendships because of her work, and Lisa might have to break up with her boyfriend, which would really be okay with me, because I think he's an asshole.

I was never much of a Saddle Club fan, to be blunt. I had the first four books in the main series. I might have read them. I have some vague memory of spoons and eggs, but that's pretty much it. So just to let you all know now, I'm walking into these books with almost no knowledge of Saddle Club history. I know the names of the girls, and that's all. I decided to start reading Pine Hollow, mainly because I wanted to see if they were really classically Young Adult. I love Young Adult books -- like, I cannot wait for Sarah Dessen's new book to come out. Summer will not get here fast enough. So it's my dream to find more good, knock you over with their awesomeness YA horse books. Books like The Perfect Distance. Of course, I am not expecting Pine Hollow to live up to that level of good. Not at all.

The Long Ride starts out with a prologue. Lisa is going to California, because I guess somewhere along the way her parents divorced and her dad started himself a new family while Lisa's mom drowns in her bitterness because her life was "trivial" and now that's become all too plain. Stevie and Carole are going to the airport to give Lisa her big send off, and they have this girl Callie with them, who is along for the ride because Stevie is going to a tack shop afterward. They never make it to the tack shop. Instead they run into a horse on their way back to Pine Hollow, and the car rolls off the road. End prologue.

So the actual story picks up a few days before this tragic car wreck. The series takes a breathtakingly long time explaining the differences between middle school Saddle Club and high school Saddle Club, because the girls have responsibilities now! And jobs! And cars! And boyfriends! All of those things that were on the back of the cover! Carole is the morning barn manager at Pine Hollow for the summer, Stevie has recently gotten her driver's license and is in search of job to pay the car insurance, and Lisa is, of course, off to California to apparently have sex with a movie star named Skye Ransom, or so her boyfriend, Stevie's twin brother, seems to think. We're all caught up, yes? Let's move on to the plot.

Callie has come to Pine Hollow with her high maintenance Arabian named Fez. Carole is instantly overwhelmed by Fez's refusal to get off the horse van, and by the time Callie gets there she's a complete disaster waiting to happen. Callie arrives at the stable rushed and pissed because her brother is acting like a jerk and giving her about five minutes to see her horse before he has to chauffeur her to the dentist. This attitude crumples Carole's self-esteem almost immediately. Because Carole doesn't seem to have the ability to converse normally, she completely trips over herself and winds up offering Callie all of these services that boarders don't typically get at Pine Hollow, ie she will exercise Fez for Callie. Callie takes her up on the offer. As you can imagine, first impressions were not good.

Meanwhile, Stevie gets her license and is thrilled to pieces about it. She also gets a job as a pizza delivery girl, which involves so many gimmicks that you just have to roll your eyes because if I ever encountered a pizza delivery person wearing a felt Robin Hood hat, I'd probably tip them way more than normal just to help fund their path to a less ridiculous job. Stevie drops Lisa off at her house, and because they're practically neighbors, Alex immediately launches out of his house and makes a bee line straight to Lisa's place. This disturbed me. What was he doing? Waiting by the window? He shows up, all eager to pick out Lisa's clothes for her trip to California, probably wanting to select the frumpiest things she owns in his pathetic attempt to keep her anchored to his side from a few thousand miles away. While they're going through her CD collection, Skye Ransom calls, the very boy Alex is so worried about, and Lisa is forced to answer Skye's happy-go-lucky questions with vague statements in order to convince Alex that he has nothing to worry about. Dude, Alex sucks. This whole relationship makes me uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, Stevie delivers a pizza to Callie's home and, because everyone at Willow Creek are so ridiculously chummy, they strike up a conversation and Stevie winds up inviting Callie on the trail ride the Saddle Club is taking before Lisa leaves. Carole is not happy about this development, because she so dislikes Callie and she's tried to ride Fez and she hates Fez because he won't pick up a trot. Maybe. So Carole backs out of the trail ride, leaving Lisa and Stevie to get to know Callie, which they do and all goes swimmingly. Carole doesn't understand. Callie is a bitch! Surely her friends should have noticed this! They eat ice cream.

So, somewhere along the way Callie accidentally insults a girl with cerebral palsy. Stevie agonizes over telling Callie about how she sort of scraped up her family's car by backing into it. Lisa gets a letter from Skye, because that's likely, indicating that there is an opportunity for her to work with the horses on the set of his new tv show. The only requirements are "knowing something about horses and being willing to look after them." Carole finally has a successful ride on Fez after Max tells her to stop letting the horse push her around, and she rewards the horse by turning him out. Four hours later, while returning home from the airport, Stevie runs over Fez.

Okay, so now we've finally gotten to the point in the summary where everyone feels guilty. Callie falls into a coma, while Stevie and Carole are relatively fine. Fez breaks a leg, but because Callie is a congressman's daughter, his life is miraculously saved. When Callie wakes up from her coma, she has a hilarious "I feel so refreshed! Get me a toothbrush!" moment, but she is partially paralyzed on her left side, so the cerebral palsy girl decides to help with her therapeutic riding. Carole starts over with Callie, and Stevie deals with being the driver in the accident.

And thus, Pine Hollow starts. It was a little long, winding, and relatively mundane.

Points:

  • Apparently Stevie's method of merging across three lanes of airport traffic is to wave her hand out of her window, "confuse" the drivers, and then dart all the way across the road. In a car, mind you. She is a wreck waiting to happen.
  • Alex had only his lawns to mow. Apparently Alex has no friends. He only has lawns and lawn care paraphernalia.
  • Carole and Stevie say a tearful goodbye to Lisa at the airport, and then Carole literally says she's going to miss Lisa and tells Callie, "It must be hard for you to understand." Dude, what? Does Callie not understand the concept of interpersonal relationships? Is she a sociopath? It would seem Callie has no friends either. Callie and Alex should totally hook up.
  • Their house still bore the scars of a few water balloons gone astray. Wow, that's serious. Apparently Stevie's family is too poor to replace shattered windows.
  • "It's a television series. A contemporary series set on a horse ranch. He's been cast as the young romantic lead. All the girls who come to the ranch fall in love with him." This suspiciously sounds like The Bachelor.
  • "He can't help being insecure, but, honestly, he has nothing to be insecure about." Lisa's boyfriend, Alex, has serious insecurity issues. Ew. Lisa, dump him now.
  • You know, when your boyfriend wants to pick out your clothing for a trip he will not be attending with you this is what is known as the horrible red flashing neon sign that says: "Your boyfriend sucks and you need an upgrade."
  • Whoever wrote this (Bonnie Bryant? Perhaps not?) is a horrible tipper.
  • The Saddle Club has been eating ice cream at the same venue for ages. They have been served by the same waitress every single time. I would not be surprised if that waitress was the most depressed person on the face of the earth.

I wouldn't exactly call this young adult. It's more of a 9-12, middle grade market book trying desperately to appeal to an older audience and not quite getting there. It reads a little like the Thoroughbred series, actually. Despite that, it's still solid enough as the first in a spin-off series.

Wildfire: Ripping a page out of Thoroughbred.

Wildfire
2.7 Taking Off

This episode is forgettable, which is not really my justification for having trouble remembering much of it. A few story arcs come to predictable ends, and Ashleigh really rolls out the "I'm a horse story main character!" attitude. Really, this episode rivaled the juvenile "special bond" between girl and horse stupidity of all seventy-two volumes of the Thoroughbred series. But because the story arcs are so heartbreakingly predictable, I wound up tuning a lot of it out.

Nevertheless, let's recap what I remember. The club has sucked up most of Brad's resources, and he's having trouble with rent. Caroline, who he is by now sleeping with, offers to move in and pay half. Initially this sounds like a great idea, but when she moves everything in he discovers that not all girls are like Ashleigh. They come with girlie things, like pink throw pillows and make up that takes up a whole desk, not to mention giant stuffed animals they've had since they were three. Brad's life is suddenly overwhelmed by feminine possessions and he thinks, sure, he'll get over it because Caroline is a girl who also possesses breasts, but eventually that also appears to be too much. Brad isn't ready for this, and breaks up with Caroline. Then they decide to throw a party.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh has been noticed by this big name trainer that I will call Vince Jones. (I could have gone with Maddock, but Maddock was far nicer than this guy.) Vince has a horse for Ashleigh to ride named...Blues King. King isn't that great, but Vince wants him to win this upcoming stakes so he'll go on to have a minorly good career and gain entry to the world of breeding. Otherwise, King will find himself at auction for a not so great future. Ashleigh surely understands Vince's no nonsense approach to his life, right? God, no. Ashleigh's all, but you don't pamper your horses and expect them to crawl into your lap like the innocently sweet animals they are? Vince tries to get it through Ashleigh's thick skull that he loves his job and horses, but this is how the industry is. It's not ideal. Ashleigh worries some more about King running too early and all of this. Not to mention she seems to have some super idea about his training that Vince slaps down, so when Ashleigh goes ahead and does her strategy in the race, winning anyway, Vince acts happy and then fires her ass for not being obedient. Ashleigh is predictably shocked. Then Chad kisses her, because I guess there's about .01% sexual attraction there.

Then Charlie prepares to propose to Jean. He has Mike take Todd to karate, which is where he apparently goes at the crack of dawn, and surprises Jean with the ring right after they wake up. Jean immediately bursts into tears and tells him about Gene. Charlie storms off, probably never to be heard from again.

Then everyone goes to the party at Brad's, and Ashleigh stares longingly at Brad after hearing how he's now single. Then Chad entices her away, because Chad was there for some reason.

  • After the race, Chad informs Ashleigh that she's definitely going to get way more attention now. Perhaps she'll have four or five races to ride per day! Ashleigh says, "That's great, but I really just want to ride King." Ugh, Ashleigh. Seriously? Not only this, but it's also pointed out to her that she only really tries for Wonder. How did this attitude become so ingrained? It's no longer really idealistic and morally superior to have this outlook. It's mostly stupid and predictable now. I think we've pretty much exhausted it, actually. Can the genre as a whole move on, please? Please?

Next up, I have the first book of the Pine Hollow series. Because I've been curious about it for years. So far, I'm having a most marvelous time.

Mar 24, 2009

I just don't know, you guys. I don't.

Hercules: A Matter of Trust
by Heather Brooks
2009


Horse friends forever?

Emily Summers is on a mission. A scared little pony has come to Running Horse Ridge, the horse rescue ranch where she lives. Hercules desperately needs a friend, and Emily knows exactly how the lonely pony feels. She is new to Running Horse Ridge herself. But unlike Hercules, she has begun to make new friends, and she has the love of her horse friend forever, Sapphire. Can Emily get Hercules to trust her before he is beyond help?


Horse friend forever? Is that what we're calling this relationship now? Well, whatever. I'm too busy glaring at the cover of this book to care.

A Matter of Trust starts pretty much directly after whatever the first book was called left off. Emily has been at Running Horse Ridge all of maybe five days, she's still being highly annoying about Sapphire, her "horse friend forever," and her Aunt Debby still isn't letting her ride this horse. Cue whining. Emily grooms Sapphire for "several hours" and is trying her damnedest to unravel whatever training Sapphire has absorbed. The horse has a thing with pushing people with his head, and Emily thinks it's fantastic when Sapphire pushes her onto her ass. This just sounds annoying to me, but Emily is OMG DO IT AGAIN HA HA OMG about it. Ugh, it makes me want to smack her. Anyway, while Sapphire is acting like a misbehaved mutt, Debby walks up so she can be disapproving. However, she's got a surprise for Emily. How would Emily like to be in this show that suddenly exists?

Well, Emily is all OMG YES and OMG's some more when Debby asks her to show Sapphire in some halter class or something. Emily is momentarily disappointed that she won't ride Sapphire. Instead she's riding Moondance in a couple of classes, one being a maiden jumping class, and Emily is upset about this maiden terminology despite the fact that she has taken two jumping lessons. In Emily's life, that would be two jumping lessons total. Emily bitches to herself about this, because back at home she showed all the time in dressage! But no one at Running Horse Ridge respects dressage, according to Emily, and for all we know she could be right. It's that sort of childish attitude I've come to expect from these people.

So Emily keeps grooming Sapphire, which has got to be the longest grooming session in the history of horses at this point, and then bitches some more about how her aunt doesn't trust her and her father defers to her aunt too much. Frankly, Emily has done absolutely nothing to warrant being trusted. I mean, in the week she's been at this place she's only broken every rule in the book and thrown a massive fit whenever anyone talks about selling Sapphire. She does take some time to acknowledge that she has acted horribly annoying, but this to a person like Emily is not justification. So Emily decides to step it up a little and goes out to find this pony, Hercules, who is all abused and shell shocked. Nothing happens with the pony that is important until right around the end, so let's ignore him and move on to Emily whining some more.

Debby and her dad, Scott, are working with the foal Emily was given. Holy hell, let's freak out! How can she learn if she's not there to watch? Normally I would agree with this, but this is Emily, so I completely understand their motives. Blah blah, Emily decides she's alone at Running Horse Ridge, blah.

To the show! Things don't go well for Emily, she's too late to show Sapphire in his class, which she realizes is just a giant advertisement for buyers, and then falls off before she can even get to her jumping class and is whisked off to the hospital. She's okay, but falling off has put the fear of jumping in her, and so she goes through most of the second portion of the book refusing to jump, making the excuse that her back hurts too much. She also has a giant falling out with her father, doesn't feel like she fits in at all, and is generally starting to detach from the family. Things are not helped when her father refuses to go home to New Jersey, and has actually given up the lease on the fabulous horse she had there to this never seen arch nemesis, because keeping people in the dark is the best policy!

Eventually Scott and Debby decide to so something and come up with this trail ride that gets everyone together and includes Emily. At some point, I think Hercules gets in trouble and is saved. Really, he wasn't important. Then Debby makes her come to the barn for a lesson, and when Emily gets there she finds out that she's going to ride Sapphire. And then Sapphire practically grows wings and they do everything perfectly.

  • She'd been working so hard to prove herself to her aunt, to show she was worthy of being trusted with animals even though she came from a dressage barn... Ha Ha WHAT? Since when does dressage equal incompetence?
  • Again, it's actually written well. This is what makes these reviews so painful, because it just so happens that I hate most of the characters. The only two characters I like are Meredith (random boarder at the barn) and Emily's dad.
  • Despite being well written, the premise still makes me roll my eyes. What sort of crazy family is this? Why would they just move in the same house with these people and live there indefinitely? Really, the only way I can see this working is if Emily's dad happens to be independently wealthy, because that's how he acts.
  • I would love to see Sapphire sold. It's sort of my new "that would be awesome!" plot that almost never happens.

The next book in this series comes out this summer, giving me a nice long break before delving back into this madness.

Mar 22, 2009

A new series??

Well, not so much new as newly arrived from Australia! And what a doozy...

Charlotte and the Starlet

Charlotte is a natural horseperson, and now she has the chance to try out for the Junior Olympic Equestrian Squad! But the academy head already disapproves of her, and Charlotte's roommates aren't above playing dirty tricks to get ahead.

Then Charlotte meets the horse she'll be riding in the try-outs . .

Leila is a movie star horse with a diva attitude. But Leila gets the shock of her life when she's kidnapped and ends up at a girls' riding academy in Australia. Her only way back to Hollywood is to reveal her big secret to her rider - yes, Leila can talk.

Can the two work together to achieve their dreams? Will Charlotte gain a place in the squad, or is running away her only option? And will Leila find her way back to her beloved film set?

Because we really need a book about a zany talking horse. Looks to be at least two books out with a third on the way Down Under. According to Amazon, we can expect the first gem of this series in September. Amazon claims it falls in the ages 9-12. Whoo.

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
2009

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.

Wildfire: All you need to look like a mobster are sunglasses and a Town Car.

Wildfire
2.6 Nothing Takes the Past Away Like the Future

This episode is packing both sex and violence. What more could we want? Well, okay, the sex isn't Brad and Ashleigh, so that's mainly the downside. However, it is morally wrong, so that's the upside!

Ian is back from his "emergency" just in time to disapprove of Mike's training techniques, making Mike act like a petulant brat. Thank you, Ian, I knew Mike's inner spoiled child was still in there somewhere. Ian has reason to be a bitch about the training, because it's the day after this supposed mile and a half race and Mike has Ashleigh galloping Wonder on the training track. Ian stands, stares ominously, and uses his authoritarian voice to tell him this is not acceptable. Walks only. Like, really, Mike. Shouldn't we all know this by now?

Anyway, a new horse is coming to Whitebrook because he appears to have "soured" and we only know that his owners are basically a syndicate. Ian's all whatever about the horse, so when the animal shows up everything goes normally until Ian walks into his house and finds this guy sitting inside. This is Ruben, and I have no idea who he would be in Thoroughbred series terms, so he will remain Ruben. Ruben isn't all that important anyway, so he gets to keep his name. Ian's all "dude, why are you in my house?" and Ruben immediately goes into this talk about how Ian has to fix the horse and forgive him his debts or something. I don't know...it had mob style crime written all over it, and Ian is not thrilled. He tells him to leave and to take his horse with him, but Ruben starts talking about this guy who, because I cannot remember his name right now, will be called Myron Yeakel. Myron heads up this syndicate that owns the horse (who, because I feel like it, will be called March to Glory), and blah blah blah history blah until Ian really starts up the intense glaring and Ruben punches him. And Ian punches him. Several times. A lamp is broken. Ian orders him from his home, and Ashleigh just happens to be walking by so she can witness Ruben getting into his car and driving off.

The show then skips over to Jean and Gene. Gene stops by to rummage through the basement so he can find something, and Jean goes on a ride that ends in disaster. Gene finds a bottle of champagne from their wedding in the basement, and then discovers the horse Jean was riding. So he gets on said horse and gallops out to find Jean, which results in one of my favorite scenes to date in this show. They both ride the horse back to the farm, talking about how they're still friends, which is more than most divorced people manage, as Pillows and Records by Aidan Hawken plays in the background. I approve!

Only this is ruined when they get back to the farm and Ian's all surly about Glory, passing off his massive fist bruise on his face as an injury sustained by the horse. Jean immediately agrees to get rid of the horse, and Ashleigh's all "what the hell?" and Ian just wants her to trust him. Why doesn't anyone trust him? Ashleigh just looks confused.

Meanwhile, Clay gives Isabella the money, she gives Brad his sixty grand to reopen the bar, the bar is worked on, Gene shows up to go "hey, look, I own a bar!" and then Clay arrives to sweet talk Brad back home and is rejected.

Back to Whitebrook! Myron shows up in his black Lincoln Town Car. He's wearing a black overcoat and sunglasses. He has bodyguards. Ian is suitably pissed off and they chat about Ruben, while Myron subtly informs him that Ruben is, you know, dead. This totally goes over Ian's head until the end of the episode. Sort of how the very obvious answer to Glory's problems also goes flying right over Ian's head. Ian was a real idiot in this episode, actually. It's no wonder he became a tool for the mob.

Anyway, Myron has things to say. I don't recall what they were. I'm sure it has something to do with repaying debt and such things, because Ian's all "I don't owe you anything!" and Myron is very calm and smarmy about insisting Ian fix Glory for him, or else. I'm thinking...you know, you could have just kept your mouth shut and not revealed yourself and gotten the same damn result. What is it with the mob? They're always making things harder for themselves in these stories. So, Ashleigh tries to ride Glory, but the horse immediately flips when weight is on his back (giant hint #1). Actually, the first giant hint to the problem with this horse is when he first shows up and he makes lots of noise when Ian just touches his back. That's giant hint #1. So we're onto giant hint #2 by this point, and Ian is still drawing a blank. So he puts new shoes on him and that doesn't help. I can only deduce that Ian's being such an idiot because he's worried about Myron and keeping all of this from the Reeses, because keeping people in the dark has proven time and time again to be the wisest choice! There can't possibly be fall out. Nope. Never. Not possible.

Anyway, Ashleigh discovers that Myron was indicted on racketeering and some other mob-like crime. Big shock. I don't know, though. Ian just doesn't scream MOB to me. This feels all out of joint, much like Glory! Mike, due to his sudden training skills, discovers the problem: Glory's back is sore, his hips are out of whack, etc. He needs a chiropractor, stat! Faced with this stunningly simple solution, Myron doesn't really compute how easy it is to fix this horse, and he tries to make it more difficult (as only the mob can) by insisting Ashleigh ride the horse the next day when the chiropractor wanted a few days for the horse to adjust to the adjustment. Ashleigh sort of very minorly freaks out, Myron keeps insisting, Ian just hisses at her to do as the man says, damn it, and we can get this horse off the farm. Then Mike walks up and acts like a total idiot, trying to claim that he fixed the horse as Ian keeps shutting him down and taking the credit in a misguided attempt to protect Mike from Myron's mob ties. Mike, predictably, gets pissed off about it. He is so taking that full time job off at Dani Davis Racing! Jean is upset about this, Glory does just fine, Myron is happy in a threatening mob-like way.

And Jean and Gene crack open the champagne and get drunk, leading to inadvisable sex. Gene thinks things will be great later, and Jean says no, they won't be. She makes him leave. Poor Gene. Sex does not equal love, guy. Sorry to inform you.

Meanwhile, Brad and Caroline and Dani have dinner together. That is pretty much unimportant. However, Clay writes Brad a letter stating his intentions to admit to the horrible things he's done and try to get his family back together, and it's heartfelt and nice and I'm sure Brad would have gone to meet Clay and talk things through, but Clay, sabotaging himself, slid the letter underneath the door of the club just as Isabelle drives by, giving her the opportunity to steal the letter, read it, and rip it to shreds. This leaves Brad clueless, and Clay is left alone, looking depressed, because Brad ain't meeting him to talk out their feelings. Score one for Isabella! And score many more points for Clay, because now he's the one we all sympathize with. But, honestly, Clay. Brad is...of some indeterminate age where he can apply for a liquor license, so I think it's time to give the guy some freedom.

Then Ian discovers that Myron has weaseled his way into Casa Reese, is speaking to Jean in that smarmy way of his, and Ian has a minor heart attack about it, threatening Myron and telling him to never ever talk to the Reeses again. Myron finally makes it clear that Ruben is dead, and hey, Ian was the last guy who saw him. How about that! Sweet, sweet blackmail. Ian, of course, says nothing because he wasn't actually the last person who saw Ruben alive in any normal way. It was Ashleigh. Fun!

Mar 20, 2009

Wildfire: In which Mike actually doesn't make a mess of things!

Wildfire
2.5 Family Matters

This episode opens up during a performance by James Blunt, who inevitably starts singing You're Beautiful right up until the point where he would normally say start cursing. So it cuts off rather awkwardly so we can have opening credits.

Wonder is preparing for another race, and Chad has informed Ashleigh that she will ride her. Dani keeps telling Mike that she wants him to really train her horses instead of casually lending a hand every so often, or whatever it is he's doing. Ian is "away on an emergency" and I think this has something to do with his shady prison background. Jean informs Mike that he will complete Wonder's training, and now we just have to wait for Mike to implode, guys. Because this is like ultimate level of responsibility. You can see how much he can't handle it immediately. He looks like he was just forced to eat nails.

Meanwhile, Brad's bar has flooded, ruining Isabella's shoes. Brad spends most of the episode trying to find avenues to fix the place as Gene gallivants somewhere off screen and Mike apparently can't focus on anything other than complaining about having a whole two horses to train. Brad's insurance on the bar happens to not exist, and he doesn't have enough to fix the bar. Strings are pulled, he yells at his dad for being an asshole, and things basically fix themselves before Isabella's grand scheme becomes known. She bribes $500,000 out of Clay in exchange for "trying" to get Brad to come home. Instead she turns around and gives a chunk of this money to Brad to reopen his bar, ensuring that he won't go home.

While Mike is over there bemoaning this whole training two horses thing, everyone at Whitebrook has a collective conniption fit when they discover Mike training for Dani. Jean is all "I can't believe you would train for Townsend Acres!" and Mike manages to respond with "Dani isn't Clay Townsend!" Who remembers back to the pilot when Clay was all about marrying Jean? Where did that go?

Eventually everyone grows up, reminding themselves that trainers have to train dozens and dozens of horses all the time, and occasionally those horses have to race against each other, because out of nowhere Dani's horse is entered against Wonder. They race, Wonder wins, Dani's horse comes in second, and then it's montage time with James Blunt! Everyone hugs and holds hands and looks happy.

  • Wonder's in a mile and a half race...although I still think this is autumn and Wonder is only two. I have no idea what is going on.
  • Ashleigh riding a racehorse is hilarious.
  • Mike pulled it together at the end of this episode. I kinda sorta enjoyed his ability to act like he knew what he was talking about in the saddling paddock before the race. Mike has so few of these lucid moments that I have to root for him occasionally when he's not acting like a twerp.
  • Oh, and Todd beat up a girl in his karate class.

This is another episode I liked, but it's mainly pretty cut and dry. Just wait until next time, when Ian comes home and inadvertently brings the mob with him!

Review Policy (because we all love policies!)

Have a book you'd like to send me? That's great! Here's what you need to know:

1. The blog is primarily concerned with fiction involving horses. While it is clear that we've spent most of our time on young adult and middle grade fiction, I will read just about any work of fiction so long as the plot involves horses and would be of interest to people who enjoy or work with horses. So, to sum up: horses! If they aren't a primary point of the book, please apply elsewhere.

2. Sending me a book does not necessarily guarantee a review. Don't get me wrong. I want to read your book. I really, really do. It's just that sometimes it will either take me a long, long while, or I just won't get to it. That said, persistence is helpful and I react well to little nudges.

3. Opinions can be unpopular sometimes. Sending me a book does not guarantee a positive review. What it does guarantee is an honest review. Everything else is up to fate. (I may post spoilers, I may not! I may recap it, I may not!)

4. This blog is a collaboration, but books will be read by me (see: Mara). I'm a professional book reviewer, a published author, and a librarian (public and academic). I am also ceaselessly friendly, as per librarian code! Please relax, as your book is in good hands.

If we're still good to go, please shoot me an e-mail.

M.
wbfblog at gmail dot com

Mar 19, 2009

In case you wanted more of Jockeys...

Animal Planet has ordered seven hour long episodes to arrive in late summer. Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani will be added to the cast. So I guess this means we'll see more footage of Garrett walking around in a suit and acting like he's Batman. And maybe we'll see Corey punch someone. What fun this will be!

(Full announcement here.)

Valuable Lesson #12091: Everyone online is a con artist or a stalker.

Wildfire
2.4 Dangerous Liaisons

The thing about season two of Wildfire is that I love it. Outside of that last episode about the random convict we don't care about, of course. Despite so much of it making no sense, this show is hilarious and wonderful.

In this episode, Mike is called upon to become an adult and look after the farm while Jean and Charlie go on a romantic weekend getaway. As we may remember from last time, Mike failed in so many ways when Jean entrusted the farm to him in the last season. Jean, of course, doesn't realize how juvenile her son actually is, and thinks that surely Mike can handle this level of responsibility. He can't. At all.

So with Ian gone...somewhere, and Jean and Charlie off to watch opera and drink wine, Mike has the farm to himself. Ashleigh is his enthusiastic helper. Only there is a problem, and that problem is Dani, who has discovered the joys of online classifieds. A horse is for sale that is just the most phenomenal horse there ever was, and she is convinced this horse will be an asset to her new racing stable. Her father, reasonably, says that there's no way you can trust an internet ad for a race horse, but Dani is all Keeneland is so last year. Everyone in the racing business sells horses on the internet now! Who would ever, like, want to look at a horse and touch it and stare at it for many minutes before plunking down thousands of dollars and purchasing it? Who would do that? WHO? Old, technophobic people, that's who. And apparently all you need to know about a horse to determine its level of awesomeness is a quick glance at pedigreequery.com. Does it have Nearco in it's pedigree? Sold!

Well, fresh from her father's rejection, Dani appears at Whitebrook to convince Mike to take at look at the classified ad she has printed off the interwebs. Mike is somewhat supportive of her insanity, but he cannot go look at the horse, for he has no time. Surely Dani will understand that he is trying to be all responsible, but she does not. He must go. Now. So Mike trailers himself up to wherever to look at this horse breeze, etc, inadvertently taking the room Jean and Charlie booked for their weekend getaway, causing Jean and Charlie's vacation to crumble into shambles around them.

Meanwhile, at Whitebrook, Ashleigh is forced to take care of everything by herself because everyone decides to take a vacation, including all the grooms. Pretty much everyone. So she's forced to deal with manure by herself, and she's quickly becoming overwhelmed right when the hay shipment comes along and they just dump it in the middle of the drive, not thinking that hay should be under cover, apparently. Ashleigh flips out and breaks down, calling Brad, who is making his move on Caroline. Brad, because he's still in love with Ashleigh, drops everything, including Caroline, and rushes from the bar to Whitebrook, where he helps her finish off the chores before it starts to rain (although I don't think it ever rains, which sort of negates the rush, but whatever). After all the sweaty manual labor, Ashleigh and Brad are obviously all worked up. They stare at each other in the aisle, probably giving off enough pheromones to upset a large horse, which they happen to be surrounded by. They manage to keep up this staring contest through two phone calls, and then they pounce on each other, leading to sexiness in Ashleigh's trailer.

While the sex is happening, Wonder gets all disturbed and upset, feeling all frisky due to...unexplainable forces? Well, she just has to get some. Like...now. And it's all Ashleigh and Brad's fault...I guess. So she somehow gets out of her stall and trots her way to Townsend Victor's paddock (read the mare Belladonna...it's kind of hard to keep this Thoroughbred thing up when I'm trading out a colt for a filly), and we fade to black.

In the morning, Ashleigh and Brad have overslept and she rushes around apologizing and saying that what they did was such a mistake, hurting Brad's feelings again. She's so good at that. They rush off, both too busy to sit down and talk like normal people, and Ashleigh finds Wonder missing. God damn it all. She calls (of course) Brad, who has to turn around and drive back to Whitebrook and help find Wonder, who is found in Townsend Victor's paddock. They're just prancing around, having a grand old time, in the afterglow of the horse sex they were probably having. They get the horses off to their stalls, Brad goes on his way, Ashleigh goes on her way, and that's the end of that.

Moving on to Mike, he sees the super special internet horse that Dani wants, and shockingly the horse does exist. More shockingly, he gets it for a damn good deal (but on this show, people seem to think a horse is OMG FANTASTIC if it's worth about thirty grand, and that's like a bargain price most of the time). Even more shockingly (but not really because this is Mike, and this happens to him a lot), he gets conned. Discovering that the horse he bought has shoe polish smeared on his face to look like the blaze of the horse he was supposed to buy, Mike freaks out. Then, by sheer luck, he drives by the guy who sold him the horse, follows him, and manages to exchange the two horses behind the guy's back. He returns triumphant! But not before he walks into a diner and runs into Jean, who is pissed beyond words that he is indeed not as responsible as she thought he was. Well, come on. This is Mike. We can't trust him with a can opener. God only knows what would happen.

Sooo, that's pretty much it. Oh, that and Wonder is pregnant. (Okay, Belladonna is pregnant with Wildfire's foal, but in my world Wonder is pregnant with Townsend Victor's foal, and this foal will be called Wonder's Pride.)

Okay, that's all. I really liked this episode. Although based on my gift of sight, I see that the trees have turned color, making me wonder who in their right mind thinks that fall is a great time to breed a horse. Sure, the breeding was accidental, but the only reason they find out Belladonna is pregnant in the first place is because she refuses a breeding. Come on, writers. Does autumn scream "time to reproduce!" to you?

Mar 18, 2009

Wildfire: Remember that one time, when Ashleigh always got in pesky legal trouble?

Wildfire
2.3: A Good Convict is Hard to Find

In this episode we are all not-so-gently reminded that Ashleigh is sort of an ex-con, which just sort of irritated me. Anyway, let's all hearken back to Ashleigh's "camp" days so we can refresh ourselves on the fact that Ashleigh was a juvenile delinquent.

Actually, no, how about we skip that? I personally find juvenile delinquents boring, and God forbid I have to spend more of my time on their shockingly predictable antics. Plus, this episode starts off with Brad telling Ashleigh that the woman she saw in his window is his mom, clearing up all issues the previous episode could have stirred up immediately! Damn, that is quick follow through. I am impressed, show. Only Ashleigh is still all weird about starting things up with Brad again, even going so far as looking him in the eye and telling him she just wants to be friends. Brad is all shocked by her eye contact, as if this is all it takes to sell someone on a lie. Brad, dear, Ashleigh is clearly lying to you. This is punctuated by their awkwardness as they view their hot sauce commercial, and they are forced to witness themselves kissing. Knowing how this show goes, several babies were probably conceived directly after this commercial aired. Brad and Ashleigh remarkably hold fast, not giving into the temptation that this commercial is obviously trying to lead them toward. I was disappointed.

Meanwhile, Mike is all hitting on Dani who is all "I don't know who I am anymore, so let's take it slow" and Mike is all for that because he kisses her more and Dani's all "oh, you scamp." And there is giggling. Later on she asks him to help her set up her racing stable, and that pretty much concludes their storyline for this episode.

Then the "camp" kids show up at Whitebrook for...some reason. I think they were supposed to have a tour, but really it looks like forced labor. Ian tells Ashleigh that she has to give the tour, but she only runs into her friend from "camp" who desperately wants one of Ashleigh's hot sauce shirts. Ashleigh says she'll get her one, and will give it to her at some benefit/speaker thing at the police stable the "camp" kids use. During the benefit/whatever, Ashleigh gives the girl the shirt, and is then immediately beaten up because the girl decides she'd really like to use the shirt as a get away device. Ashleigh is shocked and appalled at this girl's attitude, but totally fails to stop her from running away. Afterward she finds a book of matches the girl dropped with a phone number written on it, and then she's questioned by the juvy cops, and Ashleigh reverts back to delinquent mode. She didn't see what's her name run off! Surely they will believe her! Well, they do.

Moving on, Brad has somehow gone from silent partner in the Mike/Gene bar enterprise to completely running it. How did I know this would happen? He hires Caroline as a waitress, and she somehow knows all about his relationship with Ashleigh, which they manage to talk a lot about in the course of opening up this bar. As it turns out, Gene's mom has a stroke, so he's got to trot off of the show, probably permanently, leaving Jean to help Mike (who appears to be doing not a lot in comparison to Brad, but this is expected) open the bar. They open the bar. Brad and Caroline flirt and decide to get drinks or something, but then Ashleigh shows up and ruins Caroline's attempts to be Brad's rebound girl. Ashleigh just looks awkward in the environment of the bar, and Brad has to abandon her anyway to do work, and so forth.

Brad is also very busy trying to manage his mother and Dani, who are waging a very passive aggressive war for his affections, resulting in grocery shopping and place setting buying.

Ashleigh then gets all stuck in this escaped con problem. She calls the number on the matchbook, which just results in Ashleigh admitting to Jean and Ian that she knows about what's her name running away. "Camp" would like her to come back and discuss this, but then what's her name shows up and says that she's really a juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold! Really! She has this infant that was going to be abandoned by her previous boyfriend who is not the baby's father, and sure she should have given the baby to her sister in the first place, but if she'd done that we wouldn't have this really annoying episode! So what's her name hands the infant off to Ashleigh and Jean, tells them that her sister will be by to pick him up, and then Ian takes her to "camp" after deciding that Ashleigh really doesn't have to come with, because clearly Ian can talk officials into not punishing Ashleigh for her stupidity. I guess.

So, that's that. Next time, on Wildfire: Ashleigh and Brad's hormones not only cause havoc on humans, but horses as well!

Mar 16, 2009

Shall we eat tapas and talk about Spain some more?

Who's Cheatin' Who?
Thoroughbred Legacy #7
By Maggie Price
2008

Champion jockey Melanie Preston believes romance is a complication best avoided. She has enough to worry about with Quest Stables tottering on the edge of financial ruin! But when the gorgeous thorn in her side--horse trainer Marcus Vasquez--leaves to open his own stable, Melanie is torn between relief...and desire for a man she can't trust. For Marcus's dark good looks go hand in hand with a past that's just as mysterious....

Now, as he and Melanie are plunged into a dangerous plot, only Marcus's secrets can unlock Quest's Thoroughbred mystery...if they don't threaten Melanie's life!



For those of us who are keeping track of my foray with the Thoroughbred Legacy series, you might notice that I skipped a book. Typically, hell would have to freeze over for this to happen, but I have two words to describe the book that has been justifiably skipped: Formula One. Considering the fact that I can't sit through one lap of a NASCAR race, there's no way I'm dealing with a whole book about a country singer and a race car driver. Forget it. So I moved on.

Honestly, I think this series probably hit its high note with Millions to Spare. I don't see how you can get better than a plot that blatantly makes no sense, but is awesome anyway. Unfortunately for this book, it tries to move the series plot too far forward, makes a giant mess of it, and on top of it all it has a horrible name. Who's Cheatin' Who? There are a lot of awful Thoroughbred names out there, but this one is in a realm unto itself. Even the blatantly sexually suggestive names are better than this, because those are at least a little amusing.

For this book, we're back in Kentucky for the wedding of a couple of people who were important in a previous book. They don't matter anymore, but rest assured they're no longer living in sin. Melanie, spunky blond jockey not unlike Thoroughbred's Melanie, hikes her spike heels down to the training barn to question Marcus, the farm's trainer, about his quitting, because pretty much everyone is quitting Quest. At least, that's what I think was going on. Regardless, Marcus indicates that he's out of there by morning and would she like to make out with him? This is presented to her as some ridiculous Spanish tradition that I'm sure does not actually exist. They kiss and it's all fireworks and molten lava and such things.

But fear not! Naturally this disintegrates into woe, for they can only be "just friends" for the reason that Melanie cannot trust men (as her last boyfriend was actually married to a very pregnant woman, much to her eternal shock) and Marcus does not believe in love (because his daddy did not love his mommy, because she was Spanish and poor and he was English and a viscount). This information has so emotionally torn them apart that they cannot possibly get involved with other people, for they are too busy ruing the day they ever had things like previous relationships/dysfunctional family drama.

Because everyone in these books are remarkably inclusive, rich Formula One guy from book previous conveniently starts up a Thoroughbred racing stable. Marcus just happens to be the most awesome horse trainer ever, and Formula One guy needs a trainer! Wow, astonishing how that works out! Then Formula One guy buys 51% of Quest's big horse, Something to Talk About, and moves him to the new racing barn. Then Marcus convinces Melanie to come work for them so she can still ride Something to Talk About, giving Quest some tiny shred of hope against the looming threat of bankruptcy.

Just as an aside, this whole situation is ridiculous mainly for the fact that Melanie is this big time jockey who, for reasons that benefit pretty much no one, has made herself a contract rider. I don't get it. Then the situation gets more ridiculous when this random guy comes along and gets shot in the head.

You see, way back when, Marcus's half-brother bought Apollo's Ice, the stallion everyone has questions about. Previously, this horse was stabled at a farm called Angelina, and it was at this farm where the shenanigans occurred with the conception of Leopold's Legacy, the daddy issues horse we still have not seen, and most likely never will at this point. The guy who gets shot in the head here used to be a groom at Angelina, and he probably had all this information locked away in his brain that is subsequently blasted to bits. However, just in case this happened, he's backed up all this information on a cell phone. A cell phone that his son just happens to accidentally destroy! Oh, cruel fates. So the son, Carl or Carlos or some variation on that theme, runs out to find Melanie, and totally panics on her before running off like a startled deer, bound for Mexico...or so we all think. Then random guy with gun (marked by a hilariously obvious tattoo that matches the silk colors of some farm that is probably not Angelina, but probably is because that would be ridiculous and totally normal) appears and threatens Melanie. He knows her routine! He knows where the security cameras are! He, like, knows all about them! Only no one has seen this guy before. And then he dumps her unconscious body in with this crazy filly called Who's Cheatin' Who?, named after a particularly traumatizing divorce. Marcus, naturally, saves her and goes through some pent up romance hero berserker rage about it. The cops come, the cops go, everyone has a fit, and then Melanie goes Christmas shopping.

Marcus angsts some about his half-brother and this promise he made his mother about never telling anyone who his real daddy is. As if we all care, Marcus. Plenty of people don't really care, not to mention this promise is pretty asinine. Well, whatever, because Marcus mopes some more. Melanie reveals more about her previous relationship and how trust is so important. Marcus is totally walking on thin ice here, because his daddy issues are so frighteningly pressing. Really!

Christmas wanders along, getting caught up in the sexual tension that is causing lots of awkwardness. Eventually they break down. Sex is had. I think I tuned that out, because this author is all about tastes. Everyone tastes so tantalizing! This sort of disgusted me. Oh, yeah, and at some point they eat tapas. This was also a pretty big deal.

But then the big reveal comes along and Melanie realizes that Marcus is related to the guy that owns Apollo's Ice. Big shocker! Although, really, who cares? I frankly think Melanie was just so disgusted by the thought that Marcus could have an ugly and old half-brother that she overreacted. Then they race in what is called the "Gulf Classic" at Gulfstream, but I think this is probably the Florida Derby. I think they win. I honestly wasn't paying attention. Afterward, Marcus is being all freakishly needy about wanting to talk about how he's such a liar, and blah blah blah, and Melanie actually comes to the decision that she doesn't really want to talk. She wants to go home, except guy with the tattoo appears to threaten her needlessly again! Shocking! Then Marcus comes out of nowhere, because he was probably stalking her like some crazy co-dependent asshole, and comes to her aid. Melanie beats the guy with her crop and at some point Marcus accidentally kills him, which is just dandy with the police because "clearly it was self-defense." Naturally this means we don't have to go to the station or answer many (if any) questions, because Marcus is so self-assured (but apparently not) and all.

Then Melanie, completely amazed by what has happened, listens to Marcus's touching, but kind of stupid, testimonial about his mom being bitter, but more recently dead. For, you see, she had no love in her life. In fact, she was mostly used and rejected. But Marcus has love in his life, unless Melanie rejects him, and then God help her. Luckily for us all, Melanie accepts this remarkably juvenile explanation and they get back together.

Also, as an aside, why is Quest getting so much awfulness rained down on it from various racing authorities if this horse was never even bred there? I am going to have to keep going with this series, just so I can see how this completely improbable plot is eventually explained. It's easily the most convoluted Thoroughbred breeding mishap plot that ever existed.

Mar 15, 2009

Random note on Jockeys

So did anyone watch the end of Jockeys and wonder why they thought they could spin the Breeders' Cup as being all about Mike Smith? How did that happen?

The Classic has and will always be the last race on the card for the Breeders' Cup. I'm sorry, Animal Planet, but you failed so hard. If you're going to wrap up a show that is all about racing, that just happens to hit its finale during the Breeders' Cup, and you're going for what some might call realism (as this is "reality" and all) you can't ever try to convince people that filly and mare races somehow get the limelight, because they don't. Ever. The big headline of the Breeders' Cup was that Curlin lost. Zenyatta won, which is great and all, but that was a footnote to the CURLIN LOST moment. Okay? Okay.

Oh, reality television. Never stop being so factually inconsistent and/or blatantly wrong for the sake of a random storyline no one really cares that much about.

Mar 11, 2009

Wildfire: In which the Brad/Ashleigh chemistry turns everyone on. Everyone.

Wildfire
2.2: Opportunity Knocks

Onwards and upwards! The fall out from the season premiere is swift:

1. Ashleigh's agent friend keeps hanging around Whitebrook, and for my amusement I will call him Chad. Chad informs Ashleigh that there is an opportunity to try out for an advertisement about hot sauce, a condiment Ashleigh apparently doesn't spend much time thinking about.

2. Brad has bought a new car that Ashleigh approves of because it is old and still a convertible and therefore more awesome than his Porsche. Because his plan to rent out space and hold massive parties has backfired, his business has sort of failed, but has also been a raving success. Meanwhile, Mike is looking for space to rent so he can start a bar or some such with his dad, whom I will call Gene (which is unfortunate for the show, given that we have Jean and all, but this is how it works when I'm replacing character names and I can't repetitively type Mr. Reese over and over). Brad becomes partners with Gene...and I can't wait to see how this is going to implode.

3. Dani has bought herself a horse, only the horse immediately decides to suck. Then she discovers that the horse she bought used to romp and play with this other horse since birth, and he's going through some separation anxiety, so she buys the other horse and watches in glee as the horses romp and play in their paddock. Then she kisses Mike.

So, Ashleigh gets the job as the hot sauce girl in the commercial because she gives the casting director attitude and refuses to wear a sparkly shirt. Chad informs her that she gets to head to L.A. with Wonder to shoot the commercial, which would be great under any normal circumstances, but Whitebrook is under quarantine for hoof and mouth disease. Curses! This means that Chad has to go be creative, but unfortunately he takes too long, giving us time for Ian and Beth acting out some ridiculous romance novel scene that involves sex on the barn floor. Ian just screams romance novel hero. This is probably why I dislike him.

Everyone converges in this Italian restaurant at the same time, so clearly it must be the only restaurant in town. Mike, like the eternal douche he is, invites Gene to the family dinner, figuring he's family and all, but he really really isn't. Charlie is uncomfortable and Jean tries to tell Gene off, but he wriggles his way into the family get together anyway, making things way more uncomfortable as he acts all fatherly and normal in front of Charlie. Clearly he is a bastard. I'm on to you, Gene. Chad shows up to inform them all that he's arranged for the commercial to shoot at Whitebrook, so everything can go forward as planned! Hurrah!

Commence commercial shooting. I've been in a commercial, which had to be one of the more annoying experiences of my life, and this scene pretty much replicates that irritation, only on a much larger scale. Ashleigh looks like she's about to punch someone after a while. Just when she thinks they're done, the director whips out this blond guy she's supposed to kiss. Ashleigh is not pleased. Brad looks a little sick, and when the blond guy attacks Ashleigh with his mouth everyone calls a stop to this insanity so Chad can bitch about the terms. Brad looks even more disgusted, and takes a bottled water to Ashleigh. The director immediately picks up on their chemistry and instructs them to start kissing. They are both a little astonished, but totally get into it. Their kissing is so awesome that they practically turn on everyone in the vicinity. (I'm really not kidding. It is that obvious. But then this is Brad and Ashleigh, so this feels sort of normal to me.)

Brad immediately takes advantage of the situation and asks Ashleigh to come to his new place for dinner. Ashleigh doesn't exactly say no.

Dani and Mike kiss, Charlie and Jean kiss, everyone is all hot and bothered by the Ashleigh and Brad kissing. I laughed and laughed. Only then Gene has to crash Jean and Charlie's party, probably inevitably running Charlie off. Brad gets ready for the dinner, while Ashleigh is busy trying to get Chad to cut to the chase about her contract with him so she can run off to Brad's arms. She signs the contract and runs for Brad, who is ambushed by his mother. Isabelle is trying to sell him her heartbreaking plea to get back in his life. Brad falls for it and lets her stay, thinking that Ashleigh, who is way late at this point, is not coming. Only then Ashleigh does arrive, and yells up at Brad's apartment (for some reason...I mean, she could have rang the doorbell like a normal person) and sees Isabelle standing in this giant window, looking down at her. Ashleigh looks a bit disturbed, having never seen this person before and not knowing it's Brad's mom. Isabelle isn't helping matters by looking exceptionally smug and sauntering off screen. Ashleigh scurries home, too confused to even try to go up to Brad's apartment and talk to him, because this would ruin the drama for the rest of the season.

You know, the end had me, though. I want to know why Isabelle is so freakishly creepy. That whole last scene was screaming a more screwed up than normal Oedipus complex, only in reverse.

I dislike horse racing mysteries, but here we are anyway.

Hugger Mugger
A Spenser Novel
by Robert B. Parker
2001

You may wonder where I was the past week, in which case I could not tell you. I was around, doing things, not even taking a horse related media break. I don't know. Couldn't tell ya.

Spenser is back and embroiled in a deceptively dangerous and multi-layered case: someone has been killing racehorses at stables across the south, and the Boston P.I. travels to Georgia to protect the two-year old destined to become the next Secretariat. When Spenser is approached by Walter Clive, president of the Three Fillies Stables, to find out who is threatening his horse Hugger Mugger, he can hardly say no: he's been doing pro bono work for so long his cupboards are just about bare. Disregarding the resentment of the local Georgia law enforcement, Spenser takes the case. Though Clive has hired a separate security firm, he wants someone with Spenser's experience to supervise the operation. Despite the veneer of civility, Spenser encounters tensions beneath the surface southern gentility. The case takes an even more deadly turn when the attacker claims a human victim, and Spenser must revise his impressions of the Three Fillies organization - and watch his own back as well.


Horse racing in Georgia, you say? I think all that needs to be said about the state of the Georgia Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry is that they're all excited about Together Forever getting an Eclipse Award. Together Forever, apparently, being bred in Kentucky by Georgians. Good on you, Georgia!

I got Hugger Mugger as an audio book, not having any idea what was in store for me. Joe Mantegna is the voice of our main character, Spenser, which instantly transforms him from macho Boston man to macho New Jersey gangster. Interestingly, he makes no attempt to replicate a Boston accent for this guy when he is all about trying for Southern accents with the other characters, and most of the Southern accents manage to transform every character into a coquettish 12-year-old girl who cannot stop asking questions.

Anyway, I really don't think this book really deserves a recap or a review, quite bluntly. It's a book in a string of Spenser books, of which I know none but, obviously, this one. Spenser is a P.I., who is hired by these people in Georgia, so he goes down there to investigate the horse shootings and predictably pisses off a couple of Southern men because he's an asshole. And the guy who hired him gets killed and the guy's daughter tells him to go home because obviously the police can handle this and Spenser is not wanted. Totally not telling! Totally.

Spenser goes home to Boston so he can help this random girl get back together with her abusive boyfriend. Nice way to be an enabler, Spenser! Well done.

Then this woman who calls herself a courtesan, but is basically just a whore, even though she expressly says she is not a whore, but come on, shows up in Boston to hire Spenser and send him back to Georgia so he can investigate the Three Fillies family and figure out who killed Walter Clive, because his courtesan/whore/mistress has a son by him and she was cut out of the will, suspiciously enough. Blah blah, things happen, people die, others are scarred for life, and it comes down to the revelation that Walter Clive's youngest daughter had him killed when she discovered that her dad was going to revise his will and place his illegitimate son as the sole heir of Three Fillies. So after this random shoot out with these people hired as security for Three Fillies, everyone is hauled down to the police station so they can figure everything out and have a nice, long chat. No one implicates the youngest daughter in the murder, but they know she did it, so the security guy takes the fall for the entire thing and rich, completely crazy daughter flounces out of the police station. Security guy mutters something about having screwed over women his entire life, and then bemoans that he finally had to pick a crazy one to fall in love with. Spenser is like "yeah, that's too bad." And the book ends abruptly, just like that.

  • From this book, you could assume that all Southern women are whores or completely insane. Of Walter Clive's three daughters, two are nymphomaniacs and one is so celibate she forces her nympho sisters to "clean" themselves after daddy dies. By this I mean she shears off their hair and drugs them so they can do nothing but stare at a wall.
  • Also, one of the nympho sisters married a pedophile. No one bothers to really point out the giant flaw that is this marriage's existence, but because she is so sexually frustrated by her husband's not being attracted to her, she decides to become an escort. Not only that, she decides to let the escort service "place" her at a truck stop so she can perform blow jobs for $30 each. I...do not understand any of this. Although I especially love the fact that everyone has this uncontrollable urge to sooth the pedophile's feelings.
  • Hugger Mugger runs in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. There is a detailed description of this race, wherein it reads like Hugger Mugger beat up a couple of horses on his way to the finish line. If you're going to run up and smack back and forth between two horses in the homestretch, you're going to get an inquiry and you're going to wind up disqualified.

I don't know. It was entertaining for taking up my commuting time. That's pretty much it.

Mar 5, 2009

Wildfire: Do any of these kids go to school? Ever?

Wildfire
2.1: Try It Without the Porsche

Last season it was all about Strangers, Secrets, and Seductions. Season two is all Truth, Trouble, and Temptation! I'm seeing a trend here with the temptation and the seduction. What's next? Inveiglement?

Also, behold the season two cover! Brad looks bored with you, and Mike mainly looks like he's being forced to sit in a basket of thumb tacks. I have no opinion on Ashleigh. This all brings me to my standard notice: all the Wildfire characters have been replaced with their nearest Thoroughbred equivalent in these posts because it amuses me. If you're confused, go read a few Thoroughbred books and you will understand.

Picking up where we left off at the Sand Piper Classic, Ashleigh and Cindy are racing around on Wonder and Townsend Prince. Amusingly enough, the horse they use as Wonder's racing stand in is, in fact, chestnut. I just thought I'd point that out, because for a moment it was as if the show was actually bending to my will. Ashleigh and Wonder get to the front, but Cindy and Townsend Prince chase her down. They start yelling at each other, Cindy yells at Wonder to "whoa!" and then goes shooting past to win by about a half length. Ashleigh is flummoxed! She cannot call foul because she has no tangible proof that Cindy did anything dirty, and thus must swallow the bitter disappointment of losing. Everyone congratulates her anyway as Dani sits on her sofa at Townsend Acres and yells "She lost, you morons!" I love Dani, by the way. As you might remember, she recently discovered she is the illegitimate child of Clay Townsend and probably a biracial woman, messing up Dani's whole concept of rich privilege. As a result, she's been drinking scotch right out of the bottle and starts to eat pie with her fingers.

Brad has left Dani a note about how he's left home and is going to try to break away and live life without his Porsche, just as his father challenged him. So Dani takes this note to the super shiny race after party, where she throws it at her father and makes a giant scene, outing her father as a bastard who had two wives (she thinks?) and other such things about her parentage. Mike takes Dani outside so she can have a heartfelt talk with Jean, while redheaded reporter who had no name that I can remember but will be called Beth for my purposes asks Ian what he thinks Dani's problem is. Ian replies along the lines of, "Maybe her daddy cut her spending limit." Oh, Ian, were you not listening? Apparently turned on by this blatant chauvinism, Beth asks Ian if he would like to have sex. Ian agrees.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh's riding has attracted the attention of an agent, who tries to get her to talk to him, but she's too busy looking out for Brad, who is off somewhere else waiting for a bus because it really sucks not to have a Porsche. It sucks harder when Molly, the blond girl from the keg party, finds him and begins to talk his ear off. He loses her eventually, goes back to Townsend Acres to find this key to a safety deposit box, and winds up getting into an argument with Clay. Brad then wisely decides to take the Porsche and sell it, but only winds up crashing it into a shallow river. Then Brad apparently decides to take a very long walk, because he disappears for a good portion of the show.

Dani finally hears about her mother. Turns out she's from El Salvador and is a horse trainer. Then, emboldened by this story, Dani decides to take four of her father's horses, train them up to return his investment in them, and if the horses break even she gets to become a partner in Townsend Acres. I don't know how this is going to work out for her, especially when Clay (loving father that he is) negotiates her down to only one horse who is not Townsend Prince. This horse had better be awesome...that's all I'm saying. Only then she learns that the cops have found Brad's car...without Brad. And weeping ensues.

Back at Whitebrook, Mike is comforting Dani while Ashleigh cries to Wonder. Brad appears in the aisle to ask what she's freaking out over, and Ashleigh smacks him after hyperventilating and yelling. This is actually cute. Brad and Ashleigh go talk with Dani and Mike about what he's going to do with himself, and Brad has come to the decision that he will become the owner of a night club, I guess? This just confuses me, but anyway. Ashleigh doesn't want to go see the property he's bought, because it's "all too much for her" given that he's left everything for her and blah blah blah. Brad accepts that she's overwhelmed and will wait for her. She insists when they all get their acts together maybe it will work out. Or something. I know how this turns out, but I never figured a night club would be involved.

Then agent guy talks with Ashleigh about her potential, leaving Ashleigh and the episode pondering her future as a jockey.

Oh, and just about everyone walks in on Beth and Ian. He deserved it.

Mar 4, 2009

Dancer: If some horse books are fantasies, this one is literal.

Dancer: A Novel
by Shelley Peterson
1996

First of all, I think it's worthwhile to say that one review pointed out that this book is "as ingenuous as early Nancy Drew" and that is pretty spot on. Therefore I'm going to have to let go of some of the serious WTF? moments that this book strings along at a consistent rate, because Dancer is 100% pure horse story fantasy. Fantasy as pure as the driven snow. That sort of pure that makes you feel a little sick after being exposed to it for a lengthy amount of time. I'm actually going to tag this as fantasy, because I've got two ghostly visits and a haunted riding crop that tell me it is.

Second, if reaction to my giveaway post concerning Dancer is any indication (not to mention this book's Amazon page), there are some pretty basic schools of thought when it comes down to Shelley Peterson. Either you like her, or you just don't. I have no fond childhood nostalgia for this book, nor am I Canadian, so I really have to go with whatever impression comes to me first, and with Dancer it's that I think this book is mainly exceptionally strange.

Hilary James ('Mousie') is just sixteen when she wins The Fuller Trophy at the Royal Winter Fair jumping her horse, Dancer. Her triumph is rewarded with an invitation to perform in England for Queen Elizabeth, but she has also attracted the unwanted attention of the nefarious Samuel Owens who schemes to acquire Dancer for his niece, Sara. Rebuffed in his first attempt to buy the horse, Owens instructs his hired man, Chad Smith, to try to steal it. Mousie has a dream in which a beautiful blond horsewoman warns her of impending danger.


As far as summaries go, this one is horrible. However, it had no hope of being good, so I'm just going to give whoever wrote it points for trying to compound this book into four sentences.

Mousie is our heroine this time out, and the book opens up with her winning this Royal Winter Fair with her horse, Daring Dancer. Dancer is 17 hands high, a chestnut (12-year-old girls everywhere start squeeing in joy), a stallion, and acts like a human. By this I mean that he cannot be kept in a stall (he will jump out of it or knock the door down or both), chooses only to be ridden by Mousie, "bows" and basically acts like a showman in front of audiences without any command, and acts like a bodyguard (and by this I mean he will attack various intruders, but only to the point that he scares them or has them pinned to the ground). Saying that he is perfect is an understatement, because everything he does is so fantastic he's practically a mythological beast sent straight from Mt. Olympus. However, this is not all of the animal insanity. Mousie and Christine live on a farm surrounded by variously aware animals, such as the attack geese, goat, and terrier. They're all practically out of the movie Babe, only Babe, of course, was so much better.

Okay, so now you know what we're dealing with here. Mousie wins this show, getting the attention of Samuel Owens, who is this level of evil that is impossible to comprehend. He desperately wants the horse for his niece, Sara, and dispatches his trainer, Chad, to convince them to sell. Of course, they do not sell because Dancer is everything to Mousie, whose father has recently died and lives life as the social pariah of her school. Owens is not thrilled about this, so he tells Chad that he is going to get Dancer for him, no matter the cost. Chad accepts his fate and begins to plot.

Enter The Queen. This is Canada, and as some of us probably know, Canada just can't give up the pomp and circumstance of royalty. Thus they are a constitutional monarchy, meaning that some Canadians are crazy fangirls for The Queen (okay, that's not what it means...it's just a result). Shelley Peterson is clearly in this group of people, as are all of her characters. A letter from someone special arrives and informs her that The Queen is coming. OMGYAY! And not only that, Canada is going to put on some special show for her. OMGYAYAGAIN! And not only that, but Mousie has been selected to perform at this very show! Well, everyone about dies from the shock. Mousie and Dancer start to practice terribly hard, and when the show rolls around we are treated to Christine's rather ridiculously detailed description of it. Meanwhile, important stuff is going on with Mousie that we don't hear about until well after the fact. I have never encountered this sort of storytelling before, but it made me want to take the book and throw it at Shelley Peterson. Seriously, what? So when Mousie comes out on Dancer, and she and her saddle fly off of Dancer during the show, resulting in mass hysterics, you feel not only left out, but annoyed.

So because Dancer is a Black Stallion character, the only person who can take him home is Christine. That leaves Sandy, son of Rory, Christine's former high school flame, to go to the hospital with Mousie, who has a crush on Sandy like you would not believe. Convoluted? Maybe! Anyway, Christine leaves Dancer at the stable to go back to the hospital, relieving Sandy, who goes back to the farm with Rory to look over Dancer because Chad Smith is lurking around, being evil. When they get there, all the animals have been drugged and Dancer is gone. Sandy and Rory immediately head over the neighboring farm, conveniently owned by Owens (Rory, Christine, and Owens are all neighbors, of course), and find Dancer dyed black and drugged up in a locked barn. They escape and gallop back to Christine's. Eventually Christine and Mousie arrive home and have a good laugh because Dancer is black and wow, that's sort of amusing?

After this Rory tries to profess his true love to Christine, completely out of nowhere. He is unhappily married to the (evil, alcoholic) Helena, and is not yet divorced, but Christine doesn't know how much he wants to be divorced and turns him away. Meanwhile, Sandy has inadvertently caused a scene with Mousie by trying to take both her and the hated Sara Owens to school in the same car. How dare he! Mousie ignores Sandy for months, toiling in her friendless solitude. Or maybe she finally found a friend in these few months. I can't remember, because Shelley Peterson decided it wasn't important to show Mousie interacting with anyone, making me wonder if this friend is imaginary. Oh, yeah, and Chad Smith dies trying to euthanize Dancer. Mousie interrupts his attempt because some bleeding woman in a dream tells her to, causing Chad to fall over and accidentally stab himself in the chest with a hypodermic. Don't worry! We are assured he felt no pain, and Mousie gets over this trauma fairly quickly. Then Owens appears to inform Christine that he's a NICE GUY REALLY and she TOTALLY BELIEVES HIM because she is incomparably stupid because she is so sweet and nice. And Rory arrives to tell her all about his marriage and convince her that he'd like to date her when he's finally divorced. This pushiness, perhaps not shockingly, relieves her rather than sets her on edge. I'd be backing away slowly and/or screaming for help.

Enter The Queen. Because Queen Elizabeth just loves it when people fall off of seventeen hand horses, she invites Mousie to present Dancer to her court (or something) in England. OMGYAY! And then Mousie's grandmother sends them tons of new, fashionable clothes because they can't go to England wearing their farm rags. OMGYAYAGAIN! They wear their fashionable clothes to the airport, where they are treated to first class and all the wine and crackers they can conceivably eat. Then they are picked up in a limo and taken to the most quaint English cottage in the history of vine covered quaint English cottages. Everyone faints from sheer joy!

Dancer, of course, cannot live in their quaint surroundings, so he is relegated to some super awesome royal stables. There he still won't stay in his damned stall, freaking out one of the grooms to no end. At night, Mousie receives another dream from the bleeding lady, sending her straight to the barn, where Eddie, the unsettled groom, has roped Dancer and is freaking out. Mousie just tells Dancer to go to his stall, and he does, making Eddie look like an idiot. Only Christine then overhears Eddie nefariously plotting to steal Dancer, and wonders who could be behind this plot because surely it is not Samuel Owens! Surely! Christine has Eddie fired, thinking that's the end of it.

Enter The Queen. Mousie performs perfectly for Queen Elizabeth, and Dancer bows and rears to applause because he's that annoying. They win a pretty silver bowl. OMGYAY! Then they dance and eat with royal people and Mousie talks to The Queen. OMGYAYAGAIN! Then the royals indicate that they would really like Dancer for themselves, and Mousie goes into this long speech about how she couldn't possibly, so they relent and ask if they can breed him to their super fabulous mare. Everyone faints from sheer joy!

Then Rory and Helena get divorced and Rory speeds to England with Sandy so he can tell Christine about this. Sandy and Mousie nearly get kidnapped by Eddie, who surely couldn't be employed by Samuel Owens! Surely! Rory is not buying it that Christine keeps dealing out about Owens, not that this matters because it's fox hunt time! Sandy and Mousie get into a highly irritating conversation about the moral qualms of fox hunting, and Mousie is so for ripping those foxes to shreds but do not call her bloodthirsty, damn it! It's a totally non bloodthirsty sport! She thinks! Sandy backs down, because all horse story main characters are right and he has no hope of voicing an opinion. And then Mousie and Prince Charles fox hunt together and have a marvelous time until Eddie comes out of nowhere in an attempt to kill Dancer, but only winds up smacking his head into a tree and breaking his neck. He dies. Mousie and Prince Charles call for a doctor and then proceed with the marvelousness. And she helps some ghost get over her trauma of dying during a fox hunt. Eddie, apparently, will take her place.

Returning to Canada, time passes. Sandy and Mousie are dating, as are Rory and Christine. Samuel Owens is keeping a low profile. Sandy is learning how to ride and buys a horse so he can ride around with Mousie. Another royal letter arrives with pictures of the foal conceived between Dancer and the English Mare of Awesomeness. After about six to seven months of gestation, which makes me want to throw the book at Shelley Peterson again. Mousie dismisses the foal as scraggly and wet, wanting to hear nothing more of it because apparently she was expecting a seventeen hand, fully grown stallion to come popping out of that mare? Christine tries to explain that the foal is a day old, if that, and Mousie ignores her. Confused? You bet I was.

Then everyone goes on a ride, and Sandy's little sister falls. While Mousie is sitting with what's her name, somehow Samuel Owens comes out of nowhere, having been driven insane, and attacks Dancer with a knife. Dancer nearly dies, but of course he doesn't. Samuel Owens is hauled off, Mousie's dead dad appears to reminisce with Christine and Mousie, and then Christine and Rory get married. The end.

Okay.

Either you like Dancer for being the cute, slightly wacky fantasy it is or you dismiss it as unrealistic insanity. Here are some random thoughts (in which I don't rip it apart for being unrealistic, because really that's a waste of breath):

1. The story is invested in appearing innocent, making death practically comical or something easily risen above (Dancer's recovery that is mainly explained by his awesomeness, similar to Wonder's Pride's recovery through love in Pride's Last Race). The characters are black and white, no shades of gray to be found. Even Helena, who might have been good at some point in her life, is evil by the end of the book (drink and bitterness = evilness...remember this kids!).

2. Shelley Peterson is telling the story when she should be showing. That whole scene during The Queen's visit to Canada is the best example of this, as well as deus ex machina. Instead of showing us something relevant to whatever nonexistent plot she's trying to develop, she tells us what's going on in the show through Christine. You know what? I don't give a crap what's going on in the show. You want to know what I care about? THE DAMNED MAIN CHARACTER. Where the hell is she and what is she doing? Do I care about how much The Queen likes seeing some 8-year-old boy from Calgary rope a calf? Nope. Not at all. Then, after the hospital and the plan to dye and kidnap Dancer, Mousie tells us what happened when we were wasting our time with Christine during the show. How much do I care now? NONE AT ALL. Everyone's telling me what happened and jacking up the word count when we could have accomplished everything in half the time by just showing me what was going on with Mousie and Dancer backstage, explaining how she and the saddle fell off of Dancer in the first place.

3. There is no plot. Sure, there's (resolved immediately, yet unnecessarily drawn out) conflict. Sure, stuff happens. Sure, people do things. Mainly? It's about a year in the life of a perfect girl and her supernatural horse, in which they squee over the royals. I couldn't get into this because I ultimately saw no point to the story.

4. Relationships do not work like that! Seriously, no. Rory and Christine can get together. That's fine. Sandy and Mousie can have as much step-sibling sex as they want in the future. I don't care about that either. The whole relationship between Rory and Christine scared me, in total honesty. Rory lives a sham life with his uncaring wife, wants to get divorced but doesn't, randomly tries to tell Christine he loves her after ONE DAY of reminding each other that they exist after YEARS of separation (despite being neighbors!) and is rejected. Then they have a quick "yeah, I'm not happy and want to get divorced" discussion that lasts all of two seconds, he gets divorced, and is (practically the next day!) proposing to Christine? The hell? Who relates to anyone that way and could be called fairly normal by most people? A lot of this book can be chalked up to impatience on the part of the author, I think. This is not good, because it makes the book so much more wacky.

So that's a brief overview of my opinion. It's obviously an unrealistic story, so much so you can't even point that out as a reason to dislike it. This story totally owns up to the fact that it's unrealistic, so you can feel free to like it for its fantasy. Or you can dislike if for some of the facts which I have presented here, realism aside. Or you can dislike it for being totally and unabashedly unrealistic. Whatever you like.