Jun 25, 2009

A mystery that holds my attention.

Gargantuan
A Ruby Murphy Mystery
by Maggie Estep

Maggie Estep’s critically praised heroine, Ruby Murphy, is back! Back in Coney Island with a bunch of endearing misfits, back at the racetrack ogling thoroughbreds, and back learning that, on the seamy side of the sport of kings, survival can be a long shot.

Ruby’s life is nothing if not complicated: she’s spending a lot of her time worrying about a jockey named Attila Johnson; a good-hearted Teamster with a bad back; a neighbor who is suspicious of anything that moves; one very fat cat who craves raw meat; a missing FBI agent; an underused piano; a few fine horses—and the sure knowledge that somehow, somewhere, there is a killer among them.


It's been a while since I read this one, but what the hell.

The thing I like about these books is the single fact that they do show the seamy side of horse racing perfectly. You don't see the glitz and glamour in these books at all, which is a little refreshing and therefore odd in itself because probably 95% of horse racing is anti-glitz. So it's not the mystery or power hungry elite that drive these stories so much as the weirdness of all the everyman characters whether or not they're sitting alone in their apartments or interacting with others. They're quirky. In a cute and/or insane way.

From what I remember of the mystery, it involves a crazed animal lover. That's really all I'll say, because when "crazed animal lover" comes up, it's probably best that you just read it and find out for yourself.

Oh, and interestingly Jane Smiley's Justa Bob from Horse Heaven shows up.

Now I'm wondering if I should attempt Horse Heaven again.

Yeah, probably not.

Jun 23, 2009

Wildfire: Another tv show breaks my heart.

Wildfire
3.9 Heartless

I really did not think I was going to handle this episode, and I am proud to announce that I did not cry! I just teared up a little, kind of.

+ "It's not you, it's me." Mike tells Samantha it's over, and Samantha tags his shoddy excuse for what it is: he has a thing for Ashleigh. Nicely done, Samantha! I like her ability to move through this episode gracefully while at the same time making everyone uncomfortable. (+3)

+ Okay, I kind of squeaked happily when RJ appeared in the recap for this episode. And then I did exactly what Dani did upon seeing him in this episode...which was more squeaking and happy hand clapping. If I could have launched myself at him, I probably would have. I am not ashamed. (+10)

+ Points for all RJ scenes! (+5) Now I will double it just because I can! (+5)

+ Fresh from her making Mike feel like shit speech, Samantha moves on to Ashleigh and makes her feel like shit. All while still maintaining her "I am awesome, look how awesome I am" vibe. Oh, I really like you, Sammy. (+3)

+ The love conversation pops up a little out of nowhere with RJ and Dani, but I love it since Dani gets awkward because she's said these words to people like Mike, but clearly they didn't mean as much as when she'll say the same thing to RJ, and RJ is still so damn awesome. (+4)

+ It's the RJ and Brad Hug of Manliness! (+1)

+ I'm actually liking the Ian and Ashleigh scenes in this episode. It's like they actually had a relationship that the show bothered building and nurturing and showing us...somewhere along the way there. (+2)

+ Okay, I kind of teared up when Brad rode the same bull as RJ, and went longer than eight seconds out of respect for his friend. This, of course, is nowhere near my reaction to Dani's heartbreak after RJ, because she's killing me with her stoic, empty staring. (+8)

+ Ian becomes the Townsend Acres trainer. I respect this move, and sure it might make little sense (I'm sure he'll be "just an employee" there, too) but where else was he going to go? (+1)

Good: 42

- It's time for another "I don't know what I want!" moment from Ashleigh. Why am I not shocked at Mike is predictably shocked by this? (-1)

- Then Ashleigh pushes Mike away because she comes up with some convenient excuse about Whitebrook being important, and then she decides that yes, they should really go for it because she "wants him" and I can only really deduct one point because I was sort of distracted by OTHER MAJOR THINGS that made the Ashleigh/Mike Hook Up Of Doom less important. (-1)

- I cannot forgive this show for the RJ thing, and how the RJ thing was handled. I just can't and I won't. Of course, it's natural for a show in its third year to do something like randomly killing off the only good character who was breaking up the monotony of every episode, and for this I would deduct major points, but I just don't have it in me. Instead I am just going to make a note of my disgust here, and call it a day.

The Bad: 2

42 - 2 = 40

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42
5. Love vs. Work: 20
6. Kiss Kiss: 16
7. Push Me/Pull You: -20
8. The Goodbye: -3
9. Heartless: 40

Now, in the back of my mind, RJ is actually in a coma somewhere. He'll wake up after season four, reclaim his hat, and everything will be okay. It will! In the meantime, I'm going to go suffer through the rest of these Wildfire episodes where everyone is under the delusion that he is dead. Silly people. He's just in a coma!

Jun 22, 2009

Wildfire: "I don't know what this thing is!"

Wildfire
3.8: The Goodbye

+ I do grudgingly give Mike two points (+2) for seriously considering selling Wonder in the face of Ashleigh's crazy shrieking. It must be hard to remain composed when you're dealing with "a girl with a horse" and for that I commend him.

+ Suddenly we all remember that Ian owns half of Wonder. This deserves a point (+1), although Ian's passive aggressive attitude about how no one remembers this almost cancels the positive here.

+ Ash comes clean to Omar when it becomes obvious that he wants to buy Wonder, and he calls her "a girl with a horse" who will do anything to keep the horse at Whitebrook, and calls her out as a liar. This might not be true, and his insistence that he knows racehorses might be a little shaky, and this whole sequence might have really annoyed me, but I am going to get over all of this because at least Ashleigh admits her nefariousness to one other person besides Mike. (+1)

+ Brad had an attachment to his nanny. This is so Thoroughbred series! (+2)

+ Congrats, Wildfire, for producing the weirdest scene in television involving the word "thing" that does not appear to apply to anything...and then having the characters degenerate into maybe/maybe not hate kissing. I did not get this at all, but it amused me. (+4)

+ Brad and Samantha dance way better than anyone else has ever danced on this show, and Mike and Ashleigh immediately pick up on this by acting all silently jealous on the sidelines. I am awarding this five points (+5) because I like it when Brad and Samantha have fun at the expense of Mike and Ashleigh, and I also like when Mike and Ashleigh get insanely jealous over things they really should have gotten over by now.

Good: 15 (I know, I was really not thrilled with this episode.)

- Ashleigh is asking A LOT when she tells Ian he can buy out Whitebrook's share in Wonder. Because Ian doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who can handle borrowing $200,000 in order to purchase a sterile racehorse who may or may not be any good. Way to go on sending Ian down a road he shouldn't be on, Ash. -1

- There's an implication here that Ashleigh and Mike had maybe/maybe not hate sex. When I say "maybe/maybe not hate sex" I mean that they seemed to reach a lull in a heated debate over a vague subject, and decided to fill the void with kissing and zipper fondling. I am going to pretend Mike got his hands stuck in Ashleigh's hoodie and gave up any further attempts at clothing removal. (-1)

- Ashleigh's ruffle outfit and side ponytail can only deduct another point from this episode. (-1)

- This whole choosing family over various love affairs thing continues to irk me. Naturally I agree with choosing family, but I don't get how this continues to even be an issue with Brad and Ashleigh. I totally get Mike deciding to sell Wonder for the good of his family's farm over his stupid thing for Ashleigh, and I love that Brad called Ashleigh's juvenile response as the stupidity it is, but I am still confused! (-3)

- Oh, Mike, don't try to tell me you ever had your life together and went by your gut. Your life has been a constant, muddled state of privileged whining. (-2)

- Wow, the silks this time around are ugly. And actually say "Whitebrook Farm" on the back. Minus one point (-1) for not even attempting to try.

- Wonder wins the Gold Cup. I so wanted her to lose. (-5)

- Ashleigh is almost totally clean after the race, despite having come from behind to win. I laugh at your attempts to muddy her face, show. (-1)

- Ian leaves Whitebrook after pouting and acting distant after Whitebrook refuses to take his offer for Wonder seriously. And he says he leaves because he's "just an employee." Oh, Ian, does someone feel left out? Perhaps Jean should have invited you to live above her garage? (-3)

The Bad: 18

15 - 18 = -3

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42
5. Love vs. Work: 20
6. Kiss Kiss: 16
7. Push Me/Pull You: -20
8. The Goodbye: -3

This episode benefitted greatly by my decision to not deduct points because RJ wasn't in it. I am being very kind right now, actually. Very, very kind considering all the Mike/Ashleigh that is leaving me feeling dirty and used.

Jun 21, 2009

Trotting through history!

Eclipsed by Shadow
The Legend of the Great Horse
Book I
by John Royce

Eclipsed by Shadow is the first book of the historical adventure trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, a journey through the ages when horses were everyday companions in work, war, sport and spectacle. The story is told through the eyes of a young woman, a horse-crazy teenager traveling through time with a knowledge of 21st Century horsemanship as her only defense.


So I know what you're thinking, and it's probably "her horsemanship had better be fantastic." Or maybe that was just me?

Eclipsed by Shadow is a rollicking historical action adventure through time. Awesome, right? It's even young adult! And it incorporates a flying horse! What more could I need in life? I'm not exactly one for fantasy, but this book is heavy on the historical, and being a history and classical studies girl, I guess this just hit my complicated array of switches, levers and buttons.

Let's begin! This book starts off in the present, with Meagan eagerly anticipating the birth of a foal. She names this foal Promise, and if you read this book and think the first chapter smacks of Dancer by Shelley Peterson, I would definitely agree with you. It's got that theatrical, hunky-dory quality that confounds me to no end. It's also a little slow going, meandering its way to the eventual reveal that Promise is not what she seems. Promise is the next Great Horse (like Bucephalus and Secretariat before her), and there are all these prophecies and conspiracies that surface just as Promise is reaching her third birthday. Certain parties want to buy the horse, and another certain party -- a kindly grandmother character -- informs Meagan in detail of everything you wanted to know about Great Horses, but not enough for Meagan to be secure in owning one. The big message is do not ride Promise, because this will inexplicably create a trip to the dark ages. Meagan isn't sure what to think of any of this, so when she is forced to ride Promise in order to get away from a threatening situation (Dancer rears its ugly head) and finds herself in the dark ages...she's probably kicking herself.

Did I mention this is a trilogy? If not, it is. This is an epic labor of love, and in this installment we go to a few places and time periods: North America (20,000 BC), the Black Sea (700 BC), Rome (100 AD) and Central Asia (1240 AD). The next book apparently includes Spanish Conquistadors, Versailles, and "Merry Olde" England.

Meagan stumbles her way through North America and the Black Sea rather quickly, landing in Rome so we can immediately get into their exceedingly blood thirsty sporting events. Like I said, I'm a classics person. I know way more about Rome than I should. (Like when the kindly grandmother character said Caligula "was considered dangerously insane" I laughed. Because sure he fed his horse buttered mice and oats mixed with gold, but he didn't make his horse a consul because he thought he would make excellent decisions for the Roman people...I mean, come on. That said, he was crazy. Very, very crazy.) However, the notion that Rome was a "savage nation" as the chapter title suggests, annoys me within the context of this book, because the dark ages (the time period Meagan is supposed to be visiting, presumably) was the collapse of society (if you want to look at it that way) after the fall of Rome. Meaning that Rome was actually an antithesis of a savage nation. And Meagan shouldn't be there to begin with.

But I'm going on about my own hang ups. I still liked the section, but not as much as I liked the last chapter, where Meagan helps a knight get over his fear of horses and onto the path to tournament greatness. Also, she smacks someone who tries to call her a whore, which earned this (and her) tons of points in my book.

My only serious criticism is that this book is slow in parts. The first chapter drags and is way too heavy on horse history. It picks itself up dramatically as it goes along, however, and is definitely a worthy read. Honestly, I have to be amazed by the scope of this whole trilogy and the research that went into it. I'm sure some will be interested in certain sections pertaining to their interests, as I was with the Rome section in this book, and will be with the England section in the next book. This book would have been a great addition to the opening of The Horse exhibit at the Carnegie Museum, actually. It's too bad it wasn't included.

Website:
www.thegreathorse.com for more information. Also available on www.amazon.com.

Awards:
Eclipsed by Shadow received the Young Adult 2009 Eric Hoffer Award.

Fiction Competition!


Jun 13, 2009

Help me spend money!

Okay, you guys, I have a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com. As most of us know by now, I don't buy horse books. I prefer it when they miraculously show up on my doorstep with little to no work done on my part. However, I will spend my gift certificate. I open the floor to horse book suggestions! If my massive public library system doesn't have your suggestion, I'll buy the book. And then I'll donate it to the library, or do a giveaway, or something equally awesome.

Jun 11, 2009

The Medicine Hat Stallion, or Leif Garrett's pigtail phase.

Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion
1977

I was never a huge fan of Marguerite Henry's books, so I haven't read San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion and can't make any comparisons between the book and the movie, staring teen heartthrob Leif Garrett.

This movie had me for the first thirty minutes. It had a strange androgynous boy who is torn between varying hair styles, an alpha father figure who cannot show love, a mother who makes perfect wool shirts that look suspiciously machine made and store bought, and an Indian pony. What more do I want out of Westerns aimed primarily at children?

Well, they could have cut the singing. That would have been a helpful start. Once Peter falls off the house and breaks a few ribs (alpha father rolls his eyes), a kindly random singing person shows up with a hoard of various animals and serves as the father figure Peter's never going to get. And I totally tuned out. At some point, William Cody shows up and Peter gets involved in the Pony Express, and Domingo is traded for a Thoroughbred, and Peter puts the kiddie toys away, and his dad eventually gives him a shaving kit, and all is well!

That is pretty much what I took away from this movie. It was like Little House on the Prairie, to a certain extent. Just without the running through flowers and family bonding.

  • At one point, Peter's father arrives home "two days early" and speaks in metaphor for an entire dinner conversation. Hey, Jethro, you could have just said plainly that you killed a man and took his horse because you've had this poisonous mindset bent on revenge. Peter's mom tries to make sense of this lunacy, but Peter just looks at his dad like he's totally lost it, which is exactly the case.
  • Eventually, Peter's mom pulls him aside and tells him the story of why his father is adorably insane. Oh, what being mauled by a bear and left for dead by a stranger will do to a person.
  • Peter's hair styles crack me up. At first, he's going for a ponytail and a headband, which I can live with. However, by the end of the movie he's decided to go with both a ponytail and pigtail braids. Do you know how hard it is to take a movie seriously when its main character is running around with a ponytail and pigtail braids?

Jun 10, 2009

Pine Hollow: Hand me that surf board, quick!

Pine Hollow #3
Reining In

Everything changes or nothing changes....

Will Lisa leave Virginia for sunny California? She's been there for most of the summer and she likes it. There's a lot less pressure on her, and she's working on a TV show loaded with good-looking guys, romance, and horses. What more could she want? Maybe she should stay....

Her boyfriend, Alex, worries that Lisa is spending too much time with a handsome movie star. Some girls might fall in love with someone like that, but Lisa wouldn't. Or would she? If only Alex could be sure. Carole and Stevie are Lisa's best friends and they want the best for her, but they don't want her to move away either. Is there anything they can do to persuade her to come home?

Three people's happiness is riding on one decision...will Lisa make the right one?

Allow me to repost a ten-year-old review on this book from Amazon:
TOO MUCH BOYS! TOO MUCH LOVEDOVEY JUNK! WHAT THE HECK WENT WRONG! I CAN'T BELIEVE THESE GIRLS! ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS BOYS, BOYS, BOYS! TOO MUCH OF IT! LESS OF HORSES, HORSES, HORSES!

Well, I guess someone was upset. Ignoring the hysteria here, this review does bring up a good point about Pine Hollow: the girls have grown up. They've moved past horse crazy stage, and are battling their raging hormones that have been begging to stampede around unchecked by things like morals or sense. I don't mind this at all, actually. In fact, I find it a little refreshing. However, because these stories straddle the line between YA and middle grade, and have the misfortune of using Saddle Club characters that younger kids and the more immature set of teens are attracted to...we get a lot of weird responses to the attempt to mix boys with the horse craziness. Hence...hysteria!

My opinion: grow up. You know how thrilled I would have been if the Thoroughbred series had embraced its teenage hormones like this? I would be giggling myself sick with joy! (Or maybe not, but that's hypothetical situations for you.) Anyway, moving on.

Reining In deals with a few issues, namely: Stevie's inability to live in the present (car wreck trauma, etc), Carole's complete inexperience (and frustration) with the opposite sex, and Lisa's upcoming decision about whether or not she's staying in California. Stevie is holding on by a thread, which is savagely snapped by the appearance of Veronica and her boy toy, Trent, who is basically a zombie without that nasty blood lust.

As it is with all middle grade books (I mean, stupidly immature YA books...um...damn you, Pine Hollow!), Veronica brings out the worst in our dashing and wonderful main characters, a la Brad Townsend as he stands nearby Ashleigh & Co., looking bored as they have a collective conniption fit over his presence. (Yes, I find the protagonist reaction to some antagonists ridiculously hilarious now. Thank you, Thoroughbred!) Veronica wants to ride with her boy toy, and Ben casually agrees to be her stable boy, tacking up the horses as Carole and Stevie are too busy reacting to her snobbery by acting as catty or insane as possible.

Seriously, horse story protagonists, your pure and supposedly justified reaction to your antagonists makes you look bad. Please read every middle grade horse book ever for further examples on this topic.

Anyway, Stevie has a mental break and runs off to relive her wreck...or something. This means that Stevie's parents are going to step in and send her and Carole to California for two weeks! (Alex immediately interjects that he misses Lisa too, and he wants to go too, and everyone laughs at him and he is so going to be a domestic abuser when he grows up.) So most of this book takes place in California, where Stevie irritatingly enough "looks after her brother's interests" and Carole succumbs to her hormones.

Lisa, irritated that they are both pressing her about coming home to Willow Creek, takes them and their shitty attitudes to the tv set where she works. There they are immediately pacified by horses and the beautiful boys that populate this show. There is completely idiotic talk about how the obviously nice boy, Matthew, must not be that nice because he plays the bad guy, which leaves Carole open to fall in love with the obviously bad guy, Jeremiah, who plays Skye Ransom's charismatic best friend. Seriously, you guys, who honestly believes that people who play villains must be inherently predisposed to be bad in real life? This makes no sense, Pine Hollow.

Carole is also scared to death of dying in an earthquake, so during a tremor she freaks and is saved by Jeremiah, who takes his chance to engage in inappropriate behavior. Skye breaks it up, like a sensible person. And Carole acts her age by wanting to tell everyone about it. But during a sightseeing session with Jeremiah, Stevie breaks up his attempt to devour Carole with his mouth, and he breaks things off with Carole because...friends who tag along are so irritating? Maybe?

Well, whatever. During this, Skye eventually admits to Lisa that he wants her to stay and is attracted to her now that she is seventeen. This is where I admit to becoming a little bit of a Skye/Lisa shipper, mainly because why not?

Anyway. Jeremiah insults Carole, probably delivers years and years of scarring in one sentence that is fairly impressive in an immature way, and Stevie grows bitter over her California experience. They are all phonies! And fakes! And everyone is stupid, with the stupid perfect weather and the stupid perfect greenery and such! But this is before Lisa decides to drag them all to a club, because I guess that's normal? Matthew, awesome guy from before, listens to Stevie's tirade against the state of California with as much grace as an awesome person can, and decides to take her to see the most awesome part of California that only awesome people know about. I don't know exactly where this is, but it involves the beach, a shirtless him, and surf boarding. Stevie is perplexed, as was I, but she gets over it, grabs a surf board, and decides to have fun.

Ultimately, Lisa decides to go back to Virginia -- back to her shallow, emotionally unresponsive mother, her controlling and emotionally needy boyfriend, and her irritating and judgmental friends. For the sake of the drama, I guess this is a good thing. For the sake of Lisa's sanity and my sudden and unrelenting Skye/Lisa obsession, obviously she ticked the "nothing changes" box and chose wrong.

Jun 6, 2009

Wildfire: it's a love/hate thing.

Wildfire
3.7: Push Me/Pull You

Glancing over my notes for this episode, Push Me/Pull You might be the first Wildfire episode that dips into the negative, as far as my random point scheme goes. I loathed this episode. However, for the interests of routine, let's start with the good stuff first.

The Good:

+ The longing staring between Ashleigh and Brad receives three (+3) points, just because even in a season so totally dedicated to the sexual awkwardness between Ashleigh and Mike, Brad will always be the more interesting option. Sorry, Mike. I sort of hate you now. Deal with it.

+ We had a bit of Christina's Courage in this episode, because Ashleigh freaks out on a grand scale when she sees Samantha riding Wonder. Normally, I would take points away for this irritating behavior, but I suppose it's Ashleigh indignant response when both Mike and Ian tell her that they demanded Samantha ride Wonder instead that makes me happy. Suck it, Ashleigh. +5!

+ Ian, you're sort of awesome this episode. What with the no nonsense attitude toward Ashleigh's sudden and highly irritating Cindyfication. +2

+ Dani kicks a little CEO butt during a closing on this deal Clay insisted she and Brad attend while he's recovering from his heart attack. She was impressive. +2! Brad moves in to deliver the coup de grâce, but winds up being more impressive than Dani, adding for good measure, "And if you don't like it, you can bite me." Then he ambles out of there like the Brad Townsend I know and love. +5!

+ I have to award points for Townsend family bonding, even if it doesn't include Dani. Clay and Brad have a father and son moment, and Clay starts to plant the seeds that the rush Brad gets during his bull riding can be attained every day by being an awesome businessman. Brad seriously considers this. Thank you, Clay. You also get five points. +5!

+ Ashleigh admits to Mike her complete awfulness, not that this changes the course of any of the shit she's put into motion in this episode. I will award her one, tiny little point for this half-assed attempt to right her wrongs. Otherwise, she was one big boatload of awful in this episode. +1

The Good: 23

The Bad:

- Don't we understand by now? Only Ashleigh knows Wonder! Everyone else can only moderately understand her needs! Wonder doesn't need any of this fancy dressage crap, because Ashleigh and Wonder understand each other and are above using techniques that they don't have to understand! -3

- Mike, you are deducted a point (-1) for the following conversation:
Ian: I think she's in heat.
Mike: Aren't they all?

- Samantha buys hazelnut creamer and Ashleigh and Jean are all hazelnut? What the hell is hazelnut? You people live in California. I refuse to believe that you have a problem with hazelnut. -1

- "So, tell me about this dressage." I will overlook the fact that Ashleigh spits the word dressage like it's dirty, or has personally offended her. I just think this whole plotline is ludicrous. Ashleigh not knowing what dressage is, yet is able to rope a calf in a week's time, makes me mad. Samantha indicating that she only knows about dressage because she's English also makes me mad. Also, that anyone is talking about suppling and the forehand on this show makes me laugh. -3

- Because in Wildfire's world, horses are hand picked by idiots for big races, this sheik is going to look at the Prince for the Gold Cup. Mike decides that they will showcase the Prince by breezing him with Wonder, except Ashleigh should ride the Prince and Samantha will ride Wonder in a dressage saddle. Thankfully, Samantha was all "whoa, I've never done this before, this is crazy" but I was too busy covering my eyes and making incomprehensible noises to care. -5

- Enough double entendres, show! I think Samantha went through a whole conversation where every sentence out of her mouth was accidentally/intentionally given double meaning. You all know there's something up with Mike and Ashleigh. The fact that only Brad is willing to point and say what it is means that I have to deduct another two points. (-2) You can't always rely on the most awesome of you to shed light on the situation, people. Idiots! All of you! (Except you, Brad.)

- Everyone stares at Mike and Ashleigh dancing. Sigh. -1

- The sheik is there to see the Prince, and Mike says all he wants to look at is how the horse moves. He really just wants to see "the look of eagles." Mike adds, "whatever that means." Oh, damn it. Mike, minus five! How can you be in Thoroughbred racing and not know what "the look of eagles" means? (-5)

- I have to say that the scene where Samantha and Ashleigh ride around the track is as awful as you can possibly imagine. -3

- So here's the deal: Ashleigh reins the Prince in and tells Samantha to ride Wonder with a loose rein. Ergo the Prince never gets a good showing because Ashleigh never lets him out all the way, and Wonder runs off with Samantha, who doesn't know what she's doing. This is supposed to make Wonder look better. The fact that Ashleigh was this sneaky is totally unlike her, so I have to deduct another four points (-4). The fact that Ian, Jean, Mike, and the sheik buy what Ashleigh's selling deducts another five (-5). Because it is OBVIOUS what Ashleigh is doing. You don't have to be riding right next to her (like Samantha, who knows what she's up to) to see this.

- Ashleigh is such a bitch in this episode. First she urges Mike to move into the bunkhouse with Samantha, then she rigorously acts like a brat to everyone who tries to welcome Samantha into the fold. Dude, Ashleigh, you don't even like Mike. Get the hell over it and go date Brad. Oh, that's right, you gave him some idiotic excuse about family in order to keep the tension going another year. -4

- Ashleigh comes out with the truth to Mike about what she did, but then she doesn't to Ian and Jean, who accept the sheik nominating not the Prince, but Wonder, into the Gold Cup. Mike just gives her an ultimatum about getting Wonder more fit than she has ever been in her life to make up for her sudden bitchiness. I just deduct another three points (-3) because I hate them all. And I hope Wonder loses the Gold Cup. Because I'm vindictive like that.

- RJ is not in this episode. This saddened me far more than everything else going on, and also made it that much more obvious that RJ/Dani is the only thing good about this season. -3

The Bad: 43

23 - 43 = -20

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42
5. Love vs. Work: 20
6. Kiss Kiss: 16
7. Push Me/Pull You: -20

Well, that wasn't good at all.

Books will come next, I think. I need to take a break before I get into the RJ/Dani stuff in the coming episodes.

Jun 4, 2009

Wildfire: I watch season three for only one reason at this point.

Wildfire
3.6: Kiss Kiss

+ I have to admit to liking the opening Mike/Ashleigh scene. The music, the fog, the unrelenting, unresolved sexual tension...it did not totally offend me. But that's it. I can go no further than this. +2

+ RJ/Dani. Seriously, they get ten points (+10) just for existing.

+ Oh, Mike. You have not disappointed me in your total failure to be a farm owner! You know that whole "I'll do it later, I promise" staple from all episodes previous? That's a perfect way to run a farm into the ground. Keep at it! +3

+ RJ is a slob! (+2) Upon entering his trailer, Dani attempts to not be totally disgusted, and almost succeeds. (+2)

+ Dani's attempt to clean RJ's trailer by bringing over Estella, the Townsend maid, is awesome. +5! The fact that RJ's reaction completely mirror's Dani's reaction to his slobbiness? I'll just award that one more point for making me smile. (+1)

+ "Where did the glasses come from?" RJ does not drink from glasses (or possibly he does not know what wine glasses look like, which is not that shocking). He is manly and drinks only from beer bottles! Clearly this gets three points. (+3)

+ Thank you, Brad, for calling out the tension between you, Mike and Ashleigh. (+1) That needed to happen, because I was getting a little tired of these stupid sideways glances and damn you, Mike, for insisting everything is normal.

+ Brad works with Wonder's Pride, because he loves him and thinks he is adorable! Let's all have a mushy Brad moment. +2

+ Uncle Jesse's conversation with Mike makes sense, and I look forward to when Mike loses both Gillian and Ashleigh because he obviously is not ready to take any risks, nor does he know what he wants. Get ready to greet your lonely future, Mike. It's welcoming you with open arms. +2

+ "The princess and the cowboy are meant to be together." Due to some serious socio-economic differences between RJ and Dani, they become a little unstable in this episode. But RJ comes by to visit Dani before his six month stint in Kansas City, and she decides that they are in no way over, which is great because I need the next two episodes, guys. It's the only way I'm going to get through this season. So, plus 5! (+5)

+ Suddenly, everyone decides that it's time to go to Kansas City. Brad and Dani. Clay overreacts completely by having a heart attack. It was sort of amusing, actually. +1

The Good: 39

The Bad:

- Pride's leg is suddenly crooked? Had no one noticed this before? I smell more shoddy plotting. -1

- Why is everyone so computer illiterate all of a sudden? - 1! Just because.

- If you're driving from California to Little Rock, Arkansas, I wouldn't exactly say Paris, Texas is on the way to Little Rock, unless you're specifically going to Paris before you go to Little Rock. Amarillo is on the way to Little Rock. Not Paris. I know it's hard to comprehend geography if you live in Los Angeles, and maybe this is just a thing I have when people from Hollywood try to tell me that Fayetteville, Arkansas is near, say, Louisiana, but I am still deducting a point. - 1

- Clay, please stop trying to keep your kids under the same roof, making them miserable by chasing away possible love interests and generally encouraging discontent. Nothing good can come of this. Please see your heart attack at the end of this episode in case you need to reflect upon this a little more. - 2

- All the awkwardness between Mike and Brad. I get it, you guys. You both love the same girl. The thing is, I do not believe, not for one tiny little instant, that Mike/Ashleigh is in any way going to upstage the goliath that is Brad/Ashleigh. Mike/Ashleigh is just a fling being used as a road block to the eventual Brad/Ashleigh. I don't need to know the end of the show (which I do) to come to this rather obvious conclusion. - 3

- Pride's leg is going to be okay, which means Ashleigh has to randomly kiss Brad. I would normally award tons of points for this, but currently Ashleigh is pissing me off and RJ/Dani has taken over all my interest. And the kiss is forced and stupid and made me mad. - 5

- Samantha buys Pride, intending to keep him stabled at Whitebrook. Ashleigh goes bonkers with joy and randomly kisses Mike, which futher pisses me off because it is STUPID and FORCED. Not only that, it is logistically awkward. And there is bumbling when Ashleigh says the stupidest thing along the lines of "I guess it's good Samantha isn't here to see me kissing you." YES. YES I SHOULD THINK SO. Ashleigh, you whore. - 10

The Bad: -23

39 - 23 = 16

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42
5. Love vs. Work: 20
6. Kiss Kiss: 16

Sigh, you guys. SIGH. RJ/Dani...your tragic love had better make this torture worth it.

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
2005

Whenever anyone says "inspired by" or "based on" a true story, you instantly get critiques comparing the fiction to the truth. Dreamer is not a fictionalized retelling of Mariah's Storm. It just borrows a snippet of her story and gives it a Hollywood ending.

Basically, this movie has everything you need for the preteen set. Blond girl, chestnut horse, love and devotion and aspirations to make dreams a reality. It is every Thoroughbred book ever written. It could be every middle grade horse book ever conceived. So saying this movie is clichéd, predictable, and overly sentimental is probably an understatement. You go into this movie knowing what's going to happen, and there are no surprises. However, that's not to say it's bad. It's actually fairly entertaining, even for those of us who know the formula so well some us could have written this movie's script in under twenty-four hours with no problem.

Anyway, let's just get to the weird things. Because I don't feel like recapping the plot we all know so well.

  • Elizabeth Shue and Kurt Russell are the most awkward onscreen couple I've seen in a long time. The first time I saw this, I kept rejecting the idea of them as being anything other than siblings. Or possibly cousins. Or people who just randomly shared rent.
  • Would like to know what legal restraints went into shooting at Ashford Stud, especially when they used names of Ashford stallions (Fusaichi Pegasus, Johannesburg, Giant's Causeway, Grand Slam), but couldn't show those actual stallions in the movie.
  • This is a movie with more inspirational monologue than normal discussion. Sort of like, oh, great, we're going to talk about how you're ready to be a jockey by referencing your dream from earlier and how you're no longer hungry. It's so motivational!
  • I'm trying to decide if a horse could eat a popsicle that quickly, neatly, and without mangling the wooden stick.
  • Prince Sadir's argument for why his horse should be in the Breeders' Cup Classic is: "But my horse was sired by Storm Cat!" Storm Cat has over 1,100 babies. Please try again.
  • Evil former boss is evil! Deliberately causing an accident in the saddling paddock does make me laugh, regardless.
  • Claiming races where the horse is *gasp* claimed! Let's not pretend you didn't think this was a possibility, main characters. If you race for a tag, you're putting the horse up for sale. It's sort of the point to claiming races.
  • While I do think Cale's confidence in her horse is very Ashleigh Griffen of her, saying her horse will beat all horses who show up to the Breeders' Cup borders on overinflated ego, especially since her horse came in third in a claimer not too long ago.
  • Time is so hazy in this movie. First, Sonya is a two-year-old with two races (which she has won, so she's a pretty good prospect) before she breaks down. That, in Dreamer world, gives her 40 some odd points toward the Breeders' Cup. Then...unspecified time goes by! Breeders' Cup Classic rolls around, Sonya runs in one claimer, which does not give you any points whatsoever, and Cale claims she has twenty some odd to her name for the Classic? How is this possible?
  • Palmer really came prepared for rejection when he offers to buy back Sonya. How about $10,000? Okay, how about $20,000 in cash? Okay, how about a certified check for $100,000? If you walked in with that many options, you might as well save yourself the time and embarrassment dished out by ten-year-old girls.
  • Price Sadir and his brother must have a very strained relationship.

Ultimately, it's a cute movie in a Thoroughbred sort of way.

Wildfire: Many, um, happy returns?

Wildfire
3.5: Love vs. Work

Let's just jump right in...

The Good:

+ Because Mike and Ashleigh placed second in last episode's roping contest, the Lawyer In Charge deems that this means Mike has "done something" with the horse he was supposed to "do something" with. You know what this means? Mike gets to be half-owner of Whitebrook. Oh, I cannot wait to see how Mike screws this up. +5 (I've spoiled myself, don't worry.)

+ The RJ/Dani witty banner continues to make me grin stupidly. (+1) Dani grins stupidly (+1). RJ grins/smirks stupidly (+1). Dani tries to indicate that RJ doesn't affect her, which is not working at all because of the stupid grinning going on. So in retaliation, RJ finagles a date out of her. Bonus of +5!

+ Brad is having a moment with Wonder's Pride. It is adorable, and totally what the real Brad was probably doing when no one was paying attention. (You know he was.) +2

+ Townsend Prince is back, stabled at Whitebrook, set to run against both Wonder and Her Majesty. I totally did not see that coming. +1

+ The out of nowhere tension between Ian and Mike escalates to uncomfortable levels. (Okay, it's probably in regards to Mike's sudden status upgrade, but basically I imagine Ian thinks Mike is stupid in general and deserves mocking.) It's nice to know Ian's death grip on his serious/brooding face has not relaxed at all. +1

+ Dani is too absorbed in farm business to talk to RJ during their date, which I find remarkably impossible, but after he's finally had it with her amazing attempt to create distance between them he lets her have a full on psychological evaluation that I found pretty impressive. And totally dead on. RJ is not just perfectly symmetrical (and therefore beautiful), he can verbally bitch slap way better than anyone else on this series. +5!

+ Dani eats a chili dog with RJ while sitting on the bed of a truck. Dani, you are adorable when you relax a little. +2

+ Predictably, RJ decides to stick around for a while so he can gallop off into the sunset with Dani. I'm sorry, but kissing and galloping places on horseback immediately earns ten points (+10) because I'm a silly romantic. HOWEVER, the last time a Days actor galloped off into the sunset with a girl, they got married, moved to Africa for some reason, got divorced in the downtime between appearances, and the girl came back to marry an insipid asshole that people stopped caring about years and years before. I'm looking at you Carrie and Austin! Your love was boring and I hope you come back to the show divorced and recovering from drug problems, like some other people I won't take issue with now, because this is quickly becoming a weird tangent I'm having a hard time bringing to a halt. Okay.

The Good: 34

The Bad:

- You know what immediately loses points? Whenever Mike wakes up Ashleigh with a squirt gun that turns into a tickle fight that all occurs on a bed. You know what loses more points? When scenes like this happen at the beginning of the episode. The RJ/Dani in this episode almost didn't save it from plummeting into a total Mike/Ashleigh disaster. -3

- Mike has bad hair again. For the love of God, stop with the gel. -1

- Ian's criticism of Mike's lack of business prowess is appreciated, if not a little hilarious. For instance, Ian takes offense at Mike's idea of stabling Townsend Prince next to Wonder, saying "Wonder isn't window dressing, Mike." HA! Oh, Ian, where were you when he took the horse to a children's birthday party and offered to give the kids rides? Where? -5

- Cindy is back. This is like a whole other area of annoying, but thankfully she just stirs things up a little to make me forget about the upcoming Mike/Ashleigh awfulness, so her presence only loses the show a point (-1) instead of something like twenty.

- "Prince could be a distraction for Wonder!" Ian, what the hell? Wonder is a HORSE, people. -3 for stupidity.

- How much do I love the weird "don't get pregnant!" look Jean shoots Ashleigh at the end of this episode. Oh, I would so give it points if it didn't remind me of Mike/Ashleigh, which it does, so it can only lose points. -1

The Bad: 14

34 - 14 = 20

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42
5. Love vs. Work: 20

RJ/Dani is the only thing that got this episode through, which is testament to how much I love them. Also, yes, I have spoiled myself. I really, really have. I have a feeling this season is going to kill a small piece of me by the time it's finished.

Jun 1, 2009

Wildfire: bring on the sexy antagonism!

Wildfire
3.4: Close to Home

Oh, you guys. You guys. Season three just brought out its secret weapon -- the only thing that could possibly divert my attention from gagging at the possibility of Ashleigh/Mike. This is a necessary move on the show's part, because the more Ashleigh and Mike make eyes at each other, the more I want to weep a little inside.

The Good:

+ Brad's new bull riding friend from last episode, RJ Blake, accompanies Brad to Casa Townsend. RJ decides to make a sandwich, stumbling across Dani in the process. She assumes he's a hired hand and gives him a piece of her mind about why he's in the kitchen, handling her lunch meats. I am immediately intrigued! Brad wanders in to tell her to shut up, and she says, "So, you're in the rodeo." And RJ says, "Does that make me more or less offensive to you?" Staring commences. Ohmigod ohmigod, it's sexy antagonism! I am smitten! (+15)

+ So at the rodeo, Brad is beaten up because he's both a newbie and a rich kid. I have to give Brad two points (+2) for being remarkably cool about this.

+ It is apparent to just about everyone that this rodeo tangent is weird and out of nowhere, so thankfully we get a good supportive sibling talk between Dani and Brad concerning "being something more" or whatever. I'm just noting this because I like it when Dani and Brad lean on each other for support. (+2)

+ Dani decides to catch up on her friends, which have been no shows for at least a season and a half by now. Not shockingly, she discovers through these attempts that she has no friends. Oh, Dani. You're starting to make me like you again. (+1)

+ Dani: Don't you have a home?
RJ: I thought I'd bask in your warmth.
Me: *totally girlie squee*
Five points for banter! (+5)

+ Dani, you get a point (+1) for taking RJ's invitation to dance at the rodeo party as an opportunity to frustrate him by dancing with someone else instead. That gets my stamp of approval! RJ, you get two points (+2) for one upping Dani by finding two girls to dance with in response. Both of you are awesome, so you get another point (+1) just because I find you hilarious.

+ RJ gets five points (+5) for reminding me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the line "We've been dancing since we met." Indeed you have been! This is probably why I instantly love you, and have been showering this episode with points.

+ Ashleigh and Jean finally have a good conversation that doesn't inadvertently piss me off because their misunderstandings are completely caused by the stupidity and impossibility of that whole Tor issue. And then they're mistaken as mother and daughter. And this is part of why I find Ashleigh/Mike so creepy. Um, plus one? (+1)

+ More Brad and Dani supportive sibling talk! You have to love the Townsends. They're far more interesting when they're getting along than when they're trying to beat each other down. (+4)

+ Brad gets to play the hero in this episode, saving RJ from goring. He wins the respect, love and adoration of all except for maybe Ashleigh. Sigh. (+2)

+ Um, the RJ/Dani relationship? I cannot get enough. RJ gets five points (+5) for tricking Dani into thinking he's seriously injured after his incident with the bull, Dani gets (+3) for believing him and then smacking him when she realizes he's kidding, RJ gets another point (+1) for being awesome and then there is kissing (+10). And there are random rodeo men laughing and commenting nearby! (+3) Thank you, show. Thank you.

+ Also, the actor who plays RJ gets a point (+1) for playing Rex on Days of our Lives and for actually being able to act. I didn't realize he was a Days of our Lives graduate until after watching this episode, and then I fondly remembered his first Days episode (as a naked possible alien who turned out to not be an alien, obviously, because he was a Brady or something). I can't believe I remember this.

Good: 63

The Bad:

- Stop using that stupid autumn shot of Casa Reese, show! (-1)

- Can I just say that I really don't like the western theme? It's rather sudden and annoying and if RJ wasn't involved I would really like it to go away. (-1)

- Ashleigh wants a new trailer, because hers burned down. Naturally Mike is entering this calf roping competition with his new Andalusian, who just happens to be "good at roping" or something insane. So who is going to be Mike's partner? Ashleigh! Does she know how to rope? Well...I'm sure she can figure it out in a week or so. (-3) And this has to involve Mike/Ashleigh touching. (-5) And Brad has to see it. (-1)

- Because Ashleigh is staying at Casa Reese for the duration, Mike has to be an idiot and barge into the bathroom because he just assumes he is barging in on Todd instead of Ashleigh, who is naked and hopping around and screaming. This made me feel a little sick. Ashleigh/Mike makes me physically ill. This is how awful it is. (-10)

The Bad: 21

63 - 21 = 42

1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10
4. Close to Home: 42

Finally, a Wildfire episode I've liked! It's been a long while, show. A long, long while.

If we only could have moved on to a more realistic future...

Wildfire
3.3: Moving On

I haven't a lot to say about this episode, which doesn't surprise me because the show is making some transitions here as it gets into the middle of the season. I guess you could say. Anyway. Points!

The Good:

+ Brad rides the mechanical bull consistently now, and he's good at it. I'm going to give him five (+5) points for this, because he's finally showing some talent that does not involve driving and paying bills. (Notice I can't say "having money" is a talent, because he tends to mismanage that privilege, and yeah, I'm giving him that driving thing.)

+ So how many points can I allot to the following scenario? Mechanical bull + Ashleigh + frustrated Brad + staring. I think there's supposed to be some sexiness here on Ashleigh's part, but true to form she downplays that. So I'll just have to award ten (+10) points for Ashleigh staring at Brad as he rides the bull. And it made me laugh.

+ Brad wants to ride bulls now, does he? Well, Brad, I've got to agree with Mike when he spends his two cents on being logical for this season and says something along the lines of YOU ARE CRAZY. You're crazy, Brad. CRAZY! But whatever. Your first task to bull riding master is being the rodeo clown, so that also made me laugh. +2!

+ Samantha gets three (+3) points for telling Dani that she will sell her share in Townsend Acres to anyone but her. I'm happy about this, because it's about time for someone to come along and kick Dani repeatedly in the shins. I like that she's really standing up for herself in front of her father, but she's been more than a little grating in her take no prisoners approach to life lately.

+ Predictably, Clay buys out Samantha's shares in the farm as an anonymous corporation. This is why Clay is awesome and gets four points (+4)!

+ Brad gets his 8 seconds. I'll award you a point (+1) for this, Brad. Just because you're smiling and you worked your butt off and you succeeded for once. Otherwise, I sort of agree with everyone else that this turn of plot is stupid and you need to be awesome somewhere else that does not involve cowboy hats and billowing fringed chaps.

The Good: 25

The Bad

- Jean and Ashleigh are having trust issues over Wonder not being 100% after coming back from being a stud failure. Ashleigh wants to push Wonder harder and enter a race to start immediately winning back the purse they didn't get. Jean wants to wait and mope, I guess. Ultimately, this lands on Jean's pissiness over the Tor issue, which I have to say suck it up! It's your fault Tor even had that much control over your farm, Jean. I'm not even sure how that even happened. Ugh. (-3)

- Dani is an idiot. Samantha will sell her shares to Dani if Flame will only be returned to Whitebrook, and Dani has the gumption to tell her Flame might win the Triple Crown and might be more profitable in the long run. I have news for her. She's wrong. (-1)

- You know how in Derby Fever, everyone at Whitebrook suddenly discovered that you can work horses in pairs after one horse has been kind of bad at working alone, but they call it something stupid like a match race? Wildfire does the same thing here. It makes me want to groan and scratch at my eyes. (-1)

- Also, you know how in On The Track, Melanie and Kevin randomly work horses together that they have no permission to work? Same thing here, only Mike and Ashleigh manage to pitt Wonder against a "green horse with no gate experience" in a work out of the gate. Fantastic planning, guys. Really, it's little wonder your horse isn't bouncing back as fast as you wanted! (-3)

- "Wonder doesn't need a jockey, she needs a trainer." No shit, Jean! What exactly is Ian doing, then? (-1)

- Blah blah, Ashleigh knows Wonder better than everyone, blah blah she can tell you all there is to know, blah blah they have a connection, blah blah stupid horse story trope, blah blah blah! (-5)

- There are lots of ill-timed inspirational talks in this episode. Seriously, I don't think we need a monologue right when Brad is getting on the bull. (-1)

The Bad: 15

25 - 15 = 10

So, to keep track:
1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4
3. Moving On: 10

Mostly, I'm just nonplussed at this point.

Um, coming up this week I've got books! Another Pine Hollow book, Maggie Estep's latest, and if I can get myself through the most dense romance novel from hell, I will post that one also. If not, I'll skim it and post a review anyway. Cheers!