Dec 28, 2010

of liberty ponies and poor navigational skills

Misty of Chincoteague
by Marguerite Henry

On an island off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland lives a centuries-old band of wild ponies. Among them is the most mysterious of all, Phantom, a rarely seen mare that eludes all efforts to capture her--that is, until a young boy and girl lay eyes on her and determine that they can't live without her. The frenzied roundup that follows on the next "Pony Penning Day" does indeed bring Phantom into their lives, in a way they never would have suspected. Phantom would forever be a creature of the wild. But her gentle, loyal colt Misty is another story altogether.
A long time ago, when my sister and I were but annoying tweens, my parents went to Norway for three weeks. Yes, that's right. Norway. Because this was like 1993 and April, clearly they weren't taking us along for the magical adventure. So they tossed our grandparents at us and inadvertently created a lot of cross-generational havoc while they were skipping hand in hand through eight feet of snow...or whatever. This havoc presented itself in a litter of kittens. My sister and I naturally wanted a kitten (or all of them) and knew there was no way in hell our parents were going to allow this, but maybe our grandparents could be persuaded...

Only all of our deviousness failed, because grandparents are never as easily led by children as they seem in fiction. Our children's book learning failed us. I would have to wait until I was in college to get a kitten, who is now my own personal hell beast/serial killer.

Anyway, I relate this story because I feel like Misty of Chincoteague bears a striking similarity to my life in April of 1993. Paul and Maureen have been thrown at the Beebes because their parents are gallivanting around in China (for what seems like five and a half years), only their parents have made a crucial error. The Beebes own horses. Not only do they own horses, they live on Chicoteague island, an island packed with ponies. An island packed with ponies that holds annual pony festivals where they basically give these ponies away to any kid who mows enough lawns during the summer.

There is no way those parents are getting their kids back.

Nov 21, 2010

shocked speechless

So I was in Detroit this weekend when my aunt asks me if I knew the 2010 National Book Award winner. I did not. She seemed surprised and said that it was about horse racing. My reaction was stunned staring and random muttering along the lines of "Whaa? I didn't.... How did that...? Huh?"

Allow me to introduce you to the 2010 National Book Award winner, Lord of Misrule:

At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Lord of Misrule follows five characters—scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain—through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He’ll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices—veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady “gyp” Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off “racetrack financier” Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel’s go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone’s flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.

I'm going to have to see about this.

Nov 19, 2010

Guest Blogger: Author Alison Hart

By Alison Hart

I write mysteries, suspense and historical fiction, mostly involving horses, all based in reality.

In Shadow Horse and its sequel Whirlwind, Jas must prove that Hugh Robicheaux killed two horses for insurance money. The mystery revolves around true scams that can happen in any sport, but in this case, the high stakes sport of horse showing:

“One of the worst cases of fraud happened in the early 1990’s,” Miss Hahn told Jas. “Some of the top paid riders and wealthiest owners in the business paid a lowlife named Tommy Burns to kill their horses.

“In one case, a horse named Empire was galloped until sweaty. Then he was put in a clean stall and electrocuted. Based on the sweat and clean stall, the vet ruled colic.”

There were worse details in the magazines and articles that I read for research and at the rescue farms I visited, details that turned my stomach. I wisely left many of them out. An author continually makes choices about the amount of research and reality to include. Too little can result in a bland story, too much can make it gruesome.

In my “Racing to Freedom” trilogy (Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey) set during the Civil War, my research sent me to the dark times when African Americans were treated with brutality and disdain. I definitely had to make choices, leaving out graphic incidences of slaves being hung, whipped and sold from their families. However, there was plenty left for a true and gripping tale such as the scene from Gabriel’s Journey, set during the real Battle of Saltville, Virginia:

Hoofbeats thud in the foggy distance. Then angry words drift down the hillside from the cabin of wounded soldiers. “Drag them coloreds outta there!” a gruff voice hollers.

The surgeon’s voice rises in protest, but moments later the report of revolvers echoes through the hills. I startle with each shot.

“Oh my god,” Captain cries out hoarsely. “They’re killing the wounded.” 

Private Black’s words flash in my mind like a warning. When those Confederates see our black faces charging them with rifles and bayonets, they’re going to attack us with a vengeance.

I’ve written over sixty books. When people ask me where I get my ideas, I tell them, “Just pick up any newspaper. Or read a history text. Horror, crime and mayhem are everywhere.”

And they make terrific stories.

2011 Upcoming YA Books

by Mary Finn
June 14, 2011
Young Adult

When Thomas Rose first spots the girl hidden by the roadside, she looks as drab as a lark, with only her red kerchief giving her away. But French Hélène, who goes by "Ling," is no ordinary bird. Tiny Ling enchants Thomas with her wild spirit and tales of a circus where she danced atop her beloved horse, Belladonna. But the horse has been sold, and Ling must fetch her back. Now Thomas’s life as a clever but unschooled wheelwright’s son is about to change. Their search leads to painter George Stubbs, who euthanizes ailing animals in order to study their anatomy. Stubbs draws eerie horses that stride as if they could move out of the paper world into the real one - but he assures his young friends that their horse is safe at a nearby estate. As Ling and Thomas devise a risky plan to recover Belladonna, Stubbs hires Thomas as an apprentice, teaching him to read and write as well. In this fascinating story, Mary Finn incorporates a real eighteenth-century artist into a beautifully imagined tale of adventure and young romance.

The A Circuit
by Catherine Hapka and Georgine Bloomberg
May 24, 2011
Young Adult

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It's a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.
Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student—every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She's used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn's resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there's Zara. She's the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she's ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?
Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

(Okay, this was only a matter of time. In fact, I've been waiting for this to happen only so I can read the book and stare at it in awed fascination.)

Nov 17, 2010

Author Interview: Alison Hart

Today I'm talking to Alison Hart, author of over twenty mysteries and historical novels for children and young adults. The horsey set knows her best as the writer of the acclaimed Shadow Horse and its recent sequel, Whirlwind. Fans of the Thoroughbred series know her as Alice Leonhardt, who penned various volumes during the New Generation including Racing Image, The Bad Luck Filly, Living Legend, and more.

What inspired you to write Shadow Horse?

I am a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) who works with the court system to advocate for abused and neglected children. The pairing of foster teen with a rescue farm seemed like a great story; the insurance scam came after I did research.

What sort of research did you do for Shadow Horse and Whirlwind

I interviewed a social worker, a probation officer, an insurance agent and a police officer, and visited juvenile court and a rescue farm. I did extensive reading as well.

There was quite a wait for Whirlwind. What went into making the book finally happen?

I honestly don't know what took so long. I was busy writing historical fiction that was doing well for a different publisher. Sales for Shadow Horse were steady but not phenomenal, and in today's market/economy, sales must be phenomenal for a publishing house to request a sequel.

You wrote several books for the Thoroughbred series during its “New Generation.” Which character did you most enjoy writing? 

I pretty much created Melanie and Image, so they are the ones I most identify with.

What draws you to writing about horses, particularly for children and young adults?

Horses have been in my life since I was five years old, but horses and humans have been intertwined since as early as 3500 BC when horses were raised for milk and meat in Kazakhstan. (see the fascinating March 2009 article in National Geographic)

Since then, horses have been used (and exploited) by humans in all parts of the world. In America, horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago and were then reintroduced by 16th century Spanish Explorers. That gives me centuries of history to write about. My current books focus on the 1800’s when horses were used for transportation, farming, racing and war --see my historical suspense Gabriel's Horses, Gabriel's Triumph and Gabriel's Journey, Emma's River and Anna's Blizzard--as well as modern-day novels like Taking the Reins, Shadow Horse and Whirlwind.

Do you have any upcoming horse books or other writing projects on the horizon? (Possibly a sequel to Whirlwind, perhaps?) 

I'd love to do a sequel to Whirlwind, and have an idea plus a possible title, but again, the sales of Whirlwind have to be phenomenal for Random House to even consider it. In 2011, Risky Chance, book seven in the Horse Diary series, will be published. It's about horse racing during the 1930's. I also have a second American Girl book called Dive Right In, part of their InnerStar U series, which allows readers to choose their own endings. It's not about horses but still fun!


My thanks to Alison for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Whirlwind's Facebook Page - Become a fan!

Nov 15, 2010

Shadow Horse & Whirlwind Giveaway Winner!

Vtgypsy! has spoken! Vtgypsy, please e-mail me your address at wbfblog at gmail dot com and I'll drop the books in the mail. As for the rest of you guys, thanks for participating and keep on the look out for future giveaways. I've got lots of random horse books sitting around that are dying to be read and randomly shipped off so other people can join in the hilarity.

Nov 4, 2010

Giveaway: Shadow Horse & Whirlwind

Thanks to Alison Hart, I've got yet another giveaway to announce. One person will win a copy of both Shadow Horse and its sequel, Whirlwind. I know. How fabulous is this?

Shadow Horse

After assaulting the owner of High Meadows Farm, thirteen-year-old Jasmine Schuler must face the inside of a courtroom and juvenile hall.

Jas knows no one will believe her defense--that the man she attacked had poisoned Whirlwind, the mare she loved. Hugh Robicheaux is powerful enough to shift all blame to Jas's grandfather. But Jas refuses to give up. After she is pronounced guilty and put into foster care at a farm for abused animals, she remains determined to prove her charge against Hugh.

The key becomes a scrawny brown gelding she rescues at a horse auction. She's sure Shadow is somehow connected to the mare she lost, but how?

When thirteen-year-old Jas Schuler found her beloved mare, Whirlwind, dead in her paddock, she thought her heart would break. Now Jas knows the truth.

Whirlwind is alive.

Wealthy horse breeder Hugh Robicheaux faked the mare's death, collected insurance money on her life, then sold her to an unsuspecting buyer. And he's going to get away with his scheme, too. Unless someone can find Whirlwind. And that's exactly what Jas plans to do.

But hunting for Whirlwind is dangerous. Hugh has threatened to destroy everything Jas holds dear unless she stops her search. As she struggles with her desire to find Whirlwind without letting the people she loves get hurt, Jas must ask herself: Is all this worth risking for a horse she may never find?

- Comment to enter. 
- One entry per person. 
- If you have won a giveaway on this blog, you are still free to add your name to the hat. 
- Following the blog, while appreciated, is not required.
- Winner chosen at random via

Contest runs from November 4 through November 15.

Oct 21, 2010

the nice, reliable, nice guy in horse books

Is it weird that I'm starting to think the nice, reliable, nice guy love interest in middle grade horse books is kind of creepy? Going over my posts for just about every middle grade horse book I have ever read for this blog (and the ones that I vaguely remember from yesteryear that I can't be bothered with reading again), the trend is to place the adorable, determined main character who cannot brush her hair and sneers at fashionable jeans with a boy who is two years older than her. Determined main character is always twelve to fourteen when this happens. Nice, reliable boy is always fourteen to sixteen, depending on her age. It's always a two year age difference. Occasionally three, if you count boy age confusion, because he's commonly "fifteen or sixteen." Also, you know, Brad (initially 15) and Ashleigh (initially, um, almost 12). Don't try to tell me that wasn't lust fueled madness. I won't hear it.

For some reason, it didn't bother me until the other day when I stopped everything I was doing and suddenly had to ask my mother if this trend disturbed her.

Her answer was yes. Yes, it does. And then there was a long discussion about developmental differences, because that's what I get for talking to someone who's both a mother of two daughters and in the medical field.

So I started thinking about Chris Platt's Astra. About how this book essentially gives the main character two options: aggravating, immature boy that is the main character's age (13) or nice, reliable, helpful boy (15 or 16). Of course, she's going to choose nice, reliable guy because thirteen-year-old boys are more interested in being self-absorbed, pseudo antagonists who are mean to the girls they like. But would the nice, reliable sixteen-year-old boy be interested in our thirteen-year-old determined girl? Should he be? Shouldn't someone be throwing on the breaks to this relationship? Like, say, a parent? Logically, shouldn't the determined girl be interested in the boy who is her age?

Maybe it's moot because determined horse girls basically act like they're forty by the time they hit puberty. But, it's still something that I find troubling. I open the floor to discussion.

Oct 18, 2010

secretariat saves his own movie, because he's that awesome


You guys, I know. If you still visit this blog, you probably wonder just where I went and if I still read horse books and view horse movies and torture myself endlessly with their varying shades of something we might call "quality."

I would like to sit here and tell you that I have a huge back load of books and movies to review, but I would be lying. The best excuse I can come up with is...I just haven't been trying very hard? Yes, that pretty much sums it up.

Seriously, that and I needed a break. It was glorious.

Now, that said, I did run off and see Secretariat on opening weekend. I have pondered whether or not I liked it since. I never really cared about Penny Chenery, and I can say with some seriousness that I still don't really care about Penny Chenery. Am I a little dismayed that they should have called this movie Chenery: Housewife Turned Inspirational Rogue? Somewhat,  yes. Because this movie is basically Chenery: Housewife Turned Inspirational Rogue masquerading as a movie about Secretariat because, as the movie's makers probably figured out well before me, Penny Chenery? Yeah, not so much.

Sep 15, 2010

Hi, there! I'm every horse book you've ever read.

by Chris Platt

I've read a few Chris Platt books, and commented on them accordingly with the loving obsession of a person who has read too many Thoroughbred books and is currently stalking its authors.  I know, I have no shame.  Willow King, Race the Wind!, Moon Shadow...the only non-Thoroughbred book of hers that I haven't gripped in my freakishly cold fingers is Storm Chaser.

After reading Astra, I'm really wondering about Storm Chaser.  In fact, I am going to have to get it soon so I can confirm a rising suspicion. 

Thirteen-year-old Lily O'Neil's passion is Arabian horses.  Someday she wants to be a great endurance rider like her mother.  But a year earlier, after a freak riding accident took her mother's life, Lily's father sold his daughter's beloved pony and forbade her to ride ever again.

When Lily's grandmother comes to live with them, however, she convinces Mr. O'Neil to let Lily clean stalls on the neighboring Arabian ranch, a place her mother had worked--and loved.  Lily is ecstatic, especially since she'll be near her mother's favorite horse--Astra.  Lily's mother had always believed that Astra had the talent to become a national champion.  Her goal was to ride her in the famous Tevis Cup Endurance Race, the toughest horse race in America.

Lily is determined to make her mother's dream come true.  But how will she convince her father to let her ride again?
So that's the summary.  Endurance riding!  What a breath of fresh air!  It's not three-day eventing or, god forbid, mustangs.  That in itself is great, apart from the endurance factoids that stuck out like sore thumbs.  Kind of like when Mary Anderson was inserting random horse racing facts into Thoroughbred, a land where horse racing facts go to die slow, miserable deaths.  The problem was in the rest of it.

The Winner of Astra

The random drawing winner is...


Come on down and claim your prize.  :)

Sep 10, 2010

Giveaway: Astra

Thirteen-year-old Lily O'Neil's passion is Arabian horses.  Someday she wants to be a great endurance rider like her mother.  But a year earlier, after a freak riding accident took her mother's life, Lily's father sold his daughter's beloved pony and forbade her to ride ever again.

When Lily's grandmother comes to live with them, however, she convinces Mr. O'Neil to let Lily clean stalls on the neighboring Arabian ranch, a place her mother had worked--and loved.  Lily is ecstatic, especially since she'll be near her mother's favorite horse--Astra.  Lily's mother had always believed that Astra had the talent to become a national champion.  Her goal was to ride her in the famous Tevis Cup Endurance Race, the toughest horse race in America.

Lily is determined to make her mother's dream come true.  But how will she convince her father to let her ride again?
Giveaway time, kids!  I give you Chris Platt's Astra, which was released last week.  Comment to be considered.  Contest ends 9/15

Sep 3, 2010

War Horse & News

Somehow I missed that Steven Spielberg was turning War Horse into a movie.  Here are set photos.  I suppose this means I need to actually read this book? 

There are a few horse books on deck for this blog, as well as a ton of planned giveaways, however I am in the middle of a move and new job madness, so please excuse the summer malaise around here.  We'll get back to some regularly scheduled programing soon.    

Aug 20, 2010

Week Three Winner: Blueline Goddess

Blueline Goddess gets the romance novels!  Please send me your address so I can send them out!

More giveaways to come...

Movie: Ruffian


When I watched this once upon a time, I wasn't a fan.  I didn't remember why when I picked it back up.  Regardless, I remember being less than impressed.  Recently, I watched it again and was vaguely pleased by it...up until I remembered why I didn't like it.  Those reasons were less pronounced the second time around, but I'll just list them here for the fun of it.

Basically, they are as follows:

1) The big needle shot.  Okay, look.  I'm not very squeamish about these sort of things, but for some reason I just find it beyond creepy that they decided to show Ruffian's last moments in such a way.  Close up shot of her eye...great.  Fine.  Close up shot of her eye showing the reflection of the vet looming over her holding a giant needle...kind of reminds me of Frankenstein.  Equine Frankenstein!  Imagine the horror!

2) You could call this 1975: The Year Bill Nack Became Disillusioned With Racing aka Ruffian.  Yes, Bill Nack is a wonderful writer, and he has written many glorious, beautiful things about racing.  However, he kind of gets in the way a lot. 

3) This movie had a horrible release date.  Not that this is something I can logically hold against the movie.  Maybe I can hold it against ESPN, but there's something morbidly amusing about ESPN releasing a movie about a famous horse who breaks down in what was one of the most famous American races of the century the year after Barbaro broke down (and mere months after he died) on one of the three days America stops to remember horse racing exists.  I mean, why do we even bother trying to get people interested in this sport?  Is there a point anymore?

Basically, I just want Secretariat to be much, much better.

Aug 9, 2010

Grand Prix

Essentially, Seo Joo-Hee is a jockey who suffers the breakdown of her favorite horse and must battle through her emotions to return to the track. Woo-Seok plays the romantic male lead who has also suffered heartbreak and finds a kindred spirit in Seo Joo-Hee.

I don't know, you guys.  I could potentially love this...

(Thanks to Cinda for pointing this out to me!)

Aug 2, 2010

Book Giveaway: Week 3

This week is dedicated to romance.  The titles I've pruned from my collection are as follows:

Who's Cheatin' Who?
Ride a Dark Horse

Who's Cheatin' Who is about tapas and murder and horse racing.  I also recall some trust issues mingling with baby daddy problems.  Or something.  Melodrama is fun, you guys.  Just go with it.

Ride a Dark Horse.  This is one of those romance novels that involve children.  In my history of reading romance novels for this blog, the ones with children are automatically the most insane.

You only need to comment, and your name goes in the hat.  Previous winners need not apply.  Contest ends 8/9.  Winner announced 8/10. 

Week Two Winner: Fear Street


You have won the Bonnie books!  Send your address to wbfblog at gmail dot com!

Jul 25, 2010

Book Giveaway: Week 2

For week two, I am prepared to offer what I have of the series known as A Horse Called Bonnie.  Or whatever.  It could conceivably be called something else, like Girl and Dog Rescue Horse From Ghosts and Simultaneously Cure Heartburn/Cause Imminent Peril By Driving Crazy And Other Fabulous Adventures!

It's kind of an insane (or awesome? awesomely insane?) few books.  They were just recently republished, but I've got the old school, forty-year-old copies.  The books in this batch will be as follows:

A Horse Called Bonnie
Sunbonnet: Filly of the Year
The Betrayal of Bonnie

That's the second, third and fifth books in the five-part series, for those not aware.

So, listen.  All three of these books broke my brain in different ways that I don't think I'm ready to really contemplate yet.  However, they are fantastic reads.  The person who receives these books will be damn well happy they have them as they are presented by plots that will delight and horrify them all at once.

You only need to comment, and your name goes in the hat.  Previous winners need not apply.  Contest ends August 1st.  Winner announced August 2nd.

(Yo, Rebecca: you won the last round.  I also need your address.) 

Jul 24, 2010

Upcoming Books

The Risen Horse
by Karen Taschek (aka Karen Bentley)
Release Date: September 15

It's 1905 in New Mexico Territory, and John Chavez, a survivor of Victorio's band of Mescalero Apache warriors whom we first met in Horse of Seven Moons, is now an adult with teenage children of his own. Life is difficult on the reservation, and after the death of his beloved wife, John decides to send his daughter, Isabel, to the Indian Industrial boarding school in far-off Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to get a fine education and leave the reservation village. Reluctantly, Isabel agrees to go, although she doesn't want to leave her family or the horses she secretly trains on the reservation.

At first Carlisle is everything Isabel and her father hoped for, but the school is not immune to tragedy, and Isabel must confront her fears of death and loss. She finds new horses to train and love, linking her life and passion to the horse her father is training for her as a special surprise back home. This story of the tribulations of early reservation life that led to the modern-day triumphs of the Mescalero people also offers a rare glimpse at the strengths of education at Carlisle, largely remembered for its flaws. 
 I am so excited, you guys.   (My thoughts on Horse of Seven Moons can be found here.)

Dream of Night

Dream of Night
by Heather Henson
Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Untamable.  Damaged.  Angry.

Once full of promise and life, now lost in the shadows of abuse.  This is Dream of Night's story--and it is also Shiloh's.  One is a Thoroughbred racehorse, the other a twelve-year-old foster child.  By chance they both find themselves under the care of Jessalyn DiLima--a final stop for each before the state takes more drastic measures.  If this doesn't work out, the girl will be sent to a "residential facility" and the horse to a vet...for euthanizing.

This is their last chance, so why are they both so resistant?  And why can't they see that Jess's life is not as easy as it seems?  She fosters animals and children like them for a reason--she's a little broken too.  And, like Shiloh and Dream of Night, Jess knows what it means to have lost nearly everything you love.

So, I haven't read a horse book since May?  Is that even possible?  Apparently so.  Also seemingly impossible, I have decided to delve back into my black hole of horse books by starting with the most abusetastic of the bunch.

Dream of Night is told from three perspectives.  Shiloh, the girl who never came from the best background and wound up getting beaten repeatedly and burned by her mother's boyfriend; Dream of Night, who was a promising racehorse and/or a champion who was plagued with injury before falling off the face of the earth to end up in one of those wildly insane abusive situations; and Jess, who takes them both in and attempts to rehabilitate them.

For most of the book, both Shiloh and Dream of Night make some truly impressive attempts to not be helped.  Shiloh's over there writing every curse word she knows on the walls of her closet and ripping Misty of Chincoteague to shreds because it's Jess's favorite book.  Night spends all of his time screaming and ripping the blankets Jess has the audacity to put on his hairless body.  It's...kind of annoying.  I can't decide if this is my experience with horse abuse plots, or because I am the impatient sort.  Night didn't bother me as much as Shiloh, as her path toward great enlightenment takes longer while she's being destructive and blindly, belligerently ignorant (which is totally her prerogative, being twelve and all).  Jess does come off as even more saintlike for weathering Shiloh's nonstop storm, which is mostly extremely intense even while Shiloh makes some tiny strides toward caring about anything (i.e. Night) outside of how screwed up her immensely screwed up childhood obviously is.  Night, predictably, only starts to take some strides toward not being angry at the world when equally angry and messed up Shiloh approaches him out of...I will assume this is a kindred spirits sort of thing?

The book is framed by phone calls.  Shiloh's mom doesn't help matters when she keeps finding the phone number for whatever foster family has taken her in, so she can totally confuse Shiloh on the fact that she's not ever going to be a capable mother.  And Night's previous owner keeps calling randomly and hanging up, presumably waiting for someone to get on the line and tell him the address of the number he keeps calling.  How he got the number and not the address is anyone's guess, but essentially he wants Night he can randomly attack him with chains some more.  Great way to convince the courts that you're a responsible horse owner!  Sure, it makes no sense, but then no one ever said that abusive situations are ever logical.

The book cheats a little bit and skips forward a year, giving us moderately stable Shiloh and moderately healed Night, because to not see them a little bit progressed past the state in which they spent the vast majority of the book would be too much for pretty much anyone to handle.  

- The book is mostly made up of fragments and italics.  Horses whinny like this: Rrrhhhraaaa!  Which I found kind of hilarious, especially when Night and his former owner have an altercation that was written as Rrrhhraaaa!  "Aaaaaaaahhh!"  Rrrhhhraaaaa!  "Aaaaaaaahhh!"  Rrhhhraaaaa!

- Yes, I'm easily amused.

Week One Winner

The winner of the first giveaway is:


(I celebrate everything with big fonts!)

Rebecca, please supply me with your address.  You can e-mail me over at wbfblog (at) gmail (dot) com. 

New giveaway will be posted tomorrow.  Keep on the look out!

Jul 10, 2010

Book Giveaway: Week 1

You guys, it's come to my attention that I'm hoarding horse books.  I know.  What was my original rule way back in the day?  Don't hoard horse books.  I'm hoarding!  This is just...horrible.  That's what this is.

So I'm putting a stop to it.  I've decided to split up the books I've got into somewhat related piles and give them away on (something like) a weekly basis.  I've got enough books for six (maybe seven or eight, actually) weeks of giveaways in a row.  Yes, I did just say that.  It's giveaway summer!

The first giveaway will include the following books:

Yes, Joanna Campbell books.  I know what you're thinking.  It's probably something like I shouldn't, I really shouldn't, but I WANT them.  That's how I felt, too. 

How do you enter to win these lovely relics of the '80s?  Just leave a comment on the blog!  Contest ends 7/23.  Winner selected on 7/24, while I'm recovering from jet lag.

In the meantime, I'm going to go read Dream of Night.  Really, I am.  I'm not lying. 

May 30, 2010

Moondance Alexander

Moondance Alexander

Surprisingly enough, this isn't a horrible movie.

I know, that's not exactly a glowing first sentence, but it's true!  At first glance, it's just another story about a girl and Pinto rising from friendless obscurity to compete against Sasha Cohen, who has inexplicably decided to ride horses instead of figure skate in the Olympics.  Random?  Possibly!

Moondance (and I will not pick on her name, because theoretically it's just as stupid as the name Crystal) is a lonely kid who has just completed 9th grade.  No one will sign her yearbook, because she does not wear skirts and is therefore friendless.  Fiona, resident antagonist, sticks her gum on one of the pages after pretending to be nice enough to sign it, leaving it very clear to Moondance that she should just stop trying.  Moondance gets the message and bikes her way to the local graveyard so she can cry at her dad's headstone.

She picks herself back up after a rousing speech to herself/her dead father, and goes to her delivery job, where she happens to run into a Pinto she promptly names Checkers and takes to her backyard.  She houses Checkers in her mother's art studio/storage shed, but this is short lived, as the horse has to go back to Tumbleweed Stables, from whence it originated.  Moondance is crushed, but not in a way that makes me want to roll my eyes and check out of the movie.  She's actually not a bad character in that the way she acts doesn't make me want to throw things at the television.

Strangely enough, a portion of this scenario happened to me when I was, like, nine years old.  Friend and I were walking through the woods and a horse came plunging out of nowhere, befriended us over the course of several days, and then acted all betrayed when we tried to climb on it.  A shoe string may have been involved.  Because riding a horse you don't know bareback without saddle and bridle in the middle of the woods without any supervision whatsoever is a FANTASTIC idea.  These things happen, people!  It's shocking we weren't killed, now that I think about it.  But, you know, we were nine.  This girl is fourteen.  What's her excuse?

Conveniently, she runs into Tumbleweed Stables anyway, strikes up a deal with crotchety Don Johnson, and gets to ride Checkers.  Sasha Cohen comes along to point out to her that Pintos are worthless Indian ponies, and saunters off on her warmblood.  Whatever.  Don Johnson catches her trying to jump Checkers after that, puts a stop to it just to give her an English saddle, and then stalks off to drink in his office.  Eventually he decides to help, and there are actually some training scenes involving lunging.  COLOR ME SHOCKED.

A competition comes along, practically everyone in town enters it, Sasha Cohen and Moondance have it out, and there are predictable results.  There's also more derogatory remarks about Pintos being unsavory in hunter competitions.  Pintos and mustangs are cut from the same cloth, apparently.

It's not a bad movie, mainly because whoever plays Moondance manages to not be completely annoying.  Except for maybe that scene in the backyard, and during the colic episode (because there is always a colic episode.)  Yes, love saves all.  Determination and spirit are all it takes.  Friends...aren't important?  Who needs them!  Give possible step-fathers and step-brothers a chance.  Antagonists are icky.  You don't have to wear skirts and lip gloss to feel okay about yourself.  Pintos are FINE horses, too.  Thank you very much.

Verdict: Okay horse drama.  Maybe not the best use of an hour and a half.

May 9, 2010

The Whirlwind is not a metaphor.

by Alison Hart
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Sequel to Shadow Horse.

When thirteen-year-old Jas Schuler found her beloved mare, Whirlwind, dead in her paddock, she thought her heart would break. Now Jas knows the truth.

Whirlwind is alive.

Wealthy horse breeder Hugh Robicheaux faked the mare's death, collected insurance money on her life, then sold her to an unsuspecting buyer. And he's going to get away with his scheme, too. Unless someone can find Whirlwind. And that's exactly what Jas plans to do.

But hunting for Whirlwind is dangerous. Hugh has threatened to destroy everything Jas holds dear unless she stops her search. As she struggles with her desire to find Whirlwind without letting the people she loves get hurt, Jas must ask herself: Is all this worth risking for a horse she may never find?
I have heard repeatedly about the amazing Shadow Horse, Alison Hart's award nominated horsey mystery. For some reason, I never got around to reading it, even when I knew Whirlwind was right around the corner. After reading this, I'm making Shadow Horse a priority.

Because Whirlwind is pretty awesome.

Two months after the beginning of Shadow Horse, Jas is nearing the end of what is essentially court ordered house arrest. She's pretty obsessed with the idea that Whirlwind might still be alive, and so is the insurance company that Hugh Robicheaux has a history of scamming. Hugh, however, has no intention of being brought down, because people like him "always win." People like Jas have ankle monitors and live in mobile homes, like they're supposed to. Lucky for Jas, she's not about to accept anything that Hugh says, and uses just about every resource around her to marshal interest in finding Whirlwind.

Enter the insurance agency's investigator, M. Baylor. All of a sudden finding Whirlwind stops looking like a crapshoot and more of an actual possibility. Hugh knows it, too, and starts to threaten not only Jas, but Second Chance Farm. Hugh also knows more than he should, leading Jas to suspect there's a spy in their midst, but at a charity case rescue like Second Chance Farm, who could be feeding information to a man they all loathe?

There's illegal search and seizure, sexual tension, and murder.

There's even a hurricane.

It's awesome like that.

What I like about Whirlwind is that it's not just a horse book and it's not just a horse mystery. It's a young adult novel about a girl who's going through a lot, as well as trying to grow up. She's a barely fourteen-year-old kid taking care of her elderly grandfather, navigating a possible romance, and trying to take down the most influential man in town. It sounds like a lot for one girl and a rescue farm to tackle, but it's done with a gritty realism that had me immediately addicted.

Jas isn't a spoiled brat with horse ownership on the brain. She's human. She gets prickly and lashes out (usually at Chase, the boy she's in teenage love with, which never fails to amuse me), and she recognizes the need to apologize (usually to Chase, as it turns out) in order to remain a likable horse girl. And while she mostly lands in serious main character territory, she knows how to apply some humor into her life. She's also (dare I say it?) proactive. Nothing just randomly turns out in Jas's favor that she doesn't work hard for, something I think we can all appreciate.

Plus, she doesn't like Twilight. I mean, that alone is enough.

While this book does have a beautiful and satisfying ending, it leaves plenty of undeveloped plot for another sequel. I'll go ahead and say that I'm expecting this to be a second book in a trilogy. It may take another ten years to see it, but the potential is definitely there. In the meantime, Whirlwind is strong enough to stand on its own.

Overall: Totally worth your money. Go buy it.

May 6, 2010

Stop Sniffing Horsehair Before Bedtime, It Gives Me Nightmares

Wildwood Stables
#1: Daring to Dream
by Suzanne Weyn
First printing: March 2010

Taylor Henry loves horses, but her single mom can't afford riding lessons, much less a horse. So when she discovers an abandoned gelding and pony, Taylor is happy just to be around them.

But the rescued animals have nowhere to go, and Taylor is running out of time to find them a good home. Could the empty old barn on Wildwood Lane be the answer? And could Taylor's wildest dream -- of a horse to call her own -- finally be coming true?

You're in luck folks. Not only do I have time to write a review, but this book is practically hot off the printing press. It's barely 2 months old! I found it, and the second book while scoping out the children's paperback shelves at the public library. And they were very (very) quick reads for me. I've read both already. They were ... interesting, to say the least. Might even tempt me into trying to find the next two if I can.

What amuses me is that these babies are so freaking new, there's not even a single review on for them. Maybe I ought to be the first!

So, here we go. It's horselit, really. Your standard story about an adolescent female who has this whole dream about how horses will be the center of her life. (clearly she hasn't discovered boys and sex yet, but since I was never much impressed by the human male myself, I kind of see where this dream thing comes in ... horses give you a better ride -- har har, bad joke, bad joke!) Naturally, we need to throw in adversity of some kind. And an abused horse of course -- it's kind of expected at this point. And who can't forget that bitchy popular enemy. Hate to break it to ya, honey, but if there wasn't a bitchy rival I'd start to worry. But enough yappin', let's get to trashin'. (I kid, I kid.... mostly)

Meet Taylor Henry having this totally orgasmic daydream in the middle of her history/social studies/whatever class. She's totally riding a black Arabian stallion bareback in a field. It's brilliant, I tell you, brilliant! I'll even share it later on, and defy you to tell me it's not orgasmic. And then her teacher yells at her, and she (I kid you not) daydreams about falling off this magnificent horse into her chair and desk at school. Weirdo! She needs to stop sniffing Elmer's glue when they do Arts and Crafts.

Speaking of Arts and Crafts, Taylor was totally doodling a horse picture (I'm sooo guilty of this too, I draw horses on almost everything) and her teacher acts kind of impressed and asks her if that's her horse. Which is the perfect chance for her total rival, Plum Mason (who, besides Gwyneth Paltrow names their kid after a fruit?) starts up with a snarky comment which prompts some boy to make a snarky comment to her and the teacher is an ineffective loser who just lets them walk out when the bell rings except he gives Taylor an extra report on the horse being introduced to Ancient Egypt to write. And Taylor runs off because she's going to miss a bus. Oh yay, wouldn't that be fun.

On the bus, Taylor looks at a Dover Saddlery catalog (which is right about the point this book starts dating itself as freaking NEW) and drools over all the expensive stuff because Dover Saddlery's stuff is really expensive (but nice, sometimes... too bad their shipping costs are ridiculous) and talks to her best male friend, Travis Ryan, who is a total comic geek, and we are treated to a trip down Memory Lane about this old cowboy guy named Ralph Westheimer who owned a barn she took lessons at when she was 10 and only recently stopped riding because her parents broke up and her mom was single and poor. And then the bus passes Ross River Ranch where Taylor oogles the horses owns by some rich socialite and tells Travis about dressage and Thoroughbreds as if they're magical butterfly-farting creatures.

Finally the bus comes to a stop, Taylor gets off and starts walking home, but her mom's friend, Claire Black shows up and tells her she has to rescue some abandoned horse and pony in a barn, so off they go to find a horse and pony abandoned by a divorced couple over a week ago and the horse promptly tries to brain her. He's of course, freaking black (what is it about black horses, what? why can't they be a normal average bay?) This black horse tries to kill her, and we go through a whole monologue about some other abused (naturally) horse that didn't like people who wore cowboy hats because her other trainer had been a evil cruel cowboy-hat-wearer, and thus Taylor takes off her baseball cap and the horse suddenly turns into a puddle of goo who tries to eat her hair. Oh yay, you just know how this is going to turn out.

So some guy comes with a trailer, but because Ralph Westheimer got new horses, and is trying to make room for boarders (because apparently fewer kids are taking lessons because of this very real-life economy) and thus has no room, they take the horse and pony back to Claire's house, build some run-in shed out of tarp, and Taylor's mom shows up to take her home. Which of course is the perfect chance for Taylor to outright beg her mom to keep the horse named Albert and the pony named Pixie. Naturally, her mother, being poor, says no and Taylor throws a hissy fit.

This doesn't stop her from going to Claire's the next morning and freaking riding Albert bareback and without tack, and one of Claire's neighbors gets a stick up her butt and calls the police about the horses in the yard. So now they have to go somewhere or the sheriff will have to sell them at auction. And of course, auctions are bad juju. At school, Plum actually talks to Taylor because she wants Claire's phone number to get the horse, and Taylor tells many lies to avoid telling her because Plum is apparently a horse killer. (She's the rival, so she has to be bad, and she has to be so bad that it would be awful for her to own Albert.) Taylor does poorly on her report on horses and Egypt, and her teacher tells her about this old broken down abandoned stable he used to ride at.

After school, Taylor goes to beg her dad who apparently doesn't pay child support, for money and he says no dice, but he also talks about that broken down barn, and Taylor decides to go check it out. It's a dump, totally dead rotted old dump, but she figures a stall is a stall, and goes to get Albert and Trixie and bring them there in the dark. And when she gets there, someone shines a light in her face because apparently the place isn't deserted after all. The person is Mrs. LeFluer and she just apparently became the owner of the place even through that rich socialite chick, Mrs. Ross was trying to buy it. Taylor convinces Mrs. LeFluer to open up the barn again, Claire and Taylor's mom show up, and Claire decides that because Albert and Pixie's old owners are giving her ownership papers, she'll just give them to Taylor. So hoo rah, Taylor has a horse even though she's dead broke and can't work because she's only 13. Except maybe Mr.s LeFluer can use them or something, in exchange for board. Yay, everyone's happy.

So Wildwood Stables gets all fixed up and jazz, Mrs. LeFluer is burning through her bank account like wildfire, a girl named Daphne Chang is the "riding instructor", some chick named Mercedes Gonzalez shows up and is the Junior Barn Manager and she proceeds to be a bitch to Taylor who doesn't tell her that Albert doesn't like people with baseball caps (so freaking juvenile) and then they finally make up and traa la la la. They try and use Albert to give a riding lesson, but he only wants Taylor to ride him. Plum's mother calls Mrs. LeFluer and tries to lease Albert. Travis shows up with tools. Yeah, and then they have to fix up the old stables and stuff. And that's probably the second book right there. So, eh, to be continued.

Random Quotes:

Taylor Henry rode bareback across the cornflower-strewn field of tall grass on a glistening Arabian stallion. Clutching the creature's glossy black mane, she leaned forward, gripping with her knees and thigh muscles, in a smooth rhythm with the ebony horse beneath her. (orgasmic, I tell you, orgasmic!)

Random Thoughts:

  • I hate the people names in this book. They suck. I mean, Taylor Henry. Travis Ryan? Jake Richards. All sucky boring painful names. Don't even get me started on Plum Mason. No, just no.
  • Daphne's horse, Mandy, is "mostly a barb with a little quarter horse blood in her too" -- uh huh. That doesn't make a lick of sense once I got to the second book. But that's for the second book.

So there we have it. Standard fare for your average teenage-level horse book. Brand spanking new series. Oh bully!

Apr 28, 2010



Kentucky Derby Reading List

The first lady of Kentucky has a Kentucky Derby reading list of ten books, and Thoroughbred, by some weird turn of fate, is named twice. It appears she is a Thoroughbred fan, because I still can't really figure out why The Horse of Her Dreams is on this list otherwise.

The List:
1. B Is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet, Mary Ann McCabe Riehle
2. Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became one of the World's Greatest Jockeys
3. Little Freddie at the Kentucky Derby, Kathryn Cocquyt
4. The Horse of Her Dreams (Thoroughbred Series #24), Joanna Campbell
5. A Horse Called Wonder (Thoroughbred Series #1), Joanna Campbell
6. A Horse Named Seabiscuit, Mark Dubowski
7. Man O’ War: Best Racehorse Ever, Jennifer Guess McKerley
8. Skipingo Home, Jane Lyon and Karen Bailey
9. The Black Stallion, Walter Farley
10. National Velvet, Enid Bagnold


Apr 14, 2010

Child endangerment camp!

Horse Mad Series
Vol. 3: Horse Mad Academy
By Kathy Helidoniotis
Published in US: Mar. 1, 2009

Ashleigh and her horse, Honey, face their fears together in a new adventure.

Ashleigh Miller is starting a course at the Waratah Grove Riding Academy, one of the best riding academies in the country. It seems like a dream come true until she realizes there is more to this school than she bargained for. Getting through an exhausting riding schedule, training with the best junior riders in Australia, struggling with a horse who won't do dressage routines and competing for a chance to ride at the nationals all have Ashleigh thinking life in Shady Creek with the Creepketeers was a breeze.

But those aren't Ashleigh's only worries. She's beginning to unravel the mysterious past of her horse, Honey, and wonders if she can ever renew Honey's spirit. To top it all off, her new baby brother or sister is on the way at home, there's something fishy going on inside Roycroft Cabin and Ashleigh has to figure out a way to survive four weeks without her two best friends.

Ashleigh and Honey take on an exciting four weeks they won't soon forget.

Last time Ash had just won a trip to Waratah Grove Riding Academy, and found out her Mum was pregnant. This book sees Ash at said Academy, where all is magical and good. She stands in the parking lot for a while bemoaning her pregnant mom drama and getting all hot for a silver horse someone else is unloading from their trailer. She meets Mrs. Strickland, the boss, and gets thoroughly embarrassed by her parents at lunch before they leave.

She then makes friends with some girl named Brooke. It’s very important that you know that Brooke is wearing make-up, with painted nails, chews gum in an obnoxious manner, and says “like” in every sentence. This means she’s evil, but Ash is not genre savvy, so she doesn’t pick up on it.

Juliette, some other obnoxious girl who only repeats what Brooke says, and Ash are assigned to the Roycroft cabin with three other girls. Ash dubs Brooke, Juliette, and herself the Three (goddammit) Groveketeers. They meet their cabin leader, an older girl named Kylie who’s a big name rider.

The cabin mates and their horses are:
Brooke - Angel (the grey Ash drooled over)
Tash - Silverado
Molly - Rebel
Juliette - Storm
Ash (duh) - Honey
Lena - Biscuit

Brooke and Tash hate each other and Brooke warns Ash to stay away from her. Lena, the youngest in the cabin, is a bit of a crybaby, but she is only eight. Molly is a vegetarian.

Everyone gets their schedules, which are totally hardcore, are told the requirements to graduate from the camp, get homework assigned, and hear about the Waratah Grove Cup, a trophy that is rarely awarded, and only to a rider who proves themselves worthy. Ash vows to win it.

At Ash’s first Dressage lesson she gets chewed for showing up not dressed appropriately, after Brooke had said she looked fine. Brooke is the queen of passive-aggressive warfare.

Honey refuses to enter the arena, then freaks half way through a routine, tosses Ash and makes a run for it.. Ash gets back on, finishes her test, and feels pretty good about it until Brooke suggests that maybe she can’t handle a mare, and should get an easier gelding.

At the show jumping lesson, Brooke is a smart ass who makes sure everyone knows she’s a B-grade jumper, and bullies her mare. Ash jumps clean. Of course she does.

Tash has a picture of her little sister that someone cuts up into tiny pieces and then frames Ash for. Brooke tells Ash that they can’t be friends anymore, leaving Ash completely isolated. Brooke then begins open bitchiness.

Ash rocks the cross-country practice, and her next dressage lesson starts off well until she starts Honey in the arena where someone starts ringing a bell until Honey spooks. The instructor bans her from the dressage ring.

Molly and Tash help Ash eavesdrop on Brooke, who dun dun dun… is Carly’s cousin! The newly formed trio plot revenge. They steal her clothes and blackmail her with a warning that they’ll tell on her or some such.

Tash tries to help Ash with dressage, but Honey still acts like a butt. So they decide to train in the woods. Awesome. Honey randomly does a flying lead change and Tash gets all hot over her. Honey must be a dressage horse! So it’s to the library where they do a search on Honey, formally called Argonaut. They discover that Honey’s last owner had whipped her across the head repeatedly after a poor dressage score. Ash discovers a scar that she’d never noticed before behind Honey’s ear.

She goes to see Mrs. Strickland, who gives her a bullshit, “I knew but couldn’t tell you because you needed to learn it for yourself” talk. WTF? The adults in these book are morons.

Brooke keeps up the bitchiness, Ash is awesome at the show jumping, Tash reveals that her mum died and she takes care of her little sister. They keep practicing dressage until Ash is finally allowed back into the arena. Honey does the simple beginners course, but Ash feels the need to be a show off, and throws in some fancier moves, which earns her a bitching out from the instructor, who somehow manages to spook Honey, who chucks Ash into the wall.

The camp intends to send Ash home until Lena suggests that they teach Honey to park. Ash, Tash, and Molly argue, Honey refuses to park, Ash does bad in her last jumping lesson, she does good in her last cross country lesson, she’s still banned from dressage, then finally Honey learns to park and that makes everything better. Ash gets the okay to take the dressage test, Mrs. Strickland gets all proud, Ash gets all nervous over the test until Lena points out that, hey, it’s only horse riding. Genius!

Brooke and Ash make a bet that whoever gets the worst final score will refuse to have their name put on the Honour Board. At Ash’s dressage test, aside from a few little mistakes, everything goes fine. Ash makes up with Molly and Tash. In the show jumping, Ash gets a few faults. After some freaking out, Ash rides the cross country perfectly.

Ash gets to graduate, she gets more points than Brooke, who promptly forgets their bet, and Molly gets the Waratah Grove Cup for some reason. Ash goes home and her parents tell her about a new riding school opening up in Shady Creek looking for riders to come work for them. End.

God… What can I say? That the person in charge knew why Honey was acting like a nutcase, and didn’t say anything blew my mind. That Brooke was a villain in a book with enough to overcome without needing a villain, was ridiculous. And of course, the antagonist has to be abusive to her horse. That Ash, through stupid luck and actual hard work, fixed her batshit crazy horse with no help from the adults and didn’t get that super special trophy was anticlimactic. Would it have been cliché? Yeah. But it would have made sense. Molly did nothing of real interest, nothing to deserve the thing. Unless they’re handing out trophies to people for being Ash’s friend, but then Tash and Lena deserved one as well.

BTW, I noticed something about the cover. The pic above I got off of Amazon. The rider kinda looks like she's about to sneeze, the horse is obviously a bay, and has no blaze. My book's cover is exactly the same picture, except the rider is smiling, the horse is still bay, but the color has been lightened. It's still a bay, because it still has black points, but it's body is comparable to a chestnut horse. It also is sporting a blaze. I have to give them props for trying to make the horses on all the covers look like the same horse, but it's pretty easy to find chestnut horses. You don't have to photo manipulate a bay to make a fake chestnut horse. It's just weird.

Apr 11, 2010

So much PMSing...

Horse Mad Series
Vol. 2: Horse Mad Summer
By Kathy Helidoniotis
Published in US: Aug. 15, 2008

Join horse-crazy Ashleigh and her new horse, Honey, for their latest adventure.

Ashleigh Miller has just moved to the town of Shady Creek with her family. The best thing about leaving the city has been getting her new horse, Honey, and making a new best friend, Becky. But Ashleigh really misses the friends she left behind in the city, especially her other best friend, Jenna.

When Ashleigh finds out that Jenna is coming to spend the summer with her for a horse mad holiday, it sounds like the best news ever. She can't wait for her two best friends to meet. But when Jenna arrives, she doesn't get along with Becky. Ashleigh feels caught in the middle. Will the three girls be able to get past their differences and have the horse-crazy holiday that Ashleigh was hoping for?

Find out what happens to Ashleigh, Becky and Jenna in their first horse mad summer together.

I tore the last book a new one. This book doesn’t fair much better. At the Shady Creek Riding Club, Ash’s instructor Gary tells the group that the Waratah Grove Junior Cross-Country Riding Championships are coming up. The prize for which is $1000 dollars and a four week stay at Waratah Grove Riding Academy, a super swanky school. I don’t think I’ll spoil it for you by saying that Ash is going to win, but of course there must be a whole lot of wangst to get there. So let’s see what we got.

Only two riders per age group from each zone get to compete. The Club will sponsor any members who makes it in, so everyone has to think up fundraisers. Ash, having schemed for money all of the last book, is not thrilled with that, but is all sorts of excited that her BFF Jenna will be visiting for a month soon.

Becky and Ash decide to clean, paint, and decorate old horseshoes to sell as Christmas ornaments. (Side Note: Keep in mind that summer in Australia is in December. Simple, but I spent half the book being confused as Hell until I remembered.)

Ash tries to practice cross country, one of the (sigh) Creepketeers, Flea, spooks Honey and Ash falls off. Doing something like that is dangerous for the horse, so I didn’t get the chuckle out of it that I might have otherwise. But of course, Ash gets back on, does the jump, and is all around wonderful. Yay…

Ash is so in love with Jenna that it’s all she talks about. Becky gets annoyed, I get creeped out. Ash is oblivious to both. During her first ride over the cross country course, she’s totally awesome and everyone amazed. She realized that she wants to beat everyone, including Becky. She angsts over this.

Anywho, at the try-outs Ash has a clean round until the last jump, where she freaks out and causes Honey to refuse. Because of that, Carly, one of the (sigh) Creepketeers, and Becky are the two to go to the Championships.

Ash tags along on Carly and Becky’s training session. Both riders get caught up in competing and ride aggressively, earning a bitch out by Gary.

After Christmas, Jenna finally arrives. Ash bullies her about riding Cassata, Jenna is less than thrilled. Then Jenna and Becky meet, and Ash is disappointed that they don’t fall in love with each other. Jenna tells Ash that her parents are getting divorced, and she has to keep it a secret from Becky.

Jenna has her first riding lesson, Ash doesn’t train with Becky because she thinks she should stay with Jenna, after the lesson Jenna acts like a wuss because she’s saddle sore, Becky, Ash, and Jenna go swimming in the creek, Ash and Jenna act like lovers and it hurts Becky’s feeling. Then Ash blows Becky off about training to take Jenna around town. God, so dramatic.

Ash manages to tell Becky that she’s keeping a secret from her, a secret she refuses to reveal. Becky’s feeling are hurt some more. Fail, Ash. Then she bullies Jenna some more about riding, and Jenna is obviously scared, until her father tells her to knock it off.

More fundraising. Jenna has an idea to have a dance party, Flea of all people thinks it’s a great idea. The party is on and the theme is horses (duh).

Ash organizes a sleepover with Becky and Jenna. They kind of get along, go on a trail ride, until in the morning Becky discovers that the horses have gotten out of the corral. Jenna was the one to close the gate. Becky yells at Jenna, Ash sticks up for Jenna, Becky cries, Jenna cries, they find the horses, Becky goes home. God, so much more dramatic.

The dance happens and Jenna and Becky still hate each other. Ash notices that Becky’s eyes had lost the sparkle that she loved so much. I’m not kidding. The dance is a big hit, but Ash is scared that she’s losing Becky.

The three go trail riding, it turns into another emo fest, everyone cries, Becky breaks up with Ash because “three’s a crowd.” She canters off leaving Ash and Jenna. Then the forest catches fire! Then they find Becky, who fell off Charlie, twisted her ankle, and broke her arm. Ash gets her up on Cassata with Jenna and tells them to get out while she finds Charlie. She does and the day is saved. Wow.

Becky, Jenna, and Ash all decide they love each other. Because Becky can’t ride, Ash gets to ride in the Championships. She trains, the (sigh) Creepketeers try to mess with her. She goes to the Championship, rides a perfect ride, Carly gets disqualified for overuse of the whip, and Ash wins first place, a big honking trophy, $1000, the stay at Waratah Grove Riding Academy, and the love and admiration of the whole stinking world. Yay.

In the end, Jenna goes home and Ash’s parents tell her that they're expecting a baby. Ash asks if she can name it Jenna or Rebecca. The end.

God, this book. It’s almost ridiculous enough to be entertaining. As I’ve mentioned, Ash loves her friends to an unhealthy degree. I stopped caring long before the book was over. The horse related segments were somewhat few and far between, but were fairly solid. Soooo.. Ashleigh Miller vs. Ashleigh Griffen round 2... GO!

Apr 4, 2010

A Star Discovered Is Totally Being Cliche Put Him Back

Lucky Foot Stable #3: A Star Discovered

JoAnn S. Dawson


LIFE AT LUCKY Foot Stable has settled into a comfortable routine for epic friends Mary and Jody and all their horses, especially as they are working hard to train Star for his very first horse show.

But a menacing threat from a mysterious stranger may destroy their perfect world, unless Willie can save the day.

Hey folks. Apparently my last book review was back in July of 2008. I’ve either been slacking off here, or my life has been crazy insane. I’m working full time (gotta pay for that pony after all!) and riding every day that I can to get the golden boy in shape for this summer’s trail riding. Also, I’m hoping to try a Competitive Trail Ride this year, if I can. So it’s understandable that I haven’t written a review in a dog’s age.

But I picked up this book at the library – I needed a quick read or I was gonna go nuts on the bus. Postal, people, postal! And it’s singularly horrifying, and really deserves a good lambasting. So here it is, my first review in a dog’s age.

This is book 3 in a series, so I’m probably starting off on the wrong foot by totally skipping the first two books, which were not on the juvenile fiction paperback shelf, but honestly, given how this book seems willing to rehash everything that happened previously. So it’s not much of a loss.

Anyway, there’s this dairy farm, and there’s this old farmhand guy named Willie who is apparently really really pissed off that his boss is hiring someone else to do all the heavy work because Willie should be able to work himself into an early grave, damn it. But to make matters worse, there’s these two girls who board their horses at the farm, and they’re being whiny little babies about how this yearling colt named Star won’t square up for some halter show that’s 2 months down the road. So Old Willie growls at them, and stomps off to leave Mary and Jody flabbergasted before they see a dog and their yearling playing with a riding crop and see a beat-up old pickup truck with like junk and shit on it (just think Great Depression Era, folks) pull up, and Willie yells at them some more.

So Mary and Jody go see the dairy farmer’s wife, and she gives them HOT tea (gee, this lady doesn’t know weather, huh?) and starts talking about how Willie is old and stuff so he’s getting some help, and why don’t they ask Willie to help them with Star. And blah blah blah.

And there’s this other girl named Annie, and she’s sort of migrant-worker-trailer-trash, but she charms Mary’s horse, Gypsy and walks out of the stable which sort of puts a damper on Jody and Mary’s mood so they work with Star, and get into a tugging war with him when Willie shows up and lectures them.

And then fast forward like 2 months here, because they’re trying to load Star, and Willie helps them load him into the back of a pickup truck (I know of a guy who hauls a horse in a pickup) and they feed Star some grain because horses are happy eating and know they get good things in trailers. But Jody is a dumbass and the two girls take the back off the pickup without, you know, putting the freaking lead rope on and the colt gets away and runs off, and Annie catches him and walks him around with a dog leash of all things. Jody and Mary think Star needs grass, so they tie him up to a fucking harrow (I nearly shat my pants at this point … who the fuck are these moron girls?) and Mary thinks they can leave him there overnight. So is it any surprise that the poor pony gets himself wrapped up in the stupid rope and falls down? NO SHIT SHERLOCK! God, and to think they left him eating grass. Like Willie said, they were damn lucky he didn’t founder. So luckily, Star is ok and stuff, and then Willie says they need to pull his mane. And from Jody’s reaction you’d think he was telling her to kick a puppy dog. Stupid girl.

So the colt gets a bath, and they take him to this show and Jody has to mention that the colt’s name is Star of Wonder and he’s foaled on Christmas Eve (Of course he issss) and how they don’t know his sire. And he gets third place. But oh look, there’s a glaring man looking mysterious. And he comes over and starts playing 20 Questions with Willie. And Star wins his next class. Bully for him. And the mysterious man is even more angry and mysterious.

As it turns out, the mysterious man has every right to be angry. We’re told that the two girls, Mary and Jody, took Lady, one of their ponies, to a show and she got knocked up by this stallion and they decided to keep super hush-hush about it. And it’s an expensive champion stallion, and Mr. Mysterious wants his freaking stud fee. Of course, naturally, to two crying little tweenie girls like Jody and Mary, he’s a “horrible” man, but Willie does set their parents straight that he’s not horrible; he just wants to like, be paid for the fact that his stallion’s sperm made Star. But at least Mr. Mysterious is decent enough to let them maybe pay for the stud fee.

But this story’s starting to bore me at this point, because the next day the girls all feel sorry for themselves and Mrs. McMurry, the dairy farmer’s wife says they can earn money by helping prep dead chickens (Only these girls are like city slickers because they think they’re putting clothes on the birds) and Jimmy, Annie’s brother basically calls their shit so now Jody and Mary both grow a pair and pluck feathers off dead birds even though they were going to be sick. And then the next day some guy from a movie set shows up, and there’s going to be a movie, and it turns out Willie was this head wrangler-stunt-guy and they want him to be in charge and somehow Mary and Jody get to be extras in the movie. And Willie is a generous guy and says he’ll pay the stud fee, and everyone lives happily ever after, the end.

This book made me see red, really. It’s so damn cliché and shit. And the stupidity of Jody and Mary made me want to throttle them. But I guess it’s like a review or something. Maybe a review that people ought to stay away. For something that claims to be part of an award-winning series, it’s pretty lame. Maybe 2008 was a shitty year in publishing.