Jan 30, 2010

Cindy's road trip to success and glory.

Cindy's Desert Adventure
by Mary Newhall Anderson

Has Cindy given up hope?

While recovering from surgery, Cindy McLean goes back and reads what she wrote in her diary so many years ago. Cindy is ure her racing career is over now, but years ago, it was just beginning...

Find out what happened in Cindy's own words as she travels to Arabian shores--the ancient birthplace of the horse--to work for Sheik al Rihani. There she learns that women are treated differently, especially women who want to race against men. But the more challenges she faces, the more determined Cindy becomes.

Will the injured Cindy find inspiration in her spirited younger self?

Oh, where to begin? Mary started to set us up for Cindy's Desert Adventure back in Fallen Star, when Cindy had unrestrained feelings of rage toward Ben al-Rihani for simply existing. Little did we know then, but Mary was actually plotting what is known as the Lost Diaries, or this book and Cindy's Bold Start, which explains what happens to Ashleigh's second baby, the disappearance of Wonder's Champion, and how Cindy wound up in New York. She'll be back later for Samantha's wedding/Ireland adventure/baby drama that was, for whatever reason, ushered in with far less fanfare.

Jan 24, 2010

The lip gloss menagerie continues!

Triple Fault
Canterwood Crest #4
by Jessica Burkhart

Three Strikes, They're On The Outs...
One: Heather pretending to date Jacob, just to mess with Sasha.
Two: A new girl who is so competitive, she makes Heather look tame.
Three: A former BFF with a new hobby: stealing boyfriends.

You expect some statement at the end of this list that collects everything together in a cohesive manner, but you don't get one. Therefore this is an odd little summary that sort of gets to the point of the three books previous (although I can't remember Chasing Blue, no matter how hard I try), but doesn't get to the heart of the matter (or any matter, actually) of this book. Intriguing! Let's take a closer look.

Jasmine, bitchy girl from book(s) previous, now inhabits Canterwood Crest. Sasha spends a lot of time feeling alternatively justified in hating her, and feeling sorry for her when the Trio makes this girl's life a living hell. No one really feels sorry for Jasmine, but since she does attempt to put some minimal effort into making friends initially, Sasha develops this tiny little soft spot that will be used against her later.

As we discovered in Behind the Bit, Callie is a boyfriend stealing, passive-aggressive, ultra competitive, borderline animal abuser. Shocking? Perhaps so. Not too recently, she was in like with Eric, but randomly showed up after break with Jacob, Sasha's almost boyfriend. During all of this, Sasha realized how awesome Eric is and decides he is the one. Awkwardness abounds when she still refuses to speak to Callie and Jacob, but will not tell anyone about Eric because to tell someone would be giving Heather an opportunity to break them up because Heather apparently loves to randomly cause chaos like that.

Eventually Callie and Jacob get back in her good graces, Callie becomes passive-aggressively ultra competitive with Sasha again (healthy!), but Sasha still holds back on telling anyone about Eric, flustering his poor, patient soul. Will Sasha ever man up? Will Eric be doomed to secret boyfriend status forever? Will Jasmine ever get a life? Will Callie ever be a genuine friend and stop being so passive-aggressive? I have so many questions!

Thankfully, Paige has a party. It's one of those parties that people dream up and never actually get around to hosting, but no matter. Paige is the new host of Teen Cuisine, in which she bakes things with real butter and a hell of a lot of confectioner's sugar. Sasha intends to tell everyone about Eric at the party, announcement style, as if everyone at the party really actually cares who she is dating. But Jasmine steps in to inform Sasha that she already told Callie and guess what? Callie flipped the hell out! Sasha, because she is exceptionally gullible, believes this completely. Eventually, Sasha does man up and tells Jacob and Callie herself. They have no idea what she's talking about, and appear to not really care. Sasha is free to go on dates with Eric, and I am still not exactly clear on what a date between thirteen-year-old kids really even entails, but I'm pretty sure I am going to find out soon. I am thrilled about this, let me tell you.

And then Jasmine's evil plan to get on the advanced team is set into motion: Allison and Julia are caught cheating on a history exam. Apparently Allison and Julia aren't the cheating type, so hello cliffhanger. Who will be on the advanced team now? What will become of Allison and Julia? What movie will Eric and Sasha see on their hypothetical date? WHAT LIP GLOSS WILL SHE WEAR?

- I sort of love Sasha and Eric. I heart them. I admit it.

- These books are like experiencing sugar shock. In fact, I am pretty positive no one eats if the food isn't laced with sugar or chocolate.

- I am still not sure why Jasmine is at Canterwood. Did I miss the answer to this somehow? It is possible I did, but it does seem weird to me that she's, you know, there.

- Mistakes: spiraling in. I'm a tad dyslexic concerning right and left. Learning riding aids has been a magical and hilarious experience! So I tend to forgive these mistakes in fiction. That said, you can't ask a horse to spiral in when your leg is telling it to spiral out. That whole sequence of Sasha spiraling in on Charm totally would have earned her a larger circle instead of a smaller one. You were looking for outside leg there, Sash.

I still really enjoy these books, even if the sparkly sugar texting melodrama is well past me.

Jan 14, 2010

Romping through Disneyland!

Disneyland: The Bluegrass Special

Welcome to The Wonderful World of Disney, originally called Disneyland. Running from 1954 to 2008, Disneyland apparently caused the "Davy Crockett craze of 1955," according to Wikipedia. This may be a fact that I find endlessly amusing, but yes, Disneyland did feature many, many episodes about Davy Crockett. When they weren't fangirling over a long-dead frontiersman, they were showing the innocent American public Texas John Slaughter: Killers from Kansas (awesome) to Rob Roy (probably without the blood and rape) to The Pigeon That Worked a Miracle (also sounds sort of awesome). What I'm saying here is Disney had a wide range of stories to work with, many of them westerns and animal stories, a few of them involving horses.

The Bluegrass Special is one such story. This episode came out in 1977, but it could have very well have appeared in 1954. It's got the weird/happy music, secondary characters that are in fact chickens, unexplainable antagonists (okay, so unexplainable antagonists are in 90% of horse stories, but whatever...), and random fisticuffs. Could this be awesome, you might be asking yourself? Well, let's go deeper.

Penny lives with her father and aunt at some backwater racetrack. They own one horse named Margot and a chicken named Clocker (or Clucker, but I'm hoping it's Clocker because Clucker seems too obvious and/or stupid.) Penny has one aspiration in life: to become the best female jockey ever. In fact, she has a whole wall devoted to photos of female jockeys. It resembles a shrine the obsessed or homicidal might make of their possible victims. Who knows where she got those professional head shots from. But I digress.

The meet at this tiny backwater track is about to start, and Penny sees the most beautiful dark bay/black colt that is also a rapscallion. His name is Woodhill, and he's busy trying to kill a few people. Penny tries to help, but her father isn't having any of this nonsense. Woodhill could very well damage poor Penny's head, and then where would we be? Leave it to Penny's aunt to go buy Woodhill for some paltry amount, disregarding the colt's bad reputation in order to give Penny a shot at greatness that I guess they assume they might find with Woodhill.

Enter Davy Jones of The Monkees. So apparently Davy used to be an apprentice jockey. I...did not know that. Here he is Davey (conveniently), resident top jockey, who is sort of a dick to Penny. His jockey friend, Billy Joe (or something) eggs him on. They eventually tell Penny that she can't be a jockey because she's a girl and girls don't have what it takes (aka guts). And yet Penny tames Woodhill with carrots and the use of Clocker the rooster, going on long beach rides and progressing until she finally convinces her father to enter Woodhill in the Bluegrass Special.

Only the racing secretary isn't having it. No, no, he loves that Penny will ride, but he can't wrap his head around Woodhill's antics in Tijuana. And so the racing secretary turns down their nomination and Penny is relegated to getting herself into a match race with Davey and Billy Joe. Woe.

On the morning of the match race, they discover that Clocker has gone missing. And because this chicken is all that stands between Woodhill and sheer madness, everyone is quite upset. They all stand around talking about what to do before some guy walks up with the chicken and implies that one of the jockeys took him. Aaaand, on to the match race, where Davey wins and then beats up Billy Joe afterward for stealing the chicken. Davey might be a recovering misogynist, but he plays fair, damn it. And then they all decide to race again in the Bluegrass Special, because the racing secretary saw enough to be awed by Woodhill, but not enough to be enraged that there was an illegal match race going on right in front of him.

So I like this for two reasons: the main character doesn't annoy me and it is 48 minutes long. There is also a completely gratuitous scene of beach riding, and you really can't go wrong there. And thanks to this epsiode of Disneyland, I have found two other British programs that I want to watch: Trainer and Horse in the House. More than likely, I will never see these programs, which I find upsetting because this description of Horse in the House is something I could totally get into:

Children's TV-show about kids who attempt to hide their horse, called Orbit, in the main larder in the third east wing of their country mansion, seeing as mum and dad wants to sell the horse to an Arab oil billionaire.

I am all about any television show that tries to hide a horse in a pantry/refrigerator in the third east wing of a country mansion in order to avoid oil billionaires. Honestly.

Jan 7, 2010

New HBO Series

Variety reports today that Public Enemies/Heat/The Insider director Michael Mann will direct the pilot for Luck, Milch’s new drama about the world of competitive horse racing. It’s a world Milch is familiar with; as a thoroughbred owner himself, he’s won two Breeders’ Cups. Mann hasn’t directed for TV since 1989’s L.A. Takedown, an unaired pilot that he later fleshed out into Heat. I’m expecting lots of long shots of tortured but purposeful dudes with professionalism and mortality on their minds and profane, vaguely Shakespearean dialogue on their tongues.

Milch describes the uncast main character of Ace Bernstein as “a guy versed in all the permutations of finance, elicit and otherwise. When he is released from jail for securities violations, he resumes his place at the race track, where he is a figure of long-standing repute.”

I am pretty sure whoever wrote this has never been to a race track, but whatever. I still sort of clapped my hands in delight.

Jan 3, 2010

Racing Image, and bankrupting friends.

Racing Image
by Alice Leonhardt

I am pretty positive that the plot for this book is only possible because Fredericka Graber is completely incapable of making good decisions, and our beloved main character is putting on a front of helping her when in fact she is profiting off of her horrible mistakes. Yes, I'm talking about you, Melanie.

Will Image ever behave herself on the track?
Melanie Graham's dream has come true - a chance to ride Perfect Image in her first race. Image has been running great, and it looks like they may even have a shot at winning some big-time races.

But Melanie and the black filly's trainers have forgotten how unpredictable Image can be. When she's disqualified from her first race, they wonder if she has the temperament to race at all. How will Melanie prove that with a little special treatment this very special filly can make it all the way to the Triple Crown?

Anyway, Claire already wrote up a beautiful summary of this book, which means I get to be a little lazy in reporting my own findings, which I will present to you now in the form of a list. Fantastic? I think so.

Finding #1: Melanie makes selfishness look like pure philanthropy. Way to love your fellow person, Melanie! The problem Melanie is facing is great indeed: she is in love with a horse that is owned by a person who cannot figure out her own finances. For Fredericka, this means bankruptcy and the inevitable fate of living out her life in a retirement villa while our Thoroughbred Series characters remember her fondly, but routinely fail to visit. For Melanie, this means that she may lose the horse she loves to the evil clutches of Brad Townsend, who still wants to retire and breed Image, and we all know this is the absolute worst thing that can ever happen to a horse. Especially Image, who just wants to roam around in a field all day, can't stand the track, and can't tolerate being left in a stall for more than two minutes straight. I mean, obviously a racing career is perfect for her. Retirement as an unshod broodmare would be too low a path to even consider!

As Freddy bemoans her stupidity, hinting at Brad's ruse of sincerity by wanting to buy up her stock, Melanie puts her foot down. Like hell she'll let Brad buy all of Freddy's stock and thereby help her save her farm! That means Image will be swaybacked and pregnant by the time she's three instead of four! She will train Image herself to race at the end of the month, and surely the tiny purse of a maiden race will convince the bank that Freddy is good for the rest over the course of two or three years in which Image might win the amount Brad is willing to pay now--probably in cash, because that's how he is--excluding the cost of feed and board and fees and things of that nature. This plan totally makes sense! And Freddy buys it all, allowing Melanie to puff up her head with silliness about talking to the bank and telling them how important she is despite having no money. Therefore, Melanie's brand of helping a person out is to protect her own interests and make it look like she's really in it to help Fredericka. Which is brilliant, but probably not what the series is going for in terms of teaching morals to preteens.

Finding #2: Image hates racing. Seriously, that's not even me reading between the lines. It's pretty obvious. Having never read the books that lead up to Image's run at the Kentucky Derby, I never really got why she was such an extreme dark horse. She is the definition of a dark horse, and now I get why everyone (everyone who recognized the insanity of the plot, anyway, and didn't just support it because at least it wasn't Star and Chris) was more or less disgusted that she actually won the race. So I am more in awe of the way Melanie and her band of merry followers can dismiss this plain fact, as if babying her will make Image a sane, even enthusiastic racehorse. Because sure, she has talent, but she hates it. Even Melanie seems to recognize this on more than one occasion, but she keeps pushing it as Image's "career." And I keep wondering what is wrong with this girl and why she has to push the whole feminist movement onto a two-year-old filly that hates what she's doing and/or is terrified about 75% of the time and homicidal the other 25%.

Finding #3: (This is sort of a general series observation.) Why are these people even invested in horse racing? I am always amazed by the hypocritical statements they always make about racing and retiring. You can't race a horse because it's possible abuse, but you can't retire a horse because you can't for varying reasons, one of them being (as it is here) that breeding is vaguely awful for no reason I can quite figure out other than it makes mares swaybacked and fat. Thoroughbred, your weird issues are hurting my brain.

Finding #4: I would like to see a horse sudden stop dead at the quarter mile pole, spin around, run the opposite direction into oncoming traffic, spin back around after having dodged a couple of horses by the narrowest of margins, and still win the race. I mean, people got upset when Glory won the Breeders' Cup Classic by 31 lengths, but I'm thinking this is the more impossible scenario of the two.

Finding #5: Melanie finds herself irrationally upset when she finds out that her father doesn't have $500,000 of capital sitting around to invest in a racehorse for his little girl, ultimately going to Jazz to be co-crazy racehorse owners. This results in a talk with Ashleigh and Christina concerning how she just can't expect horse racing to be like 4-H. Come on, Melanie. You don't just give away racehorses! Sure, Ashleigh may have been handed half interest in Wonder out of the goodness of Clay Townsend's heart. Samantha may have been given Shining because Ashleigh and Mike are nice like that. Christina may have been given the opportunity to buy up the Townsend share in Star because Brad was feeling sort of charitable that day. Allie may have been given a stallion for no reason at all that anyone can figure out ever. But you? You don't get handed a racehorse because that would be silly! This is a business, Melanie. Look at Cindy. Did she get her own horse? No. And why? Because no one liked her. Take from that what you will.

Finding #6: Funny quotes. Example: "Well, Vince is Image's trainer so I guess he has to be involved." Yes, Melanie. I guess he does, like, have to do his job.

Finding #7: Fashion. Thoroughbred, you fail at it. Example: Jazz's all black ensemble. Freddy's all blue pants suit, complete with blue pumps, handbag and gloves. Everyone's love of variations on brown and khaki, especially when wearing tweed.

Finding #8: I liked the book. The ending was predictable, but well done. Sure, Melanie may be forcing a career on a horse that wants no part of it, but she's realizing her dream. Which is to force things on others and bankrupt good friends along the way. Way to go, Mel!