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!


Molly said...

Someone please explain to me why all horse authors seem to think that we want to read about riders who are perfect, or whose "flaws" are not really flaws at all? A rider can be "inexperienced," but still somehow be OMG THE BEST EVER when it comes right down to it. THAT DOESN'T COUNT AS A FLAW. Oh, and the horses are perfect, unless someone uses a whip on them too much (in which case the imperfection is not their fault, and they can be healed by a twelve-year-old girl who doesn't know what the fuck she's doing but stares into the horse's eyes a lot and whispers in their ears). The Saddle Club was full of a lot of crap in a lot of ways, but I DID like that the horses, even the background horses, had SOME defining personality traits. Like, if you gave me a list of random riders' traits and preferences and a list of the Pine Hollow horses, I could go down the list and assign them.

Shit like that is why I loved the Silver Creek series, and why my favorite YA horse book of all time may be Everyday Friends - riding takes work, there are colossal fuck-ups that occur randomly (as opposed to when a climax/life lesson is needed), a ribbon below blue is celebrated rather than being looked upon with disgust, a crop is presented as a useful aid rather than THE TOOL OF SATAN (well, there was that one Silver Creek book with the abused horse, but I can overlook that because at the very least certain things were handled realistically)...I could go on and on and ON. Basically, the riders aren't perfect, they aren't the best, their horses are good horses without being Majikal Glitter-Crapping Wonder Ponies - and there are no bitchy-for-no-reason-at-all antagonists. Oh, and friends can fight and get pissed off without it turning into a huge epic drama.

Heather said...

LOL Molly. Right on the nose. My favorite thing to see in a series is an antagonist who isn't a bitch for no reason. Who doesn't abuse their horse, kick puppies, and spend 24/7 trying to make the main character miserable for shits and giggles.

Molly said...

And those are so rare. The Saddle Club's Veronica started off as being a real character - she was spoiled, stuck-up and clueless, but not malicious, and she actually seemed to learn something when Cobalt died because of her carelessness. But a few books in the series, and all that went out the window.

It's a pet peeve of mine in YA in general.

I get more annoyed, though, by the riders who are inexperienced but so naturally gifted that they're showered with compliments nonstop and seen as serious competition from the best rider, who in those stories is always the antagonist. It just doesn't work that way. Riding, like every other sport or skill, takes WORK. Natural talents like balance or fearlessness definitely HELP, but in the end, it's the one who puts in the most work and has the best attitude (none of that "you can't tell me what to do, bitch, i pay YOU for these lessons" shit, or goofing off during the lesson) who's the best rider.

I was a "natural" rider, supposedly - I guess my duck feet and wide ass were finally good for something - but I was never very good. Because I lived in the city and took maybe ten lessons a year total.