Nov 28, 2011

Thoroughbred #50: Team Player


Team Player 
by Alice Leonhardt 
2001 

It seems that Team Player had the misfortune of being too long when it was a Word document sitting on some editor's hard drive, and instead of requesting a little editing to trim the story down to an appropriate length, the editor decided it would be easier to highlight the entirety of the last chapter and hit the delete button.
Oh, Thoroughbred. It's this dedication to quality that makes me love you so.

Will Parker make the team? 

Parker Townsend and his Thoroughbred mare, Foxglove, have proven that they have the talent to compete in the Olympics in combined training. But they still haven't made the team. Parker can't figure it out. He's won more events than any of his competitors, and Foxy is in top form. No jump is too high for them, no dressage course is too technical. So why haven't the Olympic stewards asked him to join the team? 

His trainer, Samantha McLean, knows why. Parker isn't a team player. He always does his best and usually wins, but sometimes that's not enough. In order to compete, Parker must show the Olympic stewards that he can help out his team members and ride for the team.

This summary is a tad exaggerated. Parker has in fact not "won more events than any of his competitors," nor does he "usually" win. The sad state of affairs is more subdued, but that doesn't make for good summary writing, apparently. The fact of the matter is that Lyssa has actually been the winner of all the events the summary seems to think Parker has been winning, therefore making the question of why Lyssa has been picked to be on the team and not Parker far less of a head scratcher.

But whatevs. Let's get down to business.

Parker is super busy. He's got responsibilities (horses to ride, Foxy to train, Kaitlin to yell at, mountains of tack to clean because we all know tack is forever dirty even two seconds after it's been scrubbed to death), unappreciative girlfriends to placate (Christina), parents to avoid (The Townsends, in all their awesome hilarity), and so many things to worry about (the Olympics, school, maybe buying a new horse with no money). It's hard to be Parker, okay? 

Because he has no money, he's been reduced to teaching kids how to pull the manes of their school ponies, which is a tremendous lesson in patience while Samantha is persistently nagging him to buy a young horse while trying to hide the magazine that proclaims Lyssa the next Olympic horse goddess. Lyssa has gotten on the USET team's short list, and Parker has not. Parker attempts to not be bitter, and fails. Samantha makes a casual remark about that chip on his shoulder and then whirls off to be unproductive somewhere else as Parker drags his feet to Whitebrook to remark about how his relationship with Christina has changed, and it's not for the better.

You see, Christina and Parker never see each other anymore, both aiming for their completely unreasonable dreams because everyone knows that after the age of eighteen it's standard practice to give up on yourself and help children you kind of know and/or created accomplish greatness. In other words, life loses all meaning when you're an adult. Parker tries to seek support from Christina regarding this whole Lyssa development (come on, people, we know you all just want to bitch about her. Just do it already) and gets nothing but, "That's great! They're still accepting young riders!" Of which they have one, so do they need more? Just saying.

Parker trudges off to class and then goes home to Townsend Acres, where he decides that it's finally time to suck up to his parents and try to get back into his trust fund. Brad, because nothing is better than racing -- nothing -- has cut off Parker and made him drive an unreliable truck and be poor until Parker shucks off his Olympics dreams and gets into the family business. Only all he's greeted with is a buffet table of eggs and bacon, which Parker falls upon like a ravenous honey badger while Lavinia looks on in sheer horror and Brad mutters about how a Townsend doesn't wear jeans during breakfast. They wear suits and diamonds, naturally. 

Fresh from that comical interlude, Parker runs off to Townsend Acres Version Warmbloods so he can look at a horse that is outside of his price range, because Samantha doesn't get that he has no money. That's when they meet Wizard of Oz, or Ozzie, burned out stadium jumper who has no interest in doing work ever again. Naturally Samantha's all ooooh, this one! And so they take Ozzie on trial, but not before they look down their noses at Ozzie's successful and therefore "arrogant" and obviously horrible owner.

There's a three-day event of some such that Parker wins, attracting the attention of Captain Donnelly of USET fame, which leads to Captain Donnelly deciding to move his two short list USET people (Lyssa and a Jeff who is of no import) to Whisperwood so he can stalk Parker and cause him great emotional turmoil. Parker drops the ball when put on the spot, but then manages to save things when he's invited to a lesson with Lyssa and Jeff, only to drop the ball again when he gets all internally uppity about being told what to do. Nobody knows Foxy like Parker!
You know, it's a real wonder that Christina and Parker couldn't make it through this book. They are so perfect for each other. Unfortunately they split. Or "take a break" after Parker misses a date and decides that hey, he won't try to call or do anything about it until later. How do these people not have cell phones? This is 2001!

Well anyway, Parker takes Ozzie out to mull his decision about whether or not to go further into debt in order to buy him and Lyssa, giver of bad advice, says that he totally should. Just stick him in a round pen (which doesn't wind up working, of course) and all will be fine! Oh, if only we could all be sponsored like Lyssa! What a magical life she leads. I'm shocked Parker hasn't gone crazy. I really am.

So Rolex rolls around. Samantha and Kaitlin strong arm Parker into going to the party beforehand, which Parker is of course staunchly against. Parties might mean fun is afoot, and as we all know fun is the work of the devil! I'm surprised Samantha even wants to take part in this horror show, but I suppose that she is an adult, and her life no longer has meaning or ambition. All the more time for parties! 

Parker goes to the party, only to run into his parents, who have come to the realization that there are rich people around the Rolex also! Let's mingle! Brad remarks that it's quaint that the winner gets a Rolex watch. Oh, if only Parker were into racing; he could have all the Rolex watches he desires should he give up on this fool's errand. Mission to destroy Parker's confidence accomplished, so back to mingling!

God, that man is just so awesome.

Samantha gets Parker's mood back on track on the first day of Rolex, and he completely crushes the dressage test and skyrockets into third. Then the cross country comes along the second day, and there's much angst. It is hot! Horses are dropping like flies. The jumps are terrific and difficult. If only Parker would listen to advice. Samantha is here to help with her so-so wisdom! Captain Donnelly wants him to do well, but not invite him on the team so Parker tosses his advice and goes for broke. Foxy barely makes it through the course in an effort that puts them in first place, but this effort is too much for the horse and there is pandemonium and tears and screaming and oxygen tanks and hypodermic needles and Parker feels like a total loser because his horse is probably dying right there at Rolex and...

That's the end of the book. No closure for you! That's just the way Thoroughbred rolls.

In all seriousness, Alice Leonhardt was awesome and supplied fans with the cut chapter. I once had it in my possession, and I once knew what it contained. But that was in 2001, so I've clearly forgotten it entirely and have lost the chapter in all the computers I've left in my wake.
That all said, despite the mysterious ending, Team Player is a solid installment in the series. Granted, I have a hard time wrapping my head around Parker trying to get on the USET team, especially when he has these hilarious moments of enlightenment about how he's competing against riders who are worlds better than him at Rolex and he's still expecting to get short listed. 

Maybe this series was always about supporting delusions of grandeur. It's all starting to make sense now!

#51, Distance Runner, aka Christina Discovers California And Fails to Appreciate It, is up next. 

Nov 6, 2011

Thoroughbred #49: Rising Star




Rising Star
By Karle Dickerson
Published: 2001

Hey, you guys! So I haven't read a Thoroughbred book since February 2010. I had to look this up, because it had been so long. Then I had to look up just where this story had left off with Christina before Rising Star came along and introduced Whitebrook to Louisiana. Turns out they were in Montana previously. And then everything came flooding back. It was like watching scenes from Thoroughbred flash before your eyes in a crappy montage with music by Coldplay. It was horrifying.

So let's step back on the crazy train, shall we?

Is Wonder's Star a has-been? 

No one thought Wonder's Star would get well again. Everyone was certain he would never run another race. The racing press was calling him a has-been.

But Christina Reese never gave up hope. Slowly and steadily she's been bringing Star back into racing condition. In her heart of hearts she still has Triple Crown dreams for them, but the Kentucky Derby is only a few months away and they're running out of time! Instead of starting with an easy local prep race, Christina enters Star in a tough Derby prep race, praying that he can withstand the grueling pace. Is it too much, too soon? Or will Star shine like the champion that he is? 

In the previous Star/Christina book, they were in Montana learning about the itancan from Lyssa because Star isn't being all he can be three days post deathly illness. Then the whole trip wound up being useless because all they had to do was wrestle in a pond for five seconds and magically Christina and Star are best friends again. Hooray! Let's win the Kentucky Derby!

Only since we all know Thoroughbred is basically just a roller coaster ride through Christina's manic depressive episodes, this is bound to unravel completely. Because everyone around Christina is somewhat competent, professional, and experienced, she starts to lose her shit when they unanimously agree that Star is not on the path to Kentucky Derby immortality. This collective knowledge, of course, does not equal the simple fact that no one knows Star like Christina, a line that Christina mutters to herself at least once every other chapter.

While Christina and Ashleigh are having this unspoken battle of wills, a reporter from the Racing Reporter shows up to ask Christina lots of leading questions like "Is Star a total brat?" and "Are you suffering delusions of grandeur?" Apparently the only way this woman got on the farm is because Ashleigh somehow thought she was saying Daily Racing Form every time the lady told her Racing Reporter, which is the most awful of awful racing publications in the world. Ashleigh doesn't bother to hide her disgust about this lady's employer, right before she abandons her child with a reporter she clearly does not approve of. Nice going, Ashleigh! Another example of shady parenting accomplished.

While the reporter eagerly clamors for gossip about how Star is washed up and a "bad actor," Christina becomes infuriated that anyone could think any of these things about her precious baby. She proceeds to have a literal melt down, and takes her feelings out on the track to prove this reporter wrong. Of course, because Star is a sensitive snowflake, the shit hits the fan and Christina not only delivers the most stunningly awful work in the history of Whitebrook, but because she doesn't use a crop she resorts to smacking her wonder pony around with her hand. During a work. Because when all else fails, hit your panicking mount when you're zig zagging across the track going 35 miles per hour! Awesome thought process, Chris!

So it takes about a chapter and a half for Chris to a) verbally abuse Dani and Star, b) physically abuse Star, and c) receive no punishment except for realizing her own mistakes. Because that in itself is punishment, or something. Christina proceeds to almost fall off of Star before realizing she needs to "join up" with him...although how she does that while she's clinging to his neck is questionable. Nevertheless, it happens.

Armed with proof that Christina is a total nut job, the reporter writes a pathetically childish gossip story that everyone in the country immediately believes. Christina, for about two seconds, thinks this is fine. Let everyone think Star is a has-been! At least the reporters will leave them alone now. And then she gets all pissy when everyone thinks Star is finished.

Sigh. It's so hard being locked in this kid's brain, you guys. I can't even.

Then Ashleigh decides to ship Image to Florida, where Whitebrook has historically dominated for eons. Christina takes it for the slap in the face that it is: Image is Whitebrook's Derby horse...despite the fact that Image is not Whitebrook's in any way, shape or form. Nor has she proven to be Derby caliber, or even interested in racing. Who knows. I certainly don't. Christina goes all bonkers, crashes into depression, and decides to watch Wonder's Derby tape so she can throw it in Ashleigh's face and ask her why she's trampling all over Christina's dreams.

Ashleigh, naturally, takes this to heart and tells Christina about this fabulous place called Louisiana. It's a state! In America! And Christina is all, "Tell me more about this...Louisiana." And then she's immediately turned off because such a newfangled place could never have the competition in Florida. Christina, being passionate about running her horse into the ground, will only accept G2 Derby preps or better. Little, short, dinky races are not acceptable as come back races for Star.

But then Christina hears of the Louisiana Derby, which she supposes will do for her purposes. She attempts to sweet talk her mother into her race selection using bagels, but Ashleigh has experienced an unusual moment of forethought and entered Star before Christina could have a panic attack about it.

Now we enter Christina's manic phase. She's so happy! Star is going to be awesome and prove everyone wrong, especially that evil Racing Reporter lady and all the people she converted to the opinion Christina wanted them all to have. But then she learns that Celtic Mist, the Townsend Acres horse of doom, is racing in the Louisiana Derby, sending Christina crashing into depression...despite getting what she wanted? Didn't she just want to race Star in the Florida Derby against Celtic Mist...? I'm just going to stop trying to follow her thought process. It's way too hard at this point.

So, in New Orleans, a place that does not take itself seriously (which Christina notes disdainfully while telling herself she's taking everything seriously) Christina notes with horror that it is hot, and there is jazz music everywhere, and this place has culture that she refuses to appreciate because she's busy. And then Brad Townsend and Lavinia show up to go through a comic relief sketch only found in movies meant for eight-year-old children. Dani sprays them with a hose, and then Brad steps in manure...only to scrape it off his foot without looking because he's in the Intimidate Christina Using His Persuasive Voice Zone.

Then Christina crashes again, because Celtic Mist is awesome and she should just stop trying. No one believes in her, Parker doesn't want to talk to her because she's deferring college for a year, and no one needs to know that she should be on serious medication. So she calls Ashleigh, who talks her off the ledge. Christina is happy again! And then she crashes again. Then she listens to some random track workers talk about their jobs and she's happy again because if you're going to work on a track, you should at least own a wonder pony. Those poor saps! Christina is living the dream!

And then she wins the damn race like we knew she would and they talk about red roses being better than orchids, the Louisiana Derby flower. Yeah, screw orchids. Roses are awesome.

I could get into a list of points of interest, but I think Claire already covered them here. Plus, there's a lot I find enraging about Lyssa and her stupid itancan philosophy and the superior/anti-fun attitude Christina & Co. have toward everything that I don't think can be contained in this post.

I will be moving on to some book about Parker next, because he's got Olympic issues that take whole books to cover.

Oct 19, 2011

Upcoming: The Greening of Whitney Brown

My one thought: Kris Kristofferson seems to be cornering the girly horse movie genre. That is all.

Oct 17, 2011

Upcoming: The Cup



So this has been out in Australia for all of five seconds, and I have no idea when it's wandering over to the US. Still, it looks promising in a Champions sort of way.

Aug 13, 2011

The A Circuit doesn't mean there is no drunken horse jumping. That's a class, right?

The A Circuit
Georgina Bloomberg/Catherine Hapka
2011

First things first concerning The A Circuit. I know it's trying hard to appeal to the general Gossip Girl set, but let me say now that if you don't know what Ariats are, you will be lost in this book. Just put the book down now, go find some other rich girl clique YA lit and move on with your life. This book assumes first and foremost that the horse obsessed -- hell, the experienced and knowledgeable horse obsessed -- teen girl is its audience. Expect no horsey explanations, because there are none. Therefore, I'm not going to even bother defining Ariats.

Second, this book undermines itself. But wait, let's back up and look at what we're dealing with. We've got three characters:

Tommi: She's a billionaire's daughter and spends most of her time trying to prove that she's a hard worker. She didn't just rise to the top of an insanely expensive sport because her daddy has money! She just wishes people would understand how hard she works because horses are her life and if they, you know, wind up not being her life she'll go to Georgetown or something.

Kate: She's the money poor, determined, worker bee, rise above all challenges character that is required in all horse literature. I actually liked her, even though she's sort of a doormat. Her issue is she doesn't think she's ever good enough, maybe she has OCD, and she's got a crush on the barn womanizer.

Zara: If the two previous characters are cliches, she is the cliche to end them all. The daughter of a rock star and an actress, we're supposed to pick up on her anger and loneliness that drives her complete and intolerable batshit crazy, but mainly I kept thinking batshit! Kill it with fire! Mainly, she makes an ass of herself repeatedly.

So, that's what we've got. There is little plot to speak of outside of Tommi and Kate acting sane and rational within expected horse book standards while Zara is given all the actions of the villain. Unfortunately we're forced to listen to her bitch and moan for at least a fourth of the book because someone decided she should be a main character. This is pretty gutsy, but the author(s) completely failed to realize that characters like Zara need to grow or have some redeeming quality we can latch on to so we don't completely hate them. And I hated Zara. Not because she a) cannot ride (because she can't...wow, she really can't), b) is a completely ridiculous brat prone to literal temper tantrums, and c) actually smokes in the barn. None of those things actually annoy me. What pisses me off is that there are no consequences for this character. None, even as the evidence of her raging stupidity is plain to see in broad daylight and other characters recognize and react negatively. Still, nothing. So when the other characters are whispering about how Zara's going to get kicked out and the trainer is serious and professional and won't take Zara's shit, I eventually react by thinking lies! This book is lying to me, and it's doing a poor job.

Also, the brouhaha leading up to the completely irrational non-ending of this book is ridiculous. For what reason would anyone cover for Zara after she flagrantly and drunkenly injured a virtual stranger's horse? Why are they all not kicking her out on her ass? Oh, because she's a main character. That's why.

I skimmed through Zara's sections to save myself the torture, but Tommi and Kate were passable. The book would have been hugely helped had someone actually knocked Zara around a little bit, because as it stands I felt only frustration and I'm pretty sure that was the driving motivation behind my reading it while scowling and then typing this review at 1am. I won't be reading the rest in this series, which is unfortunate because the author(s) are clearly horse knowledgeable and there is a remarkable and refreshing lack of sappy girl/wonder pony forever friendship love HOORAY BUTTERFLIES. I just don't think I can stand by while Zara inevitably lights the barn on fire and everyone notices but she still doesn't get arrested for arson.

So, yeah. Zara ruined it for me. Sorry, folks!

Also: brand name count! I tallied 22 brands, which is actually far less than I was expecting. The book expends most of them in the first couple of chapters, but someone in this writer duo (or should I just say Catherine Hapka? I mean, we're all thinking it, right?) brought it under control. 

And that, you guys, is my first horse book in...yeah, I don't even know. I'll just say "a while" and leave it at that.

Aug 3, 2011

Upcoming: more fun in the YA department



My Favorite Mistake: An A-Circuit Novel
March 13, 2012

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new “nanny” her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding. 

Note: This is specifically being marketed toward girls who have "outgrown" Canterwood Crest, and as I read that I was appalled. Just how old are these kids now? What the hell is going on? How old is this blog? *cries* Also, as an afterthought, I do have The A-Circuit sitting on my coffee table. I'm prepared to read it while keeping a running tally of how many brands get name dropped per chapter. I'm excited!

The Scorpio Races
October 18, 2011
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Note: This is a blurb? She's in no way prepared? For what? Conflict? The plot? Well, color me intrigued. Okay, look. I'm not a fan of Shiver. I kind of got a third or a fourth or something into that book and rolled my eyes so hard there was no hope of recovery. Now the author has run off and written some young adult paranormal/dystopia/romance/horse book thing, creating MUCH INTERNAL ANGST because this is like a cocktail of all my guilty pleasures. Thanks a lot, Maggie.

Aug 1, 2011

Pam's Bitchy BFF Adventure

I have no lead in, let's just get right to it, shall we?



Pony Camp vol. 2
Pam's Trail Riding Adventure
by Susan Saunders

The trail can be a scary place to ride...

Everyone at Pony Camp is looking forward to the trail ride - everyone except Pam.

Pam's terrified because her slow, steady horse is hurt, and she has to ride Dandy - the wildest horse in the stable.

Pam needs help from her best friend, Jessie, but Jessie won't help her. She's mad at Pam for being nice to nasty Lisa Harris.

But on the trail, it's Lisa Harris who needs help - and Pam is the only one who can save her. Will Pam be brave enough to rescue Lisa?


Jeez, this synopsis is even more wrong that the first one was. Let us count the ways...

In this book we get a change from Jessie's POV to Pam Werner's. This is not the relief you might be hoping for, as Jessie is still a ginormous beyotch, but we'll get to that. Pam here is not too thrilled with Pony Camp, but being a weak willed thing, she can't say no to Jessie. So in spite of having nightmares about riding runaway horses, she hauls her ass to camp every day, not telling Jessie that she is, in fact, quite nervous around thousand pound animals, because that would make her a total wimp and she would lose her special title of "Jessie's Bitch." Yep.

Anyway, Pam's horse, Gracie, the sleepy chestnut mare, somehow does herself an injury, and has to rest for two weeks. Her replacement is Dandy, who everyone treats like Horse Jesus or something. He's an Arabian show horse and he's- I quote- "the color of coffee ice cream, with a vanilla mane and tail and a white diamond on his forehead."

Lisa Harris happens to walk by and instantly gets all hot for Dandy, trying to bully her way to being his rider. When she finds out Pam will be riding Dandy, she says the best (and by that I mean worst) line she has in the whole trilogy, "What a total waste of excellent horseflesh!" WTF? Who talks like that?

So after an awkward first lesson on Dandy, Pam comes to find out that her mother has invited Lisa's BFF Sally to spend the night. This apparently is the worst thing ever, because Pam is all upset, Jessie gets pissy at Pam, and Lisa is out to get Pam. Wow. Top it all off with news that the camp is going on their first trail ride, it is officially the worst day of Pam's life.

We get more of Jessie being a bitch for a while, because obviously Pam wants to be BFFs with Sally, and everyone knows you can only be friends with Jessie. It is a full. time. job, people. Then... the sleepover.

Pam and Sally both confess to being afraid of horses, and get along pretty well, until the next morning when they arrive at camp and Sally runs back to Lisa. This is apparently all Jessie needs to forgive Pam for her terrible deeds. At least until Lisa shows up and tells Jessie that Pam is scared of horses, and Jessie's a big meanie face for making her be there. Jessie, what else, gets pissy at Pam and storms off. Lisa then informs Pam that Dandy will runaway with her on the trail.

Pam confesses to her instructor, Diana, that she's afraid of horses, and terrified that Dandy will bolt with her on the trail ride. Diana points out the absurdity of the camp buying a runaway and putting a beginner on him, then points out that Pam has gained a lot of confidence around horses since first starting out. She then teaches Pam about horse body language, which somehow makes Pam feel all better. She even grows a pair and tells Lisa to get out of her face, regaining a tiny amount of approval from Jessie. They make up and it's all beautiful and whatnot.

So what happens to Lisa? You know, the synopsis was all, "Will Pam be brave enough to rescue Lisa?" The answer is no. Not that Pam isn't brave enough, it's just that she herself doesn't rescue Lisa from anything. Lisa's horse lays down to roll in the stream, and Lisa's instructor pulls her off her horse before he rolled over on her. And Pam, Jessie, Maxine, and Peter ride away laughing about it. The end.

Things of note:

Jessie is one of the bitchiest characters I've EVER read, and in horse literature that is saying something. We are talking bitchier than Cindy you guys. The only thing worse is how Pam bends over and takes it.

I'm not sure why Peter exists. He did literally nothing in this book, or any of them really. It's a trilogy that focuses of the three girls, Peter doesn't get his own book, he barely gets any story at all.

Two down, one to go...

Jul 24, 2011

Canada takes things seriously, okay?

Sometimes we all make silly choices.


Such as the choice I made last weekend to buy season two of The Adventures of the Black Stallion because it was $5 at Target. And with the remains of my gift card, that made it free. You know, that beautiful word I look for when hunting for horse-themed anything. Free.

Today I popped in a disc and reveled in the cracktasticness of this thoroughly horrible show. Today we will be discussing the episode Almost Home, because Alec and The Black have finished up with their French shenanigans and have decided to head on back to the good 'ol U.S. of A.

Only they are diverted to Canada, where our merry story will take place.

Alec starts off this episode by summing up his time in France. Oh, there was beautiful sightseeing and chances to meet new people, plus lots of fun new challenges like steeplechases and running from people on motorcycles and accidentally setting off a box of grenades that cause magical things like money showers! Ah, those silly, silly French! What a wonderous people!

However, all good things must come to an end, and so our band of heroes accidentally lands in Canada. For some reason, The Black must spend some amount of time in quarantine as they wait for their next flight. The vet at the quarantine center spends his time telling his helper son that he's an idiot, causing him to do pseudo-abusive things like throwing grain at horses. The horror.

Meanwhile, Nicole (French bandit/stable worker) has hidden herself in a pile of shrink wrapped cargo. How she survived is questionable, but she pops out and says, "America! I will find my lost father here, surely!" And Alec says, "Yeah, actually this is Canada. Good job, Nicole."  Then he walks off laughing. He's such a great friend.

Over at the quarantine facility, after Alec has yelled that he's not supposed to be here and the vet has helpfully informed him that he is, in fact, here, Julien the stable hand has taken the horses hostage with noise makers and a water gun. This is his domain! Bow to Julien and his party supplies! The Black, of course, immediately attracts his outrage. There's...noise made in the stallion's direction. It was probably shocking and horrible. There was probably glitter involved. Later on, Alec decides to exercise The Black, who takes that moment to attack Julien. Julien dives under a truck and The Black literally tries to crawl underneath it so he can punch the guy in the face with his hoof.

This results in The Black visiting the time out chair (ie, a small wooden box). Alec is appalled and begins to hatch a plan to bust The Black out of a government facility. Julien breaks out his taser, but he's too busy monologuing to The Black about how he feels so powerless and unloved to actually use it before Alec crawls through a window and tackles him. The Black gets out of his time out chair, stomps on Julien, who submits and cries about how he'll never be a vet. No one loves him. He should just be punched in the face!

Alec, after thoroughly kicking the crap out of him, decides that he's above punching Julien in the face. The vet is fired. Julien is helped off by a confused bystander. The Black is probably released from quarantine early, or it's possible that Alec and Nicole ride double on The Black's back, gloriously romping through the Canadian countryside on their way to the border, which we all know no one cared about in the early 90s. I'm sure they rode like the wind.

Jul 23, 2011

Hold on to your butts as Jessie Takes the Reins

Oh my God the Pony Camp trilogy. Just... my. God. Remember those books you read as a kid, the ones you loved but gave away for some reason, leaving them to ferment in your memories until you know you know that book, but can't exactly remember it? These are those books for me. I swear I must have had them damn near memorized at one point, but they hit the table at some garage sale or another. As I was putzing around the interwebs I unintentionally rediscovered them. Of course I HAD to order them. I mean, the nostalgia!!



Pony Camp vol. 1
Jessie Takes the Reins
by Susan Saunders

Will Jessie ever learn how to ride?

Jessie has always wanted to learn how to ride a horse. Now she's going to pony camp to meet the beautiful horse of her dreams. But Ranger isn't what Jessie expected.

He's spotted. He's stubborn. He's short.

And he doesn't like Jessie any more than she likes him!

Jessie wanted to be a great rider overnight. But learning to ride Ranger is really hard. What's worse, snobby Maxine from Jessie's third-grade class is a great rider who thinks she knows everything. Will Jessie need help from bossy Maxine to make her dream come true?


That's a long ass synopsis for a 90 page book, and it's not really all that accurate. Awesome.

So eight year old - I MEAN EIGHT AND A HALF since she mentions it twice on the first page (God it's first person narrative) - Jessie Johnson is a horse fanatic who's going to pony camp (no really?). She's also an idiot, but I'm getting ahead of myself. She's "read every horse book in the library, so I'm an expert on horses."

Jessie and her BFF Pam are off to this day camp where Jessie KNOWS you guys that she's going from beginner to expert in like five minutes, because she knows EVERYTHING about horses. Yep. She has wet dreams over the huge black thoroughbred that will be her magikal steed, named Thunder or something equally cliche.

Anyway, Jessie and Pam and put in a group with a fat boy named Peter, who is fat and messy and has a stupid haircut and eats candy all the time and ISN'T JESSIE'S NARRATIVE A GEM YOU GUYS? As well as Maxine who is neat and tidy and a good student and bad at sports and therefore a huge bitch and Jessie and Pam hate her OMG. Seriously, we get a lot of info about why Maxine is hate worthy. I mean, when Jessie hears Maxine has been taking riding lessons for a few months and is a natural, Jessie nearly shits her pants over how much that CAN'T be true.

So THEN Jessie meets the horse she's been assigned, an Appaloosa named Ranger. And apparently a spotted horse is a world ending situation, because while a black horse or a white horse would be an appropriate mount for little miss bitch, I mean bitch, I MEAN JESSIE - a black and white horse is OMG ugly kill it with fire.

But Ranger has the sense to be unimpressed with Jessie as well, and when Jessie utterly fails at EVERYTHING Jessie declares the HORSE has an attitude problem.

But if there isn't enough drama for you yet, we get introduced to our main antagonists, Kevin and Lisa Harris, and Lisa's BFF Sally. They're pretty much carbon copies of every horse book antagonist EVER. Except they really don't do anything in this book except trash talk. More on that later.

So the first time Jessie get's in the saddle she closes her eyes and lifts into a jump position and Ranger has the GALL to MOVE HIS HEAD A LITTLE BIT WHILE STANDING STILL. Jessie is ill prepared to handle such a wild movement and is pulled out of the saddle and onto his neck. Clearly this horse is out to get her. The first time they try a trot Jessie falls off and demands a new horse because Ranger is horse Satan or something.

So then there's some more smack talking from the Harris siblings that culminates in a swimming race which our "heroes" win. I fail to see the point.

And finally, Jessie happens to see an older rider taking Ranger over some jumps and gets all hot for the horse and decides to keep riding him instead of another horse, which Ranger is no doubt thrilled over. And we are treated to a saccharine ending in which Jessie comes to realize that she IS in fact a beginner. Gasp.

Things of note:

None of our four are typical horse book protagonists. Jessie and Pam are good students who love playing sports of all kinds. Maxine is very neat and tidy. Peter is... um... well, he doesn't really count.

The synopsis led me to believe that Maxine was the antagonist. And Pam and Jessie go on and on about what a bitch she is before she actually shows up in the book. Their proof of her bitchiness is: she's clean, bad at sports, and quiet. From the moment she appears she obviously has low self esteem, tries hard to be nice and helpful, and never comes across as condescending despite the fact that she OBVIOUSLY is a more knowledgeable and experienced rider.

Jessie is a bitch to her own BFF, getting mad at her for asking dumb questions and getting impatient with her for being nervous around horses. OUR HERO YOU ALL.

So obviously this thing doesn't coast on nostalgia, but then again as I read it I was reminded of the fact that I thought Jessie was a know it all bitch even when I myself was a young horse crazy child, so there you go.

May 27, 2011

Firehorse - A review!

Firehorse
by Diane Lee Wilson
2010

My first horsey read in ages! I had not heard of this book before finding it in a second hand bookshop a few days previously. What a stellar read!

Firehorse focuses on fifteen year-old Rachel, her struggles with her family and their beliefs that a stable is no place for a girl. While Rachel dreams of galloping astride a horse, her father holds her back and insists on her acting as a girl in the 1800s should. Be meek and submissive and cast a good impression for the family's rise up social ladders.

Then The Governor's Girl comes into her life. The Girl is a Firehorse, one of a team of four that pulls the fire engines around Boston. Close to death and badly burned, The Girl is a spirited, willful animal that would prefer to plant a hoof in the head of any human rather than
allow them to help her.

Through The Girl, Rachel learns that she does have a place: as a veterinarian.

Hey, look. I am not a fan of historical fiction but there is something special about this novel. It is more than the healing power of love a la many horse novels out there. *cough* Rachel actually has complex
relationships with her family (and the rather hunky vet) and has her own personal battles to win too.

The writing is fantastic. The plot complex and intriguing. It is so good, in fact, that I cannot be snarky about it. Read it and do not be put off by the setting. Any horse-lover will enjoy this one!

Mar 31, 2011

A Vamp in the Stalls - Yea or Nay?

So...

Strange things are happening on the horse farm. It all started with the arrival of Gato, a little horse from South America. He was sluggish. Extremely sluggish. And under his mane were tiny bite marks. A creepy disease? Jarrod thought there was a vampire bat on the loose and went looking for it. I thought it would be fun, hanging out with Jarrod. But it’s not fun anymore. Jarrod’s getting paler by the day and he’s acting weird. And Tsar, my favorite pony, is sick now, too. What is really going on inside the barn? 

I'm thinking I may need to read this.Who else thinks this needs to happen?

Mar 21, 2011

New Books

Dare to Dream
by Valerie Lilian
Pub Date: 3/15/2011

Dreams only lead to disappointment. I've had dreams of finding a family and of having my own horse. Something always goes wrong. Look what happened when I took a ride with those boys. The main reason I went was to see some dumb horses; horses that landed me in the hospital and are soon to land me in that hole they call a home. My dreams are history. If I expect the worst I won't be disappointed. Jan Allen wakes up in the hospital after a drunk-driving accident with high school friends. Although innocent, Jan is no longer wanted by her foster parents and is forced to return to the horrible girl's home upon her recovery. Jan used to live in a dream world, but after twelve years of foster-homes and countless foster families, she's convinced herself that dreams do not come true. When Jan meets Tammy, a competitive horse rider, her life is changed forever. Tammy's elaborate schemes present Jan with her dream horse and a compassionate young cowboy. But Jan's dream becomes a nightmare when she crosses paths with Celia, a jealous and vengeful girl who stops at nothing to see Jan ruined. Dare to dream is an exhilarating story filled with the magic of horses, teenage romance, and the struggles of a young girl who Dared to Dream. 

Finding Somewhere
by Joseph Monninger
Pub Date: 11/8/11

Two girls: Best friends Hattie and Delores feel that life in their small New Hampshire town is a dead end.
One horse: Old and about to be put down, Speed gets a reprieve when Hattie and Delores decide to save him.
A road trip: Determined to set Speed free, Hattie and Delores drive him west in search of rangeland. But the road takes some unexpected turns as the girls get their own taste of freedom—and as they confront the reasons they left home.

True Blue
by Jane Smiley
Pub Date: 9/27/11
True Blue is a beauty, a dappled gray, and when Abby gets to take him to her family's ranch, she can hardly believe her luck. The horse needs a home: his owner—a woman brand new to the riding stable--was tragically killed in a car crash and no one has claimed him. Daddy is wary, as always. But Abby is smitten. True Blue is a sweetheart, and whenever Abby calls out, "Blue, Blue, how are you?" he  whinnies back.

But sometimes True Blue seems...spooked. He paces, and always seems to be looking for something. Or someone. Abby starts to wonder about True Blue's owner. What was she like? What did she look like? One moonlit night, Abby could swear she hears a whisper in her ear: "He's still my horse." Filled with riding scenes and horse details, this newest middle-grade novel from a Pulitzer Prize-winner offers a mysterious and suspenseful almost-ghost story.

Star Gazer
by Chris Platt
Pub Date: 9/1/11

Thirteen-year-old Jordan McKenzie loves draft horses gentle giants, as they're known in the horse industry. Her favorite is the sweet, dependable Black Percheron, and she hopes that her mom will let her have one someday. But considering they don't own even one animal on the small farm they rent in their new southern Michigan town, that seems very unlikely. Jordan's fortunes change at a local livestock auction. With the help of a Mennonite boy, Jacob Yoder, she and her mom bid on a draft mare who is in danger of being sold to a slaughterhouse. She's thrilled to become the proud owner of a large, two-thousand-pound draft horse named Star Gazer. But Jordan's joy is short-lived when she learns that her new horse, once the winner of many log pulling contests, is lame and depressed due to years of neglect. Furious, Jordan vows to beat Star Gazer's former owner in the state pulling contest at the end of the summer but can she get Star Gazer's health and confidence back?

 Winter Pony
by Iain Lawrence
Pub Date: 11/8/11

In the forests of Siberia, in the first years of the 20th century, a white pony runs free with his herd. But his life changes forever when he's captured by men. Years of hard work and cruelty wear him out. When he's chosen to be one of 20 ponies to accompany the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott on his quest to become the first to reach the South Pole, he doesn't know what to expect. But the men of Scott's expedition show him kindness, something he's never known before. They also give him a name—James Pigg. As Scott's team hunkers down in Antarctica, James Pigg finds himself caught up in one of the greatest races of all time. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen has suddenly announced that he too means to be first to the Pole. But only one team can triumph, and not everyone can survive—not even the animals.

Mar 8, 2011

Flicka: Part Deux

Flicka 2
2010

Carrie is a big-city teenager whose life is turned upside down when she moves to a horse ranch in Wyoming to live with her father. But everything changes when Carrie meets Flicka, a wild, jet-black mustang who's just as free-spirited and strong-willed as Carrie. The two form a special bond and Carrie opens her heart to her father and a handsome, local boy, but when a jealous rival puts Flicka's life in jeopardy, Carrie must do whatever it takes to save her best friend.

I would just like to point out that I had the option of watching this as an in-flight movie back in July, but I decided not to do that because I was sitting next to someone I did not want to embarrass myself in front of. Probably not because I was watching a really dumb movie, but because I would have started snickering like crazy in public. Sort of like what happened when I watched Twilight over the Atlantic and my friend kept giving me these weird looks when I couldn't contain my laughter.

I wasn't going to do that again. I am an adult, damn it!

Mar 6, 2011

The Outside of a Horse

The Outside of a Horse
by Ginny Rorby
2010

Hannah Gale starts volunteering at a horse stable because she needs a place to escape. Her father has returned from the Iraq war as an amputee with posttraumatic stress disorder, and his nightmares rock the household. At the stable, Hannah comes to love Jack, Super Dee, and Indy; helps bring a rescued mare back from the brink; and witnesses the birth of the filly who steals her heart. Hannah learns more than she ever imagined about horse training, abuse, and rescues, as well as her own capacity for hope. Physical therapy with horses could be the answer to her father's prayers, if only she can get him to try.
I wound up really liking this book. Allow me to explain. 


Mar 4, 2011

Lord of Misrule

Lord of Misrule
by Jaimy Gordon
2010

I've been trying to think of a way to discuss this book in an intelligent manner since I received it a few months ago, which, incidentally, is about as long as it took me to finish it. I got stuck about two thirds in, which is usually when I throw up my hands and start screaming, "What did I do to deserve this?! I quit!" and yet this week I buckled down and picked it back up again. So here we are.

There are things that I love about this book. With italics and everything. The ending of the first chapter hooked me. Granted, there are only five chapters in Lord of Misrule, so there were plenty of pages of pondering whether or not I could do this, but I was determined.


Feb 28, 2011

Upcoming

The Daughter of Siena
by Marina Fiorato
Release Date: 5/10/2011

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breathtaking horse race set in Siena....
 
It’s 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city’s districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner’s banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts—and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

Feb 9, 2011

The Wild Stallion

The Wild Stallion
2009

Apparently this movie was ready for theatrical release in 2006, but someone realized that it was horrible and therefore shelved it for direct to DVD release in 2009. I'm fairly positive this movie insults the intelligence of eleven-year-old girls everywhere.


Jan 30, 2011

Running Free, aka equine class warfare

Running Free
1999

Yesterday I discovered that Secretariat was released On Demand and with that they threw about a dozen other horse movies up for grabs. Naturally, I picked the one that would involve the least amount of thinking.

I give you Running Free.


Jan 22, 2011

Fans of Canterwood Crest, prepare your Kindles...

Dominate
Novella One
Wellington Prep

Jessica Burkhart is releasing an e-book series under the name Jessica Ashley, co-written with Kate Angelella. Looks like it will be a young adult version of Canterwood Crest, except it will be about Canterwood's evil counterpart: Wellington Prep.

Wellington Prep: home to the notorious Jasmine King. And if you think Jasmine's a mean girl . . . meet the one who taught her everything she knows.

Dare I say this is like a modern version of Caitlin: The Love Trilogy? How awesome could this likely get?

Release date is coming soon. (Remember, Wellington Prep will not be available in print.)