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

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', 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...