Jun 26, 2012

Hoofprints in the Snow, TB #56

Hoofprints in the Snow
Thoroughbred #56
by Karle Dickerson

I honestly think that some of these books are little rewards for the round table of authors on this series. They slave away at writing characters they basically didn't create in a story they didn't create, and try desperately to insert things they have created to keep them interested. Like Jennifer Chu's California characters, Mary Anderson's Crazy Backstory of Doom, and Karle Dickerson's Lyssa. And they don't get any love for these creations at all, which is kind of sad. But then you have, well, Lyssa.
Lyssa Hynde knows the Wyoming winters are cold, lonely, and dangerous. But she wouldn't give them up for anything. There's nothing she likes better than to gallop her three-day event horse, Blue, through knee-high fresh powder snow. It's snow, okay?

One day when she's out for her morning ride, Lyssa follows a trail of mysterious hoof prints that take her high into the mountains. Climbing a snowdrift, she and Blue set off an avalanche that builds in force as it heads straight for her ranch.

Will Lyssa make it home in time to warn her family and save the other animals? The avalanche is not a plot point, and no one needs saved. Move on already. Will she find the mystery horse that led her astray in the first place? 

Frickin' Lyssa.

Here's the deal: it's January. For your reference, we were practically headed into May in the last book, when Parker went off to England and Christina had literally wedged herself into a corner to stare in fascination at her own fingers. We should be right on top of the Kentucky Derby at this point, but for whatever reason we have been hauled back four months in time to visit Frickin' Lyssa, who has not a) been accepted to train with USET yet, has not b) been to ROLEX yet, and c) has not met Tony yet. I think Tony was in one of those Parker books? Maybe I have a vague memory of this because he's introduced in this one. Whatever. The important thing to note: this makes no sense.

The cover...I have no feelings toward it. The cover artist really ramped up the Western outfit, but for all intents and purposes it fits the book. Lyssa does (sigh) ride Blue around a lot without a saddle, at least before she starts to take current events seriously.

So we begin with Lyssa. Frickin' Lyssa. She's bemoaning the price of supplements or something and basically has the same epiphany that Parker had in another book previously: she needs sponsors. Perhaps the feed store would sponsor her! But before she can feel that swift kick of disillusionment, she is distracted by a woman trying to buy a puppy. Naturally, this woman is suspect because she is not Lyssa and all animals in the world are at risk of being abused if they are not connected to the main character.

So Frickin' Lyssa adopts the puppy out from under the lady, who is peeved but gives up the dog. Lyssa, whose family is strapped for cash, immediately regrets this move, but hauls the puppy home and introduces it to her incredibly open minded family amidst chili and waxing poetical about the mountains and the fresh powder (ahem, snow. Just say snow already!).

Later on, Lyssa's friend Gabriela shows up to inform her that Mystic, the horse Lyssa found for her on one of those random trips teens take to California, is super lame and she's giving her up to Mrs. Peters, crazy animal lady down the road. Mystic will have a forever home and Gabriela is free to pursue boys. Everyone wins. Lyssa feels a deep sense of disdain and decides to ride Blue around in the powder for a while, coming across the school she doesn't go to (because she is "homeschooled.") There, a boy pops out of nowhere and insists that she leave. He is the security guard, you see. It is very important that Lyssa not trample school property.

Being a girl, Lyssa can't help but notice how pretty he is, which I would say violates her determination to judge Gabriela for liking boys and not Mystic, but naturally Blue isn't lame so whatevs. Like boys all you want, Lyssa.

Then there's a party that Gabriela drags Lyssa to so she can dump her by the punch bowl in favor of the new boyfriend, leaving Lyssa free to run into the boy security guard again. His name is Tony. They dance. I'm sure it was titillating, a Western version of the Samantha era's "haunting flamenco," if you will. But I digress.

Blah blah blah. Things happen. Lyssa insists on checking out the school again, and finds hoofprints leading into the mountains, where she assumes Tony has taken the horse to hide out, which is stupid because of the avalanche risk. But of course Frickin' Lyssa follows him up anyway, and just as it's getting a little too dangerous to be plowing around through horse-chest-deep high "powder", Blue flips out and starts an avalanche.

And then girl and horse outrace an avalanche.

So, hold on to your seats, you guys. It's going to be action packed from here on out.

Blue proves himself to be super amazing, runs all the way back to the ranch, and deposits a hysterical Lyssa on the ground. The avalanche missed the ranch entirely, detouring into a canyon somewhere, so everyone can be reassured that nothing awful will ever happen to these people ever. Her mom insists she stay home, but Lyssa can't just let Tony and the horse alone and is back out the next morning, with friend Mitch in tow. They find Tony, discover that he has Mystic of all horses, and listen to his story of woe (he is totally not a horse thief you guys...unless you take into account that he took someone's horse off their property without asking and has no intent of bringing it back. It's not stealing if you've got good intentions, right?)

He insists that Mrs. Peters is a fraud, and she sells her superfluous horses to the meat packers when things are getting tight. Lyssa is shocked, because no one has ever known Mrs. Peters to be anything but an animal hoarder, which is totally okay and couldn't possibly go wrong. She and Mitch are both suspicious of Tony's story, so they take Tony and Mystic back to Lyssa's ranch and Lyssa rumbles off in Mitch's truck to check out Mrs. Peters, only to discover that Mrs. Peters is the lady that wanted the puppy from the first chapter.

Le shock! Mrs. Peters only wanted the puppy because it's a purebred with papers and could probably get money for it...hmmmm, yeah. Totally reasonable. And then the meat packers helpfully show up, and Lyssa conveniently discovers that one of the horses with Mrs. Peters was on a stolen horse flier at the feed store. So Lyssa hides a bridle in her Thinsulate, gets it on the stolen horse, and tears out of there bareback as Mrs. Peters (I keep envisioning an old lady, for some reason) jumps in Mitch's truck and chases after them.

Frickin' Lyssa, because she's amazing, loses Mrs. Peters and heads straight for the police station. So then the cops swarm everywhere, take in Tony, Mystic, Mrs. Peters and leave Lyssa wondering why life is horrible. Now Tony will be arrested for stealing a horse and deported to Arizona, where everyone knows jerks come from. It's accepted in Lyssa World as fact. But, of course, that doesn't happen. Don't worry you guys, Tony rides back on Mystic and says he bought her for cheap and he'll fix her feet because not only is he a 19-year-old horse thief with a heart of gold, he is also a budding eventer and an awesome blacksmith who knows "techniques." Also, he's going to stay in Wyoming or Montana or whatever and train with Lyssa and work for her dad and work for his relatives in Billings because he has them. So now Lyssa can blissfully fawn all over his spotty teenage neck scruff all she likes.

Hooray. USET invites for everyone!

Jun 24, 2012



When Toby and Flicka are hired at a stable, Kelly, the owner's teenage daughter, quickly bonds with the wild horse. Despite her mother's disapproval, she hopes to break Flicka for an upcoming competition. However with the competition fast approaching, a dishonest rival trainer, and a growing fear they may be forced to sell the stable, Toby must intervene to save the day. 


Okay, wait. Wait. Let's just take a calm, deep breath. So, I wandered up to a Redbox after some solid life drama that I need a vacation from experiencing. Redbox, I said. Entertain me! And what does it give me? It gives me freakin' FLICKA 3: THE RECKONING COUNTRY PRIDE.

And then I stumbled all over myself to rent it. I am the reason movies like this exist. It's something I've come to accept. So, let's talk about it!

As you may have guessed already, Flicka is back. Accept here is the set up: the ranch BURNED DOWN. YOU GUYS. How the hell did this happen? Are Carrie and Hank even alive? What does Katy think of all of this? Did she even take some time off from vet school to help out and give a shit? No, all we are told is that the ranch burned down and Toby (from Flicka 2) sprained his ankle. This is shocking. I...well, anyway. So Toby, for some random reason, decides to get another temporary job as barn manager at Cherry Creek, a local eventing barn where all the kids wear collared shirts under cashmere sweaters while they ride. Oh, and they're rebuilding the ranch so Toby has brought all the ranch horses that didn't, I guess, die. Or something.

Enter Kelly. Kelly's dad died, so now she doesn't jump, but she does...just in secret or something. You know how it is. So she's off jumping this horse that belongs to Stephanie Meyers (really?), her former best friend. But Stephanie is blond, and classically enough Kelly can no longer be friends with her now that hormones have come into play over Briggs McBride, fellow rider who is honestly too pretty to be real. Anyway, Stephanie sees Kelly committing this crime and freaks out, letting her mother go to town on Kelly's mom for allowing this to happen. The horror. Why, oh why.

But then Flicka appears, kicking and screaming like The Black Stallion she so clearly wants to be. She kicks some poor guy in the gut and then rears off a trailer, complete with shot of pretty black horse back lit by the sun. Kelly goes into awe. Flicka stops being a little jerk and moseys up to Kelly and does a face plant into Kelly's hands, because of course.

So Toby gives Kelly permission to ride Flicka, and the two forever bond while Stephanie, Briggs and nameless girl train for some team regional whatever some such event. Only one of their riders is hurt, leaving a hole in the team. By this point, Kelly and Flicka are all over each other, and for whatever reason Kelly decides to trick everyone into watching her ride Flicka for the team by insisting she's a new girl on...a horse that is obviously Flicka? Everyone discovers that it's her in about five seconds, but she's allowed on the team because suddenly Flicka is awesome at jumping. Who knew! That Flicka is remarkably multifaceted. (Actually, she insists on being trained in jumping by poking a jump with her hoof and then jumping three oxers in a row.)

And then there is a dance, and Stephanie gets all pissed that Briggs likes Kelly, so she shoves Kelly into the dessert table and ruins her dress. Then they have a collective meltdown and try to match race over the cross country course to predictable disaster. Stephanie falls off and then has another meltdown in the office, pulling the plug on riding for Cherry Creek just as the trainer of the barn up and leaves for Triumph, taking Stephanie and Nameless Girl with her.


But Briggs won't leave, so between he and Kelly they come up with a team last minute and enlist Toby to be their trainer. Toby's like, "whoa, I wear cowboy hats!" But naturally he's a great coach despite not knowing what he's talking about. And then there's a really long eventing sequence wherein Cherry Creek actually comes in second to Triumph and Stephanie.

Did you hear that? The antagonist won. What sort of horse movie is this? My faith in horse stories has been shattered.

However, it doesn't really matter because the brilliance of Kelly and Flicka's show jumping round makes Stephanie see the light and the two apologize to each other and are super best friends again, despite hormones and conflicting hair color.

AND THEN. Because this couldn't get weird enough, Toby leaves Cherry Creek to go back to the ranch, which has been fully rebuilt, and he takes Flicka with him. However, in the meantime he's struck up this romance with Kelly's mom and decides to give Flicka's son, THUNDERHEAD, to Kelly. Because he's "two, and can begin training." Ha! Oh, Toby. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I'm pretty sure he doesn't own that horse. I mean, I can't remember who Toby was in Flicka 2, but I'm going to guess his title doesn't allow him the means to hand people horses for no reason.

And seriously, Thunderhead? Why couldn't this have been Thunderhead's movie? Isn't Flicka a little tired by now?

Nevermind. I'm finished here. Except, apparently, Flicka may not be through with us yet. The last lines of the movie are, basically:

Toby (after giving Thunderhead to Kelly): There's going to be more surprises.
Kelly's Mom: What do you mean?


(Well. All of that said and done, Flicka 3 is better than Flicka 2. Like, it's heads, shoulders, and a good portion of torso better than Flicka 2. Please, everyone let's all pretend Flicka 2 never happened.)

Jun 22, 2012

Riding Lessons (Or How to Be an Utterly Unreasonable Bitch)

Riding Lessons
Sara Gruen

As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished. Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father's New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is bringing her troubled teenage daughter to this place of pain and memory, where ghosts of an unresolved youth still haunt the fields and stables—and where hope lives in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl . . . and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.

But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding startlingly similar to the one Annemarie lost in another lifetime. And an obsession is born that could shatter her fragile world.

 I am back from my long, horseless reading stint to bring you what is possibly the worst adult equestrian novel I have ever read. It doesn't help that I had pretty high expectations going into this one, as I loved Water for Elephants.

Annemarie is the most unlikeable character I have met in a long, long time. She makes me itch to slap her silly. She is selfish and so self-absorbed it is no wonder her daughter hates her and her husband left her. Just saying.

As for the plot... well most it revolves around Annemarie's need to prove a horse her old flame rescues is fully related to Harry, who died in the accident years back that put an end to her competitive career. She becomes totally and uncompromisingly obsessed with this horse that she allows her family's business to fall into disarray.

I wanted to see her grow as a character and realize that her accident and loss is not an excuse to be a crazy bitch. This does not happen. I was just as annoyed with her at the end of the novel as I was at the beginning.

The reviews quoted on the cover suggest that this book at least as some romance to it. Maybe something would have developed beyond what it actually contained if Annemarie could get past herself and her needs and her, her, her, her. This is not a romance novel, people. I would rather throw The Horse Whisperer at you if that is what you are after. A Dan Brown novel contains more feelings and affection.

There is this one scene that amused me far more than it should. Annemarie, a total moron in the kitchen, gets it into her head to cook a gourmet meal for the love interest and basically almost burns down his kitchen. Such is level of her arrogance!

Basically, the whole book is batshit crazy. So many bad things happen in the space of a few weeks it is implausible. Not that Annemarie doesn't deserve them. She does. She deserves every single bad thing to come her way and then some.

And there you have it. I hated this book so hard.