Jun 11, 2013

Amazing Racer aka Shannon's Pride

Amazing Racer
aka Shannon's Rainbow

Every so often, a movie comes along that tempts me back into blogging. A movie so inspiring, so awkward, so full of fake tears and melodrama, that I am forced to act. That movie is Amazing Racer. Or Shannon's Rainbow. I'm not sure why they changed the name, but that's probably your first clue.

We begin this fine tale in Florida, because it is crazy and that is where crazy things live. Shannon wakes up in a hospital, and we quickly learn that her father has passed away and there is some concern that Shannon's recent "accident" was "intentional." It totally was not, because she was too busy "crying" and driving at a fire hydrant because her uncle's wife yelled at her for picking at her food and it is uncle's wife's way or NO WAY. That spoiled orphan! NO ONE LOVES YOU, SHANNON. NO ONE.

We are then immediately informed that Shannon is the product of a teen union gone horribly awry. Shannon's dad's family absconded with Infant Shannon and told Shannon's mom's family that Shannon died. Somewhat Older Shannon was informed that her mother died when she was Infant Shannon. Who is confused? Even Therapist Daryl Hannah is like, "Wow, this is like a TV movie!" Oh, Daryl. We are just getting started.

Shannon's mother, Christine, is a pediatric surgeon or something living in Pittsburgh. So she flies down and gets Shannon, immediately tells her that no one really wants to deal with this situation because dude, this is ridiculous, but promises Shannon that they will give this a shot over the summer and if Shannon doesn't like it she can go back to Florida and live with her uncle's crazy wife who hates her. Awesome options! Anyway, they go back to Pittsburgh and Shannon goes from weepy teen to instabitch for no apparent reason and then yells at Christine about how her problems are worse than hers and Christine is like OH, ARE THEY? So Shannon shuts up.

But Christine has a horse, and her boyfriend owns a horse farm, and Christine wants Shannon to see the farm and Shannon doesn't want to because horses are horrible and this is a smoke screen. Shannon loves horses. Shannon's dad loved horses. Everyone loves horses. But Christine makes Shannon take a shower and go to the farm, so Christine can "race" her horse for thirty minutes or something and then proceeds to get in a sulky and gallop a Standardbred around in a circle.

It's that kind of movie. Who is excited?

Shannon pretty much immediately gets caught trying to make out with an unnamed filly and is lassoed into a job at the farm. Christine's boyfriend has an amazing heart to heart with her after he's tried to get her "behind a horse" in which he guesses that "you were on a horse when you found out (that your father died)!" And then he said, "Ohmigod, your mom was on a horse too when she found out (that you "died")!" And Shannon is now too confused to cry because what the hell? Who makes random conclusions like that? But anyway, this is why they both refuse/refused to ride. Only some light badgering got them to stop being traumatized.

So then Shannon and Christine separately admit that they hate Shannon's dad and there is yet more crying, followed by a montage of memories, which means that now Shannon can start smiling occasionally and "get behind a horse." This means that Shannon is handed the filly she tried to make out with and christens her Rainbow, because of course. Then they race and Rainbow is "something" and everyone group hugs except this random dude who looks uncomfortable.

THEN. We cut to the Evil Owner character shooting clay pigeons with a shotgun in front of his mansion as Stanford Blatch yells, "That's 9 out of 10!" and presents him with alcoholic beverages. Evil Owner's wife tells him all about how awesome Rainbow is and he laughs menacingly and racks his shotgun.

Meanwhile Rainbow comes in third in her maiden race because Shannon wasn't racing her and therefore there was not enough love to motivate her. In the next race, Rainbow is claimed by Evil Owner, who sneers at them and asks if they know what a claiming race is. Boyfriend offers him $40,000 and yells "What do you want!" Evil Owner says, "Payback."

So now we know who the smart characters are in this movie, as Stanford Blanch literally pries Rainbow out of Shannon's grip as she yells, "SAY HER NAME, STANFORD! SAY IT!" There is  more crying and collapsing in stalls. Evil Owner tells his trainer to make Rainbow forget the girl and mutters that the horse is weak. So Shannon relaxes in a hammock as Rainbow bolts around in a panic. Odd juxtaposition, but okay.

Evil Owner's wife suddenly feels bad and says they should take the horse back and Evil Owner is all I WOULD RATHER IT DIE. Then he tells Stanford to kill the horse. Poor Stanford isn't getting a lot out of this relationship. So the wife gets Christine's boyfriend to intercept the moronic...veterinarians?...and buys the horse for $400 after Steve Guttenberg can not understand negotiations. So, hey, at least Idiot Boyfriend Character saved $39,600.

Then Christine yells at someone named Max, who is drunk, but apparently will save Rainbow who, after about two hours in Evil Owner's possession is at the brink of death. A night goes by and Rainbow has a full recovery from her phantom near death problem.

Shannon: "She should be dead, right Max?"
Max: "That's right."
Shannon (in baby voice): "But you aren't, are you, baby?" *smooches!* "Lovely Rainbow!"

No, really. And who the hell is Max, again? Anyway, I think he's sober now. Random dude (who is he?) who looked uncomfortable before is all, "Hey, Max and Rainbow!" Like they've been together forever. Later on, in some fit of paranoia, Max shows up at Christine's and is all "You have a spy! Evil Owner knows I'm working for you, or whatever I'm doing. WHO COULD IT BE? I'M OUT OF HERE!" And Christine is all, "Yeah, you gonna run? Are you a pussy, Max? Huh?" So she's finally like, "Oh, whatever."

Stupid Boyfriend makes Shannon the jockey for Rainbow's next race, the Pennsylvania Cup, because she's suddenly good enough and not an untested maiden or anything. Shannon finds Max passed out in Rainbow's stall (not surprising) and castigates him for not helping her. Max tells her some story about everyone's back story and apparently Evil Owner doesn't want Stupid Boyfriend to win the Cup. Ever. We have to take Rainbow to another farm and run Rainbow "fast and hard" and no one can know! Running fast and hard to Max, by the way, is trotting slowly in an arena. Then he explains basic racing strategy that everyone knows already as he is backlit by the sun and someone sings in the background and it is EMOTIONAL. FEEL THE EMOTION.

Then STUPID EFFING BOYFRIEND lets the random nameless dude know that Rainbow is up the road training in secret so no one will know, and then I guess says, "HAHA, CAUGHT YOU, DIRTY SPY." I don't know if this was a trap? He didn't catch him doing anything other than ask where the horse is so...in any case, nameless dude calls up Evil Owner and lies and I guess things are cool now. Or...oh, who cares. 

Now everyone voice overs to montage and Evil Owner's Wife cries some more as Evil Owner says something cryptic and walks around with most of his shirt buttons undone. I can't tell if this is foreshadowing or what, because Evil Owner is arrested at the race for, as the cop says, "attempted murder, conspiracy...well, just a whole bunch of stuff." Miranda Rights they most certainly aren't.

Rainbow wins. Super random black and white snapshot montage. Group hug.

It goes without saying that everyone should watch this. I think that's all that need be said.

Mar 31, 2013

Melanie's Double Jinx is actually more like double vision -- just look at those two sexy men on the cover! Thoroughbred #69: Melanie's Double Jinx.

Melanie's Double Jinx
Thoroughbred #69
By Mary Newhall
January 2005

Can Jinx beat a curse?

With Christina sidelined by a broken ankle, Melanie is doing a lot of riding for Whitebrook, but none of it is quite to her satisfaction. There are just too many distractions. Jazz is more distant than ever after nearly selling Image to Brad Townsend. Kevin, who has been helping Melanie train Hi Jinx, has been stirring up old romantic feelings in Melanie. And even though Hi Jinx's training has been going pretty well, Melanie is worried about his prospects for the future. No matter what she does—or how she looks at it—Hi Jinx seems to be … well… jinxed.

The Summary:

Yeah, um, no. Let's deconstruct this and assign point values for accuracy:
  • With Christina sidelined by a broken ankle (true +1)
  • Melanie is doing a lot of riding for Whitebrook (false -1)
  • Jazz is more distant than ever after nearly selling Image to Brad Townsend (true, but he was already pretty distant, so we'll call it 0)
  • Kevin, who has been helping Melanie train Hi Jinx, has been stirring up old romantic feelings in Melanie (false. WTF? There is, like, one sentence when he asks, "Do you remember when we broke up?" -1)
  • And even though Hi Jinx's training has been going pretty well (false -1)
  • Melanie is worried about his prospects for the future (true, but that hardly counts, especially because we already disproved the "training has been going pretty well" part.  Net score:  0)
So our grand total is -2. I think that speaks for itself.

The Cover:

OH WOW. I'm pretty sure words cannot do this cover justice, but I will certainly try, because this one is too amazing to go unreviewed forever. So, first we have Melanie, who has apparently been transported to a summer camp out west or something. (Yes, I know there's no saddle horn on Jinx's saddle, but the whole feel of the cover is very Colorado somehow.) She is wearing a fetching lavender T-shirt with the longest short sleeves I've ever seen, and her entire ensemble looks more like Christina than Melanie (not to mention her reddish-brown/auburn/brown/strawberry blonde hair, also very Christina-ish), but other than that, I'll give her a pass.

The leading men … hoo boy. We have (I'm assuming) Jazz on the left, in green, and Kevin on the right, in red. But honestly, these boys are twins. The one on the right has slightly more reddish hair and looks slightly more goofy, which is why I'm assuming he's Kevin. Neither one of them looks a bit like a rock star or has a ponytail, as Jazz does. And freakily, they are dressed alike. The green one (presumably-Jazz) is wearing a T-shirt, the red one (supposedly-Kevin) is wearing a polo shirt. Other than that, they're both wearing jeans, docksiders, and watches with brown leather wristbands on their left wrists. So I don’t know, maybe they've just come from some sort of twins lookalike contest and are ready to unleash their combined manliness on Melanie? Your guess is as good as mine. For what it's worth, the horse doesn't look very impressed either.

The Plot:

It's November, shortly after #68. Melanie has moved Jinx to Tall Oaks, and Kevin is helping her train him. They decide he's ready to race. Okay, so to be perfectly honest, I have been so caught up in the exciting time-travel experience that was Samantha's unofficial diaries, I didn’t actually reread Breaking the Fall because Claire already did that for you. (We can ignore Kaitlin's Wild Ride since it's all about Kaitlin's autumn of luuuuurve and has no bearing on The Star Show.) So if you have more patience than me, have at it.

The main plotline of this book is that Jinx is an asshole, Melanie is worried that Jazz will sell him, and Melanie and Jazz have grown apart. Or apparently they broke up or something already and I missed that too. Kevin and Melanie take Jinx to Florida to run in the What a Pleasure stakes. Melanie rides a horse for Ghyllian Hollis and brings her in third. Jazz is in Florida recording an album because there are no recording studios in New York and pops onto the page long enough to have a fight with Melanie: he thinks she's not paying any attention to him and that every time she ignores him, God kills a kitten. He also says that the horses are an investment and "if they aren't bringing in a return, you've got a problem." Melanie thinks how much he's like Brad, which is true, but it's also hard to argue with. Sorry, Mel, you may be able to pay the bills by running around in the pages of a book and wearing ugly jeans, but the rest of us have actual bills to pay.

So after that little nugget, Jazz drops a second bombshell: He's going to sell Image. Melanie decides that Jinx better start earning his keep and win some purses so she can buy both horses from Jazz. Unfortunately, she screws it all up during his very next work, when Jinx gets away from her. They come in third in the What a Pleasure stakes, and she has a less-than-stellar ride on Gratis as well. Kevin yells at her for her sucky concentration, and they go back to Kentucky. Ashleigh tells Melanie that Jazz asked if they wanted to buy Image, but they can't pony up the cash right now. Kevin feels bad and apologizes. He says that Melanie can get through to Jinx and he'll prove it to her.

So then we're treated to a rehash of the Champion Theory of Horse Training from Champion's Spirit. Remember that one, guys? It was all Cindy's fault because she was sad about Storm and making Champion behave badly? While I would love to blame everything on Cindy, let's face it, Champion was also an asshole sometimes. (Of course, I suspect that he was also an asshole the way entitled, bratty little kids are assholes and you can usually blame that on their parents, so maybe we're onto something here.) Anyway, Melanie decides that the secret is to relax and "think of an easy gallop on the beach rather than a tough race on a crowded track." And because this is Thoroughbred, it works out wonderfully and Melanie decides she's going to listen to Kevin from now on. Barf.

Jazz drops by to tell Melanie he's sold Image, but she doesn't want to hear it. Christina makes a Very Special Guest Appearance to spill the beans on that one: Ben bought Image, and she'll be going back to Tall Oaks. (This part is kind of cute because as Christina says, "She's going home to where she was bred.") Jazz admits that he didn’t really know what he was getting into when he invested in the horses, and that "we had such a good time when it was all going right," until they hit financial problems. "Things go wrong," Melanie says, "it's part of life." It's a pretty fair assessment of the situation, and if I were feeling charitable, I might even say that it's a pretty good life lesson as well. Beginnings are easy, it's continuity that's hard. (Thank you, Rita Mae Brown.)

Jazz has more good news: Ben is paying him so much money that Melanie can keep racing Jinx and buy him. I guess Ben is like a combination charity/bank here. Oh well, what's the use of being rich if you can't buy presents for annoying teenage jockeys? I have to say, though, the purchase of Image puts Cindy's Arabic saddle and bridle to shame.

Allie (henceforth Mary Sue) starts bonding with Jinx, and he's a big ball of fluffy kitten happy rainbow fur with her. It's Christmas, and Melanie thinks up the perfect gift for Sue: a plane ticket to Florida to see Jinx race. How thoughtful, Melanie. So your gift is to bring Susie with you … so she can work and take care of Jinx … thus giving you the money to buy Jinx. Very generous. We are also treated to a "poor little impoverished orphan" scene in which Mary Sue gets "new clothes, makeup kits (WTF? No Thoroughbred heroine is ever allowed to want makeup), horse supplies," and a journal. Oh God, if the series had gone on longer, we would have been treated to some special editions featuring the journals of Mary Sue Allie Allison Gordon Avery al-Rihani. Thank goodness they pulled the plug when they did.

Oh right, and then of course Melanie runs Jinx in the Spectacular Bid (get it?) and Jazz comes to congratulate her and she lets fricking Mary Sue into the winner's circle with her. Ugh. I mean, oh, how sweet. Not.

And that's it. Melanie and Jazz are finally officially broken up and I guess the idea was to get Melanie and Kevin back together, but the series ended just a few books later and anyway I was so exhausted by this point that I truly didn’t care that Kevin was even working with the horses again, much less who he was dating. So, for those of you who were really looking forward to a lengthy Twilight-style love triangle between Melanie and Kevin and Jazz, sorry to disappoint, but on the plus side, it means you don't have to slog through this drivel.

Points of Interest:
  • It's Thoroughbred, starring the vapor lights again! They are the very first thing mentioned in the book. No joke. Right after the word "The."
  • It seems that both Brad and Christina have honored their deal from The Price of Fame—Melanie thinks that Brad just backed out of the deal to buy/breed Image, and she and Kevin wonder why.
  • Our famous horsie sighting comes up early, when Kevin encourages Melanie to point Jinx toward the Derby. Melanie is worried about the curse that says any horse who wins the Breeder's Cup Juvenile won't win the Derby. Kevin rebuts by mentioning Spectacular Bid. Later Jinx runs in the Spectacular Bid stakes.
  • Mary Sue starts high school in this book, because someone in TB-land finally has some sense: "The school wouldn't allow it [homeschooling] for more than a few weeks," Melanie said. "Cindy said they require parents to meet certain education requirements themselves, and she doesn't even have her associate's degree. Besides that, she and Ben both agreed that Allie needs to be around more people her own age."
  • Melanie rides a Whitebrook horse named Determined in this book. I sort of like that because it was one of the names that AU-Rebecca proposed for AU-Jazz in Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle.
  • Apparently Terry, the groom from Townsend Acres, has defected to Celtic Meadows. His last name has changed from Bush to Conley. Perhaps he's joined the witness protection program. (Or maybe he's not supposed to be the same Terry and I just missed that.)
  • On a date with Jazz, Melanie wears "green jeans, a green-and-purple shirt that echoed the Tall Oaks colors, and sneakers." Dear God, she really is channeling Christina. Stop the madness!

Next up: One more book of this to go. I'll take bets on whether I'm able to get through an entire book of Mary Sue or not.

Mar 24, 2013

Top o' the morning to you! Where's me second annoying Samantha diary? Thoroughbred #66: Samantha's Irish Luck

Samantha's Irish Luck
Thoroughbred #66
By Mary Newhall
August 2004

Samantha is in love and has finally found the perfect horse. But is her luck about to run out?

Samantha and Tor's month-long honeymoon in Ireland turns into a much longer stay when Samantha meets Finn, a massive sporthorse that is a descendant of Red Rum, steeplechasing's greatest horse. Samantha is enjoying such success with Finn that she and Tor settle into the idea that they'll be in Ireland for the rest of their lives.

Then Tor gets an urgent call to return home to Kentucky. With the Grand National just weeks away, Tor urges Samantha to stay in Ireland, but she still finds herself torn between her husband and her beloved horse. If only she didn't have such a nagging feeling about leaving Finn behind. She's sure something horrible is about to happen.

The Summary:
This is relatively accurate, and 100% reflective of the stupidity of Samantha's attitude in these two books. Who knew that getting married makes you act like a ten-year-old again?

The Cover:
Here we've got another brunette Samantha and another a veiny horse. Oh god, and another beribboned riding helmet! They are apparently racing in a steeplechase with the smallest field (read: nonexistent) in the history of steeplechasing. You can tell they're in Ireland because everything is green. And pink. Apparently it's a rule that you can't have a Thoroughbred cover without pink these days.

The Plot:
Samantha and Tor are standing in the nursery that Ashleigh et. al. cleaned out in the last book, wondering if it'll be big enough. I sure hope so, after you subjected your friends to a day of your tedious reminiscing. The gleesome threesome come back, this time to paint the room. Samantha goes down to the barn and runs into Kaitlin, who makes the mistake of asking why Samantha and Tor moved back from Ireland and how they got Finn McCoul the Wonder Horse (not to be confused with a Wonderpony). Samantha settles down for a long winter's nap, or at least a 136-page story.

So Samantha and Tor go on a month-long honeymoon at an equestrian bed-and-breakfast in Ireland, which is run by Jimmy and Hannah Hollis and their daughter, Ghyllian, whom you may remember from fine literary works such as The Price of Fame and Star's Inspiration. Apparently this is the real Celtic Meadows (which may explain why I was confused every time Ghyllian showed up to run her horses in Kentucky). They meet a beautiful weanling called Finn McCoul, a son of Red Rum, who "won the Grand National Steeplechase three times and placed second twice." Great. At least we got that over with. They go on a bunch of trail rides and buy sweaters and eat a lot and Samantha falls in love with Finn.

Back in Kentucky, Samantha is all mopey about missing Ireland. Going to a diner makes her think about Hannah's beef stew. For Christmas, she buys a "white wool fisherman's sweater for Tor and a coffee cup with a shamrock design on it for Tor's father." Okay, seriously, Sammy? You bought him a mug when you could go to Goodwill and get ten of them for a dollar? Next you're probably going to buy Cindy a pair of stonewashed jeans with shamrocks on them.

Then Jimmy Hollis randomly calls from Ireland to say that he wants to concentrate on flat-racing at Celtic Meadows, and do Samantha and Tor want to come over and handle the eventing side? Shocker! I can't believe it took 58 pages to get to that. So, surprising no one, Samantha and Tor move to Ireland (after dumping Whisperwood on Mr. Nelson and Shining on Mandy). Samantha decides she is the luckiest person in the world. I think she also said that in Samantha's Journey and Bridal Dreams. Let's hope it goes better this time, Sammy.

Samantha trains Finn for eventing and says he's "the easiest horse I've ever trained." Oh god, it's Storm's Ransom reincarnated! Someone better call Mulder and Scully! He must really be a Wonder Horse, because a mere one paragraph later, he is four years old and they are competing in the Badminton Horse Trials in England. Finn does well in dressage, but stumbles and bows a tendon during cross-country. The vet diagnoses him with pedal osteitis and says he doesn't know if he'll ever jump again. This makes perfect sense because it's "the same disease Red Rum had, and he still raced and won." I guess we're not done with the famous horsie references after all. A second vet also suggests that they stop racing him, but Samantha says he "love[s] to race too much to give up now." I can't decide if this is supposed to be one of those "unlikely undersized weakling foal who grew up to take blue ribbons at the National Horse Show" stories or just really, really irresponsible. I mean, because it's Thoroughbred, I know he's not going to die (unless he's Storm, or Wonder, or Black Night, or Midnight Wanderer, or … maybe I should stop). But in real life, I don't think people say, "Oh yeah! You love to race so much that we should just ignore that fractured cannon bone and turn you out on the track!"

Samantha walks Finn on the beach and exercises him in the water. The vet says he's doing great. I guess Ghyllian and Samantha have been talking to Leslie D'Andrea. Jimmy wants to prep him for a steeplechase. The vet says, "I don't care much for steeplechases—I think they're hard on the horses. But if you're going to race him, now's the time." WTF is wrong with these people?

Samantha jockeys Finn in a steeplechase at Punchestown and wins. They point him to the Grand National, until Ian calls to say that Tor's dad is sick and Tor needs to come home. Samantha decides to go with him, thinking it'll just be a short visit. At the hospital they meet his fiancée, Helen, a nurse, who tells them that it's more serious than they thought: he has cancer. Tor's dad tells them that they need to move to Arizona for the "warm, dry climate." Gee, I didn't know he also had the galloping cough. Tor and Samantha decide to stay in Kentucky and take over Whisperwood. (At this point we smack into Racing Parker, in which Christina is twelve, riding Sterling, and wants to switch to taking lessons with Sammy, because she is a "world-class three-day-event rider.")

They watch the Grand National on TV, and Finn breaks down while jumping over the last fence. Jimmy calls from Ireland to say he's torn a tendon and won't race again. This gives Samantha a chance to mope again (she should take lessons from Christina), only instead of missing Ireland, she misses Finn.

Tor asks her to accompany him on a surprise trip to the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. Hey, I know where that is. I drive by there every time I go home to visit my parents. Tor tells Samantha they're there to look at a stallion he's thinking of buying for their breeding operation, who turns out to be, of course, Finn. I'm sure this is all very romantic, Tor, but number one, I would be really annoyed if my husband agreed to buy a horse without asking me, and number two, if Finn is just like Red Rum and all that, are you sure you want to pass on those weak pedal bones to another generation? I mean, let's not forget here that in TB-land, every colt is just like his father and every filly is just like her mother. It's a good thing Red Rum didn't have a superdrive. Tor tells Samantha that Finn will be in quarantine for a while and then will be shipped to Kentucky. So basically, you guys took an exciting flight to New York just so you could look at a horse's nose. Also a prudent financial choice, Tor. Samantha waxes eloquent about how lucky she is again.

We come back to the present, where Samantha is shocked to find that several hours have passed. Kaitlin is still patiently listening (I picture her looking like Marius in this hilarious scene from the Les MisĂ©rables movie) and thinking, "Oh god, why did I agree to get into this? Next she's going to start telling me how she met my mother." Cindy, Ashleigh, and Christina show off the freshly painted nursery, and Samantha and Tor tell them that—surprise!—they're expecting twins. I bet NO ONE saw that coming after all the hints people dropped in previous books.

Points of Interest:
  • Samantha says, "I hope we get at least a few days of sun while we're here." Haha, nice try, Sammy. Maybe if you stay in Ireland for six years, you'll get summer on one or two days.
  • We find out that Caroline is living out of the country with her husband, Mr. Presumably-Justin. Apparently this is the way to ditch any Griffens we don't like; Rory went overseas, too, after Ashleigh's Diary. (When we don't like Townsends, we just don't mention them, and I guess when we don't like the Grahams/Reeses, we just kill them off without ever explaining exactly how Christina is related to Melanie.)
  • Cindy is conveniently not home for Christmas because she's in New York. I guess that means this is supposed to be set around the time as Cindy's Bold Start, which I don't think is right—if Sammy is 23, just turning 24, then Cindy should still be 17 and in high school, and don't forget, you have to cram Cindy's Desert Adventure in there somewhere (much as I would like to forget it). Oh well. The less I have to deal with Cindy, the better.
  • Dress alert! Sammy wears an emerald necklace and a gold taffeta gown with a halter top and a full skirt. It sounds kind of prom-like, but no worse than anything Ashleigh, Christina, and/or Cindy have worn to the prom. Oh, and I should mention she wears this to a party or something. Not to an actual steeplechase, though I wouldn't put it past her.
  • Samantha also wears an emerald-and-sapphire bracelet, which Ian apparently gave her on her wedding day. If you believe Samantha's Journey, they kept nothing of Suzanne's except her green dress and security blankie riding boots, but previous Joanna-authored books make reference to some of her other possessions, so it makes sense that they would have some keepsakes. I think it's also likely that Suzanne's parents still had some of her family mementos.

Next up: #67: Breaking the Fall and #68: Kaitlin's Wild Ride have already been reviewed by Claire. Next up from me: Melanie's Double Jinx, notable for the amazing cover art! You'll be wowed! Stay tuned!

Feb 24, 2013

Oh, if only this were a Saddle Club book, and then we could have the pun-filled title of "Bridle Dreams." Thoroughbred #65: Bridal Dreams.

Bridal Dreams
Thoroughbred #65
By Mary Newhall
June 2004

Will Samantha and Tor's wedding be ruined?

Preparing to welcome a baby to the family, Samantha and Tor are cleaning out the spare bedroom to make a nursery when they find their wedding album. It's been stored away for years and now brings back a lot of memories.

Long ago, when she and Tor got engaged, Samantha began planning the most glorious wedding Kentucky had ever seen. But as the date neared, disaster followed disaster, forcing her to put her plans aside. First a mare went into premature labor; then a steeplechase horse with Man o' War's bloodlines needed their help; finally there was a terrible accident.

Samantha was starting to think maybe she and Tor weren't meant to get married. After everything that had gone wrong, would their wedding day turn into another disaster?

The Summary:

Props for general accuracy on this one, though it wasn't really all that difficult—throw in some photo album, some wedding, some accidents, and you've got a summary.  Also, is that "long ago" like "a long time ago when the earth was green," or "long ago, in the faraway land of ancient Greece there was a golden age of powerful gods extraordinary heroes"?  It makes it sound like their wedding was about 326 years ago—which, in Thoroughbred time, it might have been.

The Cover:

Gosh, look!  It's Keri Russell marrying Parker Townsend!  Oh, wait … it's not?  Could've fooled me.  So we have a lovely brunette so-called Samantha marrying a lovely brunette so-called Tor.  Samantha is wearing a stunning pink tunic that goes nicely with her brown red hair (and looks nothing like the wedding dress described in the book), and Tor is wearing some kind of denim jacket that is a cross between James Dean and the World War I trenches.  And those flowers.  FLOWERS EVERYWHERE.  Apparently Tor has journeyed over some purple mountains on his horse and has found paradise in the flower utopia.  Confession time:  I once did some watercolors featuring purple mountains.  But I was ten at the time.

The Plot:

Well, guys, it had to happen eventually.  Ashleigh got not only the best diary but an entire spin-off featuring things that didn't happen in TB-verse, Cindy got not one but two hideously titled diaries, and now it's Samantha's turn.  We start with the never-before-used trope of "oh crap we need this room for something let's clean it out and HEY LOOK something wonderful that reminds me of my past which I will tell you a really long and uninteresting story about!"  Ashleigh, Christina, and Cindy come over to help and impress us with Mary Newhall's ability to read and remember the contents of the early books, such as that Sierra existed, Max Smith existed, Cindy was an overly confident little brat, the Pony Commandos existed, and Mandy existed.  They find Samantha's wedding dress, and Ashleigh says that it was "the wedding we thought was never going to happen."  Christina, like a dutiful daughter, asks to hear the story.  That, or she's just really tired of picking through Samantha and Tor's junk.

We are blasted back a number of years (though not quite 326) to Yvonne Ortez and Gregg Doherty's wedding.  For those keeping track, that means Samantha is 23, Tor is 25, Kevin is four, Cindy is 17, Mandy is 13, Christina is four (almost five), and Ashleigh's last name has magically changed to Griffin.  Gregg and Yvonne get married and everything is beautiful.  Tor decides that his "oh Sammy, kiss me!" proposal from Samantha's Journey wasn't good enough, so he proposes again, this time right in the middle of the wedding reception.  Yeah, that's really polite, Tor.  At least he has a ring this time.

Samantha and Tor can't decide on a date for their wedding, but Samantha does propose a honeymoon in the Caribbean, like Ashleigh and Mike.  Beth suggests that they book the country club for a December 7 wedding.  Samantha isn't excited about something so fancy, but she says yes.

Maureen brings over some wedding magazines, and Sammy balks at the idea of wearing a fancy dress.  Beth hires a wedding planner named Erika Alfonso, who also planned Brad and Lavinia's wedding.  I'm sure you can guess how Samantha feels about the fancy wedding planner, but she handles it remarkably well given that I fully support bopping Beth over the head at this point.  Erika is just leaving when Shining goes into early labor even though she's only five months along.  Dr. Smith (hello again, Max's mom) moves her to her vet clinic.  Shining loses the foal and will not be able to have another, but is okay otherwise.  Tor very supportively tells Samantha that this is "a rotten thing to happen."  What is wrong with him in this book?  Has he lost all sense of how to be a decent person?  Are you sure you want to marry this guy, Sammy?

Brad and Lavinia pop over to the clinic to let Samantha know that they've booked the country club for their own party on December 7.  DUN DUN DUN.  Samantha and Tor don't really mind, and plan for a small wedding in February instead.  Mandy, who's been hanging around all throughout this book, loves Shining so much that Samantha decides to move her to Whisperwood to recover, so she can hang out with Mandy and Mandy can draw her picture and bring her flowers and love her and squeeze her and call her Bob.

Tor and Samantha take Sierra to a steeplechase at Bright Meadows in October.  They see a horse called Miss Battleship, who has Man o' War in her bloodlines.  (Helpful hint:  This is your famous horsie reference of the book.)  Sammy wins her 'chase on Sierra, and Miss Battleship's owner asks her to ride Miss Battleship.  They finish sixth.  The owner is disappointed and plans to sell her, so Samantha and Tor take the money they were going to use for their honeymoon and buy Miss Battleship instead.

Sammy and Beth shop for a wedding dress and "a pair of white lace-up boots," which, I don't know, maybe it's just me, sound perfectly hideous.  At dinner, Ian announces that Len has decided to retire to Indiana to be near his daughter and grandchildren.  Wow, Len!  Remember him?  And they mention Charlie too!  Hot damn.  Mike hires George Ballard as the new manager of the stallion barn.

Ashleigh gets thrown from a horse during a work and fractures a vertebra.  The doctor advises that she not race anymore.  Yay, more continuity!  It's mentioned in earlier books that Ashleigh stopped racing because of back problems.  Sammy wants to postpone the wedding again so Ashleigh can be in it.  She and Tor decide to have a small civil ceremony.

So even though they agree on that, in the weirdest case of five-year-old logic ever, Samantha decides that she and Tor aren't "meant" to get married, and "Maybe Maureen and I will be silly old single ladies together, wearing purple and drinking tea together on the porch."  I mean, WTF?  (I've said that twice in this recap now, haven't I?  Remind me again of why I was looking forward to this book?)

Then, just in time, Ashleigh and Cindy et. al. throw Sammy a surprise wedding shower, and make plans for a horseback wedding next week.  I guess they've been taking a page out of The Saddle Club.  Sammy rides sidesaddle on Pride, which, aside from the whole wedding dress and sidesaddle and horseback wedding and that hideous pink thing she's wearing on the cover, is kind of sweet.  Samantha and Tor open presents and discover that they're going to Ireland for a month for a honeymoon.

Then we are blasted back to the present, in which apparently Samantha has been talking to herself the whole time Ashleigh, Christina, and Cindy have been cleaning out the room.  Well, what can I say.  I guess Cindy doesn't have a monopoly on complete and total obliviousness.

Points of Interest:
  • We find out that Max Smith went to vet school in California and is presumably a vet out there.  This is a pretty good throwaway line, since a) it explains what happened to him, b) it gives a reasonable explanation for why he and his mom aren't around, and c) he mentioned wanting to be a vet in the first book he appeared in (Glory's Triumph).  Of course, Cindy "wanted" to be a vet then too.  How times have changed.
  • Apparently Samantha sometimes slips "into a hint of the Irish brogue she had picked up from her years in Ireland."  Having lived with people from the UK and Australia in high school, I can verify that this is true, but my god, it sounds so ridiculous.
  • For Yvonne's wedding, Samantha carries a bouquet of "yellow rosebuds and pink-tinged orchids … tiny blue forget-me-nots and delicate fronds of maidenhair fern." Maybe Mary Newhall was a florist in another life. 
  • Apparently Tor's barn has been called Whisperwood the whole time, like say, during those 15 Old Generation books when it didn't have a name.  This makes more sense than Tor and Samantha moving back from Ireland and buying a different barn and naming it Whisperwood, but it doesn't seem like a very Mr. Nelson-ish name to me.  (Claire also mentioned this in her recap of Racing Parker, the first time we encountered this Whispercrap.)
  • Wonderpony watch:  Vic Taleski rides a daughter of Glory and Princess.  Her name isn't mentioned; my money's on March to Princess.
  • Leap of Faith appears in this book as a broodmare.  What the eff … I don't even try to keep track of her anymore.
  • Mandy draws a picture of a chestnut horse, which "looks exactly like Shining."  Except for the part where Shining is a roan.  Perhaps she's turning into a full Wonderpony.
  • Ashleigh rides a two-year-old name Jazz Dancer, a son of Blues King and Precocious.  I think they should have insisted on a paternity test.  With that name, he is obviously by Jazzman.

Next up:  Ah, the lost-diary-from-the-past book that rivals Cindy's Desert Adventure for the winner of the Stupidest Title Award:  Samantha's Irish Luck.

Feb 18, 2013

Apparently the price of fame is to look goofy and wear hideous pink shirts. TB #64: The Price of Fame.

The Price of Fame
Thoroughbred #64
By Mary Newhall
April 2004

Christina saved Star from a stalker, but can she protect him from Brad Townsend?

When Christina first moved Star to Townsend Acres to keep him safe from his stalker, she couldn't stand the thought of keeping him under Brad's roof. But now that they've settled in, she can't complain: The facilities are great and Brad is keeping a polite distance. But just when Christina begins to let down her guard, she makes a shocking discovery. …

It turns out Brad is under a great deal of pressure from his investors to produce more moneymaking horses—horses bred from winners like Star and Light Fandango, a descendant of the famous Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer. Christina begins to suspect that Brad will force her to breed Star with one of his mares as payment for boarding Star. Christina will do anything to keep Star safe from Brad, but will she have a choice?

The Summary:

This is probably the most accurate summary I've read lately.  In fact, I considered just copy and pasting the first paragraph below, because that's basically the deal:  Townsend Acres is beautiful and well-managed, but Christina and Melanie wonder what on earth they're doing there.  Of course, you have to deduct about six points for the two famous horsie references in the second paragraph.

The Cover:

Oh man.  I'm pretty sure this travesty was the reason I wanted to get back into writing recaps.  That, and because it pays so well.  Anyway, the style is just completely bizarre, sort of like a cross between anime and CGI.  Or is anime all computer-generated these days anyway?  Well, whatever.  It looks 100% strange and cartoonish.  Christina's eyes (assuming that's Christina) are as big as Star's and I guess it's just the angle at which she's lovingly and protectively lying across his neck, but she also looks like the fattest jockey in existence.

The Plot:

So after Christina's questionable taste in new friends, she retreats to Townsend Acres with Star, even though the stalker left for California at the end of the last book.  I'm not completely clear on why Christina didn't just take Star back to Whitebrook and agree not to befriend any more weirdo stalkers, but I guess they had to get Christina to TA somehow, since, as we all know, Melanie isn't good enough to carry a plot on her own.  I mean, it wasn't good enough that Melanie wanted to be a jockey and Christina wanted to event, oh nooooo, Christina had to want to race too.  Whatever.  So Melanie is working with Jinx, who is even crazier than Image.  She's also agreed to let Brad breed Image to Celtic Mist.

The first third or so of this book involves Townsend Acres being beautiful and well-managed, but Christina and Melanie wondering what on earth they're doing there.  Christina overhears Brad and Lavinia talking about a syndicate meeting that Brad has to attend.  Apparently this means that Brad sells shares of his horses to investors so he can keep having cash to make improvements to his beautiful, well-managed farm.

Brad invites Christina and Melanie to dine with him (complete with "chilled forks"—is that a thing?) and asks them to exercise-ride some horses for Ralph Dunkirk.  Most of this dinner is actually taken up by Brad's snide comments about Christina and her parents.  Confession time:  I am not a big Brad fan.  I don't think he's Batman and I had a really hard time writing that Brad/Ashleigh challenge ficlet that Mara asked for one time.  But here he's probably the most interesting he's been since the OG books because everything he says is true:  Ashleigh and Mike have never really shown off Whitebrook.  Almost every great winner they've had did come from TA bloodlines (except for Glory, and TA owns half of Glory anyway).  Brad says, "The animals we breed and train are income-producing stock. The challenge of breeding for racing excellence, to become the best, is what it's all about."  Christina counters with, "Horses are glorious, magnificent creatures with personalities, and there's nothing so wonderful as connecting with one of them," and while that's probably what we're supposed to think, it sounds pretty ridiculous right this moment.  There was an early Saddle Club book that featured horse-racing and Carole coming to the realization that some horses are not just for fun and worth a couple hundred or maybe a thousand dollars; for some, they are big money and it's almost like they're not the same animal as a pleasure horse at all.  Sorry, Christina, but I think you lose this round.

Oh, and this is so important that it gets its own paragraph:  after Christina's little declaration, Brad comes back with, "I don't need to get attached to the horses to enjoy the benefits they provide me."  I guess maybe it's true; he never did love another horse after they had to destroy Townsend Prince.

Christina rides some horses with incredibly stupid names:  Townsend's Silver Spoon, TA Illumination, and Pride's Light Fandango.  Light Fandango is the one who's supposed to be important, because he has Northern Dancer bloodlines (famous horsie reference of the book).  Also, I think some of those names exceed the 18-character limit, unless that's supposed to mean "Silver Spoon who belongs to Townsend" and "Light Fandango who belongs to Pride" … no, that doesn't make any sense.

Surprising no one, Light Fandango is amazing and all that.  Ralph asks her to ride him in the Kentucky Cup.  At first Christina says no, because "Brad would never want me to race a Townsend Acres horse."  Ralph says that's true (zing!) but they need a jockey, so Christina says yes.  Jinx has been performing well, so Melanie plans to enter him in the Kentucky Cup.  She can't believe it when Christina says she's agreed to ride Light Fandango for TA.  Christina tells Ashleigh, who is clearly pissed but decides to go the passive-aggressive route and say she doesn't mind.

The Kentucky Cup happens (that was quick).  Melanie wins on Jinx, Christina brings Light Fandango in second, one of Ghyllian Hollis' colts runs third, and a Whitebrook horse named American Jazz is fourth.  Light Fandango is really tired, so Ralph says they'll leave him at the track overnight.  Christina gets back to TA just in time to find Brad showing off for the investors, who do not seem impressed.  They don't want Celtic Mist's bloodlines, they want a Wonderpony, and Brad failed in his quest to get Champion back to TA.  They ask if Star will stand stud at TA.

Christina freaks out and wants to move Star right away, accusing Brad of planning this.  Brad just rolls his eyes and tells her, "I didn't find someone to stalk your horse so that I could offer to let you keep Star here, I didn't call my foreign investors and invite them to have an unplanned stockholders' meeting so that I could show off Star and Image, and I didn't tell them Star is mine."  Brad tries three different tactics:  first he tells her, "We're really not all that different, you and I. We both like to compete and we both like to win. … For all your righteousness, you're as aggressive and focused as I am. The big difference is that I recognize it in myself, and I'm okay with it."  When that doesn't work, he says that if she loves Parker, she should want Brad to be successful so he can inherit TA someday.  When that still doesn't work, Brad tells her that if she takes Star away from TA, he'll buy Image from Jazz.  Well, that does it.  Christina's not sure what to do.

Melanie gets back to the farm and gets a call from Jazz.  Turns out Brad has already made the offer, and Jazz is considering it.  Melanie is heartbroken.

Christina spends several pages stewing and moping, until she comes up with a brilliant plan.  (Note generous use of "brilliant" in that sentence.)  She goes to Whitebrook to talk it over with Ashleigh and Mike.  They agree, but to draw out the suspense, we don't find out what the plan is for about 10 pages.

Christina goes back to TA with a ginormous check for Brad—the amount of money she won in the Belmont.  Christina says it's to pay for Image's therapy and for Brad to relinquish his interest in her first foal.  She and Brad get to do a little more verbal sparring, in which Brad tells her that "I get the same thrill out of cutting a smart business deal as you get winning a race. We have different priorities, but it's all about using your skills to come in first," and Christina can't really disagree.  In the end, Brad agrees, but adds one condition to the deal:  "A breeding with Star to the mare of my choice."  Christina figures he's just trying to get a foal out of Image, so she stipulates, "Any mare that is owned by TA."  Brad grimaces and says, "You outmaneuvered me on that one," which I don't really get.  I mean, they haven't signed anything, so they could just as easily continue to argue about it (though maybe the whole point is that Christina figured out what Brad was trying to get out of the condition?).  Christina's final condition is that Brad not tell Melanie or Parker about their deal.  Brad tells Christina that he'll call Jazz and she should get off the farm that night.

Then we have one more chapter in which Image is no one's Wonderpony and refuses to get on the damn trailer, and Christina and Melanie go back to Whitebrook and we end with a scene so sappy it rivals Full House, in which "all the nice stuff in the world doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't feel like home."  Thanks, Ashleigh.  That would mean a lot more coming from you if you weren't the worst mother since Alice Wakefield.

Points of Interest:
  • Ah, OG canon check:  passed!  "Aunt Caroline" did indeed date Brad before he met Lavinia.
  • Melanie is thinking of "Misty Image" as a name for the foal.  That's great Mel, because we don't have enough horses that sound like My Little Ponies.  I guess that's better than Perfect Celtic.
  • One of the investors says that Townsend Pride "hasn't sired a foal of any renown for years."  If he were still alive, he'd been awfully old by this time.  In Ashleigh's Diary he is four, which I've always thought was a bit of a weird retcon given that Wonder would have been conceived that year, and the way they were talking about Townsend Pride's foals, it seemed like he'd been at stud for a lot longer than that.  But okay, if we accept that he was born when Ashleigh was seven, he'd be 35 years old now.  Maybe he needs horse Viagra.

Next up:  Sorry, I forgot that The Price of Fame hadn't been recapped, so next it really is the Samantha weddingfest of Bridal Dreams.

Feb 4, 2013

Try not to yawn as much through this recap as I did through the book. Thoroughbred #60: Taking the Reins

Taking the Reins
Thoroughbred #60

By Jennifer Chu

August 2003

It's time for Christina and Melanie to make some big decisions.

Christina loves being a jockey. But a heartbreaking accident at the Belmont track forces her to reconsider veterinary medicine. Working with a horse that has Charismatic's bloodlines reminds Christina of Charismatic's amazing story—how he unexpectedly won the Derby and the Preakness in 1999, only to go down in the Belmont with a broken leg. It would feel pretty great to help horses in similar situations. But how can she turn her back on Wonder's Star?

Meanwhile, Melanie finds her relationship with her cousin strained when she decides to ride a horse for the very couple Christina holds responsible for her accident. For Melanie, her prospects as a jockey seem clear, but her future with the people she loves—Christina, Jazz, and even Image—is less certain. How will Melanie prove to Christina that she puts the people she loves first?

The Summary:

I will give it a generous 2/10.  Yes, there is a heartbreaking accident.  Christina goes on and on about being a vet (again).  Other than that, everything, including that entire second paragraph, is bullshit.  Their relationship is strained for, like, maybe half a page.

The Cover:

Um, the less said about this travesty, the better.  Are there even stirrups on that saddle?  Why does Christina look like she's riding a rocking horse?  Why is that horse's head a veiny mess?  (Though to be fair, if I were having a "heartbreaking accident," my face would probably be a veiny mess too.)  Also, let's note that the front-cover tag says "Will Charismatic's tragedy cause Christina to give up her dreams of being a jockey?"  Sorry, HarperCollins, not even close.

The Plot:

This book zips back and forth between Christina and Melanie, until it doesn't anymore.  So chapter 1 is a Christina chapter.  We pick up after the Belmont—literally right after; Christina's still standing in the winner's circle talking to reporters—when Christina runs into Patrick and Amanda Johnston, those annoying California people.  They ask her to ride one of their fillies, Noble Answer (Nobie). Christina and Parker get back together … right before he goes back to England and she stays at Belmont for the rest of the summer.  Yeah, that makes sense.

Chapter 2:  Melanie wins a race on Blue Streak for the Johnstons.  She talks to Jazz on the phone.  Jazz tells her that Image is doing well, but Brad's served them with a massive bill, shocking no one.  Melanie angsts about whether she should give Image's first foal to Brad to pay the bills.

Chapter 3:  Christina rides some horses for the Johnstons and agrees to ride Matter of Time (Matt) in the Suburban.  She goes out to dinner with Aaron, and tells him that she got back together with Parker.  Burn.  Aaron gets sick, and Christina exercises Calm Before the Storm (Callie).

Chapter 4:  Melanie and Jazz have a hot date that includes walking Image and eating turkey and ham sandwiches.  Damn, they rival Christina and Parker for Passionate Romance of the Thoroughbred Century.  Jazz says he wants to buy another racehorse.

Chapter 5:  Christina rides Callie in a race.  He stumbles.  She's not sure what to do, but he keeps running, so she lets him … until he stumbles again.  He goes down, shattering some bones and tearing some tendons.  They haul him off to the vet clinic, which I think is the same as when they tell us at the shelter that a cat went to "the barn program."

Chapter 6:  Melanie asks Cindy for advice about being a jockey.  I’m not sure that Cindy is the right person to ask about this.  Melanie goes to Whitebrook for dinner with Ashleigh, Mike, Ian, Beth, Kevin, Sammy, Tor, Cindy, Ben … Jesus, what is this, a Whitebrook reunion?  These characters actually still talk to each other?  You could've fooled me. Christina calls to tell them about the accident.

Chapter 7:  The vet, Dr. Reuter, tries to operate on Callie, but he has "no chance of a meaningful recovery."  His owner, Marisa, agrees to have him put down.  Christina asks to see him, but the vet says that "he's in too much pain to recognize anyone."  Ahh, not bad work here, Jennifer, 'cause sometimes this is true.  (I may be a little bitter about this trope, having recently reread Goodbye, Midnight Wanderer.)  Christina gets all self-flagellating (wow, that sounds dirty) and blames herself for Callie's death.

Chapter 8:  Melanie goes to Belmont.  The Johnstons offer her a ride on one of their horses, Enigmatic, if Christina doesn't take it.

Chapter 9:  Christina is nervous and insecure about riding.  She lets Charisma get away from her during a work.  She's called to an inquiry about Callie's death.  She wonders if the Johnstons rushed him back to the track before he was sound.  Christina declines the ride on Enigmatic, and Amanda tells her that they already asked Melanie as a backup.  Christina proceeds to flip out and wonder how Melanie could possibly consider riding for such awful people who would kill a poor innocent defenseless horse.  Honestly, even for Christina, this is a stretch.

Chapter 10:  Melanie rides Enigmatic.  The stewards have dismissed the inquiry into Callie's death.  Christina is all sulky and crap, until Aaron shows her a tape of the race and she can't see the moment when Callie first stumbled.  After that, she's still all sulky and crap, but tells Melanie she just needs some time, and that she wants to be a vet.  Well, that wasn't so bad.  Only a few books of angsting and moaning; we're making progress here.

Chapter 11:  Christina tours Dr. Reuter's Super Secret Outer Space Other Hemisphere Ten Way vet facility and is all jazzed about being a vet, but decides she has to keep her word to the Johnstons and ride Matt in the Suburban.

Chapter 12:  Jazz comes to Belmont.  He tells Melanie that he made a deal with Brad:  they'll breed Image to Celtic Mist, and Jazz and Brad will share ownership of the foal 51-49.  Jazz and Melanie agree to look for another racehorse.

Chapter 13:  Christina rides Matt in the Suburban.  She's overly cautious, and at first he's 15 lengths off the lead.  Then she decides to snap out of it, and eventually brings him in third.  And thus ends Christina's racing career (I hope).  Thank God.  I've been waiting for this since book 40.

Points of Interest:
  • This book is dedicated to "Barbara, Charlene, Cindy, Dominique, Marisa, and Patrick in honor of all our undergrad adventures," who all pop up as characters.  Barbara, Charlene, and Dominique are Melanie and Katie's friends; Marisa is Callie's owner, and of course Patrick is Patrick Johnston.  There's no Cindy, I guess because it would be too confusing with real!Cindy.  I can't decide if I find this sweet or annoying.
  • We all know that Jennifer Chu was a fan of the books before she ever wrote any of them, which I normally like, but she's very hit-or-miss about the little details she throws in.  She tells us that Cindy missed riding Honor Bright, which is correct; she would've been eighteen (and in Dubai, then New York) when Honor was three.  We also find out that Honor and Glory's daughter, Honor and Glory (how's that for creative?  They must've really been missing Cindy's magic touch with the naming there), ran third in the Derby the year Christina was ten.  However, Jennifer also feels the need to remind us that "Cindy had played a large role in March to Glory's training. The horse had set a record in the Breeders' Cup Classic and had been named Horse of the Year after his three-year-old season."  As if anyone could have forgotten (and believe me, some of us tried).
  • Also, Christina later rides March to Honor, another of Honor and Glory's foals.  I hope they didn’t have more than two; what would they have called it, March to Bright?
  • In a well-meaning but misguided attempt to comfort Christina, Melanie tells her, "You have to believe that Callie will make it, just like Raven and Image did."  Yeah, that helps a lot, Melanie.  So far, I guess the accident count is Melanie 1, Christina 2.
  • Whitebrook has a horse named Charisma, a daughter of Pride, not to be confused with Charismatic, who won the Derby and the Preakness in 1999 but broke down in the Belmont.  His jockey, Chris Antley, acted quickly to save his life.  Does that sound familiar?  I hope so, because that's your Famous Horsie reference of the book.
  • Melanie thinks that maybe "Enigma" would be a good nickname for "Enigmatic."  She really has  been spending time with Cindy.
  • Is it bad that I keep getting this book mixed up with Breaking the Fall?   Not on the basis of plot, just on the basis of title.  (Or maybe on the basis of plot after all; I think Breaking the Fall also features Christina and Melanie supposedly having a "fight" of some sort.)  I was always sort of glad that the Thoroughbred titling convention stayed far, far away from the Baby-Sitters Club-esque style of "Christina and the Broken Leg of Doom," but at the same time, it would be nice if the titles actually helped you keep the storylines straight.

Next up:  The hideously-titled Parker's Passion, already reviewed by Claire.  Next up from me:  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but in comparison to this festival of tedium, I'm almost looking forward to the Samantha Diary of Exposition.

Jan 27, 2013

Wish Upon a Horse

Wish Upon a Horse
Timber Ridge Riders #4
by Maggie Dana
More than anything in the world, Kate McGregor wants a horse of her own, but the scruffy mare she rescues from the auction is hardly the horse of her dreams. 

Still, Kate’s betting that one day her horse will be a champion. Together they’ll win blue ribbons. They’ll beat Angela Dean once and for all, despite the fact that Angela’s being coached by one of the top riders in the world who’s as unscrupulous as she is.

But can Kate do it? Even her best friend, Holly, is doubtful, especially when Angela spreads the rumor that Kate’s horse might be stolen property.
Hi y'all! Welcome to my herculean attempt at Cheerful Southern. I am not a southerner (not really) and I'm not cheerful (I don't think so, anyway). So listen. I've been trying to get through my backlog of books I promised people I would read way long ago in this time that I call 2012. It was a magical and horrible time, resulting in a list of books that became a pile of books (or, well, metaphorically) that I kind of ignored up until very recently. I realize that I'm basically describing the human condition (overly emotional procrastinator), but I think we can all sagely agree that we're walking hormonal bags of goo and continue on with our lives. So here we are, with a book to get around to talking about at some point. So let's get to that!

Kate McGregor has a chunk of cash burning a hole in her bank account, and she has designs to turn this money into a Wonder Pony all her very own! Liz, who is the haver of all horse knowledge, declares that she will help Kate on this magical quest and Holly whips out the horse classifieds. Everyone realizes that horses cost a lot of money...like, way more than the tantalizing amount Kate possesses...and the girls are demoralized that anything worth having is reserved for those of us with income. But Liz says, "Hark! I heard of an auction that may or may not have something worth looking at and you did tell your dad that you're buying a horse right? I didn't just imagine that it's totally okay for you to buy livestock without the permission of an adult that is actually your legal guardian and not me, your sort-of employer?"

So Kate is like...maybe? And then they're off to an auction. While at the auction, either nothing is appealing or everything is too expensive. Kate's attempts at buying a horse are thwarted, but there is a secret auction going on in the back lot or some such and those are the horses that will be headed to Canadian slaughterhouses. Because I can't remember anything anymore, I am not sure how Kate notices the mare from the book previous, but she does. The crazy loon's brown mare is purchased by a kill buyer and Kate, mustering up all her horse girl heroine gusto, flings herself at the side of the truck in order to stop the kill buyer and insist on buying Brown Mare. Eventually Liz appears to punch the kill buyer in the face, which was pretty awesome because random violence entertains me, and Kate buys the mare.

Congratulations, Kate! You are the official owner of a horse type thing that Liz recommends you fatten up and sell. Huzzah. They haul Brown Mare home and Kate slinks into the barn with it, hoping to not be seen by Angela, who is not going to be on board with having a rescue horse within the stable walls. Rescue horses bring down the value of all horses near it, obviously. So Kate and Holly clean up Brown Mare and discover that she's actually a flaxen-haired, golden chestnut Morgan underneath what must have been two inches of dirt. They name the mare Tapestry and one up Angela when her mother storms in asking to see the dirty Brown Mare that is ruining all of their lives.

Speaking of Angela, she now has a new coach that is set on whipping her into shape for team try outs. They conduct their lessons in a totally enclosed arena, in complete seclusion, because that is normal and rational and not super sketchy and suspicious. Angela's sanity begins to slowly unravel, and it goes without mentioning that her horse goes batshit.

Meanwhile, Tapestry jumps out of her paddock, convincing everyone that she is awesome and doesn't need to be sold. Only by that point it has occurred to Liz that the mare was probably stolen, but by that point there are a ton of pictures of her on Facebook and because Angela knows everyone the mare has already acquired a "horse stalker" that is "interested" in "seeing more" of the mare. How do you stalk a horse online? Is that a thing?

So Kate has to cowgirl up and recognize that her horse may not be her horse, while her boyfriend who is not her boyfriend fails to contact her from Romania or somewhere because he is a movie star. Then she doesn't even make the riding team with Tapestry, and Holly will not stop cuddling with Adam and this makes Kate extremely stressed. Although not as stressed as Angela, who is literally at meltdown levels. Eventually Kate and Adam put two and two together and hide away in a closet adjacent to the arena so they can watch the abuse occurring between Angela and her new coach. Then there's some hysterics and Angela whips the guy in the face. Go Angela!

There is also a party. I think I forgot to mention this, which is horrible of me because two girls arrive dressed as My Little Ponies and it was adorable. And Nathan, Kate's movie actor/sort of boyfriend, appears fresh from being hospitalized in Romania with an excuse for not calling Kate that rivals Tor's legendary "but the phone lines were down for three days and I can't leave the horses for five minutes because I am responsible, which therefore makes me not a complete prick...in theory. I will accept your forgiveness now." In Nathan's defense, however, he wasn't actually being seduced by a blonde, nor did he epically piss off his non-girlfriend before failing to make contact with Kate. So he gets a pass. Mainly, I think Kate needs to chill out and find a second hobby.

Then Kate tries to check in on Angela, and Angela almost lets her, and it was a sweet moment that is totally ruined when Angela panics at the thought of having a genuine friend or something and defects to the opposing riding team. Do we get to have a second antagonist now? Does having Angela on the rival team give her potential for being nice? Or sort of morally gray? Or will she try to lure Adam away from Holly, given that I guess she'll be over at his barn causing chaos there? What will happen? I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

We close with a rousing equestrian show.

Oh, and Tapestry was stolen. But I don't really feel like revealing how that plays out. Go read it yourself, slackers. (Ha ha ha!)

Jan 21, 2013

I feel inspired, oh so inspired. Thoroughbred #59: Star's Inspiration

Star's Inspiration
Thoroughbred #59
By Mary Anderson
June 2003

It's Star's last strike. …

Christina Reese has always known that Wonder's Star is special. But as the third race in the Triple Crown approaches, it's unclear whether Star is up to the challenge. The competition is getting tougher every minute, and Christina's so stressed out, she wonders whether all the pressure she's feeling will affect Star's concentration.

But then Christina gets some fantastic tips from an unexpected source: a jockey who claims to have raced the legendary 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew. Star and Seattle Slew have more in common than Christina ever realized. With this new advice—and the amazing support of her family and friends—Christina feels ready to take on the world at the Belmont! But will Star come through?

The Summary:

Oh look! A big fat 0% on this one. I guess Star's imaginary three-paragraph illness is supposed to be the "is Star up to the challenge?" part. Christina is far less stressed-out and annoying than she was before the Preakness, and she never actually talks to said legendary jockey at all. One point for both Seattle Slew and Star nearly dying of a viral infection, but otherwise, that's a solid F+, HarperEntertainment.  

The Cover:

What on earth is Christina wearing? It looks like a polyester business suit. The shoulderpads, the ribbons … is she riding in the Belmont, or going to be a secretary in the 1970s? Also, apparently Whitebrook's colors have become black and blue, not blue and white, and I'm not sure Christina's helmet is fastened there, so it's good she didn't fall off in this book. I'm going to guess that on the left, that's Emilio Casados on Celtic Mist, so I'll give them credit for a) the horse being a gray, and b) the jockey wearing some shade of green, although I'm pretty sure that's a green sport coat he's wearing. And to the right, on the black-ish horse … what is that, the pink blob of Belmont?

The Plot:

Christina is in the starting gate for the Belmont, having a flashback to the way Image broke her leg during the Derby two books ago. Damn, that was quick. No 150 pages of whining and moping before the Belmont? No, never fear, life would never be that kind, for it turns out that it's just a dream and Ashleigh wakes Christina up.

Then we get into a rehash of basically all the things that happened in the last book, such as: Parker is worried about Brad's designs on Melanie and Image. Christina is not sure what she wants to do after high school and after Star finishes racing. Dani tells Christina how glad she is she's going to college and how excited she is to be a vet. Image won the Derby, Celtic Mist won the Preakness, and Wild 'n' Free (that colt from Celtic Meadows) came in second in the Preakness. Wait, I think some of this was already rehashed in the last book. Well, that's okay, there's nothing like a good comprehension check in the middle of the story. There's going to be a quiz at the end, you know.

Ashleigh, Melanie, and Christina visit Ghyllian Hollis and Vince Jones at Celtic Meadows, which is apparently the U.S. offshoot of the main facility in Shannon, Ireland. Hmm, I bet this will be important in about seven books or so. Vince is looking for a jockey for a colt named Celtic Knot. Melanie is riding for Townsend Acres, so Christina says yes.

Christina wins a race on Charisma, and brings Celtic Knot in second. Melanie comes in second on two Townsend Acres horses. She's clearly been drinking the Kool-Aid, because when Brad suggests breeding Celtic Mist to Image, Melanie says that might be "one incredible foal." Don't worry, though; Vicky Frontiere is still there to reaffirm that we hate Townsend Acres and she doesn't want to ride for them.

Ian calls the track in a panic to say that Star is sick, but by the time they get home, he's fine. I guess this is supposed to interject half a chapter of tension into the story before we finally make it to the Belmont in Chapter 10. The next day Christina exercises Gratis because Wolf quit working at Tall Oaks after he was suspended after the Preakness. Christina suggests that Cindy ask Melanie to ride Gratis in the Belmont.

Christina and Melanie graduate from high school and go out to dinner with Ashleigh, Mike, Samantha, Tor, and Parker. Samantha and Tor announce that they're having a baby. For some reason they don't go out with Ian, Beth, and Kevin (who is not mentioned in this book at all, but in later books they talk about how he's going to college in the fall). I might as well take this moment to rant about the fact that this is not possible at all. Melanie was born in the spring, Christina was born on Christmas, and Kevin was born the next spring. There's no way the three of them would be in the same class. Either Henry Clay has a September 1 cutoff, which means that Christina and Kevin could be in the same class but Melanie couldn't, or else they have a January 1 cutoff, which means that Melanie and Christina could be in the same class but Kevin couldn't. I can't begin to guess. My only fanon theory is that maybe Melanie got held back at some point. But trying to make this work logically is like trying to make the ages for Sweet Valley Twins line up, so I just don't even try anymore.

They take Star to Belmont and meet some famous people: Karen Taylor, Seattle Slew's owner; and Jean Cruguet, Slew's jockey. Oooh, I bet one of these people is supposed to be Star's inspiration. Five dollars, anyone? Cindy takes Christina to visit the farm where Legacy is at stud. The farm isn't all that nice, but the people are. They tell Christina and Cindy how much they love Legacy and how sweet he is. On the way back, Christina point-blank admits, "I never should have let him go." This is a rehash from earlier books too, but I like the way this whole thing plays out: Christina admits she was a brat, although probably no more so than most twelve-year-olds; we continue to acknowledge that Ashleigh was wrong to push racing so hard; and Legacy is fine, it's just sad that Wonder's supposedly-last baby never really got a chance. Bittersweet stuff all around.

Then we get back to Belmont and morph into a crossover with The Saddle Club: Speed.com has been stolen! Speed.com, if you remember, is trained by Alexis Huffman, who worked (dishonestly) for Fredericka Graber when she still owned Tall Oaks. I think I have that right. Check out the recap for #44: Perfect Image if you want to know more. Christina remembers that before the Preakness, Speed.com looked like he might be going lame. She speculates that Alexis arranged for him to be stolen. Gasps all around. All right, now let's get Deborah Hale to write an article and we will skulk around and get people to admit that … whoops, wrong series. Instead, Christina and Melanie skulk around in a car and try to find the horse. Right, because whoever stole him would be keeping him in a paddock next to the highway. They see a horse that they think could be Speed.com, and report it to the track security manager. Christina tells Melanie she's thinking of becoming a vet.

They draw positions for the Belmont:
Gratis – gate 1
Magnifique – 2
Derry O'Dell – 3
Wild 'n' Free – 4
Star – 5
Celtic Mist – 6
TV Time – 7
War Ghost – 8

For those keeping track, there were 9 in the Derby and 9 in the Preakness. I don’t know who we're missing—Ingleside, I guess. Granted, I know there have been small fields in the Belmont before, but I suspect that this painstaking listing of horses/gates/jockeys is because we're supposed to feel a deep kinship (or at least name recognition) with all these horses, and I really haven't been paying enough attention for that to work.

There's a pre-race party at Will and Susan Graham's the night before. There are a whole bunch of people there: Magnifique's owner, Ghyllian Hollis, Jilly Gordon and Craig Avery (hey, remember them? I'm sure they WON'T become an important plot point in about ten books). Will announces that they found Speed.com after Christina and Melanie's anonymous tip led them to a farm outside Elmont. It turns out Alexis did, indeed, engineer the theft of her own horse. Way to go, Christina and Melanie. That was the most boring Saddle Club mystery ever.

Finally, the goddamn Belmont happens. At first Star breaks badly, then he gets blocked in, then sees a hole and goes for it. She tries to keep Star under control, then remembers what Jean Cruguet said about Seattle Slew: "He just hung on and let the horse run the race his way." This is truly hilarious because the only person who ever actually said those words was Cindy, who was quoting something she read. Though really, Cindy probably would have been about as much help as Jean Cruguet here. A mere 118 words later, in the most underwhelming race scene/denouement ever, Star wins the Belmont. Turns out Parker came to watch the race and kisses Christina (even though they were still broken up or something like that), and Christina knows that "everything was going to be just perfect." Ugh.

There is a super-inspiring biography of Seattle Slew at the end. I guess it's supposed to be inspiring because Seattle Slew "nearly los[t] his jockey, Jean Cruguet, at the start of the 1977 Kentucky Derby" just like Star and Christina did here? I don't even know.

So there's your Triple Crown, folks.
Derby: Image, Mist, Gratis
Preakness: Mist, Wild 'n' Free, Gratis (disqualified), Star
Belmont: Star, Gratis, Mist. (Not sure about place and show—Gratis and Mist were fighting it out down to the wire but they don't confirm the exact finish. But it's not really supposed to matter because Star won !1!!1eleventyone!!)

Points of Interest:
  • The vapor lights make an early appearance in chapter 1.
  • At one point, Ashleigh says, "We had some great years at Edgardale when I was young" and gives a "heavy sigh." Christina knows "her mother must be thinking about the horses they had lost because of the epidemic." Ah, very observant, Christina. Good thing you want to become a vet and not a psychologist.
  • For the party, Christina wears a "sleeveless blue-and-white dress." Okay, we get it, Christina. You like your horsies. You are allowed to pick other colors, you know. Maybe something else would set off your ever-changing hair better.
  • Jilly is described as the person who "jockeyed Ashleigh's Wonder until a broken leg kept her from racing, forcing Ashleigh to get her jockey's license so that she could ride Wonder in the Breeder's Cup." Which is actually mostly correct. +1 for Mary.
Next up: the Breeder's Cup! No, just kidding. It's another Jennifer Chu book, which means those California people will be back.

Jan 13, 2013

Christina's Shining Star is not all that shiny. Thoroughbred #58: Christina's Shining Star

Christina's Shining Star
Thoroughbred #58
By Mary Anderson
April 2003
Can Christina and Star pull off a victory?
As Christina Reese's high school graduation draws near, she's filled with questions and not enough answers. Has she sacrificed too much to follow her dream of taking Wonder's Star to the top? She and Star failed to place in the Kentucky Derby. Can they win the Preakness and still have time for Parker, Melanie, the prom, and graduation?
An unexpected brush with the trainer of Affirmed—the famous 1978 Triple Crown winner—not only leaves Christina with some amazing insights, but confirms her belief in Star. Will Christina be able to show everyone how special Star is? Or will her doubts and distractions keep them out of the running … again?
The Summary:

Eh, 50% credit. I think they could have left out everything except the last two sentences, because that's basically what this book is about. It's amazing how you can stretch three weeks to fill 160 pages.  

The Cover:

I don't know what happened -- they must have switched to a new artist or something -- but starting with this book, some of the covers have this weird, cartoony, almost video-game-ish look to them. (Just wait till I get my hands on you, The Price of Fame.) I guess Star is curving his head around from his body, although it looks kind of like Christina has her hands on two different horses here. And what is she wearing? Is it ... the uniform of a Catholic schoolgirl? The puff sleeves that Anne Shirley so wistfully coveted in Anne of Green Gables? Yet another style of Whitebrook silks? The world may never know. What I object to most is the tagline "Can the legendary racehorse Affirmed inspire Star to glory?", which has little to nothing to do with the inspiration that actually happens in this book. Also, Affirmed died in 2001.  

The Plot:

In one of those awesome split-book-type-scenes, Christina's Shining Star picks up from the end of the Kentucky Derby. While Image is shooting across the finish line and breaking her leg, Star is getting boxed in and finishing dead last. The rest of this chapter is a total loss, since it helpfully informs us of things like the fact that Celtic Mist came in second, Gratis came in third, and Image gets moved to Townsend Acres to recover. This is why split-screen tends to work better in movies than books.

As for the actual book, it basically follows a pattern of something happening and then Christina whining and moping. She and Ashleigh have a couple of arguments about why Star got boxed in. One night at dinner she plays with her food, lining up her veggies " so that they formed the same bunching that had held Star up during the Derby." Aside from the fact that it makes Christina sound like she's two years old, this is kind of cute because it reminds me of the time she made a jump course out of her food. How times have changed.

Christina takes a little break from moping to go to the prom with Parker, but she puts her foot in it by asking Katie who came up with the theme, when Katie has told her several times that she was in charge of the decorations. Oops. The night gets even better when Parker tells her point-blank, "Your ego got in the way," and "if you had been more focused on the quality of horses Star was running against and not stuck on the idea that Star deserved to win, you might have done better." Christina throws a hissy fit and demands that Parker take her home, then wonders "why life had to be so complicated."

The next day, Cindy and Samantha come over to talk to Ashleigh about some breedings, including Sterling to Jazzman. Because he was trained as a jumper. Just like that time he ran in the Pimlico Special. Boy, there sure are some great jumps on that track, aren't there? Anyway, Christina whines and mopes to Cindy and Sammy how stressed she is, what with racing Star and fighting with Ashleigh and taking some finals in those, like, two classes she attends. One of them is "contemporary world problems." I'm not sure what that means. Maybe it's to show that Christina's whining and moping issues are nothing in the grand scheme of things. No, more likely it's to show that Christina's problems are as weighty as the problems of the world. Speaking of which, Katie is still ticked off at Christina, which is just so rude and unsympathetic because doesn't Katie know that Christina is the only teenager in the history of the world who's ever ridden in a horse race?

 Ashleigh and Christina fight some more about how Christina didn't pay attention during the Derby and needs to do better in the Preakness. At this point, and we're only about a quarter of the way through the book, I want to drop both of them in a pile of manure. You know, I feel bad for Ashleigh most of the time because it seems like she spends a lot of time caught up in boring administrative stuff and not doing what she wants to do, but all she seems to be doing here is telling Christina she needs to do better without actually giving her suggestions about how to do it better. Maybe that's Ian's job. He's still around, isn't he?

 The next day, a reporter shows up at the farm and writes a bitchy article about Christina and Star, which causes Christina to whine and mope. She goes to visit Melanie at her fancy Townsend Acres cottage and whines and mopes on the way home. She goes over to Tall Oaks and whines and mopes so much that Cindy suggests that she bring Star over to train there so she can get away from Ashleigh. Cindy also says that Gratis is such a handful because he has both Affirmed and Alydar in his bloodlines. Get it? AFFIRMED and ALYDAR? Remember those guys? Oh, do you not know who they are? Well, that's okay, because we will be glad to explain it to you! Honestly, sometimes these characters walk around sounding like they've swallowed Wikipedia.

Cindy thinks it's great to have Christina at Tall Oaks because Wolf needs to learn some good old-fashioned jockey manners. I don't think Christina is the person to teach him about that, but okay, whatever you want, Cindy. She and Christina go on a trail ride, and Cindy says she's going to start taking courses at community college this fall, so that she can be "more of a help to Tall Oaks than just a horse trainer." Very subtle. Of course, Cindy is the one who came up with "Wonder's Champion," so … never mind. Wolf and Christina work their horses together, and Christina accuses him of interfering with her, but Wolf tells her that he never touched her and she's just being too timid. Christina whines and mopes.

Christina takes Star to Pimlico a few days before the Preakness, where she just happens to run into Steve Cauthen, who won the Triple Crown on Affirmed in 1978. Right, Affirmed! Remember him? The horse we were just talking about? Purely coincidental, of course. Anyway, Ghyllian Hollis and Vince Jones are also there with a colt called Wild 'n' Free, also a descendant of Affirmed, who's racing in the Preakness too. I think we're supposed to care, but honestly, I have a hard time keeping track of all these different farms/horses and which ones are supposed to win/place/show in which races. Later, some other awesome horse named Magnifique turns up too, and he is magnificent. Get it?

Christina overhears some of the other jockeys talking about Wolf's reckless riding style, but decides not to say anything to him, particularly after he makes fun of her for losing a race on another one of Ghyllian Hollis' horses. Dani tells Christina more than she ever wanted to know about her college course schedule, which is "worth the effort because I'll be able to help the animals I love." Is anyone seeing a pattern here, or is it just me? No? Just me. Okay then.

Brad and Lavinia come by Star's stall, explaining to a group of investors (? Friends? Groupies?) that Christina bought out his interest in Star, and that they are so pleased that she's turned him back into a nice riding horse, even if he no longer has the competitive spirit. Christina rallies and says Brad is lucky "to be able to buy a colt with such good bloodlines, since you couldn't produce one worthy of the Triple Crown at Townsend Acres." Oooh, if this were a movie, there would be a cool sound effect right now. Ghyllian Hollis comes by to agree that Brad is a pompous jerk and to invite Christina to a party that night, where she runs into Steve Cauthen again. His sage advice is that "all you need is a little more confidence in your connection with your horse. Going out there knowing you've got a great horse under you is really important." Funny, this is exactly the same logic I use when I play the lottery. You can see how well that's worked.

Then the Preakness happens. This has to be the most boring race in the history of Thoroughbred. (Note: I have not read, um, most of the books lately, so I'm willing to take nominations for the actual winner of the "most boring race" award.) It is 14 paragraphs of actual race and the only thing of note is that Wolf cuts Christina off, and Star comes in fourth. Ian and Ashleigh tell her what a great/terrific job she did, though they don't sound particularly enthusiastic. Christina says they only placed fourth, but Wolf was disqualified, so Star is moved up to third. Celtic Mist wins, Wild 'n' Free comes in second. Wait, that was it? And the point of this would be … what? When you stop whining and moping and just have confidence in your horse, you place third? Sounds like a solid game plan to me.

And thus we enter a dark age of Thoroughbred, where every book includes an encounter with a famous person/horse that is supposed to be somehow relevant to the plot. I can't decide if this is better or worse than the famous-horsie-trail-ride that Cindy took in Ashleigh's Farewell -- at least those horses weren't real.  

Points of Interest:
  • "Christina had been so sure that Star's start from the number three position would put them in a good place right at the beginning of the race, she hadn't thought beyond it. She hadn't anticipated Perfect Image, Gratis, and Speed.com getting into a speed duel right from the start. All I could think about was the fact that I'm actually racing Star in the Kentucky Derby. What am I going to do? she berated herself, searching intently for a way to move Star ahead." I always like when Christina (and characters in general) acknowledges that she was stupid and that she did something wrong. Unfortunately, this scene occurs very early in the book, and none of it seems to carry over into the rest of the plot. So Christina was too confident, and the solution is … to be more confident?
  • "[Christina] thought of Miss America's bay colt, Royal Blue, wondering if the Blues King foal might be her next chance for a Triple Crown win. She quickly dashed the idea away, feeling as though she was being untrue to Star by thinking ahead that way." Right, because if Christina really loved Star, she'd figure out a way to invent time travel so he can run again next year.
  • For the prom, Christina wears a blue dress that is "almost the same color as her racing silks." Wait, didn't Cindy do that once?
  • Christina's "pearlescent blue" dress also catches the golden light as the "sun shone brightly through the bedroom window." I'm pretty sure Cindy's horses also used to do this during morning workouts.
  • Parker brings her a blue-and-white corsage and picks her up in a blue limousine. What the hell? He must have inherited that decorator gene from his mother.
  • Parker wears a black tuxedo to the prom. This is how you can tell this book wasn't written by Joanna: it's not white.
  • I haven't been rereading in order, so maybe I missed this, but Christina mentions (perhaps for the first time) that she regrets giving up Sterling and Legacy, and wonders what she'll do after Star stops racing. I know I made fun of all the anvils about college, but I think that's actually pretty logical given that she only got into racing because of the angry fans with pitchforks Star.
  • Christina refers to Brad as "Bradley Whiplash," after the way he disappeared from the horse cabana in the last book. Ha.
  • Sammy has been looking "pale" lately. Gosh, I don't know what that could mean. She must be … um, not getting enough vitamin D. Yeah, that's it.
  • Celtic Meadows' silks are "dark green shamrocks scattered over a white background." Ghyllian wears a green sundress to the race. I guess she went to the Lavinia Hotchkins-Ross Townsend Decorating School, too.
  • Mary's favorite vapor lights make an appearance at the beginning of chapter 9.
  • Christina is jealous that Jazz is writing a love song for Melanie, because "Parker would never do something like that." Um, Christina, that is because Jazz is a singer and a songwriter. It's his job. He gets paid for it. Parker's job is to muck out stalls and little teach kids how to tack up their horses. I'm sure if you asked nicely, he'd muck out a stall for you.
  • Ashleigh tells Christina that there will be more horses running at Pimlico. Except that the field is the same size, with Wild 'n' Free replacing Image. Last I checked, Ash, nine was the same as nine.
Next up: the Belmont. I'm off to play some more lottery numbers! I'm feeling very confident.