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Timber Ridge Riders Keep Raising the Bar

I originally set out to read and review the latest Timber Ridge Riders book, Chasing Dreams, the way I always do: seek out the underlying theme, fall in love with a few cute lines of dialogue, tell you guys that you really need to read them, etc.

But this book is just so good.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really just don’t read Young Adult or Middle Grade or Kiddie Books or whatever you want to call any genre that doesn’t have an swear words in it. (Not because of the swear words!  Now why would you assume that!)

Chasing Dreams by Maggie Dana

Chasing Dreams by Maggie Dana

There could be many reasons for this. One might be that I am in no way, even slightly, in any shape or form, nostalgic for childhood or my teen years or anything like that. Being a kid is the pits. I am so, so sorry for all of you kids out there. Don’t worry, you WILL grow up! It will happen!

Now, I did a lot of very cool things when I was a child/teen, don’t get me wrong. I have done the things horse-girls are supposed to do, like go bareback in my bathing suit down to the crick and watch, screaming with laughter, as a friend’s horse decides to roll in the water and said friend has to go diving for safety in the water and then snatch at my own reins in panic as my horse begins to consider a similar move. It wasn’t terrible. I just prefer being an adult, and reading about other adults.

That’s why the Timber Ridge books always surprise me. It’s their wit, it’s their cleverness, it’s the sheer awful genius of Angela. She outdoes herself in this book, let me tell you. Angela may be a horrible horsewoman and a terrible human being, but she is smart as a whip. She is a worthy opponent to Kate, who is beginning to grow weary of always being the Good Girl who Just Takes It.

And Kate is starting to get sick of always being trampled all over by Angela, and Angela’s friends, and Life In General. Kate has put up with a lot. Kate has to deal with a father who is more interested in his butterfly career than raising his daughter, until Oh wait! He wants to raise his daughter now. He wants to be best best friends with his daughter now. Gee, thanks, Dad. Now that I have an actual life, you want to make a buddy movie, Kate is thinking. Now that I have goals and friends and an actual possessions that don’t fit into a single suitcase, you want to show me how much you care. Nice timing.

So Kate’s dad is causing trouble, and Angela is causing trouble, and Holly’s boyfriend won’t stop texting her so Holly is causing trouble, and everything is trouble, and poor Kate, and…

That’s it!

Timber Ridge Riders is exactly what being a teenager is like, and that’s why I like it. There’s no nostalgia in these pages for me, just… man I get you Kate. I hated high school too.

And that, friends, is how you blog your way to an epiphany. Did you see what just happened there?

So, go and read Chasing Dreams, the fifth Timber Ridge Riders book, because as you can see it has altered my consciousness and also because it’s so, so good. Maggie Dana’s characters just have the quickest, lightest, funniest dialogue. I read these books so fast, chortling all the way. They’re brilliant.

And let me tell you, I’m not the only one. One of Dana’s fans has actually started a fan community just for Timber Ridge Riders. She’s looking for friends to come over and chat about the characters and horses in general, so go over and get into the conversation with her! I should be so lucky as to have a fan of my books start a fan community. Can you imagine? AlexandAlexander.net, probably. That would be awesome. Someone do that.

CHASING DREAMS is available at Barnes & Noble

and Amazon:

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Sunday Book Review: A Kid’s Guide to Getting a Horse

Well, not exactly as listed in title.

As much as fun as A Kid’s Guide to Getting a Horse would be to write, and please excuse that glaring light as I try to adjust the lightbulb that has just materialized over my head, but think of what it could be, a Happy Horsemanship for whatever generation we’re up to now, the Z Generation or the Annoying-As-Crap Generation or whatever we’re calling the kids these days, with suggestions on how to utilize SEO websites and Kickstarter in order to procure your VERY OWN HORSE, crowd-funding movies you can write, direct, film, and post to your own YouTube channel in order to pay board and show fees… it’s getting very digital age of ponies in here.

BUT ANYWAY.

Wish Upon A Horse. Barnes & Noble would like you to read it instantly. INSTANTLY!!!!

Wish Upon A Horse explains a more sure-fire way to procure a horse, if not how to pay for it. Surely you can still mow lawns and baby-sit in this enlightened age. Figure it out, kids. And read this book.

When I was a kid, I read all of Maggie Dana’s stories about Timber Ridge over and over. But the one that I read the most was the original version of “Wish Upon a Horse.” It was my personal Guide to Getting a Horse.

You see, as fun as the other books were, none of them really offered a concrete way to get me off my bike and into a saddle.

I checked the classifieds daily, but there were never any ads seeking young girls to move into a trainer’s house to act as a companion for another girl. And I doubt my parents would have been impressed if I’d actually found one. My parents were most definitely not in the absentee butterfly-scientist category. No sir, I was going to need good old-fashioned money to find a horse. And that seemed even more difficult to find than a nice convenient gig as a pre-teen companion.

But an auction, now… an auction! Cheap horses, and even better SAD looking horses, because nothing was more apt to open a recalcitrant pocketbook than a pair of soulful brown eyes blinking out of a muddy, skinny, neglected body.

“Wish Upon a Horse” gives us more adventures with Kate and Holly, who are more determinedly than ever best friends, despite their different personalities: Kate is still wary of Chapstick, and Holly still wants to give her a Glamour-Shots-style makeover. (Kate and Holly prove that horses can bring anyone together.) That’s delightful enough. But as I could have told you when I was thirteen and the proud owner of a cheap, skinny, dirty, soulful-eyed Thoroughbred, “Wish Upon a Horse” is also a great Guide to Getting a Horse.

Parents beware.

Kids, take notes.

WISH UPON A HORSE is HERE:

And HERE:

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Anything for her own horse: Riding for the Stars

Riding for the Stars book cover, black horse

Hollywood calling!

Oh, teenagers. Tweens. Young persons. I don’t know what to call them anymore, but “consumers” seems like it might fit the bill. Whatever the moniker, they are the new rulers of media and advertising. Their whims dictate what is produced for nearly every age group. And when they decided that they really liked vampires, then everyone else had to like vampires, too. Unless, of course, you’re a person completely checked out from the world outside the riding arena.

In most lesson barns, you’ll find that there are a couple of deeply focused teens who don’t actually realize there is an outside world. There are books, but they are written by either Walter Farley or George Morris. There is music, but it’s whatever the battered radio held together by fluttering strands of orange baling twine is able to pick up in that day’s particular atmospheric conditions. There are movies, but they’re all horse movies and horse movies never get it right anyway.

Then there are girls who actually manage to strike a balance between the horse world and the “real world,” much to the befuddlement of the diehards. They ride horses and they read Seventeen. They know how to braid complicated patterns into manes and into their own hair. They know the top five show jumping riders in the United States and they have some idea who all those guys are in the movie commercials.

I don’t know any of these girls but let me tell you, they’re out there.

In Riding for the Stars, Maggie Dana‘s third release in her tween horsey series, Timber Ridge Riders, we meet up once again with Kate and her best friend Holly. And Holly is being all fan-girly, for reasons beyond true-blue horse-obsessed blinders-on Kate’s comprehension, over some vampire horse book. 

But even if Kate can’t be bothered to read the damsel-in-distress time-warp vampire-horse novels that have Holly and the rest of the tween universe in palpitations, she’s definitely interested in the movie version of the book. Because the vampire horse will be a Timber Ridge mount, and the damsel in distress stunt double will be a Timber Ridge rider. Vampires schmampires, Kate McGregor wants the big fat check that comes along with the gig.

Kate wants — needs — her own horse. To make that happen, she figures, she needs this job.

Resident rich girl/Kate-hater Angela, who is mayhem in a tennis skirt, doesn’t need anything but the complete and total worship of everyone in the universe. To make that happen, she figures, she needs this job.

Riding for the Stars is a tribute to all those horse-obsessed girls who can’t see beyond the front gate of the farm, and who will do anything to have a horse they can call their own. Anything… even, as in Kate’s case, step far, far out of her comfort zone and into a world of make-up, wardrobe, and teen idols with “real” names and “working” names who might, maybe, possibly be just a little bit into her. Not that she’d notice. Boys are Holly’s department. Holly with her magazines and her lip gloss and her horse vampire books. Weird.

The book romps along at a break-neck pace. Along the way, Angela’s cruelty and deceptiveness provide embarrassment, tears, and outright life endangerment. But while she still has her posse of minions to take care of the menial tasks like grooming and tacking her horse for her, a few more members of the narrative seem to be hip to Angela’s two-faced nature, providing some welcome allies for Kate in the barn. And when one of Angela’s own attacks on Kate’s attempt to win the stunt double role back-fires, you can’t help but laugh at her sputtering defeat.

Riding for the Stars is available as an ebook from Amazon, along with the first two books in the series, Keeping Secrets and Racing Into Trouble. Read the Retired Racehorse reviews of these books here:

Old Friends, New Classics: Keeping Secrets

Stable rivalries, explosive results: Racing Into Trouble

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Stable rivalries, explosive results — Racing Into Trouble

In January, Sunday Book Reviews took a look at the rebirth of a beloved children’s book series, when “Best Friends” became “Timber Ridge Riders.” The first book, Keeping Secrets, is an absolutely fantastic read, fast-paced, funny, and real: three components of the kind of great horse books that can captivate young and adult readers alike. Author Maggie Dana definitely knows her game.

Racing Into Trouble book cover

A cover just begging to be opened...

Now the second book is out, and I’m happy to report that Racing Into Trouble is just as exciting, clever, and realistic as its older sibling. And it delves into deeper emotional territory than Keeping Secrets, even as the rivalries between the girls at the riding stable grow more dangerous, even explosive.

In Racing Into Trouble, the focus shifts more strongly to Holly, who is struggling, two years after a devastating car accident that killed her father, to regain the use of her legs.

Meanwhile, Kate, after her initial reticence, is growing more and more obsessed with the horses: taking responsibility for feeding and turn-out, organizing riding lessons, and, most importantly, falling deeply under the spell of a troubled new horse, Buccaneer, who becomes her all-consuming interest.

But for Holly, who can only ride when there are helpers available to get her up onto the barn’s ancient lead-line pony, Kate’s sudden success in the stables is salt in the wound. Kate came to Timber Ridge to be Holly’s companion, after all. But it seems like Kate has turned more into a groom and trainer’s assistant than Holly’s best friend.

When Kate rushes home with the news that Holly’s mother, Liz, has okayed her to ride Buccaneer outside of the arena, the splintering of their friendship seems inevitable. Being excluded from the equestrian world is torturous to Holly, and she is trying to think of other things, anything but horses; Kate can think of nothing else.

“Cool,” Holly said. “What’ll you wear for the party?”

“I dunno.” Kate hadn’t even thought that far ahead. “Shorts and a t-shirt, I guess.”

“Bo-o-oring,” Holly said. “I’m going to wear a long skirt and a camisole with skinny straps, and Mom’s turquoise earrings, and a shawl I found in her closet. It’s from Spain, I think, and it’s got this superfantastic fringe, and”—she sucked in her breath—“I’m gonna shave my legs.”

“Why bother?” Kate said. “Nobody will see them.”

The light left Holly’s eyes. “Never mind,” she said and jerked her wheels so hard that they made skid marks on the vinyl floor.

The gap between the two girls is suddenly yawning wide, and as barn rival Angela brings in a new recruit to assist her in her general bad behavior, which revolves around discrediting Kate and making Liz look bad, Kate finds herself alone in the stable without an ally, while Holly retreats deeper into a world of “girly-girl” things that don’t require the use of her legs.

One of the aspects I love about the Timber Ridge series is the accurate depictions of tween/early teen behavior. Kids make irrational decisions; they analyze situations and come up with insanely off-kilter potential results; they get themselves into ridiculous scrapes although they had the absolute best intentions possible. And when their scheming goes wrong and it all seems so obvious, they just clam up and get themselves into more trouble.

And so we find that Kate, despite scoring the ride on Buccaneer when Liz sprains her ankle, spirals deeper and deeper into disgrace, ultimately getting herself kicked right out of Timber Ridge. In nearly every instance, she could have spoken up and gotten herself out of trouble.  I was groaning “Oh, KATE! Just TELL HER WHAT HAPPENED!” as I flicked through the pages. And, “DON’T DO IT KATE! SHE WANTS YOU TO GET IN TROUBLE!”

But Kate was just doing the best she could, poor girl.

You’ll be rooting for Kate in this book, even as you groan over her (very) bad decisions, but you’ll also be struck by the little journeys into Holly’s psyche, as she deals with life in a wheelchair, watching her friends continue to succeed on horseback, and maybe, just maybe, experimenting with boys.

Oh man. That reminds me. ADAM. What is going to happen with this boy Adam?

The next book in the series, Timber Ridge Riders: Riding For The Stars, cannot come soon enough!

Timber Ridge Riders: Racing Into Trouble, is currently available in ebook edition. Good news! The first book, Keeping Secrets, is now available as a paperback! See them both:

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