Wild Ride by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach

I’ve been wanting to read Wild Ride for almost four years now. Maybe three months after I moved to Lexington, a friend and coworker was reading it and said it was really good. Fast forward four years, and I finally got the chance to read it, and I honestly think that I wouldn’t have appreciated the book as much as I do now.

See, being in the Bluegrass has really broadened my Thoroughbred knowledge, and I’ve gained a deeper respect for the industry in the area. Despite what you read in the media- because there is always a dark side of each industry- it is truly regarded as the Sport of Kings for good reason. Generations of families taking the chance on the next superstar, and pouring hours, years, lifetimes of dedication (and money) into their horses. Not only have I gained a deeper understanding of the industry, but I’ve also learned my way around (for the most part) Lexington and the surrounding area. I haven’t gone full local (because I still can’t stop acting like a tourist or shake my New England accent), but while reading Wild Ride, I could easily picture the locations mentioned, or the events occurring.

The byline of Wild Ride is “The Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America’s Premier Racing Dynasty”, but Auerbach doesn’t just rehash the demise- she delves into the history of Calumet from the very origins of it’s founder, William Monroe Wright.

The reader learns about the self-made businessman who eventually decided to move from Chicago to the Bluegrass and start his own harness horse breeding operation. From there, his son Warren takes over the family operation, despite being at odds with the way his father ran the place. He converts what becomes Calumet Farm into a thoroughbred operation, and an empire is born. Though strong in business practice, the younger Wright had a lot of horsemanship skills to learn, but his progress turned out derby winners and two Triple Crown winners. Unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worse, and when he passed on, his wife and son became benefactors of his estate, and his wife Lucille inherited the farm, along with gigantic sums of money.

Lucille decides to keep the farm, and in doing so blossoms into one of the social elite. She meets Gene Markey and remarries, and the Markeys, adding a touch of glamour that the Wright men did not achieve, take Calumet to up the social ladder. While Lucille enjoyed being  Lady of Calumet, her son Warren Jr. was moved to the wayside. He didn’t care for the farm life, and had many peculiarities that made him difficult to work with. On top of that, there was some discrepancies about him being the legitimate son of Warren Wright Sr. Lucille did very little to defend her son because he was seen as an embarrassment in her circle. This feud caused much heartache for his wife and four children, and eventually the Wright family became estranged to the Markey family, most so after Warren Jr. succumbs to an early death.

Knowing fully about the family feud, Warren Jr.’s eldest daughter, Cindy, marries a man named J.T. Lundy. Determined to run Calumet, he pressures and fights with Lucille to run the farm. Lucille and Lundy stubbornly spar, neither one giving up, until Lucille’s age catches up to her. Through the will of Warren Sr., the farm is finally turned over the Wright children, and because of their disinterest in the farm due to all the past heartache, Lundy takes over in care of the Wrights. From here, as secretary Margaret Glass notes, Armageddon begins with the fall of Calumet.

If you live in the area, you can still drive past the farm, and see for yourself the images that Auerbach describes- the white double fencing, the devils-red trim on white washed barns, the acres of famous Kentucky bluegrass dotted with horses. But the Calumet you see isn’t the dynasty that existed prior to 1990, and reading about the fall brought chills to my spine.

If you’re a horse junky like me, or interested in historical novels (Kentucky history in particular), horse racing and breeding, or crime novels, Wild Ride is a must read.

The Diary of a South Beach Party Girl by Gwen Cooper

Alright, so if you’ve already judged me for reading this, get out. (Ha ha just kidding, you can stay.)

I’ve been reading a lot of good, heavy hitting books (and watching a ton of drama-series reruns on TV while repainting my house), so I decided what I needed was a little fluff. So, while cleaning and sorting through my book stacks, I pulled out “Diary of a South Beach Party Girl”. I don’t know how I came to own it, and I don’t remember reading it before, but I figured it would give my emotions a break and be perfect for spring break.

I’m assuming this book is based partly on the life of the author, Gwen Cooper. Her main character is Rachel Baum, a Miami native to finds herself bored with her traditional life. So after quitting her non-profit job and breaking up with her long term boyfriend, she heads to South Beach to start anew. She moves in with fast friend Amy, who introduces her to the South Beach party scene.

Night after night, Rachel works her way up the South Beach social ladder, and eventually finds herself becoming the girl she wished she could be- sexy, frivolous, and admired by those around her…a social celebrity. As she mingles, she makes friends with Ricky, Mike, and Kojo, and they become a tight group that picks each other up when South Beach life knocks them down- through job losses, bankruptcy, and long strings of bad boyfriends. Rachel also finds herself hopelessly attracted to John Hood, local transient bad boy with a questionable criminal and drug history.

After a few years of living the life she thought she wanted, Rachel starts to see that South Beach isn’t a long term place for a girl like herself. So, she decides to take on New York City, where everything finally ties together.

Like I said, pretty fluffy stuff here. Even though it’s all drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll, it’s a pretty predictable book. Closet party girl wants to party, goes through transformation as a popular party girl, and then decides that she’s ready to move on from the party scene for something bigger and better. *Insert eye-roll here*. Oh, I should also note that it was written in 2007, but the story really takes place between 1998 and 2000, so there are a lot of references to people and songs that were a big hit in that time frame… which is a little funny to ready. *NSYNC anyone? So yeah…I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you were really looking for a pool side/ beach side read.

 

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

This book was a quick read, an easy attention grabbing novel that helped me get out of my Potter phase without too much to-do. You know when you pick up a Judy Blume, you’re going to get a little emotional, but this one was quick paced enough that there was no need for the tissue box. Fair warning, I’d say the content is definitely PG-13. But Blume knows how to hit the sweet spot “coming of age” stories.

This novel takes place around two main characters- Victoria (Vix) and Caitlin- from Victoria’s point of view. Vix meets popular new girl Caitlin, at the tender age of 12, and surprisingly, Caitlin invited Vix to spend the summer with her in Martha’s Vineyard. Excited and nervous at the invitation, Vix is ready to see what life is like beyond Santa Fe. Though uncomfortable at first, Vix and Caitlin become close friends, dubbing themselves “summer sisters”. As the years go by and the girls continue to return to the Vineyard, they find themselves exploring the boundaries of summer love, the difficulties of family heartbreak, and the growing pains of life.

Overall, I think this is a good, fast paced book with plot twists that I definitely wasn’t expecting. Character development is excellent, and the Blume life lesson is obvious- true sisterhood and friendship means loving the best and the worst of a person. It’s perfect for beach or pool-side reading, and it’ll make you want to call your best friend and tell them how much you appreciate their friendship. ♥

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

I’ve had a lot of downtime at work this past week, and managed to knock out the fifth novel in the Harry Potter series. I know I mentioned that I was skipping the fourth since I had read it earlier this year in my last review. So without further ado:

  1. Things progress in the novel relatively accurate as in movie for the first two hundred pages, but then as we get introduced to Luna Lovegood, we see some major differences. First off, Luna is a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor. Second, Ginny introduces her with the gentleness that Hermione in the movie portrays. In the novel, Hermonie (unlike the movie) is rather rude to Luna, and they butt heads many times. Their first non-abrasive moment happens at the end of the novel.
  2. Ron tries out for the Gryffindor quidditch team in their fifth year, not sixth. At this time. Harry is not captain- in fact, he’s in detention for Professor Umbridge and doesn’t really see Ron’s tryout. The confundus charm movie Hermione does, didn’t happen in the book. Also, Ginny isn’t on the team yet. Fast forward a few hundred pages, Harry, Fred and George are banned from playing quidditch at Hogwarts, and Ginny becomes a substitute for Harry (though eventually she wants to become a chaser.) And, because it isn’t mentioned, Gryffindor wins the quidditch cup that year.
  3. The formation of Dumbledore’s Army and Harry teaching students defense against the dark arts is a little different than the movie. The movie does a decent job on summarizing it, but initially Hermione brings it up to Harry, and he goes off on them, and he sits on the idea for a while. Then they decide to hold the meeting in the Hog’s Head. Hermione gets students to sign their name like a contract, and then charms it to know if they tell anyone about it. And Dobby, not Neville, tells Harry about the Room of Requirement.
  4. I’d have to rewatch the movie to double check, but I believe they don’t mention that Umbridge was watching the Floo network, intercepting owls, or had her make the confession about the dementors that attacked Harry and Dudley.
  5. I felt that this was brilliant:  ‘…said Ginny angrily “Seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.” Harry remained quite still as the impact of those words hit him. Then he wheeled around. “I forgot,” he said. “Lucky you,” said Ginny coolly.’ As everyone in the potter fandom knows, Ginny is so tough- she had to be with so many brothers. So when Harry is having his nobody-understands-me moment, she is the perfect character to snap him out of it. The movies needed more Ginny to balance out the emo-Potter.
  6. The Quibbler Article- unmentioned in the movies, this is really what starts to change people’s perception of Harry. Although the publication was typically a laughing stock, Harry’s account of what happened when Voldemort returned make those in denial or unsure understand that his story was unwavering.
  7. The removal of Hagrid from Hogwarts. The book describes such a horrible scene. I’m surprised that kind of action didn’t make it into the movie. But then again, I probably would’ve cried seeing McGonagall get hit like that.
  8. I had forgotten how emotional Order of the Phoenix is towards the end. I always hated that Sirius dies, but I apparently blocked out how much anger and emotion Harry lets out afterwards, especially while talking with Dumbledore about prophesy.

Alright, that’s all for now. I definitely won’t be squeezing in book 6 (Half Blood Prince) before the holidays. So again, thank you to the followers who have stuck with me this year, and I hope you all have a festive season and a Happy New Year!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

As before, I will keep this review/ movie comparison short. Here are the differences between book and movie:

  1. The night bus- very similar to the movie until the point where Harry lands at the Leaky Cauldron. At this point in the movie, we don’t understand (because unlike the book, it isn’t explained) that Harry is afraid that he will be kicked out of Hogwarts for underage wizardry. But when he lands almost at the Minister of Magic’s feet, he’s terrified he’s been caught, then filled with relief when Fudge says it’s nothing to worry about. The movie just makes the audience assume, where the book (obviously) explains in detail.
  2. The tiny detail left out in the movie- Ron and Scabbers making the Daily Profit, and how Sirius Black figured out Scabbers was Peter Pettigrew. Sirius asked to borrow the paper from Fudge on a routine Azkaban visit, which happened to have them on the front page.
  3. The details on how Harry learned about Sirius Black, and who else knew about their connection are very different in the book than the movie. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were overheard talking about how Sirius was (allegedly) after Harry, and Mr. Weasley warned Harry, who doesn’t play stupid as he does in the movies. Malfoy knew why Black was in Azkaban, and what he did to Harry’s parents (allegedly), something not shown in the movies. Harry was with Ron and Hermione when he overhears about what Black (allegedly) did to Harry’s parents, hiding under the table without the invisibility cloak, and doesn’t learn about Sirius being his godfather. When he does learn that Sirius is his godfather, it’s after everything is explained as they are leaving the Shrieking Shack.
  4. Crookshanks involvement during and leading up to the night that Peter Pettigrew is revealed. Crookshanks helps and protects Black.
  5. The feisty and obnoxious painting of Sir Cadogan. He isn’t mentioned at all in the movies. And they didn’t include Black’s second attempt at getting into Gryffindor tower.
  6. The whole scene of fighting off Lupin after he changes into a werewolf, and Hermione howling to distract them- total Hollywood moment.
  7. Harry is much brighter than the movies make him out to be. He actually figures out that Dumbledore wants Hermione and him to save Buckbeak and Sirius.

Okay, I got a bit longer with this one than I intended. I did want to say that I remember this book being my favorite of the series, but after re-reading, I can’t remember why. It may be because the first time around (reading it at 13), I never saw the ending come as it did, so I probably loved the plot twist. But I also was a fan of the third movie as well, probably because despite the missing pieces, it really is a great interpretation of the book.

I also want to add that because I reread the Goblet of Fire early in the year, I’ll be skipping that book and moving right along to Order of the Phoenix. And because we are heading into the holidays, where I will be most definitely too busy to read (VACATION!), so this will be my last review of 2016. I hope my followers will stick with me into 2017, and if not, thank you for this past year. I’d have to say, my New Year’s resolution was accomplished!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Alright, since I wrote a ridiculously long movie comparison for the Sorcerer’s Stone, I’ll keep Chamber of secrets short and sweet. Here’s how things compare to the movie version, and a few little things that I just wanted to point out.

  1. Harry’s first glimpse of Dobby is in the garden, not in his room at the Dursley’s.
  2. When Ron and the twins rescue Harry from the Dursley’s, they had pick the lock to get Harry out of his room, then pick the lock on the cupboard under the stairs to retrieve Harry’s school things and trunk, without waking the Dursley’s. The movie made it seem much faster of a rescue.
  3. The movie cut the de-gnoming of the garden and about a month of living with the Weasleys. Also, Percy. Poor Percy, even though he’s such a prat (see urban dictionary : prat: Basically someone who’s a major idiot, or is delusional and dumb. Acts against logic and thinks hes self-righteous. AKA: Major dumbass. Good example: Percy from HP .) you lose a lot of his story.
  4. The howler never congratulated Ginny on being placed in Gryffindor. I mean come on, she’s a Weasley, of course she made Gryffindor. That howler was just pure rage.
  5. Professor Binns, History of Magic professor and the only ghost teacher, tells the story about the Chamber of Secrets, not McGonagall.
  6. No surprise- Lockhart is even more smarmy than his actor counterpart.
  7. The movie put more focus on finding and being in the Chamber of Secrets. In the book, Harry didn’t run that much from the basilisk. Fawkes did most of the heavy lifting there. And with that in mind, there was no delay from fang-in-arm to healing-tears-from-Fawkes like there was in the movie. Movie Harry probably would’ve died from the venom. Just sayin’.
  8. Just want to point out- gut instinct told Harry to pierce the Riddle Diary with the basilisk fang. Watching the movie, I kept asking myself what made him do that? Other than Riddle yelling for him to stop, that is. Just curious.

Ok, as always, the book is better, read the book. That is all.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What?! Just because I’m a 25 year old adult doesn’t mean I can’t reread the Harry Potter series…LOL! As I said in my last post, my parents brought me my boxes of childhood memorabilia and books. Among the books were the HP series (except  Prisoner of Azkaban, for some reason) and I can’t possibly keep myself from enjoying them again- especially with the new release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So, I eagerly devoured the first book in 2 days. Because I know you all don’t live under a rock, instead of the typical summary, I’m just going to remind you of the things the movies left out like I did when I re-read the fourth book (Goblet of Fire).

First off, the thing that bothered me the most about the first Harry Potter movie was how dumbfounded they made Harry seem. He questioned EVERYTHING, repeated everything, and barely said more than boo to anyone except Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid. In the books, Harry’s sassy personality that love is apparent much quicker than in the movies.

“Hagrid almost had to drag Harry away from Curses and Counter-curses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and Much, Much More) by Professor Vindictus Viridian. “I was trying to find out how to curse Dudley.””

Second, Peeves. I don’t think Peeves is mentioned once in any of the movies. Filch and Mrs. Norris stalk the halls of Hogwarts in the movies, but in the books, Harry and his friends have to also dodge Peeves, the school poltergeist.

“A bundle of walking sticks was floating in midair ahead of them, and as Percy took a step toward them they started throwing themselves at him. “Peeves,” Percy whispered to the first years…”Go away Peeves, or the Baron’ll hear about this, I mean it!” barked Percy. Peeves stuck out his tongue and vanished, dropping the walking sticks on Neville’s head.”

Then, there’s the school song. Not a peep about it until the third or fourth movie, even though the first night that Harry’s class arrives, they learn the lyrics. I don’t think this one is really a big deal overall, so I understand why they left it out of the first movie, but it would have made more sense to have it there than in the future films.

The last difference that stands out to me in the way they not only learned about the sorcerer’s stone, but also the protective tasks they must pass before getting to it. In the movie, Harry and his friends are much more secretive and seem to get most of their information from Hagrid by chance. In the book, they are bolder about gathering information, asking direct questions to Hagrid, telling him they are actively trying to figure out who Nicholas Flamel is, and they even tell Professor McGonagall that they know about the stone. When it comes to getting to the stone, there are more tasks than the movie shows (which isn’t surprising, due to the movie length I’m sure they had to cut for time) and the one that Hermione gets rewarded for at the end of it all is makes more sense if you know about the task she performed!

Of course, there are more things I could go on about (Norbert’s escape, the dark forest unicorn hunt, Harry’s introduction to Malfoy, etc etc) that vary from one medium to the other, but I’ll stop before I get too ranty and nit-picky. The important thing to remember here is that the magical world of Harry Potter continue to be expanded in individual imaginations and cherished, no matter what medium you experience it in!