by Aryn Kyle
This gritty, character-driven, captivating coming-of-age story is the perfect book to truly lose yourself in—and yet somehow I found myself within it. The people are real, the land is real, the struggles are real. Only on a few occasions did a detail stick out to remind me that I was reading fiction. Alice is a wonderfully observant, likable protagonist, but she also acts like the twelve-year-old that she is, which I find refreshing in the face of the many too-mature youth in novels.
And despite the fact that Alice fears the creatures her father raises, the author's knowledge of horses shines through. She clearly knows how it feels to ride a horse—to compete on a horse—and she's masterfully captured that in words.
There was, unfortunately, quite a bit of crude language, but it fit the personality of the characters who used it, so I tried not to dwell on it as a negative aspect. Otherwise, the book is fairly clean.
by Ellen Stimson
Although full of hilarity, this memoir also elicited quite a few incredulous facepalms from me. The beginning is a love story of Ellen (and family) and Vermont—this is what hooked me, as it is beautifully written and I related very well. As the story moved along, I appreciated Ellen's ability to laugh at herself and to recognize that her family was a group of outsiders/city folk/“yuppies” moving into a rural area with deep roots.
I understood and laughed at (often out loud) many of her unfortunate incidents, but a lot of them left me shaking my head and wondering just what in the world they were thinking. Some of the humor even felt a bit forced, with repeated phrases like, “Well, of course I did!”
Though the book over all left me with some mixed feelings, the “After Words”—a collection of mouth-watering recipes—not only made me (very) hungry, but also was fun to read.
Tricky spots: Action phrases like “he sighed” or “she laughed” should be treated as separate sentences.
“I can't believe it.” She sighed.
“What?” asked James.
Looking up, she replied, “He forgot again.”