Books Reviews

Thoughts From the Circumference

Dart board

Sometimes, whether by choice or from necessity, you read books that aren’t meant for you. Books for which you’re not the target audience. Sometimes it’s more like you’re hanging around on the outer circumference, far away from the target.

Take books for young children, for example. You can enjoy the child’s enjoyment of the story, joining in with her innocent laughter, teaching him new words or facts that crop up in the book. But can you enjoy it for itself, especially after the fiftieth repetition?

I remember one children’s story I always liked to read to my kids: Prince Cinders by Babette Cole. It’s a twist on the Cinderella story. The fairy is a girl in skewed school uniform. Her magic spells don’t always work as she intended….

What else have I read that isn’t intended for me? Generally, the sort of sweet romance that ends with a happy ever after and doesn’t make me think during or after reading. Occasionally, I’ve been happy to lose myself in such a novel, thankful that it can remove me from the complexities of real life. But generally I read them because I ought to, and then I feel empty at the end. So what?

So what about YA novels? I haven’t read many of them. Most of those I’ve read have held my interest, but I’ve had to remind myself that the style is as it is because it’s YA. Nicola Morgan’s Wasted surpassed that. And now there’s another for which I haven’t needed the YA excuse as a comeback to my own criticism: Laura Huntley’s Black Eyed Boy. It was gripping all the way through and the ending took me completely by surprise, so much so that I wasn’t sure I could believe it. But then I decided I could.

I won’t say more. I suggest you read it.


Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Lauren

Letters from Elsewhere

Today we’re privileged to see a letter from Lauren to Christie, brought to us by Teresa Cutler-Broyles. (Details at the end.)

December 18, 2015

Hi Christie!

mtnsI hope you, Emily and Robyn are doing well. I’m so sad to be missing Christmas with you all but the ranch is amazing. I can’t believe I’ll be working here next summer, and being able to spend these two weeks here right now is… well, let me tell you everything.





The name of the ranch is Bear Basin – they have real bears here in the summer! My dad and I arrived just yesterday. To get here we had to drive through the most gorgeous mountains with all these twisty roads, through the forests and along these long narrow meadows. There’s snow around but it’s mostly melted, and the skies are so blue it’s almost unreal. So much bluer than at home, and you can see forever. Just before the turnoff to the ranch itself you can see the most incredible mountain range way far away. Immense peaks covered in snow that go on forever and ever. It’s called the Sangre de Cristos – that means the blood of Christ – and it looks like it’s miles and miles away.

My dad’s friends are really nice! Zeke and Amanda, and they own this whole ranch. I was reading about it on our way here and it covers more than 10,000 acres.

All the buildings are really old – more than a hundred! We pulled up and everything looked deserted – there were some horses – all Appaloosas – in the corral but nothing else. I was scared, thinking that we were in the wrong place. It seemed so isolated. I almost told my dad I changed my mind, then all of a sudden all the ranch dogs ran to greet us and some people came out of the buildings and when we got out of the truck everyone gave us hugs, even the people that didn’t know us, and it suddenly felt like home. I met the people I’ll be living and working with next summer.

Zeke and Amanda are the owners of the whole ranch.
Karen and Bob are the ranch managers.
Francois is their French chef – yes, in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, a real French chef!
Eli is their horse trainer and head wrangler – and he is very handsome. He looks just like the guy in any Western movie that you can’t tell if he’s the good guy or the bad guy. Maybe don’t tell Jackson I said Eli was handsome. 🙂
Sally and Jessica are wranglers but that’s not all they do. They’re a little older than us, about 20. Sally is like an Amazon. She’s big and strong, and she is a farrier so they don’t have to call outside to shoe the horses. I’m going to ask her to show me how to do that. Jessica is African American, and she is getting her degree in Denver for being a veterinarian. She’s working on the ranch as part of her classes. Isn’t that cool?

There were some others, some friends of Zeke and Amanda visiting, but I don’t remember their names. They were musicians and that first night we all gathered around the fireplace in the main bunkhouse – yes, a real bunkhouse – and they played guitars and violins until long past midnight.

This morning Francois cooked normal bacon and eggs – I thought it would be French bacon and eggs 🙂 – and then my dad left for home. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know he’ll be back up to get me after the first of the year. And David’s at home to keep him company over the holiday.

To cheer me up, Eli and Jessica took me for a ride. I got to choose the horse I wanted to ride out of the ones in the corral so I chose the biggest Appaloosa. Her name is Blue, and Eli had to give me a boost to get on her. They wouldn’t let me ride bareback, which I understand but it was still a bummer. Next summer I’ll show them I know how when I get Jack here.

I just know Jack will be fine here on the ranch. Even with only one eye, he’ll be able to learn the trails and figure out the gates. It’s not much different than the trail classes he’s won. Well… at home we don’t have rocky, twisty mountain trails in the forests that dip down into the valleys along steep slopes… okay, so yeah it’s a lot different. 🙂 But still I think he’ll do well. He’s smart, and he trusts me, and once he finds his place in the herd the other horses will take care of him, too.

Zeke and Amanda told me that they raise and ride Appaloosas here because they’re the most sure-footed in the mountains, and from just the one ride so far I can say that’s true. Blue didn’t misstep once, didn’t trip, and even on the steepest hill she moved like she was on flat ground. I was terrified at first but she took care of me and I got over it fast. On hal_burrothe ride we saw a man running behind a burro. I thought he was trying to catch his loose animal but Eli said that was his friend Howard, and that he does something called burro racing where he runs behind the burro in full-length marathons. I’m definitely going to find out more about that next summer – can you imagine running behind an equine instead of ON one??

The best part of the ride happened when we got to the top of this curved trail that went through really dense trees. Suddenly we broke out onto this flat area. Snow covered most of the ground and we were higher than all the hills around us. We could see in every direction, forever, and everywhere we looked were more and more mountains far away, fading into the distance. They told me one of them was Pike’s Peak, and that’s more than 50 miles away. The skies had white, fluffy clouds that just hovered high, high above. There was no noise at all except for the horses’ breathing and the creak of leather as they shifted from foot to foot.

They say in the summer the ground is covered in wildflowers and the sky is just as blue.
I can’t wait to come back.

There’s so much more but I’d better go for now! Please give Jack a big hug from me and give him a carrot, and tell Frank and Steve I said hi. I’m writing a separate letter to Jackson so he’ll get that when you get this one.

I love you guys! Merry Christmas, and I can’t wait to see you when I get home!
Oh, I’ve included a couple of photos so you can see it all.




From the forthcoming Mountain Jack, by Teresa Cutler-Broyles. Mountain Jack takes place on a real ranch in Central Colorado, and is book two in the YA series that began with One Eyed Jack, the story of Lauren and her one-eyed horse. One Eyed Jack is available on ( ).






me_book_sign_page_oneTeresa Cutler-Broyles is an author, traveler, and adventure guide, and has been writing since she was eight years old; her first published piece was an article about her one-eyed horse in Western Horseman Magazine. Currently she lives in New Mexico with two goofy dogs and her husband, and divides her time between there and Italy where she teaches in the summer. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably researching something historical and architectural, or off on another adventure. Story ideas happen to her when she travels; what better reason to get off the couch!

More upcoming books include an historical novel set in 1570 Italy, and more. She can be contacted at or