Happy Trails Y’all …it’s time for the Western Genre!

Once again it’s time to decide how well we stuck to the guidelines of the genre we were reading… Westerns have a strong sense of time and place with clear resolution to a conflict. The hero of the story might be flawed but readers want them to win anyway. Now let’s read what everyone had to say about the book they read:

Chris: Red River, the movie. It’s 1865, and the Civil War has ended leaving the south bankrupt so Tom Dunston (John Wayne) decides to move his herd of 10,000 cattle from Texas to Missouri to prosper. That’s a 1,000 mile run which will take 100 days to complete and a lot happens during that journey: Indian attacks, fighting within the ranks, horrible weather, lack of food etc. but they eventually make it due mostly to Dunston’s determination and stubbornness. A great western classic and a must-see in black and white.

Carol: Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley is set in Kansas in 1880, where two waitresses from the Harvey House Restaurant have been murdered. The Pinkerton Agency is called upon to solve the crimes but local Sheriff Branch is less than thrilled with the help—until he meets and falls for Pinkerton Agent Katie Madison who goes undercover as a waitress to get the killer. This blend of western, mystery and inspirational romance adds up to a lighthearted read that has a happy ending.

Emma: In Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, Smoky is captured and trained by Clint to become a cow horse. Eventually the horse and cowboy come to trust and respect each other. Soon Smoky and several other horses are stolen from the Rocking R Ranch. When Smoky refuses to allow anyone to ride him, he is beaten. Soon Smoky becomes “The Cougar”, a mean man-hating bucking bronco rodeo attraction. When the horse is worn out, he is sold again to another abusive man and renamed Cloudy. When the horse’s owner is arrested for cruelty, Clint and Smoky are finally reunited. Even though the book is a Newberry Award winner I feel the story is written more for adults than for children.

Gina: In Jon Sharpe’s High Plains Massacre, from the Trailsman series, known scout Skye Fargo is asked to help solve the disappearance of settlers on Indian territory. Accompanied by fellow scout Bear River Tom and new army recruits, Trailsman goes on this mission. There’s more to this assignment than expected in this quick action thriller. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading more of Skye Fargo’s adventures in the West.

Lauren: Vengeance Road from YA author Erin Bowman tells the story of young Kate Thompson who sets off to hunt down the famous Rose Riders who “done murdered her Pa.” The book checks off just about every single element of the classic Western: gunfights, saloon poker, horses, a desert landscape, outlaws, an Apache guide, and of course a quest for gold.

Dori: In Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert, former lawman Arthur Sprawl is called out of retirement to hunt down a serial killer who’s viciously mutilating American Indians and leaving their bodies for display. It’s bleak Depression era in Eastern Oregon, and Sprawl, on his horse, is joined by his son Elijah, who considers himself a prophet, as they travel through the countryside investigating these murders. Sprawl is no angel; he’s got a reputation as an effective lawman, but his success was attained through brutal bloodshed and frontier justice. Though thoroughly dark, gritty, and deeply violent, Holbert’s prose beautifully describes the natural world through which Sprawl and his son travel.

Steve: Robert B. Parker’s Resolution is the second book in the Virgil Cole/ Everett Hitch series, and finds the two gunslinger friends together again, this time in the town of Resolution. They are hired on as enforcers for the greedy Mr. Wolfson. Wolfson is buying up the town stores and businesses, and is at odds with the other rich townsman, Eamon O’Malley, who has hired on two quick draw men as well. Will the four end up deciding things in a shoot-out? Or are other events in store?

Beth: Louis L’Amour’s Sacket is a classic western tale. This story follows independent William Tell Sacket as he takes the journey to visit his mother and finds gold along the way, which of course is accompanied with plenty of trouble. This is a quickly paced, action packed western.

Megan: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown is a beautifully written novel in verse about the infamous journey west that claimed the lives of nearly half the travelers. In 1846 ninety people-men, women, and children-left Illinois in search of a better life in California. A series of missteps and an early winter left the caravan trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As food supplies dwindled and hope for rescue faded the survivors turned to cannibalism. Told from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old survivor, the poems that make up this novel are lovely as well as harrowing. This is a truly unique story told in a unique format.

Sara: I read True Grit by Charles Portis, a novel initially published as a 1968 serial in the Saturday Evening Post . This novel tells the story of Mattie Ross’ adventure to avenge the death of her father when she was just 14 years old. In a direct and often funny way, Maddie tells how she hired one-eyed Rooster Cogburn– the meanest U.S. marshall, a man of “true grit”, to hunt down and apprehend the man who murdered her father. However, much to Rooster’s dismay Mattie intends to travel with him on this journey into Indian territory to make sure the job is done right and that Rooster earns the $50 reward she is offering. Rooster is a cantankerous and eccentric man who has been on both sides of the law and has no use for children. But as the adventure unfolds, he and Mattie develop a bond of true friendship and mutual respect.

Stacey: I went for a classic Western -OR- kickin’ it old school with my cowboy boots on! I read Trouble Shooter by Louis L’Amour with Hopalong Cassidy as the main character -whoa nelly Topper (aka Hops horse) that’s a classic! I enjoyed that in essence this is a good mystery story but with horses, dogs, and cattle mixed in for drama. The characters were entertaining and there was plenty of action. Now I know why these books are still so popular!

Next time we’ll be reading suspense/thrillers. Suspense novels compress action into a short period of time, emphasize the psychological and physical danger and appeal to the reader’s sense of unease. Thrillers are complex stories that use a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, and often have exotic settings that emphasize the defeat of the villain.



Time to Hit the Dusty Trails… Western Genre style!

Did you find a book that was set in the Wild West of North America? Perhaps you found something that featured wide open skies, a flawed hero, and a clear resolution? Then *you* were reading a Western along with the rest of us! Wasn’t it rip-roarin’ fun? -We thought so too! There was a pretty good variety included in our discussion with the best part being how much everyone enjoyed the experience. Are you ready to hear what people had to say about the book they read? Well then saddle up partner, ‘cause here we go:

Megan: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is the story of two girls trying to outrun their troubles on the Oregon Trail. Samantha is a 16-year-old Chinese-American, who in the wake of a tragedy, is trying to reach California. She is befriended by Annamae, a slave girl planning her own big escape. Disguised as boys, the pair join a group of cowboys heading west in search of fortune. Lee’s stunning debut is a welcome addition to the historical fiction genre. This survival story is full of adventure and wild west action, but at it’s core is a moving story of trust and friendship. Plus, there are cowboys and horses and a little romance!

Chris: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy is a coming-of-age classic. Set in 1949, sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole leaves his family ranch in west Texas with his buddy Lacey Rawlins and crosses the border into Mexico to experience a new way of living. He learns to survive, he strengthens a friendship, he falls in love. Eventually he makes his way back home to spend time with his family, but leaves a few days later to continue his adventure. I particularly liked the landscape McCarthy paints—the desert and the plains—and the feeling of solitude. It gives a person space to think. This first novel in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy compels me to read the rest.

Beth: In Louis L’Amour’s Trouble Shooter Pete Melford has died and left his ranch to his niece, Cindy Blair. When Cindy sends a scout out to determine the condition of the ranch, they are troubled at the downright disappearance of the ranch. Soon after Cindy’s scout determines something fishy is going on, Hopalong Cassidy rides into town, as he got a feeling that his help was needed. Hopalong Cassidy takes on the dangerous task of trying to figure out the mystery of the death of Melford and his missing ranch. This tale of Hopalong Cassidy was fast paced and action packed. Louis L’Amour inscribes the reader right into the heart of the outlaw laden wild west.

Dori : The Revenant: a Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, is the story of Hugh Glass, an honorable, smart and experienced frontiersman who accompanies the Rocky Mountain Fur Company on a trapping and trading mission out of St. Louis in 1823. Mauled by a grizzly bear and feared close to death, the Captain of the Company appoints two men to stay with him until he dies so he can be buried. When Indians threaten their camp, however, they abandon Glass, taking his weapons and supplies. Glass crawls back to St. Louis, recuperates, and vows revenge. A tale of the West, of survival and of moral uncertainty, this novel is riveting. Soon to be a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio!

Steve: Appaloosa, by Robert B. Parker, is the story of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, lawmen in the Old West who move from town to town taking on trouble. They are called into Appaloosa to deal with rancher Randall Bragg and his crew of criminals that are running the town. Bragg is sentenced to hang for the murder of the previous Marshal, but while being transported escapes with the help of two hired gunmen. Cole and Hitch are on his trail and in for all sorts of action. The characters and solid story will appeal to western and non-western fans alike.

Maureen: In The Waiting Gun: A Western Story, written in 1957 by Wayne D. Overholser, we follow the suspenseful story of Bill Varney, a young man who feels spurned by his father, his girlfriend and his entire situation in life. Full of resentment, Bill is working out a way to escape his work as a lowly farmhand on the family ranch, Pitchfork, while his favored sister lives in the main house taking care of their father. When a gunfighter comes to town and challenges his aging and arthritic father to a duel and a farmhand uprising threatens Pitchfork’s future, Billy rises to the occasion, despite a hidden, sinister plot to get him out of the way. The story, though a tad predictable, had enough interesting characters and plot to keep me interested and was relatively believable. Overholser, who died in 1996 at the age of 90, won two Spur Awards (Western Writers of America) over the span of his career. In fact, he was the winner of the first Spur Award ever given, in 1953, for his novel Lawman, written under the pseudonym Lee Leighton.

Emma: Originally published as a serial in the “Saturday Evening Post”, True Grit by Charles Portis is told by elderly Mattie Ross. In the 1870’s, 14-year-old Mattie hires Federal Marshall Rooster Cogburn to help hunt down Tom Chaney, her father’s killer. Texas Ranger LeBouef joins in the hunt since he has been searching for Chaney for several months. Quirky characters bring the Old West to life.

Lauren: Doc by Mary Doria Russell traces the early life of John “Doc” Holliday and his years spent out west in Texas and Kansas. Doc left his native Georgia hoping the west’s arid climate would aid him in battling tuberculosis. Most of the book’s action takes place in the late 1870s in the bustling cattle town of Dodge City, Kansas and follows Doc, Wyatt Earp, and their friends and fellow townspeople years before the infamous shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The story has all the elements of a classic Western tale: horses, cattle drivers, guns, gambling, and plenty of bourbon. For all of history and popular culture’s fascination with Wyatt Earp, it’s very enjoyable to read a book that mainly centers on Doc Holliday and paints him as a true gentleman—educated, cosmopolitan, loyal, and kind—but still perfectly at home in the “rough and tumble” Wild West.

Ann: In Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are hired by the town of Appaloosa to restore law and order. The town has been plagued by the no-good rancher Randall Bragg and his henchmen who have committed murder, rape and robbery and have recently killed the town’s sheriff and deputy. Virgil Cole has had success in other towns as marshal. He believes in posting the bylaws; if someone doesn’t obey he arrests them; if he doesn’t go along, Cole shoots him. Marshal Cole and his deputy Hitch set out to reform Appaloosa in this engaging western filled with snappy dialogue and lots of action.

Stacey: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly may be written for a younger crowd but this book will appeal to anyone interested learning more about the daily life of families out West at the turn of the century. This is the second book to feature Callie, her rascally brothers and her beloved Granddaddy, all of whom have important roles to play in her adventures. Together we learn about big to small creatures inhabiting the central Texas lands, the wars that led to Statehood and those that almost divided the Nation, and a great secondary storyline about the hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900. But the best part of the story? Rooting Callie on in her quest to be seen for her abilities, not her gender. Start with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate for full enjoyment effect!

Next time we’re giving ourselves a little break from all those squiggly lines of print and we’re going to look at stories that are told primarily through pictures! That’s right folks, we’re going browsing in the Graphic Novels area -and I hope you’ll join us there!

— Stacey

Round ‘em Up -for the Western Book Discussion!

Yee-haw! We rustled up some purty interesting books for our wild Western genre discussion this last time around! Our books were filled with big conflicts, but equally big resolutions, and flawed heroes you can’t help but appreciate. At first appearance this might seem like a fairly narrow group of books, with little variety possible. After you read the descriptions of what everyone read I think you’ll see what a misconception that is. So are you ready to become a fan of the western genre?

Megan: Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt tells the story of Eli and Charles Sisters, the notorious henchman of the mysterious Commodore. When they are charged with killing one Hermann Kermit Warm, they must journey from Oregon City to Sacramento, California. Along the way Eli, who does not share his brother’s love of whiskey, women, and killing, begins to question his career choice. This western noir novel pays homage to classic westerns through a colorful cast of characters who convey the violence, lust and greed associated with the gold rush era. The humor and philosophical musings are an entirely unexpected, but welcome treat. Not your typical western, this is a story of brotherhood, blood ties, and redemption.

Emma: Riders of the Purple Sage was written by Zane Grey in 1912. It’s 1871 in southern Utah, and Berne Venters is about to be whipped by Elder Tull for befriending Jane Withersteen. Jim Lassiter, a Texas gunfighter, stops the whipping before it begins. Tull wants to marry wealthy Jane and take over her cattle and land. Jane is not interested in Tull, so he plots with Oldring to have her cattle stampeded and her riders intimidated. Berne goes after Oldring and his men, killing Oldring and wounding a masked rider. The masked rider turns out to be Bess, Lassiter’s niece. Bess had been taken from her mother, Lassister’s sister Millie, when she three years old. This is a happy ever after story for Bess and Berne who fall in love and leave Utah and for Jane and Lassiter who also fall in love. This was Zane Grey’s bestselling and best-known novel.

Ann: Juliet in August by Dianne Warren is a novel told as a series of stories about the people of Juliet, Saskatchewan on a particular day in August. Juliet is a sleepy little prairie town at the edge of the Little Snake Sand Hills, which is actually desert land. We meet people such as Lee Torgeson who reminisces about how Astrid, his adoptive mother, found him on her doorstep in a laundry basket (she actually at first mistook him for a tom cat!) There is Willard and his sister-in-law Marian. They run the local drive-in movie theater, and Marian sometimes watches the movie from the house’s big picture window. People in the town are tied to the land and their animals. The pace of the book is slow and leisurely, and the writing is rich and beautiful. While set in the present, the novel has a very western feel, and the author, who is Canadian, says the book is informed by the western books and movies she grew up with.

Carol: The Thicket by Joe Lansdale, set in the early 1900s in East Texas, opens as 16-year-old Jack Parker’s parents die of smallpox. Only a few pages later, Jack’s grandfather is killed by a troupe of bank robbing ruffians who also kidnap Jack’s sister Lula . Jack enlists a grave robber named Eustace and dwarf bounty hunter named Shorty to help him find Lula, and the bloodthirsty revenge begins. Filled with gritty, sharp, well-written dialogue, wicked dark humor, violence, sex, and strong language, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, this western had me laughing out loud as I read, and I could not put it down until it’s bloody end.

Steve: The Californios, by Louis L’Amour, finds the Mulkerin family trying desperately to save their pre-gold rush Malibu ranch, which has fallen in to debt after the death of the father. The family knows that in the past their father had ventured out in to the wilderness with a secretive Indian known as the Old One, and on occasion the Mulkerin patriarch had brought back gold from these trips. The Old One trusts the son, Sean, but will Sean be able to find the much needed gold before the bandits take the ranch? Find out and see if you enjoy the elements of mysticism that are sprinkled into this adventurous Western.

Dori: The Son: A Novel by Phillip Meyer is a family saga that spans 200 years ands documents the fortunes and misfortunes of the McCullough family of Texas. Three members of the family narrate the tale, beginning with Eli McCullough who, at age 13, is taken captive by the Comanches after the brutal murder of his family. Adapting to their way of life, he becomes a respected tribal member only to have to return to Anglo society when his tribe begins to die out. Shaped by his survival skills, he buys land, becoming a successful cattle rancher and then discovers oil. Peter, Eli’s grandson, struggles with the tradition of violence that is his family’s legacy, specifically the murder of a neighboring Tejano family. The third narrator is feisty, independent Jeanne who grew up at Eli’s knee, hearing his stories and idolizing him. She takes the family into the present, inheriting their money and their unhappiness. A fascinating, detailed story of the power, greed, and violence that is part of American history.

Chris: The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Marin H. Greenberg is an impressive collection. I was surprised to learn that some great writers like Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Stephen Crane and O. Henry also wrote westerns and are featured in this book. I gravitated toward “I Woke Up Wicked” by Dorothy M. Johnson—one of a small number of women who write westerns. It starts out innocently—A young puncher meets up with a crooked relative (a deputy) while waiting for the bank to open so the trail boss can pay off the men. He’s standing by the sheriff’s horse while his relative goes in to see if the bank is open for business. Suddenly there’s the sound of gunfire, the relative and a few others burst out of the bank and leap onto horses. The puncher jumps on the sheriff’s horse right behind. That moment, he becomes a bank robber and a horse thief. And the wickedness continues.

Stacey: I also read The Son by Philip Meyer. Dori did such a good job with her description I can only add: this book offers plenty of family drama, fascinating historical information, and more than a few surprises along the way.

And next time? We’re getting ready for the Holidays by selecting stories based on or around the upcoming winter celebrations, aka the Holiday Stories Genre! Would you like to read along? Then why not come in and take a look for a new or classic story that features the holiday season and get ready for a fairly tame -but mostly happy?- discussion!

— Stacey

Wild, Wild Westerns!

Would it surprise anyone (or everyone?) if I told you that the group enjoyed our collective, fictional trip back in time to the Old West? I guess it surprised me! And within the group, we covered all the big elements: hero vs. villain, strong sense of the western location, a clear problem to be fixed, and flawed characters who rise to the occasion. Some of us went more traditional, and some of us went for a more modern-style western, and some went for equal parts western and other, but not one of these books will leave you looking for a hero…they’re on most every page!

Carol: Written in Blood by J. Lee Butts. U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden is shocked to learn that his good friend and Deputy John Henry Slate has committed a triple murder. As Tilden and his brotherhood of Marshals set out to track John Henry down, Tilden recounts one of their most deadly adventures together, the capture of deadly Blackheart gang. Once (or if) readers get past the over the top use of stereotypical vernacular in this western, it is a enjoyable quick read. But with violent descriptions, this may not be for everyone.

Emma: Stranger in Thunder Basin by John D. Nesbitt is a tale of revenge. When Ed was a little boy he witnessed the aftermath of the murder of his “Pa-Pa” as the killer took off on his horse. Ed would never forget the man’s face. Many years later he sees the killer and leaves his job as a blacksmith to become a ranch hand on the Thunder Basin ranch in order to get close to him. Did the murderer act alone or was he following orders? By following leads Ed meets the mother he never knew and kills three men.

Evelyn: Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton. Rancher/attorney Wyatt Turner, severely injured in an airplane crash, has always accepted responsibility for things in his life. First, it was raising his younger brothers after the deaths of their parents, and now it is for his ranch, law practice, and much of the small Texas town of Mule Hollow. His brothers hire a physical therapist to help him back on his feet. But can Wyatt actually let go and learn to accept his blessings from a 24-year-old young woman with only one leg? This is a heart-warming story of love and acceptance.

Donna: Blue-eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker. Published after the author’s death in 2010, this is the fourth (and sadly, the last) western featuring gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. These characters were first introduced in Appaloosa where they cleaned up the town from the bad guys before moving on to other adventures in Resolution and Brimstone. Now, they have returned to the small town of Appaloosa only to find that its new police chief is corrupt and extorting protection money from the town’s residents. Written in the typical Parker style of short, terse chapters with sparse, witty dialogue, this western is a quick, entertaining read. Virgil and Everett are truly memorable characters.

Megan: Justice Riders by Chuck Norris is the story of Ezra Justice and his motley crew of elite warriors known as the Justice Riders. As the American Civil War comes to an end Justice and his men head to the wild west to deliver the body of one of their fallen to his widow. Their journey west is dangerous and they meet many seedy characters along the way. The characters are flat and stereotypical and some historical details are questionable. Violence and action keep the story moving more than the a strong plotline. Fans of westerns will find more satisfying tales of adventure elsewhere.

Dori: In True Grit by Charles Portis, bible quoting Mattie Ross narrates the story of when, at age 14, she leaves her home in Arkansas to hunt down her father’s killer Tom Chaney. She seeks out the toughest U.S. Marshal she can find, one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, and they head into Indian Territory alongside a Texas Ranger named LeBouef. Mattie’s no-nonsense style and piety add humor and cadence to this bloody tale of the Old West.

Rosemary: Conagher by Louis L’Amour is an enjoyable Western featuring Conagher, an honorable loner, and Evie Teale, a courageous widow with two children. The chaste love story of Conagher and Evie is woven throughout his cattle ranching and Evie’s lonely struggle to survive as a homesteader. L’Amour writes in the classic Western style. What really appealed to this reader was the basic goodness of the two main characters and how L’Amour treated the character of Evie with so much admiration and respect.

Janet: Will of Steel by Diana Palmer describes the stubborn demeanor of the two main characters, Theodore and Jillian. They have jointly inherited land in their hometown in Montana from their two uncles but only if they marry. It will take a threat from Jillian’s past for Theodore and Jillian to see each other in a totally different light.

Ann: Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart begins in 1895 in south Texas, when the wife of Vaclav Skala dies in childbirth leaving him a widower with 4 young sons. From that time on, Skala becomes bitter and hard. The only affection he seems to have remaining is for his horses. The story jumps ahead to 1910 when the youngest son, Karel, is now a man, married, and with a third child on the way. A falling out with his three brothers keeps Karel from talking with any of them. Moving forward and backward in time we learn the family story of these stubborn Skala men, bound to the land, their horses, and each other.

Stacey: Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman is a western with strong romantic elements. Rachel Bailey was looking to escape a bad situation back home and Reidsville, CO was the obvious choice after inheriting the mining town’s railroad spur. Sheriff Wyatt Cooper isn’t just the local law, he’s a well-educated lawyer and he’s been entrusted with Rachel’s safety, both for her sake and the sake of the town. Of course Rachel isn’t looking to be kept safe, she wants to fight her own battles. Will these two find a way to work together and save the town?

Our next selection of books will be full of murder and mayhem! We’ll be discussing.. mystery stories! Mysteries feature a crime, clues, and a solution. Sometimes the challenge of finding who, what, and why, is accepted by an accidental sleuth and sometimes it’s a professional who’s looking into the matter. How clever!

— Stacey

Western Style~

“Yee haw!, Giddy up!, and Howdee cowpoke!” are fun western phrases right? And surprisingly, or maybe not if you’re a die hard fan, the books themselves are pretty fun too. No one read any of the typical Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry, Zane Grey, or Elmer Kelton books, all these wild rides are new (to me!) authors. But there were some of the common old school themes in all our books: large animals, dusty trails, death, and the western states. Curious about the books we discussed?


Emma shared:

Shavetail by Thomas Cobb is the story of army recruit Ned Thorne, a 17 year-old runaway from Connecticut. Ned feels responsible for the accidental death of his younger brother. It’s 1871 in Arizona territory. Ned, nicknamed shavetail, is paired with Brickner who brings Ned up to speed. Ned’s training with Brickner includes fighting, drinking, rustling cattle and mule driving. Ned’s unit is assigned to track down a band of Apaches who invaded a nearby ranch killing two men and kidnapping a woman.


Carol shared:

Drifter by Karl Lassiter.
John Allen is the drifter in this novel. After a stint as a gunsmith’s apprentice in Kansas, John heads to Nebraska and works in coal mines there. But he really dreams of becoming a cowboy and hops aboard a train bound for Wyoming to do just that. Unfortunately, without any ranch experience, he’s considered a greenhorn and can only find work as a blacksmith. Soon, he finds himself falling for a rival rancher’s daughter and also gets caught up in a war between ranchers and a deadly band of rustlers. Can he prove himself to the Flying K ranch boss, and gets his chance to discover firsthand that being a cowboy is dangerous work? And, more importantly, will he win the heart of the girl?


This is an old-fashioned formulaic Western that has charm, plenty of atmosphere, and just a tinge of romance. This makes for very clean and quick reading.


Evelyn shared:

Rachel and the Hired Gun by Elaine Levine

Summoned by her father, Rachel Douglas leaves Virginia on a wagon train going west. She pays a family for traveling protection, but half-way there Rachel elects to travel with the hired gun sent by her father because she has been shunned from the wagon train as a loose woman.  What she didn’t realize is that she has been summoned west to be used as a pawn in a ranch war with her father’s neighbor — or that her fierce, undeniable attraction to Sager, her father’s hired gun, would put her heart and her life in jeopardy. This book is as much a historical romance as a western and is an enjoyable read with interesting characters and a gentle romance. Highly recommend for leisure reading.


Janet shared:

Thunder Valley by Lauran Paine

In 1877 in the New Mexico Territory Anna Marie Miller found herself in charge of the large ranch that was founded by her late husband.  With the help of her hired hands and three newcomers Anna Marie was able to prevent the loss of her ranch and cattle when she was led into a lethal trap by cattle rustlers and a corrupt sheriff.


Rosemary shared:

Etta: A Novel by Gerald Kolpan

The author weaves a wild tale of the life of Etta Place, Sundance Kid’s beautiful lover.  This is the story of how Etta went from Philadelphia society girl to outlaw as part of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang in Wyoming.


Julie shared:

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

This story is set in the wide open spaces of Montana, where homesteaders are trying to make a life on the frontier. The Milliron boys lost their mother in 1908 and a year later, their father decides to hire a housekeeper to help with the chores. In the end, she brings more than cleanliness and order to their


Ann shared:

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

12-year-old Alice Winston lives on a horse ranch in rural Colorado, where she must come to grips with the death of a schoolmate and her older sister Nona running off to marry a cowboy. A contemporary story of the West, of a lifestyle tied closely to the land and to the weather- a lifestyle that is as hard as it is rewarding, a lifestyle that by the 1980’s is slowly dying. A brilliantly written debut novel that won the 2008 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West and also a 2008 Alex Award.


And I shared:

The Journal of Callie Wade by Dawn Miller

Callie younger sister is ill and may benefit from the living out west, so they join a wagon train traveling toward California. Loss is a constant companion to the travelers, from possessions to livestock to family members, but they have to keep moving to survive. Strong-willed women, a personal perspective on the hardships of wagon train life, and familiar family dynamics make this western story approachable and interesting to just about any reader.


What about you? Are you going to try a new, old-time western? Go ahead and man up, you might just find a whole new world to explore…


And our next genre is… Fantasy! Magical worlds, fantastical beasts, and emotionally charged stories about journeys in the mind, in the world, and into a whole new realm of being. I can’t wait!