Category Archives: Book Reviews

Wyoming Book Reviews

Tarnished Gold
By Barbara Townsend
Atlantic City, Wyo.: Fine Nib Publishing, 2017

Tarnished Gold is the third novel from Barbara Townsend, a University of Wyoming graduate with a keen interest in Western history and a talent for bringing interesting characters to life. In Tarnished Gold, Townsend focuses on the South Pass gold mining region.  The mystery/crime/romance novel is set in the 1930s in the fictional town of Placer City, Wyoming. Townsend has done her research into the history of the time period, and she includes an abundance of details that draw the reader into that time and place. The challenges of daily life in a bust town are woven into the narrative so skillfully that the reader may not realize that a history lesson is being delivered along with the story.

Although the book is relatively short, at 226 pages, the author makes good use of every word to build a complex tale with satisfying resolutions to the various complications introduced.  The well-developed, multidimensional characters and the intricate plot twists make this a book to be savored. The reader will be rewarded for paying careful attention to every scene.

Sandra Barstow, Head of Collection Development
University of Wyoming Coe Library


J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store, and American Agriculture
By David Delbert Kruger
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, [2017]

J. C. Penney had always been just a name on a store front to me. No longer. I enjoyed learning much more about James Cash Penney, the man behind the first transcontinental department store that brought affordable goods to urban and rural America. And don’t forget the catalogs! David Kruger brings us the story of a young business man who opened his store, against all advice, in 1902 Kemmerer, Wyoming. Penney continued opening stores and developed a lifelong love for breeding top quality livestock, especially horses and cattle. Penney even brought farm livestock (literally) to the sales floors of many stores. I recommend David Kruger’s story about a man who was not interested in building personal wealth but instead was dedicated to following the Golden Rule. The author gives us the story of a caring capitalist, a frugal man, a Christian philanthropist, and a dedicated agriculturist. The stores J. C. Penney opened are, unfortunately, disappearing. Through the history Penney created, and Kruger recorded, it will be much longer before they are forgotten.

Nancy Venable, Extension and Volunteer Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

When they Were Young: A Sam Dawson Mystery
By Steven Horn
Cheyenne, WY : Granite Peak Press, 2017

Steven Horn writes a beautifully penned Wyoming story, complete with the Nebraska Sand Hills and the Laramie Range, the University of Wyoming and the Medicine Bow National Forest as the back drop. Sam Dawson, a Wyoming man reticent to speak, share, or be in touch with his emotional side, comes off the page with richness and the absence of cliché. A struggling writer working as a photography instructor at the university, Sam challenges his daughter and his love interest, Annie, while tending to demons of his past. When They Were Young takes us back in time to a young marginalized family struggling to survive against the cruelties of young men and harsh environments. Every mystery needs haunting elements and the author provides many: a crusty old rancher, threatening events, isolated country houses, evidence in a musty barn, researched child abductions, icy winters, evidence of pornography, and a series of suspicious deaths. Reading this book will take you on familiar paths with likable folks while making your skin crawl with the nastiness of the human condition.

Cindy Moore, Assistant Director
Converse County Library

Saving Wyoming’s Hoback: The Grassroots Movement That Stopped Natural Gas Development
By Florence Rose Shepard and Susan Marsh
Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2017

Saving Wyoming’s Hoback recounts the actions of citizens working together to protect the scenic and valued Hoback Basin from drilling. The book begins with a summary of the conservation efforts as the author recounts the announcement of a buyout by the Trust for Public Land of mineral leases from the Plains Exploration & Production Company, preventing any future drilling in the area. Following this summary was a more detailed account covering the different people and their reasons for wanting conservation.

The beautiful pictures and descriptions of the area in question help to showcase why it is so special. In contrast, pictures of the Green River Basin and the gas development in that area show what could have happened in the Hoback Basin. This was an informative read that guides the reader through the intricacies of government agencies’ decisions and what citizen-run groups did to oppose those decisions. I would recommend it to those interested in conservation and who enjoy Wyoming’s natural beauty.

Jessica Anders, Library Technician
Eastern Wyoming College Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Man Behind the Wheel
By Steve Rzasa
San Bernardino, CA : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017

In this futuristic novel, technological advancements make 2067 America almost unrecognizable. Implanted personal assistant devices and automated highways are a reality, but for contracted Pursuit Specialist Rome Jasko manual driving is the most exciting part of pursuing criminals.

While investigating a case of high-tech road theft, Rome and his partner Aldo stumble into a web of greed and deceit. What they discover in this high speed game of cat-and-mouse is shocking, even to seasoned professionals. Framed for multiple offenses, Rome and Aldo soon find themselves on the run, hunted by the very professionals they once assisted.

Author Steve Rzasa weaves loyalty, intrigue, deceit, and revenge, and wraps them in a fast paced, ultramodern setting where technology is another character rather that a device. His story crosses multiple genres – spy thriller, suspense, and science fiction that takes his readers on a joy-ride. (Pun intended!)

Lisa Scroggins, Director
Natrona County Library

Do Not Disturb
By Mary Billiter
Hot Tree Publishing, 2016

Katie Flanagan starts off as an aimless college graduate knowing she needs to do something as her parents no longer financially support her. She is hoping her dream job is at The Waterfront Point Resort, a luxury beachfront resort in Orange County. When she finds herself instantly attracted to two very different guys in the group. Will Bogart help Katie realize he’s everything she needs? Or will she take a chance on TJ? While Katie is a part-time file clerk/secretary, she learns that the corporate office has plans to eliminate overtime for the part-time employees to keep costs down and pad their year-end bonuses. Katy Flanagan knows this is not right as many employees, including her, depend on the overtime pay to cover the costs of medical care and tuition that are covered for full-time employees. She finds her voice and pens a press release that places the hotel, and her, at the center of national coverage. When the corporate line is drawn in the sand, will she cross it?

Sue Paddock, Manager
Saratoga Branch Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Come in: Open the Doors to You
by Casey Rislov; illus. Allie Strom
Casper, WY : Casey Rislov Press, 2015.

Open the Doors to You by Casey Rislov and illustrated by Allie Strom introduces the readers to all of the possibilities they may find by opening different doors—both real, physical doors, and the more abstract doors of opportunities. With literal doors, opening the door to home leads to love and laughter and the door to school leads to learning. More abstract are the doors to sports, music, and the neighborhood. While some younger students may need help with the switch to the figurative, older students will start thinking about the various “doors” in their lives and which ones they enjoy going through. This is an interesting way to present opportunities and begin having children think about self-awareness. The illustrations show dynamic multicultural families doing a variety of activities, with a few two-page picture-only spreads that show the importance of family and community. The illustrations, combined with the in-text questions provide a good basis for using this book as a read-aloud with children: “Which door will you open next?”

Jennisen Lucas, Library Media Specialist
Park County School District 1

Swing Sideways
By Nancy Turner Stevenson

New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.

We all have that one friend or one summer that helped define who we are and how we perceive the world around us. Swing Sideways is  the debut novel of Wyoming based author Nanci Turner Stevenson who masterfully shares one such story. Annie wants to break free of who she once was and when she meets California she knows she has found that friend who can help her. California is the girl we all wished was our best friend growing up, brave, adventurous, and unencumbered. She is spending the summer with her estranged grandpa but hopes to find the ponies that she is convinced will bring her mother home. Annie helps California on her mission, and just when it seems they will be successful, Annie learns the truth. Although this book is written for 8-12 year olds, I found myself caring more and more about these characters with each chapter. I highly recommend this Indian Paintbrush nominee and have already purchased Swing Sideways as my annual Christmas gift for friends and family of all ages.

Connie Hollin, Library Media Specialist
Guernsey-Sunrise School


Wyoming Book Reviews

Pulling Words
By Nicholas Trandahl
North Hampton, New Hampshire: Winter Goose Publishing, 2017

 Pulling Words is Nicholas Trandahl’s sixth published book. Over the years, I have witnessed Nicholas delve into various types of writing genres such as fantasy, literary fiction, short stories, and poetry as he seeks a creative outlet for the stories residing in his fingertips. He has unquestionably refined his craft and has a definitive achievement with his newest book of poetry, Pulling Words.

 Pulling Words is the author’s perception of the ordinary in everyday life and a reminder to us of how truly extraordinary it can be when we give pause to consideration. Trandahl observes in his poem, “The Forgotten Taste of Mulberries:” “All five of our senses don’t attend each and every poignant meeting of memory…” I promise you, time spent with this compilation of poetry will bring you ever so much closer to absolute attendance. The collection of poetry in Pulling Words can easily be devoured in one sitting, however, don’t ignore your inclination to want to linger.

Brenda Mahoney-Ayres, Director
Weston County Library System

Yellowstone National Park: Through the Lens of Time
By Bradly J. Boner

University Press of Colorado, 2017

Bradly J. Boner embarks on a memorable adventure to re-photograph images taken by William Henry Jackson on the Yellowstone National Park Hayden Survey of 1871. Jackson’s photographs played a large role in getting Congress to designate Yellowstone as a national park. Boner faced many dangers and challenges on his adventure: weather, animal encounters, terrain, and the risk of getting lost in the backcountry.

The history Boner provides in this book makes the reader want to cozy up with it. However, it is the size of a coffee table book and weighs over five pounds. Boner’s color photographs provide a welcome contrast to Jackson’s original black and white photographs, providing interesting differences between then and now. Boner provides notes from the survey of 1871 alongside his own notes, giving the reader contrasting perspectives.

In addition, Boner provides some Yellowstone history post the Hayden survey as well as an afterword, a thorough notes section, and extensive bibliography. Yellowstone National Park: Through the Lens of Time would make a great addition to any collection of Yellowstone books as well as coffee table and re-photography books.

Thomas Ivie, Research & Statistics Librarian
Wyoming State Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Black Hare (The Aspects Book 1)
By Toni L.H. Boughton
Toni L.H. Boughton, 2017

Toni Boughton, veteran writer of the Wolf in the Land of Dead trilogy, brings to life a world that is at once familiar as it is fantastic in Black Hare. Part horror, part fantasy, part mystery, this book has something for everyone.

Rook, a woman driven by demons both real and psychological, finds herself unwillingly settling down in small town Wyoming where everything is not as it seems. Her only companion, a spectral black hare she can’t shake, provides little comfort and represents a responsibility – and a past – she would rather forget. Meanwhile, the town of Red Horse River is suffering from a series of brutal and fiery deaths that perhaps only Rook can stop – if she can find a way to overpower the threatening evil, and discover the good in herself.

I was enthralled by this story and it’s beautifully complicated heroine, and found Boughton’s setting and story-telling intensely immersive. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a unique, fast-paced read and can’t wait for the next installment!

Brenna Philbrick, Library Assistant, Senior
University of Wyoming Coe Library

Dilemmas of the Angels: Poems
By David Romtvedt
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2017

David Romtvedt of Buffalo, Wyoming is a professor of creative writing at UW, the former poet laureate of Wyoming, the author of ten published works of prose and poetry, and my favorite Wyoming poet. Dilemmas of the Angels is an impressive and enjoyable collection of bittersweet poems of the supernatural contrasted with everyday life, of both the foreign and the familiar. Every third or fourth poem in the collection continues the “dilemmas of the angels,” which imagine the everyday lives and inner thoughts of those celestial beings. In between these are touching poems of fatherhood, such as those about his young daughter, like “Sunday Morning Early” and “Surprise Breakfast,” along with other compelling poems about his experiences in Africa, such as “Western Aid” and “One-Legged Dancer.” This volume is highly recommended for all collections and will join other Romtvedt works like his previous poetry collection Some Church and the memoir Windmill: Essays from Four Mile Ranch on my personal bookshelf.

Elaine Jones Hayes, Assistant Manager Reference Services / Special Collections Librarian
Laramie County Library System

Wyoming Book Reviews

Drifting Yukon:  living in two worlds with Yup’ik Eskimo salmon hunters
By Dan Syljuberget
Rapid City, SD : Black Hills Books, 2016.

Picture this: Mid ’80s, Western Oregon State College, first day of class, non-traditional students Dan (an anglo), and Allen and Clara (Eskimo siblings from a Yup’ik village in Alaska). As class begins Allen and Clara enter and sit near Dan. The ensuing conversation starts the adventure of a lifetime. This linear narrative adventure captures Dan helping his Yup’ik friends, who are struggling with alcohol and lifelong habits, adjust to college culture. The friendship is so strong that the Yup’ik eventually invite Dan to spend the summer fishing in Alaska. As he settles into life at the Yup’ik primitive fishing camp, Dan experiences a similar culture shock. The rustic lifestyle pushes the author to the limit. The satisfying, yet intriguing, conclusion of the book leaves you comparing the lives of the Yup’ik with those of the Native Americans in the lower 48. Great descriptive narrative of Dan’s adventure and college life for the Eskimos makes this book hard to put down!

Richard Landreth, Library Media Specialist
Campbell County School District 1


By Eugene M. Gagliano
Denver : Outskirt Press, 2016.

Booger is an entertaining story of a 12 year old boy and his struggle to earn money to buy a new bicycle since he wrecked his the previous summer. In 1957, he “needs” a bike to get around. He has many adventures while earning money including dog walking, babysitting a boy who thinks he can fly and jumps off a roof, baking cookies (a disaster), and finally doing odd jobs for a widow. He tries to do the right thing, thinking that he doesn’t have to tell the whole truth and his adventures are humorous. He lies to the widow about a broken vase but finally tells her the truth knowing it might mean no bike. But the widow let him know “it takes a person of character to tell the truth” and he continues to work for her and learns his lessons about telling the truth.

Betty Abbott, Education Programs Manager
Wyoming Department of Corrections


Wyoming Book Reviews

Destiny at Dry Camp
By John D. Nesbitt
Waterville, Maine : Five Star, a part of Gale Cengage Learning [2017]

He appears out of the hazy mountains of Eastern Wyoming, to right old wrongs. J. R. Dunbar stirs up long-submerged conflicts and unravels a mysterious sequence of events while meting out justice in a time-honored Old West way, with his pistol. John Nesbitt’s fans will recognize Dunbar from his previous appearances in Dark Prairie (2013) and Death in Cantera (2016). As seen through the eyes of young Whit Barnett, the story unfolds at a relaxed pace with evidence uncovered through conversations with a variety of ranchers and townspeople. The tale builds to a surprising climax, but there are hints along the way for the careful reader. Destiny at Dry Camp is an interesting mix of murder mystery and western novel, so it should appeal to fans of both genres. Since the story stands on its own, it isn’t necessary to have read the previous two Dunbar novels before reading this one, but having read this book will make the reader want to track down Nesbitt’s other works.  Be sure to check out his website at, or consult your local library.

Sandy Barstow, Head of Collection Development
University of Wyoming Libraries

Vicious Circle
By C.J. Box
New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017

This latest installment in the Joe Pickett series is one of C.J. Box’s finest books yet. Revenge is the name of the game and Joe, along with his friend through thick and thin, Nate Romanowski, are playing a cat and mouse game that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. Joe’s feelings of guilt about his part in the downfall of the Cates family plays a big part in Joe’s willingness to cut Dallas and his mother, Brenda, some slack, even as he realizes there’s bound to be a day of reckoning when Dallas is released from prison. This all changes when Joe’s family starts to be systematically stalked and attacked, and his house is burned to the ground. How many people will have to die to satisfy Dallas’s twisted sense of justice? Will Joe’s feelings of inadequacy in his ability to protect his family paralyze him or motivate him? Can Nate and Joe stop the cycle of revenge before it’s too late? Don’t miss this thriller page turner!

Twila Pilcher, Paraprofessional
Hulett School