Category Archives: Book Reviews

Wyoming Book Reviews

Betsy Bernfeld
Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2018

The poems in Betsy Orient Bernfeld’s Eve are strong and varied. This collection of poetry is an engaging and emotional read. It is full of history, fragile and enduring connections, the natural world, and both the soft touch and resilient strength of the feminine. Some of the poems explore the past, others speak of the present moment, and some examine what-if scenarios, both historically and personally. There is a satisfying balance between specific details and the deeper emotional currents. There is hope and loss, tender beauty and heavy tragedy. All against the backdrop of scenes like bright gold aspen leaves “like candles lit” and the “blue green sky to fill my wide blank eyes.” Whether she is analyzing a work of art said to be representative of female sexuality, reviewing evidence in court, bleeding in the wilderness, counting the miles along a beaten path, or building a house with stained glass windows, Betsy Orient Bernfeld has the poet’s ability to make the familiar seem strange and the strange seem familiar.

Rykki Neale, Children’s Librarian
LaBarge Branch Library

Karen Henderson, illus. Lisa Nicholas
AuthorHouse, 2017

Karen Henderson’s Floating is a relaxing and fun story about a family-time tradition. The author happily recalls memories of the sights and sounds of the river and takes the reader along, describing in sweet detail all of her favorite critters and insects. The rhyming lines and cadence give the story a cool and meandering feel, just like floating down a nice, refreshing river.

The illustrations by Lisa Nicholas lend the story a touch of nostalgia, as if each moment were a still-image from a child’s memory, intimate and playful.

Floating is a fun adventure that highlights the magic of time spent out in nature, sharing laughs and splashes with your loved ones!

Angela Wolff, Reference Librarian
Laramie County Library System

Wyoming Book Reviews

Chronicles of the Roc Rider
By Aaron Volner
[United States] : [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform], [2017]

In this fantasy novel, Tanin Stormrush is a warrior whose battle partner is a raptor large enough to kill and eat a moose. It is a brilliant premise that took me a little time to really immerse myself in. In the wake of the murder of Tanin’s wife, he embarks on a mission of revenge. Tanin is convinced he’s really fulfilling his deathbed promise to his wife. The antagonist is a complex and often confusing character who is a little more than typically elusive. This story is not your typical fantasy and reaches into a battle of light and dark magic, with enough historical accuracy of the earth’s resources to keep you engrossed. There are several twists that were not entirely expected and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Although I am not typically a lover of fantasy, I am eagerly awaiting the release of volume 2.

Kathleen Horton, Library Paraprofessional
Burns Jr./Sr. High School

Kicking Up Dust
By Robert Twing
[United States] :, Inc., 2018.

This collection transports the reader to the world of Buffalo, Wyoming during the Great Depression. Each short story that recounts a different moment in Twing’s life, from boyhood through adulthood, deftly suffuses autobiography with humor and tension, faith and a strong sense of family. His engaging, accessible prose and keen eye for detail allows the reader a unique glimpse into history through the eyes of one ordinary man and his family and friends. Stories like “Once Upon a Time,” which recalls crafting homemade slingshots to use in games at recess in a one-room schoolhouse, and “Divorce? Never! Murder? Maybe!” illuminate how attitudes and social mores have changed in the years since, while fully immersing the reader in the story and time period in which it occurs. This collection is not only a fascinating resource on Wyoming history, but a moving portrait of a time gone by. Immersive history at its best.

Danielle Price, Digital Initiatives Librarian
Wyoming State Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Rusty and His Saddle: a Rusty the Ranch Horse Tale
by Mary Fichtner; illus. Roz Fichtner
Cheyenne, Wyo. : the author, 2017

Rusty and His Saddle is a great example of the Wyoming code of ethics: “The Code of the West.” Each page depicts a characteristic with a specific word that will help readers understand these cowboy ethics.

Rusty is a wonderful ranch horse that all readers will relate to. He is not a fancy show horse. He does not have a fancy prize saddle. He is just a good old, hard-working ranch horse. Rusty will help teach readers the cowboy ethics during a working day on the ranch. And what really matters on the trail…how we ride.

Fichtner has written several stories, in rhyming text, based around her real-life ranch horse Rusty. The beautiful, bright colored illustrations, done by Fichtner’s daughter Rozlyn, bring Rusty’s world to life. Join Rusty the Ranch Horse for more adventures: Rusty Under the Western Skies, Rusty Goes to Frontier Days, Rusty and the Pot of Gold, Rusty and His Friend the River, and Wrong Color Rusty.

Bonnie Stahla, Youth Services Librarian
Crook County Library

Is It True?
by Eugene Gagliano, illus. Sarah Bradstreet
Jackson, Wyo. : Sastrugi Press, 2018

Is it True? What a fun book of funny children’s poetry. The illustrations are simple black and white drawings. From the poem “Is It True?”: …Is it true if I keep making this face, it will probably stay this way? Somebody please tell me I need to know today. Various topics are covered including upset moms, tall girls, school, food, pranks, families, and chores — things of interest to children. From “You Are What You Eat”: You are what you eat, Mom told my little brother. So now he doesn’t eat one thing or another. …He won’t drink a glass of milk ‘cause it might make him moo. The book includes things you may need to talk to your children or grandchildren about, that are misunderstandings of common expressions The “Heard That Before” poem says, The dog ate my homework, is what I said. The teacher frowned. I wished I was dead. … My dad said the evidence might make you gag, But I brought you the proof right here in this bag.

Deb Kelly, Librarian
Northwest College Hinckley Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Along the Sylvan Trail
Julianne Couch
Jackson Hole : Sastrugi Press, [2017]

Along the Sylvan Trail is a journey. Not only do we get beautiful descriptions of the trail itself but of a multitude of characters that pass upon it. Julianne Couch’s character building is absolutely insightful. The relationships of the characters with each other and with nature is authentic and relatable. We get a glimpse of each character’s journey and the thoughts and emotions that led them to certain decisions. Like the trail, all these characters interconnect in some way but we get to learn their stories as if we were looking out on the landscape, sometimes looking at the most recent piece of geology, but often looking back across time. Couch does a great job weaving all these intriguing tales into a book that leaves you wanting, more than anything, to go and explore the natural beauty of the West. As a newcomer to the West, I greatly enjoyed her vivid landscape descriptions. This story is a journey worth taking and I highly recommend immersing yourself in this book.

Glory Taylor, Library Specialist
Emmett D. Chisum Special Collections, University of Wyoming Libraries

Rudy Mudra: Master Saddlemaker
By Kathy Muller Ogle
Cheyenne, Wyoming: Coyote Publishing, 2017

Rudy Mudra is well known among northeast Wyoming riders as well as other leatherworkers. This book chronicles his life starting with his parents who were Bohemian immigrants and his father was a harness and saddlemaker. Rudy started learning leatherwork as a child. As he grew up, he lived in Nebraska then moved to Montana then to Wyoming following the saddle work. He worked with saddleries such Miles City Saddlery, Otto F. Ernst Inc. Saddlery, and others. The book detailed the economic and transportation changes during this time as well as the changes to western saddle making during his life.

The book was well researched with great pictures. It included a history of who bought saddles made by Rudy, and other interesting details that helped me understand what life was like for the Mudra’s during this time period.

Anyone interested in local saddle making will find some interesting information in this book.

Krisene Watson, Administrative Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library – Gillette

Wyoming Book Reviews

Atlantic City, Wyoming 1868-2018: Voices From a Powerful Place
[Atlantic City, Wyoming?] : Atlantic City Historical Society, Inc., [2017]

The entire 150-year history of a patch of earth high on South Pass is laid out in this work. Bob Townsend and the Atlantic City Historical Society compiled this trove of stories and photographs from folks for whom Atlantic City holds a special place in their hearts and lives. The photographs alone are worth a perusal, but the stories will make you long to have been a part of such a powerful place. Early on, people came to Atlantic City for rumored gold. Some faded away as their dreams died, others stayed on and made a community. Atlantic City has ridden the cycle of boom and bust for years, but always managed to hang on with a few locals even during the most lean times. Although it was riches of the earth which called to the founders of Atlantic City, it’s the treasure of place which keeps the town going today.
Leslie C. Tribble, Technical Services Manager
Park County Library

Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Glendo, WY : High Plains Press, [2017]

I was entranced to read Linda M. Hasselstrom’s bounty of a book, Gathering from the Grassland. This paean to the prairie lands of South Dakota is a journey completely and lyrically human. Hasselstrom’s 1987 journal Windbreak explored her complex ties to family and homeland. She now returns to that format in a move that feels as inevitable as the Wheel of Time. Linda is living on the ranch, poring over old journals, and daily divining the unpredictable weather and the constant wonder of nature that surrounds her. She struggles to reconcile past wounds while searching for small signs along the trail for the way to carry her beloved land safely into the future. This book will speak to those who cherish small towns and our western way of life, those confronting their mortality and that of ill and aging parents, and to anyone examining their history in an effort to release long-held pain after a loved one has passed. This is a beautiful book, not to be missed.

Tamara Lehner, Circulation/Adult Programming
Glenrock Branch Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Too Young for the Times
By George Trojan
North Charleston, SC : Createspace, 2017

Too Young for the Times, George Trojan’s memoir is an absorbing read. Written when Trojan turned 90, it recounts his adolescence in Lwow Poland during World War II. During the Russian occupation Trojan lost his father and watched while his brother and brother-in-law worked with the underground to free their country, eventually joining the underground network himself. Trojan shares his thoughts and feelings during this time with the reader. Concealing nothing, Trojan describes the scenes of deprivation and destruction that would forever imprint themselves on him. With Germany moving in to take Russia’s place things settled down temporarily, but when Trojan was 16 years old he was caught in a dragnet and conscripted into the Luftwaffe. It would be over a year before Trojan could escape and find freedom with the American Army. Drafted in Trojan’s unique parlance, he takes the reader through every leg of his journey, and into his confidence. Too Young for the Times would be a welcome addition to any Wyoming library.

Melanie Tibbetts, Adult Services Specialist
Natrona County Library

Whistle Creek and other Wyoming Tales
Written and illustrated by June Willson Read
Kernersville, NC : Alabster Book Publishing, c2016

Whistle Creek and other Wyoming Tales is a treasure. Clean prose, fresh tales and best of all, Read’s authentic voice make for a pleasant read. The perfect cadence of her dialogue, turns of phrase, and judicious use of slang lets my inner editor relax and enjoy. The illustrations are charming. Read’s characters narrate from different vantages and times. I liked “The Little People,” though the love story at the end is poignant. The “Blue Bordello” tale inspired me to check out Read’s The Life of Dell Burke, Lady of Lusk.  Read’s childhood, spent along on her family’s ranch along the Niobrara River, granted her with the insights of a native daughter. She adheres to the cardinal rule of story-telling around here, “It’s a Wyoming story—don’t ruin it with the truth.” I want to sit around the campfire and swap tales with June Willson Read.

Virginia Livingston, Publicist
Park County Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Sho-Rap Highway : the Native American Firefighters of Wind River
By Robin P. Whiteplume
[Place of publication not identified] : The Author, 2017

Robin Whiteplume thoroughly researches and intimately shares the story of Native American firefighters throughout our nation’s history. Part I details the evolution of Native fire crews from a time when fire suppression was largely a military operation working with the Office of Indian Affairs to provide employment for Native Americans. Whiteplume describes the formation and training of the first Native American firefighting crews by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the1930s. Part II describes the beginnings of the Sho-Rap firefighting crew of the Wind River Agency in 1967. In Part III, Whiteplume shares his personal experiences as a member of the Sho-Rap crew over three decades. This book is well-researched and provides the reader with historical photographs and first-hand accounts. The author has provided so much information, in fact, that some parts of the book are a bit difficult to get through. However, Robin Whiteplume more than compensates with his autobiographical storytelling that allows the reader to emotionally connect with the brave firefighters of the Sho-Rap crew, then and now.

Calla D. Canaday, Circulation Librarian
Niobrara County Library

Meet the Boys of Casper
By Dallas Jones
[United States] : Guy Talk Press, 2017. ©2017

This book is about six boys living in Casper in 1975, with their stories presented from the perspective of an alien sent to study the irrationality of human life on earth. The characters profiled in this book are diverse, relatable, and well developed. They are entering high school during the period of the alien’s visit, but their backstories extend back so that you have a good understanding of what brought each boy to his current circumstances and attitude. Their stories each pull you in and keep you reading. The boys deal with various family difficulties and changes, breaking up with a first girlfriend, insulting nicknames, bullying, crushed dreams, and more. The context of an alien observer adds some humor, but this would be an enjoyable read even without that element. The serious issues and humorous moments are enjoyably balanced. The book is also full of local and nostalgic details that makes growing up at that time in Wyoming come alive again.

Rykki Neale, Children’s Librarian
La Barge Branch Library

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