Book Reviews by Genre: Western

Dark Sky
Box, C. J.
4 stars = Really Good

Dark Sky is a masterfully crafted thriller that strings together webs and webs of suspense through character development and wit. The novel takes place in the expansive wilderness of Wyoming, where Joe Pickett, a normal game warden, must evade a killer after his and his client's heads. Box does an incredible job of building up his characters and leaving room for the reader to question certain decisions and traits. The way the author ties everything together for an eventual climax will leave the reader on the edge of their seat, especially when the build-up leads to a nail-biting cliffhanger. The setting is also beautifully used to expand on both the plot and scenic writing in general, as the author clearly knows the terrain and all of its attributes. Overall, I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good thriller.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
Alvin Journeyman
Card, Orson Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good

With this fourth book in the Alvin Maker series, I’m starting to see why a
lot of writers like to stick to trilogies. If anything, I think most readers
can probably skip this volume and move on to the next one because there
wasn’t anything too new or interesting that happened in it. If anything, it
was a re-hash of events in the previous book with a few new characters added
to it. I will concede that Alvin Journeyman did finally develop a fitting
antagonist for Alvin. Still, so few pages were dedicated to this sub-plot
that I’m wondering if it should have just been pulled out and made into its
own novella that would span the gap between book three and book five.

Once again, the strength of the series as a whole carries through here, and
some loose character arcs are tied up before moving on to more important
things. However, spending the majority of the book hashing over what astute
readers (or even readers who were moderately paying attention in the last few
books) already knew as truth just to confirm to the rest of the characters
around Alvin that he wasn’t lying seemed like a waste of words.

If anything, using the delay in Alvin’s journey to develop Calvin’s
“making” abilities did provide a bit of contrast between the two and will
likely pay off when the forces of good and evil clash in future volumes. I
still appreciate the way Orson Scott Card integrates actual history with a
fantasy explanation, though. Despite the missed step here, I’ll continue
with the series to see how it resolves. At the very least, volumes like this
show me why it’s not as notable as the Ender Saga, which was a solid four
book set (that’s really just three books with the third split into two

A weak link in the Alvin Maker series, I give Alvin Journeyman 3.0 stars out
of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Under a Painted Sky
Lee, Stacey
4 stars = Really Good

Under a Painted Sky is a fictional western story set in 1849 on the Oregon Trail. It is about two girls named Samantha and Annamae who after some unfortunate luck leave their home, Missouri, behind to start a new life, but they must first survive the Oregon Trail. While traveling along the Oregon Trail, Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to avoid unwanted attention and they join a group of cowboys, but will Samantha and Annamae be able to trust them? Under a Painted Sky is a story about friendship and self-discovery that leaves you wanting to read more. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Under a Painted Sky because Stacy Lee developed the characters very well and I would recommend reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Emma G
The Gunslinger
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good

With the recent release of The Dark Tower (2017), I became interested in the book series that inspired the movie. I already knew the books would likely take a different direction from the film, and I was prepared for them. Up until now, I’ve enjoyed many of King’s other works, including The Shining, On Writing , and The Green Mile. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Gunslinger; it’s more that most of his books have not been part of a larger series. I still want to know what happens in the next book of the Dark Tower series, so The Gunslinger certainly succeeded in that aspect.

Stephen King’s talent for description is in high form here as he crafts a world unlike our own but still linked to it via the wandering boy, Jake. Considering King’s background in describing all sorts of evil creatures and villains, the calm and calculating “Man in Black” is more terrifying than any violent antagonist, mostly with how psychological he is in his assaults against the eponymous Gunslinger. I also found following the main character of the Gunslinger led to an exciting journey as he overcomes the hurdles that prevent him from accomplishing his goal.

I understand that the first book in a series has a heavy burden to bear. It must introduce the characters and enough of their backstory to understand their motivation. It must also have a hook and be interesting enough by itself to warrant further reading. I probably could have done without some of the flashbacks and/or hallucination/memories, as they almost distracted from the action. I also felt this book didn’t necessarily cover enough ground, but I suppose that’s what the next books in the series will do: flesh out the conflict between the Gunslinger and the Man in Black.

A good foundation for a series that I hope improves over time; I give The Gunslinger 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Under a Painted Sky
Lee, Stacey
3 stars = Pretty Good

Under a Painted Sky was just okay for me. The book was probably very similar to being on the Oregon Trail - every once in a while something exciting would happen but for the most part, you're on the trail with a long stretch of boring ahead of you! That being said, I really do like the fact that Stacey Lee used a "historical" setting to present two strong, multicultural female characters. Annamae (African-American) and Samantha(Chinese) came into each others lives at a critical time and in the end, they realize that you can choose your family. Also being accepted for who you are was a central theme. But I felt Under a Painted Sky was a historical novel with not much history. The story takes place on the Oregon Trail, and we do hear of some of the hardships of traveling that the pioneers faced, but Stacey Lee only did one mention of Native Americans in the book. One sentence about the Cheyenne. It's hard to believe that on the trail, they didn't encounter any Native Americans. I think this book will be popular with teen girls. They will love the romance!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
silhouette of two figures against a sunset
Lee, Stacey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I really enjoyed this book because it was such an adventurous and suspenseful story: just my type. The main character in this story goes through so much I know I could never endure myself, but she kept pushing through it all and made it out all right. There were so many surprising things in this amazing book that happened that I never would have guessed.

Under A Painted Sky was probably the best book I've read this year. Like all books, it had a little blunder here and there, but overall I absolutely loved it.

Reviewer's Name: Adelaide R.
The Walking Drum
L'Amour, Louis
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour is the story of the twelfth
century adventurer Mathurin Kerbouchard and his journey to find and rescue his father who had been captured at sea. His journey takes him all across Europe and into the Muslim world, a world of culture and science that is much different than the squalid life of Europe. It is a lively story, full of exciting characters, vivid description of life in the Middle Ages, and daring exploits that climax at the infamous Valley of the Assassins. Throughout the book are many historical facts thrown in by Kerbouchard as he narrates his travels which I found interesting, but someone who is simply looking for an adventure book might find them tedious. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who loves history and travel, because it satisfied some of my own wanderlust with its vivid description of the splendors of an age long gone.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Grace O.
LeDuff, Charlie
4 stars = Really Good

I've never enjoyed an obituary so much. Charlie LeDuff sure knows how to cozy up to his readers, even if the tales he's telling are less than happy, quaint musings set in Paradise. An easygoing, narrative style meant I had serious trouble putting this book down. Partially, I'm fascinated by the empty shell that is now the city of Detroit- and I'd much rather hear about it from the bottom, up than vice versa. Real stories from real people put things into a much clearer perspective, while also lending a definite desperation to the tone. Detroit has died, and after ignoring its death throes, we didn't even have the decency to give it a proper funeral.

Charlie is ready to breathe one last breath of life into a city that has been burned down by its own residents no less than three times in history. It's a city that in fact gave birth to the American worker, the American sound, and American progress. It's hard to escape the irony that it's also where all of those things have gone to die.

Reviewer's Name: Evan