Review 5 star
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My Plunder: Westerners and Warriors is a memoir by Myles Culbertson. It consists of 8 vignettes that chronicle the people and lore of his family’s ranch in New Mexico. The short, factual snippets span the entire 20th century and end in 2007, each piece contributing a layer to compile a detailed history. The last (most recent) is written by his son-in-law, sharing how he embraced the family traditions of the ranch. Photographs of the people represented, and thoughtful western art by Mike Capron help bring the story of generations of a family of modern cowboys, their friends, loved ones, and—of course—horses, to life for readers as they get to see this rugged American lifestyle in operation over the years.
Myles Culbertson’s fascinating glimpse into ranch life in the 20th century is unmatched by anything I’ve read before. It was amazing for me to follow the stories of a horse with a legendary attitude, a father determined to vote even with cracked ribs, a selfless colonel who was a general at heart, a tiny forgotten town livened by adventure when cowboys visited, and a young Marine getting his first experience as a real cowboy branding cattle amid gorgeous scenery. From the vintage era through the Vietnam War to the present day, My Plunder: Westerners and Warriors is a nostalgic collection that is grounded and rooted in the unchanging personality of the people who work with cattle and horses and their harsh, yet deeply beautiful environment. This one-of-a-kind book is something I’m delighted to have read and I would recommend it to anyone.
Review 4 star
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Re: Camelot is an exciting story by E. C. Fisher. It sets the adventures of King Arthur around a teenage orphan named Arthur Godwin-Dragos. He is summoned to Planet Avalon by a beautiful woman named Merlin, who is the most powerful mage in Avalon City, a place that blends technology with fantasy magic. After Arthur pulls enchanted Excalibur from its stone on the Forgotten Isle, he heads off with a band of companions to find eleven sacred weapons that once belonged to knights of Camelot. The knights started their own countries, several of which are now at war. And when it turns out the growing darkness that caused Merlin to send Arthur on this quest comes from an ancient enchantress with the power of a dark dragon inside her—and a plan more devious than they imagined—Arthur and his friends have their work cut out for them.
I thought Re: Camelot was quite creative. The way technology was blended into the story while retaining the medieval feeling of an Arthur story always felt believable and E. C. Fisher’s many plot twists and turns kept the narrative fresh. The Knights of the Round Table were turned into countries (Gawain; Bedivere; Lancelot, and the rest) and their descendants, a well-coordinated cast of diverse, mostly young people took on the adventures of teamwork and courage against enchantment and darkness that makes any fantasy saga, including the legends of King Arthur, so enjoyable. The specific traits given each country not only created challenges to help the team grow as leaders and warriors, but also built great visual images for a complex world. The concept of Merlin being an official title granted to any great mage, in this case a woman, expanded this character into one of my favorites in the book, a perfect mentor and contrast to the developing talents of young Arthur and his band of friends.
Review 4 star
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Braidy von Althuis and the Dastardly Djinn is a quirky and exciting children’s story with an inventive cast of characters. This third book in a series by author Cassidy Dwelis continues the story of young Braidy, who lives in a blended family of humans and magical creatures. Braidy’s grandmother is one of the most powerful fairies in the world. After she disappears to Europe, most of the family goes looking for her. Left at home, Braidy accidentally finds a ceramic container with a djinn trapped inside. To free the djinn, Braidy wishes for his cousin Blockhead, who was cursed so he has a block for a head, to look normal again so he'll feel better after a breakup. But Blockhead doesn’t know what to do with his newfound freedom, the djinn is on the run from someone who wants to enslave him, and before he knows it Braidy is head over heels in an adventure.
This book was an enjoyable reading experience for me and kids craving a story that does a good job delivering thrills, comedy, and sympathetic characters will like it as well. Braidy was a well-characterized little boy who drew me into the story immediately and Blockhead’s portrayal was strong as he grew from shy and underconfident into someone who embraced himself even if he looked different from others. That’s an excellent message and it’s easy to take it to heart after so much action-adventure brings us close to Braidy and Blockhead so we care about them and see their journey each step of its exciting, freaky, epic-scale way. Subtle illustrations captured the character’s emotions and the backstory of European fairies and Asian djinns, who coexist but dislike each other, was developed just enough to create a feeling of mythic scope without slowing the story down. Cassidy Dwelis has great skill with action stories and Braidy von Athuis and the Dastardly Djinn brings a fun fantasy world to life.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.