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.
Kassy O’Rourke, Cub Reporter is an entertaining children’s mystery book by Kelly Oliver. 12-year-old Kassy (named after Kassandra in Greek mythology) has big plans to win an award by writing the best story in her school newspaper so she can impress her dad, who has recently broken up with her mom. She wants her parents back together. When a cougar cub goes missing from her mother’s petting zoo, Kassy finds the story is right under her nose. But first, she’ll need to navigate a number of disasters, escape from a locked shed, learn the truth about her brother’s involvement, and get the help of some friends to save the day and find the cougar before Agent Pinkerton Killjoy shuts down the petting zoo.
Kassy O’Rourke, Cub Reporter is a whole lot of fun and delivers in every way an adventure story should. The twists and turns in the mystery are clever and unpredictable, and the sprinkled references to Star Wars and Greek mythology give a distinctive quirky flavor to the book. Kassy’s first-person voice bubbles throughout the book as sassy, down-to-earth, and delightfully frank about how she feels. An aspect I found especially endearing was how Kassy’s solving of the pet mystery led her into a better understanding of the people around her. Her new sister’s development into a friend added a lot of complexity towards the end of the story—as did Butler and his older brother Oliver, two lively boys who came in handy whenever Kassy needed them. Kelly Oliver builds more than a detailed mystery. She also creates a heartwarming world populated with believable characters who feel like people you know.
Flip and Pate’s Magical Potion Adventure is an inventive children’s fantasy comedy by Lori Rousche. A girl named Sophia Phlippet (nicknamed Flip) has the gift of dabbling in magic powers—specifically, making potions that come to life and actually work. When Flip is given the family Potion Bible by her grandmother, the first thing she can think of is getting even with arrogant-but-cute Justin at school. Justin’s family has the gift of potion-making too. She and her best friend Pate start to use the Potion Bible against Justin. But as Flip and Justin’s fighting turns into a spiral of making potions to embarrass each other, things start to go out of control and Flip ignores Pate’s needs. And is using magic for revenge really such a good idea?
Lori Rousche’s storytelling has a lot of gusto. Flip and Pate’s Magical Potion Adventure is an upbeat, action-packed reading experience for kids. The lively duo of mischief-making Flip and honest, friendly Pate made a likable team as they got involved in one amusing antic after another, and I especially enjoyed the well-timed verbal humor and clever ways Flip described things as they happened to her. Flip fizzed and buzzed with life much like the potions she thought up. Her dynamic personality wasn’t afraid to take risks and I appreciated that she had the ultimate ability to admit her mistakes. The dilemma of getting carried away by emotions and then repenting was a great moral lesson (mixed with a little fun) and a good drive to the story. Entertaining and light-hearted, this is a solid reading choice.
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.