Tag Archives: western

Project Intentional Reading: January Checkin

As I mentioned, my goals this year include monthly requirements intended to diversify my reading. January is done, and it was a resounding success.


The first category I dove into was #OwnVoices, that is, stories written about characters of some minority background, by authors of that background. January’s Own Voices read fulfilled both my own reading goal and a work challenge.if-i-was-your-girl

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a young adult novel following protagonist Amanda Hardy as she adjusts to a new school, makes friends, and falls in love. She’s also transgender. Now, I tend to like YA problem novels, filled with angst and feels… and this… wasn’t. It was a sweet story of friendship and first love that didn’t ignore the threats facing trans women, but it also didn’t focus on the angst. I was pleasantly surprised by this, heartened that a book like this exists for teens who may previously have not seen their experiences reflected in novels, or perhaps worse, only seen them cast in the light of tragedy.



New or Forthcoming

when-dimple-met-rishiBookRiot lists are dangerous for my to-read list, and this list of “Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books” made my to-read pile explode. From this list, I was able to get Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, courtesy of Eidelweiss. It doesn’t come out until May 30 of this year, but I can’t wait to squee over it with other readers when it does. The story deals with a topic that I haven’t seen much in YA lit—that of two Indian-American teens whose parents try to throw them together in an arranged marriage. Needless to say, this does not go over well with heroine Dimple, who faces uphill battle enough being taken seriously as an aspiring STEM professional without her overbearing mother focusing on her marriageability; Rishi is more open to the suggestion, old-fashioned and romantic without being conservative. The “arranged marriage” conceit may raise some eyebrows, but Dimple’s consternation at it will quickly draw in sympathy, and the day-to-day concerns of their shared summer program project are familiar ground for the genre. I did find myself wishing the secondary characters had been a bit better developed, but on the whole, this book left me smiling.

Non-typical Genre

true-gritOf all the categories, this one had me dragging my feet the worst, and really, it was my own fault, locking myself into what exact book it had to be. My library’s winter reading program theme this year is books-to-movies, so I decided to read Charles Portis’s True Grit for both the program and this category, since westerns are emphatically Not In My Wheelhouse. I’d started listening to the audio book a few years ago and got maybe halfway done, so this was going to be the year I did it, I vowed. And… it was pretty good. I don’t really like westerns, but I do love stories with fierce female protagonists, and Mattie Ross has moxie in spades. Her droll, driven voice made this revenge quest quite enjoyable, and I’m glad I got back around to it.


That was month one of my personal reading challenge done. February is well under way, though again, I find myself flying through #OwnVoices and New/Forthcoming categories and balking at atypical genre, so I think that area needs a bit more effort on my part.


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Review: Riders of the Purple Sage

Mysterious man in a black sombrero? Check. Stunning western landscape? Check. Mighty fine horses? Check. Stalwart woman trying to hold out on her own in hostile territory? Check. Cattle rustling? Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage has these features and more.

The tale follows two main parallel plotlines. At the center of the tale is Jane Withersteen, an independent and wealthy Mormon woman. She faces censure from her church for refusing to break off her friendship with Bern Venters, a Gentile. At the peak of the confrontation, a mysterious stranger—a gunfighter by the name of Lassiter—rides up and breaks up that showdown. Venters rides off and finds a place to hide out and encounters a beautiful strange woman with a past she refuses to speak of. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the pressure on Jane continues—Elder Tull wants her land and hand in marriage, and moreover, to break her spirit and bring her to her knees. Luckily, she has Lassiter on her side as well as the support of the people she has been charitable to along the way, but that may not be enough.

It’s been a few years since the last time I read any westerns, so I was expecting more “pew-pew” and less romance, so this was a bit of an unexpected turn of events. For a book with a blurb that made it sound like a gunfight was inevitable, much more time was dedicated to describing the stunning Utah landscape and the passive-aggressive tactics designed to bring Jane to her knees than outward violence. The two romantic subplots comprised a large portion of the story as well. Of course the men are noble and brave, and of course the women are good and pure and eventually need to be defended by their men, with everyone riding off into happily-ever-after sunsets after the various trials. This doesn’t sound too far off from some of their romance-novel counterparts, actually, which is probably a strong appeal of the genre.

One thing I had not been particularly anticipating was the strong anti-Mormon angle to the story. Our heroine, while herself a Mormon, is clearly cut of different cloth from her brethren, so it is OK to root for her. What she got out of her faith was what most religions hold up as an ideal—to give freely of charity and worship God. However, pretty much all the other Mormons hold more store by their political clout and are in on the plot to bring her down because of she represents someone refusing to bow to her elders; those who aren’t have been bullied into giving up their support, and in some cases, some of the women urge Jane to just bow her head and submit and not hold out for love because clearly a happy, monogamous marriage is too much for a Mormon woman to hope for. Oi vey. As villains, they were certainly heinous, but I find the broad strokes painting an entire religion a bit problematic.

For my other read this week (historical fiction), I have decided to read Sandra Dallas’s True Sisters, which also follows Mormons in the west, with what I hope is a more sympathetic brush.

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