Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith (2014)

Fantasy
Ages 13-18
The StrangerPicture the wild west, in which a teenage boy is on the run from a bounty hunter after the valuable package he carries on his back. He escapes capture, but is mortally wounded. Luck intervenes in the form of a patrolling sheriff who lifts him effortlessly onto her back and races back to the walled town. On foot, dodging the carnivorous roses and deadly crystal shards along the way. In town, a doctor saves the teen’s life by warping time. Oh yeah, and it gets even better. This first in a series (The Change) can only be described as a genre-bending futuristic fantasy dystopia with a utopian twist. It offers the mindblowing and cool factor of Cowboys Vs Aliens but with much richer results. Read More »

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The Cowboy and the Vampire, by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall (1999, 2014)

Genre: Horror
Interest Level: Adult
The Cowboy and the VampireOkay, where to start? This title, subtitled A Very Unusual Romance, was first published 15 years ago, prior to the madness of Twilight, and in the vein of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Tucker is a Wyoming cowboy who loves his horse and his dog, and enjoys living the single life until he falls for Lizzie, a New York City reporter who shows up in LonePine, population 438, to write a story on cowboys. Neither of them realize she’s from a line of vampires, dating back to Jesus, whose purpose in life is to embody evil on earth. And sadly for their romantic plans, it’s time for Lizzie to step up and take her role as vampire queen. Get ready to laugh and cringe – the comedy is great, the horror will make you squirm. Read More »

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt (2011)

Genre: Western
Interest level: Adult
The Sisters BrothersI had this in my hand from my local library’s paperback rack early this summer. I didn’t have time, made a note of the title, and put it back. Big mistake. I kept looking for it and it was always out. Then it was nominated for the Giller, the Governor-General’s Award, and the Man Booker Prize. Onto the waitlist I went. It finally arrived this month, after it won the GG, and finished on the shortlist for the Booker. Set in 1890s Oregon and California, it’s the story of Eli and Charlie Sisters, hired guns. Eli, chubby and shy, is starting to question his killing ways. He wants to give up killing and open a general store, because deep down, despite his temper and strength, he is simply not the fighter his brother is: “[I] spent the rest of the night rewriting lost arguments from my past, altering history so that I emerged victorious.” Read More »

Written in Blood, by John Wilson (2010)

Genre: Western, Historical
Interest level: 13-16
Written in BloodHmm. My second western – perhaps this genre is more appealing to me than I realized. This is written by Vancouver Island’s John Wilson, who often writes of young men in historical, violent times (the American Civil War, Spanish Civil War, First World War). This time there’s no war, but it’s the dangerous setting of Arizona/Mexico in the 1870s. At 16, Jim Doolen leaves his mother running a hotel in the Gold Rush town of Yale BC to find his father, who abandoned his young family 10 years before and went to Mexico. During his travels he meets with an ambush, scalpers, robbers, the law, an Indian mystic and of course, his own destiny. Read More »

The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton (1973, 2010 reprint edition)

Genre: Western
Interest Level: Adult
The Time It Never Rained A duster! A genre I rarely pick up, but this one caught my eye on the new books shelf at my local library. And I’m so glad I did. Charlie Flagg is in his 50s, with a wife grown distant, and a son who’s more interested in the rodeo than working a dusty, drought-worn, time-worn ranch in Texas. But Charlie loves his land, where his grandfather and then his father and now he calls home. He cares for every inch of it, riding the boundaries in silence as he calls to mind its history and its glory. The book opens as a drought is setting in, one that will try this determined man to the bone. Kelton, born in Texas, draws pictures of the flowers and shrubs, makes you smell the earth and see the jackrabbits and roadrunners scampering through the prickly pear cactus and scrub oak. Read More »