Margot takes the Bitter Road

I also chose ‘western’ as my next book bingo challenge genre. The only western I have ever read is ‘Lonesome Dove’ by Larry McMurtry and it is an excellent read with depth and wonderful characterisation. So I have been spoilt.

And perhaps I should also have heeded Nicole’s dad and picked a ‘real western’ because the one I chose – ‘The Bitter Road’ by Steven Law was disappointing. The plot revolves around a rodeo team roper, Colt Ballard. His life is falling to pieces and he has lost his confidence. His journey to regaining equilibrium and resolving his personal issues begins at a summer camp for disadvantaged children. Along the way he is assisted by the camp owner, an indian sage and a colleague with whom he falls in love. There is also the requisite bad guy, a rejected ranch hand, who tries to set him up with the help of a crooked marshall.

It’s a rather pedestrian read full of cliches and the writing is very simplistic and felt like it was written by a child.

Not my cup of tea at all.


Maybe Westerns are your cup of tea – check out the Westerns page on our online catalogue.


What Makes a ‘Real’ Western

A post by Nicole

‘That’s not a real Western!’ scoffed my dad when he found out I was reading The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent. I thought I’d made quite a good choice; the idea of reading a Western really does nothing for me at all, so I’d picked one with a female protagonist in the hopes it would feel more like reading the female-driven historical fiction I usually enjoy. After all, what really is a Western but a very specific subgenre of historical fiction? Right?

Unfortunately for me, Lucinda – the conniving, criminal main character – was not the only protagonist of The Outcasts: the book was also told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Nate, the Texas lawman sworn to bring Lucinda’s lover to justice. I probably could have read a whole book about Lucinda; she was slightly two-dimensional as a character, but she had an interesting back-story and it would only take a bit more time for her to shine. Nate, on the other hand, was endlessly dull. No amount of sharp-shooting could make me care what happened to him. By the time I reached the final plot twist, the whole thing seemed too silly to be taken seriously.

But, as my dad keeps telling me, The Outcasts is ‘not a real Western.’ Proper Westerns, apparently, aren’t the place for character development, or plot, or female leads (?!). A real Western is escapism, more in the realm of what I’d call a penny-dreadful: easy reads with a few good thrills. Maybe I should have stuck with the library’s ever-popular large print Linford Western series.

In saying that, The Outcasts showed me reading a Western wasn’t as dire as I thought it would be. Maybe I just prefer my Westerns with a bit more kick – recommend me a Steampunk Western, perhaps?!

Rochelle keeps it short and sweet

My pick for the Short Stories genre was ‘All That Man Is’ By David Szalay.

All of the stories are set in various countries in Europe which made it quite a bit more interesting than I was anticipating.

The short stories made for good holiday reading as I could pick it up and read a story at a time without loosing the thread of the story that I perhaps would have lost reading a standard fiction.   I was also surprised at how well you got to know the main characters of each story in such a short time.  The only downside was that with a few of the stories  I would’ve liked to know more about what happened next instead of being left to guess what happened.

Rochelle goes from classroom to prison cell

Now, I was really looking forward to my next genre – New Zealand Non-Fiction.  This is more the type of book I would usually read.  But… the book I chose just didn’t do it for me!  I picked out Classroom to Prison Cell by Alison Sutherland because the title sounded like something that would interest me but for me it was quite a bit let down.

The books author has worked in education for a number of years and was interested in finding out what some of the troubled youth in New Zealand that she was working with thought about their school life.  While this sounded interesting to me I found it a hard book to read because it was written word for word with what the youth had to say and I found it very disjointed.  And if I am being truly honest I didn’t actually finish the book but read about 90% of it.

I have read some amazing New Zealand Non-Fiction but unfortunately this book just didn’t grab me like some of the others have.


Rochelle becomes domesticated

‘Finding Casey’ by Jo-Ann Mapson was my choice for the domestic fiction genre of my Book Bingo Challenge.  Although this can easily be read as a stand alone book (as I did) it does follow on from her previous novel ‘Solomon’s Oak’.

The book centres around Glory, her husband Joseph and their adopted teenage daughter, Juniper.  Glory finds herself pregnant for the first time at the age of 41, Joseph is dealing with chronic pain from a shoot-out he’d been involved in when he was a police officer and Juniper has fallen for Topher, the bad boy musician.  And to add intrigue, further into the book, we meet Laurel and her desperately ill daughter Aspen.  Spoiler alert!!!  Laurel turns out to be Juniper’s sister who had been kidnapped years earlier and was presumed dead.

I quite enjoyed this book, particularly Laurel’s character and her story.  I think what I find the hardest about reading fiction is that everyone seems to always get their happily ever after or the plot is a little over the top.

Love family sagas and domestic fiction? Check out our titles in our online catalogue!


Various Pets Alive and Dead

A post by Margot.

My third pick on the bingo board was humour genre and I chose Marina Lewycka’s    ‘Various pets alive and dead’.

I have read her first book ‘ A short history of tractors in Ukranian’ and loved it and this one is no less inventive and a good read. The story revolves around a family who lived in a commune in Doncaster for 30 odd years. It’s narrated by most of the family members in turn and follows them as they embark on rather different lifestyles along with various pets.  The son’s foray into the world of venture capitalism, the stock market and city traders is funny and fascinating and would horrify his parents if they knew. His sister is a teacher and lives in a spotless, minimalist new flat. The younger sister, who has Down’s syndrome, wants to leave home and fend for herself.

I like Lewycka’s writing and judging from the acknowledgements at the back of the book,  it was well researched.

Rochelle hits a reading slump

Ok, so I finally got round to finishing my book, ‘The Courtesan and the Samurai’ by Lesley Downer which is what I’d chosen for my historical fiction. It took me a good 5 weeks to get through this book – not that it wasn’t a decent read, it was more that I wasn’t in the mood to read this particular book at this particular time.

It’s set in the late 1860’s when the Northern Japanese go to war with their Southern counterparts after the death of their shogun. The book centres around Hana a young Japanese woman who’s cruel, loveless husband is sent off to fight when war breaks out.

Hana is forced from her home and sets off to Yoshiwara where she hopes she’ll be safe, but with no money it isn’t long before Hana is forced to become a courtesan.

Yozo is a young well-travelled Japanese soldier fighting for the North but when his army is defeated he too finds himself in Yoshiwara where his path crosses with the beautiful courtesan Hana.

I read ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ years ago and thought it was quite similar so if you enjoyed that I’m sure you’ll enjoy ‘The Courtesan and the Samurai’. I found it an extremely well-researched book with a lot of facts interwoven through the story.