Weekend Reads: “Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston”

I went into the “wayback machine” for this review; I read the book in 2010.

Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma JohnstonWild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston by David Cruise

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read about Velma “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston in the pages of Marguerite Henry’s “Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West.” I dreamed of having a mustang like Velma’s Hobo.

As an adult, I’ve been honored to be face-to-face with famous mustangs like Rowdy Yates and Shy Boy, and to scratch between the ears of numerous BLM adoptees. Without Velma Johnston’s work, none of those events would have happened.

David Cruise and Allison Griffiths present a no-holds barred look at the woman who dared to stand up on behalf of creatures that many people in her time and locale considered to be a tremendous nuisance.

Johnston, daughter and wife of Nevada ranchers, was appalled at the airplane roundups of mustangs that led to the mutilated horses’ slaughter at rendering plants for pet food manufacturers. She began a one woman letter-writing campaign that eventually led to laws preserving space for mustangs and making it unlawful to hunt them in fashions that had been commonplace and cruel.

Johnston survived a disfiguring bout with polio and was devastatingly shy, yet found herself speaking before Congress on numerous occasions to champion her “wild ones,” as she called them.

Those of us who love the American mustang in all its colors and iterations owe a tremendous debt to “Wild Horse Annie” and all of her hard work. Highly recommended for horse lovers in particular and those concerned with animal welfare in general.

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Weekend Reads: “A Dog’s Way Home”

A Dog's Way HomeA Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Lucas Ryan starts feeding the stray cats at a condemned apartment complex across the street from him, he has no idea that Mother Cat has taken in a puppy. That puppy is Bella, who eventually comes to live with Ryan and his mother, a veteran suffering from PTSD.

Lucas runs afoul of the local developer, who wants to tear the building down and build a high rise … but Lucas is determined to protect the cats and get them into rescue — particularly because the developer has taken many of the cats out and had them euthanized. The developer tells the local animal control officer that Bella is a dangerous pit bull — a breed banned in their locality.

Eventually, Bella is taken to live in a town some 400 miles away … and she makes a break for it in a manner reminiscent of “Lassie Come-Home.” Along the way she befriends a cougar cub (“Big Kitten”) whose mother is killed by a poacher, is taken in by a young gay couple for a time, and more.

The tale is told from Bella’s perspective in a way that is charming, enjoyable and yes, poignant. Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “A Lawyer’s Journey”

A Lawyer's Journey: The Morris Dees Story (Biography)A Lawyer’s Journey: The Morris Dees Story by Morris Dees

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was not an easy book to read, because of the subject matter. However, it’s still important and I recommend it highly.

Attorney Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, writes frankly about his background (including plans to become a minister) and the various civil rights cases in which he becomes involved before taking on the biggest of big guns in the traditional South: the Klan.

There are discussions of lynchings and other Klan violence, as well as historical moments in the civil rights movements, from Dees’ perspective of a defender of minority rights and foe of hate groups.

As such hate groups have been emboldened in the current environment, Dees’ work is more important than ever. As mentioned above, I highly recommend this book to all who are concerned about social justice matters.

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Weekend Reads: “Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life”

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing LifeSometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I learned about this book in an on-line discussion among members of the Romance Writers of America Published Author Network and picked it up immediately. Part memoir and part business advice, I think it’s a crucial part of any author’s library.

Author Terry Brooks (The Sword of Shannara and more) talks about his journey to become a published author, and some things he learned along the way that would benefit other authors coming along behind him. Not only does he talk about the importance of learning one’s craft, but he provides practical advice on how to improve one’s writing.

He also shares his blunders, such as his expectations about book signings. Honestly, this chapter (entitled “It’s Not About You”) was one of the most helpful and encouraging bits of information to be gleaned from the work.

It’s a slim volume, but packed full of valuable information. Highly recommended for all authors, whether published or aspiring.

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Weekend Reads: “The Phantom Tree”

The Phantom TreeThe Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Phantom Tree” builds on what little is known of the life of Mary Seymour, the politics of Elizabethan England, and time travel.

Yep, it does. Alison Bannister is trying to get back to her own time, where she and her cousin Mary Seymour lived at Wolf Hall. She is keeping secrets not only from her friends and family but from handsome Adam Hewer — who has recently unearthed an unknown portrait of someone he’s identified as Anne Boleyn. Alison knows better; it’s her cousin Mary … and she needs to prove it in order to make it back to the 16th century.

The author has done her homework and then some, drawing on legends and history alike to create a gripping tale of suspense, intrigue, and romance across time. Well done.

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