Review ~ On the Wrong Track

Cover via Goodreads

On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith

It might be 1893 and the modern world may in full-swing, but cowboy Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer is an old-fashioned kind of guy: he prefers a long trail ride even when a train could get him where he’s going in one-tenth the time. His brother Otto (“Big Red”), on the other hand, wouldn’t mind climbing down from his horse and onto a train once in a while if it’ll give his saddle-sore rear end a rest. So when it’s Old Red who insists they sign on to protect the luxurious Pacific Express, despite a generations-old Amlingmeyer family distrust of the farm-stealin’, cattle-killin’, money-grubbin’ railroads, Big Red is flummoxed. But Old Red, tired of the cowpoke life, wants to take a stab at professional ‘detectifying’ just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes and guard jobs for the railroad are the only ones on offer.

So it is that Big Red and Old Red find themselves trapped on a thousand tons of steam-driven steel, summiting the Sierras en route to San Francisco with a crafty gang of outlaws somewhere around the next bend, a baggage car jam-packed with deadly secrets, and a vicious killer hidden somewhere amongst the colorful passengers.

On the Wrong Track, Old Red and Big Red’s much anticipated return, is filled with all of the wit, flavor, humor, and suspense that made Hockensmith’s debut, Holmes on the Range, so beloved by critics and fans alike. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I read Holmes on the Range, the first book in this series, in late 2016. Only a year between the first and the second? I amaze even myself!

What Worked
I really enjoy the set up of Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range books: Gustav Amlingmeyer, a cowhand in the 1890’s American west, knows Doyle’s (or rather Watson’s) tales of Sherlock Holmes. He’s taken with the notion of “deducifying” and wants to be a professional detective. He is also illiterate, having worked labor-intensive jobs to keep his family afloat since he was young. His brother Otto is a big strong guy, but has been given a clerk’s education. Together, the brothers are a complementary team, even if they don’t always get along. They’re brother’s after all. Against the backdrop of the Old West, the brothers encounter and solve mysteries.

On the Wrong Track involves a mystery set aboard a train bound to San Francisco. It’s a good mystery with enough clues and events to keep the brothers and readers busy.

I read this soon after reading “The Huge Hunter: Or, the Steam Man of the Prairies” by Edward S. Ellis. The Steam Man, an giant robot man made to pull a wagon, was the subject of a series of dime novels in the latter half of the 19th century. As with a lot of late 19th century fiction, Ellis felt the need to give accents to characters of different backgrounds. The Irishman character, McSquizzle, is nearly incomprehensible. Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond that. While Hockensmith has the brothers (and others) use quite a bit of western slang, it reads easy.

What Didn’t Work
A minor annoyance: sometimes Otto (our POV brother) is a bit repetitive. I can understand wanting to get certain things solid in a reader’s mind, but I think Hockensmith can have a little more faith in his audience. This is a very minor point.

Honestly, my best reading this year has been “fun” reading. The Holmes on the Range series isn’t high art, but it’s entertainingly written and plotted. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, author published (I believe), 2016 (2007)
Acquired: Amazon, 4/19/17
Genre: mystery, western

This is my first book for the Wild West Reading Challenge!

hosted by Nick @ One Catholic Life


It’s Monday, What Are You… 2/19


I finished Hunger by Roxane Gay and On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith last week. I’ve also delved into some Doctor Who comics since I’ve been in a Doctor Who mood.

This week:

Eyeing the Flash: The Making of a Carnival Con Artist Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Science Fiction Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor, Vol. 1: A Matter of Life and Death
  • Starting: Eyeing the Flash: The Making of a Carnival Con Artist by Peter Fenton
  • Still working on: Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Science Fiction by Michael Sims
  • Finishing: Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor, Vol. 1: A Matter of Life and Death by George Mann, Emma Vieceli (Illustrations), Hi-Fi (Illustrations)
  • Plus: Plutarch, “The Beryl Coronet” by Arthur Conan Doyle, “Three Questions” by Amy Aderman

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!


picture by Stephen So

Saturday was Winter B League finals. My team came into the day with only one loss, to a pretty solid red team. Granted, Thursday’s games had been rained out and we hadn’t played the blue team. We met them in semi finals and beat them by one point. Finals was a rematch against red. It was pretty back and forth score-wise until we went on a run at about 9-10 and won 15-10. So above is the black team with a pretty nice evening Arizona sky.

photos by Kristie Braselton

Since my teammates took a ton of pictures, here is an action shot of me throwing the disc (and apparently doing the robot) with proof that the plastic was caught!

And this week we set up Spring League…

What Was I Doing?

Deal Me In, Week 7 ~ “The Hofzinser Club”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Hofzinser Club” by Michael Chabon

Card picked: Ace
Found at: The New Yorker

The Story
I bookmarked this story sometime last year, thinking that it was a piece by Chabon that I hadn’t read before, and perhaps an extra story about Josef Kavalier, one of the protagonists of his novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Alas, no; not material I hadn’t read, but a stand-alone-ish chapter of the novel. Chapter 3 to be more specific.

It’s a good chapter, detailing young Josef Kavalier’s initial interest in escapology. He decides to plan a stunt to get the attention of the Hofzinser Club—Prague’s foremost magician’s club. The stunt is successful, but there are consequences.

Funny thing: In the novel, this chapter led Eric to become quite grumpy with the book due to a detail that wasn’t believable.  In the novel, the river that Josef jumps into (handcuffed, shackled, and tied into a sack) is 22C. That’s about 71F which isn’t really cold. In the short story, the temp of the water is 12C (53F) which is probably more like what the River Vltava in September would be. Or at least the kind of cold you’d want for a death defying stunt. From skimming both the novel chapter and the short story, the novel version seems a bit padded out. I like the version in The New Yorker better!

The Author
From Wikipedia (because I find this to be a good summary):

Chabon’s work is characterized by complex language, the frequent use of metaphor along with recurring themes, including nostalgia, divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and most notably issues of Jewish identity. He often includes gay, bisexual, and Jewish characters in his work. Since the late 1990s, Chabon has written in an increasingly diverse series of styles for varied outlets; he is a notable defender of the merits of genre fiction and plot-driven fiction, and, along with novels, he has published screenplays, children’s books, comics, and newspaper serials.

Review ~ Hunger

Cover via Goodreads

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes. (via Goodreads)

As I read Hunger, I struggled with how I was supposed to interact with this text.

Hunger is split into sections in which Gay writes about the sexual abuse that led her to turn her body into a fortress, society’s reaction to very large people, her own thoughts and tribulations concerning weight loss, and the slow process of finding self-worth and dealing with the loneliness she’s felt.

But… Am I allowed to commiserate with Gay if my own weight problems are only metabolism-related and I’ve only ever been “Lane Bryant fat”? I can certainly relate to the tension of wanting to lose weight because “thinner is healthier”/”*I* would like how I looked if I weighed less”/”being thinner is what society expects” and accepting that maybe this is just how my body is. Does my bringing my narrative in cheapen hers?

Maybe this is a problem I have when reading memoirs. I don’t really know what to do with Gay’s narrative. Feel horrified by it? Yes, I do. Understand why she’s done the things she’s done? Yes, I can. But otherwise, it’s hard for me to say much about someone else’s honestly-told story.

Publishing info, my copy: OverDrive Read, HarperCollins, June 14, 2017
Acquired: Tempe Overdrive Digital Collection
Genre: memoir

Hunger was the first quarter read for the 2018 Nonfiction Challenge.

hosted by Doing Dewey

Down the TBR Hole #7


This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

alt text The Edwin Drood Murders (Dickens Junction Mystery #02) by Christopher Lord

The second in a series and I haven’t read the first. I also haven’t read the original The Mystery of Edwin Drood… I need to read more Dickens. GO.

alt text The Coney Island Fakir: The Magical Life of Al Flosso by Gary R. Brown

I’m still interested in this biography. I love this era of magicians who knew both Houdini and Copperfield. KEEP!

alt text A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889 by Frederic Morton

I actually sampled this book at the library quite a while back. Probably good information, but I’m just not going to get to it. GO.

alt text The Vampyre Family: The Curse of Byron by Andrew McConnell Stott

I already own at least one book on the Romantics that I haven’t read yet. GO.

alt text Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rølvaag

I have Norwegian immigrant relatives in North Dakota and upper Minnesota. Plus, this is a novel about the pioneer experience, which I find fascinating. KEEP.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

It’s Monday, What Are You… (2/12)


Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Science Fiction
On the Wrong Track Plutarch: Lives of the noble Grecians and Romans

I’m about 50% through all of these except for the Plutarch. I’ve scheduled Plutarch to take eight months.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Listening To?

Right this minute: Avalon by The Huntress and the Holder of Hands. Just a taste: “Shake Off Your Flesh.”

Continue reading “It’s Monday, What Are You… (2/12)”

Review ~ Countdown City

Cover via Goodreads

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

There are just 77 days to go before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Hank Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank’s days of solving crimes are over…until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace – an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.

The second novel in the critically acclaimed Last Policeman trilogy, Countdown City presents a fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse – and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond “whodunit.” What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you? (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
So, I won this book from The Geeky Library back in June 2014. Two years later in 2016, I reviewed the first in the series, The Last Policeman. I said at the end of that review I said I’d be reading Countdown City in the near future. Well… I guess that’s what the TBR Challenge is for!

What Worked
As with the first book, the thing I like about this series is the character of Hank Palance. Hank is just a regular guy. He just wants to be a police detective, a job he’s reasonably good at. Sadly, the end of the world is kind of getting in the way. The novel starts July 18th; in 77 days a meteor is going to hit the Earth, a possibly humanity-ending event. Hank is the type of character I like to write: a hard-worker who is being screwed over by circumstances. Despite everything, Hank is still this good, decent guy.

Winters also does a good job of advancing the timeline of societal breakdown as Impact Day approaches.  Things are getting dicey. People are starting to get a little nutty about resources. There are cults and scams and conspiracies. These things are a lot more interesting than the super lawlessness that most apocalyptic stories present.

What Didn’t Work
A bit of a **SPOILER** warning here — Hank has a knack of getting himself into trouble without a plan to get out of that trouble. While he gets the crap beat out of him, the narrative bails him out. There are a couple of swoop-in rescues of Hank in this book. They’re not really unreasonable, but this is a trend that can get old. **END SPOILER**

I enjoyed Countdown City. I had a couple of problems with the story, but I’m still interested in reading the third book. Maybe I’ll finish the series by 2020?

Publishing info, my copy: trade paperback, Quick Books, 2013
Acquired: Won it from GeekyLibrary, June 2014
Genre: mystery, science fiction