Angsty Teen Sports Romance. For those that enjoy revisiting the high drama of falling for your best friend in high school, look no further. We’re going back to summer camp, y’all, and this time we’ve got love on the diamonds. With a fair amount of actual sports action from various practices to actual games and with all the fun of summer camp on a small college campus in the middle of nowhere, we get a solid tale of “should I/ I shouldn’t”… that we all know how will ultimately wind up, because this *is* a romance novel. 🙂 But Benjamin executes the entire story well, and when our leads *finally* get together… well, there may be quite a bit of dust in the room. And maybe someone just cut up a lot of onions too. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll probably want to knock some sense into both of these teenagers. But in the end, you’ll get a solid bit of escapism for a few hours… and isn’t that what we ultimately read fiction for anyway? Very much recommended.
Never Bring A Rock To A Gun Fight… Unless You’re A Former MLB Starting Pitcher Turned Private Eye. Full confession here: These books have seemed interesting enough over the years, and they’ve been at the right price points often enough ($2.99 or less, and likely free) that I’d actually picked up the entire series before this book… and never read any of them. So even while I already had the previous four books in this series in my library, this was the first book in it – or from this author at all – that I had actually read. And it totally works as a standalone, as long as you don’t mind commentary that references the previous stories in ways that absolutely spoils many of them.
So far as this book itself is concerned, it was a fun tale full of quite a bit of banter between Jake Longley and his friends and colleagues, with a bit of “oh, crap, our friend is in trouble in a way that we might be able to help with” thrown in. So even while many of the characters are PIs, this isn’t a case they are getting paid for. And it is a stalker case, with only the last few chapters having any real, direct action. Which is actually where the title of this review comes in. Early in the book – possibly when Jake is first introduced, that early – it is mentioned that Jake often travels with baseballs both in case he runs across fans *and* to use as a weapon if the need arises. Well, in our finale… he doesn’t have his baseballs with him. So he gets creative, in ways that even by that point in this book – even if it is your first book in this series – you’ve come to expect. Very much recommended.
Solid Story, Could Have Used Better Structure. This was a solid story of a woman trying to find herself after putting her career on pause to raise her kid and give him a life she had never had. For me, though, the structure of the storytelling itself would have dramatically benefited from a slight variation of the technique here. Here, we get a mostly dual timeline story, a bit scattered at times (date stamps alone would have been useful in that regard, even if just “x years ago”) but workable. What *really* could have elevated this story though would have been to take a page from another tale of another professional struggling to find his way and looking back on his life – Billy Chapel in the *movie* version of For Love Of The Game. (We shall not speak of the book – one of very few cases where the movie is by far the superior story.) There, the story is told in the same dual timeline approach that we get here – but with *both* timelines happening before the seminal event (in that case, the last game Billy Chapel will ever pitch as a professional baseball player, in this case an important concert), then some follow-up after the event itself. Ultimately just a tweak, though a significant one, that would have made the story flow so much better for at least this reader. Still, truly a worthy read and very much recommended.
Perfect Quick Escape From The Family During The Holidays. This is one of those shorter novels – 94 pages or so, per Amazon – that is great for just getting away from everyone and everything for a couple of hours or so and reading an entire book in the process. Mostly light and fun, there is next to no drama here really – more in line with a Hallmark Christmas movie, if even that much. But like a Hallmark Christmas movie, it mostly focuses on the romance of the two leads – in this case, a Puerto Rican looking to establish herself apart from her family and an ex-MLB pitching ace looking to re-establish himself. Very much recommended.
This week we are looking at a fictional novel about the last year of the life of one of the greatest baseball players to ever play in the sport. This week we are looking at The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess.
This book was a phenomenal tale that captures the old – and currently resurging – Southern mill life pretty well perfectly. And it also captures the desires of some of its children – sons in particular – to do anything possible to leave it behind them once and for all. Having grown up after the mill era busted yet in an era when it was still lingering, this reader can personally attest to the accuracy of the setting, both from personal memory and from growing up around those who lived, laughed, worked, and loved during the heyday of the southern american textile mill. Even the secondary story of the young lady coming down from the mountains to find better money in the mills is spot on to the era and even life in the region to this day.
But for all its spot-on perfection in showing the southern mill life, this book is a baseball book through and through, and it is within baseball that the book truly shines brightest. The story pits a young talented up and comer who works hard at perfecting his baseball skills against the owner of the local mill who is pursuing a championship at any cost, and both characters work very well. However, it is the inclusion of the titular Shoeless Joe Jackson of the infamous Black Sox scandal that rocked the sport a century ago this very year that gives the story is emotional and narrative heft. At this point in his life, the greatest natural hitter ever to grace a baseball diamond has consigned himself to a life apart from the sport he still loves, living in obscurity in his hometown as a liquor store owner. At least until our young up and comer comes to him and begs him to help train him to be a better baseball player. After some shenanigans from the villain, Joe is convinced to not only train our youngster but to become the manager of the team. This leads to the inevitable comeback ala the Atlanta Braves’ own Worst to First season, and like that very season the championship game comes down to the villain’s team vs the team now managed by Shoeless Joe.
It is during this stretch of the book that we get a phenomenal look at the Black Sox scandal itself, apparently based on original research done by the author and told via Joe reminiscing and revealing secrets at critical times – and withholding others almost until it is too late.
Ultimately, the championship game in particular shines and we get our titular moment – the last at-bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the greatest natural hitter in the history of baseball. And it is truly spectacular and worthy of being the title of the book.
Even if you have no interest in baseball or southern mill life in the last years of Jim Crow, you owe it to yourself to read this book, easily among the best I’ve read this year and quite possibly likely to remain a Top 5 book on the year no matter how many more I read.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of the Week: The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess”
The highlight of this month – and easily in the running for highlight of the year – was finally meeting Jeremy Robinson in real life at Robinsonfest 2018 after having known him online for a decade. I flew into Boston for the first time in my life, for a weekend of firsts as far as locations, some modes of transport, and even some activities. I mean, how often in your life do you get to cosplay as yourself AND “cause the Apocalypse” while doing so? (Which is what is happening in the pic – here, I’ve just “planted corn”. When I did that in the book Jeremy wrote that I appear in, I wind up accidentally causing the Apocalypse.) I covered all of it in a post here both before and after the event, along with a couple of YouTube videos.
The end of August also marked a new review strategy for me – YouTube Book Reviews. The first was for The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker, and I’ve since shot videos for Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls and The Perfect Catch by Maggie Dallen.
Overall, I read just 9 books in August 2018, per Goodreads. But this was all unknown territory for me as far as overall annual count goes, as I busted my previous record there at the end of July and now I stand at 90 books on the year, with four more ARCs already on deck. Of the 9 books on the month, only three were from the same series – Lisa Clark O’Neill’s Sweetwater Trilogy. Only four of the books were from the 2018TBR project – the first three (the aforementioned trilogy) and the last one, The Postman by David Brin. The remaining five were review copies (four of them ARCs), with only one of those being from an author I’m not connected to at all on Facebook.
The 9 books accounted for over 3100 pages of (Kindle) text at an average length of 347 1/3 pages per book.
As I mentioned above, I only read one series on the month, so best series of the month goes to the Sweetwater Trilogy by Lisa Clark O’Neill.
Most interesting book of the month goes to Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls, which was a fascinating look at the neuroscience of sleep and sleep disorders.
There wasn’t much humor in the list again this month, just a couple that could really be considered humorous at all, and I’ll give the edge on those two to Christine Nolfi‘s The Comfort of Secrets, mostly because her Sweet Lake Sirens are frakkin hilarious old broads.
Best book of the month? Emily Bleeker‘s The Waiting Room, for reasons that can only be discovered by reading the book – it would be a spoiler to discuss them openly.
Below the break, the entire list, in date completed order – with links to my Goodreads reviews of each.
Continue reading “A Month of Reading: August 2018: Robinsonfest and ARCs”