Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

Best New Books of 2014: Stephen B’s Picks

December 4, 2014

I’ve truly enjoyed my second career as a part-time librarian in the Wake County system. I’m in my 14th year, and that says a lot. My favorite genre is good solid mysteries, but this year a few interesting nonfiction books slipped in.

The Gods of GuiltThe Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly has created some memorable characters – Homicide Detective Harry Bosch, and his half-brother, attorney Mickey Haller. We first met Mickey in The Lincoln Lawyer, where the reader learned his penchant for operating out of the back of his car…a Lincoln. In Gods of Guilt, Mickey gets a text “Call me ASAP – 187.” 187 is the state code for a murder, and murders are Mickey’s bread and butter. Andre LaCosse is accused of murder and contacts Mickey on Giselle Hallinger’s recommendation. There are two problems with this recommendation: first, Mickey knew Giselle by another name; and second, Giselle is the murder victim. With a pace and a plot that are pure Connelly, this book is ready to be made into a movie. Enjoy!  See my full review.

SuspicionSuspicion by Joseph Finder
Danny Goodman becomes a single father when his ex-wife dies and daughter Abby comes to live with him. He’s please when she soon makes a new friend, Jenna Galvin, but surprised when Jenna’s father, Danny, offers him money, supposedly with no strings attached. Danny is financially strapped because his latest book deal is on the verge of collapse. He accepts the money, but eventually learns he was right to be suspicious – the “strings” attached to the money lead right to a Mexican drug cartel! Now Danny finds himself pressure by the DEA to bring down some big time, dangerous operators. Finder doesn’t disappoint with this fast-paced read!  See my full review.

Operation PaperclipOperation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen
Near the end of WWII, the Nazis realized they were losing the war and set out to destroy all evidence of their crimes. Meanwhile, both the United States and Russia were attempting to capture as many of the leading German scientists as possible, with the goal of controlling scientific knowledge, and through that, the world. Much of the documentation about this true story has only been released from the archives in the last few years. You won’t believe what the United States was prepared to do to capture scientists and secure the knowledge they carried!  See my full review.

The CloserThe Closer by Mariano Rivera
This is the story of a tall, skinny kid from Panama, who thought he would end up working in his family’s fishing business, specializing in sardines. That all changed when, in his teenaged years, a baseball scout discovered “hey, this kid can throw a baseball pretty good!” and the rest is history. You will never read about a more humble person, and his 19-season career with the Yankees will surely put him in the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible. I’ve been a Yankees fan for 70 years, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an excellent book and a fascinating story!  See my full review.

The DollThe Doll by Taylor Stevens
Vanessa Michael Munroe is a special person, a survivor who has taught herself all the skills necessary to survive. Working for an agency in Texas, she is sent out all over the world to gather information, rescue people and when necessary, kill someone. On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are just merchandise. She must both escape and bring to justice the mastermind of the operation, a mysterious villain known as “The Doll Maker.” This is the third book by Stevens describing the adventures of Munroe. Each of them can stand alone, but it wouldn’t hurt to start at the beginning of the series with The Informationist. Side note: Be sure to read the jacket notes; Taylor Stevens’ interesting background surely gave her an advantage when creating the fascinating character of Munroe.

Best New Books of 2014: Amy W’s Picks

December 1, 2014

I enjoy a well-balanced diet…of books. Here we have something for EVERYONE from light and fun page-turners to thought-provoking non-fiction. Don’t let 2014 end without checking out any (or all) of these awesome books!

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden death of their junkie mother. The girls are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska, total strangers, living in a strange land. Their estranged father, a washed up amateur league baseball player, appears suddenly and confuses the already precarious situation. In the backdrop of the novel and adding to the tension, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone. This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.  See my full review.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Roz Chast, a longtime New Yorker cartoonist, documents the slow decline of her aging parents. Not only does this impact her life at the time, but spending time with them at their most vulnerable brings up old anxieties. No surprise, Chast tackles this subject with great humor and candor. I found this book to be comforting and thought provoking. The graphic memoir format really lends itself to exploring a topic I would ordinarily shy away from reading.

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Remember back in the 80’s when you would talk on the phone for an eternity until your ear actually hurt? I do. I loved talking on the phone, not so much cell phones— and texting has its moments if you can get past all the auto-correct errors. Nothing will ever surpass the old school telephone when it comes to connecting with another person. Georgie McCool is in crisis mode. She is a writer for a sitcom that just may get a pilot. Her marriage, family, mental health and personal hygiene suffer from the effort. She needs to reconnect. Her old yellow phone becomes her lifeline to the past and the present. Told with great humor and tenderness, Landline is a delight!

All Joy and No FunAll Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Why, why, why is parenting so hard today? This thought has crossed my mind a lot, well, more accurately, this thought lives in my mind and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Parenting seemed easy for my mom (it also did not hurt that I was a perfect child, am I right?). This is really the only parenting book I have ever read and boy, do I love it! It is not a book about how to parent , but a look at what parenting is about these days from a sociological and psychological perspective. So, I was right — it is hard–but now I spend a lot less time focusing on the no fun aspects of parenting. See my full review.

Thousand Dollar Tan LineThe Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
I loved the Veronica Mars television series! This book takes place a few years after the series ends when Veronica gets really close to joining the FBI but decides to live and work in her small, California beach-side hometown, Neptune. Written by the series creator, writer and producer, Rob Thomas, stylistically the book is true to the spirit of the show and the 2014 movie. I know you are thinking, “that sounds kind of low-brow for you, a well-read librarian”. Well, it’s not. This book is not great literature, but it is perfectly entertaining and it was great to be reunited with old friends (this is the part where you remember the catchy theme song…A long time ago, we used to be friends….).

The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey

September 18, 2014

First of all, a couple admissions from me. I love baseball, and I have been a New York Yankees fan for almost 70 years!

Now on to a delightful story of a future Hall of Famer, humble Mariano Rivera – the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.

This is the story of a tall skinny kid from Panama, who was embedded in the family fishing business. Sardines were their specialty and it appeared that fishing would be Mariano’s future. But somewhere along the line, a baseball scout discovered that this kid could throw a baseball with unbelievable accuracy.

Mariano tells the story of his life in the poorest section of Panama and his relationship with a young woman named Clara whom he hoped to marry one day, and details how Rivera, with the guidance of some friends and a strong religious belief, became one of the greatest baseball players of all times.

Being a closer is in some ways one of baseball’s most difficult achievements. You are brought into a game at the very end and asked to get the final few outs to preserve a victory for your team. Maybe it is a one run game, maybe the score is tied, maybe you pitch one inning , maybe two, maybe even three innings. All the pressure is on you and Mariano Rivera did it better than anyone else in the history of baseball.

Enjoy the warm tale of one of baseball’s super heroes and truly one of it’s nicest ambassadors.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

May 19, 2014

darkroadbookcover.phpThis Dark Road to Mercy is the much anticipated sophomore effort of North Carolina author and all around nice guy Wiley Cash. As with his debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, Mr Cash does not disappoint. I always appreciate his even handed treatment of Southern culture since we are more than Hee Haw and grits. Cash has a knack for the Southern Gothic small-town setting. This Dark Road to Mercy takes place at the end of summer and you can really feel it– the humidity easing a tiny bit in anticipation for the first hint of a crisp fall morning. Also adding to the anticipation, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone, adults and children.

Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden, but not surprising, death of their junkie mother. The girls, raised in poverty by their single mother, are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska who are total strangers, living in a strange land.   Their estranged father and washed up amateur league baseball player, Wade, appears suddenly. Easter is not happy to see Wade, who legally gave up his right to be their parent. She has found him to be a reliable disappointment. Her kid sister, Ruby, is intrigued by smooth-talking Wade despite Easter’s insistence that he is nothing but trouble. Wade admits he made some bad decisions in his personal life as well as his professional life. Wade wants to be their dad no matter what the law says.

Brady Weller is the court-appointed guardian for the girls tasked with watching over Easter and Ruby until they are in a permanent home. Even though he seems to radiate responsibility, Brady (like Wade), has made bad decisions costing him his law enforcement career and family. Brady uncovers information about Wade that makes him more of a danger to the girls than just a harmless nuisance.

Similar to his debut novel, This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog. 

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

May 16, 2014

houseookcover.phpIn a small town on the Inland Sea of Japan, a housekeeper who works for the Akebono Housekeeping Agency receives a new assignment.  She will keep house and cook meals every afternoon for a professor who sustained brain damage in an automobile accident.  As the professor’s sister-in-law informs her, the professor has only eighty minutes of short-term memory at a time.

It takes the housekeeper some time to get used to the professor’s odd ways, but after a while she begins to enjoy the ritual by which he greets her every afternoon, asking her questions about herself as if he has just met her.  His clothing is studded with notes to help him remember, so the housekeeper attaches a new note with a whimsical drawing of herself.  Each day when she comes, she points to the drawing.

Their relationship really begins to develop when the professor meets her 10-year-old son.  He has a flat top to his head, so the professor calls him Root, for the square root sign. Everything the professor remembers is somehow connected to mathematics, because that is what he has taught, lived, and breathed his whole life.  With the infinite patience of one who has no appointments to keep, the professor helps Root and his mom understand math in a way they never have before, and they too start to see the beauty of numbers all around them.

Math becomes a means of comfort and communication for them all.  Root has someone to talk with about his beloved baseball statistics. The professor, harried by details he cannot remember, takes refuge in the permanent, ordered world of math. The housekeeper gains a new understanding of the world and of her own intelligence by learning about logarithms, Mersenne primes, and Fermat’s Last Theorem.

This is the bare bones of the plot, but the story is so much more than that.  The Housekeeper and the Professor is a quiet, gently humorous book about love, belonging, and friendship, about the rewards of patience and small acts of kindness, gratitude, and remembrance.  As such, I will remember it for a long time.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

May 6, 2013

I’m not a huge baseball fan. I mean, I like to have a beer and eat a hot dog as much as the next person (potentially a little more, even) but in terms of watching the game… eh. I realize this is a little un-American to say, but our nation’s pastime can get kind of boring. At least, that’s what I thought until I read Chad Harbach’s debut novel, The Art of Fielding.

Henry Skrimshander was heading nowhere. Literally, he wasn’t going anywhere – born and raised in a mid-sized town in South Dakota, it was looking like he’d be there for a while, until the day that his summer baseball team played against (and lost to) Mike Schwartz’s team. This was the summer after high school had ended for Henry, and he was thinking of settling in at the local community college for a few years, until… what? All he’d ever wanted to do with life was play baseball.

Mike Schwartz, rising sophomore and catcher for the Westish College Harpooners, knew raw talent when he saw it, and see it he did. Suddenly, Henry was on his way to play college ball for Westish, leaving behind a life of working in his father’s metalworking shop or taking classes in bookkeeping to cobble together a career.

Once at Westish, the Harpooners become Henry’s life. Between his jock-friendly classes, team practices, his bench warmer roommate Owen, and Mike’s training regimen, Henry is immersed in baseball, and he thrives in it. By junior year, the recruiters are already hanging on the fences at Harpooners games, waiting to see if Henry can break his hero Aparicio Rodriguez’s record of most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop. As the pressure begins to mount, Henry begins to fail.

It starts with a bad throw made worse by a little bit of wind, and goes downhill from there. Harbach follows Henry’s descent into depression as his confidence is broken and his playing deteriorates rapidly. As the life that Henry has been working towards starts slipping through his fingers, he pulls away from Mike and all that he has held important.

The story is told through a variety of characters, each filling in different holes of the story as it goes forward. Henry, Mike, Owen, Westish College’s President Guert Affenlight, and his estranged daughter Pella, all make up the narrative voice of the story. This was a delightful debut novel. If Harbach can make me care about baseball, I’d like to see more of what he can do.”

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter by Ian O’Connor

July 26, 2011

Every professional sport has it’s favorite teams and they are often, also the most hated teams. In baseball, there is no doubt that the Yankees are it’s most loved and hated team! No matter that the Yankees are one of sport’s most hated teams,  there is one Yankee who is almost universally loved and admired. Ask any Yankee hater if there is one Yankee he  admires and the answer will almost assuredly be Derek Jeter! During the era of steroid use, one player has never had a touch of scandal …. Derek Jeter.  This is his story, from being born in Northern New Jersey, to growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to his reaching the Majors and playing shortstop for the Yankees.     From the age of four,  whoever asked Derek what he wanted do when he grew up, the answer was always the same: ‘I want to play shortstop for the New York Yankees.’

Julia Tiedemann grew up in Northern Jersey and Charles Jeter grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, raised by a single Mom. Julia was in the Army in Frankfort, Germany when she met and fell in love with Sanderson Charles Jeter. They married in an era where the thought of a biracial President was the furthest thought from anyone’s mind. When Derek was 4, they moved to Kalamazoo so that Charles could pursue a master’s and a doctorate at Western Michigan University in social work. Derek and his sister, Sharlee were both gifted athletes. And with both of their parents holders of college degrees, there were no question that brother and sister were suppose to excel in school, as well as on the athletic field.  And they did!

Whenever Derek was not in his team uniform, he was always wearing Yankee regalia, shirts, hats, medallions. As his reputation grew in and around Kalamazoo, professional scouts started to get a peek at this high school phenom. No one who saw him play had any doubt that he had the skills to play in the Major Leagues. Now it became a chess game, as scouts from many teams started to accumulate data on this teenager.

Not to give away too much about the machinations of draft picks, but the Yankees didn’t get to select a player until the 6th pick. Somehow Yankee luck held out and Derek was available for the Yankees! Ian O’Connor has woven a fascinating tale of one of baseball’s favorite players. This will be an enjoyable read … even for a Red Sox fan!

Enjoy a good baseball story this summer by finding and reserving this book in our catalog.

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy

March 30, 2011

I was just a rabid baseball fan growing up in the Bronx, NY, when Mickey Mantle burst onto the baseball scene. He was a young, fair-haired boy from  Spavinaw, Oklahoma, who spent most of his childhood growing up in  the mining town of Commerce, Oklahoma. His father, Mutt (much like Andre Agassi’s father, *see Open, an Autobiography) saw in his son all that he could not achieve. Mickey was  pushed from a young age to become a baseball star. After batting .383 in Class C, Joplin, Missouri, the Yankees brought him to Spring training in the Spring of 1951. Few players ever made the jump from ‘C’ ball to the Majors, but Mantle did. A number of books have been written about this semi-tragic figure but none more informative & nuanced than Jane Leavy’s definitive biography.

I, like many a fan, instantly fell in love with ‘the Mick’!  He was everything we dreamed of when we went out on the field to play baseball. We would try to learn to switch hit, to hit with power, to run down every ball and to throw with accuracy… even if we couldn’t. I still wear #7 on any uniform I have, for any sport I still am able to play. But there was a dark side to Mantle that most of us never knew about until he retired from baseball in the late 60’s. In those days, if a writer wanted access to professional athletes, they had to keep their private lives out of the papers. If they didn’t, they were banned from the clubhouse. Today every snippet of gossip makes the media in a matter of minutes.

One of the ironic parts of Mantle’s career was that the injury that defined the limits of his talent occurred in that first year, 1951. Playing in his first World Series at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, he caught a spike in an outfield drain that did not have it’s cover on. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee. Doctors did not know how to repair it then as they do now and although the knee healed somewhat , he was never able to play free of pain for the next 15 years. He also suffered other injuries that limited the peaks that he might have reached. It didn’t, however,  stop him from reaching the Hall of Fame, but it was a painful career. Off the field he was a different person, loyal to his friends and teammates but a drinker and a womanizer. He seemed to live life large because he didn’t expect to live past 40. His father and other relatives died young, but that was due to the fact that they spent their lives in the dangerous mines of that corner of Oklahoma. Only later in his life  did he realize and come to grips with the destructive life choices he had made. He died at 63 in 1995 of cirrhosis of the liver after an unsuccessful liver transplant. I don’t see how we could need any more books on Mickey Mantle after Jane Leavy’s thoroughly detailed opus. You don’t have to be a Yankee fan to read this fantastic book.

Find and reserve a copy of The Last Boy in our catalog.

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