Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Spring training can’t some soon enough!   1 comment

I’m ready for baseball season to come back again, but players don’t report for spring training for another month. In the meantime, I am left with baseball documentaries and books. Recently, I finished reading Larry Tye‘s Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend.

The life of long-lived pitcher LeRoy “Satchel” Paige is a difficult one to report on accurately. Not even Satchel could tell the truth about himself. He couldn’t even give a straight answer about his birth date. Satchel relished tall tales and changing his story so as to keep people guessing and build his mystique. Tye did not have an easy task ahead of him, but he did a great job of researching and, I believe, wrote a very clear and detailed biography that is as accurate as the subject allows.

The research was sound, even if the prose wasn’t always. There were many awkward sentences and a few times when his statements weren’t quite accurate. For example, on page 150 (of the 2010 Random House Trade Paperback Edition), Tye states, “[Satchel] ended the 1941 season with a 5-0 record in Negro League games, pitching a modest sixty-four innings and striking out fifty. The next year with the Monarchs he nearly doubled his innings, to ninety-five, and his strikeouts swelled to seventy-nine.” I may be splitting hairs here, but 95 is not almost double 64. It is approximately half again as much, but not nearly double. I feel, and here I’m speaking as the copy editor that I am, that it was a failure on the part of Tye’s editor to catch an inaccuracy in prose like that. Of course, that is minor.

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My copy of Mr. Tye’s book and a baseball I’ve had for a golly-danged long time.

More disagreeable is the way Tye would leave loose ends. For example, Tye states that Satchel’s first wife did not like living in North Dakota so she moved back to Pittsburg “to wait for him.” This is the last mention of the woman until Satchel marries another woman, and only then does Tye remind readers that Satchel is still married to his first wife at the time of the second marriage. I want to know what happened to his first wife in the intervening years between when she went to Pittsburg and when Satchel decided to marry again and what she was doing with her time. Did she know that the marriage was over or was that Satchel’s unilateral decision? Any additional information would have been appreciated.

An additional word of caution goes to non-baseball fans. Tye assumes the reader has a thorough understanding of baseball fundamentals. For example, he does not explain how batting averages are calculated, how strike zones are determined, or what constitutes a balk. As an avid baseball fan, this was not a problem for me, but if you are new to the sport, you’ll want to have Google open so you can look up terms that puzzle you.

Despite some small downfalls in prose and pace, Tye’s biography was an excellent read. He covers the legendary pitcher’s humble beginnings; attempts to explain Satchel’s psychology; gives a beautifully detailed account of what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues; and addresses racial segregation and how it affected players, owners, and fans. In addition to giving readers a good look at an American icon, the book also gives readers a snapshot of American life during the gradual decline of Jim Crow just before the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Excellent book for baseball fans and those interested in race relations in the United States after Reconstruction and before the push for Civil Rights. Recommended.

Posted January 11, 2012 by Alicia Schofield in review

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The Woman Behind Little Women – Recommendation   Leave a comment

I am a fan of biographies and I am a fan of Louisa May Alcott. To that end, I highly recommend Harriet Reisen’s biography of a woman widely considered to be one of the very best American authors.

For biographical reasons, I can recommend this book. Reisen’s book is well-researched and she makes use of never-before-published resources. She provides insightful analysis of the Alcott family dynamics, especially the strained relationship between flawed and passionate second daughter, Louisa, and her idealistic father, Bronson Alcott, a respected pillar of the Transcendentalist movement of the nineteenth century.

For personal reasons, I can recommend this biography. I found myself genuinely relating to Miss Alcott. In her mid and late twenties, Louisa chose to move away from her parents (though she had the option to live with them indefinitely), take cramped quarters in a different town, and work three jobs (teaching, sewing, and freelance writing). She worked hard and maintained her confidence that one day she would achieve financial independence and would find work that she loved. Her situation mirrors my own. I, too, am in my mid-twenties, living on my own and working three jobs while trying to find that one full-time job that will make me happy.

My slightly dinged up copy of Miss Alcott's most sensational work.

For literary reasons I can recommend this book. Most readers know L.M. Alcott as the author of Little Women. She was, in fact, an extraordinarily prolific author of short stories, poetry, essays, children’s fiction, and adult fiction. She published many morbid and sensational stories under pseudonyms. My favorite Alcott novel, A Long, Fatal Love Chase, was considered too scandalous to print during the 1800s. It was published posthumously more than century after she wrote it.

If you are interested in biographies, Louisa M. Alcott, the Transcendentalist movement, nineteenth-century American life, or a rags-to-riches story, Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women is for you. Recommended for high school readers and up.

Posted August 25, 2011 by Alicia Schofield in review

A recommendation for fantasy fans – Dragons, Princesses, and Cherries Jubilee!   4 comments

If you are looking for an offbeat, fun fantasy, I have the book for you. Though aimed at young adults, Patricia C. Wrede’s novel Dealing with Dragons is a delight for all ages. In it, young Princess Cimorene runs away from an arranged betrothal and gets a job…working for a dragon! Cimorene is an unconventional princess in every way; she is tall, stubborn, outspoken, and likes to cook and organize. (She even organizes her dragon employer’s library!) When the dragons find themselves in peril from their wizard enemies, it is up to Cimorene to take the lead and save the day.

Fans of Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, and Peter S. Beagle will laugh out loud at Dealing with Dragons and its three additional adventures that make up The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

For those of you in the Champaign-Urbana area, the Urbana Free Library, the Champaign Public Library, and the University of Illinois have all of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Parkland has Dealing with Dragons but not the entire set.

For more information on Ms. Wrede, you can visit her official website!

My battered copy of _Dealing with Dragons_.

Posted July 6, 2011 by Alicia Schofield in review