While it eventually turns melodramatic, this tale offers an appealingly honest portrayal of aspirant baseball players.

EMPTY SEATS

Three minor league pitchers contend with fate in this debut novel.

Growing up outside Boston under the shadow of his father’s unrealized major league baseball dreams, Jimmy Bailey wishes to succeed where his dad could not. That’s why he’s willing to board with a strange family in Jamestown, New York, in the early 1970s. He isn’t the only pitcher there to play ball for a Single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos. There’s also Bobby Mangino, a hotheaded New Yorker with some father issues of his own to work out, and Bud Prescott, an aw-shucks optimist from Athens, Georgia. The three young athletes must contend with their nerves, ambitions, and abilities to throw fastballs as they spend the summer competing to move forward toward their dreams of the big leagues. “We’re all in the same boat: all-stars in our high schools, Babe Ruth and Connie Mack ball,” narrates Jimmy. “People at home knew who we are. Here, we are essentially nothing but three passengers jammed into the back seat of a Dodge station wagon—until we can prove otherwise.” They must face the expected obstacles. But the unforeseen tragedies (bodily, legal, and otherwise) will remind them that once they leave the field, they still have to compete in the most important game of all: the rest of their lives. Fischer adeptly—and often lyrically—captures the mindset of her characters, both their love of their sport and the things that they’ve given up to pursue it: “There’s nothing better than the smell that fills every corner, every inch, of a ballpark on a sunny spring day....The aroma makes me feel high. I bet it’s like sniffing cocaine or drinking too much tequila. But I’ve never done that. I’ve only gotten high on baseball.” The author wrings genuine emotions from the tale, making sure that readers know what’s at stake for these young men. This is perhaps why some shocking third act developments feel histrionic and unnecessary. Even so, Fischer manages to clearly communicate her ultimate message: that baseball holds more humiliation than it does glory, and far more losers than winners.

While it eventually turns melodramatic, this tale offers an appealingly honest portrayal of aspirant baseball players.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9995049-0-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Spring Training Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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