Tag Archives: enjoyable reading

Baseball Dreams

Life and Life Only

Life and Life Only: A Novel by Dave Moyer (iUniverse, $14.95, 200 pages)

Because I like baseball (having written a baseball novel), have endured martial strife, and am a father (all major themes in Dave Moyer’s novel), I enjoyed reading Life and Life Only. It details Dan Mason’s life from his birth in 1974 to his early-forties in the future year of 2018. Incidentally, the book was published by iUniverse, Inc., in 2009, nine years before the story ends.

An abundance of facts are presented as the novel primarily follows the baseball career of talented pitcher, Dan. We accompany him through youth, high school, summer, college and semi-pro baseball as he seeks his dream of playing professional and eventually major league baseball. Unfortunately an arm injury undermines that dream. Baseball also is an important part of his marriage to the lovely Southern belle, Anna Jean, and even permeates, in a positive way, his excellent relationship with his only child, Melinda Sue.

The novel does have its shortcomings, however. The interspersing of historical details and the music of Bob Dylan aside, it has, as I mentioned, an abundance of facts. And Moyer often presents these facts randomly, and sometimes in a helter skelter manner, frequently changing point of view in the process. Such a voluminous number of facts ultimately sacrifices the drama inherent in Life and Life Only. Moyer regularly violates the important writers’ adage of “Tell, don’t show.” Thus he keeps the reader at a distance instead of inviting him into each scene.

Even with the novel ending some nine years after publication, it seems very autobiographical. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I simply mention it because a little poetic license might well heighten drama.

Life and life only (1)

Again, I enjoyed the book. I am sure I would have found it more compelling with fewer facts and more drama.

Recommended (3 stars out of 5).

Alan Mindell

Alan Mindell is the author of The Closer: A Baseball Love Story, and The B Team: A Horse Racing Saga.

The Closer Mindell

Dave Moyer is an education administrator in the greater Chicago area, author, and a reviewer for this site.

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A Mystery Most Fowl

Buffalo West Wing: A White House Chef Mystery  by Julie Hyzy (Berkley; $7.99; 320 pages)

Author Julie Hyzy writes two series of mysteries, White House Chef Mysteries and Manor House Mysteries.   Buffalo West Wing is the fourth in the White House Chef series.   Earlier this year, her first Manor House Mystery, Grace Under Pressure, was reviewed here.

White House executive chef Olivia Paras has a full plate on her hands with a new first family moving into the White House.   Yes, that White House.   She is well-known for being the first female executive chef and was well-loved by the prior president and his family.   The new first family must be won over to assure her tenure as executive chef.   The family includes grade-school children and a grandmother which makes Olivia’s job that much more challenging.   The mix of characters makes it highly contemporary and easily believable.

The story is based on a mysterious box of buffalo wings that’s delivered to the White House kitchen on inauguration night with a note attached designating it for the new young occupants.   Olivia is a veteran of many an intrigue and exercises her good judgment by withholding the tasty treats as she cannot attest to their source.   The new first lady is not amused when she finds out that Olivia has denied her children a special treat!   But Olivia is proven to be in the right when the wings are determined to be poisonous – danger hits the House.

The plot unfolds as Olivia, her kitchen staff members, the Secret Service and an annoying bunch of know-it-alls vie for the favor of upper management.   Author Hyzy writes knowledgeably about all matters related to White House dining and state dinner preparation.   She brings the reader along as Olivia gets in and out of some terrifying situations.   As is the case with the most enjoyable of novels, this one brings with it a peek into a world not observed by most folks.   There are recipes included at the end of the book for the dishes that are featured in the story.

Well recommended.

This preview-review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.   Buffalo West Wing will be released on Tuesday, January 4, 2011.

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A Town Without Pity

The Chaos of Order

Toby Ball’s debut novel,The Vaults (St. Martin’s Press) is a fine first work.   Fans of crime novels and/or the suspense/thriller genre will find this an enjoyable read.   Ball is true to the convention of short chapters and brief vignettes and anecdotes that keep the reader turning to the next page.

The Vaults are essentially a record (literally a criminal record) of one city’s depravity, and when the sole archivist, Arthur Puskis, notices that something is amiss with his detailed system of categorizing the files, the reader is led along a trail of corruption that reaches to the highest level, mayor Red Henry’s office.   Set in the 1930’s, the story involves tales of big labor, organized crime, political corruption, and journalistic heroes, somewhat reminiscent of a Doctorow novel.

The story is best when it does what it purports to do:  tell an action tale.   The plot is carefully constructed, and the pace is fast.   This reviewer’s primary criticism is that it became difficult to truly care about where the story was headed because it was difficult to actually care about the characters themselves.

In the first half of the book, character after character is introduced with little development and few clues as to what makes them tick or motivates their behavior.   The character one is inclined to be most attracted to at the outset, Puskis, essentially disappears for a good portion of the first half of the book, only to reappear more prominently toward the end to help tie the story together.   Frings, the reporter, who is the closest thing to a hero this book offers, is a rather shallow fellow and not overly likeable.   In the end, Poole, the Private Investigator whose travails run parallel to Frings’ throughout the book, probably comes across as the person with the most conviction and integrity in the story.

There are a few moments where there’s an attempt at social commentary, such as when Puskis contemplates whether the improved technology introduced to the Vaults will take away a layer of humanity from the information people receive or when Puskis and Van Vossen, who has set out to write a book about the tales hidden away, contemplate the significance of the collective humanity contained in the Vaults and come to the realization that order cannot be imposed on the natural universe by man.   Generally speaking, though, there is little of this.   That type of thought and discourse is not really the point of this novel.

Overall, the writing is strong and unforced.   The reader has to occasionally suspend belief to allow for some of the events to connect, but that is why they call it fiction.   This book is recommended.

This review was written by Dave Moyer, author of the novel Life and Life Only.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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