Book reviews

Book reviews with a Boston bent. Be it a book that takes place in Boston, or was written by a writer from Boston. Or one on the history of Boston. From comic book to graphic novels to the strange and weird. If it is about Boston you will find it here

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review - Dustin Pedroia Born to Play

Dustin Pedroia – Born to Play

Dustin is a very young man, born a year after I was married. He is still going at 28 years, and while he has had a very interesting life, maybe he should have waited to write his memoir. Co-author Edward J. Delaney has done a wonderful job of getting through to the real Dustin. Telling us of his days as a kid playing in baseball games above his age level. His family is incredibly supportive of him, never once doubting his small size would keep him from playing the game he loved. It would have been nice for him to say once and for all, just how tall he is. The Boston Red Sox list him as 5'9” when he was in college at Arizona State he was listed at 5'8”. USA Today in 2003 listed his height at 5'7”

He has picked a great place to start his story, October 27, 2007 when a security guard denied him entrance Coors field. The guard, who has remained nameless had to have confirmation that the little guy with the big talent did belong out on the field with his team mates.

The very next chapter is given over to a “Scout For a National League Team (who wishes to remain anonymous) He gets six pages to wander about what the Red Sox saw in Dustin that he did not. How he has seen Dustin move forward as a much faster pace, with fewer missed steps.

Then we jump back, almost all the way to the beginning of his sporting career. Yes he starts with an early shoulder injury at the age of 12, and how it never held him back. He followed his older brother on to the Shasta College and played several games with the college team. Before he gets to much into the difference between playing for each group the chapter ends.

Our next guest author, and our first personalized chapter comes from Rob Rinaldi, his former High School couch. This shows us the journey Dustin took to becoming the play he is today. I found it jarring to go from reading in Dustin's style then suddenly dropped in a different style for five or six pages. It mad it hard for me to transfer back to reading the chapters Dustin might have written.

The first collage any good west coast ball player would look to is Arizona and Dustin took a ride down with his family. An exciting time in any ones life, but for Dustin a jump forward. Lead by guest author Ron McNutt Coach of the Carson Capitols in Carson City, NV. Dustin also gives Arizona State University head Baseball Coach, Pat Murphy a chance to reminisce about Dustin and his skill at playing the game.

Dustin takes control of the narrative again, to share with us his time at Arizona State, his time with Team USA, and something I wish he had given more information about. His giving up his full scholarship to Arizona State to team mate Ben Thurmond. He gave us the scholarship not just because his parent could afford to cover his tuition, while Ben's could not; but also because with the addition of Ben, his team had a better chance to go to the College World Series. This amazing show of team spirit and humility shows a amazing level of maturity in such a young man. I wish we had learned more about his decision. Not giving Ben a chapter of his own, for that is done way to often, but give us a bit more of his thought process.

Dustin also shares with us his first taste of Boston Massachusetts and the Boson Red Sox. His changing planes at Logan Airport teaches him we talk funny. His being drafted by the Red Sox, in their first pick of the 2004 draft was a big surprise to him as no one from the team had spoken to him before the draft. He learns the special joy that happens when you go from playing the game of baseball to working at the game of playing baseball. It sounded incredibly hard, a real mental and physical meat grinder that was ready to spit him out in a second. He loved it, and I am sure every person reading his book would be willing to trade places with him, I would and I'm twice his age and female.

He goes back to allowing other people to write about him giving us guest chapters by Ben Cherington; Senior VP & Assistant GM of the Red Sox, Ben Johnson Manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Steve Hyder the Play by Play Announcer for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Terry Francona the Manager of the Boston Red Sox and even his wife Kelli Pedroia. Even Alex Cora gets a few pages to share how it felt to compete with Dustin for a spot in the infield.

When he got to the chapter telling us about his first game playing against the San Francisco Giants and catching a pop up from Barry Bonds, I half expected to see a chapter from Barry giving us his opinion on how well Dustin caught that ball. But instead we get words of wisdom from Dave Magadan the teams hitting coach. At least the chapter about the 2007 Victory parade is told from his view point, and not the view point of some one in the crowd. That is for Julia Ruth Stevens a Red Sox fan from Conway New Hampshire. Telling us how wonderful it was to be named American League Rookie of the year and American League Most Valuable Player in the same year is the Boston Center field legend Fred Lynn

Then we get a few chapters on how hard he plays any game, be it cribbage or Ping Pong with Mike Lowell who apparently kicks his ass in both. Then another Red Sox fan, Adam Speakman gets a chance to share how special it is to see a smaller man playing Baseball. Dustin takes over the narrative once again to share a quick chapter about the entire 2008 season. He then turns the story over to Mike Lowell for another short chapter on what it is like playing with Dustin.

All told, Born to Play is a 261 page book where 56 pages almost one fifth of the book is not written by Dustin. While I will recommend this book to hard core Red Sox fans, and mostly for the chance to get an autograph. I think Dustin should have waited a few years longer to write a memoir.

If I might be so humble to suggest, when Kevin Youkilis writes his own book, he should go the Leonard Nimoy route and call it “I am not – The Greek God of Walks”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review - Weird Massachusetts

Some times you have to read a book for fun. This is one of those books.
Weird Massachusetts
Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran authors of "Weird U.S." and first known for their zine "Weird New Jersey" have expanded the brand. Hiring Jeff Belanger to travel the state, looking for the oddities that claim the Bay State as their home.

They touch on local legends and Ancient Mysteries, Cemeteries to Abandoned areas. Each chapter more fun than the last. Who knew the Mary Celeste the worlds most famous ghost ship was connected to Marion Mass? Or that a Knight of Templar once lived in Westford. Salem gets close to it's own chapter, along with a mention of the Ouija board tucked into a paragraph some where in the middle. Is Freetown State Forest truly cursed, or just getting bad press.

The chapter on local Heroes and Villains is humerus, and slightly educational. Still I wish each group had been given their own chapter, if for no other reason that Ben Franklin and Albert DeSalvo not share a page.

Everyone's "favorite" lawn decoration gets two full pages, not enough for sure, but just enough to allow Donald Featherstone to say what must at this point be his motto "We brought poor taste to the poor people" I should say so, while I do not own a pink flamingo, I do have two glow in the dark skeleton flamingo. From Plymouth Rock to the Museum of Bad Art each page brings with it a bit more fun.

I only wish some of the write up of the least known locations had included directions on how to find them. Looks like I will have some searching to do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday two questions

I have been asking a lot of questions lately. Pumping a friend for information on setting up this blog. Silly stuff I have not had to think about with my personal blog. I want this blog to be special, to share my love of all things Boston and Greater Boston with the world. I started this blog because I had a need of my own, a need to share humorous quotes, enjoyable stories, just to see Boston.

I am still kind of foggy about this. I am far more use to talking about my dog than my reading habits. My cat's love affair with the Hammond Organ, instead of what John Adams said. I'm going to try.

So as a way to start I am going to do a meme from Self Sagacity

1 - Well since this blog's topic is books written about Boston, please let me know if you have a favorite fiction book where the story happens in Boston?

--- For me that would be Future Boston: The History of a City 1990- 2100

2- What part of the country is under represented in fiction?

--- I have no answer for this myself, which to me means I am missing out on some good writing.

Well here we go...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book review - Always Something doing - Scollay Square

Always Something Doing, Boston's infamous Scollay Square

By David Kruh with forward by Thomas H. O'Connor

I feel a little sad, Boston lover that I am, to have never seen Scollay Square. For all I know about this legendary place is a length of is a length of tile at the very end of the Government Center Blue line platform. Fitting perhaps for as I have discovered blue is a perfect description for Scollay Square.

The book starts on a sad note, with the death of a grand old lady, the Old Howard theater. Then in the gentlest way, he introduces us to the building in her prime. Before she was Old, and before she was the Howard, all the way back to Cotton Hill. Of greatest help is the map on page three, where the outlines of the old neighborhood are superimposed over the new. New roads are in gray, a most fitting choice if you ask me.

The book introduces us to the family who gave the square it's name. John Scollay was a patriot, no not that kind, a member of the Son's of Liberty. But, since this book is about the area and not the man, our visit is all to brief. The book is full of delightful pictures of the growing square. Taking pictures of buildings was apparently as popular in the during the squares heyday as taking pictures of children today. Then these buildings are in a way their children, and our mighty ancestors. We also get a chance to hear from the people who made Scollay square famous. For the author has done his research. Remembrances from the performers who stepped out on the many stages that surrounded the Square. The slightly upscale Crawford, to the all night Star Theater, later renamed Rialto in the hope to loose the monicker “Scratch House” It did not work, the name stuck, and the picture shows how lovely the theater was in it's own way. I had not heard of Sally Keith or her amazing twirling tassels, until I read this book. Now I have to start searching for more information on this Boston legend.

We honor the sailors who spread stories of the Square throughout the world. My favorite in the chapter about Joe & Nemo's tells how an American infantry man was able to cross into the Allied camp by proving he was from Boston, via his knowledge of Scollay Square and especially Joe & Nemo's. What a shame the restaurant is not longer in operation, for now I have a craving for a hot dog I never ate.

The book becomes a little less funny as the Square starts to fail, and urban “renewal” takes hold. You can hear the sorrow as building after building falls to the wrecking ball. Pictures once again take the reader around what is left of the Square and how the new buildings grow from the ashes of the old. I found great humor in the story of George Gloss and his Brattle Book Shop. Each time urban renewal come to the building his store was in he would offer a book give away. What ever you could carry after five minutes in the shop you could keep for free.

The epilogue takes a look at what has been done to bring some of the flavor of Scollay Square back to Government Center. He lists the many different ideas that have been floated to change the brick porch into some thing more welcoming. While the area is used on a frequent basis for festivals, green markets, and celebrations of champions the space still goes quiet once the work day ends. I always wondered why Government Center always felt like it had a hidden energy a party just seconds from starting. Now I know what I was feeling, it was the ghosts of Scollay Square, just waiting for a chance to start the party once again. The next time I walk through Scollay Square I will remember the past I never knew and hope for the future I would love to see.

Oh what shall I read next

 Finished writing my review of    Always something Doing - Boston's infamous Scollay Square  I am not sure if I should put anything else in the review? Any way, it's my first book review based on my new Boston book review blog. 

I still have not figured out exactly what I am going to call the blog. I have a long list of ideas, but nothing jumps out at me.  I want something that will reflect back on the history, and be catchy enough to attract people to the blog.

So far ideas include

Always Reading Something - in honor of the book I just finished. Reading it and looking for other people who might have read it is what pushed me to create a book review blog about Boston in the first place.

A shining city on a hill - From a description of Boston made by  Governor Winthrop of how he saw New England would become for the world.

I also started thinking of plays on the original three hills of Boston, now flattened but nothing really works.  Boston between the binders or Between three book shelves.

Well back to the grind stone. I'm not taking the site live for a while. I am going to wait until I have a good stack of book reviews up. So some time around the end of the month.  I'll let every one know. 

My next book for the Boston book blog will be "A Most Fortunate Ship: A narrative history of Old Ironsides"  Does any one have any favorite books about Boston or set in Boston they would like to see reviewed?  Or better yet would anyone like to join me in writing book reviews. I think at best I am looking at several thousand books making the very simple standards of the blog. I might have bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe not, it's not like I need an excuse to read books.