Showing posts with label Steve Kluger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steve Kluger. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

This n' That: Recs, A Bargain, Reads + Updates!

Hey how's everyone this Friday? Ready for the weekend? It's a gorgeous spring day, and guess what? It's baseball time! Yankees are holding their game opener today at Yankee Stadium against the Angels. I know you all don't want to hear it, but... Go Yanks! LOL!

I guess this is the perfect time to again recommend one of my favorite fiction books with a baseball theme: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger! Have you read it? No? Well, even if you don't love baseball, you'll love this book because I dare you not to fall in love with the wonderful characters and the excellent story. (review here)


So what else do I have for you today? Heads up people! Special subscription offer for ICARUS: The Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. Lethe Press has a bargain going on today only for those of you who love great writing and/or would like to give gay speculative fiction a shot. I mentioned back in October that I love ICARUS magazine, so you know that I took advantage of this bargain. Check it out here.


And shifting from speculative fiction to science fiction, did you know already that both Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, AND Embassytown by China Miéville made the list of finalists for the HUGO Awards? Yeap, they did!

Also in case you don't know this yet, Seanan McGuire also made it to the list of Hugo finalists under the Best Related Works Category with "Wicked Girls." And, since I featured John Scalzi during my month-long Science Fiction Experience reading binge, I'd like to mention that he also made it as a finalist under the Best Short Story Category with "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book 1: The Dead City." Good stuff!

I have books by all these authors on my 2012 Wish List or TBR:

Railsea by China Miéville (May 15, 2012)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (June 5, 2012)
Caliban's War (Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey (June 26, 2012)
Rosemary & Rue (October Daye Books) by Seanan McGuire - backlist title


Last but not least, I'm reading again! Yay! I've finished some good books, some of which I've already reviewed: The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley, The Rake by Mary Jo Putney, Split by Mel Bossa, Private Eye by S.E. Culpepper and a couple of other books that I haven't reviewed yet: Just Down The Road by Jodi Thomas, and About That Night by Julie James.

Right now I'm reading a book I just received for review and that looks to be a great read, The Heart's History by Lewis DeSimone.


That's my news today! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hilcia's Weekly Reads

I hope you've all had a terrific week. It's been a while since I've done my weekly reads post... about a year actually, but last week was a bit special and I decided to highlight it. Last month, my friend Mariana of Hips Like Mine announced that she was making September "Re-Reads Month." Although I'm not joining her for a whole month's worth of re-reads, I decided to at least keep her company for one week. Of course, I sneaked in a couple of new books too, (I couldn't help myself, lol) but for the most part I achieved my goal.

Since I'm also participating in Nath's Re-Read Challenge, this works out perfectly, don't you think? So, this month I'm killing two birds with one stone by posting some tiny-Minis in a weekly post style while I join Mariana in her Re-Read Month, and for Nath's Challenge. :D

As my first re-read I chose Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas. I love her Bow Street Runner series and Sir Ross happens to be a favorite in that category. This story begins with sexual overtones and thoughts and as the story unfolds the attraction builds between Sophia and Ross. Sophia's purpose behind working for Ross, who is a magistrate, is to gather information and avenge the death of her brother, but that doesn't last long. Frankly this whole story is really based on the sexual attraction between Sophia and Ross, and the conflicts between them are solved quickly along the way. However, I did enjoy the sexual tension between the two and I love a male protagonist who goes from being a stick in the mud to hot, sexy and passionate. That's Sir Ross! Plus Nick Gentry is introduced in this book.. :D Grade B.

After that, I totally changed gears and re-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This is young adult coming of age, classic American novel set in a New England prep school during World War II. I read this book years ago and have re-read it a few times, it's a favorite. The story of Gene, the intellectual, and Pheneas, the athelete, two young men who are roommates and great friends. This is a short book and an amazingly well written story. Knowles begins with a small, seemingly innocent incident that culminates in a tragedy. Through Gene's point of view, the author develops a story that delves into the dark side of human nature and subtly draws a parallel to those dark days in WWII, while simultaneously providing the reader with few light moments. There are some subtle homoerotic undertones to the story and unexpected depth to Gene, Finny and secondary characters. Grade A

Although A Separate Peace is a favorite, it always leaves me a bit down when I finish reading it. I needed an uplifting read afterwards, and chose to re-read a book that makes me laugh and has a happy ending, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. I reviewed this book already, so this is not going to be a mini. However, I'll say that this was the first time I read the book in print and it was a joy! My experience with Klugler's epistolary style was definitely enriched by reading this book in print vs. my first time around with the ebook format. And of course, I haven't changed my mind about the story itself and was left with a big smile and the warm fuzzies when I finished the book, so mission accomplished. :D Grade A

From there I went on to re-read Cullen's Bride by Fiona Brand! This was Fiona Brand's first category romance (1999) and the first book in her SAS series. It's a wonderful book set in New Zealand with a hot, bad boy hero whose childhood was hell! He pulled himself through, left town and came back to work the family farm. Rachel is a strong woman and female protagonist. She grew up with her father and four brothers after her mom died, so she knows what it's like to deal with overly macho and protective males. I loved their story. There's a bit of a mystery and lots of fighting of feelings on Cullen's part while Fiona fights for them. Brand's writing was excellent in this book with great characterization and plotting, plus her descriptions of the setting pulled me right into the story. I felt as if I were right there with Rachel and Cullen experiencing the storms, floods and breezes in the farm or the town. Grade B+

This is where I read two new books Ceremony in Death and Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb, but those books are for Christine's Challenge, so that's okay, right? ;P Reviews for those books to come later.

And last, but certainly not least, I finished off my re-reading week with Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. This is a suspense romance book I love. Sam and Jaine are favorite characters -- the dialogue and interaction between them always make me laugh, plus they have some sizzling hot, sexy moments and Jaine's peeping tom scene through her kitchen window is a classic! The friendship between the four friends, the "List" and again the dialogue are just so well done by Howard, I fell in love with the four women. There's depth, but there's also such lightness and humor to those parts of the story and the romance that I think that's what made the violence and the killings more shocking. The killer wasn't really scary, smart or mysterious... but the previously mentioned sense of shock provided the true horror to Mr. Perfect. Grade A-

That does it for my reads this week and re-reads this month, I think. :) What about you? What did you read this week?

Mariana's September Re-Read Month
Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge
KMont's 2010 Historical Reading Challenge -September Minis:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quotes & Thoughts: Summer, Baseball and Steve Kluger

Summer! For me, summer is nothing without the game of baseball.

I don't usually blog about sports, although I'm a huge sports fan, and baseball is my all-time favorite sport. There's nothing like a hot, lazy Sunday afternoon baseball game. I prefer looong games during sunny days and weather I'm watching them on television or at the ballpark, alone or with lots of company, it doesn't matter to me it's still heaven.

I love to read a good book with the sounds of a baseball game as background. I'm a bit (a lot) superstitious, and when my favorite team is playing and working on a win or a comeback, there are times when I'll look up from my book ONLY after that hit, home run, or strikeout happens -- and of course I won't remember what I was reading because I'm really paying attention to the game. My heart beats a mile a minute, and it's both an agony and a pleasure!

As a reader and a sports lover, it's interesting that I rarely mix the two. But recently, I've read a few books that integrate the game of baseball. Of those books, it is not surprising that the two that truly stand out are Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being in Love and Last Days of Summer. Why? Mr. Kluger obviously has a deep understanding of the game, and it seems as if he finds a way to integrate baseball into all his stories in one way or another. I have his entire backlist in my TBR, although I haven't yet read them all. Actually, Mr. Kluger is a Boston Red Sox fanatic, (see his website), so you know I must really love his writing... because well.. I happen to be a Yankees fan, and if you follow baseball you know what that means -- lots of rivalry there to put it mildly. ;P

In Almost Like Being in Love, a GLTB romance, one of Kluger's characters Craig (a jock) influences the other, Travis (a nerd), to the point where Travis lives his life while relating everything to baseball and its rules. He becomes a history professor at USC, and even there Travis relates history to baseball. I loved it! I think one of my initial thoughts and comments when I read this book was: "I'll never think about Alexander Hamilton again without thinking about baseball. Ever!"

Here's an example so you can see what I mean:
University of Southern California
Semester: 1998 From: Travis Pucket  Class: American History 206

"Alexander Hamilton and the Designated Hitter"

Issue: Once we'd won our independence from the Crown, how were we going to set up house?

Objective: Proving that baseball and the United States Constitution were founded on the same set of rules, as outlined in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton.

Argument: (extract)... If it hadn't been for the fact that conservative rich guy Thomas Jefferson (National League) and free-wheeling loud-mouth Alexander Hamilton (American League) detested one another on sight, the Founding Fathers might never have stumbled upon the same secret the populace had discovered years earlier on a rounders field: the dynamic upon which to build a true democracy and, incidentally, a Boston Red Sox legacy as well.*

*See, Carlton Fisk's home run off of Pat Darcy on October 21, 1975.
("We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.")
In Last Days of Summer, Kluger uses a combination of fiction and history when it comes to baseball. Set in New York during WW II and featuring the New York Giants as the central team, the story is chuck-full of baseball lore and references. Kluger's love of the game is more than evident in this gorgeous story about a rough, well-known baseball player and a smart-aleck(y), adventurous boy whose determination becomes legendary. Of course setting the story in New York City, Kluger also features "dem bums" the Brooklyn Dodgers as the Giants' main competitors, and of course the New York Yankees, although interestingly enough for the most part he seems to gloss over the Yanks... hmmm... I wonder why? [grin].

This book is not only a gorgeous read for all the reasons I detailed on my review, but if you're a baseball fan and a lover of its history, then it's just fun. If you (like me) can get lost researching stats, confirming exactly where Kluger uses fictional information and/or where he uses baseball history, then you can definitely have some fun with this book. As I mentioned, I'm a bit of a baseball freak (geek), so I've had tons of fun (and I'm not done yet) going through some of the stats, names and information Kluger uses in this book.

Of the historical baseball facts Kluger uses in Last Days of Summer, I'm going to highlight a favorite (my choice should not be a surprise -- my husband who's a diehard Dodgers fan didn't love my choice... oh well!). It is a newspaper-like article and stats page (pages 192 & 193) from Game 4 of the 1941 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees:
Dodgers Snatch Defeat
From Jaws of Victory

Game 4 Upset When
Mickey Owen Drops Strike 3

(excerpt)... Brooklyn hurler Hugh Casey let loose with a perfect breaking curve to Yankee right fielder Tommy Henrich, who sung on strike three -- and whiffed. And that should have been the ball game. But the Brooks' usually topflight catcher Mickey Owen had other ideas when he missed the ball entirely -- and by the time he'd retrieved it from the Dodger dugout, Henrich had made himself at home on first. But that was only the beginning....

Yankees went on to win Game 4 by a score of 7-4 and the 1941 World Series. Hmmm... Charlie and Joey were NOT happy and of course they disagree as to what reaaaally happened, an argument that goes on between the two throughout the whole book. I love this story... just love it.


And of course since Carlton Fisk was mentioned above and bringing this post around to current events, I just HAVE to mention Jorge Posada! The current Yankees catcher who reached 1,000 RBI yesterday, having played 1,660 games throughout his career (NYY 1995 to present).

With that 1,000 hit, he joined an amazing group of catchers: Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk* and Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers in Major League Baseball history to hit 250 home runs, 350 doubles and a record 1,000 RBI. You go Jorgie!


So what's your favorite sport? Do you have one? Any favorite sports (or baseball) related books that you would recommend?

ETA: Other recently read baseball related books:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

YotH Review: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

I planned to read and review a historical romance for my first Year of the Historical Challenge review. However, after reading Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, I decided that since a book set in World War II qualifies by KMont's rules, this was going to be my review for this Challenge. The genre is a bit of a mixed bag, I've seen it tagged as YA, Literary Fiction, Sports Fiction, World War II, Men's Fiction, and well... you decide. I prefer to think of it as Fiction with Historical elements and think it deserves to be widely read. So here it is, my first YotH review.

Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.
I loved the first book I read by Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love, and yet Last Days of Summer still managed to surprise me. I don't think I expected to be caught up in the story or the characters in the same way. I was wrong.

Kluger takes us to Brooklyn, New York in 1940 to tell us Joey Margolis' story. He is a 12 year old Jewish boy who having recently moved from Manhattan with his mother and aunt becomes the neighborhood bullies' punching bag. Lacking a father figure in his life, Joey is desperately looking for someone to take that place. He chooses a reluctant Charlie Banks, the new 3rd Baseman for the New York Giants baseball team.

Joey is a smart-mouthed, needy, brilliant little boy who goes to great lengths to get what he wants. His imagination, determination and persistence become legendary throughout the story. Charlie is a baseball player through and through. An uneducated young man who doesn't necessarily make the best first impression, Charlie doesn't seem to be the best choice for hero worship. However, once Joey chooses Charlie he doesn't stand a chance, no matter his reluctance to accept that role. Kluger again uses his favored epistolary style to reveal Joey and Charlie's improbable story of friendship. Through letters, telegrams, report cards, tickets and other means of communication, this beautiful story of friendship and love unfolds as the characters are revealed.

Last Days of Summer accurately details some incredible New York baseball history (Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Giants) and other teams as well, but baseball doesn't overwhelm the book. Also, through Charlie and Joey we glimpse the history of the times between 1940 and 1942 and slowly experience how things change and develop throughout the country. Kluger covers the slow escalation of World War II in Europe, Roosevelt's New Deal, Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American's Relocation Centers in California, and finally our troops in the South Pacific. Although again, as with baseball, history does not overshadow the main story.

Atmosphere is important when setting a book during these times. Kluger achieves this by the usage of language and attitude, as well as by incorporating wonderful details such as: music, Broadway shows, famous personages, and using the names of businesses that were around in 1940's New York.

I laughed quite a bit while reading Joey and Charlie's sharp and witty exchanges and their improbable adventures, although I admit that the content itself pulled some emotional strings at the most unexpected of times -- Joey's Bar Mitzvah was one of the funniest and most emotional events and one of my favorite. There were wonderful secondary characters in this book that made this story work, even though Joey and Charlie were always the main focus. I personally fell in love with Joey's Aunt Carrie and the Rabbi (Rabby).

The end of this book was very emotional for me and quite beautiful in its own way. If you want to know why I was surprised, well... it's because this book is not really about baseball and being a baseball fan that's what I expected. Instead, Last Days of Summer is a beautiful story about a boy who needs, and a man who by answering that need fulfills his own.

Last Days of Summer is a book I couldn't put down once I read the first few pages. That makes two keepers by Mr. Kluger for me. Grade A

Visit Steve Kluger here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Readers Block: A bad start to 2010!

I began 2010 with the worst case of readers block I've had in years! There are reasons of course, unexpected health-related family crisis, work piled up after the Holidays, but I can usually read through these things and more. My husband says a bomb could go off and I could still read. As a matter of fact, reading usually helps me relieve stress and knowing myself after all these years, stress is something I can usually work through by using different methods. But not this time, not without my books.

From December 30, 2009 through January 15, 2010 I read a total of one book. ONE book! It took me a total of two weeks to finish said book -- a fabulous one by the way, so I knew it was not the book, it was obviously me. I don't remember the last time I went so long without reading, or without being able to read. It doesn't make me a very nice person to live with... no sir, it doesn't.

I have what I think of as an incredible "to be read" pile of books at home -- at least never having had one until two years ago, it is to me -- one I couldn't wait to get into this year. However, this "thing" whatever it is, hit me like a paralysis. I began and closed up a total of six books... nothing, nothing, nothing appealed. I couldn't even get into my favorite re-reads. Paralyzed, I was paralyzed!

My poor husband couldn't deal with me whining (yes, I was whining), about my inability to read, about how television programming is a disgrace, about well... everything, and told me to buy some new books as he was sure I would find one that would just do it! LOLOL, I think he was more desperate than I was to get me reading again, although he did enjoy my crazy spur of the moment baking. ;P

I bought books, ladies... books, books and more books. I'm ashamed to say that the past two weeks I lost control and just bought books! It's a good thing I had some Gift Certificates left over from the Holidays, and I found a bookstore going out of business selling books for 50% off, so I didn't spend as much as I could have... still, I bought books.

After ALL that, and buying ALL those books, Friday night after work (and after baking chocolate chip muffins) I picked up a "general fiction" book, no romance in it. Well, this book could be considered a few different things, a coming of age book, man's fiction, or YA set in a historical period (World War II). This is a book I already had on my TBR -- a book I purchased a few weeks earlier... "Last Days of Summer" by Steve Kluger. I began to just browse the book to see what it really was about and next thing I knew I was on page 169! AND, next thing I knew it was early morning and I had finished the book and I was crying my eyes out. Just crying.... Yes, the ending to this book is quite emotional, you'll need a few tissues before you're finished reading it, I guarantee it. However, I think I was so relieved that I'd actually finished a book in one sitting that I just couldn't stop myself from using more than a few tissues (drama queen that I am). I went to bed with a watery smile on my face and slept like a log!

The real test came on Saturday and Sunday, though. I chose a favorite re-read in a short format and finished it and THEN picked up another new book I wanted to read and by Sunday, I had finished that one too. So YES, the readers block has been broken! And, what a relief it is my friends... I cannot tell you (or maybe I can) how wonderful it feels to be able to get lost in those pages again.

Last Days of Summer is going to hold a special place on my bookshelf forever and ever. Thank you Mr. Kluger!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years. Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.
This book made me both laugh out loud and cry while reading it. It's not a book where you'll find explicit sexual scenes, instead you'll find love -- all types of love. Love between couples, but also friendships that last years without wavering between people who know how to give and take, and love and friendships that are born out of a sense of immediate connection.

The story is told in narrative form from different points of view, but mostly by Travis and Craig. We know what's happening in both their lives throughout a 20 year span from 1978 when they meet at prep school until their present. Somehow, through their journal entries, memos, faxes, e-mails, notes, letters, lists, and other means of written communication we not only get to know them, but the people around them also become well defined characters with unique personalities.

During those 20 years, Travis becomes a history professor, whose use of baseball analogy to teach history is unique and often misunderstood by faculty--although his students are certainly appreciative. His love life is also next to non-existent. Meanwhile, Craig and his best friend Charlene are partners at a successful law firm, where his liberal agenda takes precedence over everything else. Craig has been luckier in love, he has maintained a steady relationship with his live-in partner of 12 years, Clayton.

The central, secondary characters and the plot are so well developed and defined in Almost Like Being in Love, that the characters jump out of the pages and weather you want it or not, pull you into their lives. I know I became invested in all the characters. Besides Travis and Craig (after all, I fell in love with both of them), weather it was Charlene, Jodi, Noah, Gordo, A.J, Clay or Travis' football player students, I wanted to know more about them. They made this novel complete and irresistible.

This is a love story on so many levels. A beautiful novel of first love and how that first love influenced and changed Travis and Craig's lives, even when apart. How in turn that love and those changes affected those around them. Who can't relate to those feelings of first love that Craig and Travis felt at 17? Who hasn't wondered what happened to that one person who made such a difference in their lives?

A gorgeous novel that will hook you and keep you reading, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger makes it to the top of my list. This was an outstanding read for me and one I highly recommend.

Visit Steve Kluger here.