Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review of "Is Wrestling Fixed?"

Okay, I will state this from the start - I realize many people don't consider professional wrestling a "sport" and more a form of "entertainment."  While I understand and respect that, I consider sports a form of entertainment no matter the participants or what the game is.  Some will consider this a sport as well and it can be argued that this is a sport.  While I do consider professional wrestling more entertainment than sport, there are competitive elements in it and books on the subject are found in the sports section of libraries and book stores, so that is what I will do here when reading a book on professional wrestling. This book that will be published in October is one that anyone will like, no matter how that person feel about the "sport."  Here is my review of "Is Wrestling Fixed?"


Title/Author:
“Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken” by Bill Apter

Tags:
Wrestling, professional, memoir, history

Publish date:
October 13, 2015

Length:
280 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
If you have ever watched a professional wrestling show and noticed photographers that seemed to be part of the entertainment because they are so close to the ring, then you have may have seen the author of this book, Bill Apter.  He has been shooting pictures of wrestlers for various publications and websites for over 40 years. He is as well-known in the business as many wrestlers and executives. Therefore, it is safe to say that he has pretty much seen it all when it comes to wrestling and he shares many of his experiences in this book.

There isn’t a true format to this book, such as a timeline or concentration on certain subjects.  It is simply a collection of stories told by Apter about all things wrestling.  These take place mostly out of the arenas and ring, but that doesn’t make the book any less entertaining or informative. If the reader has any interest in professional wrestling, he or she is certain to learn something new here.

Some of the stories will also bring memories back to the reader if he or she followed wrestling in past decades.  While most of Apter’s work experience was with the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now the WWE), there are also stories about wrestlers and personnel from other associations.  As a kid, I followed the American Wrestling Association and reading about names like Vern Gagne and Nick Bockwinkle brought a smile to my face.  This is sure to be the effect on other long-time fans as well.

Apter does include bits and pieces of his personal life, including a touching story about his parents. The vast majority of the book, however, is about his interaction with people in the wrestling business, whether for work or pleasure. No matter who Apter is talking about, the reader will be entertained and informed. An excellent book on the form of entertainment we know as professional wrestling.

I wish to thank ECW Press for providing an advance review copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
This was a very fast read, as it took me less than two hours. The format of shorter stories, along with plenty of pictures, made this book very easy to read. The light-hearted mood of the book helps in this area as well

Do I recommend? 
Any reader who has interest in professional wrestling, from the 1970’s to the present, will be entertained by Apter’s stories of his long career covering the sport.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links: (for pre-order at time of posting)


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/is-wrestling-fixed-i-didnt-know-it-was-broken-bill-apter/1121176832?ean=9781770411548

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review of "The Last Hero" - audio book

Sometimes it can be nice to have a long commute - it allows the chance to listen to some decent audio books.  They may take longer to complete, but at the end of the book a listener should have the same reactions and feelings that a reader will have.  That was the case for me when I finished this one on Henry Aaron.  Here it my review of "The Last Hero." 


Title/Author:
“The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron” by Howard Bryant, narrated by Dominic Hoffman

Tags:
Baseball, history, biography, Braves, audio book

Publish date:
May 11, 2010

Length:
640 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The story of Henry Aaron is one that many baseball fans might be surprised to hear.  Not because they have not heard of him, of course, but because of how much they may not know. From his beginnings in Mobile, Alabama to his days playing for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues to his historic major league career with the Braves, this book by Howard Bryant covers it all. Add in some good narration by Dominic Hoffman and social commentary at the time of Aaron’s playing days and it makes for an interesting audio book.

Whatever one may think about the use of performance enhancing drugs and the legitimacy of records set by players who allegedly used them, a reader will believe that Aaron handled the situation with Barry Bonds passing him for the all-time home run leader with dignity and fairness. Through Bryant’s description of that time, it is shown that Aaron was both congratulatory to Bonds, though not overly so because of the controversy. It is also clear that Aaron did not want to be a big part of the celebration, as he only agreed to provide a video that was a somewhat tepid congratulatory message to Bonds.  This is an example of how Aaron’s personality and manner was captured throughout the book.

While the book is primarily about Aaron and his plight as a black man in both the southern United States and what he went through as he approached Babe Ruth’s record, it did at times feel a bit preachy about race relations at that troubled time. While that cannot be ignored if one is going to write about Aaron, some parts of the book felt more like the author’s take on social issues instead of how they affected Aaron and his fellow black baseball players. They were interesting, but for this listener, those segments took something away from the big story.

The narration by Hoffman was very good as he never sounded to be too emotional during these passages. The evenness of his tone was soothing to hear. This came across like a conversation between the men on the porch, just passing the time talking about baseball and how it might affect other issues.  Which is what the book was trying to do – sometimes it tried too hard – but overall it was a nice story on the man who many believe is still the home run king of baseball.

Pace of the book:
For an audio book, this felt leisurely. I would be listening, becoming immersed into the scene or story and then it felt like the next disc would have to be popped into the player. That isn’t because of the speed of the narrator or the story, but by the descriptions. It felt like that porch conversation or like listening to a ball game on the radio.

Do I recommend? 
Any reader who likes baseball biographies will enjoy this book. Because Henry Aaron is one who is admired by many and also

Book Format Read:
Audio book

Buying links:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/last-hero-howard-bryant/1100267540?ean=9780307279927

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review of "Never Foul a Jump Shooter"

When I received an email from the publisher of this book asking if I would review it, I was intrigued by the title.  Sounds like advice every basketball player at every level hears from his or her coach.  When I started to read the book, I realized what this was going to be like - and was entertained on every page.  Here is my review of "Never Foul a Jump Shooter."




Title/Author:
“Never Foul a Jump Shooter: A Guide to Basketball Lingo, Lessons and Laughs” by Daniel Yost

Tags:
Basketball, humor, definitions

Publish date:
March 10, 2015

Length:
164 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
All sports have their own language and lingo.  This book on basketball lingo by Daniel Yost gives readers some insight into most of the words and terms used in the game.  They range from those that are easy figure out (Charging) to clever (Charity Stripe) to puzzling (Drop a Dime) to clever (Posterized). This is NOT just a dictionary or glossary – there are plenty of opinions given and a lot of funny moments.

There are two characteristics of the book that Yost illustrates in the narrative about most of the terms. One is how this term can relate to a situation in everyday life. Now these “situations” may range from time on the job to relationships to just day-to-day life.  The explanation of how this term may relate to the average person is a nice touch instead of just explaining what the term means on a basketball court.

The other characteristic of the book that the reader will appreciate is the humor. No matter the term, whether Yost likes the term or not, there are many times the reader will chuckle or laugh out loud while reading about it. A very good example is the humor in his rant about the term “drop a dime.” In basketball, the phrase is used for the action of a player who is giving an assist to another player who scores. Yost feels the person who invented the term should be “strung up” and he also has some “news for ‘youse guys.’ An assist is a lot more valuable than a dime.”  Nice to see read about how he really feels.

Overall, I gave this book a rating of four stars as after a while, it did feel to have a bit of repetition.  But the humor was so funny, it kept me going to the end, and the basketball knowledge of the author shines through with his explanation of each term.  Basketball fans of any level of the game will enjoy this funny and entertaining book explaining many of the colorful terms used in the game today. 

I wish to thank Incorgnito Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
This was a very quick read as it is in the format of a dictionary or glossary with each term defined listed alphabetically.  However, as noted in the review, these are NOT dictionary-type definitions and as a result it can be read like a story.

Do I recommend? 
Given the lingo and the use of many basketball references, non-fans may have a hard time with this book, but basketball fans will enjoy it very much.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying links:



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review of "Tommy Lasorda: My Way"

My wife and I were in Cooperstown this year for the induction ceremonies and one of the more memorable events of the weekend was a book signing at the Hall by Tommy Lasorda. He was signing copies of the book "Tommy Lasorda: My Way" and he looked and sounded great.  I did get to chat with him briefly while he signed the book and I enjoyed the experience.  Reading the book was also a fun experience.  Here is my review of "Tommy Lasorda: My Way"


Title/Author:
“Tommy Lasorda: My Way” by Colin Gunderson

Tags:
Baseball, history, biography, Dodgers

Publish date:
April 1, 2015

Length:
257 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Throughout his baseball career, both as a player and later as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda was known as much for his positive spin on anything related to the team or his players.  These traits come to life in this book written by Colin Gunderson.  The author worked as the press coordinator for Lasorda for 12 years, so he knows many of these stories first hand.

The writing shows the in-depth knowledge as each topic covered, from loyalty to competitiveness to determination is rich with details from many players who Lasorda coached or had as a teammate. Of course, his Dodger loyalty is discussed in depth as he bleeds Dodger blue. Lasorda provides many quotes as well, and they add even more substance to traits that are shown to be important to him.  Even for those readers who may not be fans of Lasorda or the Dodgers will enjoy the humor and genuine love Lasorda shares about many of these topics and people.

Those who are looking for something new or some previously unknown facts or characteristics will be disappointed as the public persona of Lasorda is proven to be completely true about the man. While at times it seems to be a bit excessive, both in Lasorda’s praise and the writing that makes him seem just too good, it at least is an accurate reflection. It is also very entertaining as the reader will often be laughing and smiling at some of the stories.

My favorite topic in the book was the chapter on patriotism. While this was a point he has made public before, many people may not realize that Lasorda’s favorite baseball moment did not involve the Dodgers. He has said that his proudest accomplishment in his career was when he was the manager of the United States Olympic baseball team in 2000 when the US won its only gold medal in baseball.  He talks about that tournament with the excitement of a kid and it was the chapter that I felt was filled with the best baseball writing, especially when describing the game in the medal round when Doug Mientkiewicz hit the game winning home run against South Korea. 

This is an entertaining, fun-to-read book on one of the most recognizable figures in recent baseball history.  Readers will never be bored while reading this and should enjoy each story about this legendary manager.

Pace of the book:
This is a very quick read as I completed it in under two hours of total reading time.  The stories come fast and furious and are never dull.

Do I recommend? 
Most baseball fans will enjoy reading this book, but it is especially recommended for Dodger fans or fans of Lasorda as this will bring back many good memories.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying links:


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Short review of "Alburquerque"

This book normally would not be one I would review for this blog.  While the main character is a boxer and there is a boxing match in the story, the book does not focus on the sport of boxing. However, this story about a boxer trying to find his identity was a very captivating story. It held my attention so well I read the book instead of watching baseball! Therefore, I want to share this review with everyone. This book was originally published in 1992 and has been re-released in electronic format this summer.  While I am writing a shorter review than usual and not following the same format, nonetheless it was an excellent read.  

Title/Author:
"Alburquerque" by Rudolfo Anaya

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
This story of Abran Gonzalez, a former Gold Gloves boxer, who learns that he was adopted and meets his birth mother on her death bed is a fascinating account of his journey to find his true identity.  Not only does Abran see his mother before she passes away, he becomes involved in a tangled web of politics and urban development that ensnares many people, including his girlfriend, his best friend and running partner and family members from both his biological and adopted families.

The story itself, while complicated and involving many characters, was one that will captivate the reader with the vivid description of New Mexican culture and landscape as well as the many roads Abran will take in order to find out his biological father and his true calling.  He makes a deal with a local developer and politician to find this answer and even has to climb back in the boxing ring one last time to fulfill his part of the deal.  However, this book is not about that fight or boxing - it is a book about the power of family in this culture and what people will do for love and for family.

The characters are well developed and likable, especially Abran, his girlfriend Lucinda and his adopted mother Sara.  Each character, these and others, are well described and their roles well defined through Anaya's writing.  The reader will be caught up in the many different emotions and paths Abran endures before he finally realizes what kind of man he will become. This book is one that a reader who enjoys a tale of family and self-realization will enjoy immensely.


I wish to thank Open Road Media for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review of "Boy On Ice"

As a fan of the Minnesota Wild, I was familiar with Derek Boogaard and the popularity he achieved in Minnesota while serving as the team's enforcer for a number of seasons.  When he left to sign with the New York Rangers, I also thought I would get to see more of him as I live in the Rangers' market.  But sadly, that never happened with his untimely death in 2011.  So naturally I was interested in reading this book and I am certainly glad that I did.  Here is my review of "Boy On Ice."

Title/Author:
“Boy On Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard” by John Branch

Tags:
Ice hockey, biography, professional, Wild, Rangers, death

Publish date:
September 29, 2014

Length:
385 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
When Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment in May 2011, I was shocked.  He was a player that I followed as a fan of the Minnesota Wild, his first team, and then as a member of the New York Rangers, since I live in Rangers territory.  My first thought was he was another athlete who succumbed to the good life and lived it too well.  But then when the true cause of his death was disclosed, it was an even bigger shock.

Given that premise, I was very interested to read this book by John Branch to see what really happened to Boogaard and what type of life he led. This was not the typical biography of an athlete, something that Branch states in the book. While it does cover the entire spectrum of Boogaard’s life, it reads much like a novel in which you root for the main character but you just have this sinking feeling that in the end, something bad is going to happen.

Two topics that are hot items in sports and the news today, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and addiction to pain killers, are discussed at length in the book, as it was shown that Boogaard was suffering from both. Branch did extensive research to illustrate how much Boogaard was willing to spend and to travel in order to obtain prescriptions for pain killers and sleeping pills. It made for fascinating reading and makes the reader both feel sorry for Boogaard and also angry in why he was not following his rehabilitation treatment and listening to those close to him about this problem.

The book also explores the life of a hockey enforcer and what these players go through in order to catch on with professional teams. Branch portrays not only Boogaard, but all players who are this type of specialist, as insecure and always wondering if that next fight that is lost or that next shift that is missed will cost the player his job. There are many facets to this type of player such as the constant hand injuries and the secret codes they speak to one another about when to fight. I also enjoyed reading about life in the Canadian junior leagues, a path many young Canadian players take to achieve their dream of playing in the NHL. If the reader is unfamiliar with these leagues and the lifestyle of these players, the book does a wonderful job of portraying this life.

Hockey fans should read this book for not only a description of the ups and downs of Derek’s life but also for the insight into the life of the enforcer. There will be many surprises to be found if one believes that person is merely the tough guy for his team.  An excellent book that I enjoyed very much.

Pace of the book:
It was a fast paced book that will grab the reader’s attention right away and will not let go. Each segment of Boogaard’s life was covered by excellent writing.

Do I recommend? 
Not only will hockey fans enjoy this book, but anyone who is interested in the effects of CTE or the addiction to pain killers will want to read this book as well.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying links:



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review of "Twelve Yards"

When I saw this book was being offered on NetGalley for review, I was intrigued - how can an entire book talk about penalty kicks?  Well, this book did so and was a fun read as well.  Here is my review of "Twelve Yards."


Title/Author:
“Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick” by Ben Lyttleton

Tags:
Football (English), soccer, World Cup, psychology

Publish date:
July 28, 2015

Length:
345 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
This sentence in the description of this book is a good description of the penalty kick: “The penalty kick is soccer in its purest form: kicker, goalkeeper, ball.” The distance between the ball and the goal is twelve yards. Since the goal is quite large and the goalkeeper cannot move until the kicker makes his move, it sounds easy for the kicker, right?  This book by Ben Lyttleton illustrates that is not necessarily true all the time.

Like the title says, the psychology of the penalty kick is covered in the book.  For this, Lyttleton uses a variety of sources – studies that have been devoted to measuring success on penalty kicks, interviews with players, coaches and others who have been involved in soccer and stories from famous games that were decided by penalty kick shootouts, including World Cup games, championship matches in various leagues and even some friendly matches as well.

There is no one consensus on the mindset of the kicker and the goalkeeper, and Lyttleton does a good job of presenting all sides to this argument.  From an expert who states a penalty kick is “90% psychological and 10% physical” to famous players who have missed penalty kicks saying that it wasn’t mental at all, just misplayed, the reader will be peppered with stories, interviews, game recaps and studies all devoted to that one play that is full of drama – the penalty kick.
I wish to thank Penguin Books for providing a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



No matter what topic a reader can think of about a penalty kick, this book has it covered.  Does the kicker or the goalkeeper truly have the advantage?  It is addressed.  If the reader wants to read about famous players and their experiences in this situation, many are covered – Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, and Zinedine Zidane are just a few of the sport’s legends who are mentioned in this book. How about famous shootouts, such as those that won World Cup tournaments in 1994 (men), 1999 (women) and 2006 (men)? Those are in the book as well.

This makes the book a great source of information on this simple but pressure-packed play.  Overall, it is a good and entertaining read.  Some of the statistical sections and reports on studies about the psychology were a tougher read, but overall this was an entertaining and fun book that soccer fans everywhere and of any level should enjoy.


Pace of the book:
It was a very smooth read during most of the book when the author was sharing stories, interviews and recaps but did seem to drag during the sections with statistical analysis, as I skimmed most of those sections after reading the theory behind the statistics.

Do I recommend? 
No matter what level of soccer fan a reader may be, there is something for everyone in this book. Many of the stories are entertaining, and one does not have to know about the history of the players, referees or teams involved to enjoy reading these stories about those twelve yards between the kicker and the goalkeeper when a penalty kick is called.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links: