Friday, June 22, 2018

Review of "Searching for Terry Punchout"

It isn't often I can find a fictional hockey story aside from romances, so this short debut novel by Tyler Hellard was enticing to me.  It is one I recommend for everyone who likes hockey books, fictional or not, as it is a great quick read.  Here is my review of "Searching for Terry Punchout".




Title/Author:
Searching for Terry Punchout” by Tyler Hellard

Tags:
Ice hockey, fiction

Publish date:
October 15, 2018

Length:
160 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
When a story contains hockey, one last chance for redemption, a trip back home and some touching family moments, it is a story that is worth reading.  All of these and more are contained in Tyler Hellard’s excellent debut novel.

Adam Macallister returns from Calgary to his small home town in Nova Scotia to write a story for Sports Illustrated about the player who holds the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a career, nicknamed Terry Punchout.  His real name is Terry Macallister – Adam’s father. Between the time his career ended and the unplanned reunion with his estranged son, Terry has returned to his hometown and lived at the local rink where he works driving the Zamboni and on general maintenance of the rink.

On the trip back, Adam not only interviews his father and has many memories dredged up, both good and bad.  The reader will easily connect with Adam, not only for family matters but also when he reunites with his high school friends, a girl for whom he pined and now has a son, and his brief attempt at playing hockey again.  Terry is also a complex character and the reader will get into the mind of a hockey player who used to be considered an enforcer, even if fictional.

The story moves along nicely without going to fast or dragging along, making the reading very easy. Adam shares some interesting philosophical tidbits of life as well as comic lines.  One example of the funny side of the book is when Adam describes the phrase “out west”: “Out west is the very specific term people on the east coast apply to everything between Toronto and Japan.”  For an example of his philosophical views, try this one: “…I had to work out my own world view. What I came up with was this: everything in life is pass or fail.”


The story has a very interesting conclusion as well that will leave the reader satisfied and yet with questions at the same time.  It is a story that is recommended for readers who enjoy hockey fiction, stories of family and of memories.  It was certainly one of the best hockey fiction books I have read.

I wish to thank Invisible Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
 

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/Searching-Terry-Punchout-Tyler-Hellard-ebook/dp/B07CH4KHTK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Blog Tour - review of "Sarah Donohue: The World is Never Enough


Having practically no knowledge of powerboat racing, when I was asked if I would participate in a blog tour to promote the memior of this racer, I immediately said yes.  I am so glad I did as I learned about the sport while reading the stories of this amazing woman.  Here is by review of "Sarah Donohue: The World is Never Enough." 



Title/Author:
Sarah Donohue: The World is Never Enough” by Sarah Donohue

Tags:
Powerboat racing, memoir

Publish date:
June 12, 2018

Length:
234 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Sarah Donahue has had a pretty adventurous life – from modeling to performing at Moulin Rouge (don’t you dare say it is just a movie, she warns) to being a stuntwoman in James Bond films to a champion powerboat racer, you could say she is a woman who seems to have it all.  She shares the story of her life in this entertaining and quick reading memoir.

Actually, “adventurous” may be too mild a word.  Between starting the book off with a description from one of the movies in which she performed stunts on a boat to the crash in a race that left her dead for “four minutes”, her life has been filled with many events, twists, friends and teammates. The best twist of all just may be how she got he start in racing – she was a beer-selling model who sold a beer to Charles Brunett III, a Texas billionaire.  He wanted her to be part of the first all-female powerboat racing team, and given her lust for new adventures, she went for it.

What I really liked about the book in addition to Sarah’s conversational style of writing was the introduction to the sport of powerboat racing.  Readers like me who have never seen a race or know anything about the sport will appreciate her description of what it is like in the boat, in the mechanic shop and the camaraderie of the teams. Something that struck me as special was the help provided to Sarah and her teammates when she first started the sport by competing teams. It was also competitors that saved her life during the accident. This kind of sportsmanship is not commonly found in other sports, especially helping opponents, and set the tone for me as a reader that this is one special lady participating in a special sport.  This book is one that is recommended for readers who enjoy entertaining and heartwarming biographies.

I wish to thank Authoright for asking me to part of the blog tour and providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying Links:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review of "American Pharoah"

It was only appropriate that I listen to this audiobook this past week during the buildup to the Belmont Stakes when Justify became the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown. This book on the 12th one, American Pharoah, was a wonderful book on a wonderful horse. Here is my review. 



Title/Author:
American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise” by Joe Drape, narrated by Aaron Abano

Tags:
Horse Racing, championship, audio book

Publish date:
April 26, 2016

Length:
Listening time: 8 hours 36 minutes

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
When American Pharoah became the 12th winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown – winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year – he became a favorite of seasoned and casual racing fans alike. By becoming the first Triple Crown horse in 37 years, he was also a media darling.  His story, along with that of his owner, trainer and jockey, is the story of this excellent book by sportswriter Joe Drape, who covers horse racing for the New York Times.

Like most books on a horse, the story centers not only around the animal, but also on important humans in the horse’s life.  In the case of American Pharoah, this included owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza.  All three, as well as many others, sing the praises of the horse for not only his racing ability but for his strength and beauty as well. There are even some stories about others who had an important role in the upkeep and training of American Pharoah. One such person is Frances Relihan, who was the farm manager where the horse spent the first year of his life. It was a touching moment when Zayat invited Frances and her husband to attend the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

The reader will even learn about American Pharoah’s personality.  He loves it when the cameras are rolling on him, he has pride in his gallop and he will even mingle with fans. Often in the book, Drape will talk about him eating carrots out of the hands of fans, especially children. This was a nice touch for the book as it made the reader feel like he or she is part of the horse’s story.

The book talks at length about the horse racing industry. No matter how much the reader knows about the sport, it is a good bet that reader will learn something new. Starting with the breeding ritual that created American Pharoah and continuing through his career, the reader learns much about the breeding and training aspects of the industry. This isn’t all rosy, however, as Drape also talks about the doping that occurs as well and some of the more tragic consequences.  Instead of criticizing the sport for this, Drape presents it in a manner that states it is simply a part of the industry and that not all horses, including American Pharoah, are part of this culture.

The narration by Arron Abono was very good as well, even sounding as excited as the race track announcers when reciting their stretch calls during each of the Triple Crown races. The book is recommended for anyone with an interest in the sport or learning more about this legendary horse.


Book Format Read:
Audiobook

Buying Links:




Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review of "I'm Keith Hernandez"

While I enjoy reading sports memoirs, it isn't often that I find one that truly feels like the athlete writing it is talking to the reader.  This one does - and it is one of the better sports memoirs I have read.  Here is my review of "I'm Keith Hernandez"




Title/Author:
I’m Keith Hernandez” by Keith Hernandez

Tags:
Baseball, professional, memoir, Cardinals, Mets

Publish date:
May 15, 2018

Length:
352 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Current fans of the New York Mets know that Keith Hernandez is not your typical baseball broadcaster.  He will speak his mind and won’t care if it is the popular opinion of the day or will be favorable to the team for which he announces. This memoir which covers his days as a minor league player up to the early 1980’s when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals is written in this same manner.

Just the book format itself has Hernandez traits – he states in the beginning that this will not be the typical memoir, that he won’t be talking about his childhood or his time playing for the Mets (he was part of the popular Mets team that won the World Series in 1986) nor does it follow any other tried and true format.  With some reminiscing about teaching sessions from his father and baseball games with his brother Gary, Hernandez talks about his time in the minor leagues and the initial struggles inside his head when he was a young player with the Cardinals in the mid and late 1970’s. I found his inner struggles with his confidence and his mechanics very intriguing.  Watching him play and hearing him in the broadcast booth, confidence is something that I never believed he lacked.

In between chapters covering his playing days in the minors and with the Cardinals, Hernandez writes about his broadcasting career with the Mets, praising his partner Gary Cohen and the crew members who make the telecasts happen. It is in these chapters that the reader will really get to know Hernandez as he talks about the current state of the game and the expanded use of sabermetrics. Those readers who favor the continuing advancement of the use of these advanced statistics will be disappointed as Hernandez, in his outspoken style, criticizes this “growing obsession with sabermetrics.”  He talks about the current importance of an uppercut swing to avoid ground balls, how some believe that stolen bases are to be “avoided” and the increasing dependency of offenses on the home run. Those are just a few of the current trends in baseball in which Hernandez expresses his disdain.

Lastly, while he doesn’t talk about his personal life outside of the game very much in this book, he does touch on sensitive topics such as the strained relationship with his father, his two failed marriages and his drug use. He doesn’t go too far into the last topic, mainly talking about using marijuana and amphetamines. He was known to use cocaine as well, and he shares the time he started using, but doesn’t dwell too much on that topic aside from this. That is mainly because the timeline of his playing days in the book ends in 1980 (one year after he was named co-MVP of the National League with Willie Stargell) and his heavier use of the drug came later.

While this won’t cover all aspects of Hernandez’s career that many would like to read about, such as his playing days with the Mets, it is nonetheless an outstanding look at his playing days in St. Louis and his thoughts on the current state of baseball.  Since I hear him broadcasting Mets games often, I was “listening” to him while reading this and could see him sitting down and telling these stories. This memoir felt truly genuine and was a reflection of the subject. I would recommend this for any baseball fan interested in Hernandez and his take on the sport.

I wish to thank Little, Brown and Company for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/im-keith-hernandez-keith-hernandez/1124564278?ean=9780316395731#/

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review of "The Rider"

While shopping for audiobooks to enjoy while recently making a long drive to participate in a bowling tourney, I found this gem of a fictional bicycle race.  I didn't realize the story was 40 years old, but while listening it still seemed fresh.  Here is my review of "The Rider"



 
Title/Author:
The Rider” by Tim Krabbe, narrated by Mark Meadows

Tags:
Cycling, fiction, audiobook

Publish date:
June 12, 2003 (originally published 1978)

Length:
152 pages

Rating: 
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)

Review:

The best way to describe this fictional story of a cyclist is that it tells what can go on in a cyclist’s head while he is racing down the mountain, trying to break away from the pack, or working on being the best sprinter he can be. The author, Tim Krabbe, took up the sport at age 30 as an amateur, giving credibility to the context of the protagonist’s thoughts and actions as he attempts to win a grueling tour race.

The story takes place in 1977 as the rider is competing in a race in southern France.  Throughout the race, broken down into stretches of a few kilometers at a time, the reader will learn about the intricacies of cycling, the various stages of a race and the wandering of a cyclist’s mind as he describes everything from his past to women he meets along the course. That made the story a bit hard for me to follow until the next segment where he let the reader know how far along the course he had progressed.

While the story was enjoyable, the narration was even better as Mark Meadows read the translated text (the book was originally published in Dutch, Krabbe’s native language) in an easy to understand manner.  His voice came across as soothing during the down time and the competitive nature of the main character was also evident when he was sprinting to attempt to win a stage.

Overall, this is a book recommended for cyclists and hard-core fans as they will best understand the nuances of the sport.  It is still an enjoyable story for people who have an interest even if they don’t follow the sport closely. 

Book Format Read:
Audiobook

Buying Links:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review of "Chill Factor"

When I received a request from the author to review this book, I was happy to do so as I remembered the Columbus Chill. I had seen them play when I lived in Virginia as I saw many Hampton Roads Admirals games in Norfolk, and the Chill was one of the other teams in that league.  It was fun to read about minor league hockey and the team that led the way to the creation of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Here is my review of "Chill Factor"


Title/Author:
Chill Factor: How a Minor League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever ” by David Paitson and Craig Merz

Tags:
Ice Hockey, professional, minor leagues, management

Publish date:
March 3, 2015

Length:
344 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The Columbus Chill was a minor league hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League from 1991 to 1999. They were noted for unusual promotions, advertising and a rabid fan base. Many give credit to the success of the Chill for swaying the NHL to award an expansion team to Columbus, the current Blue Jackets. The history of the Chill is captured in this very entertaining book written by David Paitson. He was the Chill’s President and General Manager from 1991 to 1998.

The book covers the unsuccessful history of minor league hockey in Columbus before the Chill. Due to the fact that three previous attempts to bring professional hockey to the city in which Ohio State football was the king of sports, not many gave the Chill much of a chance to succeed.  However, that was not the case as the team waged an unusual marketing campaign in order to grab the attention of Columbus sports fans.  They wanted to reach the younger demographic of fans and edgy advertising slogans were the chosen method.

Here are two examples of these advertisements: “Assault someone, you get five years. In hockey, five minutes.  Is this a great game or what?”  “The late vulture gathers no roadkill.”  These ads were making some people uneasy, but the team was doing what it set out to do – make people pay attention and want to see a Chill game. The team was a success at the gate, setting an attendance record for minor league hockey with 83 consecutive sellouts. For its early years, the Chill had some success on the ice under coach Terry Ruskowski and kept it up for the life of the franchise which ended in 1999 to make room for the Blue Jackets, who started play in 2000.  

This isn’t to say that everything was easy for Paitson and the Chill. Some of his best stories are about when the team had to scramble for dates at the old Ohio Expo Center Coliseum.  There were issues about booking, about the quality of the ice and so many other problems that it was at times a miracle that the team could book home games.  But the team and its management team was determined to continue play and the fans rewarded them by showing up at the games. 

Hockey fans, especially fans of the Blue Jackets and those who followed the Chill will love these stories about the team that overcame long odds and proved to the world that Columbus was indeed a hockey city. This isn’t the best written or flowing hockey book I have read, and far from the worst, but it was certainly entertaining.

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

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying Links:




Friday, May 25, 2018

Review of "Play On"

I often marvel at athletes, no matter the sport, who perform at championship or elite levels when older than most of his or her peers. Several examples are cited in this book, as well as the science and the training behind this accomplishment. Here is my review of "Play On."



Title/Author:
Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age” by Jeff Bercovici
Tags:
Sports, training, records

Publish date:
May 1, 2018

Length:
288 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Sports fans will marvel when an athlete can still perform at an elite level at an age where many of his or her contemporaries have either retired from the sport or are performing at a lower level.  Examples of these types of athletes abound in every sport, from football (Tom Brady) to hockey (Chris Chelios, Jaromir Jagr) to soccer (Carli Lloyd).  Reasons and explanations are varied, but most of them are covered in this book by Jeff Bercovici.  

The book starts off with the author’s experiences and at times, it can almost read like a kinesiology text book with explanations of what the athlete’s body is experiencing while competing or training.  Later the book talks about various types of training, how older athletes will “train smarter, not harder” and other breakthroughs that keep athletes going at peak performance.  Efficiency is an important topic in the book as no matter how much or exactly what types of exercises and drills are performed, nearly every example provided emphasizes efficiency

Just about every type of sport is covered in the book, whether it is a trainer from that sport or elite athletes.  Soccer, tennis (Roger Federer), basketball (the author marvels at the low injury rates of the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns), running (Meb Keflezighi) and football (many stars) are just a few of the sports highlighted by Bercovici for their training and fitness.

Athletes have their own chicken-and-egg problem stated in the book: “Do they stay healthy because they are so fit, or are they so fit because they stay healthy enough to train so hard?”  While the question isn’t really answered, the stories shared in attempting to answer make for very good reading, although a very good working knowledge of kinesiology is helpful.

I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links: