Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Review of "Formula One: The Rivals"

One of the most memorable sporting events I have attended in my life was the 1990 Monaco Grand Prix in which Aryton Senna and Alain Prost had an exciting rivalry and were the best drivers at that race won by Senna.  When I saw there was an upcoming book on F1 rivals that included these two, I had to check it out.  Any F1 fan will enjoy this - here is my review of "Formula One: The Rivals"


“Formula One: The Rivals: F1’s Greatest Duels” by Tony Didgins


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: While all forms of auto racing will have rivalries between certain drivers, the driver rivalries in Formula 1 racing usually produce the sport’s fiercest. From the sport’s inception during the 1950’s to today, these rivals have produced some of the most exciting racing that the sport has seen.  They are captured in this book by racing journalist Tony Didgins.

It should be noted that this book is one that should not only be read by race fans, but also praised for its illustrations.  The photos of the cars and drivers, from Juan Manuel Fangio (winner of five F1 championships in seven years) to the current champion Lewis Hamilton, are even better than the writing of Didgins, which is brief in volume but rich in history.

Didgins covers the best rivalries in the sport in chronological order and some drivers are portrayed multiple times, such as Nikki Lauda, who was a rival of James Hunt and later Alain Prost.  Prost himself later was part of the most exciting rivalry in the sport’s history as he and Ayrton Senna had some of the best races, especially in the early 1990’s before Senna’s death. Micheal Schumacher and Hamilton are also mentioned in two different rivalries which is appropriate considering that these two are often mentioned in discussions on who is the greatest F1 driver of all time.

The actual chapters on each rivalry doesn’t give capsules of each driver’s life – instead it talks about their accomplishments and what they did at the time of the rivalry.  For example, Lauda’s two chapters just describe first his rise to success then his races against Hunt in that chapter, then picks up when he returns to racing after a three-year absence and develops a strong rivalry with Prost.  Same type of description for Prost and his duels with Lauda and Senna.

If nothing else, this book deserves high praise for the great photography throughout.  No matter one’s interest in F1 racing, from casual to fanatical, there is something for everyone in this book.

I wish to thank Ivy Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are strictly mine.

Link: Formula One: The Rivals: F1's Greatest Duels (Volume 4) (Formula One, 4): Dodgins, Tony, Webber, Mark: 9780711280717: Amazon.com: Books


Sunday, February 26, 2023

Review of "Wake Up With Purpose!"

Even those who are not basketball fans may remember the story of Sister Jean - the team chaplain for the Loyola Chicago basketball team that made a Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2018 and Sister Jean became a bigger story than the team.  She won many hearts and will win even more after publishing her memoir - a great book.  Here is my review of "Wake Up With Purpose!"


Title/Author: “Wake Up With Purpose! What I’ve Learned in my First Hundred Yearsby Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt with Seth Davis

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: In the 2018 NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, the Ramblers from Loyola University of Chicago made a run all the way to the Final Four and their success brought an even bigger story than their victories on the court.  The team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, affectionately known as “Sister Jean”, won the hearts of viewers of the tourney, whether they were cheering for the Ramblers or not.  It was amazing to see how a gentle 98 year old sister became a media sensation and now, five years later, she is sharing the story of her life.

While it was basketball that made her known around the world, and she does talk about sports throughout the book, there is much more to her story than her time with the Loyola basketball team.  From her childhood in California to her decision to attend the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) in Dubuque, Iowa, she talks with fond memories of those times and the family and friends she shared them with.  It was in her time at the BVM when she confirmed that her belief that she should embark on a life of service to God was the correct one, and she lived her life with that purpose.

She talks much about her time as an educator, which encompassed all levels of schooling, from elementary school to college. Of course, the school at which she has had the longest tenure was Loyola, including her time as a teacher and administrator at Mundelein College, an all-women’s school that merged with Loyola due to declining enrollment.

That change, one of the more major ones in her life, was one that she handled just like the others: she accepted it and enthusiastically embarked on whatever changes she had to face.  She always believed that God had a purpose for her and if took this change, then she was going to do it. Sister Jean always shares her humor and her wisdom through each phase of her career and life and also her viewpoints on some social aspects such as abortion, racism and women’s rights.  They don’t fit one particular political spectrum, which really fits her since she does not make overt political statements.

Of course, her time with the men’s basketball team, especially the 2018 team, is discussed by her in great detail and with great joy, even when the team wasn’t too successful. There’s enough of this discussion that basketball fans will enjoy the book, but it is so much more than a sports book – it’s a great memoir of a wonderful lady with joy in her heart and much love to share with all.

I wish to thank Harper Select for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are strictly mine.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Wake-Up-Purpose-Learned-Hundred/dp/1400333512/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Review of "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised"

Been on a basketball memoir kick lately as I have been reviewing more of that sub-genre and this is another good one under that category, this time written by Carmelo Anthony. 


“Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope” by Carmelo Anthony


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: Carmelo Anthony’s story of a youth made very tough with poverty, racism, drugs, murders and overall bleak life in the projects of a large city is not very different from that of millions of other young Black men.  What makes his story and this book a little different is that he writes about it with a very optimistic viewpoint.

Yes, one might say he would do that now because is a multi-millionaire with an NBA pedigree so he made good while many others didn’t.  That is not the impression that he leaves when reading this book because if he wasn’t happy with his situation in his youth, he certainly knew how to make the most of his situation.  Whether it was in the Red Hook section of New York or in East Baltimore, Anthony relied on family and friends to help keep him on track to excel in basketball.  

These did not always work out as some of his relatives ended up in prison or even murdered, but he always saw his mother as the rock of the family and always made sure that her family was fed and also provided a hand to those who needed it.  Anthony’s father was not in the picture, but that was because he died when Carmelo was two.  Therefore, there is very little written about him by Anthony, but he does discuss his relationship with his stepfather, which was generously described as uneven.

As for what made Anthony a household name, basketball, that had just as many twists and turns as his personal life.  He wanted to get into a high school where college recruiters would notice him, so he first enrolled in a Catholic school well-known for its basketball team.  When that wasn’t working out as he hoped, he ended up at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, where many future NBA stars played.  When he committed early in the process to Syracuse University, he was still determined to be the best player he could be.  He rewarded the Orange by being a key part of their national championship team in 2003, and it is on the following draft day where the book ends. 

Through it all, I was impressed with the positive energy Anthony brings to the reader, even when the topic is not pleasant such as racism or mental illness.  That is the best aspect of this book that fans of Anthony will want to read, even if it does not cover any part of his professional career.  

Link: Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope: Anthony, Carmelo, Watkins, D.: 9781982160593: Amazon.com: Books


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Review of "Ringmaster"

As those who read this regularly know, I don't post reviews of books that I do not enjoy and instead provide feedback directly to the author and/or publisher.  Lately, I had little luck in finding a book I really enjoyed, but I finally found one with this excellent biography on Vince McMahon.  Here is my review of "Ringmaster." 



“Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America” by Abraham Riesman


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Professional wrestling grew from a popular but regional entertainment option to a world-wide entertainment spectacle under the leadership of Vince McMahon. There has been much written about him, his enterprise that currently uses the moniker WWE and many of the wrestlers that were employed by McMahon.  This book on McMahon by Abraham Riesman is most complete account of the rise of WWE and also the life of McMahon.

The title of the book is the only part of the book that was disappointing to me. From that title, it sounds like a reader might expect more about McMahon and his wife Linda’s involvement in American politics – everything from his friendship and connections with former President Donald Trump to Linda’s runs for the U.S. Senate under the Republican Party representing Connecticut.  While Riesman does touch on those topics at brief moments through the book and a bit more detail in the epilogue, that isn’t the main focus of the book.

Instead, that focus is on Vince McMahon’s life, how he became interested in the business of wrestling and how he gained control of the now-WWE from his father.  While the elder Vince did not play much of a role in raising Vince Jr. his influence was shown in how the company was thereafter run.  Riesman does a fine job of portraying McMahon fairly, showing all sides of his complex character.

That includes his dealings with wrestlers, whom he names for both real and stage names.  It doesn’t matter whether one’s favorite wrestler during their biggest stage of popularity, Riesman discusses how McMahon made handshake deals or promises that were (mostly) broken.  This includes very popular performers like Hulk Hogan (who was actually “stolen”, using Riesman’s words, from a smaller regional wrestling association), Rowdy Roddy Piper, Stone Cold Steve Austin or Andre the Giant.  Women wrestlers like the Fabulous Moolah are included and even McMahon’s family, such as when his daughter Stephanie was part of the storyline.

Riesman also paints a very good picture of the wrestling business, with frequent use of the word “kayfabe” to continually distinguish what was real and what was staged. He talks about the differences in fans who thought there was genuine competition (“marks”) and those who knew it was fake but enjoyed as artform (“smarts”).  This is important to consider when reading about McMahon’s career with the business as he eventually became part of the show as a heel without being an actual wrestler.

Whether it is the many controversies involved in the WWE (the name, steroids, blatant racism and sexism, the alleged rape of a female referee), the actual biography of McMahon or the stories of many wrestlers, any reader with interest in the wrestling industry should pick up this book about the biggest name to ever be involved in the entertainment business of professional wrestling.

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

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Ringmaster-Vince-McMahon-Unmaking-America-ebook/dp/B0B3Y7K6D5/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1677004777&sr=1-1

Friday, February 10, 2023

Review of "Spirit Run"

After reading this book, I was debating whether to post a review here or not since this is not a "running" book per se, and this series of marathons is not a competitive event but instead one to raise awareness.  In the end, I decided to post the review since it is a book that I believe that despite some negativity toward the end, it is a very worthwhile read.  Here is my review of "Spirit Run."  


“Spirit Run: A 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land” by Noe Alvarez


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: Noe Alvarez, the son of working Mexican immigrants, won a full ride college scholarship that he gave up after learning about the Peace and Dignity Journey (PDJ) in one of his classes. This “journey” is a set of running marathons from Canada to Panama. The purpose of the PDJ is to renew cultural connections across North America among indigenous people and lands.  Seeing an opportunity to learn more about his family’s heritage, Alvarez sets out on this journey.

The beginning of both the book, where Alvarez shares his family’s hard work and sacrifice while working in fruit field, is stunning in both his descriptions and the strong feelings he has for his family.  Then when he starts out on the PDJ, it is just as strong to illustrate what he and other newcomers to the journey must endure.  Between animosity from other PDJ participants, unwelcoming hostilities to the runners (especially in his native Mexico) and the physical issues Alvarez suffers during the journey, the beauty of the book decreases as the miles run increases.  He decided to end his participation in Guatemala, falling short of staying with the team to Panama. By the end of the book and his run, just like Alvarez, I was glad it was over.

This doesn’t mean that the book was not worth the time to finish – indeed, even when the main dialogue seems to break down into Alvarez simply venting all his complaints and frustrations, there is still beautiful descriptions of the land and many indigenous customs.  Some of these are even present during the running, such as the carrying of a staff by a runner.  It is items like that that kept me interested despite the poor treatment of Alvarez, at least through his description, by citizens and fell PDJ participants alike.  It certainly will educate the reader on many levels.  It should also be noted that despite the title, Alvarez does not delve deeply into how many indigenous cultures and landowners suffered – instead he describes the culture and his desire to connect with them.

Overall, this was a very good read and one that I am glad that I took the time to finish the book – I just wish the PDJ could have ended on a more positive note.  At least Alvarez was able to return to school and finish his studies.

Link: Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land: Alvarez, Noe: 9781948226462: Amazon.com: Books


Sunday, February 5, 2023

Review of “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball”

 Having just gone through some very cold weather here in the Capital Region of New York State, it was great to read a book about baseball and having “Summer” in the subtitle was a bonus. Oh, and the book was excellent too!  Here is my review of “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball”


“Welcome to the Circus of Baseball” by Ryan McGee


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


There are plenty of books available about life in baseball’s minor leagues - that is, books about players whose time in the minors is described. However, there aren’t as many about others who help to make a minor league team run smoothly. This book by ESPN writer and podcaster Ryan McGee looks back fondly at his one season of being an intern for a minor league team.

In 1993, McGee was fresh out of college looking to land a job with ESPN. Having no success there, he and many others with the same dreams of working in sports went to the Winter Meetings for baseball executives, hoping to lad a job in the game. McGee did so - an intern for the Asheville Tourists, a low-level minor league team in the Sally League that was based in the Carolinas.

What follows is a very good description of the friendships he made (some of which still continue to this day) with not only fellow interns, but also front office staff, workers in various parts of the ballpark such as concessions and grounds keeping and even coaches. The players weren’t included in this as interns were not supposed to spend much time in the clubhouse, but there were ways around this - one of the numerous stories told in the book.

Those stories not only made great reading for their humor and personal touches, but they also gave a great perspective and admiration for those people working at a ballpark. Having worked in concessions for many years at Minnesota Twins games, I found myself relating to many of McGee’s stories of his nights working concessions. I was laughing at his mishap while filling the soft serve ice cream machine and his method of quickly moving beer kegs on “Thirsty Thursday” nights when beers sold for $1. 

Sticking with concessions as an example of how McGee made stories have a wonderful human interest perspective, one of the best stories was when he offered to take the girl who worked the snow cone stand to her prom after she was stood up by the person who originally did so. While not a typical story that would come from working at a ball park, it just shows how much that summer in Asheville meant to McGee.  Also, these types of stories abound in the book, whether he was working concessions, tarp duty (some of the funniest stories come from that) or anything else.

There is a little baseball discussion, especially as that was the summer that Michael Jordan played baseball and he did take a trip to see Jordan play. Jordan was not in the league where the Tourists played, but that didn’t lower the buzz around the ballpark about him. The Tourists had a home game during the other big news item that summer, the O.J. Simpson police chase. Another great story in the book.

No matter the level of interest one has in minor league baseball, this is a book practically anyone who has ever attended, worked at or played in a minor league game will enjoy. It comes highly recommended for any reader.

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

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Circus-Baseball-Perfect-Ballpark/dp/0385548400/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Review of "A Guy Like Me"

As part of a reading challenge, I had to find a hockey memoir.  Not wanting to purchase a new book when I was convinced I could find one on Kindle Unlimited or in a library, I found this one.  Having remembered John Scott from the fan vote to make him an All-Star, I decided on this for that story and wasn't disappointed.  Here is my review of "A Guy Like Me."



“A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut” by John Scott with Brian Cazenevue


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: John Scott’s story of his rise to become an enforcer in the NHL is not unlike those of others who have followed similar paths in order to become players in the highest professional league in North America with less than outstanding skills.  While they are similar, every story has its unique turns and Scott’s is no different.  He tells his tale in this fun and easy-to-read memoir he wrote with Brian Cazenevue.

Start with the most obvious reason that Scott’s story is different.  He went from being a relatively obscure player who bounced around for several teams to becoming not only an All-Star that was voted into the game by fans, but he also won the All-Star game MVP award in 2016.  What makes that even more remarkable was that the fan voting took place while Scott was a member of the Arizona Coyotes, but before the All-Star game, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, who sent him down to their minor league team in the American Hockey League.  So, you had a player going to the All-Star game who was currently playing in the minor leagues.  Which does sound like it qualifies as something different than stories of other hockey tough men.

Scott’s stories about this chapter of his career is certainly the best part of the book, both in the information he shares and the entertainment value of the book.  However, that doesn’t discount the fact that the rest of the book is a solid effort in which Scott never takes himself too seriously, shares the self-doubt that plagued him at each level of hockey and each off-season as he would usually sign one year contracts with each team that paid for his services.  He played for a total of seven NHL teams.  In addition to the Coyotes and Canadiens (he did get called back to the NHL by Montreal), he played for the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks.

The sections about Scott’s personal life, how he met and fell in love with his wife Danielle when both were students as Michigan Tech, and also his college hockey career at Tech when they were one of the struggling teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association also make great reading.  Hockey fans will be the ones who will want to pick up this book if they have not already done so, as it’s one that has a lot of hockey talk inside and will make a reader a fan of John Scott if they are not already one.      

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Guy-Like-Me-Fighting-Make/dp/1501159658/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=