Monday, May 29, 2023

Review of "Basketball: A Love Story"

While taking it easy on this Memorial Day (and remembering what this holiday is about), I realized that I had not posted a review here lately.  Having finished this book a couple days ago, it was time to share my thoughts on this even though it is older than the usual books I review.  If you like basketball, pick this one up.

Title/Author: Basketball: A Love Story” by Jackie McMullen, Rafe Bartholomew and Dan Klores

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: While there are many books available on the history of basketball, at various points in the very interesting history of the sport, this collaboration by three very good basketball writers takes a different approach to talk about various aspects of the game and it worked.

The most notable aspect of this book is that aside from a few paragraphs between each section of interviews, there is no anecdotal approach to basketball history.  Instead, there are quotes from interviews with the appropriate people to talk about that topic.  Those topics range from the early history of both the game itself and professional basketball to international players, the evolution of the women’s game and observations about some of the best to ever play.

This approach to use quotes and observations from others instead of from the authors mostly worked well.  I use “mostly” because there is some repetition in a few sections, especially when talking about players.  Some of the superlatives given for Michael Jordan and LeBron James, just to name two, are like that where several people are repeating what others said.  There are also some parts that just seem too short to fully appreciate the topic – that was the case for me when people shared their thoughts on Cheryl Miller.  Yes, she never played professionally as she was injured shortly after her college career ended and could not play in the WNBA as the league did not start until several years later.

Something that made this format work well was the transitions from one area to another within the topic.  An example of this would be the chapter on international players.  When Dirk Nowitzki was talking about how he developed his famous fade away jump shot, he also talked about he overcame the language barrier.  From there, that was the next topic as several other international players shared that aspect of their adjustment to American professional basketball.  Segways like that made the book read well and it is one that any basketball fan of any level should read.


Friday, May 19, 2023

Review of "All Roads Home"

 Those of a certain age will certainly remember the New York Islanders when they won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups and became one of the great dynasties in hockey history.  A key member of those teams was Bryan Trottier and his story is told in this memoir.  Here is my review of "All Roads Home."


“All Roads Home: A Life On and Off the Ice” written by Bryan Trottier and Steven Brunt, and narrated by Shelden Elter


4 of 5 stars (Very good)

Review: As a member of the New York Islanders in the early 1980’s, Bryan Trottier was a key member of their teams who won four consecutive Stanley Cups.  He won two more in the early 1990’s as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and one more in 2001 as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche.  He was named as one of the 100 greatest NHL players during the league’s centennial anniversary in 2017 and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  However, his family member are never far from his mind and this memoir show what family means to him.

Throughout the book, it is clear to the reader or listener that Trottier is very much a positive person and that family is most important in his life.  He talks lovingly about all of his children and how they are living successful lives.  Even though he was divorced twice, there is never a bitter or mean word said about either of ex-wives.  His tributes to his parents, both during their lives and at their deaths, are very touching.  It was quite different to read such a memoir.

It was also clear he was proud of his Indigenous heritage.  Many others looked to him for inspiration and while he was not outspoken about the struggles of his people, he would make them proud and never forgot that he was representing them.

This positivity is not limited to family.  No matter what part of his hockey career he talks about – junior hockey, his time with the Islanders and Penguins, his coaching in the AHL and in Colorado and even as head coach of the New York Rangers (a job he held less than one full season) he NEVER talked in the negative.  The last job was the one that really surprise me in how he did not have one iota of bitterness toward the team or its GM Glen Sather.  It’s a consistent theme through the book – Trottier was very grateful for all of his opportunities

Of course, the best passages are about his time with the Islanders and his roommate on those teams, another Hall of Fame player, Mike Bossy.  It was fun to listen to the stories about the back and forth between these two all time greats and just as great to hear the description of their play on the ice.  Having the good fortune to have seen these two and their team produce one of hockey’s greatest dynasties was a treat and listening to this audio book was almost as good.

Link: All Roads Home: A Life On and Off the Ice: Trottier, Bryan, Brunt, Stephen, Thistle, Jesse: 9780771084478: Books


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Review of "Love and Justice"

Fans of women's basketball or those who follow social justice issues may already know the story of Maya Moore leaving basketball in 2019 to work on freeing a man wrongly convicted of a crime.  They may even know that the two of them married after he was freed.  Even if this is the case, this book is one that must be read in order to truly appreciate their stories.  Here is my review of "Love and Justice."


“Love and Justice: A Story of Triumph on Two Different Courts” written and narrated by Maya Moore Irons and Jonathan Irons


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: In 2019, WNBA all-star Maya Moore shocked the sports world by announcing she would step away from basketball to concentrate on other part of her life that were important to her – her faith and justice for a man that was wrongly imprisoned.  That man, Jonathan Irons, was released from prison about a year later and the two of them were married.  Their remarkable journey to come together from two very different sets of circumstances is shared in this wonderful book written by the two of them

I listened to the audiobook and that was a fantastic experience.  Hearing their stories brought out many emotions – whether Maya’s road to becoming one of the greatest female basketball players of all time to the injustice of Jonathan’s conviction of a crime committed in an area where he was not located was time well spent. While a reader of the print or e-book may have the same experience, I felt that hearing their voices made their messages more powerful.  This was especially true for Jonathan’s story of his conviction on incorrect eyewitness testimony and his means of surviving in prison, especially at the start when he was still a minor incarcerated with grown men. 

Throughout the book, both Maya and Jonathan talk about their Christian faith and at times also quote Bible passages. They both give credit to the strength of their faith for helping achieve their goals, whether it is championships for Maya’s basketball teams or making it through another day in solitary confinement (“the hole”) for Jonathan. If nothing else, his strength and determination to prove his innocence should be an inspiration for all.  That is not to discount the importance of Maya’s work or her love for Jonathan in this journey.  But already knowing most of Maya’s story and learning about Jonathan’s brough me so much respect for that man that I believe he is a role model any man, of any race or creed, can look upon as a role model.

Many romance stories, especially those with a sports theme, tend to have a happily ever after ending.  This one, that happened in real life, is certainly more satisfying and any reader of any genre will enjoy this.  

Link: Love and Justice: A Story of Triumph on Two Different Courts: 9781368081177: Moore Irons, Maya: Books

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Review of “Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?”

I don’t get too many repute review children’s books but when I do I always find a good one. That certainly was the case with this one, based on the author’s childhood experiences. 

Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?” by Mark Angelo


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: So many young boys dream of becoming professional athletes. In the late 1950’s, most of those dreams were about becoming Major League Baseball players. That was the case for Mark Angelo and many years later he has taken that dream and drafted a wonderful children’s book. 

With excellent drawing by Patricia and Robin DeWitt to illustrate this story, it tells of Angelo’s attempts to play ball with his friends despite the lack of adequate playing fields. Living in Los Angeles when the Dodgers move west, Mark dreams of becoming a Dodger but only the yard of his neighbor Cecil DeMille is large enough to allow playing baseball. 

How the young boy works up the courage to ask the title’s question and the eventual answer is not only a good story, but also a good lesson for adults on the importance of allowing space for children to play, whether baseball or other activities. The book is very good for readers from 6 to 10 and will not only be a good story for them, but may also bring back some childhood memories for the adults.

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


Friday, May 12, 2023

Review of "The Turcottes"

When I received a review request for this book, I was quite happy to accept.  After all, Secretariat is still considered to be not only the best race horse in history but also one of the best athletes ever.  I did remember that his jockey was Ron Turcotte but I had no idea that Ron was only one of many successful jockeys in the family.  Here is my review of Curtis Stock's excellent book on this racing family. 


“The Turcottes: The Remarkable Story of a Horse Racing Dynasty” by Curtis Stock


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


Secretariat is still considered to be one of the greatest race horses in history, even now, 50 years after his Triple Crown.  His jockey was Ron Turcotte, who became as much of a celebrity as his horse during those special weeks.  However, Ron was certainly not the only successful jockey in his family and this excellent book by Curtis Stock pays homage to all the Turcotte riders.

Ron was one of 14 children of Alfred and Rose Turcotte in New Brunswick.  The large family had many struggles and often lived in poverty – this was starkly illustrated at the start of this book with a description of a fire that destroyed the residence of the Turcottes.  Alfred made a living as a logger and it seemed to be the destiny of his sons as well.  But when Ron was 17 and after caring for the horses who hauled the loads, Ron and his brother Reggie left home to find different paths.  Reggie eventually was able to use his culinary skills into decent jobs, but it was Ron’s path of finding a job in a stable by sheer determination that the road for the most famous family in horse racing began.

It might surprise some readers, including myself, to read about just how successful all five Turcottes became on the track.  In addition to Ron, his brothers Noel, Rudy, Roger and Yves (who was the youngest of the 14 children) all rode to at least 1000 victories except Noel who rode on “only” 945 winners as he was struggling in his last few years to finish his career.  Each brother had rides for at least 15 years in Canada and the United States. Each one had similar starts to their riding careers but all took different paths to success and each one’s story makes for excellent reading.

That is because Stock’s writing is in a style that is easy for a novice fan (or even non-fan) of horse racing can understand but is detailed enough that avid fans will enjoy it.  This is the case whether talking about a minor race in Alberta to the three Triple Crown races Ron ran on Secretariat.  If there is a brother who gets the most ink in the book it would of course be Ron, but all of the other brothers get their fair share of pages as well.  This included personal matters as well as those on the track or in the stables. Two of the more heartbreaking stories on this was Roger’s battle with alcoholism that strained both his family and his racing career and Ron being left paralyzed after being thrown from a horse.   

During this 50th anniversary of one of the greatest accomplishments in any sport, this is a book that should be read by anyone who has an interest in horse racing, Secretariat or sports history.

I wish to thank Firefly Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are strictly mine.

Link: The Turcottes: The Remarkable Story of a Horse Racing Dynasty: Stock, Curtis: 9780228104247: Books

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Review of “Coffee First, Then the World”

 Usually it takes more than the title to get me interested in a book, but the title of this grabbed my attention right away - and it turned out to be fantastic! Her is my review of”Coffee First, Then the World.”


“Coffee First, Then the World: One Woman’s Record-Breaking Pedal Around the Planet” by Jenny Graham


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


When Jenny Graham decided to attempt to become the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world on a bicycle (with allowances for flights over oceans), she was both excited and nervous. This book that captures her adventures during this expedition was a fun and enjoyable read.

The best part of this book is her refreshing honesty about her fears and trepidations - and she does so with happiness and humor. This would sound like it would be difficult to pull off but Graham does so in a way that will keep the reader engaged and entertained. It doesn’t matter whether she is describing the terror of trucks running her off the road in Russia, the fear of snakes in Australia or when she sleeps outside in the elements on so many nights, it’s just fine to read about her adventures.

She does talk about her relationships with family and friends, but the real people aspect of this book is her interactions with those from other countries and cultures. The most heartwarming of these encounters are the many friendly people she met in Mongolia. Just like when talking about her fears and frustrations, Graham talks about these encounters with great energy, humor and joy - one can’t help but smile at some of these passages. 

One doesn’t have to be a cyclist, a fan of the sport or even know anything about a bike to enjoy this book. If the reader wants to get a first hand account of a fantastic accomplishment by one woman with determination, then this is the book for them.

I wish to thank Bloomsbury Sport for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review


Monday, May 1, 2023

Review of "Role of a Lifetime"

Starting off May, which will mark 10 years of this website, with a review of a book reliving some of the glory years of UCLA basketball by a man who was both a player and a coach for the school.  Here is my review of "Role of a Lifetime."


“Role of a Lifetime: Larry Farmer and the UCLA Bruins” by Larry Farmer


4 ½ of 5 stars (very good)


When one thinks of UCLA basketball’s glory days in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the names that come to mind include John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes.  Those are just a few of the many stars that came from that program coached by Wooden, but one name who all of those mentioned considered important but is not easily recognized is Larry Farmer.  He was a player on three UCLA championship teams, his team’s record in games he played was 89-1 and he later coached the team for four seasons.  His stories about UCLA as both a player and coach are described in this book written by Farmer

This book cannot be described as a true biography as there is very little mention of any events in Farmer’s life, personal or professional, after his resignation as the UCLA coach in 1984 aside from a stint coaching in Kuwait.  Per Wikipedia, he did later coach at Weber State and Chicago Loyola, as well as assistant coaching jobs with both NBA and college teams.  This was the only aspect of the book that disappointed me as his stories about UCLA were excellent.

Whether he talked about his role on the UCLA championship teams, the unrealistic expectations from fans on the coaches that succeeded Wooden or his own work at the school doing coaching duties, whether as an assistant or the head coach, Farmer’s dialogue is easy to read.  This is especially true if one is knowledgeable in basketball-speak as there is a lot of technical language during his playing days.  For coaching, that was more about his recruiting trips and how he would handle young men who are away from home for the first time and for many, having a male authority figure.  His stories about the rivalry games against Notre Dame are great, whether he was a player or a coach.

Because the focus of the book is strictly on UCLA, this is recommended only for readers who are fans of that program or who enjoy learning about basketball history, especially in that time frame.  I do fall into that latter category, so I did rate the book highly, but if one is not interested in UCLA, then it is best to skip this one.  

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