Thursday, August 31, 2023

Review of "The Hockey Book of Why"

With the end of summer here, it's time to start thinking about our favorite winter sports - not to overlook baseball's postseason and American football, but books on hockey are always something I look for.  Here is my review of an upcoming book on everything hockey.


The Hockey Book of Why (and Who, What, When, Where, and How): The Answers to Questions You've Always Wondered about the Fastest Game on Ice” by Martin Gitlin


4 of 5 stars (very good)


The best way to describe this book is that while it is not the most comprehensive book on hockey, it covers a little of everything about the sport and as a result, the title is an aptly named one for the sport loved by millions.  Author Martin Gitlin takes many different questions that can be posed about the sport, from basic to complex, on many different topics and he has put together a fairly light and breezy read on hockey.

Historical questions include how the sport started, which teams have won the most Stanley Cups and what is the history of the rubber puck.  There are questions about teams and their history and records.  One good example is the short chapter on why fans of the Detroit Red Wings throw an octopus on the ice during the playoffs.  If it is statistical greatness, there are many chapters on the best goal scorers and goaltenders in the NHL.

Speaking of goaltenders, one of the better historical chapters is on the history of facemasks in the NHL.  That, combined with a good write-up on who are considered to be the best goaltenders in the history of the game makes the goalie one of the more popular positions in the book.  But if you prefer defensemen or high-scoring forwards, no worries, they get their own coverage as well.  No matter one’s level of hockey knowledge or interest in the game, a reader is sure to find something that they will enjoy in this book. 

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

Link: The Hockey Book of Why (and Who, What, When, Where, and How): The Answers to Questions You've Always Wondered about the Fastest Game on Ice: Gitlin, Martin: 9781493070923: Books


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Short review of novella "At the Corner of Hitler and Goering"

I usually don't write review of shorter stories unless they are part of a collection but this one was offered on Book Sirens and I couldn't pass it up after reading the synopsis.  Wow, what a story!  Here is my review of this boxing novella. 


Title/Author: At the Corner of Hitler and Goering” by Joseph Kovler

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: I usually don’t leave reviews for historical novellas as it can be difficult for an author to fully illustrate the era and the culture of the era in such a short amount of pages, but this boxing novella set in 1938 New York City does it quite well.  Author Joseph Kovler does a masterful job penning this story of two young Jewish boxers.

After Joe Louis defeated Max Schmelling in Yankee Stadium, a Nazi leader who has a camp in the city wants to exact revenge for the German boxer’s loss.  Through the promise of a good payday, he brings the boxers and their uncle, who was a championship boxer and is now the trainer, to the camp.  What follows is a tense story illustrating both the loyalty that Germans, even if they were in a foreign nation, had to Hitler and the Nazi Party and also what Jewish people faced when they had to confront Nazis.  I won’t give away any more of the story, but it is one that you will finish fairly quickly.

I should also add that the boxing scenes in the story are quite good and you get a good insight into both the boxers and their corner personnel.  Of course, as one might expect in this setting, there is more fighting and other actions that take place in the ring (and just outside it) than boxing.  The overall story, whether in the ring, at the camp or elsewhere, is riveting and it is recommended for a quick read for those readers who are interested in boxing or World War II stories.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Review of "The Race that Changed Running"

While I usually read books on climbing mountains instead of running marathons around them, this book read like a good mountaineering book on a new event and I learned a lot about the event and the sport.  Here is my review of a book on the trail running race around Mount Blanc. 


“The Race That Changed Running: The Inside Story of UTMB” by Doug Mayer


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


While trail running is not a new sport, it has grown in popularity during the first two decades of the 20th century.  This book on the sport’s most popular event, an ultra marathon around Mount Blanc – Ultra Trail du Mount Blanc (UTMB) - that covers ground in Italy, Switzerland and France and ends in the latter, is probably the best illustration of that popularity.

Author Doug Mayer, who has run in the UTMB himself, gives the reader an extensive look at the course, the people who took the concept of the event and made it reality and of course the runners themselves.  This includes a wide swath of people of various ethnicities and backgrounds and just the stories of these people would make for excellent reading.

However, for one to truly enjoy the book and appreciate all that goes into putting on the event, be sure to read the entire thing.  Just like when reading books about team sports such as American football or baseball, there is extensive work done to provide the reader information on the training and mindset of the athletes, the costs involved to both participants and organizers, sponsorships and other business aspects and more.  This is the reason why I give the book such high marks – every possible topic about the race is covered in excellent detail by Mayer.  If you are at all curious about trail running, then this book is for you.

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

Link: The Race that Changed Running: The Inside Story of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc eBook : Mayer, Doug: Books

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Review of "Wrath of the Dragon"

While I have never been much of a martial arts fan, whether in the heyday of kung fu or currently with UCF "mixed martial arts", I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book about Bruce Lee.  If a non-fan like me can thoroughly enjoy a book on Lee, imagine how his fans will feel once they read it.  Here is my review of "Wrath of the Dragon." 



“Wrath of the Dragon: The Real Fights of Bruce Lee” by John Little


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


Thanks to the movie “Enter the Dragon”, Bruce Lee became a household name and helped spawn interest in the art of kung fu.  However, he had long been involved in martial arts long before he appeared in movies.  This book by John Little is an excellent read about Lee’s involvement in the sport as a student, teacher and fighter as well as an actor.

The book’s synopsis states that Little spent over 30 years researching information on Lee, including eyewitnesses to his fights.  There are two that are especially important in understanding the development of Lee’s mastery of martial arts.  One is what can be best described as a boxing match between schools in Hong Kong in which Lee’s small school only had three fighters, but one of them was Lee and he used martial arts techniques not seen by any other boxer to gain the only win for his school.

The other comes later in his life, after he has immigrated to the United States and that is a fight with Wong Jack Man, another martial arts master, in a match that was supposed to be in secret as unlike the other fights portrayed in the book that are in a controlled environment, this one was on a rooftop and a no-holds-barred atmosphere.  The attempts to keep it secret were so deep that reading about the means of getting to the rooftop were almost as exciting as reading about the match, which was an important milestone in the growth of the Bruce Lee legend.

His success in his business for teaching martial arts is also described in detail as well as his fights.  No matter the topic, Little does a masterful job of describing the life of Bruce Lee through his real-life fights and encounters. Anyone interested in the life of Lee or martial arts will want to add this book to their library.

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

Link: Wrath of the Dragon: The Real Fights of Bruce Lee eBook : Little, John: Kindle Store


Thursday, August 17, 2023

Review of "The 100-Year Golfer"

I enjoy playing golf and while I cannot say that I hope to still be playing when I reach 100 years old (first, I hope to make it to that age!) this title made me stop and request the review copy - it was all that I had hoped for.  


“The 100-Year Golfer: 7 Arts for a Lifetime with the Game” by Ilchi Lee


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


Golf is a sport that is enjoyed by many of all ages as it is not as physically demanding as some other sports.  However, that doesn’t mean that one who doesn’t keep themselves healthy in both body and mind can play for the rest of their lives.  This book by best-selling author Ilchi Lee gives great tips and exercises that one can do to ensure they continue to enjoy the game for a long time.

The book will hit the reader right away as Lee shares the story of a 102-year old man who still plays the game regularly and walks the course instead of using a golf cart.  From there, Ilchi will intersperse more stories with his exercises that will help both the mind and the body.

There is nothing over-strenuous in the book for either the physical or the mental aspects. If there is more information about one or the other, it would be the mental portion as Ilchi does emphasize that mental focus is so important in the game. There are plenty of examples of what one can and should do to clear the mind of the golfer and help them concentrate on the course.  While Ilchi realizes that is easier said than done and mentions so several times, he does provide assistance so that this part of a golfer’s game can be as enjoyable as it can be.  The reduced stress and anger, he believes, will help the golfer live longer as well as improve their score.

The physical exercises, what he calls “quigong” exercises, are also very good.  No matter the physical fitness or strength of the individual, these can be done by anyone for any amount of time in which one feels comfortable.  He does compare the movements to tai chi as they are smooth and fluid – the same type of movement that is advised for the best golf shots.  Both of these sections are organized into short chapters which helps the ease of reading and also allows for putting the book down to try out the exercises.

It isn’t often that I will re-read review copies of books, even just sections, but this one is an exception.  As one who enjoys playing golf for exercise (I never use a cart) and relaxation, I plan on using these to keep enjoying the game as I grow older.  Anyone who enjoys golf will want to pick this up.

I wish to thank Pen & Sword History for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Link: The 100-Year Golfer: 7 Arts for a Lifetime with the Game: Lee, Ilchi: 9781947502222: Books


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Review of "Speed Queens"

 While I have known about some accomplishments by female drivers in American auto racing (Sara Christian being the first female NASCAR driver, Janet Guthrie being the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500), I had no idea that women have been a part of motorsports since the 1890's and that was especially true in France and England.  This book is just as much a history lesson as it is a sports book.  Here is my review of "Speed Queens." 


“Speed Queens: A Secret History of Women in Motorsport” by Rachel Harris-Gardiner


4 of 5 stars (very good)


Ever since the early days of motor sports in the late 19th and early 20th century, women have always been part of the scene, including some drivers.  While their male counterparts may have achieved the most fame and fortune, the contributions by women should not be overlooked.  This comprehensive book by Rachel Harris-Gardiner gives these women their much deserved recognition.

Unlike many books that showcase women in traditionally male fields concentrate on those who broke barriers – the first one to do a particular feat or accomplish something great.  This book does much more than that.  Harris-Gardiner has done extensive research to find not only those “firsts” but also recognizes those that may not have been the first to do so but still contributed to motor sports in many ways.  The reader will also learn a great deal about different types of motor sports in both Europe and the United States.  These go well beyond NASCAR and F1 racing, although they are included.  Motorcycles, early motor vehicles and how smaller car designs helped more women become drivers are also discussed in the book.

While the book does have a good organization and is easy to follow in a chronological sense, I had to read this carefully as there are so many names to follow when Harris-Gardiner discusses their contributions.  This is especially true in the early chapters when discussing the French and English women who were the early pioneers of female racing.  While this is a good thing because so many women and their accomplishments are recognized, it will not be a quick and easy read.

It doesn’t matter what form of motorsports a reader enjoys – this is a book in which any fan of any type of racing should pick up and admire the courage, skill and hard work of the women portrayed in this comprehensive look at their roles in motorsports.

I wish to thank Pen & Sword History for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Sunday, August 6, 2023

Review of “Once a Giant”

 While this book could be categorized as one of those “Where are they now” types of books, it really is much more than that - it’s a great look at some of the key people of the 1986 New York Giants, a team that still brings smiles to fans’ faces many years later.  Here is my review of “Once a Giant.”


“Once a Giant” by Gary Myers


4 of 5 stars (very good)


Every sports fan will have one special player or team that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. For fans of the New York Giants, most will say that the 1986 team that won the first Super Bowl in the history of the franchise is that team. Veteran football writer Gary Myers writes about that team with little journalistic neutrality and shares some great stories about that team in this book.

Any book about this team needs to start with the person who had the biggest personality on the team, head coach Bill Parcells. What was the most striking aspect about Parcells in this book and how much he cares about this particular team is the generosity of both his time and his money that he shares with these Giants. That is still the case today, more than 35 years after they won that championship. If any of them needs some help, they call the man who worked them very hard when they played football for him. The other coach featured in Myers’ writing, Bill Belichek, is not only quite different personality-wise but the relationship he had with Parcells was a soap opera in its own right and that is described in good detail here.

As for the players, just like with the coaches, their stories have to start with one particular individual- Lawrence Taylor. If he’s not the greatest defensive player to ever put on the pads, he’s certainly in the conversation. His off-field problems are well known but what was amazing to read about in the book was how he could be out all night on Saturday and yet still be the terrific player he was on Sundays.

Speaking of partying, that wasn’t limited to Taylor. Myers shares a story of how several of the Giants players would spend Friday night at the clubs, on dates or at bars and then drive to the parking lot of Giants Stadium so they didn’t miss the mandatory Saturday morning meeting. Of course, not every player did this and the stories are not all about this type of lifestyle. Some are heart-tugging (Mark Bavaria’s health issues, Bobby Johnson losing his Super Bowl ring to a pawn shop, then getting it back), some make the reader chuckle (Sean Landetta’s success with women was actual funny) and are just about living a good life and watching over everyone - that was the case for Harry Carson.

The book does jump around from topic to topic - sometimes football, sometimes medical issues, sometimes relationships - and that does make it a bit harder to follow. But for football fans of a certain age, especially Giants fans, this is a book that will bring back all the memories of that special championship season.

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