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Wednesday
Dec042013

Book Review #1 Title: The System: The Glory and The Scandal of Big Time College Football

 

Opening comment by the webmaster. As you will see, I didn't write this review. Greg Smith is a friend that I worked with several years ago. We both left the company we were working for and went our separate ways. I'd always hoped to work with him again - never thought it would be this way. Hopefully this won't be his only review.

Author: Jeff Benedict, Armen Keteyian

Publisher: Doubleday

Copyright 2013

Cover art:

ISBN 978-0385536615

Email:

Synopsis:

College football has evolved in recent years into a massive sports franchise that rivals the National Football League for revenue.  The fan bases of big name schools flock to stadiums that hold 100,000 or more spectators and the programs generate millions for the schools.  Competition for the best athletes is fierce and often has drastic consequences.  The authors of this book spent two years behind the scenes with access to some of the biggest names and programs in all college sports.  The revelations from behind the scenes in the schools, programs, families and the media are very illustrative.  Whether a casual fan of college football or a die hard, this book hold your interest.

General Reaction and Comments:

The authors used their behind the scenes access to full advantage.  They capture not only the essence but also the grandeur and glory of the big games and the scandals that lead programs astray.  There is not a lot to surprise a true follower of college sports, most people are at least vaguely aware of the sort of drug and sex scandals that plague college sports.  However, there are also true stories of the trials and tribulations of families, individuals and examples of true personal growth to shed some light on the other aspects of the sport.  The discussions and descriptions from behind the set of ESPN Gameday were also very informative and help give a new perspective to the pageantry of Saturdays in the fall. 

What I liked?

I love the details and the behind the scenes look at major programs.  The authors conducted over 500 interviews and unbelieveable access to some of the biggest names in the sport.  This book lends an interesting perspective to the trials of the Athletic Director and Boards of Regents as they struggle through the tough decisions on how to respond to allegations and lawsuits.  This book has all the details, and the authors make the reader feel like they are participating in the interview or sitting in the office with the decision makers throughout the story.

What I didn't like …

There was nothing I did not like, but I would ove even more.  This book focuses on the recent history, basically from 2010 to 2013.  College sports has transformed over the last 20 years, and especially so since the advent of the BCS and of 24-hour sports programming like ESPN that enable everyone to become a weekend expert on the game.  There is a lot more money, interest and devotion to the game now than ever and this drives billions of dolars into college sports.  I would love to have had an exploration of the evolution from around 1979 or 1980 to now.

Surprises:

There were few real surprises for the most part.  However, the real surprises come from the behind the scenes revelations within each major program analyzed.  I was also surprised by the effort some coaches put into the development of character and moral fiber over field skills, which seems rare these days.

Quotable Quotes:

“Loss builds focus” – Nick Saban

Reader Recommendations:

If you are a casual fan of college football, this book will hold your interest and possibly even make you a die-hard fan.  If you are already a dyed in the wool, rabid fan of college football, this book is a must read.

Remember – you got it straight from The Horse’s Mouth.

About the Reviewer:

Greg Smith is a friend of the propriertor and a die-hard fan of Alabama Football.  He is a Senior Project Manager at a major airline based in Seattle, but prefers small shop coffee over the big green mermaid. 

Wednesday
Dec042013

Book Review #2 Title: Curse of the Twisted Rose

Author: Lee Lackey

Publisher: Grey Gecko

Copyright 2012

Cover art: Oliver Werner

ISBN 978-1-9388211-5-8

Email: rlackeywrite@gmail.com

Blog: www.greygeckopress.com

Synopsis:

Houston Police Officer Marlie Franklin is having a really bad day. What should have been a routine call turns bad when an undead husband of the old witch tries to eat her ambitious partner. She expects curses from some of the people she arrests, but to be made a magnet for all evil in the area, the Internal Affairs investigator turns out to be a real monster, and she gets fired. Ok, that’s bad; but now, she’s a single mom and her son is developing an interest in cute blond girls with pointed teeth…

General Reaction and Comments:

 

It was interesting to watch Marlie try to find the ordinary within an extraordinary situation. What happens when you discover that one of the people in town, that you respect, turns out to be an undead creature from the days of the Pharohs? What do you do when your boss turns out to be a guardian, but not that kind of guardian?

Rarely is anything what it looks like.

What I liked?

This is one of the better blendings of mundane and horror that I’ve read. How often do you develop sympathy for the monster when her headphones are damaged and she can’t keep her text string with a normal friend in another city going? Teenage monsters have image problems, too.

What I didn't like …

I just couldn’t get into the buzzards. Most of their scenes seemed contrived and written in as harbingers of doom, when I think it could have been done more effectively without them. I had a similar feeling about the husband. He appears, slashes bad guys for a bit and then disappears. He doesn’t really fit into the story. I guess you could say his treatment in the story is a metaphor for the relationship, he doesn’t really fit in.

Surprises:

With the interesting development of some of the creatures in the book, I was surprised that the husband didn’t get the same treatment. He was a more important character, but he more or less is left out of the conclusion. I wonder if Marlie’s explanation sounded as lame to David as it did to me? On the other hand, Marlie’s eventual sympathetic responses to some of the creatures was a surprise.

Quotable Quotes:

“Let’s get this over with. I hate house calls.”

Reader Recommendations:

If you like demon possession, undead, and tortured souls, this is a very good read.  It moved along very quickly. I won’t say the characters are believable, that would be going a little too far, but I will say that many of the characters are interesting, but not the ones you think will be. You’ll just have to read it and see what I mean.

Remember – you got it straight from The Horse’s Mouth.

About the Reviewer:

Ken Finley is the Patriarch in a family-owned and operated bookstore and coffee shop called The Horse’s Mouth. In the mundane world, he has been a writer, editor, and reviewer of technical non-fiction books for over thirty years. He wrote the book review column for the ASTD Perspectives newsletter for three years.

Wednesday
Dec042013

Book Review #1: Aristeia: Revolutionary Right

Author: Wayne Basta

Publisher: Grey Gecko

Copyright 2011

Cover art: Oliver Werner

ISBN 978-0-9836185-7-7

Email: wayne@waynebasta.com

Blog: www.waynebasta.com

 Synopsis:

 The first in at least a trilogy, the story of a reluctant hero who just wants to keep his kid sister out of jail. It seems the only way to do that is to take on the Alliance. To do that, he has to form an uneasy alliance with the very individual who tried to steal his ship and get him in this mess in the first place.

 General Reaction and Comments:

 The book felt like a cross between Star Wars and Firefly. This is a good thing since I like both. It seemed on several occasions in the book that the hero was in big trouble and Han Solo would come blasting over the horizon in the Millennium Falcon to save the day or Serenity would drop in with Mal and Jane. Apparently, however, they had other engagements and the poor hero had to do it all himself.

 What I liked?

 I liked the fact that even though there were humans in the universe, the hero isn’t. Maarkean Ocaitchi is a very well defined reluctant hero; a member of the humanoid Braz species. He turned to smuggling to keep his sister, Saracasi, out of jail for expressing her opinion where she shouldn’t have – at a protest that went horribly wrong.

 What I didn't like …

 I enjoyed this story and didn’t really find much to not like. The progression from bad to worse inevitable in this kind of story was believable, and even the miraculous win at the end was believable and internally consistent with the story. The only problem I noticed was the somewhat stilted conversation and predictability of the story progression.

 Surprises:

 In the middle of things going from bad to worse, there is this great character development that has brother and sister learning to appreciate each other’s point of view without even talking about it. Although it is predictable that oppression yields rebellion, the internal conflicts reaching that point are well displayed here. Take note Congress.

 Quotable Quotes:

 “I’m not going to shoot you. I did that already.”

 Reader Recommendations:

 This is a good read and I’m looking forward to getting to the other two after I finish my backlog of books to review. If you like the Star Wars cycle, particularly the X-Wing story arc, AND you like Mal Reynolds in Firefly, you will like this book. Just don’t expect the complexity of a David Weber Universe.

Remember – you got it straight from The Horse’s Mouth.

 About the Reviewer:

Ken Finley is the Patriarch in a family-owned and operated bookstore and coffee shop called The Horse’s Mouth. In the mundane world, he has been a writer, editor, and reviewer of technical non-fiction books for over thirty years. He wrote the book review column for the ASTD Perspectives newsletter for three years.

Monday
Oct142013

New page - Book Review

We Finley's are readers. We love books and love talking about books. Here is where we will place book reviews for your enjoyment. we will try to avoid spoilers. Picked up a bunch of new ones at WorldCon and I'm working my way through those.

A short bit of philosophy: I'm a book reviewer, not a critic. Generally, unless something really jumps out at me I won't be too critical about a book.