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L. Smith "L. Smith" RSS Feed (Upstate New York)

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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
by Jon Krakauer
Edition: Audio CD
Price: $20.57
36 used & new from $13.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first person account of a deadly climb, December 17, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
In the spring of 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer volunteered to embark on an expedition to climb Mount Everest with a guided group to learn first-hand what these groups are like. The mountain climbing community believed that the expedition to the peak was becoming too commercialized and that a trip to the top of the mountain could be bought by any climber regardless of ability. Krakauer was to write an article for Outside magazine on this topic and this would give him that experience.

The trip became deadly as not only members of his group perished, including the leader Rob Hall. Scott Fisher lead another group who also had members perish on this climb and the first person narrative from Krakauer of this disaster is a gripping account that pulls no punches on opinions, speculation on what went wrong, and also what could have been done differently.

When reading or listening to the book, the reader will be immediately sucked into the dangers that the climbers, guides and helpers (also known as sherpas) must endure during each phase of the expedition. Even the time spent in Himalayan lodging while waiting to begin the actual climb will make one stop and wonder why someone wants to take on such an apparently unpleasant task. Because Krakauer is a seasoned climber himself, the explanation of the many reasons why someone would do this is given more credence.

While there are some passages that may not be clear to people with no experience in the sport, it is explained in easy to understand language so that it does not detract from the story. I also believe that because I listened to the audio book, it was even more compelling than reading because the inflection in Krakauer’s voice while recalling the events added to the drama even more.

This book is more than a sports book – it is a reflection of the human drive and spirit, it is a tragedy and it is also an example of what a survivor of any disaster goes through with the remorse and guilt that he or she survived while others perished. This book covers all of that and more. An excellent read for anyone, no matter what interests him or her.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book:
For the most part, it moves along very well. Not being a climber, I was a little lost when it got too technical, but that was minor and these were explained in a manner that helped explain the gear or terminology for readers like me with no experience.

Do I recommend?
Anyone who likes a true account of any type of adventure, whether it results in tragedy or not, will want to read or listen to this book.

Book Format Read:
Audiobook


Among the Giants: How One Underdog Pursued His Dreams & You Can Too!
Among the Giants: How One Underdog Pursued His Dreams & You Can Too!
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good inspirational book for young people, December 14, 2014
Length:
254 pages

Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Jesse LeBeau did not grow up in an area where basketball was an important part of the culture. As an undersized kid in Alaska, he realized that if he was going to be able to pursue his dreams for success in the sport, he had to work hard and make sacrifices. While he didn’t become a star in the NBA, LeBeau has had success with the game by playing charitable games and shooting commercials with professional stars like Allen Iverson and Kevin Durant. He doesn’t take his success for granted and wanted to share the message of what it takes to succeed in this book.

The format of the book is like a basketball game, divided into four quarters, two overtime periods, the locker room and “post-game training.” A total of 28 lessons, on everything from the right attitude to setting goals and always giving your best effort, are told in short chapters that are easy to read and follow. LeBeau tells them in a manner that the reader will be able to feel his emotions, which are mostly joy, and will want to apply them to his or her endeavors.

There are also plenty of stories of Jesse’s interactions with famous people. These are not just with basketball players, but other celebrities such as Heidi Klum and Dr. Dre. Just like with the chapters on which LeBeau is advising the readers of life’s lessons, Jesse tells these stories with enthusiasm and joy. Here the reader can feel the little kid in LeBeau as he shares these anecdotes – which have valuable lessons as well.

While this book is geared for young people, older adults will enjoy it as well. Many of the traits and lessons can be applied in a grown-up world as well. It was fun and entertaining to read as well and there are even some good basketball stories thrown in, especially the charity game that Jesse played with Iverson.

Whether the reader wants to get some advice on what to do for a successful future, a parent wants to find out how to talk to his or her children about it or even just for a fun read, this book will do the trick.

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

Did I skim?
No

Do I recommend?
Absolutely – great message for teenagers and young adults presented in a way that they will enjoy reading.


The Unlikeliest Champion: The Incredible Story of the 2011 UConn Huskies and Their Run to the College Basketball National Championship
The Unlikeliest Champion: The Incredible Story of the 2011 UConn Huskies and Their Run to the College Basketball National Championship
Price: $7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good book on an amazing college basketball season, December 14, 2014
Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The Connecticut Huskies have become one of the elite college basketball programs with four national championships in fifteen years. The most improbable of these occurred in the 2010-11 season. This book by journalist and blogger Aaron Torres recaps that season for the Huskies and also includes short biographies of many of the players, including All-American guard Kemba Walker.

Walker gets the lion’s share of credit for the team’s success, but Torres makes sure to include all players in the book as he relies on research and his knowledge of Huskies basketball to write a detailed account of not only the championship season, but also insight into many of the players. It made for an interesting and informative book in which I learned a lot about that team.

It should be noted that I made these observations and enjoyed the book even though I am not a die-hard fan of this team. Because of this, at times I felt it was written in a fashion that not only showed Torres’ fandom, but also that he was talking only to other UConn fans and forgetting that the reader may not have the passion and knowledge that he does. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if reaching out to fellow Huskies fans was his goal, but at times it just didn’t feel like a book to simply learn about the team.

The book covers the entire season, and I enjoyed the section on the Huskies’ run during the Big East tournament as well as the championship tourney. The Huskies’ became the first team to win five games in five days to win that tournament, which some felt was even harder than winning the national championship. Torres does a nice job of covering both of these and putting them into perspective.

Overall, this is a very good recap of both the season and the key players that made the 2010-11 season one of the more memorable ones for Huskies basketball. Fans of the team will especially want to read this book.

Did I skim?
No.

Pace of the book:
Personally, the book felt a little choppy to me as Torres mixed in chapters on player biographies in between accounts of the 2010-11 championship season. While this is a common format and good for breaks in the “action”, so to speak; my personal preference is for a beginning-to-end continuous recap of the season.

Do I recommend?
This is a good read for college basketball fans, especially fans of the University of Connecticut team. Torres wears his fandom on his sleeve and it shows in this book. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the reader also roots for that team.


A Snowflake's Chance in Hell
A Snowflake's Chance in Hell
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Short sweet romance, December 1, 2014
Quinn is a troubled woman who wants nothing more during the holiday season than to reunite with her brother who was a Marine. With the help of a caring gunnery sergeant who is facing his own demons and conflicts the search is on. Being a short story there isn't a lot of time to develop the characters but the reader learns enough about them. I felt Quinn was portrayed as too emotional to be real as she is on a roller coaster the entire story, and frankly the sergeant isn't too far behind. That helps the story move along quickly to a sweet ending. Not the best story I have ever read but certainly not bad. If you like a sweet holiday story this is fine.


Seasons of Love (Holiday Romance Box Set)
Seasons of Love (Holiday Romance Box Set)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection of romance stories, November 30, 2014
Rather than analyzing and reviewing each story here, I suggest checking out this collection of romance stories by a talented up and coming author. I have read every story in this collection and each one has characters the reader will love, a troubled relationship or friendship and an emotional climax to the story. Romance readers, pick this up and you will not be disappointed.


100 Grey Cups: This Is Our Game
100 Grey Cups: This Is Our Game
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on the Grey Cup, November 30, 2014
Rating:
4 ˝ of 5 stars (excellent) – rounded up to 5 for Goodreads and Amazon

Review:
The Grey Cup is the championship game of the Canadian Football League and like its American counterpart, the Super Bowl, Grey Cup Sunday is a day in which the entire nation will celebrate the game of football and people will attend parties for the game whether or not they are fans. However, the Grey Cup had an inauspicious debut and some interesting games and history during its infancy in the early 20th century. During the 2012 CFL season, which would culminate with the 100th Grey Cup game, sportswriter Stephen Brunt published a book that looks at the history of not only the game, but also of the trophy and some of the teams that have made the history of this championship game very interesting.

Hockey fans know of the history of the Stanley Cup trophy and its humble beginnings. The Grey Cup has a similar history of its own as it too was passed from various players and teams that didn’t exactly treat it with reverence. The chapters on the early history of the game alone were worth reading but the remaining chapters about the teams that have won the Grey Cup were interesting as well.

This book did not simply list each game’s winner and give a brief description of the games, although there is an index listing the winning team, losing team and MVPs for each year up to 2011. Chapters were in chronological order, but chosen for significant moments in Grey Cup history. For example, the 1948 season was highlighted as the year that not only a team from the western portion of the country won the game, but it was when the Grey Cup became a national party. Other seasons highlighted included 1978 when the Edmonton Eskimos began a long run as the champions, 1995 when the Baltimore Stallions became the first and only team based in an American city to win the Grey Cup and 1935 when Winnipeg became the first team to win with American players on the roster.

The chapters would not only highlight the Grey Cup game and season, but would also narrate an interesting history on the franchise highlighted in the chapter. For example, the chapter on the 1935 game talked about the entire history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers team, including the 1950’s teams coached by NFL Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant and the later struggles for the franchise. The most interesting chapter was the one on the 1995 champs, as the team was created by an experiment to expand the CFL into American cities. Baltimore was eager for football as this was the time between the Colts leaving and the Ravens arriving. They put together a great team on the field and were the only franchise to stay intact when the American experiment ended, moving to Montreal to become the new Montreal Alouettes.

The book was well written, well researched and fun to read. The only quibble I had was in a couple spots the scores given while writing about the progress of the game did not make sense. For example, in the 1978 chapter about the Edmonton Eskimos, when describing the start of the third quarter, it was stated that the “Esks led 14-4 at the half, and stretched it to 17-3 not long after the break.” There is no subtraction of points in the CFL, so this was confusing, most likely a typo that was missed. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book – but it was enough to keep me from giving this a perfect 5 star rating.

This was a fun book to read and learn more about the history of the Grey Cup. The author writes proudly about its uniquely Canadian flavor and that made me enjoy the book even more, as it was apparent the author enjoyed writing it. Anyone who enjoys the Canadian version of football or wants to learn more will enjoy reading this.

Did I skim?
No, as I was eager to learn about the history of the trophy and the game. Therefore, I carefully read each chapter and took a little longer reading this book than usual.

Pace of the book:
It took awhile to get through the book. Not only because the aforementioned desire to learn more about the game, but also because the chapters did not seem to flow freely while reading. The main topic or team covered in the chapter would not necessarily be the subject throughout the chapter. While very interesting and informative, it made me read the book a little more carefully.

Do I recommend?
Anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the Canadian Football League, its signature game or the rich history of the trophy itself will want to pick this book up. As a fan that has started watching and learning the Canadian game, this was an interesting look at the Grey Cup trophy and game.


Sophomore Campaign: A Mickey Tussler Novel
Sophomore Campaign: A Mickey Tussler Novel
Price: $8.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding second book in the series, November 27, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
In this second installment of the Mickey Tussler series, Mickey is coming back to the minor league Milwaukee Brewers for the 1949 season. This didn’t seem possible, given how the 1948 season ended, but after some long talks with Brewer manager Arthur Murphy, who was both a manager and a surrogate father to Mickey during that season, Mickey will come back with his amazing pitching ability. Because of the violent collision that ended the 1948 season for Mickey, his mother Molly has misgivings about letting Mickey play. But Arthur, who is now courting Molly, talks her into it.

However, there is more complications than just Mickey adjusting to baseball life this time. Mickey’s battery mate and friend, Raymond “Boxcar” Miller, is dying of cancer. To replace Boxcar on the field, Murphy brings in Lester Sledge, a catcher from the area’s Negro League team. This presents a whole new set of challenges, conflicts and issues for the team and the town.

Just like the first book in the series, the baseball scenes are at once very clear, action packed and authentic but at times a bit unrealistic. Mickey still has his unique pitching motion, and now Lester helps him develop a curve ball. The Brewers are battling their arch-rivals, the Rangers, once again, and reading about the games between the two teams makes for great drama.

The new tension for the Brewers with having Lester on the team brings back memories of reading about Jackie Robinson and the struggles he was having. However, some people carry this dislike of a black baseball player a bit too far, and that also is compelling reading. Many people will know about the struggles Robinson had. While this is a fictional account, this too is an excellent illustration of what race relations were like in that time.

Whether in movies or books, a sequel or the second in a series often falls short of expectations if the first one was a hit. This isn’t the case here, as this story not only picked up where the first one left off, but it was even better with the added character of Lester, a very likable fellow whom the reader will enjoy as much as Mickey, Murphy, Molly and the rest of the Brewers – save for one, who will not be discussed as a spoiler here.

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

Did I skim?
No as I needed to read each chapter carefully to fully understand the situation and characters, just like the first story

Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes – most of them. Like in the first story, I was cheering for Arthur, Mickey and Molly and now Lester as well. The antagonists of the story, such as the sheriff, are easy to dislike. Another Brewers player, shortstop Pee Wee McGinty, is a character whom I enjoyed as well.

Pace of the story:
This book was a very quick read for me as the only new character who played a major role in the story was Lester. That, along with a gripping story, kept me turning the pages.

Do I recommend?
Yes – for all the same reasons that I recommended the first story in the series (baseball, youth, autism) but also in this one for a story that does shed some more light on race relations at that time in America.

Book Format Read:
Paperback


1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade's Best Seasons, Teams, and Players
1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade's Best Seasons, Teams, and Players
Price: $7.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on this interesting decade of baseball, November 23, 2014
Rating:
4 ˝ of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
As my love for the game of baseball was developed and grew in the decade of the 1970’s I was very intrigued by this book when Mr. Gersbeck offered me a copy to review. It promised a review of each season in that interesting decade of baseball history and lists of the top players, performances and teams. On all of those matters, the book delivered on its promise.

The book starts out with a brief summary of each season during the decade and for the most part, all of the highlights and winners are covered. The division winners, playoffs and world Series are all summarized as well as some of the award winners. While each award is listed later in the book, this was the only negative I found in the book, as the mention of awards was not consistent. For example, in some years the batting title winner for each league is mentioned, but not every year. I found this inconsistent, but again, since these are listed in tables later in the book, the reader can at least find this information.

The lists of the top teams, players and performers are very interesting. Of course, any listing of the best or greatest of anything will be subject to debate and questioning, and these are no exception. I am not going to describe what lists and players where I have disagreements here as that is best left for the reader to make his or her own judgments. It should be noted that Gersbeck offers statistical and anecdotal evidence to make his case on why players or teams would be ranked where they are. That makes the lists not only reasonable for debate, but also for interesting reading.

The list I liked best was the ranking of all 26 teams that played in the 1970’s. The reasoning used was solid, and there were a few surprises. I will just mention that I was pleasantly surprised at where my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, were ranked in the decade.

This book will not only make good material for those sports bar debates, it will also bring back some great memories for fans and readers who followed the game in the 1970’s. If you loved your baseball in that decade, you will love this book.

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

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book:
Very quick, especially the sections when lists of the top ten players are included. For a book laden with statistics, it was a surprisingly quick and easy read.

Do I recommend?
If you followed baseball in the decade of the 1970’s then this is a book that you must pick up


NFL Minnesota Vikings Men's Critical Victory VII Short Sleeve Tee, Purple, X-Large
NFL Minnesota Vikings Men's Critical Victory VII Short Sleeve Tee, Purple, X-Large
Price: $25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple but good team T-shirt, November 21, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I needed new Vikings gear this year, and this shirt does the trick. Simple design with just the team name and logo, but enough to be able to show off the pride in my team.


Namath: A Biography
Namath: A Biography
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding biography of a complex athlete, November 21, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Football fans of all levels, from casual to hard-core, have heard of Joe Namath in some way. Many know of him for guaranteeing a win for his team, the New York Jets, over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III (which was not called by that name yet). Others may know him from his high risk, high reward style of play in the old American Football League before it merged with the established league to create the National Football League. Yet others may remember him for his commercials (the segment on his famous panty hose commercial is worth reading or listening to twice), his hard drinking, his love of the ladies and just being a rebel in the 1960’s and 70’s.

No matter what aspect of Joe Namath intrigues the reader, he or she will enjoy this well researched, well written biography of the man by Mark Kriegel. Kriegel,’s time with the New York Daily News gave him insight into the complex character of Namath that others who did not see him during his glory days with the Jets may not have.

While the chapters on his exploits on the field are very good, the best research and writing were in the chapters about his time at the University of Alabama and his post-football life when he eventually did settle down, got married and raised two daughters. Some may have a hard time picturing “Broadway Joe” doting on two little girls, but that is exactly what he was doing at the time.

The other reason that I felt this was an excellent book was how Kriegel related to the reader how Namath’s character was developed. This was a complete description of that process, from Namath’s childhood with divorced parents, how Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant became his surrogate father at Alabama to his hard partying, perpetual bachelor lifestyle as a pro quarterback to his life as a married man. That is a lot of changes and complexities, each covered in detail.

The audio book was a very good version of this work, with excellent narration by Scott Brick. He, like the author, covered the book in an even keel, never putting too much emotion or acting into his delivery. This was one of the most complete sports biographies that I have enjoyed, and the balance of each aspect of Namath’s life is why I believe every sports fan should pick up this book.

Pace of the book:
The narrative seemed to flow freely and because it followed a chronological timeline, this made the audio book easy to follow.

Do I recommend?
Yes, especially for football fans who recall “Broadway Joe” and his fearless style of play. However, this is also a good read for people who like celebrity biographies, especially as Namath’s celebrity status lasted long after his football career was over.

Book Format Read:
Audio book


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