Featured New Release Of The Week: Make The Call by Mark Richt

This week we’re looking at a particularly well timed book by a legendary college football coach, FSU / UGA / Miami’s Mark Richt. This week we’re looking at Make The Call by Mark Richt.

God And Football. This is Mark Richt, and this book is being published by a publisher that is a division of Lifeway Christian Resources, which originated in the Southern Baptist Convention. (I am unsure at this time of Lifeway’s connection to the SBC. I know there has been news of it in the years since I left the SBC, I just haven’t followed it.) Which is to say, you gotta know up front that you’re getting a lot of talk of both football *and* God. In the 20 years I’ve been following the man, since his first games as Head Coach of the University of Georgia’s football team – when I was 18 and fresh out of high school, but attending another school just outside of Atlanta -, the man has never shied away from either topic, virtually any time you hear him speak away from the sidelines of a game.

Within that context, and particularly with the timing of this book’s release – the week of the traditional opening of the College Football season -, this book is almost a sure fired hit. *Particularly* within Georgia and UGA fans, but even with FSU fans,(since an equally large part of the book, maybe even slightly more, is dedicated to his time as an assistant at FSU under the legendary Bobby Bowden), Floridians, and even in Miami, where he ended his coaching career as the Head Coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes – the very team he had played on in college.

But really, even if you don’t *overly* like Football or God, this book has a lot of strong life lessons, lessons Richt learned along the way either from meetings or, sometimes, the hard way. Lessons that are strong enough that as long as your disdain for those two topics is only mild ish, you should read this book to see anyway. Granted, if you have an utter revulsion to either topic… eh, you’re not going to like this book. Pretty well literally every single page has both topics, and at *minimum* one or the other.

Fans of FSU in the 90s, you’re going to get to relive some of the best highlights of that era of FSU football with a man who was on the sidelines and even calling some of the very plays.

Fans of UGA from 2001 – 2015 – arguably its best 15 year run in the history of the program – you’re going to get to see a lot of the highlights – and some of the lowest of lows – here as well. From Hobnail Boot – and man, I still miss hearing Larry Munson’s voice on that play – to Blackout I (against Auburn, a W) and Blackout II (against Bama, a L where the “can’t win the big games” narrative that would ultimately get him fired from UGA really began) all the way through the meeting that made his departure from UGA at the end of the 2015 season official. (For the record, I *still* say UGA was insane for this move, though CMR himself, as expressed in this book, is at peace with it.)

Fans of Miami will get to see both his view of the program as a player in the late 70s and early 80s and as Head Coach in the late 2010s and how much had changed.

And along the way, Christians will get to see the growth and maturity of a Christian man many – many more than he will ever know himself – have respected and looked up to for many years.

Ultimately this book will play and sell better in certain circles and areas than others, but I suspect that it will do at least as good as similar books by other Christian football legends such as Tony Dungy and Tim Tebow. Which seems to be decently well indeed, given that both of those men are almost constantly on Christian bookstore shelves and often even on chain and sometimes independent bookstore shelves, period.

Very much recommended.

PS: The reason for only 4 stars after praising this book so heavily? Prooftexting. Unfortunately all too common in Christian books, including this one. And an automatic one star deduction every time I see it, no matter how strong the book may otherwise be, in my own war on the practice.

#BookReview: Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner

Fun Romp Through Star Trek: TNG In Its Heyday. This is a fictionalized loose autobiography featuring Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation – and more specifically, Brent Spiner, the human actor who portrayed him. As one of those Autistics that Spiner mentions during the course of this story as eventually being told so many of us looked up to that character, I can absolutely attest to that being true… and one of the reasons he became so legendary to me. But the story itself is pure light-noir Hollywood, with quite a bit of comedy tossed into a plot that is nominally about obsessive fans and the more serious aspects of how that can go a bit off the rails. Most of the rest of the cast of TNG comes through in various bits, with Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton getting the most “screen time” here but even Michael Dorf, Gates McFadden, and yes, Sir Patrick Stewart himself all getting at least one scene of direct interaction with Brent within these pages. Still, as a “fictionalized autobiography” / noir, these scenes aren’t meant as literal “this happened” so much as “this is true to who these people were in my experience, even as these exact interactions are fictionalized”. As such, it offers a great view “behind the scenes”… without *actually* going “behind the scenes”. Great use of the medium, and a quick ish read to boot- I read it in a single afternoon. Very much recommended.

This review of Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner was originally written on August 27, 2021.

BookReview: I Guarantee It by George Zimmer

Love > Fear. Growing up in the trailer parks of the 80’s, moving out of them in the 90s, and becoming the first person in my immediate family (and only the second person in my triple-digit-numbering extended family) to go to college at the turn of the Millenium, I was one of those kids that saw George Zimmer’s famous “You’re going to love the way you look. I guarantee it.” commercials all over Atlanta TV. (And I *think* they even ran on radio? Though Zimmer never mentions those campaigns in this text. So maybe I’m wrong there. 20+ yr old memories at this point. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) But *being* that (even former) trailer park kid… Mens’ Wearhouse prices of $250 and up were a bit too rich for my blood, so I actually shopped at some of the competitors Zimmer mentions late in the text about buying out. ๐Ÿ™‚

With this background, I found this memoir from a man I recognized from TV in my childhood to be quite fascinating. In many ways quite honest – even at times brutally so – and astute, Zimmer openly admits to his luck, sometimes brilliance, and several of the key mistakes he made along the way. He also makes quite clear that he is still hurt by his 2013 ouster from the company he created – and its continual efforts to keep him from becoming a competitor. But in the end, this is a story about a truly remarkable “fortunate son”. A hippie who grew to become one of the titans of industry in America. (And who used his money to get the first Medical Marijuana legalization passed.) A progressive who is absolutely dedicated to capitalism. And a man who firmly believes that a paradigm shift from fear to love is what is needed in both industry and society as a whole.

An utterly fascinating read, and a shortish one to boot – I finished it in about 4 hours or so. Very much recommended.

This review of I Guarantee It by George Zimmer was originally written on August 12, 2021.

#BookReview: Trejo by Danny Trejo

A Hell Of A Life. Danny Trejo didn’t start acting – professionally – until he was almost 40 years old. Mostly because a large part of the rest of that time, he was high and/ or in prison, including some of California’s most notorious. Today, Trejo is known as one of the more prolific and high profile actors out there, with over 400 acting credits to his name + his line of Trejo’s Tacos restaurants.

Here, we see at least pieces of pretty much all of his 70+ years, from his early childhood as the only male in a house full of women and girls to his first time using various substances to his first robbery and the time he was worried he was about to face capital charges after a prison riot. Much of the front half of the story in particular focuses on his times in and around prisons during the first 2-3 decades of his life, and we see how he gained his “tough guy” persona. He lived it. It was either be tough or be dead.

Which actually makes the discussions of his confrontations with none other than (then *recent*) Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos over the movie American Me even more epic.

And yes, the back quarter ish is primarily about Trejo’s life in Hollywood and how that impacted him and his family. It is here that we see some of the things that will cause many of us to go “I remember that movie!” and “Oh Trejo was [insert opinion here] in that one!”.

In between, we get to see what Trejo was doing in between – which aside from a lot of personal mistakes, was saving a lot of lives and helping a lot of people recover from drug addiction – a passion he pursues to this day.

Serious yet hilarious throughout, this book doesn’t pull any punches. Trejo, an ex-con, openly admits to many things in this book that many would probably try to hide, including things that weren’t known world wide before now (at least to casual observers). And yet we also get to see behind the scenes of just how much good Trejo has been able to accomplish throughout his life.

Truly a remarkable man, and a memoir well written and told. Very much recommended.

This review of Trejo by Danny Trejo was originally written on June 30, 2021.

PS: Special thank you to the publicist at Simon & Schuster – they know who they are – who sent me the *hardback* version of this book! First one of those I’ve read in at *least* 2-3 years!

#BookReview: Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond

Read The DTE (Dead Tree Edition). This was an interesting one, in more ways than one. I had seen it on NetGalley and forgot to request it there… and then the publisher out of the blue sends me the paperback (DTE) version thinking I might like it. And y’all, the book itself really is excellent. More detailed in the childhood/ teen years than the more adult period, which is perhaps more understandable as someone trying to maintain *some* sense of privacy over newer relationships.

But this book is also very disturbed. The is one truly dysfunctional family whose particular dysfunctions actually led to quite a few rare experiences that combine to make a truly unique life. For example, Diamond and her family were at the 15th Maccabiah Games in 1997 when the bridge collapsed – the very bridge her brother Frank was supposed to be marching across. But the reasons they were there, and the events in later years… they’re so sensational the reader almost can’t accept them as nonfiction!

And then there is the reason you need to read the DTE. If you look at the DTE side-on, you will notice that the front third (ish) of the pages are pure white while the back two thirds (ish) of the pages are more of a cream color. I noticed this about halfway into the book, and when I went back to look… yep. The colors change exactly at the point of a particularly devastating event – and any description would be a spoiler, so I’m only noting the overall position. This is just one of those minor print details that actually makes a *genuine* case to read the DTE over my (far preferred) eReader edition, as on the eReader edition this detail couldn’t happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall an interesting and compelling story, if truly disturbed. Very much recommended.

This review of Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond was originally written on June 27, 2021.

#BookReview: Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand

Real Life Disaster Movie Memoir. This is one of those memoirs from someone who was “on the ground” at an event that so very many of us have lived through and with, and thus someone whose experiences are at least worth exploring. That noted, Almand and her husband are both 70 ish yr old seniors with comorbidities (including Type 1 Diabetes in her husband) that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, and this does in fact inform much of her own thoughts on the issue. Still, as a memoir of a sort of Gilligan’s Island – where they went out expecting one thing and got something dramatically different that cast them into a survival situation – this is quite remarkable. From being at Mardi Gras 2020 to being at some of the last NBA games to be played outside the “bubbles” to piecing together where to go in light of confusing, conflicting, and scant data to the various experiences of coming to terms with the new life and reality, this is truly an interesting memoir. Recommended.

This review of Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand was originally written on May 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Eloquence Of The Sardine by Bill Francois

Poetic Narrative More Memoir Than Hard Science. This is a memoir of a man who was afraid of the sea as a small child and who had one chance encounter that turned his life around… and inspired his life long study of the sea. This book really is as much about the author’s own experiences and thoughts as it is the actual scientific facts he states throughout, which is seen perhaps most glaringly in the extremely short bibliography (at least on this advance copy I read). But truly poetic and beautiful regardless, one is almost inspired to pursue a career (or perhaps second career) in something that gets one out in, on, or under the water just from the sheer awe Francois shows here. All of this noted, I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the actual title: “eloquence” is “a discourse marked by force and persuasiveness”, according to Webster. And while I found quite a bit of beauty, wonder, and awe within this narrative, I found little truly forceful or persuasive. Francois doesn’t seem to be making any major point or trying to persuade anyone to any particular position other than the sheer wonder of all that exists under the seas. Truly an excellent work, even with the quibble over a part of the title. Very much recommended.

This review of Eloquence Of The Sardine by Bill Francois was originally written on April 11, 2021.

#BookReview: An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen

More Memoir Than Hard Science. This was a memoir-based look at the field a man has made his career in, what the science he uses is, his thoughts on his field and his practice, and ultimately a bit of a guide on the general issues of the topic at hand. For what it is, it is very well written and easily readable. But those looking for a more “hard science”, heavily referenced examination of the topic… won’t find that here. But from a perspective of “I’ve been in this field for decades, and here is what the field is, what I’ve done in it, and where I think it should go”… yep, this book is exactly that, and a very good general overview of the field from that perspective. Very much recommended.

This review of An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen was originally written on October 15, 2020.

#BookReview: Full Circle by Andrea Barber

Amazing Story. Barber is obviously known to millions as Kimmie Gibbler, but here for the first time those same millions meet Andrea. And Andrea is full of the dichotomies that plague many of us. An introvert who happens to be a “celebrity”. Someone plagued with anxiety who is known for portraying the zany neighbor that always has a plan. The mother that slipped so far into anxiety and depression that she couldn’t take care of herself and nearly lost everything. Barber does an excellent job of easing the reader into the darkest moments of her life and explaining how she was able to come out of them and come… Full Circle. Very much recomended.

This review of Full Circle by Andrea Barber was originally written on November 15, 2019.

#BookReview: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Greatest? Maybe. Most Hilarious? Quite Possibly. What happens when you get two very busy comics who each have one breakout role on television and who happen to be married to each other get together to discuss their nearly two decade long relationship? Hilariousness ensues, that’s what. They get into controversial topics from time to time, and this is definetly not a book you want to listen to with kids around (and you need to actually listen to this one, rather than read it, even if you know their voices precisely… which would be kind of creepy anyway… moving on…), as there is a fair amount of… colorful… language used (though nothing XXX rated, just to be clear). Overall, a truly hilarious tale about their lives together and their thoughts on relationships, fashion, celebrity, and all kinds of other things. I actually got my Closer badge on Audible with this book, thanks to a 6 hr drive – and it is absolutely worth reading in one sitting. ๐Ÿ™‚

This review of The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman was originally published on October 21, 2018.