Playing Truant

Playing Truant has five members of a mortgage foreclosure team attending a conference when one of them decides he doesn’t want to go into the meeting. It’s his hometown and three other members of the team join him in visiting some old haunts, whilst the team leader remains. The team finally return and the reaction is not what they expected.

The book takes place over a short period of time. It aims to focus on a real life situation and achieves this, not relying on over the top action or exaggerated situations. Whilst a strength of the book, it also leaves you wanting something else to happen.

Rating (out of 5): ***

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The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses charts the history of the struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster. The book keeps events moving, but provides all the important information for the key events. The biggest battles receive their own chapters, whilst events between them look at the politics of the time. An interesting book (I’ve read relatively little about the War of the Roses), but Edgar’s writing style is different to usual conventions; for example, instead of Henry V being written like that, he would be referred to as the fifth Henry. A minor quibble for a very good overview of an important era for English history.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Foggy’s Blog

Morton Astley Fogarty (Foggy) is blogging about his life. He lives at home, works in an insurance call centre and is involved in an amateur dramatic production of Grease. However, in all aspects, he’s out of his depth. Despite being out of his depth, he’s blissfully unaware and looks for the best in everyone and everything. This results in plenty of mis-understandings, the highlight being when Foggy is called in for a disciplinary meeting at work. Foggy is a lovable character and it’s a short, amusing book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game is subtitled Why everything you know about football is wrong. It looks to use statistics to disprove some things that we all ‘know’ about football. It also looks to draw attention to the key parts of the game that were unknown until statistics have started being used.

Statistics have been widely used in baseball to help teams improve and other sports are trying to use them to help their performances. Anderson and Sally make it clear that there is already a wide availability of statistics in football, but they are meaningless without analysis. This is an area that clubs are still struggling to get to grips with, as failing in the ‘proper way’ would draw less condemnation than by failing (if it were to happen) through the use of analysed statistics.

Anderson and Sally look to analyse some common statistics and also answer questions such as whether scoring a goal is better than preventing one, if corners should be as celebrated as they are and when substitutions should be made if a team is losing. An enjoyable and thought-provoking book throughout and there’s a couple of things that I may look to try in my Football Manager save; it’s also given me a tip for the next World Cup Final.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Inverting the pyramid: the history of football tactics

The evolution of football formations and tactics is examined in Inverting the pyramid. The book starts with the first formation of 2-3-5 and how this has progressed over the years to new formations. For much of history, most teams have played the same formation or a variation of the formation. As well as formations, tactics are also looked at as managers have looked to get the best out of the players they have at their disposal. In most cases, the initial success of a new formation and tactic has brought some early success before other teams have copied it.

Wilson argues that new tactics and formations brought success as others were not aware of them. With the amount of football available to watch and all the video analysis that there is, it becomes more difficult for revolutionary new tactics to be introduced and certainly not as a surprise to opponents. How will the game develop further? That is the unknown question.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Six Months in 1945

The end of the Second World War is the subject of Six Months in 1945. Instead of focusing on the military defeats of Germany and Japan, the focus is on the changing relationship between the Big Three as they move from allies to enemies. The book starts with the Yalta conference and how the interpretation of the agreements reached affects events and the relationships through to the Potsdam conference and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.

As well as events and the agreements, Dodds also looks at the change in personnel amongst the Big Three leaders and the impact that this has as 1945 progresses. The main change is in the American presidency, with Churchill’s replacement coming at the end of the period focused on.

An interesting read that looks to chart how the wartime alliance led to the Cold War.

Rating (out of 5): ****

The Pirates! In an adventure with Moby Dick

The Pirate Captain decides that their ship has seen better days (with the mast constantly collapsing, he’s probably right). The Pirates buy a new ship from Cutlass Liz. She’s famed for dealing with non-payers brutally. Which could be a major problem as the Pirates don’t have the 6000 doubloons the new ship costs. The Pirate Captain has a number of ideas to raise the necessary money, but they don’t work out and keep on bumping into a character called Ahab, who lost his leg to a whale and wants revenge. The reward to anyone who catches the whale? 6000 doubloons. The Pirates look to find the whale, claim the reward and pay for their ship.

An easy read and fun story. The pirates are named according to distinguishing features that they possess and the Pirate Captain is a lovable character, but often seems out of his depth. I recommend this to everyone.

Rating (out of 5): *****