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review 2018-05-04 17:29
Only With Passion: Figure Skating's Most Winning Champion on Competition and Life (Witt)
Only With Passion: Figure Skating's Most Winning Champion on Competition and Life - Katarina Witt,E.M. Swift

OK, once I got past the highly debatable subtitle and rather ridiculously sexed-up cover picture, this little book from 2005 was actually quite an enjoyable read. A full biography it is not, but Katarina is not the first female skater - see, for instance, Barbara Ann Scott - to combine scattered biographical facts and philosophical musings into an advice-to-a-young-skater format. At least Katarina's book doesn't include an entire chapter on the details of school figures!


I like Katarina, based on her pretty consistent public persona here and on tv - she's generally very down-to-earth and seems to have a strong grasp on realities both interpersonal and financial. What's more, she appears to have the capacity to form strong female friendships - notably with Sandra Bezic and with her business partner, Elizabeth. She also somehow seems to have maintained a strong relationship, though perhaps part of that is unacknowledged dependency, with a coach, Jutta Muller, whose methods in this gradually-awakening day and age would likely be described as borderline abusive. The strictures on Katarina's weight - and the skater's defence of those strictures - I found troubling. Anyway, it's clear that even 10 years after her last amateur skate, Muller was still a valued part of Witt's career. She takes her fictional young skater friend, "Jasmine" to see her training with Mueller for her latest professional project.


One of the self-revelations I most enjoyed was Katarina's complete awareness that she's addicted to showboating. She doesn't seem particularly worried that she thrives on being the centre of attention, and doesn't perform her best unless she's aware of multiple eyes upon her. I'm not sure she quite makes the full connection between that and the fact that she has never settled down into a marriage, but she comes close in the few fairly guarded sentences that she devotes to her longish relationship with Richard Dean Anderson. In fact, rather too much of this narrative is slightly defensive about being an independent single woman, although I can completely understand that she has had to deal with this same narrative for years from the media; all that emphasis on her femininity and her beauty (often at the expense of acknowledging her real athletic chops). That aspect of her life interested me far less than her stories of growing up in East Germany, and also the stories she introduces about some of her East German friends, at least one of whom made the dangerous crossing from East to West Berlin while the wall was still up.


About other skaters of her era, Katarina generally speaking follows the "if you can't say anything nice" rule; she has respectful words for Debi Thomas, and also for Nancy Kerrigan, and she openly regrets that she was so aggressively competitive with Rosalynn Sumners in the pre-1984 years, given how well they got along in the pro years that followed. And then there's this:


"And what was Tonya Harding like?"

"Tonya," I chuckled ruefully. "She was an impressive athlete, I must say. Her jumps were so high. She was very talented, except not in the head. Really, I don't care two cents about her."


She's careful, but it's not North American media-speak. I like that.


If you are curious about how she would describe her Playboy photo-shoot, or the '87 Worlds, '88 Olympics, the '94 Olympics, or Carmen on Ice, you'll find a bit about each of those in here, though none of them is terribly deeply examined. E.M. Swift (the same man who "co-wrote" Gordeeva's My Sergei) has done a good job eliminating any Germanic-sounding glitches from the smooth first-person narrative. There is a photo section, in black and white, not in itself a reason to buy the book, but with some fun novelties (including pictures of Katarina and Anett Poetzch wearing the same competition dress).


I hope we do someday get a more substantial memoir or biography, but in the meantime, this little book has earned its spot on my shelves.

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review 2018-04-27 19:07
Our Life on Ice (Torvill & Dean)
Our Life on Ice: The Autobiography by Jayne Torvill (2014-10-09) - Jayne Torvill;Christopher Dean

With the publication of this follow-up volume (on the heels of John Hennessy's "as-told-to" biography from just after the '84 Olympics, and of "Facing the Music" which was about events leading up to the '94 Olympics), I think we can safely add Torvill and Dean to the ranks of serial autobiographers. What is more, they have kept the format more or less consistent with earlier books: segments headed "Jayne", segments headed "Chris", and more general narrative headed "Jayne and Chris".


Although it has a general chronological sweep, much of the book is arranged into subject-based chapters which, I assume, is to disguise the fact that the book is necessarily a bit thinner than its predecessors where it revisits the amateur and early professional career covered in the other books, while still giving the opportunity to revisit and perhaps recast the previously narrated events from the an older (and wiser?) perspective. One subject that stood out to me because I was actually a little surprised at how undiplomatically it was handled was Chris' brief and unhappy marriage to Isabelle Duchesnay, and specifically the wedding, which was apparently made into a spectacular production against Chris' wishes by Isabelle's overbearing family. He is much more restrained (to the point of reticence) on what went wrong in his second marriage, to Jill Trenary, presumably because (a) there are kids and (b) they're still on good terms.


The major new material in this book relates to the British television show "Dancing on Ice", a "Strictly Come Dancing" clone, similar to "Dancing With The Stars" in the US - a reality competition where somewhat courageous celebrities learned basic skating and then performed highly-produced numbers weekly for judges, with regular eliminations. The "hook" of the show, of course, was that Torvill and Dean also performed regularly and, from my youtube explorations, sometimes with gimmicks not entirely necessary, given how very well they seem to have kept up their basic skills. Though there are obvious and expected declines in speed and flexibility, it's really remarkable how good they still were during this decade-long run, and it was a remarkably smart substitute for the rigours of touring in large-ice arenas where they would always have been measured against the audience's memories of their competitive prime (not to mention worn out by travelling). I was pleased also to see some discussion of Christopher Dean's choreography, for other skaters and for his brief venture into (autobiographical) modern dance. It wasn't terribly satisfying discussion - he seems to be one of those people who are much better at doing it than talking about it - but at least it's there.


Amongst the other fairly lengthy tributes to mentors and collaborators, we get a much better sense than before of the importance to the team of Jayne's husband Phil Christensen, who was a sound engineer on one of their professional tours (he came via the rock music world), and who eventually ended up in a central management role for their career. Among the least interesting aspects of the book - although it's been something that's been shoved in their face over the years, so I suppose they felt they had to address it yet again - is the rather uninteresting question of whether Torvill and Dean had a romantic relationship themselves. If you believe them, it amounted to one exploratory kiss in the back of a tour bus, and a mutual decision that anything more would mess up their working relationship and career. I see no reason not to believe them.


There's nothing shocking about this book because Torvill and Dean remain obstinately unshocking. Just two people who have been remarkably good at what they do for a remarkably long time, and who have taken the trouble to give us a bit of serial-autobiographical context to their main legacy which is, of course, all that wonderful - and fortunately for us, recorded - ice dancing.

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review 2018-04-26 11:26
The author knows her sport!
Gold Rush - Jennifer Comeaux

If you want to read a book with a figure skating theme where the author actually KNOWS all about the sport, then give Gold Rush a go. This book is about a skater in her late teens going for gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Jennifer Comeaux knows pretty much everything about the sport, making it all seem so authentic.


Even though the characters are university-aged, this is a tame little contemporary romance with a very sweet hero, and reads a little more like young adult fiction.


The author has other ice skating books available, and I will definitely be checking them out.

Source: nataliaheaney.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/gold-rush-by-jennifer-comeaux
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review 2018-04-20 22:51
Deep Edge (Harrisburg Railers, #3) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey 4 Star Review!
Deep Edge - R. J. Scott,V.L. Locey

Trent Hanson is a figure skating phenom adored by millions around the world. His whole life has been dedicated to the sport he loves even when the sport - and his own family - have turned against him. From the playground to the Olympics to his parent’s living room, Trent has fought against bullies and homophobes to be the out and proud gay man he is. But the constant fighting has left Trent tired, lonely, and skittish. All those fears will have to be shelved though when he’s hired to spend the summer working with the Harrisburg Railers ice hockey team. Who would have guessed that the man fate has decided to pair him off with is Dieter Lehmann, all-around sex god and a man who seems to have everything to prove and doesn’t care who he hurts to get what he wants.


Dieter has spent too many years languishing in the minors, and a secret addiction to prescription painkillers means his career is in a downward spiral. His ex is blackmailing him, and he’s close to walking away from it all. But when he’s called up in the run for the Stanley Cup to cover injuries he has a taste of what it’s like playing in the NHL, and he realizes that a place on the Railers’ roster is what he wants more than anything. More than listening to his heart, and even more than caring for the infuriating figure skater who gets under his skin. When he crosses the line to get what he wants, he knows he has lost his way. He has to change, but is it too late for both his career and any chance he might have at love?




Trent and Dieter, sigh, I love sports romance and this series just gets better and better. 

Here we have two athletes, one from hockey and one from Olympics level figure skating. They both have been dedicated to their fields since they were childern. 

Trent has lost all his money.... because...can't tell you. But as he provide supports for his mother, grandmother, and an LGBTQA youth center, things suck. 

He meets Dieter when agrees to a reality show that will follow him cross training hockey players.

Dieter is a mess. He has a pain killer addiction going on and is in and out of denial. We get a realistic look at the think of an addict and an arc into recovery. In Trent's step father and mother, we get to see the chaos addiction (though of another kind) plays on a family.

This isn't an easy love story but Trent is amazingly well drawn and Dieter really because a wonderful partner during the course of the book. 

The secondary characters and families are wonderful and we even get Filipino food through Trent's wonderful quirky grandmother.

Can't wait for Stan's book!


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review 2018-04-09 22:13
The Return of the Firebird: Evgeny Plushenko, an Image of the New Russia (Tuncay)
The Return of the Firebird: Evgeny Plushenko, an Image of the New Russia - Vildan Bahar Tuncay

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, very young well-off university men who indulged in "poetical effusions" could get them published with subscriptions from indulgent and equally well-off friends. I have read some of this innocently awful rubbish.


Innocently awful rubbish is also how I would describe this self-published fan biography of Evgeny Plushenko. Mercifully slight, it is the product of someone for whom English is clearly not the first language, and whose style has been further corrupted by academia. There are a few minor insights, though they are likely born of reading rather than experience; I think Ms Tuncay is likely correct in linking Plushenko's arrogance and flamboyance to the rapid emergence of materialistic culture in post-glasnost Russia generally, for instance. Not ever having been a fan of Plushenko - I found him technically gifted, but without any sort of interpretive merit, and repulsively narcissistic - I am not inclined to forgive the faults of the writer (and the non-existent proofreader) for the sake of the subject.


Plushenko fans may want the book to complete their collections, particularly since there is so little written about him in English; I cannot otherwise recommend it at all.

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