All tagged Sports

Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Guest Post by Allie of In Bed with Books

Kwame Alexander's newest novel, THE CROSSOVER, is a verse tour de force. It's told through poems by the main character, Josh Bell a.k.a. Filthy McNasty. He and his twin brother Jordan (JB) are talented basketball players, but jealousy threatens to split them apart when JB gets a girlfriend.

I love how many levels of story are woven into this novel. 

THE CROSSOVER is the kind of book I never would've picked up when I was younger because I didn't like sports. There is the sports story promised by the cover, all leading up to a big championship game, but it is far from the only plotline. Nor is it the most important plotline. That's reserved for all the family stuff.


Quick(ish) Thoughts on Four Recent(ish) YA Novels

I've been disinclined to write extensively about young adult titles lately, despite that I've been reading quite a few recent releases. I do have a few I want to be sure to write about more extensively (particularly the final novel in Gabrielle Zevin's spectacular Birthright series), but I wanted to share my thoughts on a few I've read recently.

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Admittedly, I was nervous about reading Lauren Morrill's new novel, Being Sloane Jacobs. Lauren is one of the few authors I follow on my personal Twitter account and I enjoy her thoughts on publishing and tweets about being an extra on The Originals but I haven't read her debut, Meant to Be, and was worried that I wouldn't like her book. (I've had this happen before, enjoyed someone's online persona and their book didn't work for me--and I always fell badly about it.) 

Fortunately, my worries were completely needless, as I enjoyed Being Sloane Jacobs a bunch. The premise is essentially The Cutting Edge meets The Parent Trap, except without twins. Instead, we have two points-of-view, both girls named Sloane Jacobs. One is a stressed former competitive figure skater from a high-powered Washington, DC political family. The other Sloane Jacobs is a tough hockey player from Philadelphia with a bit of an anger problem.


Links + Things: Justin Timberlake! The Calming Manatee! Plagiarism (Ugh)! Sexism (Double Ugh)! Libraries! General Interestingness!

You guys, it's been slow around these parts because I kind of lost the plot with my reading and nearly every book I've read in March isn't out until May or June. Obviously, I would be a jerk if I started reviewing things that weren't out for months--on a number of levels. 

However! I have many links of interestingness, including a Very Special Section devoted to the one and only Justin Timberlake. I have had The 20/20 Experience on repeat since Tuesday and I am in love--especially with Pusher Love Girl, which is Swoon City, USA.  ​

This Week's Video of Awesome

This is a ​fantastic speculative ad for Durex--it's brilliant and actually tells you want you need to know about the product.


Jane Goodall, the primatologist celebrated for her meticulous studies of chimps in the wild, is releasing a book next month on the plant world that contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites.

The borrowings in “Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder From the World of Plants” range from phrases to an entire paragraph from Web sites such as Wikipedia and others that focus on astrology, tobacco, beer, nature and organic tea.

​Well, this is disappointing news to say the least. I'm getting so weary of one plagiarism story after another. I realize there are so many pressures to publish, publish, publish, but it's at the point I'm no longer all that surprised by each week's plagiarism story. What worries me the most is the desensitizing--I have had a number of students in their 20s who have been surprised by my anti-plagiarism spiel because it's the first time they've had someone explicitly address the issue of plagiarism and what it precisely means. 

Review: Bruised by Sarah Skilton

My black belt represents everything I could've done and everything I didn't do, the only time it really mattered.​

Sarah Skilton's debut novel, Bruised, opens with a gut-punch of a first scene. Imogen, a 16-year old Tae Kwon Do black belt has just witnessed a gunman be shot and killed by police while attempting a holdup at the diner. Imogen hides under a table, paralyzed as the events unfold before her.

Thanks to her years of training to achieve her black belt, ​Imogen always believed that she was stronger than everyone else, a real-life superhero, that she could and would diffuse a volatile situation. In the aftermath of the violence at the diner, she's wracked by guilt, convinced that she should have saved the gunman.

Imogen's entire identity is wrapped up in her Tae Kwon Do achievements. She studied hard to achieve her mediocre grades so she could practice the sport, was in constant training, followed the discipline's rules about behavior and conduct and ate all the right things. And yet, for Imogen, those years of work were all for naught ​when it really mattered that day at the diner.

This belief sends Imogen's sense of who she is into a tailspin as she has to piece her identity back together as she navigates her changing family relationships, friendships and her relationship with a boy, Ricky, who understands her experience in a way that no one else can.

​The sharpest element of Bruised is Imogen's voice--it's absolutely unwavering in its authenticity.

If a girl punches someone, she's crazy. If a guy punches someone, he's dealing with his feelings. He's normal.

Review: Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O'Keefe

My reviews of Molly O'Keefe's Crooked Creek Ranch series are probably starting to get a bit dull.

Here's a quick synopsis of the crux of each of my reviews,

Wow! These characters are fully fleshed-out, complex people. I completely believed in their romance because their path toward happiness was hard and took work, but the payoff was completely worth it! This pushes the boundaries of what we talk about when we talk about characters and stories in romance! Exclamation points!

Each of these three novels explores the path of challenging, driven, damaged people as they find happiness together. Crazy Thing Called Love features Madelyn (formerly known as Maddy), a rising star who hosts a morning talk show in Dallas, and Billy, an aging hockey enforcer whose career is at rock bottom.

Oh, and Billy and Maddy used to be married.

This is a scenario I usually would avoid reading, because generally speaking, it seems that relationships run their course for a reason, so the reconciliations generally read as superficial or not long lasting in the context of real life. However, in the case of Crazy Thing Called Love, the setup works. 

Billy and Maddy married young--way young--and while they were in love, they were also immature and their marriage was rooted in their mutual desire to escape their lives. Billy's hockey career was their ticket out.

Maddy left Billy, having lost herself and her identity amidst Billy's rising stardom and remade herself into a polished, confident local media star. But in a strange way, within her job she also loses a piece of herself, 

AM Dallas needed her to be the trusted, knowledgeable, well-dressed, and skinny best friend every woman in Dallas wanted to have. She didn’t have opinions, or outrage or passion. She smiled and told people about the delicious wonder that was gluten-free cheese.

Billy's in desperate need of a new image after spending the season riding the bench for the Dallas Mavericks (yes, this makes me snicker, because the Mavericks are a basketball team, not a hockey team). He has a lot of anger and bitterness and has the potential to go in a very dark direction. 

When Maddy's talk show proposes proposes a makeover of Dallas's notorious bad boy hockey player--clothes, hair, etiquette, the works--she balks, not wanting to revisit that part of her life and definitely not wanting her coworkers to know her past. But Billy embraces the chance to reconnect with his ex-wife.

Their forced renunion after 14 years is challenging, to say the least.

As a rule Billy didn’t believe in fate, but having her come back into his life when it was at its very darkest, that seemed important. Like something he shouldn’t ignore. Something he didn’t want to ignore.

Cover Chat: Hooked by Liz Fichera

Earlier this week, I reviewed (and recommend, with reservations) Liz Fichera's debut novel for teens, Hooked. However, I keep coming back to the cover--it just doesn't work, in either the U.S. or Australian edition.

Three things lingered with me after I finished reading Hooked:

  1. It's not a romance;
  2. Setting is almost a character in and of itself; and
  3. It's a rare YA novel in that it really got the "feel" of sports right.

Hooked by Liz Fichera - a review on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

It’s been well-documented that I’m on a quest for a quality sports-themed young adult novel, particularly one with a female main character. 

Unfortunately, much of the time my enthusiasm for the newest sports book is immediately tempered by the sports serving as mere window dressing to bring the protagonist together with a Very Attractive Boy. 

But I keep soldiering on, seeking one of these stories that really works. However, I almost passed on Liz Fichera’s debut, Hooked, which features a Native American girl in Arizona who makes a splash with her golf mastery while negotiating a burgeoning relationship with a boy on her team (I haven’t had great luck with Harlequin Teen titles). But, a short interview with Liz on Stacked piqued my interest and I thought I’d give it a try, and despite some flaws, it was a surprisingly compelling read.

Fredricka (Fred) Oday lives on the Gila reservation, which abuts the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Like many kids growing up on the reservation, Fred’s options after graduation are pretty limited. Except she’s got something special going for her: a killer golf game. She learned to play because her father works at the golf course. Over the years, she’s excelled to the point that her high school’s golf coach adds her to the boys varsity team (there isn’t a girls team). 

However, despite her phenomenal skills on the golf course, she’s not welcomed with open arms. A player with a bad attitude and mediocre game, Seth, is removed from the team to make a space for Fred and the boys aren’t happy. They’re furious that a girl is on their team, but they are even more upset about a girl from the reservation on their team that replaced their buddy.

Then my eyes lowered to my seat, the empty one at the front of the row. There was a folded newspaper waiting on my desk, maybe the same one that Ryan had shown me in the library, and my stomach somersaulted all over again. Quickly, I placed my backpack underneath my desk and slipped into the seat. My smile faded when I found the photo on page three of the sports section, the same one where I was holding my driver on the fourth tee. Someone had used a black marker to draw a band around my forehead with feathers on each side. A crude Indian headdress. My nostrils flared and my breathing quickened. The photo turned cloudy the longer I stared at it. I had to swallow back the bile building deep in my throat. I folded and then crumpled the newspaper and stuffed it inside my backpack. I wanted to shred it into a million tiny pieces.

Despite the tensions among teammates, there’s chemistry between Fred and Ryan, the team’s other top golfer with whom she’s paired at tournaments. 

Told in alternating points of view from both Fred and Ryan’s perspective, Hooked explores all of these tensions against a backdrop of the American southwest.

Gift Guide: Books + Things for Sports Fans

There are a lot of bookish gift guides floating around at the moment, and I though we’d jump on the bandwagon, but with our own twist.

The first is for those sports fans on your list. (And yes, these are all things we own or have gifted.)



Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure by Craig Robinson

This is one of the more interesting sports books I own and one I’d recommend to both sports and design fans. Robinson has created an outstanding book that describes baseball visually, both hard statistics and weird things such as how tall Alex Rodriguez’ salary would be if it were paid in pennies. Awesome, right?

Amazon / Goodreads

The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Alamanac by Free Darko

I almost didn’t include this book on this list because when I went to the author’s event in Portland a few years ago and he was really insufferable (and exercised extremely poor judgment regarding his language choices at an event with many children in attendance). However, it’s an awesome book and like the previous one, it’s graphical so even if you’re not a fan of sports, it may appeal to you non-sports fans as well. 

Amazon / Goodreads

Counting Coup by Larry Colton

I’ve written about this one before but it’s a stellar book about the impact of basketball on the lives of people in an impoverished community. This is one of those, “it’s not really about sports” sorts of books. It’s about community. 

Amazon / Goodreads

Pacific Rims by Rafe Bartholomew

I love stories about unexpected places. Rafe Bartholomew’s chronicle of basketball in the Philippines (where people, FYI, are not particularly tall) is a book any sports fan will love. The humor in the narrative is really fantastic as well. (My Twitter friend Patrick Truby wrote an excellent review of this book on my good friend Mookie’s blog, A Stern Warning.)

Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker by Miranda KenneallyI am not one to seek out books I know I won’t like—that’s not how I roll. Despite that my negative reviews generate more pageviews and more comments, I have zero interest in reading things that don’t appeal to me. There are far too many books in the world to waste my precious reading time that way.

As a result of that, I know some of you will be surprised that I read Stealing Parker after Miranda Kenneally’s debut, Catching Jordan was a quick “did-not-finish” book, due to its ridiculous implausibility and extremely troubling themes. 

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist trying Stealing Parker, as I am desperate for a quality sports-themed read and I’ve grown to adore baseball. (Guess who saw a perfect game—in person—this summer? That’s right, this girl!) Unfortunately, while I did finish Stealing Parker, it was a struggle. I am certain many readers will enjoy in this book, but for me it was too shallow and too inauthentic to recommend.

Seventeen year-old Parker is a former high school softball star who quits the team, loses 20 pounds and starts kissing inappropriate boys after her mother announces she’s a lesbian and moves away to live with her girlfriend. Her mother’s news scandalizes Parker’s conservative small town and particularly Parker’s family’s church community.

In this slim novel, Kenneally attempts to tackle all of the issues Parker faces, including crises related to faith, family and friendships—not to mention Parker’s extremely ill-conceived flirtation and eventual relationship with the baseball team’s new assistant coach.

The storyline about Parker’s strained relationship with her mother and the resulting fallout in the family’s community is the most compelling and authentic.

This news rips apart Parker’s family, and in her conservative small town people are quite unkind and my heart sort of broke for Parker as she feels so very lost as her old friends push her away and her family crumbles.

The day Laura told everyone I was probably just like my mom— a butch softball player who probably likes girls— Drew crawled into my bed and held me until I cried out every tear in my body. He held me all night long. Even with everything that’s happened to me, I have to thank you for letting me keep Drew. Written on February 17; kissed and tucked away in my Bible.

Unfortunately, this is only a small piece of the main storyline—it pops up here and there when Parker reflects on her attempts to be a better girly-girl (she spends a lot of time tangling her hair in a specific way that is apparently very appealing to teenage boys), and the end of the book deals with her reconciliation with her mother—but that’s not the meat of Stealing Parker. 

List-O-Rama: Three More Dealbreakers

Zeppelin-ramp de Hindenburg / Hindenburg zeppelin disaster

Apparently, I’m a very picky reader, because since posting my list of book dealbreakers, I discovered that there are a few more common book occurrences that drive me abso-freaking-lutely bonkers.*

It’s funny, though, because I didn’t consciously realize how much any of these things bothered me until I started looking through my notes in my Kindle clippings file and noticed that I kept noting the same plot-related details over and over again in three years worth of clippings. 

Animal death as a plot device.

I’m a big-time animal lover. I love my dogs like my family. So, when animal death is used as a plot device, particularly death of a beloved pet—but really any story with the animal death (or injury) as a plot device, I instantly feel manipulated and it completely pulls me out of the story. I’m at the point, where if a book intrigues me and I see that an animal plays an important role, I will Google for spoilers so I can decide if I can handle the story and the inevitable animal death (seriously, being an animal in a novel is pretty much a death sentence).

Sometimes, a book is strong enough that this plot device won’t kill the deal for me (I recently read an ARC of an upcoming contemporary YA that I loved and an animal death snuck up on me, but the rest of the story made it a very solid, recommended read regardless), but it will completely ruin a “bubble book” for me.

I Love... Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

A few weeks after I had joined Goodreads last December, Sarah began evangelizing some book that everyone else described as being about cupcakes by some author named Sarah Ockler that I had never heard of.

I thought, 

Eh… She probably just likes this author because they have the same first name. Whatevs. I’ll get to reading it eventually.

(This was before CEFS, before Sarah and I realized that we are SSBDs, and therefore before I automatically began reading anything she recommended the nanosecond she recommended it.)

Then Maggie’s status updates as she read Bittersweet started invading my feed. First came a gif from one of my favorite movies ever, The Cutting Edge.

“Eh?” I thought, my interest thoroughly piqued, “Figure skating and hockey? Methinks I need to read this sooner rather than later.”

But at the time, I was in the midst of reading the Tomorrow, When the War Began series, as well as the Ruby Oliver quartet. This cupcake/figure skating/hockey book was just going to have to wait.

Maggie’s next status update was from the 2nd installment of one of my all-time favorite movie franchises, the incomparable Mighty Ducks.

“Eh!” I declared, “I will read this as soon as I’m done with Ruby and Ellie!”

10 minutes later…

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!!!!!!!” I squealed “A cupcake/figure skating/hockey/winter book set in my hometown! I must read this NOW!”

Obviously, I began reading Bittersweet immediately.


List-O-Rama: 7+ Non-Fiction Books About Sports

The Olympics are winding down, and I know I’ve had equal fun both watching the athletes and snarking on NBC for their piss-poor coverage here in the States.

As promised, here are some recommended books about sports—and yes, I know, some of these sports aren’t in the Olympics.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan

It’s been a long time since I read this book, and I understand it’s been updated to include more about the current realities of elite gymnasts and figure skaters, but Little Girls in Pretty Boxes is a very eye-opening book about what it takes to be a top-level athlete at a young age. I’ve been told that on the same subject, Dominic Moceanu’s memoir, Off Balance, is also a fascinating look at elite gymnastics. 

{Amazon | Goodreads

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

This is a remarkable piece of writing about my first sports love, the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. David Halberstam followed the team for a year in 1979 and recorded the highs and lows of professional sports at that time. It’s one of those works of non-fiction that reads like a novel because it’s so fast-paced and engaging. Another book I love about the same time period is the classic, Heaven is a Playground, which is about youth streetballers.

{List-O-Rama} 7 Sports-Themed YA Novels

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the XXX Summer Olympics (yes, this is how it’s displayed in my satellite company’s directory, which amuses me to no end) started this weekend. In celebration of this two weeks of sports (I love sports, y’all), I thought I’d round up some recommended young adult reads with sports themes.

Hopefully, there’s a little something for everyone on this list, so whatever your taste, you can find a satisfying sports-themed read. (I’m thinking I’ll do a non-fiction roundup soon, too, since I love quality sports non-fiction.) 

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Okay, okay… I know American football isn’t an Olympic sport, but stay with me. This is one of Laura’s favorites, and it’s honest and funny and unique. It’s also a great sports book for people who avoid sports, because it’s about more than just sports. (Fun fact: When I asked Laura if she was planning on reading the sequel, Nothing Special, she refused on the grounds that Stupid Fast was so perfect, she didn’t want it ruined by a sequel.)

{Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

{Review} Can't Buy Me Love by Molly O'Keefe

… she realized she wanted more. Not a husband or a bunch of kids burping on her clothes … but a life. A real one. A chance to figure out who she was…

Can't Buy Me Love by Molly O'Keefe

When I read that Molly O’Keefe’s main character in Can’t Buy Me Love was inspired by Tyra Collette from Friday Night Lights (“Tyra times 10” is how she referred to her), I immediately set aside my deeply-held philosophical objection to images of creepy waxed man chests* to check out her take on one of my favorite fictional characters. 

What I found in Can’t Buy Me Love was surprising. 

You know I’m not a voracious romance reader, nor an expert on the subject like Rebeca is, so I probably have a lot of preconceived notions about what a Big R Romance is. Most of those notions went straight out the window with Can’t Buy Me Love. 

Tara Jean Sweet is a prototypical woman from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s spent much of her life scrapping and fighting for every little thing she has. When she’s offered a stake in a Texas rancher’s leather business (she already designs items for the company) in exchange for a pretending to be his fiance in hopes of luring the rancher’s estranged children back to the ranch, she jumps at the chance. This is her opportunity to have something that’s hers, that’s legit—even if the means to that end are sketchy.

That rancher’s son is Luc, aging professional hockey player who’s literally suffered too many blows to the head as his team’s enforcer, and is facing a potentially career-threatening, if not life-threatening, brain injury if he doesn’t stop playing. His father soon dies after Luc and his sister (who’s a main character in O’Keefe’s novel, Can’t Hurry Love) descend on the ranch, leaving him obligated to fulfill a series of conditions of his father’s will—and making him Tara Jean’s boss. 

More than anything, I was stuck by the character development of both Luc and Tara Jean.

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Thalia Chaltas’ Because I am Furniture exemplifies the unique power of novels in verse. There are a lot of yougn adult novels about family violence, and many of them are excellent. However, in Because I am Furniture, the verse form allows the reader to experience the house of horrors in which Anke, the main character, lives. 

Fourteen year-old Anke’s siblings are terrorized by their abusive father while her mother passively watches, seemingly accepting the violence and sexual abuse of her children. Anke, however, is simply ignored. 

I am always there.
But they don’t care if I am
because I am furniture.

I don’t get hit
I don’t get fondled
I don’t get love
because I am furniture

Suits me fine. 

I have recently embraced the DNF (did not finish). I used to slog through books I hated simply because I, in some weird way, felt like I owed it to the book to finish it. 

I now realize this is a ridiculous perspective. 

If a book’s not working for me, despite that everyone else seemingly loves it, I drop it. These books go into one of two piles:

  1. DNF; or
  2. On hiatus.

 On hiatus books are those I plan on revisiting—maybe I’m not in the mood for the genre, but I suspect I’ll enjoy it later. Or, perhaps it’s really long, but I care about what happens, but need to take a break from spending so much time within the space of that book. DNF’s are those I drop like a hot potato. 

Editor’s Note: I reviewed this novel on Goodreads last year, and refreshed it for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves—because Raw Blue is such an important book. This is a hard book to acquire, but if you love high quality, contemporary fiction that tackles tough issues, it will be well worth your while. I left in the off-handed comment from my original review about starting a book blog for the laughs (I believe I made the same comment in my Goodreads review of Freefall, mentioned early in this review). This is the first in an ongoing series entitled “I Love,” in which we profess our love and devotion for books, authors, themes or anything else bookish we love.

I’m not even sure how to begin a review of this Raw Blue—this is the kind of novel that makes me feel like I should start a book blog to tell the world about the amazing books* they’re missing.

Given that it was a tremendous pain in the ass to acquire this book, the bar had been set pretty pretty high—and it certainly met those standards, and will be permanently filed under “True Book Love.” 

Why I ♥ Kirtsty Eagar’s Raw Blue.

FNL Character Rating: Luke Cafferty/Landry Clarke*!!!!

(* I tend to be biased against Landry because he looks a lot like one of my ex-boyfriends, BUT his nerd-to-football player persona works for this rating. And I didn’t even necessarily like the main character of the book, so that works too. And I ADORE Luke, and his cute, sensitive persona works for this rating too.)

On to the Actual Review…

So, I’m at this point in my life where puberty is far enough in my past that I find teenagers bewildering. I find myself too old to relate to them anymore. When I see them hanging out at the bus stop in front of where I work, I think to myself old people thoughts like, “Why are those kids yelling while having a conversation when they’re standing right next to each other?!” Or, “Why are they texting each other when they’re standing right next to each other?!” Or, “What’s with those pants? Are they pants? Their parents paid for those pant-things AND let them wear them in PUBLIC?!” 

Fangirl squeal!!!

I’m a bigtime Sarah Ockler fangirl. Big. Time. Her books just speak to me—she writes about family, and places, and relationships and life in a way that makes me think, “That is my life/family/hometown/whatever.” Plus, one time I “talked” to her on Twitter about Friday Night Lights (as well as her editor and Melissa C. Walker), so she’s completely rad simply for that reason, natch.

I have a feeling that Bittersweet will be one of those books that people read in very different ways. Some will read it as a “cute” book with a cupcake theme, some with grasp onto the sports themes or the small town story, while others will see it more as a divorce novel. It certainly took me by surprise—I loved Sarah Ockler’s other books, but since most of the early reviews I’d read of this one had focused on the cupcake/bakery theme, I was expecting something less emotional—Bittersweet has a lot of depth and it really surprised me.