Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#CBR10 Review #22: Game Play by Lynda Aicher

After being disappointed by the  hockey-themed romance Slammed by Victoria Denault, fellow Cannonballer, Emmalita, had some recommendations for me to check out! And this novel Game Play (first in a series called “Power Play” by Lynda Aicher) was definitely an improvement, and I liked the relationship in this one a lot more. But I was still very frustrated by a lot of aspects: the lack of communicating their feelings clearly and talking about things! Is this a common romance trope? Just talk to one another! (I say this as I am the worst for hiding how I’m feeling at times…)

The setup for Game Play is a little meet-cute banter between Dylan Rylie, a defenseman looking to get an extended contract on a local NHL team as his career begins, and Sam Yates, a star player on the US women’s hockey team who is finding her hockey career coming to an end. The two have some great banter and competition between one another, and I totally love that dynamic. After what is supposed to be a one-night-only thing, however, the two are torn between staying apart and letting their relationship grow, as Sam faces moving on to a new stage of her life in a new city.

There is some engaging wrestling between the idea of forging a new path and doing what is expected, following your dreams or finding new ones, and also some great commentary on the differences between opportunity in womens vs mens sports (though it is acknowledged that things are changing in some regards). And for the most part I like the dynamic between Dylan and Sam, as they both respect one another, their skills, and pretty much view each other as equals in all things.

But the problem again is all the hot and cold, and rapidly shifting aspects of their relationship without much discussion or sharing of what’s going on. Sure, certain unexpected events can change things rapidly, but it almost felt inorganic how this happened. It made me wonder where the consistency was in the characters at times. I mean, I know I can be chaotic and unpredictable at times, but it made me a little confused. Oh, and the amount of times it mentioned the characters wetting their lips/licking their lips was totally off the wall in my opinion.

All that said, however, this was a pretty solid hockey-themed romance. Not too many surprises to be had, and some frustration on my part at understanding the characters and their motivations along the way, but really not too shabby in the end.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#CBR10 Review #21: Slammed by Victoria Denault

A part of the “San Francisco Thunder” series by Victoria Denault, I admit I picked this one up because the title made me chuckle. I’m not usually one to read novels in this kind of romance genre (even though I’m a total romantic sap, so it’s surprising that I haven’t delved into this much before!) so the problem with my doing a review is that I don’t per say have a baseline for what to expect or what is good and/or different in the genre. That said, how very Canadian of me that a hockey-themed romance draws me in… and there’s a whole series of them from Denault? Hmm, I do like me a hockey player or two…

In any case, Slammed is about a young woman named Dixie, who is working her way up through the PR ranks of a professional hockey team called the San Francisco Thunder; her brother is a player on the team, and she wants to keep this a secret so that her coworkers don’t think her name or family ties led to her getting a job, rather than her actual ability. Dixie’s idol is the owner of the team, a successful woman who also had to break through quite a glass ceiling to be where she is. But to throw a wrench into the mix is Elijah (Eli), a brother of one of the players on the Thunder, with whom Dixie has a little meet-cute and initial chemistry with. Only she then finds out that he is being called up to the Thunder as a goalie, and romances between the PR staff and players is strict no-go area. And so… forbidden romance?? Maybe. Dixie is not only a career-driven girl, but also has some family drama happening with her ill father, and Eli himself is having trouble adjusting to playing on the team again after a life-threatening accident that he understandably is dealing with PTSD from.

There are a number of things going on in this novel subject-wise, and while these personal issues of the characters brought a certain depth to them, some of it also seemed to be established as a point of potential drama, only to not even really become a huge piece of it. Also, there is a lot of flip-flopping of characters and their motivations and wants, I found, that definitely could have been developed more so it didn’t feel so out of left-field when suddenly Dixie isn’t sure about her career anymore after having that be her defining trait the whole time, or how she suddenly acts like a knowledgeable psychologist on Eli’s issues after not showing this level of understanding before, etc. I did, however, like where the novel was going with the issue of double standards for women and men in their industry, but again, this was almost undermined by the actions of some of the other females in the end as well. That said, the attempt to bring more into this story than what is on the perceived surface was a good idea, and made the whole thing more interesting than it would have been otherwise.

But what about the romance as advertised in the novel’s description? Well… I can see why some people would be into it, and Dixie and Eli do have quite a bit of fun banter, but I guess I’d chalk it up to this kind of dynamic not being for me. You see, I’ve been watching a lot of rom coms lately, and in many of the ones with Matthew McConaughey (you know how he was in so many for a while, seemingly being the archetype for female desire during that period?), I find that his character is so greasy and unlikeable: way too smooth and focused on chatting women up in a blunt and over-sexualized way that I roll my eyes and ask why so many women in these movies are falling all over him. In this, Eli has a similar way to being with Dixie, and while it can be funny at times, it just seems so non-genuine to have a guy come straight out and do nothing but use corny pickup lines and sext you. But like I said, some people like that, and some women do just want that, it’s just that I am not one of them. I do understand how their relationship develops from being mostly about sex in the beginning to becoming more once they start to hang out and talk more, but there is still a lack of real depth shown on the pages. Also their communication about what their position and feelings really are in regards to work and their relationship, etc needs serious work and is the cause of most of the flip-flopping feeling I mentioned earlier on: hot then cold then hot then cold.

Yet despite all these complaints I have, Slammed and its characters are a fun at times, and it’s not like this was a taxing or completely unenjoyable read. I just wasn’t super drawn in because these kinds of interactions and relationships aren’t for me, though they may be for some others. What can I say, I’m a cutesy kind of gal ¯\_()_/¯ 

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, May 4, 2018

#CBR10 Review #20: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

"For eighteen years I've believed what other people told me about what was right and what was wrong. From now. I'm deciding.” 

I have seen a few very favorable reviews of this YA novel already, and I must say that I too really liked it for both the clear writing style, but also the handling of the serious subject matter therein, though I do think that perhaps one side of the story was much stronger than the other.

Lies We Tell Ourselves shifts between the perspectives of two different students during integration in 1959 Virginia, named Sarah and Linda. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend an all-white school in their town along with her sister and a few fellow classmates, while Linda is a white student who opposes integration and whose father is a loud media voice against it. Sarah and her fellow black classmates endure daily harassment and violence, while Linda believes this is just a problem for her and her fellow white students as those who to “force” integration are “agitators”. Of course, the two opposing students are soon forced to interact… and from there we get our major story of the two sides resisting to come together at first, but then finding some understanding. There are some interesting plot points here, but some of them you really can see coming quite early on. I wouldn’t, however, say that this predictability ruined my enjoyment of the story in any way.

There is a lot to unpack in the complicated subject of integration and race, and while at first I didn’t want to know what Linda thought of it all, it was interesting to see just where certain ideas can come from and how they may change: she herself has personal struggles though they may be different from those of Sarah. But ultimately, it is Sarah who is the star of this story in my opinion, as her dialogue centers more firmly on the narrative of integration, but then also incorporates so many other themes and layers of sexuality, the idea of wrongness and sin in the self, the roles and expectations of women during this time period (Linda also touches on this), etc etc.

The subject matter here is important, and it is clear that Talley put in research to try and create a very real sense of constant impending threat that the black students experience. While this book does contain violence, the author’s note at the end illuminates that some schools during this time integrated without much incident, while others had much more violence and even deaths that occurred from it.

Given that this novel is aimed at young adult readers, I am not surprised nor too disappointed in the way things wrap up seemingly happily and without much incident at the end. Though, the pacing was a little odd as it almost seemed like a climactic point was reached just after the halfway point, then the novel began to introduce all new plotlines which then had to be wrapped up quite hastily before the end, in my opinion.

Yet, despite this one major qualm for me, and a resistance at first to want to see Linda’s side of the story (I think I’m just getting so tired in real life listening to someone I see every day just be so stubborn in their closed minded ideas and try to claim that they have “facts” to support them, yadda yadda, we all know the types and it’s exhausting), Lies We Tell Ourselves is powerful, important, and would be a great novel to be introduced into high school English courses.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Monday, April 30, 2018

#CBR10 Review #19: Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller has such a knack for taking characters and legends that we may already know some about, but then delving much deeper into them, allowing us to see a whole other side to the story and person within. There is a particular beauty here in what she does to the story of Circe, giving a minor passing character from a well-known story of another, and giving her the spotlight to show us there is so much more to her story than that of a cameo to some other hero. And despite there maybe not being a big battle or war that is often associated with the heroes of ancient Greek myths, there is a heroism to Circe, in the battles she fights on a daily basis with her family, with the everyday man, and even with her own identity. As such, I find moments of relation to her struggles and the pain she works through during her long existence.

Circe is the story of the minor Goddess, Circe, daughter of the Titan Helios, who never quite fits in with the other Gods and Goddesses, neither of Titan blood nor Olympian. After her skills in witchcraft are found and scapegoated to be dangerous, Circe is exiled to her own island to live out her days. From here we see how she grows in her skills, and finds a role within her existence as a mother and protector. Her involvement within the Odyssey is also expanded upon, and we see much more of her relationship with Odysseus, as well as her place in the life of certain monsters and other Gods from various myths. But while her role in Odysseus’ story is the main one that is known about her, Circe is shown to be so much more than this, as she searches to establish a life and home of her own.

At its heart, Circe is a story about a woman finding her voice after years of being pushed around and told of her lack of worth and beauty for years. It is about pushing back at those who wanted to do nothing more than take from her what they want only to then shove her to the side. It is about love, family, respect, and protecting both yourself and those you care about; it is about the games people play with others when they don’t fear consequence, and how the tides may turn when victims finally resist or find their own ways to push back. It is a long and winding tale, but ultimately finishes with a satisfying end.

The only thing that I could really complain about in this novel would be the pacing. It felt a little sluggish to me at times, and given the large scope of the novel over centuries with large spaces of solitude for the Goddess, I wasn’t quite sure what the end game was supposed to be: she’s a Goddess so won’t she just live on and on? It wasn’t until nearly the end that it all came together for me and I understood what everything was building to. Though despite these small complaints, the beauty of the writing kept everything together and didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of the novel in any sense.

All in all, Circe is a beautiful novel, both gentle yet powerful in its portrayal of a complicated female character. I just love Madeline Miller’s writing style and how she delves deep into the intricacies of personhood. I can’t wait to see what else she endeavors to gift us with in the future.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]