Tag Archives: sports

ARC Review – Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

Title: Check, Please!: #Hockey

Author: Ngozi Ukazu

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

I didn’t even know I needed Check Please! in my life until I started reading it. It was a webcomic that I saw being discussed over on Cece @ ProblemsofaBookNerd’s channel, and every time she mentioned it, the more intrigued I was. Hockey? Baked goods? Vlogging? What more can you ask for?

Eric “Bitty” Bittle is the smallest player on his college hockey team. He’s also openly gay, and kinda sorta maybe has the hots for Jack, a French-Canadian teammate. The romance between the two is SO DARLING. It is so cute, and I love how organic it feels in the story. Eric and Jack are just so awkward and sweet! I kept rooting for them from start to finish even though yes, I knew they would end up together. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. POINT IS IS LOVED IT, OKAY?!

I also adored the artwork, and just how well-researched it is. anytime hockey is discussed I just found myself being like “I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!” or “I know who they are talking about!” I recognize how silly that may sound, but I love learning about sports even if I don’t necessarily like playing them. I also loved any section of the story that focused on Eric and his former figure-skating career! Those panels are so pretty!

I honestly can gush forever about Check Please! and honestly I am so excited to have discovered this comic series. I cannot wait for the next part to be bundled together just so I scan squeal at the top of my lungs over just how freakin’ cute it is.

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ARC Review – Rebound (The Crossover 0.5) by Kwame Alexander

Title: For Every One

Author: Jason Reynolds

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved The Crossover when I read it last year, and it was the second novel by Kwame Alexander that I’ve read. Rebound is a prequel novel that focuses on Charlie Bell, father to Josh and Jordan Bell. Charlie’s story looks at growing up, what it means to come from nothing but demanding to be someone.

I will say I really did enjoy this book, though it didn’t hook me the way Alexander’s other books have. While I loved some of the poems, others didn’t click as well with me. The other issue is I wasn’t often fond of Charlie or his decisions in the story, and I found him much more difficult to connect with compared to Josh. I still say though that I did love the themes that were present in Charlie’s story, and it was interesting to read his thoughts and feelings known how he was presented in The Crossover. There is still a sense of hope, to be a better person, to want to do better and be successful — all messages that anyone can relate to, and especially growing up in the 1980’s which this book takes place in, as the 1980’s ever an interesting period of self-discovery.

I do think if you loved The Crossover that Rebound is completely worth checking out. While I didn’t have the same emotional investment, I still loved seeing Charlie’s transformation even if I couldn’t connect with him the same way I did Josh. As always, I love reading Kwame Alexander’s books, especially about sports given he always makes me feel as a reader like I can accomplish anything with sports metaphors.

ARC Review – Sunny (Track #3) by Jason Reynolds

Title: Sunny (Track #3)

Author:  Jason Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics. They all have a lot of lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

As many of you know, I am an insane Jason Reynolds fangirl. I started reading his books last year and since then have read everything he has published to date. When Simon & Schuster Canada sent me a package of Jason Reynolds books, I was rolling on the floor in utter delight. The Track series is one of my favourite middle grade reads and one I constantly recommend to parents who have reluctant readers in their lives.

In Sunny, our track team takes an interesting turn. Sunny finds track too easy and debates leaving his teammates behind to peruse his new passion — dance. Concerned about the feelings of his teammates but struggling with his own desires, Sunny fells somewhat broken as he writes in his diary. I think Sunny’s story is one we all go through just in various stages. A loss of passion for something you’ve done your whole life, letting others down for “selfish desire,” wanting to try to appease both sides, the reader truly gets a sense of Sunny’s struggle throughout.

I loved Sunny’s relationship with Aurelia, who helps him get into dance in the first place. You get to see what a good influence she is on him and she helps Sunny to see that while choices are hard, it’s what makes you the most happy. When you are a kid, that is really hard advice to take (even as an adult it’s hard advice to take). I loved Sunny though, and I kept wanting him to pursue his dreams.

The Track series is just so impeccably written and stories being told are easy to relate to. Ghost, Patty, Sunny and Lu are kids that are easy to connect with and you want to see them succeed no matter what. If you haven’t read this series, I urge you to check it out!

 

ARC Review – Spinning by Tillie Walden

Title: Spinning

Author: Tillie Walden

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I always love sports stories despite not enjoying playing sports. There’s something about watching a protagonist grow and transform through the use of sport. However, this is not entirely that story. This graphic memoir looks back on Tillie Walden’s relationship to figure skating, understanding her sexuality, and falling in love with art.

First off, I am a big fan of graphic memoirs. They are an interesting medium for telling personal stories, and Walden’s is one I think many readers can relate to, particular what it means to fall out of love with someone and in love with something (and someone else). You see throughout the course of the story that Walden’s passion for figure skating changes, that it doesn’t feel fulfilling. You also see what is keeping her there – her first love, a girl, whom she is over the moon for.

We learn in the story that Walden has known she was gay since she was quite young. We are told that she was afraid of coming out for so long, but because of how young she was it was easier to have girls come over for sleepovers and her parents think nothing of it. She talks about how living in Texas is was scary to be young and gay, especially when society pushes it’s agenda of marriage and kids. I felt for Walden, especially when she talked about her fears and how concerned she was if people found out she was gay. The book shows how she was bullied and tormented be it at school or at figure skating practice, and she never truly gets to feel satisfied in her own skin.

Spinning is a gentle story about growing up. Tillie Walden shares such a powerful narrative, and her artwork does an amazing job of showing the intense feeling of what happened in her life. I LOVED the artwork and chromatic colouring in this graphic memoir and I think it just adds such a beautiful layer to such an emotional story. I felt nothing but sympathy for Tillie, but I felt so proud towards the end when things finally came together.

Blog Tour – The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander (Review & Excerpt)

Kwame Alexander, though not a new name for middle grade, is a new name for me. I had the pleasure of reading his short story in the collection Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh, and his was easily my favourite. Kwame Alexander has an amazing way with words, and I found his hero in that particular story be so honest and funny, it made me want to explore more of his work.

Raincoast approached me to share a review of The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life, which is a book of mixed media. In it contains Kwame’s beautiful words alongside Thai Neave’s stunning photography. Please enjoy my review, an excerpt, and some wonderfully wise words from Kwame Alexander.

Huge love to Raincoast again for allowing me to participate in this blog tour. Your friendship and kindness is always appreciated.


31193387Title: The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life

Author: Kwame Alexander

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?  Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am very new to Kwame Alexander’s work, and I am not going to deny that. When I was asked to help promote The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot and Score in This Game Called Life, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be getting into. I admit, I’m not the biggest sports fan, which was my first worry, but I actually loved the way in which sports were used in this beautiful piece of non-fiction.

imageFirst off, I adore the writing in this book. Kwame Alexander is a true poet, and I think there is a wonderful simplicity in his poetry that allows for a lot of extra thinking in terms of multiple meanings. I also love that his poems are inspirational, confident and will inspire confidence in others. This book is filled with passion, kindness, and strength. I also loved the way the inspirational quotes were woven into the text, featuring the likes of Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin. I think the quick anecdotes about different athletes and their rise to fame framing each section of the book was also fantastic, as learning about Lebron James and the William sisters was very interesting.

Second, I want to praise the use of photography in this book. I think that Thai Neave’s photographs do a stunning job of complimenting the poems and adding support to the text. I love photography and some of the images in this book are just so beautiful, and the way in which they match the text is often quite spot on. When Alexander is writing about the key feelings for the playbook of life such as passion, motivation, determination, etc, the photographs do an amazing job reflecting these emotions and the poem that is written to coincide it. While the writing in this book is stellar, just flipping through it for the breath-taking photographs is equally worth your time.

After reading The Playbook, I am very much a newfound Kwame Alexander fan, and I cannot wait to read more of his books. I love how even though this is considered middle grade there is so much wisdom in these pages for anyone or any age group. I think this book would be helpful for parents, teachers, librarians as well, as I feel like they can use this book to help teach some of these “rules” that Alexander shares with his readers. There is so much beauty in these pages, and even if you aren’t a sports fan, the metaphors that are present are completely universal. If you are looking for some inspiration or need some confidence, then check out The Playbook because it will give you with hard truths and a pick-me-up that you didn’t realize you needed.


About the Author

kwame

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include SURF’S UP, a picture book; BOOKED, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.


A huge thank you to Raincoast for providing me with this opportunity to share more about The Playbook, as well as Kwame Alexander for writing this wonderful book. If you are curious to learn more about The Playbook, make sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

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ARC Review – Stand-Off (Winger #2) by Andrew Smith

24885824Title: Stand-Off (Winger #2)

Author: Andrew Smith

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s his last year at Pine Mountain, and Ryan Dean should be focused on his future, but instead, he’s haunted by his past. His rugby coach expects him to fill the roles once played by his lost friend, Joey, as the rugby team’s stand-off and new captain. And somehow he’s stuck rooming with twelve-year-old freshman Sam Abernathy, a cooking whiz with extreme claustrophobia and a serious crush on Annie Altman—aka Ryan Dean’s girlfriend, for now, anyway.

Equally distressing, Ryan Dean’s doodles and drawings don’t offer the relief they used to. He’s convinced N.A.T.E. (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) is lurking around every corner—and then he runs into Joey’s younger brother Nico, who makes Ryan Dean feel paranoid that he’s avoiding him. Will Ryan Dean ever regain his sanity?

Huge thank you to Simon Teen Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

After recently reading Winger, I was a bit worried about this sequel. With the way the novel ended, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure where Smith could go with Ryan Dean West’s story. Colour me surprised when I finished Stand-Off and loved it as much as the first book. If I’m being frank, I really love both equally.

This story takes place after a spoil from Winger where Ryan Dean is in his senior year. You’d think Ryan Dean would have some maturity at this point, but when he’s paired with a twelve year old named Sam, well, that maturity goes out the window to say the least. Actually, this relationship easily one of the most humorous and sad at the same time. Sam is so timid and darling, and he’s that kid that you want to hate but you have no real good reason why, and that’s what makes it pretty humorous. However, it also problematic as it shows that Ryan Dean doesn’t want to admit that in some way, he and Sam are fairly similar.

Seriously though, I had a good laugh during parts of Stand-Off, and it really does come from Ryan Dean’s narration. There’s something very sharp, witty, yet kind of wimpy in his voice that I was once again completely drawn too. Yet there’s a darker atmosphere to Ryan Dean in this story since he’s haunted by an event from the previous book, and that stays constant throughout. I love the contrast between the serious elements ofStand-Off and the humour, and I think Smith does a great job of balancing these two aspects in a way that shows Ryan Dean’s development.

And really, that was the huge thing I loved about this sequel. I loved watching Ryan Dean grow as a person — he’s still as troubled as he was in the first book, but he definitely is looking at high school with a much more critical eye in this story, because in some ways he has grown up, and in other ways he is that very immature kid who refuses to grow up. He struggles to get over some of the problems from the first book, but they aren’t issues that you can just “get over” with ease. Smith goes this amazing job of showing Ryan Dean’s struggles in his growth and development, and having Sam be the contrast works so well in making the reader understand him more.

Also, I was super happy with how the relationship between Ryan Dean and Annie was developed in this book. Smith is often criticized for how he writes his female characters, but I thought Annie was a great character and I think her development in this book was solid. There’s one particular part between her and Ryan Dean that I adored simply because it shows young love in its best form — awkward, uncomfortable, and the desire for exploration. They are very cute, but I absolutely love how hard Annie is on Ryan Dean because he often earns it throughout the novel.

I am so sad in a way that I won’t get another Ryan Dean West story, but on the other hand I loved the way this book ended. It was the right kind of ending that makes you smile given all the crap that happens throughout. It’s not a perfect happy ending, and I’m okay with that. At the end of the day, I am happy that a sequel like Stand-Off exists because it feels so right, even if it didn’t seem like it was necessary in the first place. I still don’t think after reading this that I could choose between the books as to which is my favourite, but I really encourage people to check both Winger and Stand-Off if you want to read some great realistic fiction with a great, saucey male lead.

 

Summer Contemporary Fling – Winger by Andrew Smith

11861815Title:  Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn infographics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Sam’s Review:

Winger is one of the few books out there that has such erratic story beats. One minute the book is hilarious and socially awkward, the next it’s making you facepalm, or causing you panic attacks. Sometimes these emotions are simultaneous. It’s what makes it both such a wonderfully, if sad read.

Ryan Dean West is such a memorable protagonist. He’s a loser who draws as a means to escape the realities of his private school life. However, he’s not as great a person as he sometimes pegs himself to be. Smith does an amazing job at highlighting bullying in this novel, but he presents it in two ways: Ryan Dean is bullied by the hot and popular guys of the rugby team, but he is equally a bully to those who he deems are lower than him on the loser scale. He plays victim but also bullies others, particularly friends, and doesn’t realize what’s wrong in the scenario. I liked that aspect because it made Ryan Dean’s character feel a lot more realistic and furthermore it reminds us that even victims of bullying can be bullies themselves.

And there’s something layered about this novel in the way it presents problems and resolves them. What I think I enjoyed most about Winger is that Ryan Dean behaved like an actual fourteen year old boy. I find sometimes in YA that boys are written with such maturity (usually because they are for-filling a love interest role) but here we have someone who is obsessed with wanting to be mature, and epically failing at it because his mind and body aren’t there yet. Some of the bodily humour was a bit much for me at times, but it weirdly still worked in the confines of the novel. Let’s be real though guys: at fourteen, penis was still a funny word and something ya worried about constantly.

And then there’s the ending, which I expected but didn’t at the same time. It’s gut wrenching, but on so many different levels. Something that has always made me uncomfortable in novels of bullying is levels of humiliation, as often it goes too far and is completely irreversible once it’s occurred. The amount of scarring it causes, it’s so gut wrenching and yet you question why bullying gets to those levels (meanwhile you simple wish it wouldn’t exist at all).

Ryan Dean West will always be one of those very memorable characters for me. He makes you feel angry, frustrated, but he’s so lovable and endearing at times. He’s the kind of flawed character that’s easy to see yourself in and wonder how or why things go wrong and for what reason. There’s a lot of humour and heart in Winger, but it’s death blow at the end of the story is really what will rock readers to the core and just why shit like that still happens, and why it needs to stop.