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review 2016-06-02 00:09
I'm at such a loss with this one...
The Second Half: A Gay American Football Story - Scott D. Pomfret

I've basically spent the day pondering this book. I finished it early this morning and I actually started my review shortly after and now it's the middle of the afternoon and still I've got nothing. I didn't hate it, It certainly wasn't horrendously bad. In fact I liked the blurb it intrigued me. Seriously sports, ex-military. Forbidden romance coach falls in love with the star quarterback. So much of it whispering 'come on you know you're going to enjoy this' and I did to a point. But when all was said and done it ended up only being a little more than ok and not filled with the awesomeness that I was hoping for.


So I spent the day asking myself why and here's what I came up with my biggest issue was balance or a lack thereof. I'm ok with characters that I really passionately dislike...ok, I out and out hate them and there were a couple of those in this story.


First there was...Head Coach Toby Hackett. This man was every parent's worst nightmare. Yes, I know he was coaching college football that level one step away from the pros. Sorry don't care the man was a bullying, misogynistic douche. He didn't inspire or motivate, he bullied and intimidated. He had no redeeming qualities, zero, none. The fact that he was married was both astounding and appalling...seriously, where was that woman's self esteem? On vacation?


Along with Coach Hackett there was Brian. Brian was some kind of special and I'm sure there's a spot waiting for him in the fiery depths of hell, and if there isn't, there should be. 


To me both of these characters reflect well on the author's skill as a writer because it's not that often that I hate a fictional character with the passion that I have for these two men. 


As well as characters that if I allowed myself I could probably go on and on about how intensely I dislike them. There were a few that were ok.


Characters such as 'Bobby' or 'Robert' Tarrington, the head trainer. He ended up being a bit of a surprise. At the beginning of the story he was shaping up to be as big of a jerk as Coach Hackett. Fortunately as the story progressed we were shown a little bit of a different side to Bobby and he ended up being ok and it turned out that ended up liking Bobby and his boyfriend Cory. Do I want a story for them...nope, I'm good.


Peyton's mother Loretta was an interesting character in her own way. Although someone needs to tell her. If you have to constantly ask your child who they love the most...you can be pretty sure it's not you. She was by no means the worst of mothers and in her own way she did come through for Peyton...but again, she was only ok.


What I didn't have was anyone that I could love as much as I disliked the coach and Brian and that was the crux of my problem. So yeah, it's on my. I know for some people it's not an issue but for me, I need that balance to help make the story work for me.


While Peyton was one of the main characters, I found that I just really didn't care for him a lot of the time. To me he seemed moody and a bit wishy, washy and at other times I felt like Peyton had turned into an angst ridden teenager with a little emo thrown in for good measure  and since a lot of this story was from Peyton's POV, I got to spend a lot of time in Peyton's head and it just wasn't fun in there, I had a teenager I did my time in angsty emo land and going back not good especially when the character is suppose to be 26 years old...Peyton, put your emo years behind you and move on.


Last of all is Brady. Brady had strong potential and I did like him. I just didn't get to have as much page time with him so I didn't become as invested in Brady as I might have. Ironically the person who I liked the most but who got the least amount of page time was Brady's father. 



I'm not quite sure how to explain the ending on this one either. While it wasn't an HEA a lot of it was definitely an HFN with strong potential but there was a part of it that although not what I would have expected at the same time I totally tip my hat to the author because it worked and was far more realistic than it would have been had he taken the story in a different direction.

When Brady's team played their final football game they lost in overtime, it was close and given the reason they lost it worked far better than if they'd won.

(spoiler show)


So for me this all translated into a disconnect from the story because while I really, really disliked the 'bad guys' (Coach Hackett, Brian) I didn't have anybody to really, really like. There was no positive to balance the negative and as unfair as it is had this been the other way around I probably would have given this book a glowing review because hey, happiness, sunshine and all the feelz, who doesn't love that. 


***An ARC of this book was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review***

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review 2015-12-26 20:46
#CBR7 Book 149: The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
The Game Plan (Game On Series Book 3) - Kristen Callihan

Once again I want to thank the lovely Mrs. Julien, whose generous gift of an Amazon voucher made it possible for me to buy this book. 

NFL player Ethan "Dex" Dexter is known to his friends and team mates as "the Wise One". He's quiet, observant, focused on his career and not really concerned with dating, or really all that bothered about the fact that he's still a virgin at 24. The only woman he's interested in is the bubbly and vivacious Fiona Mackenzie, sister-in-law to his best friend, who's been very vocal in the past about how she doesn't do long distance relationships or has any interest in athletes. Yet when they both find themselves visiting Grey and Ivy at the same time, he can't help himself. Alone in a club one night, desperate for her to really see him, he dares her to touch his beard, and suddenly they can barely keep their hands, or lips, off each other.

Fiona grew up with a father who started as a professional athlete and then became a sports agent. He travelled a lot in his work and slept around a whole lot while doing it. Her parents' marriage broke up as a result. She's also known as the family flake, who can never really settle down for long with anything, always changing her mind or focus. Having recently secured what she believed would be her dream job in a design firm in New York, she wants to prove to both herself and her family that she can stick with something. She's struggling with a co-worker who keeps copying her designs and trying to steal her thunder, but with her sister just having had a baby, she's allowed herself a short vacation in San Francisco. She's none to pleased to see Dex, her brother-in-law's best friend, show up in the club she's at, "baby sitting", but is surprised how affected she is by his presence.

Dex is a veritable mountain of muscle, with long hair, a thick beard and tattoos all over his arms. He's nothing like the guys Fiona tends to go for, but with his quiet intensity focused entirely on her, she can't look away. When he dares her to touch his beard, she can't help but move in to kiss him and discovers that the silent giant she barely even noticed in the past is absolutely crazy about her. He lives in New Orleans, she lives in New York. She's just starting her promising design career, he's a top player in the NFL. A long distance relationship is their only option if they want more than a brief fling, and after just a few days together in San Francisco, it's obvious to both that that's not a satisfying option.

I've really liked the first two of Kristen Callihan's Game On books, a New Adult series starting when the characters were still in college. This book takes place a few years after the first two, with the characters older and a bit more settled, but still starting out in life. For the most part, I think Callihan's writing and plotting has improved with each book, but my absolute favourite is probably still The Friend Zone, which worked for me on every level. Seeing the couple from that be supporting characters struggling to get used to a new baby was fun and I loved their reactions to Dex' baby whispering techniques.

Dex, for all that he is nothing like the men I tend to find attractive in real life (I go more for the tall, pale and gangly - like Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, or my husband). I don't really like tattoos or piercings, I think man buns are ridiculous and big, burly lugs just don't really appeal that much to me. He may still be my favourite Callihan hero so far, though. Though he's lusted after Fiona for years, he's never really let on and he's never once crossed into creepy stalker territory, keeping his interest firmly in the fantasy realm. Being a popular athlete, there's no lack of women who throw themselves his way, but Ethan, who remembers being chubby growing up and completely ignored by girl and later women until he became famous, isn't interested in just some shallow hook up. The one time he got drunk and gave into peer pressure, things didn't go well and he's decided that if he can't have Fiona, he doesn't want anyone. During their previous encounters, she hasn't really shown any interest in him, but when they meet again in San Francisco, after a brief moment where she has trouble placing him, the chemistry between them is palpable. Hence he dares to hope that maybe his feelings might become requited and he makes his move.

I liked that with Fiona being very outgoing, impulsive, loquacious and forward, while Ethan was normally the quiet, retiring, contemplative and restrained, they complimented each other nicely. Fi becomes calmer and more grounded around Ethan and he becomes more talkative and takes control in his interactions with her. He understands her fears and her misgivings and tries to give her the space and time to make her own decisions. Even when it's about to break his heart, he's not about to counteract her agency. Luckily, while Fiona is terrified to abandon her current job, she's not too proud to admit when she's wrong about her initial decision about long distance relationships. When she returns to New York, convinced that there can be no future for her and Dex, she's called him to tell him her change of heart before her plane even takes off.

Of course there needs to be some conflict, and the long distance isn't enough. One of the reasons Fiona doesn't want to be involved with an athlete is that she's not happy with media attention, and when Ethan's cell phone is stolen and photos of an intimate nature are leaked, their relationship hits a crisis point. My main problem with this story line is that I refuse to believe that any public person with naughty photos or videos on their phone doesn't at least have a simple code lock on it. It's even mentioned a couple of times early in the story that he needs to sort that out. From the hacking scandals in recent years, I suspect a determined person would still be able to access the memory eventually, but it wouldn't be right out there to the taking for any unscrupulous person.

The "virgin hunt" that's launched in the media to prove that Dex has lost his virginity and the subsequent leaking of the photos was not my favourite way to drive a wedge between a couple, but for the most part, this romance is in parts funny, sweet, very sexy and it was nice to see the previous couples in the series as supporting characters. I haven't been able to discover whether there are going to be more books in the series, or if this is the concluding volume. Either way, I am determined that I will read more of her Victorian paranormals next.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-149-game-plan-by-kristen.html
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review 2015-06-08 22:50
#CBR7 Book 58: The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan
The Friend Zone - Kristen Callihan

Gray Grayson does not have female friends, he has former and future conquests. The closest thing he has to a female friend is his best friend Drew's new girlfriend. That's it. So no one is more surprised than he, when he seems to be developing a close relationship with a woman he's never even met, via text message of all things. When Gray has to lend his own car to Drew for a while, he's left with no other options than to borrow the bubblegum-pink car belonging to Ivy Mackenzie, the daughter of his sports agent, whose studying overseas. She's none too happy that some jock is in control of her car, and sends him all manner of ominous texts about what she'll do to him if he damages the car in any way. Soon they are texting each other at all hours of the day, about much more than the car. 


So when Ivy comes back home to the States, and Gray and Ivy finally meet, neither are wanting to risk their close friendship, even though they both find the other smoking hot. To add to the tension, Gray is one of Ivy's father's top clients, and Ivy isn't any more interested in getting involved with one of them than Gray is interested in ruining his chances with a future career. So it's best if they just stay friends...right?


Gray is the tight end (and yes, there are lots of jokes to that effect) on the same college team that Drew from The Hook Up is the quarterback of. They are best friends, and really more like brothers, considering Drew is orphaned and Gray's father and brothers were less than supportive to him growing up. Gray was a nice supporting character and he's a good protagonist as well. Not ashamed of his past sexual exploits, Gray is nonetheless aware that what he shares with Ivy is something special and shouldn't be taken lightly. Ivy, in contrast, hasn't really dated a lot, and has trust and commitment issues due to her sports agent father's lack of presence in the lives of her and her younger sister, as well as fidelity to their mother.


The friends to lovers story is a common trope in romance, but for it to work, the friendship needs to feel real and established. If this part is hurried, the romance doesn't feel as earned, in my opinion. Here, while Gray and several of his friends are surprised, he really does make a genuine connection with Ivy. This is possibly because the only visual reference he has of her is a photo of her as a young teenager displayed in her father's office, while they get to know each other though their in-depth text conversations. By the time they actually meet, and realise that the person they've been texting with is someone they find very physically attractive, they are both very invested in making their platonic relationship work.


Of course, the more time they spend together, the more staying platonic proves to be a challenge. Unlike in The Hook Up, where Drew and Anna start having sex quite early on, and Anna at least doesn't even want to like Drew, so they build the rest of their relationship slowly from there, the unresolved sexual tension between Gray and Ivy continues for a fair bit of the book, and when it's finally broken, it's quite explosive. Once they do give into their feelings for one another, the issue of their future becomes a serious question, as Ivy has been studying and working in London with the intention that she will take over one of her mother's successful bakeries, while Gray is obviously on his way to a hopefully successful sports career.


I really liked this book, and based on these two books, I really do need to check out more of Kristen Callihan's Steampunk paranormals, of which I've only read one so far. I wasn't blown away by the first one, but I've enjoyed her New Adult books so much that I'm going to give her paranormal historicals another chance.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/06/cbr7-book-58the-friend-zone-by-kristen.html
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review 2015-06-08 20:35
#CBR7 Book 57: The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan
The Hook Up (Game On Book 1) - Kristen Callihan

Anna was either bullied or completely ignored in high school. With the exception of a few loyal friends, she was pretty much a social outcast. She has worked hard to become comfortable with herself and her body image. So when her college's star quarterback addresses her as "Big Red" in one of their shared classes, he instantly earns her animosity. Drew Baylor is tall, gorgeous, extremely athletic and popular in all areas of college life. As Anna just wants to keep her head down and finish college without attracting undue attention, he's pretty much her polar opposite. She's unsure why he even spoke to her, but they are from different worlds and she sees no reason why she needs to fawn over Drew, like everyone else.


Drew knows how lucky and privileged he is. He's a star on the football field, but works equally hard to excel in his other academic subjects, knowing that the chances of injury for a professional football player are high. Having lost his parents in a car accident, his team mates are pretty much his family. As the star quarterback, he has women constantly approaching him, but the only one he's interested in is the imperious and stubborn Anna, who won't give him the time of day. He watches her in class, wondering how to get a second chance to impress her, as it's quite clear she's completely unfazed by his prowess on the football field.


When Anna's room mate drags her to a frat party, Anna and Drew meet in a new arena. Sparks fly, turning absolutely scorching. In the coming days, they keep finding excuses to hook up. Anna is very clear that she doesn't want it to become official, and would prefer them to keep it only about the physical. Drew quickly determines that Anna is the only one he wants, he just needs to work diligently to win her over.


A lot of the New Adult books out there seem to be about a studious, often shy and sexually inexperienced young woman falling for some sort of emotionally scarred bad boy. The only previous book in the sub-genre I've genuinely loved is Trade Me by Courtney Milan. In that as in this, both protagonists have emotional baggage, and neither is exactly virginal. As in Milan's first foray into the sub-genre, the guy is the one who's the most emotionally committed, with the girl being reluctant to commit long term. With the exceptions of his team mates and coaches, Drew has no one and is ready to make a deeper connection with someone. Unlike several of his fellow football players, he's not really interested in the casual hook-ups with the many beautiful, but frequently fame-hungry women throwing themselves at him.


In addition to a whole host of confidence issues because of being bullied when she was younger, Anna also has severe trust issues. Her father abandoned her and her mother when she was little, and her mother seems to be a magnet for douchy guys who take advantage of her and frequently make Anna feel uncomfortable. Most of them end up cheating eventually. Anna's room mate is dating the captain of the lacrosse team, who pretty much treats her like dirt. So Anna's view of men in general is not great, and her trust issues are understandable. Drew is the most popular guy at their college, and she's aware of how much attention he gets at all time. She doesn't believe that there is anything about her that could hold his interest for very long. Of course, her resolve to keep everything in their relationship about the purely physical starts to erode the more time they spend together.


The book alternates between Anna and Drew's points of view, frequently letting the reader see the scenes through both protagonists' eyes and because Callihan lets us inside both parties of the romance, it's really clear how they feel about each other at all times. Drew is instantly smitten with Anna, and curses himself for making such a bad first impression on her. Anna is wholly uninterested in sports, and having been a social outcast in the past, disbelieving that any guy as gorgeous and popular as Drew could actually have any real and lasting interest in her. Of course, as it turns out, it's her being so reluctant to really commit that ends up really endangering their future relationship.


Once both parties acknowledge that they're crazy about each other and Anna works through her trust issues, an additional complication is thrown in their way. Suddenly Drew's insecurities come into play, and Anna needs to prove her commitment to him, in order for the couple to find their ultimate HEA. For those of a pearl-clutching disposition, be aware that there are a lot of steamy sex scenes in this book. More so than I am used to in contemporary romance. I didn't really feel that it got in the way of the characters' emotional journey, but if you like your romances lighter on the graphic sex (who are you and why are you reading my reviews?), then you may want to give this one a miss. 

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/06/cbr7-book-57-hook-up-by-kristen-callihan.html
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text 2015-02-01 02:06
Because Puppy Stories And Football Are Involved...

The Superbowl for me has always been about nibbling snacks, sort of watching the commercials, and maybe looking at the game if anything interesting happens. Otherwise I tend to forget about it.


I only know about Puppy Bowl from reading news articles - though I'm sure it'll be all over youtube. But I do love behind the scenes stories about television production - so I had to read all of this article:


Plexiglas, poop, and penguins: Life behind the scenes on the Puppy Bowl

By Marah Eakin, AV Club,  Jan 27, 2015


"...Now in its 11th year, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl isn’t so much a sporting event as it is an adorable institution. The sporty homage airs every Super Bowl Sunday—originally only during the game but now on a consistent loop for 12 hours—and drew an astounding 12.4 million viewers in 2013. With a kitten halftime show, furry cheerleaders and commentators, a witty human referee, and a starting lineup of 55 adoptable puppies, the Puppy Bowl has become one of television’s most cherished annual events.


..."So we have a lot of volunteers that come in to help push the dogs back onto the field. That’s a really bizarre volunteer position that you can get at Puppy Bowl where you’re just basically forcing the dogs back onto the field. And so there’s this weird thing where they always want to jump off the field because they want to be petted, so volunteers are there for when they’re not doing much or they’re not looking happy, they pick them up and take them back into the other room. So it runs in waves like that."


..."I think they’re always trying to come up with new ways to get them to interact with the toys or whatever, but it’s really just at these infant puppies’ will. And they’re untrained. That’s why it’s always kind of a crapshoot. It’s interesting because it’s very, very different every year. I mean, it’s always the same, but the group of dogs makes it feel different because certain ones don’t interact, certain ones interact quite a bit, certain ones are absolutely insane. We had a sheep dog—I think it was last year—that all it did when it was on the field was it kept splashing all of the water out of the water bowl and then shaking it on all the other dogs, which was freaking out all the other dogs. But that was all that dog did. And eventually they were like, “We can’t have this dog out here anymore.” It’s different every year. And it is just because they’re puppies. They just don’t know what they’re doing with their lives yet."


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