Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WILD CARDS: a Sporty Book Review

With the leaves changing and October crispness filling the air, a football story felt like the perfect book. After reading Simone Elkeles Perfect Chemistry series this Spring (which I was totally head over heels for) I found out she had this hot, new football story coming out this October and I couldn't wait to snag it up. It's told from the duel POV's of Ashtyn, a the kicker for the  football team, and Derek, the new guy in town who's not only going to invade her school that fall, but also her house (he's her big sister's step-son).

From Goodreads: 
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Simone went to the high school where this book takes place and based her characters on the real team. She even has a tv show she's working on based on these players (link here). I liked that she got to know them and their coach and  was able to understand and really FEEL what  having a girl on the team can do to them. Of course she isn't telling their stories, but basing WILD CARDS off them more in a general sense.

I was expecting it to be a bit more like Catching Jordan with lots of playing time and seeing Ashtyn perform under pressure, but it was more of a love story. Only one game happens, and some practices, but much of the book is off the field. The sexual tension runs high from the moment the two meet. The duel POV is super fun. I liked experiencing both sides of the story. Derek has a difficult past, he's a decent guy who hasn't picked up a football since his mom died. Ashtyn is a girl (also without a mom) trying to gain her father's attention by playing football, a sport he loves. How the two meet is super fun...it reminds me a bit of  the movie Far and Away (with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman).

My main holdup: I struggled to believe the team would vote a kicker captain, especially since she didn't seem all that confident about that role. Her being voted in is the catalyst to the story, so I needed to believe it.

With all the sex and cruel language/discussions it felt more adult (or NA) than YA to me. When I read a YA I think about my 15 and 17 year old nieces and whether I could hand them the book. This time around I'd have to so no. But if you're a mature reader, go for it! It'll be a fun read of emotions, sexual tension, and football.

Have you read WILD CARDS? Would you play HS football? Are you loving fall?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

RUSH FOR THE GOLD: A Sporty Book Review

Random House, 2012

From Random House:

Bestselling sportswriter and Edgar Award winner John Feinstein is back with another sports mystery featuring Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson—this one set at the summer Olympics in London.  In this book, Susan Carol isn't a reporter—she's an Olympian, competing as a swimmer at her first Olympic games. Stevie is both proud and envious of her athletic prowess. And he's worried by the agents and sponsors and media all wanting to get up close and personal with Susan Carol.  But the more disturbing question becomes—how far might they go to ensure that America's newest Olympic darling wins gold? 

Anna’s Thoughts:

I’ve been hooked on the adventures of Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson since I picked up the audiobook of the first novel, LAST SHOT. Feinstein read the book, a Final Four basketball mystery, and it kept my two sons and their two tired parents engaged on a long journey from southern Maryland to Maine. 

Wherever Stevie and Susan Carol go, they are bound to find trouble and the 2012 London Olympics are no different. This time, in RUSH FOR THE GOLD, Feinstein takes on the connection between sports and advertising and the larger issue of looks over athletic performance in female athletes.

The book was published in 2012, and the issue continues to be quite timely. After her July 2013 Wimbledon win, Marion Bartoli had to endure sexist comments from BBC’s John Inverdale and a tirade of angry and misogynistic comments on Twitter. For more click here.

Feinstein entered Duke as a swimmer but quickly realized that he didn’t have the right stuff to compete at the collegiate level. Instead, he found the school newspaper and a sports writing career that has included reporting for CBS, NPR, ESPN, and many others. He injects his passion for swimming into the swim meet scenes and the main character Susan Carol.

Feinstein knows his characters and uses his experience as a swimmer and journalist to take us inside Susan Carol’s head. He does a great job highlighting the difficulties Susan Carol and her father confront as they navigate the sometimes-slimy process of sponsorship deals. Susan Carol also struggles to stay in the moment as an athlete and to put her journalism instincts on the back burner. I kept reading to know if she was going to be able to put all of that aside in order to swim her best and Feinstein delivers.

Since John Feinstein has lived the sports industry, he gives readers an inside view of Olympic action from the poolside to the athlete’s village to the fancy hotels. He reveals the high security hoops that everyone has to jump through in the order to navigate the modern Olympics. Did you know that family members have special pins that get them in to see their athletes? Did you know that reporters have a time limit when they visit the athlete’s village? Did you know that sometimes the swimmers aren’t listening to anything when they have on headphones? I did not.

There were sometimes when Feinstein’s details felt shoehorned in and took away from the forward movement of the book. While other books in this series have a pretty explicit mystery that the reader wants to uncover, RUSH FOR THE GOLD keeps the reader guessing about the mystery itself, which was a little frustrating. Also, be ready to keep a lot of characters, some with similar names and nicknames, straight in your head.

The bottom line? Whether you are a swimmer, an aspiring journalist, or an Olympics fan you are going to love this book. The nail biting swim meet action is well-written and engaging. The larger question about female athletes and the type of attention they get is thought provoking.

I recommend that you click here for an excerpt from the book and a look at the video from the TODAY SHOW’s, Al’s Book Club for Kids. The readers ask great questions and John Feinstein reveals his thoughts about the importance of casting a female as the athlete in this book.

For more on John Feinstein, check out his interview on the Random House website.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Academy: Game On by Monica Seles and James LaRosa

Blurb from Goodreads.com

The Academy is an International Sports Mecca for teen athletes of all sports. There are only two ways in. Deep pockets or enough talent to score a scholarship.

Young tennis star Maya's dreams have finally come true when she earns a scholarship to The Academy. Plucked from her small town, Maya moves to the sports training facility/boarding school to (hopefully) start the beginning of her pro career. But Maya's fantasy of The Academy doesn't quite match the reality. Because where there are hot, talented teens, there's a lot of drama.


I was really excited to get this book. It was the first title I requested from a publisher as a reviewer. I saw the book in Barnes and Noble, noted the publisher (Bloomsbury), and asked if they’d let me review it. OMG. Tennis! And the author is Monica Seles! I couldn’t believe it when they sent me an ARC!

What a great premise…we’re talking about a private high school for super athletes of all sports. My fave? Who else--the golfer roommate (Cleo) of tennis-playing main character, Maya. I also loved that the golfer girl was questioning her sexuality. In my opinion, the most interesting character. I’d love another book all about her.

Maya was a *tiny* bit predictable. I would have loved to see her play a bit more tennis—I found myself wondering how these kids made it to this elite school with all the time they spent partying and goofing off. But all in all, I liked Maya and found myself rooting for her.

This is a fun summer read—light and airy. I sort of wish the book had been longer—a higher word count would have allowed the authors to delve a little deeper into the back story, spend a bit more time playing tennis, and exploring the relationships between the students.

If you’re looking for a deep, meaningful read—this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for fun read; light and sporty—give GAME ON a try. It’s the first in a series, so hopefully there will be more time to explore the characters and the game in the sequel.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Does Fantasy Have a Place in Sporty Girl Books?

You can ultimately decide, but for me the answer is a no-brainer: Heck Yeah. I'm a HUGE fantasy reader, but I always go for the books with the strong female lead. The ones where the girls can seriously kick butt (or at least learn to) instead of hiding in the kitchen or behind their menfolk. These characters speak to me, like DJ does in Dairy Queen. They remind me that I can be strong, that my daughters and girls everywhere are warriors in their own right.

Below are some of my favorite, kick-butt, sporty girl fantasies:

1. Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword (and other Damar books)
This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.

And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Outlander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and bearer of the Blue Sword, Gonturan, the sword Lady Aerin carried, the sword only a woman may wield, for it will turn in the hands of a man.

And this is a story of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic in the blood, and how it may wake even in Outlander veins.

2. Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire. Both powerful girls, both with a lot to discover about themselves. 
In the Seven Kingdoms, people born with an extreme skill, "Grace", are feared and exploited. Katsa herself despises hers, killing. Her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, commands her to punish and torture his enemies. Prince Po, with combat skills, becomes her friend, and she learns terrible truths about her Grace and a secret hidden far away that could destroy the realm.
With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

2. Veronica Roth's Divergent (Series)
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

4. Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games (Series) 
Katniss, 16, takes her sister's place in the televised annual Hunger Games, competing against Peeta, the boy who gave them bread to survive after their father died. The cruel Capitol forces each of 12 districts to submit a boy and girl 12-18, to fight to the death. Only one can survive and be rewarded. President Snow manipulates behind the scenes.

5. Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

6. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn (Series)
A thousand years ago evil came to the land. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk labor as slaves in volcanic ash fields. A troublemaker arrives. A rumored revolt depends on an untrustworthy criminal and a young girl who must master Allomancy, metal magic.

7. Richelle Mead's  Vampire Academy (Series)
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

8. Cinda Willams Chima-(all series, but esp. her Seven Realms books)
9. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments (Series)
10. Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study
11. Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days
12. Bridget Zinn's Poison

What do you think? Do these books (or fantasy books in general) count as Sporty Book Reads? What's your favorite fantasy with a kick-butt heroine? I'm sure there're some great ones out there I've missed.