THE FOXHOLE COURT by Nora Sakavic

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.


Title : The Foxhole Court
Author : Nora Sakavic
Series : All For The Game #1
Format : e-book
Page Count : 237
Genre : NA Sports Fiction (no romance)
Publisher : Self published
Release Date : July 30, 2013

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

Headlines:
Buckle up for the ride
More questions than answers
Brutal and raw

I don’t even know how to process my feelings on this one. It was a completely wild ride and although I’d heard ‘things’ about this book, nothing prepared me for the raw and brutal story. It was violent, abusive and certainly a strange way to envisage any sporting team. There are simply so many triggers in this book, so go look for those before reading if you need to.

Despite my reservations about what I found between these pages, there was much to draw me in. Neil as an MC was such a compelling character, all his past, present and potential future had you literally willing things to work out for him. What Neil found with the foxes was not pleasant with bullying to a degree that was unfathomable, hazing like could not be believed, to the point that I hate-read one chapter; it was tough reading.

Yet, saying all that, I am invested in this odd and messed up crew. The backstories were particularly confusing relating to Neil/Kevin/Riko and their familial connections and businesses. I didn’t really find myself enlightened by the end but that’s also a part of why I’m invested. I pretty much hate Andrew, I don’t understand his illness, I don’t understand how his psyche works and I don’t understand his connection with Kevin. I find myself drawn to Kevin and really want to know more about him.

Important note: I have deducted half a star from this read because the author used the ‘r’ word twice in a totally unnecessary, off the cuff way. There really is not any necessary use of this word which should be expunged from the vocabulary of all folks. It is utterly disrespectful to any person with learning difficulties or disabilities.

Stray into this series if you are brave enough. I’m not a brave reader but I find myself here anyway.

Thank you lovely Tara for holding my hand.

ROLE MODEL by Rachel Reid

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…


Title : Role Model
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changes (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 284
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : August 10, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I always have a good time when I reunite with the Game Changers series and this instalment was no exception.

Hi. I’m Troy. What’s your name?
Fuck you.”
Nice name. Pretty.”

This particular match-up is between a closeted player working through a redemption arc and the gregarious and very out social media manager for the team he’s recently been traded to. Naturally there are lots of cameos from characters from previous books (I l y a) but instead of feeling intrusive, as it sometimes does in other series, in this particular world it’s just excellent (because I l y a).

Yeah, I talk a good game but honestly, while I do enjoy this author and her books, the thing that has me go grabby hands are the cameos. And the fact that each one brings us closer to the sequel for that particular pairing.

I’m going to fucking kill you, Rozanov.”
You have been saying that for years. But I am still here.”
I think he likes you.”
Of course he does. I’m great.

But back to Role Model. I liked it probably on par with book three, it doesn’t quite edge out the last one (which was the closest I had come to love since book two), but I like that Reid offers different tropes and different circumstances to navigate even if most follow the basic formula we come to expect.

I might forget the specific details of this plot by the time I pick up the next one (which sadly happens every time) but I’m sure when I get to see these characters, along with their contemporaries, on page, either as a reference or actively in a scene, it’ll all come back. This series is like that; it’s a comfort and it’s fun and it’s a good time.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

CHECK, PLEASE! BOOK 2 : STICKS & SCONES by Ngozi Ukazu

Eric Bittle is heading into his junior year at Samwell University, and not only does he have new teammates―he has a brand new boyfriend! Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty’s time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end…It’s two full hockey seasons packed with big wins and high stakes!

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in 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. 


Title : Check, Please! Book Two : Sticks & Scones
Author : Ngozi Ukazu
Series : Check, Please! (book two/volumes three & four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ sports graphic novel
Publisher : First Second
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’m not sure how I managed to be oblivious to the fact that this was the final installment but.. I was. And I’m so sad about it.

But nonetheless this was such a sweet, wonderful, way to end this series made up of pure wholesome hockey fun. Even though we had some much bigger moments overall, I still think I liked book one a little more. This one did definitely feel a bit more real, though, as in with real stakes and real coming outs, among other things, and I loved it for that serious foundation.

I really don’t have a lot to say. This is soft, pure, laugh out loud delight, with baking, romance, coming of age and also coming into into your own. Also.. hockey. You should definitely read it.

CHECK, PLEASE! BOOK 1 : #HOCKEY by Ngozi Ukazu

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

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.


Title : Check, Please! Book One : #Hockey
Author : Ngozi Ukazu
Series : Check, Please! (book one/volumes one & two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ sports graphic novel
Publisher : First Second
Release Date : September 18, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

This rating isn’t much of a surprise for me, and maybe not for those who follow me on GR, as this was a reread and I already gushed about this back in 2018. I had initially read this via the author’s website, as it was (is?) being posted as a webcomic, but decided to reread this one as I prepare to read the most recent bundle/release now that my library has it.

And okay am I as gushy the second time around? Maybe not quite. But this is still the sweetest, purest, funniest, most adorable, graphic novel.. ever. This is everything hockey, everything pure and soft, but also very realistic, and watching Bitty become more of himself as he starts college, as he bakes, belts out Beyoncé, and maybe harbors a bit of a crush? Just a delight. The whole cast is, really.

If you want a fun feel good experience, look no further.

TRADE DEADLINE by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn

It’s a reunion to remember…

Don’t miss this friends-to-lovers hockey romance from Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn.

Daniel “Bellzie” Bellamy should be on top of the world—a Stanley Cup is the perfect topper to his fourteen-year NHL career. But despite the post-win high, something’s missing. When the chance to play for his hometown team, the Miami Thunder, comes along, he’s open to it. And when he runs into an old friend from his past soon after he makes the move, he wonders if it might be kismet.

Micah Kelly never thought he’d see his childhood crush—and first kiss—again. Danny Bellamy moved on to bigger and better things when they were teenagers, and the idea that Micah’s relationship with the professional hockey player could be anything more than one-sided Instagram thirst seems too good to be true.

Maybe too good to be true is the new reality, though. As the season goes on, Micah teaches Daniel to surf, and Daniel introduces Micah to his lovable pack of rescue dogs and the world of being a hockey boyfriend. Life is good. But when things on the ice don’t go as planned, they’ll have to decide if their rediscovered romance is built to last.


Title : Trade Deadline
Author : Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn
Series : Hat Trick (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : August 17, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad book, but it was definitely the least enjoyable of the series so far. I’ll always have a soft sport for hockey/sports romances, particularly m/m, but this one just didn’t have any real tension or intensity going for it. Which isn’t to say it’s a requirement for me but when nothing else is really egging me on to read, either..?

Huge gold star, though, should be awarded for having a non-evil ex element at play, particularly in the form of an ex-spouse, even more importantly because kids were at play here, too. Everyone was lovely, kind, understanding.. it was all so amicable. Which might be a great paralell to the story itself. It was all just.. fine. So courteous. So considerate.

I know I have a loud voice.
You definitely do. I could always hear you yelling at my games.”
That’s because there were only ever eight people watching. And six of them were cheering for whoever the other team was.”
Too soon, man.”

Not helping matters was the fact that I wasn’t really into the love interest, so, I had one foot out the door kind of early on.

Bellzie’s got a new boo?
Do not say ‘boo’. You’re not a ghost. Or a thirteen year old girl.”

I love me an ensemble cast, all the group scenes featuring previous couples and a character who is sure to get his own feature moment in book four, were a good time. But overall this was just okay. I will continue to read on in hopes book four rekindles the spark of my enjoyment and also because this genre is my weakness. I have no control.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

TOUGH GUY by Rachel Reid

They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?

Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.

Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.

Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.


Title : Tough Guy
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance / sports
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : January 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

HEATED RIVALRY, book two in the Game Changers series, was one of my favourite reads of last year. It came as a complete surprise considering the romance and tone of book one which, while far from bad, was just nothing like the follow up. As a result I was trying to lower my expectations for book three and went in to this one just hoping it ranked somewhere in the middle. And, for the most part, I got my wish.

Ryan inwardly cringed at how rude he must have seemed. He wished he could just wear a sign that said I’m sorry. I am terrible at socializing. Please don’t take it personally.

There are a few elements in this installment that make it stand out — but I don’t want to spoil the nitty gritty of it all — but more or less the majority of my enjoyment came from Ryan. This soft cinnamon roll was dealing with so much, while also thinking so little of himself, and yet despite how contrary to his personality it was, he was always expected to be a fighter. The tough guy (heyyyoooo). He was a bundle of contradictions and I enjoyed how Reid explored that.

Opposite him is a non-hockey player but who comes from a long line of hockey supporters and, when he was young, his family often billeted players, too. But Fabian has no interest in the sport or the typically homophobic alphajerkholes who play it. Except there was that one exception from thirteen years ago..

.. who happens to be Ryan.

This was one of the cuter reunion romances, though not quite a second-chance, and while Fabian didn’t always wow me on page, I did like him. Though I’ll admit I thought he was most enjoyable when amongst his friend group.. who were hilarious. I’m such a sucker for a friend group.

Price! Thank god you are here. This goblin is bothering me.”
Eat my nuts, Rozanov!
No fucking thank you.
Sorry! Sorry. I shouldn’t laugh.
Don’t encourage Rozanov.”
I think I might love him.

The romance between these two, the intimacy involved, is one of the things that stands out to me. Beyond just Ryan, full stop. Adding to the fun were cameos by a certain Russian player and, I mean, any page with Ilya is a page you’re going to love.

So, yes, this definitely wasn’t a new favourite but I did enjoy this read. I do want to say, though, that these endings give me actual whiplash. They are the most abrupt and I don’t understand why. As a result, and because of my overall love for the series and this author, I don’t want them to end. Please will there be more. I ain’t too proud to beg.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

INSTACRUSH by Kate Meader

Theo Kershaw is the luckiest guy alive.

Roaring back from a life-threatening injury, he has the world at his skates as defenseman for his new team, the Chicago Rebels. Everyone adores his big personality, his on-ice talent, and his killer smile. Everyone but his prickly neighbor – or so he thinks. One chilly Christmas Eve, Theo will learn that maybe the girl next door isn’t such a hater after all …

Elle Butler is the most embarrassing person on the planet. 

How else can the ex-military-now-bartender explain her crush on the hot jock who lives across the hall? True, he has gorgeous green eyes and perfect cheekbones, but the filter between his brain and too-sexy mouth is permanently malfunctioning. Yet she can’t stop checking out his Instagram antics or sneaking looks at him when he’s in her bar. So. Mortifying. Running from a past filled with damning secrets, Elle’s determined that this guilty pleasure remains buried in her deepest fantasies.

Because she couldn’t possibly indulge with the Theo Kershaw or make a mistake that draws attention to her under-the-radar life. And she especially couldn’t be a mom to a pro-athlete’s baby … could she?


Title : Instacrush
Author : Kate Meader
Series : Rookie Rebels (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 319
Genre : sports contemporary romance
Publisher : Kate Meader LLC
Release Date : December 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, I wasn’t planning to review this officially because it’s sunday, almost Christmas (as I write this, it’s the twenty-second), and because we don’t really need blog content (gasp, yes, I said it). But then my mini GR review started to turn into, like, thoughts and so I just went with it.

This is book two in the Rookie Rebels series, a spin-off from the Chicago Rebels series, and reunites us with two obviously-going-to-start-something non-couple from the background of book one’s story, Elle Butler, army buddy of Levi Hunt’s, and now bartender at the local team’s bar, and Theo Kershaw, chatty sunshine defenseman with the bubble butt. And let me tell you, both of their backstories took me kinda by surprise.

This would’ve been an easy story to keep light and focus on the I-want-you-but-won’t-admit-to-it element that Elle had in regards to dealing with Theo. Instead we get a rockier history to Theo’s life, both with his upbringing and then with a major health scare, plus Elle’s got a lot of reasons for her toughness and walls; and they aren’t limited to just being in the army. I’ll admit her backstory was interesting because it was different, particularly for a sports contemporary romance, but there were also elements that felt a little unbelievable, much more in line with the soap opera storylines that a few of the players enjoy so much, and in general I felt Elle’s character arc to be less consistent. Whereas Theo was a joy and his ups and downs felt very true to form and appropriate to some of his growth.

Additionally there’s a plot element to this romance that is not my favourite, nor in how they were made to approach it, but. It didn’t piss me off, either, so, win?

What might have been my favourite part, beyond Theo and his Thirsty Instagram Stories, was catching up with all the familiar faces. I loved where some of their lives had gone, what they were doing, and I’m hella keen for Gunnar’s story as that’s clearly being set up for book three. I expect tons of angst and I want it. Particularly after this rather sugary book. Give me angst and feels.

This isn’t quite the awesome, dying seconds of overtime goal kind of winning story, but it was a fun way to pass a sunday afternoon. And I am keen to read on, so, another win.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.


Title : Michigan vs The Boys
Author : Carrie S Allen
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 308
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : KCP Loft
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I would like it noted for the record that this is my do-over review after accidentally losing the first (much superior) draft. I am sad. But here we go; take two.

Wow, so. I knew going into this read that it would deal with some tough situations concerning bullying and hazing, but still. This was hard.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS feels like the second cousin to BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. Like that other story, this one also focuses on the mob mentality so often found in men, particularly in competitive sports. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

Michigan loves hockey. So when her girls’ team is disbanded due to budget cuts, she makes the bold choice to try out for the boys’ team. Except no one wants her there. Not her coach and certainly not her teammates. But she wants to play, she is talented, and so she makes the cut.

Reading what the boys put her through, how she is ignored by the staff, and only trotted out when she out-plays, and out-scores, the boys, is so hard. Watching every hard-earned win, every success, be immediately torn down by those who are supposed to lift her up, cheer her on? Brutal. But watching her continue to push herself, to continue to succeed despite so much adversity, is remarkable. Though, ultimately, tragic because it’s so unnecessary and awful.

But for all that awful, there’s a balance of greatness, too. It’s also a story about friendship, first love, loyalty, and family. And, in some ways, so much of this is necessary. Because, as one character says, about a certain situation, which I will paraphrase, this story, the telling of it, is so important. For the girls who will see themselves in these moments; if not now, maybe in the future. For the boys who might realize that what they witness being done to others, what they don’t stop even if they don’t participate in, is wrong.

If you love hockey, if you love stories with great friendships or sibling relationships, hell, if you loved (or hated!) BEARTOWN, I would definitely recommend.

THE PLAY by Elle Kennedy

What I learned after last year’s distractions cost my hockey team our entire season? No more screwing up. No more screwing, period. As the new team captain, I need a new philosophy: hockey and school now, women later. Which means that I, Hunter Davenport, am officially going celibate…no matter how hard that makes things.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that says I can’t be friendswith a woman. And I won’t lie—my new classmate Demi Davis is one cool chick. Her smart mouth is hot as hell, and so is the rest of her, but the fact that she’s got a boyfriend eliminates the temptation to touch her.

Except three months into our friendship, Demi is single and looking for a rebound.

And she’s making a play for me.

Avoiding her is impossible. We’re paired up on a yearlong school project, but I’m confident I can resist her. We’d never work, anyway. Our backgrounds are too different, our goals aren’t aligned, and her parents hate my guts.

Hooking up is a very bad idea. Now I just have to convince my body—and my heart.


Title : The Play
Author : Elle Kennedy
Series : Briar U (book three)
Format : eRC
Page Count : 422
Genre : NA contemporary romance
Publisher : Elle Kennedy Inc.
Release Date : October 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Okay, it’s official. I’m tapping out of this series. I’ve clearly outgrown it or maybe it’s just the genre itself. I don’t know. I love hockey romances, enjoy ensemble casts that lean heavily on hijinks as the comic relief, but while I did recently reread (and love, again) the series that spawned this one, nothing since THE CHASE has worked. So I guess that was the fluke.

This is everything that you would expect it to be, both as a fan and from what it says on the box. It’s got a reformed playboy who meets a girl he has to remain platonic with both because of her boyfriend and his vow of celibacy — a vow he’s taken in order to do right by his team, to succeed and lead sans distractions, and atone for his previous mistakes. But then the boyfriend goes buh-bye, girl wants a rebound, so, you see where this is going.

I didn’t love Hunter or Demi, but neither of them annoyed me the way Hollis and Rupi annoyed me in the background of THE RISK. Even though they were both present in this one. Again. Sigh.

The conflicts were fairly predictable, the speed bumps, too, and honestly everything was pretty standard. No surprises, no real joy, no real laughs, either. Definitely sucks to have to tap out but it’s not worth reading on when it’s doing both the author and me as both a reader and longtime fan a disservice.

So, yes, I think this will satisfy and entertain many. But just like in book two, I’m not one of them. In which case, please take this feedback with the tiniest grain of salt. As always.

** I received an ARC from the author (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE AVANT GUARDS, Vol 1 by Carly Usdin

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.


Title : The Avant-Guards, Vol 1
Author: Carly Usdin
Illustrator : Noah Hayes
Series : The Avant-Guards
Format : e-ARC (graphic novel)
Page Count : 116
Genre : YA
Publisher : BOOM! Studios
Release Date : 3 September 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

A good start with potential for this new LGBTQ graphic novel focused on a newly contrived basketball team. Charlie has transferred into the school and she is ‘set upon’ by the enthusiastic recruiting of Liv, who is described in the blurb as ‘charming’ but I just thought she was too full on. The temperature of this graphic novel is a little bit funny and a little bit serious.

I really liked some of the characters that I’ve met so far, Charlie, Nicole and Jay. As a team working together, I am hoping to see more of what that brings. I must say, that I felt a general disconnection with the story line that seemed to go in strange directions at times with elements that didn’t make sense but might, I guess, when the next volume comes out. Seeing as Liv will be a main character, I am going to need some winning over to like her and connect with her. The burgeoning romance seemed to come out of nowhere and again, I will need some more convincing. I have to say the visuals were very appealing and that cover really does draw me in.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you BOOM! Studios.

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