book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Magan: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert MurdochDairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (facebook | website)
Publication Date: May 22, 2006
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 275
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: girl playing on male football team, milk farm, sports and training
Format Read: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

Narrated by: Natalie Moore

Summary: D.J. isn’t the smartest girl there ever was, but one thing she certainly knows is her way around her family’s farm. D.J. was a star basketball player until her family hit a few speed bumps and she was forced to quit the team to help out more. Her father’s friend, Jimmy Ott, recruits D.J. to train his lackluster quarterback, Brian, which leads to a surprising turn of events when D.J. decides to try out for her school’s football team.

Thanks to the fantastic Lori at Pure Imagination, Dairy Queen was on my radar. It’s been out in the wonderful world of published books for a few years (a 2006 release) so when I saw her audiobook review, I knew that a) I HAD to read the book, and b) I needed to use one of my audible credits to listen to it as an audiobook. I’m very new to the world of listening to books. In fact, this is only my second to finish. But before I begin chatting about the audio aspect of Dairy Queen, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of D.J.’s life.

Things you should know about D.J.:

  • Her family owns a milk farm. She single-handedly keeps it running and this has forced her to quit her high school basketball team and be pretty distanced from “normal” high school activities.
  • Her brothers are college athletes — athleticism runs in their genes. However, her family’s kind of at an impasse, feuding over something silly and mundane.
  • D.J. isn’t the smartest cookie; she failed her Sophomore English class because she couldn’t possibly keep up with the farm work and school.
  • D.J. attends Red Bend’s high school. Their arch-rival is Holly.

One day D.J. is approached by Jimmy Ott, the Holly football coach and her father’s best friend, about training Brian Nelson. Jimmy suggests that maybe Brian can do some conditioning and farm work so that he can get in better shape, build his character, and simultaneously lend a hand to a family who desperately needs the help. Brian and D.J. are practically complete opposites. He’s popular and well-known. D.J. has a bit of a reputation as a hick. Brian’s got the big headed attitude of an awesome athlete, but he’ll never become more than the backup quarterback if he doesn’t train more. D.J. has raw, natural talent, but the opportunity for her to participate in sports has been taken away from her.

There’s this fantastic dynamic between Brian and D.J. as they try to figure out how two rivals can work together. And you know, of course, there’s this amazing chemistry that flares up but both of them want to ignore. BUT Dairy Queen offers more than just a tense relationship. There’s so much happening with D.J.’s family; they don’t really speak or communicate well. Why is that? And why is D.J’s best friend, Amber, having such a difficult time with D.J. training Brian? Amber has always been a say-what’s-on-her-mind kind of girl, but the things she’s blabbing to D.J. are becoming hurtful.

So there you have it: a rocky friendship with a questionable best friend, a family that needs a little fixin’, and an awesome dose of two very unlikely characters spending tons of time together.

As for the audio, it was spot on. I loved the narrator, Natalie Moore. She really got into D.J.’s character and I think I probably laughed out loud more than I would have if I were speed reading through the pages. Moore captured my husband’s attention, too, as I asked to listen to Dairy Queen while we were driving to Florida. I had to pause the book and explain the characters, setting, and plot so he could follow along with me. (He was asking a million questions.) We both really enjoyed the story — not too girly for him and not too heavy on the football/farm setting for me.

One bonus? There are two more books following Dairy Queen. I didn’t realize there was more when I finished listening, but I’ve just added The Off Season and Front and Center to my audible shopping cart because I’m so anxious for more D.J. and Brian. (And the rest of the gang, too.)

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book cover for Hooked by Liz Fichera

Magan: Hooked by Liz Fichera

book cover for Hooked by Liz FicheraHooked by Liz Fichera ( web | tweet )
Publication Date
: January 31, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Gender and Racial Discrimination, Golf, Bullying
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley

Summary: When Fredricka (Fred) is recruited to play golf for the men’s varsity team at her high school, team member Seth is kicked off. Seth manipulates and bullies Fred throughout the season, often leaving his best friend and ex-teammate Ryan in quite a predicament… especially when he might just be falling for Fred.

Hooked seemed like the perfect book for me, a girl who has lovingly devoured Miranda Kenneally’s books [see: Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker] which interweave a nice balance of sports and sweet romance. Though I don’t know a thing about golf, I was ready to be swept away by Fichera.

Fred is Native American and very isolated from the rest of her classmates. She has only a few friends because not many are willing to get to know the handful of kids attending the public school from her reservation. When she’s approached by the golf coach, who eyed her all summer while she perfected her swing at the golf club during her dad’s shift as groundskeeper, she’s not unsuspecting of the drama that is sure to follow when Seth is kicked off the team. Fred is a loner, mostly keeping to herself because she has a lot of family secrets she’d rather everyone not know. (Her mom is a drunk, they don’t have much money, live in a shabby trailer house, and drive a van that’s sure to cruise its last mile soon.)

Teammate Ryan has his fair share of drama, too, aside from Seth’s less than acceptable mistreatment of Fred. His doctor mother and lawyer father are rarely home; he suspects his father may be having an affair. Seth and Gwenyth (the clingy girl who can’t really take a hint that she’s being used and isn’t ever going to be promoted to Girlfriend) help soothe Ryan’s pain by partying and drinking with him. While it seems Ryan really is a good guy at heart, he’s left to pick up the pieces when Seth decides to attack Fred, portraying him as a very weak and gullible character . (Did I mention Seth’s father was killed in an accident by a Native American? His anger is immeasurable and he will do anything to make Fred suffer.) For the record, it was much more difficult to see Fred bullied by a boy than it typically is to read about girl v. girl drama.

You might have deduced that there’s no lack of drama with all the bullying and family tension. For a girl who is down with the (book) drama, I would have been more engaged if Fred or Ryan ever took a stand. Both were passive characters that let life take over. Fred was incredibly timid and never once rallied for support with her teammates or confided in her coach (who I wholeheartedly feel would have kicked major booty if he knew what was happening). Resolutions were delayed time and time again and I distanced myself from emotionally connecting with the characters as a result of their pathetic choices.  Ultimately, I would have appreciated a bit more character growth.

With a book full of strong contrasts (white boy versus Native American girl / girl on a boy’s team / rich versus poor / popular versus being a nobody), a lot could have been said about how to overcome these differences. Fred didn’t learn to fight for herself. Ryan didn’t have to change much (and in the end, even Seth’s actions were glossed over). Don’t get me wrong, many elements of Hooked were strong. Reading about a Native American girl and her reservation was fascinating, and Fichera did a great job of exploring discrimination on multiple levels. Unfortunately, I wished for Fred and Ryan to have more backbone than they did, something that quite possibly could have been strengthened if they didn’t have quite so many obstacles to overcome.

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Book Report: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Today we are diving into another BOOK REPORT, a feature that we share every month. We both read the same book, chat about it, and post it here. With minor spoilers, we introduce Miranda Kenneally’s awesome debut novel, Catching Jordan.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover for Magan and Paperback for Estelle
How we found out about it: It was one of Magan’s most wanted reads of December & Estelle had yet to read a sports YA book so why not?
Summary: Jordan lives and breathes football. Her best friends are her teammates and despite the lack of support from her pro-football player dad, she dreams of playing football on a college team. Then gorgeous Ty walks onto her football field, who shares the same position as her, and suddenly she’s a little (A LOT) distracted…

Estelle: Helloooooooo! This is me on zero sleep & very little caffeine!

Magan: HI! I’m still in my PJs, but super anxious to talk about this book!

Estelle: I’m jealous of your PJs. Even tho my boss isn’t around, I don’t think I would get away with that.

Magan: Haha! So, in three words, how would you describe Catching Jordan?

Estelle: That’s a tough one.  Sexy, strong, and sporty! It sounds like a cologne.

Magan: Oh, my gosh. You just made me crack up. That’s awesome.

Estelle: (I want to add in smart, too.)

Magan: I would add unpredictable to the mix! I didn’t anticipate how things were going to go down and I was so THANKFUL it wasn’t like that.

Estelle: I agree with you! “It” threw me for a loop.

Magan: Ha! I think this might be a good time to remind everyone that we might talk about a few spoilers, so they should maybe read this with caution.

Estelle: Yes! It’s going to be hard not to!  I want to start talking about Jordan and the kind of character she was.  I really loved her “one of the guys” personality and how she was sort of mystified by being friends with girls.

Magan: YES! Right off the bat, I loved her. She had this guy-ish attitude and talked just like them. The guys she surrounded herself with weren’t just teammates, but her best friends. The girls she described – the cheerleaders – made me cringe, too.

Estelle: I agree. I liked how a few of them surprised me though.  So did the football players. I mean, I know there are all those stereotypes about football players who don’t care, and aren’t emotional. But I think this book is about uncovering those stereotypes. Here we have a girl playing on a football team, and wanting to play college football. That’s one, and then step by step… we see the other sides of all these people.

Magan: You’re right, it’s something that occurs throughout the book, but I didn’t feel like I was reading through tons of self-discoveries. People changed and evolved naturally. I will say that because people were changing, there were characters I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to trust. I felt very confused about Ty.

Estelle: Did you? I was kind of confused too.

Magan: Yeah. We knew that Ty moved to TN from TX, but didn’t really know why. I was worried he was out for Jordan’s position and was going to be extremely upset if he tried to take it. Girls can be extremely emotional, and I feared that Jordan would become mixed up in a relationship and lose sight of her goals. Maybe I just didn’t have enough faith in Jordan to keep it all straight.

Estelle: That definitely would have been the easy way out for the author, but the book became so complex. Especially with Ty coming into the picture, and she’s totally attracted to him or whatever. It’s like it was all meant to happen.

Magan: Definitely. Looking back at some of the beginning chapters, she [Kennealy] subtly dropped hints about things that would come out, but she wrote everything so well that I didn’t know what to expect.

Estelle: It’s true. I thought that Ty and Jordan would stay together but there would be some conflict about the position or school that would sort of steer their realtionship. I didn’t know if I thought they would end up together, per se, but I still did NOT forsee it ending the way that it did.

Magan: Neither did I. There’s so much I’m excited to say about the ending, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise! I will say the cover makes more sense to me now, though.

Estelle: Her hair is still the wrong color.

Magan: That does bother me. Couldn’t they have just swept it up into a pony tail so we couldn’t tell?! I do want that girl’s legs though…Oh, and to be six feet tall like Jordan.

Estelle: She also looks so tan. Jealous. Haha.

Magan: And tan…

Estelle: She sounds beautiful. Another thing I loved was her poems.

Magan: Wow, you just read my mind.

Estelle: (As always.)

Magan: One thing I didn’t expect from this book at all was that [poetry]. The infusion of poetry was so unexpected. It added a completely new dimension to this book. Her mom (a secondary character I particularly loved) gave her the notebook because she could see that Jordan wasn’t talking about her life to anyone. As close as she was to all the football players, she needed them to take her seriously so she left out all the emotional things she was going through. It was lovely to see how they all cared for her though and really did want to listen.

Estelle: I felt the same way. I loved watching them sort of be normal and let go of these tough exteriors. I guess all of them were doing that in a way though.  Her mom was great.  This book was just oozing with awesome characters. We should probably mention Henry. It reminded me of a Dawson and Joey relationship. And I liked this! (Even if I’m a huge Pacey fan. Haha.)

Magan: (Ha! Dawson’s Creek is next on my list of shows to rewatch.) It was definitely very Joey/Dawson. Henry is the best friend who has been through everything with Jordan. I must admit that I was turned off by him in the beginning because he was pretty sleazy. Jordan was super worried and knew he was keeping something from her, but he was sleeping around with all those girls to deal with his problems. I felt so sorry for him.

Estelle: He is sort of a whore. Haha.

Magan: Yep, he was. What was your first impression of him (other than the above)?

Estelle: I could tell he had a crush on her. The whispers, the touching. I just didn’t know what to do with it. It’s funny though because she pushes him away in the beginning, and then he pushes away from her later?

Magan: There’s a lot of tension…

Estelle: Honestly, I felt like he was doomed to sleep with all these girls forever because Jordan was so obsessed with Ty.

Magan: I felt the same way! I really thought this book was going to be about the struggle between Jordan and Ty vying for the quarterback position while falling in love.  I had no idea there would be the added best friend element and that I would ultimately love Henry as much as I did. Kenneally wrote two very successful guy characters. There was no reason for me to dislike either Henry or Ty. They were both awesome guys – despite Henry’s sleeping around I loved everything about him.

Estelle: And Ty being controlling?

Magan: Oh, there was that.

Estelle: I understood why he was like that but I wasn’t sure if that was going to come into play? (Pun!) I have to say. I really loved how generous and wonderful Jordan’s parents were. They just wanted to help everyone. It was nice to see that happening.

Magan: Ok, yes. BUT, I loved the use of typography to describe the great Donovan Woods [Jordan’s dad]. Her dad made me so uncomfortable and I just wanted to shake his shoulders and tell him to snap out of it!

Estelle: Oh yes. Me too. That was genius. I mean, here we go with a girl with daddy issues. Which some people might call cliche, but I’m sorry. I know a lot of people that have them. And even though we don’t all have dads who are big football players, all we want is our parent to show us support and be interested in our lives and our dreams. I think she had very valid issues and dealt with them pretty well. She was straightforward with him about it… and yet she pushed him away when he wanted to be alone with her.

Magan: Definitely! I connected with this element a lot. My dad was super busy when I was in high school trying to build a business, and while I understood, Jordan’s story hit home with me. I wasn’t as vocal as she was about her desire to have him involved though.

Estelle: My dad was never very good about expressing himself, so I could get it too.

Magan: Ultimately, there were a lot of ways people could connect to something in this book.

Estelle: I don’t know if you noticed this but in a lot of YA novels, there are huge issues with family or the family is MIA. I liked how this family was close knit with down-to-earth problems. There were not perfect. They were all working on things. And this sibling dynamic was great too.

Magan: Yeah, I don’t quite understand that weird characterization or trend in YA.

Estelle: Me neither because my family has always been very involved in my life.

Magan: I will say that one of the things I notice in the books I’d say I love most is that they all have strong family values.

Estelle: I don’t know if that reflects real life when the family is just nowhere to be seen. A family is sometimes the foundation of a character.

Magan: Stephanie Perkins does a fabulous job of making her characters well-rounded and family involvement shapes the character.

Estelle: She does! I’m trying to think of someone else. I’m reading The Cardturner right now by Louis Sachar and the family thing is huge.

Magan: Jordan’s dad needed to get a clue and not be a sexist pig.

Estelle: I don’t know if I would call him sexist? I just felt like he couldn’t get a handle on his daughter’s identity. Just like any parent who has a child who is going through all of these experiences and can’t get a handle on them not being little girls or boys anymore. Ultimately, he wanted to keep her safe.

Magan: Okay. I got it. Over-protective, to the point that he wasn’t involved enough because he couldn’t see her get hurt. So the cheerleaders. I had a love/hate relationship with them. Mainly loved a few and despised another.

Estelle: I feel like that about cheerleaders in general. What were your thoughts?

Magan: Again, I never knew who to trust. I wanted to like Marie and Carrie …but they were friends with the terrible Kristen. I was so glad to see Jordan’s tough exterior peeled away as she learned that not all the girls were against her.  The jealousy ran so rampant in Kristen, and that was obvious to me, but Jordan was super hurt by it.

Estelle: Did you think that was developed enough – the story with Kristen?

Magan: I think I would have liked more of it. It was there enough that I wanted to tell Jordan the only reason she was so jealous is because of her daily interaction with all the football players. BUT, I didn’t see a ton of face to face time between Kristen and Jordan that built the tension. Actually, during the truth or dare game, Kenneally used Kristen’s dare as a way for Ty and Jordan to get together. So in a way that was meant to hurt Jordan via Kristen, it developed the story.

Estelle: Let me look at that part. (I do remember the lake. That was like eek! Very hot. Haha.)

Magan: Um, yeah it was. Kristen dares Jordan to jump in the lake in just her underwear. She accepts the dare and Ty comes out to the lake with Jordan. Their first kiss happens there.

Estelle: Okay, I’m reading that over. I love that scene. Haha.  High school was not that intense for me!

Magan: NOPE, me neither! That scene? It’s where my heart really began to flutter over Ty.

Estelle: I agree. Control! This book is a lot about that too. Henry trying to control his feelings, Jordan trying to control her life, Ty trying to control his family, Jordan’s dad trying to control her future. It’s a vicious cycle.

Magan: Oh, wow. Excellent point. Every one of them comes full circle by the end of the book, but not all with the happily ever after that they each expected.

Estelle: I love realistic endings. Such truth in this book! And it revolves around football! I’m not a huge football fan. I don’t even understand the game but it never distracted me. Haha.

Magan: No, it wasn’t overwhelming. I actually enjoyed those parts because I thought that’s where Ty’s true self was revealed the most.

Estelle: And you saw Jordan’s passion for the game.

Magan: And how protective all the guys were over her. Honestly, that was probably one of my favorite parts of the entire book – her relationship with each one of the guys. Not all of them were major key characters, but they added so much truth, depth, and reality to the story.

Estelle: I agree with you. They were all so different. I keep repeating myself.  Ha ha. I AGREE WITH YOU MAGAN.

Magan: HA! So, we both agree that this book was just wonderful. I am thrilled that I was gifted with this one because I think it will be one I adore as much as Perkins’ books. One I will want to re-read and I’ll definitely be telling friends to read.

Estelle: If we could, we would buy copies for everyone who read this joint review. Not only because we are generous people, but because we think it’s a great way to end an awesome year of reading. Or to jumpstart January.

Magan: How about we do a giveaway of this book? One copy?

Estelle: I think that’s an awesome idea!

Magan: Sweet! What are the rules?

G I V E A W A Y   R U L E S 

Let’s keep this one easy! Leave us a comment and you are automatically in the running to win a copy of Catching Jordan. It’s an easy question too: What’s the first book you started THIS year? We’ll keep the contest going until Friday, January 6 at midnight.

Can’t wait to see who wins!

But in case you can’t wait until Friday – Buy Catching Jordan on Amazon | Goodreads

Estelle: The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
Release Date: (ebook) December 6, 2011
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Young Adult
Why I read it: Huge Jennifer Echols fan. And I love majorettes!
Format: eBook on my Nook.
Summary:  Gemma’s life has been full of change lately. She’s stopped eating cobbler, she tried out for majorettes instead of continuing to play in marching band, and that cute boy from the rival football team was looking at her… or so she thinks. Somehow she lets her best friend, Addison, rope her into a double date with Addison dating Max, that cute football player, and Gemma hanging out with Carter, the less than thrilling quarterback. And while she is unhappy, she continues to go on these dates and attempt to ignore her feelings for Max… but she just can’t.

Entering a world where majorettes are a “big deal” in high school and being considered “popular” is a new concept for me. See, I was majorette in high school. Sure, we were a part of the marching band and performed at the football games. But the cheerleaders were considered the “real” entertainment (and hence, the more popular ones).

There were never too many girls dying to be majorettes. Frankly, unless you were downright dangerous with a baton you probably made the squad. Despite all of that, being a majorette was the best part of my high school experience and there was nothing like putting on my tall majorette boots and short uniform and shaking it for a crowd. The high was unbelievable.

So, immediately, you can see why I was so psyched to read Jennifer Echols’ newest romantic comedy. It totally brought me back to those four years I sat in the stands at the games, cheering for the football games, freezing my tush off, freaking out before a halftime performance, and even the utter fear of tryouts.

From the book description, I gathered that the plot would focus on this “love” triangle between Gemma, her best friend, Addison, and the football kicker, Max. That would have been all well and good but I am happy to report that the book dove into several other themes.

It was all about personal discovery. Gemma has just lost A LOT of weight in a short time. She’s constantly dealing about how she feels about this change in her appearance and about how others treat her because of this change. It seems like a lonely place to be when her best friend couldn’t be any less supportive if she tried. (Does anyone else see this growing trend of nice girls having shitty best friends?)

The best part is -– Max can relate. He’s very sensitive about his ethnicity (he is Japanese) and his best friend (Carter, who had just about zero effect on me) keeps dogging on him because of his size and how he is not really “part of the football team.” While I’m not always a fan of two characters that have relatively the same problem, it worked here. Both their predicaments were caused by different situations, and both characters found their own way of dealing with it.

As for the love triangle situation, I was kind of frustrated. I went from just wanting to scream at Gemma to communicate because she had to be misjudging the situation and then realizing, I had no idea how this could all end because Robert – her love interest from earlier in the book – kept popping up. I think even though it hurt sometimes, Gemma learned a lot about herself when she was “going out” (a.k.a. making out) with Carter – how she gave into things she didn’t always want just because she felt she should, and deciding just what she deserved. For a comedy, there’s a good amount of heavy to be found.

I also have to applaud Jennifer for making football UNDERSTANDABLE. I didn’t mention that after four years of watching football and being the daughter of a HUGE football fan, I still know absolutely nothing. I swear, football and calculus – there is no place for either of them in my brain. But I actually GOT IT. It was also kind of great that Gemma had some football knowledge.

So as you can see, there is a lot to really like about this book. Sure, it’s not as sexy as some of Jennifer’s other books, but that was okay. The two main characters were well-developed, I absolutely loved the setting, and the problems were genuine and relatable. And most importantly, the ending was not entirely typical which is always the sign of a worthy book.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my baton…
And BONUS, for your viewing pleasure: