Dust Bowl Girls: A Review

Dust Bowl Girls: A Team's Quest for Basketball GloryDust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory
Author: Lydia Reeder
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Nonfiction

5.0 Stars

Oklahoma. The Dust Bowl. Women’s basketball. The season that made history. The 1930s were a hard time for many, but none so much as the farmers of Oklahoma. At the time, poor families made dresses out of grain sacks, basketball players owned one pair of shoes, and college (especially for girls) was a distant dream. Coach Babb had different ideas. He toured the state, recruiting the strongest players he could find in the high school circuit; endowing those he found with skill, and more importantly, purpose. He coached the Cardinals in the city of Durant, and things were about to change, irreversibly, forever.

Dust Bowl Girls, ten years in the making, is bursting at the margins with the intimate details of the Cardinal team members’ lives, providing genuine heart to a narrative only half-recorded in the newspapers of the time. Taking advantage of the scrapbooks and oral stories from the personalities so lovingly portrayed in the text, Lydia Reeder paints the story of a team of hard-on-their-luck teenagers rising up out of the dust of poverty and the Great Depression, bringing hope and honor to their small city of Durant in Oklahoma.

As a sports story and as a memoir, Dust Bowl Girls recreates the atmosphere of the early 1900s, as politics and traditionalism threatened the game that brought Oklahoma Presbyterian College and its basketball team such pride. Throughout the novel, the reader is given ample context, so that she can understand what the team was truly up against. From First Lady Hoover’s mission to remove all women from competitive sports, to a run-down team bus that nearly careened off a mountain when its brakes failed. The human moments come from the shy, yet naked windows into the minds of the players and their coach Babb, as personal conflicts and daily drama propel them towards their eventual, highly-unanticipated games at the AAU National Finals.

Reeder writes with hungry excitement, rallying the reader to root for the Cardinals, and doesn’t disappoint, with energetic retellings of the key games of the team’s most important season. Lovers of sports fiction would find it hard to be disappointed by this delightful and enlightening window into a history that very nearly never was.

Algonquin Books provided me with an advanced copy for an honest review. Dust Bowl Girls releases on January 17, 2017. Preorder your copy here.

The Dictionary of Purple Prose: 100 More Words for Logophiles

I’m a bit of a collector of words. Several years ago, I began keeping a list known as The Dictionary of Purple Prose, which has been quite well-received among this blog’s readers. Occasionally, I remember to update the thing, as I did last year. It’s time to do it again. Here are 100 new additions to The Dictionary of Purple Prose for the year 2016. Have some fun and ameliorate your vocabulary skills!


Dictionary of Purple Prose: 100 New Additions

abecedary – (noun) a book relating to the alphabet.
acataphasia – (noun) loss of the power to formulate a statement correctly. [medical]
ailurophile – (noun) a person who loves or fancies cats.
ameliorate – (verb) to grow better or improve.
avuncularity – (adj.) of, relating to, or characteristic of an uncle.
bucolic – (adj.) rustic, rural, or pastoral.
bunkum – (noun) bombastic speechmaking for propaganda; a claptrap.
cachet – (noun) a private seal affixed to a letter or official document, or to commemorate an event.
callipygous – (adj.) having a beautiful buttocks.
canard – (noun) a false rumor; a hoax.
chatoyant – (adj.) [of feathers, gems, etc] with a changing luster, iridescent, shimmering.
crepuscular – (adj.) of or relating to twilight; dim, dark.
dalliance – (noun) 1. dallying or toying; 2. an amorous relationship.
demesne – (noun) any estate in land; a manor with attached lands not lent out to tenants.
desideratum – (noun) something much desired or wanting. Also desiderate (verb) to long for; desiderium (noun) grief for what is lost.
desuetude – (noun) disuse; discontinuance.
desultory – (adj.) jumping from one thing to another; rambling; hasty; loose; random.
diaphanous – (adj.) transparent; translucent; clear; delicate.
dissemble – (verb) to disguise or mask; to feign; to pretend; play the hypocrite.
dulcet – (adj.) sweet; melodious, harmonious.
ebullience – (noun) cheerful enthusiasm. Also ebullient (adj.) enthusiastic; agitated; boiling over.
effervescent – (adj.) boiling, bubbling; lively, vivacious, exuberant.
effluence – (adj.) flowing out; (noun) a stream that flows into another stream; liquid sewage waste.
elide – (verb) to cut off; to suppress, abridge; to rebut. Also elision (noun) an omission; suppression of vowel or syllable.
embrocation – (verb) to moisten and rub [with lotion].
emollient – (adj.) softening; making supple; advocating a more peaceful attitude.
eschatology – (noun) the doctrine of the last or final matters , such as death, judgement and the state after death.
evanescent – (adj.) fleeting, passing; vanishing.
fugacious – (adj.) inclined to run away, flee; fleeting [literary]; readily shed [petals, etc.]
fungible – (adj.) interchangeable; exchangeable for something similar.
furtive – (adj.) stealthy, secret.
gambol – (verb) leap; skip playfully; (noun) frolic; skipping movement.
gamine – (noun) a street urchin; (adj.) boyish, impish. [feminine: gamine]
halcyon – (adj.) calm, peaceful, happy, carefree [phrase: halcyon days]
henotic – (adj.) tending to unify or reconcile.
hericide – (noun) the murder of a lord or master.
hircine – (adj.) goat-like, having a strong, goatish smell. Also hircosity (noun) goatishness.
imbrication – (adj.) [of scales, leaves, tissue, teeth, etc.] overlapping like roof tiles.
indolent – (adj.) disliking activity; lazy; causing little or no pain; slow to heal [in ulcers, etc.]
ingénue – (noun) an artless, naive, inexperienced young woman [masculine: ingénu]
inglenook – (noun) an alcove by a large open fire; chimney-corner. Also ingle (noun) a fire in a room; a fireplace.
insouciance – (adj.) indifferent, unconcerned, nonchalant; heedless; apathetic.
inure – (verb) to accustom, habituate, harden, to come into effect; to serve to one’s own benefit.
inveterate – (adj.) firmly established by usage or custom; deep-rooted; stubborn; hostile.
jacent – (adj.) lying flat; sluggish.
jacinth – (noun) blue gemstone; reddish-orange color; slaty-blue fancy pigeon.
jalouse – (verb) to suspect; to be jealous of.
jark – (noun) a seal on a document; a pass, safe-conduct. Also jark man (noun) a swindling beggar.
jobation – (noun) a tedious scolding. Also Job (noun) a person of great patience. [phrase: Job’s comforter (someone who aggravates the distress of the person they have come to comfort)]
jumentous – (adj.) to smell strongly of an animal.
labyrinthine – (adj.) like a labyrinth or maze.
lagniappe – (noun) something given beyond what is strictly required; gratuity.
languor – (noun) languidness, listlessness, weariness, pining; a stuffy suffocating atmosphere.
lassitude – (noun) faintness, weakness, weariness, languor.
lilt – (noun) cheerful song or air; cadence; a springy gait; (verb) to hum, to do anything briskly; to sing or play absent-mindedly.
limner – (noun) a painter who uses paper or parchment; a portrait-painter.
lissome – (adj.) lithe, nimble, flexible.
malinger – (verb) to feign sickness to avoid duty or work.
mellifluous – (adj.) flowing with honey or sweetness’ smooth, sweet flow.
mirific – (adj.) wonder-working; marvelous.
moiety – (noun) half; either of two parts or divisions; a small share.
mondegreen – (noun) a phrase , often humorous or nonsensical , that results from mishearing the lyric of a song.
musth – (noun, adj.) a dangerous frenzy in some male animals, such as elephants.
obsequious – (adj.) fawning, compliant, dutiful, ingratiating. Also obsequies (noun) funeral rites.
palimpsest – (noun) a manuscript in which old writing has been rubbed out to make room for new.
panacea – (noun) a cure for all things; a healing plant of varying description.
panoply – (noun) complete armor; a full suit of armor; a full or brilliant covering.
penumbra – (noun) a partial or lighter shadow round the perfect or darker shadow produced by an eclipse or by a large unfocused light source shining on an opaque object; the part of a picture where the light and shade blend into each other.
peripatetic – (adj.) walking about; itinerant (as in a teacher that travels).
petrichor – (noun) a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
plenary – (adj.) full; entire; complete; absolute; unqualified; having full powers.
polemic – (adj.) given to disputing; controversial.
promulgation – (noun) something announced publicly or made widely-known.
propinquity – (noun) nearness.
pyrrhic – (adj.) relating to or associated with the Greek king Pyrrhus [phrase: phyrrhic victory (noun) a victory gained at too great a cost]
ravel – (noun) a tangle; a broken thread; (verb) to entangle; to untwist, unweave, unravel.
reticent – (adj.) reserved; communicating sparingly or unwillingly.
saccharine – (adj.) of sickly sweetness; sugary.
sangfroid – (noun) coolness, composure, self-possession.
scintilla – (noun) a spark; a hint, trace.
scrofulous – (adj.) having a diseased or run-down appearance.
sempiternal – (adj.) everlasting.
seraglio – (noun) a harem; a collection of wives or concubines.
somnolence – (noun) sleepiness; drowsiness.
sozzled – (adj.) drunk.
spurious – (adj.) not genuine; false; sham; forged; bastard, illegitimate.
strepent – (adj.) noisy.
supercilious – (adj.) disdainfully superior in manner; overbearing.
susurration – (noun) a murmuring; whisper; rustling.
swain – (noun) a young man; a peasant, rustic; a lover or suitor. Also swaining (noun) love-making; swainish (adj.) boorish.
syllogism – (noun) a logical argument in three propositions; duductive reasoning; a clever, subtle argument.
syrtis – (noun) a patch or area of quicksand.
tetched – (noun) touched: mildly deranged, somewhat mentally dysfunctional.
tintinnabulation – (noun) bellringing.
turgidity – (noun) swollen; dilated; inflamed; pompous.
verisimilitude – (noun) the quality of seeming or appearing real or true; a statement that sounds true.
vespertine – (adj.) of or relating to the evening; happening, appearing active in the evening.
vicinal – (adj.) neighboring, local.
winnow – (verb) to separate from the chaff; to fan, sift, separate, blow on, waft, etc.

Little Nothing, by Marisa Silver

Little Nothing by Marisa SilverLittle Nothing by Marisa Silver
Penguin Group/Blue Rider Press

3.0 Stars

“The silence is so dense that it is just as hard on the baby’s eardrums as is any sound. It is the silence that will become the refrain, when a stranger falls speechless in the child’s presence, or when a villager pushes her children behind her skirts as she passes the narrow market lanes to protect them from what might be catching.”

The story of Pavla the dwarf girl begins with an old woman giving birth. She screams as the gypsy woman that bewitched her old womb to “fill with a flower” urges her to push. Her father, a plumber in a town too superstitious for modern toilets suffocates a chicken in the back, waiting to hear his child cry.

Pavla is born with a large head and everything else too small. Her words are powerful, her situation crushingly real. Too real, in fact, for how the story plays out.

It is always a risky decision to write a book where the main character changes, especially if that first personality is the one that attaches herself to the reader’s heart. In Little Nothing, Silver’s writing is beautiful. Literary. But a transition in the first third left me stumbling through the second, and by the time I had recovered, the third had shaken things all up again. The ending left me feeling hollow, and while I appreciate the allegory and experimental nature of the work, I didn’t feel like Little Nothing ever really concluded. Perhaps it was not meant to.

The story of Pavla was curious and compelling. But Pavla changes into something else, and then something else, and then something else, and despite all the new, somewhat clichéd but interesting incarnations of the girl called “Little Nothing,” none felt as genuine to me as Pavla. And due to that, despite Silver’s incredibly strong writing and my absolute love of fantasy, I found the fantasy elements distracting and diluting of the real power the story could have portrayed.

The publisher provided me with an advance copy in exchange for a review. Little Nothing will be available for purchase on September 13, 2016.

The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis: A Review

51uCaWI9e3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
Published by Crown Publishers, Penguin Random House

5.0 Stars

Elka hasn’t had much luck in her life. Between the nightmare of the thunderheads that keep her awake at night, and the raging memories behind the locked doors in her memory, she can count the people she’s cared for on a single hand.

Trapper, a man who found her in the woods when she was seven and raised her as his own. A man who showed her everything he knew about how to survive. Who taught her how to skin and smoke just about every kind of animal. A man who, later, she finds out, is wanted for the murder of several women.

Missy, a woman in the woods–a flicker of a memory–who bandaged her hand after it got burned.

And Penelope, a lace-wearing blonde from the South, where the events of the Damn Stupid have turned Boston into a sweltering tropic.

Elka lives in a world deeply scarred by the generations of the past, where nukes erroneously landed in the far north, near “BeeCee,” irreparably changing the world’s climate and reducing society back to its very basics. As such, The Wolf Road is peppered with all the elements of a classic Western, but in the undercurrent is a world of sneakers and fashion magazines: steampunk without the steam.

Beth Lewis throws us heart-deep into this dangerous and cynical world with a sharp, powerful first-person narrative. Elka’s voice is raw and uncensored. In her eyes we see the mirror-clear reality of the human soul: sometimes ugly and unforgivable, sometimes tragic and beautiful. One of the most beautiful things about Elka is she is not written as flawed–she is written as human, and that’s one of the things that endeared me so greatly to this book.

The story itself is an undulating mass of heartbreak, tempered only by stunning moments of redemption. Unlike a lot of grit fantasy out there, Beth Lewis uses a masterful hand to guide the reader through. I trusted the author, fell into the darkness, and finished the book changed in some small way.

Of course, as with any book, there are the subjective things. I did not find some of the stuff Elka knew about to be congruous with her illiterate, woodland upbringing, but I also see how it would be hard to introduce this visceral world of ruin without some of it. I had my doubts about the animal companion ‘Wolf,’ at times it starting to make the beautiful analogy of wolves in the wood (which teetered on the edge of a Little Red Riding Hood allusion) a little too literal, but in the end, Lewis wins me over here as well.

All in all, a masterful debut from a writer I am eager to see more from.

NetGalley furnished a copy of The Wolf Road in exchange for my honest review.

This book will release on July 5th in hardcover. Pre-order it on Amazon here.