Monday, May 2, 2011

Full Court Pressure by Lynn Galli

Book:  Full Court Pressure
Author:  Lynn Galli
Publisher:  Penikila Press

For some curious reason, people find it strange that I have a dashboard statue in my trusty little Subaru.  Of course, it isn't the Madonna it's Pat Summitt in her infamous orange final four pantsuit.

Hey!  I see you smirking out there!!  Don't be hatin' on my girl . . .

I have a serious love of women's basketball, and now that we're in that sad and barren wasteland between March Madness and the start of the WNBA training camps . . . well I thought I'd infuse my deflated soul with a little "literary rock" and read both Lynn Galli's Full Court Pressure and P.V. Beck's Sweet Turnaround J.

Ah, that's nice.  Feels like my mojo is coming back.

To keep things balanced in the universe, I'm going to do a two part basketball series so I can give each author her just dues.

Full Court Pressure was published in early 2010.  It's not exactly a new release, but it was new to me when I picked it up and gave it the ol' one-finger spin.  

No!  Not that kind of one finger spin!!!!  The Harlem Globtrotters kind . . .  sheesh!!

In the story, we meet Graysen Viola (long 'i'), who is tricked into leaving her George Washington University women's team and taking over the helm of the depleted and sanctioned Lake Merritt University men's team by her best friend and LMU Athletic Director, Tavian.  Gray and Tavian go way back to their college days at UNC.  Both played in the Olympics and both played professionally.  Knowing that her future at GWU was jeopardized just by "testing the waters", she reluctantly takes the position.  Her young team, which has been decimated by graduations and transfers, isn't completely on board with having a female coach.  In fact, while she gives it her best, she's even a little unsure about the position herself.  She's helped along in her transition to the Bay Area by Kesara, Tavian's kind, resourceful, competent and attractive Executive Assistant; Kesara's large and talented pool of cousins; and by Darby Evan, the women's volleyball coach at LMU.

Darby has harbored a crush on Gray for twenty years, and throws herself into claiming the woman of her fantasy.  Gray, of course, has been so focused on playing and coaching, that she's rarely dated.  Men or women.  Darby pulls out all the stops to make Gray hers.  Yet as hard as she tries, Gray just doesn't feel that "spark" that she always expected.  And, of course, love isn't the only thing on Gray's mind.  Her primary focus is to take a bunch of reluctant young men, and turn them into a team.  It's a struggle, but things finally start to gel, and the team takes baby steps in the right direction.  That's when Gray wakes up to the fact that Darby isn't the one she wants.  But there is someone out there for her, and she's a lot closer than Gray ever realized.

I don't want to spoil the fun, but Gray gets the girl she's been waiting a lifetime for, her ragged team becomes a winner, and she finally gets furniture.

Full Court Pressure was a really solid read.  I liked the lead characters and thought they were well developed, and the story progressed tightly without too many leaps in logic.  Far too often an author inserts a "one-scene-wonder" into the story to advance a certain piece of the plot, but Ms. Galli introduced a wide range of secondary characters that fit appropriately into the progressing storyline, and added to the appeal of the book.

The only character that didn't really add anything was Gray's mom.  Any number of existing characters, including Tavian's wife, could have been used for that little bit of 'spilling the beans' drama.  There was also only one 'scene' in the book that didn't really advance the story.  At one point, Gray is babysitting Tavian's daughters and Kesara is babysitting her sister's daughters.  The girls want a sleepover, so Gray gets the honor.  I thought this would be a great place to show Gray and Kesara deepening their friendship, but it sort of went like this:

Kesara:  Okay, we're set.  My sister will pick the girls up in the morning.

Gray:  No need, I'll take everyone to breakfast and drop them off.

Kesara:  I thought you'd say that.  By the way, are you sure you're up to a sleepover with four girls?

Gray.  Well, yeah.  You'll be here until they go to bed.  In the morning I'll just take them to breakfast.  It will be a snap.

M'yeah . . . I kept waiting for the next scene, where the girls drive Gray insane by flushing her whistle down the loo, she's forced to call Kesara to the rescue, then they spend the night drinking cheap red wine and talking.  Or something.  Anything.

Anyway, one superfluous secondary character and one throw away scene does not a bad book make. 

I thought one of the strongest aspects of the book was Gray's dedication to teaching the student athletes.  She instilled discipline into the wayward program, and stuck to her guns.  The young men on her team went to classes and did their school work - it was the price of playing the game they love (and keeping their scholarships).  They learned to respect her, each other, and themselves.  They committed to her game plan, and to becoming a much fitter team.  They also learned important life lessons that gave them the tools and the knowledge to grow into better men.

Now if only the real coaches and fans of men's college teams levied that sort of unwavering expectation and determination into the sport . . .

I did want to point out a few other little things that made me gnaw on my bottom lip: 
  • Darby was described as outgoing, gregarious, and well liked, but she sure seemed pushy, boorish, and unstable.
  • Of all the lesbians in the Bay Area, Gray just happens to hook up with two that share the same ex. 
  • The men's team had all those NCAA violations and they still got to play in the tournament? 
  • A former ESPN commentator and the first women's coach of a men's Division I  basketball team, and only a handful of local reporters showed up for the first game? 
  • And, really?  40, never interested in sex,  and wholly unsure yet whether she's straight, gay or bisexual?  
I thought only I dated those women . . . she types, dryly.

All those little things aside, I really liked this book, and there's no hesitation that I'll add a few more of Lynn Galli's works to my cyber bookshelf.  I absolutely loved her approach to the story, and the biting humor her characters displayed.  She showcased the sweet ability to capture friendly banter and inner dialogue, and dropped her reader into the sweet spot of the story with a deft touch.

She shoots . . . she . . . . SCORES!!!!!

On the Rainbow Scale, I'll give Full Court Pressure a 5.0.  

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