Book: Block and Strike
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication date: January 6, 2017
Length: 266 pages
Reviewed by Meredith
Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.
Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.
Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.
This is the second Kelly Jensen book I’ve read. Here’s the interesting thing; the two were polar opposites. One was light, funny, magical. Block and Strike was emotional, raw, a bit gritty, and a lot amazing. I love the fact that the author is so versatile in her writing.
Block and Strike deals with something so many people are familiar with…bullying. Sometimes bullying is words and sometimes it’s physical. In Max’s case it’s both.
Max’s journey in life has been nothing but push down, drag out situations. A sick mom, a homophobic abusive father, bullies at school and as an adult. The man broke my heart so much. We see what the effects of prolonged harassment and abuse do to a person and I thought the author really did an outstanding job fleshing out this character and the evolution of his story.
Jake was a different story. He’s a criminal and I knew the second I read him that whatever he did, it was for a good reason. He got a raw deal but he owned his mistake and works every day to be a better person. When he saves Max he also saves himself and so we watch these two broken men grow into extraordinary people.
The secondaries in this book were terrific. Mostly Jake’s family. Their love and support for their son filled me with a kind of warmth only a mother could understand. Then to bestow the same love, affection, and support onto Max? Yeah, they win all the awards.
This is a great book. Emotional, dark at times, but it’s a gritty love story. Great read.
I love giving my characters interesting hobbies and Max and Jake from Block and Strike are no exception!
When choosing hobbies for my characters, I try to match the activity to their personality. It doesn’t need to be an obvious match, but Jake’s hobbies are. He works in construction and his main hobby is restoring furniture he finds on the side of the road. It’s a great activity for him because he likes to work with his hands. He’s also a very nurturing guy. Just as he sees the beauty in an old table that needs to be stripped and refinished, he sees the potential in someone like Max.
Jake also enjoys cooking. He likes to eat and that nurturing side of him loves to feed people. Having his friends gathered around a table he’s set is something that pleases him very much. The scene in Block and Strike where he prepares dinner for his friends is one of my favourites. It says a lot of about Jake.
Martial arts training appeals to Jake’s need for structure and discipline. He’s a pretty emotional guy. Training gives him confidence in his choices and his physicality. You can tell that he takes the lessons he’s learned in the dojo seriously, and that his training has been an integral part of his growth as a person.
Max is a quiet little dude and his hobbies mostly reflect that. He collects plants—cast offs from the supermarket where he works—and has a bookshelf full of science fiction novels. (Wonder where he got that hobby?)
He also likes to run. For pleasure. Running is one of those hobbies that really defines Max. It’s a solitary sport, which suits his shyness, but it’s not limited by time or location. He can just step outside and go, whenever he wants. Wherever he wants. Running is his escape. The exercise also has the benefit of keeping him fit and somewhat sane. While he’s running, Max enters a relaxed mental state he calls Max-Space where he worries less and dreams a little bigger.
Perhaps the most unexpected hobby in Block and Strike is Max’s obsession with motor racing. On the one hand, it’s hardly surprising. His father is a mechanic with his own garage. Max basically grew up with a wrench in one hand. The roar of engines and the thrill of speed doesn’t exactly seem like Max’s thing, though. It’s easy to picture him with a book, or loping along the trails at Pennypack Park. But behind the wheel of a sports car?
He doesn’t get to drive all that often, but he does watch a lot of driving. One of the few luxuries in his hole of an apartment is a DVR so he can record and watch every race—and it’s in the watching that this hobby makes more sense for him. It’s a quiet pastime. Yes, the sport is noisy, but watching it is actually kind of peaceful. Especially the endurance races. And it’s not the sport where the biggest guy wins. Drivers can be the quiet, unassuming sort. Drivers need focus and patience. So, it’s hardly surprising that these are two of the traits Jake most admires in Max.
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
Thanks for following my tour! At the end of every post, I’ll be asking a question. Leave a comment with your answer (and your email address). Every comment throughout the tour counts as an entry in my giveaway. Two winners will each receive $25 (US or equivalent) to spend at the Dreamspinner Press store.
Question: What’s your favourite hobby?