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I came to love basketball later in life than most fans. I was a junior in high school, and the University of Kansas had risen to the top of my list of college options. My grandma had been a KU fan for years, and her enthusiasm mixed with my own excitement at the prospect of heading to college, especially a school where basketball is king. Before I knew it, I had learned what a ball screen was, and I've spent every March since 2002 screaming at the TV.

So, as a basketball fan, I was really into Nina Revoyr's debut novel, originally published in 1997 and set in the mid-to-late '80s. The narrator is Nancy Takahiro, a standout forward on her high school team in inner city LA. As a six-footer with a quick first step, Nancy has been getting attention from college scouts for pretty much her entire high school career. She loves the game of basketball, and she knows it's her ticket out of Inglewood.

Nancy's life becomes more complicated when her father starts dating the mother of a highly-touted player from a different school, Raina Webber. Nancy has had feelings for Raina for a long time—feelings that Raina hasn't reciprocated. When their parents move in together, Nancy and Raina will have to navigate a minefield of issues, on and off the court. They're both incredibly fierce competitors, and emotions run as high and hard as the girls do in practice.

There's so much going on in this novel besides basketball. Nancy's father and Raina's mother have to deal with backlash from their friends over their inter-racial relationship (Nancy's father is of Japanese descent, while Raina's mother is African-American). Nancy has to find a way to swallow her jealousy every time she sees Raina with her girlfriend, Toni. Both their parents have good jobs, so the family isn't living in poverty, but life in their neighborhood isn't always easy or safe. And after all the high school games are finally over, Nancy and Raina are each going to have to choose a college, decisions that will have ripple effects throughout their entire lives.

The basketball scenes are well-placed, building tension throughout the book to a showdown that feels inevitable, though I never could have predicted the outcome. Those scenes on the court are where Revoyr's narration shines the brightest. I could see perfectly every pass, every shot, down to the last heartbreaking second. (Of course, if you don't have at least a basic grasp of the game, those scenes won't carry as much of a punch.) And I didn't live in LA in the '80s, but to my ear, Revoyr's dialogue rings true—exactly how I'd imagine players jawing to each other on the court.

I had to delve deep into the backlist for this one—it's not terribly often these days I'm reading books written in the '90s—but I'm so glad I did. And I'll definitely be checking out more of Revoyr's books in the future.

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I absolutely love Jo Nesbo. I desert-island love him. If I could only read one thriller writer for the rest of my earthly days, I'd choose him in a heartbeat and never look back. We're exclusive.

And I think I enjoyed this book more than I might have, just because his reputation precedes him. He doesn't need to put on a slinky dress, turn down the lights, and woo me. I'm already sold.

However, if you've never dipped your toe in the Jo Nesbo Norwegian crime thriller pool, you'd probably be better served to start with one of his other books.

For one thing, Blood on Snow is much shorter than most of his books, and while the brevity and simple language fit the narrator perfectly, it might be a little difficult to get into a rhythm if you're not already a fan. Olav is plenty interesting—he's a professional contract killer, although he'd never use those terms. He calls himself a “fixer.” He's not the sharpest guy, and he's proven ill-suited for other criminal endeavors, but he's good at taking people out and walking away without getting caught. He likes to keep things uncomplicated. However, Olav's life gets very complicated very quickly when his boss asks him to “fix” his wife. Olav doesn't want the job, but he already knows too much to back out. He's going to have to make a tough decision, and tough decisions aren't really his cup of tea.

So yes, Olav is a compelling character, in that he's the exact opposite of the suave man of danger you'd expect to see in the role of contract killer. However, I didn't fall for him the way I did for Nesbo's more famous leading man, Harry Hole (I'm told it's pronounced less salaciously in Norwegian). Olav isn't the kind of character you could build a series around. He's kind of a one-note guy. Harry, on the other hand, keeps coming back in book after book, each time more grizzled, scarred, and strung out than the last (and yet somehow, more badass and endearing as well).

Blood on Snow is a great book for established Nesbo fans, but if you've never read him before, I'd recommend starting with one of the Harry Hole books. I've long been partial to The Snowman because it was my first, and it practically blew the top of my head off, but the entire series has now been translated into English, so you can start anywhere you like.

Just don't try to horn in on my desert island. There's only room for two.