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This Was Always About Basketball

This Was Always About Basketball by Craig Leener is a wonderful story that follows the protagonist Ezekiel Archer, better known as ‘Zeke,’ as he prepares himself for his next big step in life at the University of Kansas. This is where he plans to take his basketball dreams to the next level. However, as he begins completing his extensive to-do list before he leaves, he encounters a few bumps along the way, such as history being completely altered. As this is not the first time an unusual happening has been in Zeke’s life, he knows exactly who to turn to, his autistic but brilliant mathematician friend Lawrence.

The whole concept behind this story is compelling, and the imagination used to combine science fiction with a diary written by Zeke is done well. Having the story written in the first person narrative and having him address the reader by introducing himself,  ‘My name is Ezekiel Archer’  from one of the first lines draws them in, making them feel included in the story. There are areas throughout where the details are rich and descriptive, such as ‘Lawrence’s handwriting—rigid and purposeful letters carefully sketched and slanted in an easterly direction.’ These moments allow readers to come to know the characters, it assists the reader in understanding them on a deeper level.

This Was Always About Basketball is an entertaining and enjoyable read. The chapters are short, but all relevant which helps with the plot flow, and you are always left wanting more. This is not the first book in this series that I have read, and I hope it will not be the last as through each adventure, you learn more about the characters and feel you are part of the story with them. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a fantasy story.

Pages: 257 | ASIN : B08PM9X1PW

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All Roads Lead to Lawrence

All Roads Lead To Lawrence, by Craig Leener, is a lively science fiction story that follows the life of a young man named Zeke, his friend and their lives; which revolve around the game of basketball. Everything starts to go terribly wrong as they approach their summer break. Someone dies, his girlfriend Rebecca makes a decision that will change the course of their relationship, and one of his friends is in a terrible accident. Zeke is forced to grow up and take responsibility for his life and how he affects those around him. Then things begin to get really strange when an unusual character starts to cross his path. Being no stranger to weird happenings, Zeke knows he needs the help of his friends, especially his autistic friend Lawrence, to try and figure out what is going on.

From one of the very first lines, “My name is Zeke Archer, and that’s where this strange tale begins.” the author establishes the point of view, sets the level of intrigue, and prepares readers for the extraordinary things that are about to occur. I enjoyed this opening from a technical perspective, but this also shows the sharp writing of author Craig Leener. From here readers will be engaged with the first person narrative, and feel more involved in the story. This is important since this is the second book in the series. You don’t necessarily have to have read book one to pick this book up, you can enjoy it on it’s own, but you may way to read book one just to get a full appreciation for the character and story arc over the series.

Many themes are touched upon throughout the story which offer advice for young readers, especially teenage readers who may find themselves in a similar situation (minus the science fiction parts). For example the subject of the death of a loved one or having a sibling in the U.S. Marine Corps is explored in the story in a delicate and respectful way. Telling this story from the first person perspective allows the reader to get an insight into how someone in this situation may feel. Furthermore, by following the characters facing pivotal life lessons such as getting their first job, it makes the tale more relatable and provides useful tips that the reader can apply in their own lives.

I was amazed by the level of imagination that is infused throughout this story and the clever way in which young adult science fiction and basketball is woven together throughout the book. Having read other stories in this series, it is nice to gain further details about the characters and I am sure they have so much more to give. I would definitely recommend this read to others as the short chapters make it easily digestible and the fun plot make this an entertaining story from start to finish.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B07XL91FZG

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This Was Never About Basketball

This Was Never About Basketball by Craig Leener follows a young teenage boy named Zeke whose entire life revolves around the game of basketball. Unfortunately, due to past experiences, he finds himself attending a school for children who have been expelled or are deemed problematic; thankfully, this includes his friends. Unfortunately, this also means he now has to miss out on playing his beloved game at college, almost having to begin again. His luck does begin to change when he has a chance to play in a tournament; however, this is when things start to get a little strange, which is made clear by another boy from school, Lawrence.

The imagination that has gone into this story is impressive; combining an uplifting story of a person trying to play basketball and the life lessons he faces along the way with elements of an unusual adventure works wonderfully and definitely keeps the reader intrigued. But, of course, this is assisted by how the story is told.

Using a first-person narrative to get the full story from Zeke’s perspective works well. I especially liked the story’s opening, where he addresses the audience directly, ‘Great way to start a story, right? But that’s exactly how it happened…’. It is an excellent hook that immediately grabs your attention and leaves you wondering what will happen.

This Was Never About Basketball by Craig Leener is a fantastic coming-of-age teen and a young adult novel. I was able to read one of the books in this series from another character’s perspective and I personally enjoyed it a little more due to how intriguing the writing was; however, this book is definitely one you can read repeatedly. The way the story flows with the short chapters and the constant build of tension and mysterious events will keep anyone on the edge of their seat.

Pages: 221 | ASIN : B08QXYWY53

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The Amazing And Intrepid Lawrence Tuckerman

Craig Leener Author Interview

There’s No Basketball on Mars follows an autistic teenage boy who gets recruited into a top-secret mission to Mars. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Autism touches all of us — our immediate families, our coworkers, and our dear friends. It’s a disorder that’s very close to my heart. I have a dear friend who lives 1,500 miles away in Dallas. She has a neurodiverse teenage son — really quite an extraordinary young man — and she and I talk often about the challenges he faces and the achievements he celebrates.

When I first felt the calling to write a young-adult novel, I sat down for breakfast at a diner in Hollywood with a YA librarian. I was seeking guidance and a path forward. That librarian told me to consider including an underrepresented main character in my story, and I immediately thought of my friend’s son, and in that moment, the amazing and intrepid Lawrence Tuckerman was born.

What research did you do for this novel to get it right?

I read everything I could get my hands on regarding space travel to Mars and neurodiversity. I also did supplemental research on Vandenberg Air Force Base, the University of Kansas basketball program, medical testing devices, algebraic mathematics, the writings of Carl Sagan, and what goes into making great sushi.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The theme that rode shotgun alongside me as I wrote the book’s first draft was that of inclusiveness. Young folks on the spectrum are often overlooked and are faced with difficult challenges. I believe it is vitally important that we support these kids, and that we do so with an open heart.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently hammering away at the sequel to There’s No Basketball on Mars. Look for the moon to play a prominent role in the story. Of course, the great sport of basketball will make a cameo appearance in the new novel as well. I plan to publish in fall of 2023.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Lawrence Tuckerman is a fan of probabilities — well, any numbers and math, really. It’s an interest that goes hand-in-hand with his autism. It’s also how he met his best friend Zeke, who is off fulfilling his dream of playing basketball at the University of Kansas. Now Lawrence expects his life in Los Angeles to become even less social and more
routine — just the way he likes it. He plans to finish high school as he pursues his own far-off dream of manning Earth’s first mission to Mars . . .

Then the improbable happens: Lawrence is recruited for a top-secret mission of cosmic proportions! The whole operation relies on him realizing the full potential of his 1-in-6-billion mind—without freaking out. The rocket-science math is a no-brainer, but is he made of the right stuff to manage the communication and cooperation of a team effort . . . without his best friend?

There’s No Basketball on Mars

There’s No Basketball On Mars by Craig Leener is an endearing story told from the perspective of Sherman Lawrence Tuckerman, an extremely intelligent young man who is making his way through life exceptionally well after being diagnosed with autism. Following his daily routines and interactions you get a wonderful insight into how he sees the world. Then one day his routine is interrupted for one of the best reasons, his dream of being on the first manned space mission to Mars, might just become a reality.

The imagination that has gone into this story is exemplary, especially when it is combined with the multitude of facts about space, math and how people on a certain part of the autistic spectrum view day to day life. This is one of the most amazing parts of this book, the perspective the reader gets to see. It is extremely educational for all who read it, and I would imagine quite motivational for anyone who may also be diagnosed with autism. One way this book may help is for them to see how the protagonist, Sherman, is aware of elements of his autism, which is expressed in lines such as ‘anxious I get in social situations and how much I resist variations to my established routine’ and then how he overcomes, or deals with these situations, sometimes with help from others.

There’s No Basketball On Mars is a riveting science fiction story aimed at young adults and Craig Leener has been innovative with both the story line and the narrative. The way the chapters are written keeps the reader engaged in the story. The chapters are short but chock-full of information. Sherman’s direct views also color the chapters and add much emotional depth when he writes notes or expresses his direct opinion of the situations he faces.

There’s No Basketball On Mars is a feel good story with a charming character at its center. I enjoyed reading this insightful sci-fi book as it provided a fresh character driven plot. This is an emotionally-resonant and intellectually invigorating story that I highly recommend.

Pages: 320 | ASIN: B09XJQ4K35

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