The Fictional Hockey League

Critiquing hockey romance novels, of which there are many. Overthinking it is the point.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Knock Me for a Loop: Post 1

Cast On: You don’t WEAVE a skein of yarn!

(Posts for the foreseeable future may be a bit brief and slapdash. Proofreading? Revision? What are those!? Sincere apologies—it’s been a heck of a few months and the Commissioner is digging her way out of them.)

I maaaaay end up regretting this one, but it’s too early to say.

The cover, as you can probably see is pretty non-descript, chick-lit: a couple, cut off at the neckline/noseline, snuggles on a pink bed. There’s also a pink background, and slightly “kooky” font for the title and author’s name. The tagline “a funny, sexy yarn” is beside a drawn ball of yarn with knitting needles sticking out of it. You see, this book is about knitting.

This is not an inherently bad thing. For starters, I, too, am a knitter. And I thought “Nickolai’s Noel” was awfully adorable and it was about a hockey player and a quilt shop owner, so maybe we can recreate the magic with this one?

Or, maybe not, since it turns out that magic isn’t metaphorical in this novel. (You’ll see in a moment.) And also the author seems to be less familiar with knitting than one would hope rom someone who writes a series of books about a knitting shop.

You know what this means, right? It means I get to critique the writing and the hockey as per usual, but ALSO the knitting.

Or hey, maybe it’ll turn out to be so good that I forget to gripe about the knitting mistakes. Let’s dive in.

We open with a preface labeled only “Cast on”, told from the point of view of Charlotte Langan. (The term “cast on” for any non-knitters, refers to how you actually get yarn onto your needles to start a piece of knitting, so it works metaphorically here for starting the story.) It’s Christmas time, and Charlotte, an older woman with “bright orange, beehived hair” (10) who seems to live entirely for her knitting, her alpacas, and meddling in the lives of her friends, is delighted with life as she takes 6-8 tries to park her station wagon at The Yarn Barn, her local yarn shop. (In knitters’ parlance, that would be a LYS, meaning the independently owned shop where not only is yarn sold, usually of a much nicer quality than what you can get in the Big Box Stores like Michael’s, but there are usually classes and places for knitters and crocheters to just hang out and gossip as they play with fiber. Along with not having a hockey rink where I have moved, I also do not have a LYS. This is sad making and explains why I spent so much money on yarn when I was home at Christmas and on my travels this past spring.)

When she enters, she can “hear the staccato clack of needles clicking together” (10). This was a red flag for me, because there is a cliché of knitting needles clicking and clacking but to be quite frank I have rarely if ever actually heard needles clack.  When knitting, you slide your needles beside each other to slide loops of yarn from one to the other—so clacking is not required. Furthermore, if you are going to get clacking, it’s most likely to come from metal needles, particularly the heavy ones used until about mid-century. Nowadays, the metal ones are super lightweight and less likely to hit against each other or make much noise when they do. Then, too, needles are also made of plastic (very unlikely to clack) and wood (clackable, I suppose, but not loud). Harrumph.

Charlotte is welcomed warmly by her niece, who had been the subject of a previous book in this series, and Grace Fisher, who is the heroine of this book. Upon being asked why she’s late, she responds that she’d lost track of time with her babies, her “beloved pack of alpacas” (10).

Alpacas are awesome. They’re like muppets on stilts. And if they’ve been raised properly around humans, they can be quite affectionate.  (If they’re on a big farm without a lot of humans, then they’re less interested in people and more likely to spit at them.) I like alpacas and visit alpaca farms whenever I can. In fact, here’s a photo from an alpaca farm I visited this past Christmas (it belongs to a coworker of my dad’s.) If nothing else, this book may enable me to post lots of alpaca photos. Every post I mention alpacas in, you’ll get another one of my alpaca photos. :D
HOWEVER, it turns out that’s not the only reason Charlotte was late to the knitting group meeting. Oh no, not at all. She had meant to bring a particular skein of yarn for Grace and had almost forgotten it.

Why is this particular skein important? Well, because Charlotte spun it herself from dyed fiber from her alpacas. Ordinarily, I’d actually agree that a nice skein of handspun alpaca is worth being late for, because yum. I love working with alpaca fiber. But this is actually extra special alpaca yarn.

Charlotte had almost by accident stumbled across a delightful secret. The solid oak spinning wheel that had been handed down through the women in her family for generations was magic. Not run-of-the-mill magic, either, but the very best kind—the kind that brought true love (11 emphasis original).

“Almost by accident”? That might be clear if I’d read the first book but I’m uncertain as to what that phrase is supposed to mean. Also, what’s run-of-the-mill magic?

At any rate, apparently if you spin a skein of yarn on this magic wheel, whoever uses it to create something meets her true love. (No indication on whether a man can do the knitting/crocheting.) The previous two books detail the falling-in-love-thanks-to-yarn adventures of someone named Ronnie and of the niece. And now Charlotte has yarn for Grace. Yarn which she has, apparently “used her family’s secret enchanted spinning wheel to weave a wonderful skein of yarn” 13).


No, no no no no no. Weaving? Is making fabric, generally on a loom, by using yarn or thread to, well, weave over and under each other at right angles. Spinning is actually making the yarn, generally on spinning wheel or spindle, by putting twist into fiber.

This? Is a spinning wheel. My spinning wheel, in fact. I don’t have a bobbin on it at the moment, but you can see that the smaller round part is where (with a bobbin) yarn would wind. You can also see that there’s no place to create fabric on this thing. There is no weaving in making yarn. I grant you that this is a magic spinning wheel, so I suppose that opens the door to a plethora of possibilities, but seriously, unless you’re maybe braiding threads together (since braiding is a kind of weaving), you cannot weave a skein of yarn.

And yes, when you spin you typically do put multiple plies together (to strengthen the yarn and to balance the twist) but that’s called plying, still not weaving!

(Please give The Commissioner a moment to catch her breath. We’ll move on in a moment.)


Grace had previously been “engaged to Zackary “Hot Legs” Hoolihan, the star goalie for the Cleveland Rockets” (12). (I’m not sure yet what level of team the Rockets are supposed to be.) This seems like a really odd nickname for Zackary. Yeah, I get the Hot Lips Houlihan reference to M*A*S*H, although that seems like a rather dated reference for a hockey player to end up with. Yeah, M*A*S*H is almost always playing on TV somewhere (generally late at night) and sure, it’s part of the cultural knowledgebase, but it’s not exactly part of the current zeitgeist. It went off the air in 1983. Most of the players in the current NHL weren’t even born in 1983.

But okay, I can actually accept the timing part. Perhaps it’s a nickname come up with by the color commentators. After all, when Rob Klinkhammer was playing for the Coyotes, the commentators made a lot of references to Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes, and that show went off the air in 1971. Timing aside, “hot legs” doesn’t make a lot of sense for a goalie, does it? I’m not suggesting that goalies don’t need to be able to skate—they surely do. But it’s not like being lightning fast in order to streak down the ice and score is a top ability sought ought in goalies. In fact, choosing to streak down the ice and try to score would be frowned upon—although hilarious. And it’s such an easy fix, too. Why not “hot stick”? Goalies who are doing well are said to have “the hot stick” after all.

Although perhaps his, uh, stick was the problem. Grace’s engagement is a thing of the past because she walked into Zack’s hotel room and discovered a woman in is bed. Grace has a “self-titled local cable television show, Amazing Grace” on which she’d had a collapse “and spent the entire half hour ranting and raving about the perfidy of men in general and Zack in particular” after which she’d then “taken a baseball bat to Zack’s cherry-red Hummer, and gleefully tossed his clothes and assorted other belongings out his sixth-story window” (12).

Grace is not a woman to piss off.

Zack claimed his innocence and while Charlotte doesn’t know who to believe, she’s siding with Grace because “yarn sistahs needed to stick together” (13). Oh book, no. Just, no.

Charlotte settles in amongst her, sigh, “yarn sistahs” and listens to them gossip. She considers herself forward thinking and open minded but she is also somewhat appalled by the sex talk, as is, Charlotte thinks, Grace, although only because she’s still hurting from her breakup. No one notices Grace’s discomfort because she was “so good at hiding her emotions and playing the part of a perfectly coiffed perfectly content public figure” (15). Except, evidently, when actually on her TV show, ranting about her ex? Also, does being on a local cable TV show of your won making actually grant you the status of public figure? I wouldn’t think so. Even in a small town (the size of the town has not been revealed, but clearly they must be in or near Cleveland.)

The evening comes to the end and “everyone started tightening stitches” (15). Uh, what? You want to keep your stitches completely even throughout the entirety of your project, even when you’re about to put it away for the night. Honestly, it would also be very difficult to tighten already-knit stitches. Perhaps the author meant pushing them down their needles, which would put the stitches themselves closer together, so that they don’t slip off?

Everyone starts to clear out of The Yarn Barn but Charlotte holds back so that she can try to get Grace alone. She’s successful and Grace is sincere but unenthusiastic in her thanks, but Charlotte takes heart from the fact that her yarn and Grace’s nail polish are the exact same color. Clearly that’s a sign. 

Sigh. Next chapter we move on to Zack.


  1. Damn. I should have guessed this book. I remember reading the preview and deciding not to get it. I can't remember exactly why I disliked it, but I'm sure that my negative impression is going to be reinforced in the coming weeks. I think that the mention of magic engaged my gag reflex.

    And *waves hand* "Mistah Kottah, Mistah Kottah!" Not only do I get the retro TV references, but I know who Rob Klinkhammer is. Originally drafted by Chicago and BFF of Kris Versteeg. Am I right? Because he's not really a high profile player. It's not like I know every player in the league, but I do know some random ones.

    Sorry, why would a goalie be called "Hot Legs?" Unlike skaters, his legs are the least important part. Maybe "Hot Hands" or "Close the five-hole, you moron." All she's done is introduce the character and I'm having hockey issues.

    1. I can't speak to his friendship with Versteeg, but the rest seems right, yup. When with the 'Yotes, he played mostly for the AHL team, but when he was called up he ended up doing really well for us. Alas, then we traded him to the Penguins who almost immediately traded him to the Oilers. I don't know anything about him after that (but Wikipedia says he blinded Johan Franzen and ended his season, possibly his career. And that totally sucks. But it was also deeply confusing at first because I read it as "Jonathan Franzen," as in the author. And I wondered how they'd crossed paths and assuming it wasn't on the ice, what the hell The Colonel was doing in blindsiding him, and how damned bad it must be to end his writing "season" and potentially his career.)

      (Semi-related-- I was sad when we traded Klinkhammer partly because he actually produced on the ice for us-- which as you know was rare for the Coyotes this season-- but also because when he'd score, they'd sometimes play "Sledgehammer", which was just fun. Also, I adore Hogan's Heroes and loved the Colonel references.)

      As for "Hot Legs", yeah, I totally got nothing other than the author not actually being a hockey fan? Or maybe only a tangential one? Or...? I have no idea. Because yeah, you want your goalie to *have* legs, but...

      I'm going to now think of the hero as Zackary "Close the Five-Hole, You Moron" Hoolihan. And he is the star of the next chapter and Monday's post.

  2. If Jonathan Franzen's career was ended by a hockey incident, he would FINALLY have done something worthwhile.

    (Also, yeah, goalies are ... well. Goalies. Hot legs isn't really the thing. Unless we're talking lightning-fast kick saves like certain goalies of my acquaintance are irritatingly good at. But it's not the first place I'd look for a nickname for a goalie. Also now I want an excuse to call a goalie Zoidberg... anyway. Where did that come from? ("Close the five-hole, you moron" is *so* me.))

    I am so glad that you read these things for us, because it is entertaining but would make my head actually probably explode with incoherent sputtering. Research! It's a glorious thing! The internet is FULL OF INFORMATION! Also there are many friendly hockey people & knitters in ALL KINDS OF PLACES. *sigh* (I understand being intimidated, but still.)

    The image of someone taking a baseball bat to a cherry-red Hummer makes me so, so, so happy, though. (Although I would use a bricklayer's hammer or something, I think.)

    1. I suspect the author actually did do some research but didn't have an actual knitter then read what she wrote, y'know? Like, one of my students recently wrote a paper about airport security and I know the student did the research. But I also know this student has never flown, and you could totally tell that by reading the paper.

      You know this book necessitates more texts of me going "WTH?!", right?

      And I'm sorry to say, in the next chapter we learn that the hero just went out and got himself a blue Hummer to replace the cherry-red one.