Saturday, July 25, 2009

Playing With the Boys by Liz Tigelaar Book Review

Playing With the Boys by Liz Tigelaar
(Paperback, Razorbill, $8.99)


Lucy Malone is a soccer player. So when she moves to a new town and tries out for her school's team, she's devastated when she doesn't make the cut. Lucy is convinced that soccer was her only chance to make new friends. Then the soccer coach suggests that she try out for place kicker on the boy's football team. With nothing to lose, Lucy tries out...and puts the boys to shame! Now Lucy is battling against the football coach, her teammates, and her dad to keep her spot on the team.

I can't believe I waited so long to read this book! I loved Liz Tigelaar's Pretty Tough about two sisters who try out for the same soccer team. Before I read Pretty Tough, I didn't know much about soccer. Playing With the Boys was pretty much the same experience but insert football as the sport. Luckily, Liz writes about sports in a way that even the most clueless will be able to follow along. Lucy plays football but her story really centers around her new friendships, crushing on the wrong boy, and finding her place at a new school. It's all about girl bonding and girl power. As with her first book, Liz Tigelaar shows that you can be pretty and tough.

Read Little Willow's 2008 interview with Liz.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan Book Review

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
(McElderry Books, Hardcover, 2009)


Nick and his brother Alan have always relied only on each other. Ever since their dad died at the hands of a magician, the two have taken care of each other and stayed one step ahead of the evil magicians. That changes when Mae and Jamie come to Nick for help. Jamie has been marked by a demon and Nick and Alan are his only hope. Nick is so used to walling himself off from people that he is caught off guard by his feelings for Mae. But more importantly, he needs to protect Alan from the magicians that are seeking them.

Nick's isolated nature comes through the page and, at first, I found it hard to connect with him as a character. He pushes everyone away from him and his attitude towards Jamie and Mae was so frustrating. It was easy to get wrapped up in the setting and the magic of the story and then Nick would say or do something to make me want to shake him. As the story unravels, Nick's dislike of people is explained and my earlier inability to connect with him seemed like pure genius on the part of Sarah Rees Brennan. Alan, Mae, and Jamie are easy to like characters and I want to know the rest of their story. And as for Nick, well, I have a feeling that I'll be able to connect better with him in the sequel. The demons and magic in this story are seductive and dark. It was no stretch of the imagination to believe that the world depended on Nick and Alan's actions. Given the exciting ending, it will definitely be interesting to see where Sarah Rees Brennan takes the story next.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han Book Review

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 2009)


Some of Belly's best memories were made in the summer. Every June, she and her parents head to her mom's best friend's beach house and they stay until August. This summer, though, her dad isn't going and Belly's appearance has changed a lot since last summer. She's afraid that this summer will be different, that the two boys that she's know forever will be different. Jeremiah and Conrad have shared every summer with her but this summer everything changes.

The Summer That I Turned Pretty is filled with the nostalgia of summer and youth. Reading it, you can feel the sand between your toes and the rush of a summer night's kiss. Belly has had a crush on Conrad for most of her life, mostly just a silly little girl's crush on a boy who has been the hero of her summers. Jenny Han captures the innocence of a first love and the encroaching realities of adulthood. The part that I loved the most though was that Belly wasn't shaped by one talent. She plays tennis and she writes stories but neither of those things define her; more importantly, she's a girl in the middle of growing up, faced with tough decisions and the fear that this summer will irrevocably change her life for the worse. This is one of my favorite books of the summer because it so fully evokes the feeling of freedom and possibilities that summer brings. Plus, I wouldn't mind spending summers with Jeremiah and Conrad...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund Book Review

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
(Penguin Speak, Paperback, 2009)


Aerin and Dane are both captives, Aerin to her past and Dane to his position in society. When the two meet at Academy 7, the attraction is undeniable. At first the two are competitors, vying for the top spot at the prestigious school. But secrets from their parents' time at the school threaten their lives and the two turn to each other in friendship. Set in an indeterminate future, Academy 7 portrays a budding romance between two teens caught in the middle of a political mystery.

Aurelia, Anne Osterlund's first novel, is a fantasy, full of court intrique. Academy 7 has many of the same elements, a friendship between two unlikely people, romance, and an underlying philosophical take on world politics. Normally, I don't like science fiction. However, this book really captured my imagination. The chemistry between Aerin and Dane jumps off the page and I enjoyed the way that they both challenged and comforted each other. As with Aurelia, I want to know more about their world and about their past and I hope that Anne Osterlund writes a sequel. This is definitely a novel that I could see being spun into a series. Don't get me wrong though - the ending was very satisfying! I highly recommend this book even if, like me, science fiction isn't normally your thing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen Book Review

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
(Viking, Hardcover, 2009)


Auden's life up til now has been a serious affair. When her parents were still tumultuously married, she learned early to stay quiet and behave. As a result, she missed out on life, learning how to ride a bike, and the joys of friendship. Auden plans to spend her summer before college with her dad and his new family in the beach town of Colby. What she doesn't expect is to find herself working at a cute boutique, cooing to her new baby sister, and spending sleepless nights with fellow loner, Eli.

Summer just wouldn't be summer without a new Sarah Dessen book to enjoy. Auden joins the rank of Sarah's other real life heroines, someone we could all be and someone whose life we can all understand. That's what I enjoy most about Sarah Dessen's books, the accessibility. All of her characters are dealing with everyday issues. Along for the Ride asks the question, after the sun goes down and the beachgoers head home, what happens during the long summer nights? Auden finds herself unable to sleep at night (some readers may recognize the signs of a girl who carries too much worry and stress) so she walks the town at night and meets Eli, a loner unable to forget a tragic accident. Their nightime friendship teaches Auden that life shouldn't always planned, that sometimes it's better to just go along for the ride. Beautifully written, Along for the Ride is another heartwarming hit from one of my favorite authors.

p.s. Has anyone else noticed that Sarah Dessen's main characters keep getting older and older? Along for the Ride ends with Auden at college. I wonder if Sarah will write a novel about a college student next. Just a thought...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker Book Review

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
(HarperTeen, Paperback, 2009)


Summer is here and Quinn is so excited for her internship at indie music label in Austin, TX. Quinn's blue hair and love of indie music make her stand out in North Carolina so she's ready to spend the summer with her cousin and, hopefully, have a summer fling with a cute musician. It all seems to be going perfectly when she meets Sebastian, a dj at a hip club in town. But Quinn can't stop thinking about her cousin's frat boy, country loving neighbor, Russ. Quinn has always hated country music and frat boys and she's determined to ignore him. Nothing is going to ruin her perfect summer.

Melissa Walker won me over with her Violet on the Runway trilogy and I was curious to see how she would handle a novel that wasn't about Violet. I shouldn't have worried. Lovestruck Summer is a wonderful, exciting stand-alone novel and Quinn is just as engaging as Violet, though in a different way. Whereas Violet was shy and unsure of herself, Quinn is all spunk and attitude. She knows what she likes and what she wants and it was fun to see her learn to be flexible and open to new things. This novel breaks down stereotypes as refreshingly as a cool summer breeze. So don't let the bubblegum toned cover fool you—Lovestruck Summer is a top notch novel written by a savvy author who knows her audience.

See more of Melissa Walker at I Heart Daily, a newsletter devoted to all those fabulous things that we just can't get enough of.