"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Several short reviews of 2016 YA books

I give up. For weeks I have been promising full reviews of all the YA books I read this summer and the last four reviews have lingered unwritten in my head. Today, finally, I call uncle. Here are quick summaries and brief reviews in lieu of the more lengthy, thoughtful reviews I was hoping to publish.

Rebel in the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. Set in the exotic desert land of Miriji, where ordinary people often find themselves face to face with truly magical beings. Amani wants out of the dusty town where she lives aptly named Dustwalk and she is sure that her sharpshooting skills will be the tool she uses to leave. When she meets a mysterious stranger at a shooting contest she hopes he will have a role in her escape route. Little does she know that he will not only play a role in saving her life but also in unlocking her true potential.

I enjoyed the book a lot and trust it will be a new favorite among my readers. It is also the first book in a series, which I predict will develop a loyal following. When I was young I loved reading from the abridged version of 1,001 Arabian Nights book we owned. I would just get swept up in the exotic, sandy setting with such lush oases, animals, food, and colors. This book brought those happy reading memories to mind. Plus, who doesn't love a plucky female protagonist who just starts to recognize her own strengths? My rating--- 4 stars, print.

My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter. Samuel and his mischievous brother, Joshua, are free black boys living in an orphanage run by a Catholic priest. The father teaches the boys to read and do numbers but he is also very abusive to the boys if they do not toe the line. One day the father blames Joshua for a despicable act and Samuel takes the blame for it. The father sells Samuel into slavery as his punishment. The man who illegally buys Samuel renames him Friday, since it is the day the transaction takes place. He is bought by a young boy and his mother and is forced to work for them on their plantation. Little by little Samuel works his way into the new life and even starts teaching other slaves to read which, of course, is forbidden. When Union troops arrive in the area Samuel can finally imagine the possibility of seeing his brother again.

The book is almost totally engrossing yet I found myself holding back a bit in my praise for it because I honestly felt like things came too easily for Samuel, even in the face of horrific situations, he ultimately triumphs. Something tells me that was very unusual for blacks living during the Civil War years. In an interview at the end of the book, the author said he purposely left out specific, historical details in an effort to explore the human condition and inspirations. But even with these reservations I really did enjoy the book. My rating---4 stars, audiobook.

American Girls by Alison Umminger. Anna is 15-years-old when her mother has a baby with her lesbian partner. Anna gets fed up with the way her life is unfolding in Florida, so she steals a credit card and flies across the country to California where her older sister lives. Instead of demanding that she come home, Anna's mother insists that she stay where she is until she learns her lesson. Rejected and dejected, Anna is forced to be her sister's side kick in both her acting and personal life. Along the way she is asked to read up on the Charles Manson women, as a research expert for a movie director. She does it as a way to make a little money but the research findings really start to bother Anna. She really starts to question what motivates people to commit such heinous crimes.

I really didn't like this book. In fact, I probably wouldn't have written a full review at all if I wasn't doing the abbreviated versions here. I ordinarily don't review books here that I can't wholeheartedly recommend to my teen readers. My biggest beef was how little I actually learned about the Manson Girls. Anna was completely self-absorbed and vacuous. There was nothing in the storyline which spoke to me nor do I imagine it speaking to my students. I don't even understnad the title or the cover. Guess you can tell I won't be recommending this book.  My rating---2 stars, print.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. Touted at Harry Potter #8, this book is actually a script for a play performed in the UK this past July.  The events occur eighteen years after book seven when Harry is an overworked father of three children. He and his son Albus just don't connect or seem to understand each other. When Albus disappears Harry consults a centaur for help in finding him. The centaur interprets the signs in the stars and makes a prediction about Albus which is very upsetting. Can Harry save his son? Can they avert the coming darkness?

I admit I was very disappointed with this book in the beginning. In fact the first half of the book just drags and I had the hardest time forcing myself to read it. I understand that the idea was Rowling's but the writing belonged to the other authors. It was pretty obvious. In fact, I actually felt like I was reading fan fiction at a few points in the story. To be fair I admit that I have never liked reading movie/play scripts. My reading style of reading fast and skipping over details doesn't work well with this format. My interest picked up at the mid-point of the book when the plot twist occurred, then I couldn't read fast enough to find out how things were going to work out. "Please," I kept repeating to myself, "Don't let Voldemort come back." My rating---3 stars, print.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

34 / 35 books. 97% done!

All four of the books were published in the US in 2016, so they qualify for the Printz Award, though I seriously doubt that the Harry Potter book will be considered. One more book to reach my goal of reading YA books before selecting the Mock Printz list for the year. I know I can make the goal, or even exceed it.


  1. Good reviews! I'll have to look for My Name is Not Friday.

    1. I listened to the audiobook and found it to be a good one, not a favorite but certainly good.

  2. I got all of these on my tbr. It's just now finding time to squeeze them in. I've heard mixed reviews for the HP play so I'm letting the teens get first shot at it before I pick it up. I'm curious but not desperate enough to read it.

    1. I will be very curious to read what you think of all of the books. I need to ask my daughter what she thinks about The Cursed Child. She started it before me.


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