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Beverly B has commented on (209) products.

Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge
Dogtag Summer

Beverly B, November 15, 2014

Set in the years following the end of the Vietnam war, Dogtag Summer is a sweet coming of age story. Author, Elizabeth Partridge, does a good job of showing the impact of the war through the eyes of a child who doesn't understand the war, but lives with the suffering it causes. Partridge also does a good job of showing the strong feelings Americans had about the war. War orphan, Tracy, sees the hostility some people have towards vets. She also sees how vets are honored and respected. These conflicting points of view add to her confusion and feelings of isolation. Her father was an American soldier. She doesn't know what happened to her extended Vietnamese family. Her adopted American parents are loving and supportive, but Tracy feels like she can't talk to them about her feelings of loneliness and doubt. She also knows her parents are keeping secrets, and she fears the secrets are about her. As Tracy's memories of her life during the war begin to surface, she pulls away from her parents and best friend. She begins to have nightmares and feelings of doom. I appreciated that Partridge does not neatly wrap up all of the conflicts for an unrealistic happily ever after ending. But Tracy, and her parents, do learn that keeping secrets does not heal emotional wounds. And Tracy learns that a true friend will forgive you if you ask.
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Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Beverly B, November 13, 2014

Carlos Ruiz Zafon writes lyrical, chilling, memorable ghost stories and gothic mysteries. Marina, too, is beautifully written, has terrifying antagonists and a complex plot. Marina would make a fabulous graphic novel or movie. Zafon's descriptions in the crisis and climax could give some reader's nightmares, but the suspense will keep even the most easily spooked readers glued to the book. Genre blending is the new "it" style in YA novels and Marina is blended to the hilt. It is mostly a story of friendship and first love, but it also has elements of folklore, sic-fi and historical fiction. It also has two big related mysteries and one small mystery unrelated to the big ones. Sometimes the story seems bogged down by all of the different events swirling around protagonist, Oscar. Oscar, and the reader, spend much of the novel feeling overwhelmed by all that is going on. But that said, Oscar and his new friends Marina and German, are interesting and likable. Oscar initially pretends to be interested in the spooky woman and creepy ritual at the cemetery just so he can be with Marina, but soon is intrigued by the mystery and is determined to find out what is going on and who the woman is. This plot line is dark and scary. When the story switches to flashback, the tone and mood also switch. The flashback story is gripping, but until the very end seems unrelated to the mystery in the cemetery. Having two different mysteries surrounding the woman in the cemetery seems unnecessary. The mystery involving Marina and her father, German is sweet and predictable. Oscar is so happy to be invited into their family, he refuses to see what is happening right in front of him. Readers will probably see it coming and reach for the tissues.
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The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
The Red Umbrella

Beverly B, November 13, 2014

Although The Red Umbrella is historical fiction, it is primarily the story of a spirited, determined teen trying to make the best of a scary, lonely and difficult time. Fourteen year old Lucia is a lovable, but unreliable, narrator for much of The Red Umbrella. She is seeing the Cuban Revolution of the '60's through the eyes of an entitled young teen who is upset that the new government is messing with her fun-filled life. It is not until her father is arrested, and her best friend joins the military, that she begins to understand her parents' fear. Even after her parents send her to a refugee camp in Florida, to save her from being drafted, Lucia thinks she will be returning to Cuba in a few weeks. She holds on to the fantasy that Cuba will return to normal. When the refugee camp sends Lucia and her little brother to a foster home in Nebraska, Lucia knows it will be harder to stay in touch with her parents and worries that it may take longer than expected for she and her brother to return home. The second half of the story is Lucia's coming of age and becoming an American young woman. As she makes friends, excels in school and learns to appreciate American freedom and culture, she still misses her parents desperately, but does not feel the strong ties to Cuba anymore. Middle grade readers will love Lucia and share her dream of reuniting with her family.
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Hunt for the Bamboo Rat (Prisoners of the Empire) by Graham Salisbury
Hunt for the Bamboo Rat (Prisoners of the Empire)

Beverly B, November 13, 2014

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is such a suspenseful story with such a young hero, it is hard to believe it is based on the experiences of real-life WWII hero, 17 year old Richard Sakakida. I appreciated that Graham Salisbury showed how there were many people, American and Japanese, who were conflicted by their part in the war. He also showed how love of family can be a great motivator when despair is taking over. A language prodigy fluent in Japanese, English and Tagalog, and semi-fluent in Cantonese, protagonist Zenji Watanabe is recruited by the Pentagon to go to the Philippines and work as a spy in a hotel popular with Japanese business men. When the Japanese conquer the Philippines a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Zenji has the opportunity to escape, but gives up his seat on the plane to another Japanese American who has a wife and young children. Zenji is taken prisoner and charged with espionage and as a traitor to Japan. The Japanese did not care that he was an American. They believed that his ancestry should have been more important to him than his patriotism. They torture and starve him over many weeks. Luckily, a Japanese general sees the benefit of Zenji's language talents and puts him to work translating intercepted war communications. After a couple of years, Zenji has the opportunity to escape, but ends up injured and lost in the dense isolated rain forest of the mountains. He almost dies several times. Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is a perfect choice for middle grade readers who think they don't like historical fiction.
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Cy in Chains by David L Dudley
Cy in Chains

Beverly B, October 22, 2014

Horrifyingly realistic, Cy In Chains is the story of a young boy coming of age during the early days of Reconstruction. Cy's crazy violent former owner kidnaps him and pays to have him locked on a chain gang far from Cy's home. Although this is a story of a young adolescent finding strength and courage while suffering unimaginable pain and humiliation, Cy In Chains is not a story for young teens. The brutality is historically accurate which means the violence and language of hatred are very, very graphic. Cy, however is an inspiration. He works hard to maintain his humanity, faith and hope. He knows that he will find a way to be free.
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