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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire



It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »

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Customer Comments

Beverly B has commented on (190) products.

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

Beverly B, July 25, 2014

The Ear, The Eye, And The Arm is an adventure story with a twist. It is almost two parallel stories. Story 1: three children of great privilege sneak away from their highly guarded compound, and highly protective parents, to experience the outside world for the first time. Of course, because the kids have no life experiences, they immediately get duped and kidnapped. Their adventures, as they try to make their way back home, make up about 80% of the story. The villains, obstacles and dangers the kids face are interesting, but predictable. The Ear, Eye and Arm are the three private detectives, with enhanced senses, hired by the parents to find and rescue the kids. The Ear, Eye and Arm are far more interesting than the kids or villains, but they have a pretty minimal role in the story. Story 2: They also have a pretty intriguing back story involving genetic engineering, genocide, and science experiments gone wrong. The back story would have enriched the novel if it was developed more fully. I appreciate that Nancy Farmer set her story in Zimbabwe and created a tone and plot elements that are true to traditional Zimbabwe folklore. It is rare for a sci-fi novel to have anything but a very western point of view. But the sic-fi component becomes secondary. I thought for sure there would be a sequel or prequel featuring the Ear, Eye and Arm, but I haven't seen one.
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Doll Bones by Holly Black and Eliza Wheeler
Doll Bones

Beverly B, July 25, 2014

Can a novel be both sweet and creepy? I guess it can because that is how I would describe Doll Bones. It is mostly the story of a long time childhood friendship coming to an end as adolescence approaches, but it is also a paranormal quest story about a scary antique doll with ghostly powers who brings the three friends together for a final adventure. Zach, Alice and Poppy are all reluctant to admit "The Queen," the hideous doll, is having a profound impact on them. They are all also reluctant to admit that the looming changes in their lives scare them. When they run off to solve the mystery of The Queen, they are also running away from the things at home that are making them unhappy. Their journey is short, but engaging. The characters they encounter are interesting, and the obstacles they face are easily conquered with a little imagination and a willingness to break the law. The ending is contrived, but appealing to middle grade readers. I appreciated that author, Holly Black, has the characters provide a resolution for The Queen's conflict, but their own personal conflicts are not neatly wrapped up to provide a happily ever after ending. Poppy, Alice and Zach return home to take on the challenge of their personal fears and demons.
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Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Better Nate Than Ever

Beverly B, July 25, 2014

Aspiring Broadway star, Nate Foster, stole my heart. Nate's adventures and misadventures are comical, touching and a little scary, but Nate perseveres seeing every encounter as a learning experience that will make him better prepared for stardom. His optimism, enthusiasm, wit and ambition are inspirational. His love of musicals gets him harassed by his peers and ignored by his parents, but he does not let that stop him from studying and learning all of the best songs from all of the best plays. When his best friend tells him there is an open audition for ET The Musical in NYC the same weekend his parents will be out of town, Nate sees it as destiny. He sneaks away from his small town and hops a bus to New York 100% convinced he will win the starring role. Even middle grade readers who have never seen a musical will cheer for Nate and his success.
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Threatened by Eliot Schrefer
Threatened

Beverly B, July 14, 2014

Even readers who are not particularly interested in chimps or endangered species will love Threatened. Eliot Schrefer's extensive research into the geography, chimp behavior, and poaching problems of the West African jungles make Threatened a compelling read. As they follow Luc's adventures with the chimps, reader's will not see chimps as cute little human-like creatures, but they will share Luc's respect for the chimps' ferocious way of life. They will also share Luc's determination to protect them no matter what. Threatened is also a story of surviving loss. Something Luc shares with some of the chimps. "I was finally making a choice of my own, and it made me feel a contentment that lived right next to terror." Luc is an AIDS orphan in Gabon who has known way too much loss and exploitation in his young life. When an Egyptian researcher offers him a job as his assistant, and the chance to escape the man who has enslaved him since his mother's death, Luc jumps at the chance even though he has only heard horror stories about the chimps who live in the dense Gabonese jungle. Luc has no idea how extraordinary his adventure will be or how much his life will change. Threatened is an insightful, touching story.
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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Running Dream

Beverly B, July 14, 2014

It is rare for a YA novel to deal with teen tragedies in a realistic way, but The Running Dream portrays the loss and recovery from a horrific car accident in way that feels authentic. Jessica, an athlete, loses her leg and her dream of being a track superstar when the school bus is slammed by a speeding drunk driver. The Running Dream takes the reader through Jessica's emotional and physical damage, her slow painful recovery, and her new plan for the future, without being schmaltzy or trite. The Running Dream is also a coming-of-age story. Teen girls will relate to Jessica's search for passion and purpose.
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