Aide-mémoire for my job as readers' advisor: Bookmark summaries of the books I've read as a high school teacher librarian

When Dimple met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

511buaa-oblNew York: Simon Pulse, 2017 (378 pages)

Dimple Shah wants to be a web developer. Her parents want her to get married to the ideal Indian husband, and her mamma in particular sees no merit in career training when there is a husband to be caught. But when Dimple wants to go to a special summer program, Insomnia Con 2017, for aspiring web developers at San Francisco State University and her parents say yes, Dimple thinks that her parents are finally cutting her some slack on the Ideal Indian Husband front. Little did she guess that Rishi Patel is in the picture, and in the running. Rishi just wants to settle down, and he gladly accepts the eldest son’s familial responsibility to find a good wife. His parents and Dimple’s parents have basically arranged their marriage, and now Rishi finally gets to meet Dimple for the first time at the SFSU aspiring web developers program. As you can imagine, Dimple wants nothing to do with Rishi, even though he possesses some charm. Just a little charm. Okay, maybe more than that. Anyway, Dimple wants nothing to do with Rishi, and is furious with her parents for sabotaging her summer. As luck would have it, Dimple and Rishi are partnered up for the summer’s big web dev. project. Maybe it would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that the Insomnia Con 2017 grand prize web dev. project winners will get a chance to pitch their app to web developer genius Jenny LIndt, who willl work with the winning team to market their app and fund the advertising. Why, Dimple thinks, couldn’t she have been partnered with her easy-going roommate Celia, who, as more luck would have it, winds up partnered with the jerks on the scene. They would’ve all been so much better off. Rishi wishes he could fix things, but partners are partners, so Dimple and Rishi commit to work together despite Dimple’s aversion to the match. As it turns out, Rishi has a talent for animation; paired with Rishi’s skill, the couple’s work goes surprisingly better than Dimple would have ever expected. Even so, theirs is strictly a working relationship. As they work together, Dimple learns that Rishi isn’t just talented, he’s amazing at animation, and he’s hiding his skill because his family-focused honor won’t allow him to take that kind of career risk. Rishi learns that Dimple is just prickly on the outside; her smarts and insight go way beyond the girl of his wildest dreams… As you can well imagine, romance is in the air, and Dimple and Rishi are riding the currents.

Tags: romance, arranged marriage, destiny, family, friendship, honor, romance, grit & determination


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

fiction-moxieNew York, Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (326 pages)

Vivian is the dutiful, quiet child of a Riot Grrrl. Back in the 90s, Viv’s mom was an active feminist, fighting for women’s rights in her Texas hometown. Now it’s Viv’s turn. She’s fed up with the way the guys on the football team get away with sexually harrassing the girls, and is fed up with the way the school’s administration, led by the star football player’s dad, shoves the problems under the carpet. For a quiet, conforming girl, this happens with a small step. In her mom’s Riot Grrrl days, the girls made zines (like a mix between a flyer and a newsletter). Viv makes her own, and calls it Moxie, and goes to school early to put copies in the girls restrooms. If the girls at East Rockport High are fed up too, they are asked to draw stars and hearts on their hands in solidarity. Unfortunately, the reaction to the zine is far from earth shaking. And Viv’s best friend Claudia is less that supportive of the idea– Why rock the boat? When Viv shows up that Friday, she is terrified. What if no one does it? When she doesn’t see anyone else with stars and hearts on their hands, she excuses herself to go wash them off in the bathroom, where she sees Kiera Daniels, an old elementary school friend, with stars and hearts all over her hands. What’s more, when she heads back to class, she sees that the new guy from Austin has them on his hands, too. So begins a slow shift to help the girls at school speak out, even if it’s not with their voices, but their actions–their quiet, but effective, resistance to the norm at East Rockport High. Unfortunately, the norm is rooted deep, and there are lots of high hurdles to jump (the girls’ fear of lashback keep them from leaving their “comfort” zone & the sexist, punitive administration). The final hurdle is Vivian’s own fear — her fear of punishment, her fear of hurting others by her actions, and her fear of getting outed as the creator of Moxie. When the administration does lash back, it seems like the end of Moxie; that is, until another Moxie girl charges girls to walk out in retaliation against the administration’s poor handling of a sexual assault. In the end, the girls rise up and jump past their fears, past the looming threats and embrace each other, in triumph, at the finish. There is still work to be done, but the girls have each other, and they have Moxie.

Tags: nonviolent protest, friendship, light romance, feminism, sexism, sexual harrassment


The Round House by Louise Erdrich


New York: Harper Collins, 2012 (317 pages)

Trauma and tragedy strike quickly and irreparably when Joe’s mother is brutally attacked in this novel by Louise Erdrich. Bazil, Joe’s father, is tribal judge, but investigation into the attack are thwarted on so many levels due to the nature of Indian reservation law and the justice meted out by the federal government. Joe decides to take matters into his own hands, and the result is a tangled web of deceit and cover up that his young mind struggles to make sense of. His efforts draw in help from his closest friends, but with fatal consequences. The Round House is an unfortunately true-to-life tragic tale of of growing up too suddenly, too soon.

Tags: deceit, loss, Native American, tragedy, US history

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

18465852New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2014 (304 pages)

This is a book that tells the immigrant stories of the people who populate the derelict Redwood apartment complex somewhere in Delaware, focusing on the lives of two young people, Maribel and Mayor, and their families, as they struggle through the complex existence of “Unknown Americans” with papers and without.
Maribel’s parents Alma and Arturo have recently relocated from Mexico to Delaware to pursue healing and recovery since an accident left Maribel with post traumatic stress disorder. Mayor has lived in America since his infancy, but his identity is strangled by bullies at school and smothered by his father’s expectations. When he meets Maribel, he’s drawn to her–she is the most beautiful girl he’s seen, and she exists out on the fringes, just like him. But she is also shadowed by the neighborhood no-good Garrett Miller, whose attraction to Maribel is exploitative in nature. Although Maribel’s mother Alma shelters her as best she can, there are times when Maribel is left to fend for herself; it is at one of these times when Miller takes advantage of Maribel’s mental incapacity to molest her. Thankfully, Alma comes to the rescue before Miller can do much, but the damage is done. Alma can’t even allow herself to trust Mayor, and seeks to distance Maribel even farther from the little society she has come to know. The little insular world she creates even shuts out husband Arturo, whose struggles to find work to support his family have already created a rift in the relationship.
As the story of Mayor and Maribel unfolds, so do we see the lives of the other unknowns who occupy this little corner of America unfold. The purpose of the narratives seems to be to highlight the struggles inherent in this kind of immigrant existence so that the reader understands what happens as a result of Mayor and Maribel’s subsequent actions. Mayor, having been denied access to Maribel because of a simple kiss witnessed by a mean-spirited neighbor, decides he can’t live without her and steals her away in the family car. Alma is terrified that the perpetrator is Miller, whose bullying tends to psychopathy. When Arturo goes to confront Miller, Arturo is shot; the accident ends in death, and Alma takes Maribel and the body back to Mexico. Despite the tragedy, Maribel has been healed by Mayor’s steadfast affection and support, and she returns to Mexico a new girl.

Tags: immigration, relationships, community, love, mental health issues

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

15839976New York: Del Rey, 2014 (382 pages)

Darrow is a Red, living below the surface of Mars, mining precious resources for the Society. The Society needs the reds, because their hard work mining helium-3 is going to make Mars habitable someday. Darrow’s a helldiver, the most dangerous of the mining jobs, and he’s astoundingly good at it. His team, Lambda, is going to win the Laurel for the quota thanks to his hard work. When the Laurel goes to team Gamma , the blow is crushing; Darrow’s team was looking forward to the increased rations. In an attempt to cheer him up, Darrow’s wife Eo takes him to the surface, a secret garden that know one knows about. There she tries to convince Darrow that their work is slavery, and that they need to break the chains. Darrow doesn’t see the point, not until he and Eo are caught for their trespass, and the ArchGovernor Augustus himself attends their trial. Eo is hung, but before she swings, she sings a song of rebellion. Darrow is next, but instead of dying, he is rescusitated and given the chance to seek vengeance on the Golds, the Society’s godlike, cruel leaders. He is recruited into the rebellion, led by the mysterious Ares. His job is to join the ranks of Golds and infiltrate the system like a virus. His sorrow at Eo’s loss makes him willing, but he becomes a true devotee when he understand’s the Society’s ultimate deception: Mars has been habitable, and inhabited on the surface for a long, long time. The Reds who slave under its surface are slaves indeed, working under the delusion that they are pioneers on a new frontier. Darrow undergoes a brutal physical change and training to make him fit to pass as a Gold. He not only passes, but does so with flying colors, giving him a candidacy in the Institute, a proving grounds for the most elite Golds. Darrow enters under the house of Mars, and quickly learns that the schooling is of the hard knocks variety. It consists of a game between the houses, and the winner is the house that stands at the end. Through his skill as a strategist and a survivor, Darrow is able, with the help of both true and fair weather friends, to not only conquer to win, but conquer the game. And the benefit he reaps? A place as a lancer in the ArchGovernor Augustus’ household.

Finished 10/13/16

Tags: violence, combat, war, race inequality, rebellion, fantasy, science fiction

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

30116958New York: Amulet Books, 2017 (310 pages)

Genie Lo is busy minding her own business (grades, college admissions, extracurriculars, friends) when she sees what looks like a mugging taking place. She throws her backpack at the assailants, then runs. Too bad all her textbooks and the earrings her father gave her are lost now. But guess who shows up in homeroom? It’s the guy that was getting mugged, and he’s brought her backpack and some unwelcome attention. Quentin, the new guy, keeps following Genie around, showing up unexpectedly. As Genie’s frustration mounts, so does the weirdness. Quentin reveals himself to be none other than the infamous Sun Wukong–Monkey King from Chinese folklore. And Genie just so happens to be just the person he wants. But so does every other escaped demon from Diyu. Genie already found life’s hardships a bit unfair–her estranged parents hate each other, her college admissions agency appointments are going absolutely nowhere despite her continued attempts to expand her portfolio. And to top it all off, Genie is freakishly tall. Up until now, Genie has blamed her height on a genetic abnormality, but Quentin, the gods in the pantheon and the demon hordes see her as something else– the reincarnated-as-a-human legendary Ruyi Jingu Bang, the weapon that almost conquered the gods. When she and Quentin go up against a group of demon lions, they need help. They get it from the Bodhisattva Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy and Erlang Shen, nephew of the Jade Emperor and master of torrents. Apparently, there was a jailbreak and 108 demons are on the loose. The Jade Emperor has decreed that 2 champions will clean up the mess, and you can guess which two champions he means. Guanyin gives Quentin a demon detector (Genie’s earrings from her dad), and Erlang Shen tells Genie it’s time she learns how to use her powers. Then the two are on their own. But the demons don’t seem to be acting “normal.” Instead of honing in on Genie and Quentin, they seem to be placed strategically. Little do they know that it’s all part of a bigger plan, one that involves using Genie to finally defeat the gods and put a new Emperor on heaven’s throne.

Finished 8/17

Tags: Chinese folklore, adventure, action, friendship, humor, light romance, loyalty, trust

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

26156203New York: Balzer & Bray, 2016 (416 pages)

Vika is an enchanter, raised and trained by her father in the forest. She can’t wait until the Tsar calls her to the capitol to become the Royal enchanter. But Vika doesn’t realize that there is another enchanter to contend with, a young man, Nikolai, who has grown up in the court, best friends to Pasha, the heir to the throne. Due to outside threats to Russian peace, the Tsar has determined to begin the Crown’s game, which will mean that each enchanter must outdo the other, and one will perish in order to contain the magic of Russia into one vessel instead of two. While Pasha knows that Vika is one of the enchanters, he has no idea that Nikolai is the other until it is almost too late. For who would have guessed that the magic inside them would draw the enchanters to one another? Each enchanter is given three attempts to outdo the other, and each attempt is more elaborate than the last.  Pasha is falling for Vika, and so is Nikolai; the triangle is fraught with tension, suspicion and yearning.

Finished 2016

Tags: romance, historical fantasy, magic, sorcery, enchantment, friendship, trust

Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 2 by Sui Ishida

51i-76vk2b7lSan Francisco: VIZ Media, 2016 (208 pages)

Ken Kaneki has started working in Anteiku, the ghoul/human coffee shop owned by ghoul Mr. Yoshimura. He’s also starting to learn how to eat without gagging and throwing up in order to hang out with his full-human friends, specifically his best friend, Hide. Hide thinks that he and Ken were in a terrible car accident, that the other person in the crash, Nishiki Nishio, is still recovering from wounds sustained, and that Touka, the cute coffee shop worker, came to the rescue. If Hide were to find out the truth, that Nishio is the ghoul who almost ate him, Touka tells Kaneki that she will have to kill Hide. In the meantime, Kaneki is getting used to being a half-ghoul. He meets other ghouls at the coffee shop, including Renji Yomo, who takes Ken on a body hunt to collect human meat “humanely” from a nearby suicide site. He also meets mother and daughter, Mrs. Fueguchi and Hinami, a young girl that Kaneki gives some reading tips to. Unfortunately, all is not calm in the 20th ward. Anti-ghoul investigators (doves) have zoned in on ghoul activity in the 20th, thanks to Rize’s grisly attacks (see vol. 1). Mr. Yoshimura thinks it’s time that Ken got a mask, one that will keep him from being recognized by the investigators. Mr. Yoshimura tasks Touka to take Kenaki to visit the ghoul maskmaker, Uta. And the time is right. The doves are on the prowl. Mr. Fueguchi lost his life to them, and the investigators Koutarou Amon and weird Kureo Mado are on the alert for Fueguchi’s wife and child. When Mrs. Fueguchi returns to the gravesite to bury his mask, the doves zone in. Kaneki is alerted to the investigators closing in, and goes to see if he can help, but it’s too late for Mrs. Fueguchi. Hinami escapes, thanks to Ken, who takes her back to Anteiku. Ken realizes that he needs to learn more about his own powers of defense; he blames himself for Mrs. Fueguchi’s death. Ken asks Touka to help him tap into his ghoul kakugan (aspect) and kagune (ghoul claws). Uta finishes Ken’s mask, which is ghoulish to say the least. Now that he has the mask, he will hopefully be better able to slip undetected between his human existence and his ghoul existence. Touka takes her revenge on the investigators wearing a rabbit costume to hide her identity and kills one of them, but Mado rips into her with his quinque, ghoul claws that he has removed from dead ghouls and repurposed as weapons for his own use against ghouls. She barely escapes with her life.

Finished 8/17

Tags: friendship, loyalty, survival, violence, manga

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

29283884New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2017 (501 pages)

Monty (Henry Montague), Lord Disley, is all set to go on his much-anticipated Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend and secret crush, Percy. Away from his stern and heavy-handed father, Monty imagines that he’ll be able to live it up in the year abroad (drink and dice and women/men aplenty), and may even get a chance to get in with Percy before Percy goes to Holland for law school. But Monty’s father has other plans, plans that include an undesirable bear-leader (chaperone) and Monty’s 15-year old sister Felicity, who will be dropped off at finishing school along the way. Not only will Monty and Percy’s plans of debauchery come to naught, the bear-leader has been instructed to keep Monty and Percy from vice of every kind. To make matters that much worse, they will be visiting Monty’s father’s friends in hopes that Monty’s experience will help him to take over the running of the estate in due time. There’s not much Monty can do– his father has threatened to disown him if he hears of any low behavior–and Monty knows what his father’s threats and his fists can do. So the party sets sail, and the boys endure the lack of fun with bad grace. Then, all hell breaks loose in France. Percy and Monty get out from the chaperone’s thumb for a night of drinking, and deep in their cups, they exchange a passionate kiss that ends with a seeming rejection. Later, at Versailles palace Monty meets and puts down the Duke of Bourbon, then goes off with a flirtatious French lady to spite Percy, ends up in the Duke of Bourbon’s chambers, steals a box with dials on in to spite the Duke, then plays a card game that includes the removal of clothing for the player with the losing hand. Things are getting steamy, when the Duke and his men come in. Monty’s mad dash to get away ends with a nude display in front of the party’s guests, and embarassment for his friends and his name. Unsurprisingly, the bearleader is incensed, and Monty is put on a tighter leash. The group escapes the social suicide that is Paris to head south to Marseilles, but a few days out of town, their carriage is attacked by highwaymen. Monty, Percy and Felicity run away into the woods and make it to Marseilles; there, Monty recognizes the voice of one of the highwaymen. They have been pursued to Marseilles! And the highwayman is none other than the Duke of Bourbon, who has chased them to recover his stolen box. In the stress of the situation, Felicity and Monty discover that Percy has epilepsy–he won’t be going to law school at the end of the year. Instead, he is to enter a sanatorium (asylum). His epileptic fit allows Monty and Felicity to make a friend of an apothecary, who then sets them toward Barcelona, to the house of Mateu Robles, a famous apothecary known for his efforts to find a panacea, or cure all. Of course, Monty is interested in the panacea for Percy, but they all agree that the box should be returned to Mateu, as it belongs to him. When the trio reach Barcelona, they meet Mateu’s son and daughter, Dante and Helena, who inform them that Mateu is dead, but that his panacea was created–within their mother, who did not recover from the experiment and was buried, neither dead nor alive, in a crypt. Then, to their consternation, they discover that Mateu is not dead, but imprisoned for denying support to the house of Bourbon. Dante and Helena are trying to get their father out of prison, but the only way to do that is to get the Duke the box, which holds the key to the buried panacea. The trio, with Dante, hatch a plan to infiltrate the prison in order to get the box combination from Mateu. Monty gets the combination, opens the box, and finds the key, which he stashes in Percy’s violin case. Helena comes in, sees the open box, and fights for the key, drugging Monty in the process. Percy comes to the rescue and the trio is on the run again, this time for Venice– actually, a sinking island nearby, where the panacea is buried. On the way, they are captured by pirates, who wind up rescuing the trio from the French Navy. In Venice, Percy and Monty finally get a chance to get out and enjoy themselves and their budding romance, but things cool way down when Percy realizes that Monty is tied firmly to his wealth and estate. There will be no running away together. Later that night, Monty goes out to drown his sorrows in drink, and meets up with the pirate captain, Scipio. They are captured together by the duke’s men, and brought before him. Helena accompanies the Duke in order to lead him to the crypt on the sinking island, and in order to make sure that her father is subsequently freed. Monty is held hostage for the key. The duke allows Scipio to go in order to tell Percy and Felicity to meet the group at the sinking island. Monty’s group makes it there, and must wade through the encroaching waters to get to the opening of the crypt where the panacea lies encased in the alive/dead body of Helena’s mother. The crypt is at the bottom of a deep, narrow stairwell. Percy and Felicity arrive with the key, and the tomb is opened. Helena retrieves her mother’s heart, but then throws it into the nearest lampstand. The Duke lets his gun go off right near Monty’s face in an effort to get to the panacea before it turns to ash. The gunshot undermines the already unstable crypt, and everyone rushes to the steps to escape except the Duke, who is crushed by the collapsing structure. Monty fares worse than the others; the gunshot blasted off most of his ear. Felicity is offered the position of ship’s surgeon with the pirates who hope to become privateers with Percy’s uncle’s help, and Percy and Monty decide to go their own way, devil take the estate and the position.

Finished 9/17

Tags: adventure, romance, LGBTQ, relationships, friendship, self-discovery, travel, historical fiction

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