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

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

30956356New York: Berkley, 2017 (382 pages)

Jess and his cohort of library rebels have been taken captive by burners in Garda-besieged Philadelphia in this 3rd installment of Caine’s Great Library series. In order to keep themselves alive and their group intact, they must prove their individual worth. It’s easy for Thomas Schreiber, inventor extraordinaire, whose printing press plans threaten the Great Library’s stranglehold on information, and who spent time in prison as a result. And it’s easy for Morgan Hault, the obscurist (one who provides the alchemical process that transfers text to library “blanks” and mans the translation chambers that can move books and people from one place to another, among many other things). Her kind are rare these days, and the Great Library wants to see her safely locked away in the Iron Tower of Alexandria where she will stay until she dies. The rest of the group can be easily disposed of. The heads of the Great Library, the Archivist Magister and his right hand, the Artifex Magnus, have been trying to get rid of Jess, Glain, Dario, and Khalila ever since they helped Thomas and Morgan escape. Scholar Wolfe, their teacher, and High Garda (Library military) Captain Santi, Wolfe’s beloved, have been on the executor’s list for even longer. While in Philadelphia, Jess and crew are witness to another perspective. Little did any of them realize how much they’d be able to empathize with the burners, whose grievance with the Great Library translates to self-immolation and terrorism. Thomas and Jess work on a printing press with the meager scraps at hand, while Khalila and Dario prove their worth by helping to translate the books they smuggled from the Iron Tower’s Black Archives (books and manuscripts the Great Library deemed worth censoring from public use). Morgan helps boost the harvest with her obscurist powers, and Wolfe and Glain watch over Santi, who was badly burned by Greek fire in a High Garda attack on Philadelphia. The group realizes that it must also find a way out of the city, for they recognize that once their usefulness is through, they will be sold off or killed. Unfortunately, this happens sooner than expected. Morgan’s obscurist power is tainted when she overextends herself, resulting in the rotting failure of the town’s harvest. The hungry, besieged people have had enough of the unwelcome visitors, and Jess’ group must accelerate its plans to escape. At the same time, the Archivist Magister and Artifex Magnus have decided that Philadelphia must burn. The group and some few of the city survivors make it out alive, but Philadelphia is flattened in the attack. Jess and friends make their way to England, where they enter a new kind of prison under the wily and self-serving “protection” of Calum Brightwell, Jess’ father. This time, Jess realizes that there is only one way to escape, and that is to play along. The cost for his friends will be revealed in book 4 of the Great Library series.

(finished 8/2/17)

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

415gw3nngrl-_sx331_bo1204203200_New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2015 (334 pages)

Zoe has moved to a small New York town with her mother after a recent, messy divorce and must attend public school. Unfortunately, Zoe has found it difficult to to integrate into her new school, where cliques abound and an outsider stays outside. Into this morass of stress comes Digby, who makes Zoe into an unwilling accomplice to a series of seeming shenanigans that wind up boosting Zoe from loser to limelight. Some reviewers have likened the plot to a combination of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sherlock, and I must concur. It’s easy to see how Digby fits the role of Ferris and Sherlock — good at funny and good at making connections.

Black Heart by Holly Black

718q0mowsyl-_ac_ul320_sr214320_New York: Margaret McElderry Books, 2012 (296 pages)

Curseworkers #3

The last of the curseworker trilogy, Black Heart continues the story of Cassell Sharpe, the transformation curseworker who is courted by danger and destiny. Unfortunately, he would prefer to avoid both, but his past and his future–his family and his choices–form a tangled skein, and Cassell must face his choices with all the wit and skill at cons that he possesses. Thankfully, he’s got deep stores of both. Not only must Cassell decide whether to cut his ties to the crime families and join up with the feds, he must also decide whether or not his mother’s life is worth saving by locating the missing resurrection diamond and he must make the decision to resign himself to the fact that the only woman he’s ever loved and will ever love, Lila, hates his guts. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard if things at Wallinford weren’t just as complicated. How will Cassell unravel the threads with the freedom to finally make decisions if he is bound–by family ties, ties to friends, and the tie that pulls him relentlessly toward Lila?

Red Glove by Holly Black

513bgfrg-ml-_sy344_bo1204203200_New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011 (325 pages)

Curseworkers #2

Instead of spending the summer like a normal boy would do, working odd jobs or spending vacation time with family and friends, Cassell Sharpe spends his summer between junior and senior year grifting with his mother. Back in school, the most normal place he can be, Cassell is ready to try to get through the year without Lila, his childhood friend, sweetheart and fellow con artist, whom he thought he’d murdered, but had only transformed into a white cat. Cassell has somewhat come to terms with the fact that he’s a curseworker–even though this knowledge, as well as the memory of what happened to Lila and subsequent shady kills, has been erased by his own brother, the memory worker Barron. What is worse, upon the transformation back to human form, Cassell barely has time to convince the enraged Lila that he is innocent–that his memories were stolen–before Shanda, Casssell’s mother and an emotion worker, curses Lila, making her fall madly in love with Cassell. So even though Cassell can’t keep his mind off her, he’s glad that she is out of his life for now. That is, until she shows up as a student at Wallingford. And right after that, Cassell is bundled into a car by federal agents who are looking into the murder of Phillip, Cassell’s eldest brother. The feds reveal that before his death, Philip had turned himself over and was working with them to escape from the crime families and to get back together with his estranged wife and son. The search for Phillip’s killer, the presence of Lila, and the attempts of the feds and the crime lord Zacharov to get Cassell to work for them mean that Cassell has a busy year, nothing even close to normal.

Lafayette and the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

51ppjg-6i4l-_sx329_bo1204203200_New York: Riverhead Books, 2015 (268 pages)

Sarah Vowell takes the reader on a fun, enlightening tour through the American Revolutionary War with the intent to reveal the Marquis de Lafayette’s role–and by extension, France’s role–as a military aid. De Lafayette escapes France and a burdensome post under his royal uncle to achieve glory in the fledgling United States. Vowell does not hesitate to remind us that these were the SOMEWHAT United States; despite George Washington’s leadership, and sometimes in spite of it, Congress wobbled back and forth in its support of the national hero and fear that he would become another Caesar. Into this melee steps the Marquis de Lafayette, whose return to the US forty years after the war was met with unprecedented cheers and support, but who, during the war, was considered to be somewhat of a loose cannon. The narrative is, of course, spiced with Vowell’s signature style–the liberty to draw modern-day connections and parallels and inject character asides with her wry and witty humor.

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

51ontuve-wl-_sx335_bo1204203200_New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013 (282 pages)

Dan Cereill has just moved to his deceased aunt’s historical landmark house with his mom, who is trying to make ends meet as a cake baker. Dan’s dad left them financially and emotionally in the lurch when he tanked business-wise and came out as gay. Dan’s attempts to make life aft gang awry; he’s confounded by his own nerdiness and shyness, and by all the crazy things that life seems to relish throwing at him on a regular basis. Dan will come to terms with himself. Along the way, he’ll come to terms, sometimes begrudgingly, with everything else. Funny, slapstick, and sweet, this tale will endear you to Dan, and you will be rooting him on as he wades through it all.

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

31821019New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2016 (298 pages)

Now that Zoe has made her way from school castoff to social butterfly, she’s ready to embrace a life like she thought she’d never live it: one where her boyfriend, the high school football quarterback, is totally into her, one where she has friends (FRIENDS!) that aren’t stabbing her in the back, one without Digby. Oops. I spoke too soon. Digby’s back, and just as hellbent on finding his sister as he has ever been. Will Zoe fall back into a life where Digby plays a role, or will she be able to set trouble aside for a place in the “in crowd”?

Finished 2/2017

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

517mu4vaprl-_sy344_bo1204203200_New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2014 (417 pages)

The story of Mal and Alina concludes in this final Grisha Trilogy novel. Alina and her small army are deep in the bowels of the earth in the hands of the Apparat, the apostate monk, former advisor to the king and defected Darkling lackey. While Mal and the rest of the crew train the Soldat Sol, the new fighting body composed of commoners and remnants of the first army, Alina is sequestered in order to recover her strength, depleted when she last confronted the Darkling. Alina now functions as the living Saint, a thin, wasted, white-haired shell of herself– the sun summoner who can’t summon anything but shadows anymore, not even with the help of the collar and fetter amplifiers. The smoke and mirrors light shows she performs with the help of her Inferni friends is enough to fan the flames of faith and hope for the hidden refugees and the swelling Soldat Sol, and hope is precious. The Darkling has taken over the surface, and rumor has it that the Fold is growing. Rumor also tells of a mysterious rebel Prince of the Air who continues to needle the Darkling despite his power. This spark of resistance must sustain Alina and her friends so that she can survive and regain her own power in order to face the Darkling once and for all, this time with the help of all three amplifiers. The journey to this point has cost her much, and she knows it will cost her everything in the end–a price she is willing to pay to crush the darkness.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

51ogpbo8tzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2013 (432 pages)

The story of Mal and Alina continues in this second novel in Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. Mal and Alina have made their way to Cofton, in the southern part of Novyi Zem, the country across the True Sea from Ravka. Mal finds work easily, but it’s harder for Alina, who must constantly keep her collar, the stag horn amplifier, hidden away lest anyone recognizes it. They fear for their lives, of course, but hope that they have made a clean escape from the clutches of the Darkling and his second army. The Darkling’s hold on Alina is powerful, and power is seductive, luring her away from Mal and toward the second and third amplifiers that will make her the most dangerous weapon, one that will either free Ravka and the rest of the world, or bring it to its knees. Their respite is short-lived; the Darkling has found them, and Mal and Alina must endure sorrow and deprivation at his hands before they find unexpected relief when the privateer Sturmhond wrests control. When Sturmhond promises freedom if they will meet with his client, Mal and Alina reluctantly agree. Their ability to trust anyone, even each other, dwindles to near nonexistence as the pair struggle to decide where their loyalties lie. Once the course is chosen, the love they bear for each other is tested to its limits, and only the most precious sacrifice will redeem it.

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