Codes for Reviews

First Initial (Overall Rating):
E = Exceptional
VG = Very Good
G = Good
F = Fair
NR = Not Recommended

Second Initital (Reading Level):
A = Average Reading Level
E = Easy
M = Mature

“The views expressed are of individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective institutions.”

For more information about YAR, please email Dora Ho at

Friday, October 28, 2016



G/A  Coy, John.  For Extreme Sports -- Crazy Boys.  Feiwel, 2015.  155p.  978-1-250-04944-5.  15.99.  A predominantly black and white, double-column text plus small snapshots introduce readers to non-traditional sports.  Unlike baseball, soccer or hockey teammates, individual adventurers must be self-disciplined and dedicated to endless hours of practice.  They cannot afford to be ignorant regarding the dangers of mountain biking, pogo stick flips or skydiving, etc.  Nor can they be naive about the risks (including death) of BASE jumping, ice climbing and slacklining.  Informative paragraphs about X Games "heroes," charting of Olympics medal winners and short commentaries by extreme sports' pros make this title a fun browser for middle-school students (boys or girls).  Fitting for book talks.   E.M. Roublow (ret.)

Sunday, September 4, 2016



V/A Raczka, Bob.  WET CEMENT.  Roaring Brook, 2016.  43p.  978-1-62672-236-1.  17.99.  Have audible and visual fun by "stepping" into this interesting collection of "poeTRY."  Each poem's shape is unique -- perhaps a maze, a coat hangar or a kite.  Topics are also variable -- a musical instrument, weather, a sport, etc.  A good literary appetizer to be offered to classes at schools or in libraries.  
E.M. Roublow (ret.)



G/M  Jarrow, Gail.  BUBONIC PANIC.  Calkins Creek, 2016.  195p.  978-1-62091-738-1.  18.95.  It is estimated that an original outbreak of this disease occurred in the sixth century -- long before reaching U.S. shores.  In the early 1900's, when a medical plague developed in San Francisco's Chinatown, the area was unfairly quarantined.  An ignorant diagnosis of who contracted the sickness or where the illness could spread was ultimately disproved.  Politics was sometimes more of a hindrance than a help in determining causes and medical solutions.  This handsome presentation -- complete with drawings, b&w photos, glossary, index and graphs -- is useful as an introduction to more detailed research.   E.M. Roublow (ret.)



G/A  Pinkney, Andrea Davis.  RHYTHM RIDE:  ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE MOTOWN SOUND.  Roaring Brook, 2015.  166p.  978-1-59643-973-3.  22.99.  Detroit's Motown was the music production birthplace for R&B, soul and pop songs performed by that city's young black singers.  Berry Gordy's song-writing skills plus financial aid from his family were the initial investments into a  recording company in 1959.  Some of the voices that matured through that studio were Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Lionel Richie, "Smokey" Robinson, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.  Today, Motown is not what it once was but it will always be remembered for the finger-snapping, toe-tapping melodies plus its many talented artists.  A Timeline, an extensive Discography and a listing of TV and Motion Picture credits are included.   E.M. Roublow (ret.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


High School Fiction

F/M  Smith, Sherri L.  Pasadena.  Putnam, 2016. 229p.  978-1-101-99625-6.  17.99.

In this modern noir style novel set in Pasadena, CA, Jude is called home from her vacation back east when her best friend, Maggie is found dead. Not believing that her death was suicide and against everyone’s wishes, Jude starts snooping around. Her investigation uncovers secrets, and not just those about Maggie. Jude is not a likeable character. She’s mean and rude and it’s no wonder she has few friends. The novel keeps readers on their toes trying to figure out what really happened, but in the end, when the mystery is solved, the wrap-up is a let-down. Mature language and lots of references to sex make this a book for older teens only. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


High School Fiction

VG/A Showalter, Gena. Firstlife. Harlequin Teen.2016. 468p.  978-0- 373-21157- 9. 17.99

In Firstlife, we discover a society where the people are given two choices to go when they die. There is the Myriads and the Troikans. For those who remain unsigned, after they die they go to the outer
realms to a place called The Many Ends which is a limbo of in-betweeness and seen as the rough place to be and live out their second life. Tenley aka Ten Lockwood's family is high up in the Myriads food chain and so it was assumed that she would happily sign with them. However Tenley refused to sign to any party and her family puts her inside an insane asylum where they will try and break Ten by making her choose. Her strength and ability to not be broken come to the attention of Myriads and Trokians and they both want her for their own reasoning as there was a prophecy about someone who held the right amount of light and darkness - had a balance that could make one party better than the other. So both parties send in a Labourer to try and get her to sign, but what happens when she starts to fall for one of the Labourers and sees the other as her new best friend. What will Ten do?
Dawn Fechter, Inglewood Public Library

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Long Game: A Fixer Novel

High School Fiction

VG/A Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Long Game: A Fixer Novel. Bloomsbury, 2016. 360p. 978-1-61963596-8. 17.99.

When Emilia Rhodes asks Tess for help in winning a high school presidential campaign, she never thought that it would turn deadly.  With Washington is under siege by a terrorist threat and the terrorist in question has personal ties to the White House, Tess is finding there are less and less people she can trust.  The threat soon finds its way right to Hardwicke School’s doorstep, despite having a campus full of armed guards.  Tess is rocked by a betrayal so great, she can only depend on herself to keep a dire situation from becoming even more tragic.  Will Tess be able to outwit these power players or will she be another sacrificial pawn in this long political game?  Camille Keo Campos, LAPL, Angeles Mesa Branch 

The Fixer

High School Fiction

VG/A Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Fixer. Bloomsbury, 2015. 372p. 978-1-61963-594-4. 17.99.

Uprooted from her life in Montana when her grandfather becomes too ill to take care of her, Tess Kendrick is forced to move in with her estranged sister in Washington, D.C. After enrolling in the esteemed Hardwicke School, where the children of the nation’s capital elite attend, Tess learns that her sister, Ivy, is a fixer”, someone who fixes the problems of D.C.’s politicians.  Without meaning to, Tess soon develops a reputation for being her high school’s resident fixer, after helping the vice president’s daughter out of a terrible situation.  Her new friend, Vivvie, comes to her, confessing that she overhead her father’s conversation and suspects him of having done something dreadful, connecting him to a Supreme Court justice’s recent death.  In investigating, Tess finds herself embroiled in the machinations of Washington and surrounded by secrets and lies that soon turn dangerous.  Barnes weaves a clever tale of secrets, cover-ups, conspiracies, and political intrigue.  Camille Keo Campos, LAPL, Angeles Mesa Branch   

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Raven King: Raven Cycle Series #4

YA Fiction

E/A. Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven King: Raven Cycle Series #4. Scholastic, 2016. 439p. 978-0-545-42498-1. 18.99.

The Raven King is the fourth and final installment of Maggie Stiefvater’s amazing and beautifully written Raven Cycle series.  Richard Gansey III has been on a quest for the lost king Owen Glendower for years, and with his friends Adam, Ronin, Noah, and Blue, his search is drawing ever closer to the discovery of Glendower.  However, there is an evil force working against them, unmaking the very essence of Cabeswater, the mystical forest in Henrietta. Even Ronin’s dreams have been corrupted by this mysterious darkness.  Can Blue, Gansey, and the other Raven boys discover a way to save the forest and save Gansey from his foretold fate? Camille Keo Campos, LAPL, Angeles Mesa Branch 

Gemina: The Illuminae Files_02

YA Fiction

E/A. Kaufman, Amie and Jay Kristoff. Gemina: The Illuminae Files_02. Knopf, 2016. 672p. 978-0-533-49915-5. 19.99.

The sequel to Illuminae picks up the action in the aftermath of the Kerenza colony’s destruction. The only survivors on board the Hypatia are making their way to Jump station, Heimdall, a space station that maintains and operates the wormhole leading to core space.  However, BeiTech Industries has sent an assault fleet to intercept and destroy the Hypatia and a second one to secure the Heimdall station.  It is up to Hanna Donnelly, the privileged daughter of the space station’s commander and Niklas Malikov, a convicted criminal from a notorious crime family, to stop the invaders.  With deadly alien parasites on the loose and the impending collapse of the wormhole, they’re in a race to not only save themselves, but also the fate of the universe. A well-crafted, visually captivating book, Gemina is full of fast moving action and mind-blowing plot twists that will keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats. Camille Keo Campos, LAPL, Angeles Mesa Branch 

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

High School Graphic Memoir

VG/A  Samanci, Ozge.  Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey.  FSG, 2015.  190p.  978-0-374-31698-3.  16.99.

In graphic novel format, Ozge Samanci shares the story of her school days, from childhood to college in Turkey, during a time of great change in that country. While Ozge thinks she wants to follow in her older sister’s footsteps and please her father, she also must be herself and follow her own path. Mixed in with the great drawings are collages and photographs of ephemera, including stamps, buttons and letters. Ozge’s story is filled with funny moments that lighten the much more serious, political turmoil of the time period. Although it is a coming-of-age story, there are references (and drawings) of some violent acts, so this memoir is better suited for high school students. It would be a great addition for libraries where Persepolis is popular. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

High School Fiction

F/M  Cumyn, Alan.  Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.  Atheneum, 2016.  408p.  978-1-4814-3980-0.  17.99

Student body chair and control freak, Shiels Krane, has her life planned out. Everything changes though, when a new student arrives at Vista View High. He’s the very first interspecies transfer student, a pterodactyl named Pyke. Without speaking a word, Pyke manages to cast his spell over almost everyone, but especially Shiels (even though track star Jocelyne is officially Pyke’s girlfriend). The best word to describe this novel is weird. There is no explanation of who Pyke is and where he comes from, which makes his appeal a mystery. Plus he’s truly a pterodactyl…there is no shape shifting or even speaking (on Pyke’s part). Overall, it’s about a girl losing control and letting loose in order to find herself, but how she gets there is nonsensical. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Wednesday, June 8, 2016



F/A  Newquist, H. P.  Abracadabra.  Holt, 2015.  148p.  978-0-312-59321.  18.99.  For centuries, elements of deception and science have been manipulated to beckon the curious.  People have always enjoyed  being entertained.  Eight step-by-step black and white illustrated tricks plus 2 - 3 pp sub stories (i.e. Tools of the Trade...) are included in this history of magic.  Their placements throughout the book, however, often inhibit a free flow of the main text.  In spite of these faults, this eye catching title will sell itself and serve as an introduction to a popular subject.  E.M. Roublow (ret.)



G/A  O'Shaughnessy, Tam.  Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space.  Roaring Brook, 2015.  153p.  978-1-59643-994-8.  19.99.  Multiple vivid, well-labeled photographs (b/w and color) definitely surpass the text in telling Sally Ride's story.  This California native grew up having a strong interest in sports -- especially playing tennis.  Her college years, however, spurred her curiosity and love for science.  Thus, her journey began:  earning a Ph.D in physics, being part of the original female group admitted to NASA's astronaut program, and becoming the first American woman to fly into space.  She went on to become a physics professor at UCSD and -- with friends -- set up the Sally Ride Science Co. to motivate and encourage young people who were interested in science.  Useful for career and/or Women's History month assignments.  E.M. Roublow (ret.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Tortoise and the Soldier: A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I

Middle School Nonfiction

G/A. Foreman, Michael. The Tortoise and the Soldier: A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I. Henry Holt, 2015. 120p. 978-1-62779-173-1. 16.99

Henry Friston was a gentle and courteous elderly gentleman living in a small town in England. Everyone in town knew that he had brought a tortoise back from his time on the front lines in World War I, but few, if any, knew the whole story. Young Michael Foreman (the book is based on his own recollections), a cub reporter, convinces Mr. Friston to tell him the tale of how Ali Pasha the tortoise had become his lifelong friend. Over many visits and much tea, he relates the details of his time in the war and how a tortoise had fallen on him while he was hiding from shells at Galipoli. Foreman does an excellent job of conveying the terror of a young man away from home who fears he may never return. The reader really feels she is there visiting the charming old man and witnessing him finally tell his tale. Simple and quite lovely paintings, also by the author, are featured throughout. Oddly, Foreman seems determined to limit the book's usefulness for school reports. There are no maps, no timeline of World War I, and no indexing. In fact, there is no sense of who fought in WWI and what it was about. Animal lovers and those seeking a non-traumatic war story may enjoy it. Philip Levie, LAPL Panorama City.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

High School Fiction

VG/A  Johnston, E.K.  Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  Dutton, 2016.  242p.  978-1-101-99458-0.  17.99

As a high school senior, this is Hermione’s last time at cheer camp and she couldn’t be more excited about it. Everything is going great, until the final weekend when Hermione wakes up in the hospital and finds out that she had been drugged, raped and left unconscious in the lake. She has no memory of the incident or who did it. Now she has to spend her senior year dealing with the fallout, both emotionally and physically, while trying to move on with her life. Author Johnston, doesn’t focus on the rape or Hermione as victim, but on Hermione as a survivor. The title, chapter headings and many of the characters names come from Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, although the connection between the book and the play are not clear. Regardless, this beautifully written book is sure to make many best of 2016 lists. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Novice

Young Adult Fiction

G/A Matharu, Taran. The Novice.  R.R. Donneley & Sons, 2015. 350p.  978-1-250-06712-8. $18.99

As a baby orphaned, Fletcher, was taken in and raised by the town black smith. Helping his guardian sell his wears at the fair, Fletcher comes face to face with a war veteran with a journal from a battlemage. Fletcher helps the man out of a sticky situation with the town's bully only to find himself running for his own life. But before the warrior leaves, he gives Fletcher the journal. While reading the book, Fletcher accidentally summons a demon of his very own named Ignatius.  This leads him to Hominum and ultimately Vocan Military Academy, the school for battlemages. This world is filled with political and physical battles between the Elves, Dwarves and Humans; even though they battle amongst themselves they are all at war the orcs...with the machinations of humans being the most deadly threat, even among their own kinds. Dawn Fetcher, Inglewood Public Library

Tuesday, April 5, 2016



F/E  Banks, Kate.  BOY'S BEST FRIEND.  Farrah Straus, 2015.  213p.  978-0-374-38008-3.  15.99.  Two sixth grade classmates (one of whom has recently relocated from another state) become science experiment partners.  For five weeks, week-ends excluded, Lester and George "test" their pets' telepathy.  Will their dogs anticipate their varied times of arriving home from school?  Both the experiment and its results are related to Rupert Sheldrake's adult title:  Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home.  Reading level is suitable for readers who are younger than the book's main characters.  Recommended as a quick, fun read for animal lovers.  Should also satisfy "book report" or "chapter book" reading assignments.  E.M. Roublow (ret.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man

High School/Adult Fiction

VG/M  Savit, Gavriel.  Anna and the Swallow Man.  Knopf, 2016.  240p.  978-0-553-51334-9.  17.99

Anna is only 7 years old in late 1939 Poland, when her father, a professor of linguistics, is taken by the Germans, leaving her to fend for herself. With no one else to turn to, she befriends and follows a strange man who speaks to birds, the Swallow Man. In order to survive, they are continuously moving, but before they know it, their wandering brings them precariously close to the Russian front. While this novel is beautifully written and compelling, its teen appeal might be limited. The touch of magical realism though, will interest fans of The Book Thief. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Friday, March 4, 2016

For the Record

High School Fiction

VG/A  Huang, Charlotte.  For the Record.  Delacorte Press, 2015.  320p.  978-0-553-51182-6.  17.99

Even though Chelsea is still a junior in high school, she has just landed a new gig as the replacement lead singer for rock band, Melbourne. This summer the new album drops and they go on a 50-city US tour. Luckily her only friend, Mandy, will be joining the tour, so she won’t be the only girl. The one tour rule is no relationships between band members, something almost everyone on tour struggles with. Chelsea has to deal with her feelings for a band member, her new found relationship with a teen idol and winning over the band and their loyal fans. If you can put aside the idea of two teenage girls going on the road with a band with no supervision, this debut novel is a blast. Fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Stephanie Perkins will love it. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Saturday, February 20, 2016



V/A  Albee, Sarah.  WHY'D THEY WEAR THAT?  National Geographic, 2015.  192p.  978-1-4263-1919-8.  19.99.  Imagine adorning one's face with patches, swimming in garments made of wool or wearing shoes with no delineation of the left foot vs the right foot.  Do you think you'd have been an automobile enthusiast - even if it meant riding in a topless car in inclement weather?  Would you have enjoyed dining under a manually operated fan - as provided by a human punkah wallah?  For decades, fashion has been reflective of social tastes, economic necessities and military protection.  It provides visual references for many historical moments.  This title can be thoroughly enjoyed as both an attractive browsing item and a delightful overview of fashion history.
E.M. Roublow (ret.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Shadow Scale

Fantasy/General YA Fiction

VG/A  Hartman, Rachel.  Shadow Scale.  Random House, 2015.  608p.  978-0375866579.  18.99

Picking up three months after the story ended in Seraphina (don’t worry, it starts with a recap), Seraphina is busy researching other half-breeds, like herself and thinks that if she can find them, together they can help stop the coming war between humans and dragons. She must travel far and wide to reach them and deal with those who wish to stop her, including another half-dragon whose manipulation skills are terrifying. Once again, Hartman has developed an incredible world of dragons and humans, politics and adventure. To fully appreciate though, readers need to read Seraphina first. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Saving Montgomery Sole

General YA Fiction

F/A  Tamaki, Mariko.  Saving Montgomery Sole.  Roaring Brook, 2016.  240p.  978-1-62672-271-2.  17.99

Montgomery Sole is a 16yo girl with two moms, a younger sister and a total of 2 friends in a small California town. She’s obsessed with the abnormal and started a high school Mystery Club, where the 3 of them discuss the weird and unexplained every week. When the White family moves to town, things get uncomfortable for Monty. Reverend White is a semi-famous preacher who wants to “save the American Family” and Monty’s family is anything but normal. While Monty’s sarcasm made her likeable, the character seemed way too na├»ve for a 16 year old. All the build-up and drama resulted in too tidy of an ending as well. Loren Spector, LAPL, Memorial Branch