Friday, October 9, 2015


When a beloved author of a popular series dies, can a new writer simply step in and take over? In the past other authors wrote for Raymond Chandler, Robert Ludlum and Dorothy L. Sayers, but not to universal acclaim. 

Swedish writer Steig Larsson is one of those authors whose characters continue although he has passed, and the truth of his replacement may be more complicated than Larsson’s fiction, the Millennium series. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest were published in 50 countries and sold more than 80 million copies. Larsson’s work can be found in print, Spanish translation, CD and DVD at the Monrovia Public Library.

When Larsson unexpectedly died at the age of 50 he and his companion of more than 30 years were not married and she did not have fiduciary interest in his estate. To make matters more provocative, Larsson’s money and literary legacy were inherited by his father and brother, with whom he had little contact. It is the two of them who decided to continue the Millennium series with a new writer. That writer is Swedish reporter and author David Lagercrantz.
Lagercrantz’s new book, The Girl in the Spider Web, continues the story of the punk and tattooed investigator Lisbeth Salander and crusading journalist Michael Blomkvist who share a complicated history and a commitment to justice. Like the original, the plot of this story is very complex and includes many characters, but now revolves around computer hacking, national security and an autistic boy who does not speak. In the book Salander finds new reason to avenge her past and Blomkvist is able to expose wrongdoers. Reviews for The Girl in the Spider Web have been mixed and readers are invited to see if this new title meets their high expectations.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


No doubt that the visit of Pope Francis to the United States was a memorable event for those who attended events where he spoke, those who stood on road sides waiting to catch a glimpse of him and for those who watched from home. The interest in Pope Francis seems to extend beyond that of Catholics and has rekindled a parallel interest in the history of the Church and the men who have led it. Look for books on these topics on at the Monrovia Public Library. 

The Church of Mercy is a collection of the sermons, speeches and writings of Pope Francis during his first papal year. The book addresses such topics as hope, faith and the poor. The chapters are short and should be appreciated by readers looking for spiritual guidance.

Two biographies of Pope Francis, both in Spanish, are available. Un Aire Nuevo: Francisco, Un Papa Sorprendente by Carlos Vallejo and Francisco: Vida y Revolution by Elisabetta Piqu. Both cover his youth, Jesuit career, election to the papacy and his personal attributes of humility and humor.
Library users looking for more information on the popes might want to read Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes by Charles Couloumbe, which includes biographies of each pope and supplies many anecdotes about the times in which they ruled. Readers looking for an explanation of Catholic doctrine, history and personalities should read Robert Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of its Faith.
AWitness to Hope: Biography of John Paul II by George Weigel examines the life of this pope from Poland who was known for his anti-communist and ecumenical activities. Another pope who captured the imagination of the world was Pope John Paul II, who visited Los Angeles in 1987.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, is often cited as the gold standard for how former presidents should conduct themselves. Noted for his work on worldwide health and human rights and his promotion of Habitat for Humanity, the organizations that builds housing for the needy in the United States, President Carter is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and a prolific author.  Celebrating both his 90th birthday and recognizing his recent announcement about his cancer diagnosis, this is a particularly great time to read the many books he has written that are available at the Monrovia Public Library.

President Carter has written several autobiographies and memoirs. His newest A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety has been called a warm and honest book in which he steps back and takes a look every realm of his life, what challenged him and what gave him pleasure. A Full Life is a terrific read. In An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood, Mr. Carter recalls his Depression-era childhood, his segregationist father, his intelligent mother and the people, both black and white, with whom he grew up. Here the author tells how his strong work ethic and his endorsement of diversity grew from his childhood experiences. 

Keeping a daily diary resulted in White House Diary, an account of what happened and how he felt during both momentous events, like the Iran hostage crisis, and in his appraisals of the people with whom he came into contact. Readers will find his assessments of various personalities particularly eye-opening.

Known for his deep spirituality and for teaching Sunday school, Living Faith shares Carter’s Christian values and how they inform his sense of fairness and justice.  Our Endangered Values is President Carter’s look at how we all benefit from inclusion and sharing.
When President Carter was elected his small town in Georgia became famous.  With the upcoming holiday season enjoy Christmas in Plains, a slight and lovely book about how simplicity and warmth, not extravagant gifts, is what make holidays memorable.

Friday, September 25, 2015


We are continuing to take a look at the National Book Award fiction nominees for 2015. Celebrating great writing and readers who love to be engaged by great books, the following novels were nominated for their creativity, originality and appeal. Readers can find these books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. 

For more than 35 years Edith Pearlman has been writing short stories and essays for magazines and anthologies. Her newest book Honeydew is a collection of 20 stories that highlight average people in situations, average and serious, that often bring special meaning to their lives. The gifted author, often called a master of her art and craft, is able to observe people without passing judgement. The book is notable also for its pristine writing style which does not waste one word. When was the last time you read a book of short stories?

There is so much in the news about the state of Detroit and its abandoned industries and neighborhoods. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy is about a woman in Detroit who has lived and raised her children for many generations in the same house, now bordered by decaying structures and vacant lots. She wants to move, but discovers that the house is worth much less than her mortgage. The novel’s tracking of how the family arrived at this point makes for an epic story filled with fabulous characters and great humor. 

 What makes a relationship work or go haywire? Lauren Goff’s novel Fates and Furies takes a look at the ups and downs of marriage. Lotto and Mathilde come together with the electricity that only a new relationship can generate, but 24 years can change a lot.  The book is told from various perspectives and critics have called the writing dazzling.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Every year the National Book Foundation announces 10 nominees each for best fiction and non-fiction. The Foundation, founded in 1950, proclaims its mission “to celebrate the best in American literature, to expand its audience and to enhance the cultural value of great writing.” The National Book Awards promotes enthusiastic reading, just like the Monrovia Public Library reaches out to enthusiastic readers. Last week the National Book Award Fiction 2015 candidates were disclosed and you can find them at the Library.

One of the big books of this year is Did You Ever Have a Family? This debut novel by literary agent Bill Clegg was inspired by the story of fire that broke out in a house under construction and killed a woman’s parents and 3 daughters. In the book, it is the night before a wedding and a stove malfunctions and kills a woman’s family. What makes the novel so unusual is not the story of the woman’s grief, but how the various characters the woman knows, some of them just acquaintances, tell the stories of their own grief. Tragedy and the aftermath stay front and center in this haunting book.

From tragedy to comedy with Mislaid by Nell Zink. In 1966 college student Peggy’s affair with her professor results in an unhappy marriage with two children. When Peggy escapes family life with her daughter and leaves her son, she hides out in an African American community and pretends she and her daughter are  Black, even though they're Caucasians. Years later the daughter wins a minority college scholarship and meets the brother she didn't know she had. This hilarious satire addresses race and gender head on and leaves readers laughing and shaking their heads.

A Little Life by Hanna Yanagihara begins in college and follows 4 best friends as they age and become middle-aged adults. Each decade of their lives is highlighted and their histories and sadness are mined for emotions and memories. The friends are supportive, but their backgrounds are tragic. This novel is for readers who want a deeply involving book that might require a bit of a breather between chapters.