Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Chickens, and not the kind on the barbeque, are hot stuff in the urban farming trend. If you have thought about raising chickens at home then the place to hunt and peck for some fowl books is the Monrovia Public Library.

Before you get started make sure you are following local rules by looking at the Monrovia Municipal Code regulations:

Whether to keep your chickens cooped up or allow them to run free is addressed in 2 books. Chicken Coops: 45 Ideas for Housing Your Flock by Judy Pangman offers ideas, some budget minded, for housing poultry. This book is meant to spark the imagination and does not contain specific plans. Jessi Bloom’s Free Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Chicken Friendly Yard, illustrated with color photos, is a terrific do-it-yourself book on how gardens and chickens can co-exist. Roaming chickens can remove pests and aerate the soil and they can supply fresh eggs. Although the book is somewhat specific this is a great title for the beginner thinking about raising a flock.

The chicken or the egg? The Chicken Book by Page Smith may not explain which came first, but it is an amazing book on the history, science and farming of chickens. Whether discussing the evolution of poultry in India or explaining the process by which eggs are laid, this book will fascinate readers who enjoy good non-fiction and people thinking about how it would be nice to have a couple of chickens in the backyard.

What kind of chickens to choose? Photographer Stephen Green-Armytage presents portraits of the most magnificently flamboyant in Extraordinary Chickens. Extravagantly feathered and colored, these pictures are a feast for the eye. Chicken fanciers and readers who like a good chuckle will enjoy My Fine Feathered Friend by New York Times food critic William Grimes. This sweet and funny story is about a chicken that shows up in his backyard, takes up residence with his cats and takes over the neighborhood.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Those who love to read always think it is scintillating to discover new titles.  When the titles are fiction it presents an opportunity to jump into creative waters which don’t always exist in non-fiction. Ginni Chen, The Literary Lady, wrote “the recently departed Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize winner in literature, once said ‘the facts are always less than what happened.’ Here are some sparkling new fiction books at the Monrovia Public Library.

A debut novel with great reviews, The Nest is the story of a dysfunctional family (aren’t they all?) who are awaiting the 40th birthday of the last sibling so the 4 brothers and sisters can, at last, have the inheritance their late father set up for them. The problem is that their mother used the money to help the oldest and wealthiest son avoid a law suit prompted by his reckless and drug-induced activities. Now the other children want their money. Author Cynthia Sweeney mines family dynamics and how the subject of finances often becomes the elephant in the room.  Although the characters are not always likeable, readers will laugh and cringe as humor mixes with tragedy. 

Concepts of living life to the fullest and what culture means when adopting, may seem very different,  but they mix in the new novel Don’t Let My Baby do Rodeo by Boris Fishman. This story of a Ukrainian immigrant whose dreams are submerged when she marries a Russian man from New Jersey, centers on their adoption of a baby from Montana, about whom they know nothing other than the odd note his mother left with him—“don’t let my baby do rodeo.” When the child’s behavior becomes strange the couple journey to Montana to find the mother and make sense of their son. The trip has an unexpected and liberating effect on the family.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Writer Don Winslow won the 2016 The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best Thriller/Mystery with The Cartel, his 17th novel. Find his books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.
Winslow’s background, which could come right out of a Raymond Chandler novel, includes work in Downtown Los Angeles as an arson investigator, a degree in military history and the ability to speak multiple African languages.  He is originally from Rhode Island, spent time in Orange County and now lives in the small town of Julian, near San Diego. One source of his desire to become a storyteller was his librarian mother.

Most of Don Winslow’s novels are set in the Golden State. In California Fire and Life Winslow uses his expert knowledge to tell the story of an insurance investigator who tries to discover the legitimacy of a claim while sifting through the ashes of a burned out house. This is a hard-charging mystery that dips into the arcane and fascinating area of arson investigation.

Pacific Beach is the location of The Gentlemen’s Hour about a tight knit group of surfers who meet every morning to enjoy the water until one of them is murdered.  When one of their own, private detective Boone Daniels, starts to pursue clues to the mystery he discovers more than he could have imagined in a small town. This excellent thriller is a bit of California surfer noir.

Winslow explores the dope wars and drug lords in Mexico with his prize-winning The Cartel, his latest book. With meticulous research the author studied the drug trade, its practitioners on both sides of the border, and its endless violence. Master storyteller Michael Connelly said thrillers educate and entertain.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Although we cannot always keep up with what’s new in the world of science, we can take a look at some of the newest books about science.  Many of them show up on the New York Times bestsellers list.

For Monrovia Public Library readers, here are some science titles on the New Books shelves.
The scientific and technical professions do not have a good record hiring women and there was a time during the 1940’-1960’s prior to the development of reliable computing machines, when the only way women could work at JPL was as human computers. Natalia Holt’s The Rise of the Rocket Girls traces how women were hired to make the calculations that male scientists used to design space craft and figure out trajectories. The book’s appeal is that it shares both the personal stories of these female mathematicians and the technical work they did to contribute to space exploration. This book opens a door on little known history.

M.I.T. graduate J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains how scientific methods can be used to cook in The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.  Whether addressing how to best boil eggs, get a flavorful soup or put a crust on a steak, the author shows how using the principles of physics and chemistry will result in delicious meals. Looking like a large text book with great color pictures this is a title that will intrigue home cooks and get them thinking about the how the fundamentals of food and science converge.

The New York Times review said the essays in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics “arrive like shots of espresso.” In this slim volume by Carlo Ravelli the concepts of physics, which we probably ignore because we think they are beyond us, are explained in clear language. The author is almost poetic in his descriptions and the book will light a fire in readers’ imaginations and cause them to look at physics in a new way.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Don’t we just love it when a favorite author writes a new book? Look to the Monrovia Public Library for some much anticipated titles already on the bestseller lists. 

Master of suspense Harlan Coben returns to a favorite theme—a person believed dead is actually alive—in his new Fool Me Once. Maya is a former special ops officer who sees her recently murdered husband on her nanny cam and starts to peel back the layers of mystery about his death. Plot twists and turns make this novel a real page turner.

Jumpha Lahiri, whose novel The Namesake has become a contemporary classic, goes in a new direction with her memoir In Other Words. Written in Italian, which Ms. Lahiri has been studying for  years, the author comments how this language has freed her from the conflict she had with English, her second tongue which she learned when she came to the United States from India. The memoir is about moving to Italy and finding a new way to express herself.

Armchair travel favorite Bill Bryson returns with The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, a hilarious look at his trip across England. Commenting on his own aging, although only 64, the author’s curmudgeonly ways add to this travelogue. Bryson takes the roads less traveled and delivers wonderful stories about small town experiences.

Miller’s Valley is a coming-of-age novel by bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen. Set in Pennsylvania in the 1960’s and reflecting the aspirations, quirks and relationships of a family, this is also about a small town that may be doomed by a plan to flood a community and create a reservoir. Lead character Mimi Miller ponders her bonds with others and how the land where they live connects them.