Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This year is the 50th anniversary celebration of the movie The Sound of Music. Released in 1965 and the winner of 5 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), the film remains a favorite and we can break into song just thinking about the many memorable lyrics of Edelweiss, I Have Confidence and Climb Every Mountain. The Monrovia Public Library owns the DVD of The Sound of Music and several books which will put you in a celebratory mood.

The title of a brand new book says it all: The Sound of Music Story: How A Beguiling Young Novice, A Handsome Austrian Captain, and Ten Singing von Trapp Children Inspired the Most Beloved Film of All Time by Tom Santopietro. Here is the story of the family that inspired the musical and movie and it includes lots of tidbits that fans will enjoy.

Preceding the movie was the 1959 stage musical with Mary Martin as Maria and songs written by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers. The sheet music and lyrics can be found in The Songs of Oscar Hammerstein. His biography Getting to Know Him by Hugh Fordin puts the spotlight on the musician who also wrote South Pacific, The King and I and The Flower Drum Song.
Julie Andrews was director Robert Wise’s first choice to play Maria, but he also had Grace Kelly and Shirley Jones on his list of possible actresses. Ms. Andrews’ autobiography Home tells the story of her childhood and early years on the stage before she started making movies. Julie Andrews A Life by Robert Windeler is a well-reviewed biography that includes Ms. Andrews’ experience making The Sound of Music.

If The Sound of Music is on your My Favorite Things list, check out what the Library has.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Who would imagine that the bestseller list would include a book about Social Security?  The popularity of Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence Kotlikoff tells us something about our own insecurity about retirement and our need to make a successful transition from working, This guide helps readers navigate Social Security rules and benefits and learn how timing impacts the amount of money retirees can receive. This book and others at the Monrovia Public Library help address a broad range retirement issues.
Like Get What’s Yours, there are several books that are general guides. Emily Birken’s Five Years Before You Retire: Retirement Planning When You Need It the Most  walks readers through financial, medical and legal issues and shows how being prepared can make a huge difference in the quality of retired life. In The Truth about Retirement Plans and IRAs financial advisor Ric Edelman removes the mystery and confusion from understanding investments. 

Some retirement books focus on specific groups of people. Nobody Loves Your Money Like You Do is meant for professionals who are retiring with larger incomes and more investments. Practical and easy-to-follow The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement by Jan Cullinane is a planning handbook for women approaching retirement age.

And, as anyone who is retired knows, there is more to retirement than just the financial aspects. Get a Life: You Don’t Need $1,000,000 to Retire Well by Ralph Warner says savings are important, but so are happy relationships, time well spent doing favorite activities and good health.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Sometimes a writer is so identified with a place that the particular geographic locale becomes almost a character in the author’s books. Such is the case with mystery and thriller writer Dennis Lehane. Born into an Irish family in Boston, he still calls Bean Town his home. Many of his novels and screenplays are set there among its working class residents. The Lehane titles on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library demonstrate the variety of formats offered by the Library: regular and large print, in Spanish translation and on CD and DVD. 

Lehane’s breakthrough book was Mystic River, the story of three childhood friends who grow apart after one of them is abducted. The past returns in mysterious and damaging ways when a recent murder recalls what happened years ago.  Sharing the same darkness that permeates Mystic River is Shutter Island, which also relies in Lehane’s interest in terror.  It is the story of some police officers who go to an insane asylum in an out-of-the-way place to investigate the case of a missing patient.  Murder, mayhem and mystery unravel in the thrilling novel. Director Martin Scorsese directed the film adaptation, on DVD at the Library.

The Patrick Kenzie-Angela Gennaro titles by Lehane are a series of books showcasing two young and savvy Boston private investigators. The series includes Gone Baby Gone and Midnight Mile, both about the recurring theme of missing children. 

In two other books, Lehane steps out of his natural habitat of place and time. Coronado is a book of short stories, both tragic and comic. His latest, 2015’s World Gone By is about a crime set in World War II that takes place in Florida and Cuba.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Sometimes reading a memoir of a difficult life is like observing the proverbial car crash. Readers sometimes want to close the book, but they cannot look away. One such memoir is Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Ms. Grealy tells the story of how her childhood diagnosis and treatment for jaw cancer and the resulting disfigurement of her face came to define her. 

The book stays with readers not just because of the subject and the grueling descriptions of medical procedures at such a young age, but also because the author is such a talented writer. A poet and a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Grealy writes honestly and without self-pity. She also explores the rejection that accompanies physical imperfection. If the book sounds depressing, it can be, but it is also exhilarating. It is unlike any other memoir and the dignity that author displays is profound. 

An additional aspect of Grealy is that her best friend and roommate from college was the bestselling author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto and State of Wonder).  In Truth and Beauty: A Friendship Patchett details the tumultuous 17 year relationship of the two best friends. Both unique memoirs are on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.  
Patchett’s observations about Grealy’s quirky, powerful and sometimes self-destructive personality and Grealy’s ability to both triumph over and give into adversity are often as harrowing as the events in Autobiography of a Face. From Truth and Beauty the reader also finds out how and why Grealy died at such an early age. Reading both books, in any order, is an astonishing literary experience.

Monday, May 4, 2015


The Monrovia Public Library Short Story collection includes both classic and contemporary anthologies. From renowned Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem to flash-in-the-literary-pan Moon Unit Zappa, this collection also includes such great short story writers as Carson McCullers, Guy de Maupassant, O. Henry and contemporary writers like Alice Munro. There are also books that gather short stories on such topics as cats and dogs and countries of origin. Here are three of the more recently reviewed and praised short story collections. 

A New Englander who has written more than 150 short stories, Edith Pearlman has won many prizes for her sleek writing and has been called a treat to read. Her new book is Honeydew: Stories.  Highlighting human foibles and relationships, the stories in Honeydew are about average people sometimes caught up in life. Ms. Pearlman is known for her elegant prose and her ability to use just a few words to richly describe her characters.

Kelly Link also lives in New England and writes short stories that often have a fantasy, science fiction or magical element.  Her new collection is Get In Trouble and as is typical of the writer all of them are realistic with a twist. Fairy creatures, super heroes and micro-chipped children all show up in Link’s works, but the stories themselves have characters who are real people.  Readers will be enchanted by the author’s off-kilter world.

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Brief Life of Oscar Wao, Dominican American author Junot Diaz frequently writes short stories. His This Is How You Lose Her has affection in mind as he explores the many motivations and emotions that accompany love and romance. Both touching and sometimes hilarious, these Diaz stories demonstrate that what the heart wants is not always the most reasoned of human activities.