Friday, November 21, 2014

CIAO: YOU ARE TRAVELING TO ITALY



Have you noticed all the new travel books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library? Despite the usefulness of Travel Advisor, Expedia and even Wikipedia on the Internet, nothing replaces the variety of travel books that can inspire and guide our trips. So let’s jump in and take a look at some of the recent travel books on Italy, a country whose culture, history and beauty always calls to us. Tried-and-true travel books include the Fodor’s and Eyewitness series. 

Fodor’s Italy is a succinct and easy-to -use overview of the country and keys in on individual regions and cities. The accompanying map is always a plus. Eyewitness Italy is jam-packed with travel advice and has terrific color photographs, but truly excels at highlighting and recommending sightseeing and cultural experiences.
 
101 Places in Italy: A Private Grand Tour by Francis Russell takes travelers off the beaten path. Oh, the great cities are here, but it is the smaller villages and lesser-known spots that make this travel book special. One virtue of this book is that it is one to just sit and read. 

And, speaking of just sitting and reading, sometimes it is a fiction book that leads us to travel. The Italian Wife by Ann Hood is a multi-generational family saga that begins in Italy as the story of an Italian teenager whose arranged marriage leads her to America. Soak up the Italian ambiance that begins the story.

Ever think of not just being a traveler, but relocating to a new country? Living and Working in Italy: A Survival Handbook by Robbi Forrester-Atligan is truly a how-to book that delves into the essentials: visa paperwork, finding a job and a place to live, transportation and shopping.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SPEAK UP: BOOKS ABOUT PUBLIC SPEAKING



There is an old cliché that says that people are more afraid of public speaking than of death. Well, this may be an overstatement, but giving a speech, making a sales pitch or answering questions at a job interview can cause anxiety. Let’s go to the experts on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library for some new books on oral presentation skills.
 
TED, which stands for technology, education and design, is a non-profit organization that promotes “ideas worth spreading.” Its TED talks by authorities on many topics are famous for their informative content and great presentation. Author Carmine Gallo has written Talk Like TED: The Nine Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, which is meant to teach those skills to anybody who needs to deliver a speech.

Ditch the Pitch by Steve Yastro is all about improvisation. Teaching people not to be nervous, the book shares the idea that speakers should enter a situation and have a conversation, rather than recite a script.  The author’s method is described in step-by-step habits that he encourages speakers to develop.

Challenging people to discard everything they thought was right about communicating, The Presentation Lab by Simon Morton takes a look at what truly makes a presentation effective.
 
Veteran business reporter Bill McGowan wrote Pitch Perfect to help speakers concentrate on the art of persuasion and how to make sure a spoken message is not only to-the-point, but that it gets made at the right time to right people.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE LAST RUSSIAN ROYAL FAMILY



One part of history that continues to draw us into its web is the story of Russia’s last royal family. There are several books on this topic at the Monrovia Public Library and they will fascinate readers.

Almost 50 years ago Robert Massie wrote Nicholas and Alexandra, a bestselling epic chronicling how Russia’s last emperor and empress naively encouraged their own demise at the same time the 1917 Revolution was seeking to overthrow the monarchy. This magnificent work, which reads like a novel, brings to life both historical events and the personalities involved. Inspired by his own son’s hemophilia, Massie highlights how the illness of the royal family’s youngest child Alexei affected history. A few years later Massie employed new archival and scientific research to write The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.

The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky describes the life and death of Nicholas II, who was executed along with his wife, daughters and son. This book is jam-packed with vintage photographs that tell the story of how the Tsar, Tsarina and their children lived. Their sumptuous life, where even the horse blankets were woven with jewels, is brought to life through pictures. Another book that describes and illustrates the extreme opulence of the times is The Court of the Last Tsar by Greg King.

Proving that interest in the last royal family has not flagged is a new bestselling book called The Romanov Sisters. Author Helen Rappaport treats Tatiana, Maria, Olga and Anastasia not just a group of daughters, but as individuals. Well-reviewed, the book is noted for its gossipy and absorbing text.

And, what is a story without a villain? The monk Rasputin, who transfixed the Tsarina Alexandra with his false claims that he could cure her son, is detailed in Rasputin by Brian Moynahan.

Monday, November 10, 2014

SAY CHEESE



It’s interesting to note that archeologists don’t know where cheese originated. All the continents are candidates as they all have some form of it. Cheese comes from cow, sheep, goat and even buffalo milk that has coagulated and separated and its use is universal. So, it might be time to savor the many flavors and textures of cheese by dipping into some new books on the subject at the Monrovia Public Library. 
 
If you’re not committed to making comfort food from boxes or in the microwave, then Stephanie Stiavetti’s Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese is for you. Delectable illustrations accompany this inviting cookbook that emphasizes using a variety of cheeses and pastas to produce heavenly dishes.

From Philadelphia’s famous cheese mongers comes The Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes and Pairing by Tenaya Darlington. A cookbook as well as a guide to harmonizing cheese with other food and drink, this book offers invaluable advice to those planning holiday and special entertaining. 
 
Most of us think about cheese recipes, but what about taking it to the next level? The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cheese Making by James Leverentz is a concise, step-by-step guide to making your own. Praised by reviewers for its simplicity, this book is one of the very best for beginners.

The Science of Cheese is by food scientist Michael Tunick. This is not a trivial look, but rather an enjoyable investigation into the history, chemistry and biology of cheese. The technical information is approachable and the facts are often startling. Did you know the average American eats 34 pounds of cheese per year?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

GERALDINE BROOKS: INSPIRED BY HISTORY



Author Geraldine Brooks grew up in Australia, attended Columbia University and worked as a journalist before beginning a writing career that brought almost immediate fame. Inspired by history, her historical fiction novels are anchored in reality but original in plot and characterization.  Brooks’ novels can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.

Brooks’ first novel Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is named for 1666. This is the story of Anna, a maid in a small English town who survives not only the bubonic plague sweeping the country, but also the ignorance, superstition and panic that envelop her neighbors. The author’s eye for detail and her elegant prose make this a compelling and emotional book.

Using Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women as a leaping point to tell the story from the father’s perspective is March. In the classic novel the females of the family await the return of Mr. March while he is away during the Civil War. In Brooks’ version the good father experiences the horrors and degradation of the slavery and war, while withholding the truth from his family. How is it to hit the literary jackpot for your second book? Ask our Ms. Brooks. March won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

People of the Book has an extremely creative premise. A rare book expert is asked to conserve an illustrated Hebrew manuscript created in 15th century Spain. Using the few clues found in the binding, she traces the journey of the book, and its guardians, as it leaves Spain and eventually travels to Sarajevo, where it is saved by a Muslim librarian.


Brooks again expands on history in her latest novel Caleb’s Crossing, based on the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Set in the 1600’s Martha’s Vineyard, young Bethia is a Puritan and Caleb is from the tribe that Bethia’s father wants to convert. Their friendship and cultural conflict is the center of this well-researched and heartfelt novel.