Saturday, August 30, 2014


Who knew? It was a surprise to learn that memoir writing classes are all the rage. The Monrovia Public Library not only has the how-to book Changing Memories into Memoirs by Fanny-Maude Evans to get you started, but also has some terrifically touching memoirs where women take their worst experiences and look at them in the most amusing ways.

Anyone who has been a caregiver to an older parent might think that a book about the subject should be avoided, but Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant will be the funniest book that you read this year. Between nodding in agreement, laughing aloud and being embarrassed that author Roz Chast, best known as a New Yorker cartoonist, has captured your secret feelings, you will simply love the graphic memoir that mixes hilarious drawings with astute and zany observations. 

Pasadena author Sandra Tsing Loh, who provides commentary on NPR, has written a memoir for the “sandwich generation.” In The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones confronts it all: menopause, being a mother of teenage children, a marriage on the rocks and taking care of her 91-year-old father. Loh’s dark humor and honesty will light the way for other women in the midst of midlife crises. 

The talented and wealthy daughter of the famous Debbie Reynolds should have a pretty good life, but screenwriter, humorist and actress (Princess Leia in Star Wars) Carrie Fisher proves just the opposite in Wishful Drinking. Sharing her family tree (Carrie’s dad married Elizabeth Taylor and Carrie married Paul Simon) and her own history of mental illness and substance abuse, the author is a true wit whose anecdotes will keep you in stitches.

Monday, August 25, 2014


The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed on an American citizen, is just one of the awards won by the great historian David McCullough. His biographies and histories have also garnered 2 Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award. It comes as no surprise that McCullough grew up in a home where his parents read to him.  Intending a career in fiction writing, he discovered the joys of non-fiction and research while working for American Heritage magazine.

David McCullough’s many works can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. His majestic biographies include Mornings on Horseback about Teddy Roosevelt, Truman and John Adams. Whether you like to read, listen to or watch your books, John Adams can be found in the print, CD and DVD sections of the library. And, if you want to hear the author’s voice, check out the Public Television DVD of Houdini, which McCullough narrates. 

McCullough’s interest in civil engineering takes center stage in his two books about epic constructions--The Great Bridge, about the Brooklyn Bridge, and The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal. Triumph and tragedy, geography and forward-thinking and flawed personalities highlight these engrossing histories.

1776, the story of the Revolution, continues the author’s interest in the formation of the United States and Greater Journey: Americans in Paris takes place in the early 1900’s when American authors, artists and even doctors went to France to partake of Parisian culture.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Sometimes a little ME time is just what the hustle and bustle of our busy days demands. Clear your mind with some terrific new craft and do-it-yourself books on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.
What makes The Flower Recipe Book so appealing is that author Alethea Harampolis offers easy and unique ways to show off plants, either from your garden or the market, without buying expensive containers. Grab an old vase, bowl or tin from your closet (you don’t need a hole in the bottom) and add soil and your plants. The results are stunning and your greenery won’t die if your follow the author’s special tricks.

Love books? Put that love into action with Bibliocraft by rare book librarian Jessica Pigza. Suggesting that libraries are a great source of inspiration and resources, the author shares paper, textile and needlework crafts that have that vintage look. Ideas include using copies of heraldic crests to create coasters and making an embroidered table runner using animal cut outs copied from books. Her how-to instructions are easy to follow and the results are elegant. 

Giving a party and want more than food recipes? Sweet Paul Eat and Make: Charming Recipes and Kitchen Crafts You Will Love by Paul Lowe is divided into morning, brunch, noon and night sections and offers ideas on what to serve and how to style the meals with simple crafts. The vintage photo napkins (transfer your photos onto cloth), clothespin trivet and coffee filter flowers are both fanciful and functional.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


2014 is the hundredth anniversary of World War I. Called the Great War before it became apparent  there would be more global wars, World War I began in July 1914 and ended in November 1918. What started with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo became an international conflict. Look to the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library for some fascinating reading and viewing on the topic that continues to inspire writers, artists and filmmakers.

Those looking to learn about the facts of the war might want to read some powerful non-fiction that captures the panorama of events and personalities. An Illustrated History of the First World War is by military historian John Keegan.  

The Making of the Great War by Ian Beckett was written this year and follows the war’s repercussions that still have an impact today.  

Knights of the Air by Ezra Bowen relates the history of the first war to use airplanes and modern technology.

Some of the greatest fiction classics are about World War I and how it changed those who fought in it. The novels include All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos, Random Harvest by James Hilton, The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. 
Three very diverse DVDs about World War I are The African Queen, the classic with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, the glorious Lawrence of Arabia, and the Downtown Abbey series. Each takes place in a different part of the world, yet each presents portraits of how the war affected individuals. 

Huntington Library is celebrating the 100th anniversary with an exhibit of original posters, created by American artists, meant to encourage the United States to enter the war. Titled Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War, the exhibit includes the famous Uncle Sam I Want You poster.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Although August is chugging past us and we're starting to think about the end of summer, there is still time to read some of the hot new books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. Opinions differ on what makes a good beach read, but books that have any of the following qualify: romance, mystery, a fast-paced plot, a summer theme and humor.
Summer House With Pool by David Koch is a thriller about an actor who invites his doctor and the doctor’s family to spend a vacation together. A strange incident occurs and later leads to the death of the actor.  

The Arsonist by Sue Miller is about mysterious fires in a small New Hampshire town. Only the homes of the summer visitors are set on fire in this book filled with suspense.

Humor and time travel highlight Rainbow Rowell’s Landline, about a TV sitcom writer whose slightly rocky marriage convinces her to not go on a family vacation, but to return to the house where she grew up to write for a new television show. When she picks up the phone in her old bedroom to call her husband, she discovers that she is talking to him not in the present, but when they were dating. 

On the island of Nantucket a happily married matchmaker, with 42 couples to her credit, becomes reacquainted with the person she loved many years before. The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand is a five hanky weeper that will keep you turning the pages.

And, if you are looking for more books to read take a look at this list from NPR called The 100 Best Beach Books Ever chosen by 16,000 listeners.