Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Anyone who reads knows that libraries and bookstores are two peas-in-a-pod and are not in the least competitive. People who love libraries also love the thrill of wandering in a good book store. So with the holidays and the thought that a book, whether borrowed or bought, is always the right gift, let’s take a look at books about bookstores at the Monrovia Public Library.

On the bestseller list is the novel The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George.  Book store owner Monsieur Perdu is a pharmacist for the soul who prescribes books to meet the needs of his patrons. Of course the good owner is forlorn and missing his lost love and needs some of his own medicine. This is a gentle and charming read.

Written in 1970, 84 Charing Cross Road continues to charm bibliophiles. For 20 years New Yorker writer Helen Hanff corresponded with a London book seller about all things literary. Although the two never meet, the book is a collection of their letters about books and their blossoming friendship. This wisp of a book is simply delightful.

On the west coast is the Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, an offbeat novel. A San Francisco techie gets an overnight job in an odd book shop where there are few customers, but many mysteries. Curious, our young hero discovers the store is used by those belonging to an unusual cult that pays homage to an ancient book. Eccentric and original.

Ah, the holidays, and all the rushing around. Sometimes only a movie will get us to sit down and relax. What better DVD than You’ve Got Mail, about an independent bookseller who is driven out of business by a big conglomerate book store and its handsome owner. Bittersweet.

And remember to check out the Friends of the Monrovia Public Library Store and its many treasures. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015


As social media came more into vogue it seemed that people were more willing to make their personal lives public. However, telling all, or even some, has always been popular for those who write memoirs. Look to the Monrovia Public Library for some of the newest, all from authors who have written previous books.

Mary Kerr, whose bestselling The Liar’s Club, Cherry and Lit detailed her hard luck youth in Texas and recovery from substance abuse, is back with The Art of Memoir.  In addition to being a writer, Karr is a teacher, and in this most recent book she explains how to take the substance of one’s life and write about it.

Gloria Steinem, now 80 years old and the author of the previous Moving Beyond Words, describes how her consistent travel schedule as a feminist and journalist impacted her life. My Life on the Road covers not only monumental places and times (seeing Martin Luther King speak, spending time with Cesar Chavez and being on stage with vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro), but also the thoughts expressed by fellow travelers on airplanes and in diners. Steinem also comments about how being on the road keeps her involved in the present and not just the past.
Celebrity memoirs have always intrigued. Musician Patti Smith, whose last book Just Kids, about her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, has a new memoir called M Train.  Smith’s background as a poet shines in the collection of reflections. 

Hilarious writer and television actress Mindy Kaling is known for her sharp observations of modern life. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? introduced us to her world. Why Not Me? is a collection of essays that is a more personal look at her life.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


How does an author who writes books about one character keep coming up with titles that keep readers interested, happy and asking for more? That author is Lee Child, who writes the thrilling Jack Reacher series. A Brit whose real name is Jim Grant, he apparently chose the nom de plume Child because it could be found on the book shelves between illustrious authors Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie.

According to a recent New York Times interview Child has written 20 Jack Reacher titles in 20 years and starts each book in September and finishes it the following spring. The character Jack Reacher is a former military police officer who wanders throughout the United States with a toothbrush, an ATM card and a passport, taking odd jobs and always finding adventure and troubles to solve. Those who love reading past bedtime and like their novels to be heart-thumping wild rides will love Lee Child.
The Monrovia Public Library owns all 20 of Child’s books in print and some of them on CD. Do you have to read them in order?  All the books are stand alone, but since readers often like to read them in order here is a website that lists both the dates the books were published and the chronological order of the titles.

 The newest Lee Child novel is Make Me. All Jack Reacher wants to know is why the place where he finds himself, the tiny town of Mother’s Rest, has that name. What he finds out causes him to race across the country all the while battling killers and evildoers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Founded to recognize and promote literature, the National Book Awards were just announced and it was no surprise that Ta-Neshisi Coates won the top non-fiction prize for Between the World and Me, his commentary on being an African American man. Take a look at the November 13, 2015 Monrovia Public Library Blog to see a greater description of this book.

For some it may be a surprise that bestselling novelist James Patterson, author of the brand new Cross Justice, won the National Book Literarian Award, given as a lifetime achievement for expanding the audience for literature. Patterson has sold more than 300 million books worldwide and is known for writing multiple books simultaneously and writing with partners. Especially well-known for his thrillers, he also writes in many genres and for many age levels. He is the first author ever to have a bestselling title at the top of the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.  Patterson’s best known character is forensic psychologist Alex Cross and his series include the Women’s Murder Club and the young adult Maximum Ride.
Why did an author whose claim to fame seems to be popularity win such a distinguished award? Patterson is a philanthropist dedicated to promoting reading and access to books. His philanthropies support: independent books stores which are facing hard times in an era of e-commerce, a national campaign to give books to and support reading for young people, an effort to send hundreds of thousands of books to troops at home and overseas and a program called readkiddoread.com that gives parents and teachers the tools and the booklists to inspire children to read and match them with exciting books.
Hats off to James Patterson for his outstanding contribution! And, remember that the Monrovia Public Library has 180 Patterson adult and youth books in print, Large Print, Spanish translation and on CD. James Patterson—an author to get lost in during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Buy a house now? Buy later? How do I find a good real estate agent? How can I qualify for a mortgage? What does escrow mean? The questions involved in buying a home can be overwhelming and that is why doing some homework is very important before you even look.  Why not start with the terrific information supplied by the State of California on its Bureau of Real Estate website that has a whole section devoted to Homebuyers/Borrowers.
The next step is to visit the Monrovia Public Library to check out what books are on the shelves. Buying a Home by The Better Business Bureau is a useful overview that takes the mystery out of home buying and includes excellent worksheets and checklists. One of the topnotch publishers of books for California consumers is Nolo. Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home is a detailed look at choosing and financing a home and includes information, anecdotal stories and ways to solve problems. A more basic book is Dana Summer’s  How to Buy Your First Home, which walks buyers through the process of deciding what is affordable, selecting a home,  having it inspected and finding finances.

The mortgage process can be quite daunting. Two books highlight this experience. Mortgages Made Easy in 8 Steps by financial advisor Bruce Brammall clarifies the process in easy-to-understand language and shows how buyers can assess how much debt they can afford. And, what if you already have a home, but are having difficulties with the mortgage? Take a look at ABA Consumer Guide to Mortgage Modification by Dan Kackley. This book will help those who owe more than their house is worth or are facing foreclosure and want to refinance their mortgages. The book explains how the Federal Home Affordable Modification Program works.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


It is interesting to note that versatile writer Karen Joy Fowler is at home writing literary fiction as well as fantasy and science fiction. Her books find inspiration from real life and classic literature and are beautifully written. Find Karen Joy Fowler books at the Monrovia Public Library. 

Fowler shows off her ability to observe human behavior, in all its heartfelt and often absurd reality, in her in fifth, and best known novel, The Jane Austen Book Club. This story, about 5 women and 1 man who meet once a month to discuss the novels of the classic author, captures not only an activity that has become important in the lives of women, but also how each person in the group responds to Austen’s novels. Fowler also matches wit with Austen in this modern comedy of manners.

The Sweetheart Season takes place in a small Minnesota town after WWII where the young women who work at a local cereal company are encouraged by their boss to start a baseball team, in hopes that their athletic skills will attract the attention of potential husbands. Fowler mixes a bit of fantasy with historical fiction in this story about women whose dependent lives were upended by a war that brought them independence while the post-war years deposited them back to diminished dreams.

Managing to surprise readers with startling conclusions is What I Didn’t See, a collection of short stories that delve into fairy tales, fantasy, fiction and reality.  The collection includes two stories that won Nebula Awards given to best speculative fiction and other stories that reimagine history. 

Monday, November 16, 2015


In his slyly humorous commentary Ask a Mexican, journalist Gustavo Arrellano says that tamales, what he calls “the humble masa meal,” are the most valued weapon come Navidad. So whether you are making or buying tamales during the holidays, come to a special program at the Monrovia Public Library to learn more about tasty tamale treats. 

The History of Tamales will be presented on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 from 4-5pm. Caterer Sandra “Mama” Romero will be sharing culinary history, offering cooking tips and providing free tamale samples to tempt your taste buds. 

Combine Ms. Romero’s tips with tamale recipes in the Library’s cookbooks and you can create your own masa meals.  Rancho Cooking Mexican and California Recipes presents foods first cooked in rancho kitchens. Author Jacqueline McMahan is a descendent of Spanish settlers and combines recipes with family memories. Look for recipes for tamale pie, holiday tamales and dessert tamales.

Cuisines of Hidden Mexico: A Culinary Journey to Guerrero and Michoacán highlights particular parts of Mexico and is a travelogue and cookbook. This book by Bruce Kraig is for the more adventuresome home chef and includes recipes for tamales, as well as for other regional foods, that contain unusual ingredients. Regional cookery highlights Thomas Schnetz’s Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking, but it contains more accessible recipes, all taken from the Oakland restaurant of the same name. Look for a recipe for favorite sweet corn tamales. 

PBS favorite cook Rick Bayless has traveled through Mexico studying its cuisine and writing cookbooks. Fiesta at Rick’s is a great stay-at-home and have a good time cookbook with vibrant recipes and suggestions how to serve them. His tamale recipes were inspired by those sold by Mexican street vendors.

Friday, November 13, 2015


With so much conversation about race, equality and injustice it is time to take a look at some recent books that offer commentary on those topics. Look to the Monrovia Public Library for some truly thought-provoking titles that will give readers ideas and information for their own conversations.

Ta-Neshisi Coates, born in Baltimore and a writer for Atlantic magazine, addresses his concern about how African Americans are racially profiled and denied certain freedoms in his book Between the World and Me. Written like it is a letter to his 15-year-old son, Coates does not take the typical positive road to say that justice and equality will eventually prevail. Instead he encourages his son to constantly struggle against fear, violence and the status quo. This book challenges many assumptions.

It seems that many people of different political beliefs have come to agree that there are simply too many people of color in jail. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-Blindness by Michelle Alexander details how imprisonment has become a kind of social control that keeps African Americans from education and employment and from their families and communities.

 The name Jim Crow was originally that of a minstrel performer and came to be known as a phrase meaning racial segregation. Here the author presents an historic analysis of how current day laws continue to segregate.

In Just Mercy: The Story of Justice and Redemption author and lawyer Bryan Stephenson gives readers a memoir of his career fighting for poor Black prisoners, some on death row. Called a real-life Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Stephenson shows how inequality of laws and sentences unfairly target and incarcerate. This book is highly readable for many audiences, including teen readers and book group members.