Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Being water wise at home and in the garden has always been a goal, but now it is mandated by the state and local government.  Take a look at the rules and tips offered by the City of Monrovia website:

While you're at it, also take a look at some of the terrific books on cutting down on water use on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.

To keep the lawn and barely water it, or tear it out and put it something less thirsty and more sustainable? This challenge is answered by Reimagining the California Lawn by Carol Bornstein, a reliable and helpful guide to planning how yards can exist and look great without grass. Plant descriptions, design tips and hundreds of color photos will inspire readers who are debating what to do.

The title says it all--The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Reuse and Capture Water in Your Home and Landscape is by Laura Allen who heads Graywater Action, the organization that helps residents and businesses develop budget-minded ways to use and save water. 

The California drought did not appear overnight. Take the time to read its history. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner is a classic investigation into how land without water resources was developed through crafty politics, engineering feats and ill-advised water policies.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


A recent New York Times article said that Judy Blume gets 1,000 fan letters every month. Anyone who grew up reading Ms. Blume’s children’s and teen books wouldn’t be surprised, as the author’s sensitive works managed to capture our own personal feelings and have a special place in our hearts. Freckle Juice, Blubber, Are You There God?  It’s Me Margaret and Forever are fresh in our memories and current day youngsters still read them. 

Not as famous are Judy Blume’s adult novels, which were nevertheless bestsellers and all are in in the Monrovia Public Library collection. The titles are Wifey, about a woman who yearns for an identity that is more than that of a housewife, Smart Women, about how families handle divorce and Summer Sisters, about the fragility and pain of broken friendship.
Blume’s newest, just out this month, is In the Unlikely Event, is based on her own childhood memory about 3 plane crashes that take place in small town 1950s New Jersey. After doing research about the facts of the disasters, she wrote a story with fictional characters and relationships. Blume’s ability to mix difficult situations with heartwarming personalities and intimate feelings is a hallmark of her work and make this new novel just as captivating and compassionate as her others. The book also sparkles with details of midcentury life, including the politics, the celebrities and even the interior design. 
The book is simply a gift for those who have been waiting for a new Judy Blume adult title. And, for those who have never read one, this is the one to get.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Winner of many writing awards (among them the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Times Magazine Best Book of the Year and National Book Critics Circle Award), Anne Tyler keeps a pretty low profile. Her novels, often about quirky families and individuals, have been both accused of being sentimental and celebrated for the magical way they dig deep into the lives of her fictional characters. Frequently noted is her unusual background. She grew up in Quaker communes and didn't use a telephone until she was an adolescent.  Since 1964 Ms. Tyler has written 20 books, most of them owned by the Monrovia Public Library.

Ms. Tyler’s first big book was Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, a story about three siblings, whose father has abandoned them, and their mother Pearl, a rigid and harsh woman who pretends that nothing is wrong. As the two brothers and one sister become older, each experiences life differently because they never truly had a family.  Like Dinner, The Accidental Tourist is set in Baltimore and also pivots on unhappy events. Writer Macon Leary loses his son to a tragic crime, he and his wife break up and then he moves back into his family home where his eccentric brothers and sister alphabetize their groceries. When Macon meets a woman the total opposite of his classy, educated former wife, he learns to accept love. In both these uplifting books, which are reader favorites, the element of healing glows brightly.

Tyler’s newest 2015 book is again about disconnected family life. In A Spool of Blue Thread, longtime couple Red and Abby cope with their son Denny who holds them and his siblings at arm’s length. When the parents grow old and need caregiving, the rest of the family regards Denny as an irresponsible and prodigal son. As in all Tyler books, there is poignant emotion and gentle humor.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


As baby boomers grow older they have begun to write books about playing a role they may never have anticipated, as caregivers for their aging and dying parents. Each of these books, found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library, is as unique as the individual authors and their family dynamics. Caregiving can be difficult under any circumstance, and lifetime habits, good and bad, between children and parents repeat themselves. In the process love and respect seem to triumph.

Scott Simon, whose mellifluous voice can be heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition radio show, simply adored his mother Pat. Married three times and a single mother who supported her son by working in jobs on the edge of show business, she was 84 when she died. Scott was at her side tweeting about her progress and demise. His book Unforgettable: A Son, A Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime is a tender tribute based on what Simon sent to his more than a million Twitter followers. The book tells the story of his mother’s life and the final moments they shared.

What is a cultured gay man going to do in small town Missouri? George Hodgman, down on his career luck, returns to his hometown to care for Betty, his stubborn mother who refuses to go into a home. His hoot of a memoir, Bettyville, is a witty and loving look at two people who make amends and come to understand and accept each other.

No blog post on this subject would be complete without mentioning the surprisingly hilarious and touching graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. Readers of baby booming age will nervously laugh as Chast explores such topics as cleaning out parents’ houses, finding good nursing homes and enduring both illness and death.  The book is not exactly a how-do, but there is no doubt that the author offers readers in the same situation a window into caregiving.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Having a staycation or vacation? If your itchy feet and the approach of summer are motivating you to get on the road, why not take advantage of the many travel books at the Monrovia Public Library. The whole world is represented by the library’s up-to-date collection. Whether you are a veteran, new or reluctant traveler, you can find just the right book.  Everyone seems to want to go to Europe’s most popular country, France, so let’s take a look at what books are available.


The Eyewitness, Fodor’s and Lonely Planet series all have something in common. They are practical tourist guides that offer advice on lodging, restaurants, sights to see and transportation and each has maps and budget ideas. The highlight of DK Eyewitness Travel France is its attractive and easy-to-use color photographs, maps and images which act as a visual tour guide. Fodor’s France is a great nuts and bolts directory that is especially useful for the planning phase of a trip. Fodor’s guides continue to be excellent choices and their reputation as a favorite resource continues. Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring is for travelers who want to go beyond the French borders. It is a huge compendium of itineraries and recommendations and focuses on both known, and little known, destinations. 

If you are looking for specialty books on certain geographical regions in France, there are some great guides. The Eyewitness Travel Book Back Roads France offers 25 different auto trip itineraries you can take while exploring small towns and discovering hidden treasures.  The Loire Valley is another Eyewitness book that concentrates on the part of central France devoted to vineyards, orchards and historic towns.  111 Places in Provence That You Must Not Miss by Ralf Nestmeyer is an off-beat guide to little known eateries, flower farms and shops. 
What else do you need for your trip to France? How about checking out the French Phrase Book from Berlitz. It is the perfect companion to making your trip more enjoyable.