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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Have you always wanted to write a book? Don’t think you have the talent or persistence? November is  National Write a Novel Month, a unique, inspirational and step-by-step program that encourages potential authors, like you, to start writing on November 1 and celebrate on November 30 by showing off your 50,000 word novel. Information can be found online at http://nanowrimo.org/.

Whether you are going to participate or you see yourself as more of a reader than a writer, here are some terrific new novels that will make you think about the writing process. All can be found at the Monrovia Public Library. Happy writing and happy reading.

Crooked Heart is a funny and offbeat novel by British author Lissa Evans. Set in World War II London, this is the story of an orphaned 9-year-old who uses his knowledge of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie to cleverly assist the poor woman who takes him in. The assistance comes in the form of creating a scam that the young boy and the pretty widow can perpetrate on the unsuspecting. Crime does pay in this wonderful novel.

Going to a darker place is The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Kroll. Fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train will like this story of 20-something Ani who seems to have everything:  great job; good looks and a trophy fiancĂ©; but emotionally she is a mess. The novel unravels the source of Ani’s pain and what happened when she was in high school. The story will take readers on a shocking roller coaster ride.

The title Kitchens of the Great Midwest might make people think that it’s a cookbook. It’s not, but it is about cooking and the life of a young woman, Eva, who has a special gift to taste foods and know their ingredients.  This story takes Eva from childhood to adulthood and her place among great chefs. This is an imaginative and original coming-of-age debut novel by J. Ryan Stradal. 

Monday, November 9, 2015


In honor of Veterans Day the Monrovia Public Library is displaying, in its lobby, a banner of honor that local active duty and retired service members can sign and share their service history. Community members are invited to stop by the Library and sign or view the banner. It is just one way the Library recognizes local men and women who are currently serving and have served in the military.

Another way is to encourage the public to use the Library’s Veterans' Resource collection which contains books of interest to returning veterans and their families. This special section includes materials on military to civilian transition, post-traumatic stress, benefits, job search and how families can best help returning veterans. A new library bookmark contains just the book titles that relate to veteran benefits and career information. Ask for the bookmark at the Adult Reference Desk.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Medical memoirs and biographies continue to be hot titles that readers just love. It is not just the fast-paced emergency and life and death elements of the books that fascinate, but it is also the stories of medical school that tap into the long hours, academic and personal challenges and self-doubt. The Monrovia Public Library has some compelling chronicles of doctors’ lives.
One of the newest is Black Doctor in a White Coat by African American physician Damon Tweedy who tells his own story. During his beginning weeks at an Ivy League medical school one professor thinks Tweedy must be a janitor simply because of skin color. Dr. Tweedy manages to mix personal experience, social commentary, humor and revelations about what it means to be a doctor. Although not a definitive look at the state of race in medicine, this journey of one physician offers much to think about.

Author of the terrific novel Cutting for Stone, the Ethiopian-born Indian doctor Adam Verghese relates the time he spent as an infectious disease specialist in Tennessee in My Own Country. Although a small Southern hospital may not seem like it would have many AIDS patients, it indeed does and Verghese compassionately relates their stories and how he cared for them. This is a richly written book that will tug at readers’ heartstrings. 

Sometimes a doctor seems larger than life. That is the case with Dr. Paul Farmer whose story is told by Tracy Kidder in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Mountains Beyond Mountains. From a poor childhood where his home was an old bus to Harvard to working with the destitute people of Haiti Dr. Farmer is a healer whose life is highlighted by commitment. This chronicle of an amazing doctor is highly recommended for both individual readers and book groups.