Tuesday, March 29, 2016


In the mood for a good read? Maybe something new? Let’s take a look at some fiction titles on the New Books shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. These diverse novels have been earning praise in book reviews and prove that fiction comes in all flavors.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg is for adventurous readers who like a big book. This multi-charactered story takes place in 1970s New York City and centers on a City blackout and a shooting in Central Park. Romance, family, mystery and emotion populate this debut novel that is being called dazzling and ambitious.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie is a comic satire with idiosyncratic characters. In this quirky novel set in Palo Alto the title character is named after the economist Thorstein Veblen and her upcoming marriage is beset by issues of modern romance, dysfunctional families and money.  By the way, a squirrel plays a key role in this laugh-out-loud novel.

In the last few years there have been some terrific fiction titles about Alzheimer’s disease, including the marvelous Still Alice by Lisa Genova. The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is the story of a 38-year-old woman who is showing the first signs of dementia and is placed in an assisted living home, where she begins a romance with another resident, one of the only people close to her age. This is a compassionate and timely book that would be enjoyable for individuals and book group members.

In the novel The Illegal by Lawrence Hill, Ali Keita is a runner, one of the fastest, from an imaginary tyrannical country named Zantoroland, who flees after his father is killed for speaking out. The country where he lands is called Freedom State and is cracking down on undocumented aliens and Ali Keita finds he is running—but this time to save himself. This thought-provoking work will remind readers of issues in the headlines.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


“We want to know, I think, what it is like to be another person, because somehow this helps us position our own self in the world.” The words of writer Elizabeth Strout echo the complicated characters she creates in her rich novels and how those characters allow readers to delve into their own lives. Find her fiction on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.
Maine and New Hampshire born and bred, Ms.Strout, like many other writers, grew up wandering through the stacks of her local public library. She was a reader and writer from an early age and continued writing even after receiving a law degree. Fearing failure and not wanting to be pitied, she tried not to tell people that she wanted to be a full-time writer. It took years for her to write her first book Amy and Isabelle, about the difficult relationship of a mother and daughter. 

Ms. Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of 13 stories about the local people in a coastal Maine town and bound by their connection to the title character. Olive is a relentlessly honest and often demanding school teacher in this wondrous and perceptive book that shines a light on human nature. 
Free of clichés and sentimentality, Elizabeth Strout’s most recent book, My Name is Lucy Barton, is available in print and on CD. This story of another mother-daughter relationship, this time where the characters have not seen each other in years, takes place when the daughter is recovering from illness and her mother comes to see her. Old memories and feelings of loneliness are re-kindled and blossom in a positive way in this short, satisfying novel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


So what did you miss at the movies? What films won Academy Awards? Which films did you rush out to see and which ones did you give a miss? And, of course, the big question:  are high ticket prices, noisy audience members and the bright lights of people texting on their phones keeping you home with your DVD player, your comfy couch and your family members in pajamas? Why not enjoy some new movies out on DVD that you can borrow from the Monrovia Public Library? Each DVD may be rented for $1.00 with a loan period of 7 days.

Here’s a list of the new movies recently acquired and next to each title is a link to a description from the IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. The description includes the plot, cast, Oscar nominations, how it did at the box office and some trivia.

The Big Short                         http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596363/
Bridge of Spies                       http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/
Carol                                       http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2402927/
Creed                                      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3076658/
Crimson Peak                         http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2554274/
Ex Machina                            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470752/
In the Heart of the Sea            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1390411/
The Martian                            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3659388/
Steve Jobs                               http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3203606/
Trumbo                                   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2080374/

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Whether for browsing or reading intently, books on beauty, exercise and nutrition remain some of the most popular self-help titles. Let’s take a look at some newer works on the topic on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. Celebrity authors aim to keep readers looking and feeling good.

Kate Hudson promotes confidence, common sense and self-esteem in her new book Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body. This easy-to-follow nicely illustrated book takes a more balanced look at physical well-being and includes tips on mindfulness, meditation and managing stress—all which she says impact the body.  Readers should enjoy this positive self-help book by a popular star.
Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Beauty is a big coffee table book by Dita Von Teese. Unfamiliar with Ms. Teese? Decked out in red lipstick and a va-va-va-voom wardrobe, she is a modern day burlesque queen and model. With Technicolor illustrations and eccentricity on display, the book offers make-up, exercise and eating tips to allow readers to create their own glamorous selves. Even those who don’t feel the need for a make-over will enjoy looking at this marvelous book.

Oprah’s make-up artist Reggie Wells shares his cosmetic secrets for African American women in Face Painting. Techniques used by such celebrities as Iman and Leontyne Price to look their best are revealed and simple instruction for at-home application are provided. 

When did Diane Keaton become 70?  Her book Let’s Just Say It Isn’t Pretty is an intimate view of the quirky actress’s life in which she narrates her take on aging and the relentless issue of beauty. Those looking for tips should avoid this book, which takes a closer look at the meaning of self and what is physical beauty. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Anyone who lives in Southern California knows that earthquakes, wildfires, wind storms and now El Niño are catastrophes that might befall us. Television shows, newspapers, government websites and handouts at community events are full of tips about how to get ready for a disaster.  Also look to the Monrovia Public Library for some new and very useful books on disaster preparedness. Here is a sampling.

The Practical Prepper’s Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness by Scott Hunt is a good overview of how to get ready for an emergency and includes information on shelter, food and water and alternate energy sources.

Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook is a basic guide to disaster preparedness but focuses on food. Author Peggy Layton follows the motto to “use what you store and store what you use.” This book will help plan a 3 month supply of food, hygiene and pharmacy items. 

In Daisy Luther’s The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat and Store Your Most Vital Resource readers are shown not only how to store, but also to collect and purify water.
What about when you have to evacuate your home because of a disaster? Read Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, a do-it-yourself guide to putting together a kit that will keep you fed, clean, clothed and sheltered for the short period.  Outdoors? Use The SAS Survival Guide, which emphasizes skills to use in a natural environment.

And what’s the best book to keep in your disaster kit when you need some diversion? The humorous, but very informative The Worst Case Scenario Handbook by Joshua Piven explains how to get out of quick sand, leap from a moving car, jump into a dumpster and other unlikely, but possible emergencies.