Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Have you ever brought home a jar of preserves from the farmers market, smacked your lips and wondered if you could make your own? Think no further. The Monrovia Public Library has some terrific books on how to turn luscious fruits and vegetables into tasty treats that will last all year.

Jams or jellies? Marmalade or conserves? If you want to get started, Judy Kingry’s The Complete Book of Home Preserving is a great do-it-yourself guide to preserving and canning fresh foods. Step-by-step instructions, definitions of the various types of preserves, notes on how to ensure food safety, many recipes and color photos make this a terrific resource.

Lots of tips and color photos make Foolproof Preserving by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen a great book, particularly for the novice. This is also a good book for cooks who want to make small batches. 

Perfect Preserves by Nora Carey not only provides sweet and savory recipes, but also is a good place to review the equipment and techniques you will need to cook and can your ingredients.
A Passion for Preserves: Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, Conserves by Frederica Langeland is for the more advanced cook and includes recipes where the contents are measured by the weight instead of by cups. It also offers an alternative route to the water bathing that is the typical technique to sealing jars. 

Finally, Preserved by Nick Sandler takes home cooks into the world of canning and beyond to other forms of conserving fresh foods, including drying, pickling, candying and salting.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Scientists know the earth is heating up. Global warming, rising sea temperatures and environmental devastation have long been non-fiction themes. Now those topics have entered the world of fiction. For really hot reading look to the latest literary genre, Cli-Fi books about climate change, at the Monrovia Public Library.

The great writer Margaret Atwood, whose prodigious output and creativity place her in the pantheon of contemporary authors has a Cli-Fi trilogy that includes Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MadAddam. The books are about the survivors of a man-made plague. This post-apocalyptic series is a cautionary tale about what can happen to the world.

Barbara Kingsolver takes on climate change in a more intimate setting in her novel Flight Behavior. A farmer in Appalachia discovers a valley on fire with millions of Monarch butterflies who have no biological reason to be there. Neighbors, ministers, politicians debate and deny this disorder in the universe while the farmer grasps her own place in the world. 

Ty Tierwater’s motto is to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people. Now in his eighth decade, the main character of Friend of the Earth is living in the world of 2025, when the natural world is destructing and he is looking back on his life as an environmental crusader. Author T. C. Boyle writes with empathy and humor. 
Drought and water wars take front and center in The Water Knife, the story of a catastrophically dry Southwest and a man who will do anything to find and take water rights for his boss. This environmentally-themed novel by Paolo Bacigalupi blends science fiction with the fast pace of a thriller novel.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Chickens, and not the kind on the barbeque, are hot stuff in the urban farming trend. If you have thought about raising chickens at home then the place to hunt and peck for some fowl books is the Monrovia Public Library.

Before you get started make sure you are following local rules by looking at the Monrovia Municipal Code regulations:

Whether to keep your chickens cooped up or allow them to run free is addressed in 2 books. Chicken Coops: 45 Ideas for Housing Your Flock by Judy Pangman offers ideas, some budget minded, for housing poultry. This book is meant to spark the imagination and does not contain specific plans. Jessi Bloom’s Free Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Chicken Friendly Yard, illustrated with color photos, is a terrific do-it-yourself book on how gardens and chickens can co-exist. Roaming chickens can remove pests and aerate the soil and they can supply fresh eggs. Although the book is somewhat specific this is a great title for the beginner thinking about raising a flock.

The chicken or the egg? The Chicken Book by Page Smith may not explain which came first, but it is an amazing book on the history, science and farming of chickens. Whether discussing the evolution of poultry in India or explaining the process by which eggs are laid, this book will fascinate readers who enjoy good non-fiction and people thinking about how it would be nice to have a couple of chickens in the backyard.

What kind of chickens to choose? Photographer Stephen Green-Armytage presents portraits of the most magnificently flamboyant in Extraordinary Chickens. Extravagantly feathered and colored, these pictures are a feast for the eye. Chicken fanciers and readers who like a good chuckle will enjoy My Fine Feathered Friend by New York Times food critic William Grimes. This sweet and funny story is about a chicken that shows up in his backyard, takes up residence with his cats and takes over the neighborhood.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Those who love to read always think it is scintillating to discover new titles.  When the titles are fiction it presents an opportunity to jump into creative waters which don’t always exist in non-fiction. Ginni Chen, The Literary Lady, wrote “the recently departed Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize winner in literature, once said ‘the facts are always less than what happened.’ Here are some sparkling new fiction books at the Monrovia Public Library.

A debut novel with great reviews, The Nest is the story of a dysfunctional family (aren’t they all?) who are awaiting the 40th birthday of the last sibling so the 4 brothers and sisters can, at last, have the inheritance their late father set up for them. The problem is that their mother used the money to help the oldest and wealthiest son avoid a law suit prompted by his reckless and drug-induced activities. Now the other children want their money. Author Cynthia Sweeney mines family dynamics and how the subject of finances often becomes the elephant in the room.  Although the characters are not always likeable, readers will laugh and cringe as humor mixes with tragedy. 

Concepts of living life to the fullest and what culture means when adopting, may seem very different,  but they mix in the new novel Don’t Let My Baby do Rodeo by Boris Fishman. This story of a Ukrainian immigrant whose dreams are submerged when she marries a Russian man from New Jersey, centers on their adoption of a baby from Montana, about whom they know nothing other than the odd note his mother left with him—“don’t let my baby do rodeo.” When the child’s behavior becomes strange the couple journey to Montana to find the mother and make sense of their son. The trip has an unexpected and liberating effect on the family.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Writer Don Winslow won the 2016 The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best Thriller/Mystery with The Cartel, his 17th novel. Find his books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.
Winslow’s background, which could come right out of a Raymond Chandler novel, includes work in Downtown Los Angeles as an arson investigator, a degree in military history and the ability to speak multiple African languages.  He is originally from Rhode Island, spent time in Orange County and now lives in the small town of Julian, near San Diego. One source of his desire to become a storyteller was his librarian mother.

Most of Don Winslow’s novels are set in the Golden State. In California Fire and Life Winslow uses his expert knowledge to tell the story of an insurance investigator who tries to discover the legitimacy of a claim while sifting through the ashes of a burned out house. This is a hard-charging mystery that dips into the arcane and fascinating area of arson investigation.

Pacific Beach is the location of The Gentlemen’s Hour about a tight knit group of surfers who meet every morning to enjoy the water until one of them is murdered.  When one of their own, private detective Boone Daniels, starts to pursue clues to the mystery he discovers more than he could have imagined in a small town. This excellent thriller is a bit of California surfer noir.

Winslow explores the dope wars and drug lords in Mexico with his prize-winning The Cartel, his latest book. With meticulous research the author studied the drug trade, its practitioners on both sides of the border, and its endless violence. Master storyteller Michael Connelly said thrillers educate and entertain.