badmonkeyI have an embarrassing admission…

I’ve never read anything by Carl Hiaasen before.  I’ve never read Hoot or Skinny Dip or Native Tongue.  And I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I picked up his newest novel, Bad Monkey.  With reviewers calling the novel a “misadventure” and described Hiaasen as a “premier humorist”,  my expectations were high.  I was not disappointed.

Bad Monkey introduces Andrew Yancy, a former Miami Police detective and soon to be former Monroe County sheriff’s officer, who now spends his days counting the cockroaches in local restaurants as a restaurant inspector.  Wanting to leave behind his “roach patrol” duties, Yancy believes he may have found his way back onto the force when a tourist fisherman pulls in a human arm and the scandal adverse county sheriff declares the arm’s loss an accident.  Yancy believes that there is more going on than meets the eye, so he begins his own investigation.

There is a lot going on in this book, but it never feels weighted down or overly ambitious.  The stories weave together in a way that feels natural, and Yancy is perfectly imperfect in the way of all the best anti-heroes.   Employing a dark sense of humor, Bad Monkey is moralistic without ever coming off as preachy and weird without forgetting reality.  Revenge fantasy at it’s best, Bad Monkeyis a seriously fun read.  I feel kind of lucky that I have such a backlog of Hiaasen books to read until his next book is released.


Can you believe that we’ve been celebrating Earth Day for 40 years?  I remember the first one, so I guess that dates me!

Anyway, while reading my Mid American Energy bill last month, I picked up an easy tip to help save water — and thus save energy, which in turns helps preserve our beautiful planet.  Did you realize that a leaky toilet can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water a month?  I didn’t.   Plus, this is so easy!   All you do is just put a little food coloring (about a teaspoon) in the tank part of your toilet — then check it about 15 minutes later.  If you then find colored water in the the bowl,  you have a slow leak!  (Remember to flush it a few times afterwards, so you don’t end up with any permanent stains.)

I didn’t have any reason to suspect that any of our loos were leaky, but apparently, one was — the fancy one  (a so-called “quiet flush” in the powder room).  So now I just needed to replace the flapper valve.  And I found out how to do it myself  at this website:

One small leak stopped — one very small step closer to a healthier earth.  What small step can you take?  Share your solutions with us and help others to help save our planet, too.

My favorite essay in John McPhee’s book, The Silk Parachute is “My Life List.” McPhee talks about the weirdest things he’s ever eaten, and, in doing so, he describes an encounter he had with that icon of the 70’s, Euell Gibbons. He shared boiled dandelions and water mint tea (remember the Grape Nuts commercial?) with Euell.

This  seems mighty tame compared to the weasel, lion, whale, grizzly bear and bee spit meals he had.

McPhee’s great skill is to make any subject, no matter how arcane, fascinating. He supplies just the right detail and sets the scene and before you know it, you’re sucked in.

In this series of essays written for the New Yorker, he often refers to feedback he received from legendary editor, Wallace Shawn.

In celebration of Earth Day this month, below are a sampling of books that focus on different ways that you can contribute to a green planet right in your own home!  These books, along with countless others in the library, can help you make your home and your life more environmentally friendly.

The simple “green manual,” Easy Green Living is based on the author’s TV series dealing with green home and garden care issues.  The author provides basic tips to make healthy living affordable and not time consuming.  By not overwhelming the reader with too many suggestions, Loux breaks down and gives examples of small daily differences that you can make to be more environmentally friendly and peppers each chapter with a “5 Step List” of products that can be easily found in your home.

Super Natural Home by Beth Greer is a fantastic resource for the environmentally conscious family with its easy to use format with helpful quizzes that identify a home’s “toxic hot zones.”  Chapters include tips on healthy tap water, indoor air quality and safer alternatives to household cleaners.

Green Goes with Everything Transform your home into a “safe sanctuary” free of harsh chemicals with this book by author Sloan Barnett.  The author advises on the best ways to make healthy and safe choices for your family.  Topics featured in the book include healthy food preparation, cleaning solutions and safe water tips.

Green Housekeeping is an extensive resource by Ellen Sandbeck and includes chapters such as: clearing clutter and organizing your belongings in an environmentally sound way and learning to live without some toxins that could be found in homes, as a few examples.  Green Housekeeping contains numerous ancedotes that are authoritative and useful to help families save money and time – something we all can use!

LoraxMost people are familiar with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax –a story about the little mustachioed creature who warns the Once-ler (and the reader) about the harm caused by taking advantage of nature’s resources, but did you know that this classic book was challenged in a California Public School in 1989 for demonizing the logging industry to children?

Of the top ten banned books of 2008, all were children/young adult books (or adult fiction being read by young adults) and of those, seven were cited for being “unsuitable for age group.” What is interesting is how often the books challenged by adults are the most beloved by children– all of my childhood favorites were on the list of banned books from 1990-1999: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, The Witches by Roald Dahl and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I have no doubt that I would be a different person if I had not experienced these stories as a ten-year-old, an eleven-year-old and a twelve-year-old (respectively).

…interesting fact: [The Lorax] used to contain the line, “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” but 14 years after the book was published, the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss and told him how much the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out. Dr. Seuss agreed and said that it wouldn’t be in future editions. (from’s The Quick 10: Stories Behind 10 Dr. Seuss Stories by Stacy Conradt )

April 22 is Earth Day!  This holiday has been celebrated in America since 1970, but due to the timeliness of this topic, there’s a vast array of newer materials on all things having to do with “green” and the environment.   Check out some of these titles:

from-bottom-upFrom the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers by Chad Pregracke with Jeff Barrow.  Talk about a home-town hero! Chad started his river clean-up project right here on the Mississippi in the Quad Cities.  His Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization, has received tons of corporate sponsorship and has now expanded its efforts to clean up other rivers.

green-bookThe Green Book: the Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet by Elizabeth  Rogers and Thomas Kostigen.  This compact little book is clearly organized, which makes it easy to quickly check the areas you most interested in — be it home, work , school or travel.  Another appealing addition (interspersed between chapters) is the series of quotes from celebrities, such as Robert Redford and Martha Stewart.

hot-flatHot,  Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman.  This book by a Pulizter Prize winning author has received rave reviews and has been a number-one bestseller.  Basically, the sub-title sums it up: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America.

Ed Begley Jr has been an enviromentalist since it was cool the first time in the late 1960’s. His wife Rachelle knew this about him when she married him, but she also likes style. As the review on the back of the book says “His environmentalism and her design savvy combine to create a guide to going green that keeps the chic in eco-chic”.

In Living Like Ed, Begley discusses how to make your life more efficient and environmentally friendly. In your home this can range from just changing the furnace filters, to using the new energy efficient appliances, to installing state of the art air filtration and purification systems. Begley discusses his transportation hierarchy – walking, biking, public transportation, and electric or hybrid car. His recycling ideas were good reminders to me. Begley makes it a point not to buy products if the recycle number on the product is not accepted for recycling in his area. He also discusses home energy including solar panels and home wind turbines. The book ends with an examination of food and clothes, which was enlightening too.

This fun, accessible book will have you “living like Ed” (to one degree or another) in no time!

One of the great things about watching the Olympics this year is that it gave us a brief glimpse into a country many of us are not familiar with. Still distant, exotic and unknown, the country of China is as diverse as it is vast. You can get an even closer look at the beauty of the land, its wildlife and its people in Wild China, now available at the Davenport Library.

The landscape of China varies dramatically, from the peaks of the Himalayan mountains, to tropical islands, to deserts both hot and cold. Animal and plant life unique to this land – including panda bears – are highlighted as well as the many, long-standing environmental preservation efforts by the country. China is also home to a large number of ethnic peoples and they are also celebrated here – monks at prayer, children in a classroom, fishermen at work.

With stunning photography and expert narration, this BBC production invites you into this beautiful country for more than six hours, time you wish wouldn’t end.