New Books for the New Year

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Four local authors have new books in four different genres just in time for the start of the new year.

Self Help

“Accepting Your Blended Family,” by Wendy Smith Baruc—Canyon resident Wendy Smith Baruc’s new book evolved from her work as a marriage and family counselor, but also from her personal experience of building a new family. “ Accepting Your Blended Family, A handbook for life after divorce,” offers personal insight into the complexities, challenges and joys of forging a new family. “This book focuses on real-world solutions to bring more harmony into your life,” the author writes. “You’ll also find emotional stories from people who are facing unexpected challenges in their family dynamics, and you’ll learn from healthy blended families who share the secrets they’ve discovered on how to make it work.”

The book is filled with practical tips, sample dialogues, and thought-provoking “next steps.”

Smith Baruc offers tips to remain loving and conscious in the face of heartbreak, suggestions on how to prevent divorce from becoming a war zone, strategies to stop blaming and start healing, the best ways to introduce a new partner to your children, questions to ask before starting a second family, and strategies for dealing with difficult family members.

Although the focus is on divorce, the information provided by the author is equally helpful for siblings, friends, parents, adult children—all of the people whose lives may be impacted by a loved one going through the major changes of divorce and remarriage.

Accepting Your Blended Family is available for $19.95 from the author’s webpage:


“The Moose in the Moon, and Other Poems for Children,” by Mockus Q. Birdius, illustrated by Will Pura—“The Moose in the Moon” features a selection of author “Mockus Q. Birdius’ eccentric and imaginative poems for children, “hatched from pale-green eggs inside the author’s dreams,” and brought to life in the sensitive and sometimes surreal watercolor and ink illustrations of Will Pura.

Birdius is better known to her Topanga neighbors as award-winning poet Gail Wronsky.

“I would like to thank the little girl in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who walked up to me and said, ‘Your name is Mockingbird,’’ Wronsky writes. “And poet Diane Seuss who changed that name to Mockus Q. Birdius.”

The name suits the zany, dreamy nature of the poems, which play lightheartedly with language  while exploring childhood experiences like going to bed, brushing teeth, dreams, and parents who work. The book offers a friendly and accessible perspective on things like these that children sometimes struggle to understand, but Birdius also writes the kind of exuberant nonsense that delights young children: “Mermaids have tails/that look just like fish’s/A kite has a tail/and so do my dishes./Why would I say something/ silly as that?/To see if you’re listening!?

“The Moose in the Moon, and Other Poems for Children” is available from the publisher: and at Topanga Homegrown, 120 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290; (310) 455-8781. To contact Wronsky:

Non Fiction

“Life in Malibu,” by Suzanne GuldimannThe Messenger Mountain News’ associate editor is also the author of a new book. “Life in Malibu” offers a look at the history and natural history of the author’s home town. There are chapters on how and where to look for whales and other marine mammals; a history of Pacific Coast Highway; a look into the lives of the homesteaders of the early 20th century, and photo essays on beach history and culture as well as natural disasters, native animals, and Native American culture. The book is illustrated throughout with archival images and the author’s photos.

“Life in Malibu” is available for $34.95 from


Paperback L.A.: A Casual Anthology, books 1 and 2, edited by Susan LaTempa—

Susan LaTempa was a recent speaker at the Topanga Library and is a frequent Topanga visitor. Her two new paperback anthologies celebrate a wonderfully eclectic and quirky selection of Los Angeles culture and her selections for these two anthologies reflect her knowledge of and love for Los Angeles. La Tempa has worked as an editor at “LA Style,” “West Coast Plays,” “Westways,” and “The Los Angeles Times,”

Volume One, subtitled “Clothes, Coffee, Crushes, Crimes,” features selections from Eve Babirz, Susan Sontag, Victoria Dailey, and Hector Tobar. It has photo essays, short stories, essays, excerpts from historical documents, selections from memoirs, a collection of one-liners, and a transcript from a Vin Scully broadcast.

Volume Two, “Studios, Salesmen, Shrines, Surf Spots,” features an excerpt from Ray Bradbury’s 1985 novel, “Death Is a Lonely Business,” among other  authors. It also includes everything from photo essays on urban cycling culture and urban wild birds, reflections on a vanished Japanese fishing community at Terminal Island, and a recipe for avocados.

“The idea is to keep refreshing the guest list at the patio party so the conversation about L.A. stays lively and thought-provoking,” LaTempa writes. She describes her anthologies as “all kinds of pieces that ‘say LA.’” In addition to being fascinating and informative, the collections are witty, clever, and just plain fun.

“In the company of a virtuosic band of storytellers, ‘Paperback L.A.’ roams across the decades, from just after the Mission era to just after Hollywood’s Golden Age, from the post-hardcore punk scene to a reimagined today,” a press release for the anthologies states. “With Susan Sontag, we visit Thomas Mann. With Paul Beatty, we turn a Metro ride into a PCH party. With Héctor Tobar, we search for people who lived somewhere around here. With Victoria Dailey, we look in on the boys in the backroom. Photographers share vivid moments of street sights, skaters at play, and activists on the march. “

“Paperback L.A.” books 1 and 2, are available on Amazon for $17.95 and $12.95 respectively; $12 each on Kindle; Order directly from the publisher:


  1. Dear Messenger Mountain News Staff: Thank you for the lovely review and for a whole column highlighting local authors. Our discussion and interactive reading at the Topanga Library was a highlight of my fall visits to libraries in a half-dozen L.A. communities.
    All my best,

    Susan LaTempa
    Paperback L.A. A Casual Anthology

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