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Jan's Column 2017

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Past Columns

February 16, 2017 - President's Day

I’m writing this on a very windy March-coming-in-like-a-lion February 12th, which is, as you know Lincoln’s birthday. We won’t be celebrating President’s Day until the third Monday of the month which this year is February 20th. I was bashing around the internet trying to find some fascinating facts about President’s day to beguile you with before you move on the “books section” of this literary miscellany. Come to find out that Presidents’ Day is subtitles “Washington’s Birthday” – who knew? Certainly not me! Also come to find out that although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, nearly half of the state governments have officially renamed their Washington's Birthday observances as "Presidents' Day", "Washington and Lincoln Day", or other such designations. Come to also find out that Washington was born on February 11th, 1731 but because Britain and its colonies, of which we were one, still used the Julian calendar until 1752 when they joined the rest of the world and started using the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar added 11 days and the British civil year began on March 25th not January 1st , all of which meant that suddenly when George Washington was 21 or 22 depending on which calendar you’re using he was born on February 22nd, 1732. Now that you have way too much information about a holiday that is still upcoming, I will refer to all the new book titles available at your library. You will note that coincidentally the first non-fiction selection this week just happens to be about George Washington. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

New Fiction

  • cover art Norse mythology / by Neil Gaiman. The New York Times best-selling author of “A View From the Cheap Seats” presents a bravura rendering of the major Norse pantheon that traces the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and the exploits of its characters, illuminating the characters and natures of iconic figures Odin, Thor and Loki.
  • cover art The turn : the hollows begins with death / by Kim Harrison. An official prequel to the best-selling series finds Trisk and her hated rival, Kal, rendered fugitives after a world-saving experiment gone wrong gives way to the rise of a paranormal species that wages war against a weaker human race. By a #1 New York Times best-selling author.
  • cover art Universal harvester / by John Darnielle. Working for a 1990s small-community video rental store under threat by a major chain competitor, Jeremy is reluctantly drawn into a mystery involving chilling footage of criminal activity that has been recorded onto the store's VHS tapes. By the author of “Wolf in White Van”.
  • cover art A book of American martyrs / by Joyce Carol Oates. Traces the intricately linked lives of a grieving family and an ardent Evangelical patriarch who has assassinated a small-town abortion doctor in the name of God. By the award-winning author of “We Were the Mulvaneys”.
  • cover art The dark flood rises / by Margaret Drabble. Driven to live life to its fullest while she still can, a housing expert for the elderly balances her challenging career with the cares of her loved ones, in a tale that juxtaposes her interconnected social circle in England against her contacts in an idyllic expat community in the Canary Islands. By the author of “The Sea Lady”.
  • cover art On Turpentine Lane / by Elinor Lipman. Living a mostly peaceful existence in her small suburban hometown where she struggles to ignore the dysfunctional people in her life, Faith discovers mysterious artifacts that make her question a promising new relationship and everything she believes. By the best-selling author of “The View From Penthouse B”.
  • cover art The Chilbury Ladies' Choir : a novel / by Jennifer Ryan. Letters and journals reveal the struggles, affairs, deceptions and triumphs of five members of a village choir during World War II as they band together to survive the upheavals of war and village intrigue on the English home front.
  • cover art The second Mrs. Hockaday : a novel / by Susan Rivers. A tale inspired by a true story follows the efforts of a Civil War veteran to discern the truth about his teen bride, who during the two years he was at war was convicted and imprisoned for allegedly having a baby in his absence and killing it. A first novel by the award-winning playwright of “Overnight Lows”.

February 9, 2017 - Booky

For those of you who don’t follow the library on FaceBook (And if you don’t, why don’t you?) you missed Booky the library badger’s Ground Hog Day prediction. Booky to all the weather-lore available to badgers and whispered a prediction in Brian’s ear. It went something like this: “There is no shadow to be cast, an early spring is my forecast.” Of course the accuracy of prediction is only as good as the accuracy of the translation. We will have to wait and see if this was a good translation. The birds are starting to behave as if spring is just around the corner. Cardinals have started singing in the dawns early light. The chickadees are singing their “phoebe” song which is a change from their usual, “chick a dee, dee, dee”. Blue jays and crows are chasing each other as the time to start reconnecting with one’s mate and finding a nesting site draws nearer. There is a pair of great horned owls (I am identifying the birds based solely their calls) in my neighborhood who are talking a lot to each other during the early evening and early morning hours. This hardy couple should be sitting on eggs any day now. Great horned owls begin breeding from January on. By the time the rest of the birds in the neighborhood return, owlets will be ready to test their wings. All of which is a reminder that even in the darkest, coldest days of winter, life is going on. Another reminder is the narcissus plants – hidden away in a paper bag in my basement—was putting out sprouts when I checked them on Groundhog Day. They’ve grown about 3 inches since I planted them that day. And if you need one more sign that spring is on its way, books from the publisher’s Spring Lists have started to arrive. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

  • cover art Arthur and Sherlock : Conan Doyle and the creation of Holmes / by Michael Sims. The author of “The Story of Charlotte's Web” explores the rich events behind the creation of young Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective, revealing the impact of his early poverty and medical experience on the development of his characters and stories. Illustrations.
  • cover art My life, my love, my legacy / by Coretta Scott King. The wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and singular 20th-century American civil rights activist presents her full life story, as told before her death to one of her closest confidants..
  • cover art Six encounters with Lincoln : a president confronts democracy and its demons / by Elizabeth Pryor. A Lincoln Prize-winning historian and author of ”Reading the Man” explores the psychology, characters and leadership of the 16th President as evidenced by six lesser-known encounters with his constituents, from an awkward meeting with Army officers on the eve of the Civil War to a White House conversation with a fierce abolitionist.

New Fiction

  • cover art 4 3 2 1 : a novel / by Paul Auster. A single child born in 1947 experiences four parallel lifetimes poignantly marked by shifting family fortunes, athletic pursuits, friendships, sex, intellectual passions and the same intriguing woman. By the best-selling author of “Winter Journal”.
  • cover art The animators : a novel / by Kayla Whitaker. Two women, who met in an art class in college and instantly became best friends, try to salvage their relationship after their successful animated filmmaking partnership nearly destroys their personal lives nearly a decade later.
  • cover art The girl in the garden / by Melanie Wallace. Abandoned in a seaside motel and offered shelter in the home of the manager's friend, a young woman with an infant son is integrated into the lives of long-time locals and starts over amid revelations of loves and crimes from the past. By the author of “The Housekeeper”.
  • cover art The runaway midwife / by Patricia Harman. Fleeing a personal setback in West Virginia to start over on a tiny, remote Canadian island, midwife Clara Perry assumes a new identity as a solitude-seeking writer and is drawn into the lives of her new neighbors before she is forced to reveal the truth about who she really is.
  • cover art Fever in the dark / by Ellen Hart. When a video of their engagement goes viral on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage, Fiona and Annie turn for help to private investigator Jane Lawless to safeguard a secret from Annie's past. By the award-winning author of “The Grave Soul”.
  • cover art Rather be the devil : a novel / by Ian Rankin. Maverick investigator John Rebus gains dangerous enemies upon reopening a cold case from the 1970s involving the murder of a wealthy socialite. By the Edgar Award-winning author of “Even Dogs in the Wild”.
  • cover art Snowblind : a thriller / by Ragnar Jonasson. A U.S. debut from a best-selling European author follows the first posting of a rookie policeman in a peaceful Northern Iceland fishing village, where a suspicious injury and a murder reveal explosive local secrets.
  • cover art Drowning tides : a South Shores novel by Karen Harper. After forensic psychologist Claire Britten starts working with lawyer Nick Markwood on his South Shores project, the billionaire criminal who staged Nick's father's "suicide" kidnaps Claire's daughter, and Claire and Nick must band together to stop this dangerous man. By a “New York Times” best-selling author.
  • cover art On second thought / by Kristan Higgins. Two sisters must learn to put their differences aside and open their hearts to the inevitable imperfection of family—and the possibility of one day finding love again. By a “New York Times” best-selling author.
  • cover art Behind her eyes / by Sarah Pinborough. The secretary of a successful psychiatrist is drawn into the seemingly picture-perfect life of her boss and his wife before discovering a complex web of controlling behaviors and secrets that gradually reveal profound and dangerous flaws in the couple's relationship.
  • cover art My husband's wife / by Jane Corry. Resolving to leave her secrets behind when she gets married, a young lawyer is strangely drawn to a convicted killer during her first murder case in ways that shape her psychologically charged relationship with a young neighbor years later.

February 2, 2017 - Groundhog Day

The publication date of this is February 2nd, which, is Groundhog Day, and as all weather wonks believe, what happens this day is the best prognosticator (Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.) as to how much longer we shall have to wait until spring appears on the scene. We all know about Punxsutawney Phil and his weather predicting abilities. Phil and his descendants have been making predictions in Pennsylvania for well over a century and their familial track record is none to good. According to Stormfax (a website that collects weather lore and other things to do with weather), and I quote. ”As of 2016, Punxsutawney Phil has made 129 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (15.0%). As of 2016 the predictions have proven correct 39% of the time”. There are a ton of prognosticating rodents out and about on February 2nd. Twenty-two are listed in Wikipedia’s article on groundhogs. A Canadian study of 13 cities over thirty to forty years found a 37% accuracy rate. Not too good a track record unless you just go with the opposite of the prediction. The library’s prognosticating animal, Booky the Badger, is not a rodent. In fact, Taxidea taxus, the American Badger, is an omnivore that lives in open grasslands and literally eats groundhogs as well as mice, squirrels, and other delicacies. Booky’s first prediction was in 2015 and so far, Booky has been batting a thousand (Sure it’s only been two predictions but 100% accuracy is still 100% accuracy.). The unfortunate thing about Groundhog Day this year is that it falls after the newspaper is published; too late for Booky to make a prediction in print. But you can check out our website where that prediction will be posted for all to see. More winter or less winter, it’s still a great time to read. Below are some of the new books that arrived at the library recently. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

New Fiction

  • cover art Death's mistress : sister of darkness / by Terry Goodkind. A debut entry in a new series set in the world of The Sword of Truth finds fan-favorite warrior woman Nicci leaving the stabilized kingdom of Richard and Kahlan to embark on new adventures, including a job keeping an unworldly prophet out of trouble. By the best-selling author of “The Omen Machine”.
  • cover art The fifth letter / by Nicola Moriarty. A lifelong friendship shared among four women is shattered when a wine-filled vacation game involving the confessions of dark secrets gives way to an anonymous rant about deeply held resentments. A first novel.
  • cover art Human acts : a novel / by Han Kang. A U.S. release of an award-winning, controversial best-seller from South Korea follows the aftermath of a young boy's shocking death during a violent student uprising as told from the perspectives of the event's victims and their loved ones.
  • cover art Days without end : a novel / by Sebastian Barry. Entering the U.S. army after fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland, 17-year-old Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, experience the harrowing realities of the Indian wars and the American Civil War between the Wyoming plains and Tennessee. By the award-winning author of “The Secret Scripture”.
  • cover art No man's land : a novel / by Simon Tolkien. A tale inspired by the true experiences of the author's grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I traces how an impoverished youth endures the loss of his mother and brutality in a Scarsdale mining community before falling in love, winning a scholarship to Oxford and seeing everything he longs for threatened by World War I.
  • cover art Dark at the crossing / by Elliot Ackerman. The author of Green on Blue presents a contemporary love story set on the Turkish border of Syria, where an Arab American with a conflicted past attempts to join the fight against Bashar al-Assad's regime before the plight of his host family reshapes his loyalties.
  • cover art Fatal : a novel / by John Lescroart. A fleeting crush becomes a dangerous obsession for a family woman who shares an intense encounter with a man she meets at a dinner party before a chilling act of violence marks the first of a series of horrifying events. By the best-selling author of “The Ophelia Cut”.
  • cover art The fifth petal : a novel / by Brunonia Barry. The best-selling author of “The Lace Reader” returns to otherworldly Salem as chief of police John Rafferty, now married to lace reader Towner Whitney, investigates a 25-year-old triple homicide involving three descendants of Salem Witch Trial victims.
  • cover art The girl before : a novel / by J.P. Delaney. Seizing a unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house, a damaged young woman falls in love with the enigmatic architect who designed the residence, unaware that she is following in the footsteps of a doomed former tenant.

January 26, 2017 - Chickadees

This morning I opened the porch door to let the cats out. The porch is totally snow-free and the little tree that has its topmost branches waving in the breeze at about 4 feet above the porch rail was filled with chickadees. The chickadees were hopping around energetically. It was 42 degrees and the birds didn’t need to spend all their calories keeping warm. It seemed as if, even in the cloudy, foggy gloom, that these little birds were feeling their oats; starting to think about spring; starting to think about staking out some territory; starting to think about finding a mate. They were singing their chick-a-dee songs and buzzing at each other as if it were high spring – which we all know it is not. We all know this January thaw is only an illusion that draws us in and gives us hope that the days will be brighter, longer, and warmer again. We all know that temperatures will drop and snow will fall from the sky once more. Sometimes I think knowing this limits our capacity to enjoy what is; to be in the moment and let the moment be enough. Those handful of chickadees certainly do know how to live in the moment and enjoy the warmth and energy a drab day in January has given them. So do the geese taking wing and making a ruckus and the little flocks of migratory song birds that have ventured this far north to scope things out. Reading is one of those activities that can center you in what you’re reading and puts you in the moment of what you’re reading about. Now, I’m not sure if any of the books listed below will perform that function for you, but if these don’t we have thousands more. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

New Fiction

  • cover art Human acts : a novel / by Han Kang. A U.S. release of an award-winning, controversial best-seller from South Korea follows the aftermath of a young boy's shocking death during a violent student uprising as told from the perspectives of the event's victims and their loved ones.
  • cover art Lillian Boxfish takes a walk : a novel / by Kathleen Rooney. Embarking on a walk across the unsafe landscape of Manhattan on New Year's Eve in 1984, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish recalls her long and eventful life, which included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America, whose career was cut short by marriage and loss. By the author of “O, Democracy!”
  • cover art The fire by night / by Teresa Messineo. A first novel commemorating the unsung heroines of World War II traces the experiences of two military nurses who fight for survival and care for others in a makeshift medical unit and a POW camp, enduring dangerous existences while waiting for the war to end.
  • cover art A puzzle to be named later : a Puzzle Lady mystery / by Parnell Hall. Delighted when a Yankee rookie decides to rehabilitate from an injury in her town, diehard fan Cora happily accepts his invitation to a pool party only to be embroiled in a mystery when some of the guests are killed. By the author of “Presumed Puzzled”.
  • cover art Hey Harry, hey Matilda / by Rachel Hulin. A story told entirely in uproarious emails follows the misadventures of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda, who fumble their way into adulthood by telling lies and keeping secrets before eventually confronting the dynamics of their complicated twinship.
  • cover art The believer : a novel / by Joakim Zander & Elizabeth Wessel. An NYC trend spotter returns to her Stockholm borough home to discover the truth about her missing brother's alleged ties to ISIS, while a human rights researcher discovers she may be unwittingly contributing to the dark agendas of powerful forces. By the author of “The Swimmer”.
  • cover art Never never / by James Patterson & Candice Fox. A follow-up to Black & Blue, a first novel-length collaboration between Patterson and the award-winning author of “Hades”, embroils detective Harriet Blue in a baffling missing-persons case.
  • cover art The old man / by Thomas Perry. The toppling of a Middle Eastern government renders a decades-old case urgent for covert army intelligence retiree Dan Chase, who must fight for his life to escape a past he had hoped to leave behind. By the best-selling author of the Jane Whitefield series.
  • cover art The sleepwalker : a novel / by Christopher Bohjalian. When a sleepwalker who has experienced episodes of near violence while unconscious goes missing, her eldest daughter, Lianna, finds herself drawn to a lead detective who seems to know more than he is revealing. By the author of “The Guest Room”.
  • cover art The Rising. by Heather Graham & Jon Land. When a college-bound football star is targeted by the same forces that kill his family and land him in the hospital, he flees at the side of the school valedictorian he loves to investigate the dangerous truth about his real identity. By the best-selling author of the”Krewe of Hunters” series and the best-selling author of the “Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong” series.

January 19, 2017 - Coldest Week of the Year

We are dead-bang, smack dab in the middle of the coldest week of the year—based on statistical averages—in the Madison, Wisconsin area. I believe this is true based on personal observation as well. I attend a conference in Milwaukee yearly during the third week of January and I remember many mornings looking at the big, digital display thermometer on one of the buildings in downtown Milwaukee and seeing temperatures below zero. Of course, the thing with averages is that they are just that. So for all the many years I recall below zero temperatures during this week, there are other years – such as this current one—when the temperatures are downright balmy and rain is being predicted, not snow. The old weather lore is that as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. Since the beginning of the year we have gained 19 minutes of daylight in the afternoon and 5 minutes in the morning. So the days are definitely lengthening. It won’t be long until it’s time to start thinking about planting seeds and getting your hands in the dirt. To attend Garden Expo which I believe is coming up in February (10-12th) and get inspired for the planting season. In the meantime, there are plenty of new books – both fiction and non-fiction—to get you through these coldest days of winter. We also have many gardening books to help you count down to spring. Enjoy!

January 12, 2017 - National Days

Today is the 12th day of the year. How are your resolutions holding up? Probably as well as the temperatures. There’s an old, weather-lore, saying that as the days lengthen the cold strengthens; that has held true this past week. Yesterday, January 11th, was National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe all the national days and celebrations there are out there. Given the weather we generally experience in January, it would be darn near impossible to splash a puddle until well into the next month (or more). Today is National Marzipan Day as well as National Curried Chicken Day (not sure if you are supposed to eat curried chicken or feed your chicken curry today). The next few days hold many wonders not only is tomorrow, Friday the 13th, it is also National Blame Someone Else Day (which always falls on the first Friday the 13th in the year. It is also National Rubber Ducky Day. National Dress Up Your Pet Day is January 14th and – I know we’re all looking forward to this day – January 16th is National Nothing Day as well as National Fig Newton Day. As you can see, even with the cold weather that accompanies January and the start of a new year, there are lots of things to celebrate. Let’s toast to those celebratory days with a good book! Below you will find a sampling of some of the new books that have arrived at the library this week. Enjoy!

January 5, 2017 - New Year

Here we are in the New Year. I hope you had a jolly celebration and wish you and your kith and kin joy, peace, and prosperity in 2017. I don’t know if you have noticed, but I certainly have, the days are getting longer. Since December 28th, we’ve pretty much been gaining an hour of daylight at sunset and have not lost any more time at sunrise. The sun has been rising at 7:29 since the 28th and will do so until the 9th when we gain a minute of daylight on the sunrise end as well as at sunset. In the darkest throes of winter, i.e. early December, sunset was at 4:22. Today’s sunset is at 4:37 which is a gain of 15 minutes, and for me at least, it is noticeable. Being a creature of habit and working fairly regular hours, I got acclimated to going home when it was dark. The dark is coming later, so I’m leaving later, which means I’m still going home in the dark (you’ll notice wherever I was going with that analogy just totally got sidetracked or derailed by factual details). The point I was trying to make is that the days are getting longer which is a very nice thing and lets us start the year with the hope and optimism that more light generates. One thing you can count on in the books released in January by the publishers is that there will be a lot of diet books and self-improvement books. Today’s offerings include only a couple of that ilk, but be warned, more will be coming to help you with all those resolutions you made at the turn of the year. Enjoy!