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Jan's Column 2017

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Past Columns

March 16, 2017 - Crane Migration

I am writing this from an undisclosed place in Kearney, Nebraska on what shall be last weekend. As many of you know, I make an annual pilgrimage to see the Sandhill crane migration through the North American central flyway. Usually, I go in February. This year an ice storm canceled that trip and pushed the trip forward into March. This is a good thing since there are many, many more cranes in March than in February; and a not so good thing because there are many, many more people (with cameras, spotting scopes, and tripods parked along the sides of the roads and, oftentimes in them). The Crane Trust does an aerial flyover to estimate the crane population. The latest number was 406,000 on March 8th but large numbers fly in every day. To give you an idea of how many cranes we’re talking about, I spotted a large roost of cranes on cornfields along a gravel country road. I checked the odometer and the congregating crane roost was a mile long. Now if, on average, the roost is fifty cranes deep and you divide your count into ten foot wide bands that gives you 528 bands in a mile times 50 cranes each for a total of 26,400 cranes in that roost alone. The numbers and the noise are truly astonishing. There really are cranes to the left of you; cranes to the right of you; cranes in front of you and behind you; and then of course you have the cranes above you as well. Usually, there are cranes in Wisconsin when I return from this pilgrimage. This year there were cranes in our neck of the woods by the third week of February. They are already starting to settle on their nesting grounds. If you need an excuse to get out in nature and watch a sunrise and do some citizen science, the Midwest Crane Count is coming up the 8th of April. And speaking of getting out into nature, our first book title this week addresses the benefits that nature can provide. There is also a whole parcel of other books listed below for your reading pleasure as well. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

New Fiction

  • cover art The lost book of the Grail, or, A visitor's guide to Barchester Cathedral / by Charlie Lovett. An obsessive bibliophile and Holy Grail fanatic combs through centuries of history to uncover a long-lost secret about the medieval Barchester Cathedral library at the side of a young American charged with digitizing the library's manuscripts. By the New York Times best-selling author of The Bookman's Tale .
  • cover art Heartbreak Hotel : an Alex Delaware novel / by Jonathan Kellerman. Surprised by a nearly 100-year-old new client who refuses to explain the reason she needs his services at their first session, Alex Delaware is shocked by the woman's subsequent murder and teams up with detective Milo Sturgis to investigate her mysterious life and death. By a #1 New York Times best-selling author.
  • cover art I see you / by Clare Mackintosh. Spotting her own picture in a classified ad referencing a mysterious website, Zoe discovers that other women who have appeared in the ad have become the victims of increasingly violent crimes. Discussion guide available online. By the international best-selling author of I Let You Go . Tour.
  • cover art Most dangerous place : a Jack Swyteck novel / by James Grippando. When an old school friend's wife is accused of murdering the man who had assaulted her, Jack Swyteck finds the case unexpectedly complicated, in a thriller based on true events. By the New York Times best-selling author of Gone Again . 40,000 first printing.
  • cover art The possessions : a novel / by Sara Flannery Murphy. A young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. 50,000 first printing.
  • cover art Shining city / by Tom Rosenstiel. The president of the United States hires fixer Peter Rena to vet his nominee for the Supreme Court.
  • cover art The undesired : a thriller / by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Decades after two boys go missing from a juvenile detention center in rural Iceland, a single father investigates alleged abuse at the center before discovering baffling links between the long-ago disappearance and the accident that killed his ex-wife. By an international best-selling author.
  • cover art Murder at an Irish wedding / by Carlene O’Connor. The O’Sullivan clan of County Cork, Ireland, are thrilled to be catering the matrimonial affairs of a celebrity couple—until a cunning killer turns an Irish wedding into an Irish wake.

March 9, 2017 - Spring

Okay. Okay. I know it was a little risky, declaring spring had already arrived. I realize the weather makers – whoever they may be—might have considered this declaration a taunt or a challenge. But one small blast of mixed precipitation and colder temperatures does not a winter make (or prolong) any more than one robin makes a spring. Speaking of robins and spring, there is a loose flock of robins hanging around DeForest and the middle of last week saw the red-winged black birds return. Now I’m not sure if they stuck around once the ice pellets started bouncing around, but with warmer weather already here and looking like it will stay a while (although it will be more seasonable in its warmth) spring still looks to be arriving in a timely fashion. Speaking of spring and arrivals, below you will find some of the new spring arrivals from the publishing houses that arrived recently at your local public library. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

New Fiction

  • cover art The Lonely Hearts Hotel : a novel / by Heather O’Neill. Two orphaned soul mates—one a piano prodigy, the other a dancing savant—dream up a plan for the most extraordinary circus show the world has ever seen against a backdrop of the Great Depression. By the award-winning author of “Lullabies for Little Criminals”.
  • cover art Robert B. Parker's Revelation / by Robert Knott. When a particularly intimidating criminal and his cold-blooded posse escape from prison, Cole and Hitch join their Territorial lawmen team to capture the fugitives and rescue a woman who was kidnapped during the escape.
  • cover art The typewriter's tale / by Michiel Heyns. A tale told from the perspective of Henry James' fictional typist finds her struggling to live up to the fame and challenges of the celebrated author before finding herself at the center of an intrigue that tests her character and loyalties. By the award-winning author of “Lost Ground”.
  • cover art The crow trap / by Ann Cleeves. A first U.S. publication of a book in the popular series that inspired the television mystery Vera finds the leader of an environmental survey struggling to manage the schemes of her rival team members before a friend's suspicious suicide introduces her to unconventional detective inspector Vera Stanhope. By the award-winning author of “Raven Black”.
  • cover art Death of a ghost : a Hamish Macbeth mystery / by M.C. Beaton. Spending an investigative night at a local castle reputed to be haunted, Sergeant Hamish Macbeth and his policeman associate, Clumsy, discover a dead body that suddenly goes missing. By the New York Times best-selling author of the Agatha Raisin series.
  • cover art Garden of lamentations / by Deborah Crombie. While Gemma James investigates the murder of a young nanny who appears to be one of a series of victims, Duncan Kincaid uncovers disturbing information about seemingly unrelated cases that may be putting his friends and family into mortal danger. By the New York Times best-selling author of “To Dwell in Darkness”.
  • cover art The Ripper's shadow : a Victorian mystery / by Laura Rowland. Supplementing her meager income by shooting illicit "boudoir photographs" of the local ladies of the night, photographer Miss Sara Bain and her motley crew of friends are embroiled in the crime of the century when two of her clients are murdered by Jack the Ripper.
  • cover art Always : a novel / by Sarah Jio. Encountering a ragged homeless man on her way to a romantic dinner with her fiancé, Kailey Crane discovers that the man is the ex she never got over and confronts an impossible choice against a backdrop of the 1990s music scene in Seattle. By the New York Times best-selling author of “The Look of Love”.

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!