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Beartown and other great reads

Suzie Weibel

La Crosse County Library - Hazel Brown Leicht Memorial Library, West Salem

April 13, 2018

Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a novel about the sport of hockey.  I never thought that much about hockey, but I read Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove, and really enjoyed it so thought I’d give Beartown a go, and I’m glad I did. As I read Beartown, I found it wasn’t so much a novel about hockey as it was about something so important to a small town.  Something that affects its very existence relative to spirit and commerce and what happens when it is threatened and how it propels its members to behave in a crisis. 

Beartown takes place in a fictitious small hockey town.  The town lives and breathes hockey and as you read, you get the feel that it is taking place in current time Minnesota, Wisconsin or Canada.  The main character development takes a bit of time and details the lives of teenagers in their junior and senior years of high school.  There is a strong desire that the hockey team wins this final championship and become nationally recognized which would put the town on the map and boost the players to future careers in college hockey and beyond.  After a big win, there is a large gathering at the star player’s home, parents absent, and a tragic event takes place, which then begins the story of how this town copes.  The writer did a great job at portraying the emotions and the dilemma that grips the characters and the town as a whole during this dark time. If you are or were an athlete, or are a parent or grandparent to an athlete, you will most assuredly relate to the pull of passions on both sides of this conflict.  The author built the characters as regular people who were so familiar and ordinary.  I feel as if many of the characters in this book will stay with me for a while.  Beartown would be a good book club read as the subject matter is sure to bring a lively and thoughtful discussion. 

My other favorite reads of late are When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  A nonfiction read about a young doctor’s life and death.  One Thousand White Women: The Journals of Mary Dodd by Jim Fergus.  While completely fictional, One Thousand White Women reads like a true story set in 1873 and tells the story of the Brides for Indians Program instituted by the US government under the direction of President Grant.  My other go to books are The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Small Great Things by Jody Picoult, and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens.

If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love Sarah Dunant.  The Birth of Venus, Sacred Hearts and In the Company of a Courtesan, was a favorite trilogy of mine.  All three are good reads and take an interesting look at what it meant to be a woman in renaissance Italy. 

Finally, if you just want a laugh, and are ok with a little bit of mayhem, check out Carl Hiaasen’s books.  He makes me laugh, and is a good storyteller.  Another benefit, Carl is handsome.  I watched an interview with him on CBS Sunday Morning.  So, just pop one of his audio books in while you’re driving and do what I do…fantasize that he is sitting in the next seat reading aloud while you drive.   I know, I know, dare to live!  The time to worry would be if I really had nowhere to go but continued to drive in circles just to indulge my fantasy.  By all means, call out the troops!


Let Bookpage Help Find Your Next Read

Sue Stranc

La Crosse County Library - Holmen Area Library

March 30, 2018

Bookpage is a monthly book review magazine to that is distributed to avid readers via public libraries and book stores. The La Crosse County Library subscribes to it and distributes 100 copies to our five branches every month. All the reviews in the print publication are available online on their website

I get an email almost every day from this website. Sometimes it is the “book of the day” sometimes a top 10 list, or an author interview. About half the time I end up opening the email and reading the entire review based on the first paragraph in the email. I have usually found that the books I have read based on the BookPage reviews are a good read and not oversold. Years ago I would read books based on the New York Times Book reviews and I would end up being disappointed. What they thought was a literary masterpiece I found to be dreck. There is no accounting for taste. That is why I sometimes have trouble recommending titles to others and have no desire to join a book club.

A book I recently picked up and read, based on a review from BookPage, was Summer hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern. Two things attracted me: it takes place in a library and a librarian is a main character. The other is that our Campbell Branch Library is called the F. J. Robers Library. The library in the book was named after a local industrialist named Albert Robers but after the mills closed people started referring to it as the Robbers library. His name was removed from the library soon after his death.

The town [Riverton, NH] and the economy have fallen on hard times. Even the library has money troubles. The story is told by the library staff, a teen named Sunny who has been sentenced to work at the library after stealing a dictionary, and Rusty who has come to Riverton for mysterious reasons. Sunny has parents that prefer to live off-the-grid. Sunny was homeschool/no-schooled but an avid reader. She takes on doing story hours for the library and brings in many immigrant families who have to be taught the concept of what a library does [lend books].

The story moves back and forth between the characters Kit, Sunny and Rusty. It takes the entire book before you find out all of Kit’s back story. Sunny comes to some realizations about her parents as she grows up and Rusty outwardly loses everything but is still happy with where he is at. It is a pleasant tale about a small community and the people that use its library. Sometimes they even check out books.

Another title that came to my attention by reading BookPage is Beyond scandal and desire by Lorraine Heath. In an author interview Lorraine describes doing research for another book and came across the term “baby farming”. Apparently during the 18th century if someone gave birth to an illegitimate child they could “farm” them out or pay someone to take care of the child. Many times the child died, sometimes intentionally. The author created a series of books based on the children one woman takes in.

Mick Trewlove was the bastard son of a duke that has paid Ettie Trewlove to raise him. Mick is successful as an adult but because of his illegitimate birth is banned from society. He approaches his father to be recognized by the Duke but is rebuffed. As part of his scheme of revenge against his father Mick meets Lady Aslyn Hastings. When they meet sparks fly and Mick has to decide whether to go through with his plan to ruin her and her fiancé, the Duke’s son. While I don’t usually read romances this one was fascinating. Once again a good lead from BookPage.

BookPage has become one more tool to help readers find something they like to read and for librarians to decide what books to buy. Pick up a copy at one of our libraries or go online at


Senior Moments Programming

Sherri Sinniger

La Crosse County Library - Onalaska Public Library

March 23, 2018

In the fall of 2017, we made an appeal to the Ben and Floyde Sias Trust to fund a program for the seniors in the Onalaska area. In December, we found out that the funding had been approved, and the planning began!
While researching ideas for this series, we spoke with many people about many different subjects. Some were suitable for our inaugural series this spring, and some were tabled for future programming.

We considered events regarding the history of Onalaska, topics of interest for history scholars, animal lovers and music lovers. We even looked to bring in bald eagles and owls!

Patt Boge and Mary Dunn from the La Crosse Public Library were very kind to share the successes and contacts from their program, “Monday Mornings at Main”. They have enjoyed several years of senior programming, covering topics too many too mention. I can confirm that they brought llamas into the library, however!

We started our spring series of programs on March 7th . Stuart Stotts was our presenter with his program “Eldervoices”. Stuart is a singer, songwriter, author and all-around great guy. He shared songs and stories, bringing back memories, and even a few tears.

Roger, the Ambassador for “Capable Canines” visited with his trainer, Leanne on March 14th. Leanne shared the difference between “service dogs” and “emotional support” animals. We also learned proper etiquette when meeting a service dog, and allowing them to perform their work with their human. Best of all, we got some petting time with good looking “Roger”! He is one handsome ambassador!

On March 21st, Leslie Bellais, a curator of costumes and textiles from the Wisconsin Historical Society brought archival samples of hats that women wore from 1830 to 1930. The examples were lovely, and each hat was discussed within the historical time frame, and how women were viewed and treated in those times. Leslie also brought several reproduction of hats for group members to try on.

Floyde’s Senior Moments is held on Wednesdays at 10:00 at the Onalaska Public Library. Anyone over the age of 50 is welcome to attend. Light refreshments are served.

Future programs for the spring include:
April 4th Basic Geneology Hannah Scholze
April 11th Storyteller Sara Slayton
April 18 Archeology of Onalaska MVAC
April 25th Friends of McGilvray Road Seven Bridges/Van Loon Wildlife area
May 2nd Barbershop Quartet Coulee Chordsmen

We are jumping right in for plans for our summer session! Hope to see you soon!


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