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Beach Reads

Deen Layland

La Crosse County Library - Holmen Public Library

April 21, 2017

As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better on the planet (other than world peace) than sitting in the sun reading a great book. Recent psychology suggests that reading escapist literature while on vacation heightens our capacity to immerse ourselves in a great read, according to Robin Rosenberg, a New York psychologist who treats adults with ADHD. He says, “In our regular lives we’re all over-scheduled and probably stressed. In addition to the stress, we all deal with a heavy cognitive load, which is the constant stream of information we’re forced to process every day.”

Sitting on a beach or at a pool significantly reduces those stressors and opens our mind to the pleasures of reading as well as making our minds more open and empathetic to people after we go back to our routine lives.

The April 1, 2017 issue of Booklist magazine and www.realsimple.com, recommend some new and classic beach reads to take you through vacations on the beach or poolside swim lessons with the kids.

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White finds Merilee Dunlap starting over in a rented cottage with her two kids while her ex-husband sets up housekeeping with his newly pregnant girlfriend. Her 93 year-old landlord, a blogger that seems to be following her every move and past unresolved problems all make this a tense and satisfying story.

Another marriage gone awry and another escape to a cottage, but this time on Nantucket where Darcy Cotterill finds a new life, new friends and even a boyfriend. Sounds perfect, right? It is until her ex-husband unknowingly rents a nearby house. Nancy Thayer’s 28th novel, Secrets in Summer touches on infidelity, grief and fear of commitment while focusing on personal growth and intergenerational friendship.

Some favorite beach reads that shouldn’t be missed:
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan consists of four intertwining stories inspired by the ad woman who wrote the brilliant slogan “A diamond is forever."

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame), introduces singular detective Cormoran Strike. Two more novels, The Silkworm and Career of Evil feature more adventures of sleuthing by Strike and his girl Friday, Robin.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was a mega-hit in the summer if 2014. Make sure you have tissues in your beach bag to get through the story of sixteen year old Hazel and her terminal diagnosis.

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda is a riveting mystery beginning with two girls who take a paddleboat by moonlight to escape the heat in Red Hook, New Jersey. One girls’ body washes up on shore and the other has disappeared.

James Patterson bookshots

Dee Ehrsam

La Crosse County Library - West Salem Public Library

April 14, 2017

We are fortunate at the La Crosse County Libraries to offer an assortment of the newer James Patterson books referred to as “bookshots.” Patterson has partnered with co-authors to create fast-paced novels which can be checked out as a traditional book or as an audio book on CDs. These shorter novels are perfect for a quick read.

The La Crosse County Libraries currently have over 20 different titles for the Patterson bookshots. Most are contemporary thrillers, a few are romance novels, and one is a historical fiction novel titled Taking the Titanic by James Patterson with Scott Slaven. These stories capture the reader in the usual James Patterson style. Patterson includes familiar characters like Alex Cross or Michael Bennett in some bookshots.

I especially like being able to read one complete novel in a couple of days, or listen to an entire novel while driving one my frequent trips to St. Paul. Each novel is 150 pages or less, and the audio books of 3 discs can be completed in about 3 hours. Great for a road trip.

One of my favorite bookshots is Chase: a Michael Bennett story by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge. The action starts in the prologue, and continues throughout. I was surprised that so much intrigue can be contained in a short book. I was hooked on the storyline, and the clever ending was not what I expected. I am watching for new bookshot novels as they become available at the La Crosse County Libraries. The books are very entertaining and fit well with my busy life.


The magic of gardens
Karen Kroll
La Crosse County Library - Youth Services
April 7, 2017

In many ways, gardens are magic.
If you’ve ever placed the bits of DNA called “seeds” into the soil and watched them transform into a plethora of flowers and veggies, you know this. It never ceases to amaze me -- whenever I would present a bowl of freshly picked broccoli to my family, I would always say, “And just think, all of this is from one tiny seed!” My kids would always groan, because they’d heard it so often.

There’s also the magic of what a garden does for your spirit. Science tells us that enzymes released from the soil, as well as the exercise of nurturing something, have measurable effects on our emotional well-being. “Where there’s a garden, there’s hope.”

But besides scientific and spiritual magic, do gardens also contain… MAGIC magic? As you’re out digging in the earth, lulled by the sunshine and birdsong, you might hear something...a rustle in the rhododendrons? A whisper in the wisteria? After all, why do we put out those fairy houses and garden gnomes?

Imagine igniting that feeling of garden magic in the mind of a child with the power of the right book. To give them, perhaps, the “garden goosebumps.”

Castle in the Mist, a children’s novel by Amy Ephron, got me thinking again about those garden goosebumps. Two siblings who spend the summer with their aunt in the English countryside open a carved gate with an old brass key. Upon entering they find a supposedly abandoned estate, but that now has rose gardens, a maze, and strange residents – a boy, a woman, and a gardener – who are obviously out of place and time. “Beware of the hawthorn trees,” the boy tells them ominously, setting the tone not just for magic, but for a bit of mystery and menace.

Although I enjoyed the book, the greater pleasure for me was that it jarred my memory of other garden-related books that have imparted those same garden goosebumps. The timeless, beloved classic, The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett, does just that. It is garden magic of the spiritual kind that heals orphan Mary and sickly Colin, as they transform the neglected garden they discover behind a locked gate and wall.

Another classic is the Green Knowe series of books by L.M. Boston, childhood favorites of mine. Tolly visits his great-gran’s estate and finds magic that takes many forms, including topiary bushes that come alive, a witch in a mirror, and ghost-children who lived on the estate generations ago. I vividly remember the description of an overgrown, monstrous topiary that is revealed by flashes of lightning as it moves towards the castle, and all the ghost-children’s voices calling out to another, more saintly topiary for help: “St. Christopher! St. Christopher!”

A more modern version, perhaps, of the Green Knowe books are Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Children at their grandparents’ farming estate contend with a multitude of fantastical creatures that they can see only after first imbibing in a special drink – milk from the farm’s magical cows.

The books can be obtained through the five LaCrosse County libraries in Bangor, Campbell, Holmen, Onalaska and West Salem. If you visit the Onalaska location, you can also bask in the magic of our “Family Reading Garden.” Originally a project of the Library staff and the Friends of the Library, and now maintained by a dedicated Bluff Country Master Gardeners group, this garden regularly enchants our visitors with beautiful flowers, a sculpture of a fantastical boy springing from a book, artistic benches, and “book blooms” with garden quotes. One of the book bloom quotes is from “The Secret Garden” itself: “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”









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