January 22, 2017
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Need help sticking to those resolutions?

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It’s that time of year when we’re all trying to stick with our New Year’s resolutions. Now that we’re heading into the third week of January, some of us may have already given up on our resolutions because we don’t know how to achieve our goals, while others might still be trying but need some guidance. If you’re like me, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to finally get your finances in order.

Figuring out the right approach when dealing with your finances can be difficult, especially with tax season upon us. If you feel overwhelmed with where to start, the Kenosha Public Library has many resources to help you with your finances, including a few books that will help simplify your financial troubles, so you can check one resolution off your to-do list.

In the book, “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated,” University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack teams up with financial journalist and author Helaine Olen to share an approach to dealing with personal finance that’s so simple it all fits on one index card. The book guides you through 10 rules to live by to take control of your financial life, and each rule is broken down by chapter to help readers get a better understanding of its importance. To make it even simpler, a tear-out index card with the 10 financial rules is provided at the end of the book.

‘Gunslinger’ offers solid bio of Favre

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“Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre” by Jeff Pearlman; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (448 pages, $28)

It was the afternoon of Sept. 17, 1992, when the Pittsburgh Steelers — off to a 3-0 start that season — ran headfirst into history at Lambeau Field.

These authors make modern theories accessible

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Black holes. Dark energy. String theory. Ever wonder what’s going on with modern physics? What the heck are these folks talking about?

Standing on the shoulders of such giants in the field as Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking are Lisa Randall and Brian Greene, who shed light on this otherwise obscure subject in an engaging style that is readily understandable to the interested layperson.

Putting our thoughts on paper

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Despite the 21st century’s dependence upon electronic media to communicate and convey information, we must remember that the world’s first and still most important technology for the broad dissemination of knowledge is simply paper.

Material to write on, made from wood, grasses or fabric, has been an important part of civilization, from ancient China, Egypt and Greece to the invention in the 15th century of moveable type and the boom of cheap printing during the Industrial Revolution. We can page through the history of this vital commodity in two new books: “The Paper Trail” by Alexander Monro and Mark Kurlansky’s “Paper.”

Why do we love cats?

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“The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World” by Abigail Tucker; Simon & Schuster (237 pages, $26)

I read much of Abigail Tucker’s “The Lion in the Living Room,” appropriately, with a cat on my lap. And though I sat quietly, she did not: sometimes perching on the arm of my chair, staring vaguely but fixedly into space while her tail blocked the pages; sometimes jumping out of my lap and noisily racing around the room for no apparent reason; sometimes launching into an impromptu round of claw-sharpening on the upholstery, despite having been told NO eleventy-billion times.

These books on tiny homes may make you want to sell your house

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I hate cleaning my house, also sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by all my stuff. I think this is the contributing factor on how I recently got hooked on a couple of crazy concept TV shows about Americans who have decided to try extreme downsizing and move into “tiny” houses. “Tiny house” is a specific term for a dwelling less than 400 square feet and some tiny houses are built onto a trailer to provide maximum mobility and freedom.

* “Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building & Living Well in Less than 400 Square Feet” by Ryan Mitchell is perhaps the best selling book on the subject. This book is sure to inspire anyone considering the options of paring life down to the most important basics. The essence of this book is to live well with less. It’s a call that is ringing true with different types of people across the country. Young people, baby boomers, do-it-yourselfers and environmentalists have all taken to the idea of a simple, yet well-lived lifestyle. This book explores the reasons why people have chosen to go tiny: time, freedom, finances, environmental concerns, uniqueness. Pages of beautiful color photos are included along with tours of 11 unique tiny homes, plus worksheets and practical strategies to help you decide if living tiny could work for you.

Great fiction writers can sometimes make for great fiction

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Avid readers can get as excited by the biography of their favorite writers as by their written works. A good work of fiction can also add insight and understanding to dry biographical information and make for an entertaining and informative read.

Paula McClain’s hugely popular “The Paris Wife,” based on the first of Ernest Hemingway’s four marriages, paved the way for several new imaginative books that put a new spin on a writer’s biography. Nancy Horan explores the personal life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his talented wife Fanny in “Under the Wide and Starry Sky.” Popular author Stewart O’Nan reveals the final days of F. Scott Fitzgerald in “West of Sunset” while Susan Scarf Merell puts an ominous spin on the life of novelist and short-story writer Shirley Jackson, in “Shirley.”

Picoult novel tackles thorny subject of race

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“Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult; Ballantine (470 pages, $28.99)

Jodi Picoult is at it again. The author of 25 enormously popular novels, including “Leaving Time” and “My Sister’s Keeper,” is adept at taking on thorny issues — medical ethics, mass shootings, the death penalty — and recasting them on a relatable human scale. Her latest plunge into the current, “Small Great Things,” arrives at a pointed time when institutional racism — its violence and the entitlement it confers on some — is the subject of near daily commentary.

These books for children may help them cope in different situations

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Life can be challenging at any age, even when you are a child. The following are some children’s books that might generate some discussion and help your child through situations that they might encounter in life.

* “Yard Sale” by Eve Bunting

These books are not your grandpa’s Westerns

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If you’re reading “True Grit” by Charles Portis along with the rest of Kenosha for this year’s Big Read, then you might find yourself with a hankerin’ for more tales of the West, and the Kenosha Public Library can help!

Even if you don’t think you’re a Western fan, some of these newer novels might appeal to the mystery, romance, or historical-fiction lover in you. If you haven’t read “True Grit” yet, we can help with that too — just stop by any library location and we’ll round up a copy.

Leavitt’s latest set in off-kilter ’60s America

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“Cruel Beautiful World” by Caroline Leavitt; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (357 pages, $26.95)

For fans of Emma Cline’s best-selling debut, “The Girls,” Caroline Leavitt’s “Cruel Beautiful World” offers another opportunity to spend time in the wild, off-kilter America of the late 1960s, the period when peace-and-love idealism began to curdle into something far less wholesome, a period reigned over in the collective imagination by Charles Manson. Leavitt’s title — and lovely period book cover — get it just right.

Books for youngsters make the list for statewide literacy program

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Read On Wisconsin is a statewide literacy program that promotes high-quality books for children and teens with an annual list of recommended titles from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. Here are a few more favorites from their recommendations of books for toddlers and preschoolers for the coming year.

* “Bulldozer’s Big Day” by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann — It’s a big day for Bulldozer and he can’t wait to celebrate. He zooms across the construction site, eager to share his news with all of his friends. He runs into Digger Truck first and says, “Guess what today is!” But Digger, busy at work, says, “Today is a scooping day.” Undaunted, Bulldozer rolls on. He finds that all of the other construction vehicles are similarly busy at work, sifting, stirring, filling, and lifting. Bulldozer’s blade droops lower and lower as he realizes that no one seems to remember his special day. Just when all hope is lost, Bulldozer hears the construction whistle blow and finds a big surprise awaiting him. The block print illustrations feature an inviting assortment of cheerful construction vehicles, complementing the sweet earnestness of the story.

Books to celebrate International Dot Day

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I hadn’t heard of International Dot Day until a co-worker mentioned that we should celebrate it at the Kenosha Public Library.

International Dot Day began in 2009 when Terry Shay, a teacher in Iowa, had Peter Reynolds share his book “The Dot” with his students. This year more than six million people representing 133 countries have been inspired by this book and are participating worldwide.

Books help children learn to deal with different social situations

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Children often have to deal with confusing and different social situations in life. Sometimes the right book will make a difficult topic more approachable and lead to a helpful discussion about the emotions the child is feeling.

The picture books listed here — geared toward children ages 4 to 8 — deal with understanding some of the problems happening in families, like when a loved one has dementia, is facing hunger and poverty or has gender issues.

Celebrate 100 years of National Parks with guidebooks, DVDs

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Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called our national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

This year marks the centennial anniversary for the National Park Service. For 100 years, the NPS has been entrusted to preserve the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations.

Favorite children’s books star a dog, a bear and ‘one family’

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Read On Wisconsin is a statewide literacy program that promotes high-quality books for children and teens with an annual list of recommended titles from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here are a few of my favorites from their recommendations of books for toddlers and preschoolers for the coming year.

* “Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook” by Anne Vittur Kennedy: There’s a lot to remember when you’re a farm dog, but Ragweed is just the dog to give you all of the advice you need to succeed on the job. It’s important to know that the other farm animals have jobs, too, and that you are not to do their job, no matter how much you may want to. However, if you do happen to slip up from time to time, not all of the consequences are so bad, especially if they involve some kind of biscuit. Ragweed is an endearing narrator and the brightly exuberant acrylic illustrations perfectly match his spirited personality.

New crop of comics have smart, tough girl characters

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Comics are not just brooding bats and smart-mouthed antiheroes. The latest crop of comics features tough girls who will inspire you and leave you doubled up with laughter.

* “Lumberjanes” by Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis

Eco-Fiction — a genre of fiction with real consequences

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Once a mere sub-genre of science fiction, eco-fiction, or more colorfully, “cli-fi” — stories of how climate change could affect the planet and human civilization — has come into its own as a category of genre fiction that produces cautionary tales involving very real contingencies. Authors best known for their literary novels, such as Barbara Kingsolver in “Flight Behavior,” or T. Coraghessan Boyle in “A Friend of the Earth,” have delved into the more social and psychological implications of environmental change. Meanwhile, Paolo Bacigalupi, a writer of young adult steampunk novels, has produced a gripping realistic adult drama about how the American Southwest might deal with imminent water shortages, in “The Water Knife.”

* In an America taken over by corporate interests, the drought-stricken state of Arizona is left to fend for itself in Bacigalupi’s dystopian near-future scenario. Meanwhile the unscrupulous Nevada Water Authority hires “water knife” Angel Velazquez, a kind of strong-arm operative who’s prepared to broker deals or perpetrate sabotage in order to secure water for a new resort. Reporter Lucy Monroe comes in from the East Coast to observe and sees plenty — as the deals, the drugs, and the violence in the service of water rights escalate. Lack of water is the appropriate symbol for the crisis facing a new world order that reflects only private advantage, a failing federal government and a growing poor class left out of the loop of power — leaving the culture figuratively dehydrated.

New picture books for kids are silly, entertaining fun for summer

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Here are some summer picks of new children’s picture books that are worth checking out at the Kenosha Public Library.

* “The Airport Book” by Lisa Brown is more than just a story about a family going on an airplane. This book does a fantastic job illustrating what goes on at an airport, from checking in bags, to security clearance, to waiting at the gate for your plane to take off. A perfect book for a first-time traveler who has never been on a plane so they can understand what to expect when traveling, as well as what goes on behind the scenes at an airport.

‘Someone Must Die’ fueled by fractured family

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“Someone Must Die” by Sharon Potts; Thomas & Mercer (382 pages, $15.95)

The family dynamics that threaten irreparable harm to people who are supposed to love each other enhance the gripping plot of Miami author Sharon Potts’ fourth novel.

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