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Margo Dill: Rowling's new novel a little too long for my liking

The highly anticipated post-Harry Potter novel, "The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling, has been out for almost two months and receiving lukewarm reviews at best. Such a huge amount of success as Rowling had with Potter is difficult to top, and many people will look for reasons to hate her latest book before even reading it.

Books for kids: Homeless boy becomes the leader of the pack

"The Dogs of Winter" by Bobbie Pyron (Arthur A. Levine 2012) is based on a true story from 1990s Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, with its infrastructure in shambles, gone were government-controlled health care, pension plans and rent control. The poor were so poor, they often couldn't care for their children. The number of orphans and homeless on the streets was in the millions.

Keep things warm with cozy mysteries

I've mentioned before that novels can be separated into many genres. Most obvious are mysteries, westerns, romance, science fiction and fantasy.

But in these broad categories are found even further degrees of classification. In mysteries, you have police procedurals, espionage, romantic suspense, private eyes, whodunits and cozies.

Ted Kooser: American life in poetry Nov. 18, 2012

Our sense of smell is the one sense most likely to transport us through time. A sniff of fried fish on a breeze and I can wind up in my grandmother's kitchen 60 years ago, getting ready to eat bluegill. Michael Walsh, a Minnesotan, builds this fine poem about his parents around the odor of cattle that they carry with them, even into this moment.

Barn Clothes

Relay for Life plans art fundraiser

CHAMPAIGN — The event chairwoman of the 2013 Relay For Life of Champaign County is seeking 100 artists to donate to a fundraiser in connection with the race, which raises money for cancer research.

MTD to display art on buses

URBANA — The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is looking for area artists to provide work that would be displayed on the district's buses, via the new program MTD ART: Moving Pictures Through Your Neighborhood. The MTD is collaborating with 40 North 88 West, the local arts council, and Dixon Graphics on the project.

UI student starts campaign for jazz festival

URBANA — A University of Illinois student has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a jazz festival on the University of Illinois campus that would feature visiting college big bands and Jamey Aebersold as the headliner.

C-U Haiku Nov. 18, 2012

Path through the wood:

Squirrels sit, watch locals

"Doing nature"

— Tucker Gritton,

Champaign

Melissa Merli: Carolina Chocolate Drops brought passion, technique

Thank God for the Black Banjo Gathering.

That's where musicians Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens first met seven years ago.

Out of that meeting in Boone, N.C., sprang the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an old-time traditional string band, easily one of the best on the planet.

Villa Grove woman with blindness, autism enjoys performance experience

VILLA GROVE — Singer and keyboardist Kari Kinnett has special talents and special challenges.

Both of which qualified Kinnett, who is blind and autistic, for the Special Talents America competition.