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DECEMBER 27, 2009
Happy Review Year

     As 2009 winds down and 2010 is set to begin everybody and their brother seems to have their own list for best books of the year. I love these lists! I always find something I never heard of to add to my reading pile. Probably my favorite of these is one still being compiled by the participants of fiction_l. Separated into best fiction, non-fiction of 2009, and best older fiction and non-fiction, librarians and library staff across the world vote for their favorite reads. Lists are compiled for adults as well as children and young adults. I can't wait to see what books my colleagues consider the best. I'll post this one on Saxton Reads and Reviews as soon as it is ready.

In the meantime, how about you? I wonder what the readers of our blog have read and loved this year. What was your favorite book(s) published in 2009? Share your choices in fiction, non-fiction, even those you listened to on cd, no holds barred. Please include Author, last name first, Title and a bit about the book if you'd like. I'm really interested in what you've read that hooked you.

Me first...

Nunn, Malla - Beautiful Place To Die
The first in the planned Detective Emmanuel Cooper Series, this view of South Africa in the early 50's should appeal to both fans of both historical and crime fiction. Nunn has a winner here.

Bazell, Josh - Beat the Reaper
A fast paced thriller, oh so heavenly dark humor and one of the best hate to love you characters in a long time. Debut fiction at it's best. More, more said the librarian.

Barr, Nevada - 13 1/2
A thrilling departure from her Anna Pigeon novels, Ms. Barr takes us on a psychological ride that should appeal to fans of James Patterson and his ilk. Out of left field, this Barr took me by surprise and I liked the diversion.

Genova, Lisa - Still Alice
Relating the story of Alice Holland, a Harvard Professor in her early 50's and her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's, this novel is poignant and thought provoking. Good pick for book groups. This is one of the best of my 2009 reads.

Grann, David Lost City of Z: A tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon
Can't beat this one for adventure. Many seek the lost civilization of El Dorado, many die trying to find it. Grann's research into the disappearance in 1923 of Percy Fawcett, his son and their party, lures him into the Amazon's mysteries.

Young Adult Fiction
Collins, Suzanne Chasing Fire
Planned as a trilogy, number 2 in the series, I couldn't put this one down. I don't read a great deal of young adult fiction, nor much in science fiction but Hunger Games & Catching Fire blew me away. Strong characters, and an excellent story will have left me waiting for the conclusion this spring.

Happy Reading!


Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by CarolK


DECEMBER 21, 2009
The Monday before Christmas...

Ok, I hate to say it but there’s a lot less merry in my “ho, ho, ho” this year.  I’m not quite at bah humbug but I think I’m right on the cusp. Friday night was to be my last hurrah to get all the last minute shopping done when what to my twinkling shopping list should appear, my husband with his own list of items that have nothing to do with any holiday. Ugh, why now, when I all I want for Christmas is to finish the shopping for food and gifts. First stop Lowe’s to buy the cabinets for our porch that just have to get put in this week. Of course, the first Lowe’s only had the base and top cabinets he wanted. The only matching utility cabinet they had to the set had a slight ding on the bottom. I tried to convince my husband who is usually more frugal than I that if we bargained enough, we’d probably get it the cabinet at a good price and who would notice the ding anyway. Not on your life! So off to the second Lowe’s where thank heavens they had the UT commonly know as a utility cabinet. Wrestle, wrestle it onto the truck. No Santa’s helpers in sight. Finally I could get on with the real shopping. So what that it was almost 8:00 and I was already exhausted and in need of a snack. Did I mention that my daughters were coming Saturday morning to bake. “Let’s not make cookies this year”, they said. “We’ll just make breads for everyone”. I’m thinking mini pumpkin and cranberry loaves. Oh no, how about zucchini, banana, eggnog and my personal favorite and the one I had to get the ingredients for, sweet potato flax bread. Did you know not every grocery store carries flax seed? Well, I found this out the hard way, by visiting two popular grocery stores that only had two cashiers open but at least had festive Christmas music playing to keep me happy while waiting in line with 5 lbs. of sweet potatoes. Miracle of miracle, my stop at Odd Job Lot netted not only a few stocking stuffers, but also the flax. By this time I was totally wiped and decided to change plans and go out Sunday to finish up. Ha, forgot it was supposed to snow.

Saturday dawned and after bringing in wood to get us through the impending storm, and cooking and mashing the aforementioned sweet potatoes, my daughters arrived to make the breads. We got a good clean start on all as my older daughter delegated and my younger daughter and I just did what she said. We got two ovens going and soon the breads were finished. Not so bad I’m thinking but then…”You know, we really ought to make a few cookies. Daddy loves chocolate chips; Justin can’t live without thumb prints.” By this time I realize there’s no getting out of it so let’s get rolling but only if we can make oatmeal raisin, MY favorite. Did I mention I had no chocolate chips or green jelly for the thumb prints and you really can’t make all red thumb prints so back to the store I go. I’m more clever then you might think as I’m able to sneak in a bit more gift shopping while buying the chips and green jelly and while I’m gone the oatmeal cookies are almost all baked.
Sunday, the snow came as promised. Luckily, my husband’s truck has four wheel drive so a little snow can’t keep us home. The grocery stores were empty and even though the shelves were depleted by crazed shoppers on Saturday who worried they wouldn’t get out Sunday, I got everything I could possibly buy ahead and 5% of to boot. Miracles do happen; I found enough beef, pork and veal to make the traditional Swedish meatballs. By Sunday night I’m quite tired, but the meatballs are made, most presents are wrapped and the yard is plowed. I sit down by my tree, put a Christmas movie in the DVD player, and…promptly fall asleep! 
Books on my TBR pile for next year:

The worst-case scenario survival handbook : holidays by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.

The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum

Add a comment  (2 comments) posted by CarolK


DECEMBER 18, 2009
Spotted: Flying Pigs

So, there is a lot I could blog about this week, the holidays are upon us, New Years are coming, best books of 2009...blah, blah, blah.

BUT, we have a far more pressing matter at hand. Since posting about Pigbee last week, we have seen him popping up EVERYWHERE!


Gracing the covers of the hottest magazines: 


On websites: 

This is from a website Carol and I were looking at yesterday - for Kiki Magazine. We were just clicking around and low and behold... look who we found. Wearing glasses no less.


AND - check out this puzzle Su found this week:


Obviously, we’ve started a huge trend here. Pigbee mania is sweeping the nation. Watch out.




This one is just disturbing, I won't let Pigbee see it: 

Anyways, its become a kind of running joke around here. Keep your eyes peeled and I’m guessing you’ll start seeing Pigbee too!

Add a comment  (2 comments) posted by Megan Q.


DECEMBER 16, 2009
Skulduggery Pleasant - A must read!

It’s rare these days that I find a book that I adore. One in which the characters become people I wish I could have lunch with and the plot grabs my attention refusing to let go. Rarer still is a mystery in which I am lead up to something and do not see it from 90 pages away.

 Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy is such a book. It’s the story of an ordinary, though sharp tongued, young woman who teams up with a skeleton detective to save world. I loved it! Intrigue, adventure, wonderful people (and skeletons), evil bad guys and a few things I didn’t see coming. Who could ask for more?
This is the first of what is currently a four book series written at a middle school aged audience level. I’ve not (yet) read the others. And the internet sites tell me that a movie is in the works. I’m a bit nervous about this…too many great books have become not so great movies.
Still, if you’ve not read it… come check it out!  (And if you have read it - we'd love to hear your opinion!)

Add a comment  (2 comments) posted by Su


DECEMBER 14, 2009
O' Christmas Tree


As a child the very first Christmas Tree I remember is one my father got at a nursery where he worked part-time. Being the cute kid that I was the owner (Joe Ravizzo) let me come and pick my very own balled tree. I loved that tree and it was planted in the yard of my childhood home in New Britain. This is probably where my love of live Christmas trees started. Not so my mom!
I think it was the next year (but hey, I was just a kid) when our pretty live tree was ready to come out of the stand and out the door, most of it (the needles) remained. That did it for my mom. Never a live tree would brighten our house again. From that year on we had a fake, or what is usually politely called an artificial tree. Big ones, small ones, green ones, silver, you name it, over the years we had it. Do you remember those white trees with the color wheels? The wheel would turn and a shining light would change the white tree to blue, to green, to red, etc. In my opinion they were all hideous! And I told my mother so. With hands on hips and all of my seven years I exclaimed “When I get my own house, I’m always going to have a real tree”. I may live to eat those words.
This year I snuck around stores looking at artificial trees. I was thinking something small, four to five feet with LED lights, easy to put up, and maybe store without even having to collapse it ot take the decorations off; instant tree. Try as I might the only decent looking ones to me were those that were at least 8 feet and hundreds of dollars. I did the math. Even at an average of $20 dollars, my live trees haven’t cost that amount. And I’d probably have had to buy more than one over the years. Granted, though, the “fake” trees have come along way. Still , the more I looked at them the more I dreamed of a real, live tree.
So Saturday afternoon found my husband and me out in the woods finding our perfect 39th Christmas tree. I decided I wanted a little tree. I say this each year. Last year we went to a place that all the trees, whether they were 4 ft, 6 ft or even 10 ft. were $35. I’m a woman who likes to get her money’s worth. Buy the 10 foot tree. It’s a bargain. Never mind that my ceiling’s only 8 feet high. We tried a new place this year. They had trees from $20 to $55. Yeah, right! Try and find one of those $20 ones. Never quite figured out their pricing rationale, but it must have had something to do with inches as they had prices in strange increments that ended in $.50, like $22.50 or $37.50. No tagging because the tagged trees were being taken by scrooges who couldn’t take the time to find their own nicely shaped tree. We found what we thought was the perfect tree way out in lot 11, high on a hill, that would have made a beautiful home sight. Getting there was quite a trek, up hill remember. Come to find out those trees were not for sale this year but the man assured us if we really wanted that one, we could have it. Guilt made me leave this beauty to grow a few more years. Down the hill we circled and finally found a 4 foot tree, small as trees go. A cup of hot chocolate, a shake of the tree and we were on our way.
But believe me the work to decorate it is still the same. Every box of Christmas decorations still needs to come out of hiding, commonly called storage. I still had to dig through all the boxes to find the lights and balls, even if I was using fewer of them. The tree still needs to be  watered each and every day, necessitating some interesting contortions on my part to get under the tree skirt and get the water in the stand. And the needles will still have to be vacuumed.
Still, when my mother comes on Christmas Day my house will smell of pine, the lights will sparkle and I can show off this year’s tree and remind her that only real trees are truly Christmas trees!
Oh, and those trees in the picture; just a few of the balled trees we've purchased, displayed and planted over the years...
Here's a few suggestions to keep you merry over the holidays...
The solstice evergreen : history, folklore, and origins of the Christmas tree  by Sheryl Karas

Holiday lights brilliant displays to inspire your Christmas celebration / by David Seidman.
Better homes and gardens Christmas ornaments to make : 101 sparkling holiday trims [editor, Carol Field Dahlstrom]
The Christmas tree / Julie Salamon ; illustrated by Jill Weber.


Add a comment  (1 comment) posted by CarolK


DECEMBER 11, 2009
It’s a pig…It’s a bee…

It’s Pigbee - the newest addition to our library! He began as a plain white piggy bank, but in the spirit of the Saxton B. (bee) we turned him into a hybrid:


Isn’t he cute? We made him so we could sit him on the front desk in hopes of collecting donations throughout the year. Well, he’s finally all decorated in his full bee regalia, but, we need a jingle. Something catchy to get folks to notice little Pigbee and drop their coins in.


So, here’s where you come in. Su, Carol, and I sat around during the snowstorm the other day trying to come up with some sort of little rhyme to display with Pigbee, but we haven’t settled on anything yet. We wanted to post about Pigbee on the blog to see what sort of creative rhymes you can come up with. If can come up with a clever rhyme about donating money, or piggy banks, or bees, please post it here!


Don’t let us down! Most importantly, don’t let Pigbee down. Awww…look at that face:



                      “I need a jingle.”



Add a comment  (5 comments) posted by Megan Q.


DECEMBER 9, 2009
Google ( n. v. adj.) [Goo-gul]

Yesterday, the search engine Google informed me that it was E.C. Segar’s 115 birthday. Had not the image been Popeye  I would never have known of Segar, the cartoonist who created the character in the 1920’s. But today’s blog is not about Popeye. It’s about Google.

 Like most people today, Google is my search engine of choice. I like its clean, white, uncluttered page with primary color letters. I have good luck with it. A part of me also likes the idea that this monster, started by grad students, unconventional in it’s business has become such a success. I think I have a retirement fund that owns stock in Google, and it is such a large scale curiosity, that when books come out or news shows come on about the company, I’m intrigued.
Last week, I happened to be mesmerized by one such show. It was interesting to see “inside” the company’s headquarters, learn what they were planning next, how they created some of their “features.” But the more I listened and watched, the more disconcerting it became.
In their world, where every day is casual Friday, at first, the notion of the company providing its workers with several gourmet chefs, where at lunch one could get high cuisine from around the world seemed amazing. Have laundry to do? No problem, bring it in. It’s a company perk! But as I was thinking, ‘how cool is that?’ The company spokes person was explaining their rational: they want their workers working… all the time, not worrying about mundane things of life. So, they provide all they can for their workers, keeping them working and happy to be at work. 
Hmmm. Suddenly for me the concept of ‘company store’ took on new meaning. Then the reporter starting asking about privacy….
Did you know that Google keeps a record of every search, everyone has ever done? The scope of that was mind blowing. As I was trying to conceive of how much disk space that would require, the reporter went on to inquire just how much could Google link a search with a person. Although the company was quick to assure they don’t care,  don’t pay attention,  and really it’s only about indexing data, the bottom line was: they can. At least for 18 months prior, they can very, very easily. So much so, that the reporter allegedly contacted an individual, tracking them down, at their house, by Google searches.
The reporter’s concern naturally was that maybe Josephine Q Public was searching things she didn’t want linked to her (domestic violence, AIDS symptoms, etc.) or that Big Brother would be able to swoop in and use this information, arresting those who searched how to make a bomb, e-mails addresses of terrorists. A valid concern, certainly. As one who for a number of reasons has obscure and varied searches, some of them seemingly nonsensical (pomegranate squid,  orc names, etc.) I kind of liked the idea that my obscure things were being saved and creating odd patterns for Google’s programmers.
But what really concerned me from this story was the assumption and acceptance that people’s searches are valid in telling us something about the individual. They’re not. It’s not simply Librarian’s that engage in seeking out information out of curiosity, sparked by something they were asked, read or saw on television. I might search haggis recipes, but that doesn’t mean I’m inclined to make or eat it. 
I leave you pondering this: which is worse a world where your every keystroke can be saved and linked to you personally or a world where this information is believed to have meaning?
As you ponder this idea, check out   Feed  by MT Anderson

It's one of our favorites!

Add a comment  (1 comment) posted by Su


DECEMBER 7, 2009
Short but Sweet or Sugar Plums Perhaps!

     Last week I polled our reader's for their favorite holiday music. A few of you took me up on this and some of that music will be part of our library's collection.

I'm pretty certain most of you are hustling and bustling trying to do a million things with holiday preparations so I'll keep my blog short and sweet this week.

My burning question for all this week ...

Is there any book you re-read this time of year? A holiday favorite?

Ok, I'll go first. Hands down for me...

Gift of the Magi O. Henry

It's a timeless story that represents for me the true spirit of giving. There are many versions of this , various retellings, many with beautiful illustrations. Saxton B. owns a fairly good dvd based on the story and it's also available for a listen on Christmas Classics: Stories for the Whole Family. If you'd like the original you can find it in The Complete Works of O. Henry.

In addition, no Christmas Eve goes by in our house without me reading aloud Clement Clark Moore's, The Night Before Christmas. Even when our kids grew older and were not living at home, I used to read it over the phone to them. Now they read it to their children. I still read it each Christmas Eve before I snuggle in bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Traditions! The stuff that makes holiday memories.

Add a comment  (3 comments) posted by CarolK


DECEMBER 4, 2009
You learn something new everyday...

Last night we had a Mother-Daughter Book Club meeting. Each month a different mother-daughter 'set' hosts the club by bringing a snack, asking some discussion questions, and providing some sort of craft or activity.  The book we read this month was Hanne’s Quest, by Olivier Dunrea. The book is about a small chicken (Hanne – pronounced Hannah) that has to go on three quests in order to lay golden eggs to save the farm she lives on.




Conveniently enough, the mother and daughter who hosted last night own A LOT of chickens, so not only did they do a great job leading the meeting, but they were also able to answer all of our chicken questions! One thing we were all surprised to learn is that chickens are omnivores – they like meat! I am not a farm girl, so I guess I always assumed that they just ate grain and corn. The mom hosting said that she would never buy a chicken at the grocery store that was labeled ‘vegetarian fed’ because chickens are meant to be omnivores. The mom/daughter team also told us how vicious chickens can be, not to humans, but to each other.


So, this morning I was telling Su all the new chicken info I learned last night, and she proceeds to tell me about a PBS documentary were a woman gave her favorite chicken mouth to mouth resuscitation after it was lost in a blizzard! I looked up the documentary online; it’s called The Natural History of the Chicken. Not only does it feature mouth-to-beak CPR, it also shows a woman who has a pet rooster that she drives around with, dresses in diapers, AND washes and blow-dries daily, after they swim laps in her pool! Lovely!




Lots of wacky chicken stuff folks. Here are MY favorite stories about chickens:






Have a great weekend!


Add a comment  (1 comment) posted by Megan Q.


DECEMBER 3, 2009
A Day Late and A Dollar Short




 That’s what my grandmother used to say: “A day late and a dollar short.” I’m thinking this applies to a couple of things as I write this. First -- some of you may note that the date on this post is Thursday. It should be Wednesday, but.... I’m a day late and a dollar short.

It isn’t even that I altogether forgot about writing or, as is so often the case, I forgot yesterday was Wednesday. I sat down to write. My mind went blank. I got distracted. Here we are. Thursday.

As I realized this morning that I had not posted, Ialso  realized I had still had no idea what to write about. A day late and a dollar short.

But as I was standing in line at the coffee shop for breakfast this morning, I saw an interesting business card that attracted my attention. It was for a man who was selling “search ability.” What on earth is that you might ask? Pretty much I did, so I picked up the card to investigate.

This act was not purely one of curiosity. One of the long standing tasks and training of librarians is searching. We have whole semester classes devoted to learning and investigating the by ways and tricks of typing in those few precious words that allow the ghosts in the machine to work their magic and cull out the exact thing one is looking for from the trillions of bits of detritus stuck in ‘the web.’ Not only are we professionally trained and have daily experience, but we offer this service to the public for free! Therefore, when I see on television or other ads advertising “searching” or quick answers - for a fee, of course, my nose wrinkles, my eyebrow raises and I feel a compelling urge to go investigate.

This morning, as I read this flashy, glossy business card, I learned the gentleman offering his service had a unique spin on this now old game. He was not offering his services to answer questions, but to provide businesses with the right key words for indexing. In other words, for a fee, he would tell the chimney sweep that the appropriate keywords for his businesses website were likely to be: chimney, cleaning, fire prevention and so on.

Now on the one hand, if you are thinking, why should I pay someone for this? You are absolutely correct, but probably not for the reasons you are thinking.

Depending on your business, these keywords maybe painfully obvious. Certainly a dentist should not choose animal husbandry as a key word for searching. Likewise, most sites index and most searchers search by seeking out words that appear ANYWHERE on the website’s text.

On the other hand, as much as it may seem self evident, this is a valid element to  organizing information. For those who are skilled searchers, having the appropriate keywords and indexing can make a huge, time saving difference. Some search engines DO organize their results and prioritize based on these mostly hidden key search terms. For example, this is why you may find your own searches returning some ‘strange’ results from what you intended.

But pay for this? Why? Come talk to your local library. We’re trained. We’re experienced. And if you WANT to give our library a donation, I’m pretty sure we’ll be more grateful for your support of our business.

For the man who’s business card I took this morning. I wonder if he’s a librarian? But I still think, he’s a day late and a dollar short.

See you at the library!



Add a comment  (0 comments) posted by S Epstein


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