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Saxton Reads! & Reviews

We invite the public to post reviews to our catalog by logging into our online catalog. Reviews will then be posted to this blog. Comments can be added to existing posts or may be added as separate reviews on our catalog
DECEMBER 30, 2010
Keeping my fingers crossed!

You know how you love a book and then Hollywood gets a hold of it and wham, what was a wonderful story becomes a mockery of visual dribble.
I remember picking up the book because the title grabbed me. Gruen fleshes out her characters so well that you feel you know them and come to love and care about them. The circus is so alive you'll smell it and feel the thrill of the behind the scenes action. But nothing is better than the nursing home scenes where the grumpy, garrulous older Jankowski reigns. Any of us with aging parents can take a lesson from this character. The audio is narrated in two voices, Jankowski as a young man, Jankowski as an old man and enhances the listening. A sentimental ending only makes the whole better, leaving the reader feeling just right. The book has pictures of the circus and explains that some of the stories woven in the book are based on true events. For anyone who ever wanted to join the circus or loves a good storytelling, this is as satisfying a read as they come.
Water for Elephants is due to hit the big screen this April. Reese Witherspoon as Marlena, Robert Pattinson and Hal Holbrook sharing the role of Jankowski, young and old respectively; seem like good choices for the characters.
The trailer has I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one!

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DECEMBER 26, 2010
This is Dedicated...

Joan Wolf
Warner Books, c2002.

For my own Ebony,
who insisted on sitting on my lap,
and doing everything else he possibly could,
to disrupt the writing of this book.

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DECEMBER 21, 2010
The Thirteenth Tale ~ Diane Setterfield

****comments by CarolK

I really hated to see The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield end. It’s the storytelling that enthralled me. Well, actually it’s the storytelling within the story by the character Vida Winter and the expertise by said author that so captivated me. Vida Winter is nearing the end of her life when she commissions biographer, Margaret Lea to write her life story. Vida Winter, a reclusive author, has spent her life writing the most interesting collection of tales, twelve in all. She promises Margaret the truth and with this to reveal the thirteenth and final tale. There’s all the makings of a good gothic read here, ghosts, topiary gardens, plenty of characters with secrets, lies, gauzy scenes that gray the story Ms. Winter tells. Twins play a large part in the story and are one of my favorite devices in books. Bits and pieces are revealed in the telling of the tales and there’s just enough of what I did not know to keep me hooked right to the end.
Beautifully told, an interesting story, The Thirteenth Tale is a great debut. Where, oh where is the next?

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DECEMBER 19, 2010
This is Dedicated...
Love Her Madly
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Henry Holt and Co., c2002.

This book is dedicated
to six literary guerrillas--

Sybil Steinberg
John Coyne
Michael Anderson
Dan Doyle
Molly Friedrich
Elizabeth Stein

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DECEMBER 15, 2010
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ~ Rebecca Skloot

comments by CarolK

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This has been on my TBR list for most of the year. I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I heard it involved The HeLa Cells. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I had heard about these famous cells taken from an African American woman diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 50’s. The cells were taken without her knowledge and without the knowledge of her family. The cells lived, she did not. Meet Henrietta Lacks.
Like the author, Rebecca Skloot, I was curious to know more about Henrietta, to learn more about the details of the cell experimentations, what they have done for science and why they are important to our lives. Skloot is a science journalist and has the credentials to dig into the story and inform. I give her a great deal of credit for the ten years she took to research the book and for having the perseverance to continue to contact Henrietta’s relatives who were reluctant to talk to a reporter. Building trust with the family was not an easy task, but eventually Skloot was able to ensure them that her intentions were good. Though the story could have been told from interviews with doctors and possibly from records at Johns Hopkins, what really brings Henrietta alive in my mind is the personal stories of her kin, particularly her daughter, Deborah.
I liked the format Skloot used to write the book. You can hear what she says about this in the FAQ portion of her website.
Critics of the book complain that Skloot has made this a story of race. Personally, I don’t see how you can begin to know Henrietta and her family without talking about race. But, yes, it is more than that. It’s about informed consent, pharmaceutical companies making mega dollars, treatment of patients, and ethics. It is also the story of the quest of a daughter to better know her mother, who died when she was young. It is a story of this daughter’s love for the woman she comes to know.
I am pleased that Rebecca Skloot has set up Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which  this year granted five of the Lacks descendents for their education.  
There is much to think about after reading this book. I still have questions. Some of the science goes over my head, but Skloot did a good job keeping this in layman’s terms.
Today, due to privacy laws we would not know the name of the woman that the cells were harvested from. I’m in agreement with this but am still glad that in this case, Henrietta Lacks was identified and that through the efforts of Rebecca Skloot that I have a better picture of who Henrietta was. She never knew her contribution to medicine, but it seems to be significant.  

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DECEMBER 12, 2010
This is Dedicated
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot
Crown Publishers, NY c2009.

For my family:
My parents, Betsy and Floyd; their spouses, Terry and Beverly;
my brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Renee;
and my wonderful nephews, Nick and Justin.
They all did without me for far too long because of this book,
but never stopped believing in it, or me.

And in loving memory of my grandfather,
James Robert Lee (1912-2003),
who treasured books more than anyone I've known.

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DECEMBER 8, 2010
Gingerbread Cookie Murder ~ Joanne Fluke
***reviewed by Merand

Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

 " I only read Fluke's contribution to this holiday collection. It was short. It was sweet. It was tasty. As always, I have a bunch of great ideas for cookies and other food too. I've enjoyed how Fluke is incorporating meal recipes into her stories ...more I only read Fluke's contribution to this holiday collection. It was short. It was sweet. It was tasty. As always, I have a bunch of great ideas for cookies and other food too. I've enjoyed how Fluke is incorporating meal recipes into her stories now and not just cookies. And as I have found, they are almost always delicious. If you follow this series, I'll simply say that nothing was done about the cliffhanger at the end of the last book but it didn't really bother me. The mystery was easier than most but what is most enjoyable about these books is simply their warm familiarity. It gave me such pleasure to sit down and read these characters, remembering their quirks, and being comfortable with the formula of it all. Mind-numbing mystery this is not, but warm and enjoyable it is.

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DECEMBER 6, 2010
The Winner Is...
Last week I reported the contenders for The Literary Review"s  Bad Sex in Fiction Award. If anyone cares Rowan Somerville won the 2010 award last week. Until receiving the award Somerville had been receiving fairly good reviews of his book, The Shape of Her.

Though a bit aghast Somerville was nothing if not gracious saying this during his acceptance speech "There is nothing so English as bad sex," he said. "So, on behalf of the nation, I'd like to thank you."

Somerville joins the ranks of some pretty good authors who have also received this "honor". Author Johnathan Littell won last year for The Kindly Ones.

Interestingly not one Connecticut library owns The Shape of Her, though many, including Saxton B. have The Kindly Ones on their shelves. I couldn't find a copy on Amazon either. Could be that Somerville is an Irish author and his book was probably published in the UK.

All you award aspiring authors take careful what you write when it comes to words of the flesh. You could just be next year's winner!

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DECEMBER 5, 2010
This is Dedicated...

A Man in Full
Tom Wolff
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, c.1998

With immense admiration
the author dedicates

The Man in Full to

Paul McHugh

whose brilliance, comradeship,
and unfailing kindness saved the day.
This book would not exist
had it not been for you, dear friend.

And the author wants to express
a gratitude beyond measure to


who opened his eyes
to the wonder of Atlanta
and the Georgia plantation country
and gave him his run
of their vast storehouse of knowledge and insights,
all with a hospitality he will never forget.

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DECEMBER 2, 2010
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) ~ Terry Pratchet
****as reviewed by Merand

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) ~ Terry Pratchet

" If you have read any of my reviews you'll know that Terry Pratchett is my favorite author of all time. I think he's amazing. I've read all the Discworld books and own over half of them. This latest is a discworld book but within the subcategory of a Tiffany Aching adventure. The first Tiffany (or Wee Free Men) book was hilarious and clever and fun with lots of fairy tale stuff. The next few were not quite as hilarious or fun but still very clever. This latest book was thought-provoking, intense, and bittersweet. I was surprised and then again, not, because, after all, that is what Pratchett does best-surprise.

It's a book about Tiffany growing up, although she's always been rather grown up, now she's really setting aside the naivete of childhood and becoming a woman and a witch in her own right. Sometimes it was frustrating that she couldn't see beyond her own nose, past her pride and rightness, but it all ended very gratifyingly and she learned her lesson, so I can get beyond the tediousness of the learning. A book that doesn't read as swiftly as perhaps the lighter, earlier Tiffany books, but one that shines on its own and leaps through the fire with a joy and satisfaction all of its own.

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DECEMBER 1, 2010
Lovely, Still

Lovely, Still
is a story of love at any age.

Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn are fine actors whom I've always liked. When I saw that they both had roles in Lovely, Still, I knew I'd have to watch it and it did not disappoint. It's a Christmas story, it's a love story, it's a story of relationships, family, and it's a story of the later years of life.

Mary and Robert, both up there in years live across the street from each other. A few days before Christmas Mary invites Robert out on a date. It is such fun to watch senior love unfold, not that different than any young couple. Robert experiences the same first date jitters as any beau and Mary, takes care in her preparations for the date. They hit it off and over the course of the week leading up until Christmas the relationship sparks, joyful to watch.

Soon, you begin to realize something isn't quite right and as the movie progresses more is revealed. Will Robert and Mary make it as a couple? I certainly was cheering for them.

A great movie for this season. A respectful portrait of aging and love's power. Put it on your list.

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