SAXTON B. LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
Friends of the Library
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
JANUARY 27, 2012
Emperor of all Maladies: A Biogrpahy of Cancer ~ Siddhartha Mukherjee
I’m debating whether I should forgo the star system on my reviews. My stars make more sense when you align them with genre or category than title perhaps.
Take a book like The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. How do the 5 stars I’m going to rate this book stand along side a butcher thriller that I’ve rated this highly too?
This was a book group book and I worried that some would find the topic overally depressing to read or that others, cancer survivors themselves, might be emotionally upset. I was right and yet, I was wrong too. Yes, some of our group just couldn’t read it, but most did, and found it fascinating and informative. None felt it would have made any difference when they were going through their own illness but thought it might have helped if they had read it cancer free. It also would be useful for family members.
Considering there are few of us who will not either have some form of cancer ourselves, or have a love one in need of treatment, this is a book for to equip you with knowledge. Dr. Mukherjee presents a well researched book, though not easy to read, one in layman’s terms and simple to understand. He begins at the beginning, giving us a timeline over many centuries, of what cancer is, isn’t, what we know, what we don’t, treatment tried, treatment failed, treatment success; taking us on a journey in the war against cancer.
Our group learned much, shed a few tears, ate chocolate and marmite (one concoction used for cure long ago), and laughed as all living people must. In the end we felt hopeful that with dedicated doctors, committed researchers, and palliative treatment, we can live longer and better, if not cured, at least, living with cancer.
Dr. Mukherjee won a Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction for his effort. I highly recommend this book for someone needing to understand the structure of this disease, and for persons interested in science and medicine.
JANUARY 26, 2012
The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish For Our Daughters ~ Jeffrey Zaslow
The Wedding Dress! Three simple words packed with such feeling, mystique and expectation.
Many of us, the female persuasion, have thought about our wedding days from the time we were little girls. Though The Dress was not high on my list, I can appreciate its significance in the wedding plans.
In a series of essays, Zaslow, the father of three girls, brings to life reflections on love, using the backdrop of Becker’s Bridal in Fowler, Michigan. He describes Fowler as a town with 1,100 residents and 2500 wedding dresses. Here, brides to be, their mothers, sisters, attendants and other loved ones come to find the perfect dress, the one that will make their day special. But Zaslow wants to capture more than just the gown, he wants to understand the women, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their thoughts on the institution of marriage; not only for his readers, but for the role he may someday play as father of the bride.
Zaslow succeeds. I absolutely loved Jeffrey Zaslow’s The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish For Our Daughters. Not only was it interesting to read about this family business established in 1934, handed down through the generations, but also to hear the stories of the brides.
Becker’s seems a special place with its long-standing history, caring staff and Magic Room. A fairytale of a book and yet one where not all dreams come true, as Zaslow explores the realities of the women who enter Becker’s doors.
JANUARY 21, 2012
The Odds ~ Stewart O'Nan
comments by CarolK
No other author packs so much into so few words. O’Nan’s
stories are always sparse, but taut, filled with
undercurrents of thought and feelings.
What on the surface seems a simple story, a marriage on the
skids, with dissolution looming, is so much more. In a last
ditch attempt to spin the wheel, role the dice and possibly
beat the odds, Art and Marion Fowler liquidate their assets,
book a room at a plush casino in the most romantic place on
earth, Niagara Falls, and hold their breath. Here, they’d
go for broke, possibly spending their last days as man and
The Odds with its many themes to explore; love, friendship,
commitment, hope, trust, betrayal, forgiveness, has all it
takes for a good book group discussion.
What are the odds? That is that Stewart O’Nan could write
another winner. If I had taken the bet, I’d be all the
JANUARY 12, 2012
The Coffee Trader ~ David Liss
Sometimes I'm wrong about a book though I hate to admit it. I was almost 100 pages into The Coffee Trader and moaning that I wasn't enjoying the read but had to finish it as it was a book group choice. I knuckled down finally and was pleasantly surprised when very quickly the story just popped off the pages. When all was said and done I thoroughly relished the book, even going back to re-read parts of the beginning.
I honestly think what threw me is that The Coffee Trader is about commodity trading. This concept muddles my mind. Don't ask me how the stock exchange works cause it blows my mind. The Coffee Trader takes place in an exchange, albeit in mid-1600's in Amsterdam, and its coffee, not cash, but trading none-the-less.
The main character, Miquel is seeking to make his fortune in a scheme to corner the market on this new wondrous product of coffee. He enters into partnership with a mysterious woman, Geertruid and tries to keep the venture secret from his brother, Daniel and the villain of the story, Solomon Parido, a wealthy member of the Amsterdam Jewish community and the Ma Maad, The Portuguese Jewish community plays a large role in the whole and brings about happenings that would otherwise not be if not for the religion and culture. Though there are other vivid characters, none appealed to as much as Joachim Waagenaar, a gentile and Dutchman who loses all, his money, standing, face, in a deal with Miquel.
There are twists and turns in abundance and the outcome tickled me except for one aspect.
I enjoyed reading the author's note that explains his use of coffee vs. tulips or art to set the tone of trading in Dutch commerce of the mid 1600's. Also, I love this quote by character Miquel:
"He loved the money that came with success, but loved the power more".
How true of many powerful persons.
I'm so glad our group chose The Coffee Trader for this month's discussion and I'm really glad I stuck with it. A solid historical read. Now it's time for a cup of coffee.
JANUARY 3, 2012
1222 ~ Anne Holt
comments by CarolK
The premise of 1222 interested me from the start. I wish I knew where I heard about this book. I thought the main character, Hanne Wilhelmsen, an ex-police woman, paralyzed by a bullet, living a bland life in her wheelchair, sounded intriguing. I didn't realize at the outset that it was the eighth in a series from Norwegian author Anne Holt but the first to be translated into English. It can easily be read as a stand-alone but you probably will want to know more about that bullet and some other things about Hanne's personal life.
1222 is also billed as a locked room mystery of which I am a great fan. I think it qualifies as such in a looser sense than some I've read. The story starts quickly with a the derailment of the Oslo-Bergen train, caused by a patch of ice outside of one of many tunnels. The science of this is nicely explained though I'm still not certain I quite understand it. Fortunately for the passengers, only the driver is killed. Also fortunate for all is that the accident happens close to the Finse Station and an excellent hotel where the remaining passengers, including Hanne are offloaded for shelter. Good fortune runs out and the killing begins! As all are "locked in" by a raging snowstorm with no chance for rescue until it abates, you've got all the suspects and through Hanne's eyes must decide the who, what, and why.
I really liked the character Hanne Wilhelmsen and some of the other players in this mystery. The best of these are 15 year old Adrian described as "a petty criminal, a little shit" and a height challenged doctor named Magnus Streng who originally treats Hanna's gory injury in the train wreck. I think the story could have moved more quickly after it's" hit the ground running start" but I hung in there. I was not completely satisfied with the ending as I couldn't have predicted the killer from the clues. I loved that the title is taken from the location of the Finse Station, 1222 meters above sea level. I also really liked the use of The Beaufort Scale for Wind, beginning with 0 for Calm and ending with12 for Hurricane, as chapter headings with the promise of the increasing speed of impending disaster. Very clever.
All in all a pleasant read with great descriptions of the cold, bleak locale and some interesting introspection by the main character. The first in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, Blind Goddess, comes to our shores June 2012. I just might pick this up.
JANUARY 3, 2012
Jacob T. Marley ~ R. William Bennett
comments by CarolK
Jacob T. Marley is the type of book I suspect you’ll either really like or throw across the room. It’s a toss-up. Loyalists to Dickens may be put off by this tale of the two partners Jacob T. Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge.
I absolutely loved Bennett’s look back at just what made Scrooge the man he was. He fills in the gap giving us the back story of Marley and how the lives of these two men connected. So if you ever wondered just how Marley came to be the bearer of the message that Scrooge would be visited by three spirits, Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, before Christmas Eve was over, read this book. I found it delightful and the perfect book for the holiday season.
JANUARY 3, 2012
Buddha in the Attic ~ Julie Otsuka
comments by CarolK
Julie Otsuka could be called a woman of few words. The Buddha in the Attic comes in at under 150 pages but she can convey more in this tightly written novel than others could in a tome.
Buddha in the Attic left me breathless. From the outset when we first meet these Japanese women, some not even in their teens, leaving their homes and families, sailing away on a ship to a foreign land, clutching pictures of their husbands to be, we know this is going to be a special book. These are the Picture Brides. These are the women Otsuka offers us, culling their stories from journals and interviews, giving them a collective voice as they come to San Francisco in the early 1900's. Not one woman, but all these women are laid before our eyes in eight, spare chapters, each revealing their journey from young innocent girls, to bride, to wife, to mother. Their initial excitement at coming to America is soon dampened by the harsh reality of their new home and the life they will lead. Hard labor in the fruit fields, maids in the rich households of others, prostitution, the women do whatever to survive though this is not guaranteed. From their meager homes, to their communal baths, for these mostly obedient women, time rushes them towards their fate as interment order 9066 approaches. We share in their bewilderment and confusion and want to yank them from what they must accept.
The imagery in Buddha in the Attic is stunning. It reminds me a bit of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. This is one of my favorite books of 2011. I feel like I'm not doing Budda in the Attic justice!
JANUARY 3, 2012
The Sisters Brothers ~ Patrick Dewitt
comments cy CarolK
Howdy pardner, pick up this book and ride! Kidding aside, The Sisters Brothers deserve all the praise it has been receiving. The Sisters Brothers is billed as paying homage to the classic western. I’m not much of a western buff, so I wouldn’t know much about that, but it is a tale set in the old west, so I suppose that’s correct. I just know I liked it. I liked it a lot. I particularly liked the characters, not only the brothers of the title, but the bit players. I liked the story, lyrical in some ways, and yet gritty enough for those looking for a shoot em’ up read. It’s funny, even poignant at times. There’s even a love story for us romantics. I like that DeWitt tells the story using the younger Sisters brother, Eli as the narrator. Eli is the less violent of the two and I think this makes for a more interesting viewpoint.
Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired killers and work for a man named The Commodore. Their mission this time out is to find and kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. Now isn't that a great name? Eli's not even certain why but if his brother Charlie is in, then he’s right there with him. Loyal to the end. They set out from Oregon City to find Warm who is prospecting in Sacramento. Suffice it to say they have many adventures on the way.
And did I say I really liked the cover. IMHO it is one of the best of 2011!