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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
JUNE 29, 2009
In the Authors Own Words ~ Chris Knopf

 Please welcome guest blogger, Connecticut's own, Author, Chris Knopf.   

            I started writing the Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mystery series because of a house. A little yellow house, a cottage, really, in Bay View Oaks in the North Sea area of Southampton, Long Island. It’s right on the Little Peconic Bay, and I imagined a guy sitting on the enclosed sun porch that faces the water, a middle-aged burnout, on his last legs, drinking vodka and brooding about his life. I wondered, what would be in his head?
            Writers will tell you that the most important thing about a work of fiction is the narrative voice. Especially when it’s first person. With this guy, who I named Sam Acquillo, I knew his voice from the start. I just needed to give him a life story to tell, and a world in which he could both rediscover his true self, and have some interesting things happen that people would want to read about. 
It turns out that Sam was once a technical trouble shooter for a big industrial company. So figuring out puzzles was a big part of his life’s work. It seemed to make sense that a guy like that would naturally take to solving the murder of an old lady that no one else thought had been murdered.  
            I was on the second or third in the series, and after being interviewed numerous times, I began to realize where Sam came from. Actually, one of my best old friends pointed it out to me, that Sam sounded a lot like my father.  He was a mechanical engineer, and a born trouble shooting Mr. Fix-it. He was also a very tough guy, charming and brutal at the same time, with an Ivy League education. So there you go.
            But Sam isn’t just my old man. He’s a lot of other things as well. Like all fictional characters, he’s part of several real people, and part entirely made up. People ask me how much of Sam is me, and I have to say, not much. We share carpentry skills and a penchant for reading arcane stuff, but that’s about it. 
            Oh, and I guess I’ve been known to hoist a vodka or two.
            The Sam Acquillo series has a regular entourage of characters, one of whom, Jackie Swaitkowski, is starring in a new series of her own, with Short Squeeze, to be published by St. Martin’s Press in Jan/Feb, 2010. Writing from the perspective of a woman, who lives in the same world as Sam, was an interesting and enjoyable challenge. But as with Sam, I knew her voice. I knew what she sounded like in her own head, I just had to figure out her deeper issues, and make a world for her that made sense.
Not all the regular characters in these books are of the human variety. One stand-out is Eddie Van Halen, a rescue mutt who lives with Sam.  Eddie definitely has a mind of his own, an independent streak like Sam’s, but of a far more joyful nature. He’s the eternally sunny balance to Sam’s eternal noir. And so they fit well together. 
            Eddie is a complete lift from my own life. When my son was a little boy, he had three imaginary friends – Michael Jackson, He Man and Eddie Van Halen. Whenever Van Halen was playing on the radio, James would say, “That’s you, Van Halen.” I passed this gift along to Sam’s daughter. 
            Eddie’s personality comes from my own dog, Samuel Beckett. If you read the books, you’ll know what he’s like. 
            There are two other non-human regulars. Sam’s ’67 Grand Prix and the Hamptons themselves. That’s one of the secrets of fiction – things and places can be characters, if that’s how you think of them.   

The Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mysteries

Hard Stop
Head Wounds
Two  Time (on order)
Last Refuge

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Category: Meet the Author


JUNE 25, 2009
Ganges ~ DVD ~ BBC Travel Channel

Who would have thought India would be a destination for bird watching. After watching this BBC film about the River Ganges, from the Himalayan headwaters, to the fertile bottom land, I have a new respect for balance in nature. Approximately 2 1/2 hours long in three stunning segments, this is a study of the river that is considered sacred by India's inhabitants. I was mesmerized by lammergeiers, who reminded of vultures, but prettier. These regal birds of prey have 10 foot wingspans and are something to see. Also capturing my interest were the plain ol' crows, so much like the ones in my yard, that they could be cousins. But the real winners for bird watching were the Sarus Cranes, standing six feet tall with an eight foot wing span, and perform the beautiful courtship dance. These majestic birds mate for life. The river is also home to many other forms of wildlife including crocs, deer, tigers, mischievous macaques and of course the king of all snakes, the cobra.

Nature is paramount but the documentary wouldn't be complete without the people. Giving a glimpse of the half million Hindu's living here, I wish this part were expanded a bit, but perhaps this is meant for another film. You do see a bit of daily life, the farms, rice fields, and mangroves where men smoke out killer bees in order to collect their honey, all the while being watchful of the man killing tigers.

This film explaining and exploring the Ganges is spectacular and a must for arm chair travelers or those wanting to understand the importance of this sacred river.

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JUNE 20, 2009
8th Confession ~ James Patterson

*bas bleu
What Happened?

What happened to James Patterson? Has an alien taken over his writing? Back in the days when Patterson wrote his own books, I used to devour the Alex Cross novels. His characters, both heroes and villains, were well-drawn, and the plot lines were fast-paced and filled with mystery and suspense. The 8th Confession was just plain confusing and offered minimal interaction among the members of the WMC. There were also too many story lines...some ridiculous to the extreme... and not enough substance.

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JUNE 15, 2009
Meet the Author ~ Elizabeth Duncan

Set in North Wales, The Cold Light of Mourning introduces Penny Brannigan, an ex-patriate Canadian who has lived in the village of Llanelen for over 20 years. A water colour artist and manicurist, Penny is thought to be the last person to have seen a posh bride who goes missing on her wedding day. Is it a case of last minute jitters or something more sinister? 

When Penny notices that something is not quite right at the funeral of her dearest friend, she becomes emotionally invested in the case, and sets out to investigate.
The Cold Light of Mourning is a traditional mystery and follows the conventions for that genre – a close group of characters who know one another, no excessive violence, and the protagonist is an amateur sleuth.
The Cold Light of Mourning has won both the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for unpublished writers (2006) and the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic award for best first novel (2008). I am the first person to win both awards and the first Canadian to win either award. Malice has been very good to me! And I was also very fortunate in that The Cold Light of Mourning is my very first attempt at fiction.

I learned from this experience that to be successful at just about anything, you need to get yourself in with the people who do what you aspire to do. And, of course, you meet wonderful folks along the way. Attending the Malice convention every spring and hanging out with my American friends is one of the highlights of my year. (
I was a journalist for many years – more writer than reporter – and in the mid 1990s made the career transition into public relations. Writing can play a big part in that profession, too, so I have always been a writer of one kind or another. Just different goals and objectives.
As I write this, my book has been out for about six weeks. People have asked me what’s the best thing about being a published author and in that short period of time I have come to realize that two things absolutely delight me: First, hearing from a reader (usually a nice American lady) who has taken the time and trouble to send me an e-mail telling me how much she liked the book. I love that.
The second thing that really thrills me is knowing that my book – the little novel that I wrote with no guarantee of publication – is now available at public libraries throughout Canada and the United States. That someone in a place I’ve never heard of – a town in Connecticut, say, -- can borrow my book, take it home and hopefully, enjoy it.
I have been a great library user and supporter since I was able to read and I’m delighted that patrons of the Saxton B. Little Free Library will be able to borrow my book.
Thank you for this opportunity to say hello to you, and to share a little of my writing life.
Please visit my website

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Category: Meet the Author


JUNE 8, 2009
Home Safe: A Novel ~ Elizabeth Berg

*bas bleu
Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg


I wanted to love this book because it was written by Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite authors. Instead, I was very disappointed. The plot line was boring and predictable. Haven't there already been enough books written about women of a certain age "finding themselves" after suddenly becoming widowed? And this one wasn't even well-written, certainly not to the standard set by Berg's earlier works. The main character, Helen, is unlikable and downright annoying. Her daughter Tessa is the quintessential, self-involved, spoiled brat, and Midge is the feisty, tell-it-like-it-is best friend. I read the customer reviews on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, just to see if I were alone in my loathing, and they are all over the place. You'll probably either love or hate this book. In either case, I'll be most interested to read your comments here!

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JUNE 1, 2009
Meet the Author ~ Stefanie Pintoff

   Author Photo by Alison Sheehy


My new novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, is the first in a new   

historical mystery series set in turn-of-the-last-century New York.    

It introduces Detective Simon Ziele, who has left New York City to   

rebuild his life in a small Westchester town following the loss of his   

fiancée in the Slocum steamship disaster (the worst disaster to strike   

the city prior to 9/11).  But the brutal murder of a young woman draws   

him right back into the city – and when early criminal profiler   

Alistair Sinclair becomes involved, Ziele finds himself caught in   

unusual circumstances. 


Alistair believes that he knows the killer’s identity – in fact, he is   

convinced the killer is someone he interviewed in the course of his   

experimental research into the criminal mind.  His evidence is   

compelling, but Ziele is suspicious of a solution that seems too good   

to be true – and leery of putting too much trust in a man whose   

methods are unorthodox and whose agenda is directed by his own   

ambition. They make an unlikely pair:  Alistair is a high-brow society   

figure with a consuming passion for understanding criminal violence,   

and Ziele is a pragmatic investigator with Lower East Side roots and a   

remarkable affinity for each victim he encounters.  And at the heart   

of their relationship is a larger debate:  when lives are at stake,   

how much can we trust in the new, unproven methods of modern forensics? 


By 1905, more innovative criminal scientists were just beginning to   

challenge the prevailing opinion that criminal behavior resulted from   

a flaw of nature – a view popularized by Lombroso’s theory of the   

“born criminal.”  Scientists like my Alistair Sinclair sought to   

challenge these notions by interviewing and learning from a variety of   

incarcerated criminals.  “Evil is less threatening when we understand   

it” is his mantra.  But people worried that if we came to understand   

the criminal mind too well, then we might excuse (and not punish)   

criminal behavior.  Alistair’s ambitions were also limited by a   

virtual race against time.  Unlike today, when convicted murderers   

typically spend years on death row before facing the executioner,   

justice worked fast in turn-of-the-century New York.  Appeals were   

adjudicated in months, not years – and the execution date usually   

followed within weeks, if not days.  So someone like Alistair had very   

little time to gain the trust of and interview more violent offenders. 




Of course, Simon Ziele and Alistair Sinclair don’t just take the   

reader into the world of early criminology.  Their investigation of a   

terrible murder also leads them to explore all that is glamorous – and   

gritty – in old New York, from high-class restaurants and society   

parties to saloons and gambling dens.  If you’d like to learn more   

about me or my book – which should be available here at the Saxton   

Library soon – I encourage you to check out my website at  


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Category: Meet the Author


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