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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
MARCH 29, 2009
Three Cups of Tea ~ Greg Mortenson
Have you ever balked at reading a book that comes with enthusiastic recommendations? Three Cups of Tea was that kind of book for me. Everyone was recommending it and it had won lots of awards including Time Magazine's Asia Book Award. It got high marks from bookbrowse.com, a reviewing source I hold in high regard, and it was the choice of our non-fiction reading group, a group of people who usually pick some great books. So why was I avoiding starting this book. I'm not quite sure but I had this picture of it of being a virtuous story and dripping with sentimentality and my sour mood of the week wasn't buying it. Finally the day came when I could put it off no longer. I had to read the book. As always, in these matters, someone has more sense than me. Three Cups of Tea is worth all the good press it has received and more. It could have been a tedious telling of boring facts, outlining Greg Mortenson's plan to build schools to promote peace in the remote villages of Pakistan. That it was not, I credit to the author David Oliver Relin's skill. From page one I was hooked as he describes Mortenson's attempt and failure to climbK2, the world's second highest mountain, in the Karakoram range of northern Pakistan. I met many interesting people in these pages, con artists, swindlers, philanthropists, village children and the Taliban. I listened to the foresight of village leaders and elders who knew that education would improve the life of their people. I cried as on Haji Ali fought those who would stop construction of his village school. The cost, twelve large rams, rams that are as valuable as a firstborn child, a prize cow or family pet to these people. He shares this with Mortenson "Do you see how beautiful this Koran is? I can't read it. I can't read anything This is the greatest sadness in my life. I'll do anything so the children of my village never have to know this feeling. I'll pay any price so they have the education they deserve." I nodded my head in agreement with the advice given to Mortenson as he drinks cups of scalding butter tea with the chief of the village and aptly gives title to the book. "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything, even die. Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated, but we are not stupid. We have survived here for a long time."
There is edge of your seat suspense as Mortenson learns the ropes of negotiating in a culture that he is unfamiliar. I tensed the first time he carried large sums of money in his vest pockets for needed building materials with crooks lurking everywhere. I cringed when he was kidnapped and was feared for his life. Death threats and two fatwas add to my unease. Somehow, Mortenson comes out of all this and over time eventually builds that first school and many others, not only in Pakistan, but Afghanistan too.
How fortunate I am to be able to read and how lucky I am that my book group chose Three Cups of Tea. It is an uplifting story and an excellent read. I'll be buying copies for my friends. Hopefully, they will not be as pig-headed a me and will read it soon.
MARCH 25, 2009
The school of essential ingredients ~ Erica Bauermeister
Lillian owns a restaurant, and one Monday evening a month runs a cooking class. The students who gather in her kitchen come to learn about food, but even more importantly, leave with a deeper understanding of their own lives. Reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, The School of Essential Ingredients is an achingly lyrical ode to food. Each turn of the phrase is so painstakingly crafted that you will feel like you are feasting on Bauermeister's words. If you enjoy books that seem to melt away the stresses of your daily life, you'll want to dive into this one. When I turned the last page, I wished for my world to be as warm, comforting, and right as the world Lillian created with her philosophy of cooking and life.
MARCH 23, 2009
Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches? ~ Mike O'Connor
I pride myself on my bird savvy but Mike has me beat by a mile. Take for instance my belief, one shared by many, that baby birds that have fallen from a nest should not be touched by human hands in the belief the mother will abandon the baby. O'Connor maintains songbirds aren't in the habit of sniffing their nestling's. As for the one that cardinals mate for life, he dispels this myth, stating they might spend a year with the same partner, but life, this "gives us the impression that they spend years of bliss together until they retire to a cardinal condo in Ft. Lauderdale" (pg. 53).
MARCH 17, 2009
Laws of Harmony ~ Judith Ryan Hendricks
So...what's your novel really about?
Welcome guest author Judith Ryan Hendricks as she tells the story behind The Laws of Harmony.
Although its inciting incident is the death of a child, The Laws of Harmony is not about death. It’s about living in the aftermath of loss, something we all know about. Whether it’s loss due to death or divorce, loss of a friend, a job, a home…there are losses in all our lives and we all find ways to keep on living. Sunny Cooper finds consolation in the same things that see the rest of us through—food, music, friendship, love and our capacity to find humor in the most unlikely places.
And by humor, I don’t mean jokes. Humor is not about being funny. Real humor is a state of mind, a way of looking at life that prevents you from throwing yourself off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, no matter how sad you are, or how desperate. Which is why I can’t write a book without humor anymore than I can write a book without food or music, friendship or love.
To watch a video trailer of The Laws of Harmony, please visit my website, www.judihendricks.com .
MARCH 14, 2009
The Given Day ~ Dennis Lehane
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane is one of my favorite recent reads. I put it out on our Saxton Stars cart but never actually reviewed it. I have been telling people about it at the desk. You might know Lehane best for two of his books that were made into fine movies, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone. Given Day has been called a departure for Lehane, a different type of book than the mystery/thriller his fans are used to reading. I can't say that I quite agree. Though it doesn't feature Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, detectives in many of his other books, you'll still find much of the action taking place in Boston. Not South Boston, the haunt of most of his books, but this time, a bit north, in Little Italy. It's more of a historical thriller and the best I've read in some time. A simple summary is hard to do as the book is over 700 pages. Set in the early days after World War I, the story is told with a backdrop of The Boston Police Strike and the spanish influenza. It's a story of family, love, passion, racism, and political corruption beyond belief.
Open Book Club, a new website with podcasts hosted by Christy Cashman and Debbie DiMasi. Each episode interviews authors and others about recent books. The Given Day (click to link to the podcast). It's an in depth discussion, lasting approx. 50 min.
Power Play by Joseph Finder
MARCH 4, 2009
Handle with Care ~ Jodi Picoult
Some books are hard to talk about with giving away too much. Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care is one of these. Anyone reading a summary will get a feel for the plot. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe have two daughters, Amelia and Willow and could be the picture of the average American family. But average they are not as Willow suffers from a rare, disfiguring disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, a disorder which causes bones to break easily.
Picoult twists this story every which way and that, almost too much for me. She puts the whole family, Charlotte, Sean, Amelia, the family of Piper (ob/gyn), the lawyers, both sides, plaintiff and defendant, the community, the whole lot, under a very powerful microscope and dissects them piece by piece. It can be painful to read.
MARCH 3, 2009
The secret history of the Pink Carnation ~ Lauren Willig