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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 27, 2011
This is Dedicated...

Bury Your Dead

Louise Penny
St. Martin's Press, c.2010

This book is dedicated to second chances--
those who give them
And those who take them

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MARCH 23, 2011
Same Kind of Different As Me ~ Ron Hall & Denver Moore


It’s happened enough that I should know better. When our book group decided to read Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore, I wasn’t positive I would like it. Needless to say, I did; I really liked it!
I’m not certain what I was expecting as the book was described as an unlikely friendship between a homeless man and wealthy art dealer. I just couldn’t get my head around the idea that there was something to say here.
Denver Moore, a black man brought up in 50’s Louisiana; shifted from place to place, suffering terrible losses at a young age, surviving by the hand of The Man, eventually ends up homeless on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas.
Ron Hall, also a child of those times, but with a whole different background, finds himself selling million dollar art work and married to a saint of a woman, Debbie. What seemingly should have been Debbie’s story to tell is handed to Ron and Denver after Debbie’s death.
When Ron and Debbie Hall are first married, they label themselves non-believers. Debbie convinces Ron to join her for a visit to the Union Gospel Mission. Here she finds a place and faith that fits, never looking back. On their first visit to the mission, Debbie tells Ron that she pictures the mission as a different place, “no vagrants, no trash, just a beautiful place where people can get to know god”. How does she know this? She had a dream. As she becomes a regular volunteer, Debbie shares another dream, one about a man, a wise man who changes the city. She saw him. She saw his face. When Denver visits the mission one day, Debbie knows this is the man in her dreams.
As you can tell from the above this is a faith based book. But it is far more than that. It is an exploration of friendship, race, prejudice to the homeless, black, and even the wealthy. It delves into death and dying and end of life issues that will get under your skin. It is a celebration of the life of a strong woman, the man who loved her and a man who would do anything to carry out her dream.

Denver is one fine story-teller and his voice is funny, sad and inspirational indeed.

Those of us brought up in the north can never truly appreciate the realities of the civil rights struggle, sharecropping, and what it meant to be a Negro in the south. We do have some clue about homelessness. The conversation went round and round and we came to no concrete conclusions. Still, I don’t think that any of us read Same Kind of Different As Me without a conscience look at these issues. Books; they take you places, some prettier than others, but it’s always worth the journey.

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MARCH 22, 2011
Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown

Reviewer: bas bleu

Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown

What did I love about this book? First of all, I found the first person plural narration intriguing. I don't remember ever reading another work from this point of view. Secondly, I connected with the characters...anyone who has a sister could relate to how Brown explores sibling relationships. Thirdly, having been an English major, I must admit to loving the character of the father, who speaks to his family in Shakespearean verse. And most importantly, I connected with the characters' reverence for books, reading, and libraries.

I love books that make me reach for my pen and paper so I can write down quotes I don't want to forget. Here is a sampling:

"We've all done foolish things, dear. In my experience, good people punish themselves far more than any external body can manage. And I believe you are a good person. You may have lost your way more than a little bit, but I believe you can find your way back. That's the trick. Finding your way back." (p. 12)

"How can we explain what books and reading mean to our family, the gift of libraries, of pages?" (p. 70)

"But that is why he loved her better than we did - we loved her so much for her strength that we could never let her be weak, and he loved both parts equally." (p. 107)

"I don't know. I keep waiting to feel old, to feel like a grown-up, but I don't yet. Do you think that's the big secret adults keep from you? That you never really feel grown-up?" (p. 188)

"How old were you when you first realized your parents were human? That they were not omnipotent, that what they said did not, in fact, go, they had dreams and feelings and scars? Or have you not realized that yet? Do you still call your parents and have a one-sided conversation with them, child to parent, not adult to adult?" (p. 238)

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MARCH 20, 2011
This is Dedicated
The Three Weissmans of Westport
Cathleen Schine
Sarah Crichton Books
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, C.2010

To the indelible memory of

Betha Ehrenwerth

The fruit does not fall far from the tree

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MARCH 17, 2011
Burlesque ~ DVD
***  CarolK

Despite the mediocre reviews, I still wanted to see the movie Burlesque starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. I'm of the age that makes me a fan of Cher, not only her music, but for her fine performances in Silkwood, Moonstruck and even Mermaids. So was I disappointed in Burlesque? Yes and no. If you look at the history of burlesque and all it has to offer, you'd think this could have been a far better movie. The story line and perhaps because of this, the acting, was definitely not its strong point. But the music, the song and dance and costuming kept both me and my husband interested enough to see it to the end. Both Cher and Christina can really belt out a tune. If I had just picked up the soundtrack I don't thinkl the appeal would be the same but after viewing Burlesque, I easily could slip into a listen of the cd. I'd rate the movie fairly average. Oh, and Christina Aguilera has found a new fan!

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MARCH 14, 2011
Orchid Affair ~ Lauen Willig
   comments by Merand 

Orchid Affair~ Lauren Willig

"Another good showing for the Pink Carnation series. I've enjoyed these books quite a bit - the romance, the drama, the intrigue! This was probably the best offering in the last few. Perhaps that was because it departed slightly from the formula. It was set in Paris which was nice since it is a series about spies during the Napoleonic wars. The main character wasn't someone we were introduced to in the previous book (at least I don't remember her) and finally, neither of the main characters were young, silly, flighty, or any number of other adjectives you could come up with. The family aspect of a father and his young children was a refreshing difference from young debutantes and then the latter portion of the book that focused on traveling actors was interesting. There was also a fun element for me in the discussion of artists during this era that I remembered from my art history days. The modern story fell a little flat to me but it since it isn't the reason one reads the Pink Carnation books, I guess I won't hold it too much against the author. All in all enjoyable and looking forward to the next one which will probably be out next year since Willig seems to turn these out in rapid fashion. Good!

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MARCH 13, 2011
This is Dedicated...

Did not Survive: A Zoo Mystery
Ann Littlewood
Poisoned Pen Press, c2010

Dedicated to Elmer Aldrich, family friend of my childhood,
noted California conservationist, and the first to show me
that sometimes magic wears feathers.

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MARCH 11, 2011
National Book Critics Circle Awards

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, honored last night, with comments from the NBCC:

  • Fiction: Jennifer Egan for A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf). "A novel at once experimental in form and crystal clear in the overlapping stories it delivers, offering us a sense of youth and what gets lost along the way."
  • Nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson for The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House). "A magisterial work, taking its title from a poem by Richard Wright, that chronicles the movement of the six million African Americans who left the Jim Crow South starting in the early 20th century and spread throughout the country."
  • Autobiography: Darin Strauss for Half a Life (McSweeney's). "A brave and heartbreaking account by the novelist of the half a life he's spent coming to terms with an accident he was in that caused a classmate’s death."
  • Biography: Sarah Bakewell for How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Other Press). "A fresh and original treatment from British author Bakewell, a former curator, of the great French essayist in a book that remakes the concept of literary biography."
  • Poetry: C.D. Wright for One with Others: [a little book of her days] (Copper Canyon). "A book that affectingly blends poetry and journalism to detail a significant moment in the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas."
  • Criticism: Clare Cavanagh for Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West (Yale University Press). "A deeply scholarly yet lucid study of hundred years of poems in three languages from the Northwestern University professor."

Have you read any of these? I'm particularly interested in Eagan's "A Visit from the Good Squad". It's made so many lists but I've heard nothing about it from our readers.  It's about an aging former punk rocker and a record executive who confront their past as it pertains to their ever widening world. Though funny at times there is an underlying melancholy througout.

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MARCH 10, 2011
Listen to the Audies
 The Audies Awards Finalists, those audio books vying for the 2011 honors have been announced. Well, actually they were announced in February but I’m always the girl who is a bit behind the times.
The “Audies® competition, the only awards program in the United States devoted entirely to honoring spoken word entertainment. Winners will be announced at the Audies Gala on May 24, 2011, at The Times Center in New York City.”
A few of the titles up for this prestigious prize are listed below. I can personally vouch for The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. I can’t wait to hear the winners and hope to purchase more of these titles for our library.
Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen, Narrated by Hope Davis, Simon & Schuster Audio
Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett, Narrated by John Lee, Penguin Audio
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, by Steve Hockensmith,
   Narrated by Katherine Kellgren, Audible, Inc.
The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall, Narrated by David Aaron Baker, Recorded
The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake, Narrated by Orlagh Cassidy, Blackstone Audio
Abigail Adams, by Woody Holton, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Tantor Audio
Life, by Keith Richards, Narrated by Johnny Depp with Joe Hurley (Featuring Keith
   Richards), Hachette Audio
Somewhere Inside, by Lisa Ling and Laura Ling, Narrated by Lisa Ling and Laura Ling,
The Slave Across the Street, by Theresa Flores, Narrated by Renee Raudman,  
This Time Together, by Carol Burnett, Narrated by Carol Burnett, Random House
You can see the full list here.-                                                               

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MARCH 8, 2011
The E-Book Reading Experience!
With special thanks to Neil Hollands, Book Group Buzz, here's a link to a bit of humor on the book/ebook, debate from the folks at Unshelved.

What do you think? Myself, I love it. So many new gadgets when all I want to do is curl up with a good book that I can hold and read the same old fashioned way, turning it one page at a time.

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MARCH 7, 2011
The Tiger ~ John Vaillant

**** CarolK

 The tiger : a true story of vengeance and survival / John Vaillant.

This is
the second book I've read recently that left me with a song humming in my head. This may seem a bit strange to some, yet when I told my husband about The Tiger by Vaillant, he exclaimed, "wasn't there a song called "Hold that Tiger!". Honestly, that song kept going through my head as I read in wide eyed, couldn't put it down, horror, about the hunt for this, what I could only think of as, serial killer tiger. 

I knew at the get-go that this book would be brutal. It's no secret that it's about the hunt for a man eating tiger in a village in Russia's far east in the late 90's.. That real men die of course, is hard to read. There is so much more here though. Vaillant paints a captivating picture of rural life in Sobolonye, a small mining town in Primorye Territory where the tiger attacks take place. He gives a balanced account of the hunters and the hunted, making it a struggle to condemn or condone the illegal hunting of tigers or the killer tiger, itself. Woven throughout is an informative history of Russia and it's neighbor, China and how this plays in the makeup of this region today. 

Vaillant is respectful in how he portrays the men who are savagely killed and gives voice to their families and the villagers so we, too, mourn their loss. The first, Vladimir Markov, is a man best known for keeping bees. He is described as "compact and solidly built" and with "high cheekbones, melancholy-looking eyes, and an athlete's chin". He was funny and charismatic and people liked him. Four children and a wife to care for may be what prompted Markov's hunt for the tiger; probably not for meat but to sell for an incredible price. 

Vaillant recounts many stories, legend and fact, about the intelligence and vengefulness of tigers. I came away with a new understanding of this magnificent animal. 

Each chapter begins with a quote, some words about tigers. These are more relevant to the story than my Hold that Tiger! song and add depth to the story. One makes reference to a line from Moby Dick by Captain Ahab. The sperm whale of this classic has much in common with the ferocious tigers in Vaillant's book. If only The Tiger were fiction too. 

This quote was one of my favorites: 

Mountains are the more beautiful
After the sun gone down
And it is
Twilight. Boy,
Watch out for tigers, now.
Let's not
Wander about in the field.

...Yun Son-Do (1587-1771), "Sunset"

capturing my sentiments in the end. I won't soon be wandering those fields. 

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MARCH 6, 2011
This is Dedicated...
The Bonesetter's Daughter
Amy Tan
G.P.utnam's, C.2001

On the last day that my mother spent on earth,
I learned her real name, as well as that of my grandmother.
This book is dedicated to them.

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MARCH 3, 2011
These Things Hidden ~ Heather Gudenkauf

Narrators, reliable or unreliable, can make or break a story. The narrators in Heather Gudenkauf's These Things Hidden are possibly both, and it's up to us, the readers, to decide. In recent fiction, multiple narrator point of view, where each character tells their story, has been a bit overdone. Not the case here. Gudenkauf steps it up a notch by not only delivering relevant point of view but by giving each character the task of revealing just so much of the picture, excruciatingly at times, keeping the tension high. She is a master of this technique!

The story begins with the release from prison of twenty-one year old Allison for a crime, not immediately named, but the reader knows it's a bad one. In the ensuing chapters, the other characters are introduced, each of their stories intertwining with Allison's and demanding our attention. Slowly and painstakingly, we learn the hidden truths. 

Heather Gudenkauf''s Weight of Silence was a first rate debut. Gudenkauf's on my map with this second venture. It's an excellent examination of family dynamics. I could tell you more but read it for yourself. I'm certain you won't be disappointed.

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