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Author Archives:Liz Reed


Turn the Page at the Library with Louise Penny

Life changed quickly at the end of the 20th century and it seems to continuing that rapid change in the 21st. Personal computers, cell phones, email, and the Internet were the first to crash onto the scene at public libraries before the Y2K scare. Since then, streaming video, digital books and magazines, gadgets, and much more have found their way into the library and onto the Cloud.

Many of the library’s staff who served Norwood from its desks and telephones in the 20th century have retired in the past 17 years.  One of those librarians, Margot Sullivan, came to Norwood from the Boston Public Library in the 1980’s. Although she officially retired her position as Adult Services Librarian in 2008, she continued her very popular First Thursday book discussion group for nearly another decade. After 33 years leading the group, she recently decided to move closer to her son and his family in New Jersey. Of course no one could replace Margot or her leadership of the First Thursday book group.  Margot’s fans had read well over 250 books in the thirty-plus years that they met within the library’s rooms.

And so, it was time to Turn the Page.  A handful (or two) of library staff decided to lead a newly-formed discussion group with a decidedly different format. Plans were made for two staff each month to organize and host a once-a-month Wednesday program (held both in the morning and afternoon, as Margot had done.)

For the first discussion of the Turn the Page book discussion group in November, librarians Alli Palmgren and Nancy Ling chose David McCullough’s 2015 biography of the Wright Brothers. Over forty-five enthusiastic readers took the challenge, checked out the book in advance, and attended the Turn the Page discussions on Wednesday, November 15.

December’s discussion will continue this new format with Louise Penny’s first book, Still Life. Technical Services Assistant Patty Bailey and I are reading the book for what we hope will be a lively talk. Penny’s mystery Still Life, published in 2005, is the beginning book in the Three Pines Mystery series. Her latest and thirteenth book, Glass Houses, was published just this past summer.

Although I’d never read Louise Penny before now, I had heard people rave about her stories for years. Her Three Pines mystery series (and one novella for teens) feature Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector for Homicide (and eventually superintendent) of the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force for the Canadian province of Quebec.  The setting is the fictional village of Three Pines, not far from Montreal. (Author Penny claims that Three Pines is somewhat of a compilation of a few villages she has known and loved.) The mystery is the death of retired teacher Jane Neal, killed while walking in the woods near her home.

Louise Penny’s career did not begin with writing. Penny became a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after graduating from college at 21. She remained in that professions for 18 years. As a professional radio host in various locations across Canada, Penny suffered from a deep loneliness, and at the age of 35 realized that she had become an alcoholic. She did not like herself and admits that continuing her drinking would have cost her everything – her friends, family and career – had she not broken the downward spiral. After giving up alcohol and marrying a well-known Montreal hematologist, she left radio and was able to focus on her writing. Dr. Michael Whitehead convinced Penny to give up her broadcasting career to write. A historical novel did not materialize, however, and she suddenly, and fortuitously, decided to write mystery novels, one of her own favorite genres. She claims her leading man, Inspector Gamache, is modeled on her husband and she credits Whitehead’s love and support for much of her success. Sadly, Whitehead succumbed to dementia at the age of 82. Penny, twenty-years his junior, cared for him until his death in 2016 in gratitude for giving her the freedom to write.

Many readers and reviewers have labeled Penny’s Three Pines novels “cozies” which are a subset of mystery novels.  Cozies downplay the violence of crime and death with a setting that often exudes warmth and intimacy. Marian Masters, owner of the popular Toronto mystery bookstore Sleuth of Baker Street, claims the cozy label doesn’t actually fit Penny’s books.  Master’s argues that “Louise’s books are police procedurals with a very British flavor … with nasty murders and fascinating, complicated characters.”[1]

The name of the village of Three Pines itself has a mystique of its own. (Besides, of course, having an abnormally high murder rate. For a small village, you certainly wouldn’t expect so many mysterious deaths.) The lore behind three pine trees planted together in Canadian towns and villages, just over the border of New England states, is interesting. The three pines were supposedly code for the Loyalists to the British crown, those who fled America during the Revolutionary War. A house with three white pines in the front was a signal that Loyalists could seek refuge there. While there does not seem to be much historical reference to what might just be a legend, it adds intrigue to Penny’s tales.

Still Life was filmed as a made-for-television movie in 2013. While it was an adaptation, Penny co-wrote the screenplay and was pleased with it. (It’s available in the Minuteman Library catalog and should not be mistaken with either the Italian movie starring Eddie Marsden or the Chinese film directed by Jia Zhang-Ke. All three are titled Still Life.) Still Life: The Three Pines Mystery is fun with great characterization and scenery. One of the complaints is the decidedly British accent of Inspector Gamache who most assuredly spoke both Canadian English and French.

Many versions of Still Life can be found in the Minuteman Library catalog, including the audiobook, e-book, and large print. A version of the audiobook narrated by Ralph Cosham is currently available free on Hoopla, one of our library’s streaming services.

The Turn the Page Book Discussion group will meet on Wednesday, December 20th at both 10 am and 7 pm. We ask that you register as free refreshments are offered to all participants. Patty Bailey and I will be sharing a publisher’s map of Three Pines and other interesting trivia about Louise Penny and Still Life. Call the library for more information.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the December 14, 2017 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


10/10 Recommend: The Review Wars

It’s an accepted fact that we are living in the era of information. More than ever, people have instant access to knowledge that can help them make decisions in their everyday lives.  People are using their smartphones, computers, and other devices to make informed choices about their medical care, their political views, and how to spend their money.  And it has never been easier to spend money thanks to the convenience of shopping online.  Open access to information about products and services means we now have endless choices to consider.  So how do people figure out the best way to get the most for their money? Even with all this new technology, people still rely on an old-school method:  recommendations and reviews.

There are so many services and websites that provide us with consumer reviews.  This should make the process of selecting the best products and services easier but somehow things are still just as complicated!  There are two ways most of us look at reviews online: separate review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor OR the reviews sections of websites that directly sell products like  Products and services that are well reviewed generally jump to the top of any results list.  But it seems businesses have responded to these attempts to empower the consumer with fake reviews.  Supposedly, individual users of sites like are meant to buy a product, use it, and then rate or review it with feedback for other individual users to contemplate when making their own purchasing decisions.

So how does a company that sells products on a site like Amazon get individuals to write bogus reviews?  By offering incentives, of course!  Some companies have set up Facebook groups to recruit potential reviewers by offering full refunds on the product they were selling if the reviewer provided a high number of stars and a glowing review.  This ensures the product will appear at the top of search results, creating the illusion of goodness rather than revealing an accurate assessment of it.

Of course, the idea of sending out free product in hopes of good reviews is not a new marketing strategy.  Business have done this for years.  The difference now is where vendors previously hoped that the free things would sway people’s recommendations, companies now require an explicit exchange to occur in order to secure a good rating for their product:  you get this thing for free if, and ONLY if, you write a good review for us.

YouTube is another treasure trove of reviews that would appear helpful since videos allow potential buyers to see a product in action.  The comment section of review videos can also aid consumers suss out potential problems.  But brands have discovered a way to take incentives a bit further than just providing free products to content creators.  Many brands now sponsor lavish trips to exotic destinations and invite select “influencers” that reflect their key demographic to participate when new products are launched.  I imagine it’s pretty tough to film a negative review of a product from a brand that has just sent you on a fre trip to Tahiti, a reason many YouTubers cite when they simply opt NOT to talk about a product on their channels at all instead giving it an honest, critical review. In reality, many content creators are not able to monetize their channels or other social media platforms and thus depend on free products to keep their reviews going.

The tension between free products from brands and honest reviews puts consumers in the middle.  Now that the holiday season is kicking off, more and more people are shopping online.  This past Black Friday and Cyber Monday seemed especially focused on online deals, with some starting the weekend before Thanksgiving and others extending to the week after.  Clearly, with our busy lives and holiday seasons, we are drawn to the convenience of shopping via the Internet. But if we aren’t able to examine the quality of the goods we’re purchasing or make any kind of assessment until they arrive in packages at our houses, we have to use reviews smartly to our advantage.  Using a few basic techniques and some common sense will help you spot a product with many fake or biased reviews.

First, it helps to read a bunch of positive reviews for a product.  Notice the language.  Do reviewers use the same key phrases or words to describe the product? If so, that can be a sign that the brand has provided reviewers with preferred talking points to include. Secondly,  look at how specific or detailed people are in their review.  The generic phrase “This product is great” doesn’t really help anyone decide if the product is a good fit.  If a review can point a few different things that made this product worthwhile or call out a few small drawbacks, it’s more likely the review is genuine.

It also helps to know when a product came on the market.  If it’s just been released and there are many glowing reviews, it can be a sign that the vendor solicited biased opinions that aren’t accurate or helpful. Finally, and this is for the truly detail oriented folks, if you start to notice the same usernames providing positive reviews for multiple products in a short period of time, you can generally conclude that reviewer might have been swayed by the promise of free stuff.

Online shopping is one of the miracles of our current technological age.  Theoretically, we should be able to save  time and money by engaging in a very targeted consumer experience rather than traditional browsing.  Through online reviews, we also have access to the best consumer resource out there:  other people’s experiences.  But even though technology has helped us spend more money than before, in order to spend it wisely, we still must evaluate our information in ways librarians have been recommending for years:  consider your sources carefully and verify the facts before you decide to hit that “Place Order” button.

Kate Tigue is the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Kate’s column in the December 7, 2017 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Winter Reading ’17-’18 BINGO: Hibernate with a Book!

goodies and snowThe Morrill Memorial Library invites you to Hibernate with a Book this winter! You know you’ll be cuddling up with a few good books, so why not have a chance to win a prize with Reader’s BINGO?

Reader’s BINGO is open to everyone high school-aged or older. Any books you finish this winter can be included on your BINGO sheet, with each book counting for a single square. Don’t worry, audiobooks and graphic novels definitely count.

BINGO goes from December 2017 through March 9, 2018.

Each completed BINGO row equals one entry for our prize drawings. Gift certificate and goodie basket prizes have generously been provided by the local sponsors listed below, and we also have a basket full of autographed books from local authors donated as a prize. book and fireplace

Download BINGO sheets below, or pick them up in the library. BINGO sheets can be submitted to Nancy Ling in Outreach or to Liz Reed in Reference. Turn them in even if you’ve only completed one or two rows – you might win! Sheets must be returned by noon on Friday March 9.

Download your BINGO sheet here!

Gift certificate prizes provided by:






Please contact either of these librarians with any questions:

Liz Reed:
781-769-0200 x110

Nancy Ling:
781-769-0200 x228


The World’s Worst…and Best Puppy

Let’s admit it. We had been warned. “Puppies are just like babies,” friends said. “At your age, a puppy will wear both of you out,” our kids told us. They chew. They make messes. They need so much attention.

We lost our beloved 11-1/2 year old Boxer in September 2016. Over the next nine months as we grieved, we also managed to convince everyone, including each other and ourselves, that we weren’t anywhere ready for another dog. We were enjoying the freedom from having to be home on time. We didn’t miss the muddy paw prints, the dog toys strewn about, and our car no longer boasted a full coat of dog hair on the seats and the floor.

There were no streaky nose prints on the car windows or on the French doors at home. There was no annoying barking at the mailman and any friend or foe who came near our home.  There were no stray dog toys and bones tripping us up, and no more slippery water sploshes on the kitchen floor.

Yet, we missed the u-shaped, body-shivering hellos that greeting our every homecoming. We yearned for the warm, solid presence of a beloved dog at our feet in bed. We were even nostalgic for the leggy-cuddles – those that caused us to cry “uncle” and retreat to the love seat across the room – alone, without the furry friend who had pushed us off the couch.

One day this past June, a friend hinted that there might be some sweet puppies we would like to meet in New Bedford. They were eight-week old Boxers, a comical, loyal breed we knew so well. We convinced ourselves that we were only curious. We were “only looking,” we claimed. With six young grandchildren in our home for holidays and vacations, we were reluctant to rescue a grown dog who might take months or years to learn to trust. Yet, for obvious reasons, we were not so sure about a puppy, either.

Once a snub-nosed runt-of-the-litter puppy stared into my eyes, licked my fingers, nuzzled my chin, and curled up on my lap, I was smitten. Logic, resolve, and a window-shopping-fantasy ended right there. My husband Gerry knew it was love at first sight and sighed deeply, while at the same time secretly smiling. This new puppy we named Oreo (for the slice of white that appeared like the frosting in an Oreo cookie) came to live with us that week.

Several days later, reality set in. Our soft, cuddly puppy nipped at our grandchildren’s heels and grabbed them by the back of their heads, nibbling on their hair, knocking them over with all 12 pounds of his effervescent love. He stole the socks right off my feet and my knitting from the coffee table. He piddled and chewed and tripped us with every step we took. Those first few months I was sure he would never grow out of every stage he suddenly was in. He seemed to gain a half-a-pound a day, outgrowing every bed, leash and harness before we even got the credit card bill.

We crate trained. We downloaded the WAG app and arranged dog walkers like UBER rides.  We met other four-legged friends and their owners, praying that our puppy would wear himself out in a half-hour of before-suppertime play. We scolded, we praised, we admonished. We sighed.

We had, after all, been warned about puppies.

At nearly eight months, Oreo’s energy is unbounded. He peers from his crate when we walk through to door, as if to say “Hey! Thanks for coming back.” He sits, he stays. He gives one paw and “the other.” He makes his presence known on every couch and bed when he rests his grateful, heavy head on our cold and tired calves. His dog walkers call him the King of Norwood as he greets every person, dog, leaf and stick with enthusiastic attention. He still manages to steal a knitting needle here and there, run off gleefully with my socks.  Left alone, he can’t be trusted not to gnaw a chair leg or pillow, mistaking them for one of his dozens of toys. He will endlessly play fetch in and out of the house and up and down the halls and stairs.

One of our puppy guidebooks suggested that there are no bad puppies, just bad humans. While this advice might be brutal and unwelcome, it is most likely true. Dogs who mess in the house need a more regular schedule of being let outside. Dogs who chew need toys and exercise. Dogs who nip need stern training.

Oreo is either dog-walked up to an hour every day while we are at work or he spends the full day in doggie daycare and arrives home too exhausted to eat dinner. During the Thanksgiving holiday, we realized we needed to add “vigorous walk” to Oreos’ vacation schedule, too.

Fortunately, the south coast where we spend our holidays boasts many dog-friendly walking trails, off-season beaches and cranberry bogs. We’ve found countless resources online and on sites such as the Trustees of Reservations, Buzzard’s Bay Coalition and the Sippican Land Trust. When we venture further out for day trips to stretch Oreo’s legs and save our furniture, socks, and my knitting projects, we’ll take along some books like Best Hikes with Dogs Boston and Beyond by Jenna Ringelheim, Best Hikes with Dogs in New Hampshire and Vermont by Lisa Densmore, Doggin’ Massachusetts by Dog Gelbert, and Dog-Friendly New England by Trisha Blanchet.

Last week, when we weren’t watching, Oreo chewed a 3” triangular piece off a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind stool that sits in our back utility hall. I fought mightily to stifle my aggravation. He’s only a puppy, I groaned.

Last Sunday I nestled down on the couch with Oreo and re-watched Marley and Me, the 2008 film version of John Grogan’s book about his beloved Golden Retriever. Sobbing at the end of the film, I tightly held Oreo, all legs, massive paws and broad chest. I wondered how we, too, had ended up with the world’s worst dog – who we love with all our hearts.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the November 30, 2017 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


Revisiting New England from Fluff to Baked Beans

The United States is a diverse country. We are a culturally, intellectually, and religiously diverse people, and our regional foods reflect that. Every state, and even every city can lay claim to its own slice of American culinary culture. Buffalo, NY contributed the chicken wings that are so popular on game day, Philadelphia is all about the cheese steak, and it is hard to think of Chicago without thinking of deep dish pizza. While New England may not have a dish as popular as the buffalo wing or as iconic as Texas barbeque, a surprising number of amazing foods have roots right in our own back yard.

I started thinking about this when I saw a new book sitting on one of my co-worker’s desks awaiting processing. “Fluff: The Sticky Sweet Story of an American Icon” by Mimi Graney chronicles the story of the fluffy marshmallow spread that has been a lunchbox hit for decades. After reading this entertaining history and running to the store to purchase a jar of the marshmallow-y goodness I was seriously craving, I came to think of other things that are regional favorites.

Naturally, my mind went straight to what many people consider to be the Commonwealth’s most recognizable treat: Boston cream pie. While this “pie” might be the official dessert of Massachusetts (yes, Massachusetts has a state dessert), I don’t find it to be terribly representative of classic New England food culture. As Brook Dojny explains in “The New England Cookbook : 350 Recipes from Town and Country, Land and Sea, Hearth and Home,” New England cooking has been shaped not only by the native peoples that have inhabited this land for countless generations, but also by the multitude of immigrants that found their ways to our rocky shores, and even by geography itself.
Quintessential New England recipes are hearty and filling. They use easily available ingredients, largely from local sources, and are rarely fussy or overly complicated. Some prime examples of this are baked beans, chowders, Johnny cakes, steamed seafood, and the fruit cobblers and pies that are so prevalent on our tables.

Speaking of desserts (mostly), “The New England Orchard Cookbook : Harvesting Dishes & Desserts from the Region’s Bounty” by Linda Beaulieu was another recent find that solved a problem common to many Bay State families this time of year. We were positively drowning in a glut of apples after an apple picking outing with my husband, sister, and niece. Even with four enthusiastic apple eaters, we had barely made a dent into our haul weeks later. While I had to order this book from another library in the Minuteman Library Network, it was well worth the wait. Part travel guide, part agricultural history lesson, and part cookbook, this book did not disappoint. In no time, we had reduced our apple stock- without getting sick of them!

While most New Englanders can agree that an old fashioned apple pie is delicious, there are many traditional dishes that folks love or just love to hate. Moxie soda (love), brown bread from a can (love), Necco Wafers (love, especially the clove flavor), clam chowder (hate), and even good old marshmallow Fluff (love). Regardless of whether you think Indian pudding is delicious or horrible, mealy sludge, I think we can all agree that New England has a lot to offer when comes to filling our bellies.

Read Alli Palmgren’s column in the November 23, 2017 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Alli is the Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.

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