books I've read

Anne Hawn's books

Who Moved My Cheese?
If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans
Scientific Secrets for Self-Control
Just One Damned Thing After Another
The Vanishing
Exercises in Knitting
The Good Dream
The Very Best of Edgar Allan Poe
The Chosen
BT-Kids' Knits
Talking God
The Professor
The Christmas Files
The Finisher
Home Decor for 18-Inch Dolls: Create 10 Room Settings with Furniture and 15 Outfits with Accessories
Dracula and Other Stories
A New Song
Christy
All Quiet on the Western Front
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents


Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 30,000 pages.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes

Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes (Domestic Equalizers Book 4) Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes by Dixie Cash


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book by this author that I have read. Debbie Sue and Edwina from a tiny Texas town have been invited to New York to a detectives conference. They are detectives who operate a beauty parlor along with their detective agency. This is a cozy Southern mystery and has lots of local color. There is romance, hi-jinks and some pretty good reasoning all wrapped up in one lighthearted mystery.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash

Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash (Domestic Equalizers Book 1) Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash by Dixie Cash


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was the first book by this author I have listened to. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the Deep South novels because they remind me of Mississippi, so I am more attuned to the characters than the plot, but this one was pretty good. Usually books in which you know the perp early on aren't very good, but this one was entertaining. The two detectives from a small town in Texas also are beauticians. They get involved in tracking down the murderer because Debbie Sue is up to her eyebrows in debt and is in danger of losing the beauty shop. This is definitely a cozy type mystery and is more about crazy situations and cross purposes.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was excellent. The complicated relationship between the characters was rich and well articulated. I liked this especially because it gave me some insight into the complicated thinking of the Taliban and the people who are effected by them. Apart from that, the book was an excellent thriller.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Aunt Dimity Mystery, #1

Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity Mystery, #1) Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Lori Shepherd receives word that she has received an inheritance from Aunt Dimity, she is shocked. Aunt Dimity was a fictitious character her mother told stories about to entertain Lori when she was young...at least that is what she thought.

With the help of her lawyer and his interesting assistant, Lori follows the trail of the real Aunt Dimity by following the letter of her own dead mother. Nothing is simple in this unique plot, but it is all entertaining. I liked this character very much and will be reading more.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hard Truth (Anna Pigeon Mysteries, #13

Hard Truth (Anna Pigeon Mysteries, #13) Hard Truth by Nevada Barr


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is much darker than the earlier books. I think it is because it deals with a psychopathic killer of children and the oppression of women and children in the fundamentalist break-away sect of the Mormon church similar to the enclave of Warren Jeffs. In both cases, the helpless are being oppressed and the reader is helpless.

There is a new character introduced that I would love to see again. Heath is an embittered woman who has become a paraplegic due to a climbing accident. She is a very resentful woman who comes to an area of the park designed for handicapped campers with her psychologist aunt. As the story progresses, she gets caught up in the lives of the children and she ends up being very involved in the whole cast. I would love to see her appear in some of the newer books...that is, if she hasn't already. I haven't finished the series, and I can hope that she is brought back.

The language is pretty rough as is the Christian bashing. Barr herself seems to be very conflicted about this issue and has a supercilious attitude to Christians that is more intolerant than the people she is confining to the lower end of the IQ range. It would behoove her to look at the huge number of intelligent and respected human beings past and present who are deeply committed Christians.

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The Polar Express

The Polar ExpressThe Polar Express by Chris VanAllsburg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book for both children and adults. It's all about a cynical little boy who is not sure he believes in Santa or Christmas. He takes a ride on the Polar Express, meets two special friends and gets a special gift from Santa.


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Sunday, November 29, 2009

High_Country

High Country (Anna Pigeon Mysteries, #12) High Country by Nevada Barr


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This mystery takes place in Yosemite National Park. Anna has been sent to work undercover to discover what has happened to 4 young people who have disappeared and are presumed dead. She gets a job as a waitress in the historic Ahwahnee Hotel where she meets with many rich and colorful people. While the park search and rescue unit has been searching for the young people, Anna is looking for a common link between the deaths.

When she begins to figure out what has happened, she goes to the parks chief ranger, who has his own problems and does not give her any support. Investigating on her own, she finds herself alone at night in the freezing cold, being tracked by some very unpleasant people who want something she has. The problem is that Anna doesn't know what it is.

This mystery isn't Nevada Barr's best. I found it hard to get interested in most of the characters. The relationship between Anna and the park superintendent is probably the weakest and is never really developed. The climax of the book does not provide the solution of the mystery which is left to a shaky addendum which, while drawing the book to a conclusion, doesn't really satisfy.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback

Flashback (Anna Pigeon Mysteries, #11) Flashback by Nevada Barr


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Anna Pigeon has been sent to Ft. Jefferson to temporarily replace the supervisory ranger on remote Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park. She is also running from a proposal of marriage from the Sheriff/Minister back on in Mississippi and this will give her some badly needed breathing space. The fort is a bleak and lonely post about 70 miles from Key West. The group of islands are just barely above sea level and are almost deserted. There is, however, Ft. Jefferson, a Civil War fort which houses the National Park operations.

To help her pass the time, her sister has sent her some letters from their Great Great Aunt who was living at the fort when it was a military outpost during the Civil War. Her aunt was living there with her difficult husband who was the Commandant of the fort during the time the Civil War prisoners were occupying it. The arrival of Dr. Mudd and Samuel Arnold, convicted of acting in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln, sets in motion the turmoil to which the letters relate.

The book switches between the past and present which is a new device for Nevada Barr. Each chapter seems to end on a cliff hanger, so you are always being tempted to read much longer than you should just to get back to the opposite century. All in all, this was very good. The mystery was tight and also gave much information on an area of the country most people don't even know exists.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Vengeful Longing

A Vengeful Longing (Porfiry Petrovich, #2) A Vengeful Longing by R.N. Morris


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book I have read by this author and I had the same mixed feelings about the books. They mystery is great and the Magistrate Porfiry Petrovich is wonderful. He is something of a Colombo character and I really like him. The problem with the books is not really the fault of the author. It is the naming system the Russians use. Each character is called by about three different names and it is very confusing. This is especially so when you are using an audiobook, which I was. With a book, you can go back a chapter and see who the character is, but it is impossible with an audiobook. I found my self going back over parts trying to relate the action with the correct character.

That being said, I truly enjoyed the mystery and the personalities of the main characters. I also enjoyed the glimpse into Russian history and the Russian nature. I certainly will read more by the author, but I will allow extra time to go back and sort out the characters. Since I am always doing something else while I am listening, this is not really an inconvenience since I can just listen to the chapter again until I get them straight in my head.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Helen Hath No Fury

Helen Hath No Fury Helen Hath No Fury by Gillian Roberts


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was the second book from this author that I have read, and I really enjoyed it. I find Amanda Pepper a believable protagonist and most of the people in the book are not two dimensional. A woman is murdered in Amanda's book group and it turns out that the group didn't know her at all. The hurt and confusion comes when they find out that she has taken her own life and none of them saw it coming. As a group, they begin to dissect what they know of Helen and try to find out how they, her friends, could have known so little of what was going on in her life to bring her to such an action.

I found the scenario to be totally realistic. The day before Helen's suicide, she had been adamant that the character in the book they were reading was weak and a coward for committing suicide. How could they then comprehend that she was to commit suicide the next day? How could they, as friends, not see through her actions and help her? It is the most natural thing in the world for them to try to learn more about her life and how they misjudged her. I am liking this series more and more.


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Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked this book because it could be downloaded from my library and it seemed like it had potential. I should have known after the first chapter it wasn't going to work for me. Sookie is a contradictory protagonist and there is a lot of the book that just doesn't make sense. I'm not crazy about vampires, except for the original Dracula, so I should have known better. The book needed a lot more editing and some attention needed to be paid to setting the stage for behaviors of some of the characters, especially Sam. The characters were all two dimensional and didn't ring true. I won't be reading any more.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1) 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have read this book before but enjoyed again the rich characters in it. Each of the people exists in a rooming house passing each other in the hall and yet not really knowing about each other's lives. My favorite character is the little boy prodigy, Bertie, or at least his mother thinks so. He is 5 and playing the saxophone and learning to read and speak Italian. His overly involved mother has painted his bedroom pink so he will not be bound by the cultural stereotypes and would rather see him play with dolls instead of the trains he so loves. There is something wonderfully satisfying about the way this thread plays out.

Then there is the main character, Pat, who is taking her second gap year and finds herself in a flat with the narcissistic Bruce whom I wanted to strangle on most every page. She gets a job at an art gallery working for the dilettante, Matthew, who has never had to make a living, which is a good thing, since he has failed at everything he ever did. His father seems to think nothing of bailing him out and letting him start over. The main action centers around a painting in the gallery which they think may be by Samuel Peploe, but that part of the plot is just a device to hang all these wonderful character sketches on.

As with all of Alexander McCall Smith's books, there is more about how the characters think and feel than a plot. This is a gentle philosophical and thoroughly entertaining book and I will read anything he has written. I am so in love with his characters. I think he has a lot in common with Charles Dickens and will be surprised if some of his characters begin to have a life of their own outside of his books.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Death of a Travelling Man

Death of a Travelling Man (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 9) Death of a Travelling Man by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Poor Hamish. An unsavory pair of "travelers" park their caravan in the village and proceed to wreck havoc. They are considering themselves gypsies and are hiding behind the laws meant to protect a way of life for a group of people whose heritage is to travel. That is not what these two are though. They are "hippies" of the worst sort and the life of the village is turned on its heels when they show up. They get the villagers on their side in the beginning, but soon things start to sour and inevitably there comes a body. Hamish is on the spot, but struggles, not only with Supt. Blair, but also with he obsessive compulsive PC who cleans everything that either moves or doesn't move. Hamish, regretfully, allowed himself to take credit for solving the last murder and thus was promoted landing him with an assistant who is threatening to drive him insane. In the end, Hamish manages to solve the murder and change his living arrangements suitably but not without some really rough patches.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Adam and Evil: An Amanda Pepper Mystery

Adam and Evil: An Amanda Pepper Mystery (Anthony Awardwinning Series) Adam and Evil: An Amanda Pepper Mystery by Gillian Roberts


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amanda Pepper is a teacher we can all admire and relate to. She is devoted to her students and when she feels that one of the boys in her class, Adam, is dangerously close to a mental breakdown, she calls in his parents. They do not want to admit that Adam could have a problem and end up getting Amanda in all sorts of trouble with her boot-licking principal. When someone is murdered in the State Library, Adam is the prime suspect. He is on the run and getting less and less in touch with reality. Amanda tries to convince someone that the boy is not only innocent, but in real trouble, but things only become worse.

I really liked this book and the protagonist. I thought she behaved in a logical manner and solved the crime in a way that a real "amateur detective" would. The police don't know the boy and the people who should know him best are too busy with their own selves to look at what is going on with their son. I'll be reading more of this series

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Miss Julia's School of Beauty

Miss Julia's School of Beauty (Miss Julia Book 6) Miss Julia's School of Beauty by Ann B. Ross


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
These Miss Julia books are, I guess, pure fluff, but they are delightful. I can just see prim and proper Miss Julia whose life has been turned upside down when it appears that the wedding at a Heavenly Chapel turns out to possibly have been officiated at by a Minister who wasn't ordained and thus the ceremony amounted to nothing. Is she married or not...oh, the agony. Miss Julia has always tried to do the right thing. Shed doesn't go in for the free wheeling sexual revolution, but finds herself on the wrong side of propriety. The funny situations she gets into by trying to keep the mystery from being known and explaining her new husband's absence are so entertaining. Her well meaning friends end up making the whole mess worse and on top of that, she finds herself helping with a beauty pageant when she never went in for that sort of thing and has a thought or two about the clothing or lack of it that the contestants are to wear. This is Miss Julia at her best and is thoroughly entertaining.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Crossed Bones

Crossed Bones Crossed Bones by Carolyn Haines


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was very good! The characters are very compelling and even the murder victim seems alive through the eyes of the people around him. Sarah Booth Delaney is a plucky heroine with a true Mississippi flavor. The culture of the South comes through with all the positives and negatives I associate with the Mississippi culture. The addition of Jitty, a clothes horse ghost, gives some real sparkle to the action. Jitty moves the plot along in critical situations and is a real plus to Sarah Booth, even though she doesn't always feel that way.

Why does the widow of black Ivory Keys hire Sarah Booth Delaney to exonerate the white blues suspect and find the real murderer? It would appear that the white Southern detective would be the last person she would get to help her and the accused, the last person she would want to help. But, Ivory Keys' murder wasn't a superficial black/white issue.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Death of a Hussy

Death of a Hussy (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 5) Death of a Hussy by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Margaret Baird is another of M.C. Beaton's deliciously evil murder victims. She is obnoxious to everyone and almost insures that she will be murdered. She has the usual poor relation ward whom she browbeats in the most obnoxiously patronizing way. Eventually the poor relation tries to break loose with mixed results. Add in a group of ex-lovers who have been invited by Margaret as prospective husbands and you have a perfect mystery for Hamish Macbeth to wade around in.

An unusual additions is that a different Detective Inspector is in charge of the case and Hamish has mixed feelings about him. He seems to be an improvement, but is he? This is a nice quick read and is very satisfying.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Death of a Dentist

Death of a Dentist (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 13) Death of a Dentist by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this Hamish Macbeth mystery, he winds up with several mysteries on his hand all seemingly interconnected, but how? A thoroughly unpleasant dentist is murdered, but no one who hated him seems to have been near the place. This book has a particularly quirk bunch of characters.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bones To Pick

Bones To Pick (Southern Belle Mysteries) Bones To Pick by Carolyn Haines


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my first by this author, and I really enjoyed it. It's hard to separate my feelings for the Mississippi of my childhood pleasures from the actual book, so my rating may be a combination of nostalgia as well as the quality of the book. I did enjoy the use of the spectral. Jitty as a companion of the main character. I thought it was well done...not too ghostly and all knowing, but enough to add spice to the mystery. I'll be reading more of this author.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Death of a Macho Man

Death of a Macho Man (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 12) Death of a Macho Man by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've been listening to this series on audiobooks I downloaded from the St. John's Library and have enjoyed them thoroughly. The reader's accent adds to the scenes created by the author and it saves me trying to figure out how some of the Scottish names are pronounced. It also gives me a better picture of Hamish Macbeth. While I have enjoyed the BBC version of the stories, their Hamish is a far cry from the descriptions in the books.

Macho Man is on par with the rest of M. C. Beaton's book. The characters are well drawn even if their personalities are often extreme. The situation is again misjudged by the incredibly dump Inspector Blair and Hamish, with his deep sense of right and wrong has to solve the mystery and yet not risk being promoted away from his beloved Lockdubh.

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Biggie and the Devil Diet

Biggie and the Devil Diet: A Mystery Biggie and the Devil Diet: A Mystery by Nancy Bell


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I haven't read any of Nancy Bell's books in years and yesterday I longed to hear a little Southern talk. I am downloading audiobooks from the St. John's Co., FL library and get to hear the story with the accented voice of the reader. Certain books are especially good this way and while this book is a lightweight, I love it because the down home dialect reminds me of many summer vacations in Mississippi.

Biggie is the grandmother of J. R., who came to live with her when he was small and has grown up in the series. In this book he is 13. Biggie has a lot of soul searching when she find that there is a ranch outside town for overweight girls and she recognizes the name of the owner. She tells J. R. some old secrets and embroils them in cauldron of emotion which surrounds the camp.

The book is a little slow at first, unless you just plain enjoy a bit of slice of life, deep South style, you may wonder why it was called a mystery. I was too busy enjoying to wonder, but it may bother some. The preliminary actually does set up the mystery, so it isn't wasted. All in all, a pretty good read.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Death of an Outsider

Death of an Outsider (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 3) Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this early Hamish Macbeth book, he ha been sent to the unpleasant village of Cnothan to take over from their Police Constable. An obnoxious Englishman goes around the village wreaking havoc with his acerbic tongue. He is a champion "know-it-all" and causes strife wherever he goes. Inevitably, there is a murder, disguised in a seemingly clever way. Of course, Inspector Blair is involved and he makes Hamish stay on the outside as he rushes to his conclusions.

You have to wonder if the main plot element could ever happen. You bet I will be thinking about it next time I go to a fancy restaurant! This is a pleasant mystery with the usual cast of quirky characters. The ending is a little bit of a stretch, but good, tying up all of the loose ends.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Death of an Addict

Death of an Addict (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 15) Death of an Addict by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this book, Hamish Macbeth wanders far afield of the original death of a reformed drug addict. The problem is that Hamish doesn't feel the boy killed himself. With his Highland sensitivity and almost second sight, Hamish feels like there is more to this and it adds up to murder. Solving the case leads him into the arms (sort of) of a beautiful police inspector and on a trip to Amsterdam. The plot twists and turns and even involves a Loch Ness type monster, drug smuggling, and even undercover work. While these plot elements find Hamish outside his normal location, the romantic threads while convoluted are all to predictable.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Death of a Cad (Hamish Macbeth, #2

Death of a Cad (Hamish Macbeth, #2)Death of a Cad by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this book as much as the rest of the series. When the cad, Peter Bartlett is murdered, there are plenty of suspects. Just about everyone had a reason to kill this obnoxious man, but that is the least of Hamish' problems. His lady-love, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, is announcing her engagement to a London playwright and Hamish knows he is not right for her. He knows she is the only woman for him, and she would love to take hold of him and shine him up like a copper penny with more than a pinch of ambition thrown in, but Hamish loves his village life and knows he can't change, not even for Priscilla.

His superintendent always sees him as an inept lazy town constable but Hamish knows the town and is a keen observer of people. It doesn't take him long to size up the people at the Hall and come to some conclusions.

All of these mysteries take place in the Scottich Highlands and are light and charming. Hamish is a wonderful character and the tension between him and the lovely PriscilIa always provide some interesting developments.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice The Sacrifice by William X. Kienzle


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This Father Koestler mystery has all the elements found in most of Kienzle's books...murder, the Catholic Church, Detroit and a Catholic aspect to the crime. Father Koestler is aging just as the author has, but the topics are as current as ever. This one involves a married Anglican priest who wants to become a Roman Catholic priest. Twenty years ago, this might have been facetious, but the Episcopal/Anglican church has so lost her bearings that many of the faithful are looking for a spiritual home that still has the form of the Episcopal church but without the wild and radical changes in the new "anything goes" Episcopal Church.

But, of course, there is a problem with the Roman Catholic church. An Anglican who wants to remain true to the tenets of the church as laid out in the "Thirty-nine Articles" almost has to look elsewhere and that would obviously be the Roman church, but there are very strong feelings about this. Obviously, the church can't expect the candidate to abandon his family, but the church is desperate for priests. If the authorities of the Roman Catholic church are ambivalent, many of the parishioners are not and that is the plot of this book.

There is a time bomb in the Sanctuary of the church set to explode just as the ordination should have started, but the procession is late and only one person is at the altar. The obvious intended victim is the Anglican convert, but there are other possibilities to be considered. The tale weaves round and round until we seem to have 3 different crimes with possibly more than one perpetrator. The books gets somewhat convoluted before it winds on to the conclusion, but is very interesting and satisfying.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friends Lovers Chocolate

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Sunday Philosophy Club, #2) Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am always amazed at the interesting questions Alexander McCall Smith brings to his novels. Again, the mystery is not the most important thing about the book. In this one, the strange feelings of a man who has received a donor heart are the mystery. Is there something as a cell memory which is giving him visions he can only suspect are from the donor's life? Isabelle decides to tackle the question and we follow her thorough many false starts and red herrings.

As with the others, the lives of her niece and her former boyfriend Jamie are a core part of the book. Isabelle's feelings for Jamie are very complicated and it is interesting to contemplate how the author is going to resolve them. How much interference in others lives is permissible?

As much as I like these books, I find that I can only read a few at a time. There is so much to absorb and so many ethical questions to contemplate, that I have to grow into them. For people who like action and crime scenes, this series will be way too slow and the questions too cerebral, but I find them fascinating.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

The Sunday Philosophy Club

The Sunday Philosophy Club (Sunday Philosophy Club, #1) The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As with most of Alexander McCall Smiths books, the plot is only half the story. This series is about Isabelle Dalhousie, an educated middle aged woman living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She reviews magazine articles for a Philosophy of Ethics journal and is a member of the Sunday Philosophy club if and when it meets. We not only get a picture of her comfortable life, but a treatise on the ethical dilemmas of everyday life.

I found the ethical delemmas to be extremely interesting. When I was in college, our Methods of Education teacher took a class to Northern Virginia to visit some of the classes we would be doing our practice teaching in. In the course of the trip all of the students of one particular "Philosoply of Education" class (with a very poor teacher) said that the class was about the most useless class we had ever taken. Our "Methods" teacher told us that this was the most important class we could take. It was the basis on which we would make all of our decisions about the way we taught. He then proceeded to teach all we should have learned in the class we were enrolled in.

I felt like this book was just like that trip. One of the problem of today is that too many people have no philosophy of life. We may say we value our friends, but choose to watch television instead of being with them. We say we value our children, but we are spending less than 2 hours of conversation a week with them...you could go on forever. Many of the things we say we value are in direct conflict with other things we value.

Isabelle's ruminations about what we own the people whose lives cross ours really made me stop and think. She is the last person a man saw when he fell from a balcony at the Opera house. She is haunted by the gaze and wants to find out why he either jumped, fell or was pushed from the balcony. Her applied ethics makes her question what her role in his death should be. That is just one dilemma in the book. I found myself constantly being challenged by her ethics "in fear and trembling."

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of my favorite books of Mark Twain. Tom Canty is a poor boy in the London slums. His birth only brings more poverty to his already dirt poor family. Edward VI is the long awaited heir to the English throne. They are born on the same day and look so alike they can't believe it. They exchange clothes and Edward VI ends up being thrown out of the palace by guards who think he is the poor boy he looks to be. Both boys have difficulty fitting into the other's lives.

Tom comes to like the life at the palace, but misses his freedom and his mother and sisters. Edward leads a hard life on the road and would have died without the help of a minor nobleman named Miles. The bulk of the books is the mad life of the poor boy during which Edward VI learns how many of his subjects live. He resolves to change things if he can get back to the palace and be restored to his rightful place.

The book is full of Twain's wit and biting social commentary. His way with words in outstanding and the Middle English dialect is only distracting at first.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Turning Angel

Turning Angel Turning Angel by Greg Iles


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this book on CD on my trip from Virginia to Florida. It kept my interest, but I am increasingly distressed over the portrayal of supposedly intelligent, successful men who are pillars of the community falling hopelessly in love with high school girls who are beautiful, intelligent, amoral and so sexually sophisticated that they make hookers look like librarians. Real people just don't act this way unless they are deeply flawed and that is usually apparent by their lifestyle.

In reality, this is child abuse and honorable men don't engage in it. If, in truth, there is the rare man who has all his marbles and falls in love with a teenager, his love will keep him from taking advantage of her, and will allow her to grow up. There is just the hint of this in the character of Penn Cage, but it is far too subtle. Equally, high school girls who have experienced all that the girls in this book have are not generally the kind of girls that make for long-term relationships. This seems more like a male fantasy.

With that said, the book is still interesting and as a flight of fancy, it will keep the reader guessing how the book can possibly end with anything that makes sense.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Piercing the Darkness

Piercing the Darkness (Darkness Set, Book #2) Piercing the Darkness by Frank E. Peretti


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This sequel was just as exciting as the first book and deals with a subject that is becoming an increasing problem and that is the encroachment of anti Christian bias in our schools. The quasi-religious activities such as using a mantra or acquiring a spirit guide are being practiced in our public schools and are not benign exercises in values clarification. In areas where there are no Christian schools, or other alternatives, people are turning more and more to homeschooling.

The small church school in this story is being attacked by an ACLU type organization. The lawyers seize the opportunity to involve themselves in the school because the mother one of children in the school is receiving Federal day-care funds. The organization wants to set a precedent for interfering with religious schools. This could easily be tomorrow's headlines.

The plot has several threads and the author weaves them in and out to keep the action moving, but they all dovetail at the end. One of the most interesting ideas is that the angelic host cannot fight unless there is enough "prayer cover" and that demonic activity can thwart the angels by spreading gossip and strive within the Christian community.

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The Prophet

Piercing the Darkness (Darkness Set, Book #2) Piercing the Darkness by Frank E. Peretti


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This sequel was just as exciting as the first book and deals with a subject that is becoming an increasing problem and that is the encroachment of anti Christian bias in our schools. The quasi-religious activities such as using a mantra or acquiring a spirit guide are being practiced in our public schools and are not benign exercises in values clarification. In areas where there are no Christian schools, or other alternatives, people are turning more and more to homeschooling.

The small church school in this story is being attacked by an ACLU type organization. The lawyers seize the opportunity to involve themselves in the school because the mother one of children in the school is receiving Federal day-care funds. The organization wants to set a precedent for interfering with religious schools. This could easily be tomorrow's headlines.

The plot has several threads and the author weaves them in and out to keep the action moving, but they all dovetail at the end. One of the most interesting ideas is that the angelic host cannot fight unless there is enough "prayer cover" and that demonic activity can thwart the angels by spreading gossip and strive within the Christian community.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Present Darkness

This Present Darkness (Darkness Set, Book #1) This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this years ago and enjoyed it again. Peretti is a Christian Steven King and has created a fantasy world of angels and demons which is just close enough to the Scriptural account to be plausible. At the very least, it provides a reminder that there are spiritual battles going on all around us and the heart of mankind is at stake.

As for the story itself, it is fast paced, exciting and compelling. Peretti is genius at weaving plots and sub-plots into a complex whole that leaves the reader guessing even when he knows how the book has to end. You don't have to be Christian to enjoy the book although it does help.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little PiecesA Million Little Pieces by James Frey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Even finding out that the story was actually more fiction than personal experience didn't change my feelings about the book too much. I thought it was a powerful look into the eye of an addict and an opportunity to live his story.



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Monday, September 14, 2009

Blood Memory

Blood Memory Blood Memory by Greg Iles


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the best mysteries I have read in a long time. The protagonist is easy to identify as a troubled young woman who has still remained strong and capable. It is hard to believe that the character was created by a man. The reactions of Cat seem so female and believable. I felt like I was watching her relive her terrible history and rise to the challenge of what she was learning.

The book is very fast paced and hard to put down. As layer after layer of the toxic results of child molestation is unfolded, you can see Cat grow and discover a stronger and stronger person at her core. The twists and turns of the plot leave the reader as baffled as the police and FBI and it is hard to see the resolution. I felt like the ending suited the book and tied up most of the loose ends.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

End in Tears

End in Tears (Chief Inspector Wexford Mysteries (Paperback)) End in Tears by Ruth Rendell


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This Inspector Wexford mystery centers on the deaths of two young women and the attempted murder of the first girl. The unravel a bizarre set of crimes which boggle the imagination. What could the girls possibly have in common other than the fact that they met in a club previously. They are very different and seem to have completely different lifestyles.

This particular mystery keeps the reader turning the pages, but the premise seems a little bizarre. I guess with the way things are now, it could happen, but it seems a little improbable. I thought the ending was a little rough and stretched the imagination a great deal. I also felt that some of the loose ends weren't tied in as neatly as in other books. It was especially missing some important information about Rick and his history.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Not in the Flesh

Not in the Flesh: A Wexford Novel Not in the Flesh: A Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was one of the better Inspector Wexford novels. The story centers around an old house left to fall to ruins when the owner, the son of the original owner, is not allowed by the planning commission to tear the house down and build 4 houses on the lot. He had a friend dig a trench for the water mains before he received the permission and has to fill it back in. In the few days it is unfilled, someone puts a body in it which is then buried by the backfiller. Eleven years pass before a truffle hunting dog unburies a hand, but that isn’t the only body on the premises. There is also a body in the cellar, which appears to have been there for eight years.

Enter a cast of characters, which is only to be found in the English village of mystery writers. The most amusing is the author who lives with his first wife and his current wife. They refer to each other as “wives-in-law” and the trio seems to get along in harmony. Then there is the old and lonely Mrs. McNeil who seems to exist only to be waited on hand and foot by the appealing Greg, the migrant Dusty Miller, and his betrothed Bridget Cook. Add to the mix the missing husband and father, Alan Hexham and the pot is full of candidates for the skeletons as well as murders.

The ending of this story is fairly predictable, but the interesting cast of characters and subplots makes it an enjoyable mystery. Rendell manages to tie up all the loose ends and everything makes sense when final page is read.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Visitation

The Visitation The Visitation by Frank E. Peretti


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Peretti presents an interesting topic. How many of us know what the Bible says about Jesus' return? How will we know him? How can we be sure?

A prophet who seems to be Jesus appears in Antioch. He works miracles and inspires people all over the nation to come to the small town and worship him. Members of the Ministerial society don't know what to think about him, so how can the expect their members to?

Formal Pentecostal Minister, Travis Jordan, is skeptical from the beginning, even though he is one of the first people to actually talk to the man. This whole story is a reference to the passage in Revelations that warns us that people will come in Jesus' name and will deceive even the elect. Peretti works out the confusion in town in the fast paced, action packed style he is known for. There is a lot of action, a little romance, and a lot of Biblical truth presented in a very interesting, page turning style.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Oath

The Oath The Oath by Frank E. Peretti


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of Peretti’s best. The plot centers on the effect of evil on the human soul. Professor Steve Benson. comes to the town of Hyde River because his brother, Cliff, has been killed by some enormous animal that seems to defy description. It is assumed that he was mauled by a bear, but Steve, with a Ph.D in Biological Science and a professorship at Colorado State University teaching environmental science and biology, is not satisfied. He and the conservation officer of Fish and Game manage to kill the rogue bear thought to have been large enough to inflict the damage, but are very unsatisfied with the findings of the post-mortem of either Cliff or the bear.

As the plot develops, it appears that there is more wrong than just a habituated bear. The town is full of mystery and people are united against any outsiders. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence and actual hostility towards Steve. The only one helping is the attractive deputy, Tracy Ellis. She grew up in Hyde River but seems to have some objectivity about troubles in the town, and she doesn’t believe that it was a bear that killed Cliff Benson.

What has happened to Maggie Bly, wife of Harold Bly? Why does Bly have so much control of the people of the town? Why is there such a concerted effort to mislead and drive out Steve Benson? What is the oath that the people of the town took more than 100 years ago, and what does it have to do with Cliff’s death? What are the ominous, dark, oozing sores that appear over the hearts of many in the town?

What follows it the depiction of evil and what it does to a people. Steve learns about the evil that resides in his own heart as he gets closer and closer to the evil in the town. The pace is fast and keeps the reader involved in the chase while Steve desperately tries to find meaning in the evidence that seems to go against everything modern society seems to consider normal.


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly Mystery, #2

Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly Mystery, #2) Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first book of this series which I have read and I enjoyed it. The characters are well drawn and interesting. Harper was struck by lightning when she was young and she can now find dead people and tell how they died. She is asked to tell about an old grave in a cemetery and she finds a second person, a child, buried in the grave also. When it turns out that is was a child she tried to find the year before, she is doubly involved.

I think the characters of Harper and her step brother are well drawn. Toliver is not actually related to Harper as his father married her mother, but he has become her manager and helps to keep her balanced. Their relationship is close and well balanced.

I enjoy paranormal books like this if they don't get too far out. Some people do seem to have a gift of seeing more than meets the eyes, but they aren't all knowing and they don't pluck information from left field. I think that is what makes these books more palpable. As soon as the child is identified, we understand that however powerful Harper's gift is, she was unable to find this child before.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

I, Richard

I, Richard I, Richard by Elizabeth George


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book of 5 short stories, all of which are excellent. What I especially enjoyed was to read Elizabeth George’s comments before the stories. In them she tells how she got the idea for the story and some of the processes she goes through to change an idea into a plot. One was a book of her own which she was never happy about and she found a better subject and ending for the short story version.

I think my favorite was “Remember, I’ll Always Love You.” I was completely fooled throughout the whole story and the ending left me amazed at Elizabeth George’s imagination. It would have been a great plot for “The Twilight Zone.” At first, the story seems to be going in an almost overused plot…the husband dies, the wife finds evidence of a secret life and is amazed to find out that the man she was so happy with was not the person she thought he was. While that is true, the ending is anything but trite.

“I, Richard,” while a little more predictable, also has the very satisfying ending that most mystery readers enjoy. Justice is done, but it comes in an unpredictable manner and the reader is left even more satisfied. The characters are well developed for a short story and none is very admirable, so the fact that the plot hinges on Richard III makes it even more ironic.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thirteen Steps Down

Thirteen Steps Down Thirteen Steps Down by Ruth Rendell


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is not a mystery per se. You know who is doing the killing; in fact, you are with them. This story is told from the point of view of a murderer who is obsessed with the serial killer, Reggie Christie. He is also obsessed with a beautiful model named Nerissa Nash. Step by step you follow the obsessive-compulsive Mix Cellini as he spins his fantasies, sinking deeper and deeper into madness.

I found this similar to the Pit and the Pendulum in that all that the reader knows comes of the murderer comes from himself. In this case, there are other characters who provide some of the external descriptions of Cellini as his own images bear little resemblance to the way he actually looks.

While this book doesn’t have the same suspense as a true mystery, it is just as compelling. The delusions of this killer are fascinating.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Death of a Witch

Death of a Witch (A Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 25) Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The latest Hamish Macbeth book is a good one. Lockdubh has a resident witch and she is creating havoc in the life of the village. Several men have been seen leaving her house late and night and the women are furious. Soon there is a murder and Hamish is left to solve the mystery while Inspector Blair, who has made a career of trying to get rid of Hamish, muddies the waters in his rush to judgement. There are a number of subplots, but they all come together nicely except for one. I was a little disappointed in the ending. Actually, the ending of the main mystery is wound up nicely, but there is a sub plot that seems to be tacked on. Even though it is mentioned earlier in the book, it could have been left off, and probably should have.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Zero at the Bone


Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby GreenleaseZero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease by John Heidenry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought this book was the most complete of all the books I've read.  At the time Bobby Greenlease was murdered, I was a 9 year old kid in a Catholic school in St. Louis just like Bobby, and I thought I might get kidnapped also:>)  My father worked for the FBI and he worked long hours on this case.

Most books don't report the second half of this story, the disappearance of a portion of the ransom money and the suspicions surrounding Lou Shoulders who was the Sheriff at the time.

Other reviewers have commented that the book was dry and boring and I think that is partially true.  The fact is that these people were really stupid and lived extremely sordid lives.  There was nothing in any of them to identify with.  Other books have given more information about Bobby and dealt with the crime from that point of view, but I found that this book gave me information that allowed me to put all the pieces of the things I understood and felt at the time into an adult perspective.

Actually, the case went on long after Hall and Heady were captured and that was the part I remembered best.  The FBI was totally involved with wire taps of Lou Shoulders that were actually conducted in our basement on my dad's ham radio equipment. There were agents in our basement round the clock.  I also remember bringing in all of our paper money and checking it with a list of serial numbers my dad had.

I have an amusing and personal recollection.  At the time that Bonnie Heady was executed, we were just going out for recess at school when the lights dimmed.  We all believed that they dimmed because the power was thrown to electrocute Bonnie Heady.  I can remember how I felt about it at the time.  It was exhilarating and yet mysterious at the same time.  It was a strange experience to know the actual moment a person died and I thought a lot about it.  Of course, the execution didn't make our lights dim, but then she was executed at that time, so who knows?



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Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of my all time favorite books. I try to read it at least once every decade. Told in simple, but beautiful language, it is the story of an elderly minister, Stephen Komolo, as he goes to Johannesburg, South Africa, to find his younger sister and his son. Patton captures the clash of civilizations as the need for work removes young people from their traditional tribal areas and culture. Workers in the mines live in compounds for single men and are not allowed to bring their families, so the tribal areas are left with the the elderly, young women and the very young. Agricultural practices and drought have ruined the land that was once so fertile and the native population lives in poverty.

As Stephen Komolo goes to Johannesburg, he is faced with the degradation, poverty and crime that haunts the parts of town set aside for the natives. There is no structure to their lives in the absence of the tribes which once gave them a sense of belonging and tribal values. As he searches for his son, several people, white and native, help him find his son and then face the tragedy of his young life. There are white people who recognize that the problems of equality for the natives have to be addressed and are working to bring some justice before it is too late. When I first read the book, written in 1944, the problems of apartheid were beginning to be discussed in the news and the international community was applying pressure to South Africa to recognize the rights of Non-Europeans. Over time, incredible progress has been made, but the book is still relevant.

There are some beautiful passages in the book that have haunted me. The language is poetic and evokes a land in turmoil but at the same time a land that teems with possibility. I have read several memorable books about Africa and I love the cadence of the language and the descriptive phrases.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Babes in the Wood

The Babes in the Wood The Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendell


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Inspector Wexford has to try to find two teens and their babysitter who have mysteriously disappeared in the midst of a flood which threatens no only his town, but also his own home. The teens have been left for the weekend with a sitter who seems to have vanished along with the boy and girl.

The disappearance is as bizarre as the people who surround it. There are uncaring parents, suspicious neighbors, a fundamentalist church which seems to have druid like propensities, and a pot smoking grandmother.

The characterizations are good and the pace is quick enough to keep the reader intrigued. I think this is one of her better Inspector Wexford novels and kept me reading later in the evening than I usually do...a true test of a book.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #10) Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is absolutely my favorite of this series...maybe even one of my favorite books! Precious has the same feelings for her little white van as I had about my red Thunderbird. I actually found myself getting teary eyed. I've become a fan of red bush tea and feel like I am sitting down with her whenever I drink it.

These books are especially good to listen to in audio book form. The cadence of the language adds even more atmosphere to the book. Despite the title, these are really not detective stories or mysteries. They are really more like a chat with a friend who is unusually wise. The characters are so real that you feel you know them and the problems posed in the book contain a philosophy of life that I love.


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The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a great book. It answered so many questions I had about this extremely virulent flu and what were the circumstances that allowed it to reach epic proportions. I especially wondered why people in the prime of life were the most susceptible. Basically, they were the ones who had the most active defense mechanisms. Often times, it is not the disease or bacteria which kills an individual, but the methods a body uses to fight the disease. For example, if I am allergic to pollen, my body produces a large quantity of mucus. It is this dripping faucet that makes me so miserable, but it is actually my body's defense which is causing the symptoms. This is the same thing that happens in a bacterial infections. The patient usually runs a high fever which is a sign that the body is fighting the disease; however, it is the fever which sometimes causes brain damage. The young people in the prime of life had systems which aggressively fought the disease and often this is what killed them. I have simplified this a great deal, but this was part of the explanation.

I also was fascinated by the work done by scientists to quarantine and study the disease. Many gave their lives to try to understand how this virus and bacteria worked. The subject is treated thoroughly, but in a way that the layman can understand.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

My reading days are over for a while

I've been enjoying these eAudiobooks these last few days, but I won't be reading much for a while. I have to pack for a 2 month trip to Virginia and free time will be at a premium, so I had to "stock-up." Of course, once I get there, I'll have plenty of time to read and a different library to get books from!

Death of a Gossip

Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 1) Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this early Hamish Macbeth mystery, Inspector Blair is actually civil to Hamish Macbeth. Some locals have a fly fishing program and one of the guests is making everyone mad. As with most of these mysteries, the victim is someone you love to hate. Lady Jane offends everyone all the time and everyone has a motive to kill her, even the 12 year old of the group.

The plot is interesting and there is a lot of local color. This is one of those books that is great to listen to on an audiobook. The accents are wonderful and add a lot to the enjoyment. As usual, laid back Hamish Macbeth solves the murder in his typically laconic style. I think what makes his character so attractive is that he has found the perfect job for himself and is able to cast aside all pretensions, ambitions and the falsities that surround the lives of most of us. He has a thirst for justice, but other than that, he delights in his simple village life with his dog, Towser, his chickens and sheep. His needs are few and what money he can spare, he sends home to his folks to help with the 6 younger children at home. If it wasn't for the complication of his love for Priscilla, he would be perfectly happy.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

eAudiobooks

I've found a wonderful new things. The St. John's County Public Library has eaudiobooks and I a having a great time. After traveling the 120 mile round trip to get my card updated, I spent about 6 hours trying to figure out how to download the audiobooks and start listening on my computer. I say 6 hours, but it is probably more if I count the hours spent before I went down to the library. Why is it and computer things are always so complicated? It never fails that there is at least one instance where the computer directs me to click on the ??? at the top of the screen and the ??? is never there!

After a few hours, I finally realized that the program was giving me instructions for an Internet Explorer screen and I was using Firefox. Once I got over that, I was only halfway there. I still had to figure out how to use a new vocabulary that included "licenses" vs "checkouts." Eventually, it all worked out and I started listening to my first book.

Now that the "birth process" is over, I have only one complaint. The books are checked out for 3 weeks and you can't check them back in. You can only check out 10. While this would seem more than adequate, but it doesn't work well for me. I am getting ready to drive to Virginia and spend 2 months house sitting for my sister. This is my time to cross stitch, knit and listen to audiobooks. I made the mistake of downloading lots of short books because my wireless signal was weak and now I don't have enough books. I still have three to add, so I am getting Anna Karenina, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Crime and Punishment. I figure those will last me long enough.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Death of a Charming Man

Death of a Charming Man (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 10) Death of a Charming Man by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A beautiful young man moves into a ghastly nearby village and immediately sets out to seduce the middle aged women in the town and set them against each other, then seems to disappear in the night. Only Hamish Macbeth thinks he has been murdered and he has to go on vacation to solve the mystery. Along with the problem of the murders is the problems between Priscilla and Hamish. They are on a collision course and things come to a head in this mystery.

This is just the kind of cozy mystery you want for a rainy day. Lots of subplots and enough action to keep the book interesting.

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Death of a Scriptwriter

Death of a Scriptwriter (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 14) Death of a Scriptwriter by M.C. Beaton


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is another in the Hamish Macbeth books. The Scottish constable is left to sort out the deaths of an obnoxious scriptwriter and another member of the TV crew while trying to keep out of Inspector Blair's reach. Part of the plot centers around the TV production of a mystery book. The TV program so distorts the original book as to create many potential suspects. Since this is one of my pet peeves, it was a vicarious pleasure to read about someone wrecking havoc on the kind of people who perpetrate these abominations.

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