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
All Quiet on the Western Front
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 150 Books

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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