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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Kitchen Boy

The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
While this was a work of fiction, it was consistent with most of the known facts about the Tzar and his family. I have long been fascinated with the events that led to the murder and I enjoyed the way this put some flesh onto the known facts, and then presented a fictitious speculation as to the ending of the story. Because the bones of two of the children; Alexi and one of the sisters were not found with the rest this was always grist for the fiction mill.

In each of the books on this family, more details come to light. I feel grateful to authors like Robert Alexander who do so much research and then arrange their findings into a form that readers can enjoy. This book is well written and compelling. It is written in a clear and direct style and has a pulse that keep the reader going even though we all know the ending.

One of the things I felt this book touched on that I haven't heard much about was that Tzar Nicholas realized that he was at fault for the fate of his family and his nation. I think that he realized that his stubborn refusal to hear what his subjects were saying caused the loss of his family and his country. His most important duty was to protect both and he didn't do either. Without being maudlin about it, Robert Alexander gets that point across and then presents to us a picture of a true noble in the actions of the Tzar in captivity.


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Friday, June 26, 2009

Killing Cassidy

Killing Cassidy: A Dorothy Martin Mystery (Dorothy Martin Mysteries) Killing Cassidy: A Dorothy Martin Mystery by Jeanne M. Dams


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jeanne Dams books are always good. She has good characters and the plot is always interesting. None of them take too long to read and there isn't usually much gore either.

This book takes place in the town she grew up in and involves people that she and her first husband knew at the college where he was a professor. Dorothy and her British Inspector husband have come to Indiana when she receives a letter from the estate of an old friend from the college. He was a professor and microbiologist in his 90's and he felt that someone was trying to kill him. He left Dorothy a legacy and the money for a trip back to the US to investigate his death.

Dorothy and her husband are convinced that someone did manage to kill him and they try to investigate but they are hampered by not being able to tell anyone what they are doing. The list of suspects contains several old colleagues, former students and friends and until they eliminate them as suspects they can't let anyone know about the letter. Eventually, all of the subplots are nicely resolved and the culprit comes to a watery end.


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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Flesh and Bone

Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel (Body Farm Novels) Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I felt that this book was better than the first one. I found it hard to put down even though I had a pretty good idea who the murderer was. It was a little harder to figure out who was framing Bill Brockton. The forensic details are a little gruesome, but the are handled pretty well.

This would be an excellent book if it wasn't for the diatribe against anyone who believes in creationism or intelligent design. I found it to be an intolerant and even bigoted. There are noted scientist who believe in intelligent design and to characterize anyone who doesn't believe what these authors believes as being delusional is uncalled for in a work of fiction. Actually, it is uncalled for in any venue. Unfortunately, this really spoiled the book for me. I, however, did not pitch the book in the trash unfinished...being more tolerant of someone who has a different opinion from mine than the authors.

I thought the characters were more developed, especially DeVries. The plot was pretty good if a little predictable. There were, however, several twists I didn't see coming.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rulers and Victims

Rulers and Victims: The Russians in the Soviet Union Rulers and Victims: The Russians in the Soviet Union by Geoffrey Hosking


My review

6/13/09
This book is fascinating. For most of my life the terms USSR and Russia were synonymous, but I was totally wrong. First, the actual Russians are of Serb origin and were often quite different from the party leadership. I also figured that the Russian citizens were just like the US, but with Communist leaders. That's wrong also! We see ourselves as rugged individualist whereas the average Russian lived in a village which considered itself as a unit lead by village elders and responsible to group. When the Tzar or church levied taxes or recruited soldiers it was to the village as a whole. If one person ran off, the village still had to send the same amount of soldiers or pay the same amount of taxes. All their actions impacted the whole village, which resolved differences by agreement and not by a simple majority. Russians have always seen themselves as a part of a unit under some kind of authority. This gave me a whole different understanding of the use of communes.

I'm on page 103 and have already learned so much. The book is well written and pretty easy to follow, given the subject. So far, I am very pleased.
_____________________________________________________________
I'm on page 175 now and have been utterly fascinated with what I am learning about the Russian people. After the early days of the Revolution, the party leaders wanted a multi ethnic state which embraced the various traditions and languages of the many people who made up USSR. They built a policy which was like "affirmative action" for all the groups except the Russians, who were the majority. Ethnic areas would govern and teach in their native languages even though Russian had always been the language of government. However the populations were very mixed. Russians made up 35 to 45% of the population in all the various countries and a whopping 58.4% of Kazakhstan. Even in the Ukraine and Beloruss had large populations of ethnic Russians and yet the instruction and daily business was to be conducted in Ukrainian. This was very difficult as most of these language didn't have many of the terms that were needed to conduct business.

As with so many things, the idealistic plans of the reformers didn't take into consideration the impact on the country as a whole. People were driven out of their homes because they were of the wrong ethnic group or were considered "wealthy peasants" and left to fend for themselves. Skilled people turned into beggars or, if they were lucky, emigrated and soon there were not enough skilled people to keep the economy going and people were starving. What happened in the Ukraine was unimaginable. Eventually, they had to reverse the process and try to gather together what they had recently disbursed. Unfortunately, it couldn't be done. The Communists, who could bear no wrong, had to rewrite the history books so that the enemies were no longer enemies and old heroes were no longer heroes.

As I read this book, I am constantly thinking about the tendency of human beings to constantly look for simplistic solutions to complex problems. The Tzar had already made many reforms including freeing the peasants. Had there been no revolution, it is very possible that Russia would evolved into the kind of Monarchy we see in Great Britain and some of the other European countries. He was moving the country in a forward direction, but the Revolution happened and now the Russian Federation is trying to make up for 90 years of terrible decisions.

______________________________________________________________________________________
July 26, 2009

I've finished the book and found it to be fascinating all the way up to the end. I hope the author has written more about Russia. The last part dealt with the question of Russian history. A country without a history is shallow and the people are rootless. It's very important in sharing a common identity. The problem is how the events of the Revolution and Stalin are handled by history is very complex. Children must learn from textbooks, scholars must research and gain insight into their country. Everyday people need celebrations of a shared memory which bond them together.

On the other hand, a detailed study of the Communist excesses and the wholesale slaughter of so many Russians is not something the Communists want to have on display. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, people needed new celebrations and holidays. Celebrating Stalin's birthday was complicated, especially after many of the records of the government were opened. Memories, especially in the Ukraine were long and without force, people no longer wanted to celebrate such leaders.

After atheism was declared the state policy on religion, people often commemorated special events such as marriage at Lenin's tomb. Speeches were made there and reviewing stands for parades centered there. With communism in a shambles, there was a need for new people and things to celebrate.

I never thought about how necessary these celebrations and a shared history are in the life of a nation. I also never thought about how important a national personality and heritage were. These things are even necessary for members of the nation to protest against. I will never forget the burning of draft cards and flags during the 60's and burning a country's flags and presidents in effigy are still the number one methods of protest against a foreign government. All of these things point to a national identity.
What the country will do with the fallout from the past 100 years is a huge question with many ramifications.

Carved in Bone

Carved in Bone (Body Farm Novels) Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm still reading Rulers and Victims, but I find that I have to do a little lighter reading along with it. I liked this book pretty well. The characters kept my interest and I felt like the mountain dialect and customs were accurate for the region. Hopefully, some of these folks will turn up again.

I like forensic mysteries and this one taught me more about the human body that I didn't know. It is always amazing to see how the things that we do or happen to us leave imprints on our bodies. There were also enough subplots to keep the interest up and give a sense of time to the book.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Murder on the Trans Siberian Express

Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express: A Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov Novel Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express: A Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov Novel by Stuart M. Kaminsky


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book. I have been reading books about Russia, or set in Russia and this gave me more insight as to how the average person lived under Communism and after the fall. The story threads are good, but once the Inspector is on the train, there is a little cloudiness as the various people converge. The author is able to draw fairly realistic characters for the most part, although some of the sub characters could have been made stronger. I would like to have know a lot more about the woman serial killer and her motivation. However, everything was neatly wrapped up without loose ends and the plot was brought to a satisfying conclusion. I'll definitely read another of his books.


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Love for Sale

Love for Sale (Grace & Favor Mysteries #4) Love for Sale by Jill Churchill


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is very light reading, but cute. I'm reading a heavy book about Russia, so this is a little relief. Grace and Favor is a mansion with strings attached. Robert and Lily were two rich young siblings at the time of Stock Market crash. Their wealthy father lost everything and killed himself. They were penniless when an uncle died and left them a mansion with a lot of strings. They have to stay there for 10 years, get jobs and give back to the town. They turn Grace and Favor into a boarding house with some interesting guests. The town just happens to have all sorts of crimes that connect somehow to the mansion. A friendly sheriff relies on help from Robert and Lily. In this case, a cheating radio preacher gets killed at the manor and there are all sorts of suspects. There are also some other things going around town, but all the strings are tied up neatly in the end.

There are some very promising characters in this book, but they need to be fleshed out more. I don't get a sense of the town either.

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A Midsummer Night's Scream

A Midsummer Night's Scream (Jane Jeffry Mystery, Book 15) A Midsummer Night's Scream by Jill Churchill


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think this is one of Jill Churchill's best. Shelly is trying to find a new caterer for Paul's business dinners and she has chosen a number of caterers to provide food for a theater group. Jane accompanies her to taste the food and help evaluate the companies. By the second day, a body turns up and there are a few candidates for the murder.

Along with the crime is the story of one of the stars of the play, and elderly actress who wants to take a needlepoint class with Jane and Shelly. She turns out to be a spunky and admirable character who provides some depth to the story. She has known Sylvia Sidney, actress, author and famed needle pointer. They all are fans of Sylvia's books, which I happen to also own. It was kind of interesting to want to chime in with my own opinions to add to the dialog of these three characters.

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The Accidental Florist

The Accidental Florist (Jane Jeffry Mystery, Book 16) The Accidental Florist by Jill Churchill


My review


I was a little disappointed with the mystery part of this book. It was almost an afterthought and the reason for the murder was never given. Still, the main characters were delightful, as usual and the interaction with the odd characters was interesting. I think the characters in this series are better developed than Grace and Favor.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

This is one of my favorite series. It has a comfortable, old-shoe feeling. I want to visit the characters just as I like to visit old friends.

#1
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1) The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love this book! I think I have read it 3 times. Every time a new one comes out, I go back and read them all again. I think that's because these books are not about plot, they are about relationships. Precious Ramotswe is a wonderful character and I would truly love to meet her. The books are beautifully written and remind me of Alan Patton's, Cry the Beloved Country. Both have captured the timelessness of Africa.

Precious Ramotswe solves problems for her clients, but the work of the agency is more like a vehicle to express the daily life and philosophy of an extraordinary woman. Her kindness and simple wisdom are a refreshing change from the hard-driving, iconoclastic female detectives that are so popular. I absolutely fell in love with her...even more so when I found some of the bush tea that makes up such a big part of her day. (It is actually delicious and I have been haunting the Internet to find more.) Do yourself a favor and sit down with a cup of tea and meet a new friend.

#2
Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2) Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Again we meet Precious Ramotswe as her family begins to expand. Her friendship with Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni has become a trek towards marriage but before that can happen, her household is enlarged to 3 as she takes on the orphans Mr. Matekoni has been talked into rearing. Precious takes them in her stride and they prove to be charming and grateful adding a new dimension to the story.

Her secretary, who graduated with 97% at the Secretarial school has begun to take on detective duties and the contrast of personalities of all the characters becomes more marked. I feel like these are real people who have very little need to change or manipulate each other. In fact, this inclusiveness is one of the reasons these books feel so good. Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni has immature and almost worthless apprentices at his car repair shop and yet Smith doesn't just make them disappear. Mr. Matekoni struggles with his duties as a role model and teacher and you can feel his dispair at ever teaching them anything, but he continues to care about them and to try.

When I finish reading one of these books, I feel like I used to feel as a child playing with my dolls at the feet of my relatives when we all sat on the big back porch. As they chatted about the things that grown ups talk about, I felt a sense of security and peacefulness. At the end of this book, I felt like I had been visiting with a wise old friend. In fact, I even found some bush tea and now my friend and I sit together and drink tea every Saturday...I just realized that!

#3
Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #3) Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading these books is more like visiting with friends. If you are looking for action and plot, this will not really appeal to you, especially if you have read some of the others. These books are more of a slice of life.

This was one of my favorites because of the depression that overcomes Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. It comes over him so gradually and the people who love him are so concerned for him. I could almost feel myself becoming concerned for him also. Since I suffer from depression from time to time (not just the blues) I found the characterization very good. It's hard to portray how abnormal a person's thinking becomes and Smith does a great job. It's easy to stand on the outside and tell the depressed person to get out and visit friends, but the sick person feels that no one would like to be around him and that he is a burden to his friends; he thinks they would all sigh with relief if he got out of their lives.

And that brings up another thing I like about these books. The people are not perfect. They are a combination of the good and the bad and they all struggle to get along in the best way possible. They don't just walk away from each other either.


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#4
The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #4) The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
In this book, Mma Makutsi, is becoming a better defined character. She is always looking for a way to use her training at secretarial school and her extraordinary 97% score. She decides that men need to know how to type in this computer age and thinks that they are reluctant to study with females in their class because they have come lately to a skill that has been associated with women in the past. She begins her school and is delighted to find that it is very successful.

There's a new detective agency in town and Mma Patience Ramotswe meets her new competition with poise and grace and triumphs because of her compassionate in insightful nature. Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni seems reluctant to set a date for the wedding after his depression and that is of some concern, but it all works out in the end.

This book, like the rest, is not about the crime solving. Most of the problems are typical, but not necessarily easily solved. They are mainly used as a vehicle to participate in the characters lives. Again and again loyal readers come back to check on our friends lives and enjoy visiting and drinking bush tea.

#5
The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #5) The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the first of these books that I listened to on a CD and I highly recommend it. I've loved the series from the beginning, but hearing the book read with the right pronunciation and the gently flowing voice of the reader makes them even better.

Again, this book is not about the mystery or the plot. It is a slice of the life of Mma Precious Ramotswe and the people who surround her. The book is filled with bits of philosophy and down to earth wisdom. Each of the characters is more developed, but none as much as Mma Potokwane, director of the large orphanage. Botswana has the highest percentage of AIDS/HIV cases in Africa, or in the world. Vast numbers of children are left orphans and while this book does not devote a lot of time to the problem, it is an ever present reality. Mma Potokwane is a large overbearing woman of great heart and soul. She loves her orphans and has had to beg, borrow and steal to get their needs met. She takes advantage of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni terribly, but with the best intentions. He has repaired just about anything that has an engine and a lot more besides. Still, she genuinely loves, Mr. Matekoni and is willing to mastermind the long awaited wedding with Mma Ramotswe.

#6
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #6) In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since so many people are writing reviews about these wonderful books and discussing the plot, I think I will talk about Africa and especially the way Mma Ramotswe feels about her home and her people. Reading these books has given me the same feeling I got from the beginning of Out of Africa and Cry, the Beloved Country. There is such a deep love of the land in these characters and I find myself wanting to be there with them. I also find myself remembering how I felt in the days of my childhood. There seemed no better place to be. Life was filled with troubles, but there was always the land and free and easy friendships to help me along. I think that may be what we all are relating to, or at least it is to me.

I also am reminded of a time in our lives where we were not so mobile and people lived in areas where we weren't homogenized. We had to learn to not only get along with some of the more unique and prickly members of our community, but often come to value them. I feel like my life was made much richer by relating to a local alcoholic who got saved at least twice a year, or the man who named all his sons after himself and called them each by nicknames to keep them straight. (I'm not kidding. There were four and they all had the same names.) We visited with people of varying ages and classes and our lives were made richer in a way that watching television in the evening never could. Maybe that is why these books appeal. I'm tired of Hollywood's two dimensional characters and long for what Mma Precious Ramotswe has.

#7
Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #7) Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are so many great reviews of these books that it is hard to not be repetitive. This book was one of my favorites because of Mma Makutsi and her "blue shoes." Like so much else in Smith's books, the shoes are a vehicle for philosophy. There is a contrast between Mma Ramotswe's contented life and Mma Makutsi's need driven one. Mma Ramotswe sits under trees and looks at the land with such contentment and joy. She doesn't escape from her problems, but she does let the land put them into perspective. When I am reading these books, I am reminded to step back and thank God for all my blessings. I want to follow her example and live my life consciously instead of piling up task after task, goal after goal. Mma Makutsi, however, is always looking for new shoes that make her feel stylish and different from her usual self.

Here's a great example. I am a retired teacher and librarian. I homeschool my grandchildren, but it is now summer and I don't even have lesson plans to do. For the last four hours I have explored Goodreads and written reviews of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books trying to understand what they have taught me and why I like them. Still there is a little gremlin in my head telling me to stop indulging myself and get up and do some real work...like cleaning. Now, my house is just fine. There are things out of place, but there are no roaches, no visible dirt piles or much dust on furniture. Why would I feel that it was just play to stop and think about all the things I have learned from these books and to put them into words? Why would I feel that it is more valuable to sweep this almost clean floor, chase a bit of dust, and get rid of some clutter? I think that is what I like about Mma Ramotswe. She reminds me of what is important...and Mma Makutsi takes a giant step in realizing that in this book.

#8
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #8) The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was a little different from the previous ones and I think I felt a little threatened when Mma Mkutsi left the agency. I could almost hear myself saying, "Oh, no, this is my island of security! This is the wonderful, enduring, changeless land in Botswana that speaks to me through the old friends of this book. I don't want anyone to go away! Even Charlie is necessary. Don't change what's working!!!"

But then, even change is necessary to pique the interest and create tension. I have to tell you that I was very relieved when the problems were resolved and everyone got back in their places. I missed hearing more about Phuti Radiphuti and I expect that Smith will have to add another book to round out that character.

I have come to love Botswana as seen through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe. Here love of her country, the endless land, the wide big skies, the cattle and the simple needs of its people. I know things are changing and there are horrible problems with AIDS/HIV, but they are all played out on a background of the enduring land that Smith has managed to reproduce for us.


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Who's Sorry Now?

Who's Sorry Now? (Grace & Favor Mysteries #6) Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This time the mystery centers on a German/American who seems to be targeted for some hate crimes. Robert and Lily are involved along with their good friend, the young Sheriff. Suddenly an out of luck railroad worker is killed just when Robert has gotten him a job sorting mail. There doesn't seem to be anyone around who would wish to do him harm. Eventually, after meeting a number of new characters, the murder is solved.

There are all these young marriageable characters, but none of them seem to be pairing off. We keep getting hints that some of these folks care for each other, but from book to book, there doesn't seem to be much progression. There are a lot of quirky characters who could be developed more, but at this point, they are still too lightly drawn. I hope the author can flesh them out more in later books.

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Grace and Favor: Love for Sale

Love for Sale (Grace & Favor Mysteries #4) Love for Sale by Jill Churchill


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is very light reading, but cute. I'm reading a heavy book about Russia, so this is a little relief. Grace and Favor is a mansion with strings attached. Robert and Lily were two rich young siblings at the time of Stock Market crash. Their wealthy father lost everything and killed himself. They were penniless when an uncle died and left them a mansion with a lot of strings. They have to stay there for 10 years, get jobs and give back to the town. They turn Grace and Favor into a boarding house with some interesting guests. The town just happens to have all sorts of crimes that connect somehow to the mansion. A friendly sheriff relies on help from Robert and Lily. In this case, a cheating radio preacher gets killed at the manor and there are all sorts of suspects. There are also some other things going around town, but all the strings are tied up neatly in the end.

There are some very promising characters in this book, but they need to be fleshed out more. I'd love to see some of them come back again in future books.


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Who's Sorry Now? (Grace & Favor Mysteries #6) Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
This time the mystery centers on a German/American who seems to be targeted for some hate crimes. Robert and Lily are involved along with their good friend, the young Sheriff. Suddenly an out of luck railroad worker is killed just when Robert has gotten him a job sorting mail. There doesn't seem to be anyone around who would wish to do him harm. Eventually, after meeting a number of new characters, the murder is solved.

There are all these young marriageable characters, but none of them seem to be pairing off. We keep getting hints that some of these folks care for each other, but from book to book, there doesn't seem to be much progression. There are a lot of quirky characters who could be developed more, but at this point, they are still too lightly drawn. I hope the author can flesh them out more in later books.

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In the Still of the Night (Grace and Favor Mysteries #2) In the Still of the Night by Jill Churchill


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Robert and Lily have a great idea for earning some money. They've invited a special guest to Grace and Favor, a reclusive author, and then invited paying guests who wish to attend his lectures, share meals with him and, in general, get to know him better. This book was filled with interesting characters and plot twists and turns. I'd say this is the best of Jill Churchill's that I have read. The characters are better drawn and more interesting. Lily's idea for the " resident author" weekend seemed great to me. I'd love to spend a weekend with some of my favorite authors in a relaxed setting like Grace and Favor!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Going back in time: The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Clowns of God, Harlequin

I have been going over the lists in "Goodreads" and have found some great books I read long ago. Some of the better ones I am going to post here even though I haven't read them in a long time. They are books that made a big impression on me and in many ways guided my thinking. Maybe I'll find time to read them again.

The Shoes of the Fisherman The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris West


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Pope is also the Vicar of Rome and this pope goes into the city disguised as a simple priest to see his "parishioners." What he finds are problems not solved easily, especially ones that deal with babies being born with severe birth defects due to a medicine for morning sickness. West doesn't let the characters get by with an easy solution.


The Clowns of God The Clowns of God by Morris West


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is another great book by Morris West. Jesus has come as Redeemer in the modern age. One of the things that I will always remember is the incident that gives the book it's name. The "clowns of God" are children who are mentally or physically handicapped. The French have given them that name and feel that these children are especially close to God's heart. Jesus pulls one of the children towards him and tells his followers that he knows that they want a sign that he is really the Messiah and they want him to miraculously heal the small group of children in the nun's care.

He tells his followers that they need these children to complete their humanity. I won't spoil the rest by telling what he said, but it has stayed with me all these years.

Harlequin Harlequin by Morris West


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is another Morris West that I'd like to read again. West poses some difficult moral dilemmas and doesn't let the reader opt for an easy answer.


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In the Still of the Night

In the Still of the Night (Grace and Favor Mysteries #2) In the Still of the Night by Jill Churchill


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Robert and Lily have a great idea for earning some money. They've invited a special guest to Grace and Favor, a reclusive author, and then invited paying guests who wish to attend his lectures, share meals with him and, in general, get to know him better. This book was filled with interesting characters and plot twists and turns. I'd say this is the best of Jill Churchill's that I have read. The characters are better drawn and more interesting. Lily's idea for the " resident author" weekend seemed great to me. I'd love to spend a weekend with some of my favorite authors in a relaxed setting like Grace and Favor!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Black Earth City - When Russia Ran Wild

Black Earth City: When Russia Ran Wild (And So Did We) Black Earth City: When Russia Ran Wild by Charlotte Hobson


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a fascinating book! The author was a college student from England who was in college in Voronezh during the tumultuous year which saw the break up of the USSR. Life there was changing daily and 70 years of anger and repression boiled up and was expressed in a chaotic existence. She showed what was happening in the lives of families and students who lived in a hostel/apartment as they tried to cope with the enormous changes in their lives.

The book is filled with raw emotion and pain. I felt very discouraged when I was reading it, but it was very compelling. It is well written and the author's style draws you in until you feel the despair of the people who are struggling as if they were drowning. At times, I felt overwhelmed with the obstacles with which these people are dealing.


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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate

Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate (Agatha Raisin Mystery, Book 13) Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate by M.C. Beaton


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another easy read. You have to just love prickly nosy Agatha. I've been reading heavy books about Russia and Africa the last 2 weeks and I just had to take a break with Agatha. In this book, there is a delicious curate who seems to take the hearts of all the ladies of Carsley, but when he turns up dead, Agatha, sans James, just has to find out why.


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Monday, June 08, 2009

The House of the Seven Mabels

The House of Seven Mabels (Jane Jeffry Mystery, Book 13) The House of Seven Mabels by Jill Churchill


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a great little mystery if you are looking for an easy read. It won't set the world on fire, but it's a great way to pass an evening.


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Friday, June 05, 2009

Rasputin's Daughter

Rasputin's Daughter Rasputin's Daughter by Robert Alexander


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Rasputin was such a quixotic individual and it's hard to sift through the historical record and get a clear picture. I found that this book fleshed out a lot of the known traits and activities of this enigmatic man in a way that made the contradictions more understandable. I also thought the author did a good job in relating the story from Marie's point of view. I came away from the book feeling like I was trying to accept all the contradictions in his life just as she had to. I also learned something that I either forgot, or never knew and that was that the Russian people did not know that Alexei was a hemophiliac. This was absolutely crucial to the decision to have Rasputin killed. Without this all important reason, it seemed to the aristocracy and the public that Rasputin was treating the Empress as a lover and that he had tremendous influence over public policy.


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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Bone Garden

The Bone Garden The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Julia Hamill has bought her first home and finds a very ancient skeleton buried in the yard. Through a series of old letters and clippings from 1830 begins to uncover the story of the woman who was buried there. Letters from Oliver Weldell Holmes, Sr. give a picture of the Boston Medical College and his classmates, one of whom touches the life of the woman buried in Julia's yard. This is also the story of the plight of the Irish, especially young Irish girls who are eking out a living.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Good Reads

I have discovered this wonderful website called "Good Reads." It is just what I have been looking for...a place to store a list of all the books I've read and a suggestion service for more books about the same subject. I'm like a kid in a candy store.

http://www.goodreads.com/

Give it a try!
The Romanov Prophecy: a Novel The Romanov Prophecy: a Novel by Steve Berry


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Excellent book! There is a lot of current and historical information in it. There is also a lot of suspense and action even though the ending is a little predictable. I would recommend it to anyone for a great read.






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