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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Valley of Fear

The Valley of Fear The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an odd Sherlock Holmes mystery that is actually two stories in one. In the first story, we have the usual brillian detective work of Sherlock Holmes when a man is found murdered from a terrible wound to his head. It appears to be a murder, but there is no one to suspect and footprints disappear where they should carry on if someone is escaping. It is the classic "locked room mystery," which Holmes unravels splendidly.

Then comes the second part in America which is the history to the first murder. This is far less satisfactory and several times I bogged down and was tempted to quit, mainly because the reason for reading Sherlock Holmes is one thing and the mindset to read this background story of unions and beneficent societies and mining is another. It would have been nicer if this was explained concisely in less than a chapter.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Journey (Christmas Stories, #1

A Christmas Journey (Christmas Stories, #1)A Christmas Journey by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plot of this book was an interesting twist on the idea of punishment as attonement. A young woman guest at a stately country mansion insults another young woman who commits suicide later that evening. Everyone agrees that her cutting words could have pushed the vulnerable young woman over the edge and one of the guests contrives a quest which will atone for her ill tempered remarks and, if completed, will bind the other guests to secrecy and render the careless young woman forgiven. The trick is that she has to travel to the north of Scotland to deliver the suicide letter to the young woman's mother and confess her guilt in the tragic event.

Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, another visitor, agrees to go with the young woman, but the journey and the story is much more than she bargained for. The plot is convoluted, but very interesting. The young woman learns more about herself and Lady Vespasia does also. For an easy read in the hectic Christmas season, this book is perfect. It has some substance, but is not too taxing.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Beginning: A Novel (Christmas Stories, #5)

A Christmas Beginning: A Novel (Christmas Stories, #5)A Christmas Beginning: A Novel by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book, but it ended too abruptly. I was just getting the feeling that I knew some of the suspects when the villian was unmasked. Still, it was a nice easy book to read and it is near Christmas, so it was timely. I liked getting to know Runcorn better and to see the mystery from his eyes. I'm also glad he finally got some happiness in his life.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a TimeThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an excellent book about Greg Mortenson, an avid mountain climber, who, after failing in his attempt to climb K2, became involved with the people of the impoverished Pakastani village where his rescuers came from and where he was nursed back to health. He was impressed by how desperately the villagers wanted a school and the ends to which they would go to get an education for their children, including their girls.

Mortenson, who was raised by missionary parents in Africa, also beleived that the way to solve the problems of violence and terrorism in this area was through education and humanitarian aid. He returned to the United States and began a campaign to raise funds to build schools. Providing education, especially for girls, was not easy in this part of the world and Mortenson dealt with kidnapping, fatwas, corruption and ignorance. Mortenson persevered and the story of his success is remarkable.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk, #2

A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk, #2)A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book out of order, so I had to go back and read the first before the beginning of this made sense. I liked the idea of the detective who couldn't remember anything before he woke up in the hospital. What was interesting was the way he came to know himself by looking at the reactions of others and the things he found in his surroundings. As a plot device, this is very interesting.

I enjoyed this mystery and the motivation of the murderer. It was an interesting approach, especially when Monk began to suspect that he was the murderer. Since he had only a few clues to his own personality and some of those were negative, I can see how he might suspect himself. I think Anne Perry has done a good job taking the basic Victorian murder mystery and turning it into something unique and interesting.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe

Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe (Yearling Books (Paperback))Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe (Yearling Books by Katy Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth book in the series and is just as delightful as the first three. We see Lucy Rose again her engaging and hilarious self. She desperately wants to be Annie at the play, but this is problematic when her worst enemy gets the part. Lucy Rose is given a much better part, but she doesn't see it at the time.

Added to this is her concern that her mother is dating. Like almost every child of divorce, Lucy Rose has dreams that her parents will get together again and she is horrified when she listens in on a telephone call that makes her think that her mother has a boyfriend.

This is an excellent book for children of divorce. In fact, it would be great if it were required reading for their parents. Lucy Rose's parents bend over backward to accomodate each other for the sake of Lucy Rose and the grandparents do the same. Lucy Rose calls her father when she wants and her mother is always respectful of her love for her father. Even for adults, this book is good.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Summer On Blossom Street (Blossom Street, #6)

Summer On Blossom Street (Blossom Street, #6)Summer On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lydia Goetz, owner of "A Good Yarn" knitting shop decides to start a novel new knitting group. "Knit to Quit." It doesn't matter what you are quitting, just let knitting get you through it. She doesn't have to wait long for willing customers and new knitters. First there's Phoebe Rylander who wants to end her relationship with a man and Alix Turner who has to quit smoking when she and her husband want to have a baby. Then there's Bryan Hutchinson whose doctor recommends he take up knitting as a way of reducing stress.

Anne Marie Roche has made a pleasant life with her adopted daughter, Ellen when someone from the past comes in the shop to complicate it and then Lydia, herself, has her own stress when she and her family agree to keep a rebelious teen-ager for a week until she can be placed.

As usual, the knitting group becomes more than just a place to learn to knit. In bits and pieces stories are told and friendships are forged. This is a delightful book about what happens when strangers are thrown together by a compelling hobby called knitting.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Murder At Ebbets Field

Murder At Ebbets FieldMurder At Ebbets Field by Troy Soos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mickey Rawlings is a utility player for the New York Giants during the pennant race for the 1914 World's Series. When he is picked for a bit part in a movie about baseball, he meets a glamorous movie star and a young woman who is also in the movie. Unfortunately, the movie star is murdered and Mickey has a hard time proving that it isn't him. He and a young Casey Stengal cross paths and become friends in the midst of the mystery. This is not just a mystery, but a lot of fun historical information, both about Casey and baseball in it's infancy. It is a great read for anyone who has any interest in baseball.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (Ballad Mystery, #2

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (Ballad Mystery, #2)The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter by Sharyn McCrumb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is as odd as the several mountain stories that are told within it. Nora Bonesteel has the second sight and she often has the coffee poured and plates of cookies out arleady when the visitor comes up the road. She is the character around whom the story is told although she is not the main character. There is a terrible tragedy and four members of the Underhill family are dead and the remaining two children are dazed and left without kin to take them in. There are several more stories which thread through the book, a young woman's struggle to bear a child, a tragic fire and the sad death of a farmer suffering from fatal cancer from toxic chemicals leached into the stream that runs through his property.

The stories are a window into the Appalacian culture, its strengths and its weaknesses. The characters are vivid and real and the story telling is just as it should be...dark stories of mystery, love and tragedy. This is a wonderful book to sit back and enjoy

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood

Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy ChildhoodSickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood by Julie Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of a young woman whose mother constantly took her to doctors or hospitals. The mother suffered from Munchausen's by Proxy whereby a person, usually the mother attempts to make herself feel important and validated by causing illness in her child and then working with the doctors to try to correct what is wrong. Julie Gregory was taken to doctors constantly as a child, sometimes for real illnesses, but more often by induced by her mother. She was frequently starved and was denied treatment when her wrist was broken until it was almost too late. She frequently missed school and when she was there, she was often too sick or tired from being in the emergency room all night to learn.

As Julie grew up, she began to rebel against her mother's treatment, but she could find no help in her family. Her father was ineffectual and often just didn't care to go up against his wife even though he knew what was happening to Julie. Eventually, her mother brought in elderly boarders and foster children and when Julie wasn't available she began to shift her attention to the foster children. It was at this point, and after her mother burned down the house for insurance money that Julie was successful in finding someone to believe her.

This is a terrible disease, but Julie provides enough background for the reader to understand her mother's family and the terrible life her mother had growing up. In fact, the disfunctional family seems to go back for generations. While this book is sometimes hard to read, it is important to know that these situations exist and that children need to be listened to.

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Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family

Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the FamilyTaken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family by Stephen Baskerville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a real eye opener. I had the idea that it was the men who ran off with "Tiffany" and left the women and children behind. Both this book and my experience is that there are so many more women who are leaving with the kids and the husband is left behind, often forced to leave his home, get an expensive lawyer and fight to see his kids.

This book also presented the idea that "No Fault Divorce" is the only contract where one person can break the contract and force the other person to pay. The left behind spouse has to get a lawyer, divide his or her income, be faced with hardly seeing his/her own children and often forced out of the house he/she has paid for. There is something seriously wrong here.

So often, the person who leaves has an unrealistic idea of what the future is going to hold. They see themselves as getting on in a new life and building a life with someone eles, leaving the old problems behind. Unfortunately, when that dream is crashed it is too late. They end up with vastly reduced circumstances, a more demmanding job to pay the additional expenses and children who are unhappy and very frequently having behavioral problems which take their lives in a totally different direction.

This book is important for all fathers involved in a divorce to read. It is not just "the other side", it is a cost that society pays as well as the involved parties. No one would sign a business contract in which one partner could leave and not pay a penalty; and especially leaving the other partner holding the bag and paying for the default while loosing most of the assets. Divorce is costing everyone and society has a right to limit the behavior of people whose actions are going to impact it. This book doesn't say that there should be no divorce, but that "no fault" does not serve society or the children of these marriages. On a personal note, I have found this to be a true representation in several cases I know of myself. It is no always the case, by any means, but it is happening much more than is known

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Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You

Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around YouArthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Holly Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful guide to go along with the Spiderwick Chronicles. The artwork is amazing, as it the creativity of the series authors. This is a great seriese for the 8-15 year olds...and fanciful adults.

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A Beautiful Child

A Beautiful ChildA Beautiful Child by Matt Birkbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the story off a young girl who was abducted by a man (or she was given to him by her father) when she was about four to six years old. She was a beautiful child even then, but she managed to be an exceptional student who received a scholarship to Georgia Tech and a stunningly beautiful young woman. She wanted to be an astronaut and it appears as if she would have achieved that goal had she been allowed to. Instead, her father put her in stripper bars and basically became her pimp. Eventually he was implicated in her death.

I just finished this and found it to be impossible to put down. It is amazing to think about all "Sharon" accomplished in school, knowing what her home life was. I can't help but think of what she could have done in a nurturing home. Her abductor blamed all his trouble and bad behavior on his upbringing and yet he provided such a horrible life for her and she rose above it. What a tragedy all around.

My feelings about then end of the book are divided. It is amazing how much law enforcement has improved in the area of missing children. Where once there was little done nationally and local law enforcement didn't get involved until the child was missing 24 hours, now there are the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, America's Most Wanted, and numerous other groups to help families whose children are missing. Local law enforcement have the child's description on the police database within the hour, but still too many children are abducted and murdered.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century

The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth CenturyThe Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century by Harold Schechter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the story of Roland Molineaux, a poisoner from the turn of the 20th century. He was the son of a famous and beloved General of the Civil War. He was accused of poisoning a rival for his intended wife and a man from his health club whom he had taken a severe dislike to. While the case added up, the motive seemed extreme for a gentleman of his class. The story was very interesting, especially as it was something of a "bad seed" affair. This is also another "Lizzy Borden" case in which there was a great deal of controversy about the verdicts which have not been agreed upon to this day.

Along with this is the story of the tabloid press or "yellow journalism" engendered by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Both men took over failing newspapers and turned them into wildly successful enterprises which left them multi-millionairs. What was especially interesting to me was the fact that the papers had detectives of their own and often managed to stay one step ahead of the police. This case changed journalism forever.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lucy Rose: Working Myself to Pieces and Bits

Lucy Rose: Working Myself to Pieces and Bits (Lucy Rose)Lucy Rose: Working Myself to Pieces and Bits by Katy Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Rose has one big problem in school and she is called Ashley...the same Ashley who tried to spoil her Parks and Rec. summer. She's a word-thief and she tries to be better than Lucy Rose in everything, which Lucy Rose isn't taking lying down.

But that isn't her only job. The McBees are opening a bakery and Lucy Rose has to come up with some ideas to earn money and get the bakery decorated without costing isn't easy and can keep a girl on her toes!

On top of everything else, she and Jonique have a job at a retirement home calling Bingo. How did they get the job and what do they learn there? Just read on about the adventures of this delightful little hurricane.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rahab's Story (Women of the Bible)Rahab's Story by Ann Burton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful series taken from the Bible and fleshed out with historical details to make an interesting and compelling story. Rahab is cast out of her family due to lies told by her stepmother. Her father won't listen to his daughter and she is sent out with no money or future. Starving and destitute, she attempts to steal some fruit from a tree growing in a yard. She is caught and taken into a high class house of prostitution and under the wing of the owner. This view into her life in such a house is very different from what I would have imagined. The town is pagan and these women are not seen as degenerate as we might feel.

Rahab gets to know some Hebrews spies in town and she confesses that she has been taught the Hebrew ways by her mother and is a believer. She protects them from being captured and when the Hebrew army comes to raze the city, everyone in the house is protected by the strip of red cloth hanging from the window.

The outlines of the story are taken right from the Bible, but this is a delightful story that makes the Bible come alive.

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My ipod

Last night I downloaded 11 books from my public library and put them on my ipod. I am just awed at the technology available to us today. Here I am with this little silver thing in my hand that is not much larger than an opened gum wrapper and it contains the contents of 11 whole books. I pictured myself walking out of the library with my bookbag full of the actual books and lugging them home just to let this sink in.

I use Goodreads website to list my books and write reviews. When I am finished, I copy the html to this blog. Rather than record the books when I am finished reading them, I am setting them all to "currently reading" as soon as I download them. When I looked at my list it looked a little like my junior year in college when I was taking 3 literature classes and 2 history classes. We read a book a week for each lit classes and both of the history classes had a ton of outside reading. I have never read so much in my life! Fortunately, I can have as long as I want to read the books, but the list does look intimidating.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cat Who Talked Turkey (Cat Who..., #26

The Cat Who Talked Turkey (Cat Who..., #26)The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I usually pick these books up when I am looking for some enjoyable light reading. A cozy mystery where no one dwells on gore and the language is decent. Qwill has retired to Moose County along with his two Siamese, Koko and Yum Yum. KoKo has strange insight and he howls whenever there is a murder...and over the series we've seen many. I listen to them on my ipod and George Guidall"s voice makes the books a pleasure to listen to.

In this book, a man is murdered on Qwill's property. KoKo howls at the time of his death and long before anyone knows he's been killed. All this takes place while a new bookstore is being built which Polly will run. These books are more about the characters rather than the mystery

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Body of Death (Inspector Lynley #16)This Body of Death by Elizabeth George

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not like this book nearly as well as the earlier books. Isabelle Ardery's is designed to talke Lynley's place if he can't be convinced to come back and she is abrasive, brash, idiotically unsensitive and totally unable to see any of her team as having a lick of sense. She is finally successful in getting Lynley out of the house and working on her team, but that doesn't ring true at all. You can tell from the beginning that she is to be a love interest for him and that just is beyond sense. He could easier fall in love with Barbara Havers, who at the very least is a good detective and friend despite her penchant for going against the rules.

The mystery itself is better than the last few and I thought very clever. It isn't too hard to figure what is going on by the Social Service reports, but you still can't work out the details until the end. As a matter of fact, I have oftened wondered about the subject of this mystery. I can't really say more without giving too much away.

So, it is still a good book, but I pray that Isabelle is bumped off or sent off in disgrace before the next book. She is totally unsympathetic and as for Lynley having any interest in her, well, I would put it down to post traumatic stress disorder due to the death of his wife. In order for him to continue a relationship with her, he'd have to be mentally ill.

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52 Books October till the End of the Year

In Ravelry, I saw a group who pledge to read 52 books in a year. Unfortunately, it was already October when I found it, but since I read a lot I thought I would try to read 52 books by the end of the year. If I go to Virginia early this year, I probably won't make it, but at least it will encourage me to put away some time wasting things that I Facebook and Spider Solitaire to name two! I picked this counter because I read, listen on my computer, on CD and iPod. I thought it was appropriate.

I have started by adding reviews of a lot of books I have on Goodreads that I haven't written reviews of. I left for Virginia in May this year and didn't come back until September 5, so I had a number of books I never got the reviews for, especially in May, June and July. I am still aiming at recording every book I read for a year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil (An Aunt Dimity Mystery, #6)

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil (An Aunt Dimity Mystery, #6)Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil by Nancy Atherton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this series a long time ago and enjoyed it. Lori Shepherd inherited a legacy from her "Aunt" Dimity from England, but the legacy is more than money. Aunt Dimity manages to make herself known to Lori when she needs help the most. In this book, Lori takes a job to evaluate a rare book collection at Wyrdhurst Hall, but there are some dark things going on in this old mansion. There are old letters from World War I that seem to tell of a forbidden or doomed love and someone doesn't want Lori to know about it.

Again, a handsome young man becomes attached to the supposedly happily married Lori and Aunt Dimity doesn't approve. Lori's playing with fire and I read each book with apprehension.
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The Blood Detective

The Blood DetectiveThe Blood Detective by Dan Waddell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was fascinating. I enjoy books which flip between different centuries and this was a good one. A murder victim is found with what look like scratches, but turn out to be a file reference to the city archives. Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his partner Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins get Nigel Barnes, a local genealogist, to help with the reference. Soon this murder is followed by another and another. All the time the detectives are following the clues to the murders, Nigel Barns is looking in the genealogy of the people killed. Eventually he stumbles on the motive in a 100 year old murder, but it appears to be too late. Chief Inspector Foster has gone missing.

While the plot was a little improbable, it is after all fiction and there have been stranger crimes and who is to say why some murderers do what they have done. This was fast paced, action packed and intelectually stimulating and what more can you ask from a book? I'll be reading more by this author.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Close To Home (Inspector Banks, #13

Close To Home (Inspector Banks, #13)Close To Home by Peter Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Detective Banks books are always good, but this one was particularly enjoyable. DI Banks is catapulted into the past when the bones of an old school friend, Graham Marshall, are found. Banks and his friends were all about 14 when Marshall disappeared and no one knew what happened to him. At the same time, Annie Cabot is investigating a similar disappearance and possible kidnapping of a 15 year old boy. The cases seem to be so similar and Banks is caught somewhere between them. Both boys were not who they seemed to be and Banks found that Graham had a lot more going on in his life than he and his friends were aware of. To add to the problem, DI Michelle Hart, new at her post has uncovered police corruption in the old case. Why are the action log and the case notes gone? Who still has something to hide?

Annie’s case involves 15 year old, Luke Armitage, who was the son of a famous musician who committed suicide when Luke was very young. There is a lot of pressure on Annie because Luke’s mother was a famous model and his step-father a much loved Rugby player. Annie needs to use all her skills in untangling the mystery of Luke’s life before she can even begin to solve the matter of Luke’s death.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Alice's Tulips

Alice's TulipsAlice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was told through letters that Alice wrote to her sister. Alice was a young woman married for 1 year whose young husband has gone to fight as a Union soldier in the Civil War. She is living with her mother-in-law, a taciturn and critical somewhat elderly woman. They live in a small farm just outside a village in Iowa and the story gives a fairly good idea of the lives women led at the time. The sexual references are almost certainly inaccurate and would be best left out. I cannot imagine young women of that time writing about such intimate matters in letters. Alice's Tulips refers to a quilting pattern and quilting for soldiers and patterns are a thread that runs through the book. Eventually, Alice is suspected of murder and there is a bit of drama and suspense that brings the book to its conclusion.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010


CrisisCrisis by Robin Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Craig Bowman was served with a malpractice lawsuit for making a house call on one of his patients in his concierge medical practice. The lawsuit charges that he should have called an ambulance instead of going to the patient’s home. Dr. Bowman has spent his whole life as an overachiever and especially in his medical practice. A workaholic, he sacrificed his marriage and relationship with his children to his patients and he is bewildered at the charges.

His brother-in-law, medical examiner, Dr. Jack Stapleton, has come to the aid of his sister’s husband on the eve of his wedding to see what he can uncover. This novel has several twists and subplots and the reader is carried away with the rush to find an answer before Jack is due at the altar. Will he make it, or is this another subliminal attempt to avoid the commitment of marriage?

The book did have some problems and some stereotyping. Many of the characters were one dimensional and overly simplified. I found the conclusion to be a little disappointing, but there was a lot of action and suspense. This isn’t Robin Cook’s best, but is still a good read.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

At Mother's Request

At Mother's Request: A True Story of Money, Murder and BetrayalAt Mother's Request: A True Story of Money, Murder and Betrayal by Jonathan Coleman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book goes into much more detail in the life of Frances Schreuder. I had puzzled over the actions of her mother, Berenice. It was hard to understand why she was so connected to Frances, who was such a difficult child and who treated her so badly. This book did a much better job of exploring that relationship.

Frances was clearly sociopathic and it was fascinating reading about her view of the world through her own eyes. No matter how clever a sociopath is, they will never be able to cover their tracks completely because they will never be able to understand and copy ordinary people who can empathize with others or truly love them. In the book, her relationship with her son, Mark, whom she favored and could always control, was a clear example. However close he was to her and however much favored he was, she turned her back on him as soon as he was no longer useful to her. This was a fascinating study.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Nutcracker - Money, Madness, Murder: A Family Album

Nutcracker - Money, Madness, Murder: A Family AlbumNutcracker - Money, Madness, Murder: A Family Album by Shana Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I continue to explore the mind of the female sociopath this book provided an incredible multilayered example. I read the book years ago and it was so powerful, I remembered most of the story, but it was still fascinating. This time I tried to focus on the relationship of Berenice to her daughter, Frances. The story is about Frances Bradshaw Schreuder who contrives to get her son to murder her father. Aside from the sociopathy, there are other serious mental illnesses in this family of three generations.

Frances is clearly the most disturbed, but on this reading, I was more struck by the toxic relation between Frances and her mother, Berenice. At first, Berenice seems to be a good-hearted soul who is terribly abused by her daughter and bilked of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is more than meets the eye. Berenice and Frances have a symbiotic and deeply pathological relationship. In the beginning chapter there is a description of the entire family standing around Frances' cradle singing to her all night long, night after night. Frances cries constantly and begins her life as the narcissistic center of this family and nothing changes through out her life. Berenice seems to demand that everyone in the family cater to Frances just to keep her from throwing a tantrum of epic proportions over the slightest thing.

I have to wonder at why Berenice turned her back on her husband and 3 other children in order to constantly placate Frances. The older daughters seemed sane and reasonable, but Berenice was always turned towards Frances. She allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle in New York and ended up paying for the legal defense of her grandson, Mark, and her daughter for the murder of her husband. That is almost more unbelievable than the fact that she focused all her love and attention on this one child to the detriment of everyone else in the family.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal

Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and BetrayalToo Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal by Ann Rule

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lovely Jenn Corbin seemed to have a perfect life. She was married to a handsome and successful dentist and had two beautiful boys. She had a lovely home and taught part time at a preschool. But there were numerous problems that she tried to conceal from her parents and sisters. Her husband was often critical and explosive and his practice was suffering because of the way he treated his staff. Jenn was miserable and she reached out to a person on the internet who seemed to be all the things that Bart was not.

Bart was also dissatisfied, but he could not let go of Jenn even though he had a mistress. Years ago, a girl he loved had broken up with him and he would not let another woman leave him. Just a few weeks before Christmas, Jenn was found dead from a gunshot wound to her head while she was lying on her bed. At first it seemed to be a suicide, but Jenn’s family said that it wasn’t possible. She loved her boys too much to leave them and especially for them to find her. Even her 7 years old son didn’t believe it and on the morning he found her, he told the neighbors that his daddy had killed his mother.

Detectives soon came to believe that the scene was staged and that Bart was acting in a very strange manner showing no concern at all about his sons. Soon they were informed that a woman Bart had been involved with in dental school, Dolly Hearn, had died in the same manner and Bart was the only suspect in that murder. Officials from both counties began talking and Dolly Hearn’s case was reopened.

One of the things I found fascinating was Bart’s personality. It was obvious that he was a sociopath. He did things that were so bizarre and didn’t seem to understand how they would appear to others. For example, he didn’t even contact his sons or make any provision for them after his wife was murdered. He refused to come to the house and pick them up, or be questioned by the police. He even went so far as to refuse to let Jenn’s family get clothing for the boys or collect the Christmas presents Jenn had bought for them. When his father-in-law took matters into his own hands and entered the home, he tried to have him charged with burglary. His incredibly suspicious actions let the police to consider him the only suspect.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Never Enough

Never EnoughNever Enough by Joe McGinniss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book because I was interested in the characteristics of the female sociopath. I found it fascinating and it was hard to put down. This is the story of Rob and Nancy Kissel. Rob, who was an investment banker for Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. He work and traveled all the time earning a huge that includes a $15 million bonus at times if that gives you the idea, and was rarely home, but who does seem to love his wife and children.

The fascinating one in this book is Nancy. To me it was like reading a text book description of a female sociopath and then having someone turn those traits into a person. One of the things I found interesting was her inability to see how many of her actions were totally inappropriate. In many ways, she was trying to function in a society that was from a different universe, which is exactly the problem with sociopaths. Her total lack of empathy led her to do things that were bizarre and treat her children in ways that showed that they were only things to her. She lived in a universe in which she was alone and everything and everyone were props for her pleasure.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in GirlsOdd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was excellent. Rachel Simmons has done an astounding job of looking at the cliques of girls and the devastating effect they have on girls…those in the clique and those who are rejected. With the rise of the phenomena of girls committing suicide because of harassment over the Internet and the number of adults who are participating, this study is extremely important. We hear so much of boys bullying, but little thought has been given to the girls who bully and why.

Rachel Simmons conducted this study by interviewing girls from both sides of the issue and recorded what they said. The root of this behavior, she believes, is hidden aggression. Girls in our society are not allowed to express their aggressions and thus turn them inward. Anger is built up and rejecting other girls helps to displace this aggression. The problem has gotten worse and worse and the consequences have been robbing individuals of their self-esteem and natural development. Interestingly, those who are in the “in group” often suffer as much as the girls who are excluded. One little “un-cool” action and they find themselves on the outside. Even if that never happens, they often find in later years that they have buried themselves and their uniqueness under the burden of being popular.

Not only has the problem been growing, but it has also begun cropping up at an increasingly early age. My granddaughter experienced it in nursery school. One of the girls would turn to a classmate and say, “You’re invited to my birthday party…not!” Granted the child had several older sisters, but this behavior would have been unheard of even 15 years ago. This book should be required reading for anyone who is involved with girls and at the expense of adding more non academic tasks on over burdened schools, there must be an attempt to address this issue.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

A Killer Stitch (A Knitting Mystery, # 4

A Killer Stitch (A Knitting Mystery, # 4)A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton

This was a cute cozy mystery revolving around a knitting shop in a small Colorodo town. The characters get more interesting in each book in the series. The plot is not too taxing and the character's names are different enough to keep them separated in the reader's mind.

If you want a cozy mystery and love knitting, this is for you!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the HedgehogThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is not for everyone, but I loved it. I already knew that the action didn't really pick up until the middle of the book, and I did find it a little slow going at first, but is was well worth my patience. When you take an elegant apartment for the very wealthy in the middle of Paris, pair it with a 12 year old genius who is hiding her light under a bushel and plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday, and then throw in what seems to be a cantankerous old concierge who appears to only watch television all day, but who is secretly an autodidact who loves art, philosophy, and Oriental culture you have something that ought not to work, but does splendidly.

Most of the wealthy inhabitants of the building lead boring and predictable lives, and 12 year old Paloma refuses to join their ranks. She is a competent scholar, but knows that even in school her brilliant mind will not be appreciated. She is planning to wait only until her 13th birthday to see if, just possibly, there is more to look forward to than the lives she sees around her.

Renée, the concierge was raised in abject poverty and ignorance and she was cursed with a brilliant and cultured mind that had no possibility for expression. She had to hide her mind in what little schooling she had and eventually found her way into a job where her brilliance again had to be hidden from everyone in the building. What does a peasant do with a brilliant mind? Renee chose to hide hers by leaving the television on while she was hiding her bedroom reading Proust.

Nothing seemed to change until Japanese man named Ozu arrived in the building. He was able to sense the secrets in Renee and Paloma and carefully create an environment where their true natures could be expressed. As I look back at the book, I think Mr. Ozu could be called a “people whisperer.” He was able to create an environment where each of these two lonely people could be herself. But this is not an ordinary “feel good” book. It is much too close to reality for that. I don’t think anyone who finishes this book will ever be the same.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010


MiddlesexMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My doctor recommended this book to me and I am finding it fascinating. It is about a rare genetic abnormality that causes the main character to be a hermaphrodite. The story starts in the shadow of Mt. Olympus in Asia Minor and concerns the main character's grandparents from whom Callie/Cal gets the gene which sends her/his life careening into the textbooks.

The story is told well, not just as background, but as an exciting glimpse of the lives of ethnic Greeks whose lives are turned upside down by an invasion of the Turks. The brother and sister emigrate to America and end up living in Detroit in a Greek community. Into this community, Callie is born and lives the life of a girl for the first 14 years of her life. Although this portion of the book is actually background for the main focus of the book, it is written in a charming way and the characters are well developed.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical AtrocitiesWicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful book that gives the important information of plants that are deadly, illegal, poisonous, and otherwise obnoxious. The writing is wonderful with a light touch to even the most deadly plant. The illustrations are also charming and quite often very funny. I would recommend it to anyone who comes into contact with plants...which is just about anyone. It will be especially helpful to families with small children.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of MosesWalking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Bruce Feiler begins his journey, he has no particular attachment to the Biblical lands. He is not even sure of what he hopes to find. With the help of an Israeli anthropologist, he visit the places mentioned in the Bible, or those that are traditionally believed to be the place where certain events took place and he finds his tie to land and his faith are growing deeper and deeper. The reader can’t help but to be carried along by his vivid descriptions and powerful narrative. I found that the explanations of what happened in these places and what life was like in Biblical extremely compelling. I felt that I had journeyed with him. It doesn’t matter what your religious background is, this book is for people of all Biblical faiths.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn ClubThe Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There have been a number of books that deal with knitting groups, but this one is an interesting twist. Jo Mackenzie’s husband has just been killed in a car crash…just after he has informed his wife that he has a mistress whom he has been living part time and he has taken a second mortgage on their house to finance their life. He will be leaving her immediately…and then he is killed. Her emotions are in limbo and her life has been turned upside down. There is only one solution on the horizon. She will move to the country with her two young sons and take over her grandmother’s knitting shop.

Nothing is simple and this transition isn’t either. Jo manages to get a “Stitch and Bitch” group going and she is in just as much need of it as her customers. One of her best customers is an actress who lives in a nearby mansion. Her friendship is a turning point and puts to rest some of the animosity shown to the newcomer.

This is a nice book for some light reading. The characters are pretty well developed and the plot has some unusual twists to it. It would be nice to see some of these characters in another book.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Amelia Bedelia (I Can Read Book 2

Amelia Bedelia (I Can Read Book 2)Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amelia Bedelia keeps messing up everything because she takes everything absolutely literally. She means to please but somehow it all goes wrong. Big kids and little kids all enjoy this madcap maid of all work.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Deaf Sentence

Deaf SentenceDeaf Sentence by David Lodge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. It is the story about a professor of linguistics who has taken early retirement because of his increasing deafness. I wanted to read it because my father is hard of hearing and I thought it would help me to identify with his world. In that respect, the book was excellent. I understood some of the difficulties a partially deaf person faces...leaving home in a hurry and forgetting the hearing aids, agreeing with people in a confused setting because of either misunderstanding or simply because it is easier than having everything repeated again and again.

The book was also interesting as it deals with a person whose identity is changing with the loss of a career, an elderly parent, and the everyday enjoyments no longer feasible due to increasing age and loss of agility. The main character is struggling to transition out of the active workforce and into the life of the elderly.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

The Killing Doll

The Killing DollThe Killing Doll by Ruth Rendell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not one of my favorite Rendell books. There actually isn't much of a mystery. It is more a psychological and psychic book about a brother and sister in a very strange English family. The main characters are Pup and his sister, Dolly, and the twisted way in which they grow up.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lucy Rose: Big on Plans

Lucy Rose: Big on Plans (Lucy Rose)Lucy Rose: Big on Plans by Katy Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lucy Rose and her best friend, Jonique, have a lot to do in the summer. They are both going to Parks and Rec. where Lucy desperately wants to make a lanyard, but Parks and Rec has a fly in the ointment called Ashley. Ashley looks down her nose at Lucy Rose and makes fun of her. She goes out of her way to be nasty and Lucy Rose doesn't understand it.

She also has a few more things to do this summer. She has to get rid of the Squirrels in her grandparents yard because they are eating all the fruit an Madam can't make jam. But the biggest thing she has to do is get her parents back together. If she could just think of the right thing to do.

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Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me

Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me (Lucy Rose)Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me by Katy Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Rose could be Junie B. Jones in 3rd grade. She has the same kind of spunk and good intentions that tend to go awry. She is an "individual" and things are rarely boring around her.

Her parents are separated and she has left Michigan for Washington, DC where she lives very close to her grandparents. While she enjoys her grandparents, and they seem to be of the very best sort for an independent little girl, she doesn't look forward to a new school, especially when the one student she meets is a boy she dislikes thoroughly.

This book is hilarious and I fell in love with Lucy Rose and her whole family. Her parents are very supportive of her and while they are separated, they both show their love for Lucy Rose by the way they treat each other. This is a great book!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Stabbing In The Stables

The Stabbing In The Stables (Fethering Mysteries)The Stabbing In The Stables by Simon Brett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this in June as an audio book for listening to in my car and it was an on and off thing. Sadly, 2 months later, I can hardly remember enough of the book to write a review. I guess that tells me something! I do remember that is was interesting enough to continue to listen it but alas, not memorable enough stay with me.

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Monday, June 21, 2010


CriticalCritical by Robin Cook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I usually enjoy Robin Cook, but I found a lot of this boring. I guess it was the business side of "for profit" hospitals and I admit I skimmed through a lot of it. Laurie Montgomery is always a good character to follow as she seems to be authentic and there are enough details about her to let the reader identify with her, but it seems like Jack Stapleton is getting more and more one dimensional. It is highly unlikely that a person in his position, knowing the deaths that are coming from the hospital he is to have surgery in, would completely disregard the danger, especially when his wife is so adamant about there being a serious problem. Jack's one dimensional personality is beginning to make me wonder if he is to be killed off in a future book.

On the other hand, this is still a good book. Through most of it, the reader is propelled forward to find the source of the infection before disaster sets in and Jack is killed. While this isn't up to some of the earlier books, it is still a good book and I enjoyed it.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fatal Voyage

Fatal Voyage (Temperance Brennan, #4)Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a little different from the usual Temperance Brennan in that she started out being totally involved in the wreckage of an airplane and then after finding a foot that doesn's seem to belong to any of the passengers, she is taken off the crash team. Not only is she not involved, but her reputation as a profession is brought into serious question.

I didn't like having to wait for other characters to provide information any better than Brennan did. At first it seemed as if she was getting side tracked with mysterious problems with her car and strange mountain folk, but it all came together in the end, making this one of her better books.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks

Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting TricksKnitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While there are some patterns in this book...and patterns I have already used, the book is more about the social aspects of knitting. The book is hilarious. Anyone who has knitted any length of time knows of or has been in the situations Stephanie talks about in such an amusing way. I think even a non knitter might even enjoy her writing.

The book also serves a practical purpose. There are instructions for various stitches and projects as well as list of things to do or not do. All are informative and enjoyable.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Break No Bones

Break No Bones (Temperance Brennan, #9)Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was more complex than the other of her books that I have read. There were so many sub plots. When bones turn up at a picnic in North Carolina, Temperance Brennan goes to investigate, she thinks she is only looking at historical bones. Unfurtunately, that is not the case. Soon more and more bones turn up.

From there on, this book is similar to her other books, but immensely interesting, never the less. I did like some of the history of North Carolina which this book included.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Women of the Bible: Jael's Story: A Novel

Women of the Bible: Jael's Story: A Novel (Women of the Bible) Women of the Bible: Jael's Story: A Novel by Ann Burton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the Biblical story of Jael who is mentioned very briefly in the Old Testament. The author has created a story that could have taken place at that time an included a lot of historical detail to give a sense of what life might have been like for Jael. One of the major points was the vulnerability of women then. Jael's husband was brutal, but his wives and concubines had no protection under the law. Jael's husband was a blacksmith and the family lived in a large tent and moved with the army in order to be available to fix swords, chariot wheels and armor. The details about the men's and women's sides of the tent and the relationship between the various wives and concubines were very interesting.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reclusive biographer Margaret Lea has grown up in her father's bookstore. She has been asked to write a biography of the dying Vida Winter. The mysterious Ms. Winter has been a wildly popular writer whose real background has been clouded in secrecy. It is not that Ms. Winter won't tell of her past, it is that she makes up wild stories that are obviously untrue. She published a book called the Thirteen Tales, but there were only twelve. But now she is dying and she wants to finally have her tale told.

As Margaret begins to interview her in her brooding mansion she finds that she is in the dark about what she is to write. Ms. Winter seems to be spinning a tale again and Margaret does some investigating. What follows is a tale that is eerily like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. As Ms. Winter becomes weaker, the story becomes more twisted and sinister.

I enjoyed this book. I found the idea to be completely original while serving up a true gothic mystery with all the false trails, the sinister seeming servants and the derelict old mansion. I will probably read this one again as I am sure I missed quite a bit the first time.

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The Thirteenth Tale The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sorry, no review yet. I am on vacation and will have to catch up later.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Book Thief

The Book Thief The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! It is the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Her brother dies on a train and her mother leaves her in foster care with a family in a small village. The story is told from the point of view of Death who comes to take various people during the story and has become interested in the person he calls "the book thief." The style of writing was very different and perfect for this story. While the time period is one of tension and tragedy, the book is not especially gloomy. The everyday life of Germans during the war is fascinating. The characters have depth and complexity and I find that I remember them in much the same way I remember Dickens' characters. I would recommend this book to anyone.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


MarkerMarker by Robin Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was one of Robin Cook's better novels. Laurie Montgomery has done 3 autopsies on young healthy people who have recently had surgery and have died unexplainedly. They seem to have recovered from the surgery with no problem, but some hours later are found dead and the autopsy doesn't reveal anything wrong. Laurie can't seem to get anyone to pay attention to her and especially not Jack Stapleton, who is more concerned with his basketball games with his "homies." When she gets her fourth case, she begins to do some investigating and turns up 6 more, all at the same hospital. The reader knows who the murderer is as we hear from her as the books goes along and this is very effective. Unfortunately, we don't know who hired her.

To add to that, Laurie is very aware that her biological clock is ticking and she sees that the realtionship with Jack is going nowhere and she moves out. Jack just can't get past the death of his first family and Laurie doesn't feel she has any more time to invest in this relationship.

I feel that the character of Laurie is developing very well and I feel as if I have gotten to know her, but Jack seems to be becoming more and more one dimensional. His refusal to take her seriously either in their relationship or at work makes him appear less intelligent than we were led to expect from earlier books. I hope that this downward spiral unto linear geometry doesn't continue.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bones to Ashes

Bones to Ashes (Temperance Brennan, #10)Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Temperance Brennan is curious about some old bones found in Arcadia. She had a friend from Arcadia who disappeared when they were girls. She was told nothing when her friend disappeared and discouraged from asking any questions. The bones bring back the old memories and she wonders if they could be her long lost friend. The skeleton has odd lesions that Tempe cannot explain and the don't seem to fit the situation of this girl's death.

I liked this book, but some of it was problematic. First, I am not a forensic anthropologist, but I knew what was wrong with the bones. I should think a professional would know right away. Next, the relationship between Tempe and Ryan is getting very tiresome. A real relationship doesn't proceed in such a painful and complicated manner. Tempe is an extremely intelligent person and yet her personal life is that of someone with an IQ of 80. There are some real problems with character development.

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