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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an audiobook which I got online from my library. What a wonderful way to read a book and get something else accomplished at the same time.

The audiobook contains twelve stories that are not as well known as The Study in Scarlet or The Hound of the Baskervilles.

I have read them all before, but find them just as fascinating as the first time I read them. Nowadays, we are used to forensics providing the clues and the evidence, but Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, operated well before such a discipline was known.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times Hard Times by Charles Dickens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have been going back and reading all the Charles Dickens' books which I have either missed, or not read recently. I don't know how I missed this one, as some consider it one of his best.

The book begins with a speech by Thomas Gradgrind about, "facts, just plain facts," to "girl #20", a pupil in his school. She is a child of traveling horse riders, who move from place to place. He is upset that she can't define the word,"horse" by only using facts. (One can just hear Jack Webb in the background as he interviews a witness.) Grandgrind believes that children, in fact, everyone should learn to deal only with facts and ignore everything else. He not only teaches this, but deals with his own wife and children the same way.

Gradgrind lives in an industrial town in the north of England named Coketown. One of the people he associates with is Mr. Josiah Bounderby, a rich industrialist who sees the employees of his mill in exactly the same way. As the books proceeds, the results of Gradgrind's philosophy become apparent. He has married his daughter to Bounderby, a rich, pompous braggart 30 years her senior without any consideration of her feelings. She agrees without protest because she has barely any feelings left after a lifetime in his household and she thinks she can be of some help to her beloved brother, Tom. The marriage is a disaster, as is Tom's life.

As with all of Dickens books, there are a number of interesting subplots which revolve around the main action and eventually take their place in the solution. Eventually, everything unravels and in the end, Gradgrind is forced to see the damage he has wrought.

Dickens is a master at creating characters who seem to leap off the pages and become real. It is one of the things that I most love about his work. To me it seems as if Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, the Artful Dodger and Fagan must have existed. It is hard to believe that they are only the product of paper and ink in a master's hand. This book also creates some characters that will stay with me forever. I look forward to continuing with my project.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard Mystery, #1)

Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard Mystery, #1) Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lily Bard is trying to live quietly in Shakespeare to get over her traumatic past. Her life is limited to the people whose houses she cleans and gym where she trains in body building. Physically tiring herself is the only way she can sleep and often not then. One sleepless night, she sees someone disposing of a body which seems to come from the apartments she is also the manager of. She follows the mysterious stranger and finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation in which she seems to be a suspect.

Lily is an interesting character. Like Harper Connelley, there is a dark and tragic feeling surrounding her. Her life has not been easy and she is struggling to reconcile the unhealthy memories of the past with the present. She is a little more complex than the ordinary cozy mystery sleuth which makes these books interesting on a second level.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Murder Past Due (Reading Group Mysteries)

Murder Past Due (Reading Group Mysteries) Murder Past Due by Doris R. Meredith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dr. Megan Clark and the Murder by the Yard Reading Circle decide to do a book tour of all the old murder sites in Amarillo, TX. Her best friend, Ryan, hopes that this will keep her out of trouble. Ryan is her widowed next door neighbor and father of her childhood best friend. He comes to the meetings of the book club with her in hopes of keeping her out of trouble.

Megan is a petite young woman who has a Phd in anthropology and an interest in murder. Her training helps her to see relationships that the police often miss, but lead her into danger. While conducting this tour, Megan is approached by the grandfather of a murder victim and asks her to find out the murderer of his grandson even though it is almost assuredly a member of his own family. As Megan circles closer and closer to the murderer, Ryan becomes increasingly alarmed by her danger.

I found this to be a better than average cozy murder and the characters are quite likable. The relationship between Ryan and Megan is a stretch, but adds interest to the plot.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly Mystery, #3

An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly Mystery, #3) An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second of this series that I have read. Harper Connelly was struck by lightning when she was young and since then can find dead people and knows how they died. She is reluctantly called in by a local sheriff who has been given the money to pay Harper to find her grandson and other young boys who have gone missing. It becomes apparent that there is a serial killer in the area.

I thought this was pretty good although very depressing, as all child murders or serial killer books are. The discovery of the killer is a little far fetched although one part of it, the actions of a young boy, is intriguing.

Still, this is very compelling and easy to stick with. Most of the characters are fairly well drawn and distinctive and Harris has some interesting repeat characters.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #3

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #3) Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book in the series and Aurora's mother would like her to consider working in her real estate office. The first house she takes someone into has a dead body of a Realtor in the master bedroom. Soon it becomes apparent that someone is killing Realtor. There is another problem too. Someone is stealing from the houses that are being shown and Aurora thinks the two things are connected.

On the personal front, Aurora has met a new man and there seems to be great chemistry between. He has been brought in by his company to straighten out the local plant, but there are rumors that he is ruthless and may have a shady past. Aurora has her hands full this time!

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A Fool and His Honey (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #6)

A Fool and His Honey (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #6) A Fool and His Honey by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the sixth in this series and Aurora gets a chance to find out what taking care of a baby was like. Martin's niece unexpectedly appears with a baby no one knows she has and before she can get settled, her husband comes and it promptly murdered and the niece disappears.

Martin and Roe are even more surprised by another young man who appears behind the couch in their front room. He is a friend of Regina's and her husband. Aurora and Martin have to take him back to Regina's home town and hope to find her and to give her back her baby.

The plot is stretched a bit, but the book is good and the pace fast. Aurora and Martin work together to care for the baby, but he is almost more than they can handle.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Ballad of Frankie Silver The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Frankie Silver was a real mountain woman convicted and hanged for the murder of her teen-aged husband in 1823. The fact that she killed him and dismembered him and burned him in the fireplace makes the community rise up against the brutality and she is quickly convicted of the crime and sentenced to be the first woman to ever be hanged in the state.

As time goes on and more facts surface, the townspeople begin to conclude there was much more to the murder and sympathy develops for the quiet, docile 18 year old. Frankie's husband was a drunk who abused Frankie and possibly their baby daughter.

The plot switches between the 1823 and the local sheriff in the present. The sheriff, recovering from being shot, receives a summons to attend the execution of a man he arrested 20 years ago. He has always been fascinated with the story of Frankie Silver and the probability that she was hanged unjustly and he feels that the present murderer may be in the same situation.

There are some weaknesses in the plot, especially with a present day investigation the Sheriff's deputies try to keep from him and the present day execution, but the story is very compelling despite the problems. I enjoyed the book and will read more in this series.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Real Murders: Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #1

Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #1) Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I started this series with book #2, so I had to go back and catch up. I like the device of a group of people who are interested in old murders. The club Aurora belongs to studies famous murders, especially unsolved murders and discusses them, only this meeting was very different from previous ones. This night someone was murdered and arranged to mimic a famous murder and a member was the victim. As the plot progresses, two things become apparent; someone was killing members of the group and the murder had to be someone IN the group.

Aurora Teagarden is the main character and she is very appealing. The surrounding cast are not as well developed, but are interesting and become more developed as the series goes on. I liked the mix of characters and look forward to reading more of Harris' books.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a beautiful book. It takes place in Seattle and is the story of Japanese Americans during WWII and Chinese Americans. It explores the foreign culture and the relationships between generations. Most of all it is a touching love story. I know there are some editorial mistakes, but I don't think they detract from the book.

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A Bone to Pick

A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #2) A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in this series that I have read and I enjoyed it so much more than the one Sookie Stackhouse book I read. I guess it was the subject matter rather than the author. I'm glad I gave this one a try. Something of a cozy mystery, the characters are amusing and the heroine is delightful. Aurora has been left a house and sizable inheritance by an elderly friend who was in murder mystery group with her. The house includes a hidden skull and a mystery to solve. The book is character driven rather than plot driven, but the characters are amusing and easy to follow. I'll be reading more of these.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

My Heart May Be Broken, but My Hair Still Looks Great (Domestic Equalizers Book 2)

My Heart May Be Broken, but My Hair Still Looks Great (Domestic Equalizers Book 2) My Heart May Be Broken, but My Hair Still Looks Great by Dixie Cash

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book in the series and Debbie Sue Overstreet and her friend, Edwina, are still running their beauty shop and the detective agency "Domestic Equalizers." The agency's business is all about tracking down erring spouses and getting the goods on them, so the pair find it a challenge to try to discover why neighboring horses are going missing. A spoiled little rich girl turns into a friend and horse lover and catches the eye of the new bachelor vet, Spur Atwater, and the four of them put their heads together to get to the bottom of disappearances.

The mystery is only the top surface of this madcap adventure. There's tons of local color and Southern traditions. For Southerners who have moved away from their roots, this is a refreshing reminder of simpler times.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Heidi (Kingfisher Classics) Heidi by Johanna Spyri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this to audition the next book for my granddaughter's homeschool. This is not the translation I read, but it is just as delightful as it was so many years ago. Five year old Heidi has been brought up the mountain by her aunt to be cared for by her curmudgeon grandfather. He sees his duty and takes the child in. She is so delightful, and so appreciative of her splendid new Alpine home that he comes to love her, as do the rest of the people in her new world. She goes to the Alpine pastures with Peter the goatherd and visits his blind grandmother. All is idyllic when Dete comes back for Heidi and takes her to Hamburg to live with a wealthy gentleman to be a companion for his invalid daughter. Clara is delighted with Heidi and all her madcap adventures, but Heidi is so homesick, she becomes physically ill. She is returned to the Alps and the story comes to a very satisfying conclusion.

Today this unsophisticated story with all it's emphasis on morality and duty seems old fashioned, but I realized how much has been left out of modern day's children who get their role models on TV from characters like the Simpsons. Children need this kind of simple devotion to God, duty and the benefits of leading a faithful and good life. Sure there are people like the Simpsons, but why hold them up as an example? There is so much to be learned by these old tales of virtue rewarded and happy endings.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this to audition a book for my grandson's homeschool literature lesson. As I child, I loved this book, although I probably got lost in the chapters where boys from the town skate to Haarlem and go to the museums and churches. I found this to be a plus for homeschool lessons since I was able to find many of these places and works of art on the internet which I can also use for lessons.

Hans and his sister, Gretel, are very poor. Their father, a sluice gate tender, was injured on the job and has been witless ever since. At times he is very cruel, although they recognize that he does not know what he is doing. Hans and Gretel lead lives filled with work and their only pleasure is skating on the frozen canal in their makeshift skates Hans has made out of wood. When news of a prize of silver skates is to be awarded in a race, they are sorry that they would never be able to win in their old skates.

Their poverty is made all the more difficult because there is a lot of money hidden some place in or around the house, but the location is locked in the addled brain of their father. He did something with the money just before he went out to work on the night he was injured. Hans and Gretel are forced to do whatever work they can find to help support them.

One of the things that makes the book interesting is the social commentary in the book. Several of the boys and girls in town are mentioned and much is made of either their character flaws or virtues. While simplistic on the surface, the characterization is good. One if the wealthy girls in town stands out because she recognizes her good fortune and arranges for both Hans and his sister to have metal skates.

When the book gets to the final race, it is almost an afterthought. The true natures of many of the characters have been displayed and the story ends in a satisfactory manner.

I did not realize the Mary Mapes Dodge went on the be the editor of the famous "St. Nicholas Magazine" which featured stories by classical children's author such as Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, Rudyard Kipling and many others. We just happened to have Henry Steele Commanger's anthology of the magazine and I found it to be a great complement to the lessons on this book.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I re-read this old classic for "The Big Read" and enjoyed it. Our class discussions were good, but I don't think this book rises to the level of "literature" as some people thought. While it is a classic, and it was especially interesting to see how mystery and crime writing has changed. I didn't feel like I was changed or understood more about the human condition by reading it.

Essentially, it is the story of a private detective who is hired by a woman to find someone for her who is threatening her. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that she is on the trail of the Maltese falcon and is competing with several other people. Hammett creates some unforgettable characters and clever and interesting twists and turns of the plot. I also enjoyed the discussion about how the genre has changed and also how women were treated in this early PI literature.

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