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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lake of Sorrows (Nora Gavin, #2)

Lake of Sorrows (Nora Gavin, #2)Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. The setting of Irish bogs is different from so many mysteries and adds a bit of interest because of the discoveries surrounding the prehistoric bog bodies found there. Forensic pathologist, Nora Gavin, has been asked to help with the discovery of another bog body who seems to have been killed in a prehistoric ritual “triple death.” When a more recent body turns up with the same “triple death” characteristics, the mystery widens. Is the ritual still being practiced?

-Archaeologist, Cormac MacGuire, is on the scene again too and he has the cottage where his mentor has lived when working on the bogs. Nora was invited to stay there and the two continue their relationship, but not without trials. Cormac knows that he loves Nora, but Nora is being pulled back to her home in the United States by the tragic and brutal death of her sister. When the identity of the second body is discovered, a cast of local characters are introduced and the link to their ancient roots is probed. As always, the colorful world of Irish music and dancing also adds to the feeling of the book

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Chili Queen

The Chili QueenThe Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! It was engaging all the way through with a real twist at the end.. This is Sandra Dallas at her best. The characters seem alive with all their quirks and inconsistencies. At the end it is just pure fun. I also resonated with the names. I have relatives who are from What Cheer, Iowa and an Aunt Addie who lived here...hmmm and she was born in Jasper County! I felt like Sandra Dallas had looked at my genealogy;>)I have always been fascinated with the name. No one is exactly sure how it came to be called that for sure, but the stories are interesting.

The story is about a Madam, Addie French, who meets a plain, spinster woman, Emma Roby, a mail order bride, on the train. When the husband to be doesn't like what he sees, Emma ends up going to the "boarding house" of the only woman she knows...Addie. The woman is pitifully naive, but ends up getting in on a scheme with the bank robber boyfriend of Addie and proves that she is not as helpless as she appears. Along with that there is a scheme to defraud Emma's greedy brother of the portion of their inheritance that is rightfully hers. Everything is in place when the bank is robbed, the brother arrives, the swindle is on its way to fruition and then the fun begins. The reader looks at the number of pages left in the book and can only wonder what is going to fill all those pages. This is where the book ceases to be ordinary and is Sandra Dallas at her best. I thoroughly enjoyed this twisting and turning plot.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mid Year Evaluation

It's a little early for the mid-year evaluation, but I have the time now and may not have it July 1. So far, I have read 91 books which is ahead of where I planned to be. I started with a list of 100 regular books (audio or print) and 25 classics that I wanted to read. Some were on the list because I have the books here at home and would like to read them and send them on their way to make room for more books. What has happened is that I keep reading books that are not on my list. At first, I kept expanding the list, but it is getting ridiculous. The list is found on Ravelry, a knitting group under the group 52 Books in 52 Weeks. The reason this is happening is that I am downloading audiobooks from my library and other free sites like LibriVox. If I a listening to a book then I can do many other things and thus get in reading time where no time existed. The problem is that a lot of books on my list aren't audiobooks.

I have finally started eliminating some of the books I planned to read in favor of books that I find through my audio sources. There are still some books that I won't take off my list, but others I can sacrifice like the whole Brother Cadfel series which, so far, I haven't found as audio books or on CD. It is almost time for me to leave for Virginia where I will have a whole new library system to hunt for books in and hopefully, many of these books will be found in audio format and I can save my book reading time for the books I want to read and find a new home for. I have really gotten addicted to doing something else while listening so that now it seems like wasting time if I am not doing two things at once...what a sorrowful statement! However, I have the cure! I am knitting while I am reading and can now feel virtuous again...not a sense is wasted. Arms are not danging useless at my sides, but are busy creating hats and baby blankets for charity and sweaters for my grandkids. I am on track again!

The next part of my resolution is also going well. I am writing a review of each book I read and transferring it to this blog. I did get a little behind in Goodreads, so I have a few books I have to go back a do a review for, but I am pretty near caught up. I see from my list of posts on this blog; however, that I have not transferred every review to this site. That is a pain in the neck because I have to go back and look through the list of book on Goodreads and see what I have missed. Right now I am trying to find a way to turn the Goodreads list into a spreadsheet so I can go over it quickly, but that may be just too much trouble. I'll see how much time I have this summer.

All in all, I am very pleased with my progress on the classics too. I have added a few to that list also, but I am on track and should make my goal. I wish I could say the same with my knitting and housework:>)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Haunted Ground: A Novel

Haunted Ground: A NovelHaunted Ground: A Novel by Erin Hart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was hard to get into at first, but I really enjoyed it. The reader is deposited right into the middle of the action and, while it gives a sense of immediacy, it is hard to figure out what it going on. The story is actually two mysteries in one...there is a red haired woman's head which is found deposited in the peat bog and a real woman and her child who have been missing for over two years. The plot is interwoven and switches between forensic and historical research on the bog body and dogged detective work in the contemporary case.

Once I got into the book, I could hardly put it down. In the investigation of the bog body, the archaeologist determine that the woman was beheaded and they find a probable date for the execution from an artifact. What is really intriguing is that they contact an elderly local historian for an understanding of what was going on in that locality at the time and then they turn to an elderly woman who has preserved hundreds of old ballads, many of which were composed about local historical events. When I read this I thought of how many of the old ballads I know of that talk about real events; ballads such as Tom Dooley, Geordie, the Long Black Rifle, The Ballad of Mary Hamilton, and Mattie Groves to name a few. In the book there is a pub where the detective, the archaeologist and others keep alive the old musical instruments and ballads which reminded me of the work of Francis James Child who collected 305 ballads and saved them for posterity.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1)

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

My 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.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie, #7)

The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie, #7)The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always love any of Alexander McCall Smith's books and this was no exception. Isabel Dalhousie has been called upon to help find some information about three candidates for the job of headmaster of a local private school. It seems that the committee has received an anonymous letter stating that one of the candidates has a secret that might prove embarrassing to the school, but the person is not named. Isabel is to get background on the three men and determine if there is any truth to the letter.

At the same time, her relationship with Cat, always shaky, is finally on an even keel for a change. She has found a new man and, unbelievably, he is one of the candidates and is quite normal, which is saying something for Cat. I don't see that relationship continuing for that very reason.

Isabel and Jamie are working out their relationship and little insecurities come to the surface. I always hold my breath when they come up, but the two seem to weather each challenge. Along the way, Isabel deals with the questions of moral philosophy which make these books such a delight. As she investigates the three candidates for the headship, she covers ideas such as guilt, loyalty and sacrifice as well as some traits much darker.

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The Lost Art of Gratitude (Sunday Philosophy Club, #6)

The Lost Art of Gratitude (Sunday Philosophy Club, #6)The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

This is my favorite book of all Alexander McCall Smith's and it is for one huge reason...the poem at the end. While the book is very entertaining and Isabel has numerous situations which cause her to work through various moral dilemmas; her insecurities about Jamie, what to do with the obnoxious Professor Dove, and especially the possibly amoral Minty Auchterlonie, the book is always more about then people than the plot. Minty approaches Isabel to help her resolve two connected issues and Isabel reluctantly agrees to help, but finds herself being used by Minty to further her own schemes. Somehow, she manages to work good in the lives of the victims instead of the evil left from Minty.

Her niece, Cat, has found a new boyfriend and this is possibly the worst of all. He is a tightrope walker and stuntman and Jamie and Isabel can only shake their heads and get ready to hold up Cat when the end comes, as they pray that it will. I am always inspired by the way Isabel finds to see beyond Cat's thorniness and love her. I can almost see Cat 20 years in the future finally realizing that it was her aunt's abiding love which remained constant through the angst of her struggle for maturity.

All of this leads to the end of the book where Jamie puts to music one of the most moving poems I have read in ages.

What we lose, we think we lose forever,
But we are wrong about this, think of love –
Love is lost, we think it gone,
But it returns, often when least expected,
Forgives us our lack of attention, our failure of
Our cold indifference; forgives us all of this, and more;
Returns and says, “I was always there.”
Love, at our shoulder, whispers: Merely remember me,
Don’t think I’ve gone away for ever:
I am still here. With you. My power undimmed.
See. I am here.”

I was listening to the audio book and I could just hear God at my shoulder saying those words and I found myself playing them over and over. I read that the handwritten poem was sold at a charity auction and felt that if I had a lot of money, I surely would have bid on it, even to the point of sacrifice.
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Monday, June 06, 2011

Hiss of Death (Mrs. Murphy, #19

Hiss of Death (Mrs. Murphy, #19)Hiss of Death by Rita Mae Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a little disappointing. There were so many medical warnings that I felt like I was being preached at through most of the book. It became very tiresome. I think it is fine to slip in that the main character is going for a yearly check up or that another has been told by his doctor to lead a healthier life style, but it was everywhere you turned in this book and got in the way of the story. The mystery also didn't take center place. I never felt as if it developed because there were so many side stories. I haven't read any of Rita Mae Brown's book for quite a while and this may be why.

There are two murders which take place in the book and they are only loosely connected. The reason for the murders has to be spelled out by the murderer who spills his/her guts in the last few pages telling every little detail without benefit of lawyer or common sense. Those reasons were not a serious enough threat, I thought, to motivate any but the most paranoid and the murderer was not portrayed as any kind of extremist throughout the book. Sorry, but this is just the way this book struck me. I know the author has written many other books which are a lot better than this one.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Duplicate Keys

Duplicate KeysDuplicate Keys by Jane Smiley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was a disappointment to me. I disliked all the characters and the naive, blissfully unaware, Alice was too stupid to be a librarian, much less a friend. Non of the characters were well developed and their lives were pitiful.

The plot was about some friends in their 30's who had come through the hippie commune era and were living in New York. The band had had a hit record, but had done nothing much since. They seemed on the border of going some place, but never quite made it. The story begins with Alice, the narrator, entering Susan and Dennis' apartment to find Dennis and his adopted brother, Craig, murdered. Apparently everyone and their brother had keys to this apartment. Because of the murder and the suspicion surrounding it, the group unravels and a lot of hidden things become apparent.

There is some suspense as the book draws to a close and I felt compelled to find out why the two men were murdered even though it is apparent who did it about midway. There were some good points made in the book and insight into people's lives, but at times I felt like I was reading an essay rather than reading a book with a plot. I like Jane Smiley's writing, but and I felt like she had something to say here, but the burden of it was too great to place on Alice's shoulders.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

New Mercies

New MerciesNew Mercies by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the whole, I liked it. There were good characters and an interesting plot. Nora Bondurant Tate is recovering from her divorce and finds that she has inherited a crumbling antebellum house from a aunt that she didn't know she had. Nora knew little about her father and had no idea that he was from an old Natches, MS family. Even more incredible was the fact that her aunt was murdered by an old lover who committed suicide after he shot her. Her aunt was known affectionately as "the goat lady" because of the goats she raised and the milk she sold. She lived with 2 family servants in the crumbling house, the apparent last remnant of a proud old family.

I love most of Sandra Dallas' work and I think she does a great job of creating believable characters, but these people seemed to be wooden much of the time. I have Mississippi roots and family that still live there and I found some of the sayings and customs wonderful reminders, but others just weren't right. People who held certain opinions did not do certain things. It's hard to put this and not spoil the plot, but I will try. First, the book takes place in the 30's but many of the attitudes towards blacks did not ring true at all. Many of her white characters hold attitudes that just were not prevalent during that time. I also found it hard to remember that it was the 30's the book was about because certain figures of speech from the present day intruded. I guess what I am saying is that Sandra Dallas knows the Colorado mining culture and writes beautifully about it. She also knows the Persian Pickle culture. I don't believe she knows the Southern culture and was writing out of her element, making her characters less alive than in her other books.

With that being said, it is still an enjoyable book and holds together despite the above mentioned difficulties. I developed a real fondness for Nora's aunt and wished there had been more information on her. Nora is an engaging character and the only flaw I find in her is her lack of understanding of her husband and its consequenceses and the way it is handled in the book. There is too big a jump from his death and her actions in Natches. This is one time when I believe the character has more emotional baggage than the author allows her to show.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery, Book 15)

Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery, Book 15)Spanish Dagger by Susan Wittig Albert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When China finds a body while looking for some Yucca, or Spanish Dagger, she knows she has the unpleasant task of breaking the news to her good friend and business partner, Ruby. She is doubly reluctant because Ruby is dealing with her mother, who is difficult at best, and is now suffering from dementia and even more quarrelsome. There has always been a mystery about Colin and now China feels that he is not what he appeared to be and has been living a double life. When another body is found, the situation is even more complicated. People are not who they appear to be and seemingly nice people are involved in the most unexpected things.

This mystery was pretty fast paced and entertaining. There was plenty of suspense and the conclusion was neat and believable, however sad it was. As always, the author's comments about various herbs and recipes enhance the book.

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