books I've read

Anne Hawn's books

Who Moved My Cheese?
If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans
Scientific Secrets for Self-Control
Just One Damned Thing After Another
The Vanishing
Exercises in Knitting
The Good Dream
The Very Best of Edgar Allan Poe
The Chosen
BT-Kids' Knits
Talking God
The Professor
The Christmas Files
The Finisher
Home Decor for 18-Inch Dolls: Create 10 Room Settings with Furniture and 15 Outfits with Accessories
Dracula and Other Stories
A New Song
Christy
All Quiet on the Western Front
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents


Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 30,000 pages.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Silas Marner

Silas MarnerSilas Marner by George Eliot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this in about the 8th grade and I liked it, but there were parts I didn't understand. I can see now that I didn't have the vocabulary or the understanding of the time period to see the hints that were given in the book. I also remember it taking a long time to read, but the audiobook takes 8 hours to read! How things have changed!

This time I found it delightful. It is one of those very satisfying classics where things have a good conclusion and yet they are unexpected. Silas Marner lives in a small community and belongs to an austere religious sect. When something is missing, they draw lots to determine who is guilty and the lot comes up to Silas. He is forced to leave the community and he comes to another "country" which is actually another village about 30 miles away, but of an entirely different sort. (Most people of the time period never traveled more than 8 miles from the place they were born and many no more than 3) Embittered, he sets up his successful weaving business and hoards the gold coins he earns. He has no friends and does not go about the community. All that changes when his gold is stolen and is "replaced" by a little "golden headed" orphaned toddler. The story takes a completely different turn and we see the redemptive power of love.


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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Belgrave Square (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #12

Belgrave Square (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #12)Belgrave Square by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Pitt is called in to investigate the murder of a money lender and blackmailer because the murder may involve a member of the "inner circle," a powerful secret society pledged to support each other whenever called upon. There are two lists left at the money lender's house; one of the debts of poor struggling souls and another of upperclass men who are more likely to have been victims of blackmail.

Thomas finds himself investigating people whom he knows and in many instances, people who are very admirable. He has to dig deep to find the secrets they are hiding and each discovery pains Pitt as it could end promising careers and many good works.

At the same time, Emily's new husband, Jack, is attempting to run for Parliament and, since she is in the early stages of pregnancy, Charlotte has to stand in for her at some of the social events important to Jack. As usual, Emily and Aunt Vespasia become Charlotte's confidents and attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I found this book to be one of the best of Anne Perry's Pitt novels. As usual, the ending is abrupt and in this one, the ending is not my favorite, but the clues do fit and explain the trail of clues.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Highgate Rise (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #11

Highgate Rise (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #11)Highgate Rise by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As this series progresses, Anne Perry is going into some of the worst excesses of the Victorian age. This book centers on two aspects that were hotly debated at the time. The book begins with a terrible fire which kills the wife of a very outspoken local doctor. She had been quietly become involved in trying to breach a system of rental property law which allowed investors to charge extremely high rents for tenements in horrible conditions without anyone being able to tell who the property owner was. The poor were forced to live in such crowded and unsanitary places and they were also leased as brothels, opium dens and sweatshops. Many a righteous upper class families fortune was build on the backs of the wretched poor without anyone being the wiser. Neither of the Pitts can decide if the doctor or his wife was the intended victim.

When another fire errupts at the home of the doctor's friend with whom he is staying, the focus returns to the doctor however, the friend was an outspoken proponent of liberal Fabinism, which was also a source of contention in the village. While Thomas Pitt explores the motives relating to the doctor, Charlotte, Emily, Jack and Aunt Vespasia concentrate on the work the doctor's wife, Clemency, was doing. It appears that she had managed to trace the landlord of a despicable tenement and was surprised and appalled by whom she found as the owner.

While this plot was convoluted, all our main characters were engaging as usual and Charlotte's maid Gracie made an enterance as a detective also. She was an entrancing addition and a breath of fresh air, especially as various characters engage in some very long winded philosophical speeches which strain the patience of the reader.


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bethlehem Road (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #10

Bethlehem Road (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #10)Bethlehem Road by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the more complex of the Thomas and Charlotte series. The story begins when a Member of Parliament is found on Westminster Bridge with his throat slit. There seems to be no reason for his death until a second Member of Parliament is killed in the same way. Suspicion falls on the suffragettes and especially one woman in particular who has been greviously wronged by one of the victims, her estranged husband.

As this series continues, Anne Perry is giving a riviting description of the state of women during the Victorian era when husbands had complete control of their wives including their money and children. At the time of this novel, laws had just been passed to consider a woman in her own right and not as chattel to her husband. She was also in control of her own money, but things were not a whole lot better. The prime suspect has had her children taken from her including her 6 year old daughter and was cast out without any resources never to see her children again. She was considered an unfit mother because she was a suffragette and, because she did not have independent means, was left to the mercy of friends or a life on the street. Some of the most extreme Victorian attitudes are fleshed out in this story making for some very interesting reading.


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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Silence in Hanover Close (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #9

Silence in Hanover Close (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #9)Silence in Hanover Close by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Pitt begins an investigation on a 3 year old murder at the request of the diplomatic service. A talented young diplomat is on the verge of marrying the wife of a murdered man and the Home Secretary wants to be certain that she was not involved and that there is nothing that can jeopardize state secrets. Thomas finds it very difficult to get to the bottom of the murder. Nothing about it makes sense. As he delves further, he finds hints of a mysterious woman in a cerise gown who is seen mysteriously appearing in the night. Then a maid is killed and Thomas is implicated in another murder. Charlotte and Emily become involved as only they can.

This book turned out to be very interesting and events led to a startling conclusion, but it bogged down in the middle. There are long passages of suppositions that become tedious and don't lead anywhere. It does however, have an interesting conclusion and it worth puting up with the slow pace for a time. I listened to this as an audiobook, but if I had been reading, I'm afraid I would have just skimmed a chapter or two and not lost anything.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cardington Crescent (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #8

Cardington Crescent (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #8)Cardington Crescent by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lady Emily and her husband, Lord Ashton are visiting a rather unpleasant set of relatives when it becomes apparent that George is falling for the lovely wife of their host's son. Emily is distraught, but with her pluck, she attacks the problem with her usual sense. George and the young woman have a terrible scene and he and Emily are reconciled. The problem is that no one knows this and when George is found murdered, Emily is suspect. The detective on the case is Emily's brother-in-law, Thomas Pitt and Emily's sister, Charlotte is there to help. Emily and Charlotte were both born into society but Emily married far abover her station and Charlotte married the only man she ever found who interested her, Inspector Thomas Pitt, who was tutored with a gentleman's son, but was far below her in social standing.

This unlikely pair have had enormous success with Charlotte moving in society and giving Pitt the kind of information he could never glean from interviews, while he brings a suprising intellect and shrewdness and disarming good manner. Finding out who murdered George is more than a little difficult this time because so much is at stake. Charlotte and Emily peel back the hidden layers of this families relationships aided by George's indomitable Aunt Vespasia.



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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Death in the Devil's Acre (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #7

Death in the Devil's Acre (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #7)Death in the Devil's Acre by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When a doctor is found in Devil's Acre, dead and horribly mutilated, Thomas Pitt is called to the scene, but that is just the beginning of the murders. One after another, men who don't belong in the area are found mutilated in the same way. When some of the men killed are known to Charlotte and Emily's circle, the two sisters once again attempt to find the clue that unites them and provides the solution.



As things escalate, Charlotte and Emily are exposing themselves to ever increasing danger and Thomas himself is not immune. What can the upper crust have in common with this seamy side of town? Once again, Anne Perry gives us a glimps into the Victorian mindset and times. Women, relegated to the endless round of visits and social occasions, strike out to find some excitement and put themselves in danger, both social and even physical.



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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bluegate Fields (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #6

Bluegate Fields (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #6)Bluegate Fields by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When the naked body of a young boy of good family appears in the sewers of Bluegate Field, Thomas Pitt has the task of finding out where and why the boy was killed. The crime is a despicable one and the upper class close ranks to hide the scandal. When an innocent, but unpleasant man is arrested for the crime, Pitt has to battle with his superiors and his conscience and is in danger of losing his position.



This is one of the better mysteries of this series. Anne Perry takes us into the brothels of Bluegate Field and the unspeakable practice of selling young boys into male prostitution. She also details how many of the upper class close ranks and stifle justice in order to protect one of their own even at the expense of the innocent. The veneer of impeccable manners and codes of honor often cover a base dishonesty and injustice.





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Monday, February 14, 2011

Rutland Place (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #5

Rutland Place (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #5)Rutland Place by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fifth mystery in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series begins with the loss of a locket by Charlotte’s mother. Alarmed by her mother’s unexplained concern about the locket, Charlotte agrees to pay calls with her mother and see if she can determine if anyone knows about it. As time progresses, Charlotte becomes aware that there is more to the locket than her mother wants to admit. Anyone finding it will be sure to realize that the picture inside is not her husband. The mystery deepens when on of the women returns home after a series of innocuous calls and is dead within minutes after drinking poisoned wine. Apparently, she has been spying on her neighbors and has learned more than she should.

This book ended rather abruptly for my taste. I was listening to an audiobook and saw that I only had 8 minutes to go and still the murder hadn’t been explained. I felt that there should have been more clues planted during the earlier parts of the book to have provided a basis for the conclusion.

As with all her books, Anne Perry gives us a glimpse into Victorian society and the strict roles of men and women. There are some wonderful scenes in the book and this is one of the more amusing of Perry’s books.





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Friday, February 11, 2011

Dracula

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a librarian, I introduced this book in our book club and a number of people read it. The consensus was that it was the scariest book they had ever read. Note that was "scariest" as opposed to "gross." Too many horror novels today are overly concerned with gore and not with plot development. I think this is a classic because the suspense builds and builds while there is a pervading sense that the protagonists may not be able to survive. They have already lost one of their number and she was not a "disposable" character that the readers hadn't invested much in.

I homeschool my 7th grade grandson and had him read this book for Literature. We both enjoyed it and I was surprised at how much he learned from it. We studied the Gothic novel, Eastern European geography, living standards in Victorian times and a great vocabulary.


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Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Sins of the Wolf (William Monk, #5

The Sins of the Wolf (William Monk, #5)The Sins of the Wolf by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Hester Latterly is offered a job to accompany an elderly lady on a railway journey from Scotland to London it seems like a pleasant journey and an opportunity to see a part of the country she has not been in before. Her only real duty is to administer her patient's heart medicine. When her patient turns up dead of a double dose of the medicine, Hester is arrested and charged with her murder.

She turns to Oliver Rathbone to defend her and William Monk to find out who actually murdered the woman and why, but is dismayed to find out that Oliver cannot represent her in Scotland. Always her champion, he hires the best lawyer in Scotland and comes there to help him defend Hester. William is also there by her side and the two manage to nearly get killed before the murderer is unvailed.

In this book, the relationship between Hester and Monk and Rathbone heats up and takes a leap forward, but will it be permanent or will things go back to normal after the strong emotions of the case are over?


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Friday, February 04, 2011

A Little Princess

A Little PrincessA Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful story of a little girl, Sara Crew, who is the apple of her widowed father's eye. She has lived in India all her life, but she is forced to go to an exclusive boarding school, Miss Minchen's Seminary in London to be properly educated. She becomes the prize pupil when Miss Minchen discovers how incredibly wealthy her father is. Sara and her father are unusually close because her mother died when she was very young and he treats her as a little princess. Fortunately, she has been also taught to behave like a princess and to be patient, kind, good natured and polite.

Sara needs all of those attributes when it is found that her father has invested all of his money in diamond mines in South Africa and they have failed. Not only that, but he has died from a brain fever brought on by the devastating news. Miss Minchen finds out the new status of her pupil and promptly makes a drudge of her. This is really where the story begins. Sara has been well brought up and has a wonderfully vivid imagination and these things help her to endure her wretched life. She has always been kind to the little scullery maid and now finds her a friend and helper.

One of the nicest things about this book is the way it encourages reading and imaginative play as well as good manners and real integrity. Sara has to find ways to deal with her reduced circumstances without becoming bitter or giving up. If you have seen the Shirley Temple movie or one of the other versions, you may be surprised at just how much Hollywood has changed this delightful book.



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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Resurrection Row (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #4

Resurrection Row (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #4)Resurrection Row by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This reminded me of an old movie called "The Trouble with Harry." Harry can't seem to stay buried. In this case, an elderly man is found propped up and dead in an cab in Victorian London. The problem is that he is not only dead, but he has been already been buried. The family gather's together to bury him again and a few days later there is another corpse that turns up posed as if he were living, but unfortunately dead and buried. By this time he is getting really hard to identify, but the family gathers together once again to bury him. When the next body turns up and the next, Thomas Pitt begins to get an idea that there is more to this than a gruesome prank. The solution to this is not obvious and it takes a joint effort of both Thomas and Charlotte to figure this one out.


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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Paragon Walk (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #3

Paragon Walk (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #3)Paragon Walk by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the third adventure with Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. A young woman is butally raped and murdered in elegant Paragon Walk. She is a quiet retiring young woman and no on can figure out how this tragedy happened in such an upscale Victorian neighborhood. Nothing is making sense when even more people are found murdered. Charlotte and her sister, Emily help Thomas Pitt by moving in society in ways he never could.

The story is good, but the best thing is the introduction of Aunt Vespalia, Emily's husband's aunt. She is delightful and a wonderful addition. As usual, the Victorian society assumes that the murder is done by one of the servants and that the murdered young woman must have been immoral even though there isn't a shred of evidence to suspect that. They engage in a frustrating circular argument which goes something like this. If the girl was raped, she must have been immoral. Even though she seems to be sweet, chaste and virginal, we know that she must have been immoral because she was raped. None of the upper class should be questioned in this matter because they don't come from the strata of society that committs crimes; they are upper class hence, they must be innocent.

The ever patient Thomas Pitt has to tiptoe around the upper class sensibilities in order to get any information at all, but he never falters. The help of Charlotte, Emily and Aunt Vespalia is vital in getting around barriers as they drink tea and engage in the gossip that brings out the elusive clues.


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