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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daniel

DanielDaniel by Henning Mankell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is extremely poignant and compelling as well as being unsettling. It is the story of a strange Swede, Hans Bengler, who goes to Africa to find an unknown species of insect to name after himself. He ends up finding an orphaned black boy about 8 years old whom he brings back to Sweden. He feels that he can give him a better life even though the trader where he found the boy tells him he will only destroy the boy.

Hans uses Daniel in part of a carnival type lecture series to get people to come in and listen to his lecture on insects. Non of the people involved consider Daniel or his needs. Daniel, on the other hand, longs for his home in the desert and sees, in his mind, his parents who were killed by white men. He meets with people who stare at him, pet him and sometimes regard his as the devil, but no one thinks of him as a real person. Daniel has been trained to say, "My name is Daniel. I believe in God" as a formula, but in his own mind, the voices of his parents are growing stronger and stronger. He hears of Jesus, who walked on water, and he is determined to learn to walk on water in order to go home.

The book calls into question the recent adoptions of young children whose culture is so different from the one they are adopted into, especially children older than 3-4. There are a lot of cultural implications that may not be being considered.
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Lost World

The Lost WorldThe Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is as fresh as it was in the Victorian days in which it was written. A young journalist attends a lecture in which the claims of an naturalist and explorer to have discovered a land where prehistoric animals still exist is roundly scoffed at. A challenge is proposed by the bombastic professor and the scoffer can not refuse to test the claims by joining an expedition. The young journalist and an aristocratic adventurer also join and the four men with their bearers head for the remote area in Africa where the supposed sighting occurred. It does not take long for the party to realize that the professor was speaking the truth. Beyond them lies a huge plateau cut off from the world from which prehistoric birds fly. The men are able to get to the plateau, but when their exit is cut off, they find themselves learning much more about this strange land than they intended to.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. This is not the genre I prefer, but this was told so well and the suspense was so great, I found myself staying up late just to finish. There is little wonder while it is considered a classic today.


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The Lost World

The Lost WorldThe Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is as fresh as it was in the Victorian days in which it was written. A young journalist attends a lecture in which the claims of an naturalist and explorer to have discovered a land where prehistoric animals still exist is roundly scoffed at. A challenge is proposed by the bombastic professor and the scoffer can not refuse to test the claims by joining an expedition. The young journalist and an aristocratic adventurer also join and the four men with their bearers head for the remote area in Africa where the supposed sighting occurred. It does not take long for the party to realize that the professor was speaking the truth. Beyond them lies a huge plateau cut off from the world from which prehistoric birds fly. The men are able to get to the plateau, but when their exit is cut off, they find themselves learning much more about this strange land than they intended to.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. This is not the genre I prefer, but this was told so well and the suspense was so great, I found myself staying up late just to finish. There is little wonder while it is considered a classic today.


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Friday, May 27, 2011

Buster Midnight's Cafe

Buster Midnight's CafeBuster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. I have read three other books by Sandra Dallas and I really loved them, but this one seems a little contrived. The characters are more caricatures, and from the wrong part of the country. I could easily believe that May Anna, Effa Commander and Whippy Bird came from a small town in Texas rather than Montana. The names, grammar and some of the actions seem more like the deep South. On the other hand, the fact that May Anna's mother has "gentlemen callers" and May Anna quits high school to become a hooker, and this is accepted by the circle of friends is really bizarre. That could happen, but not in the way it is portrayed in this book. Parts of it just don't ring true. I found it hard to relate to the characters and their attitudes. The author actually seems to glamorize the "sex trade" in a way that is not realistic, and I can hardly see Hollywood accepting this background for a major star as a simple matter of choice.

Still, there is a lot about the story that is interesting. The characters do get better as the book goes on and the way their lives turn out is not completely predictable. I don't know...I just can't put my finger on what is wrong with this book, but it just didn't ring true to me and nothing in me resonated with it. Her other books are MUCH better.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Persian Pickle Club

The Persian Pickle ClubThe Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have become very fond of these books by Sandra Dallas. This was one of her best. It involves a quilting circle in a small Kansas town during the depression. As the women meet together to quilt and discuss the details of their lives, they become so bonded to one another that they are able to share intense secrets almost as one person.

Into this mix comes the son and brother of two of the members and his new wife, Rita. Tom has gone to college in Denver and he and his young wife intended to continue to live in the city until unemployment and the need of his family force him back to the farm. His wife has her heart set on becoming a reporter and life in the small Kansas town is difficult even though she is welcomed into the Persian Pickle Club by virtue of the membership of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. When bones are dug up in a local field, she attacks the mystery as an investigative reporter, not understanding the ways of these rural people.

There is enough tension in the book to make it not just another sewing/knitting circle book. The characters are well drawn and compelling. There is also a great variety in the characters in the group which provides an interesting mix. I will be reading all of Sandra Dallas' books.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was harder to read than most of Chesterton's work. His sleuth, Horne Fisher, is not as compelling as Father Brown and most of the mysteries are very short and end without the lawbreakers being brought to justice formally, although in many cases, justice ends up being served anyway.

The other problem I had with the book was the amount of British politics in it. Since I don't recognize the titles for various political offices, it was often hard to get an understanding of the issues. That being said, the stories did make sense and the solutions of the mystery were amazingly clever, especially the one about Prince Michael and the tower.

As usual, Chesterton writes beautifully and has such a wonderful power of description that most of the characters became very real with the exception of Horne Fisher. For most of the stories, he is more of an observer, so the lack of personal details makes some sense, but I would have liked it more if he had been better drawn.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been years since I have read this. I was looking for a book to use for homeschool for my 9 year old granddaughter and I thought this might be what I was looking for. The interest level is right and it has the kind of challenging vocabulary and sentence length found in most classics. I knew that the book differed some from the movie, but I couldn't remember how much. While there are a number of story lines not developed in the movie, it does follow the book fairly well.

This is simply a wonderful tale and every child should read it. It is not only a fun story, but there is a spirit of empowerment that runs all the way through. Whatever our intrepid four need to do, they "gird up their loins" and do it. Without being preachy, the book conveys the idea of meeting challenges step by step, loyalty, courage, integrity and friendship. Baum's imagination was so rich and creative that even adults will find this enjoyable.

I read, years ago, that the head librarian of the New York Public Library was totally against this book when it was first published and did everything she could to convey the idea that it was not literature and shouldn't be found in libraries. Fortunately, children and adults had more sense and the book has been popular ever since it was written.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Cincinnati Red Stalkings

The Cincinnati Red StalkingsThe Cincinnati Red Stalkings by Troy Soos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Troy Soos writes a great story for baseball fans, of which I am one. I love the stories about the earlier days of baseball when the salaries weren't so high and players weren't so removed from the fans. This mystery takes place in 1921, the year that the Chicago "Black Socks" were supposed to have thrown the world series. I had always heard about it and felt that Shoeless Joe Jackson got a raw deal, but I never understood all the mysteries surrounding the scandal. While that isn't the the major theme in this book, a great deal of information is given, especially about the extreme actions of the Commissioner of Baseball and the feelings of the fans.

I also enjoyed the cameo appearances of Eppa Rixey who was from Rixeyville, just up the road from where I lived in Virginia. I had heard about him and saw a plaque dedicated to him, but never had any other information. Troy Soos fleshes out his character and gives some details about a few games he played in.

This book centers around the murder of a man who was gathering memorabilia from the earliest players and games. It is how the Baseball Hall of Fame must have started. Unfortunately, this young man was murdered and Mickey Rawlings is determined to find out how and why after his own house is broken into. Mickey was given some of the material that wasn't going to end up in the museum and he figures that the killer did not get the thing he sought when he broke into the museum.


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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Death of the other self

Death of the other selfDeath of the other self by Peter Packer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this a long time ago and was fascinated with it. The story is about identical twins, Todd and Tim Nicholson, heirs to the Pullman fortune. The boys were brought up by two seemingly totally self centered parents and were left to raise themselves. They were so close that they seemed as one person. In fact, their mother gave up trying to tell them apart and called each one Tim/Todd. This is really sad because you could tell them apart fairly easily. Tim was left-handed and like many identical twins, his hair grew in the opposite direction from his brother's. I just looked through the photos in the book and got them correct each time. In some photos, both boys hair is combed the same way, but one of the twin's hair flops over the forehead because the part is on the wrong side from the way the hair grows naturally. It seemed like the ultimate neglect for the parents to not make an effort to call them by their right names when just a little attention would give them their individuality.

The boys were uncontrollable and even spent some time at a military school at a very early age because no one could make them behave or stop fighting. This competition and fighting kept up their whole lives, but they were also so close they could not stand to be separated. They were all each other had.

As time went on, this uncontrolled nature began to be serious, especially for Todd. According to the book, he went into incredible rages and often targeted anyone around, but especially, Tim. Ultimately it was in one of those rages that Todd was shot by his brother. The defense claimed that it was self-defense even though two shots were fired and I believe it happened the way Tim said it did. It doesn't actually matter if Tim seemed to have gotten off lightly; for someone who has had only one person in his life to love and count on, jail could not have been worse than living without his brother.

I felt like this was a story about what happens to children who are spoiled and yet neglected, undisciplined and left without responsible role models. These boys raised themselves and because they were not getting the attention they needed from either of their parents, they were in constant competition. The same brother who was the only one to love and be loved by was also the major competitor for the drips and dregs of his parents attention. This was a fascinating story.

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Death of the other self

Death of the other selfDeath of the other self by Peter Packer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this a long time ago and was fascinated with it. The story is about identical twins, Todd and Tim Nicholson, heirs to the Pullman fortune. The boys were brought up by two seemingly totally self centered parents and were left to raise themselves. They were so close that they seemed as one person. In fact, their mother gave up trying to tell them apart and called each one Tim/Todd. This is really sad because you could tell them apart fairly easily. Tim was left-handed and like many identical twins, his hair grew in the opposite direction from his brother's. I just looked through the photos in the book and got them correct each time. In some photos, both boys hair is combed the same way, but one of the twin's hair flops over the forehead because the part is on the wrong side from the way the hair grows naturally. It seemed like the ultimate neglect for the parents to not make an effort to call them by their right names when just a little attention would give them their individuality.

The boys were uncontrollable and even spent some time at a military school at a very early age because no one could make them behave or stop fighting. This competition and fighting kept up their whole lives, but they were also so close they could not stand to be separated. They were all each other had.

As time went on, this uncontrolled nature began to be serious, especially for Todd. According to the book, he went into incredible rages and often targeted anyone around, but especially, Tim. Ultimately it was in one of those rages that Todd was shot by his brother. The defense claimed that it was self-defense even though two shots were fired and I believe it happened the way Tim said it did. It doesn't actually matter if Tim seemed to have gotten off lightly; for someone who has had only one person in his life to love and count on, jail could not have been worse than living without his brother.

I felt like this was a story about what happens to children who are spoiled and yet neglected, undisciplined and left without responsible role models. These boys raised themselves and because they were not getting the attention they needed from either of their parents, they were in constant competition. The same brother who was the only one to love and be loved by was also the major competitor for the drips and dregs of his parents attention. This was a fascinating story.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Murder at a Vineyard Mansion (Martha's Vineyard Mystery #15)Murder at a Vineyard Mansion by Philip R. Craig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book and it kept my attention, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. The main character, JW Jackson, a former Boston detective, loves his family and life on Martha's Vineyard. When he is asked by the female version of and "old curmudgeon" to investigate a murder, JW finds himself investigating some of the old line aristocracy of the island whose lives are intertwined. At the same time, there is a different kind of criminal...kind of a high tech Robin Hood on the island. This Robin Hood robs from the loud and gives peace and quiet to the multitude. He has found a way to electronically silence the loud car speakers and stereo systems so that they can never break ear drums again. Do we really want to see this guy caught and stopped? He sounds like a public benefactor to me, but JW makes the point that he might decide that Mozart needed to go also and that wouldn't sit too well. This is a good easy read.
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Murder at a Vineyard Mansion (Martha's Vineyard Mystery #15)Murder at a Vineyard Mansion by Philip R. Craig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book and it kept my attention, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. The main character, JW Jackson, a former Boston detective, loves his family and life on Martha's Vineyard. When he is asked by the female version of and "old curmudgeon" to investigate a murder, JW finds himself investigation some of the old line aristocracy of the island whose lives are intertwined. At the same time, there is a different kind of criminal...kind of a high tech Robin Hood on the island. This Robin Hood robs from the loud and gives peace and quiet to the multitude. He has found a way to electronically silence the loud car speakers and stereo systems electronically so that they can never break ear drums again. Do we really want to see this guy caught and stopped? He sounds like a public benefactor to me, but JW makes the point that he might decide that Mozart needed to go also and that wouldn't sit too well. This is a good easy read.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory

Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet BáthoryInfamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory by Kimberly L. Craft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was incredibly interesting. It took me a while to read it because of the subject, but I am glad that I read it. Countess Erzsebet Bathory was a wealthy woman from Hungary who murdered countless young woman brutally. Using her position, she brought in somewhere around 300 girls from about 10-14 and brutalized them until they died.

The book style is a little hard to get into because it is a compilation of actual records, testimonies, and documents. She was aided by 5 of her servants, four of whom were active participants and one who was ordered to torture the girls or be tortured herself. No one is exactly sure how many girls died, but even if the estimate is low, she is still one of the worst serial killers in history and the only woman to have killed so many.

I was interested in the book because it seems almost impossible for someone to have done this and I wanted some confirmation before I accepted it as true and this book has done that. Like The Nazi Doctors, this was hard to read, but important in understanding what makes people behave like this and what a human being is capable of.
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The Wise Woman

The Wise WomanThe Wise Woman by George MacDonald

George MacDonald is one of my favorite authors. I love his imagination and his ability to tell a story that feels like a folk tale which has come down through the ages.

This tale is about two little girls, one a spoiled princess, and one a vain and selfish shepherdess. The Wise Woman steals them from their homes and attempts to teach them what their neglectful parents have not. While some would call the tale moralizing, it is totally appropriate for today's parents and children. Just about every time I go to a store like WalMart, I see badly behaved children and I feel like it is just as much abuse to allow them to grow up to be obnoxious teens and adults as it is to beat them, and unfortunately, may be even worse.

The Wise Woman attempts to teach the girls by putting them in situations we would call behavior management or conditioning. She is really quite clever, but the reader is never certain if the girls can be changed. My favorite part of the book came at the end when she had a few things to say to the parents of these girls. She makes certain that they understand that they have neglected their responsibility as parents:>)


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Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Children's Blizzard

The Children's Blizzard The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is similar to The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. It tells of a freak blizzard that hit the northern plains states in 1888. Scores of immigrants had sold everything and come to the rich lands of the American prairie only to find that the harsh climate could destroy those dreams in a day. The blizzard was called "the children's blizzard" because it struct about the time that children were going or returning from school. The weather bureau was in its infancy and the politics of the government agency and the conflicting claims of the railroad made it difficult to get what little warning there was out to the people. Actually, while there were problems with the weather bureau, this storm was so huge, so freakish and moving so rapidly that it was probably unpredictable with the weather instruments of the day and impossible to get word to the people on the prairie who had no phones or radios. This storm stands out like the 1935 hurricane in the Florida Keys and the Galveston hurricane of 1909 and the perfect storm of 1991...perfect, but sinister storms where every variable added more fuel to the raging tempests.

I remember a storm a little like this from my childhood in St. Louis. The weather of the morning of the storm was very mild and, like the children in the book, we went to school without boots, gloves or even hats. Out of nowhere came an incredible drop in temperature...in the case of the 1888 storm of even 30 degrees in less than half an hour. In our case, traffic came to a standstill and our buses couldn't run. We were kept at school for hours and hours watching the snow build and wondering if someone could come and get us. The nuns played games with us and allowed us to slide on the hall floors, something totally forbidden, in order to keep us from panicking, but the snow continued to rage. Finally a neighbor walked home from his work and then walked the 2 miles to the school bringing winter hats, boots and mittens for us and we set out for home. I will always be grateful for those wonderful nuns whose faith and good nature made our wait more of an adventure than anxiety. I remember standing at the window, realizing that it was possible than no one could get through and I remember one of the nuns calling us to slide on the perfectly waxed floors and making a game of who could slide the furthest. The incredible novelty of being encouraged to break such a hard fast rule made me leave my fears at the window and revel in such an unexpected pleasure.

The teachers and students of 1888 didn't have paved roads lined with houses to follow as we did. Teachers faced the decision to keep the children at school and hope their firewood held out or was enough to keep them freezing in temperatures of -30 degrees, or to lead them home as quickly as possible. In some cases, the decision didn't matter. They were doomed no matter what they chose. In other cases, some children miraculously were found alive where they seemingly had little chance of making it and others were found dead all huddled together on the bare prairie.

It wasn't just children. Farmers got lost going to the barn and froze to death just feet from their homes. Cattle froze standing up and toppled over when it began to thaw. Some communities lost dozens of members and some families lost almost all their children in just one day. Little decisions, easily made, spelled life or death.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It is a glimpse into the tremendous power of nature an a reminder that no matter how advanced we become, we can never control nature. It is also an excellent glimpse into the life of early immigrants and the prairie they lost so much to tame.
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Friday, May 06, 2011

The Art of Detection (Kate Martinelli, #5)

The Art of Detection (Kate Martinelli, #5)The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know how it happened, but I have read two books in a row in which the gay/lesbian secondary theme in the book has been heavy handed and off putting. I am getting very tired of it. The detective, Kate Martinelli has her perfect little lesbian family with her partner's all too perfect and wise 3 year old child. About half the book is devoted to these side issues and, predictably, all the gays are wonderful, misunderstood, and discriminated against and the rest of the characters are either wildly supportive of their lifestyle or complete jerks. There is preaching, dogmatism and intolerance on the alternative lifestyle proponents that is every bit as nauseating as the morality plays of the past. Kate has an attitude that is every bit as prejudiced, bigoted and sanctimonious as the people she demeans. Please, authors, give it a rest!! This has nothing to do with a fairly decent mystery so why include it?

The setting involves a group of people who are Sherlock Holmes aficionados and the murder of one of their members. When his body is found in a gun emplacement on the Marin headlands Kate and her partner, Al Hawkins, believe the murder has been committed elsewhere and the body has been staged. They trace the murder victim to his home which is awesome as well as eerie. On the bottom two floors, the house is a replica of a San Francisco home at the time of Sherlock Holmes even down to the gas lights and heat. On the third floor, where Philip Gilbert mainly lives, he has a computer, security system with a nanny camera and even an elevator, but the rest of the house allows him to immerse himself in the life and times of Sherlock Holmes.

The crux of the story involves a newly found manuscript supposedly written by Arthur Conan Doyle while he was visiting San Francisco and it involves a complicated murder which was similar to the staging of Philip Gilbert's murder. The detective work is quite good and the solution is interesting and plausible. The addition of all the Sherlock Holmes information makes the book work slogging through despite all the gay/lesbian posturing.
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter (Dixie Hemingway Mystery #1)

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter (Dixie Hemingway Mystery #1)Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn't as fond of this book as I thought I might be. The plot is simple and fits the cozy mystery genre, but I got tired of all of the posturing the author does throughout the book. Dixie was a Sarasota Sheriff's Deputy until her husband and daughter were killed and she became emotionally unstable. She gets embroiled in an investigation when one of the cats she cares for is found cowering in a corner and a man is found duck taped to the cat's water bowl. Dixie has an uneasy feeling about the whole set-up and she has a hard time explaining to Lieutenant Guidry what is going on.

The part I got very tired of was Dixie's gay brother, Michael and his partner. It is very heavy handed to make all the gay people incredibly handsome, mature and wise and the people who are uneasy about the relationship stupid, intolerant and homophobic. Enough, all ready! This is exactly like the old morality plays except the roles have been reversed and the PC proponents are just as prejudiced and sanctimonious as the people they vilify. Wouldn't it be better to just treat people, gay and straight, as simply people, sometimes bigoted and sometimes wonderful, sometimes handsome, sometimes plain etc.? Isn't that what being inclusive is all about. Just because you are gay doesn't make you handsome, wise and charming and everyone else jerks.
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