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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ramblings

Another bit of my ramblings on The Catcher in the Rye discussion:

Books are deemed classics for a lot of reason one of which is that they speak to the human condition and give us insight into ourselves and/or mankind in general.

Somewhere around puberty, we learn to think abstractly.  Up until that point, we are limited by what we have experienced ourselves and we think that everyone experiences the same reality.  Somewhere around the 7th grade we begin to read literature that is more abstract and opens our minds up to a different reality.  We read books like Silas Marner , Great Expectations , An American Tragedy, Catcher in the Rye , and my favorite Of Human Bondage .

By reading books such as these, we learn more about the psychological and philosophical world we live in.  We learn to understand what human nature contains and why people and countries act the way they do. Criminal profilers do not like the serial killers they interview, but they interview them to learn about why they do what they do.

We might not like the characters, the language, or the settings of these books and find them boring even, but that isn't why they are studied.  We can change because of a book even if we don't like it.  I think that is why they are classics.

I try to read a lot of classics because I think they improve my understanding of myself and others.  When I come across a book that appears on most classics list and I don't like it and can't see the point, I feel sad.  There are a lot of people out there who are learning wonderful things, and I can't get it.  Lots of times I go on my library website to get the ebook copy of Cliff Notes or something similar to see if I can understand it.  I still struggle with Toni Morrison or Salmon Rushdi, so every few years, I try them again.  If all those people who are smarter and more well read than I am say that something is in this book that makes it a classic, I pretty much believe them, especially if the book has been around a long time.  If Catcher in the Rye has been on the classics list for this long, it has value even if I may not enjoy reading it.

This is a really good discussion and I wish I could quote some of the other posts here, but I can't, but here is a link to the discussions:

The Catcher in the Rye
Overrated Books

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paula wrote: "The past isn't even past?  

I don't understand. Can you explain please?"

We carry the past with us.  We act in certain ways because of our personal past or the historical past.  Sometimes we are bound by the past as in Frost's poem:

"He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Sometimes we are in rebellion against the past, but that is still giving it influence over us.

To me, reading allows us to look into others' minds and in doing so, we sometimes see ourselves.  That is why a book like The Catcher in the Rye is important.  The reader is eventually able to see why Holden Caufield acts the way he does AND perhaps, understand his or her own present or past.  (Btw, I didn't like it either, but I understand how people, especially teens, can see themselves in Holden.  I remember thinking that Holden was just like a classmate of mine and it gave me some insight into why he acted the way he did.)

Anyway, when we see ourselves in literature, we can understand our own lives and change them.  It makes sense that a particular book might not speak to us and we wonder what all the fuss is about, but classics are books that speak to the human condition as well as  the individual reader.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm reading this for a book group on Ravelry. I've read it twice before, but there is always more to get out of it. I've finally finished and I have to admit that I devoured the last 10 chapters. Mother and I had to have TV dinners because I was 85% finished and couldn't put the Kindle down...and I already vaguely remembered the end.

This is one of the most famous example of Gothic Literature. It is a story that seems to rise up from the barren moors. The characters are complex and seem driven by forces as strong as the winds that howl through the story. Old Mr. Earnshaw sets everything in motion when he brings home the street Arab whom he calls Heathcliff. He sees strengths in Heathcliff that he doesn't see in his own son and seems to care more about him arousing jealousy in his son, Hindley. Heathcliff and Earnshaw's wild and ungovernable daughter, Catherine, bond quickly and run wild on the moors. They form a bond that the whole story revolves around.

This is a wonderful story about love, obsession, betrayal, degradation and redemption. The motives of the characters are complex and have a depth that even Freud would find worthy of study.



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Sunday, October 27, 2013

From a discussion on Goodreads' Catcher in the Rye site  about books that are "overrated."

 It occurs to me that there is a lot of difference between, "I didn't like this book" and it is "just junk" I am reading Wuthering Heights right now in another group. The complex psychology of the main characters is amazing. I've thought about a time in my past when I took a path which was obviously so wrong for me and wondered what I could have been thinking? As I study Heathcliff and Cathy, I gain some understanding of what was going on and, what is more important to me, I understand that I could not have taken any other path at that time because the outcome of that choice is what made me a different person.

 It is all right that a person doesn't like the The Catcher in the Rye or Jane Austen or the Bronte's, but it doesn't mean that they aren't good books and don't deserve to be classics. On the other hand, there are many books on the New York Times' best seller list that I do believe are overrated because they contain no plot, poor research and poor character development.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love StoryThe Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've finally finished this book I am reading for a book group and am wondering how to summarize it. The best I can come up with is that it wasted my time. It's not a bad book. I don't mean that, but the only thing I learned from is was a bit of knowledge about Australia.

The plot is simple, Ellen, the hypnotist met Patrick on an online dating site. They seem to hit it off, but he tells her he is being stalked by an old girlfriend. It is still going on. After his wife died leaving him with a 1 year old, he started a relationship with her that lasted for 3 years. After the break up, she started stalking him. It turns out that his ex-girlfriend is a client of the hypnotist. Neither Patrick nor Ellen know this.

Then there are about 10 chapters where Ellen compares Patrick with every ex-boyfriend she ever had and agonizes about the relationship Patrick had with his stalker and his first wife. It was beyond boring to me. I know people who read this love story and loved it, but it wasn't for me.

I did like the information and descriptions of Australia and the customs there. I think the author did a great job of making me feel like I could see the things she described. I think the problem is that I don't much care for romances.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Oath

The OathThe Oath by Frank Peretti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of Peretti’s best. The plot centers on the effect of evil on the human soul. Professor Steve Benson, comes to the town of Hyde River because his brother, Cliff, has been killed by some enormous animal that seems to defy description. It is assumed that he was mauled by a bear, but Steve, with a Ph.D in Biological Science and a professorship at Colorado State University teaching environmental science and biology, is not satisfied. He and the conservation officer of Fish and Game manage to kill the rogue bear thought to have been large enough to inflict the damage, but are very unsatisfied with the findings of the post-mortem of either Cliff or the bear.

As the plot develops, it appears that there is more wrong than just a habituated bear. The town is full of mystery and people are united against any outsiders. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence and actual hostility towards Steve. The only one helping is the attractive deputy, Tracy Ellis. She grew up in Hyde River but seems to have some objectivity about troubles in the town, and she doesn’t believe that it was a bear that killed Cliff Benson.

What has happened to Maggie Bly, wife of Harold Bly? Why does Bly have so much control of the people of the town? Why is there such a concerted effort to mislead and drive out Steve Benson? What is the oath that the people of the town took more than 100 years ago, and what does it have to do with Cliff’s death? What are the ominous, dark, oozing sores that appear over the hearts of many in the town?

What follows it the depiction of evil and what it does to a people. Steve learns about the evil that resides in his own heart as he gets closer and closer to the evil in the town. The pace is fast and keeps the reader involved in the chase while Steve desperately tries to find meaning in the evidence that seems to go against everything modern society seems to consider normal.



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Sunday, October 20, 2013

I have been following a discussion on my Goodreads group ostensibly about "Overrated Books," but which led to a discussion of classics. This is my contribution: Another take on "Classics."

 I was a librarian and a teacher and I started a book group on the classics. There are a number of patrons who came up in the 70's and 80's and never read any; no Dickens, no Hawthorne, no Twain, no Shakespeare...nothing! They felt they were lacking, especially because they couldn't understand literary references, and they couldn't read any classics when they did pick them up because the sentences were too long, the vocabulary was too difficult, and they couldn't understand the complex motivations of the characters.

 So, in my book club of about 10 people, we used the Modern Library 100 Best Novels and other similar lists to pick from. We each picked the books we wanted to read. For the two who hadn't read any of the books, we suggested Dracula and The Scarlet Letter. One person wanted to read more of the Lost Generation...Hemingway, Faulkner etc. and I decided to read more Dickens, Conrad, and attempt to read Rushdi and Morrison again.

 We came back each month and discussed what we read. It was amazing! I didn't like the Lost Generation, but I learned enough from the person who did, to try one she read and appreciated it. It was the discussion that made the difference. Many of the classics take study. I got in Cliff's Notes and Monarch Notes on the books people were interested in and we discussed them. We did this for a year. I still don't like Salman Rushdi or Toni Morrison, and I am not certain if they will stand the test of time, but I see much more in them than I did before.

 I don't exactly know how you get around this, but most high school students are too young and too unmotivated to appreciate many of the classics; however, if they don't read and study them, they will never get the skills to read them. It's a catch 22. Classics have long sentences, difficult vocabulary and abstract and philosophical content, but reading and studying them is the only way you can develop the skills to read others.

 So why bother? I don't want to get political, but the mess in Congress is a good example of why. People on both sides cling tenaciously to their own point of view and can't understand the perspective of others or the limitations of their own thinking that is exactly why we study literature!

Behold a Pale Horse

Behold a Pale Horse by Delphine Cull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always been interested in the Bubonic Plague. There was more than one occurrence, but this deals with the most severe and far reaching one in 1349. Alyse Elsey lost almost everyone she knew; her husband and children, her sisters and her best friend. The only survivor was her best friend's toddler son, Harold. She feels that she has to take Harold to his uncle, a monk in Norwich. The people she meets and the situations she runs into on the journey give a picture of the lives of the survivors. All over England there was chaos and lawlessness. All the usual structure, government, familial attachments, marketing and day to day existence of their lives were permanently changed. In many villages, less than one tenth of the people were left, and the cities were worse.

Alyse is a gifted healer and as she settles in Norwich, her talents are sorely needed. At first, she is reluctant to become close to anyone because her grief is too great and she did not think she could bear to love people again only to have them snatched away from her. However, she does meet John and his healer mother, who take her and Harold in when she was left dying along the road. How these people put their lives together is a fascinating story.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baby X: Britain's Child Abusers Brought To Justice

Baby X: Britain's Child Abusers Brought To JusticeBaby X: Britain's Child Abusers Brought To Justice by Harry Keeble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting report on the response of the United Kingdom to the deaths of two children, Victoria Climbié and Baby P. Both were failures of the Social Services, police and doctors. Victoria Climbié had been tortured for years and Baby P for over half of his short life. After those horrific failures, new laws were made, policies changed and police were assigned to what Harry Keeble called the "cardigan squad."

He details the lengths the police and social services were willing to to document abuse and to track down the abusers. This also included sending teams to some foreign countries to talk to witnesses and build a case. Heartbreakingly, some times the abusers were set free, but some of the older children who testified said that they felt free because they had had a chance to face their abuser, in many cases, their fathers, and tell what was done to them.

While there were many successes, there are still children who fall between the cracks and suffer horrific abuse and more needs to be done. The statistics are appalling and they are increasing. Having been a teacher, I found myself going over children I had taught and wondering about situations that made me uneasy. I remember children who were too quiet and timid and a father I felt was too full of anger.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy  The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got a great deal from Audible on this book, so I am listening to it again for about the 4th time. Actually, I think I am going to use it for my homeschool unit on Folklore for my granddaughter.

For me, it is a big comfort read, something like Harry Potter. There is just such a wealth of experiences in the book. Why is it so much easier to see through human behavior when we look through the eyes of other creatures?

Essentially, Bilbo Baggins has found himself on an adventure which is something that Hobbits never do...except for the Took side of the family, and that is way back in the genealogy. Gandalf the wizard has sold him as a master burglar to a group of dwarfs and they are on the way to retrieve their ancient treasures stolen by Smaug the dragon. Along the way we meet all sorts of creatures such as trolls, goblins, elves and the like. Bilbo finds himself in a capital adventure and at times he is not sure he likes it, but in every way, he rises to the occasion and finds that he actually does have some skills as a burglar.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Secret Kingdom (Chronicles of the Red King, #1

The Secret Kingdom (Chronicles of the Red King, #1)The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first of a prequel series to the Charlie Bone books. Charlie Bone is a descendant of the Red King and this is the story of his illustrious ancestor.

The story starts in the Secret Kingdom which is doomed to fall to the wicked viridees. Before the end, the children Timoken and Zobayda are given gifts which protect them and an Alixir which keeps them from aging. When the viridees have killed their father, Timoken is told by his mother that he can fly and that he is to take his sister and flee.

From there they meet a number of fantastic creatures including the camal, Gabar, who becomes Family. At every turn they are beset by the viridees who are trying to steal the magical moon spider web cloak which is the last one in the world. This series promises to be as good as the first and middle graders will love it.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

New Kind of Monster: The Secret Life and Shocking True Crimes of an Officer . . . and a Murderer

A New Kind of Monster: The Secret Life and Shocking True Crimes of an Officer . . . and a MurdererA New Kind of Monster: The Secret Life and Shocking True Crimes of an Officer . . . and a Murderer by Timothy Appleby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to review. The story was told well and thoroughly, especially the attempts to explain the reason for Col. Russell Williams to exchange a super successful life for the life of a serial rapist and murderer. The example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fits best, but even in Stevenson’s book there was a cause. Col. Williams was at the top of an extremely successful career. He was a brilliant pilot who had risen to the most prestigious position in the Canadian Air Force. He had flown dignitaries, including the Queen of England. He commanded an Air Force base. He had a successful and happy marriage. He was a mentor to those below him and respected by everyone who worked with him. Suddenly, he began breaking into neighbors’ houses to steal lingerie after taking scores of pictures of himself wearing these articles while he was there. From there he escalated to serial rapist and murder in less than a year. Why would someone who was at the top of his game turn into a sexual sadist with no history of criminal or deviant behavior before the age of 44?

The author has done a good job of explaining the facts and reporting the speculations of psychologists, law officials and the military as to the cause of his abrupt change, but no explanation could be found. For some reason, Williams was able to compartmentalize his life in such a way as to be two completely opposite people. In doing so, he betrayed the trust of his neighbors, his family, the military who had honored him and his country. Because of the circumstances, this is one of the most interesting true crime books I have read since The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule.


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Monday, October 07, 2013

Teaching Folk Tales

I am so excited! This year's homeschool literature unit is Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, Folk Songs, Myths and Legends. That means that Addie and I will be delving into all those delicious remnants of our past, our literary heritage. We won't be reading the easy book format either. I am trying to get books, or translations that were done as early as possible in order to enjoy the rich heritage of language also.

Here is what is exciting me. I'm a genealogist as well as a teacher and I gave Addie a list of her direct ancestors that I have found and as much information as we know about them. Out of the 640 people I know about I had her select all the people who had German ancestry, including Germanic people from the Alsace region, Switzerland and Belgium. Although most of our ancestors were from England, she found 29 people who had German ancestry.

Next, she is to do some research on the Grimm brothers and write a report about them and their quest to record as much of the folk lore of their people as they could find. As we read these stories, we are going on Google Maps and finding the villages her ancestors lived in and in many cases, taking that little "street level boy" and looking at the place where they lived. We don't know much about these ancestors from the 1700's and 1800's, but we will know the stories that surrounded them.

What made me think of this? Well, along with being a teacher, I was also a librarian. I was dismayed to see book companies putting out modern day "translations" of so many Fairy & Folk Tales. By the time the hard words and scary contents taken out and the stories scrubbed with the Political Correctness brushes, there is little left of our rich literary heritage. I am not blaming the book companies. At least our children will be familiar with the stories, but so much is lost. The schools can't teach a lot of these stories because someone might take exception to something in them or because they don't have time after reading all of the politically correct stories they have to include.

I am fortunate. I create the units I teach out of the things I know Addie loves. Last year I focused on Opera and we both learned so much. Some of the librettos were difficult and some of the parts were deliciously scary...like Diana Damrau's Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute. I love passing down our culture as well as our literary heritage. I don't have the constraints that public schools have and I know they do the best they can to work within those bounds. I can also afford to challenge a bright student because I don't have 30 other children to teach. It is up to the parents to try to fill in the gaps, but for us, this works.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

arn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter

Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a KnitterYarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It is only meaningful to knitters or perhaps someone who wants to learn. Stephanie recounts knitting disasters and successes. She talks about things like "stash" "organizing stash and patterns" Ravelry, blogging and all things knitterly. Some things made me laugh and others made me glad I wasn't the only one to make such a stupid mistake. It always feels better to know that a master knitter has made the same mistakes I have. There are some tips in the book, but mainly, it is just fun.

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Spilled Milk

Spilled MilkSpilled Milk by KL Randis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very compelling story and I could hardly put it down, but it made me so angry. I know this kind of abuse goes on and that children are victimized by their parents, but this child was also victimized by Social Services and her school. How could such agencies promise confidentiality and then do things which put her into further jeopardy? How could a school be so insensitive?

But this is a story of a young girl with enormous courage. At times I was hearing the music from "Rocky" while I was reading. Brooke felt responsible for her siblings and her mother so she tolerated a situation that no child should have to face with the tacit understanding that her father would not sexually abuse her sister. She couldn't protect her family from her father's incredible rage and selfishness, but she could keep it from being any worse.

Brooke's mother, while not abusive, also contributed to her problems. As in so many cases, she was passive and absorbed with her own survival and so she chose to ignore some vital signals. Despite this, Brooke had people in her life who cared about her and recognized that something wasn't right. In the end, they did what they could, and did it well.

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Call Me Cockroach

Call Me CockroachCall Me Cockroach by Leigh Byrne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the sequel to Leigh Byrne's Call Me Tuesady. It is her own account of the abuse she suffered from her mother between the ages of 8 to 14 when she finally went to live with her aunt. Only Tuesday was singled out for abuse, and her father, while aware of the about did little to prevent it. He did send her to her grandmother and aunt's for summers, but when contacted by Social Services, he maintained that Tuesday was not being abused. Her brothers, two older and one younger, maintained a distance from Tuesday and were complicit by their silence.

While Tuesday did get away from her mother and had a very loving and supportive relationship with her aunt, the scars of her early life effected her in every way. The book gets its title from the concept that the cockroach, despised and hated, will still be in the world even if civilization is destroyed because they are survivors. It is hard for people who have never been abused to understand the depth of damage done to a child like Tuesday. This book pulls away the curtains and allows us to get inside the damaged psyche of someone who has been told she is a worthless. It wasn't enough that Tuesday was forced to stand with her nose to the wall for hours, locked in her bedroom with only a bucket for her waste and starved; she was sent to school dressed in rags and filthy so that her classmates would continue the abuse at school. When Tuesday attended school at her aunt's, she was clean and dressed in fashionable clothes, but she expected to be rejected and by her classmates. Her early decisions were made from a terrible sense of self worth. The ordinary person would look at someone like Tuesday when she was finally surrounded by love and expect her to suddenly change. This book was an eye-opener.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy  The Hobbit, Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got a great deal from Audible on this book, so I am listening to it again for about the 4th time. Actually, I think I am going to use it for my homeschool unit on Folklore for my granddaughter.

For me, it is a big comfort read, something like Harry Potter. There is just such a wealth of experiences in the book. Why is it so much easier to see through human behavior when we look through the eyes of other creatures?

Essentially, Bilbo Baggins has found himself on an adventure which is something that Hobbits never do...except for the Took side of the family, and that is way back in the genealogy. Gandalf the wizard has sold him as a master burglar to a group of dwarfs and they are on the way to retrieve their ancient treasures stolen by Smaug the dragon. Along the way we meet all sorts of creatures such as trolls, goblins, elves and the like. Bilbo finds himself in a capital adventure and at times he is not sure he likes it, but in every way, he rises to the occasion and finds that he actually does have some skills as a burglar.

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