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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

David Copperfield

David CopperfieldDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am reading this again for my Ravelry "Knitting like the Dickens" group and these are my comments for this reading. December 30, 2013:

I'm finished! (again) This book has been with me for months and months. What will I do without it??? It did drag a bit in the middle, but then it picked up and I wanted it to go on and on. For one thing, I would have had a chapter on Mrs. Micawber's family and how the felt about Mr. Micawber after he was such a success. I bet they would have been on the first boat to Australia swearing they always knew he was going to be successful!

I've read this so many times, but I always see things I missed. When he was traveling and finally realized that he had taught Agnes not to love him and now he realized that he loved her he wrote so beautifully about the regret of missed opportunities and the sorrow of seeing things clearly when there was no way to rectify an earlier action, I realized that he had felt that in his life. I know that sounds obvious, but I don't think I have ever thought about someone of Dickens genius feeling the same kind of feelings we all feel. I see him as so wise and insightful that it's hard to see him as oblivious to his feelings about "Agnes."

That got me to thinking about the tortured lives of many of the greatest artists, writers, dancers, songwriters etc. I've heard the saying that genius is closest to madness, and I am just realizing a bit more about how it happens. First the writer has to have disturbing things happen...for Dickens, his father's imprisonment for one example. He has to allow himself to really feel that pain instead of sublimating it in some way. Then he has to open himself to the pain again in order to write about it convincingly and convey it to his audience, then, he writes of its consequences. Dickens created a new better outcome, but other writers, Sylvia Plath in *The Bell Jar* not so good. All this leads me to a conclusion. If you wish to become a great writer you are going to be very thin skinned and you are inviting tragedy into your life ;>)

For Dickens, another deep pain was the unfairness of Victorian society and the treatment of the poor and infirm. I've have often thought that the nightly news brings us more of the pain and human misery than we can absorb and that can make us callous. Dickens saw that misery all around him and he never allowed himself to become calloused. It is what Jacob Marley told Scrooge. He was cursed to spend eternity seeing the poor and miserable and not being able to do something to help them.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow WallpaperThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful story! There is a adage in writing that the writer must not tell the reader, but let the characters tell their own story. This is all there is in this story. There is no narrator except for the main character. There are no other people telling the story. Everything we see, we see through the main character's eyes.

She is actually suffering from postpartum depression, but everything being done for her is missing the mark. In fact, it is possibly the worst thing that can be done for her. We hear the voices of her husband and others involved with her care, but only filtered through her depression. Are they really that oblivious to what is really happening to her?

I read a book about the Galveston Flood in 1902. One of the reasons the hurricane was so devastating was the hubris of the new National Weather Bureau. They thought they knew all there was to know about the behavior of hurricanes and they were contemptuous of the reports coming in from the "too easily excited" Cubans. I felt the same kind of hubris in this story. The husband and the doctor think they know exactly what his wife needs and they don't listen to her. They also don't question their own wisdom even when she is obviously getting worse and worse. They do everything wrong for what they are sure are the right reasons.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

My Story

My StoryMy Story by Elizabeth Smart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only reason I give this only 4 stars is because the writing in some places was weak. As far as the story goes, I give it 5 stars.

I also read a lot of the reviews before I wrote mine and I am amazed at the number who don't believe in God and therefore dismiss Elizabeth's faith. After such a harrowing experience, Elizabeth has recovered and is leading a well-rounded, normal life. She is helping other victims and in every way has risen above this trauma. It is hard to ignore the evidence that there were miracles in her life and that God has touched her in an unbelievable way. Unfortunately, if one of a person's "first premises" is that there is no God, and all evidence is ignored or explained away then that person is forever cut off from faith and no amount of evidence will be enough. For this I feel very sorry.

Elizabeth's book did not go into detail about the sexual abuse and people also criticized that. I can understand why she didn't. First, anyone who watches the news and reads a newspaper knows all too well what kind of things happened to her. Second,for her to write a book about the prurient details of her captivity would be like writing pornography and that is completely alien to any person of faith.

I think the book was just what I expected. My questions weren't about the abuse she endured, but about how she has recovered. The fact that Elizabeth has come out of this experience as a psychologically healthy and poised young woman who is not hiding away continuing to be a victim is something that I think the world needs to know. She now lives her life in the public eye and even appears on ABC news and that is wonderful. Just as Robin Roberts made public her cancer while continuing on Good Morning America, Elizabeth gives people struggling with sexual abuse the example becoming a whole person again. We need people to provide us examples of overcoming.

Her explanation at the end of the book is something that every victim can use. In fact, a person doesn't have to be a victim of this kind of crime to take courage from what she has done. I am afraid our society has become too quick to turn us into victims when anything bad happens. We need to be able to think of others whose examples give us courage.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Haunted Sister

Haunted SisterHaunted Sister by Lael Littke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short, but interesting book for YA-Juvenile. Janine is in a terrible accident in which she receives a severe concussion and dies on the operating table. She goes into a nebulous state in which she sees people relatives who have died including her identical twin, Lenore, who died when she was 4. Janine is encouraged to come back to earth and when she does, she finds that her twin sister comes with her. When she wakes up, she finds that Lenore, the "bad" twin is talking to her and she wants to participate in the life she feels she has been robbed of. The situation is very much like a person with multiple personality disorder. Once Lenore manages to get out, she attempts to gain more control and causes Janine a number of problems.

The story line is very good and it is well developed. The characters are believable and the conclusion is well thought out. I think it could have been longer, but since it is for the early young adult group, it is probably the right length.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Remains

The RemainsThe Remains by Vincent Zandri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an odd book. It started with an interesting premise. A young woman’s identical twin sister died of cancer and when some odd things begin to happen, she writes a journal in the form of letters to her sister. When they were children they went into a forbidden wood and were molested by a serial killer. They swore to never tell anyone, especially after he was later sent to prison for 30 years for the rape of a woman and was suspected in other rapes and murders. Suddenly, Rebecca starts receiving odd text messages, calls and evidence that someone has been watching her. When she finds that the man has been released, she begins to fear for her life. Added to the plot is an autistic savant artist who paints pictures for her of what seem to be her nightmares.

Unfortunately, the book seemed to fizzle out after the first third. Odd things happen which ought to send a sane person right to the police, but Rebecca seems to be unusually stupid. One minute she is a competent young businesswoman and the next she is a fainting hysteric straight from a Victorian novel. She is totally ineffectual and contributes to most of her worst problems. Another reviewer mentioned the jarring notes in the story and I completely agree. The oddest was the directions for making her favorite scrambled eggs. I could believe that someone substituted a page or two from a cookbook into the manuscript.

The story is interesting and has some novel plot elements, so it is worth the read, but don’t expect to be impressed with the writing.


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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Adventures of Caterwaul the Cat: Feline Pie

The Adventures of Caterwaul the Cat: Feline PieThe Adventures of Caterwaul the Cat: Feline Pie by Damon Plumides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book for middle graders. It's a bit of a "Puss in Boots" story mixed with the wicked queen in Snow White. Caterwaul the cat escapes from the old witch he lives with and ends up with the beauty obsessed Queen. He remembers a recipe for a potion the old witch has and he goes to get the ingredients to make her forever young. In her obsession with being beautiful she has him put a spell on all the mirrors in the kingdom so that anyone who looks in them becomes a cat.

Caterwaul goes on a long adventure to get the recipe and meets a number of interesting creatures along the way. Since the kingdom is awash with formerly human cats, they come with human vices. There is even a cat mafia and a speakeasy with imported French milk.

The book is clever and entertaining. It's probably going to be a series and sure to be a kids favorite.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was reading this for my granddaughter to use in her homeschool free reading and I was very impressed with it. There's lots of action and pretty well drawn characters. Young Percy Jackson has been expelled from every school he has been to. He is ADHD, dyslexic, conduct disorder...you name it. Things just happen around him and they are the kind of things that get people, especially teachers, very upset. Needless to say, he doesn't have a lot of friends, but he does have Grover, a skinny boy who walks funny, and he likes his Latin teacher who is always after him to become very serious about learning Greek and Roman mythology.

After a harrowing visit back home with his mother and step-father, Percy finally learns why he has such trouble fitting in with his peers. It turns out that his peers are all "half-bloods;" children who have one parent who is one of the ancient gods of mythology. He barely makes it to the "half-blood camp" after being chased there by monsters. From there on, the action really begins.

This is a great book for middle graders and up.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Albion's Seed

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History, Vol. I)Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book, especially for genealogist. The author takes the first four waves of immigration to America: The Virginians, the Puritans, the Quakers and the Scots-Irish. For each group, he gives information on what part of England they came from, their motivation, their characteristics, religion, habits, beliefs, influences, and any other attributes they had. He then discusses the place where they settled, the relationship they had with the people they found here and other factors such as the climate and quality of the site they first landed.

Briefly, the Virginians were speculators and adventurers, the Puritans were austere and disciplined looking for a place to worship in peace. The Quakers sought the same freedom, but were a completely different type of religious group. Finally, the Scots-Irish were independent Highlanders from the borderlands between Scotland and England and were fiercely independent, stubborn, proud and often a law unto themselves.

These are the people who came to America and became its first citizens. They left their mark on the people who descended from them and influenced the course of events that led to the United States of America.

There is so much information here that is vital to genealogists. It is possible to look at an ancestor and find the year they came to America, the area they settled and their naming patterns and determine which of these four groups they probably belonged to. In my case, I can't find the place my Munn ancestors came from, but they came at a time when the Scots-Irish were immigrating, they have sandy reddish hair and ruddish complexion, they are fierce stubborn people with a number of disowned children and feuds, sometimes violent tempers and they settled first in the Appalachian Mountains. I feel safe in believing that they came from the borderlands especially since Andrew is a favorite given name. When I looked at that area, I found that there were records of Munns. I still don't know exactly where they came from, but the preponderance of evidence tells me that they were Scots-Irish.

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Sociopath Next Door

The Sociopath Next DoorThe Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this years ago and it's one of those books that changes a person by reading it. It opened my eyes to the motivations of some of the people I've known whose behavior was incomprehensible to me. It seemed to me at the time that these people just wanted to control every situation but there was a maliciousness in their actions that I couldn't account for. This book made their behavior a lot clearer.

After reading this the first time I became more aware of the characteristics of a sociopath and found that there are more people like that around. It also made the behavior of some public figures make more sense. In some cases, the person not only betrayed the people who trusted him/her but actually ran for election again! Hmmm, the mayor of Toronto may be a very good example.

Reading it again, has given me more insight, especially the last chapters which discuss risk taking behavior. I thought immediately of ex Senator Gary Hart in 1987. At the time of the presidential campaigns, he had already had one close call when a young woman was seen leaving his residence and he was outraged at the press. He actually taunted the Miami Herald which continued to investigate. Almost immediately the trip to Bimini with Donna Rice was exposed. Even that wasn't enough; he tried, unsuccessfully, to enter the presidential race again. I remembered being so confused because he was obviously an intelligent person and yet his behavior belied it. This book made everything so clear. He, and a lot more public figures fit the pattern of a sociopath perfectly.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Miranda's Shadow

Miranda's ShadowMiranda's Shadow by Mark Micloskey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Actually, I'd give it no stars except that looks like I haven't read it.

I'm 5% done with Miranda's Shadow: I am having a lot of problems with this book. The writing is terrible. I'm sorry to be so negative, but the grammar errors and misuse of words make it very hard to read. I am also having trouble with the diagnosis. This is not a doctor, but a person Miranda only knew via the Internet. They didn't meet until the book was finished. I might not finish this one. —
Later:
I read another chapter and then gave up, but not without a great deal of concern for Miranda. The author confronts her with a number of harsh realities in an Instant Message session with no thought to the fact that she is depressed, has a death wish and has been known to cut herself. He has never met her, is obviously miles away from her…possibly even states away…with little thought about her mental state after these revelations. It’s a wonder she is alive. He makes sweeping generalizations about the abusers, her parents and grandparents without knowing the facts. He is a complete train wreck and I fear for this woman’s safety.


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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia)

The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia)The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read several negative reviews on this book, but I found it to be fascinating. I just didn’t see the stylistic problems noted by some others. The author’s words did not get in the way of a gripping tale of history and madness.

I checked on the internet to see what was known about the historical figures and found that the book followed what I read. I thought the character of Marketa, bloodletter's daughter, to be very well drawn. She was an inexperienced young girl and the fact that she misunderstood the reality of mental illness is plausible. When I was and Evaluator at the Diagnostic Center for the Dept. of Juvenile Corrections, the supervisors accidentally left me alone in the building while I was interviewing a very disturbed (and very large) 17 year old boy. All my experiences with the boy had been very positive until I pointed out that he couldn’t be released to his mother because he told me he hated her. Suddenly, my 6’ x 8’ office became very small when he reacted very badly to being challenged. I barely breathed while he struggled for control. (A few weeks later, I saw him handcuffed to his waist and waiting to be transferred to a mental hospital for an involuntary commitment.) I could well understand how Marketa could think that her special relationship with Don Julius would protect her.

I also found the history of the Hapsburgs fascinating. I started looking for images of the “Hapsburg lip” and found some interesting information about their inbreeding and mental problems. The mental problems of Don Julius became understandable as well as his father’s refusal to admit to the extent of his illness.

For anyone who enjoys history and especially this time period, this is a great book.


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