books I've read

Anne Hawn's books

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

Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 150 Books

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Catching up and Goals for 2015

I am so far behind on my reviews and updates to my books.  In 2014 I read 238 books, but that includes some knitting books that don't have a lot of text.  I've started putting them on my lists this year so I upped my goal from 220 to 230.

What to do for next year?  I definitely hope to get to Les Miserables.  I got the book from Audible and I think I am going to set a scheduled amount to read per week.  I'd also like to get a reading buddy for this book.  I always get blogged down in the endless Napoleonic battles.  I am just not a military history buff.

 I want to finish my Hitler books : The Rise and Fall of the Third ReichHitlerAdolf HitlerExplaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.  I'm sure I still won't be able to understand why Hitler did the horrible things he did, but maybe I can make some sense of it.

I also want to finish I am MalalaSaturday is for Funerals, and any more books I can find that will help me understand the world's trouble spots.

Addie and I are going to do a unit on Judaism from Biblical days to the modern era.  We'll be reading TorahThe Merchant of Venice The Jew of Malta to explore the way Jews have been portrayed through the ages, Surviving HitlerThe Diary of a Young GirlExodus and any others I can find to provide her with the background she needs to understand the Middle East problems.

I want to read at least 75 books that are on my "To Read" list on Jan 1, 2015.  I am so bad about getting new books that sound great or recommended by friends and my list just keeps getting longer and longer.  I also intend to clear all the books on my "Currently Reading."  I have a number of books that have had to go back to the library before I was finished with them.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reader's Block

This was the topic in a group I belong to. What do you do when you hit a slump and the books you're reading just seem uninteresting even though you know that you should enjoy them. You know it isn't the books; the problem is with the! Here is my response to the group. "I guess this is universal! We all hit this occasionally, no matter how much we like to read. I usually get out an old favorite and read it...a "comfort book" that is more like visiting with old friends than a book. Books like 44 Scotland Street , 1st Ladies Detective Agency , Hamish Macbeth , Out of Africa , Cry, the beloved Country, The Moonstone,

 I have 287 of books in the "Comfort Read" category and I enjoy reading them over and over because I always get something new from them."

 One interesting aspect of this malady is that I can come back to the books I was mired in and often find them to be great books; books that even become favorites. It was a revelation to me perfectly good books can be read at the wrong time. In that way, books are a lot like food. Sometimes I find a favorite recipe and I make it over and over again. I can't seem to get enough of it until the day comes when it looses all appeal. Although the food is the same, my taste buds aren't. So I put that food aside and don't cook it anymore....not for a long time, then suddenly, I find the old recipe, or eat it at a covered dish supper and it's wonderful again! I can't think why I have gone for so long without having it.

 My books are the same. I read a certain genre or books by a favorite author or subject and really enjoy them. I continue until one day, I can't get back into the author's latest. I look at recommendations and find other books I should like and they are just blah. I can't seem to get into any of the books. I try television or movies and they leave me cold also. What's wrong? I have to admit that it is me that is wrong. I eventually go to a comfort read and get started again, but until recently, I didn't realize something.

 Once I start reading again, I need to go back to those rejected book and give them another try. Instead of filing them away as books I didn't like, I need to put them in the category called "Try again." It may just be that I will find another treasure when read at the right time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Again we meet Precious Ramotswe as her family begins to expand. Her friendship with Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni has become a trek towards marriage but before that can happen, her household is enlarged to 3 as she takes on the orphans Mr. Matekoni has been talked into rearing. Precious takes them in her stride and they prove to be charming and grateful adding a new dimension to the story.

Her secretary, who graduated with 97% has begun to take on detective duties and the contrast of personalities of all the characters becomes more marked. I feel like these are real people who have very little need to change or manipulate each other. In fact, this inclusiveness is one of the reasons these books feel so good. Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni has immature and almost worthless apprentices at his car repair shop and yet Smith doesn't just make them disappear. Mr. Matekoni struggles with his duties as a role model and teacher and you can feel his dispair at ever teaching them anything, but he continues to care about them and to try.

When I finish reading one of these books, I feel like I used to feel as a child playing with my dolls at the feet of my relatives when we all sat on the big back porch. As they chatted about the things that grown ups talk about, I felt a sense of security and peacefulness. At the end of this book, I felt like I had been visiting with a wise old friend. In fact, I even found some bush tea and now my friend and I sit together and drink tea every Saturday...I just realized that!

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Ebola K: A Terrorism Thriller

Ebola K: A Terrorism ThrillerEbola K: A Terrorism Thriller by Bobby Adair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first this book jumped around quite a bit and was hard to follow, but after a few chapters, it settled down. The book centers around the village of Kapchorwa in Uganda where there has been an outbreak of Ebola which has become airborne. Four college students are in the village helping to educate the street kids and to provide medical assistance, when the outbreak happens. At the same time, a group of radicalized young terrorist have been brought together for training and eventually are led to Kapchorwa while it is in the midst of the outbreak. The terrorist plan to take advantage of this plague to wreak vengeance on the developed nations whom they see as oppressing them. This is well written and fast paced. I enjoyed it and can hardly wait until the sequel comes out.

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The Crucible

The CrucibleThe Crucible by Arthur Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this before, but it was a very different thing to read it today when I have done genealogy and found I'm a descendant of Elizabeth Proctor and also another woman, Elizabeth Clawson from Stamford, CT also accused in 1792. (There is an interesting book about her called, Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692. ) I have another ancestor, Hugh Jones, and according to the trial transcript, he was supposedly murdered and came to one of the accusers in a trance and said that Elizabeth Proctor murdered him. With all the new genealogy information, I somehow felt it was much more real than I did when I studied it in school, or read The Crucible in my 40s.

I listened to this book done by an excellent cast and I believe the play made the hysteria even more understandable. The play brings to life the sense of chaos and desperation. It also brings out the political and practical reasons that also caused the situation to get out of hand. It shows how the struggles between Samuel Parris and his congregation led to a polarization within the town. Parris seemed to have no skill at mediation and his action served his own cause as well as those parishioners who followed him.

The play also showed how the situation originally was a tool to get back at many of the villagers but it soon got out of hand. You have a number of people who realized that some people like Rebecca Nurse could not possibly be witches, but if that was true, then the whole pack of cards would tumble to the ground and they would be implicated in the deception.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yellow Crocus

Yellow CrocusYellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was not sure if I was going to like this book because it seemed to run along the same lines and so many other books; pampered white child, compliant wet-nurse, cool mother, intrest in the slave quarters, slave gets whipped, rape, slaves get sold, slave escape, white child grows up conflicted by what she sees etc. It pretty much went along those lines. There were some incidents that raised the book above those levels, but I didn't see much that was new.

There were some individual incidents that rose above the story line, but there needed to have been more. Still, this was an easy readable book and the characters of Lisbeth and Maddie did stand out. In each generation this story needs to be told and this book does a pretty good job.

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Before Ebola: Dispatches from a Deadly Outbreak

Before Ebola: Dispatches from a Deadly Outbreak (Kindle Single)Before Ebola: Dispatches from a Deadly Outbreak by Peter Apps
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very short book about the Marburg outbreak in Northern Angola in 2005. Marburg is a hemorrhagic diseas that is even more deadly than Ebola and the period between onset and death is very short.

It does not go into the medical aspects of the virus or the source of this particular outbreak. It is about the everyday life that surrounds an outbreak of this kind and the lengths a reporter has to go to inform the world. Usually we just see the story and video clips about sick and dying, but this is what goes into that report. Somehow this made a bigger impact on me than the medical aspects. Apps describes the problems of getting into such an area when most means of transportation refuse to have anything to do with the area. It describes the hotels with no more beds, the arduous task of reporting and the stories under these conditions and of some of the aids workers who chose to stay and work with patients.

In passing, he tells of a woman who was sick with Marburg. As soon as her husband saw that she had the virus, he got himself and all the children out and locked the door from the outside. He was doing exactly what doctors recommend, but he will never recover from the sounds of his wife all alone and crying for help. I found that one story, probably enacted all over Africa, almost more terrifying than the disease itself.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this and had it on my list to read again. I've seen things that I missed before. For example, I realized that Piggy was the smartest one on the island and that his support and help allowed the more charismatic Ralph to be the leader he was. Piggy was able to see what was happening and he was the only one who had any real insight into the things necessary for their rescue. I think I just saw him as a natural target of cruelty and bullying the other times I read it and didn't realize his gifts.

Ralph was a natural leader because he had absorbed his earlier moral training and he understood the wisdom of it, but during the dance of the savages, he was pulled into behavior that he couldn't understand or condone.

I saw the struggle between Ralph and Jack as a struggle between civilization and savagery, but I didn't see Simon as the only truly moral child. He was one of the rare individuals, like Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King, whose sense of justice was not just the product of the civilizing effects of society and culture, but a deep sense of natural empathy and morality.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

40 Bright and Bold Paper-pieced Blocks

40 Bright and Bold Paper-pieced Blocks40 Bright and Bold Paper-pieced Blocks by Carol Doak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful book people who love foundation pieced quilts. I originally got it from the library, but liked it so well, I ordered it. The arrangement and color choices of the quilts illustrated are really beautiful and they really are exceptional. Carol Doak is known for her paper piecing books and this one is a real winner. The only thing that could make it better would be a CD to copy blocks into any size rather than to have to graph them.

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101 Fabulous Small Quilts

101 Fabulous Small Quilts101 Fabulous Small Quilts by Martingale & Company
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is excellent! It is going to be one of the books I reach for most. The quilts are lovely and I'd be hard pressed to figure out which ones I like most. They are perfect for wall hangings, lap quilts and baby quilts and it is easy to make them larger. This is not a book for the absolute beginner because it doesn't devote a lot of pages to elementary quilting, but most of the projects are easy enough for a beginner who knows the process. This book has a whole lot for the money.

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The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age

The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic AgeThe Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age by Nathan Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was excellent, albeit frightening. It is a concise description of the history of viruses, the major ones we face today and the potential viruses which can transfer from animals to humans. It is technical without being unreadable. There are fascinating examples which illustrate some of the more difficult concepts and solid information about what is being done now and what should be done in the future.

There are a lot of topics mentioned in the book that I wanted to know more about and I don't think the book is meant to be definitive on the subject by any means, but it is a very good introduction to the subject and It's a book I think everyone should read.

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Friday, October 17, 2014


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.

October 15, 2014
I'm reading it again with my granddaughter for her Literature requirement. Every time I read it, I learn something new. This was a perfect book to read just before Halloween.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death CampsSurviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of an ordinary Jewish boy brought up in a town near the Polish border and caught up in Hitler's final solution. Early in Hitler's take over of Poland, he was given some very good advice which helped him survive. The most important was that he could do whatever he had to do and to not give in to hate. During a large part of the early years of Hitler's plan, Jack Mandelbaum was was sole breadwinner for his family. His father was taken away and they never heard from him again. Many times Jack didn't think he could survive, but he kept on pushing himself, becoming such a good worker the Nazi's did not kill him. He also remained cheerful and compliant, a task almost as arduous as the physical work. He realized that hate would consume him and sap his strength and energy if he gave over to it.

This is a good book for Young adult readers. It is not so gruesome as most books and yet gives an accurate view of what went on in the cities and concentration camps.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being EarnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! It is such fun! It's a comedy of manners. Two upper class young gentlemen have found a way to escape the demands of society by creating an excuse to flee to the country. One has a dissolute younger brother and the other an aggravating friend who always needs to be sorted out. Using this ruse gets them a ready excuse to retreat to the country and escape the tedious social demands of the London season. In this country life, they also rename themselves "Earnest" to complete this change of personality. Problems come up with the women in their lives who love the name "Earnest" and have nothing but contempt for their real names. From these seeds of a plot, the humor begins.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is always a good story for Halloween. It has to be read slowly in order to gain the true effect. I used the LibriVox recording and it was wonderful. The reader has the perfect voice to create the right kind of atmosphere. I intend to use it for Homeschool and I think I will use the LibriVox version for my granddaughter instead of letting her just read it.

The story is of a rather foppish New England schoolmaster who has high hopes of winning the hand of the daughter of a wealthy land owner with whom he has stayed with while being housed in turn amongst the local community. He spends much time looking over the countryside and imagining the time when it would all belong to him. His way was not clear though. A bruising young Dutchman named Brom Van Brunt also has his eye on the lovely Katrina Van Tassel and it is not clear if she bestows her attention on the schoolmaster because she truly considers him a suitor or if she is trying to make young Brom Bones jealous.

On of the more enjoyable past times of the community was to tell old tales, especially that of the Hessian soldier who rides through the hills carrying his head in his arm. At the end of such a gathering of villagers during which the story of the Headless Horseman was told to great effect, the schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, found himself having to pass through the same covered bridge in which the Hessian was often seen. Not being a very courageous at the best of times, Ichabod becomes terribly alarmed and the result of his journey becomes another chapter in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Ludwig Conspiracy

The Ludwig ConspiracyThe Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Pötzsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book and will probably read it again some time. I visited Bavaria a number of years ago and saw the castles, so it was easy to picture the setting. I also did a lot of research about Prince Ludwig II just because he was an interesting and complex person. He is Germany's most famous king and he actually helped the country in providing work for the people surrounding the castles when they were built and in the present. Thousands of people visit these castles and immerse themselves in his legend providing the German government with a substantial income.

Before I read the book I had already formed the opinion that he was an artist and a dreamer and totally unsuited for the militaristic government that was being formed around him. It is sad that he was overthrown because he continued to build castles that he couldn't afford. The militaristic German governments have cost the German people so much more, both in money and in lives.

This work of fiction is based on the idea that there was a diary kept by someone loyal and close to Prince Ludwig and that the diary told the real story of his death. What was interesting is that this fictional journal was written in the same shorthand that Samuel Pepys used for his diary and Pepys' journal was untranslated for 200 years. The main characters are trying not only to translate the diary, but also to follow a code interspersed between the chapters.

I can sympathize with the main characters because my family was left with more than 1,000 old family letters and some of them were written by my grandfather and his brother. They both learned a form of shorthand in college and it is no longer used. It's frustrating to look at those letters and not be able to read them, especially because there is a family mystery about why my great uncle suddenly left school and those letters probably refer to it.

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street, #3

Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street, #3)Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is another visit with the characters in and around 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh and are introduced to two new and very promising characters; a very shady character from Glasgow who is a special friend of Bertie's and anthropologist Domenica Macdonald's friend who has come to stay in her flat while she is studying pirates. In this book we find Bertie managing to rebel against his horrid mother a little more with the help of his father. He also manages to get loose in Paris to his intense delight, and manages very well. Bruce sells his flat and Pat has to find someplace new to life which manages to usher in the "love" over Scotland Street, but not in the way she imagines.

I love these books because they charming without being trite. Smith has a wonderful way of creating characters that are real and likable even with all their faults. I feel like I am catching up with old friends and when I finish a book, I feel a real sense of sadness. I find myself wanting to know how they think and feel about my world and I find myself changing because of some of the subtle bits of philosophy that resonate with me.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

I Funny: A Middle School Story (I Funny, #1)I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is delightful! It's a kids book, but very engaging, At first, it's just like a kid in school trying to be funny, but when you hear of the obstacles Jamie has to go through, it's really a triumph. The jokes are not half-bad either. I'd read another one just because it's a short read and I really liked the character.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

"Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2

Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2)Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne is growing up and this sequel to Anne of Green Gables is full of new characters, one of whom is delightfully reminiscent of Anne in the early days. There are all sorts of reasons for today's girls to read these books, besides the fact that they are just plain fun. It is easy to forget just how much responsibility girls of a few generations back had to take. Anne is a breath of fresh air even if she is only a character in a book. I can hardly imagine a 16 year old today taking on the job of teacher to 15+ kids in a one room school, especially when all but the new children were her classmates the year before. Anne's not perfect, but the book is in stark contrast with the sense of entitlement and privilege that surround us.

The other thing that almost everyone can agree on is Anne's wonderful imagination and her love of nature. L.M. Montgomery's powers of description make you almost feel the crunch of leaves under your feet. Again and again, I find myself being reminded to not rush through the day with my mind on lessons, menu and the latest news and to take a good look at how the cove reflects the sun and how the leaves are beginning to change. It makes me wonder how I can take note of a pair of mallards on the cove and never really look at everything around it.

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One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!

One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric! by Rebecca Yaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a take off on the wildly popular 101 knitting books and it is just as good. There are a number of quick and easy gift ideas and a lot of small sewn items that help to organize the sewing room as well as the house. There are patterns in the back of the book that you can trace off for your projects making it much more likely that you'll actually do the craft. I read though the instructions on a number of projects and found them very clear and easy to understand. If you like to sew, it is worth the money.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Homeschool Liberation League

The Homeschool Liberation LeagueThe Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book about an extremely intelligent girl who is bored to tears with her school and wants to homeschool. She has great ideas for science projects which she desperately wants to continue, but she keeps being pulled back by her mind numbing school. She finally gets her parents to let her try homeschool, but they make her life so regimented with lesson plans they have found that she has only transferred her place of schooling and not they type of education she needs.

In the course of the book, she meets some other kids that are homeschooled and gets her parents to meet them. Some of the kids like it an others don't. This isn't a book that particularly encourages homeschooling, but shows how it can work and how unschooling can work well for certain types of students. By the end of the book, a number of educational situations are explored and the reader is left to decide which one would be right for them.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The It's Okay If You Sit on My Quilt Book

The It's Okay If You Sit on My Quilt BookThe It's Okay If You Sit on My Quilt Book by Mary Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Mary Ellen Hopkins wrote this book years ago it was a brand new technique that people took classes to learn. Now it is the backbone of quilting. The premise was that quilts that were made with this simple technique using the rotary cutter and an easy way of stacking blocks would take much less time to make so that people could feel comfortable using the quilts instead of putting them in the guest room bed where people could look, but not touch.

Well, it worked and quilters found that they could make 20 or more quilts per year instead of just 1. It also meant that quilters could be free to try trendy colors or fabrics and make quilts for kids, whose taste changes from year to year and babies who tend to drag favorite quilts all over and love them to shreds. If you only have one quilting book, then this is a good one to pick.

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One Skein Wonders

One-Skein WondersOne-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the very best of the "One-Skein" books. I can't even count the number of things I have made from this. The patterns are great...very fashionable and yet most are simple to do. It's great when you are working on big projects and need a little break, a quick gift or for charity knitting. If the house was burning, this is one of the books I'd grab.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

A History of the English Language (Modern Scholar)

A History of the English Language (Modern Scholar)A History of the English Language by Michael D.C. Drout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dare I admit that two of my favorite books are on Linguistics and Advanced Grammar? I have to confess, I love this book as well as another book by Professor Drout: Understanding Grammar for Powerful Communication (The Modern Scholar: Way with Words, Vol. 3) These books are absolutely fascinating and I could listen to them over and over, there is so much information in them. Professor Drout takes what could be a boring subject and turns it into something humorous and interesting.

This isn't the stale old grammar from high school, although I did like that pretty well too. This is about why we have "ring, rang and rung" when the rule is "walk, walked and walked." It's about how words show their tenses in different languages and how they showed their tenses in the precursors of our modern English. Who would have thought that the way make a verb past was to move the position of the tongue in the mouth instead of adding "ed." Just notice where your tongue and lips are when you say "sing, sang and sung." Why do we have what we call "irregular verbs? They were part of an earlier version of our language.

Even more amazing is the story of the development of language. We are so comfortable with our language and tend to think of other languages as odd when they deviate from ours. Professor Drout starts with some monkeys who have 3 different screams, one for each of their predators. Is that really language? It's a beginning. The monkey brain is too small for adjectives, but I think that the desperation in their voices told a whole lot about whether the predator was especially large and close.

Then Professor Drout takes apart the way children learn language and especially how they learn the grammar of the languages around them. At first children over generalize, but around age 2 they start talking in sentences that are arranged grammatically. Where do they get that ability? It is almost as if they have a grammar gene. We laugh at sentences like "I goed home," but the child is using the grammar he has internalized. No one tells him that the subject usually goes first in a sentence and that you form the past by adding "ed."

Every society, no matter how remote, has language and their language has a grammar that is amazingly similar to all the other languages. Some languages use position in the sentence to indicate the subject, the verb and the direct object, but other languages use word forms, just the way we use the tenses in verbs. Suppose Paul is the subject of the sentence. In some languages, he might be called Paulo with the "o" ending signifying that he is the subject of the sentence. I just made that up, but you get the idea.

The last part of the book deals with terms and accents in our speech. He poses the question of whether you say "soda" or "pop" and what your answer tells about you. He links the accents of the early settlers to a region in the country they emigrated from, explaining the differences in accents from state to state in the US, and gives a history lesson of language.

I probably haven't convinced many people that this is a captivating book, but maybe someone will get the audio book from their library or Audible and enjoy this fascinating subject.

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Sunshine on Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street #8)

Sunshine on Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street #8)Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these books! I feel like I am meeting with old friends when I read them. This week I needed to do some sewing and wanted something to listen to that wouldn't need to be stopped every time I had a little problem with the sewing. The Scotland Street series was perfect for that.

In this book, Bertie has grown older...he's now 6 and is still making his perceptive and often embarrassing opinions known. He's in the Steiner school and hid classmate, Olive is taking over from his horrid mother during the school hours. Tofu, his other friend gets him in one scrape after another.

Pat is seeming to get her life on a more stable course and Matthew and his wife are beginning to manage the triplets now that he has a young woman to help look after them.

The big news takes up the smallest part of the book. Angus and Dominica have gotten married and are off on their honeymoon, much to the best man's relief (Matthew). Bertie is supposed to be taking care of Cyril, but when his mother starts taking him to psychotherapy, Bertie knows he has to get Cyril out of there.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eruption (Storm Runners, #3)

Eruption (Storm Runners, #3)Eruption by Roland Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This last book was a little more far fetched than the first two, but a good read for middle graders. The pace is fast and the characters are pretty well drawn. There are a few far fetched incidents, but not enough to spoil the book. This would especially appeal to boys and girls who love adventure; there's a bit of James Bond in the equipment and the Navy Seal heroics.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Surge (Storm Runners, #2)

The Surge (Storm Runners, #2)The Surge by Roland Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was also filled with tremendous action and suspense. Chase and his friends have survived Hurricane Emily but now they have to deal with the flood surge. They are on Emily's farm where an elephant from the Rossi Brother's Circus is getting ready to give birth. Of course, they loose power and Chase has to try to brave the residue of the storm and the floodwaters to get fuel for the generator. On top of this, some of the big cats, the most dangerous one, are missing.

This is a great series for young adults and interesting enough for adults.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this delightful book many times in the course of my life. It is always a treat to see the way this spunky young girl, who expects nothing from life and yet always dreams of a romantic future, changes from the unloved orphan to a joy to Matthew and Marila Cuthbert. What makes Anne so easy to identify with? She is far from perfect, in fact, she goes from one disaster to another, and yet, she is truly repentant and determined to do better. I think it is because she is so open and honest. She faces up to her faults and I think that makes us love her. We understand the impulses that make her fly off the handle and then abjectly repent. We laugh when she confesses a theft of Marilla's pin in a scene that could come from the "Perils of Pauline," and then laugh harder when we find that the confession was made up.

L. M. Montgomery has created a child for the ages as well as contributing to our creative vocabulary with phrases like, "scope for the imagination," "kindred spirit" and "bosom companion. We all know what it is like to yearn for a better world with the things that really matter and love having them happen to Anne, who takes us along for the journey.

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Storm Runners

Storm RunnersStorm Runners by Roland Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book for Middle School students...and even adults! Chase and his dad are storm chasers, but not the weather people. Chase's father is a builder and he goes to places in the path of natural disasters. Chase's mother and little sister were killed in a car accident. After his dad was electrocuted in a storm and recovered after a 2 day coma, he sold his house and bought a trailer and equipment which he moved from one site to another, helping people rebuild.

As a category 5 hurricane bears down on central Florida, his dad leaves him at the Rossi Brothers' Circus winter quarters while he goes to help people prepare for the storm. Chase is fascinated by the circus animals which include a pregnant elephant due any day and an extremely hostile leopard, and especially young Nicole who is in his grade at school. As the storm approaches, the principle inadvisedly sends the students home on school busses. When the hurricane changes it's forecasted direction Chase, Nicole and Rashawn find themselves struggling through the hurricane on foot after the bus is overturned.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read this book before but enjoyed again the rich characters in it. Each of the people exists in a rooming house passing each other in the hall and yet not really knowing about each other's lives. My favorite character is the little boy prodigy, Bertie, or at least his mother thinks so. He is 5 and playing the saxophone and learning to read and speak Italian. His overly involved mother has painted his bedroom pink so he will not be bound by the cultural stereotypes and would rather see him play with dolls instead of the trains he so loves. There is something wonderfully satisfying about the way this thread plays out.

Then there is the main character, Pat, who is taking her second gap year and finds herself in a flat with the narcissistic Bruce whom I wanted to strangle on most every page. She gets a job at an art gallery working for the dilettante, Matthew, who has never had to make a living, which is a good thing, since he has failed at everything he ever did. His father seems to think nothing of bailing him out and letting him start over. The main action centers around a painting in the gallery which they think may be by Samuel Peploe, but that part of the plot is just a device to hang all these wonderful character sketches on.

As with all of Alexander McCall Smith's books, there is more about how the characters think and feel than a plot. This is a gentle philosophical and thoroughly entertaining book and I will read anything he has written. I am so in love with his characters. I think he has a lot in common with Charles Dickens and will be surprised if some of his characters begin to have a life of their own outside of his books.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

The Nazi Murder Machine: 10 Portraits in Evil

The Nazi Murder Machine: 10 Portraits in EvilThe Nazi Murder Machine: 10 Portraits in Evil by Ben Stevens
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a very short book about a number of the upper echelon Nazi leaders. I thought it might be a good book to keep on my Kindle for quick reference while reading a number of books on Hitler and the Third Reich. Unfortunately, it was very poorly written and documented. In many cases, there was more opinion than fact to the articles. Since it was only 99 cents, I'm not out much, but it is a waste of time.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-GlassAlice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is always a fun book to read for kids and adults.  As an adult, I appreciated the use of language, the puns and the interpretation of dreams.  I am much better able to appreciate the genius of Carroll and his ability to turn conventional language and sound patterns into humorous verse.  "Jaberwocky" is explained in terms that almost make sense until you take them apart and "The Walrus and the Carpenter" is two stories told at the same time.  There is the surface story covering the much more bloodthirsty deception but told in such charming terms that the inattentive readers may miss it completely until arriving the last verse which then makes no sense.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There seems to be a lot of controversy about this book, but I found it fascinating and very compelling.  On the surface, it seems simple.  A young woman is kidnapped at 19 and kept in a 11 x 11 room for the next 7 years.  About 2 years into her captivity, she gave birth to her son, Jack, with no one attending her but her captor.

The narrator of the story is Jack and begins at his fifth birthday.  All he has ever known is the small room, his mother, his captor/father who never interacts with him, and the TV world which he realizes is pretend.  He has no other world than this.  One of the more interesting devices Donoghue uses to create his isolation is the lack of a determiner before the physical nouns in the story.  Jack speaks of "room," "wardrobe," "bed," and not "the room," "this bed," or "a wardrobe."  At first it is disconcerting until the reader realizes that in Jack's world there are no other objects.  Nothing else exists for Jack.  There are no other wardrobes, beds or rooms.

Jack is precocious and obviously very bright, but he has also been brought up by a mother who has nothing else to do all day but interact with him.  In some ways, he seems more adult, but in others he is naively young. It is impossible to know how a child in this kind of situation would develop.  Even the few children who have grown up this way would have different temperaments and levels of intelligence.

Emma Donoghue has created a world that explores a topic that many people are uncomfortable with.  It is terrifying to envision this world and all its ramifications for human development.  A child like Jack is possible and the issues he and his mother deal with have happened.  A book like this opens all sorts of possibilities.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

An Irish Country Doctor (Irish Country #1)

An Irish Country Doctor (Irish Country #1)An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful series very similar to James Heriot's All Creatures Great and Small. Young Barry Laverty has qualified as a doctor and is being supervised by Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly in the country village of Ballybucklebo. Doctor O'Reilly has his own ways of doing things and many of them alarm Barry until he sees the wisdom of this old country doctor.

The villagers are just what you would expect in an Irish village. There are the malingerers, the hypochondriacs, the skinflint no-good troublemaker, the overworked wives with too many children and the grateful hardworking souls who count on the doctor to lift the burden of ill health from a body that already has too much to bear.

The characters are well drawn and their problems are often more humorous than serious. Barry has to learn to listen to his patients with his heart as well as his ears and to give them what they really need. He needs to win their confidence at the same time he is trying to gain confidence in himself. This is a charming series and a wonderful comfort-read.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Having to Catch Up

I've been without a computer and on vacation for several weeks and while it has been peaceful, the reckoning has come.  I have been reading, listening to eBooks and knitting up a storm, but have not been able to post reviews.  I don't even dare to count up all the books which don't have reviews, but I know there are a lot.  I could just skip them, but I love having the reviews to refer to to supplement my aging memory and I feel like the discipline it takes to write them is good for me.  I will try to get them written a few at a time and hope it's a long long time before I have to do this again.

The Boy in the Snow (Edie Kiglatuk Mystery, #2

The Boy in the Snow (Edie Kiglatuk Mystery, #2)The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a story about an infant found frozen in the snow by Edie Kiglatuk.  When an autopsy is performed it is found that the baby died about 3 months before he was put in the snow. Edie feels that there is more to the whole situation, but none of the authorities want to listen to her.

From that first little body, the story roams through politics, the Iditarod, an Orthodox sect called the Old Believers, and a grand commercial plan for Alaska. In the midst of all of this is Edie trying to raise the alarm and getting deeper and deeper involved.

I listened to the book while driving 600 miles and it kept my attention the whole way. This is the first book in this series I have read and I felt like  wanted to know more about Edie. I'll probably read more because I also enjoyed the description of Alaska and the people who inhabit our largest state which, in many ways, seems like a foreign country.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Irish Country Village (Irish Country #2)

An Irish Country Village (Irish Country #2)An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a charming series similar to James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small."  It features the newly qualified GP, Doctor Barry Laverty, who is currently being supervised by Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly in the small village of Ballybucklebo.  Like the Harriot's book, the village is charming and the cases are interesting. In this secong book, Barry is under a cloud because of the death of a patient.  Could he have overlooked the symptoms which lead to his death?  His widow thinks so, so Barry is anxious for the autopsy which will either clear him or end his career before it began.

Add to this some wonderful village characters, an intrigue or 2 and marvelous housekeeper who tries to keep the two men in line and you have an enjoyable and interesting comfort read which can be enjoyed over and over.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I thought I would. I'm glad I waited until I had time to do it justice. My father's family is from Mississippi and from the beginning I related to the book. I'm always afraid that books written about the places I know will not capture all the nuances of life there.  Everything about this was perfect.  The dialog was absolutely on target and I' not surprise to see that Kathryn Stockett is from Jackson.  She was also able to capture the good along with the not so good of these people and she wrote about them with love and respect.

Skeeter Phelan is 23 when the book opens and has recently graduated from "Ole Miss," during the turbulent civil rights era, and when she comes home to Jackson, MS finds herself in the unenviable position of having graduated with only half a degree...missing the compulsory "Mrs." degree.  Unfortunately, after 4 years in college, she has not found a husband and none in the offing.

Her friends have already established themselves in the Junior league, a bridge club and started their households with a suitable black daily maid.  Skeeter has grown up with these young women, but finds herself not fitting in as well as she did all through her life. Part of the trouble is that her family maid Constantine, who has raised her for 19 years has disappeared and no one wants to talk much about it.  Missing Constantine has made her more aware the importance of the maid's position in the hearts of their "white children," and she sees things that she does and doesn't like in her friends treatment of their maids.

While working for the local newspaper in the household help column, she gets to know Aibileen Clark, the maid for her friend, Elizabeth. At loose ends, Skeeter decides to write a book about the lives of these Southern black maids, and Aibileen is reluctantly willing to help her find other maids who will talk about their experiences, both good and bad.  As the project goes on, Skeeter begins to realize the risk they are taking and as the civil rights movement begins to heat up, the stories of the maids take on meaning.

The book is written sensitively with a loving hand.  The relationship of the negro maid and her young white charges is very complex and often filled with a deep love and dependence. The maids frequently feel more like a mother to their white children and yet, they may be let go for little reason, breaking a tie which is devastating to both child and maid.  On the other hand, insensitive things like building a special bathroom in the garage so they don't have to use bathrooms the family uses are also a part of their lives.  Kathryn Stockett has written about this complex relationship beautifully.  I'm sure I will be reading this again.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Lively Discussion

We have been having a discussion on Goodreads The Catcher in the Rye  group.  This is the original question:

Which books do you think are overrated?

Here's a quick sampling from various internet sites that recommend skipping these:
The Catcher in the Rye
Moby Dick
The Great Gatsby
Waiting for Godot
The Stranger
Atlas Shrugged
The Da Vinci Code

The question is complex because there are classics on the list which have stood the test of time and genre fiction that is presently popular.  Some people respond that classics are just bunk imposed on helpless high school students by Nazi teachers, some are ambivalent about them, and some love the books.  The discussion can get lively, and sometimes people feel that the group is trying to suppress all people who don't like classics.  This is a response I wrote.
I don't see the opinions of most members of this group as trying to ram something down someone's throat. This is especially true of responses to people who hate TCIR, but I don't think it is demeaning to be asked to substantiate an opinion.

One of the reasons I enjoy this group so much is because we can share ideas and interpretations. So many times I have finished a classic and wanted to have the kind of feedback I enjoyed in college, or even high school. There are so many ideas generated. I can remember reading Clarissa in college and absolutely hating it. The main character was more hysterical than dramatic; I couldn't stand her. When test time came, I had this question, "Who is the more successful dramatic heroine, Clarissa from Clarissa or Sophia from Tom Jones ?" I knew what the teacher wanted, but I had to say that Clarissa was so dramatic that no one could relate to her and therefor Sophia was more successful. Fortunately, I had a very good teacher and I got full marks because I could substantiate my opinion. My answer generated a great discussion. 

Sometimes various members post more complex discussions on their own blog and then develop them more fully.  I agree about using Blogger as a means of expressing a more complex idea. I have a blog called "Twaddle" in which I can develop ideas that were generated from this thread and others. It gives me the freedom to write the way I want and not have to worry about the people who have just come to this discussion and are interested in discussing the original question.

When someone comes on this list and says that all or most of the classics on the original list are garbage, I think many of us want to respond with some of the reasons we love these books and to help others see why. I didn't end up liking Clarissa , but the discussion helped me see the value of the book.    

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the SeaThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this a number of times and each time I get something different from it. This time I was impressed with the determination of the fisherman to suffer any manner of injury in order to bring in this fish. It was as if the fish, being a worthy opponent, deserved to be conquered and not to die from a huge fish hook in it's mouth or from getting tangled in the trailing rope. It made me look at how easily I give up on things in comparison. The description of how the fisherman managed to catch, clean and eat raw fish with only one free hand and then, after a day of agony holding the rope around his back and in his hand to keep the right tension so the fish wouldn't capsize the boat, had to figure out how to sleep without letting go...and that is just the first night.

The first time I read the book, I didn't know how it ended and I think the end clouded the way I saw the book. I felt like there was no resolution because I was reading it as a plot driven book. This time I read it as a character driven book and I enjoyed it more, and took more from it.

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Poor new computer and twaddle

My faithful old red Dell finally gave up the ghost and I had to get a new one.  With my electrical karma, it worked for about 2 weeks and just quit.  I was on my way to Florida and I just didn't have time or energy to deal with it, so it stayed that way for 3 weeks.  I also had a new Dell tablet which also stopped working, so I was left with my Kindle Fire for contact with the rest of the world.

It is not Dell's problem, it is my electrical Karma.  For some reason, electrical things get out of kilter when they get around me.  I just left it in the backpack until this morning and it worked just find.  This also happens frequently.  The little tablet hasn't started working, so I guess I will have to call Dell, but it actually has been kind of peaceful with no computer to be on half the day.

All this is to explain why I haven't been writing many reviews.  It is too hard to type on the Kindle, so I'll have to catch up.  When I look at the amount I have read, I found that the computer takes up a lot more of my time than I thought.  I'll have to think about that.  I haven't kept up with the news very well, and I can actually see some benefit to that also.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peter Pan

Peter Pan (Annotated)Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Great classic that gets better with age!

This. book is for all ages. Unlike modern fairy tales, this none has some rough spots, but it is still a wonderful tale. I read it again because my granddaughter is going to play Tiger Lilly in December and it was like visiting with an old friend

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Of books, and warrens and forgiveness

This is something I wrote in a discussion group on The Catcher in the Rye .  Every time I go back to that book I see something new:

I just finished reading Phantom of the Opera and am amazed at what a compelling story it is. I know I read it years ago, but I don't think I was in the right frame of mind. You have to have the time to live through it instead of just reading it.

Like Dracula, the tension builds throughout the book until you are holding your breath, especially in the torture room. I was also intrigued by the descriptions of the vast underground warren and lake that exists under the Paris opera house. This underground world is also glimpsed in Les Miserables.

I recently read a popular novel that concerned the underground bone churches that was fascinating. and again was amazed at the vast underground world that ancient cities have.

All this is to say that many books like The Catcher in the Rye need to be read slowly and with your imagination as well as the literal part of your brain. Injecting yourself into CTTR evokes the confusion and inconsistency in the adolescent mind and it makes me think about various times in my life when I was trying to juggle a number of inconsistent, and largely unconscious thoughts in my life and how that led to some wildly embarrassing actions; something like that wonderful commercial where the woman says, "I wonder about other questionable decisions in my life." Then there is a video of her as a semi-hippie in 70's garb dancing wildly.

I looked at Holden's life and mine and thought that they were like an underground warren that exists under ancient cities, sometimes even including a "church of bones." The question then becomes how do you forgive yourself for actions in the past, some which have consequences in the present? Things like, "I lost that scholarship, just because I wanted to have a good time. What might my life be like now if I hadn't been so stupid?" Reading about Holden's world reminds us that he was just a kid making stupid decisions because of churning unconscious struggles that he was unaware of...just like most of us. It makes it easier to laugh at our early life and then bury those bones.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy

The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted BundyThe Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy by Stephen G. Michaud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having worked with the Dept. of Corrections as a teacher, I have always been fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind. I know from teaching that most criminals see the world differently from the ordinary citizen. In working with delinquents, I realized that "right and wrong" have different meaning to most of them; "right" is what I get by with, and "wrong" is what I get caught at. If I left my purse out unattended, it was my fault if someone stole from me. I didn't deserve to have my personal belongings unmolested because I had been stupid.

Most of those behaviors can be traced back to an environment that inadvertently taught those behaviors. The mind of a serial killer, however, is different, and yet we have very little information as to why. Because Bundy was intelligent and loved to talk about himself, we have the best glimpse into his incomprehensible mind. In listening to the stories of older inmates I taught, I began to see that, while there was there was little choice once a pattern of behavior was started, there was always a point where the person did have a choice. It was the snowball was hard to stop the snowball once it was rolling down the hill, but there was always a point back at the top of the hill when the snowball could have been stopped.

This book shows how that worked in the life of Ted Bundy. The authors used a third person device to get Bundy to talk about his crimes, enabling him to discuss what the "killer" might have been thinking and his motivation. In this way, Bundy could overcome his natural reluctance to expose his deviant behavior and to experience the horror in the interviewer's eyes. Bundy was able to discuss the extreme fantasy life he had, his ability to compartmentalize his mind and the creation of the "entity" which was his name for the part of his mind that was out of control. Bundy's response to some negative things in his early life always seemed extreme me, given the positive environment he was brought up in. In this book it became clear that Bundy chose to nurse these grievances, and at the same time he began an addiction to violent pornography, and the compartmentalization of his mind.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the OperaThe Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book. It has a Ghost, a gothic setting, a heroine caught in the spell of a mysterious and tortured genius and a young lover who is trying to set her free. What more could you ask for?

The Paris Opera House has a ghost who makes demands on the managers. When the old owners get tired of his games and demands, the leave the opera house to two other men who ooze the hubris of the age. When mysterious things begin to happen when the opera ghost's demands are not met things begin to get uncomfortable.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Me?"

Why Me?Why Me? by Sarah Burleton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was very short and not as skillfully written as it could have been, but it was good. It deals with the story of one child in the family who is singled out for abuse. It is incredible that someone at school or in the neighborhood didn't raise questions about what was going on. I know that she eventually didn't have near neighbors, but someone should have spotted something.

I would also like to know more about Sarah's mother. How was she raised and how did she get to be so hateful towards her first child. Her extreme hatred of Sarah has to have its roots in her past. I don't mean to excuse her, but it would have been worthwhile for Sarah to know.

I'd also like to know what happened to her sister when she left. I would be so afraid that her mother would turn on her in her rage when Sarah was no longer around. It is possible that her sister's father would interfere when it was his own child, but he bears a lot of the blame for abusing Sarah and allowing her to be abused.

I think that Sarah wrote this book as a therapeutic device. She needed to set the record straight and say what she couldn't say when she was at home. It would be good if she could write a more in depth book which went into the history and brought the information into the future. This book is very short, but there is a lot more of the story left.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long IslandEtched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book. It is unbelievable how Regina Calcaterra survived this abuse, much less having the stellar career she has had. The fact that all five of her siblings managed to survive and lead productive lives is nothing short of a miracle.

Their mother was mentally ill and emotionally warped and she only needed her children to get welfare money. She was just shrewd enough to say the right things to HRS to continue to get benefits which she spent on herself. The children were either in deplorable living conditions or homeless.

The most important thing about this story is that Regina, a foster child, was able to continue through college, something unheard of until that time. Most of these children are turned loose at 18 with very few prospects. Besides being a role model, Regina has work with the system to make it easier for these kids to get a higher education.

The other thing that stands out about this family is how the children took care of each other. The older children took care of the younger ones and provided for their emotional support when they were desperately in need of it themselves. This is a fascinating and incredibly inspirational book.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For KidsHow to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for kids in middle school and even some high school, although it might seem a little childish for the older students. It takes themes prevalent in literature and helps a student to see the patterns and the large part of the story that is written between the lines. In fact, it is a bit like a road map to help readers to pick out the important parts of a book while they are reading. Once read, I think the students would be able to apply this knowledge to any writing assignment in school and at least, begin to understand it.

The author has a companion book about reading novels and I think this is important. This book deals with literature and the great literary themes and would be almost impossible to apply all of them to novels, but in even the simplest novel there are themes and Dr. Foster's books will help.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014


AustenlandAustenland by Shannon Hale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I won't rate this as low as some people, but I do think it could have been a lot better. I kept thinking of Bridget Jones while I was reading it and then trying to pull myself back into the 1800's. Jane was given a treat/cure-all by her ancient relative and she was to go to this 3 week Jane Austen world where Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett still reigned. the modern Jane was holding ever male on her radar to the Darcy standard and found them lacking. This was a trip to dissuade her from this faulty thinking and turn her to some more realistic marital prospects.

Jane becomes immersed in Austenland, but she finds it not exactly to her liking. She is more modern than she thinks and she vacillates back and forth. This bothered me a lot because it wasn't very skillfully done. The incident with the gardener is the first problem to show up. It happens so quickly that the reader has to wonder if Jane even wanted the life of a Jane Austen heroine. If she was looking for the long courtship that is part and parcel with this life, she didn't act like it.

From there it struggles on. The whole idea of an Austenland was interesting and for that reason, I continued to read the book. Jane wasn't considered an A+ client because she didn't have the money to keep coming back year after year, so she was relegated to the end of the queue into the dining room, while a return client who was a 50 year old Dolly Parton was showered with the full treatment.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Fete Worse Than Death (Hemlock Falls Mysteries #18)

A Fete Worse Than DeathA Fete Worse Than Death by Claudia Bishop

This is a nice little light-weight cozy mystery. The plot centers on the Annual Fete which is to be held in Hemlock Falls. Sarah Quilliam ends up on just about every committee there is to help with all the activities of the Fete. Unfortunately, there is trouble on the various committees and from outsiders who have a whole other issue. At times the plot gets a little fanciful, but basically it is just a good lightweight mystery with engaging characters and quirky situations.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read this several times and it still is one of my favorite books in the series. Harry and friends are still involved in hair raising adventures, but this one is more complex. The horrible killer, Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban and he has been known to say, "He's at Hogwarts." It is obvious to the adults around Harry that Sirius wants to get to Hogwarts and kill him for Lord Voldemort.

Harry has other things to worry about. He finds out that seeing a "grim" means that he soon will die and Harry has seen the big black dog three separate times. As if he doesn't have enough to worry about, the Dementors have been sent to guard Hogwarts over Professor Dumbledore's wishes. They have a terrible effect on Harry and they nearly get him killed. Thanks to some high level magic taught to Harry by the latest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin, Harry learns to defend himself somewhat, but he still hears his mother pleading for his life in the last moments of her life every time one comes near him.
Many of the characters in this book are not what they seem to be and Harry, Ron and Hermione are in much more danger in this third year at Hogwarts. They have to deal with injustice and treachery far beyond their years, making this book also one of the most exciting.

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The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren

The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine WarrenThe Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, I was tempted to quit this book because it sounded so theatrical, but there was a lot more to it. People do a lot of things out of their own warped cussedness, but when I was working at the Dept. of Corrections, I saw something in some of the inmates that was way beyond ordinary evil. The most surprising were two juveniles, both under 14. Even though many of the personnel who had been there for years and years were talking about it. Years later I also saw a man who came to my English classes who had the same look. It wasn't just a look either. One child set his foster sister on fire, pushed her down the stairs and stood at the top and just watched her. The other killed a four year old and buried him in an outhouse.

This book was very interesting and there was a lot to think about. The Warrens certainly have a good reputation and the cases in the book were very convincing. The things they describe are consistent with other things I have read and it is obvious to me that evil certainly exists.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Through the Evil Days (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #8)

Through the Evil Days (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #8)Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a feeling I would have liked this book better if I had read the rest of the series first. The book seemed to drag some to me. I also found it a little convoluted. There are a large number of coincidences that all have to fall into place to make the book work.

I hated the ending. It makes it almost impossible to not read the next book in the series. The reader has invested in some of the characters and it is as if the book ended mid story. I think I will go back and read the first book in the series and see if it is better.

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Death of a Gentle Lady

Death of a Gentle Lady (Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Book 24) Death of a Gentle Lady by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries, this one has a lively cast of suspects. Mrs. Gentle, who has snowed many of the village’s members, has not fooled Hamish Macbeth. She is anything but gentle and her family members are almost as appalling. She mistreats her illegal immigrant Russian maid leading Hamish, in a fit of kindness, to offer to marry her. He is not quite as altruistic as he seems. If he has a wife, then Inspector Blair will be thwarted in his attempt to close the Lockdubh police station.

From that point on, things start to unravel. It seems that everyone has something to hide and the suspects are thick on the ground. Inspector Blair is becoming almost unhinged in his determination to get rid of Hamish and he comes close to succeeding.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories

Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through StoriesBooks That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories by William Kilpatrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great reference tool, especially for homeschoolers who are making their own curriculum. The trouble is picking from so many books. The books are listed with a review which indicates why they were chosen. The books are some of the best in children's literature. They are listed as to age and general subject in the main part of the book, but are listed with the author in the back of the book so you can print the list or make a checklist.

I have used some of the books for a literature assignment and other I've suggested for free reading. There are so many and they are so good the kids really love them.

Even if you aren't homeschooling, this book is invaluable for free reading. Most of the Newberry Award books are on the list as well as classics like "Narnia" which kids love. There are even books reviewed for the gifted and especially mature readers.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's PenguinsMr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such a sweet book. I read it to see if it was suitable for homeschool, and it really is too juvenile for my granddaughter, but it is such a wonderful story that I think I'll have her read it anyway.

Mr. Popper (Casper Milquetoast)loves reading about the South Pole. He even writes to an explorer there and suddenly there's a big box in his house with a penguin in it, straight from the South Pole. The whole family is so excited, but eventually his penguin becomes lonesome and so he gets a female penguin. Eventually there are 12 penguins and the money to feed them is about to run out. Then comes the idea!! If they can train seals, then surely they can train penguins! Thus begins a comical and wonderful adventure story for everyone.

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