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

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful book, although I feel kind of silly using that as a description when the subject of the book is a graveyard.  It's the story of a baby boy who crept out of his home when the sinister man Jack sneaked into his house and killed his parents and older sister.  He finds his way to a graveyard where the ghosts of the inhabitants decide to give him sanctuary.  A couple, long deceased and childless, agree to raise him as their own and, because he is human, Silas...who can go between worlds, agrees to be his guardian.  They give the boy the name Nobody Owens, because no body knows his name, and he has the freedom of the graveyard.  He knows all the spirits who choose to be known and he even knows a witch, some ghouls and an even more unsavory specter. He is able to walk through the stones and converse with any of the ghosts who care to talk to him.  He even learns to fade into the background so that he is invisible.

His life is happy in the graveyard.  He is taught history from the ghost who were actually alive through the various eras and he learns to read, although there aren't a lot of books. From time to time, he goes out of the graveyard, and even went to school for a while, but he puts himself at risk because the man Jack has sworn he would kill him.

We've been using this for homeschool and my granddaughter has been creating stories for people in an imaginary graveyard.  While a little ghoulish, it has been very interesting and offers an endless source of creative writing topics.  This is one of the best books I've read in a long time!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Spy in the House (The Agency, #1)

A Spy in the House (The Agency, #1)A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in this series and it promises to be a good one.  While it is improbable that there was an agency in Victorian culture which took in poor but bright young girls and educated them to become something other than governesses or wives, it is a good plot device.  If you like Anne Perry, then you will like this one.

Mary, who was sentenced to be hanged at the age of 12 for breaking into houses, is taken in by the Agency and trained as a private detective.  Her first assignment is to take a position in a wealthy home to gain information concerning a case that the Agency is working with Scotland Yard to investigate.

Mary makes a number of mistakes in her assignment, but she manages to find some important information and also an attachment to a young man who is also investigating.  I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Lee's books

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 9th Girl (Kovac and Liska #4)

The 9th Girl (Kovac and Liska #4)The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would give this another star, but I couldn't stand the language.  I can not understand why authors continue to insult their readers with it.  It is bad enough in a book, but when it's an audiobook it sounds like someone sitting right next to you saying it right in your ear.  Couldn't a professional author come up with some more useful adjectives?

The plot itself is not bad.  There's a serial killer on the loose and seems to fit the body of a teenage girl, but there is so much going on in her home and school that doesn't seem to fit.  The detectives come to realize that there are differences and delve deeper.  That is when they find that one of the young girl's friends is Detective Liska's son and he is behaving very strangely.  There are a lot of suspects, but none of it makes sense.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Finally I have finished this book!!!  I don't think I have ever read about such a whiny protagonist.  The fact that it is written for kids has me concerned.  Katniss Everdeen is more of a self centered brat than a heroine.  When she was left off the team to go to the capitol, I had a moment of hope for her learning a lesson, but alas, she made some improvements, but she continued on in the same depressing, selfish and headstrong vein.

It also concerns me that this book is so popular with kids.  In the end, Katniss is extremely depressed and the example she presents is about the worst one I think of.  The reader is presented with pages and pages of self pity.

The first two books in the series are pretty good, but this is another series where the reader is disappointed with the conclusion.  Instead of gathering all the plot elements together and showing how the main character is either victorious and has learned from all her mistakes, this series just left me wondering what was the point.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories

Miss Marple: The Complete Short StoriesMiss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been ages since I have read these Miss Marple short stories and they were excellent!  Miss Marple, some friends and some detectives all discuss crimes from their past which were interesting, both solved and unsolved.  Miss Marple makes the point that most crimes need to be solved not only for the sake of the murdered person, but for the sake of people who were suspected but innocent.

In each case, Miss Marple understands the personal aspect of the crime and is able to apply it to the crime in question.  While I always try to observe all the details, just like Miss Marple, I hardly ever can solve the crime.  I have to say that the reader is always provided with enough information to come to a conclusion, but the depth of her understanding of human nature is enough to rival the best detective.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #4)

The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #4)The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third book in this series and there are a few new character:  Lord Ashtons's mother and her companion, Admiral Faucet.  Admiral would very much like to be the good lady's husband and he brings along a  prized racing ostrich.  The admiral would like to start a new business racing ostrich and, when they are too old to race, sell them for eating.  Unfortunately, Bertha gets loose and the Admiral enlists Miss Penelope Lumley and her charges, the wolf raised children.  Penelope is concerned that the children will become wild again if left in the forest.  Her concern is doubled when she learns that Lord Ashton, who is almost blind, will be going on the hunt.  Miss Penelope is aided in the woods by some real wolves and the children don't suffer any of the mishaps she feels, but there are even more mysteries to handle when they return from the woods.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #4)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #4)The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is your basic Sherlock Holmes from start to finish.  These are some of the short stories arranged in a way that shows Sherlock over his long career.  The stories are as fresh as they were 100 years ago.  While I know that there are some of the confident deductions Holmes makes could have other explanations, it is still pretty remarkable that a detective would even look at these clues.

I am using the stories as material for my homeschooled granddaughter to teach her how to think deductively.  I hope to inspire her to try to figure out things for herself instead of waiting for information from the adults around her.  She's pretty good at it and enjoys the challenge.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards, #1)

100 Cupboards  (100 Cupboards, #1)100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in what I think will be an interesting series for middle graders.  Henry comes to live with his aunt and uncle and 3 cousins who seem very strange.  In his room in the attic he uncovers a whole wall full of small doors.  The entire wall is covered in plaster, but he and the middle girl manage to uncover it.  Once some of the drawers are opened, the pair of kids learn that they can go through the drawer and into another world.

There is more to the mystery in the house.  At the end of the corridor on the second floor there is a large room which is locked and no one has the key.  One night Henry wakes up and sees an unusual looking old man whom no one wants to talk about.  They try to say that it is Grandfather's room, but he is supposed to be gone away.  How can he be getting in and out of the room when there is no key?

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The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #3)

The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #3)The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third installment of this series answers a few questions and brings up some new ones.  The household returns to Ashton Place after the disastrous trip to see a play about pirates.  Lady Ashton can hardly hold her head up in society so they all pack up and go home, but that is hardly an end to their problems. Lord Frederick's mother comes for a visit with her amorous attendant, Admiral Faucet, and his ostrich, Bertha.  It is obvious to everyone that he is hoping to marry the dowager Ashton in order to fund his proposed business, ostrich racing.

Unfortunately, the ostrich gets out of her pen necessitating a hunt led by the almost blind Lord Frederick and his pack of hunters.  The hunt introduces the reader to Mama Woof and her other pups, and a disastrous chain of events soon follows. Like the other books in this series, it is fast paced and clever and leaves the reader with a thirst for answers.  

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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2)

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2)The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

In the second book of the tales of the Incorrigibles the whole Ashton family rent a luxurious house in London for the season.  Lady A. sends out notices that she has arrived and when no one responds, she is furious.  Penelope meets Simon, an aspiring actor and he proves to be a loyal friend and a good ally.  Penelope and the children are directed by a guide to London which contains the pictures and roads of the Alps, but does end up helping them a great deal, and their attendance at the opening of a play has all the farce of a Marx brothers show.

More clues to the suspicious relationship between Penelope, the children and the mysterious Judge Quinzy are found, but add to the confusion.  More is out about Penelope's parents, but that also adds to the confusion also.  This wacky tale has it all.

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The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1)

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1)The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This delightful series reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  The combination of understated prose and exquisite vocabulary is enchanting.  I am using the books for homeschool free reading as well as vocabulary.

In this book young Penelope Lumley, graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, has come to Ashton Place to care for the 3 young wards of Lord Ashton. The assignment sounds simple but the children have been raised by wolves and there is something very suspicious about them.  

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Red Headed League (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #2)

The Red Headed League (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Red Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most memorable of Sherlock Holmes' cases.  A mad with bright red hair calls on Sherlock Holmes with a shocking story.  He has been encouraged by his assistant to apply for a vacancy in The Red Headed League.  All he has to do is to come and copy from the encyclopedia every day for a number of hours.  He can not leave for any reason.  Suddenly, the job disappears.  The sign is gone and the man who rented the business space is not the name of the person he dealt with.  What is going on?  Sherlock Holmes asks a series of questions and then he goes to visit the site of the copying as well as the houses or businesses on the street behind.

I am using these Sherlock Holmes stories to teach my granddaughter to "think outside the box."  She is homeschooled and I teach her Language Arts (among other things.)  I feel like classic mystery stories combine the vocabulary and structure as well as deductive reasoning.  They also are just plain fun.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer SchemeEncyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme by Donald J. Sobol
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this series, Encyclopedia Brown solves cases using common sense and his "encyclopedic" knowledge.  I am using it in a homeschool lesson to help my granddaughter to observe her surroundings and to think creatively to solve problems.  She would like to be a veterinarian and this type thinking is necessary in any medical profession.

Encyclopedia Brown solves problems by thinking the problem through and looking at all possibilities.  He often picks up little clues that are easy to overlook.  Some of the problems are difficult and he has to use outside information that is not provided, but is well within the ability of a middle grader to obtain.  Each of the cases is only a few pages long and so the hunt for clues is very limited, but they still will stump even adults.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Colony

The ColonyThe Colony by F.G. Cottam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, I couldn't get into this book, but I am glad I stuck with it.  I think it was because I thought it sounded like the kind of science fiction I don't like. It is definitely not science fiction.  The plot involves an abandoned island in the Hebrides where all the inhabitants of the island mysteriously disappeared.  A wealthy newspaperman decides to put together a team of people from various disciplines to go to the island and find out what happened.  He suspects that the people have been taken by aliens and he wants to get definitive evidence that aliens have interacted with humans.

The author does a good job of creating believable characters who represent all the various hypothesis people have as to what happened.  He has 2 reporters, an archaeologist, a doctor specializing in  virulent diseases such as plague, a detective, a woman who has helped the police solve crimes through her gift of second sight, an exorcist and a few others. There are tensions and romances among the people and quite a bit of history.

The only criticism I have is that it was just a little too pat, but then, this is fiction.  Even though the clues were from the 1700's, there were diaries, journals, mysterious people who appeared in dreams and a number of fortuitous finds that explained most of what happened.

The pace was fast and the topic fascinating, so the reader can overlook a few heavy handed plot devices.  There was a lot of suspense and a good resolution.

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro, #1)

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro, #1)The Next Always by Nora Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because my 4th great grandfather owned the Inn that is at the center of this romance, and the building diagonally across from it. He also owned a section of the National Road between Boonsboro, MD and Sharpsburg, WV, including the the corner on which the inn sets.  I visited the town 3 times while I was doing genealogy and fell in love with it.  I went in the bookstore and several of the other buildings, including the Trinity Reformed church where John and other of my ancestors were buried. The town is charming and I can see why Nora Roberts chose to make it her home and to write about it.

The first time I saw the Inn it was forlorn looking just as Roberts described it and I had the same feelings of sorrow over this lovely historical building going to ruin.  The second time I saw it, Nora Roberts and her son had bought the buildings and were having the Inn redone. She had gutted most of the building by then.  I took numerous pictures of the inside because it was stripped down to its earliest woodwork which my ancestor would have known and probably built.  I am glad I did because it was later burned.  Thank goodness they decided to salvage what they could and rebuild.

As for the story, I am not much of a romance reader, so the story seemed a little stilted to me.  It seemed as if the romance was the point of the book instead of something that developed as part of a greater story.  However, it is written as a romance and it certainly delivers.  I will be reading the rest of the book in this series, but mainly because of the historical association.

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Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #16)

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #16)Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is a real lightweight. I put it as a cozy mystery, but there isn't much mystery about it.  The villain is pretty clear even from the beginning and local law enforcement should have figured that out right away instead of having to depend on Hannah.  

There are so many ways to make this book better and I think that is what bothers me.  There are more plausible ways to give the reader and our amateur detective clues without too much effort.  Also there are better reasons for the characters to get into dangerous situations than the ones given.

I don't expect cozy mysteries to be overly realistic, but this goes too far with the clumsy plot moves.  The recipes are about the only redeeming feature.

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Cherry Cola Book Club

The Cherry Cola Book ClubThe Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute, but light weight book.  The town library is in danger of being shut down by a Councilman who is looking to use the land for an industrial park.  The valiant librarian begins a book club to try to increase membership and local interest.  What follows is the story of the members struggle to keep their little library alive as the come to know each other and become friends.

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Monday, January 06, 2014

What are "Classics?"

From a discussion on Goodreads:

I think we might need to clarify what we mean by the term "classics." In college I took a class in philosophy class with one of the worst teachers I ever had, but I learned a number of important concepts. The one that is germane is the definition of the terms.” If you don’t agree on the definition of the term “classics” then the arguments keep going in circles.

 In another post I wrote the dictionary definition of “classic” because I was struggling with the concept even then, but it didn’t really gel until Martha mentioned a “need-to-read” list. Those two terms are not interchangeable. I think that a “need-to-read” list is something informal and it mixes books that you might call “book-group books,” and “potential classics.” I’d put the latest best sellers, books by writers like Isabel Allende, Barbara Kingsolver, William Styron, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Anne Tyler, Lee Smith, Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini and many more authors, some of whom write to entertain, but some because they have something important t say. Only time will weed out the ones that have no staying power. In this group I think you will find popular books that are a waste of time to read as well as good literature.

 Classics, on the other hand, have passed the test of time. They are taught in high schools and colleges because they meld exceptional language with ideas that have a lasting impact on society. If you take a class in American Literature, you will look at the literature that our country produced on a continuum. It is like archeology of the mind. You can compare American Lit with French Lit and not only see a difference but you can see a national personality. Classics have also been reprinted again and again and in different languages. They were valuable in their day and continue to have value. You can teach a class on the meaning of the books and how the style of the author conveys his or her ideas. I think this is why some of us say that classics can’t be over-rated.

Friday, January 03, 2014


19841984 by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this in high school and remember thinking that 1984 was so far in the future it seemed impossible for some of the issues in the book to be relevant. It is amazing how many things have come true, or are comprehensible now.  I think the border between "political Correctness" and the concept of "thought crimes" is actually scary.  I am also amazed at the role of the media.  Until the last 20-25 years, the idea of a biased media was something I never thought I'd see.  I remember talking in class about propaganda and thinking it couldn't happen here and now I am all too aware of "interpretive journalism." Once a country loses the objective voice of truth everything can be manipulated.

1984 isn't fanciful thinking, it is the natural extension of things that are taking place right now.  Some have called our government a "nanny states" and the government in 1984 is a logical extension of that kind of thinking; "Big Brother knows best"...and then "Big Brother is watching."

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Miss Julia Speaks Her MindMiss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second time around with this book and it is just as enjoyable this time. Miss Julia is the perfect old-school Southern woman. She is gracious and her manners are impeccable. She deferred to her wealthy husband in everything and was above reproach. Then in one night, her world turned upside down. Her husband, a pillar of the community and an elder in the Presbyterian Church, had a heart attack and died in the driveway and before she could take it in, her husband's mistress arrived at her door with her 9 year old son, left the child with her and rushed off to go to school in Raleigh.

To say that Miss Julia was shocked was an understatement, but that was just the beginning. How could Miss Julia hold her head up in society? Everyone, even her closest friends, was gossiping about her and how could she explain the presence of Little Lloyd? Delightfully, Miss Julia comes into her own. She realizes that she was not the one who did anything wrong!!! There wasn't any reason why she should be ashamed. She brings the child shopping with her and to church and doesn't miss a beat.

I think one of the reasons I like this book is because we see Miss Julia come into her own. Her husband and her society defined her role for 60 some years and suddenly she has broken free and her spunk, humor and her common sense are delightful. The book is light and fun and doesn't pretend to be serious. The characters are pretty well drawn for this genre and book is fast pace. It's great to curl up with on a rainy afternoon...or if you are tired of the men in your life, this would be a good choice.

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