books I've read

Anne Hawn's books

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


Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 150 Books

Friday, February 28, 2014

I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1)

I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1)I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been working with my granddaughter on critical thinking and we've used Encyclopedia Brown and Sherlock Holmes stories to do some deductive reasoning.  I tried this book because it seemed like it might work.  While the book has some appeal for fans of horror fiction, it was NOT a book using deductive reasoning.

The 15 year old boy is a sociopath, John, who believes that he has a 'monster' in him who is trying to make him become a serial killer.  He lives with his mother over a mortuary owned by his mother and her sister.  John's dysfunctional sister also works there doing paperwork.  He is fascinated by serial killers and loves helping with the dead bodies in the mortuary.

At the same time, there is a serial killer on the loose in the small town he lives in.  His fascination with serial killers and mortuary processes combine when all the victims are sent to the family business.

The book is filled with gory details, which I guess are expected, but the part I found both fascinating and yet overdone are the inner dialogs which John has between the 'monster' in him and the side of him which has made 'rules' to keep him from becoming a serial killer.  They go on and on and become very tiresome, but the struggles of a sociopath to understand empathy and the demands of society I think are very well done.  John is in therapy so the reader gets to know some of the ways the doctor is trying to help him, but that is also convoluted.

The biggest weakness in the book is the plot. A lot of it is inconsistent and improbable.  The book would have been much better if the author hadn't resorted to the supernatural in the actual serial killer.  In fact, I find that a contradiction. It is set up as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation but the concept of an actual demon makes it neither fish nor fowl.

I gave it 3 stars because I think that people who enjoy this type of fiction would not be disappointed, but it had serious flaws for me.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Search Of Stones

In Search Of Stones by M. Scott Peck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this while on a long trip and was able to give it a lot of attention. Scott Peck and his wife take a trip to England to find standing stones. Some are prominent with signs and careful tending, but others are out in pastures involving climbing fences and long treks. Along the way, Scott goes over his spiritual and psychological journey and relates it to his trip.

The book isn't as thought provoking as most of his other books, but I still found that I had to stop the tape from time to time and ponder over things he said and relate them to my life. It's a fascinating book and I enjoyed it very much.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin DroodThe Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was as good as it was unsatisfying.  What can I expect considering that Dickens died in the middle of the book.  He stopped writing, had a stroke at dinner and never regained consciousness.  At first I wondered what the point would be to reading a mystery that wasn't finished, but it was much more interesting than I thought.  It appears that Dickens was half-way through the book when he died, so the scene was set, the characters developed and the major clues laid down.  There is fairly wide agreement on who did the murder, if there actually was a murder.  On the other hand, some people feel like Edwin did not die, but survived the attack and disappeared.  They feel that he would reappear at some point and confront the supposed murderer.

There is also a pretty fair agreement as to why Edwin Drood was murdered, if he was murdered.  There are still plenty of mysteries left though.  Was Dickens salting the book with red herrings and he intended a complete plot twist?  Does he have one or two characters in disguise so that the book actually has two less characters than would appear?  There are at least two possible romances set up...how do the turn out? What happens to Neville?

Fortunately, I was doing this with a book group and we could bounce ideas off each other.  It has made it even more interesting.


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Agatha Christie Collection: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Secret Adversary

Agatha Christie Collection: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Secret AdversaryAgatha Christie Collection: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an old favorite that never disappoints.  I have found that Agatha Christie's plots are so complicated and the clues so complex that I have a hard time remembering who actually was guilty.  I can read most of her books every 10 years or so and enjoy them all over again.  Of course, there are a few that are so perfect that I could never forget the criminal.  This includes The Murder of Roger Ackroyd , Murder on the Orient Express , and And Then There Were None.

This book introduces Hercule Poirot to her readers. His character is so carefully delineated that it is hard to believe that he doesn't actually exist.  This is especially true once David Suchet was cast to portray the little Belgian.  While many of her characters are not as well drawn, her stars certainly are.

To me Christie sets a standard in mystery writing by which others are judged.  Her plots are complex, but all the clues are there to figure out who the murderer is if you can weed out the red herrings.  She also explains all the clues which point to someone else.  I've read too many mysteries where the reader is faced with red herrings which are never explained.  I want to know that I could have solved the mystery if I had paid attention (or was smart enough!) If you have a person standing over the sleeping and now dead victim with a knife in his hand dripping blood and he doesn't turn out to be the murderer, you need to explain what he was doing there.


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Monday, February 17, 2014

Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities

Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 PersonalitiesSwitching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities by Richard Baer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book! It's hard to imagine what this woman went through and what resilience of character she had to just survive. Dr. Baer presents her as a severely depressed woman who keeps losing time. Like the classic MPD patient, she unknowingly created alters to take various abusive situations. While it helped her cope as a child, it began to become more and more dysfunctional as she got older.

Her 17 alters included children and adults, male and female. Two of the boy alters took the worst of the abuse allowing other personalities to essentially grow up without the knowledge and memories of the terrible things she suffered.

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Emerald Star (Hetty Feather)

Emerald Star (Hetty Feather)Emerald Star by Jacqueline Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third in the Hetty Feather series.  Hetty left the seaside and her job as a mermaid and has come to Monksby to try to find her  father.  To say that Monksby didn't live up to her visions is an understatement.  There is nothing glamorous about this little fishing village.  Could imaginative Hetty Feather live in a village where the morning arrival of the fishing fleet is the biggest thing that happens?  Could she see herself gutting and salting fish every day?

As much as she loves her father when a letter comes to tell her of the death of her foster father and asking her to come home, she must go.  Seeing her old family is a mixed bag.  In some ways, nothing has changed, and it others, everything has.

My major complaint about this book is that it appears to be the end of the Hetty books.  Hopefully, the Diamond books will give us more information on Hetty's life while we follow the fascinating story of Diamond.



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Emerald Star (Hetty Feather)

Emerald Star (Hetty Feather)Emerald Star by Jacqueline Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third in the Hetty Feather series.  Hetty left the seaside and her job as a mermaid and has come to Monksby to try to find her  father.  To say that Monksby didn't live up to her visions is an understatement.  There is nothing glamorous about this little fishing village.  Could imaginative Hetty Feather live in a village where the morning arrival of the fishing fleet is the biggest thing that happens?  Could she see herself gutting and salting fish every day?

As much as she loves her father when a letter comes to tell her of the death of her foster father and asking her to come home, she must go.  Seeing her old family is a mixed bag.  In some ways, nothing has changed, and it others, everything has.

My major complaint about this book is that it appears to be the end of the Hetty books.  Hopefully, the Diamond books will give us more information on Hetty's life while we follow the fascinating story of Diamond.



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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Diamond

Diamond (Hetty Feather)Diamond by Jacqueline Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this last book out of order, so it was a little abrupt at the beginning, but I quickly filled in the blanks.  This story is one that Hetty has written about a young girl called Diamond and her life.  Diamond is actually Ellen-Jane Potts, the 5th child in a family that had a Matthew, Mark, Luke and was looking for a "John."  There was another daughter called Mary Martha, but Ellen-Jane was definitely a disappointment.  Ellen-Jane was different from the rest of the family.  She was blond and tiny like her mother and the rest were all dark and sturdy like their father.  She was also "bendy."  She could do back bends, crab walks, walk on her hands and other gymnastic feats as soon as she could toddle about.  Unfortunately, life didn't go well for Ellen-Jane and eventually her father sold her to the Tanglewood circus where she lived a brutal life under her owner, "Beppo, the clown."  Beppo once was an acrobat until he fell and broke his back.  His sons still were acrobats and he was brutal with them and "Diamond."

Hetty and Diamond's lives come together at the Tanglewood circus where Hetty fulfills a dream of becoming a circus performer.  In the first book, Adeline, the stunning horse rider, tells Hetty that the circus life is brutal, but she has to learn herself.  This book again reveals the lives of poor children of the Victorian era when a child could be sold and mistreated. Hetty and Diamond find some kindness in the circus, but they, along with the other children of the troupe are exploited.

The only reason I gave this three stars is the abrupt ending.  While this is part of a series, I think the author could have made the book resolve in a satisfying way and yet still leave room for the sequel.


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Sapphire Battersea (Hetty Feather)

Sapphire Battersea (Hetty Feather)Sapphire Battersea by Jacqueline Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Hetty Feather series.  Hetty has met her mother enjoyed being with her, but the secret was to come out sooner or later.  Life at the foundling home home comes to an end when she was 14 and her dear friend, Miss Smith, arranged for her to be a servant.  Hetty doesn't want to be a servant, but there seems little hope of anything else.  While she has learned to control some of her temper, it is still there and leads Hetty into some difficulties.

Hetty reminds me of Little Orphan Annie and Anne of Green Gables.  She has the same red hair and spunk that makes her a favorite of girls young and old.  All three of the books also have good vocabulary and paint an accurate picture of life for children, and especially young girls who don't have a proper home. In this part of the series, we see what a life of servitude was like and the precarious life servants had if they were turned out without a reference.

It also exposes the class distinctions of the age and the indifference that the middle and upper class had for the poor.  In the Hetty stories, the children are much more on their own.  While Annie and Anne went from the orphanage to their new homes, Hetty and Diamond have to fend for themselves.                                                    


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Ring of Rocamadour (The Red Blazer Girls, #1)

The Ring of Rocamadour (The Red Blazer Girls, #1)The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great mystery for middle school girls and older.  It is very much like Nancy Drew, except that the girls are in the 7th grade.  They go to a Catholic girls school and the Red Blazers are the uniform of the upper school.  The girls come from different backgrounds, but they are  all day students.

The girls are bright and inquisitive and they soon stumble on a mystery involving the old church which is part of the school.  There is some suspicious activity going on and a puzzle to figure out.  Margaret, the brightest and best student, figures out some of the clues which involve geometry and the author even has her give a geometry lesson.

I liked this book because it combined ingenuity with good school work.  Maybe it is the teacher in me, but I love the way Margaret explains how geometry can help them solve the puzzle and the other girls each come up with clues based on things they have learned.  The school aspects aren't heavy handed, but it gives the reader a better understanding of how what they learn is useful.


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hetty Feather

Hetty FeatherHetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful book about a red-headed orphan in the style of Little Orphan Annie and Anne of Green Gables .  Hetty was left at a foundling home (which still exists)and was fostered out to a country family until she was six.  The family had other foster children and one, Gideon, came together with Hetty when they were a few weeks old.  Life on the farm was idyllic and although she was small, Hetty thrived.  She was very attached to her brother, Jem, the youngest of the families biological children was about 5 years older than her.  Even in this loving family, Hetty's impetuous nature and fiery temper led her into trouble.  She was bright but headstrong.

Just before she was six, she and Gideon were sent back to the foundling  home, an event that was devastating to both of them.  The foundling home was regimented and unforgiving, especially for a child like Hetty.  She got into one scrape after another and earned the enmity of the two of the most important matrons.  The girls worked most of the day on household task which prepared them for life as servants, something that Hetty never intended to be.

This is a great book for girls, young and old.  We feel for Hetty when her irrepressible personality is hammered into a mold not made for her.     Today's children have little idea of the life of children of earlier and much harsher ages.  The Hetty Feather series does a better job of showing that the orphanage system, however problematic, was better than previous ages when children as young as 4-5 were left to roam the streets, surviving as they could.  Fostering the children under the age of 6 in a home was an enlightened step in the care of children.


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Monday, February 03, 2014

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern WorldThe Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was fantastic!  It read more like a novel than a medical history.  It was how these two men started out from opposite points and came to the same conclusion.  It is also interesting to read of a time period so different from ours.  I kept wanting to tell the people to wash their hands or instruments.

The book starts out slowly with more information on cholera and London than you think you want to know, but it is necessary to understand just how little they knew about the spread of the disease.  I have to think back to how we felt when AIDS burst on the scene.  No one knew how it passed from person to person.  A friend of mine was one of the earliest researchers of the disease and he wanted to study AIDS because so many of the early researchers were contracting it.  He went on to be one of the foremost experts on the disease and, in a way, became very much like Dr. Snow.

Unlike most historical mysteries, this book wraps everything up very much like Miss Marple.  The doctor is finally able to reach back to patient "0" and everything clicks into place.  It is unbelievable how strong Dr. Snow was as he went against the "misama" theory of infection.  Even when the smoking gun is found there were still people in the medical field who would not change their minds.


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