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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris (Theodosia Throckmorton, #2)

Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris (Theodosia Throckmorton, #2)Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second installment of the life of Theodosia Throckmorton and her amazing adventures in the world of museums, ancient Egyptians and cursed artifacts.  Theodosia has to rely on her ability to sense the evil from the cursed artifacts and to protect herself and others from their spells.

In this book, the mummies are on the move.  Imagine the surprise of her father when he finds his museum filled with the mummies from all the museums, and private collections in London.  What is more, they keep returning when they are transported to their rightful place.

While Theodosia is fending off superlative governesses, at least in her grandmother's view, she gets involved with yet another secret Egyptian society in London.  At times they are at cross purposes and sometimes are actually evil, but Theodosia has her marvelous ability to safely handle cursed artifacts and use them to thwart the evil Serpents of Chaos.  This book is every bit as good as the first one.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Adventure of the Speckled Band (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

The Adventure of the Speckled Band (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)The Adventure of the Speckled Band by David Eastman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn't the edition I read, but I can't find the right one. This story has always fascinated me. There are a few mysteries that stand out because their solution is so novel and yet fits all the facts. Like Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Adventure of the Speckled Band has a unique solution that fits all the facts. It is very hard to see the solution until it is solved by Sherlock Holmes because it is so clever, and yet I can see some diabolical person trying to do it.

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A Little Princess

A Little Princess; being the whole story of Sara Crewe now told for the first timeA Little Princess; being the whole story of Sara Crewe now told for the first time by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was reading this book to use with my granddaughter in homeschool.  Aside from being a delightful story, the vocabulary is very sophisticated which is great for school.  I feel strongly that children should develop a very strong vocabulary so that they will be able to read complex works in high school and college.  This book introduces a number of words in a context where the meaning can be inferred, building vocabulary naturally.

The story itself is fairly common: rich child, misfortune, hard times, eventual success, but there is something in the way the author writes that makes it very engaging.  Most girls love the story of Sara Crewe, whose father in India, has sent his daughter to an English boarding school.  She is extremely wealthy, but a very nice child with natural good manners.  Eventually word comes that her father has died leaving her penniless.  The director of the school is furious and turns her into a drudge.  From then on the story is predictable and very satisfying, even from an adult perspective.  I was as delighted to see Miss Minchin get her comeuppance as any child.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1

A Study in Scarlet  (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm reading the Sherlock Holmes series again and this, the very beginning, is the right place to start. This is one of the more complex mysteries taking place in both America and England.  Holmes is called to a murder of a man with no visible signs of wounds or a struggle, but with a terrible expression on his face. There is, however, a copious amount of blood present and the killer has written the word, RACHE, in blood on the wall.  This is also our introduction to Detectives Lestrad and Gregson.

Holmes, with the faithful Watson, make a number of observations and within a very short time is on the trail of the killer.  When a second victim turns  up, he is sure, but the reader has to follow the beginnings of the story in the Mormon culture in Salt Lake City, UT.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Moonstone

The MoonstoneThe Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read this just about every decade of my life since I was in high school.  It is one of my favorite books.  I can actually remember some of the mental images of people and scenes that I laid down in that Sorry about that; the image can’t be replaced.

Collins has created some incredible characters that seem to have lives of their own.  Gabriel Betteredge, the head steward and his love of Robinson Crusoe is unforgettable.  He is the first narrator and sets the stage.  Drusilla, the super Christian with her endless supply of religious tracts, is the one you love to hate.  Sergeant Cuff is the premier detective who loves roses and is farsighted to keep notes his own conclusions even if no one believes him at the time.  And then there is Ezra Jennings, a man so battered by misfortune who is so appealing and yet tragic.   Interestingly enough, I find the side characters more compelling than the main characters, especially Rachel.  Franklin Blake also could have been developed better, especially in the early chapters.

The plot is so convoluted, that it’s a book that can be read again and again.   I get confused when I read it again after 10 years or so and I am constantly wondering is this the thief or is this the person I thought might be the thief?  I say convoluted advisedly.  It isn’t just a plot devise, the mystery is so complex it is hard to follow at times, but the random clues and dead ends are actually part of the solution.

This book goes on the top of my list for all time favorite mystery books.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yet another defense of Great Literature

One more time, I try to communicate with people following the discussion of overrated books.  It makes me so sad to hear so many people denigrate the classics and criticize their high school English literature.  I keep thinking there is so much of life that they miss.  I have learned so much from literature and I can't imagine my life without it.

A member of the group says, "Some of these novels may not make the high-brow literary grade"

I almost hate to chime in here again but for the sake of literature,  I'll try one more time.

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."  He meant that life was about self examination and actualization.  People often repeat the same unsatisfying behavior again and again and often never find the place where they love their lives and are fulfilled in their work.  There is a vague feeling that life should be more than acquiring more and more things that don't make them happy.  They go through relationship after relationship which always fail.

Great literature poses situations and examines them through the lives of the characters. These books were often not written for entertainment.  The author has the ability to make the reader live through the characters and see the relationships between their own behavior and their desires.

If we follow characters like Holden Caufield or Jay Gatsby, we come to understand our own motivation and goals.   The Great Gatsby is about a man who devoted his whole life and energy to please Daisy because he wanted to become worthy of her and her lifestyle.   He dedicated his entire life to become what he thought she valued.

By its very nature, it is not a satisfying book, but if you are a student reading it, you should come away with the knowledge that the life Jay Gatsby chose was not worth it.  He wasted his life because his goal was not worthy.  A seed is planted in the adolescent mind.  What are my goals?  What do I want to do with my life so I don’t end up like Jay Gatsby.

The required reading for high school and college isn't so a person learns to like boring "high-brow" books.  It is to help people learn to examine their lives.  During a hurricane, the weather reporters go out in the rain and wind and film the hurricane so that everyone else doesn't have to expose themselves to danger to see what is happening.  Literature helps us live through other lives and not have to make the same mistakes they make.  It helps us see the end of destructive behavior and learn from the successes of the characters make it through.

To compare these books with a novel by someone like Dan Brown is absurd.  One is entertaining and one is about examining life.  There is a place for both in life, but they can't be evaluated in the same way.  A professor of mine said that every third book we read should be good for us and not just entertainment.  I try to keep to that, so most of what I have learned from books has come after I left school.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)

The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the earlier Sherlock Holmes and has all the elements you would expect.  There are the Baker Street Irregulars, good old Toby and the 7% solution, and one unusual element, a romance.

Miss Mary Morstan comes to Sherlock Holmes with a problem.  Her father, an officer in India, disappeared on the day he reached London, and was never found.  He had been a convict guard on the Andaman Islands.  Six years later, on the 4th of May, 1882, Mary received a very large pearl and had received one every year since.  There was never any message until the day she called on Holmes.  She and two friends were to be outside the Lyceum Theater at precisely 7 o'clock.

Thus begins an adventure with murder, poisoned darts, a peg-legged man, tiny footprints in the dust of the attic, a steamboat race and numerous other twists and turns.  I think this is one of Doyle's best.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, is a book which had a tremendous influence on me from the first time I read it in my 20's.  Up until I read the book I realized that people had opinions which differed from mine, but I didn't understand that people had different realities.  I realize now that my understanding was like a diagram with "reality" in the center and a ring of names of people and their opinions around the outside.  I felt like we were all discussing the same topic but had different opinions about it.

The genius of Maugham is that he could create the character of Philip so intimately that I could see the world through the eyes of a repressed, timid, somewhat self pitying introvert.  Since I was the ultimate extrovert with the self confidence of youth I found myself screaming at Philip through half the book, "You idiot!  Can't you see how this is going to end?"  Ultimately, I began to realize that Philip didn't see what I saw.  His reality was different from mine.  I began to get into a world where the good things were temporary and that people couldn't really love him.  I could see a world where people were always going to use him and that he didn't expect to be treated fairly, so he accepted the unacceptable.

I've read the book several more times, but now after 40 years, I am reading it again with others and my focus is to determine Philip's reality and not impose my own on him.  If anyone is interested in joining the group, click on the book to the right and it will take you to the group.