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

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

Room

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
Ulysses
Atlas Shrugged
The Da Vinci Code
Twilight



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.