vacation reading: a series of short reviews

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Still a good story! Spooky and short, it’s a bit reminiscent of Poe. Action-packed and efficient. I would not have sworn I had read this before, but now I recognize that I have. What a classic. I highly recommend this as a bang-for-the buck, action-packed, early sci-fi spookster with a bit of meditation on the human condition. Not sure if I should count this for the Classics Challenge as its a re-read. :-/


Worth Dying For by Lee Child. (audiobook) Surprisingly good as audio. I wasn’t sure. I’m such a BOOK purist that audio doesn’t always work for me; but it can’t be argued with on a road trip. Part of what made it special, too, is that I got to share it with the Husband, who doesn’t normally read. He got really into it, and we shared this suspenseful adventure together. That’s priceless.

Classic Jack Reacher! He’s such a Rambo. It’s a bit comical in the over-the-top violence and general bad-ass-ness, but I eat it up. It’s great fun. We both enjoy the slight absurdity of it, while also appreciating that we can count on this guy to get it right. And I finally begin to understand, at least a little bit, what was so frustratingly up-in-the-air at the end of 61 Hours. This may be my favorite Reacher novel yet.


The Ballad of Typhoid Mary by J.F. Federspiel. Opening quotation: “Life is strange and the world is bad.” (Thomas Wolfe) This sets the tone.

This is another creepy story. It’s historical fiction, and I have made a note in large letters to read up on the concept of Typhoid Mary and how much we know about her in the real world. She was a carrier of typhoid fever: she never got sick herself, but she made people around her sick, to the tune of several hundred at least. She was a cook, passionate about cooking for people, despite seeming to understand that she was killing them. She wasn’t a serial killer; she didn’t do it on purpose; she just didn’t let it stop her. What can we expect, in an age with poor understanding of hygiene and the spreading of disease, of a poor, uneducated, abused & orphaned young woman with no opportunities who suspects she might, in some way, be responsible for all these deaths around her? This was a fascinating read, and another very short one, too.


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks.This is a collection of case studies, or short stories, or essays, by a neurologist who also fancies himself a philosopher with literary leanings. It was quite attention-grabbing, and I had to keep putting it down to tell the Husband stories. Reading about brain injuries or anomalies of the brain is infinitely more interesting to me since I had my bad wreck and experienced some brain injury and healing of my own. The most interesting thing about a number of these cases is that these patients often don’t realize that anything is wrong!

Sacks’s approach is to contemplate the relationship between mind, body, and soul, which perhaps too few of our hard scientists do. It still ended up a bit on the hard-science side for me, perhaps; he made a number of references (unexplained) to other hard scientists, which made it a bit less accessible to us laypersons. But I loved the stories, the concepts, possibilities, complexities of the human mind.


In the Woods by Tana French. I’ve been hankering for more of Tana French since reading Faithful Place. I really fell for that Frank Mackey! This one opens with immediately recognizable poetry-in-prose, stark, gritty, and strongly Irish. Then I was disappointed to recognize a familiar story: grown male detective forced to confront unsolved childhood trauma of missing friend(s). Argh! But I guess why mess with a good thing…

Oh man. I stayed up nearly all night to finish this book. (and this, in a place where I LIKE to get up to watch the sun rise!) Same story my head; it did have its plot similarities but it was so gripping and spooky, like a ghost story, except even spookier because there was nothing supernatural at all, just creepily realistic human nature. I can’t wait to get the next book!

Side note: the beautiful, tragic, doomed, perfect friendship reminded me somewhat of One Day by David Nicholls, which had an entirely different tone to it.


Echo Park by Michael Connelly. (audiobook)Another highly enjoy audiobook! This one unabridged, thank goodness. (I realized AFTER we listened to Worth Dying For that it was abridged, and now have to go back and read the book.) Connelly, for all that he’s sort of stark and black-and-white, also strikes me as a poet; I love that Bosch “educates” his ice with vodka. That’s unique! I’ve read this book before, but it’s been long enough that I still enjoyed the mystery. I like all the background or frame elements in Connelly, like the jazz (and I like that the Library of Congress, and some clever librarian there, make an appearance in relation to the jazz), and the audio format took advantage and gave us a few jazz riffs in the background here and there, which was a nice touch. I hadn’t really thought about using music on on audiobook, and actually, there were some other snippets of music added that I didn’t think worked so well; but jazz behind Connelly is a strong choice.

Whatever You Say I Am (the life and times of Eminem) by Anthony Bozza.I put this in the same category as the Hefner biography, actually. These are some highly controversial men, offensive to many if not to all, who have impacted our world; without making a value judgment, I can say I find them interesting to read about. My feelings about Eminem are complicated, just like with Hefner. (I was talking with my Pops the other night along these lines and we put Reagan in the same category but that’s a whole new can of worms.) I haven’t finished this book, am less than halfway through, but I can say I really enjoy the way Bozza puts his reader fully into a time and place. For example, to help place us in the year in which Eminem was working to release his first album, he gives us a full rundown of the musical hits and award winners of the year in various categories, as well as what movies and television were hot. Now, I’m not generally all that up to date on pop culture, but this worked for me; it really evoked a time in my life. I think that works for all of us, because isn’t sound or music second only to smell as a mnemonic? Doesn’t hearing a particular song take to you a time and place? At any rate, I’m enjoying this biographical study of a controversial figure.

And finally, By-Line: Ernest Hemingway. As I’ve said, I’m enjoying reading Hemingway’s usual tone and style, that I know so well, used in journalism. I hadn’t read any of his journalism before. I guess the nonfiction I’ve read would be Death in the Afternoon and A Moveable Feast, and then all that fiction that’s so heavily autobiographical. Any Hemingway I can get, I like.

I’ll keep you up to date on the books I still have to finish; and I have a few Maisie books waiting for me. I might finally be caught up!

8 Responses

  1. [...] rereads don’t count.) So far I have very much enjoyed Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Although I’m behind, being 20% through the challenge and 25% through the calendar, I’m [...]

  2. The Ballad of Typhoid Mary by J.F. Federspiel sounds really good to me. I really enjoyed Deadly by Julie Chibbaro, on the same subject.

  3. [...] Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson) – pagesofjulia [...]

  4. [...] The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson [...]

  5. [...] family he forms towards the end was the one I mourned the most, knowing he must move on as always. Worth Dying For also had very high stakes that upped the tension a notch for me. I guess those are my [...]

  6. [...] Worth Dying For: A frightened town in Nebraska that wants Reacher to leave immediately obviously really needs him to stay and fight the bullies. [...]

  7. [...] The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson [...]

  8. [...] let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line. I loved Tana French’s In the Woods and Faithful Place, and as I plan an upcoming trip to Ireland (my first), it seemed natural to pick [...]

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