June 11th, 2013

Reading - La Liseuse

May Books, #16-22

16. Portrait In Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 347 pages, Mystery, Paperback, 2003 (In Death, Book 16). Another killer, targeting fresh-faced college youths, is sending a photographic portfolio of each murder to the press once he’s done with the victim. I loved the artistic themes with this book, and I loved the increased time spent outside of the case, on the people who solve the crime and their loved ones.

17. Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, 326 pages, Non-fiction, Hardback, 2012. This is a comprehensive, yet accessible, book on hallucinations of all sorts – visual, auditory, etc. We consider hallucinations to be exclusively for those with mental illness. But the brain is a complex organ, and it processes sensory data differently, depending on circumstance. It took a long time to get through this book; there is a lot of data here. But it was a fun, informative read.

18. Imitation In Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 342 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 2003 (In Death, Book 17). A killer is imitating some of the greatest serial killers of all time, starting with Jack the Ripper, and he is leaving behind notes taunting Lieutenant Eve Dallas, by name, to find him. I loved the story, but I found it hard to keep track of all the suspects.

19. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, 334 pages, Non-Fiction, Hardback, 2010. Mary Roach is my favorite non-fiction author, hands down. She brings a sense of humor along with her desire to give a complete picture, knowing how to explain for those of us without a background in science but not afraid to use to the big words when they are called for. This book, she takes on space, from its early beginnings to its possible future.

20. Divided In Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 357 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 2004 (In Death, Book 18). Lt. Eve Dallas is faced with a series of staged murders meant to throw suspicion on someone else. This was a nice, quick read.

21. The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven C. Schlozman, MD, 210 pages, Horror, Paperback, 2011. This is a tale of the zombie apocalypse from the viewpoint of a researcher trying to figure out how to stop the contagion. The few “autopsy drawings” are more horror comic than anatomical. But the concept and the disease vectors are very interesting.

22. Visions In Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 338 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 2004 (In Death, Book 19). The killer is brutalizing young women in parks, and then taking their eyes after they die. I’ve become quite attached to the main characters of this universe; I cried while Eve and her inner circle gathered and waited for news about one of their own at the hospital. And I certainly didn’t see the last chapter coming at all; quite a twist on the story.


It's not clear whether Joan Walsh's What's the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was is an attempt to shore up MSNBC watchers, get the last word in a family argument, or disguise an autobiography as journalistic sociology. Book Review No. 10 will explain each of those assertions.

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(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #29: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Number of pages: 535

Gilbert Markham, who narrates most of this story, discovers that there is a new tenant at nearby Wildfell Hall, the mysterious and reclusive Helen Graham. Although she is suspicious of him at first, she soon lets him into her life, but after he falls in love with her, she rejects his advances.

Eventually she gives him a diary, and the narrative switches to a story-within-a-story, as Helen's diary reveals her past. The rest of the review is behind the spoiler cut.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

It turns out that she previously fell in love with a man called Arthur Huntingdon, despite her parents wanting her to marry another man. She eventually marries Huntingdon, but it soon turns into a loveless affair, with Huntingdon often absent, and it becomes gradually obvious that Helen wanted to escape from the marriage, while receiving advances from a man called Mr. Hargreave. I found myself imagining them as the sort of married couple who would sleep in separate beds at night, and it seemed that she was only staying with him because she felt it was the right thing to do.

As you can probably guess, she eventually leaves Huntingdon, changing her second name to conceal her identity, and the story switches back to Markham's narrative. After Mr. Huntingdon dies later on in the book, Markham continues to pursue Helen, and the reader ends up rooting for them and hoping that they can live happily together.

I found this book to be less shocking or harrowing than books by Anne's sisters Emily and Charlotte (particularly Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights), though of course there were some moments of real drama within the story. At times the narrative, particularly the middle section with Helen's diary felt a bit too long-winded and slow-moving, but I found myself enjoying the book towards the end, and was pleased to see that things did end happily.

Next book: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Tube (John Lanchester)