Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review Thursday - 10/10

It's that time again!

I can't remember where I got the recommendation for The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, but I was assuming that the book had something to do with the Chicago World's Fair and magic and I thought it would be interesting. It turns out that the book is about the Chicago World's Fair AND a serial killer from the Chicago area. Just another non-fiction to add to my list!

It turns out that this was a great book and the stories were intertwined in a way that they were both relevant to each other. As the planning began for the World's Fair, Daniel Hudson Burnham was fighting to have the fair be everything that he thought it could be and to outdo the previous fair in Paris. He brought in all the great architects and engineers from the nation to create the buildings and the fairgrounds.

At the same time, Henry H. Holmes was building a torture hotel just west of the fairgrounds. In later years, he wrote his biography and I think that Larson got many of his facts from the biography. There was a lot of information given about Holmes' childhood and how he came to be in Chicago when the planning began for the fair. I think that once the location was announced, he began building his hotel. He was a charmer and many women that he came into contact with ended up disappearing.

It was a little shocking at how easy it was for Holmes to cheat his way out of paying for anything during construction. And knowing that this occurred in the 1890's, it was not hard to imagine the number of identities he obtained and how often he changed his own. There was quite a bit about the Fair itself and the number of items that were introduced at the fair that are still around today - Cracker Jacks, shredded wheat, pancake mix - and the big attraction to rival the Eiffel Tower that was revealed at the previous fair in France. It didn't take me long to figure out what that attraction was before it was revealed in the book.

I thought this was a really good book. It did get a little heavy during the talk of the architecture at the fair and I think if I had pictures in front of me of the layout of the fairgrounds and of the buildings themselves it could have been more helpful, but that is hard to have with an audio book.

Murder of a Sweet Old Lady is the second book in the Scumble River series by Denise Swanson. It's the end of the Skye's first year as psychologist of the town's school district and she is glad that summer is on it's way. It will give her more time to spend with her grandma who has recently hired a live in nurse to help. Then, Skye shows up to an seemingly empty house only to discover her grandma has passed away.

Skye has to investigate her own family to find out who has killed her otherwise healthy grandma. Some members of her family are downright crazy. Her twin cousins kidnap her and one of her aunts start threatening her to stop investigating and leave well enough alone.

Being the second novel in the series, Swanson is able to build on the characters a little and has started adding a few new ones. Sort of how things would happen when you move home after so many years away or just being the new person in town.
Overall, this is a nice read for those that like mysteries, but not a lot of gore.

What are you reading?


Cathy said...

I read Devil in the White City a few years ago and thought it was wonderful. I know that my hard copy version did have all sorts of drawings and layouts in it to help keep track. I loved that it was a non-fiction work that read as well as any historical fiction novel would have. If you enjoyed it, I would also recommend Isaac's Storm, same author. I live in Texas and have always been fascinated with our history. Isaac's Storm deals with a major hurricane that nearly took Galveston off the map.

PunkiePie (Jen) said...

I am reading in the car "Material Witness" by Vannetta Chapman and started on my Kindle "The Saddlemaker's Wife" by Earlene Fowler.

Jennifer said...

Oh, that was from me! Great book, but I agree - a little heavy on the architecture stuff at times. Have I also told you about Loving Frank? Can't remember the author but it was good too and not as heavy in the architecture. Also Chicago, but later - about Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress.