The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our Book Club Selection for August!

The Devil in the White City had a super slow start for me, although we were warned at Book Club that this is somewhat how Erik Larson’s books all are…but then about a third of the way through, it got interesting.

The story is several stories in one, it is a book about the White City — the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a book about a devil — a psychopathic serial killer.  I enjoyed both stories here, but wasn’t interested with the author’s decision to try to integrate them into one book.  I think the historical pieces about the Chicago’s World’s Fair were great to have in the story to set the place and time, but having all the detail about how the World’s Fair came to be among the murdering madness of H.H. Holmes – it was a bit much.

The White City half certainly dealt with a fascinating cast of characters, architecture was skyrocketing in importance, and Chicago was a hotbed of architectural innovation. And since architects invariably deal with wealth, all the contradictions and surprises of the Gilded Age are brought to the fore.  And perhaps the devil half contained enough meat to reach the topmost tier of true-crime nonfiction.  The social changes seen by the poor — the gilded age’s dark lining, as it were — were just as important as the boardroom side of the story.

The Devil the the White City tells the story of the men and women who shed sweat and tears into making the Chicago Worlds Fair into the most spectacular event of the time period.  It also tells of the women whose blood was shed behind the curtains during the Chicago Worlds Fair – by the hands of the madman Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

We read this book for last months book club pick!  I didn’t necessarily dislike the story, although I did learn insight into who Alexander Hamilton was and became.  Although I think I was more drawn to his wife, Elizabeth and her story.  The title of the book puts it as plainly as anyone could of guessed, Hamilton has an affair which causes turmoil and ultimately ending in his death.  Hamilton came to America to pursue his education and along the way became a hero of sorts and one of the most controversial leaders of the American Revolution.

Then we get to learn more about his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, daughter of one of New York’s most exalted families—feisty, adventurous, and loyal to a fault.  When she met Alexander, she fell head over heels. She pursued him despite his illegitimacy, and loved him despite his infidelity.  In 1816 (two centuries ago), she shamed Congress into supporting his seven orphaned children.  Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton started New York’s first orphanage. The only “founding mother” to truly embrace public service, she raised 160 children in addition to her own.

The Hamilton Affair tells the tumultuous true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from tremulous beginning to bittersweet ending—his at a dueling ground on the shores of the Hudson River, hers more than half a century later after a brave, successful life.

 

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

 

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book was the best book I read in 2017 by far!  It is going to be my pick for book club in June!

Willow Havens, a 10 year old girl is a little obsessive over the fear that her mother will die.  Given the fact that her mother does happen to be the same age as most of our grandparents…Polly is anything but old and boring.

Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly.

Willow has no inkling to Polly’s past life before she came into the world.  It’s her goal to find out the clues before…you know…her mother dies! Willow wants to know – why did Polly leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

This is a very highly recommend read! I loved every second of it!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

My book club wanted to read a classic and this was what was chosen.  To many of us it was a struggle…

I had never read the actual version of this book, I had a ‘downed’ version for younger readers.  To my surprise, it was pretty challenging to read.  There was just SO MUCH DETAIL!  I do recommend readers to at least try to read any version of this classic tale, or even watch a film adaption!

VIA Goodreads –>

One of the most beloved books of all time, Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen’s most popular book- has been resonating with readers since it was first published in 1813 and has been adapated many times for television, movies, and books.

When headstrong and independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters, is required to find a wealthy husband, her encounter with the arrogant Mr. Darcy leads to one of the most entertaining and satisfying courtships ever imagined. Beyond the romance, Pride and Prejudice is a book full of humor and wit that is also a commentary on upper-class social manners at the turn of the nineteenth century.

 

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I am a fan of Charles Dicken’s amazing writing.  We read this for our Christmas theme for book club and it didn’t disappoint!  I read this as as e-book and highlighted many lines through out.  Dicken’s just has a way with words that is so poetic!

We discussed the essence of the actual cricket and the many meanings we thought it had through out the story for each character.  It was a great discussion!

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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Rating: ♥ ♥

This is satire piece with the portrayal of the human life from the viewpoint of Screwtape, a senior tempter for “Our Father Below”.  C.S. Lewis gives readers letters of correspondence from Screwtape to his newphew Wormwood who is a ‘novice’ demon in charge of securing the damnation of a young man.

The book was comical at times, but I really couldn’t get into it.  I stated at book club that I felt like the story was similar to the movie “Monsters Inc.” where there is an underworld of schooling these ‘demons’ go to and then are thrown up into the world of humans to get their ‘scare meters’ up to 100!

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

This was a book that was picked at our book club for a classic genre.  Via Goodreads – “When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin’s daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the confines of her domestic situation.

Aside from its unusually frank treatment of a then-controversial subject, the novel is widely admired today for its literary qualities. Edmund Wilson characterized it as a work “quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D. H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity.” Although the theme of marital infidelity no longer shocks, few novels have plumbed the psychology of a woman involved in an illicit relationship with the perception, artistry, and honesty that Kate Chopin brought to The Awakening.”

It was a very short story that abruptly ended and left you feeling like there should of been more.  But once the discussion started at book club, we all found that there was more to the book that met the eye which made for interesting perspectives on the matters.