Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

  


Goodreads Overview:

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. 

Jacque's Review:

Several of Larson's books have been recommended to me over the years. I was going to start with Dead Wake, which is about the sinking of the Lusitania, but my brother has read both and said to start with The Devil in the White City.

This is a true story that is so unbelievable that you would think it was a James Patterson murder mystery. I was not aware of any of the events that surrounded the Chicago World's Fair, so this was a complete shock to me. The fact that they had to pull off such an enormous construction project in such a short period of time would be dauting enough. Add in the poor soil, wind, and the Chicago winters and most people would have chalked it up as impossible. Through sheer determination, they were able to achieve and even exceed expectations.

I found the storyline regarding the construction and the fair to be enlightening, but at times it was a bit much. The detailed descriptions of the landscape, types of plants, architecture, etc. could have been streamlined to make it a more entertaining read. The chapters about Dr. Holmes, on the other hand, kept the pages turning. The man was supposedly handsome, charming, and everyone was drawn to him like a magnet. He was a smooth talker and conned his way into or out of just about any situation. The elaborate scheme he developed to lure in and murder his victims is unimaginable. If he simply weren't so greedy, he could have gotten away with everything. 

I ended up giving this book 3 stars simply because it dragged at times. I have heard that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are working to turn this book into a Hulu series. It has been discussed for quite some time, with a number of potential actors linked to the project. I think it would be a FANTASTIC movie or series, but I'm sure it will be very costly to make, which is probably why it has been kept on the back burner for so long. Replicating all of the buildings for the fair will not be an easy task, but it will be dazzling to see if it is eventually brought to life.  In this case, I think the movie has potential to be even better than the book.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Book Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
Natalie Collins hasn't heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood's guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they're prohibited from contact with the rest of the world--no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it's a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister's cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she's been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she's about to learn that Wisewood won't let either of them go without a fight.

TEE'S THOUGHTS

This book centers around Natalie, a successful career-driven businesswoman, and her sister Kit, who seems unable to get her life together. Kit goes to Wisewood, a retreat on a private island of the coast of Maine to try and get her life on track, but basically disappears. After six months of not hearing from Kit, Natalie goes to Wisewood to tell Kit a secret that is threatening to get out, but once she arrives at the retreat she realizes that Wisewood is not exactly what it seems.

The story in This Might Hurt unfolds with the POVs of mainly Natalie and Kit, with the occasional sprinkle of some of the other characters in the story. It toggles between the present and the past, to get to the backstory and how it relates to what is going on in their lives now.

I will admit, I neither liked nor disliked the main characters in the book, however, I did enjoy the story. The writing was very engaging with plenty of surprises and twists, making this psychological thriller one that will keep you turning pages. I had no problem following the dual timelines of the story or staying entertained.

If you are a lover of thrillers. mysteries or cult books give This Might Hurt a try, it is a riveting tale of family abuse and its long-term effects.

Thank you to Net Galley and Berkley Publishing for the advance copy. This Might Hurt will publish February 22