The first Monday of the month seems to come around faster and faster, and it’s time for me to blog about the books I read the previous month. As usually happens, I have to divide the books I read the month before into two blog posts. No one wants to read a 2,000-word blog post.
I read approximately 6.5 books in January. Today’s blog post is about three of them. I’ll write about the other 3.5 books next Monday.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness and the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson
This book pleasantly surprised me. From the title, I wasn’t sure I’d like the book, but it’s an excellent piece of creative nonfiction.
I didn’t know the history of the World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition except that it was held in Chicago to mark the 400th anniversary of the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus’s.
Chicago was a rough-and-tumble place at that time, known primarily for the slaughterhouses located there. The city was in competition with Washington, DC as the site of the fair.
When Chicago was selected, the depth of the bedrock immediately became a source of concern for the fair’s planners, architects, and construction engineers. The weight of the fair’s proposed buildings and the poor soil were difficult to overcome with the construction equipment of the day. I found that aspect of the book to be fascinating.
The fair was planned, built, and held with a backdrop of mysterious disappearances and murders in Chicago. As the title suggests, that comes into play. The murderer is a physician.
The mandate the Chicago fair had was to “out-Eiffel Eiffel.” The grand Eiffel Tower was built as part of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, so the Chicago fair authorities were under a lot of pressure to construct something more amazing at their fair. That turned out to be the Ferris wheel, although that first Ferris wheel was made up of “cars” that could hold 20 passengers. The construction details about the Ferris wheel were interesting to me. Being the daughter of a structural steel draftsman, I grew up being exposed to discussions and an appreciation of such things.
Mingled in with the details of the construction and operation of the fair itself are tidbits of the personal lives of the people involved such as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who was also working on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina at the same time.
Reference is also made to some of the new inventions that were introduced to the public at the Chicago fair, including zippers, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Cracker Jacks snack, moving pictures, the vertical file, shredded wheat cereal, and Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix in a box.
A Minute to Midnight, by David Baldacci
A Minute to Midnight is David Baldacci’s latest novel and the second book in his Atlee Pine thriller series. I’ve only read five of Mr. Baldacci’s books, so I’ve missed a lot of his work. I missed the first book in this series, Long Road to Mercy. I’ll definitely read it before the third book in the series is published.
Atlee Pine is an FBI Special Agent. In A Minute to Midnight, she returns to her small hometown in Georgia to try to find answers to some nagging questions about her family. In the process of finding out some startling information about her parents, she is drawn into the investigation of several local murders. Who is the murderer? Are these murders – which are rare in this small town – somehow connected to Pine’s presence in the community?
Mr. Baldacci takes us on an eerie journey as he ties in the morbid history of the infamous Andersonville prisoner-of-war prison of American Civil War days. The prison’s cemetery plays a part in this novel, as that is where the murderer likes to leave his victims.
The Lies We Told, by Diane Chamberlain
In this novel, Diane Chamberlain takes us into a devastating hurricane on the North Carolina coast. There is massive flooding in the southeastern portion of the state, and we’re soon caught up in the lives of two sisters who just happen to be doctors. Each sister tries to do her part to help in the aftermath of the hurricane. Their duties take them to different directions and a breakdown of telephone communications results of their not being able to communicate for two long weeks.
The sisters have a history of secrets that date back to the day their parents were murdered. One sister desperately wants children, while the other one is wrapped up in her career and doesn’t let herself have dreams of a family of her own.
There is a helicopter crash and one of the sisters cannot be located at the crash scene. She’s found by a local citizen and taken to his home for recovery. There are undertones of trouble within that home, though. Tensions rise because the small rural community is cut off from the mainland by the flooding, and the wife’s baby is due at any time.
I got a little weary of the part of the book that gave details of rescue efforts, but I’m glad a stuck with it. The ending was worth the wait.
Since my last blog post
Since my blog post last Monday, I had a freak accident and broke my right tibia. Therefore, you won’t see me as much on social media as usual.
Until my next blog post
I’ll be seeing an orthopedic surgeon to see what the plan of treatment will be for the next months. I hope I’ll get to blog about the other books I read in January next Monday.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to The Cold, Cold Ground, by Adrian McKinty, a novel set in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you have productive creative time.
Thank you for reading my blog post. You have many things vying for your attention and time, so I appreciate the fact that you took time to read my blog today.