Three Books I Read in January 2020

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.

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

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.

A Minute to Midnight, by David Baldacci

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 Lies We Told, by Diane Chamberlain

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.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Camcorder? Not.

Martin Luther King Day is celebrated today in the United States. It is one of our movable holidays, meaning it doesn’t always fall on January 20. It is celebrated on the third Monday of January.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. This holiday in Dr. King’s memory and honor is a day on which Americans are encouraged to make a difference, just as Dr. King demonstrated through his life and example that one person can indeed make a difference.

Countless blog posts will be written today about Martin Luther King Day. Not being an expert on Dr. King, I chose to shine a light today on something well off the beaten path. I came to today’s topic in an unusual way.

Camcorders

I read that it was on January 20, 1982 that five corporations agreed to work together to develop the camcorder. When I planned my blog’s editorial calendar for 2020, I thought I might be able to work something out about that for today’s blog post; however, when it came time to expound on that, I found conflicting information. Since my main interest was the era of 8mm home movies and not the camcorder, it really didn’t matter.

Home Movies

Thinking about the advent of the camcorder brought back some warm and special memories of the days before that piece of photographic equipment arrived on the scene. I’d already committed to write about home movies in conjunction with the camcorder topic, so I’m going with that today.

When I was a child in the 1950s, my father had a movie camera that used 8mm film. The film came in round tin containers. It wasn’t cheap to buy the film and get it developed, so Daddy was extremely frugal in taking movies. It wasn’t unusual for him to start a roll of movie film with the January birthdays of my sister and myself and finish the roll on Christmas Day the following December.

By the time the roll of film was developed and we gathered round at night with all the lights off to watch this new “home movie” on the large and heavy projector which showed the movie on a grainy  screen affixed to a tripod, it was like taking a step back in history because a year had passed since the opening scenes of the movie had been taken. 

Occasionally, something would go awry with the film or the projector. The film would stop moving through its various sprockets and within a couple of seconds the heat of the projector’s light would burn a hole in the film if Daddy didn’t get it turned off fast enough.

Photo by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash

Daddy isn’t in any of our home movies because he took all the movies. It’s a wonder the rest of us weren’t permanently blinded by the rack of lights he bought in order to make movies inside the house. Like with the flashbulbs on a still camera, we’d see spots for a fminutes after the movie camera lights were turned off.

That was life in the 1950s and 1960s. Technology gradually progressed so that a rack of four or five blinding lights was no longer necessary to take home movies.

In this day and time, when we can take videos on the spur of the moment with our cell phones, it seems like ancient history to recall the excitement cause by the old home movies and the invention of the camcorder

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I finished listening to The Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic and Madness and the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. It’s about the World’s Fair:  Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the progression of inventions and the engineering aspect of how things work.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog post. You have many things vying for your attention and your time, so I appreciated the fact that you took time to read my blog today.

Let’s continue the conversation

Did you grow up with the blinding lights of home movies? Don’t tell me I’m the only one!

Janet