Category Archives: Bookies Review

Ladies Night by Mary Kay Andrews

1c

Grace Stanton is living the life.  With her life style blog bringing in thousands of views a day and advertisers lining up to be a part of it, as well as a super hot husband… well, what more could she want?

Then one evening she catches that sweet husband with her so-called trusted assistant and the next thing you know Grace has driven his sports car into the pool.  Seeking sanctuary at her mother’s house while she clears her head, Grace learns that hell hath no fury does not only apply to women….

Suddenly Grace finds her bank accounts closed, and her blog passwords changed.  As Grace’s husbands name is on everything, he is shutting her life down one gold card at a time and now Grace is left with the clothes on her back and the change in her pocket.

Forced by the divorce judge to attend mandatory “divorce recovery” sessions weekly, Grace finds herself among a group of disgruntled women… surprisingly all sent to this same quirky divorce recovery by the same judge… something does not seem to be on the up and up. As the women in this group start to bond they find they have a lot in common and “Ladies Night” comes out of the ashes of their messy messed up lives and something new begins to grow…

is it hope?

 

 

 I so enjoyed this read!  Light and funny, Grace is a woman who has been wronged.  As a blogger myself… I can only imagine what it would be like to lose my rights to my own site…. grrrr :razz: 

Mary Kay Andrews writes Grace as a strong female character who gets knocked down, but finds her way back up.  In a fun fast paced read that will have you laughing and cheering, Ladies Night is Women’s Chick Lit at its finest.  Grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair!

Bookies Thoughts:

The Bookies reviewed this book for our November read.  We had a lot of fun setting up our food and drinks as the “Sandbox”, the name of Grace’s moms bar.  For the most part, the girls really enjoyed the book giving it an above average score overall. 

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I made the corn crab chowder they described in the book

7b

MILKWEED By Jerry Spinelli

1a5

Warsaw 1939,  a young boy, no more than 8 years old wanders the streets alone, stealing food to survive and sleeping wherever he can feel safe for the night.  He knows not who he is or where he came from, and when is asked what he is called honestly replies, “Stopthief” as that is all anyone has ever called him.

When he meets a group of boys who are much like him, they hie our at night in a bombed out barber shop, stealing food by day.  People ask him, “Are you a Jew?  A Gypsy?  A filthy son of Abraham?”    He eventually is given a name by the boys he hangs out with, “Misha”.  He likes it and the story they gave him as well about his family.  The boys watch out for the “Jackboots.” the Nazi’s who come to town to gather up the Jews, and destroy any happiness.  Misha would like to be a Jackboot with their shiny boots and big tanks.  When he grows up, that’s what he wants to be.

Misha makes a friend with a little girl in town names Janina.  She is 6 years old and has lovely things and Misha enjoys visiting her.  When Janina and her family are forced to move into the newly created ghetto, Misha thinks it is a game and goes along.  When a wall is built high around the ghetto so no one can get out, Misha finds a hole in the wall that he is the only one small enough to use, and he goes out and steels food as he pleases and brings it back in to Janina and her family.  But times are changing and the bread shelves are empty, and the ladies with the fox fur who used to be easy to rob with their large boxes of sweets are no longer able to be found.

As Misha leans more about his surroundings and what is really happening, he no longer wishes to be a Jackboot.  Not at all.

We chose this book for our Bookies book club read for March.  Our plan was to choose a YA book to read as a group.  This is the book that was nominated and I found myself thinking this is not what I was considering for YA.  Yet, having never read Spinelli before I had no idea what an experience I was in for. 

MILKWEED is YA like Book Thief is YA.  They are written with a younger reader in mind, yet they are written on important and powerful topics.  There is no paranormal activity, no witches or werewolves, or vampires in MILKWEED.  Instead, there is young, dirty boy.

MILKWEED is a young orphaned boys view of the Holocaust and the innocence of not knowing what is happening, and never really fully understanding until many years later the full impact of what he had been through.  Living in a world where you were shot at, called “filthy pig” and seen friends die, was the only world Misha knew. 

Even as I type this I am still in awe of the power of this little book.  AT 208 pages, you do not need a lot of time to read it, but I do recommend that you do read it.  I will definitely be looking for more of Spinelli.

 

 

Bookies Thoughts:

The Bookies had a good discussion over this book.  It definitely left us with quite a bit of things to think about as the book focused around the Holocaust, Jewish people, hunger, and the crippling effects of having no hope.  For all of us, this was our first Spinelli (speaking for myself, it will not be my last). 

We discussed the value of a Holocaust book being written and marketed to 5th – 9th grade.  We appreciated the value of a book to this age group on this topic but felt for the younger end they would need a follow-up with a parent to have questions answered as it does not go into much about the reason for the Holocaust or explain much about why people died.  Of course this same line of discussion led to the wondering if a generation that has grown up surrounded by violence on tv, at the movies, and in video games would get the book and understand this was reality. 

Overall the Bookies gave it an average rating.  Some found the ending to be not to their liking.  And of course, we had food… and lots of choices from the book as in the beginning Misha and the boys he hung around with stole from stores, gardens, and people’s homes, and food was plentiful.

1a

 

The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Bookies Review)

Victoria was one of those kids who fell through the cracks of the foster care system.  Placed time and again in homes that did not fit for her, or were flat-out… abusive.  The Foster Care program felt it was Victoria, she was labeled as difficult and uncooperative… and so Victoria continued moving home to home until at 18 years of age she outgrew the foster care age -

and then was on her own.

One home however, haunts her dreams in a painful loss sort of way and if filled with the “what if’s” of life.  When Victoria was placed with Elizabeth a woman who grew up surrounded by flowers and their meanings , Victoria soon learned the secret language as well…. aster meaning patience, honeysuckle for devotion, plum meaning keep your promises….

But a poor decision leads to an unthinkable tragedy and Victoria once again shuts down, holding within her secrets and not trusting anyone with her heart.  She finds herself in a world of flowers and in almost an unreal way she flourishes, knowing exactly what those looking for the right bouquet want and need… and while this keeps her busy and is fulfilling…

she still longs for what she came so close to having if not for her secret, and Victoria is about to learn that your past has a way of finding you… and that isn’t always a bad thing…

 

My book club the Bookies chose this book for our November read.  On synopsis alone, I wasn’t sure about this one… I had some sort of 70′s flower child image in my head, however the girl who recommended this one is usually spot on with her book suggestions and she had already read it and said it was wonderful. 

The Language Of Flowers, as it turns out is wonderful and an incredible discussion book for reading groups.  The beauty we found within the pages of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s story line here was well worth discussing.  While Victoria is not always likeable, that makes the story even deeper.  She is flawed.  She will annoy the crap out of you (and did).  AND her decisions do not always fall back on her child hood and the “oh look what she has been through though!”  My response to that is, “yeah well, we have all been through stuff.”

However….

Victoria is three-dimensional, while you can not put her on a pedestal, you also can not fully dismiss her.  She makes you want to know more about the way she thinks and the underlining flow of flowers and their language is not only fun but interesting.  I highly recommend this read not only for flower lovers but also for discussion groups as there is so many ways to discuss this book further.

 

BOOKIES THOUGHTS

The Bookies over all rated this one a steady 4 out of 5.  While we differed somewhat on how we felt about Victoria, we still enjoyed the read and the characters.  The flower discussion was good and I had printed out lists for everyone of Victoria’s Dictionary Of Flower, found on-line and created by the author.

Fresh flowers of course adorned our get together as well as flower book marks.  Our food for the review looked like this:

 

The foods served were some mentioned in the book.  I went with Zucchini Linguini because Zucchini starts out as a flower. ;)

The Language of Flowers makes for a wonderful discussion book for book clubs. 

Also submitted to Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking Meme.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (A Bookies Review)

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love, family, and faith.

Temple Garments, referred to as "secret underwear" in the book, were work under all clothing at all times. Even when you went to bed.

Members of Joseph F. Smith's family, including his sons and daughters, as well as their spouses and children, circa 1900.

I thought I knew what Polygamy was.  I knew there were those who believe in plural wives.  I haven’t watched it, but know there is a tv series right now called Sister Wives, about a man and his four wives.

Really I had no idea.

There’s something I really love about Historical Fiction.  I love the facts I find within the pages.  The 19th Wife is a fictional story, however woven through the chapters is a true story, the story of Ann Eliza Young the all too real woman who was married to Brigham Young and made the bold move to separate herself from what everyone in her circle believed.  From the very first pages I was hooked into something new, and different, and felt like I had walked into a world I knew little of.

A large part of this book is told through Jordan’s perspective.  Jordan is one of the “lost boys.”  As you come to find out, the lost boys are what is referred to when a boy in his early teens usually is excommunicated from the home and dumped out into the world to fend for themselves. 

Why?

The crude explanation is, this leaves more women to go around.  With the births being almost equally divided into boys and girls, and men are expected to have at least three wives… the numbers just do not add up. 

Although Jordan’s life has not been easy (there are some horrifying early years stories of what he did to survive), he is now at peace with where he is at in life and who he has become.  Or… so he thinks.

When Jordan’s mother is jailed and possibly going to be executed for a crime he does not believe she committed, Jordan sets his own judgements aside, and walks back into the life he never thought he would return to, to try to figure out what really happened.

The result is a twisting, informative, and all so close walk into the lives of those surrounded by what they believe to be God’s truth.  I personally, found it fascinating, like walking on the edge of something dangerous that I did not understand, but knowing I was safe as all was locked in the pages of the book.

I personally think this makes for an incredible discussion for a book group.  There are discussion group questions in the back of the book and out group made it through about 4 of them.  Our conversation flowed without the guidance of questions, facts and fiction mixed in our voices, from those who were appalled and did not enjoy the book (very few), to those of us who found it interesting and fascinating (the majority). 

Honestly, as we reviewed it, I felt this is what a book discussion is meant to be… we were bursting to discuss this book. 

As for the food:

"book lovers never sleep alone"

Had to use these napkins!

I missed some of the food pics.  There was also a delicious looking fruit salad. 

In the end, out of the eighteen women who sat down and reviewed this book, the average rating (scale of 1-5), the book rated a strong 4.  We felt it was very discussion worthy, informative and really… I could go on and on with this review … but yeah…. it has to end sometime.  :D

I think people who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy this book. 

Looking for some other thoughts on it?  here are some awesome book bloggers and their thoughts on The 19th Wife:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Caribou’s Mom

Devourer Of Books

Reviews By Lola

 

The Making Of A Book Club

Stick around here long and you will hear about my book club the Bookies.  If you have been visiting me for any amount of time already, feel free to insert your eye roll here.  :razz:

This time you can blame Shirley at My Bookshelf who asked me, “Would you do a post about keeping book clubs energized and enthusiastic with some tips, please?

You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to talk about book club!  Any time you can bring books and people together… I am in.  :D

To start with let me give you my credentials.  I am pretty much just like you.  I am a book lover who loves to read and loves to talk books.  The Bookies started in fall of 2001, of course at the time… I did not know when I placed a note by the time clock at Wal-Mart that I was starting a book club and anyone could join, that it would turn into The Bookies. 

That first book I posted as a “read this and meet me here on blah blah day at blah blah time” was Dance Upon The Air by Nora Roberts.

I posted the note three weeks in advance and then I waited.  No one approached me.  No one asked me about the book group I was going to start.  The evening of the event, I told my husband I was going to see if anyone showed up but had an idea I would just be sitting alone in a pizza shop having a diet Pepsi with my book.  I would be home probably in thirty minutes chalking this one up as a fail.

Turns out…

I was not alone.

That evening Angie (my friend who runs the blog By Book Or By Crook) and Sandy joined me to discuss out book.  That day was August 14th, 2001.  We had a blast, we picked a second book, Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard was that book.

That second meeting was scheduled at the same place, same time, for September 11th, 2001.  Yes.  9-1-1.  That fateful day in history and I went to the meeting just in case someone showed up and as it turned out, all three of us came.  We shared in our sorrow over the days horrifying events and we reviewed our book.

Through the early years we grew to 8 members and remained that way until about year 5.  Around then we had a growth spurt that took us to 14 members and by year 8 we had 18 members.  During those growth spurts was when I started worrying about how to manage such a large group keeping us all on the book topic and keeping it interesting… that’s when we got creative.

Being such a large group it was hard to find restaurants to accommodate us and if we did find one, I worried that our laughter or our discussion might be disturbing the other patrons of the restaurant.  When we took turns opening out homes we decided to potluck food around the theme of the book.  Not only did this stretch our creative thinking, it bonded us through the food to the books.

Another element we added was visual props surrounding the book discussion.  A few of the ladies in the group would bring pictures or their laptops to show articles that had to do with the books topics.  For instance in a book we read once dealt with a lot of Victorian themed items.  Pictures were brought of what these items were and what they looked like.  More recently we had a power point of shoes, Italian foods and scenes of Italy played during our book review (Thank you Adraina Triginiani!)

In 2006 we added the July Queen Event where we do not choose a book to read for the month of July however we meet and grill on the lake either at a members home or at a park and we all dress in formal wear and try for Queen of the Bookies.  (The Queen breaks all book choice ties and chooses a place to meet if we are undecided during her rein).  This idea came from a book club read called Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King.

Bookies Queen Event 2011

Bookies Queen Event 2010

Bookies Queen Event 2009

Bookies Queen Event 2008

Yearly in December we have a Christmas party, do a gift exchange and read a Christmas related book. If a book we read turns into a movie we try to attend as  a group.  We even have a Bookies Bucket List – things we would like to do as a book club.

We made a Facebook page to communicate the book, the food, where we are meeting, etc…

We have few rules.   We realize that life is busy and I would much rather have someone come and hang out with us even if they did not have time to read the book. As of July 2013 we added the rule that you needed to attend at least 6 meetings a year to hold your Bookie spot as currently we have a wait list of people wanting to get into our group.  We also implemented that we will not (in the future) go over the count of 16 Bookies.  It just gets too hard to find places big enough for us to meet, especially during the winter when we have to be inside.

Keep it fun, keep it interesting.  We grew together.  Start out with books, with food, with great conversation.  See which way your group grows.  Every book group is different but they can all be unique and fun. 

Currently Bookies is at 18 members.  We dont always all make every meeting, but we are really good at communicating our thoughts on the book and rating through emails, texting, and facebook.  I think the fact that we connect so well helps keep us a strong group.  We care about one another.  We celebrate birthdays and babies.  We hang together when someone if going through something rough.

Through our 11 years of existence we have had our growing pains and made it through.  It is not always easy to organize – but it is always fun :D  A group of motley crew people brought together…

by a book.  :D

I would love to hear about your book groups!  Or if you have questions I did not answer, leave them in the comments and I will respond. 

Anyone ever feel like clocking a character? The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson/Richard DiLallo

Christmas is in the air, and along with the smells of gingerbread, pine, and holly, there also seems to be something else… a feeling of…

magic.

Gaby Summerhill is filled with a sense of something big is about to happen and through a series of videos to her grown children, 54-year-old Gaby shares a special message:

She is getting married.

Yes, Gaby, widowed for three years now,  is asking all her children to come back home to where they had all their family memories and join her as she marries….

well.. that’s the fun isn’t it?

Three men have asked for Gaby’s hand and she is thrilled with the asking, but nobody, including the groom himself knows who will be Gaby’s husband until the wedding on Christmas.

Gaby feels that by generating this excitement it will create an atmosphere worthy of coming home too, and that is what she wants most of all… her grown children, busy with their own lives and the chaos within, have grown apart from what Gaby knew was once a tight knit family.  Perhaps they will come to be together for Christmas… for a wedding…

 

Hmph.  Every December our book club (yay Bookies!) chose a Christmas style read for our December gathering.  In past posts I have mentioned that I find these books almost impossible as they are usually too light and perfectly (gag me) fluffy to get a real good read out of them. 

I really thought we were going to be safe with Patterson. 

Personally, I liked Gaby’s grown kids… each dip we had into their lives made me wanting to know more, Claire and her abusive drug addicted husband and troubled teen son Gus, Emily the lawyer go getter who runs from one project to another and has an adoring handsome doctor husband, Lizzie who’s husband Mike is a sweetheart who also has cancer, and son Seth who is a writer and lives his wonderful girlfriend Andie.  Each of their stories could have been a book in itself…

But no, the story was about Gaby who had three men on the hook and thought it to be fabulous.  My thoughts and the thoughts of the majority of the Bookies was what a selfish woman.  Gaby was a little too self-centered for my liking.  While the book was meant to be a sweet Christmas read of family coming home, I never got the sense that coming home was hard on anyone.  There was no conflict between the siblings or Gaby that made the pull of the mystery wedding a necessity.  I got the feeling that they would have come home for Gaby’s if she was mailing the mailman while standing in the front yard (and seriously, I am surprised he also was not a contender…. :razz:

Over all the book read like a rush.  It felt hurried and pieced together, a dabble into this life, a dabble into that.  In the end, while I have to admit it was a lot better than some of our Christmas reads we have had in the past, it was not  a book I would recommend to others.

*To give you my true feelings… I actually went to Wal-Mart looking for a pinata that could represent Gaby… I thought it would be fun to smack “her” with a stick.  Lucky for her, I could not find one that fit the character – however I do reserve to hold on to the pinata plan for a future read.  :razz:

Overall the Bookies rated this on a scale of 1 -5, a 2.8.  Most of the ratings were low but a couple hit middle 3′s and we agreed that as a Christmas read – we have read a lot worse.

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include The Christmas Wedding

I purchased this book from Amazon.com

Bookies thoughts on Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff (and a picture of our very own Cleopatra!)

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316001929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316001922

Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; assassination was a family specialty. Cleopatra appears to have had been with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and–after his murder–three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends.

This was our book club read while I was in Honduras.  I had the best of intentions to read it before I left, but life happenings, a very sick dog, and hard decisions made that… ummm… not happen.  Upon my return from Honduras I connected with a couple of the girls in the group and they shared not only their thoughts… but also pictures!!!

We were all surprised by the role of women in Egypt during this time.  They had so many rights and were held in such high esteem.  They were able to own land and many riches and sometimes the husbands were the ones left at home weaving by the loom.  We wondered what created the shift in our culture to relegate women as so far beneath men that we had to struggle in the last century to get some of our rights back.  One of the questions in the discussion guide asked if women could ever go backward in rights again and all of us believed it would not happen to us again. 

While we still do not know a lot about Cleopatra even after reading the book, what we did learn was fascinating.  She was very rich and slightly manipulative.  She was charming and even (look at the pictures in the book) kind of ugly. 

The Bookies advice to me.. dont bother reading it.   Most of the girls did not finish it, finding it hard to get into.  However I was also told it is not as long as it looks.. the last 60 pages are pictures. 

Overall with 8 Bookies in attendance, the book rating was way below average.

The food however – was fun:

A sampling of appetizers!

Fig Newtons because Cleopatra called for sweet figs on the day she committed suicide and also Greek yogurt because that is just fun. :)

and finally – Amy was our very own Cleopatra:

Amy - really gets into the book club book

Which leads me to burst with pride for our AWESOME book club!  As I sit here and write this review I am prompted to jot down a few (ok maybe more than a few) reasons I enjoy the Bookies so much:

1.  We go the extra mile to make the reviews interesting

2.  Special event months like our Summer Queen event, Classic Hat and Read month, and Christmas party

3.  Digging deep for bonus info on books and authors

4.  We value each others opinions

5.  We agree to occasionally disagree :razz:

6.  Food that is prompted by the books we read

7.  An amazing and passionate group of girls that have turned from a group of book lovers to friends

8.  Stretched to read books and genres I may not have chosen but found out I enjoyed

9.  It’s ok to not read the book.  :shock:

10.  10+ years of Bookies, started in August 2001 with 3 girls and now 10 years later we have 14. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (A Bookies Review)

Mr. and Mrs. Bennett have a houseful.  Five children, all girls… well, women really, living in a home in Georgia England during the Regency period. 

Of the five, Jane is the oldest and the beautiful one, Elizabeth is the fast tongued smart one, Mary is bookish, Kitty is immature and Lydia… oh Lydia is the wild one.

Mr. Bennett is a pretty well put together man especially considering how over the top his wife, Mrs. Bennett can be.  Set firmly on doing all she can to help her daughters marry and marry well, Mrs. Bennett will stop short of nothing… even to the length of sending Jane by horse to visit Mr. Darcy during a rain storm in hopes that she would become ill and have to stay at his home until she is better. 

Her plan… works to that extent… but not all is she had hoped.  ;)

Elizabeth is the one who comes to Jane’s rescue, appalled at her own mothers behavior she nurses Jane back to health,avoiding as much as she can the man who annoys her so much, Mr. Darcy himself. 

What follows is a story that is described as a comedy of sorts, of sisters and men in their lives, and really… Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Maybe... I should watch the movie...

This is my first time reading Pride and Prejudice.  My book club started a tradition many years ago that every October we would read a classic.  Back then, I was not thrilled by the idea, now… I love it.  This gives us all a chance to experience one of the greats… we do not always like them, but they have always been pretty fun to review.

My personal thoughts on the read were I really enjoyed it.  While some in the group struggled with the language, I enjoyed figuring it out as I went.  The words are different than we use them, and it was fun to see words used differently in sentences and while they were a mouthful to read.. they made sense. 

As much as the Bookies loved Mr. Darcy, I was odd man out on this one.  I realized he changes throughout the book… but his snottiness (hoo yeah I said it!)in the beginning especially towards Elizabeth rubbed me wrong and I still wasn’t over it at the close of the read.  I know this is supposed to be one of the great love stories… and I agree it was a good read, I just didn’t really like Darcy.  Yes I know I am in the minority… but remember I do not read romance reads. :D

I did however really enjoy the book and am so happy to now be able to say I have read Pride and Prejudice!  The Bookies had a good discussion over the book, the era, The Bennett’s, fun with the language, and overall it rated a 3.5 rating out of 5. 

We did dress up as we like to do for our Classic read – hats were requested, but you could go further with the look if you wanted to. 

I wanted to.  :D

Here are a few pics of our evening:

The Bookies in attendance

A little candid pencil shot while we were setting up for the pictures

Kaydi wore her grandmothers wedding dress!

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include Pride and Prejudice

I purchased my copy of Pride and Prejudice at Barnes and Noble

The Devil In The White City by Eric Larson

When Daniel Hudson Burns was asked to oversee the architecture and development of the World’s Fair, Burns seen this as a way to really make a name for himself.  Painstakingly he hired and fired… working hard to get it right to create what would put Chicago on the map… an amazing attraction to celebrate the anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America that would draw people to it from all over the world.

Not too far from the fairs planned location was H.H. Holmes.  Holmes had a dark side that was easily masked by his piercing blue eyes, pleasant demeanor, fine style of dress, and Holmes just had an uncanny way with people.  Holmes was a swindler, and a murderer, and actually created a home (later known as the Murder Castle) that was designed to trap people, and hide the bodies – or in some cases, Holmes would plant the bodies of those he had killed so they would be found and be seen as having had an “accident.”  As many of these people had trusted Holmes, he had taken out insurance policies on them as “family members” and would collect once the bodies were recovered.

While Burns worked at creating the famous Fair, Holmes made plan of how he would lure people from the fair into his many traps….

Told in alternating chapters between the making and creating of the World’s Fair, and the coinciding happenings that surrounded the man named Holmes, this non fiction read will capture you and not let you go.  This well written books reads like a smoothly flowing fiction book, but the fact is – it is not fiction.

I poured over the pages of this book as you could almost feel the tension churning…. first the start of the fair, then over to Holmes as he makes his way into peoples hearts (I am reminded of Jeffrey Daumer), then back to what is happening with the fair, the architecture, the details – all make for fascinating reading.  Did you know the first Ferris wheel was built at this fair?

Chicago newspaper with layout of Holmes "murder castle" as it became to be known. Designed with secret rooms, an air tight vault with gas injection and a shoot that led to a basement filled with lye.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.  When I was first introduced to this book last month during book club I was amazed I had never heard of this true story of murder and mayhem surrounding the Chicago World Fair.  In fact, honestly… I knew little of the fair.  Upon reading this book and taking a survey of our book club – no one in our group had heard of the missing people surrounding the fair or the man called Holmes.

Each car held 60 people...a total capacity of 2,160 riders at a timer the man called Holmes.

But before you set your creep factor on high, know that there is more to this book than the spooky Mr. Holmes with the killer looks… and apparently, killer instincts. 

The historical facts in this book are … well, amazing.  If you have never read up on the Chicago World fair there is so much more than meets the eye.  This fair was responsible for new architectural creations never heard of prior.    The first Cracker Jacks were at the fair, also new was Aunt Jemima pancakes, Juicy Fruit Gum, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, Shredded Wheat… also The Pledge Of Allegiance is known to have its first recital here at the fair, having been written earlier this same year.

I really could go on and on about what this book offers.  Erik Larson has written this so well that it never feels heavy with the Holmes dealings weaving in and out of the progress of the fair.  The chapters flow smoothly between the two story lines and it never felt choppy.  Once into the book, I had a hard time putting it down. I look forward to giving Eric Larson’s book In The Garden Of Beasts.Actual ticket to the fair

The book will capture those who enjoy a good murder mystery, it will also hold those who like history.  In the end, I really found this book to be one I enjoyed immensely, highly recommend and will remain on the keeper shelf. 


*Note that this book is due to come out as a movie in 2012/2013 starring Leo DiCaprio as Holmes.  While the book really is about the fair and Holmes is a secondary story… I believe the movie will reverse this and make Holmes the prime story line. 

DiCaprio/Holmes

Amazon Rating

Goodreads review

Movie thoughts:

The 2011 WHERE Are you Reading map has been updated to include The Devil In The White City

I purchased this book at Amazon

Bookies rated this read a solid 4 (on a  scale of 1 -5)

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