The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Book Review


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaBook Genre: Non-Fiction, History, True Crime

Book Series: N/A

Released: 2/11/03 by Random House

Pages: 447 Price: $25.95 Audiobook

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed this audiobook from my library.  



Book Synopsis:

Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was 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. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

My Review:

Next week my husband and I will be spending some time in Chicago and Hyde Park is on my list of places to explore.  I decided that I wanted to read something either set in Chicago or Non-Fiction about Chicago and this book has an excellent reputation.  I was fortunate that it became available a week before our trip and I could listen to it before our trip.  I was a little hesitant being that the book is pretty far out of my typical reading taste but decided to give it a chance knowing I could always DNF if I didn’t like it.  Much to my surprise I ended up loving the book and spent every spare moment I could find listening to the history of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair.

Like another reviewer stated, this is actually two books in one.  One storyline follows the creation and running of the World Fair and the other follows what is considered America’s first serial killer H.H. Holmes.  One of these stories interested me far more than the other.   Not being a fan of hearing about a psychopath lure and con unsuspecting individuals to their death I wish there had been a way to skip those parts.  I read this book purely for the story of how the Columbia Exposition came to be.  That part was fascinating to me while the other plot was quite disturbing.  Larson does an okay job of piecing these two plots together but in the end, I have to agree with another review I read and the two subjects have little to do with each other besides geographical location and that some of the murders took place around the same time as the fair.  If you are into such dark history then this part of the book might be perfect for you.

For the plotline that I was interested in, it was fascinating to hear what all it took to create such a grand fair.  I needed to remind myself that this was 125 years ago and society was vastly different from it is today.  While I found the blatant racism and sexism upsetting it is authentic to the era that was being depicted.  While some individuals in this country want to “Make America Great Again” we have to stop to consider if America was truly “great” back then.  Do we want to return to a time when women architects were paid 1/10 of their male counterparts if they were allowed to compete at all?  Or to a time when work conditions were so shitty that many lost their life or limb on the job?  Or we consider whole groups of our country as second-class citizens?

Politics aside it is a fascinating part of our history, one we can learn from.  I wish that the group putting the fair together had managed to get their act together quicker, however.  Perhaps then most of the structures would not have been built out of temporary materials and more of the fair could have lasted to the modern era.  I still plan to visit Jackson Park next week though, and thanks to Larson I will be able to imagine what it must have looked like in 1893 when America built a White City to impress the world.

My Rating: 4 Stars


What I’m Reading Wednesday

This Wednesday I’m Reading.

A Visit from the Goon Squad Vampire's Faith (Dark Protectors, #8) Weird Chicago

A Visit from the Goon Squad:

Almost finished with this book and I’m still a little nervous about it being the book talk selection next month.  I like it but when I think of all the sex, drugs, and f-bombs and the group of older ladies we have in our discussion group I start to sweat a little.  I hope to finish this up today or tomorrow.  Depends on when I can find a free two hours.

Vampire’s Faith:

Started this last week and I’ve gotten a chapter read and I’m so excited to continue!  I’ve been so busy with housework and gardening that come evening I’m afraid I will fall asleep the second I try to read so I’ve been playing Sims 3 instead.  Tonight I plan to try to get a little further.

Weird Chicago:

I put my other NF book on hold, its review isn’t due until August so I had time to read this interlibrary loan.  We are going to Chicago for an extended getaway and thought it might be fun to learn more about some of the more colorful history of the city.  I also want to listen to The Devil in the White City before we go as we plan to spend a day in Hyde Park where the World’s Fair was held.

How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey

Book Review


Life According to Chickens: An Insider's View of the Language, Manners, and Rules of the FlockBook Genre: Non-Fiction, Rural Life, Chickens

Book Series: N/A

Released: 11/28/17 by Storey Publishing

Pages:144  Price: $16.95 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon  How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publishers for an honest review.

Book Synopsis:

Best-selling author Melissa Caughey knows that backyard chickens are like any favorite pet — fun to spend time with and fascinating to observe. Her hours among the flock have resulted in this quirky, irresistible guide packed with firsthand insights into how chickens communicate and interact, use their senses to understand the world around them, and establish pecking order and roles within the flock. Combining her up-close observations with scientific findings and interviews with other chicken enthusiasts, Caughey answers unexpected questions such as Do chickens have names for each other? How do their eyes work? and How do chickens learn?

My Review:

What an incredibly sweet book!  I have been an owner of chickens since we moved to the country more than ten years ago and when I stumbled across this book up for review I didn’t hesitate to put in a request.  Especially since I am starting over with my flock after a series of raccoon attacks.  The title jumped out at me and I thought it might be an interesting read and perhaps give me some tips on how to communicate and bond with my new flock.  It provided that and so much more!

The book is broken down into five main section dealing with chicken calls, behavior, intelligence, motivation, and emotions.  All the while sprinkled with beautiful pictures, interesting interviews, and touching personal stories.  Being such a short book it doesn’t delve too deeply into any one topic but I tried out some of the chicken calls on my girls and did receive a reaction, much like what was described in the book.  If you are new to chickens this book isn’t an instruction manual on how to care for them, this publisher provides many other books that fit that bill.  This book is more of a touching look into flock life.

If you have chickens, want chickens, or know someone who loves their flock this book would make a great gift!  The only drawback I had is that with the beautiful pictures included in it made my e-reader a little slow to turn pages, so perhaps pick this one up in print.  Charming read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Book Review


Astrophysics for People in a HurryBook Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Audiobook, Physics

Book Series: N/A

Released: 5/2/17 by W.W. Norton

Pages: 222  Price: $18.95 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the book: Amazon Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Source: I borrowed this book from my library



Book Synopsis:

The essential universe, from our most celebrated and beloved astrophysicist.

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe. 

My Review:

Not quite sure why I put this on my library wish list.  Oh sure I like science fiction but this is science fact and quite frankly I’m not that smart.  Still, I’m a fan of smart people and have enjoyed this author’s cameos on some of my favorite shows like The Big Bang Theory.  I must have been drawn to the beautiful cover of this book and hoped that it wouldn’t be too far above my ability to understand.

Good news!  It wasn’t.  Thanks to some of my favorite shows for basing their plots on real science I did find myself familiar with much of the terms and ideas in this set of essays.  It also helped that Mr. Tyson does an excellent job of making the topics discussed in this book accessible to most people.

The author narrates the book as well in the audio format which was delightful and really made the dad humor come to life.  I found my self both chuckling and groaning while I listened to this fairly short book.  It was just under 4 hours long and I was able to finish it on a quiet morning before work.

There are also some great quotable lines in the book too.  Not to give too much away but these are some of my favorites: ” The Universe is under no Obligation to make sense to you“, “We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out” (this one really spoke to me today), and perhaps the most fun quote ” Yes, Einstein was a badass.

As someone who is disheartened with the anti-science tone that The United States is embracing politically and culturally, I simply loved this book.  It is exactly what I needed to give me hope that all is not lost in this country as long as scientists continue to pursue truth.  Hopefully, reason and science will once again reign in this country.  After all “The Power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them.  In other words, after the law of physics, everything else is an opinion”.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman by Loryn Brantz

Book Review


Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a WomanBook Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor, Comics

Book Series: N/A

Released: 9/ 26/17 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 128  Price: $14.99 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book:  Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.  

Book Synopsis:

A collection of Loryn Brantz’s vibrant and relatable Jellybean Comics about her everyday experiences as a lady 

Home manicure tips, awkward seduction techniques, scoping out the snack table, and—most important—prioritizing naps: Lady Stuff reveals these womanly secrets and more. In sections like “Grooming and Habitat Maintenance,” “Mating Habits,” and others, these brightly colored, adorable comics find the humor in the awkwardness of simply existing.
Like the work of Sarah Andersen, Gemma Correll, and Allie Brosh, Loryn Brantz’s Jellybean Comics are accessible and funny; lighthearted takes on the author’s everyday experiences and struggles being a woman.

My Review:

Like many of you, I’ve seen this author’s work on Facebook and other social media platforms as memes but did not realize that when requesting this book for review.  What pulled me in was the title and description, also the fact that it was a read now title on Net Galley.  I decided to take a shot and see what this book was all about.

What I received was a fun little read that was quite clever and poignant at times.  Besides being totally funny I found myself thinking oh yeah I totally get that.  These illustrations are going to be so relatable to any woman, this would make an excellent gift for your best girlfriend!  Not very long but well done this book also worked well on my e-reader, perhaps the only time that a graphic novel book worked for me!

Not much more I can say beyond that.  It was a fun read that would make a great gift!

My Rating: 4 Stars

Backyard Chickens: Beyond the Basics by Pam Freeman

Book Review


Backyard Chickens: Beyond the BasicsBook Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Series: N/A

Released: 5/1/17 by Voyageur Press

Pages: 192 Price: $21.99 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics:

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review


Book Synopsis:

A must-have for every backyard chicken keeper, Backyard Chickens 2.0 goes beyond introductory lessons and explores the realities of raising a flock for eggs — and entertainment, of course! From odd eggs and molting to feeding and preparing for the seasons, this book covers the subjects beginner books don’t adequately address and re-examines common knowledge that may not actually hold true. It’s a resource to turn to time and again for expert advice to make sure your birds are happy, healthy, and productive.

Author Pam Freeman, an editor and “Ask the Expert” columnist at Backyard Poultry magazine, draws on her years of experience fielding reader questions to identify and clearly explain many common – and some not-so-common – issues in chicken keeping. How do you add new chickens to your flock? What is the pecking order and how can you change or control it? Is it better to raise chicks by hand or with a broody hen? What do you do when you collect eggs and discover: lash eggs, calcium deposits, soft eggs, eggs within eggs, or wrinkled eggs? In Backyard Chickens 2.0, readers will find not just answers, but a book full of “coop truth” that helps them continue on their journey. Because as every chicken owner knows: Chickens are individuals and real-life chicken keeping often takes you far from the beaten path.

Chapters include Expanding Your Flock, Flock Behavior, Life with a Rooster, All About Eggs, Chicken (and Egg) Health, Predators, Feeding Your Chickens, Chicken Keeping Through the Seasons, and Coop Truth.

My Review:

I am not a novus chicken owner.  I’ve owned chickens and other poultry ever since moving to the country 13 years ago with some success but also some loss.  Earlier this year I began battling a particularly smart and crafty raccoon and lost my entire flock.  So this spring I am starting over and have been seeking out these chicken books for new tips and ideas on how to get this new flock off on the right foot.  When I saw this book up for review I didn’t hesitate in putting in a request for review on the blog.

I’m so glad I did because while there is quite a bit of basic information here there is also a ton of new (to me) information that I found helpful too!  I plan on purchasing my own copy of this book to add to my home library for reference.  Also because while the e-book I reviewed was alright it did slow down my nook and the lovely pictures that the author referenced in the text would not load properly.  So this is definitely a book to have in print! (not that I’m sure it is offered any other way….)  Anyway, the chapters are broken down into a logical sequence and are thorough in their coverage of the topics discussed.  The book isn’t as technical as some and the author doesn’t lecture but informs based upon an example of what has worked for her.  There were a few antidotes from her own flock but most of this book was geared towards help a fellow chicken owner manage their flock.

Some of the sections I found particularly helpful and interesting were on egg formation and color, wound care, predators, and coop truth.  But honestly, there is a lot of good information for anyone beyond an expert that is. If you are a new chicken owner or someone like myself who has owned birds for a number of years this could be a helpful book to have on hand.  I found myself reading well past my bedtime and taking mental notes of things to try out with my own flock.  I’m so glad I read this book!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Of Cats and Men by Sam Kalda

Book Review


Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History's Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and StatesmenBook Genre: Non-fiction, History

Book Series: N/A

Released: 4/2017 by Ten Speed Press

Pages: 101  Price: $16.oo Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Bio, More Info

Buy the Book: Amazon Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program for an honest review.

Book Synopsis:

A stylish, illustrated gift book from an award-winning artist that profiles notable cat-loving men throughout history in words and pictures.

Of Cats and Men presents a fresh approach to cat entertainment that’s smart, sweet, and driven by beautiful art (instead of tacky photography, as many cat books are). Appealing to both men and women, the “cat men” approach is a fun twist on the “cat lady” stereotype and makes for a highly giftable book. The 30 men profiled range from writers and artists such as Haruki Murakami, T.S. Eliot, William S. Burroughs, and Ai Weiwei, to historical luminaries such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nikola Tesla, and Sir Issac Newton. In addition to the portraits, the book features beautifully hand-lettered quotes about cats by some of the men, including Twain’s “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”

My Review:

The synopsis is pretty spot on for this book.  It is a charming little gift or coffee table book featuring profiles of famous cat-loving men throughout history.  Many of them you will know but some might be surprising.  The book is handsomely illustrated and features quotes from many of the men profiled in the book.

The book isn’t very long and would make a great gift for the cat man or woman in your life.  I have been fortunate to share my home one and might save my copy for him for Father’s Day.  After all, our cats are our children and he might appreciate the recognition and to see what great company he keeps.

Not a lot more to say.  It was a quick read and of exceptional quality printing wise. I liked it but wasn’t overly excited about it.  It was interesting but nothing profound inside its pages.  I still think it is a tad overpriced at $16.00 but at least you get something worthy of giving.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner

Book Review


Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable ManBook Genre: Biography, Memoir, Non-Fiction

Book Series: N/A

Released: 2/16/16 by Thomas Dunne Books

Pages: 278  Price: $25.99 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man

Source: I borrowed this audiobook from my library



Book Synopsis:

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.

Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.

As much a biography of Nimoy as a story of their friendship, Leonard is a uniquely heartfelt book written by one legendary actor in celebration of another.

My Review:

Full disclosure to those of you that might not follow my blog.  I’m a Trekkie. A huge Trekkie and Spock just happens to be my favorite character in the entire franchise.  I was so sad to learn of his death and am grateful for all that he contributed to our society through art and entertainment.  While I appreciate William Shatner and Kirk he was never one of my favorite characters, my second being MacCoy.  But truly the brilliance of the original series was the dynamics between the three lead actors.

There is little doubt that I loved this book.  I will admit that yes, Shatner talks about himself almost as much as he does Nimoy but if you thought it would be any different you don’t know Shatner.  This, after all, is more a book about their friendship than it simply is a book about Leonard’s life.  This book is a tribute to a friendship that spanned a lifetime and Shatner’s way to say good-bye.  Many of the stories the ardent Trekkie will already know but so what.  If you love these actors then you will enjoy hearing them all over again, I did.

I had been planning on reading this book when it came out but when I was looking for audiobooks I decided to listen to this one instead of reading it.  Since the book is read by the author I would highly suggest others do the same.  What better way to listen to these stories than to have Shatner read them to your himself.  To get to hear the inclinations in his voice as he shares a beautiful friendship that touched his life.  So yes, please think about listening to the audiobook version of this book.

If you enjoyed Star Trek and was a fan of Spock than this is a book you aren’t going to want to miss.  I found myself smiling, laughing and feeling all kinds of nostalgia as I listened to this book.  Live Long and Prosper.

My Rating: 4 Stars

The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman

Book Review


The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You KnewBook Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Audio Book

Book Series: N/A

Released: 1/14/14 by Blackstone Audiobooks

Pages:157  Price: $13.35 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew by Lightman, Alan (2014) Hardcover

Source: I actually own this book, but I ended up listening to the audio book from my library.

Book Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams and Mr g, a meditation on the unexpected ways in which recent scientific findings have shaped our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

With all the passion, curiosity, and precise yet lyrical prose that have marked his previous books, Alan Lightman here explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by discoveries in science, focusing most intently on the human condition and the needs of humankind. He looks at the difficult dialogue between science and religion; the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; the manner in which modern technology has separated us from direct experience of the world; and our resistance to the view that our bodies and minds can be explained by scientific logic and laws. And behind all of these considerations is the suggestion—at once haunting and exhilarating—that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the extraordinary, perhaps unfathomable whole.

My Review:

I tried to read this little book a while back but just couldn’t get into it.  While I am interested in the topics this book discusses I am not that bright when it comes to science and math.  Much of it was a struggle to understand.  Simply put it was too much work…  I’ve been enjoying listening to non-fiction audio books recently, especially those with a science leaning, so when I saw this one was available and not that long I decided to listen rather than read this book.  So. much. easier.

This isn’t a very long book and is a collection of essays really on philosophy and physics.  Much of the science still went over my head but I did appreciate the philosophical discussion related to the advances in technology and knowledge.  I know I just finished listening to it so the chapter is freshest in my mind, but I enjoyed the last chapter the best which delved into how technology is changing the way we interact with not only each other but the world around us.  The idea of the virtual world not so slowly replacing the importance of the real world was fascinating and most likely true.

I’m glad I made it through this one, even if I had to listen to it.  The book provided a lot of food for thought and would be another great book to listen to with someone who you could debate the topics further with.  If this one crosses your path why not give it a listen too.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Illustrated Book of Sayings by Ella Frances Sanders

Book Review


Book Genre: Non-Fiction, Coffee Table Book, Art

Book Series: NA

Released: 9/13/16 by Ten Speed Press

Pages:162   Price: $14.99 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s SiteMore InfoAuthor Bio

Buy the Book: Amazon The Illustrated Book of Sayings: Curious Expressions from Around the World

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program.

Book Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller, Lost in Translation, come this collection of 52 artistic renderings of sayings from around the world that illuminate the whimsical nature of language.

Ella Frances Sanders’s first book, Lost in Translation, captured the imagination of readers with its charmingly illustrated words that have no direct English translation. Now, the New York Times-bestselling author is back with an illustrated collection that addresses the nuances of language in the form of sayings from around the world. From the French idiom “to pedal in the sauerkraut,” (i.e., “to spin your wheels,”) to the Japanese idiom “even monkeys fall from trees” (meaning, “even experts can be wrong”), Sanders presents sayings that reveal the remarkable diversity, humor, and poignancy of the world’s languages and cultures.

My Review:

What an interesting little book!  I was hesitant to request this title as I wasn’t exactly sure what it was all about.  I took a chance because it was the only book they offered for review that peaked my interest and I so happy to have received this title.  Sometimes it is worth taking a chance, sometimes it pays off!

I thought it was going to just be a coffee table book of sayings, idioms from around the world with some illustration.  To be honest I was expecting something kinda boring… sorry.  I thought my husband might find it interesting and I could pass it on to him after I read it.  I still plan to let him read it but this little gem is staying in my library.  What I didn’t realize was that the author went into detail about the history of each idiom and gave us some of the history or quirkiness associated with each phrase.  That is what made this book for me, totally.  It also didn’t hurt that two of the sayings I enjoyed the most were Bulgarian (where my husband is from) and Turkish (what my husband is: Bulgarian Turk).  Those two pages I quizzed him and covered the translation and made him read the sayings in their original language.  Pleased to report each one was translated correctly and he was delighted to see a part of his heritage in the book.  A couple other of my favorites were from Japan and India (Hindi).

This is such a delightful little book it would make a great gift to someone you might know that travels the world or simply wishes to travel. A linguist or philosopher would also find this book delightful as well.  Perfect for a college grad too.  The price isn’t too high, would love to see it around $10, but for the quality of the binding and being hardcover $15 isn’t unreasonable.  I really can’t find any fault in this book and plan to check out the other title by this author.

My Rating: 5 Stars