August 21, 2009

September 2009: The Devil in the White City

"The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson

The bestselling author of Isaac's Storm returns with a gripping tale about two men -- one a creative genius, the other a mass murderer -- who turned the 1893 Chicago World's Fair into their playground. Set against the dazzle of a dream city whose technological marvels presaged the coming century, this real-life drama of good and evil unfolds with all the narrative tension of a fictional thriller. -- Barnes & Noble

Great read--would recommend to both architecture and "true crime" buffs!

Jen S.: Interesting read. I'm thankful for building codes and building inspectors, utilities such as sewage and clean water, and for a system that identifies and catches bad guys. I'm also thankful for the influence the World's Fair had on Walt Disney and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Linsy: I enjoyed how the author told these two stories as one and found the book full of insight into a very influential event in the evolution of America that I knew it almost nothing about prior to the book.

Stephanie: Interesting book with great history and detail. Not a page-turner for me but overall, I thought it was a good read.

Kerry: This book was so good! I read it on the plane yesterday to and from Pittsburgh for my Grandpap's funeral. I learned so many things!!! It seems like many of the modern conveniences that we enjoy today were created for the world's fair! And seriously, isn't it suspicious that the murderous castle mysteriously burned down? Great read!

Chari: Found both story lines interesting and enjoyed learning about the process of building the structures for the world's fair. And glad I wasn't a single lady back then with a crazy killer on the loose!

Mary: I'm torn--I thought the architecture story was interesting though it could have been more concise. I thought the murderer's story was too concise and should have been more interesting. Generally, the book wasn't terrible, but it was definitely overrated.

Aday: What Mary said.

Holly: Watch out for the blue eyed boys.

August 2009: The Painter from Shanghai

"The Painter from Shanghai"
by Jennifer Cody Epstein

A work of fiction -- but based on the life and work of a real artist -- The Painter from Shanghai transports readers to early-20th-century China, a culture marked by oppression. Epstein has proven herself a shining talent in this first novel, tackling such weighty questions as: How does a talented artist blossom, even under repressive conditions? What is art, and what is love? What makes a life well lived? The answers form a mesmerizing portrait of one young woman's journey to find herself and to nourish her creative talents despite appreciable odds. -- Barnes & Noble

Jerilyn: A good “autobiographical fiction” depicting the struggles of a girl trying to find herself and stay true to who she is throughout her life. A little slow to start, but the history and changing of the times kept me going.

Chari: I really enjoyed reading about her life and getting a glimpse of what the art world in Shanghai was like at that time. Amazing what Yuliang overcame with her background and the role of women in China.

Kerry: How could you not admire this woman who had prevailed over circumstances beyond her control? And every time I read about foot binding, I cringed!

Shannon: I love historical fiction and art history so I enjoyed learning about this time in Shanghai. It became more interesting to me after Jen Sowders pointed out that it was based on a true story.

Jen S.: Good, but not great. I enjoyed it more after learning that the book was based off a real person.

Aday: I really struggled getting to the last page, and would have been fine calling it quits halfway. Looking back, I wish I had.

Kelly: It sounds like I didn't miss much by not reading the book.