Reviewing non-fiction books is hard. You can’t just say “I didn’t like the story”—I’m not saying that—because the story isn’t up for debate: it happened, these people existed. “Devil in the White City” is about the Chicago’s World Fair and all the trouble it faced prior, and during it’s opening, as well as all the innovations the fair gave rise to that we still enjoy today. It’s also about the serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes who happened to be “working” in Chicago during the time of the fair’s construction, opening, and closing. Holmes didn’t explicitly go to Chicago to take advantage of the fair in order to do his dark deeds, that seems more coincidental as Holmes was already in Chicago at the time and continued his “work” after leaving Chicago as well. So, really, the two events are barely connected and what you get is two different books in one. Are both good and fascinating? Sure. Does Larson have a wonderful ability for maintaining suspense and keeping the reader engaged in both stories? Yes. Was this what I was expecting when I bought this book? No.
“Zone 23” is, quite frankly, unlike any other dystopian novel I have ever read. Written as a satirical version of utopia, this novel follows two, well, mostly two, people who are having their eyes opened, their thoughts expanded, and are seeing the world for what it truly is—maybe—for the first time in their lives, or at least a very long time. We follow Taylor who lives out in the Zone, outcast from society as he is deemed undesirable (more on that in a minute) and Valentina, who just so desperately wants to be Normal and to have a Normal baby and to live her Normal life—there is a reason for the caps. The narrative voice of this novel is just wonderful and, really, that’s what you’d read this book for: Hopkins satirical narration. Because otherwise the plot of this book is pretty simplistic and wouldn’t necessitate the 500 pages it takes to complete this story. However, this is an EXTREMELY good read, albeit a difficult one.
“Dating a Chance” is a—extremely—literary work of mystery. Simply, the story is about the seemingly freakish deaths of a prominent scientist and a few people close to him shortly thereafter. J-L (yes, that is his name) was working on manipulating particles at a quantum level in order to create positive outcomes. Essentially: fabricating good luck and fortune (kind of Like the X-Force team member Domino). But his untimely death leaves the research almost lost, and while some of J-L’s colleagues begin hunting for his missing notes, others begin wondering if his random death was all that accidental, as those close to J-L also begin dying under mysterious circumstances as well. Professor Brown and his chess partner Steve begin the hunt for the truth in what is a high-brow and unique twist on a murder mystery novel. However, this interesting premise was often lost in the authors’ narration.
“The Point of Me” is definitely one of those reads you have to be in the right mood for given it’s rather heavy subject matter. The story follows James, a young teenager who is diagnosed with cancer. What follows is in part a tale of how such a devastating diagnosis affects him and his family, and is in part a purple-prose spirit journey that delves into a metaphysical fantasy realm, that could, theoretically, be interpreted as a sick young man’s fevered dreams while the various cancer treatments course through his veins. Davidson pens an incredibly beautiful story, one that covers a devastating topic, while trying to offer some hope to both her characters, and those who may be dealing with what James and his family are experiencing. But for as important of a topic as this is, it is a pretty slow read.
Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat: I wanted to love this book. I really did! In a day and age (still!) where it is unfortunately common to belittle a woman’s intellect, deny her the same accolades freely offered to a man, a woman’s work in ANY field to be viewed as lackluster compared to a male counterpart, I wanted to love this book HARD. But I didn’t. Even with stories of women being passed over for men being so common, I felt that this particular story was forced. A huge assumption was made in something that is supposed to be historical fiction, and in order to lift a woman up, someone else had to be torn down. In this case, another very real person: Einstein.
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