Category Archives: Five Favorite Books

5 favorite coming-of-age books by Candi Sary

Five Favorite Books is a special feature at LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, Los Angeles author Candi Sary discusses her five favorite Coming-of-Age Books. Candi is the author of Black Crow White Lie, an excellent coming-of-age novel set in Hollywood that releases on October 1 from Casperian Books. To learn more about Candi and her books, visit

Five Favorite Coming-of-Age Books by Candi Sary

#5: The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
While reading The Highest Tide, Miles O’Mally felt more like a kid who lived somewhere in my life than just the narrator of this exceptional novel. The story looks at life through the eyes of the bright thirteen-year-old who spends most of his time on the mud flats of Skookumchuck Bay in Washington, collecting sea creatures for money, and paying close attention to life in the water. He’s a young scientist trying to understand the natural world, while also trying to make sense of friendships, his first crush, his parents’ separation, and his own unique identity. Miles comes up with profound ideas while observing sea life — just little bits of wisdom that stuck in my mind for days after reading the passages. The novel plays with the opposing perspectives of science and magic, at times giving the feeling that science is magic. This is a novel about the challenges of growing up, and yet the author does a wonderful job of pointing out the magic and the beauty along that difficult journey. There is something so special about this book that even after the story ended, its ideas continue to make me wonder.

#4: White Oleander by Janet Fitch
White Oleander made me fall in love with fiction all over again. It came along when I hadn’t read anything in a while that blew me away. Then I met Astrid and Ingrid. Ingrid, the poet/murderess, is the intriguing bohemian who kills her boyfriend and leaves her daughter to a life of foster care. Astrid is the daughter on a journey of self-discovery. She tries to make sense of the world through the variety of foster families she has to live with, as well as through her mother who still influences her from jail. The Los Angeles setting comes alive with the Santa Ana winds and the intense heat, and it gives a haunting quality to the story. This is a powerful novel with some of the most stunning sentences I’ve ever come across. The detail put into this book makes it so complete and thorough and a one-of-a-kind literary experience.

Read the rest of Candi Sary’s Five Favorite books at LA Books Examiner.


Purchase Black Crow White Lie by Candi Sary at or Casperian Books. Read the LA Books Examiner’s review of Black Crow White Lie.

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For the latest updates to Frank Mundo, LA Books Examiner, be sure to subscribe and follow me on Twitter @LABooksExaminer.

Frank Mundo is the author of The Brubury Tales (foreword by Carolyn See) and Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories.

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Five Favorite Books Set in California by David Prybil Author of Golden State

Five Favorite Books is a special feature at LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, local author David Prybil discusses his five favorite books set in California. A writer-producer based in LA, David is the author of Golden State, his award-winning debut novel which follows a quartet of Californians pursuing their own American Dreams during the crazy recall election season of 2003 that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to power. You can learn more about David and his fresh and entertaining new book at or read the first chapter of Golden State here at LA Books Examiner

Five Favorite Books Set in California by Golden State Author David Prybil

Even before it officially became a state, California symbolized the American Dream better than anyplace else in our union. It’s where dreamers have always gone to make their dreams come true, whether those dreams involved striking it rich, becoming a star, or reinventing oneself entirely and starting anew. Thus, it should not be surprising to discover that it also offers a rich setting for storytellers looking for big, dramatic stories to tell. Some of these stories are true, and some are merely based on truths, but they all derive their power from the vast possibilities that California has to offer, and the perils for those who lose their way.

1) The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939)
No list of California fiction would be complete without this seminal work, which follows the struggles of the Joad Family, who head west to California from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma, hoping for better lives and opportunities. Here, we get an early glimpse of the downsides to a dream that is being shared by too many, as the hard-working, good-hearted Joads endure endless setbacks and privations at the hands of God, nature, and those who have come ahead of them, but never see the fruits of their labors, even when the things they seek are so close that they can literally reach out and touch them. Also: for a more modern take on many of these same themes, played out between the denizens of an upscale gated community and the family of illegal Mexican immigrants living in a dried-out gulch behind their sprawling homes, see The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. [Read Frank Mundo’s interview with T.C. Boyle.]

2) A Way of Life, Like Any Other, Darcy O’ Brien (1977)
While there has been no shortage of great Hollywood novels written through the years, the thing that sets this lesser-known novel apart is its sharp-eyed depiction of fame’s afterglow, when the good times are largely past, the good roles are few and far between, and all that remains are the memories, the trappings, and the delusions of grandeur. In this regard, the book is of a piece with the film Sunset Boulevard, but because the main character here is a child, based on the writer’s own experience as the son of two fading Golden Age stars, it avoids the usual jaded tones, and instead offers refreshing humor, an insider’s knowing detail, and a wide-eyed innocence that things might still work out for the best.

3) Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski (1982)
A perfect counterpoint to O’ Brien’s book of privileged hardships is found in this early novel by Bukowski, the first in which he uses his alter ego character, Henry Chinaski, to detail an acne-ridden adolescence in low-class East LA that is so raw, mean and ugly, it is hard not to look away. But because Bukowski himself never flinches, because he is so unsparing with his own flaws and failings, it achieves a sort of transcendent, hard-bitten beauty that is uniquely his own. A true original.

Read the rest of David Prybil’s picks at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.

Purchase Golden State by David Prybil in hardcover, paperback and eBook at Amazon, iUniverse, Barnes and Noble and

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For the latest updates to Frank Mundo, LA Books Examiner, be sure to subscribe and follow me on Twitter @LABooksExaminer.

Frank Mundo is the author of The Brubury Tales (foreword by Carolyn See), which is available on and Barnes and Noble in paperback and in eBook. The Brubury Tales won Reader View’s 2011 Reviewer’s Choice Award for Poetry Book of the Year and the 2011 Bookhitch Award for Most Innovative Poetry Book of the Year.  

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Five Favorite Leadership Books by author Christopher Scott

Five Favorite Books is a special feature at LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, Christopher Scott, author of a great new book for the holidays called A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community discusses his five favorite books about leadership. 

Christopher Scott is the Founder & Team Leader of A Day of Hope; a program that delivers baskets of food and turkeys to needy families for Thanksgiving. Christopher and his volunteers actively use Squidoo as a platform to advocate and raise money for A Day of Hope (and you can too!). To learn more about the work of A Day of Hope and how they are helping families in need, go to  Learn more about Christopher Scott by reading his blog –  

Five Favorite Leadership Books by Christopher Scott 

Leaders are readers and leaders are learners.  When I began leading people with A Day of Hope as a volunteer, I was not a very good leader.  So I had to take time and effort to read some leadership books and freshen up on my leadership skills.  Along the way I’ve read many books and listened to many audio teachings on the topic of leadership.  The books below have all been paradigm shifters in the way I looked at leaders, my character as a leader, and how I lead people with success in our community.

Enjoy my five favorite leadership books.

1. Leadership Gold by John C. Maxwell (April, 2008)
Leadership Gold is one of the more than fifty books which John Maxwell has written.  He waited until he was sixty years old to write Leadership Gold because he wanted it to be a reflective type of book.  His reflection allowed him to look back on forty years of leading people to discern the most important principles he has learned.  In the book, John outlines twenty-six of the best leadership principles he has learned over his forty years of leading people.

Leadership Gold is perhaps the most comprehensive leadership book I have ever read.  I like to describe it as a comprehensive book of the fifty books John had written until the book was published in the spring of 2008.  John covers many topics of leadership and helps new and veteran leaders to understand exactly what leadership is and how they can improve their own personal leadership.

What I like about the book is John’s lesson from a chapter entitled, “Keep Your Mind on the Main Thing”.  In it, John talks about how we need to be narrowly focused on only a few things.  We, as leaders, need to make sure we are focusing on only a few areas of our work and professional life.  We have many distractions, and it’s on us to make sure we focus on the most important areas of life where we have the highest return on our priorities.  This has helped me as a leader to realize most of my time should be spent on communicating verbally and through writing with the people I lead.  This also means shedding away a lot of the things that we are not good at and that we don’t need to do.  It means saying no, because saying no is not easy — especially when you have a servant’s heart and want to help a lot of people.

2. Tribes by Seth Godin (October, 2008)
Tribes is one of those small books that has a big impact.  Seth Godin is great at recognizing leadership in the world and then writing about it to help us understand what leadership is.

In Tribes, Seth points out that everyone is part of a tribe.  It’s built into us as human beings that we desire to be part of a tribe and that we will belong to at least one.  The only thing to consider is which tribe will we be part of?  As leaders, we need to be asking the question, “How am I leading my tribe?”  Because we are all leading tribes whether we are aware of them or not. 

After reading Tribes, I realized I lead a tribe of good-hearted people who want to learn about leadership and want to make a difference.  Therefore, I need to make sure I am “focusing on the main thing,” to always be writing and talking about leadership and making a difference.  And I need to get that message out as much as possible to the people I lead.

3. Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley (December, 2003)
Choosing to Cheat has been one of the most impactful books I have ever read in my life.  It has changed the way I think about how much I work and has helped me develop the strength to stop working as much as I normally do.

When I was younger I would literally work seven days a week for more than ten hours a day.  I was young, passionate, wanted to make a difference, and was willing to do anything to help others.  However, this had specific implications on me that negatively affected my health and my ability to produce good quality work.

In the book, Andy Stanley advocates that we will always have more work to do.  And when it comes to work and personal life, someone is going to get cheated.  The decision of who gets cheated sits with you and me.  Either we cheat family and give more time to work, or we cheat work and give more time to family.  The logical decision is to cheat work for the sake of spending more time with the people most important to us, family.  But with the extreme demands many people have in the corporate and nonprofit area, that sometimes is not an easy decision to make.

After reading this book, I made a conscious decision to cheat work for the sake of spending time with family.  I determined that I would not work more than fifty five hours a week, and make sure I take Saturday evenings off and all day Sunday to spend with my girlfriend.  I have consciously chosen to “cheat” work for the sake of spending time with my family.  And it has made me a better leader because I have learned to: 1) Trust God more; and 2) Trust the team I work with more.

Read the rest of Christopher Scott’s favorites at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.

To learn more about the work of A Day of Hope and how they are helping families in need, go to  Learn more about Christopher Scott by reading his blog –   

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Frank Mundo, LA Books Examiner, is the author of The Brubury Tales. For the latest updates to the site, don’t forget to sign up for email alerts and follow me on Twitter @LABooksExaminer and Facebook.


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Five Favorite Suspense/Thriller Books by Author Morgan St. James

Five Favorite Books is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, author Morgan St. James shares her 5 favorite Suspense/Thriller books. One of the busiest writers I know, Morgan has two columns and is co-author of award-winning Silver Sisters Mysteries series with her sister Phyllice Bradner. Her latest books, written as Arliss Adams, the Twist of Fate series includes Devil’s Dance and The Devil’s Due. To learn more about this phenomenal writer, visit her website. Also, check out LA Books Examiner’s interview with Morgan earlier this year.

Five Favorite Suspense/Thriller Books by Morgan St. James

While I read books in many genres, and my favorites are subject to change, I must say they usually are suspense or thrillers with a tad of humor. Another compelling thing for me in choosing favorites is the excellent description of locations, neighborhoods, etc. as well as fully rounded characters. Just enough detail to make you feel the author knows the locations in the book and characters who feel real. The books below all have some or all of these elements and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I used the criteria of whether I would read the book more than once. For the books listed, yes I have or would.

1. The Monkey’s Raincoat, Robert Crais (First Release March, 1992)
This is the first Elvis Cole book, and I have no idea why I’d never seen it before. I’ve read many Robert Crais novels. The audio book jumped off a library shelf as I passed by. Well, not really, but as a Robert Crais fan the title intrigued me. I had no idea it was the first in the series nor that he’d been writing the series so long.

When Ellen Lang’s best friend Janet Simon brings her to Elvis for help she is a beaten-down, timid person. Her husband, who spent years breaking her spirit, and her young son have disappeared and she’s frightened to death. As Janet helps Ellen through talking about the problem, intimidating her as well, a Jiminy Cricket clock ticks away in Cole’s office. This sets the tone for the tale and we are gradually introduced to the Elvis Cole brand of humor, sarcasm and action.

As his investigation takes him through a sleazier part of the Hollywood dream, Elvis discovers Ellen’s husband wasn’t going to win a badge of honor anytime soon—in fact, never, if he turns up dead. The cast of characters is fully drawn and the story moves along at a comfortable pace making it a page turner from the get-go, unless you’re listening to the audio book. Then you drive around the block so you can hear more.

2. The Last Detective, Robert Crais (March 30, 2004)
This Robert Crais novel was released twelve years later, and Cole is still a wisecracking delight rivaling old timers like Sam Spade while he keeps you on the edge of your chair anticipating the next moves. This time he is babysitting ten year old Ben, while his girlfriend lawyer Lucy Chenier is on a case. Cole lives up in a Hollywood Hills canyon that I happen to be quite familiar with. One moment Ben is on his deck, the next he is gone and Cole and his partner Joe Pike have to find him.

Ben has been kidnapped and Cole receives a call saying it’s payback for what he did. He has no idea what the kidnapper is talking about but the clock is ticking and Ben’s time could run out. Crais skillfully mixes points of view and also uses flashbacks to Cole’s Vietnam days to craft a rounded story that you can’t put down. The eyelids began to droop, but that didn’t stop me from reading right through the night.

Read the rest of Morgan St. James’ Five Favorites at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.

Read Frank Mundo’s, LA Books Examiner’s, interview with Morgan St. James.

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Frank Mundo is the author of The Brubury Tales  (foreword by bestselling author Carolyn See).
Don’t forget to subscribe to my emails for the latest updates to the site, and follow me on Twitter @LABooksExaminer

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Five favorite poetry books by Author Z

Five Favorite Books is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, author Z discusses her five favorite poetry books. Z is the anonymous author of Getting Off, a provocative true crime tale which follows a compelling series of events that climaxes when an unknown assailant attempts to murder the author. To learn more, visit: or order from:

Five Favorite Poetry Books by Author Z

My esoteric preference in reading materials range from non-fiction to verse and include many obscure/unknown authors. In choosing poetry as the genre here, I wanted to include at least one example of my eclectic taste:

1.You & I, Leonard Nimoy (1973 Reprint Edition)
Yes, that’s Leonard Nimoy of “Mr. Spock” notoriety from Star Trek. Who knew? There is a heart-felt longing and warmth in Mr. Nimoy’s simple words that sweep across the pages like a gentle breeze:

“..Laughter of the past
   Rings through empty hallways.
   The seasoning is bittersweet…”  

2. The Sonnets of William Shakespeare (1609)
The Sonnets are brilliant. I read them often and always find something new to ponder.

From #34:

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravely in their rotten smoke?

3. Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal), Charles Baudelaire (1857)
Baudelaire’s demons emerge in his languid poetry like a cast of opera divas. Each one singing of forbidden lust and doom; or being seduced by a derelict lover. A dark and colorful collection.

4. Bratsk Station and other new poems, Yevgeny Yevtushenko (First Anchor Edition, 1967)

From: “The Night of Poetry”

No fate is pure and more exalted,
Than to sacrifice life without thought of fame,
So that on earth all men will have the right
To say to themselves: “We are not slaves!”

5. The Published Poems of Sylvia Plath, (Harper Perennial; 1st U.S. edition, 1981)
Ah, the mysterious, yet profoundly ethereal Sylvia. A collection of poems to be explored and enjoyed endlessly.

From: “Crossing the Water”

Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.

All of these books can be purchased at:

For Shakespeare, go to this exquisite site:

 For “GETTING OFF” By Z visit: or order from:

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Frank Mundo, the LA Books Examiner, is the author of The BruburyTales.

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Five favorite fearless literary women by author Shelly Rachanow

Author Shelly Rachanow shares her 5 favorite books at Frank Mundo's LA Books Examiner/photo courtesy of authorFive Favorite Books is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, author Shelly Rachanow discusses her five favorite books with fearless female characters. Shelly is the author of What Would You Do If You Ran the World? and If Women Ran the World Sh*t Would Get Done. Shelly also writes a blog called Celebrating the Wonderful Things Women Do

Five Favorite Fearless Literary Women…At Least, This Month by Shelly Rachanow

I’ve been around strong, smart, sassy, amazing women my entire life. My grandmother raised four kids on her own and worked outside the home at a time when women weren’t supposed to do either. My mother routinely fought for better sidewalks, programs, and laws for the disabled while still managing to have time for her children (not to mention dinner on the table) every night.

Think for a moment about the women you know today. How many of them have baked, raced, ran, or walked for hours, days, or entire weekends for important causes and cures? How many have taken food to a sick neighbor, or sent money to help a poor child halfway around the world? How many have hopped on a plane and traveled there to help feed that child themselves? 

Women are amazing in life and in books. And while it’s impossible for me to narrow down my list of favorite fearless literary females to just five, I can share my five favorites this month, given what I’ve been reading lately. Come September, I may very well have a new (or at least a bigger) list! 

1. Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Stieg Larrson (2009)
I heard about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for nearly a year before I finally bought the book and read it, and I’m so glad I waited. Not because I didn’t like the book – I loved it, in fact I devoured all three books in the series. By starting the series a few months ago, I finished the first and second book after the third book was already released. Which is a good thing, because having to wait months for the third book would have been torture! 

One of the central figures of the series is the girl with that titular tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, who is unlike most any female character I know of. A genius and high-level computer hacker, we learn early on that Salander’s childhood was traumatic, with a period that “all the evil” happened. Salander also suffers from Aspergers syndrome (or something similar) and that combination means she doesn’t trust or connect with many people (though the people who are loyal to her are fiercely loyal). Through all three books, Salander is resourceful, feisty, and has no mercy when it comes to taking revenge on people who have wronged her (like tattooing “I am a sadist, a pervert and a rapist” onto the stomach of one such person). 

Despite her tactics, despite numerous actions against the law, I cheered her every step of the way, flipping hurriedly through sections wanting to make sure she succeeded. I’ve never felt more fiercely protective of a character in any book I’ve read…ever! Sadly, author Stieg Larrson passed away in 2004, with a fourth book nearly completed (rumor has it he had plans for ten books in the series). I will miss the chance to enjoy what would surely have been even more late-night page turners.

2. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (1998-2007)
How I wish the Harry Potter books were around when I was little – being a smart kid would have felt so much cooler! Hermione Granger is not just smart, she’s the smartest witch or wizard in her generation. But she’s also so much more than that. She’s a wonderful example of what it means to be loyal and compassionate towards others. 

Along with Ron Weasley, Hermione is one of Harry Potter’s closest friends and throughout the seven books of the series she champions those who are less able to stand up for themselves (be it the house elves at their school in Hogwarts, Hagrid, Neville Longbottom, and many others). Hermione does so much more than bury her head in her books and ace her exams. She shows young girls that it’s cool to be smart, and it’s even cooler to stand up and make a difference. 

3. Precious Ramotswe in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith (1998-2010)
Starting your own business is a challenge for anyone. Even more so for a woman in Botswana, Africa like Precious Ramotswe. But that didn’t stop her. Precious opened her country’s first (and only) female-owned detective agency. Why? Because she loved her country and the people there. As she says in the book, “It is my duty to help them to solve the mysteries in their lives. That is what I am called to do.”

And that she does, from helping a woman named Happy prove a man impersonating her father was a phony to finding a child feared killed by a witch doctor. In doing so, Precious says something that should be a motto for all of us: “There was so much suffering in Africa that it was tempting just to shrug your shoulders and walk away. But you can’t do that…. You just can’t.”

Read the rest of Shelly’s fearless females at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.

Frank Mundo is the author of The Brubury Tales…available here and on Amazon.

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Historical travel writing: five favorite books by cultural writer/producer Anastasia Ashman

Anastasia Ashman, cultural writer and producer, shares her five favorite books at Frank Mundo's LA Books ExaminerFive Favorite Books is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, Anastasia Ashman, cultural writer and producer, discusses her five favorite historical travel writing books.

Historical travel writing: five favorite books by Anastasia Ashman

Long-term travelers, expatriates and global citizens often struggle to make sense of life’s evolutions abroad, as well as find meaningful access to their new surroundings. As a world traveler and 13-year expat in three countries, I’ve come to crave a certain type of book. 

Whether I’m simply passing through, or putting down roots in a place, historical travelogue and portraits of adventurous women travelers who came before me often helps connect me to the land, and remind me of the transformative tradition of female travel.  

Since I coedited the anthology Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey, I’ve become convinced some of the most powerful cultural wisdom pools at the intersection of women and travel.

1) Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers, selected by Jane Robinson
In this spunky companion volume to Wayward Women (her book about women travel writers through history), Robinson collects the global travels of 200 women across 16 centuries – from the obscure to better known authors like Lady Mary Wortley Montague, Karen Blixen, Freya Stark and Jan Morris. Grouped by geography with numerous entries for each place which serve as a conversation between the region, the time and the characters themselves, the chapters are bookended by thoughtful selections in “Setting Out””and “Coming Home”” indicating that the act of travel is and has always been a transformative force in women’s lives. Sometimes reputation risking and life threatening, but often culturally redeeming and personally empowering, travel must be intellectually prepared for, and assimilated.

2) Veiled Half-Truths: Western Travellers’ Perceptions of Middle Eastern Women, selected and annotated by Judy Mabro (1991)
A politicized and rigorous survey of the depictions of ‘Oriental’ women in the writings of 18th, 19th and 20th century European travel books, memoirs, and guides about North Africa, Egypt, the Holy Land, and Turkey. It’s fascinating to note the degree to which the writers’ own prejudices about the region, Muslim culture, the veil, the harem — and the place of women in society in general — colored their descriptions and their conclusions. These skewed first-hand accounts then influenced or reinforced the stereotypes being embraced back home, and even though the sources have faded the perceptions endure today. 

3) Adventurous Women in South East Asia: Six Lives, edited by John Gullick (1995) 
Part of the terrific Oxford-in-Asia series, this easy-reading collection by various scholars examines the lives of 19th century Western women in the Asian tropics – pioneers like Sophia Raffles, the calamity-stricken wife of the British founder of Singapore, and Isabella Bird, the opinionated world traveler seeking to escape from civilization. It helped put into context my own struggling expatriate experience when I was living in steamy Malaysia… I especially appreciated reading about the dark side of these women’s lives, like the widely unknown and checkered past of Anna Leonowens, the famous governess hired by the King of Siam! Illustrated with fine engravings from the women’s own publications.

Read the rest of Anastasia Ashman’s Five Favorite Historical Travel Books at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.

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Check out The Brubury Tales by Frank Mundo.  Also available on Amazon.

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