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Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I don’t normally read a lot of nonfiction, except memoirs (which I love), but this book was highly recommended by a friend, so I gave it a shot. Plus, I was intrigued by the book-cover descriptions that referred to the book as a nonfiction novel – which made me think of Capote’s In Cold Blood or something like that – and hopefully not some dry textbook that, while most likely educational and probably edifying to my soul, might be just plain boring.

And, thankfully, I was right, and my friend’s recommendation was spot on.

Yes, Erik Larson offers extensive research to recreate the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, bookending his account a few years before and after this major event in American history. And, yes, this story alone is worthy of an entire book by an author or Larson’s talent. But he did more; he made it fascinating. I was learning (gasp!) and was also thoroughly entertained at the same time.

The story deals with, along with many other topics, genius. The first is Daniel Burnham, the architect who builds the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. And the other is H.H. Holmes, evil but no less a genius, one of the first known serial killers in the United States (with a “murder castle” of horrors) who exploits the fair to find his victims. (There’s a third smaller but still important plotline about Patrick Eugene Prendergast who assassinates popular mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. before the fair is through). We also meet a lot of other geniuses throughout the book from Frederick Olmstead, George R. Davis, G. Brown Goode, Francis David Millet, Ferris (famous Ferris Wheel designer) to Kodak to Buffalo Bill Cody and many, many more, who all helped pulled off this historic event.

There’s not much more to say without spoiling the book, except that I found the first half of the book more educational and the second half of the book more entertaining (and much easier to read). If I have one complaint (a big one), it’s that Larson didn’t discuss Frank Geyer enough – Geyer is the genius detective, from the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency, whose relentless determination in getting his man led to an epic cross-country investigation that ends the book with a much bigger bang than I ever expected. Geyer deserves his own book!

Nonetheless, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is an excellent read that makes learning fun.

Books by Frank Mundo

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Two new book reviews by Frank Mundo

Earlier this year, my new book Different was reviewed by Big Al’s Books and Pals, and my short story collection, Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy was reviewed by Indiereader.com; Here’s an excerpt from each:

5-star review for Different / Frank Mundo

Description:

“One morning 12-year-old Gregory Gourde wakes up in his bed with an impossible new feature: his head has become a watermelon. We follow Gregory down a rabbit hole of sorts to a new world and an audacious exploration of what it really means to be different in this dark yet humorous nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.”

Appraisal:

Gregory Gourde certainly does take a trip down the rabbit hole in this dark fantasy; I felt like he was skating on the edge of madness for most of this story. Surely this is not what it is like for most boys going through puberty. But the author’s prose had me convinced that it had been for him. Frank Mundo does not just throw words at the page in hopes that they stick. There is much thought put into the words he chooses and this story will leave you thinking about it long after you have finished the story. This is the sign of a true wordsmith.

The story is told through Gregory’s eyes with an omniscient narrator who pops in occasionally to move the story along or fill in past events of Gregory’s life or other characters that played an important role.

Read the full review at Big Al’s Books and Pals –> http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2013/12/different-frank-mundo.html

Review: “4-stars: GARY, THE FOUR-EYED FAIRY AND OTHER STORIES is an entertaining romp, full of irreverent humor that leaves you wanting more…chronicling the life and times of J.T. Glass, a security guard armed with a sharp tongue, keen wit and vivid imagination…each story in this collection can stand on its own, but read together, the book feels more like a novel told out of chronological order, or like a puzzle that engages you, the reader, to assemble and experience the transformation from boy to man. The dialogue is crisp, the nuances are rich, most of the stories move at a fast clip, and you’ll be laughing or crying most of the journey.

Mundo knows how to delight and surprise, no holds barred. He has an excellent command of story, and the courage to go dark. Upon discovering some horrible truths about his deceased roommate, J.T. wrestles beautifully with his conscience in “A Friend In Need.” “Remorse” dares to walk that tightrope, balancing comedy and tragedy. The witty banter and innuendo in “A Conversation Piece” sets the tone of for the wild and crazy times defining J.T.’s life.” –Indiereader.com

Read the full review at Indiereader–> http://indiereader.com/2014/01/gary-four-eyed-fairy-stories/


Different
by Frank Mundo at Amazon.
Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories at Amazon.
Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories at Barnes and Noble.
Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories at Smashwords.

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Book Review: The Book of Want by Daniel Olivas

I reviewed The Book of Want, the debut novel of Los Angeles writer Daniel Olivas for La Bloga and LA Books Examiner.

Check them out here:

La Bloga –> http://labloga.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-of-book-of-want.html 

La Books Examiner–> http://www.examiner.com/books-in-los-angeles/book-review-the-book-of-want-by-daniel-a-olivas

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Sadly Ever After: 3 Books to Tear Into

I was a guest blogger for The Journal of Cultural Conversation. How cool is that?

If you want to check out my post, here’s the link. If you have time, please leave a comment on the site, so they will invite me back.

http://www.thejcconline.com/sadly-ever-after-three-books-to-tear-into/

Thanks

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