Tag Archives: nonfiction

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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Frank Mundo 2016 Best of the Net Anthology Nominee

Honored that my poem “Aubade” has been nominated for the 2016 Sundress Publications Best of the Net Anthology. Thank you to Marie C Lecrivain, editor-publisher of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles.

poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles’ nominees for 2016 Sundress Publications Best of the Net Anthology.


1) G Murray Thomas -“A Personal History Of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Spoken Word


1) Carol Schwalberg – “Knock-Out

2) Lynne Bronstein -“A Present For the Teacher


1) Gwyndyn Alexander – “Poet in Atlantis

2) Deborah Edler Brown – “Taller Than the Moon

3) Frank Mundo – “Aubade

4) Angel Uriel Perales – “Minuet of the Burning Fields

5) Ben Trigg – “Shoes

6) Viola Weinberg Spencer -“Salvadore Dali Takes His Anteater For a Walk


Congrats to the nominees.


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Review of Sweet Dreams: a family history (memoir) by DeWitt Henry

On Saturday, January 15th, 2011, I wrote a review of Sweet Dreams, a new memoir by DeWitt Henry, the founder and long-time editor of Ploughshares.

Here’s the link


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Deconstructing God: an interview with author Ian Gurvitz

When I received a book in the mail for potential review called Deconstructing God: A Heretic’s Case for Religion by Ian Gurvitz, I was reluctant, to say the least, to review the book. I justified my thinking with the old saying about avoiding discussions of religion and politics in polite company.

But then I watched the hosts of the TV show “The View” storm of the set of their own show after a heated exchange with their guest TV host and author Bill O’Reilly about the building of a Mosque on Ground Zero. Later that week, reporter Juan Williams was fired for comments he made about these events on O’Reilly’s show. These stories became big news and even trumped, in many cases, news stories regarding what I felt was the nastiest, most emotionally-charged mid-term election campaigns I’ve ever seen.

That’s when I realized that “polite company” no longer seems to exist in our country. It’s Us vs Them now. We’re right and they’re wrong and there’s nothing you can say to change our minds. This is our attitude. Tolerance and compromise be damned!

And sure, this is the worst economy we’ve had in 25 years, but must be destroy the good with the bad? Must our beliefs and politics become who we are and not what we do or what we think? Can’t it be that someone else’s thoughts or opinions, even if we wildly disagree with them, are in fact valid and worthy of debate or conversation? Might we even be wrong about some of things we think or believe?

With this in mind, I’d like to introduce Ian Gurvitz, author of Deconstructing God, a new book that’s been generating some buzz about its controversial stance on how we, as a culture define, argue and defend our various systems of beliefs. Bill Maher, talk-show host and outspoken Atheist, has said of the book, “Although I don’t agree 100% with Ian Gurvitz’s analysis of religion — who does on this subject? — I loved reading this insightful, funny, and illuminating book.”

I couldn’t agree more. What I like most about this book, however, is that Gurvitz goes beyond the deconstruction of religion as we know it. It’s not a simple dismissal of religion. After all, it’s easy to tear down “mystical” ideas – Bill Maher does it often and well, and so does Gurvitz in his book. What’s challenging, however, is taking the next step. That is, from the rubble, reconstructing an interesting and sophisticated argument [for religion] in its place. And that’s where this book is truly successful, even if you disagree with Gurvitz’ analysis and/or conclusion.

A native New Yorker, Ian Gurvitz has lived in Los Angeles for the last 20 years, working as a TV Writer/Producer. Author of Hello, Lied the Agent a behind-the-scenes account of the world of TV development, Gurvitz wrote and directed a movie — L.A. Blues — which was released in 2008. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and has published articles in the LA.Times and Creative Screenwriting magazine. Before Hollywood, he earned a B.A. in Philosophy and worked toward an M.A. in Buddhist Studies, which involved a year living in Japan, and marked the beginning of a decades-long study of religion, which eventually lead to the writing of this book.

Gurvitz also maintains a blog at IBREAL.BLOGSPOT.COM.

You can purchase Deconstructing God: A Heretic’s Case for Religion at Amazon.com in paperback, eBook and audio book formats.

Please take a few more minutes to read the revealing interview with Ian Gurvitz at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner

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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.

Read more Five Favorite Books articles.

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

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Live It, Love It, Earn It: An Interview with Bestselling Author Marianna Olszewski

April is not just National Poetry Month, it’s also tax time. And while it’s safe to say that we’d all prefer a visit from Uncle Walt than Uncle Sam this month, many of us will likely be spending some or all of the next ten days paying the price for our months of procrastination.

The good news is, whether you’ve already filed or you’re just getting started, tax time is a great opportunity to take control of your finances. After all, by the time you’re done filing your taxes, all the data you need in order to make real changes in your financial future is right there in front of you in black and white. All you need is a plan, the right information…and a little motivation.

That’s why the LA Books Examiner is pleased to introduce money and life coach Marianna Olszewski, bestselling author of Live It, Love It, Earn It: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom.

But wait! All of the men out there who suddenly lost interest, don’t stop reading just yet…

Live It, Love It, Earn It by Marianna Olszewski at LA Books ExaminerThis is not one of those financial guides that advise women to freeze their credit cards in ice. Marianna’s the founder of Madison Financial Management LLC, a multi-million dollar financial marketing company that she built from scratch before she was thirty, while earning an MBA and working on Wall Street. In the book, she offers nine fun but practical strategies that empower women to undo bad habits and take full responsibility and control of their finances – and not to rely on anyone to ‘save’ them, including you or anyone else in their lives. Most importantly, Marianna teaches women, in a language they can relate to and understand, how to overcome what she says are, for a lot of women, serious emotions (anxiety, anger, even shame) surrounding money and debt, and then helps them to realize that there’s nothing wrong with wanting, making, and having money. 

There’s a lot for men to learn here, too. While Live It, Love It, Earn It is made up of interviews with high-profile business women you might only recognize from the business world, including designer Diane von Furstenberg, shoe mogul Tamara Mellon; Elaine Crocker, president of Moore Capital, Nina DiSesa, chairman of McCann-Erickson North America, and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, it also includes stories of everyday women who are overcoming financial challenges, getting out of debt, cleaning up their credit, and learning to prosper by following their passions — the women you might recognize in our lives: our girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, and aunts. And what could be better than learning about and sharing with them the tools that might help them live the kind of lives they’ve always wanted?  

Live It, Love It, Earn It by Marianna Olszewski is available now in book stores and online. You can learn more about Marianna at her website, where she offers a preview of the book and fun bonus features that make getting serious about your finances much easier. 

I had the great opportunity to interview Marianna Olszewski about her book and her life. Please take a few more minutes to read the revealing interview in Live It, Love It, Earn It, Part Two.

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The Promise Doctrine: Interview with Authors Craig and Jason Womack

Craig Womack and Jason Womack authors of The Promise DoctrineIt’s February already, about that time when many of us start to give up on our New Year’s resolutions that we were so gung-ho about just four weeks ago. That’s why the LA Books Examiner wanted to share a new book to help you, your family members, and your co-workers stay true to your word at work and at home.

Written by a local father-and-son team Craig and Jason Womack, The Promise Doctrine is a simple guidebook and system for consistently delivering on your promises – especially the ones you make to yourself. According to the authors, two of the biggest challenges to achievement in our world today is consistently demonstrating ethics in our business and our personal lives, and the renewal and resetting of personal accountability. This book is designed to help you overcome these challenges.

The Promise Doctrine is organized around focusing on the importance of promises, addressing what the authors have defined as the Six Elements of Promise Keeping. By keeping track of your promises and gaining control over what you’ve committed to, the authors believe that you put yourself in a position to be more successful and, more importantly, to quantify your results and see these results firsthand.

If you think this sounds hokey or too Oprah-ish, ask yourself the following question: “When I make a promise, what I mean is…?” and I think you’ll find that it’s a lot harder to do than you might think, especially if you’re honest about it.

The Promise Doctrine by Craig Womack and Jason WomackIn researching the book, the authors asked this same question to dozens of professional and friends, and each time they got a wildly different answer, clearly demonstrating that the dynamics of promise keeping are far more personal and complicated than we might tend to think.

Let’s face it, whether kept or broken, the promises you’ve made throughout your life to others and yourself both affect and impact your relationships, your family, your career, even your health (if, for example, those promises involve continually breaking resolutions like quitting smoking or eating better or exercising more). That’s why it’s so important to figure out what commitment means to you and how you can consistently make it happen.

What I like best about this book is that it’s short (less than 100 pages) and easy to read and navigate. The pages are thick and designed to be written in, and along with the quick tip reminders that easily fold in and out, there’s also a Promise Guide where you can record and see for yourself your results in writing. A great tool for getting back on track with your resolutions, this book is also the perfect gift for friends and family and all of your employees.

The Promise Doctrine by Craig P. Womack and Jason Womack, MEd, MA is available at http://www.thepromisedoctrine.com/. To learn more about co-author Jason Womack, visit http://www.womackcompany.com/.

I had the great opportunity to sit down with Craig and Jason Womack recently and talk about their book and their lives. Please take a few more minutes to check out the interview. I promise: you’ll be glad that you did.

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