Too dense and scholarly for some general readers but astonishing in its relentless frankness and a refreshing report from an...




Why will democracy refuse to take root in Russia?

In this trenchant exposé of Russia’s totalitarian pathology, Kovalev—who was a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s secretariat and also worked in the foreign affairs ministry under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin—blames the country’s enduring “slave psychology” for many of its ills, from the time of the czars to the present. The author, whose high-level career took him into the apogee of government power and whose own father was an eminent Soviet diplomat, approaches the unending Russian cycle of tear-down, reaction, revanchism, and stagnation like a social psychologist. In his early job in the late 1980s, Kovalev worked on the “elimination of punitive psychiatry,” which has helped him diagnose Russia’s chronic problems. Perhaps his current exile in Belgium—he found the Putin regime to be too politically oppressive,” and he includes a horrifying chart delineating the attacks on and murders of journalists and editors since 2001—has allowed him the freedom to skewer the unchecked power of the “secret services,” which took on new life after the failed 1991 coup against Gorbachev. Kovalev methodically works through the stages of this failed coup as reflections of the same “monster” of totalitarianism that the liberal reforms of Gorbachev were supposed to eliminate. Under Yeltsin, a “new elite” formed (really just a replica of the old elite), assuming new powers under former KGB chief Putin, whose apotheosis demonstrated that the Russian population could still be manipulated into “subordinat[ing] its own real interests to the sham interests of the state.” Moreover, Putin capitalizes on the Russian sense of nostalgia for the strong-armed leader who reverts to the familiar ideological dogmatism, sounding the hollow notes of the “National Idea”—i.e., patriotism, Russian Orthodoxy, suspicion of mysterious “interventionists,” need for secrecy, renewed imperialism, infantilism, xenophobia, and so on. Ultimately, Kovalev brings us back to the totalitarian state that won’t go away.

Too dense and scholarly for some general readers but astonishing in its relentless frankness and a refreshing report from an insider.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61234-893-3

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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