A genuine adventure that often reads more like a report than a story.




A scientist looks back at his fascinating career and offers a pointed critique of mainstream conservation organizations.

As a graduate student in tropical biology at the University of Miami, Mack decided to conduct research on cassowaries—flightless birds that live primarily in the isolated rain forests of New Guinea. He traveled to Papua New Guinea, a country with over 800 tribal groups, a massive expanse of unbroken rain forest and hardly any established research facilities. It was a good fit for someone who finds “a sure thing boring.” Mack’s memoir recounts the two decades he spent in this remote, captivating land, from his pilot study in 1987 to his abrupt exit in 2007. Chapter by chapter, he inched up the ladder of his dreams by finding a study site teeming with pekpek (the Tok Pisin word for cassowary excrement) and eventually building a field research station with the Pawai’ia tribe. Later, he and Deb Wright, his wife at the time, teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society and developed a program based in Goroka that trained Papua New Guinean students to become conservation professionals. He encountered hardship every step of the way—life-threatening diseases, harrowing helicopter rides, testy tribal power struggles, flash floods and flesh-eating microbes, just to name a few. Readers looking for character development or suspense won’t find much here; there’s more insight into the plants and animals Mack observed than the people around him, and most of the major plot developments are plainly stated in the chapter’s titles. What emerges, however, is a hard-earned conservation manifesto: Mack believes the only sustainable conservation practices are those that focus on “capacity building,” the training of local citizens to manage their own country’s natural resources without long-term dependence on foreign expertise. It’s a convincing outlook, but with a tone that mixes bitterness, humor and pride, Mack sullies his argument by portraying the leaders of “Big Conservation” as perpetually clueless and shortsighted. Nevertheless, the book affords readers an impressive look at what can be accomplished with dogged determination and the right partners.

A genuine adventure that often reads more like a report than a story.

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9893903-0-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Cassowary Conservation & Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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