A spiritual instruction manual that’s too overtly sectarian to have wide appeal.


An instructional guide that aims to help readers achieve their inner, divine purposes.

Robert (His Beauty for My Ashes, 2012), a pastor and preacher in Cambodia, believes that God has a plan for everyone. He likens this to a child growing inside each person, waiting to be nourished. There are numerous reasons, he says, why one might be unaware of this potential—ignorance of Scripture, a general lack of spiritual awareness, or even simple defiance. Sometimes, he says, this lack of awareness falsely leads people to believe that God is neglecting them. But, according to the author, God provides each person with the necessary tools to unearth their purpose and bring it to full fruition. Robert avers that humans experience two different kinds of emptiness: a purely negative kind that manifests as low self-esteem and another, more positive version that’s a desire to be closer to God. Building one’s relationship with God through scriptural study and prayerful self-reflection, he says, can provide everyone with a clearer sense of his plan. The author discusses a number of practical ideas on combatting stress and recognizing the consequences of fear and anxiety as well as the potentially negative influence of one’s peers. He often recounts his own experiences as references, but the true focal point of his study is the Bible, which he characterizes as the authoritative guide for this “divine program.” Robert’s prose is consistently clear and sometimes even poetically elegant: “There is a fire in every person….When the fire is lit but untended, it is a gift in hibernation and it is not going to benefit or warm others in need but rather will produce a tearful smoke.” Overall, this will be a helpful guide to some readers looking for encouragement and advice about deepening their spiritual practice. However, the author’s view is so pervasively Christian that it will only resonate with other Christians, and some of them may find it too broad. The instructions can be overly general even in sections that appear to promise more concrete, practical tips, such as “Recipes for Successful Birthing.”

A spiritual instruction manual that’s too overtly sectarian to have wide appeal.

Pub Date: July 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5049-1967-8

Page Count: 198

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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