Enthusiasts likely already know the details of Basciano’s trials, and casual readers will be better served by other, clearer...

VINNY GORGEOUS

THE UGLY RISE AND FALL OF A NEW YORK MOBSTER

From organized crime specialist DeStefano (Mob Killer, 2011, etc.), a convoluted exploration of the career of Mafioso Vincent Basciano, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Supermax facility.

The author opens not with Basciano, but with a minor player in New York's Bonanno family who was executed for having a big mouth and a brash presence. His death is his connection to the story; it was ordered by none other than Basciano, who later admitted as much to his own boss in prison. The man was wearing a wire, so DeStefano is able to recount their conversation word-for-word, which makes for a dramatic, promising launch to his narrative. However, the author then muddies the waters by adding layer upon layer of mob history, obscuring Basciano’s trajectory. DeStefano gives so much background information about the Mafia in New York that the book becomes a jumble of names and crimes. Thrilling tales are glossed over, offering tantalizing glimpses of dramas that intrigue but take readers' minds off the purported subject. It's difficult to see how all these tidbits fit into Basciano’s story, if they belong there at all. Eventually, after nearly 200 pages, the narrative lands squarely back on Basciano, and the pace picks up with his arrest and multiple trials. DeStefano's prose is clearer in this section, cohesively describing the trials, legal strategies and lawyers, revealing previously unseen aspects of Basciano's character as he fought to avoid the death penalty. (Convicted of two separate murders in 2007 and 2011, he got off with life imprisonment in both cases.) Unfortunately, these insights come too late in the text and are not fully developed, so Basciano’s legacy in the world of organized crime remains unclear.

Enthusiasts likely already know the details of Basciano’s trials, and casual readers will be better served by other, clearer accounts.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7627-8541-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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UNTAMED

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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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