A perfect graduation gift for young women—but the advice is applicable to all.

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Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

Mixed-media artist and debut author Blades combines wit with sincere counsel in an innovative scrapbook format.

With a daughter approaching high school graduation, Blades began compiling life lessons she hoped to impart on her daughter. The resulting book of aphorisms could have been schmaltzy but is instead both humorous and visually impressive. Offered as a numbered list in a quirky variety of fonts, her maternal instructions range from two words to paragraphs. The themes may be perennial advice-guide fodder—seizing the day, embracing creativity, being prudent with money and treating others with compassion—but snappy delivery and unsentimental wording help them feel fresh. Thus the doctrine of mindfulness becomes, simply, “WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE ALL THERE.” Where Blades acknowledges clichés, she always adds a clever twist: “IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. You’re smart enough to think of something nice.” She also debunks a few old chestnuts: Instead of exhorting girls to “dream big,” which she’s nonetheless in favor of, she reassures them that “It’s okay to OUTGROW YOUR DREAMS.” Some standout features include two-page spreads in which each epigram repeats the same first word (“KEEP your knees together when you’re sitting on stage”; “KEEP your head when all about you are losing theirs,” etc.), occasional puns (“HAVE RUBBER GLOVES. On hand”), and echoes of Kipling’s “If—” and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. In one notable, original proverb, Blades balances enthusiasm with discipline: “COMMON SENSE AND SELF-RESTRAINT SHRINK IN THE PRESENCE OF PASSION. Does this mean don’t be passionate? Absolutely not.” Pithy recommendations about forgiveness, charitableness, being a good hostess and accepting change would be valuable in their own rights, but the whimsical artwork renders the book all the more delightful. Cutouts of paper dolls and maps share space with colorful, textured illustrations of houses, trees and clouds. Fashion plates lend a sophisticated, faux Parisian feel, while plentiful tips on Internet and cellphone etiquette help put the book on trend for today’s teenagers. Inspirational yet never syrupy, the text could easily be read in one sitting and should prove useful throughout college and beyond.

A perfect graduation gift for young women—but the advice is applicable to all.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9897583-0-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Startistry Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

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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