A lively political thriller.

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THE FIRST CONSPIRACY

THE SECRET PLOT AGAINST GEORGE WASHINGTON

An atmosphere of distrust and subterfuge pervaded the Colonies on the eve of war.

In brisk, tense chapters, Meltzer (The Escape Artist, 2018, etc.) and documentary TV producer Mensch relate a tale of spies and treason, conspiracy and counterintelligence at the start of the colonists’ war against Britain. Using present tense, the authors create a sense of immediacy and peril: Patriots are being hastily formed into a ragtag, rowdy army; the British, with its incomparable navy, are mounting a well-orchestrated campaign, sending hundreds of ships to assail Manhattan; and the clock, as clocks do in such thrillers, is ticking. Central to the convoluted plot is the fate of George Washington, portrayed by the authors as a paragon of leadership and perfection: “perfect poise, perfect manners, perfect horsemanship, perfect appearance.” He faces a population of “divided loyalties and shifting allegiances…ripe for treachery, spying, and double-crossing.” Farmers and townsfolk are lured into fighting for the king and conveying secret information. New York Gov. William Tryon and the city’s mayor, David Mathews, are conspirators, Tryon masterminding treachery from aboard a British ship docked in New York’s harbor. Shocked by rumors, Washington decides to assemble an elite band of soldiers enjoined to protect him. Their nickname was the Life Guards. In addition, he convenes “a dedicated team who can uncover the enemies’ secret activities,” learn their plans, and thwart them. The secret Committee of Intestine Enemies, the authors assert, will become, two centuries later, the CIA: “the domain of dedicated agencies with well-trained experts and sophisticated technologies.” As rudimentary as it was, however, Washington’s clandestine committee ferreted out important information: Among turncoats were members of Washington’s Life Guards and, astonishingly, his housekeeper. The authors acknowledge that some elements of the plot remain mysterious: Washington’s housekeeper, for example, left his employ suddenly, but no records point to her involvement. Nevertheless, the conspiracy is foiled, and in July 1776, Washington’s public reading of the Declaration of Independence finally energizes his soldiers.

A lively political thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-13033-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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

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.

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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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