Emotionally taxing but courageous; especially appropriate for abused spouses and the professionals who council them.

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NIGHTMARE IN HOSTAGE HILLS

A deeply disturbing debut memoir about physical intimidation and emotional abuse that tears a family apart.

The author and her husband, Charles Mask, met while both were in a 12-step program for their alcohol addiction. They had, she thought, a good marriage, although Charles occasionally displayed signs of narcissistic domination. Still, she concentrated on home and hearth, delighting in caring for their three children, Jade, Zach, and Leonard. But the relationship deteriorated as Charles undermined her authority with Jade and became more frequently verbally abusive and accusatory. Jade was the first to become blatantly hostile toward her mother; ultimately, the others followed her lead. After years of legal battles and volumes of testimony, Charles was awarded complete custody of the children. And, as Mask carefully details, he convinced them that she was their enemy. Mask’s children have remained alienated from her for more than 13 years, though they all have reached adulthood. Mask admits that during the tumultuous six years of fighting for custody, she became psychologically fragile, fell off the wagon more than once, and entered a rehabilitation facility for several months. But she also offers ample evidence of the love she and the children once shared—photographs, notes written by one child or another, etc. In large measure, this oversized volume is a plea to her children to remember the good years, to reach beyond what professionals call the dynamic of “Parental Alienation Syndrome.” It’s also a passionate call to reform the child custody system. The stunner in this story is the extent to which the author was ill-served by her attorney, the justice system, and the mental health professionals who were supposed to help. Copies of legal documents and psychological evaluations display marked favoritism toward Mask’s husband. Mask bolsters her argument with excerpts from numerous accredited studies. The rage and pain that pour from every page is certainly understandable, although it makes for difficult reading. And a running heavy focus on her religious convictions threatens to distract readers from a sociologically valuable work.

Emotionally taxing but courageous; especially appropriate for abused spouses and the professionals who council them.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-973608-81-3

Page Count: 702

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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