Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

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ALICE IN CHAINS

THE UNTOLD STORY

Biography of a drug-ridden Seattle grunge outfit whose fame peaked in the mid-1990s.

In his nonfiction debut, Georgetown University graduate student de Sola brings a refined sensibility to the tale of Alice in Chains, a band that gained widespread notoriety but lost two of its original members to drug-related causes. The author aptly situates the band’s sound, attitude, and lifestyle in the context of a particular time and place; his subjects were outcast working-class kids growing up bored in the Pacific Northwest, in love with punk and classic rock just as much as 1980s hair metal. Of course, the main focus is on the band’s once-charismatic frontman-turned–heroin casualty, Layne Staley, whose distinctive, brooding style would come to be almost as widely recognized as Kurt Cobain’s banshee wailing. De Sola approaches writing about the band with the sort of genteel orthodoxy one might apply to a master’s thesis. To the author’s credit, though, his staid writing purposefully avoids the usual overheated rock-speak, letting quotes from the band and those operating in their milieu do the necessary dirty work. De Sola also integrates countless interviews with the band members’ surviving friends and family and just about anybody who was ever remotely associated with the band. Unfortunately, though, the book requires more aggressive content editing, as it drags readers along on too many detours detailing the dead-end side projects of the band members, not to mention their onstage (and backstage) high jinks. In the end, just like too many rock bands over the years, Alice in Chains couldn’t transcend the pitfalls of drugs, money, and overnight fame. Along with other bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains helped destroy complacent glam metal, but they also left behind a trail of futility and wasted talent in their wake.

Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04807-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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