A sluggish book that presents a choir director’s history, career, and faith.

Born To Serve

A debut memoir in poems, prose, and songs shows how Christianity helped one man navigate life.

Growing up in the Pennsylvania Dutch region in the 1930s, Fox lived on a “mini-farm” with few modern conveniences. Throughout his childhood, he endured some moderate bullying from the neighborhood kids and strict teachers whose punishments could not exist today: on an instructor’s desk “rested a Ping-Pong paddle, which she used upon my seat of understanding.”  But the biggest challenge coming from his formative years was a belief that he was not very intelligent. Despite this challenge, an appreciation for music and a deep passion for the Bible propelled him through high school and into a Bible college. Through several false starts and setbacks, Fox always trusted that his life was merely going according to God’s plan, and he eventually found a career as a high school English teacher and started a family with his wife, Joy. After the difficult years of raising their children, Fox discovered his original two passions coming back together with the offer to become the choir director for his church in 2009, giving him the opportunity to further share both Jesus and music with others. Scattered throughout the memoir are poems and original songs by the author that range from sweet to oddly literal: “A yellow jacket nest was located, where I sat. / They stung me all over-just like that. / My good parents, knew I was afraid, / And rapidly gave me first aid.” Aside from some intriguing tidbits on bygone ways of life in the ’30s and fascinating reflections on society’s changes, the memoir trudges from one standard life event to the next. Fox writes passionately and earnestly about his devotion and continued belief in Christianity, but most of his recollections are dull and leave the reader wondering why they were necessary to include at all, like the New York City trip when he was separated briefly from some friends: “A terrible fear occurred in my mind,” he writes. “What if they couldn’t find where we were located? Fortunately, that did not happen.” Unfortunately, poems and prose that report on common and uninteresting events drag the entire account down.

A sluggish book that presents a choir director’s history, career, and faith.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5127-1989-5

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2016

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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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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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