A gritty, absorbing account of a boxer who couldn’t defeat his own inner demons.

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BERSERK

THE SHOCKING LIFE AND DEATH OF EDWIN VALERO

From the Hamilcar Noir series , Vol. 1

A debut biography focuses on a Venezuelan boxer’s troubled life and times.

Stradley’s book, the first installment of the Hamilcar Noir series, tells the story of champion boxer Edwin Valero. Valero was born in 1981, joined children’s criminal gangs early on, started drinking and doing drugs before hitting puberty, and soon began winning amateur national boxing championships. He made his professional boxing debut in 2002 and rose quickly in the fighting ranks, briefly holding a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest number of first-round knockouts in his super-featherweight division. Along the way, his ferocity and ability in the ring drew comments from expert sports watchers, many of whom are quoted in the work as saying things like “Every now and then in the sport of boxing you see somebody come along and you’ll say, ‘That’s a guy that’s got the goods.’ ” As the author observes, “With a style suited to the professional ranks, and a hunger for fame, Valero could invade these lower weight classes like the Visigoths sacking Rome.” Alongside this portrait of growing fame and professional success, Stradley darkens the picture of Valero’s personal life, in which heavy drug use (and no doubt repeated head trauma) gradually took over and turned the fighter into what the author refers to simply as “a Rorschach test made in blood.” The drug use made him intensely paranoid. He suspected his wife was having an affair, that strangers were cheating him and intending him harm, and that the “police, Venezuelan gangsters,” and even his mother “were conspiring against him.” In 2010, “loaded to the gills” with cocaine, he supposedly killed his wife in a hotel room and later took his own life in custody. Stradley narrates all of this in a clipped, hard-hitting narrative style that makes no excuses and offers no apologies. Boxing fans interested in this minor tragic figure should be captivated.

A gritty, absorbing account of a boxer who couldn’t defeat his own inner demons.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949590-14-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Hamilcar Publications

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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