Waller keeps the interest high and the pages turning in one of the more interesting spy books this year.

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THE WORLD WAR II MISSIONS OF THE CIA DIRECTORS WHO FOUGHT FOR WILD BILL DONOVAN

Former Newsweek and Time correspondent Waller expands on his earlier biography of the Office of Strategic Services founder (Wild Bill Donovan, 2011, etc.) with a history of the four men who worked for Donovan in the European theater.

What Allen Dulles, Bill Casey, Bill Colby, and Richard Helms had in common were the shared characteristics of the men of the OSS. They came from old American families, excelled at school, mastered at least one foreign language, and, with the exception of Colby, came from wealth. Each also eventually headed the CIA. The author shies away from painting the OSS as something of an old boys’ network, but it certainly attracted officers from the best families. Dulles’ time with the State Department in Vienna taught him never to ignore a potential informer, as he unfortunately did with Vladimir Lenin in 1917. He ended up running the Bern office of the OSS and gathered a most successful haul of espionage of World War II from Fritz Kolbe of the German Foreign Office, who supplied him with information about the Third Reich. Colby trained the Jedburgh commandos, who parachuted into France to lead the resistance, and Colby himself even jumped into Norway on bridge-blowing missions. Casey, with his business experience at the Research Institute of America, was “fixer” for diplomat David Bruce’s London Station and managed covert-ops teams sent into German territory. Journalist Helms finally arrived in London in 1945 to join and organize the OSS mission Dulles would lead in Germany after the surrender. These men were in the thick of America’s spy game for decades, and Waller’s broad knowledge of their work could easily have been four separate books. His analysis of their effectiveness is eye-opening, as is his short history of their time at the CIA—but that’s for another book. Especially helpful for readers is the cast of characters at the beginning.

Waller keeps the interest high and the pages turning in one of the more interesting spy books this year.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9372-0

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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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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