Helpful techniques for achieving life goals, but often sidetracked by the minutiae of an allegorical world.


Rigolosi identifies commitment, awareness, goals and exercise (CAGE) as the key ingredients to transformation in her blueprint for changing one’s life.

The author’s guide to self-improvement is told as a fable. Gretchen, Hans and their children, Little Gretel and Little Chaunce, live on The Lake and believe their Lily Pad is mysteriously shrinking, perhaps as a result of their creation of The Well of Many Spirits, a method of food storage. Eager to find out why the Lily Pad is shrinking (or perhaps how to make it bigger—the goal is not quite clear), Gretchen and Hans seek the advice of The Great Wizard of the Lakes, who promises to teach them the secret to “unlocking your CAGE” in four discrete lessons. Returning to The Great Wizard’s Lily Pad each time, Gretchen and Hans learn that by aligning their thoughts, feelings and actions, they can take control of their lives. Each of the four chapters is followed by a distilled lesson for the reader, offering visualization exercises as well as directions for how to enact the four lessons. Many of The Great Wizard’s directives seem wise and true— “Your CAGE exists only if you give it life by feeling CAGED—by being unaware and uncommitted and by feeling unable to control yourself. You direct what you believe to exist.” The world of The Lakes, while charming, often distracts from the larger lessons of the book. The presence of so many capitalized alternate names— “The Warmth in the Sky” for sun, “Water Petal” for cup and “The Well of Many Spirits” for an ice box—bogs down the story. While the lesson recaps appear to be applicable to various life challenges, the fable seems peculiarly focused on weight (much is made of Gretchen and Hans eating more as a result of their new food storage capability) and their preoccupation with their small home. A shrinking lily pad seems like an odd stand-in for what should be read as a universal obstacle to living one’s best life.

Helpful techniques for achieving life goals, but often sidetracked by the minutiae of an allegorical world.

Pub Date: April 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463772758

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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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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