by Jason G. Pike ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 10, 2023
An engrossing, warts-and-all view of Army life, simultaneously irreverent and inspiring.
Awards & Accolades
A United States Army officer battles a learning disability, office politics, and his own worst instincts in Pike’s memoir.
The author, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, begins his narrative with his boyhood in Georgia and South Carolina, describing his struggle with a learning disability that made it difficult for him to read, write, or absorb complex instructions. At loose ends, he joined the Army National Guard in 1982 at the age of 17 and endured a brutal stint of basic training under a sadistic drill sergeant, an ordeal that instilled in him the conviction that “nothing is impossible if you can get enough training.” Pike applied that dictum to simple matters like making his bed and fieldstripping his M16, then to more complex tasks like completing college and earning two postgraduate degrees. He continued on to a military career as an Army entomologist and medical officer responsible for sanitation, hygiene, and combating insect-borne illnesses, eventually commanding units in South Korea and Afghanistan. But he continued to struggle with setbacks, including a DUI arrest (which could have ended his career if not for some adroit bureaucratic maneuvering) and a feud with colleagues that culminated in false charges of pedophilia and spying. As he unspools this history, the author also pays colorful tribute to his hardscrabble family—particularly his father, a sales executive who escaped dire poverty but retained a roguish streak that he inculcated in his son through watermelon-stealing lessons and a rough-and-ready attitude (“He liked a man who played football or baseball, because that meant he was a team player, and if making that touchdown required a fist to the balls or a handful of sand in the eyes, he had no problem with that”).
Pike delivers a canny, wised-up, decidedly unheroic portrait of military service, told from the perspective of an insider who does his duty as well as he can while understanding that the key to success is learning to navigate power plays and manipulate ponderous Army bureaucracy (he once managed to get an application for a transfer processed by the expedient of attaching a $1 bill to the paperwork to catch a clerk’s eye). In his telling, he was simultaneously a shrewd operator and a compulsive, sometimes self-defeating maverick who was forever getting chewed out, both by superiors and low-ranking subordinates. (“Sir! You are an officer! Why would you steal an enlisted person’s lunch?”). The narrative is full of hang-dog comedy, from a tumble into a cesspool to an Airborne School hazing ritual (“In my case, I had to stand naked in the doorway of an aircraft…holding on to the sides that had been rigged with an electrical current”), all rendered in pungent prose with vivid, absurdist detail rooted in evocative, sharply observed psychology and vivid characterizations (“His was a microworld, a fiefdom slowly built over many years, almost like an academic version of Apocalypse Now,” he writes of one entomologist rival; “He had a way of ingratiating and smiling that did nothing to hide his fury”). Pike perseveres with good humor and a persistent belief that service in the military was worth the travails and indignities he suffered along the way.An engrossing, warts-and-all view of Army life, simultaneously irreverent and inspiring.
Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023
Page Count: 275
Publisher: Independently Published
Review Posted Online: April 25, 2023
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
Share your opinion of this book
by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
Share your opinion of this book
by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!