A lively read undermined by an unbridled hissy fit.

THE UNLIKELY LAVENDER QUEEN

A MEMOIR OF UNEXPECTED BLOSSOMING

Feisty former New Yorker chronicles her second career as a Texas lavender farmer.

Enamored of her life as a high-powered journalist with a penchant for designer shoes, Ralston figured that moving to Austin was enough to satisfy future husband Robb’s desire to escape Manhattan’s glitz and return to his native Texas. But then Robb, a globetrotting photographer for National Geographic, started to find Austin too urban and began lobbying for a home in the country; the 33-year-old author, eager to have a baby, agreed to another move in return for his promise that they’d start a family. The couple eventually bought land in the rural, politically conservative community of Blanco. There, inspired by a visit to the lavender fields of Provence, they started the first commercial lavender farm in Texas while raising two sons in a renovated barn. Irritatingly, nearly half the book is comprised of the author’s whining about the failings of Blanco compared to New York. Readers will grow weary of her nonstop rant about the lack of art, culture, cappuccino and couture fashion in a milieu where camouflage-clad, deer-stalking hunters reigned supreme. Ecstatic when she was finally able to secure a daily subscription to the New York Times, the author obsessed about losing lucrative freelance assignments with periodicals that counted. A fascinating saga about the history of lavender and its cultivation in the United States fights valiantly to emerge from the underbrush of Ralston’s emphasis on the negatives in her life. By the time she gets around to celebrating her achievements as a pioneering lavender farmer and entrepreneur, the reader’s patience has worn thin. Still, the book is likely to find an audience among upscale career-change seekers, aspiring small-business owners and those grappling with work, family and “quality of life” concerns.

A lively read undermined by an unbridled hissy fit.

Pub Date: May 27, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2795-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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