An inspiring, empowering memoir by a talented new author.

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Three women set out to conquer the John Muir Trail in Griffin’s debut memoir.

In 2004, celebrating her 50th birthday, the author, along with her best friend, Z, threw an “over-the-top party.” Only days later, Z was killed by a drunk driver. Attempting to come to terms with the loss, Griffin escaped to Yosemite, where she camped and read. There she found inspiration in the words of the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue: “When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of the mountains...” She felt the sudden desire to walk the John Muir Trail, a long-distance hike of approximately 200 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The author describes planning and training for the event before setting out in the summer of 2006 with two female friends, Cappy and Jane (Jane leaves the trip on the sixth day). The memoir records 27 days the author spent in the wild, where Griffin experienced terrifying mountaintop storms, beautiful waterfalls, and struggles with sprained ankles, blisters, and mosquitoes. She also met many other fellow hikers who became “trail friends,” one of whom, Zoe, joined their hiking party after splitting with her hiking partner. The author has a delightfully unconventional descriptive style that charms the reader from the outset. Her portraits of other hikers prove particularly vivid: “His mouth spread into a wide grin that pushed his cheeks up until they bumped into his eyes, scrunching them into an endearing whole-face smile.” Griffin eloquently communicates her physical and emotional progress, building to a true moment of epiphany in the mountains: “I was stronger, so the challenges were easier, and my fears, along with my aches and pains, diminished.” She was also fully aware of the awesome scenery surrounding her and deftly transports the reader into the landscape: “Unlike Mount Muir and the other sharp pinnacles, Whitney was an upside-down soup bowl, a vast rounded chunk of granite.” There are occasions when the author repeats observations, such as the sound of “nylon against nylon,” while walking. This minor flaw does not detract from the elegantly crafted prose.

An inspiring, empowering memoir by a talented new author.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781685132811

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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

ISBN: 9781668009048

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow


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

ISBN: 9780525429524

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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