Burn Zones


Although it takes some time to get to know him, the author eventually reveals himself to be even more intriguing than his...

A riches-to-rags memoir that offers unique perspectives on business, punk rock, inequality, cycling, and family.

Debut author Newbery has held a surprising assortment of titles throughout his life: a lending mogul, the No. 1 Housing and Urban Development broker in the country, a professional cyclist, a leader in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a ruined businessman, and a key figure in LA’s gritty, early punk scene. As he tells it, each new venture seemed logical, because he always remained the same—a socially awkward but resilient entrepreneur who was committed to what was before him. His incredible work ethic led to success in everything he tried, until he began to buy and revamp some of the most blighted, dangerous properties in the country. What started as challenging work evolved into genuine efforts to improve the lives of those in poor minority communities. Unfortunately, infuriating bureaucracy and insurance companies led to his downfall and crippling debt. In an intriguing twist, the Great Recession of 2008 provided him a path forward when he dedicated himself to helping people who could no longer afford their mortgages. As one might expect with someone so successful, Newbery puts business first, dedicating most of the first half of his story to meticulous overviews of his business dealings, athletic accomplishments, and a particular property that incurred the most debt. His intense focus on these subjects, interesting as they are, leaves readers with little personal information about the author himself or his motivations. However, when he expands on some events in more detail (and in a first-person perspective), he proves to be an observant, witty storyteller. For example, his stories of failed social interactions, as with a group of women who tried to make him dance, have perfect timing and are laugh-out-loud funny. As he uses this technique more often in the second half, he produces insightful, powerful observations about his family and the most important economic issues of our time.

Although it takes some time to get to know him, the author eventually reveals himself to be even more intriguing than his fascinating career.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61961-320-1

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Community Books

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2015


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

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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