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

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Burn Zones

PLAYING LIFE'S BAD HANDS

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

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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