Despite his sincerity, Martinez lacks Swofford’s writing skills. Consequently, his book may appeal only to those whose...

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HARD CORPS

FROM GANG-BANGER TO LEATHERNECK HERO

A profane, testosterone-laced paean of love for the Marines and America and hatred for its enemies, which include Saddam Hussein’s army and Americans who oppose the war.

Martinez describes his adolescence in Albuquerque as a lawbreaking, school-hating, pugnacious gang member who, at the age of 17, abruptly decided to join the Marines. Readers may chuckle at his description of boot camp, which, with its sadistic discipline, fierce male-bonding enforced by mutual suffering and violence and contempt for non-Marines, seems a better organized version of the author’s gang. Bitterly disappointed to see other Marines sent to Afghanistan after 9/11, Martinez and his unit were thrilled to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His unit endured an exhausting month of intermittently bitter combat during which Martinez won a Navy Cross for heroic action during an ambush. From day one of the invasion, the author refers to the enemy as terrorists and points out how greatly they outnumbered his men, but readers may be most impressed with the Marines’ crushingly superior firepower. Martinez’s company suffered two wounded soldiers, but their rifles, tanks, artillery and aircraft killed scores of enemy soldiers and razed innumerable buildings to the ground. With victory achieved, his unit returned to the United States. When its presence in Iraq was required the following year, he could have accompanied it, but his term had expired, and he did not re-enlist. Although clearly a man who loves his country, Martinez spends considerably less time illustrating what he loves than denouncing what he hates: Americans who don’t deliver unqualified support of America’s wars, which include “hippies,” “liberals,” John Kerry and Anthony Swofford (author of Jarhead). He repeatedly denounces Jarhead, but the Marines in Swofford’s bestselling 2003 memoir, despite their adolescent horseplay, were vividly entertaining characters—and no slouches as warriors.

Despite his sincerity, Martinez lacks Swofford’s writing skills. Consequently, his book may appeal only to those whose uncritical love of our fighting men matches his own.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-307-38304-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown Forum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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