A pleasure from start to finish and evidence that really smart people often have a lot of luck.

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THE SLUMS OF PALO ALTO

HOW TO BE ECSTATICALLY HAPPY AFTER TEN FAILED STARTUPS

A California Institute of Technology alumnus too smart to be unemployed, Fussell (Hello World!, 2014) finds happiness through failure in this lighthearted, contemporary memoir.

Fussell brims with intelligence and has a wholly realistic, hard-knocks sense of how business and stock options work in California’s tech epicenter, where startups bloom and often quickly fade away. His experiences with a string of 10 such companies will be of interest to others entering or already in this arena. But those throughlines are only part of this wide-ranging expedition into personal philosophy, social responsibility and family values. The titular joke is that there are no slums in Palo Alto, only those neighborhoods where cracker box houses command seven figures for the privilege of residing in and around Silicon Valley. Even renting, as the author and his family do, costs absurd amounts of money but ensures that children go to superlative schools and breathe the rarefied air of these environs, where everything is top-notch. In these brief, colorfully illustrated pages, the author seems convincingly not neurotic and truly happy. He loves his wife deeply, adores his two daughters, welcomes relatives with open arms, volunteers his valuable time to technical programs for young students and endlessly pounds tennis balls to perfect his serve. He also regards women as “clearly the superior gender” (though badly treated in business), favors Eastern over Western culture, drives the freeway like a maniac, and reveres huge motor homes, preferably with two bathrooms. Otherwise, he diligently refills the ever draining (metaphorical) aquarium that is home to his “koi,” aka his wife Rebecca and two daughters, using what must be the eye-popping hourly flat rate he charges any high-tech startup or suitable enterprise that needs his services. His forays into the rudiments of programming will alert most readers that they are out of their depths. For instance, when describing binary, he says: “With just the digits ‘0’ and ‘1,’ you can represent any number that you need. Say you needed to pay an eight-dollar tab. You would pay that with what might look like a thousand dollar bill.” An expensive distinction!

A pleasure from start to finish and evidence that really smart people often have a lot of luck.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500328511

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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