An uneven account of a marketer’s spectacular odyssey.




It’s “two steps forward, one step back, then two steps forward again, hopefully” for the author in this candid debut memoir of his journey from criminal to millionaire.

All props to van Stratum. At the age of 5, he awoke in a hospital to be told by a doctor that a train had run over his arm, severing it. At 12, his father abandoned his family. Van Stratum proceeded to fall in with very bad people doing very bad things, from petty vandalism and not so petty theft to drug dealing (and abusing the substances himself). He did some jail time. But that was then. “I’m typing this while sipping champagne in business class, on my way to Barcelona for a luxurious weekend,” he writes. “My friends include business moguls, life coaches, bankers, professional actors, and athletes. I’ve helped thousands of people better their lives during the journey of improving my own.” Van Stratum is a big proponent of “change your behavior” and “you’ll change your results.” His so-called drugs of choice evolved from weed to anger to self-improvement, and he unflinchingly chronicles his success story, first as a consummate pickup artist and eventual instructor in the art of seducing women for Love Systems and then as an affiliate marketer. He may be smooth with the women, but his writing is more ham-fisted. “Everything you can come up with that prevents you from making millions of dollars is some bullshit story you tell yourself,” he asserts (throughout, van Stratum seems determined to match the profanity benchmark of the film version of The Wolf of Wall Street). Nor is he the most empathetic of characters (“I was surrounded by idiots” becomes a recurring theme). While he doesn’t sink to the depths of, say, a Tucker Max, there isn’t a whole lot of rooting interest for him to triumph either. Still, good for him that he turned his life around so amazingly. Throughout van Stratum’s memoir, he shares the books that inspired him (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living). The reader bent on self-improvement may be better served just reading those.

An uneven account of a marketer’s spectacular odyssey.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946697-05-9

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

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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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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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