Expertly narrated, with just the right level of detail and drama.




Fast-paced account of a forgotten episode of World War I history.

Say what you will about the Jerries: They knew how to mount a flying circus—and how to shoot down brave Britons in the skies over France. One of those brought abruptly to ground was a 19-year-old named Colin Blain, one of the heroes of Bascomb’s (The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb, 2016, etc.) stirring tale. Determined to get back to his own lines and pick up the war where he had left off, Blain was eventually dispatched to a camp called Holzminden, a nasty bit of maximum security work designed for British officers who had a penchant for legging it when the guards weren’t looking. Holzminden was headed by a foul-tempered commandant named Karl Niemeyer, who greeted his new charges with a ration of acorn coffee and the promise that any attempt to escape would be severely punished. Naturally, Blain tried—and with him a company of like-minded prisoners. “Shorty Colquhoun, all six and a half feet of him, wanted to dig a tunnel,” writes Bascomb. So the men of Holzminden did, with the engineering mastermind behind the plan taking advantage of unforeseen weaknesses in the prison’s infrastructure. “They wanted to keep their cabal small, twelve officers at most, to ensure the tunnel stayed secret as well as to limit the number of individuals going in and out of the building,” writes Bascomb, but in the end 29 prisoners escaped, 10 of them traveling the 150 miles to the border of neutral Holland and returning to Britain against all the odds (and Bascomb reckons that of the 10,000 attempted British escapes from prison camps during World War I, less than 6 percent succeeded). Bascomb’s portraits of the principals are affecting, Niemeyer among them—and though he became unhinged following the escape, the commandant was sound enough of mind to slip away at war’s end to avoid being tried as a war criminal, another great escape in itself.

Expertly narrated, with just the right level of detail and drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-93711-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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