A quick, cheerful holiday read.


The Story of Hennelie Hamster RUNNING WILD At Christmas time on a farm in Zimbabwe


With unwavering faith in her Creator and help from newfound friends, plucky Hennelie hamster escapes abuse to search for a better life in the beautiful Bushveld of Africa.

Newcomer Ziehl’s sweet—but predictable—Christmas tale begins in a pet store in Harare, Zimbabwe. A spoiled boy and girl relentlessly plead with their grandmother to purchase two hamsters, who are then plopped into a small, cold cage and named Hennelie and Harry. The hamsters end up in a farmhouse, and their cage is left in a depressing, windowless room. For Hennelie, the worst thing of all is sharing the cage with hateful Harry, as he torments and physically abuses her. To make matters worse, Hennelie is pregnant (Harry is the father), and she fears for her babies’ lives. Summoning up her courage and faith, Hennelie squeezes through the cage bars and makes her way outside, a place also rife with dangers for a hamster, such as the infamous “serial killer,” Wild Cat. Farm animals help Hennelie find the security gate leading to the world beyond the farm, where she eventually traverses the glorious African Bushveld in search of a home before her babies arrive. Author Ziehl encourages the entire family to partake in her optimistic message of perseverance during hardship, but older children could navigate the simplistic text on their own. Though the story has a strong theme of faith that echoes biblical verse, an underlying theme is faith in the self. For example, during a dark time when Hennelie is losing hope, a helpful horse encourages her to think of all she has accomplished. The book could also serve as a lesson in helping others, caring for pets and having respect for wild animals. Hennelie’s journey and the conclusion are somewhat pedestrian and hardly surprising, but a couple of colorful regional characters are introduced—e.g., the chongololo (giant African millipede)—and a kindly owl’s lecture on trees, plants and flowers paints a short but pleasant portrait of the landscape.

A quick, cheerful holiday read.          

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478240952

Page Count: 80

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2012

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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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A smart collection of articles and interviews on stupidity.


Are people getting dumber, or does it just look that way?

That question underlies this collection of essays by and interviews with psychologists, neurologists, philosophers, and other well-credentialed intellectuals. A handful of contributors have ties to North American universities—Dan Ariely, Alison Gopnik, and Daniel Kahneman among them—but most live in France, and their views have a Gallic flavor: blunt, opinionated, and tolerant of terms in disfavor in the U.S., including, as translated from the French by Schillinger, moron, idiot, and imbecile. Marmion, a France-based psychologist, sets the tone by rebutting the idea that we live in a “golden age of idiocy”: “As far back as the written record extends, the greatest minds of their ages believed this to be the case.” Nonetheless, today’s follies differ in two ways from those of the past. One is that the stakes are higher: “The novelty of the contemporary era is that it would take only one idiot with a red button to eradicate all stupidity, and the whole world with it. An idiot elected by sheep who were only too proud to choose their slaughterer.” The other is that—owing partly to social media—human follies are more visible, whether they involve UFO sightings or “some jerk pressing the elevator button like a maniac when it’s already been pressed.” Social psychologist Ewa Drozda-Senkowska distinguishes between ignorance and stupidity, noting that “stupidity, true stupidity, is the hallmark of a frightening intellectual complacency that leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” Other experts consider whether stupidity has an evolutionary basis, how it erodes morale, and the “very particular kind of adult stupidity” exemplified by Donald Trump. Although not a self-help guide, this book suggests that it rarely pays to argue with blockheads. Unfortunately, notes neuropsychologist Sebastian Dieguez, the “imbecile…doesn’t have the mental resources that would permit him to perceive his own imbecility.”

A smart collection of articles and interviews on stupidity.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313499-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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