A gritty, engrossing, and concise account of a boxer’s meteoric career and tortured personal life.

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THE GHOST OF JOHNNY TAPIA

From the Hamilcar Noir series , Vol. 2

A biography chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a renegade boxer.

In this second installment of the Hamilcar Noir series, Zanon (Sinner and Saint, 2018, etc.) tells Johnny Tapia’s story, recounting the action in and out of the boxing arena where the fighter made his name. The author follows Tapia from his birth in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1967 and the savage murder of his mother when he was only 8 years old to his first boxing bout at 9 and beyond. He had his first professional match in 1988 and won the United States Boxing Association Super Flyweight title in 1990. But, as the author puts it, “unfortunately, his passion and desire in the ring played second fiddle to a destructive lifestyle” when the gloves were off, a destructive routine featuring a steady consumption of drugs and alcohol. Zanon describes a life of nearly constant brutality in which the boxer was actually declared DOA multiple times, either from violence or drug overdoses. This leads the author to contend that “Johnny stared death in the face more times than would seem physically possible.” The narrative describes the arc of Tapia’s professional life in economical but effective detail. This is by no means a classic of boxing nonfiction, but Zanon knows the sport well enough to keep these bouts intriguing. One of the story’s most moving nonboxing moments comes when Tapia learned that his mother’s murder had been solved but that he had no chance for personal vengeance. The killer was fatally struck by a car 10 years after the crime. Still, the bulk of Zanon’s book—written with the pugilist’s wife, debut author Teresa Tapia—involves the boxer’s increasingly serious swings between hard-fought professional matches and a long series of drug deals, arrests, and broken second chances. He became a world champion, but the strain of his various activities eventually affected his heart; he died in 2012. The work recounts all this with a good deal of momentum and little sentimentality. The resulting portrait is that of a deeply weak and flawed man who could nevertheless exhibit a real zest for living.

A gritty, engrossing, and concise account of a boxer’s meteoric career and tortured personal life.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949590-15-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hamilcar Publications

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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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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