A gratuitous work of celebrity worship.

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JENNIFER, GWYNETH & ME

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, ONE CELEBRITY AT A TIME

One writer’s attempt to “celebrify” her life by following the examples of today’s leading ladies in pop culture.

In her opening introduction, Bertsche (MWF Seeking BFF, 2011) refers to the conundrum of celebrity culture as a classic “chicken-or-the-egg issue” in which she ultimately distills the problem into two questions: “Do we obsess over celebrities because we want to be perfect? Or do we want to be perfect because we obsess over celebrities? There’s no way to be sure.” These are valid questions that underscore the influence of the cult of celebrity, and though there is indeed no immediate answer, the questions themselves are a reminder that society is too fixated on the pursuit of looking and feeling good. This quest for perfection has led Bertsche to idolize a shortlist of celebrity women, all actresses except for Beyonce, who signify excellence in a particular quality of life. The author praises Jennifer Aniston for her toned body, Jennifer Garner for her perfect marriage and Julia Roberts’ Zen-like serenity. Readers witness Bertsche’s transformation from an undisciplined freelancer more likely to sleep in and snack than do yoga and prepare healthy meals into a monomaniacal, slightly watered-down version of a Stepford wife. Most troubling, however, is the book’s coda, which confirms the author’s delusional attitude when she looks forward to the day when she and her daughter can flip through the pages of celebrity magazines and “talk about the aspects of the stars we admire” and objectify at will. While Bertsche’s attempt to mold herself in the image of certain celebrities she believes are exemplars of fashion, physique, cooking, etc., is frivolous and superficial, not to mention at times embarrassing, some readers won’t blame her for at least trying to make a better life for herself, however misguided her efforts.

A gratuitous work of celebrity worship.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-54322-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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