A disturbingly honest memoir.

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WHAT IS REAL

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DARNELL RILEY

An ex-con tells the story of life inside the California state prison system.

In 2005, Perez (full name Darnell Riley Perez) was “a year removed from my last criminal act”: breaking into Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis’ Bel Air home, videotaping Francis in compromising positions, and using the resulting footage to extort money. Then, without warning, two armed U.S. Marshalls captured Perez at his home. In this gritty memoir, the author details the decade he spent behind bars. His first experiences at the LA County jail lockup showed him just how difficult incarceration could be. The cramped cells had no windows and no clocks, and the prison moved inmates around often, creating a sense of instability. Corrections officers carried out everything from full body searches to meal service “with the same level of hate for the process as the inmates.” A majority of convicts were involved in notorious gangs like the Crips, Bloods, and the Asian Boyz, divided along racial lines. Perez identified himself as a more-or-less neutral “Other” and managed to stay out of most intergang confrontations. But loneliness and separation from family and friends took its toll. With an almost frightening sangfroid, he writes about collecting a secret stash of sleeping pills to use in case his trial “was a failure.” In early 2006, Perez was formally charged and sentenced to 10 years and moved to the Corcoran State Prison, which housed convicted murderer Charles Manson. A female corrections officer briefly made a sexually frustrated Perez one of her “personal sex performers” and watched him masturbate when he was alone in his cell. Later, he became a “soldier” in a private war between convicts and assaulted an inmate who had not paid a debt to another. Grim, unrelenting, and at times difficult to read, the book takes readers on a journey to the dark side of both prison life and human nature.

A disturbingly honest memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947856-26-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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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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