While this fast-paced tale of a sculptor delivers unrelenting passion, portions of the narrative lack depth.



An experimental novel focuses on one woman’s artistic struggles.

The protagonist in this brief drama goes unnamed yet readers gather early on that she endures a life of frustration. She has grand dreams of being a sculptor but, as with so many artists, these yearnings do not pay the bills. As someone tells her rather bluntly, “You cannot live off your sculptures.” So what does she do instead? Although it is never entirely clear who is speaking (most of the book unfolds in dialogue and characters are never given names), it seems the artist sticks with a job she hates even though it causes her great distress. And so readers follow along as the protagonist argues with others, criticizes herself and her work, and generally expresses feelings of discontent. She pens brief letters to Passion, Pain, and Phobia (for example, “Dear Phobia, You are hosting me as a prisoner”). She also suffers odd accusations, including that she looks too glamorous to be a sculptor. The whole affair unfolds in under a hundred pages and, while the protagonist certainly gets to vent her frustrations, it is not certain if anything gets resolved. Everything in Jbara’s (Muddy Minutes, 2017, etc.) story moves quickly. From the get-go, it is clear that this sculptor has some feelings to express and she does so without pulling any punches. As she responds to someone who claims she is not changing the world with her art, “Actually, I am changing my world.” The problem with this anonymous fury is that the sculptor and her haters are inherently flat. While it is easy to be empathetic to her plight, it is impossible to know much about her or her work. Dialogue can likewise be vague to the point of distraction. This is the case when one character exclaims “I loathe you!” and another responds: “I loathe you too.” What, exactly, is everyone so angry about? Nevertheless, the arguments are always heated. Even if the characters are ambiguous, it doesn’t mean they—and the book on the whole—aren’t full of emotion.

While this fast-paced tale of a sculptor delivers unrelenting passion, portions of the narrative lack depth.

Pub Date: June 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72838-997-4

Page Count: 94

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2019

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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