A harrowing and engrossing account of a young woman’s difficult journey.

BLIND PONY

AS TRUE A STORY AS I CAN TELL

A debut memoir tells the story of a teenager trying to escape a life of exploitation and find herself.

Hart’s troubles started when she was 5 years old. Her mother had left her husband, taking her five daughters to live on her parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania. According to Hart, her grandfather sexually abused her repeatedly, trying to hide the horrific deeds from the rest of the family. He was caught in the act by the author’s mother, who ignored it. Hart decided she would have to fend for herself and headed to Arizona to live with her father, “Wild Bill,” whom she had idealized in his absence. But he had started a new family, and Hart would not be a part of it. The cycle of abuse continued as she fled Arizona for Los Angeles after a pimp tried to recruit her. She found herself hooked on drugs and abused by a string of men trying to keep her as a sex object. But along the way, she discovered assets and talents. Eventually, she realized she had inherited her father’s ability to bluff his way through sales and that she was good at prepping a store for presentations. She did some modeling, and that led her to different jobs as a stylist for adult photo shoots. Hart followed a photographer named Eugene to England and wound up traveling around Europe, selling adult photo sets to publishers. At one point, she became a backgammon hustler in Los Angeles, something readers likely won’t find in many memoirs. Most of this happened before she turned 20. What pulls the story along is that each time the exploitation cycle repeated, Hart seemed to get a little closer to relying on her own strengths and finally becoming independent. The drugs, the lure of glamour, and just bad decision-making kept getting in the way. Hart is a gifted storyteller, and sometimes these engaging tales of traveling the world and mingling with the rich and famous seem like something out of a celebrity biopic (perhaps why she subtitled her work). The book is ultimately inspirational, but readers have to see the author go through a wringer to get there.

A harrowing and engrossing account of a young woman’s difficult journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64871-010-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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