The promise of a dreamlike fantasy lapses slowly but surely into a soporific narrative.

ATHENA

An Air Force enlistee's curiosity about the occult leads him across Europe on a journey of New Age self-discovery.

Davis is both author and hero of this semi-autobiographical sequel to his first novel, Buchi (2006). “Spook,” as Spirit’s Air Force pals playfully call him, has known since he was a child that he was “different”–and not just because of his parents’ unorthodox choice of name. On a visit to Great Yarmouth on England’s eastern shore in 1961, the youthful Spirit finds himself being drawn to the small storefront of “Madam Logos, Fortune Teller–Astrologer–Psychic.” Inside, he meets octogenarian Athena Logos, who informs Spirit that he is indeed “different”: Spirit is an empath, able to psychically probe the innermost feelings of others. Athena and Spirit begin weekly excursions into worlds of astrology and metaphysics to prepare him for some special “purpose” to which he is destined. Before long, a series of visions and “vibes” begins to make Spirit suspect there’s more to this typecast old fortuneteller than meets the eye. Why does Athena refuse to meet his friends? Who is the strange young woman who keeps appearing to him in visions and dreams? When Athena’s sudden disappearance leaves him without a friend and guide, he sets out to the ancient ruins of the Temple of Poseidon in Greece in search of answers. Coming to his aid are a cast of friends, both skeptical and credulous, who nevertheless offer their full emotional support to him in his journey. Author Davis invests a great deal of warmth and bonhomie in Spirit’s friendships, but therein lies a critical misstep: Spirit’s encounters with other characters are so genial and good-natured that no real conflict–interpersonal or otherwise–mars Spirit’s breezy progression to finding the answers to his questions. Stories of self-discovery thrive on struggle, but here the protagonist need only “go with the flow” to arrive at journey’s end.

The promise of a dreamlike fantasy lapses slowly but surely into a soporific narrative.

Pub Date: April 24, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4257-2953-0

Page Count: 204

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2011

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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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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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