Oft-told stories about people as familiar as family still retain their power to animate and educate.

READ REVIEW

THE PIRATE QUEEN

QUEEN ELIZABETH I, HER PIRATE ADVENTURERS, AND THE DAWN OF EMPIRE

Popular historian Ronald (The Sancy Blood Diamond, 2004, etc.) struggles mightily to find a fresh promontory from which to observe Elizabeth I’s favorite rovers: John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Essex.

They helped fill her coffers, weaken Spain, lay the foundation for Britain’s empire. Is there anything new to say about these celebrated folks and their often execrable behavior? This author’s success is moderate. Her framework is the oft-told biography of the Virgin Queen. Ronald quickly assesses the sorry economic and geopolitical state of the country in 1558, when young Elizabeth assumed the throne. The country needed cash, and Spanish treasure ships were queued up across the Atlantic delivering the bounties of the New World. Enter those aforementioned English pirates. Ronald offers the biography of each, narrates the necessary adventures, pauses periodically to quote (sometimes at excessive length) from relevant documents or to sketch biographical, political and geographical background. She rehearses a bit of the story of the first successful English slave trader, John Hawkins (for much more, see Nick Hazlewood’s The Queen’s Slave Trader, 2004). Then the text, like Elizabethan history itself, comes alive with Francis Drake swaggering onto the stage and quite literally stealing his way into the queen’s heart. Ronald chronicles Drake’s voyages with confidence, knowledge and patent admiration for his naval skills: At one point she describes him as “one hell of a captain and navigator.” Eventually, he circumnavigated the globe, defeated the Spanish Armada, sort of retired, died. Mary, Queen of Scots, Essex and Raleigh lost their heads, but by the time James I mounted the throne in 1603, England was poised for global greatness. What will certainly strike many readers is Elizabeth’s serial dissembling—lying was one of her greatest talents—and the use by all European powers of deception, theft and violence as their principal instruments in the cacophonous symphony of international relations.

Oft-told stories about people as familiar as family still retain their power to animate and educate.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-082066-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more