Sometimes mundane but often creative and comical.



In Bell’s debut memoir, a late-blooming dad humorously discusses the angst, joys and mysteries of fatherhood.

Bell surmises that his youngsters will inevitably conclude that he behaved in wild, irrational ways while raising them, but it’s conjecture often belied by the scenarios he recounts. His speculation is probably linked to the excessive self-examination to which many parents are prone. In fact, his accounts of hospital childbirth, spousal budget conversations and diaper changing seem normal, even mundane, as does his fix for the family’s pet-ownership dilemma: “adopting” backyard squirrels or grasshoppers. The writing is overlaid with a tone of sarcasm, particularly during descriptions of PTA meetings. Furthermore, the author’s creative wordplay goes beyond the usual cute chapter titles. The wit here is found in many observational comparisons, such as the suggestion that industrial copy machines can’t hold a candle to a baby’s fascination with peek-a-boo’s repetition. The book’s best moments come when sharp language, sarcasm and creativity combine, as when Bell tweaks a preschool game’s rules to gain more sleep because such inventions are “incorruptible, unverifiable and non-negotiable.” Transferring bachelor skills to fatherhood is an amusing enough pursuit, although even more compelling is the understated purpose behind Bell’s writing: It’s a tool to help him deal with his own childhood issues. The intelligence of the writing suggests that Bell is aware of the uncouthness in focusing on “subject matter [that] is nauseatingly droll coming from anyone except yourself.” Yet the book’s compactness and ample wit will likely find traction with some parents and converted bachelors.

Sometimes mundane but often creative and comical.

Pub Date: May 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477453643

Page Count: 220

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

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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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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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