A volume offers entertaining essays about New Yorkers, perfect for passing time on an uptown subway ride.

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Disappearing Act

In his second collection of personal essays, Soter (Overheard on a Bus, 2014, etc.) explores topics ranging from Alzheimer’s to improvisational comedy.

Soter is a native New Yorker—raised in a Greek-American family in an apartment on the Upper West Side’s Riverside Drive in the 1960s—and has spent a lifetime observing the city’s inhabitants and their lives. In this collection, he continues to provide readers with short essays based on these experiences. Soter’s background is in newspaper and magazine writing (for publications such as the New York Observer and Entertainment Weekly) and teaching improv comedy classes, and his witty, breezy essay style reflects this. Some of his pieces fit into the feuilleton tradition of clever cultural pieces; others would not be out of place in the New York Times’ “Lives” or “Metropolitan Diary” sections. Reading Soter’s essays is like spending an afternoon with an uncle at a Manhattan diner, drinking coffee and savoring stories the listener has probably heard before but still finds enjoyable. While Soter’s essays might not be rigorous, they are generally engaging and satisfying. If they favor the quick and cute over the analytical or penetrating, it is by design. “Sentimental?” Soter writes, defiantly. “Mawkish? Self-involved? I plead guilty to all charges. That’s who I am. Live with it.” While there is certainly shared subject matter between the author’s previous and current essay volumes, the latter is at times a bit more somber and nostalgic. There are fewer discussions of pop-culture obsessions and celebrity encounters and more meditations on loss and the passage of time. He writes of his parents’ illnesses and the death of a favorite great uncle, of first jobs and childhood friends. Throughout, though, Soter remains committed to the guiding philosophy he states at the book’s beginning: “When I think of the vagaries of life—and its cruelties—I often think of the comment my first improv teacher once made: ‘Life is a big joke—it only hurts if you don’t laugh.’ ” The illustrated book provides over 100 photographs and reproductions of print ephemera.

A volume offers entertaining essays about New Yorkers, perfect for passing time on an uptown subway ride.   

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5027-1335-3

Page Count: 206

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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