An impressive combination of scrupulous scholarship and powerful storytelling.

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HARDENED TO HICKORY

THE MISSING CHAPTER IN ANDREW JACKSON'S LIFE

A biography of Andrew Jackson that focuses on a period before he was president of the United States—specifically, his rivalry with a U.S. Army general during the War of 1812.

Jackson detested the British—he blamed the deaths of his mother and brothers, who died of various causes during the Revolutionary War period, on them—and deeply pined for military glory, which offered two irrepressible incentives for him to fight in the War of 1812. Professional historians have meticulously scrutinized Jackson’s life, particularly his seemingly insatiable ambition, but debut author Turnbow, a Tennessee-based attorney, turns his attention to a comparatively neglected but intriguing part of his rise to fame, telling the story of the undying antagonism between Jackson and Gen. James Wilkinson. The latter was also profoundly ambitious, and he saw Jackson as a competitor in a zero-sum game for power and acclaim. He aimed to thwart Jackson’s success, even at the expense of military victory. He attempted to deny Jackson’s Tennessee Volunteers necessary supplies, tried to divert Jackson’s troops away from New Orleans to the Spanish province of East Florida, and worked to tarnish Jackson’s name and orchestrate his demotion. Jackson rightly believed that Wilkinson was a treasonous agent of Spain; indeed, the general provided Spain with sensitive intelligence regarding the United States’ plans for westward expansion. Turnbow paints Wilkinson as a “master of manipulation and deception” who always seemed capable of gaining a strategic upper hand. Throughout, the author painstakingly depicts the historical context, including the precariousness of the United States as a still-fledgling nation and the threat posed by hostile Native American warriors; his account of Tecumseh’s extraordinary attempt to create a confederation to oppose American settlement is among the highlights of his rigorously researched study. Turnbow also lucidly captures Jackson’s impressive courage as well as the ways in which his ambition undermined his judgment; he nearly ruined his career by associating with the treacherous Aaron Burr. The account is relentlessly granular, and at times Turnbow produces an amount of detail that’s sometimes more disorienting than edifying. Overall, though, his effort is both original and thrillingly dramatic.

An impressive combination of scrupulous scholarship and powerful storytelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-19527-7

Page Count: 602

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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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

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