by Troy Senik ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 20, 2022
A capably written introduction to a political leader who, though no rock star, deserves to be better known.
Robust biography of an overlooked president.
There aren’t many good reasons that Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) is largely forgotten alongside such fellow presidents as Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce, yet there he is. Granted, writes former George W. Bush speechwriter Senik, he “didn’t look like a president. He looked like a foundry foreman.” Bulky, but with an oddly high-pitched and nasal voice, he had a quick temper accentuated by the habit of pounding his fist on a table to make an objection known. Cleveland certainly has demerits on his resume. For one, surrounded by Civil War generals who entered politics, he paid a Polish immigrant (who, happily, survived the war unscathed) to take his place, leading to the charge that he “was an unpatriotic elite who bought his way out of the war.” The elite part is wrong, Senik holds, for Cleveland was a working man who was more or less swept into politics without having much in the way of political ambition, and one who “was perpetually sensitive to the fact that his mandate was to rise above reflexive party loyalty.” As both governor of New York and president, he forged coalitions that frequently had more Republican than Democratic support, and many of his positions, especially on fiscal matters, were conservative. Yet, as Senik enumerates, he also established progressive policies, including requiring corporations to file quarterly financial reports and pressing for penal reforms to limit the use of force in prison, since “he suspected the authorities were exceeding the letter of the law.” He opposed the plot to overthrow the government of independent Hawaii, and he had a determinedly anti-imperialist bent. Freely exercising his veto power, his central conviction was that “government exists to protect the welfare of the people as a whole.” Practical rather than ideological, he got plenty done.A capably written introduction to a political leader who, though no rock star, deserves to be better known.
Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
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