An inspiring story that needs a unifying theme.

Leap: Journey of a Young Global Leader from Singapore

Kwong Weng’s debut memoir recounts a life of remarkable persistence.

Born in Toa Payoh in Central Singapore, Kwong Weng enjoyed a happy if modest upbringing. Failing to win a spot in a teacher’s program at the National University of Singapore, he joined the army, convinced of his academic inferiority. He was assigned to the Singapore Police Force, but he longed to become a commando and successfully petitioned his way into the training program. He advanced steadily through the ranks from second lieutenant to Ranger instructor. He was offered an opportunity to train with the U.S. Navy SEALs in San Diego, a notoriously grueling process. Midway through the training schedule, a car accident left him in a coma with a punctured lung and broken collarbone. He eventually recovered and was able to complete his certification, which the author describes as more a psychological than physical challenge involving the delicate negotiation of one’s expectations. Kwong Weng left the military at 35 to pursue work in the private sector—he became an intelligence analyst at a think tank—and despite his earlier academic floundering, earned a Ph.D. in security studies and crisis management at Glasgow University. Kwong Weng ended up working in Myanmar, and one of the highlights of this remembrance is his trenchant commentary on that small nation’s emergence from years of tyranny. It’s simply impossible not to be inspired by Kwong Weng’s life. He repeatedly overcame difficulties and was naturally optimistic when confronted by failure. The prose is simple, unadorned, and clear. The narrative meanders a bit here and there, especially when he discusses his family—an experienced editor would have trimmed some superfluous detail. Also, some challenges—like his failed marriage—are glossed. The principal difficulty of the book, though, is no coherent thread pulls it all together, despite his insistence that he reflects back on his life for the sake of inferring usable lessons. At one point, he offers the strangest advice one could find in a retrospective memoir: “Don’t bother looking back to get answers; it’s better to focus on the present.” This is an uplifting tale, but the author’s meditations on it are muddled.

An inspiring story that needs a unifying theme.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-9-81-463400-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 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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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

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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