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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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.


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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