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Reckless: My Life as a Pretender

Chrissie Hynde. Doubleday, $26.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-385-54061-2

For music fans, Hynde's autobiography has been a long-anticipated event. It's here at last, but unfortunately it's not quite worth the wait. The founder, guitarist, and lead singer and songwriter of the Pretenders, Hynde is rock royalty. In 1980, the band's eponymous debut album topped the charts, and Hynde's ascent from London's late-'70s punk scene to pop stardom became the stuff of legend. But the book meanders too slowly toward that legend. Hynde earnestly recalls her middle-class upbringing in Akron, Ohio, and how the alienation of suburban Midwestern life forced her toward drugs, sex, bikers, and rock music (Iggy Pop especially), but it also led to some terrible experiences (she was sexually assaulted by a biker gang while a student at Kent State, and her comments on it have drawn recent criticism in the media). Ultimately, Hynde fled for London, where she soon found herself writing reviews for the British magazine NME (New Music Express) in the middle of a scene that included the Clash, the Sex Pistols, and Malcolm MacLaren. But her emergence in London doesn't come until almost 200 pages into the book. And, remarkably, the Pretenders don't take the stage until about 60 pages from book's end. Hynde writes briefly of the fatigue that quickly settled in--the infighting, the drugs and exhaustion, how "fissures had become cracks," and how, after just two albums, the band "just wanted it to be over." There are virtually no details about Hynde's relationship with the Kinks' Ray Davies (with whom she has a daughter) and her later life. Hynde's fans will recognize her lyrical voice in the writing, but will surely be disappointed with the lack of details about her life as a Pretender. Not unlike the original lineup of the Pretenders, Hynde’s autobiography flames out just when it was getting interesting. (Sept. 8) (Sept. 8)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!

Chelsea Clinton. Philomel, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-17612-8

This earnest compendium by the former (and perhaps future) presidential First Daughter outlines ways that teens and tweens can harness their power for good. Clinton begins each of the book's four sections (It's Your Economy, It's Your Right, It's Your Body, It's Your Environment) with an overview of problems—homelessness, gender discrimination, disease, pollution—and clearly explains how perniciously interconnected so many of them are: poverty results in hunger, which affects school performance, which undermines employability. She highlights young people who have already done extraordinary things to improve their communities, then enumerates several opportunities available to readers: fundraising to build wells, patronizing restaurants that participate in food giveaways, donating hair to make wigs for kids with cancer. She also shares some tidbits of personal history—her aversion to corporal punishment stems from being paddled in elementary school after a classmate tricked her into saying a bad word to a beloved teacher. Clinton clearly paid attention to her parents' discussions at the dinner table, and she capably shares the lessons they imparted about the future impact of what we do in the present. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Shepherd's Crown

Terry Pratchett. Harper, $18.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-242997-1

Pratchett's characteristic generosity is very much at the fore of this final Tiffany Aching tale, the last Discworld novel from the author, who died in March. Fans will also find plenty of other well-loved elements: exuberant wordplay, vaudevillian humor, the rambunctious blue-skinned Nac Mac Feegle, and—beneath it all—a susurrus of shivery archetype and myth. The death of a powerful witch, an event most solemn and heartfelt, reverberates throughout the world and sets the crackling adventure in motion. Sensing a new weakness in the barrier that separates their realm from the Disc, the cruel elves of Fairyland prepare for an invasion. Meanwhile, Tiffany is stretched thin in her work as witch and all-around healer when her responsibilities expand to include a second community. At the same time, peaceful Geoffrey—a character new to the series—heads toward the town of Lancre with the aim of becoming a witch, though women traditionally hold that position. As Tiffany, Geoffrey, and others gather to combat the elvish incursion, Pratchett allows some longtime characters to reveal surprising new qualities, including the delightfully insufferable Letice Earwig ("pronounced ah-wij," of course) and Nightshade, Queen of the Elves—Tiffany's foe from her earliest adventure. Rather than tie everything up with a simple happily-ever-after, the ending leaves Tiffany poised to begin a new phase of adulthood—one with the potential for adventures that are now up to readers to imagine. Pratchett's final work is a tour de force of compassion, great wit, and gleeful storytelling. He will be missed. Ages 13–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Trigger Mortis

Anthony Horowitz. Harper, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-239510-8

At the start of this impressive James Bond pastiche from bestseller Horowitz (Moriarty) set in 1957 soon after the action of Goldfinger, a German rocket scientist working for the U.S. sells secrets about a forthcoming American launch. Meanwhile, Bond, who's living in London with Pussy Galore, of Goldfinger fame, travels to Germany to participate in an auto race, during which the Soviet SMERSH agency is planning to kill a British driver. (This section is based on original unpublished material written by Ian Fleming.) At the race, Bond encounters evil genius Sin Jai-Seong, a Korean multimillionaire; meets Jeopardy Lane, who has her own reasons for pursuing Jai-Seong; and discovers photos of an American rocket (the title refers to a "panic button" that can explode a malfunctioning rocket before it crashes). The sturdy plot involves a suitably diabolical and grandiose scheme. An excellent mimic of Fleming's prose, Horowitz delivers an entertainment sure to please James Bond fans. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folk Tales, Legends, & Letters

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Peninnah Schram. Rowman and Littlefield, $36 (262p) ISBN 978-1-4422-3898-5

Rabbi Sasso and storyteller Schram, in a synergistic collaboration, have created an engaging compilation of Jewish love letters and love stories. Beginning with tales about the love relationships of biblical couplings (many interwoven with rabbinic midrash), the book also includes Jewish folktales about courtship, fascinating love letters by Jewish historical figures, and a diverse collection of contemporary stories of meeting, loving, and joining in marriage. The collection highlights both the differences and the commonalities between present-day and past experiences of love and marriage. In part a celebration of modern, romantic love, this book is also about the covenantal relationship between members of a couple (with same-sex couples explicitly included), as well as love's subtleties, conflicts, and hardships. The book concludes with a chapter designed to help a couple to write their own love story. Likely to appeal to a broad range of readers, the book is of particular value to those celebrating a wedding or anniversary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Spiritual Regression for Peace and Healing

Ursula Demarmels. Llewellyn, $15.99 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-7387-3994-6

Swiss regression hypnotherapist Demarmels explains the process and philosophy behind her practice of Michael Newton's Life Between Lives methodology, which focuses on both returning to past lives for insight and inspiration and revisiting past deaths and the time in the spirit world immediately afterward, during which the soul reconnects with its spirit guide and evaluates the lessons of the life just completed. Her perspective is that the "basic mission for every incarnation" is to "bring the qualities of the soul down to the terrestrial level" and that the soul intends even the difficult situations we experience. For example, a soul that perpetrated harm may choose to experience the other side of a challenging relationship bybecoming a victim. Narrative examples throughout the book plus 20 case studies give snippets of human insight, and show readers the potential positive results of perusing this work with a professional. Despite some bland examples and overly descriptive writing, Demarmels's quiet, life-affirming joyfulness comes through, along with her confidence in her ability to help people improve their understanding of life's path through regression hypnotherapy. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Dear Mary: Lessons from the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom

Sarah Jakes. Bethany, $19.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1212-3

In this epistolary devotional, Jakes (Lost and Found) writes earnestly and charminglyto the mother of Jesus about current mothering issues. Jakes became a mother in her teens and dealt with the stigmas of single motherhood that Jesus' mother Mary faced in biblical days. She writes about the shame she felt following her unwed pregnancy, the unsavory work she did to provide food and shelter for her son, and her second pregnancy with her daughter some years later. Readers will appreciate Jakes's candid admission that she sometimes struggles to get along with her father, well-known megachurch minister T.D. Jakes. This winsome and upbeat letter is a novel way to explore today's mothering challenges, and readers who identify with Mary's or Jakes's struggles will find it reassuring. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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St. Paul: The Apostle We Love to Hate

Karen Armstrong. Amazon/New Harvest, $20 (200p) ISBN 978-0-544-61739-1

Bestselling author Armstrong (A History of God), a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, constructs a solid overview of the life of St. Paul, arguably the first Christian writer. Armstrong's view of Paul elevates him above the status of traveling Jewish malcontent; she observes that he founded multiple communities of Jesus' followers throughout Asia and Europe. While not all of these communities lasted, some went on to become the initial Christian churches. Armstrong bases her study on the seven letters that most scholars agree were actually written by Paul, and she does these justice in her analysis. This book is a part of the Icons series; it is short and focused, and only has space to consider some of the details of Paul's life. Armstrong does an excellent job of highlighting the pivotal role Paul played in the development of the movement that would later become the Christian church, while also showing how his writings have been both ignored and co-opted by Christians. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Mind Connection: How the Thoughts You Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior and Decisions

Joyce Meyer. Faith Words, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4555-3619-1

Meyer (Battlefield of the Mind), a speaker and television personality, empowers the reader to take charge of life and live it in an active and full way. Drawing from personal experiences—including being horribly abused as a child—Meyer shows how positive thinking can make a pathway to new and assured ways of living. She believes that life changes truly begin to happen when aconfident perspective is coupled with thoughts on consciousness, awareness, and teachings from the Bible. "God has given us the fruit of self-control that we might be able to allow or disallow behaviors in our own lives," she writes. Many references to scripture and Christian spiritual practice provide the reader with a map of proactive steps toward feeling better about each day. Meyer often discusses physical ailments that tax her day-to-day life, yet is able to look beyond the pain. This is balm for the Christian soul and will appeal to the believer looking for concentrated practice on the spiritual side of life. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

Michael N. McGregor. Oxford, $34.95 (472p) ISBN 978-0-8232-6801-6

Drawing on his friendship with poet Robert Lax (1915–2000) and his close readings of Lax's writings, McGregor eloquently offers the definitive biography of a too often forgotten figure who influenced a number of writers and crafted spirituality out of his deep commitment to love, poverty, and justice. McGregor deftly and briefly chronicles Lax's childhood in Olean, N.Y. His family eventually moved to New York City, but not before the circus came to Olean and mesmerized the young Lax—with its performers who are "portals to the land of dusk"—so deeply that he traveled with a circus through western Canada in 1949 and wrote a cycle of poems that grew out of his experience and love. By the fall of 1943, Lax had converted from Judaism to Catholicism, inspired by his readings of Thomas Aquinas's writings and by his ongoing discussions with Thomas Merton, whom Lax had met at Columbia University. Following his conversion, Lax embraced a life of poverty, combining his lack of desire for things with a passion for nurturing a love for those on the fringes of society. This detailed biography from a friend of subject is best for those already interested in Lax's mission. The book effectively brings to life Lax's "pure act"—naturally living out his God-given abilities without becoming mired in judging others. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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