Review: I Am Zlatan: My Story On and Off the Field ~ by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Author), Ruth Urbom (Translator), David Lagercrantz (Contributor)

ZlatanISBN ~ 978-0812986921
Publisher ~ Penguin
No. Of Pages ~400 pages
Links ~ Amazon, iamzlatan, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble

Daring, flashy, innovative, volatile—no matter what they call him, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of soccer’s brightest stars. A top-scoring striker with Paris Saint-Germain and captain of the Swedish national team, he has dominated the world’s most storied teams, including Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, and AC Milan. But his life wasn’t always so charmed.

Born to Balkan immigrants who divorced when he was a toddler, Zlatan learned self-reliance from his rough-and-tumble neighborhood. While his father, a Bosnian Muslim, drank to forget the war back home, his mother’s household was engulfed in chaos. Soccer was Zlatan’s release. Mixing in street moves and trick plays, Zlatan was a wild talent who rode to practice on stolen bikes and relished showing up the rich kids—opponents and teammates alike. Goal by astonishing goal, the brash young outsider grew into an unlikely prodigy and, by his early twenties, an international phenomenon.

Told as only the man himself could tell it, featuring stories of friendships and feuds with the biggest names in the sport, I Am Zlatan is a wrenching, uproarious, and ultimately redemptive tale for underdogs everywhere.

3 Thumbs-UpUntil I read this book I really didn’t know much about Ibrahimovich, and surprisingly it was an interesting read; not a great read as I felt a lot of the quotes attributed to him were probably not his at all, but it was still interesting, up to a point.

I particularly enjoyed the stories about his childhood, and the insider look at the world of professional football which appeared not to be glossed over and revealed some interesting titbits about the heated games and internal politics of the teams he played for.  However, I finished the book being very much on the fence about his personality, and for me this was the one part of the book that actually guaranteed it received only a three thumb review;  arrogance is not an attractive quality to me, and this man has it in spades.  Add this to the ‘I was once a boy from the poor neighbourhood’ speech, and it turned what was an interesting read into something almost, but not quite bordering on the ‘not going to finish this’ pile.

If you enjoy books about football (soccer) players, you may find this book both interesting to the end and inspirational, as for me I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the man himself had very little input into the writing of the book and was there to be the approving authority for publication.

This book was read as part of my 2016 Reading Challenge; a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or friend.  This book was chosen for me by Lisa McLain-Sharp.

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Review: Maigret and the Apparition (Maigret #62) ~ Georges Simenon, Eileen Ellenbogen (Translator)

MaigretISBN ~ 978-0156028387
Publisher ~Mariner Books
No. Of Pages ~ 164 pages
Links ~ AbeBooks, Book Depository, Amazon

Maigret arrives home exhausted after cracking an especially difficult case, only to be awakened within hours by the news of a nearly successful attempt on the life of a colleague. Plainclothes Detective Lognon, known to Maigret as “Inspector Hapless,” has become involved beyond his depth in an international art fraud and is suffering the consequences. Maigret’s only clue to Lognon’s assailant is the single word “apparition” spoken by the victim as he emerges from the operating room. The apparition leads Maigret to the highest echelons of the Parisian art world–and the depths of greed and cruelty.

Maigret is a registered trademark of the Estate of Georges Simenon.

3 Thumbs-UpWhen it comes to foreign language detective novels that were written in 1940’s, 50’s and early 1960’s I tend to enjoy the Maigret books more than the other in this genre during this era.

The characters in this, as in other Maigret novels, are ones that a newcomer can easily feel comfortable with and a die-hard lover of this series can welcome back like an old friend; there is nothing too deep or complicated in their construction and none of them reveals any inner turmoil or traits to the reader that could be misconstrued as weakness; a journey back in time to the days when men were men, and women were there to make their lives easier and more attractive.

The location for this little whodunit is an older Paris, set in the days when not everyone was plugged into a phone, or even owned one at home, smoking was common, and files and cases were researched using leg work and taking manual notes.  Because of this the novel can at times seem a little disjointed and makes Maigret seem somewhat irrational in his handling of this case;  I tend to regard it as the Author allowing the reader into the Detective’s thought processes, complete with all its twists and turns from a straight path.

At a 164 pages, this little book is something that can be read at bedtime, as it probably takes no longer to read than an episode of a TV series would take to watch.  It is a darn good story that will not fill your slumbers with gory and disturbed dreams, and may even leave you wanting to read some more novels by this Author.

I would highly recommend this and other Maigret novels to anyone who enjoys this genre, and is looking for a quick and satisfying read to round off the day.

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Review: Thores-Cross: A Yorkshire Ghost Story (Yorkshire Ghost Series, #1) ~ Karen Perkins

Thores CrossISBN ~ 978-1481928175
Publisher ~ LionheART Publishing house
No. Of Pages ~ 266 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Emma Moorcroft is still grieving after a late miscarriage and moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, Dave. Both Emma and Dave hope that moving into their new home signifies a fresh start, but life is not that simple. Emma has nightmares about the reservoir and the drowned village that lies beneath the water, and is further disturbed by the sound of church bells – from a church that no longer exists.

Jennet is fifteen and lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep on which they depend. Following the sudden loss of both her parents, she is seduced by the local wool merchant, Richard Ramsgill. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by Ramsgill, but by the entire village. Lonely and embittered, Jennet’s problems escalate, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have an effect through the centuries.

Emma becomes fixated on Jennet, neglecting herself, her beloved dogs and her husband, to the point where her marriage may not survive. As Jennet and Emma’s lives become further entwined, Emma’s obsession deepens and she realises that the curse Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family over two hundred years ago is still claiming lives. Emma is the only one who can stop Jennet killing again, but will her efforts be enough?

This is the kind of book that you can pick up and read in a day, there’s nothing too technical or complex in the storyline that would make a reader want to take their time reading this and this in itself presented me with a problem; I really wasn’t sure what kind of a rating this particular short story should have.

The story is actually, in my opinion, two stories set in the same area of England; one of them being current times and the other being the late 1700’s.  As much as I really wanted to see a comparison made between the lot of women in these two eras, I just failed to be invested in the modern day plot and found myself skimming over these parts to find out what was happening in the past; in my mind the main protagonist of the book was the woman grounded in the past, and the way the Author grew her from being a grieving teenager to a vindictive woman was extremely realistic and convincing.  By comparison the modern day equivalent came across as being less credible and if anything hinted that the reader may not be bothered too much by the gaps in her personality.  The Author did do their historical research though and, I did enjoy the way the Yorkshire dialect was included in the speech patterns.

As a whole the story itself was interesting and well written, but could have done with more polishing to make parts of it more credible.  I would classify this book as more of a haunting short than a horror short.  If I am ever on the lookout for another quick light read to fill a couple of hours, I will probably look at something else written by this Author.

This book was read as part of my 2016 Reading Challenge; a book you can finish in a day.

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Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1) ~ M.J. Rose

witch of painted sorrowsISBN ~ 978-1476778068
Publisher ~ Atria Books
No. Of Pages ~ 384 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

3 Thumbs-UpAlthough the first in this series, this is the third novel written by this Author and, to be honest I’ve not read either of the previous two.  However the synopsis intrigued me and held a certain promise, so I set off to wind my way through its pages.

I’m going to come straight out and say this; I did not like the main protagonist at all.  I did not understand her or her motivation for anything she did, and had even less understanding for those things she didn’t do but probably should have.  As much as I tried I could not find myself either empathizing or sympathising with her in any way which resulted in her just being a downright annoyance throughout the whole novel.  Why she had to keep banging on about her one and only failed attempt at watercolour painting just confused the heck out of me, and she seems to use this as an excuse for all her bad behaviour and dishonesty when related to art school.  I did feel sorry for her Grandmother who tried her hardest to steer the lead character in the right direction but was constantly ignored and dismissed.  But again I was also disappointed in her, for a woman who had made a living in her given profession she was not very strong-willed at all, and usually ended up just giving in to the main character for the sake of a quiet life I felt.

So why did I give this book a three thumbs rating?  As already said it was not the characters that helped the novel achieve this rating, but rather the location and the way in which the Author used the words on the page.  The streets of Old Paris leapt of the page through the descriptions of the courtyards around which people made their homes, and the words rolled of the page not in a rush and bluster but as if they were taking a leisurely stroll down the Champs Elysees on a warm summer day.  As much as I enjoyed the relaxed way in which the book was written I felt somewhat let down too; after all the synopsis had promised witchery and there was nothing remotely ominous and witchy that I could find in these pages.  Maybe I like my witches too dark, and the kind featured here were just so innocuous they escaped my attention.

If you are already familiar with this Author, you may just enjoy this book; as for me I doubt very much that I will be reading anything by her again… as the saying goes ‘it wasn’t you, it’s me’

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Review: Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-69 ~ Stephen E. Ambrose

Transcontinental RRISBN ~ 978-0743203173
Publisher ~ Simon & Schuster (NYC)
No. Of Pages ~ 432 pages
Links ~ All Bookstores, Amazon

Nothing Like It in the World gives the account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad—the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.

The U.S. government pitted two companies—the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads—against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. In Ambrose’s hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes vibrantly to life.

3 Thumbs-UpI initially picked this book up to help in my PhD research, intending only to look through the index and make notes on the parts and people who I needed; instead I found myself reading this book from cover to cover.

I am not a railroad enthusiast by any means, but I found the story of how the railroad was built across America to be fascinating and, from reading this book am now intending to research into this subject a little more.  The Author always writes good books based upon historical events, but I am a little wary as to how factual their accounts are, and this book was no different.

My main problem with this book was how the Author appeared to praise and admire those men in big business that funded the railroad, but did little of the actual work itself.  I was hoping to find more on the plight of the Chinese, Irish and Mormon labourers as well as details about life in the hell on wheels towns they lived in that followed the railways progress as well as the encounters the workers had with the Native Americans and Homesteaders who refused to relocate so the railway could cut through their land.  Despite this lack of detail that, in my opinion, would have resulted in a first class account of the building of the railroad, the Author does an excellent job when writing about the backbreaking and soul-destroying amount of work that went into laying every mile of these tracks.  With a skilful pen he makes the reader realise what a momentously huge project this was, and how much of an accomplishment in the advancement of westbound migration the railroad was.

If you are interested in this period of American history, or in railroad history, this is a book that you would enjoy; although I would recommend doing additional reading and would recommend Empire Express for a follow-up book, as well as a book written by William Francis Bailey.

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Review: My Own Story ~ Emmeline Pankhurst

my own storyISBN ~ 978-1784870409
Publisher ~ Vintage Classics
No. Of Pages ~352 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Project Gutenberg

The great leader of the women’s suffrage movement, tells the story of her struggles in her own words.

Emmeline Pankhurst grew up all too aware of the prevailing attitude of her day: that men were considered superior to women. When she was just fourteen she attended her first suffrage meeting, and returned home a confirmed suffragist. Throughout the course of her career she endured humiliation, prison, hunger strikes and the repeated frustration of her aims by men in power, but she rose to become a guiding light of the Suffragette movement. This is the story, in Pankhurst’s own words, of her struggle for equality.

3 Thumbs-UpLet me first explain my reasoning behind the three thumb review; I found this book to be a strangely impersonal account of Mrs. Pankhurst’s life.  It read more like a diary of the main events of the WSPU (Suffrage movement) in the lead up to the outbreak of World War I.  This made it extremely difficult for me, as a reader, to get a handle on what she was really like as a person, or the opinions of others of the movement of which she and her sister, Christabel, were such a big part of in England; this in turn had me doing further research at the library and on the internet to fill in the gaps.

Giving an explanation of what propelled her out of the normal role of women in her time, into a political arena is an interesting and eye-opening journey into what it was like to be female in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, and this was one of things that kept me reading this book.  This book is a snapshot into a turbulent time in British history, and may be an eye opener for those who read it and are not acquainted with the nuances of that time.

One thing I became aware of whilst reading this was the tremendous hardships and deprivations these women went through to secure the vote for women.  They were humiliated, beaten, force-fed and denigrated in a way that not even the worst of criminals were at the time, all because they wanted more control over their lives and things that ultimately affected the way they lived.  This in turn led me to consider the women’s movements today and how they regard the role of women in the twenty-first century; there really is no comparison and it made me grateful for the freedoms I do have as a woman today.

I was disappointed that this book ended with the advent of World War I as I would have felt it would have added to the account if there had been an endnote saying what happened to the WSPU and their campaign for Women’s Rights after the end of the war; this was one part of where my extra research came in.

Despite its short comings this is a good read, and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning about the origins of feminism and treatment of women in the United Kingdom.

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Review: The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust ~ Edith Hahn Beer, Susan Dworkin

Nazi officers wifeISBN ~ 978-0349113791
Publisher ~  Abacus
No. Of Pages ~ 305 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Harper Collins

Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman studying law in Vienna when the Gestapo forced Edith and her mother into a ghetto, issuing them papers branded with a “J.” Soon, Edith was taken away to a labor camp, and though she convinced Nazi officials to spare her mother, when she returned home, her mother had been deported. Knowing she would become a hunted woman, Edith tore the yellow star from her clothing and went underground, scavenging for food and searching each night for a safe place to sleep. Her boyfriend, Pepi, proved too terrified to help her, but a Christian friend was not: With the woman’s identity papers in hand, Edith fled to Munich. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi party member who fell in love with her. And despite her protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity secret.

In vivid, wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia, Edith was bombed out of her house and had to hide in a closet with her daughter while drunken Russians soldiers raped women on the street.

Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith Hahn created a remarkable collective record of survival: She saved every set of real and falsified papers, letters she received from her lost love, Pepi, and photographs she managed to take inside labor camps.

On exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents form the fabric of an epic story – complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.

3 Thumbs-UpI always feel that when reading about this period of our history, the Holocaust and its accompanying literature should be taken in small pieces due to its intensity and the emotions it can bring out in the reader.  This is one small piece that was worth reading but it wasn’t as mind-blowing as other true accounts I have read.  I actually feel a little guilt at only giving 3 thumbs to a book written about a holocaust survivor, as each survival story is remarkable in and of itself, but this book didn’t capture me in the way others have, and I found the Author really hard to connect with.

With that said, this book opened my eyes to a part of the Holocaust I had heard of, but never really read anything about; the story of a Jew in Nazi Germany living as a non-Jew, or as they were known a ‘U-boat’.  This book gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘living with the enemy’.  I was totally immersed in the paperwork and rationing involved in Germany at this time, and along with the presence of mind required by the Author to remember who she was at any given moment, and to keep her cool when questioned I found myself pulled more into the era and life then, than I was towards the Author herself.

The evidence of how the Author had to harden her emotions to everyday events, something that she still carries with her today, was apparent in the way in which this book was written.  Events were put on the page in a very matter of fact manner and with very little emotion, this also spilled over to others mentioned in the book, as they came across as one-dimensional and with little to no depth.  This made it very hard to figure out their personalities and the motivation behind their actions; but maybe I was looking for too much in what is an account of an extraordinary life.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Holocaust fiction as they might find a viewpoint on this period they had not read before.

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