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The Appeal
The Appeal
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2.0 out of 5 stars The Appeal - John Grisham, 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Appeal (Paperback)
'The Appeal' by John Grisham is set in very familiar territory - Southern United States. The main body of the plot is focused on a large chemical company - Krane Chemical - attempting to fund an election race for their candidate to join the Supreme Court of Mississippi; and overturn a large compensation they were to pay a local woman in regards to a wrongful death.

The plot itself is under-developed as are the characters. Grisham introduces many additional characters as the story continues, each character is woefully used and the story becomes to embroiled in its own information, lacking any real drama. When the time arrives for what could be considered a plot twist, it is has already been explained to the reader; the affect of this is that no real drama is able to develop, each page becomes more revealing until the book falls towards a very obvious end.

The positives of this book are that if it is to be believed that such electoral tactics are employed in the real world, then the book is an interesting view of modern day judicial politics.

Aside from an interesting plot point, the characters and the story create no drama and the story is under-developed. For followers of the Grisham collection it is an easy read,but for those unfamiliar with the 'legal thriller' territory, I would not recommend this book as this is not a fair reflection of Grisham's other work.

Stillness and Speed: My Story
Stillness and Speed: My Story
by Dennis Bergkamp
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Stillness and Speed - 4*, 19 Dec 2013
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Dennis Bergkamp's presenst his life and football career, from his early days at Ajax through to his retirement at Arsenal, in an interview format.

Bergkamp explains very well how the development of his own talent as well as those around him, was influenced by the 'right' way of playing at Ajax. The explanation of the impact that great players such as Van Basten, Gullit and Cruff, really had on the game is the greatest gift to the reader. Also Bergkamp explains how every team he played in had a different philosophy and how that would impact a football match, for any football fan looking for an insight to the inner workings of football, this really is a must read.

The Arsenal years are the most enjoyable part of the book as Bergkamp freely admits how much he enjoyed playing there. The view he takes on the players and their contributions are fascinating and each page reveals information not available elsewhere - training methods, dressing room atmosphere and match build ups.

All in all, the book is by far the most analytical biography - of players, managers, training methods, everything up to how player attitudes need to be adjusted to certain positions. Bergkamp leaves no stone unturned; and the interview style presented allows him to explain in full detail what he means and why. A very good read, with excellent contributions from Bergkamp's former team-mates.

The Racketeer
The Racketeer
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Racketeer - 4*, 2 April 2013
This review is from: The Racketeer (Paperback)
Though not a typical fiction fan, you can always count on John Grisham to deliver an excellent novel. 'The Racketeer' focuses on Miles Banninster, a small time lawyer from Virginia, who at the beginning of the book is imprisoned for his small and largely irrelevant part of a money laundering scheme. Bannister explains how his role as part time librarian and jail house lawyer, led him to meet several characters whilst he was imprisoned; and how Bannister had befriended a man responsible for the murder of a judge.

Using his expertise of the judicial system, Bannister is able to strike a deal with the FBI to be released from prison, in return for information that will lead to the capture of the wanted murderer. The beginning of the novel is well written and easy to come to terms with, subtle clues are left for the reader, which at the end of the book are pieced together by Grisham to show us the overall picture of what is truly happening. The central part of the novel makes for captivating reading. Bannister find himself constantly moving, joining the Witness Protection Programme and setting up his new life. It is at this point that his own resentment for law enforcement is more obviously revealed and the book really comes to life.

The setting for the book changes often, ranging from Washington DC to Antigua; and the characters also seem to be constantly evolving, new phases of Bannister's overall plan are revealed to the reader regularly which makes for a thrilling ending and an excellent read throughout.

Overall a great thriller and well written book, which has all the ingredients for a real page turner!

The Big Fight: My Story
The Big Fight: My Story
by Sugar Ray Leonard
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.51

4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Account of an Impressing Career, 18 Mar 2013
Having not been around to witness Sugar Ray Leonard perform in his heyday, my knowledge of him was very limited; and didn't stretch much further than listening to commentary of fights. However having glanced across this book, I thought it would be a good time to learn more about him; his career; and the great battles he shared with the greatest boxers of the 80s, Duran, Hagler and Hearns.

Sugar Ray does not disappoint. What I liked most about this book, is that looking back, Leonard is more than able to admit his mistakes and shows remorse for how his actions affected others, yet explains, honestly how he was lured into a life that only those at the top of their game and with such celebrity are able to afford, or are introduced to. He describes his continued adultery and his battles with drugs and alcohol.

The whole book is written excellently and Leonard provides in depth analysis and details to all of his key amateur fights, his early career bouts and his mega fights with the boxing superstars of the 80s, his duels with Duran, battles against Hearns and Hagler, as well as plenty other fights in between. Details include the team he put together, the types of training regimes he embarked on; and how at each step his career progressed, he was forced to analyse whether he should continue to fight or not. His honesty shines through at these points, as he admits that money and status played a large part in some of his decisions to carry on fighting.

The book reads very easily and Leonard does not hold back on bringing to light all aspects of his success, the good as well as the bad. A definite read for any boxing fans, but also a decent read for anybody who prefers autobiographies. All in all a good read and a great account of an impressive career.

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
by Scotty Bowers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Easy Read - With a Pinch of Salt, 4 Mar 2013
The best thing this book has going for it, is that it is an incredibly easy read. However its questionable how a man who begins so many stories with "I can't remember...." can; at the drop of a hat, describe some of the most intimate details of the sex lives of his celebrity 'friends'.

Scotty Bowers details how is job in a California Gas Station, led him to becoming the go to match-making service in Hollywood. Some of the earlier stories seem to be the most honest accounts, such as when he was first picked up by a major studio actor whilst pumping gas. The more interesting parts of this book are from the 1940s and 50s. Before that time frame Bowers journeys through his very confusing childhood, which is riddled with abuse and prostitution, though furthermore Bowers does not see it that way, he believes he is providing happiness throughout the abuse, a confused outlook, as some of the other reviewers have noted.

Whats most sad about this book; and Bowers in my opinion does little to acknowledge it, is the suffering he puts his family and other families through. Continually 'tricking' husbands and wives or arranging for other 'tricks' to visit them, his belief is that he just providing happiness, but at what cost? In his own personal life Bowers does little to acknowledge his own family and only mentions them when letting the reader know how happy they were to see him whenever he was home.

Readers should be aware that it is obvious Bowers glorifies his own life amongst Hollywood's elite, he is essentially a gas station attendant, barman and server; an occasional guest himself, but mostly a makeshift pimp, although he refuses to acknowledge this and describes himself in a much better light. It is surprising how every actor and actress he met seemed to think the world of him an 'everybody loved me' attitude is a constant throughout the book, which casts the question over the amount of truth in the book. Though Gore Vidal insists Bowers is not a liar, its also hard to come by any other form of evidence to support his stories, as all the main characters have since passed away. Most of what Bowers describes is not ground breaking, in fact some of it is now common knowledge - marriages of convenience, actors/actresses leading closeted lives etc. However Bowers goes beyond this and claims that he knew more about some actors then anybody before him, their sexual preferences, the parties they threw and in some cases the inner turmoil they faced.

After the 40s and 50s it seems that Bowers services in the match making service make a decline and he merely brushes over both the 60s and 70s until we reach the 80s where his 'tricking' grinds to a complete stop after outbreaks of HIV/AIDS which leads him to lead a less promiscuous lifestyle.

However, for a good and easy read, this book is definitely worth it, more of a guilty pleasure than anything else for readers interested in the 'Golden Age of Hollywood'. Bowers does throw up some interesting scenarios and if you can differentiate between the truth and exaggerations, this book is worth the read.

Be Careful What You Wish For
Be Careful What You Wish For
by Simon Jordan
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Be Care What You Wish For - 5*, 26 Feb 2013
Simon Jordan is fully aware that most people will be reading this book as means to see and understand how a Premiership football club is run. This is shown by the fact that although the book addresses Jordan's ascent to success, it merely does so, with what I believe are only the most important facts.

However, once Jordan has made his millions in telecommunications, the book takes on a new level of interest with his purchase of Crystal Palace Football Club, his hometown club - any boy's dream come true. This dream is carefully examined and slowly but surely put to ruin. Jordan gives us an all access pass to how he personally invested millions into all aspect of the club, coaching staff, playing staff and the academy. Many of his investments realise results, that are generally unfavourable on Jordan and CPFC.

Jordan describes certain coaching staff as unmotivated and difficult to deal with; and if they're not that, they seem to be only interested in their next managerial job. Jordan does well to address how certain football players and their agents only really seem to care about the pay packet they receive and what type of springboard to success CPFC may be for them. Whilst several of the academy players shun the treatment they received from Crystal Palace in order to join clubs offering more money and greater chance of success. His arguments with the FA, players, other football clubs and in fact pretty much everybody in the world of football are documented here and make for some surprising reading.

Having read several biographies from an athletes perspective, this book does more to show sports fan the highs and lows of actually owning a football club. Of course its hard to believe absolutely everything Jordan writes as it is always best to view two sides of any story, I can't help but Jordan is simply laying it out as he sees it. It is worth noting that the book is not all doom and gloom; Jordan recognises that although his reign as owner and chairman did ultimately end with the unfortunate administration of CPFC, he describes his happiness at purchasing the club and taking it to the Premier League.

A great book for any sports fan to read, a real page turner including many characters that are still working in the sport today.

Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series
Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series
by David Pietrusza
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rothstein - 4*, 25 Feb 2013
History may remember Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series; however this book does an excellent job of explaining how Rothstein's influence and power was far more widespread than a single World Series fix. From humble beginnings hustling in local pool halls, Rothstein's ambition and drive leads him to becoming one of the leading crime figures of the 20th Century.

The author, David Pietrusza, has painstakingly researched every aspect of criminal life in the 'Roaring 20s' and we are introduced not only to Rothstein, but a host of other characters, whether they be politicians, criminals, union leaders or even somebody who is simply financially indebted to Rothstein. These characters add further credence to truth of how powerful Rothstein was, through his various enterprises, bootlegging, casino owner and loan shark. The reader is also introduced to the personal turmoil Rothstein faced throughout his life, with his wife and family.

In my opinion the book is at its best once prohibition has been put into force, before this, Rothstein is mainly a go between for crooked politicians and the underbelly of New York City. Rothstein's true genius is exposed when he becomes one of the first to realise that securing routes and distribution for bootlegging was one of the most profitable businesses to have. From here we learn the extravagant lengths taken to ensure that New York and surrounding cities alike, were never to far from their next liquor shipment, the money earned, the characters involved and the consequences, all make for a very interesting read.

The only reason I fell short of rating this book 5*, is that at times the book becomes to preoccupied with facts of bit part characters and this draws away from Rothstein's more interesting pursuits.

In conclusion, the book is a must read for any fan of true crime, reading this in combination with some light personal research, would further magnify the impact Arnold Rothstein had on the criminal world in the 1920's.

Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family
Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family
by Laurie Sandell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Truth and Consequences, 6 Jan 2013
From the outset of this book I was a little unsure as to how the whole story of this great scandal would be conveyed accurately and truthfully, using only the experiences, and in many (too) many cases, the opinion of Catherine Hooper.

As most other reviewers have stated, the book relies too heavily on what Catherine Hooper has to say, the book should at most have her as a background character, in the same way that the author doesn't bring to the forefront Andrew's and Mark's ex wives in the same fashion, women who lived with Bernie's children and grew families with them, and were able to get, what I believe, would be a more accurate insight into Bernie Madoff and the consequences his actions, not only during the time of the scandal, but also at home, at work etc, had on his family. Catherine who only entered a romantic relationship with Andrew a couple months before the scandal broke out, cannot provide this.

However, the book does go into great detail on the way in which the family went about re-building their lives after the scandal. The steps they took to deal with the media, search for new jobs or become involved with new business ventures, has been detailed accurately and has to be said, is in my opinion the most interesting part of the book. The steps Andrew has taken are brave and at times his only option, back against the wall its nice to see that he is working towards a better life, having proved to the authorities, peers and friends that he was innocent of any participation in the Ponzi scheme.

The true tragic character in the book however is the matriarch, Ruth. Having met Bernie in her teen years and wed, it is hard to be sympathetic of her love for her husband, and willingness to be with him, but once she explains the situation, in the aftermath, we're shown the choices she makes, why; and how she now has to deal with them.

Whilst doubt and uncertainty will always cloud such a great scandal, we have been given a rare; and at this point in time, one off opportunity, to see into the consequences the family (who weren't involved in the Ponzi scheme) had to deal with.

Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay
Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay
by John Lanchester
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read account of the Economic Crisis, 9 Oct 2012
John Lancaster has done exceptionally to help the reader understand all the terminology involved in today's economic world. Helping the reader to navigate through a complex world of credit derivatives and other money making plans, which led to the world economy prospering.

Lancaster then leads us through the fall. Explaining how banks and other financial institutions were able to justify such investments and how these decisions and investment plans ultimately led to the decline/collapse of the global economy. The book shows how investments originating from the USA, were able to impact the rest of the world; and how the rest of the world reacted.

For any reader interested in the details of the economic boom and bust, this book offers a helpful insight.

A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour
A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour
by John Feinstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.83

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing insight to golf., 6 Aug 2012
'A Good Walk Spoiled' aims to detract from the belief that life on the PGA Tour is pleasant for all involved, that the game of golf is rewarding to all of its players on the 'Big Tour'. John Feinstein makes excellent use of the behind-the-scenes access that that players agreed too, his research is in depth and does not ignore any part of the profession he is whole heartedly researching.

Feinstein begins by introducing the reader to one of the most famous competitions in golf, the Ryder Cup, showing the mental and physical strength each player has to endure for one of the toughest weeks of their golfing careers. The book then moves steadily and expertly though to life on the lower tours and Q School, placing emphasis on the fact that there are many other golfers, aside from the known faces (in this book Faldo, Price and Pavin, amongst others), that have to live week to week, with no real financial plan, with many not knowing when their next pay cheque may be.

The book also provides a a behind-the-scenes look at life at the majors, how the pros, who feel at the top of their game, are able to hit the highs and lows in four days. Feinstein proves that all of these pros, from the mini tours upwards to the PGA Tour, are always setting themselves new goals, whether it be the right to play on the tour next season, or to win a major. For any golf fan, this book is a must read.

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