Blog Tour – June 2022 – Brazen – Julia Haart

This is a biography about a woman who went from one highly unusual world into an entirely different one, isn’t it?

It is – and she’s a hugely inspiring character. Her life began in the strictest, most limiting – particularly for girls and women – community of Orthodox Judaism, which she followed to the letter. The one thing that did interest her, apart from becoming a good Jewish woman, was fashion. She’d sneak looks at Vogue and sketch fashion designs in her spare time, but it looked as though her future lay in being an obedient Jewish wife and mother. She explains the complex Jewish Orthodox rules for women in layman’s terms – and they’re shockingly limiting! I admit to finding her explanations of them fascinating and educational too, though. I used to see Orthodox Jews passing my friend’s hairdresser, around the Eastwood area of Glasgow where most in the city live, and my partner worked for a time as security guard for a Jewish primary school there – and the fact that that was needed in this day and age is both shocking, and sad!

So she ended up getting married off to a Jewish man?

She did, and had four children. It’s only when her youngest daughter started to question the stringent Jewish clothing laws that Julia realised if she didn’t leave, her children would be stuck in a similarly restrictive life. So she began to squirrel away an escape fund, and, at the age of 42, made her escape into the real world, finding a job in fashion – and climbing the ladder incredibly quickly. Within a few years she became creative director of La Perla, the luxury lingerie brand, which is about as far from her previous life as it’s possible to come!

So what did you make of Julia after spending so long in her company? It’s quite a long book… (441 pages!)

I must admit, I really liked and admired her. She demonstrates that it’s never too late to go for what you dream of (remember that, all you bloggers who are wannabe writers!) It goes without saying that she’s highly intelligent, too – and beautiful, as is to be expected from someone who works in fashion! The book came across like spending several hours in the company of a really nice new friend who’s telling you all about their incredible early life. Every time I had to put it down to do something around the house, I was irritated at getting torn away from my new friend!

I had no idea there was a Netflix series, My Unorthodox Life, about her (I rarely watch TV and always question why I pay for Netflix every month!) but I will definitely be seeking that out, to watch how she comes across as a walking talking person, if that makes sense.

The book does end rather suddenly, but that’s perhaps for there to be room for a part two – I have no doubt the second half of Julia’s life will contain enough adventures to fill another volume!

Hugely enjoyable, particularly for fashion fans!

Follow all the other fantastic bloggers taking part in this blog tour!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random ThingsTTours, who invited me to participate in this blog tour, and to Endeavour Press for my ARC. All views are my own and this is an unbiased review.

BLURB: Ever since she was a child, every aspect of Julia Haart’s life – what she wore, what she ate, what she thought – was controlled by the rules of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. At nineteen, after a lifetime spent caring for her seven younger siblings, she was married off to a man she barely knew. For the next twenty-three years, her marriage would rule her life.

Eventually, when Haart’s youngest daughter, Miriam, started to innocently question why she wasn’t allowed to sing in public, run in shorts, or ride a bike without being covered from neck to knee, Haart reached a breaking point. She knew that if she didn’t find a way to leave, her daughters would be forced into the same unending servitude.

So Haart created a double life. In the ultra- Orthodox world, clothing has one purpose – to cover the body, head to toe – and giving any more thought than that to one’s appearance is considered sinful, an affront to God. But when no one was looking, Haart would pour over fashion magazines and sketch designs for the clothes she dreamed about wearing in the world beyond her Orthodox suburb. She started preparing for her escape by educating herself and creating a ‘freedom’ fund. At the age of forty-two, she finally mustered the courage to flee.

Within a week of her escape, Haart founded a shoe brand, and within nine months, she was at Paris Fashion Week. Just a few years later, she was named creative director of La Perla. Soon she would become co-owner and CEO of Elite World Group and one of the most powerful people in fashion. Along the way, her four children – Batsheva, Shlomo, Miriam and Aron – have not only accepted but embraced her transformation.

Propulsive and unforgettable, Haart’s story is the journey from a world of ‘no’ to a world of ‘yes’, and an inspiration for women everywhere to find their freedom, their purpose and their voice.

Blog Tour – November 2021 – Redemption – Troy Deeney

So, crimeworm reviewing a footballer’s memoir – this is new territory!

It is! I’m a bit of a football fan (Glasgow Celtic FC) but I live with a really obsessive one, and it was with his encouragement I chose to read this. (I suspect he also plans to read it himself now I’ve finished it!)

Full disclosure – I hadn’t heard of Troy Deeney when the Blog Tour invitation popped into my inbox, but when I asked Mr Crimeworm who he was, he immediately replied, “Course! Played for Watford, mainly. Very good player…great striker. Think he had a few demons, remember some scrapes being in the papers. But he’s a pundit now, so must be doing better…comes across as a nice guy. Like him as a pundit, actually. And he’s big in the Black Lives Matter movement.”

And I suspect that’s what the average football fan would say about Troy. But what does Troy have to say about himself in his book?

Well, he doesn’t sugar the pill – he takes full responsibility for all his actions, as the title of the book suggests, and that theme runs through all areas of his life. He grew up with a brother and a sister in the biggest council estate in Europe, with a mum who worked three jobs and held the family together. She comes across as a real heroine, as she’s frequently heading a one parent family, Troy’s father being “on holiday” – common code for dads in jail. She was a victim of domestic violence, but Troy never once saw her cry.

But Troy found success in football – that was his ticket away from all the bad things…

He did – he’s played in all four leagues, and in the top years of his career was English Premier League Watford’s captain and one of the country’s highest scoring striker, with the massive wage that goes with that.

So he had everything he’d ever wanted – what went wrong…?

Well, you’ll have to read the book for the full details of his fall from grace, but, unbelievably, he ended up in the same place his father spent so many years – prison.

The book details his rebuilding of his life and reputation, and I admired the way he takes ownership of everything that went wrong. He’s had a lot of therapy – that’s clear from the beginning of the book, and it’s been hugely helpful with dealing with his own children and not repeating the problems of the past.

Is it a good read, though?

Definitely, and not just for football fans. His personality and voice is clear. And it’s a likeable voice, a knowledgeable one – he has, unbelievably, become the sort of guy you might go to for advice! His involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement is really inspiring, too.

A guy you’d like to go for a coffee with, then.

100%. But no doubt Mr Crimeworm would have to gatecrash and talk football all day long!

Highly recommended.

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Octopus Books for the ARC. My review is unbiased.

Troy Deeney
Check out the rest of the Blog Tour!

BLURB: Troy Deeney is best known as Watford FC’s former captain and a thorn in Arsenal’s side. But behind the successful and gritty football persona is a remarkable story of resilience.

In this brutally honest and inspirational memoir, Troy shares what it was like to grow up on Europe’s largest council estate, where his mum worked three jobs and his father, a notorious drug dealer, was frequently in and out of prison.

He shares stories of self-sabotage, from simply not turning up to Aston Villa’s football trials as a teenager, playing while drunk to being imprisoned for affray at the height of his career.

But Troy never gave up, even when it meant playing professional football with an ankle tag. He went on to score 20+ goals in three successive seasons and became the Club Captain, an FA Cup finalist, promotion winner and Watford’s record scorer. He also became an outspoken player advocate and – in an age of bland footballer interviews – is a sought after voice on football and footballers today.

Engaging, endearing and insightful, this book is where Troy comes to terms with his turbulent past.