I’m not sure how I came across Odd Girl Out; it has been a book on my reading  wishlist for a while now. It was probably the bright cover, or the tagline; anyone, as I was given book vouchers for my birthday, I decided to buy it. And I was not disappointed.

About the book:

Odd Girl Out is a biographical account of Laura’s life; it examines with flashes back and forth, having received her Autism diagnosis. It begins with looking at paperwork related to her diagnosis, with her husband, on holiday. We then see Laura as a child, struggling somewhat. (I find how she writes this account very effective!) She is also a young mother, a journalist, a wife; there are also moments after the diagnosis, such as wondering how her life could have been very different.

Thoughts as someone #ActuallyAutistic:

Finally, at last someone ‘gets it’!

I have read around the subject of Autism, especially since I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in January 2015. Even by that point, I had had enough of medical jargon, the assumptions, and various individuals forming ideas of who I was as a person. (Not always someone who was valued a lot; they were the sort who freaked on finding out the diagnosis, then being horrible.)

But this book is a reflection, really, of what I felt. Since then, I have wondered what my life would have been like if diagnosed early; some teacher were not necessarily the best help with or without it. I also think that I’d have been told less of what I can’t do; I was told that I can’t cook well, that I cannot do PE well enough to be considered ‘good’.
As an Autistic individual, I was happy to find this book. I am bored with the instruction manuals about how to be more neuro-typical, the books by parents writing about how hard it is to have an autistic child is. Laura has an interesting writers voice-one we need-and I hope to hear more from her.

What could have been better: 

I found the first chapter revealing, really.

At times I think the book can be a little be ‘fact heavy’-which is ironic, as I kind of live my life by facts. (To illustrate further; I can recite all Presidents since Herbert Hoover, what their party was, and if they were a Vice President.) However, this is a way to illustrate a point-which comes across as being very much a hallmark. Though I couldn’t always quite get my head round it, I wouldn’t have changed it at all.


To buy the book on Amazon, click here. Follow Laura on Twitter here.  And read my interview with her here. 

 
I was first introduced to William Kuhn, the novelist and Biographer, via Amazon; I had been looking for a new book about ‘the life and times’ of Jacqueline Kennedy. I read his book Reading Jackie, and really liked his style. His book satisfied my special interest-a hallmark of my Aspergers-meaning I had to go and research Mrs Kennedy even more. I also hold him responsible for being the person to introduce me to Carly Simon via the same boo. (I talk about her a lot. I listen to her music a lot.)
Somehow-and I still don’t know how-he found my blog, and now follows me on Twitter! He asked me about the possibility of reviewing his new book, which I was delighted to do. (Although I will admit that I have yet to finish it; I have a lot of books to read currently, and this is starting to go into the double digits, so I’m still on my way to the end!)
Firstly, I would just like to point out that it is about the British Royal Family; more specifically, Prince Harry. I like how it seems to have been spun out of real life into fiction, and focuses, at the beginning, on his army career. I also really like the language; in contrast to Reading Jackie, this book packs a punch, is deft in dialogue, and is a quite an easy read.
For anyone who would like an easy read, or is a fan of the Royal family, this one is for you; and I think that you will love it.
Click here to buy the book.    To find out more about the author, click here.  To read an author interview, click here.  And for a review of Kuhn’s previous book, ‘Reading Jackie’, click here. 

(This is a guest post, completely unique to this week, by Jane over at thoughtsofjustafan.com.)
Alfie Boe was famously discovered singing in the TVR factory as a teenager. After successfully auditioning for the D’oyly Carte opera company, Alfie then went on to train at the Royal College of Music in London. A stint at the Vilar Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House followed, before the bright lights of La Boheme on Broadway beckoned.

Alfie then spent the next few years learning his craft as a young tenor, notably appearing with ENO several times. Stand out roles included Rodolfo (twice) in Jonathan Miller’s production of La Boheme and The Mikado, again with Jonathan Miller.

Meanwhile, Alfie had been attempting to find a new audience by releasing a number of classical albums :Classic FM Presents (2006), Onward (2007), La Passione (2007), Love was a Dream (2009).

However, the opera life did not always go to plan and in 2010 Alfie appeared as Jean ValJean in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. The rapturous audience response ensured that Alfie was quickly on his way to reaching a whole new audience. Two bestselling albums (Bring Him Home, 2010 and Alfie, 2011) swiftly followed. Alfie also showed he is a consummate performer and a workaholic with two UK tours and two US tours in short succession.

Storyteller, released in November 2012 took Alfie in a different direction, showcasing a combination of popular classics and American folk / gospel sounds. The last three tracks of that album paved the way for the sound of Trust, which was released in November 2013 (April 2014 in America). Trust has a soulful, almost spiritual feel in some tracks and has Alfie’s first original song “Trust“.

Alfie’s toured the UK for his third headline tour in November / December 2014 which showcased music from all his albums, including his latest, Serenata.  After a break from live shows in the early part of 2015 Alfie appeared on a mini UK summer tour taking in Northern Ireland (two intimate dates at the Culloden Spa Hotel) and a handful of music festivals: Hampton Court Festival, Alive @ Delapre, Millenium Square, Leeds, Llangollen Eistedfodd and Scarborough Last Night of the Proms.  In the middle of all this, Alfie starred as Jimmy in the world premiere of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall.  He had earlier recorded the vocals for the album of the same name.

Alfie’s last album, Serenata, was recorded in London and Denmark in Spring 2014 and was released in November 2014.  The album marks a return to the Italian folk songs so beloved of Alfie and marks the third collaboration between him and producers Morgan Pochin. It debuted at number 14 in the charts on release and 3 in the classical chart.

September 2015 saw Alfie return to the role that made most of us stand up and take notice of him – Jean Valjean in the Broadway revival of Les Miserables.  Rave reviews followed and continued until the end of the run in February 2016.  Never one to rest on his laurels, Alfie went straight into rehearsals for a short run as JM Barrie in Finding Neverland, also on Broadway.  This marked something of a new departure for Alfie, with dancing and more complex choreography thrown into the mix but fabulous reviews also followed.

Alfie’s next project is an album and UK tour with Michael Ball.  Titled Together, the album was released last week with the tour also starting last week and continuing until December.

Les Mis:

Alfie Boe’s most famous role is as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, a role he has performed at the 25th anniversary concert, in the West End and on Broadway.  I interviewed Alfie before he started on Broadway in 2015 and asked him what he thought would be the greatest difference in his approach from when he played the role in the West End. The main difference would be the difference in the production: “the production is completely different, it’s not the same show I performed in the West End”.  Alfie went on to say that although the music is the same, the structure and choreography is different, so “I’m excited to embrace the new direction for the role”.  As Alfie had appeared on Broadway before (La Boheme) I wanted to know how and if that experience would differ.  Of course, La Boheme was only three shows a week and now he is fully embracing the show with seven shows.  Did the fact that he is a lot more well known now factor at all?  The answer was definitely not, Alfie said “although I’m a little more well known than I was back then I’m not focused on that.  I’m focused on doing the job, doing it properly, performing each show I’m in to the highest standard”.  

Talking about the differences and the challenges of returning to the show naturally led us on to Alfie’s time in the West End.  I’d forgotten (no idea how!) that Alfie had been in the show for a couple of weeks prior to the 25th anniversary show at the O2.  Alfie said that he had had a great experience, loved every minute of his new venture into the world of musicals as he’d not really done much in the West End before that.  He made friends immediately amongst the cast which as Alfie says was “a blessing, it stuck with me for a long time.  They helped me, supported me in my interpretation of the role and character.  A wonderful experience”.

Of course, performing an iconic role like Jean Valjean means a lot of pressure to be wonderful every night but also brings the opportunity to sing an incredible score every night which inevitably gets an incredible audience response.  When asked to choose his favourite JVJ song, I felt that Alfie could easily have chosen them all and indeed mentioned the epilogue, the soliloquy and of course his signature tune, Bring Him Home.  Alfie says “Bring Him Home is the song that everyone turns to but for me, one of the greatest moments to express true emotion and strength is towards the beginning of the show in the soliloquy.  It’s a real embracing of emotion, expressing the emotion to the audience.  I put a lot into those moments, anxiety, fear, passion to reach an understanding of who he is as a character, so I really like that moment in particular.  Also, at the end of the show, the epilogue is a beautiful piece , when he’s realising he’s close to death, coming to the end of his life, I really enjoyed singing those moments too”.

Although JVJ is the our focus here, Les Mis is a show full of outstanding songs so I was interested in asking the JVJ’s I interviewed if they had a favourite song by another character.  Alfie chose Stars by Javert and revealed that he’s actually quite jealous that he doesn’t get to sing that song in the show himself!  He also chose Norm Lewis as his favourite Javert, saying “I’ve heard it sung by so many Javerts but the one that sticks in my mind is Norm Lewis at the 25th anniversary and also Earl Carpenter [which is handy, seeing as he’s in the Broadway show!].  Those are the two guys who stick in ,my mind, their rendition of that song, very talented singers”.


It’s interesting that although Alfie chose Starsas his favourite songs that he doesn’t sing, in his new album, Together, with Michael Ball, the Les Mismedley includes Empty Chairs and I Dreamed a Dream, not Stars.  Perhaps the arrangements wouldn’t work for a duet.


(Disclaimer: this book was sent to me, at my request, by Hodder and Stroughton, in association with Mulcahy Associates. I have been wanting to read this for months, ever since it was announced. What follows is my honest opinion, unhindered. )
David Bowie. If you say his name to some, there’ll be fond reminiscences, having lived alongside his music at the time of production. Even if you didn’t like his songs, you cannot deny he was a huge influence on the music world. He, like so many others, played their part. (Freddie Mercury, anyone?)
In the run up to publication, I was disgusted by how much online abuse this got. For a gem of a book, that was shocking.
Lesley Ann Jones has been a Journalist, Biographer, Novelist and more; she is somebody who knows how to write, report accurately, and paint a very distinct picture in your head. I’ll admit, I didn’t grow up with Bowie’s music, and I was still eight years late to see Queen in their heyday. (Go on, work out my age!!) To read about his life by a great writer is something I am very much enjoying.
The introduction is immensely evocative; it conjures up the day, way back in January, when Bowie passed away. There’s a sense that this is the end of an era; music like he produced was on the decline. You haven’t got as big as rock scene these days. We have more R ‘n’ B, indie acoustic solo artists, and auto tune. It’s the same, I imagine, when Freddie Mercury passed away. Black star is revealed to be Bowie’s legacy, just part of a musical treasure trove.
This biography is also unrivalled, in the sense that Jones herself knew Bowie; she lived locally to him when he was still David Jones. There was also meetings at concerts, etc. There is almost an extra spark in this book; after all, what’s a better way to get behind the enigma? It’s a great tribute to somebody classed as a “Friend.”
My only issue was with sheer size, but considering the time it took to write, hats off to Lesley Ann! (I haven’t been able to take it round with me, as it has begun to occasionally hurt my shoulders.) That’s probably why I haven’t come to finish it, to be honest. But I will do soon.
To buy this book, please click here.

 
*Thanks Elliot and Thompson for sending me this.
I officially got started in to History, at the age of six, with a lesson about The Second World War. I still read a lot about it today, being completely fascinated, and wanting to expand my knowledge of the subject. I do t know why, or how it became a ‘thing’ to me.
This is a realitivly New memoir, about how Erika, born in 1942, was taken from her biological parents by the Nazis. Declared ‘Aryan’, she was also given a new identity.
I knew not an ounce about the programme of Lebensborn.
And, honestly, the fact that that even happened disgusts me.
The Ingrid Von Oelhafen of the story is very brave, resilient at best ; she wished to uncover about her heritage, as Erika.
I enjoyed this book immensely, only wishing for it to have a greater clarity. It switches between the two authors, which is a little confusing.