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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Albert of Adelaide Book Review August 14 2012

ALBERT OF ADELAIDE: A Novel

by Howard Anderson
fiction  240 pages
publisher: Twelve
published date:  July 10th 2012

BOOK REVIEW - AUGUST 14TH 2012

Synopsis (from Amazon.com): 
At once an old-fashioned-buddy-novel-shoot-'em-up and a work of deliciously imagined fantasy, Howard L. Anderson's dazzling debut presents the haunting story of a world where something has gone horribly awry . . .

Having escaped from Australia's Adelaide Zoo, an orphaned platypus named Albert embarks on a journey through the outback in search of "Old Australia," a rumored land of liberty, promise, and peace. What he will find there, however, away from the safe confinement of his enclosure for the first time since his earliest memories, proves to be a good deal more than he anticipated.

Alone in the outback, with an empty soft drink bottle as his sole possession, Albert stumbles upon pyromaniacal wombat Jack, and together they spend a night drinking and gambling in Ponsby Station, a rough-and-tumble mining town. Accused of burning down the local mercantile, the duo flees into menacing dingo territory and quickly go their separate ways-Albert to pursue his destiny in the wastelands, Jack to reconcile his past.
Encountering a motley assortment of characters along the way-a pair of invariably drunk bandicoots, a militia of kangaroos, hordes of the mercurial dingoes, and a former prize-fighting Tasmanian devil-our unlikely hero will discover a strength and skill for survival he never suspected he possessed.

Told with equal parts wit and compassion, ALBERT OF ADELAIDE shows how it is often the unexpected route, and the most improbable companions, that lead us on the path to who we really are. Who you journey with, after all, is far more important than wherever it is you are going.


Ok everyone, I have to tell you that I am just in book addict heaven these days!  I now have over 50 hand picked ARC (advanced review copies) of books from publishers!  And there are so many great books out right now and coming out in the next 6 months!  It seems like all of my favorite writers have new books coming out, Michelle Moran, Barbara Kingsolver, Lisa Genova, Mary Roach and more.  I am super excited about some of the new author debut books that I am reading now too! 

Ok so this latest one was suggested to me recently over coffee.  She said that her friend (a bookaholic and fellow reviewer) had begged her to read a book called Albert of Adelaide.  When she asked her what it was about her friend said, "I don't want to tell you because then you won't read it"  Well it turns out that it is about a platypus named Albert.  Yes, it is fiction and No, it is not a childrens or young adult book.  This unique premise was enough for me to contact the publisher as soon as I got home and request a copy of the book. 

On the surface this book is just a book about Albert the Platypus looking for his "utopia" of sorts.  A place that he has heard of for a long time from his friends in the zoo.  Well he escapes the zoo and sets off on his adventure.  He meets many other animals, friend and foe, during his journey and gets himself into situations he never could have imagined.  The thing that I LOVED about this book is that if you look a little deeper, you begin to see yourself in Albert.  I mean aren't we all searching for our own paradise in life and yet we find ourselves constantly being challenged by people and events that life throws at us.  In each of Albert's friends, I could recognize people I have encountered both good and bad.  This book isn't a book to tell you how to, and it is not a book that judges.  No character in this book is clearly a villian or a hero, instead they are all very flawed individuals seeking something outside themselves in hopes of healing something dying inside of them.  My best advice when you read this book is don't over analyze it, don't try to figure it out but instead just go with it and enjoy the ride.  DO NOT miss this little gem!  Remember the best movies are not the blockbusters at your local theatre, they are the little movies that you have never heard of, playing at the obscure little theatre!  This book is just like that!  My rating 4 out of 5  Thank you to Netgalley!

The next book I am currently reading is:  The Dog Stars

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Second Empress - Book Review - August 2012

TITLE:  The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court
aUTHOR:  Michelle Moran
PUBLISHER:  Crown
RELEASE DATE:  August 14th 2012
Historical Fiction - 320 pages

Summary (amazon.com):
After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.
Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.
As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.
Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.


MY REVIEW:
FIRST OF ALL I WANT THANK THE PUBLISHER AND NETGALLEY FOR GIVING ME AN ADVANCED READER COPY OF THIS BOOK TO REVIEW!
LET ME START OFF BY SAYING THAT I AM A HUGE FAN OF MICHELLE MORAN AND HAVE READ AND LOVED ALL OF HER PREVIOUS BOOKS, tHE HERETIC QUEEN,  nEFERTITIT, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER AND MADAME TUSSAUD, AND LOVED THEM ALL.  MICHELLE MORAN IS SO THOROUGH IN HER REASEARCH OF HER CHARACTERS AND THE TIMES AND EVENTS IN WHICH THEY LIVED.  THIS BOOK WAS VERY HARD TO PUT DOWN!  EACH ONE OF THE CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK WERE SO HUMAN AND YOU FOUND YOUR SELF EVEN FINDING LIKABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE "BAD GUYS" LIKE NAPOLEON.  IF YOU LOVE HISTORICAL FICTION, YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS THIS BOOK!
MY RATING:  5 OUT OF 5







January First - Book Review - July 2012

TITLE:  January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her
AUTHOR:  Michael Schofield
PUBLISHER:  Crown
PUBLISHED DATE:  August 7th, 2012
Non-Fiction  304 pages

Summary (from Amazon.com):
Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini. Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want. They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.

At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man. What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.

January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni’s incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael’s attempts to rationalize what’s happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia. Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness.

A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield’s commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity. It is a father’s soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together.

MY REVIEW:
I received the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.
I had seen the interview with this little girl and her parents on Oprah over a year ago, so I was a little familiar with the story.  I was intrigued and wanted to read this story so I could get more details.  I started and finished this book in only 2 days.  Michael Schofield writes without fuss, and without embellishing details in order to win sympathy for himself, his daughter or his family.  He isn't trying to sensationalize his situation, instead in a heartbreakingly honest voice he tells us the story from his point of view.  I was so touched to my core by the lenghths that these parents were willing to.  Most people unfortunatly would have taken a much easier road and instituionalized January and then blamed the system for failing them.  But these amazing people never stopped believing or fighting for her life!  As a parent of a special needs child I could relate to so much of the insanity, frustration, denial, fear and disappointment.  This book will make any parent or person grateful for the simple things in life that we all take for granted.  I love that they saw a child trapped inside her disease and not a broken person!  Grab a tissue box and read this book!  My rating:  5 out of 5

Shine Shine Shine - Book Review July 2012

TITLE:  SHINE SHINE SHINE
AUTHOR:  LYDIA NETZER
PUBLISHER:  ST. MARTIN'S PRESS
RELEASE DATE:  JULY 17, 2012
320 PAGES
FICTION

Summary (from Amazon.com):
What is a "normal" life? For Sunny, it means wearing a blond wig (she’s been bald since birth), medicating her autistic son (who wears a helmet because he bangs his head against walls), and teaching her brilliant but socially clueless husband, Maxon, how to interact with other humans (they whiteboard equations so he knows how to respond to compliments). When Sunny’s wig falls off during a car accident, exposing her bare head to her neighbors for the first time, she starts to realize that this "normal" life she has built is actually a huge problem. Everything about Shine, Shine, Shine is charmingly odd, full of feeling, and beautifully written. Lydia Netzer has created a cast of characters so unique and surprising, you want to follow their story long after it ends. These are real people making real choices about their lives--even if those lives are different from everyone else’s.

Review:
I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.  Let me start off by saying that the first 100 pages or so I was skeptical of this book.  The story and characters were so odd and unique that I felt that I couldn't figure out if it was trying to be humorous or serious.  But I stuck with it, and boy am I glad that I did!  This is one of those rare books and stories that just gets under your skin.  Don't try to figure out anything, just go with it and let the oddness transport you.  In it you will find the most delightful and heartbreaking characters.  I LOVED this book!  This author is truly a genius at character development and a masterful way of showing us that we all have our secrets and things are not always as they seem but we have to make a choice whether we will let that bring us down in shame or raise us to a level of love for all people flaws and all. 
My rating:  5 out of 5