#AWW2019 “YES is a fine life policy to consider. Just tell a friend where you’re headed, and be choosy.” // Review of “Get the Girls Out” by Lucy Bloom

Title: Get the Girls Out
Author: Lucy Bloom
Genre: Memoir
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
03/06/19 – 14/06/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I want to preface this review with a quick story about Lucy Bloom. A couple of years ao, she gave a talk at my workplace. I can’t even remember the topic. Maybe it was Women in Leadership or something? Anyway, it was very inspiring and I wrote down a lot of quotes like “Fear should never stop you having an adventurous life”.

It also actually gave me the last push I needed to request the info pack, and eventually register, for the UN Women Trek for Rights in Nepal, and thus I found myself hiking through the Annapurna region in the pouring rain and the mud in April 2018. Thanks, Lucy. 😛

I happened to email Lucy later that day about something else she had said in her talk, and mentioned the Nepal trip. Her response was so enthusiastic, with a capslock “WHOOO YOU’RE GOING TO NEPAL” (I had  only requested the info pack at this point but she was sure already) followed by “Drag me into your fundraising!” Me, the random person she had never met before who had sent her a single email. I never did drag her into my fundraising (though I raised $5500 regardless) but I have no doubt that if I had approached her, she would have thrown herself behind it because she is that kind of person.

Okay, so maybe that story wasn’t so quick but I wanted to give you an idea of why I was so keen to read this memoir when I saw a staff recommendation on my local library’s Facebook page.

A lot of this memoir is about the last four or five years of Lucy’s life. In 2015, she was fired from her job as the CEO of a high-profile charity, and soon after, her husband of twenty years asked hehr for  a divorce. While this tore her apart, it also gve her the opportunity to pursue opportunities and a side of herself that she may never have otherwise, instead always bowing to obligation.

Lucy is incredibly gutsy and that really comes through in this book. She writes in a really conversational way; you feel a bit like you’ve been friends with her for years and you’re sitting around a table on her back porch with a drink while she tells you these stories from her life.

The only problem I found with this was sometimes we’d be in the middle of one story and the narrative would go off onto something else entirely… only to come back around to the original point at the end of the section. It is definitely a memoir in terms of organisation, with chapters based around themes of attributes that Lucy aspires to, rather than an autobiography with a linear story.

Much like Lucy’s talk which I went to a few years ago, picking up this book may inspire you to the next adventure in your life. I encourage you to check it out!


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#WWW Wednesday – May 30, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday
What have you recently finished reading? 

I’ve finished  The Owl Service  by Alan Garner… I have to be honest, I didn’t really get it. I had no idea what was going on for most of it, and only finished it because I wanted to be able to discuss it with the people at work who recommended it.

No reviews this week because I am behind schedule.

What are you currently reading? 

I am about 40% of the way through Uprooted by Naomi Novik now. I am really loving it, though I do wish the Dragon would stop calling Agnieszka an idiot and an imbecile quite so much. They have really good chemistry otherwise, but that is quite off-putting.

I have started Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane. I am not very far through it yet, but I can tell it’s going to have a really strong narrative voice and some great women characters.

I’m also reading Bookworm: a Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. I don’t feel like I’m loving it quite as much as everyone else, but she did quote a line from Where the Wild Things Are and I suddenly felt myself getting teary, so there are certainly bits that appeal to me. But it does seem for every book I’ve heard of, she talks about three others I haven’t, which makes it less of a nostalgia trip and more of a literary history lesson.

What do you think you will read next?

I have three books out from one library, two books out from another library, and the majority of my May-June TBR still to read. So who knows?

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#AWW2018 “Nothing meant anything if I kept everything.” // Review of “Lessons in Letting Go” by Corinne Grant

Title: Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder
Author: Corinne Grant
Genre:  memoir
Dates read: 30/04/18 – 07/04/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I am the opposite of a hoarder. I am so up for clearing out and donating or otherwise getting rid of “stuff”. So I did have a bit of a morbid curiosity regarding how one becomes a hoarder. I’ve seen some of those TV shows where someone comes in and just starts throwing things out, but they never really seemed to  deal with the whys and wherefores.

Corinne Grant does go into this aspect. She talks about the psychological barriers that  prevented her from throwing out anything, and how hard it was to ever face the fact that she had too much stuff. I have to admit, this first section of the book was quite sad, bordering on depressing.

I did become more engaged once Corinne began discussing the catalyst for the change in her mindset, which led to her beginning to clear out her stuff.  This included a trip to Jordan, where she interviewed refugees, and realised that the problems she had paled in comparison to these people. Having just travelled to Nepal last month to witness the work being done by UN Women post-2015 earthquakes, I engaged with this section on a personal level.

I was rooting for Corinne as she faced her demons and changed her life, and I had some feelings of second-hand pride at the end. This is definitely an uplifting story, and I recommend if you are into reading memoirs, or if you have an interest in the subject matter.


This review is part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2018. Click here for more information.

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#WWW Wednesday – March 21, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

Due to me having no time a couple of weeks ago and still alternating Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog, it’s been about three weeks since I last did a WWW Wednesday. I’ve finished a number of things, and am progressing through my March-April TBR quite nicely. But it does make for a bit of a long post! Sorry!

What have you recently finished reading? 

First up, I finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  I enjoyed quite a few of the essays in here, particularly the way she explained her depression and the stories about Simple Dog and Helper Dog. I’m not going to get around to reviewing this one properly, but I would recommend picking it up if you enjoyed the HaaH blog.

Next, I finished my ARC of Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge. This was such a cozy urban fantasy mystery and I enjoyed it a lot. Though it did make me hungry. I want to hang out in Lola Dodge’s kitchen while she’s baking. My review is here.

The next one was Deep Storm by Lincoln Child, which I listened to. This was a sci-fi thriller, I guess. I found some of the ideas quite interesting, but it is in a third person omniscient style, and I found it a bit too detached to get interested in anyone.

On the same day, I finished an ARC of Daddy Dearest by Ellery Crane. This was a compelling thriller though there was one character where I couldn’t decide whether to sympathise with her considering how messed up she was, or whether I just thought she was completely irresponsible. So that did affect my enjoyment a bit. You can read my full review here.

Next I finished Call Me Sasha by Geena Leigh. This is Geena Leigh’s memoir of her time working in prostitution in Sydney. I’ve read a few books in this vein and it wasn’t my favourite. Though I think the audio book narrator also contributed to that because it sounded like she pouting at everything. You can read my review here.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester was my next read. This was a damn fine piece of historical romance, set in 1920s New York, and featuring young women bucking societal norms and also lots of Broadway. So I was sort of destined to like it. My review is here.

Last but certainly not least, I finished the audio book of The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. This was fascinating, and I’m already pretty sure will be one of my favourite books of this year. It is another historical fiction, set during the “War of the Currents” and featuring historical figures such as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I have never googled so many real events to find out more while reading a novel. My review will be up on Friday.

Phew! That’s it. Only seven books, but I do tend to go on a bit, don’t I? (I have actually been drafting this post for at least a week and adding books as I finished them, but it still feels like it took forever to write).

What are you currently reading? 

I’ve been reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which is on my March-April TBR… I feel like the blurb promises one thing and the words between the covers go off in a completely different direction and I’m not sure how I feel about that. So I’m having a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I have started The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. I’m not quite as into it as I was into The Last Days of Night. I think it’s little things like small Americanisms in the chapters set in Victorian London, and a fictitious descendent of Arthur Conan Doyle (I’m never sure how to feel about liberties taken with such recent historical figures). But I only started it last night and I’m  already a third of the way through, so there’ s that.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve got Ready Player One by Ernest Cline out from the library. To be honest, the excerpts I’ve read, along with everything I’ve heard from people with similar reading tastes to me, suggest that it is pretty terrible, so the best I’m hoping for is “so bad, it’s good.” Yes, every now and then I like to rage-read a book, it’s true.

It will probably be another three weeks before I post a WWW again, as I am flying to Nepal on April 2! Eeeek! I won’t be reading much while I’m there, but I have a number of ebooks lined up to read on the flights!

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#AWW2018 Book Review: “Call Me Sasha” by Geena Leigh

Title: Call Me Sasha: Secret Confessions of an Australian Call-Girl
Author: Geena Leigh
Audio book narrator: Louise Crawford
Genre:  non-fiction/autobiography
Dates read: 10/03/18 – 11/03/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The trials that Geena Leigh went through in the first forty years of her life are horrendous, and make you wonder how anyone could have the stamina to get through it. While this story is definitely worth of a book, I feel that another editing pass could have made all the difference.

Geena describes her family life as a young girl, growing up with a father who abused her both physically and sexually, her subsequent homelessness and eventual entry into the sex trade, and the drug and alcohol abuse that came with it to  numb the pain. She describes her attempts to go straight, and how she eventually managed to complete her education and find true love.

As I said above, I did feel that while the bare bones (and some of the muscle and sinews) were definitely there for this books, the writing sometimes felta bit chunky. To be honest, it felt a little immature, like it had been written by someone much younger. There were a few inconsistencies, like an Avril Lavigne song being referred to in a chapter that would have taken place in the late 90s. Small things in the long run, but they pulled me out of the narrative.

There were some rather broad claims made about sex work that, having read memoirs by other sex workers, I met with some wariness. There was also an implication that a lesbian couple would have a masculine and a feminine counterpart (odd considering she is now in a relationship with a woman herself and would surely know that same-sex relationships don’t have to comply with heteronormativity) and another section where she says she didn’t want to call herself bisexual because it sounded like she couldn’t make up her mind, which is always a problematic statement.

I don’t usually mention audio book narrators unless they really stand out to me in one way or another. I have to admit that Louise Crawford’s tendency to finish sentences with an upward inflection (making everything sound like a question) wore thin pretty quickly. She also sounded quite petulant, making me wonder if some of the things said in the book would have bothered me as much had I been  reading the print copy.


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“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” // Review of “On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

Title: On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Non-fiction
Date Read: 16/05/2017 – 23/05/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Okay, here’s the thing: I was probably destined not to like this book very much. I’ve not especially liked the books by King that I’ve tried to read (neither of them were well-known ones and I’ll probably change my mind when I get around to reading Carrie or something) nor do I especially like craft books. But literally everyone talks about how inspirational this one is, so I thought I would give it a look.

It‘s not that I didn’t find parts of this book inspirational, but these were mostly in the more memoir-centric parts of the book, rather than the actual advice on writing. I loved that as a teenager, King kept his rejection slips on a spike in his room to spur him on. I loved the story about the editor of a magazine he submitted to when he was only eleven showing up at a book signing decades later asking for that piece of history to be signed. I even didn’t mind the post-script of sorts talking about the incident in 1999 that resulted in several surgeries and confined him to a wheel chair for a period.

One of the things that bothers me about craft books, and this one is no exception, is the conflation of “the way I do it” with “the way you should be doing it”. There are so many books on writing out there and they each contradict a dozen others, but they all claim that theirs is the only method for successful writing (or the tone that is always used seems to suggest that). But then, I think what bugged me even more than that was King then turning around and essentially saying down the track, “But whatever. Do what works for you.” I guess he was meaning that he is providing the framework and we have to do the hard yards, but it still left me thinking, “So… why have I just bothered with the last 150+ pages?”

I think there was also the issue that this book is nearly 20 years old, and it felt dated. When the book was written, the Kindle hadn’t been invented, self-publishing wasn’t worth a person’s time, and blogging was only just taking off as a platform. Most of the useful advice that was presented in the book was stuff that I had read on a dozen blogs before. If I had read it when it was published, when this sort of information was a lot harder to come by, then I may have put more stock in it.


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“I want to go on living even after my death” // Review of “Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Title: Diary of a Young Girl (Definitive Edition)
Author: Anne Frank
Genre:
Memoir/Non-fiction
Date Read:
06/01/2017 to 09/01/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review: 

It feels a bit odd to be rating and reviewing Anne Frank’s diary, yet here I am. I had seen plenty of the profound quotes from its pages everywhere over the years, but it was a surprise to read the diary in full and realise just how much of a normal teenager Anne was.

This review hardly needs the usual paragraph I do here with a quick synopsis. This is the diary kept by Anne Frank during the years 1942-44, when she and her family and four others hid in the secret Annex at the back of her father’s office building to hide from the Nazis.

Anne was an incredibly insightful 13-year-old, far more than I ever was or many of the people I know. Her circumstances gave her a unique perspective from which to observe people. I am glad I read the definitive edition, as I believe in earlier editions her father edited out a lot of the material relating to Anne’s fraught relationship with her mother. I am glad I read this, as it was what made me feel closest to Anne; I identified a lot with the relationship she described.

Anne’s diary is also incredibly important as a piece of social history. She describes the ways the Secret Annex passed the time while stuck in the tiny space for such a long time, how they obtained food, and how they were helped by their friends still on the outside. While she did still at times come across as a whiny 13-year-old, I was able to forgive her due to the incredible observations about life and human nature that she often made.

This isn’t really my best review but it’s hard to know what else to day. I am not really one for telling people what they “should” read, but I think this is probably an exception.


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“You’re going to fuck up, but most of the time, that’s all right.” // Review of “Where Am I Now?: Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame” by Mara Wilson

Title: Where Am I Now? Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame
Author: Mara Wilson
Genre: Memoir
Date Read: 09/10/2016 – 11/11/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

You may know Mara Wilson from such movies as Matilda and Mrs Doubtfire. She was Hollywood’s darling during the early 1990s, but faded into obscurity when she hit puberty and was no longer “cute enough”. Nowadays, she’s an NYU graduate and writer, with an awesome Twitter account. In this collection of essays, she’s warm and honest and nerdy, and makes you feel like she could be your best friend.

Where Am I Now? covers a variety of topics, from when Mara first learned about sex, to losing her mother to cancer, to being diagnosed with OCD at the age of twelve after struggling with it for four years. There are also more light-hearted topics, like her couple of years spent in show choirs, and how she got up the courage to share a “sexy” story with her writing group, despite fears of anyone seeing a story like that.

A lot of the essays have been honed through her writing groups and the style is so easy to read, I flew through the chapters. I should have been doing uni work but the book kept calling me back. The chapter about Matilda, written in the format of a letter to the character, made me tear up more than once, as did the chapter on her reaction to the death of Robin Williams, whom she describes as one of the few adult actors who never talked down to her on film sets. I related to so much of what Mara wrote about, even if I didn’t have exactly the same experiences.

This review is on the shorter side, but I really feel like I’ve covered everything. It’s well-written, honest, will make you smile and cry in equal measure. Basically, you should read it.


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“I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal you expect me to be.” // Review of “Am I Black Enough For You” by Anita Heiss #aww2016

Title: Am I Black Enough For You?
Author: Anita Heiss
Genre: Memoir/Non-fiction
Date Read: 01/08/2016 – 09/08/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Normally memoirs don’t really get more than three stars from me. It’s not that they’re terrible, just that they’re not a genre I have much interest in, so even if I find the writer interesting, that’s not necessarily the case for the writing itself. Fortunately, I found Anita Heiss’ memoir to be thought-provoking and easy to read, and it helped me to understand how our Aboriginal Australians form their identity.

In 2009, Anita Heiss found herself as one of seventeen successful Aboriginal people targeted by “journalist” (I use that term loosely) Andrew Bolt, who accused them in his nationally-distributed newspaper column, as well as online, of “choosing” to identify as Aboriginal to further their careers. Four of these Aboriginal people took Bolt, and the Herald and Weekly Times to court, arguing that he had breached the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). They won the case.

In this book, Anita talks both about her experiences growing up as an “Urban aboriginal” (as opposed to that image people have of Australian Aboriginals living in the desert, dancing around a fire in loin cloths and clapping sticks and playing didgeridoos) with an Aboriginal mother and a white father. She also discusses her work in Aboriginal communities around the country, and her writing, where she aims to place Aboriginal characters in similar contexts to those of stock-standard white characters (i.e. characters who work, live in the city, like shopping, etc.) This is interspersed with reflections on her own racial identity and how it is just something that always was, not something that she chose.

This book did challenge me, and I’m glad it did. There were some things that Anita described getting asked, and as soon as I read it, I was equal parts thinking, “Yeah, that’s a dumb thing to say to a person of colour” and “*cringe* I’ve totally wondered that”.

In the days between finishing reading this book and writing this review, it has continued to be on my mind. I thought of it when I saw the Aboriginal flag flying in at least two different places just on my commute to work, and remembered that there are still places across the country that don’t see this acknowledgment of the existence of Aboriginal people as necessary. I thought about it again when I was wandering the Treasures Gallery at the National Library of Australia and saw the contrast of post-colonial artworks of Aboriginal people next to the papers of Eddie Mabo, who spearheaded the Land Rights movement in the 1970s and 80s.

This is a book that makes racial issues accessible. I recommend it, not just to other Australians, but to anyone wondering about race relations, who would like to learn directly from a person of colour.


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(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).

“A man’s alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself.” // Review of “Catch Me If You Can” by Frank Abagnale Jr with Stan Redding

Title: Catch Me If You Can
Author: Frank Abagnale Jr with Stan Redding
Genre: Memoir
Audio book narrator: Barrett Whitener
Date Read: 27/06/2016 – 02/07/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I remember really enjoying the movie Catch Me If You Can when I first saw it a few years ago, and I enjoyed seeing the musical earlier this year even more. I only recently learned that both were based on Frank Abagnale’s memoir, so when I saw it available on Overdrive, I picked it up immediately. As I listened to the book, I became convinced that Frank has to be one of the luckiest men who ever lived.

In the early 1960s, Frank Abagnale ran away from home at the age of 16, and began forging cheques in order to sustain himself. Over the course of his five year career as a conman, he not only cashed over $2.5 million in bad cheques, but flew thousands of miles for free as a PanAm co-pilot, supervised interns in a hospital, taught a college sociology course, practiced law, all without a single qualification and all before the age of 21.

While the truth of some of the claims in this book have been called into question, there’s no doubt it’s a very entertaining read. I did have to keep reminding myself it was a memoir rather than a novel, as Frank’s luck just never seemed to run out. He always ran into the right person and no one ever seemed to ask questions. Even when he ended up in gaol overnight a couple of times, he managed to make it out before the FBI arrived. There is  song in the musical called “The Pinstripes Are All That They See”, a theme that is examined quite closely in the book. He points out on more than one occasion that people will see him in uniform and not question, and it actually made me think a lot about how much I take for granted regarding appearances.

My main qualm was that a lot of the storytelling focused on the women Frank casually dated, and often took advantage of. A lot of the language is quite leery and bordering on just plain gross. While this doesn’t surprise me, given that the book was written in the 1980s and discusses a male teenager’s life in the 1960s, it did make me feel uncomfortable from time to time.

Having said all that, the book really is fascinating, as it goes into a lot of detail about how Abagnale pulled off so many remarkable scams. If you enjoyed the movie, I recommend picking up the book, too.


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