‘Balance and Other B.S.’ by Felicity Harley

Women have been told it’s never been a better time to be a woman- we can have it all, that’s what feminism promised but women are feeling overwhelmed and drowning in feminist guilt for not daring it all 

Felicity Harley is the founding editor of Women’s Health magazine and ‘With Her in Mind’ uses her own experiences, research  and insight from Australian experts in sociology, health and feminism research such as Jane Caro and Tanya Plibersek, real women’s own experiences to discuss how women can cut through the B.S to shed the mental load and find true empower in their life 

About ¼ of the way through the book I was ready to put it down because I was starting to feel it didn’t have much relevance to me, all the women contributing were in their late 30s and 40s, had kids and were juggling full time careers and I was starting to feel despondent that maybe, Even though I feel overwhelmed at time trying to juggle everything, maybe my ‘business’ wasn’t the right kind of business but all it took was one paragraph to bring me back, where Harley answered exactly my feelings- whether you’re in your 20s, 60s and everything else being a woman that feeling of being overwhelmed is common due to the nature of feminism and that ‘busy’ means a lot of different things.

I’m the first to admit I don’t read a lot of feminist fiction but I found this book super relatable and understandable.

Any other books on feminism you could recommend to keep me going?

Love,

Vanessa x

‘House of Trelawney’ by Hannah Rothschild

A brand new book by Hannah Rothschild, who’s previous book ‘The Improbability of Love’ was a best-seller and one I reviewed a few years ago!

This book is a dazzling comedy about old money, new money and no money at all. Set in Trelawney Castle, once a jewel of the Cornish coast, it’s a satire combining the world’s of British aristocracy and high finance.

I’ve just started this book but so far I’m loving it. Essentially, it’s about the rundown Trelawney Castle, with the Trelawney family living an isolated existence and running out of options (how relevant at this moment in our world’s history!) Three events will hasten the demise of the castle; the arrive of a new and illegitimate relation an unscrupulous American determined to seek revenge and the 2008 financial crash.

The book is perfect for Downtown Abbey lovers, people who like to see behind the curtains of these beautiful estates and who can’t get enough of the British aristocracy.

It’s a classic story of a dysfunctional family- filled with complex characters and witty dialogue.

More to come with this review and look out for my Podcast radio review of it to come!

Love,

Vanessa x

‘When life gives you lululemons’ by Lauren Weisberger

A slow starter, worth the read!

The next instalment in the ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ series, following the world of Emily Charlton after her time at Runway.

Emily Charlton is a successful stylist and image consultant for Hollywood stars but with the rise of young millennial social media moguls, her clients are dwindling fast. To save her image, Emily relocates to the upmarket suburba Greenwich to help the reputation of model Karolina Hartwell, who has been publicly dumped by her husband Graham, a senator with presidential ambitions. All with the help of Emily’s oldest friend Miriam.

While I found this book a great, light read with a few good laughs, it’s definitely not one for the ages. The character development needed some work and the timeline didn’t seem to make sense. However, it’s a fun story that continues on from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ seamlessly.

In these critical times, where we all need to play our part in protecting each other, I’m using this time to go through my bookshelf and read some books I normally wouldn’t.

I think out of all of Weisberger’s novels ‘Chasing Harry Winston’ was my favourite- what about you guys?

Love,

Vanessa x

‘The sustainable(ish) living guide- everything you need to know to make small changes that make a big difference’ By Jen Gale

A fantastic, practical guide workbook for those interested in living a sustainable life but not entirely sure where to start, other than taking their reusable coffee cups to the local cafe.

This book was written by Jen Gale, a working mother of two, who in 2012 committed to buying nothing new for her and her family for one year. Since then, Gale has become a podcaster and author about sustainable living for busy families.

I’ve found this a great stepping stone book into the world of environmentalism. It’s set up, essentially as a workbook (with tables, check-lists and further recommended sources). This book is designed to be dog-eared, highlighted, written-in and used to the point of destroy!

To make things simple it’s split into a range of interest points such as: plastic free(ish), sustainable(ish) transport and travel and activism(ish).

I think the line that adequately describes this book is ‘change your impact, without radically changing your life’. I think for the wide majority of people, their interest in sustainability and environmentalism comes with a fear of the unknown and fear of change. What I liked about this book is that it removed the pressure and guilty of the way we live and inspires changes without compromising the integrity of the message at heart- 2020 is the year of sustainable living.

I brought this book to work a few times to gauge other people’s feelings and the overall reaction was the same, no matter who it was, people are incredibly intrigued by how-to guides and like step-by-step instructions so I reckon this one will be a major seller.

What do you think? Have you read many books on sustainability and agree?

Love,
Vanessa x

‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid

This a modern day story about racism, elitism and the struggles to find identity in a world where everything is documented. This is the story of Emira- a young 25 year old, black woman, who while in a supermarket, is accused of kidnapping the white child she is baby sitting. The event is caught on camera by a bystander. This night sets of a chain of events for Emira and the young family she works for.

I loved this book! It has all the elements of a good read- cultural relevance, romance, millennial banter. I also loved how this book showed the messy dynamics of privilege, specially from the perspectives of the Chamberlains, Emira’s employers. The mother, Alix, made a name for herself on social media emphasising the importance of women standing up for themselves.

I found this book from a Facebook bookclub I’m apart of and was interested in the range of impressions of this book. Personally, I really enjoyed it and have recommended it to my girlfriends for our bookclub.

This book is Kiley Reid’s debut novel and since being published in December 2019 has already reached critically acclaim being a 2020 NAACP Image Award Finalist and being recommended by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love,
Vanessa x

‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang

A heart warming romance that challenges what we think we know about social stereotypes. Think ‘The Rosie Project’ but more sex! 

The story follows Stella Lane- a brilliant mathematician and economist focused on routine and her work- partly manifested by her Asperger’s. Stella has succeeded in her career, where she uses algorithms to predict customer purchases, a career that has given her more money than she knows what to do with.  What she doesn’t know about is men- what to do with them, how to pleasure them and how to keep them. So she hires a professional escort, Micheal and creates a set of check lists and lesson plans to help her along, from french kissing to how to give blow jobs. 

Before too long Stella and Michael’s no-nonsense partnership makes sense and Stella starts to appreciate all the feelings Micheal makes her crave. 

What I loved about this book is that it challenged social stereotypes. It did not hide Stella’s Asperger’s and in fact emphasises how it impacted her life in many ways but it also does not rule her. Many a times I forgot Stella has Asperger’s and simply thought she was a complex character with similar perfectionistic traits to myself.

Micheal was another surprisingly deep character. He doesn’t shy away from his job as an escort but does emphasis this isn’t something he had planned to do forever. His background of Vietnamese was an interesting flavour to the book- I was constantly craving Pho while reading the book because they were always making it! This cultural element did not feel forced or stereotyped and I appreciated how naturally Hoang incorporated this into the Californian setting.  

I’d like to finally mention the sex. I wasn’t expecting so much of it or that it would come with such waves of detail. I’m never going to shy away from the odd piece of erotic in a book, however it did occasionally feel too forced and unnatural. One could argue that this was part of Stella’s journey- going from hating to being obsessed with sex. However, for me, it started to feel ‘Fifty Shades’, but hey, whatever lights your fire. 

I’m curious to read Hoang’s next book ‘The Bride Test’ 

If you’ve read this book or are intrigued to, I’d love to hear what you think! 

Love, Vanessa  

‘Be My Guest’ by Priya Basil

Be My Guest- Reflections on Food, Community and the Meaning of Generosity

A food memoir by award-winning writer Priya Basil. What’s a food memoir you ask? For starters, it’s definitely one of the more decadent genres of the literary world. A food memoir can be described as a collection of stories about our experiences of food and what it means to us. 

Often I read stories of food being the glue that brings migrant communities together as a reminder of home, a celebration of culture and a common entity bringing new and old friends- good cookbooks that I think of are ‘Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women’ or more famously well-known is Megan Markle’s endorsed cookbook ‘Together: Our Community Cookbook’. 

Back to our book at hand! ‘Be Our Guest’ is a meditation on the menacing and limits of hospitality today. 

The dinner table is where some of the best conversations about the world take place. Food is a curious dichotomy in which some have too much and others not enough but it is something that unites us all. Basil’s ‘Be My Guest’ explores hospitality across cultures.I’m taking my time with this book, dipping in and out as I feel inspired. I’m very intrigued by Basil’s flavour of writing- she uses her own heritage to describe the meaning of hospitality at the start of the book. Basil was born in London by is of Indian heritage and grew up in Kenya, she has a passion for food and is an esteemed writer, so you feel what she’s saying is worth your time. 

Overall, I believe this book is good for the soul. As 2020 starts, I’ve noticed a growing trend in my friends commitments for the decade ahead- be more conscious of our eating habits and it’s impact on the environment. This is something I myself have taken on board for the new decade. I believe appreciating the act of eating together again, discarding the fast food mentality of convenience over effort and rather becoming aware of everything to do with what we eat- including where it comes from and what happens if we don’t finish it all can have enormous impacts on our empowerment for a brighter future. 

‘Adèle’ by Leïla Slimani

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Another book teaming with my ‘Femme Fatale’ theme this month! This book was highly anticipated after the success of Slimani’s novel ‘Lullaby’. The theme of all of Slimani’s novels is sex but not the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey/Borderline Pornography’ sex but rather is tasteful. ‘Adèle’ emphasises a women’s control (or lack there of) when exploring their sexuality and desires.

This story follows Adèle, a woman living in Paris, who appears to have the perfect life- a surgeon successful husband, a beautiful son and a ever-rising career in journalism. However, Adèle is plagued with an insatiable desire for risk and sex in order to combat boredom. Surprise, surprise when her string of affairs start to come crashing down Adèle’s world crumbles.

The story started off very thin and difficult to get into, however, the slow burn of the character development  makes for a satisfying climax of the story.

I’m very interested in reading Slimani’s first novel ‘Dans le Jardin de l’ogre’ which tells the story of a woman who loses control of her life due to her sexual addiction.

Feelings bold and want something a little risque? Give this a go!

‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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This book has been a literary favourite and a social media sensation.

The story is set in Lagos, Nigeria during a corrupt and disruptive time for law and order. The author’s personal history with this town, being her hometown, gives an authentic and rich flavour to the writing. From the comfort of my Sydney, urban balcony when reading this book I can hear the trucks going along dusty roads and rain pelting so hard it breaks umbrellas. It is a fascinating observation of women living in Nigeria in 2019 and an obvious reason why this novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 and the Manbooker Long List of 2019.

This is the story of Korede, a respectable nurse in her community who has a beautiful, little sister called Ayoola who has a nasty habit of leaving a string of murdered ex-boyfriends behind her…all in the name of self defence.

In order to survive and protect her family, Korede must don the rubber gloves and bleach to clean up after Ayoola. Korede is happy to turn a blind eye to Ayoola’s dangerous hobby until Ayoola catches the eye of Korede’s handsome and favourite doctor as the hospital she works at.

This story is rich in subtle layers. The chapters and prose are short and witty and character inner monologues provide intriguing perspectives.

A good read for those wanting to break into the genre of dark satire.

PODCAST UPDATE! Eat your words

Have a listen to the full review of my latest podcast on ABC Radio’s ‘Overnights’ featuring Rod Quinn

This podcast looks at one of my favourite books of all time and introduces a new way of how I source my reading material- Netflix.

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman was a sensation when it first published in 2017. It tells the story of an odd woman called Eleanor, whose need for routine  and eccentric way of thinking isolates her from friends and those she works with- just the way she likes it. Her character is not unlike that of Sheldon from the ‘Big Bang Theory’ who eccentricities are irritating and annoying but counteracted but an endearingly lovability. Eleanor’s life is turned around when she saves a man’s life and, despite her best efforts, her life changes.

The other book I reviewed I found after watching the Australian Netflix series ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’, this cooking series is based on the book of the same name by renowned NY cookery writer Samin Nosrat. This cookbook does not stand out from the shelves because of any new qualities it brings to the table (pun intended) but it does have a beautiful style and sweet illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton, making it a visual pleasure to have on the kitchen counter. The cookbook brings it back to the four basic and essential elements of cooking (can you guess what they are?). The ultimate take away I got from this book was the confidence to form my own recipes with what you have in the pantry or with what you pick up at the market, once you have an understanding of these four basic elements; salt, fat, acid and heat.

Definitely a couple of crowd favourites.