‘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

‘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

‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ by M. E. Thomas

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This is a particularly interesting book because of my background in psychology but this one is one for anyone interested in the area of sociopaths. What does that mean exactly…maybe it’s the large number of us who have the guilty pleasures of a love of true crime podcasts and Netflix shows?

‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ is taken from the author’s own experiences, her own blog Sociopathworld.com and scientific literature- it’s a confessional memoir that gives insight into the life of someone diagnosed as a sociopath. The book delves into myths about sociopathy, confessions of her life and how she deals wit her diagnosis as a ‘non criminal sociopath’

The author, who has written under a pseudonym, is a high profile lawyer in New York and Sunday school teacher, who states she is highly intelligent, easily bored with a very high tolerance for danger.

Before I go on any further I’ll quickly give some definitions. What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath? While often the words psychopath are interchangeable, psychopaths are more likely to get into trouble with the law, while sociopaths are more likely to blend into society.

M.E. Thomas highlights how she spent her life thinking differently to everyone else and, what started as a self-diagnosis, became a formal diagnosis from a prominent psychiatrist in Texas. Interestingly, she makes a point of discouraging people on seeking this diagnosis due to the stigma that can follow.

The success of the book, isn’t so much the writing, though it does have a fascinating flavour of entitlement and self-credibility, but the marketing campaign that followed it’s publication. When the book first came out in 2013, the Thomas appeared on Dr Phil in disguise, Business Insider claimed that the book made the idea of the ‘successful sociopath’ popular. Ever heard of the statistic that most CEOs of major corporations are sociopaths.

She makes a point very early on in the book to emphasis that she’s never experienced any trauma in her life, abuse or otherwise and states she had a very normal upbringing, just very perceptible and a tendency to be easily bored. Her ability to have a charismatic and seductive mask allows her to analysis you for your flaws and ruthlessly manipulate you to get what she wants.

If you enjoy this book you might also like:

1. The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers can Teach Us about success
By Dr Kevin Dutton (Emphasises the spectrum of psychopathy using his own research as social psychologist and his experiences with his father, a diagnosed psychopath)

2. Brighton Rock by Graham Green (A terrifying portrait of a psychopath as a young man and features one of the most frightening marriages of all time)

‘The Infinite Monkey Cage- How to Build a Universe’ by Brian Cox and Robin Ince

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Genre: Scientific Non-fiction

Based on the BBC Radio 4 Program ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’

‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ is a science radio show that’s been going since 2009, that each week covers very complex scientific topics in layman’s everyday language and it’s a panel show, so it has specialists depending on the topic. For example I listened to the ‘fiercest creatures’ podcast and they had Steve Backshall, the presenter of the show ‘Deadly 60’. This book essentially is just an extension of the program.

These books are really popular as gifts over Christmas because they’re kind of fun. They’re bite size of information that you can pick up and put down.

This book covers a multitude of concepts and queries of the universe by two leading scientists and peppered with comic relief throughout- from the Big Bang and parallel universes to artificial intelligence but it tells these big existential concepts in often funny and occasionally silly ways.

Professor Brian Cox is a Professor of Particle Physics at the University of Manchester, he’s also a presenter of the popular BBC Wonder trilogy: Human Universe, Forces of Nature and Stargazing Live. He was also is the keyboard player in a band called D:Ream in the 1990s. Brian Cox has been described as the natural successor for BBC programming by David Attenborough and Patrick Moore (astronomer). He’s written over 950 scientific publications.

Robin Ince is a award winning stand up comedian who presents The Book Shambles Podcast and other shows about science.

The book takes some of the best questions from the 8 years of the ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ and answers it in a readable and comical way. It’s an interesting book but can be very dense so would suit hard-core science enthusiasts.

A good Christmas stocking filler!

Love,
Vanessa x

 

 

‘SLOW- Live Life Slow’ by Brooke McAlary

 

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Genre: Lifestyle

Slowing down. Something we’re countlessly told to do but seldom have the opportunity to do. There’s always things to do, stuff to buy and work to be done.

I find myself having the most freedom I’ll probably ever have, my time and my money are my own (and I’m so grateful for that) but as the days pass I’m noticing that more and more responsibility is being handed to me.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to review ‘SLOW’ when I heard about it. Brooke McAlary had similar ideas about slowing down her life but is one of the few people who actually achieved this (surprisingly arduous) task. Then, like anyone with a new idea in this modern age, started a podcast documenting her experiences. The podcast ‘Slow Home’ has become award-winning- it has over two million downloads and the her website gets over 45 000 visits a month. McAlary’s new book ‘SLOW- Live Life Simply’ is a companion piece that’s been described as part memoir, part practical guide.

A few year ago, Brooke McAlary was like all of us trying to make it in this hectic world. She was a doting wife and busy mum and had all the trimmings of perfection, cars, holidays and home renovations. Despite this, McAlary felt lacking in satisfaction. Now, I’m sure  we’ve all felt this way before and often the remedy is to become busier and buy more things. In fact, I felt this way a few weeks ago and booked a holiday with my boyfriend that same week.

Instead of the standard solution, McAlary and her family decided to slow things down and change their way of living. They started to declutter and remove excess from their life, in one year they removed over 20 000 piece from their home. It wasn’t just a material expulsion but also a change from the business of life. McAlary makes a point of saying that it’s not a removal from society or a neglect from responsibility but rather it’s about focusing on what you and your family find important in your life and putting time and effort into doing just that. Weekends, once overrun with birthday parties for children you hardly know or sports your child cannot stand, are replaced with quiet weekends at home with the children and the mobile off.

I’ve only just started this book but I’m finding it excessively serendipitous with my life at the moment. I appreciate what McAlary says about this being a lifestyle and not a sudden change. It takes time and experimentation to make it work.

A truly fascinating read!

Love,
Vanessa

 

 

‘Life of I’ by Anne Mann

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Genre: Nonfiction/Psychology

This is a fascinating book that describes the incredible rise of narcissism within individuals and society. Manne uses real life examples of narcissism such as the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, sexual assaults within the military and the horrendous Anders Breivik’s murderous rampage in Norway.

She describes how our society has dramatically changed over the years to form an obsession of the self within an ultra competive world fuelled by the social media and celebrity culture.

The book is divided into two parts: part one looks at narcissism and the self while part two looks at narcissism within society. Part one highlights extreme examples of narcissism

Aspects of the second part of the book read like a research report. Manne constantly making the reader ask ‘why?’: why it occurs, who it effects, is it nature, is it nurture etc. Therefore she’s thorough (even at times dense) but this is broken up by the real life examples she uses such as the boom of reality home renovations shows.

Inevitably the topic of our ultra spending society and celebrity obsession comes into account and discussed in detail

Very interesting read!

Love,
Vanessa

‘The Riviera Set’ by Mary S. Lovell

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 Genre: Non-fiction

This book was reviewed on the ABC radio program ‘Overnights with Rod Quinn’ as part of my Christmas special. The podcast of the review is available under the ‘Podcasts’ tab if you want to hear the full review (:

I have a devastating habit of not finishing non-fiction books and yes…this has been one of them. However! The point of difference with this book is that I’ve kept thinking about it and I’ve been meaning to go back to it. I think that counts for something when reviewing a book and shows that this is an interesting subject!

With the announcement of upcoming movies that portray the famous stories and lives of the Jazz Age (Scarlett Johansson to star in Scott. F. Fitzgerald’s ‘Beautiful and the Damned’ and Jenifer Lawerance to star in the biopic of Zelda Fitzgerald) I’ve particularly begun to notice many books being published depicting this era.

This book gives insight into the high society of the 20th century. It tells the story of an infamous hotel, the exquisite Chateau de l’Horizon in Cannes that was opened from 1930 to 1960.

The woman to open the hotel was Maxine Elliott, an American actress who made her way into the British aristocracy. The second half of the book details the hotel’s history when it was taken over by  Prince Aly Khan, an well-known ‘playboy’ prince of the Middle East, who continued to attract famous hotel guests such as Rita Hayworth.

This hotel was the epitome of stylish art deco and was the place to see and be seen and boasts famous guests such as the Coco Chanel, Windsors, Winston Churchill and Noel Coward.

The author, Mary S. Lovell is a expert in this time period and previously wrote the success book The Mitford Girls

Other books to look out for if you’re interested in the roaring twenties are (I haven’t personally read these myself yet but The Riviera Set has sparked my interest in this time period):
*The Queen Bees by Sian Evans that looks at the lives of sex women who made their careers out of being society hostesses
*Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler a fictionalized take on the romance of the Fitzgeralds

I say this is a great book for fans of the movie, “Midnight In Paris” directed by Woody Allen and “A Good Women” starring Scarlett Johansson and Helen Hunt.

I’d love to hear others opinions of this one or other recommendations!

Love,
Vanessa

‘The Hidden Life of Trees- What They Feel, How They Communicate’ by Peter Wohlleben

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Genre: Non-fiction/Gardening

This book was reviewed on the ABC radio program ‘Overnights with Rod Quinn’ as part of my Christmas special. The podcast of the review is available under the ‘Podcasts’ tab if you want to hear the full review 🙂

 

It’s Autumn time here in Sydney and the landscape is spectacular. Lately, when I’ve taken my dog for a walk, I’ve also brought along my camera to chapter some of the different colours around at the moment (it may sound nerdy, but I love trees, I’ve also added some snaps just to show everyone how gorgeous it is!). I’ve been inspired to take out ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ from my bookshelf and decided to review it again.

This was an incredibly popular book and a massive seller over the Christmas period.

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The author, Peter Wohlleben, is a forester in the Eifel Mountains of Germany who has spent over 20 years studying the lives of trees and now runs an environmentally friendly woodland where he works for the return of primeval forests

Each chapter of this book delves into a different aspect of a forest- the necessity of trees surviving off one another and how “loner trees” struggle and develop dramatically differently to trees that have a mother bear companion. He also looks into the modern forestry industry and how an average person’s concept of a trees health (all the way back to what we learn in school) is not natural way a tree is meant to develop. There is also a great foreword by Tim Flannery Timothy, the renowned Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist and global warming activist.

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Although this book is highly anthropomorphized to the point where it feels artificial, this book does change the way you see nature and trees in your everyday environment. I didn’t love this book, it’s not an area I’ve particularly had much interest in but I do feel it’s a significant book and a wonderful to any well read person’s book collection

 I came across a woman who read this book to complement Annie Proulx’s fiction book Barkskins which is about the construction of forests in the New World. I thought this was a wonderful idea because of the way Wohlleben romantizes lives of trees and community in forests.

I came across another review of this book in the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ and loved Wohlleben’s quote,

“Beech trees are bullies​ and​ willows are loners”

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Maybe if we had a little bit more of an appreciation for trees as living organisms, would we be in such a global crisis against climate change?

Food for thought

Love,
Vanessa

COOKBOOK REVIEW! ‘I’m Just Here For Dessert’

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Genre: Cookbook

I was beyond excited when I saw this book in the post from Murdoch Publications (: I love to bake and I love to decorate but quite frankly….I don’t think I’m very good.

This book is the latest by Caroline Khoo who is the creator of ‘Nectar and Stone’ and online dessert boutique.

So to have a book that is dedicated to styling cakes was a huge attraction for me. I trialled this book for Easter lunch and attempted two different cakes; a triple layer chocolate cake and a lemon and coconut cake. Modifications from the original recipes were made because….well….I ran out of time but the end result was great!

The main modifications I made was that each layer of each cake was suppose to be different but these differences mainly were simply different measurements (which I assumed were different cake tin sizes) because I was doing the old ‘slice and stack’ I disregarded it.

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My triple-layer chocolate cake was a little bit of a disaster structurally but the wonders of ganache icing saved my bacon (METAPHORICALLY! NO BACON WAS USED IN THE MAKING OF THESE CAKES). It was incredibly rich and needed a big cup of tea to balance it perfectly….we were drinking champagne which may have been why were all couldn’t finish our slices….(:

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The lemon and coconut cake was another layered cake but a little bit simpler. Personally, this was my favourite! I had to use flakes of coconut instead of desiccated coconut because when I went to the shops to get ingredients for my lemon and coconut cake….I forgot the coconut (reality 1, Vanessa 0) but it gave the cake a crumbly texture so no harm done! My only compliant would be the icing, it required using lard which gave it a very firm, thick texture when oxidised but it was a nice change from buttercream.

This is a delicious book! I’ll be doing a few more bakes before my review on ABC radio so I’ll keep you posted!

Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘Speaking Out’ by Tara Moss

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Genre: Non-fiction

In 2016 I interviewed Tara Moss about her recently released book ‘Speaking Out’ and had the opportunity to ask what the motivation behind the book was and the current reaction.

Tara Moss is an admirable woman. Being a journalist, author and TV presenter has given her a strong presence in media for nearly twenty years. Throughout that time she has felt the incredible highs the spotlight can bring but has also felt the intense, furious presence of sexism within the media and cyber abuse against women. Her experiences have championed her to take action against this. Tara is a human rights advocate and cyberbullying campaigner. Tara has also been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2007.

Having written 11 best-selling novels and her critically acclaimed non-fiction book ‘The Fictional Woman’ Tara is no stranger to writing. Her latest book Speaking Out continues her campaign to stop online abuse and help give women equal chances in a ‘man’s world’

Speaking Out is a step-by-step handbook for how women of all ages can openly voice their opinions in today’s society safely and confidently. It provides tips, instructions and personal accounts for women who have done just that, spoken out or written about something that has had it’s messages tainted not by the content but simply because of the sex of the speaker.

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The introduction to the book is all about why it matters that women should care about speaking out about issues that are important to them and Tara puts in a lot of statistics to back herself up e.g. wordwide less than ¼ people we hear about in the media are female and that men outnumber women in parliament by 4 to 1.

Considering that half of humanities perspectives, opinions and possibly solutions are being under-represented women need to learn how to have their voices heard

The book covers many topics:

*When to be paid for your writing and generally how much

*Legal rights

*Dealing with online abuse

*Tips on public speaking

It’s an interesting read, not necessarily something you do cover to cover but you can really appreciate where Tara is coming from. That the issued raised are from her own personal experience, as well as other women (so you get a broad perspective)

The main issue I have with this book is that it’s designed to be a reference for women to pick up when needed and be helpful. The problem is that it’s not set out well enough be like that. The topics are too intertwined and chapters are too dense with text to find what you’re looking for in a hurry or stressed

As a prominent female public figure if this book had had an online presence, in the form of a blog for instance, or had been an ongoing campaign where women could post and interact with one another regarding speaking out, I felt this would have been more effective but as a book, it’s limited.

That being said, I have picked up Speaking Out over the past year before job interviews, radio gigs and even before having difficult conversations to give myself clarity and remind myself of what I can do to made myself be heard.

This is one I think every young woman should have in her bookshelf!

Love Vanessa