Book Review: Ronan’s Echo by Joanne van Os

Ronan's Echo by Joanne van OsIn 1916 twin brothers Denny and Connor Ronan are eager to get to the war before it’s all over; Bridie O’Malley, their childhood friend and the woman they both love, watches them leave, understanding too late that war is about more than heroes and handsome boys in uniform.

Nearly a century on from the disastrous battle of Fromelles, forensic anthropologist Kat Kelso, Bridie’s great granddaughter, is in France identifying the recovered bodies of lost Australian soldiers. The discovery of her own relative amongst the dead men begins the unravelling of a hundred years of family history, lies and secrets.


Ronan’s Echo is everything I love about this sort of book and more. Much along the lines of Kate Morton’s novels, it tells two interconnecting stories. That of Kat Kelso in modern day Australia and that of her great-grandmother Bridie O’Malley. Focusing on World War 1 and Kat’s search for the truth of her family history – not just her Great-Grandparents, but also the truth of about her mother whom she has never had the best relationship with – leads her to discover secrets kept for nearly a century.

Kat, as a character was interesting but didn’t have much depth to her. I felt like besides her great-grandmother and even her mother, the book hinged on the plot instead of the character development. Despite that it was incredibly interesting and well written for a young adult novel.

Perhaps it was because of just how much I loved the story – I love anything to do with the World Wars and Australian History – but I found it quite an easy read and honestly wished it was a lot longer.

It is a book I’d love to own and would definitely reread at some point in the future.

★★★★/5

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.


Artemis is the first of Andy Weir’s books that I’ve read so, perhaps it’s a good thing I can’t compare it to The Martian like many other people seem to have done so. Set in the future, on our Moon’s colony, the book follows Jazz’s life as she continually fails to live up to the expectations others have for her. Except she still manages to succeed?

She’s young but determined but also willing to do nearly (emphasis on nearly) anything to get the Slugs (the moon’s currency) that she’s after.

Except of course not everything goes to plan and she ends up on the run and in a tiny base where nearly everyone knows everyone that’s really hard thing to do.

It was a predictable read and an easy one at that but it was fun.

It was also very lazily written at times. The MC is a female but she is very stereotypical female and while being a Muslim she doesn’t follow her religion to the point that she doesn’t know the basics that she really should know.

I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did.

★★★/5

2018 & 2019 Reading Challenge

Reading challenges are compiled by Karin over on Insanejournal. All credit goes to her and her friends who helped compile the prompts

2018: READING CHALLENGE
Caution: Contains Small Parts Sea Witch by Sarah Henning Artemis by Andy Weir The Cossacks and Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy Can We All Be Feminists?
are we all lemmings and snowflakes by holly bourne the vegetarian by kang han Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver Becoming by Michelle Obama Secrets of Tamor Manor by Matthew Lang
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris FREE SPACE Sabriel by Garth Nix A GRAPHIC NOVEL
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz Sagaland by Richard Fidler An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir A SCIENCE FICTION OR HORROR NOVEL Hunger by Roxanne Gay
Possibilities by Nicole Field Ronan’s Echo by Joanne van Os Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe Unfinished Tales by JRR Tolkein feed’ by mira grant
¹ There are a lot of lists of #ownvoices-books, but you could start here or here if you want.
² There are a ton of lists here too, where this one is a good starting point.
³ A novella is at most 40,000 words, which is 150-200 pages max.
01. A short story collection
02. Debut author
03. A Goodreads Choice Award Winner
04. A book that’s more than 100 years old
05. A book about a global issue you find important
06. A book by or about a person with mental illness
07. A book translated to English
08. #ownvoices
09. A memoir or biography
10. A book with a queer main character
11. Non-fiction by a diverse author
12. Something from your ‘to read’ shelf on GoodReads
13. A book with a one word title
14. A graphic novel
15. A book with a POC main character
16. A book you heard about online
17. A fantasy novel written by a WOC
18. A science fiction or horror novel
19 A BOOK FROM THIS LIST
20. A novella:
21. A book Goodreads recommended to me
22. A book by or about an indigenous person or culture
23. A book that’s more than 500 pages
24. A book with a disabled main character
 

2018: NON-FICTION BINGO
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity by Matthew Salesses The Frankston Murders by Vikki Petraitis
Making Oscar Wilde by Michele Mendlesson FREE SPACE Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism by Aileen Morton-Robinson
Mean by Myriam Gurba After the Victorians by AN Wilson Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir

¹ There isn’t a lot of #ownvoices non-fiction lists, but there are a few recommendations at the bottom of this page.

01. Topic: LGBT+ or gender
02. #ownvoices
03. Close to home (literally or emotionally)
04. Recommended by a friend
05. Topic: feminism or women’s issues
06. Something from the 19 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2017 list
07. Topic: history or politics
08. NOT WRITTEN BY A CISHET MALE

 

2019
book bingo
fiction challenge
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

a banned book

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Stilletto by Daniel O’Malley

Ida by Alison Evans

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

a classic novel

Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

a goodreads recommend-
ation

#ownvoices

There There by Tommy Orange

a graphic novel

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

 

01. Pick one: 46 books by WOC
02. A banned book
03. A book with a non-Western setting
04. Reread something
05. A book you already own (but never read)
06. A book with a queer main character
07. Pick one: SF/F to look forward to in 2019
08. A classic novel
09. A book with a disabled (mental health counts!) main character
10. Speculative fiction
11. A book with a POC main character
12. A GoodReads recommendation
13. #ownvoices
14. A book by a diverse author
15. A graphic novel
16. Pick one: best queer YA of 2018

2019
book bingo
non-fiction challenge

My Story by Julia Gillard

a book by a diverse author

topic: class and/or race

a book you heard about online

topic: feminism and/or women’s issues

reasons to stay alive by matt haig

a book you’ve been meaning to read

a book published in the last five years

a book of discovery

topic: history and/or politics

topic: lgbt+ and/or gender issues

something from your ‘to read’ shelf on goodreads

topic: true crime

 

*a few suggestions for the topic health: mental health, disability, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, body positivity, fatphobia, eating disorders, and so forth.

01. Pick one: 50 non-fiction books
02. a memoir or autobiography of someone you admire
03. A book by a diverse author
04. Topic: class and/or race
05. Book you heard about online
06. Topic: feminism and/or women’s issues
07. Topic: health*
08. A book you’ve been meaning to read
09. A book published in the last five years
10. A book of discovery
11. Topic: history and/or politics
12. Pick one: 25 best non-fiction books of 2018
13. Topic: LGBT+ and/or gender issues
14. Pick one: Publisher Weekly’s best non-fiction of 2018
15. Something from your ‘to read’ shelf on goodreads
16. Topic: true crime

Book Review: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.


I’ve heard of Roxane Gay – who hasn’t – but she isn’t someone I’ve actually read before now despite meaning to do so. So I figured why not.  I admit I was slightly hesitant in going in to this book because of my personal history. I’ve always struggled with food and my weight, especially because I’m so short. I’ve never been as heavy as Gay, but at my heaviest I was nearly 45kg (100lbs) overweight. I’m not much lighter than that at the moment.

I was anxious about what the book would bring to the surface when I read it. Despite being anxious, I pushed myself to pick it up and start and while it struck a chord with me in many places, I’m so so glad that I decided to go ahead and read it.

Gay talks about how after an event as a child she turned to food as solace in order to provide the satisfaction that she needed in life especially instant satisfaction. As someone who eats for that feeling, I empathised with her so much, though our reasons for doing so are entirely different.

The level of brutal honesty in this book is astounding. Despite all the punches to the gut I experienced throughout it, I couldn’t put it down. She has gone through so much and to come through it and grow as a person is amazing. The relationships with other people that she experienced who wanted to lose weight for various reasons was something that struck another chord with me. As she says, the world is fixated on the fact that you have to be skinny to be happy which isn’t the case. We might have reacted slightly differently to that advice but what they made us feel was the same.

It isn’t just fat shaming and fat culture that Gay touches on by also rape culture and racism and the reasons why she stayed quiet for so long. She didn’t think she’d be believed. Looking at the media today, I don’t blame her at all and I can’t even imagine what it was like back then when it happened.

While it is obvious that she is quite possibly still suffering from PTSD which is what turned her to food in the first place as well as other coping methods that could be considered self harm, she also made it clear that she has come a long way compared to where she used to be.

The level of honesty both about her life, her body and what happened too but also about how the world views her and other people who are obese, was intense. I’ve put off writing this review for about a week because I can’t do the book justice.

★★★★★★★★★★/5

Book Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee ShetterleySet amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.


Like many people, I saw the movie when it was out in 2017 and I fell in love. I’ve always been fascinated by space exploration and NASA. Yes I believe in Aliens. In fact, when I was younger I wanted to be an astronaut and dad used to joke that I would be the first librarian on space, working on the ISS. My first trip to America we went to NASA in Florida and met the astronaut John Blaha. That was in 2005 and I still remember his name, standing there next to him to have my photo taken. Even now working for NASA would be absolutely something I love, I’m just not qualified for it and never will be the requirements are

 

  1. A bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
  2. At least three years of related professional experience obtained after degree completion OR at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft.
  3. The ability to pass the NASA long-duration astronaut physical. Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 for each eye. The use of glasses is acceptable.

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Also you know I’m not an American citizen so I would have to join the Australian one. Also at one point in them they had a height requirement that I didn’t meet but that seems to no longer be on the website.

Anyway, I can ramble about space a lot. Hidden Figures, was obviously a movie a loved and a book I was really looking forward to reading. Interestingly, it took me awhile to get started when I picked it up in September last year after I returned from my second trip to America. I did have a lot going on unexpectedly. I picked it up again a few days ago and started again and I loved it.

The book is incredibly detailed and well researched. Shetterley, has grown up around one of the woman who feature in the book and she extensively interviewed her for information about her time at NASA. All three women are exceptional people, incredibly intelligent and determined and come from accepting and even progressive families for that time.

While the book not surprisingly touches on many of the cultural issues of the time such as racism, sexism, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement that swept America in the 1960s, the author, especially at the beginning tended to use the word N**** in her writing instead of a more appropriate term when there was no need for it. It was very jarring especially at the beginning, though as the book progressed she seemed to stop doing so. As the author is a woman of colour, the term is a bit more contentious as it is acceptable for people to call themselves N***** if they are but not other people to do so.

Despite that, the book is incredibly captivating and interwoven between the lives of the women who feature in it. Everything that Shetterley touches on is interesting and makes you want to learn more about them, which I hope to do at some point in the future.

She even includes some interesting tidbits such as Martin Luther King Jr being a Trekkie which I loved!!!

It is certainly worth a read even if you aren’t interested in that sort of thing. , There are truly not enough books about this topic, something even with my extensive reading on WWII and Space Exploration i had no idea about.

★★★★★★★★★★/5

Book Review: The Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

 Sea Witch by Sarah Henning Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.


As the prequel to The Little Mermaid, I expected a lot of similarities and I wasn’t let down. That isn’t to say it was bad, in fact the book was an enjoyable easy read. Henning does a wonderful job of crafting the characters and their backstories to connect with the story we all know so well. Nik, the crown prince is slightly naive but hopelessly romantic who wants to believe the best of his friends, even knowing that he must one day marry for duty.

The book focuses on Evelyn (Evie) and her life as someone who is basically living above her status and is ridiculed by the rest of the small town that they live in. Despite that, the novel is historically accurate and it is obvious that Henning has done a lot of research into Denmark and it’s history for this novel which I appreciated.

Along side of Evie is Nik, Annemette a mermaid who has a startling similarity appearance to their dead friend Anna who drowned for years ago and Iver, Nik’s cousin, fellow Prince & Whaler. Annemette, much like in The Little Mermaid has four days to capture the true love of Nik or die.

Despite that, it suffers from slow moving plot especially in the beginning, love square (Nik/Evie, Iver/Evie, (Nik’s cousin) Evie/Annemette, Nik/Annemette) and ‘instant-love’ much like The Little Mermaid as the Prince and Anna have four days to fall in love.

The book picks up a lot in the last third (last 50-100 pages) and was absolutely captivating and sucked me in. Before that, while it was interesting, especially from a historical perspective it fell slightly flat.

Honestly I think my biggest problem is that I was expecting it to be a lot darker than it was given how villainous Ursula is in the movie. It could have also done without half of the romance lines.

I struggled a lot on what to rate this but the ending is what tipped it up to the 3 stars that I’ve given it.

★★★/5

Book Review: Possibilities by Nicole Field

Possibilities by Nicole Field The king is dead. The heir is missing. All Ernest wants is to be left alone, but it looks as though instead he’s going to be crowned king—and forced into a loveless marriage, to a person picked from a list of suitable candidates.

Drel is hoping for the life that being royal jester can offer—security, protection, even if that all comes at the sufferance of the king’s pleasure. But first Drel must please that king and be granted the job, and King Ernest is not what remotely what Drel expected.

For my book challenge I had to read a novella and this immediately came to my mind. I’ve known Nicole for years and while this is (unfortunately) the first one of her books I’ve actually read it isn’t something I regret at all. Coming in at 18k words, it’s very much a short easy read but at the same time so full of amazing world development and character building. So much that I hope she does or has returned to this world so I can learn more of it.

Perhaps it is because I felt such a connection to both Ernest and Drel, from Ernest’s anxiety and desire to remain out of the spotlight but to still be a good person, to the fact that Drel wants to be the best that she can be and to their genderfluidness (I’m nowhere near as prominent as her) it is still something I felt struck a cord with me.

For a short novella, it is very well written though as I said above I want more of this world. It teases us with all the wonderful possibilities that are out their for this world. Nicole has done a wonderful job at writing Drel in a way that is respectful to those who are genderfluid, which is unfortunately not something you see much of in literature.

I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Nicole’s work when I have the chance to do so.

★★★★/5

Book Review: Can We All Be Feminists?

Can We All Be Feminsists? Why is it difficult for so many women to fully identify with the word “feminist”? How do our personal histories and identities affect our relationship to feminism? Why is intersectionality so important? Can a feminist movement that doesn’t take other identities like race, religion, or socioeconomic class into account even be considered feminism? How can we make feminism more inclusive?

In Can We All Be Feminists?, seventeen established and emerging writers from diverse backgrounds wrestle with these questions, exploring what feminism means to them in the context of their other identities-from a hijab-wearing Muslim to a disability rights activist to a body-positive performance artist to a transgender journalist. Edited by the brilliant, galvanizing, and dazzlingly precocious nineteen-year-old feminist activist and writer June Eric-Udorie, this impassioned, thought-provoking collection showcases the marginalized women whose voices are so often drowned out and offers a vision for a new, comprehensive feminism that is truly for all.

Including essays by: Soofiya Andry, Gabrielle Bellot, Caitlin Cruz, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Brit Bennett, Evette Dionne, Aisha Gani, Afua Hirsch, Juliet Jacques, Wei Ming Kam, Mariya Karimjee, Eishar Kaur, Emer O’Toole, Frances Ryan, Zoé Samudzi, Charlotte Shane, and Selina Thomps

An #ownvoices collection of essays written by up and coming, influential feminists, many of whom if not all belong to one minority or another. With a range of authors from Muslim, Lesbians, Transgender African Americans, African Americans and Bisexual Catholics the wide diversity that is present in this books is outstanding. Each essay is unique from the perspective of the author looking at things such as race and transgender, race and queerness, immigration and women whether they are cishet or queer to fat feminism and abortion and the referendum in Ireland.

I like to think I’m pretty ‘woke’ but there were things in this book that made me sit back and go ‘huh I hadn’t thought of that’ such as the issue with immigration. While that particular essay was focused on England and their immigration policy and touched briefly on Canada’s but it’s startling to realise just how much of a feminist issue it is but at the same time something that mainstream or ‘white feminism’ hasn’t picked up.

At least one essay also in touching on race and feminism touched on an important argument for women’s rights – equal pay. It raises the point that it is very hard to fight for equal pay between sexes when WOC aren’t paid as high or disable women – especially disabled WOC – as their white counterparts. Why fix the sexes when we have the problem within our sex as well?

I’m the first to admit I have white girl privilege and rich white girl privilege at that. While my parents aren’t rich they are well off enough that my two brothers and I could be sent through private schools for our entire schooling and never had to go without. It also wasn’t until probably 2015 or 2016 at the age of 25/26 that I really started to get into feminism. Sure I’ve always wanted equality between sexes but I didn’t understand what it truly meant let alone intersectional feminism. This book therefore does a wonderful job of opening up and making you aware of just of just how lacking mainstream feminism can be. Third Wave Feminism is making progress but as a whole we have a long way to come until.

★★★★★/5

Book Review: The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha’s Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. When a family crisis forces them to band together — or at least appear to — the twins slowly come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the sibling rivalry that’s driven them apart for the better part of their lives. A touching depiction of all the pleasures and annoyances of the sibling relationship, Elin Hilderbrand’s next New York Times bestseller, THE IDENTICALS proves once and for all that just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike.

 

This was chosen as the first book club book of the year for one of the book clubs that I’m in. While it sounded somewhat interesting I was somewhat hesitant about it. Growing up I never really liked what would be classified as ‘chick lit’ and this is certainly it. I was therefore surprised by how much I liked it. Was it a great book? No but it wasn’t written to be one.

Hilderbrand, takes us into the lives of the twin sisters, both living their own lives separately from each other until events force them back together. Tabitha has lead a life of high expectations as dictated by their mother while Harper was living a life where she could do what she wanted to – plagued by a run of bad decisions – with their father Billy.

Despite being twins, the two of them are both completely different characters but as the book progresses you see the similarities as well. What drove the two sisters a part? Hilderbrand does a great job at drawing it in and while I figured out some of the aspects of that final mystery, it wasn’t something I fully figured out until the big reveal at the end of the novel. Not to say it was a <i>good</i> reason, in fact it was a fairly stupid one but emotions and grief do strange things to people.

Plagued with drama from the fall out of their relationship and being forced back together after so many years as well as Ainsley, Tabitha’s sixteen year old daughter, its a rough few weeks for the sisters. It took the drama to the extreme at times but it is to be expected given the type of novel that it is.

Overall, it was an interesting book that I enjoyed more than I expected. It’s light and easy to read and if you are after something like that I do recommend it. Just don’t expect a great work of literary fiction.

 

★★★/5

App Review: Forest

Forest App: Stay focused, be present
http://www.forestapp.cc

I was recently introduced to this app by a friend of mine on Facebook. I hadn’t tried any other productivity app or browser add-on before though like many of us I probably should have especially with how easily distracted I become, jumping from one thing to another.  You have the ability to whitelist & blacklists sites you’re not allowed on for periods of time. You can also remove it if need be. For example, I usually have Youtube blacklisted but as I sometimes do captions of Youtube videos I will whitelist it for the period of time that I’m doing the captions and then will add them back to the blacklist.

Unlike other NetNanny type programs, it doesn’t block the site. How does it work then? When you active the app or add-on on your computer, it will grow a tree. For each tree, you grow successfully you will earn in-app coins. Once you reach 2,500 coins you can plan an actual tree. The app works with Trees for the Future currently to improve the livelihoods of impoverished farmers by revitalizing degraded lands. So far they have planted more than 127 million trees world wild since 1989.

If you visit a blacklisted site while your tree is growing/close the app your tree will die and you won’t earn the coins to go towards the planting of a real tree.

Knowing that by being productive and using the app that I’m helping the forests of the world survive is a great motivator.

I definitely recommend this add-on/app as a must have. It’s available in the app store for Apple & Android as well as add-on for Firefox and Chrome.