Tag Archives: Memoirs

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Overview

Title: Survival Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Self help
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2013

Thoughts

This wasn’t quite the style and set up that I was expecting. I think I was expecting a much more prose style novel. Instead, this read a little like a collection of advice doled out. There isn’t really a flow of narrative and not much in the actual experience of the author. Rather, it was what she wishes people had said to her.

I would have enjoyed a little bit more biography and context to Hoffman’s experiences surviving breastfeeding cancer. I loved the “lessons” that she imparted. They were wise and honest, but also heartfelt with complete focus on happiness, love and living. I just wanted to know more about how she arrived at these realisations, those epiphany moments that filled her life.

All in all, this was a very inspiring book. It was a reminder that life is short and that you need to figure out what it is that makes you happy. It’s obvious that Hoffman has a focus on family and friends, which I share, so I found her advice sage and wise. Maybe nothing revolutionary and new, but a good reminder to stop and take stock of your life and priorities once in a while.

This is definitely worth a read. And will be a great reminder to live life to the fullest. I know that’s what I was reminded of when reading this, and my takeaway message.

<- The Story SistersThe Third Angel ->

Image source: Goodreads

Radio Okapi Kindu by Jennifer Bakody

Overview

Title: Radio Okapi Kindu
Author: Jennifer Bakody
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Africa, Memoirs, Non-fiction
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2017

Thoughts

I wanted to love this story a whole lot more than I did. I mean, I am completely in love with Africa and fascinated by the politics. I have been since long before I actually got to travel to that amazing continent. Thus, the idea of a memoir that recounts working for the UN in the Congo sounded amazing. And it was GOOD. But not amazing.

I think one of the aspects of this story that was so difficult was the idea that this radio station was helpful to so many, many, many people. But after reading this, I honestly have no idea HOW. A lot of the information that might exist helped to understand just how a radio station was helpful was assumed knowledge. I might love Africa, but I know very little about the politics as a whole, let alone the specifics of the Congo.

I did enjoy the background on each of Bakody’s team and the tale of their journey to Radio Okapi Kindu. Again, it was hard to gain context because there was no timeline, and I would’ve liked to slot their experiences with the others in a bit more order. But this may just be how my brain processes information and memoirs.

All in all, I did enjoy reading this, I just didn’t love it. It’s not a tale I’m going to overstate and breathlessly recite to my friends. But it’s also not one that I will suggest they NOT read. Mostly for me, this was pretty ambivalent writing.

<- Confessions of a School NurseWorking Class Boy ->

Image source: Goodreads

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson

Overview

Title: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson
Author: Robert Kurson
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: History, Memoirs, Pirates
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

I’ve had a bit of a thing about pirates since I saw Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, who wouldn’t after Captain Jack Sparrow? There’s also something incredibly fun about the idea of the Caribbean (definitely on my bucket list to visit). Thus, reading a real life tale of pirates and the modern day race to find them? Yeah, I was pretty much sold on this from the beginning. And, luckily for me, Kurson is able to write about this in such a fantastic way that I honestly couldn’t put this book down.

Kurson is able to tell a number of stories throughout this memoir. Firstly, there’s the tale of John Bannister, the pirate who took on the Royal Navy and won. He’s the pirate that the John’s of the future are searching for (there’s a few John’s in this story). Kurson manages to tell his story and make you want to find his ship, the Golden Fleece, just as much as everyone else in this tale.

Then there’s the modern John’s. Both men are pioneers in the diving and salvage business. Their stories alone would make a good read I must admit. Both men went through som incredible experiences and have the stubbornness to pursue the holy grail of ocean treasure hunters. They’re definitely fairly stubborn and a lot admirable. Another set of stories of men who are determined and desire their freedom (which is ultimately what Bannister was hunting for).

Alongside these many stories of incredible men, there’s the journey to try and find (and identify) a pirate ship. I knew next to nothing about real life pirates before reading this novel. And now, I feel sk damn educated. Everything I saw a family member throughout reading this, I word vomited all over them, I was just so keen to share everything that I learnt while reading this. Definitely one I am keeping on my shelves.

<- Twas the Nightshift Before ChristmasSmoky the Brave ->

Image source: Wikipedia

Shotgun Angels by Jay Demarcus

Overview

Title: Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope
Author: Jay Demarcus
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I absolutely love the music by Rascal Flatts. So I was excited to know a little bit more about their history and the journey to becoming a band. This really wasn’t about that. It was more about Demarcus’ faith. Which is fine, but definitely not my cup of tea.

I’m really funny about anything that is a little too Bible heavy. Again, just not my cup of tea. And although this was a sweet journey, it is incredibly obvious that this is a HUGE aspect of Demarcus’ life. It literally permeates everything in this story. And whilst I can see how a lot of people would find this incredibly uplifting, I just felt incredibly uncomfortable.

Because I did enjoy this, but also felt uncomfortable, I’m going to write a short review here. This was good and interesting. Definitely not too pushy with the belief. But also, not what I was expecting, anticipating and looking forward to reading.

<- Mao’s Last DancerThe Happiest Refugee ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Overview

Title: Lady Sings the Blues
Author: Billie Holiday
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1956

Thoughts

Two words reading this: HOLY CRAP. I know next to nothing about blues and jazz. In both the best and worst ways possible. I mean, the holy crap meant that it was impossible for me to put this book down. In a bad way, it was just a horrible life for someone to live. And, all that much sadder to know that Holiday passed away only a few years after this book was first published.

I loved the style and tone of voice throughout this biography. Holiday is immediately relatable and totally foreign. She has such a distinct voice and refuses to shy away from the reality of the world and herself. In fact, there are some truly and deeply horrifying moments recounted in this, but it’s not done in a woes-me way.

This is a seriously dark biography. There are very few moments throughout that I would consider to be a bright moment. It was horrifyingly dark and, even a few days later, sitting here to write a review… I’m in awe of all of the feelings this inspired. And, the strength of a woman who was able to overcome unimaginable odds.

A seriously brilliant and intense biography. One that I will pick up again in the future to totally destroy my emotions all over again.

<- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on EarthSurviving Year Zero ->

Image source: Amazon

Survival by Stuart Diver

Overview

Title: Survival: The Inspirational Story of the Thredbo Disaster’s Sole Survivor
Author: Stuart Diver
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Australian history, Memoirs, Natural disaster
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1999

Thoughts

I’d never actually heard about Thredbo until recently. When I read Bad Ground. It might be a big moment of Australian history, but it’s not one that’s memorable from my recollection of local history. So when I did a little research, I was completely intrigued. And boy am I glad that I actually decided to buy this book.

The start of this book very much reads like a love letter to Sally. It wasn’t until around the 8th chapter when Stuart starts actually talking about the landside that I was able to concentrate and read this in a big hit. Before that, my heart just kept breaking and I had to keep putting this down to wipe away a tear.

I love how this book talks about Stuart’s point of view and experiences. But balanced with this is the factual account of what Australia and the rest of the rescuers were also witnessing and experiencing. It was a pretty stark and brutal reality. One that I’m honestly surprised didn’t give me nightmares. I don’t like small spaces, reading a memoir about being trapped underground for 65 hours… literally one of my worst nightmare. All I’d need is snakes to make it the worst thing ever…

Although my edition of this was on my kobo, it’s one that I want to add to my physical library. I love reading about Australian history and I think its important to keep adding to my knowledge and collection.

<- An Appetite for WonderVanilla Beans & Brodo ->

Image source: Pan Macmillan Australia

My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall

Overview

Title: My Life with the Chimpanzees
Author: Jane Goodall
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Conservation, Memoirs, Nature, Non-fiction,
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1988

Thoughts

I absolutely loved In the Shadow of Man. This wasn’t quite as good, but still, it was wonderful. I think, though, that anything by Jane Goodall will leave me feeling pretty damn happy. I mean, she’s a goddamn icon and an inspiring woman. My Life with Chimpanzees gives a much broader outline of Goodall’s personal history and a brief overview of her entire lifetime. Where In the Shadow of Man focused on the short time period in which Goodall started her work at Gombe, My Life with the Chimpanzees was a much broader overview of a whole lifetime.

This was a very simple read. The language in this novel was very accessible and obviously geared towards a younger audience. Each chapter covers a very large chunk of Goodall’s life and only gives a brief glimpse into each moment of her history and journey towards being the internationally recognised figure that she is. It makes for a quick and very easy read. But one that I will possibly try to sink my teeth into again in the future.

I enjoyed how the last three chapters of this novel really focus on the future of our planet. It’s not about Goodall’s own experiences like the rest of the novel, but rather about what she hopes for the future. It’s a bit of a cold dose of reality because there are so many things truly wrong with the world. But it’s also incredibly hopeful. A balance that is hit perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It wasn’t as in depth as most of the memoirs that I’ve been reading, and it was definitely only a snapshot into the world of Gombe and Goodall. But it was also a great overview. And now I want to pick up even more Goodall books

<- My Friends the Wild ChimpanzeesPerformance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin ->

Image source: Booktopia

Lone Rider by Elspeth Beard

Overview

Title: Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World
Author: Elspeth Beard
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Travel
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2017

Thoughts

This is one of those books that is very easy to put down and walk away from. Yet, it isn’t boring or easy to stop thinking about. It just doesn’t have you totally gripping the edge of your seat and wondering what exactly is going to happen next. The perfect memoir to read before bed – it’s actually safe to pick up because you can read just that one chapter and then walk away for a little bit. Not something that I necessarily experience with all of my books and can make being responsible and catching up on sleep somewhat difficult.

Beard is a great writer who takes you along with her on her epic journey. For me, someone born in the early 90’s, it is impossible to imagine much of the world that Beard travelled through almost a decade before my birth. Yet, she is able to write about her adventures in such a way that I can’t help but picture them. Particularly the hardships she experienced as a solitary woman travelling around the world. I can’t imagine trying to do that now. Doing that in an age before phones and in a time way before now… yup, that’s completely unfathomable to me.

The ending to this journey is probably one of the most sad that I’ve read in a long time. Especially in a memoir. The fact that this is a travel memoir meant that I really wasn’t expecting the way that Beard rounds out her phenomenal story. There is a lot of love in her final chapters that highlights her journey and how difficult some of it was for her. Particularly the journey that she takes to find herself when she returns home. I can’t even fathom going on such an epic multi-year adventure. But the returning home and figuring out who you are and what to do next? Unimaginable.

This was a fantastic adventure. One that I will probably reread in the future – there are so many moments throughout this that took me completely by surprise and swept me away in a whirlwind adventure. Some of the locations throughout Australia were so familiar and made me feel a comfortable welcoming home. Many others were totally unexpected. Moments and places that I will probably only ever dream of visiting…

<- Spy PrincessSix Legs Walking ->

Image source: Booktopia

A Gift from Darkness by Patience Ibrahim & Andrea C. Hoffman

Overview

Title: A Gift from Darkness
Author: Patience Ibrahim & Andrea C. Hoffmann
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Africa, Memoirs, War
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2018

Thoughts

This was one of those books that I had to read in fits and starts. It’s incredibly intense and horrifying. And I just can’t fathom the horrors of what Patience has been through. The fact that I was reading this not long after giving birth… It was just far more gruelling for me, emotionally.

I’m struggling to write this review because of the emotional turmoil that this book put me through. It is well written and so drags you into those emotional moments that you just don’t quite expect. Or see coming. It honestly blind sides you. And, unlike most of the fiction books I read, there are no happy endings here. Sure, you finish reading this with Patience and Gift safe and sound… for now.

Andrea uses 2 timelines to tell the story of Boko Haram. Firstly there’s Patience’s story. The one that honestly reached inside and tore apart my heart. Then, there’s Andrea’s journey to meeting Patience. Her own emotional journey as she sees and understands what has happened in a more personal way to the Christians under Boko Haram torture.

I will definitely read this again. Its an incredibly powerful story. And a stark reminder of how lucky I have it down here in Australia.

<- The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat GirlLab Girl ->

Image source: Booktopia

Six Legs Walking by Elizabeth Bernays

Overview

Title: Six Legs Walking: Notes from an Entomological Life
Author: Elizabeth Bernays
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Essays, Insects, Memoirs
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I loved the balance of science and personal throughout this collection. The old me who aspired to be an entomologist was completely enthralled by the science. But the me in my new life loved that balance of the relationships one makes in academia. And just life in general. It was the perfect balance.

I read this book while I was seriously distracted. A newborn will do that to you. Which means I can safely recommend this to people who have zero science background. If I can grasp what’s going on when I have a screaming baby throat into my arms, then the language used is very happily accessible. There’s nothing worse than wanting to read about something different to your own life just to find the language totally overwhelming and bizarre.

Not going to lie. While I was reading this, I dreamt of grasshoppers. Frequently. And bugs. And running through fields trying to catch said bugs. Ah, the memories. Bernays is able to bring to life the realities of working in the field. In all of its confusing and bizarre glory. Hot days under the sun and slight madness brought on by long hours… Bernays was able to take me back to my best Uni days.

I like that this collection isn’t in any kind of order. Rather there is a bit of a sensible rambling through the years of work. Everything is clumped into experiences and locales, not in any order. It makes you feel like you’re sitting down with a cup of tea reminiscing on days gone by…

<- Lone RiderCork Dork ->

Image source: Booktopia