Book Club: Try Hard Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever

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Author: Em Rusciano
ISBN: 9781925310757
RRP: $32.99

Em Rusciano is a multi-talented Australian who has done quite a lot throughout her career and I was not familiar with her until this book. She is a writer, comedian and singer who has had quite a diverse career to date with radio shows, sold out stand-up shows and a spot on Australian Idol.

Try Hard takes us inside the mind and the life of Em, from her beginnings as a precocious child who loved the spotlight and spent much of her time performing for a captive audience of toys, and her loving family of course.

What I wasn’t expecting was the accomplished sportswoman with elite sporting dreams, the anxiety, the major spelling struggles and the brutal honesty.

I was expecting the humour, the bad language and the in-depth look at the life of Em Rusciano from her childhood through to now and I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of enjoyment.

Usually I’m not really a memoir kinda gal, but I am glad I picked this one up. Most people would pick up the memoir of someone they are familiar with and admire, and that would probably change the reading experience, but I’m not most people.

My sister had a friend on the 2004 season of Australian Idol so I did watch some of it, I don’t remember seeing Em… actually I don’t remember any of it except that I watched a couple of episodes so I could vote. I’m not really into stand-up comedy and I don’t listen to the radio. Pretty much sums up all the places I wasn’t going to know of Em Rusciano, but having read Try Hard I certainly feel like I know her a lot better now and I’m glad of it.

Em takes us on a journey through her life from birth through to the writing of the book. Keeping in mind that Em is a successful stand up comedian you can expect the writing to be filled with humour, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. But the life of a stand-up comedian isn’t all laughs and it seems much of their material comes from the things that go wrong in life so you can expect a lot of that too.

Try Hard is the story of a woman with the strength to follow her dreams through near crippling anxiety, a woman not afraid to take us into the very depths of herself and what moulded her into the woman she is today.

Try Hard is not always said with admiration or affection, and quite often the connotation is that it’s not really a good thing. I remember Try Hard being said quite negatively in the school yard to those who were seen to be trying too hard to pass themselves off as something they are not. But that’s not the only type of Try Hard, and it’s certainly not Em’s brand of Try Hard; her brand of Try Hard is to go at everything in her life with everything she has and to be the absolute best she can and be the hardest on herself while she’s at it.


Yes, there are definitely chapters riddled with too much information, things you never really wanted to know about another woman but it’s there for a reason. It helps to paint the picture that is Em, to show all the facets of the woman she’s become.  She takes us through her childhood, her years as an athlete, presenting on radio, Australian Idol and her comedy shows. But more importantly than all of that she takes us inside her family, her friendships, her marriage and her children to where the true heart of her lies.

Em’s not afraid to tackle the hard times in her life and who helped get her through them. She’s not afraid to open her heart and soul, and tell us how much even writing about those times hurt.

Try Hard is interesting and insightful as well as entertaining; it paints a vivid picture of Em Rusciano and lets us in on her personal life as well as her career.

Fans of her work will love this but I think all women and all mothers will find something to take away from the read.

Em Rusciano can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

Try Hard Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever is published by Simon & Schuster and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Try Hard is book #60 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016

Thanks to Simon & Schuster 20 of our lucky Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Try Hard Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

22 thoughts on “Book Club: Try Hard Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever

  1. I love this book!! Very brutally honest and to Em, you are so brave and have a strength that you don’t seem to know you have! There is no way I would put my life out on public display , I am not strong enough. But being a public person this such a fantastic way for us to see the behind the scenes and get an insight into your life, thoughts and general life.

    As a mother, I can totally understand your fierce protection of your children, they sound like the perfect balance for you. Your husband must be very understanding , there is no way my husband would allow me to do that, he would chuck the biggest hissy fit.

    I love how you incorporate groups that are in your life and support them with your whole being, such as beyond blue. enough cannot be done for our young people.

    You have a wonderful way of getting your message across, hilarious and I would say exactly how your mind is working. I’m guessing that its your inner child emerging, and not too serious about life. Not sure if there is to be follow up but if there is I would definitely look at getting it!

    Thank you for the opportunity to read this, its not something I would have probably bought unless recommended to me or given by a friend to read. Such an insight!

  2. This is a quick read book and I loved the open honestly of Em Rusciano’s insights into her life and world.

    Each chapter takes us on a funny and honest journey through Em’s life from her first class at Miss Sheila Fancypants School of Dance to attending her first concert; John Farnham no less, to her dreams for becoming an elite athlete to her radio and comedic career with an appearance at the Oxfam comedy gala. There are so many stories, tales and events that make you feel you are 10 years old again or a young teenager going through puberty, starting your first job, falling in love, falling pregnant and becoming a mother and falling out of love. The ups, the downs and the jubilation of these times shines through. I laughed and cried along with Em.

    Her letter to her daughters and the self help chapters at the end of the book are a must, must read.

    I would not normally have picked this book up to read so I’m glad I got to read and review for the Book Club. It is funny and sad and enlightening so get a copy and read it as you won’t be disappointed.

  3. This book was a real eye-opener for me. I don’t remember Em on Australian Idol (I probably didn’t watch it), but I used to listen to her on ‘mamamia’ every day. I was so sad when she finished there and I just assumed that it finished because she (and Dave) wanted it to for whatever reason. I never realised how cut-throat the radio industry is in Australia.

    I love the way Em writes, it’s the same way she talks. One thing that I noticed is that I was happily reading along and suddenly I thought ‘how are we on to this subject now? I was just reading about x’. She just seemed to seamlessly jump from one topic the the next and I did find myself backtracking multiple times to work out when the change happened and how it happened.

    I am amazed at how strong Em is – nothing like me at all. I loved reading about her friendships and made me wish for friends like them who would do anything for me. I’m a planner, but Em just goes with the flow and I really enjoyed reading about it.

    Thank you Em for sharing your life with us! Just as a funny little aside, throughout the book are little shooting stars and every time my eye caught one as I turned the page I thought it was a dead bug squashed in the pages!

    Thank you Beauty and Lace for another great book to review >:o)

  4. WOW!!! This book gave me a whole new insight to Em, she is the most bravest, talented and gorgeous woman that everyone will love even more when they read this sensational book.
    Before reading this book I thought Em was a single mum, came from Adelaide and was on a show called Popstars as a girl group with Sophie Monk and god knows who else in the year 2000 called Bardot??? I only say this year because I missed out who got through because I was in labour and had to go to the hospital. Does anyone else remember this or was I delusional?
    Anyway, I have learnt that I am normal from reading this and I could relate to a lot of things especially back in the 80`s haha, what fun times really and I had forgotton about Dolly magazines until she mentioned them 🙂 so funny! I have never read a book that had me laughing loudly to myself why my family members looked at me wierdly haha, what a fun ride she took me on, thanks Em!
    I now feel I really know that Em is the most courageous person I have ever known and would inspire to be more like her any day.
    I love her pictures too and the quote from Theodore Roosevelt near the end was something I will show my kids and may go back and reread from time to time.
    I will never think any negative thoughts of Rob Mills again as I did think he was a self absorbed romeo but boyyyyy………was I so wrong!!! He was the most giving person to Em and I will try not to ever judge anyone again.
    Loved Em`s dad too as he was a special man and she was some lucky girl growing up.
    After reading this, I think most well known people should all write a book about themselves and their lives as it opens up a whole new world.
    Who would have ever thought Em doubted herself from looks to confidence? I have always thought she was confident, great figure, great looks but it goes to show we are all human and we can trick people into thinking we are ok when we are not at all. Glad she seeked help and opened up about her life because a little bit goes a long way and I`m sure you have healed some of my doubts now.
    Thanks Em Rusciano, I will be emailing, Facebooking and Tweeting you feedback from this book because it really touched my heart. May you always fight to win Em 🙂
    So much thanks to Beauty and Lace, Simon and Schuster and all the people involved in this story as you all made it special.

  5. I absolutely loved this book. Em tells a great down to earth and honest story of her life and struggles. It was so easy to read and I really connected with her. She talks about her friends and family in a funny and slightly sarcastic edge. Her marriage, births of her much loved girls and deaths of some of her close family members are shared with the reader in such a way that you are happy and sad with her. Since reading the book I have sent Em a message on Facebook and watched online videos of her and her wacky antics. Thanks Em for writing a great story and being a solid Aussie chic.

  6. Oh my goodness. This is definitely a book all mothers should read. I love how it’s written, I can hear her voice in my head speaking exactly as I read the text. She is witty, hilarious, strong willed, determined, walks her own way, and is just downright amazing.

    I swear throughout the book, the it took me back down memory lane as we obviously grew up in the same eras. Some of these made me chuck just thinking about those times too. Everything is out in the open, not holding back, so many home truths, she really is brave to put these to paper but it really is an eye opener and also a reality check for those who read it. It really brings in you emotionally too.

    Love, love, love her. She keeps it real, thanks for the laughs, the cries and the “WTF’s” hehehe. Em, you are a STAR!!!

  7. I giggled, I smiled and boy did I cringe.
    Em is alarmingly honest, candid and WOW does she like to share. She writes so effortlessly it is like listening to a close friend. She shares some amazing highs and some devastating lows of her life thus far. For some amazing giggles I would highly recommend this book. It is to use a cliché.. “hard to put down” Perfect Christmas pressie for that hard to buy for friend.

  8. Em Rusciano’s book Try Hard is hilariously entertaining, brutally honest & a rollercoaster ride of emotion. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. I’ve read lots of new books this year & whilst they’ve all been good in different ways, this is hands down my favourite. I follow Em on facebook & I find it intriguing that her byline is ‘Comedian’. Of course, she is a funny gal, but she’s so much more than that. This book is raw, warts & all & I love Em for that. She had me laughing out loud one minute & wiping away tears the next. And the ‘characters’ in the book (aka her lunatic family) are so entertaining, you couldn’t make that stuff up! The things her Dad Vincie got up to, what a hoot! As a mum of two kids , I can relate to Em’s mama bear instincts & her honest account of PND after her second child. I vaguely remember her from Australian Idol so that chapter piqued my interest & it was good to hear the behind the scenes take on things. Do your self a favour, if you’re a mum, wife, daughter, music lover, fun lover, Aussie….heck if you’re anyone at all & you can read, GET THIS BOOK!

  9. I knew a little of Em Rusciano before reading this book. I knew she was a funny, down to earth, tell it as it is kind of lady. “Try Hard” doesn’t disappoint
    It tells of the ups and downs of Em’s life, from the early days at Miss Sheila Fancypants School of Dance, being a contentestant on Australian Idol, marriage, becoming a Mum
    Brutally honest, chocka block full of laughter and tears and tears from laughter
    Em, that teacher you had when you were 11, the one who mocked your spelling and writing abilities, she was wrong You write a fabulously funny, unforgettable book

  10. Em is absolutely hilarious and I wasn’t expecting anything less from this book!
    From the first page you know you are in for a journey, a journey of self discovery, of power of just deciding it’s better to just be yourself! Em is different but in a satifying way that makes reading this book not like other biographies that verge on boring. It’s laugh out loud funny and a must read for everyone over the summer break!

  11. “Try Hard” is a series of anecdotes from Em Rusciano’s life, loosely arranged chronologically to give it some shape. Not all of the book is original; I recognised some of it as having appeared in the form of pieces for the website Mammamia.

    Rusciano is a reasonably well known performer – singer mostly, but also radio personality, comic, writer. It’s probably a stretch to call her “one of Australia’s most adored performers”, as the book cover does. Perhaps in a few years, when she’s just that little better known. I knew her mostly from her writing, and was interested to find out more about her – I don’t always agree with the positions she puts forward in her writing, but I find the pieces intelligent and often amusing.

    This is (mostly) quite light, an engaging and entertaining read. It is fairly light on biographical facts, and doesn’t give you much insight into Rusciano’s day to day life. One of the things I found quite frustrating, in fact, was the lack of details about some things. For example, at one point she refers to a co-worker who she had been good friends with – he emceed her wedding – moving to the other side of the country to get away from her. That comes out of the blue; she doesn’t give much indication of how the friendship broke down, or why. I understand that in many cases she’s trying not to offend people (as a lot that is covered in this book is still relatively recent history), but too often I felt I was left hanging.

    That’s the biggest failing of this book overall; in her consideration for other people, Rusciano sometimes leaves you feeling unsatisfied. For example, I didn’t feel that much of a picture of her husband emerges from this book – yet he’s clearly important in her life, and she’s written extensively elsewhere about their marital challenges. I assume that decisions were made about his privacy, but as a reader I still felt that there were some gaping holes in this narrative.

    That aside, there’s a lot to like here. Rusciano is quite willing to tell stories against herself. While many of these are deliberately amusing, some can be quite brutal – notably the section which deals with her post natal depression. There is an honesty to the best sections of this book which really makes it stand out. Post natal depression, family tragedy, unplanned pregnancy – it’s not pretty, but it is unflinching. Rusciano’s writing is at its’ best in these chapters.

    Rusciano also balances the light and the dark quite well; the book is neither shallow or too bleak. Many readers will empathise with stories from her childhood or youth – or perhaps flinch in recognition! The tougher sections also reflect the kind of experiences many people have had.

    I’m not a specific Rusciano fan – as I said, I knew her mostly through her writing. However, I enjoyed this memoir. I didn’t feel that I knew her much better when I was finished, but I did enjoy the stories, was moved by some of her more challenging moments, and stayed interested throughout. This is an appealing book, enjoyable and interesting even if you only know of Rusciano in passing.

  12. This is a book that will get all of your emotions stirred. “Try Hard” is filled with happiness, anger, resentment, hilarity, sadness and is an all round wonderful read. We never truly know the trials and tribulations of a celebrity, but here Em has laid it all out bare for the world to read and is brutally honest in this story about her life. We get to see that she too is a human being and feels that same as the rest of us.
    I loved her tales and the way she told them, I kept waiting desperately for a spare moment so I could keep reading!
    Thank you For the chance to review this and congratulations Em on a wonderful book!

  13. I received this book 9 days ago and couldn’t put it down every spare minute I had. It was easy to read and relate to as Em and I aren’t that far apart in age.
    I first heard of Em when she was on Australian Idol and fell in love with her voice and personality so I loved hearing about how it all began and what made her who she is.
    I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Em or just to anyone who wants a laugh. Em, you are a dead set legend.

  14. Thank you for the chance to review this book Beauty and Lace. I loved it from the first page to the last. I feel like Em has written a very honest story with highs and lows. Reading it I felt like I was having a conversation with a friend.

    Em has shown she is a strong courageous woman. It was fun to read about the eighties and bought back a lot of memories and made me have a good laugh.
    It was great to read the beautiful letters to her daughters.

    I loved the photos in the book as well. I have been a fan for a long time and this book did not disappoint, I would recommend this book to everyone you will love it.

  15. Before being offered the chance to read & review this book, I was somewhat familiar with Em Rusciano from her entrainment and comedy work. I became a fan and joined her legions of devoted fans on Facebook and Instagram so I knew that this book would be bawdy honest and frank. I had booked to see her on her Try Hard tour so was contemplating purchasing the book so when Beauty & Lace offered the opportunity to read & review it, it was too good to be true!
    Em has a huge following of female and gay fans in the 30-40 year age group. She swears, yells and can be confronting but she is also humble, honest and very talented! Being able to read about her Italian influenced childhood, sporting achievements, rebellion and ‘rise’ to stardom, I was also able to relate to her story and found myself on more than one occassion, laughing at her attempts to rebel (smoking incense in the shed!) and stalking her teenage boyfriend! Still, she had the focus and determination to work hard and hone her skills to sing, dance and make us laugh. She lets us into her normal world and we can also live our lives vicariously throung her glitter covered eyes and unicorn leotards! Thank goodness there are still women out there that can lay their hearts bare and be humble at the same time, its very refreshing!

  16. Em Rusciano book Try hard is a memoir of her life, the book is completely different to the books I normally read, it was enjoyable and relatable. Em reflects on her childhood years and memories of puberty describing herself as a gorilla in the mist, she manages to poke fun at herself as she loses her virginity then stalks her “ex-lover” at his father funeral, these laugh out loud moments were hilarious and somewhat cringe worthy. It is ultimately a book of small stories highlighting the importance of family and friends. I hadn’t heard of Em Rusciano before this book, but after reading it I will definitely be heading to her next show, maybe I’ll wear a Madonna outfit or some sparkles to fit in.

  17. Em Rusciano’s book Try Hard Tales from the life of a needy overachiever is an interesting read full of laughter, tears (also from laughing), sadness and outright hilarious.
    Rusciano writes with a flair, that reveals she undertakes everything she does with a passion.
    She does not hold back on difficult or embarrassing topics and is brutally honest about how she has done things to get where she is today.
    This book, with foul language and covering many taboo topics is not a read for everyone.
    If you go into it with your eyes and mind open, you will have a fantastic journey from a little girls dream, to the strong woman she has become today.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review this hilarious book.

  18. I have not read and autobiography for a long time and even then it was someone less colorful than Em. Her passion to live her truth was obvious from the beginning. I loved that she is able to explain and overcome her hurdles in life and now stands proud. This book is funny and can be brutal and harsh when it comes to growing up in australia. MAny women will be able to relate to this.

    Read this book with no boundaries jsut like she has written it. Whether you love or hate the openness of this book. Its an eyeopener. great read!

  19. I loved this book. I would have considered myself a fan of Em prior to reading this book but I realised there was so much I didn’t know about her.

    She has gone through so much and achieved so much in her life so far. Which is really motivating for someone who doesn’t know what they want to do in the future.

    There is a great selection on pictures in the middle that are hilarious and one includes plenty of pictures of all her fabulous costumes.

    Would highly recommend for everyone to read.

  20. I was not overly excited with this book, especially the constant swearing throughout the whole book. The story of Em’s life is good but again literally peppered with foul language. Em is an extremely ‘high achiever’ (her words), personally I think she needs some deep therapy. Could explain why I have never found her comedy entertaining.
    The book tells the story of Em Rusciano and how she went from performing for friends and family, attending the Miss Sheila Fancypants School of Dance and to go on and become a contestant on Australian Idol (a show I am not fond of).
    A brand of humour that I just am not fond of.

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