Theme Reveal – Blogging April A-Z Challenge 2019

What is Blogging April A-Z Challenge?

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a new blog post every day in April, except for Sunday. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example, April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B, and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Bloggers can choose a theme to blog about. My links, at the end of this post, to my previous A-Z challenges show examples of themes. Some bloggers choose not to have a theme, and they post on different topics every day. It’s up to the individual blogger, as to how they wish to participate. I do prefer to have a theme as it gives me focus and structure. You can find more information here

My previous A-Z Challenges

This will the fourth year that I’ve participated in the challenge. But this year it’s especially exciting for me, as 2019 is the first year that I participate on this blog, which is very new, having been launched in January 2019.

Theme Reveal

This post today, is my Theme Reveal post which is where I announce my theme for the Challenge. Bloggers who choose to have a theme, usually write a ‘Theme Reveal’ post, which is published in late March.

My theme for 2019 is Book Reviews. The theme continues on with the usual content of this blog, but by the end of the month there will be 26 new reviews published. One for each letter of the alphabet. Reviews will be both new releases and older publications. They will be both fiction and non-fiction What they will all have in common, is that I will have read every book, so you can be guaranteed that all reviews will be my honest opinion.

If you are after a recommendation for that next book to read, or just want the enjoyment of reading about books, do join me in working through the alphabet of books in April.

To ensure that you don’t miss a post, you can sign sign up for email alerts in the sidebar. You can also follow me on social media:

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Link to Theme Reveal posts from previous years participation in the Blogging April A-Z Challenge.

A-Z Challenge 2016 – Bendigo 
A-Z Challenge 2016 – Towns in Victoria
A-Z Challenge 2017  – My Ancestors
A-Z Challenge 2018 – The Story of Me


My Top 5 Stephen King books

I first discovered Stephen King when The Shining was published in 1977. I can remember clearly, being home alone with it late at night and being too scared to move off the chair. I was hooked on King from then on.

I would wait impatiently for each book to be published. Fortunately Stephen King is a very prolific author and the wait was usually not too long.

I really loved the books published up until about the year 2000. After that I found for some reason that I wasn’t enjoying his books as much as in the past.

I put that down more to me, and what was going on in my own life, rather than to the author.

Recently, I have read King’s two latest releases and found that I was taken back to those early days of really loving his books and writing. I have rediscovered one of my favourite authors, and what joy that is.

I have now decided to re-read those books that I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps time will have changed my outlook.

The reason I mention this is to explain my top five books from King, which are all from the early years. They are listed below in no particular order. These books, I have read multiple times. They have stayed with me for decades.

Are you a Stephen King fan? If so what is your favourite book? I love it when you comment and promise to reply to all.





Bloggers Award Nomination

Can you imagine my surprise and excitement when I opened the email that told me that this blog has been nominated for the Fifth Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in the category of Best Book Blog? I was really shocked and couldn’t believe it that a reader saw enough merit in my new book blog, to nominate me for this award. Whoever you are, I thank you very much. You have made me a very happy blogger.

As a blogger, I write and post articles, always wondering if anyone will ever read them. I love it when there are comments on an article or review and we can have a conversation. This nomination has shown me that there are people reading my articles and reviews, and gives me encouragement to keep doing ‘this blogging thing’ that I love.

What is the  Blogger’s Bash Award?

The Bloggers Bash Award is open for anyone who blogs. Bloggers and readers of blogs can nominate their favourite blog and/or vote for them, with the awards being presented in London on 15 June 2019.

Annual Bloggers Bash Awards

Links to my other blogs: Next Phase In Fitness & Life and Tracking Down The Family


Valentine’s Day Book Love

❤️❤️❤️ Today, being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d look at love from a different angle and share my love of books.

There are many, many books that I’ve read over the years and that I’d put on a list of ‘books that I love. Unfortunately, I can’t share them all, but here are just a few in no particular order.

Five Books That I Love ❤️

Have you read any of these books that I love? Would you put any of them on your list of loved books.

The Woman Who Fooled The World by Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano

Belle Gibson‘s Cancer Con

Belle Gibson convinced the world she had healed herself from terminal brain cancer with a healthy diet.  She built a global business based upon her claims.  There was just one problem.  She’d never had cancer” – from back cover

Belle Gibson made herself into an Instagram sensation as a wellness hero, with over 200,000 followers. There was also a mobile phone app, and international book deals. She lied that she had had cancer and had cured herself with natural therapies. Unknown to everyone, including her family and friends, Belle was never a cancer sufferer.

Gibson had a wellness blog with many, many followers, who doted on her every word, taking her advice. People who were genuinely suffering from cancer, were doing exactly what Belle advised them to do to cure their cancer. Many cancer survivors gave up their traditional treatment to follow her advice.

In this book, we read about how Belle Gibson first became considered a health expert, tracking her rise to fame, and also her huge fall from grace. The authors interviewed people closest to her and her followers, to piece together the story. 

The story of Belle Gibson’s deception broke internationally, making world wide headlines. Devotees of alternative treatments and ‘the clean eating movement’ were also interviewed for the story. 

My Thoughts

So, the big question is how was Belle Gibson able to fool so many people all over the world and convince them that she had the answers to cure their cancers. I was very interested to read about what compels a person to deceive the public in such a way. I  found it so interesting and spell binding to read the evidence presented.

As a blogger, I found it really hard to believe that another blogger would be so fraudulent as to trick their readers with her lies. It’s even more unbelievable to think that they would also prey on cancer sufferers and convince them to follow her.

Equally shocking, is that so many of her friends, and people in the wellness industry enabled Gibson to commit fraud on the public. Until reading the authors evidence and following the trail of Belle Gibson that they presented, I really couldn’t imagine how someone could pull off such a huge fraud.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars  ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the authors

 Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano are the multi award winning journalists who originally uncovered Belle Gibson’s lies and broke the story.

Beau Donelly: Beau Donelly is a multi-award-winning journalist who covered social affairs for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. His news-breaking and investigative skills have been recognised by the United Nations and the Melbourne Press Club. Donelly has been awarded for an exposé on illegal brothels, coverage of clergy sex-abuse trials, and reporting on disability issues. He has also been a finalist for Australian journalism’s highest honour, the Walkley Award. Donelly has a Bachelor of Journalism from Monash University, and is based in Europe. – Scribe Publications

Nick Toscano: Nick Toscano is a multi-award-winning journalist based in Melbourne, who specialises in federal politics, business workplace relations, and the labour movement for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He has been awarded the the Grant Hattam Quill for Investigative Journalism, and has twice received the highest honour in Australian journalism, the Walkley Award, for exposing the country’s biggest-ever underpayment scandal. Toscano has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Masters in Journalism from RMIT. – Scribe Publications

Published by Scribe Publications in 2017.  322 pages
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Review: The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser


This is the story of Nell, who becomes a widow in the early pages.  The setting is Ballarat, at the time of the 19th century goldrush and the Eureka Rebellion. In a time where women were not treated as equals, Nell’s courage and strength take us on a journey back in time to a harsh male dominated environment.

This is the story of Nell’s struggle for survival, and the obstacles she comes up against in her fight to move forward from the abusive life she lived with her husband.  All Nell wanted was the opportunity to earn her own living and live a happy and peaceful life with her new chosen partner.

As the author shows, it is a harsh life on the gold fields, and harsher for women struggling to earn a living and ensure their own safety. The challenges are great and at times seem insurmountable.

From the back cover: ‘Passion, adventure and a woman’s quest for independence, set against a dramatic 19th century backdrop….’

My Thoughts

The author weaves events from history into the novel, which is what I love about reading historical fiction. I felt as though I was there on the goldfields, living the life of a down trodden female. I could really feel the dreadfulness of a life lived that way. Most books written about this era of Victorian history, show the male viewpoint. How lovely it was, to read of the events of the day, and every day life from the perspective of a female.


The Widow of Ballarat had me hooked almost immediately. By chapter 2, I knew this book would be unputdownable. As a genealogist and family historian with ancestors who lived and worked on the goldfields at Ballarat and surrounding areas, I was immediately taken back to that time and place.

If you have an interest in Victorian history, you will love this great story of the time interwoven with a lovely romantic story line.

I would recommend first reading the Free prequel – Hill Of Gold

This is the first book written by Darry Fraser that I have read, but I will be seeking out her other books in future.

About The Author

Darry Fraser is an author of Australian historical and contemporary fiction who lives and works on Kangaroo Island.
Other books: Daughter of the Murray and Where the Murray River Runs.

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Published by Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, in 2018. Historical novel. Paperback 354 pages

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Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey


On a very hot night in the summer of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, age 13 is woken by knocking at his bedroom window.  He finds Jasper Jones there, trying to wake him. Jasper is an outcast in the town. He is a bit rebellious, a loner and of mixed race.  But when Jasper asks him to go into the night with him as he needs help, he goes along, even though he is terrified. Jasper takes him to his secret place in the bush where Jasper’s horrible discovery is revealed.

Charlie promised to keep the secret but is weighed down by it. All that he knows about life so far, changes that summer. He constantly argues with his mother , falls in love and his relationship with his best friend Jeffrey Lu changes. Secrets are revealed and life is never the same again.

My Thoughts

Jasper Jones is a coming of age story set in a small town in Western Australia. It captures perfectly, life in small town Australia in the 1960s.

The chapters are quite long, but the writing is beautiful to read.  I did find the first half of the book quite tedious, as the characters were set up, and the tension and underlying simmering in the town were introduced.  This seemed to take longer than I felt was necessary, and I just wanted to get to the story.

But I did really enjoy the second half as it moved along quite quickly.  Instead of showing 1960s Australia as very peaceful and nostalgic, this small town was  revealed to be a place of prejudice, racism and intolerance. As the community confronted what was happening in their town, those ugly traits became worse.


I’m sure this book wouldn’t be for everyone. It isn’t an easy read but if the time is invested to get into the story, the rewards are great. This story has been recommended as being Young Adult reading, but that confuses me. To me, Jasper Jones is heavy going and covers subject much to dark for Young Adult.

I couldn’t get this book out of my mind for a long while after reading it. There is much written there to make the reader squirm and feel uncomfortable. The final scenes which I won’t reveal were gut wrenching and unforgettable.

Jasper Jones has been described as Australia’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m not so sure about that. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books of all time, and to me Jasper Jones doesn’t come anywhere near it.  But possibly I am biased.


Winner of the Indie Book of the Year Award in 2009
Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010
Winner of the Australian Book Industry Award in 2010
Winner of the Booksellers Choice Award in 2010

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published by Allen & Unwin in 2009. Genre? Softcover 394 pages

               Craig Silvey

Further reading:  Craig Silvey discusses writing Jasper Jones

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.

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1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet

Title:  1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet
            The biggest single overseas migration the world had ever seen

Author: David Hill
Publisher:  William Heinemann
Date of Publication: 2008
Genre: Australian History
Number of Pages:  400, indexed with a chronology, bibliography and research notes. Photos and charts ;included.


Hill starts at the beginning, where he describes in great detail, the circumstances and events of life in Georgian England, that led to the decision to send convicts to start a new Colony in an unknown far away country. He conveys the excitement that must have been felt by the officials behind the biggest mass migration scheme ever seen. He sets the scene of life in England at the time that transportation began and the reasons for the decision to transport the convicts to a new land.

The agonizingly long preparations for the journey are covered in great detail, along with the effect this had on the convicts, and the fear they felt at setting out on an unknown journey, to the other side of the world, knowing that it was unlikely they would see their loved ones again. While waiting for the journey to begin, prisoners were being housed in ships at sea, close to land, due to the overcrowded conditions in the gaols. The conditions and hardships on these temporary prisons were also overcrowded and unhygienic.  As a result, many of the prisoners were in a poor state of health when the journey began.

We follow the First Fleet on the long arduous voyage of eight months, over very rough seas to the new unknown land. The 11 ships that transported the convicts, marines and officers in what were atrocious, overcrowded and mostly unbearable conditions. We get to know many of the convicts with outlines of the crimes they committed and their sentences. There were over 1500 people transported with food that was expected to last two years, along with equipment needed to build the new Colony.

We learn more about why they took the particular route they did and their experiences at their various stop-overs enroute. The political arguments of the day are also outlined so that we can understand the reasons for such long protracted preparations and the many delays that occurred.

The book also contains information about how Australia was settled after the arrival of the First Fleet, and the hardships, problems and deprivations that were encountered, which seemed to be insurmountable and caused much despair and conflict. Conditions of famine, after failure of crops to survive caused rations to be continually cut, until the new arrivals were surviving on very meager starvation rations. Hill outlines the struggle for survival in the early days and years, which led to many deaths and finally to the settlement of Norfolk Island.

The Aboriginal people are not forgotten in this book. To read of the interactions of the marines and officers with the Aboriginal community in the context of today’s standards and understandings, is quite startling. However we must remember this was a different time with a different set of values.

We meet Governor Phillip and the officers who were consigned to set up and govern the new country. The insight into Governor Phillip is far more personal than any I have read previously. After reading this book, I feel I understand him more, and why he chose certain actions and outcomes that are sometimes criticised.

The author has included a chronology of events surrounding the First Fleet, from 1717 until the death of Arthur Phillip in England in 1814. Research notes are also included along with a comprehensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

Many text books have been written about this subject, but David Hill has used diaries, manuscripts and newspaper reports from the time, along with characterization, to bring the story to life, and to cause the reader to feel empathy for the convicts, and those given the task of starting settlement. This is a story of courage, tragedy, survival and the endurance of all involved. It is also a story of the short sightedness and uncaring attitude of the decision makers in the planning stages. In effect the First Fleeters were dumped in a new land, and left to make the best of i,t and survive the best way they could.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I am a lover of history, with a particular interest in the settlement of Australia. However, I was a little disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any new information given at all. The information in this book could be found in many of the textbooks and histories currently available, if the reader could be bothered to look.

However, the author has written in such a way that this historical tale doesn’t read like a text book. It is written in the style of a novel, and is definitely a page turner. We meet many of the convicts and marines, and come to feel the pain they are suffering with the dreadful degradations and privations that they faced. The reader comes to understand and feel the hardships that the convicts and first settlers faced.


I would recommend David Hill’s book as an easy read and an introduction to Australian history for the new researcher. The subject matter can often be very dry and tedious to read, but the way the author brings the characters and events to life, makes it enjoyable and a page turner.  I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, Australian history, genealogy or family history. My recommendation also extends to anyone interested in just a good read. Even without a special interest in the subject, this book would be worthwhile to read.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

David Hill has had a successful career as Chairman and Managing Director of  the ABC, Chairman of the Australian Football Association, Chief Executive and Director of the State Railway Authority of NSW and Chairman of Sydney Water Corporation.  This is his second historical book. The first being The forgotten Children, which told the story of the children in England who were sent to Australia after World War 2, mostly without the consent of their parents.

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes for you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.


Hell Ship by Michael Veitch


The true story of the plague ship Ticonderoga, one of the most calamitous voyages in Australian History.

Title: Hell Ship
Author:  Michael Veitch

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date of Publication: 2018
Genre:  Historical
Number of Pages:  260

This very well researched book tells the story of the dreadful voyage of the Ticonderoga, which left England in 1852, with a record number of passengers on board. The story of the Ticonderoga has been told for generations in Veitch’s family, as his great great grandfather James William Henry Veitch, was the junior doctor onboard.

As the ship sailed towards Australia, there was a huge outbreak of disease onboard, which took the lives of many passengers, and made the voyage a hellish one for those who survived. When the senior also became gravely ill, the authors great great grandfather was required to take over caring for the sick and dying.

As the ship sailed into Point Nepean, after it’s long and disastrous voyage, the yellow flag was flying, a universal sign that there was an outbreak of disease onboard. During the voyage, more than one quarter of the travellers lost their lives to typhoid. At the time of arrival, there were hundreds onboard who were very ill, and the ship wasn’t given permission to pull into port and disembark for days. Meanwhile many more died, while the ship was waiting for permission to dock and unload.

Most of the emigrants onboard the Ticonderoga, were victims of the Scottish clearances and the potato famine, travelling to Australia with hopes of finding a better life, after being victims of dreadful circumstances in Scotland. It seems very cruel, that these people who had already suffered so much, then had to face more suffering and sadness on this voyage.

My Thoughts
Hell Ship gives a very detailed account of the voyage, from official records. This voyage, was one of the biggest stories of the time, that is now almost forgotten. Not only is this account about the voyage and the disasters the emigrants faced, it is also about the people who were on the ship, and the tragic losses they faced, as the huge Ticonderoga made it’s way across the ocean, with it’s numbers of passengers decreasing quickly, as they were buried at sea.

Hell Ship is much more than the story of Michael Veitch’s family history. The book gives a remarkable insight into the hardships and horrors endured by emigrants on all ships, as they travelled to the other side of the world in the hope of starting a new and better life for themselves and their families.

I’m sure that anyone with an interest in history and especially 19th century history would really enjoy this book. Family historians and genealogists would find it extremely helpful in illustrating the conditions that the early settlers had in the long voyage to the new land.

This extremely well researched and historical document will now enable the story of the Ticonderoga to live again, and not be forgotten.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Michael Veitch

This review has been reposted from my other blog Tracking Down The Family

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes for you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.