About Jennifer Jones

Love being healthy and keeping fit by cycling, gym, and bushwalking. Other passions are genealogy, family history research and reading

Book Review: Talking To My Country by Stan Grant #aussieauthor20


An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.

In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. ‘We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier’, he wrote, ‘We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.’

Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.

Talking To My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country – what it is, and what it could obe. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?
from: Goodreads.com

My Thoughts

As a lover of history, particularly Australian history, I was looking forward to reading this book, and expected to enjoy it. But this could be one of the most unforgettable non fiction books that I’ve ever read.

The stories and personal experiences that Grant wrote about, really made me stop and think. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished reading it. As I read these stories, I really felt for him, as he obviously has a huge love for his family and his country.

For many years, I have watched Stan Grant on television current affairs programs and have always been a fan of his reporting. I’m now a huge fan of his writing. The way he wrote his stories made a huge impact on me and my understanding of his life and his people.

In my opinion this book should be required reading on school book lists to give a better understanding of Australian History


Grant will be an important voice in shaping this nation” – The Saturday Paper

“….the past defines us, and like other Australians, Grant is interested in his family Ancestry. It’s just that 230 years of his history coincided with some uncomfortable truths about this nation” – the Courier-Mail

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Stan Grant born 30 September 1963, is an Australian television news and political Journalist and television presenter for Al Jazeera and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He is a member of the Wiradjuri tribe of indigenous Australians from the south west inland region of New South Wales.The Wiradjuri also have roots in inner Victoria, where he spent most of his childhood –


First published in 2016. This edition published in 2017 by
Harper Collins Australia Pty. Ltd.

Softcover 223 pages plus source list

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Talking To My Country is my first book review for the 2020 Aussie Author Challenge

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Goodreads Top Five Fiction Books

Top Goodreads Fiction Reads

The Winners of the Goodreads 11th Annual Readers Choice Awards have been announced. These awards are as voted by Goodreads readers. Below, are the top five books nominated. Disappointingly, I’ve only read two of these books. The Testaments is one of my top reads in 2019, and I would rate The Normal People as the book I enjoyed the least in 2019. These awards have me questioning my judgement on that, so I may need to revisit it.  I do plan to read the books on the list that I haven’t read so far. Click on the list to see all nominated books. M

Best Books 2019

The Winner

The clear winner was The Testaments by Margaret Atwood with 98291 votes. This book received over 50,000 votes more than the second place winner. So it is a very clear and in my opinion well deserved winner.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Top Five Nominated Books

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

98291 votes

Normal People by Sally Rooney

40081 votes

Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

29342 votes

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

26653 votes

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

21524 votes

My favourite Genre: Historical Fiction

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Winner of Historical Fiction Genre

The following two books placed highly in the Historical Fiction Genre. I have read them both and they were in my top reads of the year. Both are historical fiction based on fact.
I’d recommend both of these books as being well worthwhile reading.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris

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Do you agree with the books that made the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I promise to reply to all comments.

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2020 Aussie Author Challenge #aussieauthor

Aussie Author Challenge

This challenge, organised by Jo at Booklover Book Reviews is in it’s 11th year, but this is my first year of participation. I do enjoy reading Australian authors, particularly female authors, but in 2020 I plan to read more than I would usually read in one year.

According to the challenge website, ‘the objective of this reading challenge is to showcase the quality and diversity of the books being produced by Australian authors.

There are levels of involvement in this challenge and participants can choose the level that they think signifies the number of books written by Aussie authors that they intend to read in 2020.

Read and review 3 titles written by Australian authors, of which at least 1 of those authors are female, at least 1 of those authors are male, and at least 1 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, any genre.
Read and review 6 titles written by Australian authors, of which at least 2 of those authors are female, at least 2 of those authors are male, and at least 2 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 2 different genre.
Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 3 different genre.
Read and review 24 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 10 of those authors are female, at least 10 of those authors are male, and at least 10 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 4 different genre.

I have decided to commit to the Kangaroo Level. I’m fairly sure I can read one book per month by an Australian author in at least three genres.

The hashtag to be used for this challenge is #aussieauthor I will be using it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

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Are you participating in this challenge? Please let me know in the comments as I’d like to follow you on your Aussie reading adventure. I promise to reply to all comments.

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My Top 8 Books for 2019

I’ve read some great books this year, both fiction and non fiction, including a few genres that I don’t usually read. The main one that I tried was crime, which meant I read a few crime books that I did enjoy, but still crime isn’t a favourite genre of mine. Having said that, I quite enjoy listening to crime audio books.

Following is a list of the eight books that I enjoyed the most in 2019, in no particular order. If I had to choose one of these books as a favourite, it would be The Chocolate Maker’s Wife. This book contains all that I love about my favourite genre of historical fiction based on fact.

My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks

The Binding by Bridget Collins

11.22.63 by Stephen King

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak

This will be my last post for 2019. Merry Christmas and a happy and safe new year to all. Watch for the first review of 2020 early in January

Have you read any of my top eight books for 2019? Do you have a favourite for the year? I love it when we interact and I promise to reply to all comments.

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Six Christmas Book Suggestions

I do love to read Christmas books in December. I particularly enjoy the Christmas Classics but I’ve noticed a few recently released Christmas books that look interesting

So following are the Christmas books that I’d most like to read during December this year. I probably won’t have time to read all, but will definitely choose a few to read.

Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and A Merry Very Victorian Christmas May be more difficult to get hold of, but they should be available in most local libraries.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Daniel Kirk.

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Letters from Father by J.R.R. Tolkien

The 19th Christmas by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Hercules Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

A Merry Very Victorian Christmas: Trivia, Tales and Traditions from 19th Century America by Janet Emily Demarest

Do you think these Christmas books look interesting? Maybe you have read some of them. What are your thoughts? I love it when we have a conversation and promise to reply to all comments.

Follow me on Instagram at bestbookishblog to follow my Christmas-book-a-day suggestions

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King


The Institute - Stephen King


Luke Ellis is abducted from his bed in the middle of a night, and his parents are murdered. The super intelligent twelve year old with special powers is spirited away in a black SUV. When he wakes, Luke is in a room, at The Institute, hidden deep in the forest at Maine. The room is set up to look like his own at home, but with one difference. There is no window. Luke soon realises that The Institute is home to many children, who arrived in the same way that he did. All of these children, along with being intelligent, have the extra special powers or telepathy and telekinesis.

The children of The Institute are subjected to a series of experiments. The staff are dedicated to these experiments, and don’t give any thought to the children’s desires. The children are rewarded for going along with the experiments, and punished very severely for choosing not to be compliant. As children that Luke has become close to, begin to disappear, he becomes desperate to find a way out and to get help. But nobody has ever escaped from The Institute.


I really did enjoy this book, although I felt it was a little bit flat and repetitive before the action started, towards the end. As is usual with a Stephen King novel, I find that in a review, less is best. I’d rather the reader dive in without knowing too much.

The large cast of child characters were very endearing, and I found myself caring very much about what was happening to them. King’s usual excellent characterisation was evident here. It’s my opinion that he is the master of characterisation. The story is mostly about the children and their experiences, with some great action towards the end.

What The Institute was doing to those children was horrifying, but I didn’t feel that I was reading one of King’s horror stories. I do prefer his books that make horror and unreal situations totally plausible. And I did enjoy this book. But I do have to declare that I am a fan of King and have been since I first read Carrie in 1975. As usual when reading a Stephen King novel, I find myself wondering ‘how on earth does he come’ up with his ideas’.

I found the author’s note at the end to be very very touching.



King at the 2007 Comic Con

Stephen King is a No. 1 Best Selling Author many times over. He is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Many of his books have been adapted into major films and TV series. King received the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  In 2007, he won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and in 2015 he received America’s National Medal of Arts.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist, Tabitha King.

Published on 10 September 2019 by Scribner.
Softcover 482 pages plus author’s note.

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5 Historical Non-Fiction Books Read Recently

This post is not a review post but merely a list of the non-fiction that I’ve been reading lately, with a short description taken from the back covers. I did enjoy reading each of these books, but don’t feel ready to review them just yet. They may appear as a book review in 2020, or they may not.

Cardinal: The rise and Fall of George Pell by Louise Milligan

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Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most powerful Catholic, was found guilty of five sexual crimes against children and has been sentenced to six years jail. He is the most senior Catholic figure in the world to be charged by police and convicted of child sex offences. The abuse involved choirboys at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The royal commission into institutional Responses to Child Abuse brought to light horrific stories about abuse of the most vulnerable. Pell portrayed himself as the first man in the Catholic Church to tackle the problem. Louise Milligan pieces together decades of disturbing activities highlighting Pell’s actions and coverups. Cardinal has won many awards. (from the back cover)

Murder, Misadventure & Miserable Ends; Tales from a Colonial Coroner’s Court
by Catie Gilchrist


Single & Free: Female Migration to Australia 1833-1837 by Elizabeth Rushen

Henry Shiell was the Sydney city Coroner from 1866 to 1889. In the course of his unusually long career, he delved into the lives, loves, crimes, homes and workplaces of his fellow Sydneysiders. He learned of envies, infidelities, passions and loyalties, and just how short, sad and violent some lives were. but his court was also, at times, instrumental in calling for new laws and regulations to make life safer. With few safety regulations, the colourful city was also a place of frequent inquests, silent morgues and solemn graveyards. this is the story of life and death in colonial sydney (from the back cover)


Between 1833 and 1837, fourteen ships carried nearly 3000 single women from Britain and Ireland, to the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. The women migrated in response to promotional material which emphasised the shortage of women in the Australian coonies. Life at home contrasted dramaticaly with the opportunities provided by the colonies and many enterprising women were encouraged to migrate.

The life experiences of these women demonstrate that they were drawn from a wide cross-section of nineteenth century society. They contributed to the develpment of the colonies through their employment as domestic and agricultural workers, their enterprises as dressmakers, midwives and teachers, as wives and as mothers of the rising generation. This book tells their stories.

Solomon’s Noose: The True Story of Her Majesty/s Hangman of Hobart
by Steve Harris

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The story of a young convict, Solomon Blay, who became Her Majesty’s hangman in Van Diemen’s Land. the man who personally had to deliver an Empire’s judgment on 200 men and women, and endured his own noose of personal demons and demonisation in order to “survive”; all in the context of the great struggles of good-evil, life-death, hope-despair, which drew the attention of Darwin, Twain, Trollope and Dickens as Van Diemen’s Land evolved from a Hades of Evil to sow the seeds of nationhood.

The book paints a vivid picture of the society and poverty from which Blay’s character was forged in England and the desperate, brutal nature of being a convict in Van Diemen’s Land. Solomon’s Noose is an important book in exposing the dark ‘underbelly’ in the formation of modern Australia.

1788 The Brutyal Truth of the First Fleet by David Hill


In 1788, 11 small ships set sail from England on an eight-month-long voyage over the roughest of seas, carrying 1,500 people, food for two years, and all the equipment needed to build a colony of convicts in a land completely beyond their experience and imagination. In Portsmouth, the fleet’s preparation was characterized by disease, promiscuity, and death. The journey itself was one of unbearable hardship, but also of extraordinary resilience. Upon their arrival, however, the colonists faced their biggest challenges of all: conflict, starvation, and despair. Combining the skill of a vigilant journalist with the magic of a master novelist, this entrancing history brings the sights, sounds, sufferings, and joys of the “First Fleeters” back to life. Journals, letters, reports, and pleas to England are all interwoven here with the author’s own insight, and together they convey the innermost horrors and joys of the very first European Australians. The result is a narrative history that is surprising, compelling, and unforgettable.

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images: Goodreads

My name is Why by Lemn Sissay

My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay


The above title is both the name of a book and the name of an event, featuring the author, that I attended a few days ago. Lemn Sissay’s story about his life as a foster child and in institutional care in England, is a dreadful story about the failures of the care system in the UK.

Lemn has devoted his life, since turning eighteen and leaving care, to finding out the truth about his life, and why he was placed into care. He has spent his life trying to right the wrongs of his life, by fighting to get his records, and fighting for acknowledgement of the many wrongs that were done to him.

My Name is Why is the record of those files, which show the truth about Lemn Sissay’s life, from birth to age 18. When he first read these files, he found out his real name. He also found out that while he had spent is life until age 12, in the care of uncaring foster parents, and after age 12 in institutions, his mother had been writng to the authorities and pleading for him to be returned to her. She had been doing this since shortly after his birth.

Lemn Sissay is one of England’s best loved poets. His presentation and performance on stage is very powerful and very moving. But at times he is also very very funny. His humour also comes through in his writing.

Here’s a quote that I love  from Lemn Sissay’s performance: Family is a collection of disputed memories between one group of people over a liftime.

Unsurprisingly My Name is Why hot number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Well deserved.

My Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The first video below shows Lemn Sissay talking to an audience about his life. The second video shows him performing his poem called Suitcases and Muddy Parks.. This poem almost reduced me to tears.

Huge thanks to the  Bendigo Writers Festival for bringing Lemn Sissay to our city, both for the event this week and for the Bendigo Writers Festival in 2018.

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Cover image: Goodreads

Book Review: One Good Deed by David Baldacci


This novel, set in 1949, introduces a new character, Archer, a WW11 veteran who has recently been released from prison, where he served time for a crime he didn’t commit.

On his release, he encounters many obstacles that make it difficult to honour his parole conditions. His good intentions to stay out of trouble are challenged over and over.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this character and look forward to the next in his series. The storyline had me hooked from the start and I enjoyed the historical aspect. I’m not a regular reader of crime but would definitely recommended this novel.

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author

David Baldacci has been writing since he was s small child and his mother gave him a pen and notebook to write his stories down.

His first novel ‘Absolute Power’ was published in 1996. He has now had 39 novel published and translated into many languages. He has also written seven novels for younger readers.

David and his wife are co-founders of the Wish You Well Foundation which supports family and literacy programs in the United States.

Published 23 July 2019 by Grand Central Publishing

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The Way Home by Mark Boyle

The Way Home: Tales of a life without technology


It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be the last time.

No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce.

In this book, Mark tells of his experience of living totally off the grid, and being fully self reliant in this modern world. We are with him as he builds his house with just his bare hands, collects water from the stream, as there is no running water in his house. He learns to make a fire, and forages and fishes for his food.

As Mark goes about living his very basic life, where everything revolves around the sun and the seasons, he experiences what it is like to be human. He is totally reliant on himself for all his needs. But this lifestyle does bring up seemingly unsurmountable problems. For example, how does he write this book and present it to his publisher without the internet?

My Thoughts

As someone who has made the lifestyle decision to live off the grid, I was very keen to read this book. The difference between the author and ourselves as that we haven’t completely given up on the reliance for modern technology. We have solar power and rain water tanks but we do also have all the latest mod cons. Or most of them. For me, giving up our modern lifestyle completely, would be a step too far, even though I do understand how rewarding that type of lifestyle would be.

Mark Boyle’s writing is very refreshing. I felt like I was living his day to day struggles. This book is very honest and a great insight to what it would be like to give up on modern technology for a long period. I do suspect that very few of us could live the lifestyle that Mark chose, giving up modern technology, family and relationships. Most of us have family commitments and then there are medical issues to consider.

Mark Boyle deserves huge congratulations for carrying out his plan to live off the grid and without technology. He also deserves congratulations for this book.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Mark Boyle is a business graduate who lived completely without money for three years. He is a director of Streetbank, a charity which enables people around the world to share skills and resources with neighbours. He lives on a small parcel of land in Ireland.

Published in April 2019 by Oneworld Publications. Softcover 260 pages