Reading During a Pandemic

I feel very disappointed to say that I  haven’t posted here since May 7. That’s almost three months! I feel dreadful that it’s been so long. Actually, I was shocked to see how long it had been. Of course, I knew that it had been a while, but never imagined that 11 weeks had passed since I wrote a post. All day today, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t post for so long. I love reading and I really love writing reviews of the books I’ve read. So why would I stop writing them?

It’s not that I haven’t been reading, though I must admit to reading much less than usual during isolation. When I first realised that I would have to self isolate, back in early April, I imagined all the time that I would have on my hands. And spare time, of course means more reading time. At last I would have time to read each of the books in the pile on my bedside table, plus the unread books on my kindle. There would also be  time to read some of the many books that have sat on my bookshelf, unread, for far too long.

As it turned out, all that spare time didn’t equate to reading time. I know that I could have found time to read. I’ve always been able to find time to read, so why would a pandemic make that much difference. As far as I can work out, there is one reason. My head has been full of worries about the pandemic, about family and friends, and about the world. Every day, there has been so much bad news on TV, in the papers and on Social Media.

I’m fairly sure that with all that bad news, constantly in my brain, the thought of putting anything else in there is the last thing I’ve wanted to do. So because of this, reading has taken a back seat. 

Though, I have managed to read a few books during the pandemic, just a few. Interestingly, I’ve wanted to read different genres to what I would usually read.  I’ve read a couple of romance novels, chick lit, and comedies, all of which I wouldn’t usually read.  But I think the need for escape from the reality of life, has led me down a different reading path, which I have suprisingly quite enjoyed.

As I have finished reading each book, during the pandemic, I really haven’t been able to put my mind to writing a review. The thought of increasing the stress that I was already feeling, by using my brain to write a review, seemed to be one step too far. I didn’t seem able to do it. That is, until now. I’m now feeling ready to hit re-start.

My last blog posts were the A-Z Challenge posts. Even though I was prepared for the challenge this year, I found it difficult, also due to the worries of the pandemic. There seemed to be much more important things to worry about than a mere blog challenge.

As I said, I’m now feeling ready to get back into my reading and reviewing routine. My first book review since May, will be published next week.  I hope you will be interested enough to come back and check it out.

My other blogs can be found here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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The Wife and the Widow by Christianwhite #atozchallenge

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. 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.

The Wife Between Us by Christian White

Summary

Set against gainst the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and the Widow is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she’s forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and the Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love? – Goodreads

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My Thoughts

I felt The Wife and the Widow started slowly. At first I was hesitant to keep going with it. I really enjoyed Christian White’s first book, Nowhere Child which is the reason I stuck with this book. And I’m really pleased I did. When my eyes were finally opened to what was really going on in the story, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. No spoilers here at all. You have to read this book for the twist.

Published September 2019 by Affirm Press
Softcover, 384 pages

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Christian White

Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. The Nowhere Child is his first book. An early draft of this novel won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and rights were quickly sold into fifteen countries. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and their adopted greyhound, Issy. – Goodreads

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2020 Aussie Author Challenge

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Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright #AtoZChallenge #aussieauthor20

 

 

Summary

The Eureka Stockade: It’s one of Australia’s foundation legends – yet the story has always been told as if half the participants weren’t there. But what if the hot tempered, free spirited gold miners we learned about at school were actually husbands and fathers, brothers and sons? What if there were women and children right there beside them, inside the Stockade, when the bullets started to fly? And how do the answers to these questions change what we thought we knew about the so-called ‘birth of Australian democracy’?

Ten years in the research and writing,m inimitably bold, entertaining and irreverent in style, Clare Wright’s The forgotten Rebels of Eureka is a fitting tribute to the unbiddable women of Ballarat – women who made Eureka a story for us all. – blurb

My Thoughts

This book was right up my alley. I heard the author speak about this book at the Bendigo Writers Festival in 2017, and purchased it immediately. Unfortunately, it has sat on my bookshelf unread until recently. As a lover of history, and in particular Australian and Goldfields history, I devoured every word. Clare Wright has written about the women of the goldfieds in such as a way, that allows their personalities and characters to shine through. I felt as though I had met and spent time with these women, as I read their story.

I found some of the descriptions of the Eureka uprising to be brutal in their honesty and at times difficult to read. This is a true and accurate account of the women and children of the goldfields, who rarely rate a mention. The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka addresses that imbalance and tells the real story without sugar coating.

Recommendations

2014 Winner of The Stella Prize

‘A rare and irresistible combination of impeccable scholarship with a lively, warm, engaging narrative voice’. – Stella Prize Committee

‘Beautifully written, her book takes readers on a vivid journey of what life was like for the families of the miners, merchants, prostitutes, and police. It’s a great story’ – Courier-Mail

‘Evokes the goldfield era vividly….brings to life the experiences of so many young immigrants to Australia in the 1850s….Women in particular will enjoy this refreshing new look at Eureka‘ – The Age

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Clare Wright is an historian who has worked as a political speechwriter, university lecturer, historical consultant and radio and television broadcaster. Her first book, ‘Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s Female Publicans’, garnered both critical and popular acclaim and her second, ‘The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’, won the 2014 Stella Prize.

She researched, wrote and presented the ABC TV documentary Utopia Girls and is the co-writer of the four-part series The War That Changed Us which screened on ABC1.

Published 2013, by Text Publishing Australia.
Softcover, 539 pages, including notes, bibliography and index.

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#2020 Aussie Author Challenge

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E: Erebus by Michael Palin #AtoZChallenge

Summary

Erebus: The Story of a Ship

In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, HMS Erebus undertook two of the most ambitious naval expeditions of all time.

On the first, she ventured further south than any ship had ever been. On the second, she vanished with her 129 strong crew in the wastes of the Canadian Arctic.

Author, Michael Palin brings to life the world and voyages of HMS Erebus, from its construction in the naval dockyards of Pembroke, to the part it played in Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839–43, to its abandonment during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition, and to its final rediscovery on the seabed in Queen Maud Gulf in 2014.

He explores the intertwined careers of the men who shared its journeys: the organisational genius James Clark Ross, who mapped much of the Antarctic coastline and oversaw some of the earliest scientific experiments to be conducted there; and the troubled Sir John Franklin, who, at the age of 60 and after a chequered career, commanded the ship on its final journey. And he describes what life on board was like for the dozens of men who stepped ashore in Antarctica’s Victoria Land, and for the officers and crew who, one by one, froze and starved to death in the Arctic wastes as rescue missions desperately tried to track them down.

To help tell the story, he has travelled to various locations across the world – Tasmania, the Falklands, the Canadian Arctic – to search for local information, and to experience at first hand the terrain and the conditions that would have confronted the Erebus and her crew.

Illustrated with maps, paintings and engravings, this is a wonderfully evocative and epic account, written by a master explorer and story teller.
– blurb and goodreads

My Thoughts

I have to say up front that I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. I found everything about it absolutely gripping. The author has thoroughly researched the story of Erebus and includes photos and maps with an index and acknowledgements at the back of the book.

There is so much researched history in this book. From the doomed HMS Erebus to the history of the antarctic naval exploration. I had never heard of this ship or it’s story and Palin really brought the ship and the characters of the day to life for me. The later parts of the book concerning Erebus being found in 2014 were equally engrossing.

Recommendations

The Sunday Times Bestseller

‘Thoroughly absorbs the reader …..Carefully researched and well crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life’ – Sunday times

‘A natural storyteller’The Times

‘Beyond terrific – I didn’t want it to end ‘ Bill Bryson

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Michael Palin

Sir Michael Edward Palin, is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries.

Palin wrote most of his material with Terry Jones. Before Monty Python, they had worked on other shows such as The Ken Dodd Show, The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set. Palin appeared in some of the most famous Python sketches, including “The Dead Parrot”, “The Lumberjack Song”, “The Spanish Inquisition” and “Spam”. Palin continued to work with Jones, co-writing Ripping Yarns. He has also appeared in several films directed by fellow Python Terry Gilliam and made notable appearances in other films such as A Fish Called Wanda, for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, he was voted the 30th favourite by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

After Python, he began a new career as a travel writer. His journeys have taken him across the world, the North and South Poles, the Sahara desert, the Himalayas and most recently, Eastern Europe. In 2000 Palin became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television. – goodreads.com

Have you read this book. If so, I’d love to know what you thought of it. I promise to reply to all comments made.

Published on 30 May 2019, by Arrow Publishing. Softcover, 352 pages.

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C: Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine #AprilAtoZChallenge #aussieauthor20

Summary

A shocking discovery deep in the Snowy Mountains. A killer who will do anything to keep secrets buried.

When ski patroller Vanessa Bell discovers human bones high on Mount Stilwell at Charlotte Pass ski resort, Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is called in to lead the investigative team.

Arriving in the isolated, snowed-in village with Winterfest celebrations underway, Ryder soon determines that the bones are those of Celia Delaney, a young woman who disappeared from the ski resort in 1964 during the biggest winter storm in Australian alpine history.

When a second murder takes place, Ryder suspects that the deaths are related, and that the person responsible is still in the village. Amid the escalating tension, Ryder is desperate to make an arrest before the stakes rise even higher.

Set within the stunning Snowy Mountains, this intriguing mystery uncovers deadly, long-buried secrets in the valleys and mountains of this iconic area.

Charlotte Pass

My Thoughts

I’m not a huge crime fan but I quite enjoyed this story. The setting of the Snowy Mountains had me interested, as I have been to this area, and was able to imagine the plot settings. It was slightly strange that I was reading this novel at a time when the area was battling bushfires instead of being snowed in. This novel is a quick and easy read, an old style ‘who-dunnit’, I thought along the lines of the Agatha Christie murder mysteries. I enjoyed the story lines. Even though I was sure who did it from very early on, there were unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author
Lee Christine

In 2009, former corporate trainer, Lee Christine, decided to turn her writing hobby into a serious day job. She has since won many awards for her novels. Lee loves connecting with her readers and has appeared on a panel at the Newcastle Writer’s Festival and the Lake Macquarie Write Here festival, made multiple library appearances, and has been a guest speaker at a major fundraiser for the Mark Hughes Brain Cancer Foundation as well as the Friends of Newcastle University fundraising lunch. 

Published February 2020 by Allen & Unwin, Australia. Paperback 320 pages

Links to my other blogs: https://jonesfamilyhistory.wordpress.com and https://nextphaseinfitness.com.au

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Books read in January

Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 9 books in January. To many, that probably doesn’t sound like many books read in a whole month. but it’s about average for me. Working, writing reviews, blogging on three blogs, along with everything else in my life doesn’t leave a huge amount of time for reading. I dream of the time in the future, when I’m retired, and have more time to devote to reading.

Audio Books

Four books on the January list are audio books. It’s my opinion that it’s appropriate to include audio books as ‘books read’.

  • The White Earth by Andrew McGahan
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Tapestry by Fiona McIntosh
  • Talking To My Country by Stan Grant

I would very much prefer to read a paper book over listening to an audio book. However, audio books are what save me from boredom on my long drive to work and home. My drive to work is 45 minutes both ways, so that gives me 90 joyful minutes of audio books listening every day.

2020 Aussie Author Challenge

I am participating in the #2020aussieauthor challenge and have committed to reading 12 Books written by Aussie authors in 2020. Four of those authors are to be female.

Of the books listed by Goodreads that I’ve read in January, five were written by Aussie authors.

  • The White Earth by Andrew McGahan
  • MacQuarie by Grantlee Kieza
  • The Good Cop by Justine Ford
  • Forgotten by Nicole Trope
  •  Tapestry by Fiona McIntosh

The number of books written by Australian authors that I’ve read in January, has me thinking that perhaps I should have aimed for a higher number. May have to rethink that.

How many books did you read in January? Have you read any of the books in my list? I love it when we have a conversation and promise to reply to all comments left.

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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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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.

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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

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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)

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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

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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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