Bendigo Writers Festival 2019

I have been looking forward to the Bendigo Writers Festival held recently on Aug 9, 10 and 11, since attending last year. This year was the 8th festival, and as expected, was bigger and better than ever. In the words of the organisers – “Festival 2019 – our eighth – was a brilliant success, with record attendance, and a dazzling lineup of writers that delivered a program, bristling with energy and joy”

I had been unwell, with a virus in the week leading up to the Writers Festival, but was determined to go and to enjoy the weekend. Unfortunately, I had to leave each session with a coughing fit, so decided to stay home and try to recover on the Sunday. As a result, this year, disappointingly, I only saw a few sessions. Those I did see were really great, so I’m looking forward to reading the books of those authors.

Following are the sessions that I did get to see.

Hang On Help Is On It’s Way – Meshel Laurie

Meschel Laurie, well known comedian and TV personality spoke about her experience of Buddhism and how she was able to adapt it to fit in with her family and working lifestyle. This event was held at the largest Buddhist Temple in the Western World, The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion just outside Bendigo.


Regret – Sarah Lawrence hosts Ginger Gorman, Lee Kofman and Alice Pung

I’m a huge fan of Alice Pung, having read her book Unpolished Gem, recently, so for me, this session wasn’t to be missed and it didn’t disappoint. The panel discussed their work that has been published, and how they have dealt with mistakes they have made, and their regrets at what they may have written. I found it interesting to hear of how these authorsdealt with subjects that may cause hurt to family and friends.

Democracy and it’s crisis – Professor A.C. Grayling with John Brumby

A.C. Grayling is a British philosopher and author of over 30 books on philosphy and ideas. In the program, this discussion was to be about where democracy has gone wrong, and how to fix it. But it was about much more than that. There was discussion of Brexit, and how it has come to be a crisis in the UK. which I found to be very informative. This subject could have been very dry and boring but the guest and host kept the conversation moving along quickly, making it easy and very interesting listening.

Rebels and Trailblazers –   Claire Wright talks to Billy Griffiths

Discussion about the suffragettes and their place in history, and how they were ignored and excluded from positions of politics and power. As a result, it is not well known that they had a huge impact on the history of Australia. What kind of women were the suffragettes?  Claire Wright places these women of history back into the history books, where they have previously been omitted. Discussion centred around the authors book about the suffragettes, Daughers of Freedom, which I’m very keen to read.

The following books are those written by the above authors that I’m looking forward to  reading. Watch out for reviews coming soon.

Buddhism for the Unbelievably Busy

Her Father's Daughter

You Daughters of Freedom: The Australians Who Won the Vote and Inspired the World

I’m very much forward to the Bendigo Writers Festival in 2020, where I will dosing up with Vitamin C in the lead up. I plan to be fit and healthy and able to immerse myself into books and authors for the entire weekend.

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks



Damnation never tasted so sweet…….

When Rosemund Tomkins was born, in London in the 17th Century, the midwives believed she was so unusual with her very dark eyes and strange laughter, that they thought she would live a charmed life. But her unfortunate life could never be described as being charmed.

After living a life of poverty and abuse, circumstances found Rosemund married off to a wealthy nobleman, which sees her life change drastically and undergo a transformation unimaginable to her. In no time at all Rosemund presides over her extremely popular chocolate house, making her the darling of the rich and famous.

But there is much bad news coming and Rosemund’s seemingly charmed life takes a turn for the worse. As she experiences The Plague and the Great Fire of London, Rosemund realises that she will be forced to make the decision to walk away from the life she has come to love and lose her wealth.  Her other choice is to make a deal with the devil…..

My Thoughts

This historical novel perfectly depicts seventeenth century London as the city is coping with the return of  King Charles to the throne. I really enjoyed reading and learning about the chocolate making, which was new at the time, and the way the wealthy flocked to the chocolate house which was new to the times. I especially loved the descriptions of the additives that were added to chocolate to cure all ills.

Rosemund’s experiences of The Plague and the Fire of London, were both educational and compelling to read. I now understand more about this period of Restoration London, with its political and religious upheavals and dramas. Poverty and wealth existed side by side, with all the challenges that such diversity could bring.

The Chocolate Maker’s wife is a story of treason, deceit and lies that oozes chocolatey deliciousness. I found this book to be ‘unputdownable’, and read all 588 pages very quickly.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Karen Brooks was born in Sydney and now lives in Hobart, Tasmania, with her partner and two children.

In 2007, Brooks received a citation from the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, part of an Australian Government program to recognise and reward teaching excellence in higher education.  Brooks was made Honorary Senior Fellow of the University of Sunshine Coast. She has established both a national and international reputation for her work, and her research and social commentary is regularly published in Australia and overseas.


‘A gripping historical thriller that will quite literally steal your breath’ – Kate Forsyth

‘Meticulously researched and historically compelling’ – Australian Books Publishing


Published in 2019 by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty. Ltd

Have you read this book? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise to always reply to your comments made in the section below.

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My #AtoZChallenge Links


Following is a list of the links to book reviews done during the  Blogging from A to Z April Challenge . I hope you find something to read here.

A is for The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
B is for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
C is for Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
D is for The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison
E is for Elevation by Stephen King
F is for Fragments by Toni Jordan
G is forThe Good People by Hannah Kent
H is for Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach
I is for I Was Here by Gayle Forman
J is for Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
K is for Keating by Kerry O’Brien
L is for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
M is for My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy
N is for Nowhere Child by Christian White
O is for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
P is for Places We Swim By Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon
Q is forThe Queens Colonial by Peter Watt
R is for Ransacking Paris by Patti Miller

S is for Stasiland by Anna Funder
T is for Toymaker by Liam Pieper
U is for Untold Story by Monica Ali
V is for Voyage to Australia – Private Journal of James Bell
W is for We were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
X is for X by Sue Grafton
Y is for You by Caroline Kepnes

Z is for The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

#AtoZChallenge Reflections


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.

It’s now three days since the challenge ended, so time for my usual end of challenge wrap.


This year I was more organised than I have been in any previous AtoZ Challenges. When the challenge started, I had all posts, up to the letter T, completed and ready to go. This really took the pressure off, and allowed me to read more posts than usual on other AtoZ Blogs.

Finding new and interesting blogs is a highlight of the challenge for me, but usually I get frustrated that there isn’t enough time to devote to this. This year, I read blogs on the subjects of family history and genealogy, travel, health, fitness, books, movies and music. There are so many more topics that bloggers write about, than I ever previously knew about. Over the past four years, the AtoZ Challenge has opened my eyes to these amazing blogs and bloggers.

I really enjoy reading and commenting on a diverse range of blogs, reading their replies and getting to know bloggers from all around the world. This is a huge highlight of the challenge for me.

Another highlight is the comments that other AtoZ bloggers left on my blog. Even though I’ve been blogging for many years, this blog is only six months old. I was quite humbled that it was so well received during the challenge. There were so many lovely and supportive comments left for me over the past month. I am very proud to say that I have answered all comments. I’m very diligent about that, as I feel if someone has taken time to leave me a comment, the least I can do is reply.  A bonus is that from comments left, wonderful conversations often do develop.

The Challenges

I wrote that what worked was having all posts up to T complete at the start of the challenge. But it wasn’t ideal that posts after T hadn’t been completed. I had read the books to be reviewed after T, and planned to write the reviews in the first two weeks of the challenge. But of course the best made plans often don’t happen, and I had a bit of a panic and a few late nights in the final week, getting the posts completed. Note to self: next year complete all posts before the challenge begins.

Even though I visited, read and commented on many blogs, I would have liked to spend more time doing this, than I was as able to do. I’m genuinely interested in other blogs and bloggers, so spending time visiting blogs and commenting is a pleasure.

Over the next month, I plan to continue visiting AtoZ bloggers that I missed. I will be posting about some of these blogs, that readers here may be interested to make contact with.

Looking to 2020

At this point in time, I intend to be back for the AtoZ Challenge in 2020. I am planning to participate on this blog and also on my Family history/Genealogy blogTracking Down The Family. Doing the challenge on two blogs is a huge challenge. I know this as I did it once before, but I’m very keen to do it again. This will take planning and perfect organisation.

My promise to myself is that just for a change, I will be this person who has made the perfect plan and is perfectly organised. For me, this is part of why AtoZ is a challenge. Other bloggers will know that it isn’t easy to publish a post every day.  But getting to the end of the month, knowing that I have done exactly that, is what makes me feel proud of myself and I love that feeling.

I give many thanks to all of those bloggers participating in the AtoZ Challenge who took the time to visit and read my posts. I do appreciate that you were interested enough to take time out from what I am aware is a very busy month. I’d love you to come back and say hello during the year. But otherwise I will look forward to reconnecting with current and new challengers next year.

Big congratulations to all AtoZ Bloggers who completed the challenge. You did it! So it’s time now to celebrate your success. 



#AprilAtoZ Challenge B -Burial Rites by Hannah Kent


#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

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.

My theme is Book Reviews. I will be posting reviews for every day of the alphabet.


Burial Rites is a first novel, based on an actual event in Iceland in 1829. A man and woman faced execution for a murder that occurred on an isolated farm. There were no prisons in Iceland at this time, so the young woman, Agnes Magnusdottir, was kept at a farm where she had lived in her earlier years. The farmer and his wife were her guards during the long dark winter before her execution.

The family are horrified at being forced to house a murderer, and at first ignore Agnes, while going about their daily life. But as Agnes’s date with death comes closer, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story that they have heard.

My thoughts

Kent had me hooked from her opening sentence on page one: They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from the men, and now they must steal mine”

This book is definitely not a light, happy, read. The actual event covered in this story, is well known and well documented in Iceland. It is considered to be a dark event in their history.  This novel is about the sad and dark story of Agnes, and her wait for execution during the long long Icelandic winter. There is very little happiness for Agnes as she waits.


Before I read this book, I had expected it to be so bleak that it would be an impossible enjoyable read. But enjoy it I did. I had never previously heard of the true story of Agnes. and Kent had me feeling very sad and without hope for her.

There are multiple narrators to the story and Agnes also speaks to the reader in the first person. I found myself reading her sentences over and over, as they were so beautifully written and poignant.

I have read this book twice, and listened to it once on audio. I never tire of reading and hearing Hannah Kent’s beautiful words that evoke perfectly, the darkness of a long, dark Icelandic winter.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2014)
Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2013)
Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for People’s Choice (2014)
Davitt Award for Debut Novel (2013)
Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction (2014)
Australian Book Industry Award for Literary Fiction (2014)
Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee (2014)
The Stella Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2014)
Specsavers National Book Award Nominee for International Author of the Year (2014)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2013)
International Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)

About The Author

Hannah Kent


Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985.  Burial Rites is her first novel and has been translated into over 30 languages and won many awards. Hannah is also the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary publication Kill Your Darlings



Published in 203 by Little Brown and Company – Hardcover 336 pages

Have you read this book. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise to always reply to comments made in the section below.

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 Images: Goodreads

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:

Facebook Instagram  Goodreads

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


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.

Wellmania by Brigid Delaney

Title:  Wellmania
Author: Brigid Delaney

Brigid Delaney is a journalist for The Guardian Australia and a travel writer. She has previously worked as a lawyer and was a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph in London, and CNN.
Publisher: Nero an imprint of Schwartz Publishing Pty. Ltd
Date of Publication: 2017
Genre: Health
Number of Pages: 308

Feeling overweight, unhealthy and anxious, Brigid Delaney decides to use herself as a guinea pig and try out some of the health fads, both mainstream and more alternative, that we are constantly told will transform our lives and make us happy and healthy. Some of those tried were the horrifying 101 day fast, colonics, many types of yoga, silent retreats and meditation, group psychotherapy and much more.

Brigid travelled the world to participate and gather information about these methods that are meant to improve our health and wellbeing and are touted to help us to lose weight and keep calm. It seems that everyone is trying to sell the ‘Wellness Dream’. Brigid’s experiences took her to monasteries and health farms and hiking trails, just to pick out a few.

There is also a serious side to the book, as the author presents the facts and outcomes of many of these fads. The questions asked in the book are:

  • Why do so many of us swing from indulgence to detox and back again?
  • Is it possible to integrate good habits into your daily life
  • What does our obsession with wellness say about us?
  • Why do you smell so bad when you haven’t eaten in seven days?

My Thoughts:
I experienced many emotions as I read this book. I laughed and cried, sometimes both at the same time. I felt horrifed at the thought of the 101 day fast. I wanted to shout to the author “don’t do it!” Brigid is very honest as she describes her experiences. Her honesty were the cause of my laughter and tears.

Recommendation: (who and why)
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in health and fitness, or anyone who has ever tried dieting. If you have ever tried any of the modern, crazy health fads, you will love this book.

This review has been reposted from my other blog,  Next Phase In Fitness & Life

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.