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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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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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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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

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 First Lady by James Patterson & Brendan Dubois

The First Lady


American President Harrison Tucker has been caught out in a scandal, and the media is  all over it, sending shockwaves through his Presidential Campaign. It is probable that the will lose everything that he has worked for, unless his wife, Grace Tucker, the First Lady, stands by his side, and shows her support.

For years Grace has put up with her husband’s deception, broken promises and betrayal. But this time she refuses to give in to his demands to stand by him. GraceTucker disappears and is nowhere to be found.

But there are doubts about her disappearance. Did she run away? Or is she in grave danger? 

My Thoughts

This story is fast paced and filled with political intrigue and mystery. There were many twists and turns, which kept me guessing right up until the ending, which caught me by surprise. I enjoyed the strong female characters that were the backbone of this novel.

This collaboration between two succesful crime writers really is a good read, and I look forward very much to their next project. A quick read with short chapters and enough mystery and action to keep me well and truly engaged.

I listened to The First Lady as an audio book. The only criticism I would have, is that of the narrator’s pronunciation. I can only imagine that it must have driven American’s nuts to hear the way some of their place names were butchered. Even this Aussie picked up on it.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Authors

James Patterson

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He has sold over 380 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, among them The President Is Missing with President Bill Clinton, Patterson also writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein Estate. He is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists. –

Brendan DuBois

Brendan DuBois of New Hampshire is the award-winning author of twenty novels and more than 150 short stories. His novel, “Resurrection Day,” won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternative History Novel of the Year. In addition to his thrillers, Brendan DuBois is the author of the Lewis Cole mystery series.



Published in December 2018 by Century.

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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Book Review 11.22.63 by Stephen King

15739070The day that changed the world. What if you could change it back


Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke…… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful  – from the back cover

My Thoughts

As with many of Stephen King’s novels, this time travel story had me hooked from page one. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, but a few years ago, became disappointed with the novels he was writing. I have decided to go back to those novels, and give them another try. This novel is the first of those. I’m so glad I did, as this is exactly the type of King novel that I enjoy. Stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. And not a monster in sight! The love story thread is quite touching and lovely. Not something normally equated with a Stephen King novel.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of life in 1950s and 1960s America, with it’s references to the popular culture of the time. And then there is the story of the shooting of American President JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. King builds up a picture of the life of Oswald before the shooting which I found to be totally believable.

During the entire book, even as the date of the assassination was approaching,  I couldn’t decide how King was going to end the story. Would the assassination be foiled? If so, what would be the ramifications of that. Even after 740 pages, I was still enthralled and surprised by the ending.

Stephen King has such a talent for writing about real people. The plot might be bizarre, but the strength of his characters makes the storyline totally believable. He makes it very easy to believe that everything his characters say and everything that happens to them is real.

This book is fantastic!

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

King at the New York Comic Con in February 2007

Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American  author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies,many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 58 novels (including seven under the pen nameRichard Bachman)  and six non-fiction books. He has written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.

King has received many awards.  In 2003, the  National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire oeuvre, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2004),and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America (2007) In 2015, King was awarded with a National Medal of Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror”. – Wikipedia

Stephen King is known as one of the best novelists of our time.

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 Published on July 5 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton. First published November 8 2011. Paperback 740 pages

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A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski

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An online bookclub has been meeting for over ten years, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

Adele invites members of her book club to the Blue Mountains, where she is house sitting. Each member has been asked to bring a book that will teach the other members more about her. The women in this club are all at the stage of their lives, when life as they have always known  it, is changing. Each week. as they studied another book, not only did they learn more about the person who chose the book, but they were learning more about themselves.

My Thoughts

I asked myself what book I would choose to teach others more about me. I’m still not sure about that. It was interesting to see the books that were chosen.  I was surprised at each choice, as I did expect the author may have chosen more well known books or best sellers. The books chosen by each character were perfect to help better understand her life and what she was going through at the time.

As a member of two bookclubs, I do enjoy a book about bookclubs, and this one was no exception. I came to love the characters despite their flaws. They seemed very real to me, and by the end of the book, I wanted to know what would come next for each of them.

This is the first book that I’ve read by this author. I will definitely reading her previous books.


“Byrski is by turns turbulent and tender. Her characters are portrayed as warm, funny, flawed heroes and heroines grappling with the cards destiny has dealt them.” – West Australian

“A Month of Sundays demonstrates the capacity of a book to act as a mirror to the soul and an eloquent guide to a more contented future.  Executed with wit and affection, the novel delivers exactly what it promises” – Weekend Australian

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author 

Liz Byrski

Liz Byrski is a writer and broadcaster with more than 40 years experience in the British and Australian media. She is the author of eleven non-fiction books and five novels, and her work has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines.

In the nineties Liz was a broadcaster and executive producer with ABC Radio in Perth and later an advisor to a minister in the Western Australian State Government; she now lectures in Professional and Creative Writing at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, and has PhD in writing with a focus on feminist popular fiction.

Liz was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Sussex. As an only child she spent a lot of time alone, much of it buried in books. She began her working life as a secretary and later moved into journalism working as a reporter on a local newspaper until she took up freelance writing when her children were born. Before moving to Western Australia she also worked as an appeals organiser for Oxfam.

After moving to Perth with her family in 1981 she once again established a freelance career writing for Australian publications including The Australian, Homes and Living, Cosmopolitan and Weekend News.

Liz lives between Perth and Fremantle and in addition to enjoying the company of family and friends, she spends most of her time reading, writing and walking. She has two adult sons and twin grandsons. –


What book would you choose to teach others more about you? I found this a tough question, and would love to hear about your book choice. I promise to reply to all comments made.

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Published in July 2018, by MacMillan Australia. Paperback 352 pages

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