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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Bake Australia Great: Classic Australia Made Edible By One Kool Kat – Katherine Sabbath #aussieauthor20

I started to salivate immediately, on opening this beautifully presented book, which is packed with recipes for the most delectable sweets imaginable. The author has taken classic Australian icons such as the Pavlova and given them a modern and humorous twist, making them even more drool inducing. There are also international recipes featured, that have become much loved favourites in Australia.

There are recipes for:

  • Sydney Opera House Pavlova
  • Flamin’ Galah Cupcakes
  • Koala Cake
  • Milo Mud Cake
  • Great Barrier Reef Cake

and many more.

The recipes are easy to follow, with very clear and simple instructions. There are varying levels of dfficulty, ensuring this book is suitable for the beginner cook, along with  the more advanced or expert baker.

Some may be concerned about the calories of some of the foods featured. I agree they are calorie dense, but they are definitely special occasion foods. Surely it’s ok sometimes to allow special occasion foods into a diet plan.

I cannot wait to get into the kitchen and whip up some of these recipes. I would dream of having the time to start with the first recipe, and work my way through the book. But I could also spend hours just looking at this book. The photography is exceptional.

Australia is enjoying Australia Day celebrations right now so I feel that sharing this book of baking Australiana  on a book blog is the perfect Australia Day post. Kitchens all over the country this weekend, will be turning out amazing traditional Pavlovas.  Next year in Australia Day, I plan to give my pavlova a modern twist,  using the recipe for Sydney Opera House pavlova, included in this book.

Star Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author


Sydney cake queen, Katherine Sabbath, is one of the coolest creatives around, loved equally for her cutting edge cake designs and quirky personal style. Kat is a high school teacher turned cake creative, whose unique designs have featured in print internationally, online, as well as on TV. She shares it all with her half a million instagram followers, who hang on every sprinkle –

Watch Katherine making her mouth watering Milo Fudge Cake below.


Published on 05 November 2019 by Murdoch Books.
Hardcover 256 pages

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Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah #audiobook


The Great Alone


This story about a family in crisis, is set in Alaska in 1974. A former Vietnam veteran and POW comes home from the war very damaged by his experiences. He is now very volatile, with a bad temper and a very short fuse. He makes a surprise announcement that with no preparation or planning at all, he is taking his family to live in the wilds of Alaska. They will live an off the grid lifestyle in America’s last untamed frontier.

Ern Allbright and his wife, Cora, have a thirteen year old daughter, Leni, who becames caught between her parents and their very stormy and very passionate relationship. When they first arrive in Alaska, there is hope that this is the change that the family and Ern need. This part of Alaska might be tough, rough and wild, but there is a strong community very eager to help these novices set up, and live an off the grid lifestyle without all the mod cons and modern facilities that they have previously taken for granted.

But it doesn’t take Cora and Leni long to realise that as much as they have come to love their new home and lifestyle, they really are on their own. They have nobody to turn to, and if they are to be saved, they will have to save themselves.

My Thoughts

The above summary is very brief. There is much more to this action packed story than I want to write in a summary. I’m very aware that too much information will spoil the readers experience of this wonderful novel.

Kristin Hannah has written 20 novels, but The Great Alone is the first that I have read. It definitely won’t be my last. She is a beautiful writer, and at times her words brought me to tears. The Great Alone has a huge heart, and succeeds in the reader having a sense of the love, joy, kindness and sadness between the family members, and also with the community. I found the tragedy of this story to be overwhelmingly sad. At the same time the happiness and love brought a great joy to my heart.

I cried real tears at times, during the sad moments, and also the happy moments. When the main characters felt fear, it was so well described, that I felt the fear also. I also felt their happiness. This book is a rare read for me in that it made feel extremely happy and also very very sad.

The author has invoked a wonderful sense of place in this novel. I live off the grid also, so understand all the pros and cons that come with it. But you throw the wilds of Alaska into the mix and it’s a different proposition altogether. I found myself wanting to pack my bags and head off to the homesteading lifestyle in Alaska.

It’s now a few days since I finished The Great Alone, and I cannot get it out of my mind. Could it be that just 18 days into the new year, I have just read my best book of 2020?


“A girl was like a kite; without her mother’s strong, steady hold on the string, she might just float away, be lost somewhere among the clouds.”
“Love and fear. The most destructive forces on earth. Fear had turned her inside out, love had made her stupid.”
“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.”
I listened to the audio book of The Great Alone, but I loved it so much I will also be reading the paper book. Audio books are great,  but of course any reader would prefer to actually read a book. I love listening to audio books on my long drives to work. They make the drive bearable. There were many times that I had to stop the car to write down a quote. There were so many beautiful words in this book.
This book went very quickly to number one one the New York Times best seller list in print, ebook and audiobook.


“Reliably alluring…The Great Alone is packed with rapturous descriptions of Alaskan scenery… Hannah remembers and summons an undeveloped wilderness, describing a gloriously pristine region in the days before cruise ships discovered it.”
–The New York Times

“Set in the early 70s, this coming of age story has parallels in the current day and becomes a cautionary tale for our times.”
–The Toronto Star

“In this latest from Hannah, the landscape is hard and bleak but our young heroine learns to accept it and discover her true self…fans will appreciate the astuteness of the story and the unbreakable connection between mother and child.”
– Library Journal

“Featuring a rich cast of characters and elevated by the riveting portrayal of homesteading in Alaska in the 1970s, this is a compassionate story of a family.”
– People, “Book of the Week’

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


About The Author

Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week –



Audiobook published by MacMillan Digital Audio,
15 hours 2 minutes, unabridged English and read by Julia Whelan.
Released 8 Feb 2018, MP3 (411MB)

Book published February 6th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press.

Have you read The Great Alone. If so, I’d love to hear if you enjoyed it as much as I did. I love it when we have a conversation and promise to reply to all comments.

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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?

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.

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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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