My name is Why by Lemn Sissay

My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay


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

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

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

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

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

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

My Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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Cover image: Goodreads

Book Review: One Good Deed by David Baldacci


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

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

My Thoughts

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

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author

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

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

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

Published 23 July 2019 by Grand Central Publishing

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Image and author information: Goodreads

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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photo: goodreads

Audio Books Listened to in 2019


Girl, Music, Headphones, Hipster, Young

I love nothing more than curling up with a good book, preferably for hours, but that is rare in my world at the moment. I can usually only get a snippet during the day if I’m lucky. Reading is mostly done at night before sleeping

But in the past couple of years, I’ve discovered audio books. Previously, I would probably have sneered at the idea of listening to a book. I would probably have told you that books are meant to be read, not listened to. I have changed this blinkered way of thinking, and now love listening to audio books, especially as there are now a huge variety available. I do think there is a place for both ‘paper’ books and audio books to fit into our busy lifestyles

I listen through the library app Borrow Box which I have downloaded onto my phone, enabling me to listen when I’m ‘on the go’. I listen during my 90 minute round trip to and from work, in the gym, in the garden, when doing chores, cooking,  and when out walking or bush walking. I try to walk for an hour or two most days so the listening hours quickly add up.

Below, is a list of the audio books that I’ve listened to in 2019. I have linked the books to their page on Goodreads  If you would like to know more about a particular book, please click on the link.

Summer At Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper

Heartbreak Hotel (Buffy, #2) by Deborah Moggach and my review 

I Was Here by Gayle Forman and my review

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

The Tailor’s Girl by Fiona McIntosh

Crimson Lake (Crimson Lake, #1) by Candice Fox

Redemption Point (Crimson Lake #2) by Candice Fox

Gone by Midnight Crimson Lake #3)  by Candice Fox

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder  and my review

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Chocolate Tin by Fiona McIntosh

Kiss Me, Kill Me by J.S. Carol

The Last Dance by Fiona McIntosh

The Trip of a Lifetime by Monica McInerney

Never Never (Detective Harriet Blue, #1) by James Patterson and Candice Fox 

Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue, #2) by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Liar Liar (Detective Harriet Blue, #3) by James Patterson and Candic Fox

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom by Martine Murray

The First Lady by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois 

The Land Girls by Victoria Purman

The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill

Wedderburn by Maryrose Cuskelly

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes by Amy Miller

All That I Am by Anna Funder

A Chance Of Stormy Weather by Tricia Stringer

My Top Three books from the above list.

All That I Am

The Land Girls


The Woman in the Green Dress

Do you listen to audio books. I’d love to hear you recommendations and promise to reply to all comments left

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 Top 5 Favourite Classics

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House

The story of Bleak House follows the legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, where the Jarndyce inheritance is gradually eaten away by legal costs. And then there is Esther Summerson, and the mystery of where she came from. This is one of the first English novels to feature a detective. As usual for a Charles Dickens novel, there is a huge cast of characters representing both the rich and the poor of London at the time. Bleak House is extremely atmospheric with it’s descriptions of London being enveloped by fog. This murder story comes to a climax with a thrilling chase led by the detective.

First published in 1853

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


This is the story of how science can go dangerously wrong, when a science student assembles a human from stolen body parts. But when he brings it to life, he is horrified to see the creatures hideousness. That creature lives a tormented life, lonely and isolated, until it turns to evil in order to get revenge over his creator.

I was a bit hesitant when my bookclub chose to read this book, as it held no interest for me at all. That is until I read it and loved it. I’ve since read it again and enjoyed it even more on the second read. There is much more than a horror story in Frankenstein. There is romance, sorrow, sadness, pity. And there is beautiful writing. Such beautiful writing, that evokes many emotions and feeling towards the creature that was created.

First Published in 1818

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird


This is an unforgettable novel about a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis that almost destroyed the town and it’s people. The story is told by six year old Jean Louise Finch and is based on an event that happened close to the author’s home town when she was 10 years old. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird is dreadful, shocking, extremely sad, but also deeply moving and compassionate. There has been much written about this book over the years so there is really not much to say. Except that the story covers racism, prejudice, rape and other base human behaviours. But there is also the story of a father’s love for his family which is very touching.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” – To Kill A Mockingbird

First Published July 1960

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


When marriage was the only option for a female, it was often necessary for her to conform to what society expected of her. Elizabeth Bennett definitely does not conform. This is a 19th century romance, but it is much, more than that. After reading Pride and Prejudice you will understand more about love and family life in the 1800s, and also  about the societal expectations of the times.  The verbal sparring between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is legendary, but I never tire of reading the words thrown out by both. I would classify this book as the best romantic comedy that I have ever read. Nothing else comes close.

First published January 28 1813.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

This is the only novel written by Emily Bronte, who died in the year after it was first published, at the age of 30. Set in Yorkshire Wuthering Heights is the story of a love that is stronger than death, written in a unique and mystical way. There are characters who are unlikeable, being self centred, irrational, mean, malicious and worse, which to me, makes the story all the more absorbing. Wuthering Heights has become a classic of English Literature and in my opinion well deservedly so.

I found it incredibly difficult to write a review on books that over the years have become classics. What more could I possibly add to what has been said already?   All I have tried to do here is give a sense of the book and one or two of my thoughts.  This post is not a book review post, but quite simply a list of my favourite books.

I found it so hard to limit this list to five, and they are not listed in any particular order. There are so many classics that I love and occasionally re-read. But at the moment, these five novels are my favourite classics of all time.

Do you have a favourite classic? I’d love you to leave a comment and tell me about it. I promise to answer all comments.