My Christmas Wishlist


I never receive books as gifts, probably because everyone in my life thinks I already have too many, but that doesn’t stop me creating a wishlist every year. These 10 books are currently my most wanted (in paperback) titles.

{links to Goodreads}





All gifts gratefully received 😉


2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #11


Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’m highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #ReadNonFicChal

Click here to sign up for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge





Of Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall by Helena Merriman, Helen of Helen’s Book Blog writes “I’d heard good things about this story of triumph, survival, and heroism so was looking forward to reading it and I was not disappointed. Merriman writes a good narrative nonfiction story that absorbs the reader from page one.”




A recommendation of City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s by Otto Friedrich from a friend paid off for Maphead, “After experiencing City of Nets’ impressive scope and depth I suspect it’s probably the best book out there when comes to the history of early Hollywood. Well-written and insanely well-researched it’s hard to offer up a comprehensive recap of what the book covers, harder still to do so concisely.”




I loved The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke, “Written with an irreverence tempered by passion, Cooke exposes the secrets of thirteen well known animals, drawing from historical sources, current research, and her own knowledge and experience. Witty, informative and utterly fascinating, The Unexpected Truths About Animals is an engrossing read.” Read my review at Book’d Out here.




“This is an eye-opening read about the dangers of scientology.” Laura of Reading Books Again says of A Billion Years: My escape from a life in the highest ranks of Scientology by Mike Rinder.




Writes Sue at Book by Book about These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, “I loved every moment of this book! The essays are each very different, yet linked together in a way that paints a picture of Ann and her life, and the people she loves. This wonderfully-written collection of essays is moving, funny, heartfelt, and powerful. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”


What will you be reading in December?


Need some inspiration? Check out these posts







2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #6

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #7

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #8

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #9

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #10

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #ReadNonFicChal Check out some of the latest #Nonfiction book reviews shared last month #readingchallenge at Book’d Out #nonfiction 

Nonfiction November: New to My TBR

Well we have come to the end of another Nonfiction November! It was, as always, a wonderful event, and my TBR has swelled yet again.

thank you to the hosts, Rennie @ Whats NonFiction?, Katie @ Doing Dewey, Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks, Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction and Jaymi @ The OC Book Girl

The book covers below link to the blogger from whom the recommendation came. Thank you to everyone who participated.





Review: Bournville by Jonathan Coe


Title: Bournville

Author: Jonathan Coe

Published: 3rd November 2022, Viking

Status: Read November 2022 courtesy PenguinUK/Netgalley


My Thoughts:


“Past, present and future: that was what she heard….Everything changes, and everything stays the same.”


I’m sure my request for Bournville by Jonathan Coe was inspired by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Promising a portrait of Britain as experienced by a middle class family over a period of seventy five years, I felt a tug of nostalgia tied to the end of an era.

After a prologue set in 2020, Coe begins with VE Day in 1945 where the residents of Bournville, a Birmingham village built around the Cadbury chocolate factory, simply known as the Works, are celebrating the end of the war. It’s here that eleven year old Mary lives with her parents Sam and Doll, and over the next seven decades, coinciding with seven memorable events in British history, Coe revisits Mary and her growing family.

The unique structure works well to reflect the national and individual experience of the changes in culture, attitudes, politics, technology and economics. I enjoyed the sojourn through each ‘occasion’ which includes the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the World Cup Final between England v. West Germany in 1966, the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969, his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and then the Princess’s tragic death in 1997, ending with 2020, which marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, and the start of the CoVid pandemic, but it is the journey of the characters that illustrate their meaning. Coe charts the family’s joys and griefs, triumphs and regrets, gains and losses, creating a history of their own as time marches on.

Written with tenderness, humour, and insight, Bournville evokes life’s ordinary and extraordinary moments. Enjoy with a block of Cadburys chocolate.


Available from Penguin UK


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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon


Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz





I’m going away on holiday from mid-week and will be completely without internet access for at least five days. I will have a couple of posts scheduled in my absence. I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time to read but I’m hoping to at least start and finish The Last Chairlift by John Irving. It’s a chunkster at 900+ pages.

I finally joined StoryGraph this past week, though I’m not finding the interface particularly intuitive. My user name is @Shelleyrae, you can click here for my profile on The StoryGraph . Please leave your StoryGraph handle in the comments if you have one so I can follow you.

I made myself a Link.tree too, which you can see HERE and, thanks to a tip from Anne at Books of My Heart, I set up crossposting between my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

It’s the last Monday of the month, so here’s my challenge update

Nonfiction Reader Challenge: 12/12

Aussie Author Challenge: 18/24

Historical Fiction Challenge: 15/25

Cloak and Dagger Challenge: 47/36

Pick Your Poison: 26/26

*Remember to SIGN UP for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge*




What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…


Great Australian Rascals, Rogues and Ratbags by Jim Haynes

Murder in Williamstown by Kerry Greenwood

The Nocturnal Brain by Guy Leschziner

Retribution by Sarah Barrie




New Posts…


Review: The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Nonfiction November: Worldview Changers

Review: The Torrent by Amanda Gearing

Review: Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer

Bookshelf Bounty




What I’m Reading This Week…


John Irving, one of the world’s greatest novelists, returns with his first novel in seven years—a ghost story, a love story, and a lifetime of sexual politics.

In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.

Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.

John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time—among them, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. A visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, Irving is a bard of alternative families. In The Last Chairlift, readers will once more be in his thrall.


Josh is a sweet, well-meaning university student with a big heart. After he impulsively steals two research mice from a campus laboratory, he hides them in the basement of the retirement village where he works. The mice are happy and so is Josh, until he discovers that the lab mice could cause a deadly disease.

Enter a cat called Harley, a dog called Bobby, the arrival of some mysterious packing boxes, and a strange spike in the village’s water bill.

As the clock ticks, and disaster looms, can the efforts of the Harewood Hall residents save the day?



Jessie Else disappeared the summer the Lambs came to Magpie Beach. Not that the two events were connected at all, in reality; only in my own head, in my own world. They marked for me the end of a certain quiet time and the start of a more complicated living.

Magpie Beach is a quiet seaside town – full of small-town prejudices and small-town cliques. Meg, Rosemary and Lily are all outsiders. Meg and Lily because they came to Magpie Beach to escape their former lives, Rosemary because her upbringing was the subject of much local gossip and upturned noses. The three women come together as friends, partly because their homes are so close together on the outskirts of town – and partly because their neighbours treat them with such suspicion.

When Jessie Else, all of 9 years old, goes missing – it’s easy to see why this small band of outcasts are first on the list of suspects – but what they didn’t realise is that Jessie’s disappearance is only the beginning of their troubles. Soon all those secrets they’ve been trying to hide are going to be uncovered – and nothing will ever be the same again.


Thanks for stopping by!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR @thebookdate #SundayPost @Kimbacaffeinate #SundaySalon @debnance This week I’m reading #TheLastChairlift #TheCastAwaysofHarewoodHall #AnAfterlifeforRosemaryLamb

Bookshelf Bounty


Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review 

(My thanks to the respective publishers)



Review: Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer


Title: Keeping Up Appearances

Author: Tricia Stringer

Published: 5th October 2022, HQ Fiction

Status: Read October 2022 courtesy Harlequin Australia


My Thoughts:

Keeping Up Appearances is an engaging contemporary rural fiction drama from bestselling Australian author, Tricia Stringer.

In the small South Australian town of Badara the suggestion to raise money to repair the community hall. Home to several local groups, including a new fitness class, the decision is made to stage a ‘Celebrate Badara’ event to include a fair, local tours, a formal dinner and the opening of a time capsule buried fifty years before.

Life-long resident and retired schoolteacher Marion Addicot is happy to take charge of the event, until the memory of the spiteful contribution she and her best friend made to the time capsule as sixteen year olds comes back to her.

Though she wouldn’t dream of refusing to help, Marion’s wealthy sister-in-law, Briony Hensley is exhausted at the thought of taking on yet another responsibility, but that concern is eclipsed when her adult children return home with revelations that threaten her well ordered world.

Town newcomer and single mother of three, Paige Radcliffe, isn’t at all interested in the celebration, or the women involved, whom she fears will judge her, but when the fitness class needs a space during the renovations to the hall, and the old store premises attached to her rented home are commandeered, Paige realises she may have misjudged them.

Each woman grapples with their own personal issues over the course of a few months, though there is a common thread, all are desperate to keep up appearances to protect themselves, and others, from real and imagined consequences. But the truth has a way of coming out. Stringer thoughtfully explores their worries and fears and the ways in which they handle the aftermath. Marion, Briony and Paige all exhibit personal growth

Stringer is excellent at creating authentic communities for her main characters to inhabit. I enjoyed the small town setting which is populated with ordinary people at different ages and stages of life, all of whom are well-drawn, and further enrich the story.

An engaging novel about secrets, charades and community, Keeping Up Appearances is a warm-hearted, satisfying read.



Available from Harlequin Australia

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Review: The Torrent by Amanda Gearing


Title: The Torrent: A True Story of Heroism and Survival

Author: Amanda Gearing

Published: 30th January 2017, UQP

Status: Read November 2022


My Thoughts:

The Torrent by Toowoomba journalist Amanda Gearing relates the events of the flooding that devastated the Lockyer Valley in 2011 and the extraordinary stories of survival, rescue and loss revealed in the aftermath. First published in 2012, this 2017 edition also includes updates on the lives of the original interviewees and reporting about the inquiries into the disaster held in later years.

During the summer of 2010/2011 Queensland experienced weeks of monsoon rains, causing widespread flooding across the southern half of the state. On January 10th 2011, the weeks of heavy rain forced a torrent of water through the town of Toowoomba, over the ranges and into the Lockyer Valley. With almost no warning, a wall of water, described as an ‘inland tsunami’, descended upon the communities of Spring Bluff, Murphy’s Creek, Postman’s Ridge, Withcott, Helidon and Grantham. Homes and buildings were swept away, crops and stock were decimated and tragically, twenty four people died.

Though the prose is delivered without flourish, the narrative is absolutely harrowing. I found my pulse accelerating and my body tensing as I read of the water raging through the valley, changing so many lives in its wake. Catherine, her husband Selwyn and their six year old daughter, Katie, were attempting to leave when their property at Murphy’s Creek was hit by a surge of floodwater. Catherine eventually found purchase on a tree about a kilometre downstream to which she clung for several hours before being rescued. Neither her husband nor daughter survived. After their car was swept off the road at Helidon, James Perry, his wife Jenny Thorncraft and their son Teddy climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and clung to the roof racks as it was tossed around by the churning waters. When high voltage live power lines began grazing the waters surface, the family were forced to abandon the car and were separated. Jenny was eventually rescued from a tree, and nine year old Teddy was found on top of a cattle feeder several hours later, over 6km away. The body of James Perry has never been found. Elderly couple Peter and Marie were trapped in their Grantham home for hours after it filled with water and was then swept nearly 2km downstream. These are a summary of just a few of the staggering stories of survival, tragic sacrifices and heroic rescues related in The Torrent.

Gearing goes on to explore the aftermath of the disaster, following up with survivors, witnesses and their communities to reveal how they have fared in the days, weeks, months and years since. The confidence of some residents that the flooding was unlikely to ever be repeated is heartbreaking given they have been, most recently in Feb 2022, though less dramatically. Gearing also discusses the findings of various official inquests and inquiries held, and their attendant controversies. Though the flash flooding was a result of excessive rain due to a La Niña weather event, multiple failures in planning, preparedness, and communication contributed to the loss of life.

Informative, insightful and powerful, The Torrent is both an important record of a natural disaster, and a compelling tribute to the individuals affected.


Available from UQP

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Nonfiction November: Worldview Changers


Reading memoirs offer many benefits. They can teach us empathy and compassion, and offer inspiration and empowerment. I’m appalled by the level of vitriol currently directed at transgender people globally, and to that end my recommendation for this prompt from the books I’ve read this year is The All Of It: A Bogan Rhapsody by Cadance Bell.

Sharing her journey as a transgender woman who began life as Benjamin in Mudgee in 1984, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody is an authentic, moving and often funny memoir from Australian author, director, producer and writer, Cadance Bell. Bell is an excellent storyteller as she leads us through her childhood into adulthood, sharing important moments of discovery, achievement, realisation and loss. Her experiences are familiar, full of the ordinary sorrows and joys of life, yet also unique. Hiding her truth came at great cost, confused and ashamed by their gender dysphoria, terrified someone would discover her secret stashes of magazines and women’s clothes, Bell succumbed to food and drug addictions, fell victim to an abuser, and hid himself away. Until Bell realised something had to change.

The author is Australian, but I think much of their experience is likely universal. I want to recommend it to everyone, especially anyone who may be grappling with their gender identity, or trying to understand someone who is.

Here are three other memoirs by transgender people that have been recommended to me.

“Before you judge my life, my past or my character, walk in my shoes, walk the path I have travelled, live my sorrow, my doubts, my fear, my pain and my laughter. Remember, everyone has a story of their own. When you’ve lived my life, then you can judge me…” -anonymous 

Review: The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Title: The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales

Author: Lucy Cooke

Published: 31st May 2018, Black Swan

Status: Read November 2022


My Thoughts:

In The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales, New York Times best-selling author, award-winning documentary filmmaker and broadcaster, and National Geographic explorer Lucy Cooke counters the ‘biggest misconceptions, mistakes and myths we’ve concocted about the animal kingdom’.

Written with an irreverence tempered by passion, Cooke exposes the secrets of thirteen well known animals, drawing from historical sources, current research, and her own knowledge and experience.

Here are just a few of the unexpected truths I learned:

  • Despite billions of dollars and the best of modern technology, we still are not certain how or where the Anguilla anguilla (Eel) reproduce.
  • The sloth’s neck has more vertebrae than any other mammal’s, even the giraffe’s.
  • Vultures have been used to detect gas leaks in pipelines
  • To determine how bats are able to fly in the dark, Italian Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani experimented by systematically removing their eyeballs, plugging their ears and noses, cutting off their tongues, and coating them in varnish.
  • From the 1940s through to the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test came courtesy of a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian squirted out eggs eight to twelve hours later to confirm a positive result.
  • Storks were exterminated in Britain because the church was offended by the ‘pagan’ belief that they played a part in bringing a couple a baby.
  • Hippopotamuses secrete a substance that is acts as sunscreen, fly repellent and antiseptic.
  • Pandas might look cute and harmless but the powerful muscles in the panda’s cheeks deliver a bite force almost equal to a lion’s.
  • Adélie penguins exchange sex for pebbles from single males to shore up their nests.

And so much more! I’ve shared some of the tamer revelations here because, among other things, the sex lives of desperate male penguins are a little disturbing. This is definitely not a book for prudes, or anyone who prefers the Disney version of animals.

Witty, informative and utterly fascinating, The Unexpected Truths About Animals is an engrossing read.


Available from Penguin UK

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*Purchase from Booktopia*

*As an affiliate of Booktopia I may earn a small commission on your purchase at no additional cost to you.*

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