CategoryThe Reading List

This reading list is a contribution to the sharing of books. All sorts of books make their way to my bedside table. Some are sent, some recommended, some given as gifts or lent by someone who has enjoyed reading them.

Others (let’s be frank – many) I see on a bookstore shelf, find irresistible and bring home. A few of these become family members who may not leave my bookshelf, but can be read by guests who stay. Some wander on to other homes and hearts.

If you have books you’d like to talk about contact me via the web contact form.

Bettina Ehrlich – The Goat Boy

Second edition published by For Pity Sake Publishing, 2019
First published by Oxford University Press 1965

This is the second in a series of picture books by the late Austrian artist Bettina Ehrlich to be re-published by For Pity Sake Publishing.

Working from the artist’s originals, the company has brought these books back to life for a new generation of children and their parents. The original books are much loved possessions of For Pity Sake founder Jennifer McDonald’s family, so much so that FPS obtained the rights to re-publish a series of them.

The Goat Boy is a tale within a tale. Miss Patricia Higgins who teaches German in an English girls. School goes to Austria for her holiday to practice the German language and enjoy the mountain scenery. Whist on her walk one day she encounters an elderly gentleman, who recounts the story of Toni, a goat boy who must take his family’s herd to the mountain pastures each day to graze.

He is a very good child but suffers from a terrible fear of thunderstorms. And it is this that brings him undone for he is caught in a storm one day and flees, losing three of the herd. However, a touch of magic, in the form of a naiad, saves the day for Toni.

We are left to wonder if the story may also bring something magic into the lives of Miss Higgins and the elderly gentleman.

Bettina Ehrlich tells her stories with a delicate touch, with great empathy for her characters and with deceptively simple, graphic prose. These are stories to be read aloud to children and grandchildren many times, searching in the pictures for details and in the layers of the story for secrets and nuances.

Sarah Ford: BE A UNICORN, & live life on the bright side

Illustrated by Anita Mangan
Spruce, an Hachette UK Company, 2017

I received this charming little bright pink book as a gift, possibly prompted by my recent habit of signing off my texts with three unicorn emojis (since visiting the Lady and the Unicorn exhibition at Art Gallery of NSW last year).

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Steven Carroll – the year of the beast

Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Australia 2019

In his Notes for a Novel essay at the end of the year of the beast, written when he was halfway through writing this book, Steven Carroll explains that the Glenroy series was originally intended as a single book but that 20 years on the Glenroy novels now number six. They span 60 years of Australian history but have been produced in no particular order and do not rely on one another as a series from the reader’s point of view.

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Lynne Edwards – How to Pass a Test – Is this the direction of Australian education today?

Ginninderra Press. 2015

The (finally) current debate about the continuance or cancellation of NAPLAN testing in our schools makes it appropriate that I refer you to Lynne Edward’s excellent short book tackling the subject of testing and teaching, published four years ago.

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Hazel Hall – Moonrise over the siding

Interactive Press, Brisbane QLD Australia, 2019

This collection of tanka verse was created by Hazel Hall in collaboration with other tanka poets. It is a sensitive and moving collection which also features the artwork of the late Robert Tingey, whose diagnosis with Parkinsons Disease inspired the work of his wife, artist Nancy Tingey, in forming the Painting with Parkinsons organisation.

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Karen Viggers – The Orchardist’s Daughter

Allen & Unwin, Australia 2019

This, the latest of Karen Viggers’ novels, follows the well-deserved international success of The Lightkeeper’s Wife and retains one of its characters in Leon, the park ranger. The title alludes to the other central figure, Miki, home schooled and isolated child of religious parents and now an orphan kept under tight control by her brother Kurt.

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Andy Muir – Hiding to Nothing

Affirm Press, Melbourne Victoria, 2019

This is the second of the Lachie Munro crime fiction books. It is a ripping yarn with a larrikin voice and full of larrikin characters. Whilst it would not do to trivialise the sorts of crimes Andy Muir deals with – gang violence, drug and pharmaceutical trafficking and general skullduggery, it is nevertheless true to say that this is a lightly told story full of wry humour and astute commentary on modern society.

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Sulari Gentill – All the Tears in China

Pantera Press 2019

Sulari Gentill just gets better and better. All the Tears in China is the latest of the addictive and absorbing Rowland Sinclair mysteries. This is the sort of book that makes it seem perfectly reasonable to read till 4am just to finish it, just because you can’t bear not to know the denouement in full and RIGHT NOW.

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Nancy Tingey: Magic Happens – The Story of Painting with Parkinsons

Edited by Bernadette Hince
Self-published, Canberra Australia 2019

Artist Nancy Tingey OAM dedicates this book to her husband Robert John Tingey, diagnosed with Parkinsons at the age of 46 in 1987 and died aged 77 on 17 November 2017.

It was Bob who first became involved with the Parkinson’s Disease Society of the ACT, but it was in 1993 that Nancy decided to start an art group called Painting with Parkinsons.

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Nicky Pellegrino – A Year at Hotel Gondola

Hachette NZ 2018

New Zealand resident Nicky Pellegrino is the author of 10 fiction novels which draw on her Italian ancestry and visits to family in southern Italy.

A Year at Hotel Gondola is the latest of these and the first I have read. Her website tells us that she focusses on friendship, food, passion and family secrets.

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Robyn Sisman – Weekend in Paris

Penguin Australia, 2003

Holiday reading and book fairs take one in all sorts of directions.

I am sorry I didn’t come across the work of Robyn Sisman during her lifetime. Gosh, there is just so much to read out there.

Robyn Sisman had a career on the other side of publishing before becoming a novelist. Three of her five novels: Special Relationship, Perfect Strangers and Just Friends were all Sunday Times best sellers.

Born in Los Angeles, Sisman moved to Somerset and had been married to biographer Adam Sisman. She died in 2016.

She had a career on the other side of publishing before becoming a novelist. Three of her five novels: Special Relationship, Perfect Strangers and Just Friends were all Sunday Times best sellers.

Weekend in Paris is another one of those journey of self-discovery novels, rather satisfying however in its outcome and not too maudlin as some of these are.

An obituary in The Guardian says of her books: they are funny, fluent descriptions of what it is to fall in love, of obstacles encountered and overcome. But Robyn was no romantic: she was clear-sighted and without sentimentality or illusions, and her fiction has a spiky quality, both inhabiting and unsettling the genre. She was her own most unsparing critic, and never appreciated how talented she was.