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.

Angela Savage – The Dying Beach

Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2013

Angela Savage will appear at the Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet Tasmania 1 to 3 November 2019

Angela Savage is the Director of Writers Victoria. She is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.

Savage is a winner of the Scarlett Stiletto Award and has twice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards.

Barbie talks to Angela Savage about The Dying Beach
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Joanna Baker – The Slipping Place

Impact Press, an imprint of Ventura Press, Australia, 2017

Joanna Baker will be at the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet, Tasmania, from 31 October to 3 November 2019

This is a story about motherly love and family, clothed in a dark tale of violence, betrayals and secrets. We are taken deeply into the lives of two women, friends Veronica, an artist, and Lesley, a gallerist.

Whilst the story could well have been called ‘Looking for Roland’, as much of the novel has Veronica in search of her elusive son, its title The Slipping Place holds a much greater meaning than its role as the name of a place the women visited with their sons during their childhood.

Joanna Baker talks to Barbie about The Slipping Place
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Dorothy Johnston – Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune

For Pity Sake Publishing, Australia, 2019

Dorothy Johnston will be in the Hall of Writers at Terror Australia Festival on Friday 1 November 10am to 4pm, Cygnet Town Hall, with publisher Jen McDonald and fellow For Pity Sake writer Sara Dowse (
As the lonely fly, 2019).

Declared interest: Barbie Robinson, who wrote this blog, is the designer for the internals of this book.

The many fans of Dorothy Johnston’s sea-change mysteries will not be disappointed by this third novel. It’s atmospheric, a little bit creepy and strange, but as with its two predecessors,  imbued with a sense of place – in this case, the small seaside town of Queenscliff Victoria, but it could, I guess, be any small seaside town. They have their secrets and silences.

Barbie talks with Dorothy Johnston about Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune
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Shamini Flint – Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution

Piatkus, Great Britain, 2016
Shamini Flint will be at the Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet 1 to 3 November 2019.

This is the seventh in the Inspector Singh series. Where have you been all my life, Inspector Singh?

Inspector Singh is a Sikh policeman based in Singapore, but his investigations take him far afield, this time to London. His presence in London, ostensibly, is to take part in a Commonwealth conference on policing and community relations.

Barbie speaks to Shamini Flint
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Kerry Greenwood – Murder and Mendelssohn

Phryne Fisher’s 20th mystery
Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2013
Kerry Greenwood will appear at Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet 1 to 3 November 2019

This is a book about love.  

In the best tradition of crime fiction, we do have a body in the first three pages. We also have, deftly drawn, Phryne in all her fashionable splendour and intellectual acuity, her side-kick and favourite policeman Jack Robinson, significant members of her household – Dot, Mr Butler (the butler) and Ember (the cat) and by reference Sergeant Hugh Collins, Dot’s beau.

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Lindy Cameron – Golden Relic

Clan Destine Press, Victoria, Australia, 2007
First published by Harper Collins Australia 1998
Lindy Cameron will appear at the Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet 1-3 November 2019

I do not know how the readers of the original version of this story waited a month for each chapter. Golden Relic was commissioned by Museum Victoria and written for the International Council of Museums 1998. Lindy Cameron was selected from four crime writers to write a murder mystery by instalments to publicise the conference – the brief was to promote the city of Melbourne, the museum and the event.

Bsrbie talks to Lindy Cameron
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David Owen – Why Neville shot Gus

Fullers Publishing, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2019

First conceived some years ago, Why Neville shot Gus is at once a crime novella and an exercise in the principles of crime writing – by someone who has taught the craft. It would spoil the story to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that David Owen takes us through his usual circuitous paths drawing disparate threads to a satisfying denouement.

We meet each character in some detail as the story proceeds, without always having an inkling of connections but knowing there is one that will be revealed. The disconnected threads do weave together though and the titular character of Neville eventually yields his bigger story.

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David Owen – Big Red Rock

Fullers Publishing, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2017

This is the ninth of David Owen’s Pufferfish series, a complex winding story which delves into all kinds of seedy and nasty aspects of criminal activity and human behavior without, however, giving us the creeps. It is David Owen’s rich sense of humour that keeps us grounded in this story of murder, violence, cruelty, drugs, deception and betrayal.

Whilst humour is not necessarily part of crime fiction, it seems that the best of the genre’s authors demonstrate a healthy sense of not taking themselves entirely seriously.

Barbie speaks with David Owen about Big Red Rock
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Suzanne Edgar – Catching the Light

Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2019

This is Suzanne Edgar’s fourth solo collection of verse. Divided into sections that lead us through a kind of story line, it is a collection of intimate vignettes, in which there is remembrance and much pain along with conscious happiness. These are intimate poems in which the writer has allowed us to glimpse her vulnerable joys and sorrows.

The sections are: The healing light, Where two walls meet, True minds, Watchers, For want of a spoon and Water sleekly falls.

Suzanne Edgar talks about and reads from Catching the Light
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Lauren Chater – The Lace Weaver

Simon and Schuster 2018

This is a debut novel for Sydney writer Lauren Chater, a story set in Estonia mostly between 1939 and 1941, that exposes the dire human consequences of WWII and successive occupations by the Russians, the German Nazis and the Soviets.

It is also about the importance of cultural identity and the objects and practices that allow a people to hold onto this despite awful events unfolding around them.

Barbie speaks with Lauren Chater
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Well Read Cookies

Beautiful Biscuits inspired by Great Literature
Simon and Schuster 2018

Proving that not only is she a fine writer of historical fiction, Lauren Chater has also shown her domestic goddess side with this delightful cookie cookbook based on her popular The Well-Read Cookie blog.

Drawing on her eclectic personal reading list – as diverse as Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) and It (Stephen King) – Lauren has created bespoke cookies inspired by themes or characters therein. She includes information about how to wrangle royal icing, necessary and desirable equipment, baking techniques and the like.

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Lisa Kalma – My llama Drama

Illustrated by Eduardo Paj
Created by Bear with Us Productions UK
Published by Brindie Books 2019

This charming debut book by Canberra author and teacher Lisa Kalma will delight early readers and young story listeners.

It is written with a sense of fun and a teacher’s knowledge of the importance of rhyme and rhythm in the development of early readers’ love of language. Lisa is the sort of teacher we all wish we had and would wish for our own children and  grandchildren.

Lisa Kalma talks about and reads My llama Drama
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Jane Sullivan: Storytime – Growing up with Reading

Ventura 2019

On one level, Storytime is an exploration of children’s literature. On another it is a journey of self-discovery for author Jane Sullivan, both the child self and the now adult self.

Jane Sullivan is a literary journalist, writing Tuning Pages for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald as well as contributing the odd feature, essay and interview to various publications including Australian Book Review. She is also the author of two novels.

Barbie speaks with Jane Sullivan about Storytime
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John Blay – On Track: Searching out the Bundian Way

Newsouth Australia  2015

This lyrically written account of John Blay’s quest to find the ancient Aboriginal path from Kosciuszko to Eden, The Bundian Way, is at once a history of the lands and people, a study of geography and botany and a love story with country.

Barbie speaks with John Blay about On Track
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Joanna Nell – The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

Hachette Australia 2018

In a culture like ours where youth in all its facets  is worshipped, writing about our elders is often twee and nearly always patronising. One is frequently irritated by depictions in the media and especially in advertising, of older people as cranky, doddering, cute, inept, foolish or humorous.

It is therefore particularly pleasurable to find in Joanna Nell’s The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village  a simultaneously sympathetic yet realistic portrayal of ageing and the older individual.

Barbie speaks with Joanna Nell about The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village
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