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.
I have taken a different approach to writing about Valerie Albrecht’s beautiful book about grieving. The launch of this book came just before the cancellations and closures of many things due to the COIVD-19 pandemic.
It was to be launched by natural death advocate and artist Vickie Hingston-Jones. Vickie is also President of the Artists Society of Canberra. Sadly, Vickie was unwell on the occasion of the launch, but she has kindly consented to the reproduction of her opening address.
In some ways this book concerns itself with the same central issue as The French Photographer – the efforts of women to be recognised in traditionally male preserves in the mid-20th century.
Natasha Lester also continues her interest in the second World War, its victories and atrocities, writing with intensely sensitive touch on the horrors of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, the work of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and the French Resistance.
Piatkus, Great Britain, 2013 Book 6 in the Inspector Singh Investigates series
This brings me
to the end of the Inspector Singh series, as I started at the most recent (A
Frightfully English Execution) before acquiring the rest of the books and
then reading in order.
begins with reference to the ethnic divide in Singapore (Chinese, Malay,
Indian). As is her wont, Mrs Singh has a view and is not backward at expressing
it, condemning cheap Chinese goods and China Girls (‘Up to no good until proven
otherwise!’) with equal vehemence. We pass quickly into the ‘dark matter’ of
the imprisonment of Chinese intellectuals, the suppression of dissenting views,
the disappearance of the discontented and rebellious.
Piatkus, Great Britain, 2012 Book 5 in the Inspector Singh Investigates series
Inspector Singh is on medical leave after an incident at the end of the Cambodian investigation, on which I will not elaborate to avoid spoiling your read if you haven’t yet got to it. It is probably due to the boredom of staying at home that he relents and allows Mrs Singh to cajole him into attending a family wedding in Mumbai.
Predictably the social event turns into a disappearance and murder investigation, making it much more fun for the canny inspector. As in all of the books in this series, while we are engrossed in the crime solving, there are many more issues to consider.
This is the first
of 29 (yes! 29 as of 2020) Commissario Guido Brunetti crime novels. It is also
my introduction to this wonderful police commissioner and to Leon’s series. How
could I have not read one or 28 before now? The error is soon to be rectified.
I now want to read them all.
charming little picture book is just what we need right now. Whilst it may seem
at first to be just another jump onto the unicorn bandwagon, this book actually
comes with an endearing and important message about the importance of sibling
There is just
enough icky in it to satisfy young readers/listeners. The artwork is simple and
colourful – good for reading to a group and in these days of social distancing
probably will come up quite well via Zoom or Skype or other such group online
After all, we all
need someone in our lives who will share the last bite of his or her icecream
cone – post-COVID-19 of course.
exquisitely crafted work is Felicity Volk’s second novel. At its simplest level
it is the story of a long love between two people so necessary to one another
that time does not diminish its potency.
there is nothing simple about this deeply metaphorical novel which explores, at
both a macro and a universal level, truth and lies, justice and injustice, the
national conscience, love and loss, shared and divided histories and the matter
of place and displacement. Hanging weightily over it all is the question of the
survival of the world and its plant species – present in the act of Evie’s
delivery of seeds to the international seed vault in Norway.
Watson’s thirst for adventure was first documented in her account of her solo
bicycle trip across Africa in the nineties. In Gibbous Moon over Lagos
she writes of her experiences as an entrepreneur setting up both a social
enterprise (Ekologika paper making company) and a for-profit business
Strategyworks in Lagos, Nigeria, living and working there from 2004 to 2009.
While to some this may seem a foolhardy venture, it is Pamela Watson’s optimism and pluck that shine out of this interesting account of the vicissitudes of working in a fast-growing economy in a huge African city (21.32 million in 2015).
With humour and self-deprecation the author shares her various successes and challenges – corruption at all levels, staff issues, the difficulties of a long distance personal relationship, lack of political leadership, lack of interest at diplomatic level from Australia, personal safety, reliability of fuel and power and navigating cross-cultural attitudinal differences.
This is a
detailed account but one which whips along at the pace of life Pamela Watson so
enjoyed in Lagos. There are constant problems to be solved and a large cast of
characters (names changed and usually a mélange of people from the real world)
to get our heads around. We do feel very present in this work as Pamela speaks
honestly and openly about her ‘mistakes’. She see the whole experience as an
opportunity for learning and growth and as readers we are very much plumping
for her as she faces one catastrophe after another whilst maintaining her
ethics and faith in the human beings she is working with – even in the face of
It is a
philosophical Pamela Watson we see at story’s end. We are conscious too that it
is a continuing story for her. Her connection with and love for Africa and the
possibilities it holds for the disadvantaged in the population are unscathed by
her experiences of disappointment and betrayal. She continues to see people as
‘just people’, everywhere facing the same demons, everywhere showing the same
capacity for camaraderie or for duplicity.
proverbs with which she starts each chapter are startlingly apposite at a time
when her own book tour was cancelled due to COVID-19. I like this one:
long the night, the dawn will break. (page 151)
And equally in
woman rules, streams run uphill. (page 163)
Sulari Gentill’s work is often reviewed as an easy read. Indeed the Rowland Sinclair series are highly readable, compelling works – we can hardly read fast enough to take in the words.
This facility is not easy to achieve. It is a mark of Sulari’s literary prowess that she can spin us through the intricacies of her plots, engage our emotions with her now almost familial main characters and their supporting casts, and subtly instruct us in the fascinating details of the period of history in which the stories sit.
This is the
first of now three Cormac Reilly crime novels, the latest having just been
released in March 2020 and currently being toured nationally by its. I have
come late to Dervla’s work it seems but am immediately a fan. The other two
await in my book basket.
The Rúin is a story that spans two decades, and it can aptly be described by the much over-used word ‘gripping’. A murky tale of child abuse and its long tendrils runs as the underplot to the 2013 murder/suicide story, connected by Jack and Maude, with whom Cormac comes into contact in 1993 when he is a junior cop in Mayo.
story of an IVF mix-up, The Mothers is the story of three women in
search of family and identity. The expectations and demands of a society based
on family units affects them all and to some extent leads to some aberrant and
essentially out of character behaviour.
Grace and her
husband Dan have had six unsuccessful attempts at IVF and their lives are
totally enveloped in the desire for a pregnancy and live birth. Priya and her
husband Nick are attending the same fertility clinic and are also struggling to
achieve a successful outcome. At the same time, they have problems with their
marriage which come to a head, causing them to separate. Ashley Li is a young
doctor at the fertility clinic, deeply committed to her patients, living
without having known her father and now in a relationship with her (older) boss.
HQ Fiction Australia, 2020 (an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
This is Kerri Turner’s second historical fiction novel. It is set between 1942 and 1963 in Britain and is very much the story of the restrictions and freedoms society placed, and to some extent continues to place, on women.
The impacts of war and other forms of violence are explored at a macro level – we interest ourselves in the personal stories of the men and women in this novel and the wounds they carry from what they have seen, done and had done to them, as well as their capacity for re-invention and courage.
The fourth of the Inspector Singh investigates stories Piatkus 2011
One of the
great strengths of Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh series is her capacity to
take us to very dark places in society and history whilst at the same time
engaging us in a work of contemporary crime fiction with her delicious humour
and lithe story-telling prowess.
think that the killing fields of Cambodia would allow this? And yet this book
delivers both an exploration of this hideous history and a story of the
personal impacts and long tendrils of this history, wrapped in the highly
readable and absorbing tale of Singh’s murder investigation – again he goes
off-road from his original assignment to be an observer at an international war
crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh.
The third of the Inspector Singh investigates stories Piatkus 2010
In each of
Inspector Singh’s adventures, Shamini Flint takes us on a cultural exploration.
These are crime stories which delve into the specifics of cultural mores,
history and human behavior. Super reads every one of them. Thus it is I crave
your indulgence in writing about all seven of them, though the first was
published back in 2009 – A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder.
In this book
Inspector Singh is, unusually, home in Singapore, and is called out to
investigate the brutal murder of a senior partner in an international law firm.
There is a vast array of possible suspects, so many of the people associated
with the firm being up to no good one way or another. In true Christiean form,
money really is the root of all evil.
Hardie Grant Melbourne Australia Revised edition published 2020
What a very
sensible book on nutrition and diet this is! No wonder it has been in constant
demand since its first iteration in 1986. Nutrition for Life provides
the reader with a simply explained, factual run-down on major aspects of eating,
and offers information that will allow the reader to make informed decisions
about what he/she eats.
As with many books on nutrition, a key message is: Eat more vegetables. However, it goes much further. Catherine Saxelby examines food faddery, myths and misinformation whilst also giving sus simple to follow ways of preparing for good eating.