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.

Shamini Flint – Inspector Singh investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

The first of the Inspector Singh investigates stories
Piatkus 2009

People who live in Canberra will appreciate just how much of the Christmas holiday period we have all spent cooped up indoors, due to air quality which over the months of December and January frequently registered as the worst of any capital city in the world – smoke from our region’s bushfires blew our way with the shore breeze every afternoon. Then we had fires on our doorstep in the Orroral Valley.

The major up-side of this – thank goodness everything has an up-side – was the many hours this afforded us to read (and watch tennis on TV) with a free conscience (if we need an excuse).

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Livia Day – Drowned Vanilla

Deadlines Australia 2014

Drowned Vanilla is the second of a triplet of culinary crime novels dubbed the Café La Femme series.

Livia’s first crime novel, A Trifle Dead, was released by Twelfth Planet Press in May 2013. This was followed by a novella The Blackmail. Blend. The third was Keep Calm and Kill the Chef, pub. Deadlines, 2019.

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our bush capital written by Samatha Tidy, illustrated by Juliette Dudley

Storytorch Press, Canberra 2020
Produced with the assistance of crowd funding

Ostensibly a picture book about the many places of interest for tourists and others in Canberra, our bush capital is also a forceful statement about community, about the importance of memories for families and about the value of sharing our own childhood joys with our children and grandchildren. It’s about the notion of home.

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Anna Blackie – How to Adult

(A guide to not being a trash human and other life issues)
Illustrated by Alex Nicol, @perceptioninfection
Pantera/Lost the Plot, Australia 2020

This excellent survival manual for millennials is Anna Blackie’s first published work. It covers in useful detail and with reference to expert advisers, an array of problematic practical life issues including finance including tax, cooking, legal, social media, professional, health and fitness.

Whilst with serious intent, How to Adult is written in an engaging, readable and highly accessible style, deftly laced with goodly doses of sardonic humour. Think the opposite of po-faced.

Anna Blackie talks about How to Adult

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Margaret Kalms – Life with Endometriosis

Self published, Canberra Australia, 2019

Margaret Kalms is a photomedia artist who uses her artwork for women’s health advocacy. Her work to raise awareness for the plight of those suffering with endometriosis has resulted in an exhibition, the reproduction of her images in photography magazines, fundraising for Endometriosis support and this book.

Margaret met with 27 women with endometriosis and 17 elected to join her photographic publication project. In consultation with the 17 women who have now appeared in this publication, Margaret created a visual representation of how they felt as a result of the disease. The images express a range of emotions and experiences of pain and loss.

Barbie spoke to Margaret Kalms about Life With Endometriosis

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David Burton – The Man in the Water

University of Queensland Press, 2019
Available at independent bookstores and online sellers

This is David Burton’s debut novel, billed as young adult fiction and with two teenage boys, Shaun and Will, as the main protagonists, but an entertaining, fast-paced and thought-provoking read for adults (certainly for this one).

David Burton has previously written 30 professionally produced theatrical works and has directed productions for the Queensland Music Festival. His memoir How to be Happy won Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing in 2014.

Barbie talks to David Burton about The Man in the Water
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Gregory Baines – The Nail House

Fairlight Books, Oxford, UK, 2019

In a publishing world where so many vast fictional tomes are being created, it is refreshing to find a novella which manages to say so much so well in an economical 152 pages. The Nail House is at once a study of modern China and the inexorable path of economic growth and development and a cross cultural love story.

The story focuses on Lindon, an Australian property project manager fleeing an unhappy marriage breakup and Zhen, a real estate agent and the daughter of a family holding on to the last property required by the developer to go ahead with a huge building project – hence the term the Nail House (the hold out).

Barbie speaks with Gregory Baines about The Nail House
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Desiree Nielsen RD – Eat More Plants

Penguin, Canada, 2019

I came across Desiree Nielsen on the SBS food channel with her Urban Vegetarian show and was immediately taken not just with the things she cooked and her approach to nutrition but also with her ebullient and personable manner.

Let me start by saying that while I am a vegetarian in so much as I don’t eat meat (red or white), I am a committed eater of cheese, dairy products in general and eggs and I do eat some fish and seafood because I feel I need it.

Barbie speaks with Desiree Nielsen about Eat More Plants
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David Burton – The Man in the Water

University of Queensland Press, 2019
Available at online sellers

Cover of The Man in the Water by David Burton

This is David Burton’s debut novel, billed as young adult fiction and with two teenage boys, Shaun and Will, as the main protagonists, but an entertaining, fast-paced and thought-provoking read for adults (certainly for this one).

David Burton has previously written 30 professionally produced theatrical works and has directed productions for the Queensland Music Festival. His memoir How to be Happy won Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing in 2014.

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Michael Beashel – Succession

Self-published, 2016

Succession is the final book of The Sandstone Trilogy, in which the family saga of John Leary is concluded.

The story focusses on the winning of a contract for a vast building project, a multi-storey hotel and on the relationships and activities of the young Leary family (now blended, in the modern parlance) with Leary’s second marriage to Catherine and her son Brendan coming not the mix.

Barbie speaks to Michael Beashel about Succession
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Kerri Turner – The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers

HQ Fiction Australia, 2019

A dancer herself, Kerry Turner is in an excellent position to write about the professional aspects of dance in this historical fiction set mostly  in a tumultuous Russia between 2014 and 2017 with a postscript in Paris in 1920.

Her fictional hero and heroines are woven into the documented story of the Romanov ballet company, dancers to the Tsar. While there is considerable sympathy for the dancers and the art of ballet, the author does not flinch from the excesses of life in the Imperial orbit.

Barbie speaks with Kerri Turner about The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers
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Diane Armstrong – The Collaborator

Fiction HQ, Australia 2019

This historical novel is based on the life and deeds of Rezsö Kasztner, a controversial figure who saved over a thousand Hungarian Jews on a rescue train in 1944.

His fictional equivalent is Miklós Nagy and much of the detail is imagined but the significant plot details are taken from history including the meetings with Nazis Eichmann and Becher.

Diane Armstrong talks about The Collaborator
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Pamela Cook – Cross My Heart

Wildwords Publishing (independent), 2019

Known for her rural romance fiction, with this fifth novel, Cross My Heart,  Pamela Cook moves into new territory. Not only is the subject matter different, the book is also independently published.

The story explores the inter-generational consequences of child sexual abuse. Two promises made in adolescence and young womanhood drive the plot – one to keep a terrible secret and the other to take on the foster-mothering of her friend’s child should the need arise.

Barbie speaks with Pamela Cook about Cross My Heart
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Andrew Fuller – Your best life at any age

How to acknowledge your past, revive your present & realise your future
bad apple press 2019
Andrew Fuller is a Fellow of the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Learning and Educational Development at the University of Melbourne.

Andrew Fuller’s sympathetic invitation to reflect on our lives and the choices available to us is an absorbing read. After all we are all interested in our ‘selves’, and rightly so, because how else can we expect to make the most of the gift of our lives?

 The book is divided into age groups – the stages of life we pass through if we are fortunate   – and we are advised to perhaps first read our own age bracket and then the ones either side of it – we can see what 500,000 other people have experienced and how we fit into that wealth of life stories. We can also see what we were doing in comparison with others at certain times of life.

Barbie talks to Andrew Fuller about Your Best Life at Any Age
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LJM Owen – The Great Divide

Echo, Australia, 2019

LJM Owen is the Director of the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet Tasmania and will appear at the festival between 1 and 3 November 2019.

LJ departs from her inter-millenial sleuth series to introduce us to a new hero, Jake Hunter, in a dark tale of decades of child abuse in a small fictitious Tasmanian town called Dunton.

Leaving his police job in Melbourne to escape a personal drama, Jake thinks his posting to Dunton will be a chance for a quiet time to regroup and consider his future, enjoy the peace and mind-space of the rural setting and do some rock climbing.

Barbie talks to LJM Owen about The Great Divide
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