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.

Stephen Hart – The Widow and Mr Cat

In Sweet Christmas Secrets: A Regency Romance Holiday Anthology
Independently published and available through Amazon

Stephen Hart’s The Widow and Mr Cat is a novella length story in this generous tome of romances by authors Ebony Oaten, Erin Grace, Joanne Austen Brown, Susanne Bellamy, Isabella Hargreaves,  Fiona M Marsden, Clyve Rose, Heidi Wessman Kneale and Catherine Bilson.

Barbie talks to Stephen Hart about The Widow and Mr Cat
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Nic Naitanui and Fátima Anaya – Little Nic’s Big World

Albert Street Books, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

Biographies by well-known sporting entities have long been part of the big book industry, particularly making an appearance around Christmas. In recent times quite a number of high profile sports people have published children’s picture books such as this one.

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Carol Major – The Asparagus Wars

ES-Press, an imprint of Spineless Wonders, Australia, 2021
Cover illustration and design Bettina Kaiser and Imogen Rowe

This is a memoir, a series of almost stream of consciousness letters to the author’s dead daughter alluding to parts of her own life and their years together, including those leading up to her daughter’s death. It is an exquisitely painful and painfully exquisite work, not least because it is not fiction.

Carol Major talks about The Asparagus Wars
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Dorothy Johnston – The Lodeman

For Pity Sake Publishing, Australia, 2021

Disclosure: I was the commissioned cover and internals designer for this book.

The Lodeman is the fourth in Dorothy Johnston’s sea-change mystery series, crime stories set in the Victorian seaside town of Queenscliff. Dorothy’s readers will have been anticipating this book and will enjoy, once again, her strong evocation of place, her skill in character development and the use of almost theatre script dialogue.

Dorothy Johnston discusses The Lodeman with Barbie
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Graeme Base public online panel – Belconnen Arts Centre

11 am Wednesday 27 October 2021
Zoom webinar, free registration

Celebrated Australian author and illustrator Graeme Base, known for his hugely popular books Animalia and The Eleventh Hour, will explore creativity, storytelling and why children’s books are not just for kids.

Graeme Base will join panellists Dr Belle Alderman, Director of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, Tania McCartney, Canberra based author, editor and illustrator; and moderator Sarah Steed, Libraries ACT Director of Content and Engagement for this stimulating online conversation hosted by Belco Arts during Children’s Week.

Canberra based author, editor and illustrator Tania McCartney talks to Barbie about children’s literature
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Polly Marsden and Chris Nixon – The Australian Climate Change Book

Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books, Australia, 2021

With children and schools now routinely practising daily sorting and recycling of food scraps and classroom waste, students leading climate strike actions around the world and young folk like Greta Thunberg a household name, it seems to me that this book will be one kids can use to help nudge their parents into action.

Barbie speaks with Polly Marsden about The Australian Climate Change Book
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Maura Pierlot – Fragments

Big Ideas Press, Australia, 2021
Cover design Monique-Mai Designs

Fragments was a very successful performance at The Street Theatre in Canberra in 2019 as part of ACT Mental Health Month. This book is the reworked script for that show.

It is also a study guide for theatre makers and teachers – a ‘how to’ document which users can adapt or lift as a whole into their own circumstances or educational setting.

Maura Pierlot talks about Fragments
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Isabelle Duff and Susannah Crispe – Cookie

EK Books, Australia, 2021

This gentle book draws our attention to the issue of childhood depression and its effect on the whole family. The story is told in the voice of Cookie, a dog who comes into the life of Girl, a child who is often sad.

Isabelle Duff and Susannah Crispe talk about Cookie
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Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie – The Curiosities

Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette, Australia, 2021

This wonderfully gentle book reminds us to see ‘wonders and possibles’. Inspired by the author’s personal life, her experience of having a child with Tourette Syndrome, the book pays quiet homage to diversity of all kinds, to divergent thinking and the many ways people can see the world. It is about knowing and accepting that we are not all the same and that these differences make us better as a society.

Zana Fraillon talks to Barbie about The Curiosities
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Jacquie Byron – Happy Hour

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

What a very cheering novel this is, albeit dealing predominantly with the issue of grief after the loss of a long-time dearly beloved spouse. Jacquie Byron has captured that universal but at the same time highly individual response to unbearable loss with affection and humour in the character of Franny Calderwood.

Jacquie Byron talks about Happy Hour
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Sarah Bailey – The Housemate

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

This is a suspenseful crime thriller with an investigative journalist as its protagonist. Oli Groves is a new character for the author, known for her Gemma Woodstock trilogy. She’s an old-school print media journalist who believes in thorough research and well crafted long form articles.

Barbie speaks with Sarah Bailey about The Housemate
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Chris Hammer – Treasure and Dirt

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

What a cracker of a crime novel this is, with multiple intricate story lines to follow, a rich assortment of distinctly quirky characters and themes of abuse, power and justice hanging heavily over a vast and dusty landscape. With Treasure and Dirt, Chris Hammer, yet again, proves himself to be a master of his craft.

Chris Hammer talks about Treasure and Dirt
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Joanna Nell – The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital

Hachette, Australia, 2021

As with Joanna Nell’s three previous books, this one focusses on the ageing woman, on society’s attitudes to them and their own needs and strengths.

In this case, however, there is the added lens of a young character in the person of Chloe,17 at the start of the story, and on a Duke of Edinburgh Award placement at the hospital cafeteria run by the commanding Hilary Halliday and her jovial if often chivvied assistant, Joy Grainger. These two ladies are in their seventies.

Joanna Nell talks to Barbie about The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital
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Steve Matthews – Hitler’s Assassins

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2021

Hitler’s Assassins is the second book in Steve Matthews’ trilogy (book 3 upcoming). Steve was inspired to write this series by experiences with Polish friends and his own visit to Auschwitz. The works are focussed on Hitler and lesser known aspects of the Nazi regime during World War 11.

Barbie talks to Steve Matthews about Hitler’s Assassins
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Harry Laing and Anne Ryan – Rapperbee – Poems to Give you a Buzz

Ford St Publishing, Australia, 2021

Harry Laing’s poetry and Anne Ryan’s illustrations marry perfectly in this collection, exuding energy and a delight in the wonders of the everyday. Indeed, the poet’s intent is to ‘normalise’ poetry, to make it an easy, accessible vehicle for ideas, observations and feelings.

Barbie gave Harry Laing a buzz to talk about Rapperbee
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