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.

Kaneana May – All we have is now

Harper Collins, Australia, 2021

In this, her second novel, Kaneana May brings us a story of family. Most families will experience times of loss, grief, sadness, dispute, misunderstanding, failures of communication and petty bickering. But amidst it all there is usually love. And indeed, this is what we see in the lives of the three women at the centre of this epic tale.

Kaneana May talks about All we have is now
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Emma Bowd and Tania McCartney – Wonderful Shoes

Windy Hollow Books, Australia 2021

Emma Bowd’s lilting rhymes and Tania McCartney’s jaunty images marry beautifully in this new toddler book.

Who cannot remember their children or grandchildren clomping about in the grown-ups’ shoes? Of perhaps young parents will recall doing this themselves. And this is where the book positions itself, not just with its story of all the wonderful and varied shoes in a normal life, but in the visual perspective of a child, who of course often sees the world by looking up.

Barbie spoke to Emma Bowd and Tania McCartney about Wonderful Shoes
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Mike Lucas and Daron Parton – Let’s Build a House

Cover and internal design: Ingrid Kwong
Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia, 2021

Mike Lucas first started writing silly poems quite a while back to amuse his children. After a time this morphed into writing picture books, many of them full of fun but others also touching on major environmental themes (Vanishing, Midnight Sun, 2018) and love and friendship (Olivia’s Voice, Midnight Sun, 2017).

New Zealand based illustrator Daron Parton has been working as an illustrator since 1990 and is also an illustration tutor at Auckland University of Technology. Daron’s books include The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under Your Bed and A Crocodile in the Family.

Barbie spoke with Mike Lucas about Let’s Build a House
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Peter Rodgers – Life, Death and Other Distractions

Ginninderra Press, Australia, 2021

With his previous book Beethoven’s Tenth (self published, 2021), Peter Rodgers has proved himself to be both an astute observer of human nature and contemporary society and a highly skilled and entertaining writer.

This second publication for 2021 reveals the same keen eye and an often wry view of the world around him, but also a practised hand in the art of short story writing. The medium requires discipline in self-editing, precision in the choice of vocabulary and the capacity to quickly and deftly build character.

Peter Rodgers talks about Life, Death and other Distractions
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Judy Rafferty – Inside the Room

Ginninderra Press, Australia, 2020

In her professional life as a counselling psychologist, Judy Rafferty spends a lot of time listening to people. Some of the poetry in this collection is the result of hearing stories from people who needed to share them, to unburden their feelings by talking. The author unburdens hers by writing.

Barbie talks to Judy Rafferty about Inside the Room
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Damian Balassone – Strange Game in a Strange Land

Wilkinson Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2019

It may seem strange to some regular readers of poetry that AFL footy has found a place in the genre. However, to my mind, the job of the poet is to distil experiences, observations and thoughts to an economical form – and what the subject matter may be is of less importance than the communication itself.

Barbie talks to Damian Balassone about Strange Game in a Strange Land
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Review: Kill the Major by Paul Malone

First published 2020 in Malaysia by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre
Republished in Australia in 2020 by For Pity Sake Publishing

This review by Dr A.T. Ross is republished by kind permission of For Pity Sake Publishing

Despite its catchy and slightly misleading title, this is an important work on a long-ignored part of the Second World War in North Borneo.

Major Tom Harrisson led a party of 42 soldiers sent to gather intelligence prior to the landings of Australian forces in Borneo in 1945. Little was known about the natives, the terrain, or Japanese operations in the area of prime interest, the border ranges of British North Borneo and the Dutch East Indies.

Barbie spoke to Paul Malone about Kill the Major
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Tabitha Bird – the emporium of imagination

Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books, Australia 2021

Intimacy and loss are the stuff of this compassionate story – love and grief. Taking as its inspiration the true story of the Wind Phone, a real place, in Iwate Prefecture, northeast Japan, the emporium of imagination is a deeply touching piece of magical realism set in Boonah (also a real place in Queensland).

Tabitha Bird talks about the emporium of imagination
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Alli Sinclair – The Codebreakers

Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, a subsidiary of Harper Collins, Australia, 2021

This latest novel by Alli Sinclair joins the slowly growing body of literary works about the role that women played in the two world wars. These stories have remained untold for decades and it is only relatively recently that popular fiction has turned its attention to them.

The women who worked in Brisbane at the rather drably named Central Bureau were responsible for codebreaking in the same way that the women of Bletchley Park were in Britain. Not only during the war but for decades after its end, their work was shrouded in secrecy and they were forbidden to talk about what they did.

Barbie talks to Alli Sinclair about The Codebreakers
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Travis Winks – Shattered

67 Days to a Family’s Self-Destruction
Big Sky Publishing, Australia , 2021

Shattered is a raw, honest account of the coming together of three tragedies in Travis Winks’ family life – events which are interconnected and which resulted in the shooting death of one family member, the attempted suicide of another and the imprisonment of a third.

Travis Winks talks about Shattered
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Rebecca Wilson – Kate Kelly

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

This fascinating account of the life and death of Kate Kelly, sister of the infamous Ned Kelly, is told with a deep feminine sensitivity. That is to say, unlike many histories, it takes a female (perhaps feminist) view of the subject and the society in which she lived.

The state of Kate’s health around the time of her death, due to possible post-natal depression, general depression, substance use and the stresses of her too brief life as a whole, give the reader much food for thought. It’s also a strongly political work, highlighting the many injustices of the time based on class and wealth.

Barbie talks to Rebecca Wilson about Kate Kelly
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Kayte Nunn – The Last Reunion

Hachette, Australia, 2021

Another fine work of historical fiction by Kayte Nunn, The Last Reunion focusses on the women of the Women’s Auxiliary Services Burma (WASBies). It’s another of the largely untold stories of the contribution of women to the Second World War effort – these plucky women were the closest to the frontline of any servicewomen in this conflict, their role being to run a mobile canteen for the soldiers in the battlefield.

Kayte Nunn talks to Barbie about The Last Reunion
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Shelly Unwin and Jedda Robbard – Hello Baby

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

This charming picture book with words by Shelly Unwin and pictures by Jedda Robbard is the perfect gift for people expecting a baby into their lives. It would also be a lovely read for parents and grandparents wishing to spend time with the sibling of a newly arrived or expected baby.

Barbie talks to Shelly Unwin about Hello Baby
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Esther Amini – Concealed

Greenpoint Press, New York, NY, 2020

This memoir of Jewish Iranian Esther Amini is at once moving and sad, funny and joyous; it is also highly instructive. For those of us who knew nothing of the history of the hidden Jews in Iran, how they came to be there and what they endured, this is indeed eye-opening.

Barbie spoke to Esther Amini in New York via Zoom
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Ben Sanders – The Devils You Know

Allen & Unwin, Australia 2021

This is a rip-snorting thriller with all the elements of a Matt Damon movie – gun toting, the drug trade, a body count to rival Midsomer Murders, conspicuous wealth, punch-ups, car chases and stuntman-worthy driving feats, conspicuous acts of daring by our hero and to some extent by our heroine, a certain chemistry between the male and female leads and a little discreet sex.

Ben Sanders discusses The Devils You Know
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