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.

Amelia McInerney and Alexandra Colombo: Jeff Giraffe – The Great Escape

Larrikin House, Australia, 2024
Design and artwork Mary Anastasiou (

What an ebullient author Amelia McInerney is, creating stories with charm, humour and quirky characters  – a delight for children and their adult reading companions!

Barbie spoke to Amelia McInerney about Jeff Giraffe – The Great Escape
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Diane Armstrong – The Wild Date Palm

HQ Fiction, an imprint of HQBooks, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers Australia P/L, Australia 2019
Cover design Darren Holt, HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover images: Magdalena Russocka/Trevillion Images; istockphoto; shutterstock

This book is based on WW1 era young Jewish activists, the Aaronsohns, who formed a secret spy ring to defeat their oppressive Turkish rulers and assist British forces in the Middle East.

Barbie talks to Diane Armstrong about The Wild Date Palm
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Samantha Tidy and  Rachel Gyan: Wollemi – Saving a Dinosaur Tree

CSIRO Publishing, Australia, 2023

We were walking around the Australian National Botanic Gardens recently and came across a Wollemi, described as a dinosaur, not because of its appearance but because of its age. The legend panel beside the tree spoke of its chance discovery by David Noble and this is indeed the springboard for Samantha Tidy’s text in Wollemi.

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Rhiân Williams and Tom Jellett – Emergency! Emergency! – Vehicles to the Rescue

Published by Wild Dog, Australia, 2022

One of the many debates in education circles is the issue of core knowledge. Is there a set of facts that everyone needs in our society? Or is it more important that young people learn how to find the information they need?

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Nikki Mottram – Killarney

University of Queensland Press, Australia, 2024
Cover design Christabella Designs
Cover photograph by Shutterstock

The second Dana Gibson crime thriller is an examination of the nature of family, including sibling relationships and maternal love. These two themes and subject lines not only propel the plot but also determine the strong character focus of the book. This is, of course, fitting with a heroine who works in child protection.

Barbie spoke to Nikki Mottram about Killarney
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Mary-Anne O’Connor – At the Going Down of the Sun

Published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, Australia, 2024
Cover design by Nikki Townsend Design @ penguin Random House Australia P/L
Cover images by Natasza Fiedotjew/Trevillion Images, RockingStock/Alamy Stock Photo, Andrew Kitching/Alamy Stock Photo, Adobe Stock

This historical fiction takes in the period immediately pre-World War I and during the war, with a reflective epilogue dated 1921. The author vividly depicts the closeness and class consciousness of Adelaide society at the time, with its typically restrictive views on the lot of women and its notions of respectability and decorum.

Mary-Anne O’Connor spoke to Barbie about At the Going Down of the Sun
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Paul Morgan – The Winter Palace

Penguin Books, Australia, 2024
Cover design Christa Moffitt, Christabella Designs © Penguin
Cover photography by Drunaa/Trevillion Images, Radoslaw Maciejewski/Shutterstock

Paul Morgan’s dark tale of events during World War II in Poland, Siberia and then the Middle East and finally with reference to Australia, is told in the first person by heroine Elisabeth and in the third person about her husband Anton. This literary device serves to inject a graphic immediacy to both stories, as if, in fact, we are seeing them with equal intimacy.

Paul Morgan talks to Barbie about The Winter Palace
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Fleur McDonald – Shock Waves

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2024
Cover design Nada Backovic
Cover images Cover images © Ysbrand Cosijn/Trevillion Images; Danny Hetherington; istock

This is the latest in the early life and career of Detective Dave novels, set at a transitional point when his boss Bob is very ill with cancer and in the throes of debilitating chemotherapy.

Barbie spoke to Fleur McDonald about Shock Waves
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Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion – The Glass House

Hachette, Australia, 2024
Cover design and illustrations by Alex Ross
Cover image Shutterstock

While The Glass House is a work of contemporary fiction, amply meeting our needs for a fast-paced plot and well-developed characters, it is also a study of the state and status of psychiatric medicine in Australia.

Prof Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion spoke to Barbie about The Glass House
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Kate Thompson – The Wartime Book Club

Published by Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2024 (an Hachette UK company)
Cover design Becky Gibbery
Cover photographs Lauren Rautenbach/Arcangel; Shutterstock

This is the sort of book that is often described as a ‘sweeping historical romance’. For me, however, what is remarkable about this excellent book is the way the author helps us to understand the intensity and horror of Occupation.

Barbie talks to Kate Thompson about The Wartime Book Club
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Gina Newton and Nandina Vines – <em>Spider Wars </em>

Wilkinson Publishing Pty Ltd, Australia, 2024
Design Alicia Freile, Tango Media
Illustrations and information section designed by Nandina Vines

The natural world conflict of Spider Wars, a picture book by Gina Newton and Nandina Vines is a story of territorial dispute between the Wolf Spiders and the Peacock Spiders. The author and illustrator also tell a kind of Romeo and Juliet tale of star-crossed lovers.

Gina Newton speaks to Barbie about Spider Wars
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Aleesah Darlison & Cheri Hughes – Super Sloth Episode 2: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2024
Cover and internal design by Cheri Hughes

Aleesah Darlison’s Super Sloth series will appeal to the legions of super-hero and intergalactic wars fans. With its mostly anthropomorphic characters, the story is a classic good versus evil tale, of the sort that fantasy readers embrace (as do readers of adult crime).

Aleesha Darlison talks to Barbie about Revenge of the Chick-Oats
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Abbey Lay – Lead Us Not

Viking Books an imprint of Penguin Books Australia, 2024
Cover design Alex Ross @ Penguin Random House Australia P/L
Cover image Source/Getty Images

While the two leads in this story are girls in their final year of high school, it is a book that will strike a chord with readers, no matter their age or gender. It’s far more than a coming of age tale and however far from the last years of school we are, we do all recall that particular agony of growing up.

Abbey Lay spoke to Barbie about Lead us Not
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Sarah Bailey – Body of Lies

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2024
Cover design Luke Causby/Blue Cork
Cover images Adobe Stock

The body snatching that occurs early in this novel will immediately flag for those of us of a certain vintage both the 17th, 18th and 19th century practice of the removal and sale of corpses for medical dissection and the fanciful sci-fi novel The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Jack Finney,1954) and film adaptations (1956, 1978, 1993 and 2007).

Sarah Bailey talks to Barbie about Body of Lies
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