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.

Charity Norman – Remember Me

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2022
Cover design by Christabella Design
Cover photo Jonathan Astin

A cold case mystery begins this story, the disappearance of Leah Parata in 1994 in the farming and wilderness area of Tawanui in New Zealand. In 2019, when the contemporary story strand is told, the disappearance remains an unsolved case and a cloud of fear and uncertainty still hangs over the community.

Charity Norman talks about Remember Me
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Tony Bernard – The Ghost Tattoo

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2022
Cover design by Mika Tabata
Cover photos the author’s collection

In telling his father’s story of his Holocaust experiences as a Polish Jew, stories of Tomaszów,  Treblinka and Auschwitz, Tony Bernard has not only created a memoir and provided a deeper view of this bigger story, but he has also crafted a deeply affecting account of his quest to know and understand  his father.

Barbie spoke to Tony Bernard about The Ghost Tattoo
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Nicole Hurley-Moore – Summer at Kangaroo Ridge

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2022
Cover design by Mika Tabata
Cover photo Getty Images

Rural romance is a very popular genre in Australia and Nicole Hurley-Moore certainly knows how to grab her readers – this is the seventh of her books and it’s bound to be as successful as its predecessors. Many people are grasping for some cheerfulness in dark times and this author is a fan of happy, or at least positive, endings.

Nicole Hurley-Moore discusses Summer at Kangaroo Ridge with Barbie
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Margaret Cameron – Under a Venice Moon

Hachette, Australia, 2022
Cover design by Christobella Designs
Cover photo Dmitry Ruhlenko/Alamy

At the same time a memoir and an insightful observation of the city of Venice and the pressures of the modern era on a fragile environment, Under a Venice Moon is a thoroughly engaging read.

Margaret Cameron talks about Under a Venice Moon
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Library Lovers with Maya Linnell

3rd Wednesday of every month at 7pm online AEDT
Ben’s Book Club with Ben Hobson
4th Tuesday of every month at 7pm AEDT

In Library Lovers with Maya Linnell, each online event features guests, including an author, a lifestyle expert and a local librarian. During this discussion, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions, interact with the guests, and enjoy a light-hearted engaging conversation with industry leaders about books, gardening, and cooking.

Barbie spoke to Maya Linnell about Library Lovers
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Joanna Beresford – The Branded Ones

Next Chapter Publishing, remote team with offices in Japan and the UK, 2021
Cover art by CoverMint

Joanna Beresford’s previous work reviewed on our site, Every Year I am Here, fell into the historical fiction genre.

The latest is contemporary fiction, very much concerned with issues of connection, family and community. In that curious way of the six degrees of separation theory, three apparently disparate characters turn out to be quite intimately connected.

Barbie spoke to Joanna Beresford about The Branded One
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Memoir and essay meet in two books on military matters

Alan J. Jones – Some of Life’s Ups and Downs and
13th Corps – A Short History – 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Rifle Volunteers (1858-1908)
Independently published, Australia, 2022

I wouldn’t normally bundle two books together in a review but these are so closely related that I have done so for Alan J. Jones’ recently published works.

What marries them is that they are largely stories of a military nature, or more accurately, which refer to military matters and the issues which arise from them.

Barbie spoke to Alan J. Jones about the two books

In his collection of short stories, the author has settled somewhere between memoir and essay, drawing on his childhood and other experiences to depict some fictional and some true characters and events.

Of the true accounts, the death of his father when Alan was just seven years old is particularly affecting. His story about Heinrich Heinz, the German teenager who was handed a rifle and told to get out and fight, raises many issues of the ‘ethics’ of war and invites us to question how the fates place us at particular times on one side or another of a conflict.

Alan’s interest in the human condition, in the effect of big events on the ‘ordinary person’ is clear both in his short story collection and in the military history, which he has produced about the development and decline of the volunteer rifle corps in Staffordshire.

This piece goes well beyond an account of militia matters and looks at the village life of the volunteers. It also examines the whole business of class and privilege in English society.

In both of these books, we feel the need the author has had to express matters of childhood, of his early life in Britain and of the lot of the working people so affected by social and economic change. The area in which he spent his early years was a pottery manufacturing district, and the town where the RVC was based was a mix of intense poverty and relative bourgeoisie.

But, behind it all lay the whim of the upper classes, the privileged and wealthy who benefitted from the work of the townsfolk whether it were in the pottery business or in the bearing of arms to protect inherited land and holdings.

Alan J. Jones clearly likes a story, and he takes us wandering into all sorts of interesting facts and background details about the people and the times, delivering a record that spans not only the titular 60 years of the RVC but right into the early 20th century and his own boyhood. School dinners and the rough-necking of local boys even get a mention.

He well and truly nails his colours to the mast in pointing out the injustices of the British class system and the absurdities and sadnesses of some of our histories.

The books are available via Amazon.

Thank you to Alan for my review copies and for spending time with me chatting about the books and many other things of interest.

Waiting for Gonski – How Australia Failed its Schools

Tom Greenwell and Chris Bonner
NewSouth Publishing, UNSW Press, 2022

It was in his early years as a teacher in Canberra that Tom Greenwell began to wonder about systemic issues which might be making his job, and that of his colleagues, harder.

Like thousands of others, his school made submissions to a review of school funding initiated in 2010 by then Education Minister Julia Gillard and headed by businessman David Gonski.

Richard spoke to Tom Greenwell about Waiting for Gonski – How Australia Failed its Schools
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Emma Viskic – Those Who Perish

Those Who Perish cover

Echo Publishing, Australia, 2022
Cover design Sandy Cull
Cover images Charles Stirling; David Wall; Olivia Abbott

When Chris Hammer, Dervla McTiernan, Christian White and Garry Disher provide your cover endorsements, you know you’ve got it right.

Those Who Perish is the 4th in the Caleb Zelic series and is indeed a pinnacle in the author’s tense, atmospheric crime writing.

Emma Viskic talks to Barbie about Those Who Perish
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Candice Lemon-Scott – Ocean Warriors – The Rise of Robo-shark

Storytorch Press, Australia, 2022
Cover and internals design Flo+Ebb Design
Cover illustrations Mardi Davies

This is a book that will immediately strike a chord with young readers. Not only does it deal with a number of environmental issues with which young folk are deeply concerned, but it is also written in a style which they will recognise as their own speech and writing patterns.

Candice Lemon-Scott talks about Ocean Warriors – The Rise of Robo-shark
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Nore I. Hoogstad – Gunfire Lullabies

Independently published, Australia, 2021

Written by a former diplomat, Gunfire Lullabies is a fictionalised account of the dramatic lead-up and events of the independence ballot in East Timor in 1999. The novel follows the daily lives of main characters Australian diplomat Ava and young Timorese woman Isabel as they negotiate the horrors of wholesale slaughter, threats to their personal safety and the challenging vicissitudes of surviving in these turbulent times.

Barbie spoke to Nore Hoostad about Gunfire Lullabies
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Kerri Maher – The Paris Bookseller

Headline Review, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group, USA, 2022
Published in Australia by Hachette, 2022

The remarkable life and times of Sylvia Beach, founder of Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris in 1919 and first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, are the bones of this excellent historical novel by US author Kerri Maher.

Barbie spoke to Kerri Maher about The Paris Bookseller
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Maryrose Cuskelly – The Cane

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2022
Cover design Luke Causby/Blue Cork

Whilst this is a rural crime fiction novel, it is also a striking and astute observation of Australian society in the 1970s. Set in a fictitious cane region in Queensland, the story centres on the investigation into the disappearance of a local teenager.

Barbie speaks to Maryrose Cuskelly about The Cane
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Emily Brugman – The Islands

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2022
Cover design and drawing Alissa Dinallo

The Islands is utterly beautiful. Emily Brugman’s writing is sublime, an immersive, deliciously slow sinking for the reader into place and time.

Emily Brugman talks to Barbie about The Islands
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Harry Saddler – Questions Raised by Quolls

Affirm Press, Australia, 2022
Cover design Christa Moffitt, Christabella Designs

This gentle book sits between memoir and philosophical treatise, between science and sentiment. It raises many questions we all must consider, holding up the quoll as its optimistic example.

Barbie talks to Harry Saddler about Questions Raised by Quolls
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