My Year in Books

All right, let’s do something frivolous for the Silly Season…

I am inspired to do this by Lisa at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog:

The rules are: Using only books you have read this year (2021), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Links in the titles will take you to my reviews.

In high school I was The Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

People might be surprised by Questions Raised by Quolls by Harry Saddler

I will never be The Cook by Wayne Macauley

My life in lockdown was like The Lonely Century by Loreena Hertz

My fantasy job is The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard

At the end of a long day I need Whole Notes by Ed Ayres

I hate being The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks

Wish I had The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser

My family reunions are Homecoming by Ellie Shiosaki

At a party you’d find me with Merchant Adventurers by James Evans

I’ve never been to Convict-Era Port Arthur by David W Cameron

A happy day includes The Things We See In the Light by Amal Awad

Motto I live by: If Not Us by Mark Smith

On my bucket list is (a journey on) The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett

In my next life, I want to have The Art of The Engine Driver by Steven Carroll

Now, over to you, and thank you, Lisa.

View from The Hill: For Morrison AUKUS is all about the deal, never mind the niceties (from The Conversation)

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison, whose COVID face masks have the Australian flag emblazoned on them, likes to talk about “the Australian way” of doing things and Australian values.

But it is not “the Australian way” to secretly plan, over a very long time, to deceive a close friend of this country, and then to treat them in a most humiliating and disdainful manner. That does not align with “Australian values” of honesty and fair dealing.

If Australia is really surprised an angry French government has withdrawn its ambassador from Canberra (as well as its ambassador from Washington) it suggests it has no grasp of the proprieties of international diplomacy.

To add insult to injury, on Sunday Defence Minister Peter Dutton suggested the Australian government had been “upfront, open and honest” – the French could have read the signals of our discontent with their $90 billion submarines contract, including in Senate estimates hearings. This latter reference brought to mind then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggesting to Barack Obama that if he’d kept up with the Northern Territory News he’d have known about Australia’s lease of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese.

Read more: C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?

As recently as the end of August, Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne held the “Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations” with their French counterparts. In the “bilateral cooperation” section of the communique came the sentence: “Ministers underlined the importance of the Future Submarine program”.

It’s telling that the unveiling of the new AUKUS agreement last week was surrounded by more showmanship than diplomacy. The leaders of Australia, the US and Britain were successfully linked for a synchronised performance. But Morrison apparently did not manage to speak personally to French President Macron when a massive contract was being torn up.

AUKUS carries Morrison’s individual branding. It may be the most significant legacy of his prime ministership; however long he is in office, it will certainly be one of them.

It has all the Morrison hallmarks: his own work, conceived and executed in secrecy, kept to the smallest possible round of colleagues, details to be worked out much later, and little concern for the incidental fallout.

If, 30 years on, historians rate it as a stroke of strategic foresight that greatly protected Australia in a time of Chinese potential aggression, Morrison will deserve all the credit. He says he’s been working for 18 months on this – the mustering of a new Anglosphere in our region – and he has managed to pull it off with Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, who both had their own reasons for being receptive.

On the other hand, if after 30 years, AUKUS is judged in the rear vision mirror to have escalated tensions with China to a greater degree than it protected us from Chinese aggression, history’s judgement will be different.

Even as we’re consumed by the short term, it is always worth a look at the long view. Especially when Afghanistan is fresh in our minds – a commitment that was necessary initially, but ended in a fiasco that has restored the Taliban.

Morrison’s planned nuclear-powered subs come without any estimated cost (except they’ll be more expensive than the French ones); or precise timetable (except they won’t be available for a couple of decades); or decision about which boat will be chosen (except it will be American or British), or firm indication of how much building will be done in Australia (except that it won’t be all of it and possibly only a modest amount).

If any of these aspects returns to bite, blame will (or should) rest on Morrison’s head, whether he’s around or not.

Then there’s the French relationship to manage. How long their fury will last is anybody’s guess. But given their interests in the region, it is no small thing to deliver this rebuff in what can only be seen as a crass manner.

Marise Payne may not be of great use in repairing the tear in the relationship. Her diplomatic credibility is one of the immediate casualties of the affair, especially after the recent ministerial talks. One can only imagine how the feisty Julie Bishop would have reacted to being left so compromised.

With Australia’s ambition for a free trade agreement with the European Union in mind, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, flak jacket packed, is off to Paris next week.

Also important is the message that’s been sent to some key regional countries. Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed concerns. The risk is Australia could be seen as an unexpectedly capricious player in the way it operates.

AUKUS is a mark of the supremacy of the hawks in Canberra. Although Morrison said he started planning it with former defence minister Linda Reynolds, it is a precise fit for current minister Dutton.

In thinking about defence strategy, governments of both complexions have circled around questions of long range capability, of which nuclear-powered submarines are part.

But it was not until Morrison, in the lead up to the 2020 defence strategic update, started to push Reynolds and the defence establishment to contemplate the acquisition – and potential use – of such weaponry that the real momentum came. In Dutton, Morrison has a defence minister who not only shares his instinct on this, but has a full time focus on it.

Read more: C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?

Some months ago the secretary of the home affairs department, Mike Pezzullo, himself a hawk, wrote of hearing the “drums of war”. It was obvious well before that Australia was preparing to refurbish and expand its own drum set in the face of an assertive China already targeting Australia economically.

Dutton and others have increasingly dropped the government’s earlier attempt to avoid naming China as the potential enemy, even if we haven’t quite got back to the red arrows from the north of those 1960s depictions.

One problem with the subs deal is that, given the pace at which things move, a China-US military blow-up over Taiwan (if it comes to that) could be done and dusted, with god knows what consequences, by the time the boats are in the water. No wonder the talk now is of leasing a sub or two to fill in the gap, given the inadequacy of the Collins-class submarines we now operate.

It should be noted, incidentally, that some commentators expert in these things say the French nuclear-powered subs (as opposed to the conventionally-powered ones we’re ditching) would be more suitable to our needs than the US or UK boats.

The government says the problem is they’d need their nuclear power refuelled every seven to ten years offshore (because Australia wouldn’t have the nuclear facility), while US and UK subs are powered for their lifetimes. That would not seem a great difficulty, but obviously reworking the French deal would not have delivered the big technological and other advantages of going the full monty with the AUKUS partners.

AUKUS will bring Australia a whole lot of other US weaponry and more boots on Australian ground.

This takes us to the future of the Port of Darwin. Just as the Coalition has botched for years its attempts to get new submarines, so the Northern Territory awarding a Chinese company the lease of the Port of Darwin was a massive snafu.

It’s no good the federal Coalition saying it was all the NT government’s fault. The defence department knew about it and wasn’t worried.

Now the Morrison government has a review of the lease in train. In light of AUKUS, with enhanced military assets in the north and our assessment of the Chinese, it would seem a logical absurdity to let the lease stand. And yet quashing it would be another demonstration of Australia’s unreliability on done deals. It’s a mess.

Read more: ANZUS without NZ? Why the new security pact between Australia, the UK and US might not be all it seems

AUKUS will no doubt have a good many more consequences. One (not formally or totally linked of course) is expected to be a more ambitious climate policy from Australia, which Joe Biden has been urging on the Morrison government for the Glasgow climate conference.

Morrison in coming weeks will want to deliver to Biden (and Johnson), although we don’t know the extent of that delivery, or whether Barnaby Joyce will find himself struggling with any collateral fallout among his own people.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Aurealis Awards | Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards

Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards

Source: Aurealis Awards | Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards

Scrolling down to the BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL section, I can recommend those in bold. I need to read the others.

The Subjects, Sarah Hopkins (Text Publishing)

Aurora Rising, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin) 

The Trespassers, Meg Mundell (UQP)

The Year of the Fruit Cake, Gillian Polack (IFWG Publishing Australia)

The Glad Shout, Alice Robinson (Affirm Press)

Daughter of Bad Times, Rohan Wilson (Allen & Unwin

Congratulations to the nominees!

Some of my favourite books in 2019

So far this year, I’ve finished reading 249 books.  So, I’ve set myself the task of identifying some favourites. And it wasn’t easy: I’ve read a lot of great books this year.

When I started to write this post, I intended to limit myself to ten books under each heading.  Easy, I thought.  Hmm.  I managed to achieve that restraint under one heading only (favourite fiction reads by Australian men).


Have you read any of these books?  Would they appear on your list of favourite books?  What would your list of favourite books for 2019 look like?


Here are my favourite nonfiction reads (in no particular order):

Saga Land                                                                              by Richard Fidler and Kári Gíslason

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

by Robert A Caro

Stasiland                                                                                by Anna Funder

From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage                      by Judith Brett

You Daughters of Freedom                                                 by Clare Wright

Am I Black Enough For You?                                              by Anita Heiss

Banking Bad                                                                           by Adele Ferguson

Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends                    by Catie Gilchrist

The Art of Growing Up                                                         by John Marsden

Pain and Prejudice                                                                by Gabrielle Jackson

Welcome to Country                                                             by Marcia Langton

Solomon’s Noose                                                                   by Steve Harris

Endeavour                                                                              by Peter Moore

The Land Before Avocado                                                   by Richard Glover

The Lonely City                                                                     by Olivia Laing



Here are my favourite fiction reads (by non-Australian authors):

The Cage                                                                                    by Lloyd Jones

The Bird King                                                                           by G Willow Wilson

The Winter of the Witch                                                        by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower                                                              by Katherine Arden

Field of Death                                                                            by Graham Brack

Laid in Earth                                                                               by Graham Brack

How We Disappeared                                                                 by Jing-Jing Lee

Lost Children Archive                                                                 by Valeria Luiselli

The Secret in Their Eyes                                                              by Eduardo Sacheri,                                                                                                                                 John T. Cullen (Translator)

The Girls at 17 Swann Street                                                       by Yara Zgheib

The Naturalist                                                                                by Thom Conroy

Three Day Road                                                                             by Joseph Boyden




Here are my favourite fiction reads (by Australian women):

The Hollow Bones                                                                          by Leah Kaminsky

Heart of the Grass Tree                                                                 by Molly Murn

The Scholar                                                                                      by Dervla McTiernan

Wundersmith (Nevermoor #2)                                                    by Jessica Townsend

The Book of Emmett                                                                      by Deborah Forster

Vasilisa the Wise                                                                            by Kate Forsyth

There Was Still Love                                                                     by Favel Parrett

Wolfe Island                                                                                   by Lucy Treloar

Paris Savages                                                                                 by Katherine Johnson

The Crimes of Billy Fish                                                              by Sarah Hopkins

Fled                                                                                                 by Meg Keneally

The Yield                                                                                        by Tara June Winch

Mountains of the Mind                                                               by Gillian Polack

The Meaning of Grace                                                                 by Deborah Forster

In The Garden of The Fugitives                                                 by Ceridwen Dovey


This Taste for Silence                                                                   by Amanda O’Callaghan

The Trespassers                                                                            by Meg Mundell


Here are my favourite fiction reads (by Australian men):

This Excellent Machine                                                               by Stephen Orr

The Year of the Beast                                                                   by Steven Carroll

Truth                                                                                               by Peter Temple

The Rip                                                                                            by Mark Brandi

Daughter of Bad Times                                                                by Rohan Wilson

Gould’s Book of Fish                                                                     by Richard Flanagan

Flames                                                                                             by Robbie Arnott

Faerie Apocalypse                                                                         by Jason Franks

The True Colour of the Sea                                                          by Robert Drewe

The Palace of Angels                                                                     by Mohammed Massoud Morsi



Can you ever have enough bookmarks?

A friend of mine recently said that every book should have its own bookmark.  Now, I have a lot of bookmarks.  Some are quite ordinary cardboard, some I’ve made myself  in cross-stitch, some lovely leather ones and a couple of fabric ones (including a very special piece of lace).  I also have one which was a spare piece of a bag handle I made for a quilted patchwork bag a few years ago.

Which got me thinking.

Like many who dabble in craft, I have a stash of fabric.  My stash also includes small pieces of fabric that I’ve either picked up from op shops or are remnants from other things I’ve made.  Some pieces are probably too small to use in any large project but have  too much potential to be discarded.  I mean, seriously, who discards fabric?  You never know when it might come in useful, right? 🙂

So, I kept thinking.  And one morning, while I was walking it occurred to me that I could make some scrappy fabric bookmarks.  So far I’ve made three (the first three photographs below show them in three stages: piecing, quilted and then finished.

The fourth photograph?  Well, I think I’d like to make some more bookmarks.  After all, you can’t have too many bookmarks can you?  Who knows, maybe other readers would like some as well.

What do you think?