Monday Inspo

Now this is some advice we are happy to take on board!This week on the blog we’re diving into the delightful topic of festive food and will be bringing you ideas for platters, tapas, nibbles and drinks to wow your guests this party season.


It’s the weekend!

And that’s a wrap people! The week is coming to a close and with Melbourne’s weather being completely bonkers (we’ve gone from 38 degrees last week to 12 degrees today) it looks like it’ll be the perfect weekend for hibernating inside where it’s warm. See you on the other side!

The Best Books to Read on a Staycation

Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from routine. But instead of packing a suitcase and rushing for flights and eating plane food, it’s refreshing to have a staycation, holiday in your local city and at night read a book in the comfort of your own home. 

We have pulled together a list of the top selling books that the Northern Hemisphere have been enjoying over their summer to share with anyone who fancies a holiday at home…before the frantic festive season begins. 

So slap on some sunscreen (here’s looking at you Melbourne) and pull up a sun lounger as we have six fabulous books to transport you out of your routine.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. Every year the Levin children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic island home, but this year it’s not to be. Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby is caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests with her friend Mary Jo Kopechne. And Tiger, the only son, has just been deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie, the youngest of them all, suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother who is hiding secrets of her own. As the summer heats up, Teddy Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man walks on the moon, and Jessie experiences some sinking and flying herself, as she grows into her own body and mind. 

Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Grinder

Family vacations always come with baggage.

The Wright family is in ruins. Sue Ellen Wright has what she thinks is a close-to-perfect life. A terrific career as a Classics professor, a loving husband, and a son who is just about to safely leave the nest. But then disaster strikes. She learns that her husband is cheating, and that her son has made a complete mess of his life. So, when the opportunity to take her family to a Greek island for a month presents itself, she jumps at the chance. This sunlit Aegean paradise, with its mountains and beaches is, after all, where she first fell in love with both a man and with an ancient culture. Perhaps Sue Ellen’s past will provide the key to her and her family’s salvation.

With his signature style of biting wit, hilarious characters, and deep emotion, Grant Ginder’s Honestly, We Meant Well is a funny, brilliant novel proving that with family, drama always comes with comedy.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is everywhere. Wherever we turn, be it online or instore, or on a tram we spot someone reading this book. If the fame of Eat, Pray, Love is anything to go by, we think this book is definitely worth another look at.

 It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg’s charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses. Exile in New York is no exile at all- here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company’s most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new. ‘At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is,’ she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Full of warmth and laugh-out-loud funny, the new novel from the author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close – so when their dying mother instructs them to go on a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites, the sisters are forced together as they haven’t been for years. Rajni is an archetypal eldest child – bossy, knows best, always right – but her perfect son dropped a devastating bombshell before she left and now she’s floundering. Middle sister Jezmeen was always a loudmouth, translating her need for attention into life as a struggling actress. But her career is on the skids after an incident went viral and now she’s desperate to find her voice again. Shirina has always been the perfect sister, who confounded expectations by having the most traditional arranged marriage of them all and moving to the other side of the world. But her perfect marriage isn’t what it seems and time is running out to make the right choice. Each sister has her own reasons for agreeing to this ludicrous trip, and as the miles rack up, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out. 

We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

Katie Cleary has always known exactly what she wants: to be the best skier in the world. As a teenager, she leaves her home to live and train full time with her two best friends, all-American brothers Luke and Blair, whose wealthy father has hired the best coaches money can buy. Together, they are the USA’s best shot at bringing home Olympic gold.

But as the upward trajectory of Katie’s elite skiing career nears its zenith, a terrifying truth about her sister becomes impossible to ignore—one that will lay ruin not only to Katie’s career but to her family and her relationship with Luke and Blair.

With her life shattered and nothing left to lose, Katie flees the snowy mountainsides of home for Buenos Aires. There, she reinvents herself as Liz Sullivan, and meets a colourful group of ex-pats and the alluring, charismatic Gianluca Fortunado, a tango teacher with secrets of his own. This beautiful city, with its dark history and wild promise, seems like the perfect refuge, but can she really outrun her demons?

In alternating chapters, Katie grows up, falls in love, and races down the highest peaks on the planet—while Liz is reborn, falls into lust, and sinks into the underground tango scene at the bottom of the world. From the moneyed ski chalets of the American West to the dimly lit milongas of Argentina, We Came Here to Forget explores what it means to dream, to desire, to achieve, and what’s left behind after it all disappears.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in . . . well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (ugh) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of online contests (double ugh). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man. Olive just has to get through twenty-four hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party – except for Olive and Ethan – gets food poisoning, there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs. Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him becomes a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of . . . lucky. The Unhoneymooners is a heartwarming and hilarious romance perfect for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.

Enjoy!

In praise of slowness

Journalist Carl Honore believes the Western world’s emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life. But there’s a backlash brewing, as everyday people start putting the brakes on their all-too-modern lives. Take some time for yourself and enjoy this Ted Talk.

Monday Inspo

Everyone needs a break now and then, and with the year coming to a close (can you believe it is November already) a staycation may be just what you need. This week on the blog we’re sharing the best books to read at home that will make you feel like you have had a holiday.

The Creepiest and Spookiest Books on the Market

Do you like your Halloween cute and funny, or dark and scary? While I definitely prefer cute and funny – I’m such a scaredy cat that I cannot handle horror – I do have a weakness for fist-clenching, frantic-feeling crime thrillers. Whether it’s fast-paced and action-packed, or stealthy slow-burning, you won’t want to stop reading a well-written thriller. Here are some recently published thrillers that will give you a delicious chill this Halloween week.

It Should Have Been Me by Susan Wilkins

Fans of TV crime dramas will love Susan Wilkins’ writing style, developed over decades as a scriptwriter. Jo Biden was only a child when her older sister Sarah was brutally murdered at university. Sarah’s boyfriend, Nathan, was convicted of the killing.  Now, with his impending release, a documentary film-maker – and uni friend of both Sarah and Nathan – is ready to prove Nathan’s innocence.  Revisiting the case is pitting Jo’s professional life (as a rising police detective) against her personal life, where family loyalties and emotions encourage her to question the evidence.  It Should Have Been Me offers many flawed but believable characters – including the likeable protagonist Jo – and top-notch character development. It is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Susie Steiner

The Secret by K L Slater

K L Slater has many bestsellers under her belt, and The Secret shows her in their prime.  The Secret revolves around two sisters, Alice and Louise.  Louise is elegant and successful, living a seemingly-perfect life; whereas Alice is a wreck, anxious and reclusive.   Louise and Alice were estranged until Louise started leaving her son, 8 year-old Archie, in Alice’s care while she works. What Louise doesn’t know – and what Alice is trying to discover – is that Archie has a secret.  One that he won’t tell because it could destroy his family… The Secret uses flashbacks and multiple narrators to give us rich characterisation, revealing why the two sisters have turned out so differently. K L Slater has also created a nice balance between the tension and the intrigue, and the growing connection between Alice and Archie.  The Secret promises to be a new favourite of fans of Girl on the Train and Gone Girl!

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are four women who work for Truviv, an athleisure company.  They’re all struggling with work-life balance and with countering casual and institutional sexism in their workplace – something that even relative wealth and privilege doesn’t shield them from.  When their boss, the predatory Ames, looks likely to become the next CEO, these women decide that enough is enough.  They fight back by adding Ames’ name to a viral, online “BAD Men list”, and by filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ames and Truviv.  What happens next is tense, viciously funny… and will surprise you.  Whisper Network is a thriller of the #MeToo era, weaving themes of gender politics, power balances and office culture through its mystery / legal thriller plot. Chandler Baker, herself a lawyer with a young family, has recreated a setting that is highly recognisable.  Whisper Network is a highly addictive read endorsed by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club.

A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson

How far would you go to protect your child? This is the question Adam (a pastor) and Ulrika (a criminal lawyer) must face when their 17 year-old daughter is charged with a brutal murder. While they instinctively stand by Stella, this crime and its aftermath batter them with parental guilt, protectiveness, moral dilemmas, and doubt. A Nearly Normal Family is told in three parts, narrated in turn by Adam, Stella and Ulrika.  These three strands – which don’t always match up – challenge us to question their reliability and biases.  This is both a domestic drama and a courtroom thriller, particularly affecting because Stella’s family seems so ordinary.  A Nearly Normal Family is the first of M. T. Edvardsson’s works to be translated into English, and it definitely upholds the excellent reputation of Scandinavian crime fiction.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Jess is a young makeup artist struggling to make ends meet in New York City.  When she learns of a lucrative research study being done by a respected psychiatrist, she tricks her way into participating (the irony being that the study is about ethics and morality). As the study progresses, the supportive mentor/protege relationship between Jess and Dr Lydia Shields turns increasingly sinister, with directions to attempt increasingly personal, uncomfortable roleplaying tasks.  An Anonymous Girl is a novel of chilling suspense and obsession.  Readers quickly start sharing Jess’ sense of dread and desperation as she realises she is up against a master manipulator.  An Anonymous Girl is a worthy sophomore effort from the team behind the bestselling The Wife Between Us.

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

The Neighbour is a psychological thriller about a neighbourhood devastated by a serial killer.  The neighbourhood seems quiet and ordinary – but its inhabitants all have secrets to hide… and one of them is the killer.  For newcomers the Lockwood family, and for investigating detective Wildeve Stanton, the race is on to reveal the psychopath from behind his/her harmless mask.  The Neighbour has taken this classic premise and spun it into story full of horror, menace and trepidation. Fiona Cummins has created a memorable killer, who narrates part of the story in a highly unsettling way.  She also induces a creeping sense of claustrophobia by confining most of the action to one single street.  The Neighbour is a dark story, full of twists and turns, that will keep you guessing right to the end.

Zombie roaches and other parasite tales

In this hilarious and ever-so-slightly creepy talk, science writer Ed Yong tells the story of his favorite parasites; animals and organisms that live on the bodies (and brains!) of other organisms, causing them to do their bidding. Just the thing to get you in the mood for Halloween.