Creating your own traditions for the festive season

How do you like to celebrate Christmas?  Christmas is a time when we find comfort and joy in performing familiar rituals with familiar people. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make new traditions, and indeed many have – by creating something to share with your own children or your tribe of friends, or by adopting something you’ve loved in your travels.  If you’re ready to put your own special touch on your Christmas celebrations, we’re here to help – we’ve gathered some great resources to help you make your Christmas more imaginative, creative, sustainable and authentic:

Christmas: a Biography by Judith Flanders

Social historian Judith Flanders investigates the history of Christmas in this extensive and entertaining biography.  She turns up some surprising tidbits – Christmas has long been more about merriment and feasting than about religion (even in the fourth century, Church Fathers were lamenting that people were forgetting the “true meaning of Christmas”); that the commercialisation of Christmas is not a recent problem, and that Santa was dressed in red even before the iconic Coca Cola advertisements.  The evolution of Christmas meanders from Europe towards Turkey (where the real Santa Claus supposedly lived) and even to Japan, where Judith Flanders discovers that Christmas Eve is seen as a romantic time, like Valentine’s Day, to be celebrated by couples. The wealth of detail in Christmas: a Biography is perfect for putting you in the festive mood.

Green Christmas: how to have a Joyous, Eco-friendly Holiday Season by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander with Anna Basye

“Give more, consume less” is the mantra that will help you achieve a more eco-conscious Christmas without skimping on the love and fun – it will make Christmas cheaper and less stressful too.  Green Christmas shows us how the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle ideas can work at Christmas time – a time typically associated with conspicuous consumption.  It’s packed with tips on reducing our environmental impact, from using recycled materials to make cards and gifts, choosing between a live or an artificial tree, to creating eco-responsible lighting displays. It also reminds us that even simple actions such as carpooling and swapping outfits with friends can reduce our use of limited natural resources.

 

Maggie’s Christmas by Maggie Beer

As a former northern-hemispherian who has fully embraced summery Christmases, I think the Old World can learn a thing or two from the New.  One of these is our approach to festive food – lighter dishes, emphasis on seafood, a relaxed and informal attitude to entertaining, and a willingness to incorporate new flavours.  Let Maggie Beer be your trusted guide in introducing new ideas to your Christmas menu.  Whether you’re after a twist on classics, such as roast turkey with prune and orange stuffing, or passionfruit and banana pavlova; or crowd pleasers such as gourmet pizza, pan-fried squid or espresso jellies, you’ll find recipes that will make your next season’s entertaining more memorable than ever.

 

The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater is one of my favourite authors, and this is my early Christmas present to myself.  Like his Kitchen Diaries series, the Christmas Chronicles is a journal studded with seasonal recipes – and also Nigel Slater’s love-letter to winter.  Spanning the days from November 1 to February 2, The Christmas Chronicles waxes lyrical about anything and everything wintry, from hot toddies to pantomimes to choosing Christmas trees to winter travels in Norway and Japan.  Nigel Slater’s quiet but evocative writing takes the reader straight to a cosy room with a crackling fire, book in one hand and hot drink in the other, while outside the landscape is silenced by falling snow.  The Christmas Chronicles is not just an absorbing read, but also the ultimate journalling inspiration.

 

 

Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do by Fiona Watt
The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book by Chris McVeigh

One of the best ways to get kids involved and busy at Christmas is through making decorations – there’s nothing more personal than decorating with items made by your kids or yourself, and even the wonkier pieces are sure to bring back fond memories in years to come.  The Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do offers lots of ideas in a range of crafts including Christmas decorations, cards, wrapping paper, toys and baking.  Projects are illustrated with stepwise instructions.  For those who don’t fancy paper crafts, how about making decorations from LEGO?  The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book offers detailed instructions on fifteen impressive projects, from traditional styles such as snowflake to more lighthearted ones such as a hamburger!

 

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party: Christmas Crafts, Recipes and Activities by Brandy and Matt Shay

When did ugly Christmas sweaters come back as a thing? Add some silliness to the festive season by throwing your own Ugly Christmas Sweater party.  It’s a good opportunity to hang out with friends, dress up and have lots of laughs.  You can also use this opportunity to help those less fortunate, by raising funds for charities such as Save the Children. Marketing experts Matt and Brandy Shay have done all the hard work for party-throwers by compiling this manual – suggestions for outfits (including for your pets!), decorations, food, drinks and games are all included.

The best Games, DVDs and eBooks to give this Christmas

There’s only six more weeks until we frantically decorate trees with tinsel and baubles and wrestle with tape and ribbons as we wrap pressies for all of our loved ones. But not to worry, we have your back…and can even save you from the wrapping frenzy!

We have scoured the world in search of the best games, DVDs and ebooks to give to others this Christmas. Make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and smugly do all your Christmas shopping in one big swoop! You’re very welcome.

 

Board Games

 

Dan and Phil’s Truth Bombs

Ka-Boom! This board game just about broke the internet when word got out that Dan and Phil were releasing a board game! Gather your friends and get ready – it’s time to drop some truth bombs. Answer questions about each other and prepare for funny facts, awkward admissions and random revelations that’ll cause explosions of laughter. Grab a pencil, pick a question and bombs away!

The explosively honest party game that helps you find out a bit more about your friends Lay out some Question Cards, pass around the Target Sheets and let those truth bombs fly Once all the questions are answered, prepare to hear awkward admissions, random revelations and explosions of laughter Fresh from the minds of YouTube legends, Dan & Phil Age 14+, 4 – 8 players.

 

Game of Thrones Monopoly 

When you play the Game of Thrones Monopoly, you win or you die…Wait! It’s not as serious as death but you will have to pay up, as the number 1 property board game meets the hit TV series Game of Thrones! Game of Thrones fans, brace yourselves, Winter is coming and so is the Game of Thrones Monopoly Collector’s Edition! Mr. Monopoly definitely took a wrong turn at Old Kent Road and ended up in Westeros. Get your friends and family together and join him in the world of Game of Thrones to see who will rule the Seven Kingdoms and sit on the Iron Throne. Each property square and title deed card contains a beautiful artwork from Game of Thrones and the center of the board has a stunning map of Westeros itself. This amazing Collector’s Edition allows players to invest in some of the most popular locations from the show, such as King’s Landing, Winterfell and Braavos. Traditional Houses and Hotels are transformed into custom Villages and Keeps.

 

DVDs 

 

Transformers – The Last Knight

Every legend hides a secret.
Humans are at war with the Transformers, and Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving the future lies buried in the secrets of the past and the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Now, it’s up to the unlikely alliance of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins) and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) to save the world.

 

 

The Crown – Season One

Okay, to be honest I completely binge watched this and I would love to watch it all over again. This drama follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century. As a young Elizabeth becomes Queen, she must manage major political issues and personal matters, which often clash in ways she never imagined. Created by Oscar nominee Peter Morgan, this epic tale won Golden Globes for Best Drama Series and Best Actress. Starring: Claire Foy, John Lithgow, Matt Smith.

 

 

 

The Emoji Movie 

Take an adventure in the secret world inside your smartphone to Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favourite emojis live. In this world, each Emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene (T.J. Miller), who is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal”, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker Emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, these unlikely heroes embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the code that will fix Gene.

 

 

 

ebooks

 

 

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Law students Mark, Todd and Zola wanted to change the world – to make it a better place. But these days these three disillusioned friends spend a lot of time hanging out in The Rooster Bar, the place where Todd serves drinks. As third-year students, they realise they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specialising in student loans, the three realise they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

So they begin plotting a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they have to leave law school, pretend they are qualified and go into battle with a billionaire and the FBI . . .

 

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape

This has been sitting on Booko’s most click list for most of the year and it has been selling out in bookstores all over Australia this year – it was even the subject of major theft in some book stores – that’s how popular it was!

‘This is the only money guide you’ll ever need’  – that’s a bold claim, given there are already thousands of finance books on the shelves. So what makes this one different? Well, you won’t be overwhelmed with a bunch of ‘tips’ … or a strict budget (that you won’t follow). You’ll get a step-by-step formula: open this account, then do this; call this person, and say this; invest money here, and not there. All with a glass of wine in your hand. The prefect gift for any member of the family.

 

Enjoy!

The Best Gifts For Everyone On Your Christmas List

Pack away the pumpkins and break out the festive tunes…it’s nearly the BEST time of the year!!! Christmas is only SEVEN weeks away and we have saved the day with our top picks for everyone on your Christmas List…you’re welcome!

The Home Lover

 

Plant Style by Alana Langan and Jacqui Vidal

Ferns are back in the bathroom, cacti are sitting on plant stands and hoyas are cascading from hangers. Indoor plants are the ultimate indoor accessory. Softening interiors and readily available, they are a stylist’s best friend.

However, it’s their power to transform a sterile space into an urban sanctuary that makes them more than just an inanimate prop – all you need to know is how to use them.

From the founders of coveted plant-wares studio, Ivy Muse, comes this charming guide on how to turn your home into a jungle-like retreat. With design-savvy tips and expert advice, you’ll learn all there is to know about decorating with plants and botanical styling plus the necessities like light requirements and when to water and feed. From bathroom to boudoir to every room in between, create your very own green oasis with Plant Style.

 

Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill

More people are renting now than ever before, but the rental market remains surprisingly unflexible, with many tenants banned from making even the simplest alterations, such as hanging a picture or painting a wall. Even those who have managed to take that first leap onto the property ladder often find themselves with no cash left to renovate, so their first home is just a short stop-gap to their “forever home”; they resort to a renter’s mindset, unwilling and unable to invest vast sums in the fabric of their property and instead “making do” with quick fixes. Home for Now provides a blend of both inspirational and practical advice, showing how canny tenants have transformed their stepping-stone abodes into stylish spaces.

The Dreamer

The Kinfolk Entrepreneur by Nathan Williams

Pairing insightful interviews with striking images of these men and women and their workspaces, The Kinfolk Entrepreneur makes business personal. The book profiles both budding and experienced entrepreneurs across a broad range of industries (from fashion designers to hoteliers) in cities across the globe (from Copenhagen to Dubai). Readers will learn how today’s industry leaders handle both their successes and failures, achieve work-life balance, find motivation in the face of adversity, and so much more.

 

Working Women’s Handbook by Phoebe Lovatt

In this book, millennial entrepreneur Phoebe Lovatt shares her knowledge with women everywhere who want to learn the best way to set up their own business or freelance enterprise. It’s the ultimate guide to job satisfaction, filled with practical advice on developing and driving a working life you love. Bursting with actionable tips, this book outlines an agenda for making and managing money, setting goals, and establishing success-oriented routines, with worksheets, exercises, and fool-proof “how-to” sections to help chart your course. From the lowdown on launching your own venture to a bullet-point checklist for an essential self-care regime, it will teach you to manage any dilemmas that crop up, and take the stress out of setting a budget. This no-nonsense manual comes packed with author Phoebe Lovatt’s personal insights from her own career as a successful freelance journalist, moderator, and founder of The WW Club, the leading digital resource and global community for working women worldwide.

The Student

Melts by Fern Green

Everyone loves a melted cheese sandwich – they are cheap, quick and easy to make, and don’t involve much cooking skills or special equipment. This book includes over 50 imaginative and delicious toasted sandwiches, perfect for hurried dinners, tight budgets, quick snacks or when you just don’t feel like cooking a big meal.Featuring a list of tasty bread suggestions, from filling sourdoughs and seeded multigrain to sweet brioche and fruity loaves, grilled sandwiches don’t need to be boring. Try a Bacon, guacamole and cheddar, Pulled pork and cheese or Corned beef with wholegrain mustard and gruyere. Meat-free delights include a Beetroot, rocket and goat’s cheese and a game-changing Kimchi and stilton that is to die for.They don’t all have to include cheese, either! A toasted Curry and mango chutney sandwich and a Peanut butter and honey will change the way you view this humble comfort food. And yes, there’s a whole section on sweet sandwiches that will have you drooling: Blueberries, honey and cream cheese, a Raspberry, Nutella and mascarpone, and, the most decadent of all, Roasted strawberries, brie and dark chocolate.Melted, grilled and piping-hot: it’s the only way you’ll want to eat a sandwich again.

 

Breddos Tacos by Nud Dudhia and Chris Witney

Breddos Tacos revels in being a non-traditional but incredibly inventive taco cookbook with the over 75 recipes taking flavour combinations and ingredients from cuisines from almost every continent in the world, in order to create the ultimate combination of one perfectly cooked taco piled high with complex layers of flavouring. The recipes cover tacos, tostadas & plates and are divided into beef, poultry, pig, seafood, lamb and vegetables, featuring dishes such as Barbecoa beef cheeks, Yucatan Chicken with mango habanero sauce, Green Chorizo& duck egg and Scallop Aguachile. However, the breddos recipes don’t just cover tacos (although most of the recipes can be piled onto taco-esque’edible plates’) as they also offer street food staples such as the Iberico ham cheese burger and Yucatan spatchcock chicken with Dong’s flatbreads. The guys also share the breddos story to ultimate taco-dom fame; detailing their epic taco-fuelled Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas-esque road-triparound Mexico, Miami, the Deep South and Los Angeles devised solely to discover the greatest flavour combinations in all America – on a taco. This book will sate even the greatest taco fanatic whilst also revolutionising the ingredients and dishes you can create from the miniature taco hero.

The Gentleman

More Men in This Town by Guiseppe Sanataria

More Men In This Town is an extension of Gieuseppe Santamaria’s successful first books Men In This Town and Women In This Town. In this, his third book, his focus is once again men’s fashion, but seasonally based – winter (polka dots – representing snowflakes) and summer (pin stripes – representing sunbeams).

He has once again travelled broadly to capture candid street shots of men in Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Paris, Florence, Madrid, New York and LA. As well, the book includes written profiles (mini interviews on style and fashion choices) with men in different cities and notes on his subjects’ different style directions.

 

Man Made by Dan Jones

With the rise of perfectly preened sports stars, online dating, and the dreaded selfie stick, every man worth his salt wants to look his best. Male grooming is no longer about being vain: it s essential. A real man has a stylish haircut, conditions his beard, manscapes, moisturises, wears decent shoes, takes the right vitamins, and is probably hitting the gym right now to hone his physique. Feeling confused? Fear not, because Dan Jones is here to guide you through everything you ever needed to know about personal grooming. From man-buns and mustaches to eye cream, facials, and buying a decent suit, this is a dapper DIY guide for all men, from teens to dads, who want to look their best year-round.

The Crafter

Roped In by Gemma Patford

Let Gemma rope you in to create a range of fun, accessible DIY projects all aimed to help you dress up the everyday. Gemma employs her famous ropework and all around craft genius to offer a range of projects and crafty tricks to make your life more fabulous. Looking for a macramé plant hanger to spruce up your living room? Want to create a swanky dog lead for your favourite pet? Looking to give your next dinner party some added class? Keen to make yourself a beautiful blouse that will have your friends demanding one of their own? This book is full of fun, accessible DIYs to help you decorate, entertain, and celebrate in style, no matter your skill level or the size of your living space.

 

Sunshine Spaces by Beci Orpin

Sunshine Spaces is about bringing a little of the outdoors into your home. Inspired by the colour and beauty of nature, designer Beci Orpin shares her ideas and guides you step-by-step through fun projects for indoors, outdoors, party and play. Featuring some of Beci’s favourite materials, including wood, fabric, plants and recycled objects, Sunshine Spaces will tell you everything you need to know about bringing the sunshine into your life and home. Sunshine Spaces is Beci’s fourth book see her others here.

 

Enjoy!

Spooky Reads for All Ages This Halloween

That time of year is upon us again…where we dress up ourselves and our homes with cobwebs and spiders, visit our neighbours in search of treats and scare ourselves silly with spooky movies and books. It’s a ridiculously fun night dedicated to mischief, frights, and, most of all, treats.

But if you don’t fancy joining in with the neighbourhood there are plenty of ways you can still get in the spirit of the holiday. You can curl up on the couch on a dark and windy night (actually here in Australia it’s warm and the sun is up for ages) and watch your favourite old horror movies, or you can see how quickly you can frighten yourself with the help of a terrifying book, because there is nothing that gets you in the Halloween mood better than a good scary story.

 

Here are a few of our favourites…

 

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place…

The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain?

Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously absorbing father/son collaboration between Stephen King and Owen King.

 

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple haunted by their newly purchased home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check is quick and seamless. Both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms becomes unrecognisable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall contracting, expanding and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mould spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbours and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julie and James. Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, inhabiting the bodies and the relationships we cherish.

 

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

A paranoid single mother is forced to confront the unthinkable act she committed as a desperate teenager in this addictive thriller with a social media twist.

Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989: When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016: Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria, or whoever’s pretending to be her, is known to all.

 

…and something for the little people in our lives…

 

Lady Bug Girl and the Dress Up Dilemma by Jacky Davis

Ladybug Girl gets dressed up for Halloween in the newest hardcover addition to the “New York Times” bestselling series. It is Halloween and Lulu must decide on a costume. Should she be Ladybug Girl or something new? She tries many different costumes, but nothing seems right. Maybe she’ll think of the perfect costume as she enjoys the autumn day with her family by pumpkin picking and going on a hayride. But it isn’t until Lulu and Bingo help a little girl who is lost that Lulu discovers who she was meant to be for Halloween Ladybug Girl, of course after all, she “is” Ladybug Girl and it is important to be true to yourself.

 

Ten Orange Pumpkins by Stephen Savage

From a sneaky spider to a ghostly chef to a sly mummy and crafty witch, join your favourite spooky creatures as ten orange pumpkins disappear in a countdown to a Halloween surprise. Bright, bold, and fun, Ten Orange Pumpkins is a perfect read-aloud and is sure to capture the imagination of the littlest trick-or-treaters.

 

 

 

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo but mostly it spends its time in the basement. It doesn’t visit Laszlo in his room. Until one night it does.

This beauty of a book has wonderful illustration from the very talented Jon Klassen (illustrator of the hilarious Hat stories).

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

Books to get you thinking this Christmas

As we hurtle towards December, a few things brighten our days – anticipation for Christmas (the food! The long holiday! The time to read!) and also the wave after wave of new release books, ready for gifting or to add to our own wish lists. Team Booko’s currently in a cerebral mood, so here are our top picks for books that inspire and challenge us to think:

Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: the Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves by Jessica Yu

This biography of Ugandan journalist Gladys Kalibbala shows human nature at its most selfless and inspiring. Gladys writes a newspaper column in Kampala called “Lost and Abandoned”, where she profiles homeless children in the hope of reuniting them with their families. Her conviction about giving these children a chance to thrive leads her to set up a farm for them to stay in.  Garden of the Lost and Abandoned offers an absorbing portrait of a charismatic, determined and energetic woman.  Jessica Yu’s background as an award-winning filmmaker shows in her use of vivid dialogue, local colour and a dramatic narrative with plenty of highs and lows.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano

Comics / graphic novels are not just about superheroes, and Illegal highlights how it can be a powerful tool for discussing complex issues.  Twelve-year-old Ebo is all alone – his sister and brother have both disappeared, escaping their African homeland for the safety of Europe. Hoping to reunite with his sister, Ebo also sets out on this long and perilous journey, crossing the Sahara Desert before sailing across the treacherous sea. Throughout his ordeal, Ebo never loses hope of reaching his sister, or of finding a place where he can grow up in peace and safety. Illegal is a gripping story and an excellent way to help children understand the refugee crisis. For ages 9 and up.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start with Why is the basis of the third most-watched TED Talk ever (34 million views and counting).  The name “Start with Why” refers to a common trait in the most successful leaders and organisations – they are very clear about why they do what they do.  Focussing on the Why – rather than the How or the What – engages people’s emotions and motivates them to act.  When the Why (i.e. mission) of a company is unclear, it leads to poor decision-making that loses sight of longer-term success.  Simon Sinek is an anthropologist who has turned his analytical gaze towards what makes leadership and management effective.  The simple yet powerful messages in Start with Why inspire us to find our Whys and act upon them.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This follow-up of sorts to the bestselling Lean In  is one nobody would have wanted, or expected Sheryl Sandberg to write – it’s the story of how she clawed her way back from profound grief following the recent, unexpected and public death of her husband. Feeling lost and disoriented, Sheryl Sandberg turned to Adam Grant, a friend and psychologist, whose professional insights became her framework for how to survive through, and overcome, this bleak time.  Option B is part memoir, part social science and part self-help manual; Sheryl Sandberg’s openness, honesty and her fighting spirit make it both a very moving and a very helpful book.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

The latest Stephen King novel sees him collaborating with his son Owen (also a published author).  Their take on Sleeping Beauty imagines a viral pandemic that makes women fall asleep and grow cocoons around themselves; disturb the cocoons, and the women awake as vicious zombies. In their dream-state, women enter a better, happier alternative-world; meanwhile, the loss of an entire sex creates chaos in the real world.  Is Sleeping Beauties straight horror, a twisted fairytale, or a fable? Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale may spot its dystopian themes. Read into this what you will.

Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Having put his unique spin on childhood favourites (including Mirror, Mirror and the fabulous Wicked, Gregory Maguire turns his eye to the quintessential Christmas story – The Nutcracker. Hiddensee tells the life story of Drosselmeier, the elderly toymaker who made the nutcracker given to his goddaughter Klara. Drosselmeier was a foundling who, despite a miserable upbringing, retained his innocence and his ability to love and care. Hiddensee is another showcase for Gregory Maguire’s gift for giving emotional depth and a rich, surprising backstory to characters that we thought we knew well.  Pre-order now ahead of its release on October 31.

Heroes for our children

Heroines and female villains outnumbered heroes and male baddies in a literary poll of memorable children’s novel characters in the UK marking World Book Day last year. Six of the top 10 heroes voted for were female, including Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series while seven out of 10 villains were female. This made us wonder just who is next in the stakes for amazing heroes for our children.

Here’s a few titles that we found with some pretty marvellous heroes for our children to admire.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo

What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.

Volume 2 is coming out in time for the festive season you can have a look at the preview here.

 

Little People Big Dreams; Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser

In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists, to scientists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. Rosa was described as “the mother of the freedom movement.” This inspiring story of Rosa’s life is moving, and approachable for young readers.

 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small. With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power. This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

 

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the first picture book about her life as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable! Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

 

 

 

Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva

Young Charlotte is a filmmaker who loves everything that s black and white, including spiders, penguins, and the old movies that she sees with her dad at the Golden Theatre (where the floors are sticky). With her camera at the ready wherever she goes, she finds inspiration for movies everywhere she looks. But when her colourful parents and colourful classmates just don t get her, she is ready to give up until a lucky encounter with a film curator at The Museum of Modern Art in New York changes her perspective. Inspired by the films she sees at MoMA and stories of other pioneering directors, Charlotte gets to work. And it is hard work but when her movie finally premieres at the Museum, Charlotte is thrilled to be doing exactly what she loves best. A follow-up to Frank Viva’s “Young Frank, Architect” and perfect for film lovers, aspiring directors, and artists of all stripes, “Young Charlotte, Filmmaker” is an inspiring tale.”

Enjoy!

How authors tackle feminism to empower their readers

Lewis Carroll, the beloved author of Alice in Wonderland, once wrote that “words mean more than we mean to express when we use them, so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer means.”

This made us wonder about the books that we love and if there was anything special that the author was trying to share with us in addition to the story they had written…it turns out there was.

Here’s a closer look at a few authors who aimed to empower their female readers to take on the world.

 

The Moomin books by Tove Jansson

Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson used her delightful books about trolls to subtly challenge views on how women should live and behave. The books are full of strong female characters, from straight-talking Little My, to calmly confident Moominmamma, who reflects the fierce work ethic that was instilled into her by Jansson’s own mother.

This new hardback edition of The Invisible Child is part of a special partnership between Oxfam and Moomin Characters to raise funds for Oxfam projects supporting women and girls worldwide, because, as Moominmamma would tell you, every girl should be able to dream as big as every boy. Every woman has the right to make a fair living for herself and her family. And nobody deserves to be held back by violence, abuse or discrimination. The story is about an isolated heroine who regains her voice and takes her rightful place in the world when she discovers equality and respect as part of the much loved Moomin family.

But wait, there’s more! 2019 will see the launch of a new Moomin TV series, which has all kinds of celebrities doing the voiceovers, such as Kate Winslet and Rosamund Pike.

 

 

Mills & Boon Modern Girl’s Guide to Working 9 to 5 by Ada Adverse

It may come as something of a surprise to see Mills & Boon trying to stake a claim in the feminist literature market with their new series Modern Girl’s Guides. Described as “funny, feisty and feminist” There are four short hardbacks in this series and each are dedicated to a specific topic, such as relationships, 21st-century life and self-improvement at the office. The books are full of references to mansplaining, blurred lines, feminazis and dealing to the patriarchy and while they may not be as strong as other feminist literature, it’s nice to see that this traditional ‘escapist romantic fiction’ is starting to address the unfair treatment of women.

 

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

A dark, enduring vision of the future has been made into a major TV series which reaped many trophies in the recent award season. I have both read it and watched it and it is one of the few times that I found both the book and the tv show to be amazing.

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire, neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s irony, wit and astute perception.

 

 

All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey

From columnist and critic Alana Massey, this book is a collection of essays examining the intersection of the personal with pop culture through the lives of pivotal female figures, from Sylvia Plath to Britney Spears.

Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal. It is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women, from Scarlett Johansson to Amber Rose, Lil’ Kim, Anjelica Huston, Lana Del Rey, Anna Nicole Smith and many more. These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.

 

and another of our favourites for the little people in our lives…

 

Olivia and the Fairy Princess by Ian Falconer

In a hilarious endeavour, Olivia embarks upon a quest for identity and individuality. It seems there are far too many pink and sparkly princesses around these days and Olivia has had quite enough! She needs to stand out. And so, in typical ‘Olivia’ style, she sets about creating a whole array of fantastically dressed princesses… and shows us that everyone can be individual and special.

 

 

Enjoy!

How to forge connections with others

It can be pretty intimidating to try to find a way to bond with other people, whether it is connecting socially, making a great first impression, or simply wanting to build stronger connections for your career.

However, when you show that you genuinely care about the person you’re talking to, work on making people feel comfortable, or really listening to them, you’ll find that you are already halfway there.

Here’s a few titles that we’ve been flicking through recently that will help you forge connections with others…

 

The Social Skills Guidebook by Chris MacLeod

You think your social life could be better. You’ve felt shy as long as you can remember. Your conversations have more awkward moments than you’d like. Maybe you don’t need a ton of friends, but you’d like to have some people to hang out with on occasion. You want to make changes, but you don’t know where to start. Lots of people have been in your shoes, so you’re hardly a lost cause, and it’s never too late to turn things around. The Social Skills Guidebook gives you insights into your interpersonal struggles and behaviours, and offers hands on advice for developing and improving your people skills.

 

 

Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson

With the constant connectivity of today’s world, it s never been easier to meet people and make new friends but it’s never been harder to form meaningful friendships. In Frientimacy, award-winning speaker Shasta Nelson shows how anyone can form stronger, more meaningful friendships, marked by a level of trust she calls frientimacy. Shasta explores the most common complaints and conflicts facing female friendships today, and lays out strategies for overcoming these pitfalls to create deeper, supportive relationships that last for the long term. In Frientimacy, readers are taught to reject the impulse to pull away from friendships that aren’t instantly and constantly gratifying. With a warm, engaging, and inspiring voice, Nelson shows how friendships built on dedication and commitment can lead to enriched relationships, stronger and more meaningful ties, and an overall increase in mental health. Frientimacy is more than just a call for deeper connection between friends; it’s a blueprint for turning simple friendships into true bonds and for the meaningful and satisfying relationships that come with them.

 

How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

What is that magic quality that makes some people instantly loved and respected? Everyone wants to be their friend (or, if single, their lover!) In business, they rise swiftly to the top of the corporate ladder. What is their “Midas touch?”. What it boils down to is a more skilful way of dealing with people. Lowndes has spent her career teaching people how to communicate for success and offers 92 easy and effective sure-fire success techniques – from first meeting all the way up to sophisticated techniques used by the big winners in life.

 

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols

One person talks; the other listens. It’s so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we actually are. Why do we so often fail to connect when speaking with family members, romantic partners, colleagues, or friends? How do emotional reactions get in the way of real communication? This thoughtful, witty, and empathic book has already helped over 100,000 readers break through conflicts and transform their personal and professional relationships. Experienced therapist Mike Nichols provides vivid examples, easy to learn techniques, and practical exercises for becoming a better listener and making yourself heard and understood, even in difficult situations.

 

 

Click: The Power of Instant Connections by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

In a book that combines psychology and sociology with an insightful understanding of human interactions, Ori and Rom Brafman have written a compelling narrative that helps us to understand the magic behind those moments when we form an incredible connection with other people, or which cause us to become fully engaged in whatever we are doing. Drawing from recent research in psychology and sociology Click takes us on a roller coaster journey of discovery into those moments in our lives when we are ‘in the zone’ when the rest of the world drops away and everything seems to fall into place.

 

 

Enjoy!

Books That Inspire Your Inner Explorer

The weather is getting warmer now that it is spring here in Australia, and it’s time to start planning our summer vacations…or next winter’s if you like running away from the cool weather…

Here’s a few titles that are inspiring us to pack a suitcase and start exploring…

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It’s an oldie but a goodie, and has inspired many of us to look at our life experiences through a new lens.

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different and far more satisfying than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognising opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

 

 

 

 

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

My Dad put me onto Bill Bryson when I was travelling around Europe and while I was a bit hesitant at first, I laughed out loud so hard that everyone on the boat to Naxos turned around…trust me, it’s worth dipping your toe into a previously considered ‘something-for-Dad-author’.

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation’s heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain. Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed. Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn’t altogether recognise any more. Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

 

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

Rachel Friedman has always been the consummate good girl who does well in school and plays it safe, so the college grad surprises no one more than herself when, on a whim (and in an effort to escape impending life decisions), she buys a ticket to Ireland, a place she has never visited. There she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, a born adventurer who spurs Rachel on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to three continents, fills her life with newfound friends, and gives birth to a previously unrealised passion for adventure. As her journey takes her to Australia and South America, Rachel discovers and embraces her love of travel and unlocks more truths about herself than she ever realised she was seeking. Along the way, the erstwhile good girl finally learns to do something she’s never done before: simply live for the moment.

 

Wallpaper* City Guide – New York by The Editors of Wallpaper*

Wallpaper City Guides not only suggest where to stay, eat, and drink, but what the tourist passionate about design might want to see, whether he/she has a week or 24 hours in the city. Featured are up and coming areas, landmark buildings in an ‘Architour’, design centres, and the best shops to buy items unique to that city. Wallpaper City Guides present travellers with a fast-track ticket to the chosen location. The edited guides offer the best, most exciting, and the most beautiful of that particular city.  As well as looking beautiful, the guides are expertly designed with function as a priority, and have tabbed sections so that readers can easily find the information they are looking for. The guides include rate and currency information, maps and a colour-coding system to help you navigate the different parts of the city. They are the ultimate combination of form and function.

Actually they have a whole host of city guides…come and check them out here.

 

The Riviera Set by Mary S. Lovell

This is the story of the group of people who lived, partied, bed-hopped and politicked at the Chateau de l’Horizon near Cannes, over the course of forty years from the time when Coco Chanel made southern French tans fashionable in the twenties to the death of the playboy Prince Aly Khan in 1960. At the heart of this was the amazing Maxine Elliott, the daughter of a fisherman from Connecticut, who built the beautiful art deco Chateau and brought together the likes of Noel Coward, the Aga Khan, the Windsors and two very saucy courtesans, Doris Castlerosse and Daisy Fellowes, who set out to be dangerous distractions to Winston Churchill as he worked on his journalism and biographies during his ‘wilderness years’ in the thirties. After the War the story continued as the Chateau changed hands and Prince Aly Khan used it to entertain the Hollywood set, as well as launch his seduction of and eventual marriage to Rita Hayworth. Mary Lovell tells her story of high society behaviour with tremendous brio and relish.

Enjoy!

Books to help you get your act together

Last week we offered some ideas on how to spring clean and declutter your belongings; this week we turn inward to look at how we can declutter our minds.  Do you ever feel exhausted just thinking about change?
It’s easy to procrastinate when we feel anxious about the amount of disruption and effort we’ll need to make lasting change. Decluttering our minds means letting go of these preconceived ideas and anxieties, which can then help us welcome in fresh thinking and opportunities.  These authors are here to guide you towards greater clarity, focus and calm:

 

Declutter Your Mind by S J Scott and Barrie Davenport

Do you feel overwhelmed easily? As if your mind is spinning from too many thoughts?  Do you find it hard to get motivated? Or feel there is too much negativity around you? If you answered YES to any of these then you may be experiencing mind clutter.  Mind clutter gives rise to anxiety, stress and frustrations – issues that can only be solved by changing mindsets and behaviours. S J Scott and Barrie Davenport show how to use mindfulness techniques to declutter our thoughts, obligations, relationships and surroundings.  Declutter Your Mind is concise and readable, packed with ideas and advice.

 

 

Unstuffed: Declutter your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed helps with spring-cleaning of both our physical and mental spaces. Following Ruth Soukup’s bestseller Living Well, Spending Less, Unstuffed continues to help us reduce those cravings for more of everything – possessions, relationships, responsibilities. She encourages us to think deeply, identify our most important values and prioritise accordingly, shedding unimportant stuff in the process. She also advises on how to deal with the guilt associated with letting go! For those interested in faith and spirituality, there is also a unique section on decluttering your spirit. Unstuffed comes with an app that offers further tips and support on this decluttering journey.

 

The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight penned this irreverent but heartfelt anti-self help guide when she realised her perfectionist “good girl” tendencies were the cause of her constant stress and anxiety. So she learned to give fewer f**ks – to feel OK about not being perfect, to say yes only to things she cared about. The result is letting go of everything except the things that actually matter.  With a decluttered mind and fresh focus, Sarah Knight then takes us to the next level in Get Your Sh!t Together, which shows how to “win at life” – start prioritising and doing the things you actually want to do, while still managing all the sh*t you have to do.

 

Let it Out: a Journey through Journaling by Katie Dalebout

Journaling can be as simple as jotting down a To-Do List, or as complex as expressing your innermost feelings.  In either case, it is a powerful way of relieving a load from your mind. Let it Out is both an inspirational story and a how-to guide to Journaling.  Katie Dalebout has been journaling since her teens, discovering that her writing can be a plan, a review, therapy as well as life coach.  She credits journaling in helping her to recover from an eating disorder.  After sharing her life story in the Introduction, Katie sets out a range of journaling topics / exercises to suit different moods and purposes.  Katie’s young age and experiences make this a great book to share with the teens / young adults in your life.

 

Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

When Bill Gates writes a detailed (glowing) review of a book then you know it deserves attention.  Carol Dweck is a psychology professor who popularised the idea of fixed mindset versus growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes ability is innate and thus success is largely predetermined; while a growth mindset believes that ability is the result of effort and persistence, and thus can be attained by anyone.  A growth mindset makes us more resilient and helps us maximise our potential.  I’ve included Mindset here as inspiration of what can be achieved when our minds are unburdened by anxieties, bad habits and negative self-talk, which tend to contribute to a fixed mindset.

 

Smiling Mind

S J Scott advocated mindfulness in Declutter your Mind, but, if you’re like me, you might prefer to learn mindfulness while listening – this is where Smiling Mind comes in.  Smiling Mind is a non-profit organisation aimed at making mindfulness techniques accessible to all ages.    They have two excellent free apps (one for smart phones and a web-based app for computers) co-developed with psychologists and health professionals.   These apps offer something for everyone – there are guided practices of different lengths, separately aimed at kids, teens as well as adults.  My local school uses Smiling Mind in the classroom and I know many parents who use it in their children’s bedtime routines. The Smiling Mind website also offers tips on how to use mindfulness meditation at schools or in the workplace.