Monthly Archives: October 2015

Blood curdling, bone chilling reads for Halloween.

The beauty of scary books are that they are psychologically frightening and use your imagination in such a way that you will seriously be kept up at night.

Here’s some that scared the pants off us:

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

In equal parts crime story and supernatural thriller, Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters is the graphic, twisted tale of Gabriella Versado. Versedo is the lead detective on a violent case where the body of a young dead African American boy was found fused to the body of a deer. It’s disturbing and yet utterly engrossing, just the thing to freak you out.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

With more than 50 mystery novels to her name, Agatha Christie is the Queen of  suspense. In her classic mystery novel, 10 people are lured to an island mansion, each with a dark secret, and each with a ticking clock on their lives. With everyone dying one by one, you can’t help but wonder…who is going to be next?

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Temblay

Mixing schizophrenia, reality television, and a religious exorcism together results in a brand new kind of nightmare. A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay’s recent thriller is a brilliant mix of terror, suspense, and good old fashioned horror. Completely original, this book will shake you to your core.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Halloween would not be complete without an evening spent reading the stories from this gruesome, terrifying collection. Including the tales that once scared you in your youth but still manage to completely freak you out. If the haunting retelling of scary stories isn’t enough to frighten you, then the illustrations certainly will. It took all of my strength to get past the cover!

Threats by Amelia Gray

Gray’s novel doesn’t set out to be a horror book, but rather an analysis of how disassociating the experience of grief can be. David’s wife has died, but he isn’t sure why, or how. All he knows is he can’t exactly think straight, and he keeps finding mysterious pieces of paper scattered around his house. They contain threats that are loud and disturbing. Gray’s ability to pack even the shortest of sentences densely with emotion makes this book a super jumpy read.




The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This book is something of a cult classic–a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client. The house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images.

Early Chapter Halloween Readers

Halloween is a great theme to explore with children starting to read. There’s plenty of drama, scary costumes and twists in the tale. Explore the meaning behind Halloween and have some fun with this selection, aimed at the 6+ age group. and Honey Bee: A pair of friends at Halloween by Megan McDonald

From the Author of the very popular ‘Judy Moody’ series comes the ‘Ant and Honey Bee’ series. The ant and honey bee are great friends and explore seasonal events together, such as Halloween. This book covers topics such as ‘what makes a great pair’ and ‘what goes together’ as the duo collaborate on fun costume ideas. Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy Watson books feature colourful characters and beautiful illustrations. Persuaded by the word “treating” to dress up as a princess for Halloween, Mercy the pig’s trick-or-treat outing has some very unexpected results. This Halloween reader is full of humour, hijinks, tricks and treats. Bubble: The Super-Spooky Fright Night by Tracey Corderoy

Three more fabulously funny stories in one book, about a glorious granny, a little girl, a nervy black cat and a great deal of mayhem. A varied layout and illustrations on every page helps children navigate the reading experience. Frighteningly funny! Peculiar Pumpkin Thief by Geronimo Stilton

When all the pumpkins in New Mouse City disappear days before Halloween, Geronimo and his detective friend Hercule Poirat investigate, as all the mice in the city receive invitations to a mysterious party. Geronimo Stilton books are incredibly popular and really bring the text to life for new readers through use of colour and varied fonts. We are huge fans of Geronimo Stilton at Booko. Cemetery Dance by Lucy George

Once a century on Halloween, the creatures of the night gather for the cemetery dance. Sounds spine chilling! With minimal copy and stunning illustrations that take up ¾ of the page, this phonics reader is a great option for a first chapter book. It also forms part of a structured reading program that takes children through pairs and groups of letters, which improves reading and spelling ability, and overall confidence which is so important at this level.

Using Booko Lists to plan your shopping

Last week we looked at how the Booko Alerts feature keeps you up-to-date on any sales or discounts.  This week we will look at the Lists function that Booko also offers.  Booko Lists is a great tool that can help you to plan and manage your purchases, whether it is for a one-off event (such as Christmas or a birthday), or for a longer period (such as managing an annual book budget for work).

1.  The Lists feature is available to registered Booko users.  To Sign In (or to Register), click on the “Sign In” button at the top left corner of the Booko Homepage
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2.  At the next screen, Registered users can Log In by either entering their Booko password on the left hand side; or by connecting through a social network using an icon from the right hand side.  New users can also use the social network icons to login; or they can create a separate Booko account using the link on the bottom right.Lists Fig2


3. Booko takes you back to its homepage once you are signed in.  Click on “My Lists” at the top left corner of the page, which brings up a new box.  Click on “Manage Lists” at the bottom right of the box.
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4.  At the Manage List screen, you can start to create your lists.  Simply enter a name into the box on the left, and click “Create new list”.  Name them as specifically or as generally as you like, such as “My wish list”, “Christmas gifts”, “Milly’s birthday”, “FY 15/16 professional development” etc.
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5.  Once you have created your lists, they will appear under the My Lists heading on the left.  Now you can start populating those lists using the search box at the top of the page.
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6.  At the Results List, click on the Book Title or its Cover Image to go to its detailed record.
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7.  At the detailed record, click on the “Add to a list” button directly below the Cover Image.  This brings up a box with a drop-down box showing all of your personal lists.  Select the preferred list, then click “Add”
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8.  Keep browsing and adding to your lists as required.
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9.  To see the items in each of your lists, click on “My Lists”, then click the “Manage Lists” button at the bottom right.  This box also shows the contents of the last list you have used.Lists Fig9


10.  At the Manage List screen, click on one of the lists on the left to see its contents.  You can change the quantity for each title using the “+” and “-“ buttons (changing a quantity from 1 to 0 deletes that item). To see detailed price comparisons for each item, click on the “View” button.  Booko also helps you find retailers that can supply all the books on a list – and compare their prices.
Other functions on this page include: click the “Export” button to download list data in a spreadsheet format; and click the “Delete” button at the top to remove an entire list.
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How to encourage your child to read more?

Most people would agree that reading is a good thing, and that it is critical to language and literacy development.  But not everyone is a natural bookworm – so here are some tips on how to help your child develop a love of reading.

Tip 1: Reading should be fun

Your first goal is to convince your child that reading is a pleasurable activity that they will want to do again and again.  Focus on making reading a fun experience.

Tip 2: Target their interests

Choose books that reflect your child’s interests – whether it be trucks/ princesses/ food/ shoes.  There are books on just about every topic – the right one can get the reader hooked on reading for life.

Tip 3: Create a reading-friendly lifestyle

Create a comfortable space for reading – it can be a couch, or beanbag, or cushions, or in bed – and stock up on a variety of books or other reading materials, such as magazines or newspapers.

Incorporate reading into your weekly routine, for example by visiting your local library regularly, or by setting aside some “reading time” at bedtime or on weekends.

Tip 4: Model good reading habits

Let your child see you read.  Show that you enjoy reading, want to do it regularly, and that you feel confident about reading.  You can also explain why you love reading, such as “reading helps me make sense of things”, or “reading makes me laugh”.

If you want to improve your own confidence in reading, there are community resources to support you.  Contact your local library or adult education organisation to see how they can help.

Tip 5: Try different formats

Reading isn’t just about novels.  Some children prefer non-fiction (information books), particularly illustrated titles.  Don’t forget that newspapers, magazines, even recipes and instruction manuals, can offer good reading opportunities – whatever interests the child.

If your child prefers pictures to words, then why not try picture books or graphic novels? There are many sophisticated picture books aimed at older readers (such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan)  , and the graphic novel format has been used on a range of topics including literary classics (for example Nikki Greenberg’s adaptation of Hamlet) .  Children who like to listen to stories can try to read and listen at the same time – play an audiobook and encourage them to follow the story on a printed copy.

Tip 6: Make it a family activity

Some children may find reading more appealing if it is done as a family activity.  It could be reading aloud to each other; or reading silently side by side; or listening to an audiobook together during a car trip.  It can even be watching a film adaptation together (and discussing how it differs from the original book).  Be creative, and choose something that all of you can enjoy.

Tip 7: Talk to the experts

Teachers, school librarians, local librarians and children’s booksellers all have professional knowledge and experience in engaging reluctant readers.  Talk to them and ask for useful strategies and/or book recommendations.   Beloved author Paul Jennings, who is also a teacher and speech pathologist, has written a guide called “The Reading Bug and how to help your child catch it”.

Final tip: Relax


Remember Tip 1: Reading should be fun?  Encouraging children to read should not be stressful for parents either.
Don’t worry if they don’t read everyday – this is understandable, especially at the beginning.  Be gentle but persistent with your encouragement.
Don’t worry if they don’t choose “good” literature, or if they only read about a single topic or character; sooner or later they will branch out.
Don’t worry if they choose something that is too hard or too easy; gently offer a more appropriate alternative, but also respect their choice.
Finally, try not to feel disappointed if your child shows no interest in reading your own childhood favourites.  Encourage them to read widely, and one day they may give your favourite books another chance!

Booko Alerts: never miss a sale again

Have you ever missed a sale on an item you really want?  The Booko Alerts feature can help you avoid that happening to your book purchases.  When the price drops on a nominated title, Booko will email you with the new best price.  Booko Alerts work for DVDs and eBooks as well as printed books.  It is easy to use, and will help you get more out of your money!  Here’s how:

1.  Start by entering details of your item in the search box, then click Search.

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2.  Choose the item you want from the Results List.  Click on its Name or its Cover Image to see the detailed record.

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3.  On the left hand side of the Detailed Record screen, there are two red buttons directly below the Cover Image of the book.  Click on the one on the Left, called “Add an Alert”.

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4.  This brings up a box where you can specify your preferred price.  The box automatically shows the current best price.  You can also delete that value and enter a different lower price.  Then enter your email address, and click “Add”. 

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5.  That’s done!  Booko checks prices daily, and when the price of your item drops below your preferred price, you will receive an email alerting you to the new lowest price, with links straight to the relevant Seller.

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Managing multiple alerts

If you are creating alerts for multiple items, then you will find it useful to create a Booko account.  Once Logged In, you can view a list of all of your alerts, and update them as necessary.  You can also include second-hand books in your price watch.

1. To create a new Booko Account, scroll down to the bottom of the Booko homepage, and click on the red “Sign Up” button.

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2.  On the Create an Account page, you can either use the form on the left hand side to create a new Booko ID, or you can click on one of the icons on the right, to connect using your account details of your favourite social network.  When prompted, allow Booko to share the login details of your chosen social network, and Booko will do the rest.

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4.  Once you are a registered user, simply Sign In to your Booko account before you create an Alert.  The Sign In button is located at the top left corner of the Booko page. When you have signed in, you will not need to supply an email address each time you create an alert.

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5.  To view the full list of your Alerts, click on “My Alerts” at the top right corner of the Booko page. This will take you to the Booko Sign In page if you are not signed in at the time.

6.  The list of Active Alerts shows the current price and the target price for each item.  You can change the target prices, or delete alerts here.  Check the box for “Include Used” if you want to track the prices of used copies as well as new ones.  Don’t forget to click “Save” each time you made any changes!

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Coffee Table books your best friend will love

The beauty of coffee table books is that you can showcase your style no matter what your passion is: whether it be travel, shoes, fashion, interior design, antiques or art. They make a beautiful and personal gift and stunning accessory to your home.

Here are 5 Coffee table books that would be perfect gifts for your best friend, no matter their taste: of Vintage Fashion: Definitive Designer Classics at Auction 1900-2000 by Penelope Blanckaert

Examines fashion from the twentieth century through auction sale listings, providing the estimate and amount the item was sold at, with profiles on designers and styles.
 Shoe Book by Nancy MacDonnell

For centuries shoes have served as a form of expression that communicates to the world who we are or who we want to be. Following on the heels of the success of The T-Shirt Book, The Leather Book, The Bikini Book, and The Trench Book from Assouline’s Anthology Collection, The Shoe Book explores the history and technologies that have shaped the designs and styles that continue to evolve. the Spirit of Beverly Hills by Nancie Clare

Assouline began with an idea and a belief: the first, a notion that beauty, perfected, has meaning that is capable of transforming our lives; and the second, that a book–artfully crafted and highly considered in its visual content–can open our eyes and minds. With our first book, La Colombe d’Or, we sought to convey the experience of a small hotel in the south of France, a tiny, sublime world of art, history, luxury, and inspiration unto itself. Big Book of the Hamptons by Assouline

Celebrates the mystique and romance of the iconic and extravagant neighborhood of the Hamptons, exploring the architecture and gardens of the area’s opulent mansions.


 Sartorialist by Scott Schuman

Scott Schuman just wanted to take photographs of people on the street who looked great. This book is an anthology of Scott’s favourite shots from around the world. It includes photographs of well-known fashion figures as well as those shots of the anonymous passerby whose imagination and taste delight the viewer.

The Inky Awards 2015: who will win?

Today we’ll take a look at the Inky Awards, whose winners will be announced next week (October 13).  The Inkys are an annual celebration of quality young adult (YA) literature, hosted by the State Library of Victoria.  Teen readers are actively involved throughout the judging process – from selecting the longlists and shortlists out of the nominations, to voting for the winners.  While shortlists are chosen for their quality, originality, readability and age-appropriateness, the winner is chosen by popular vote. Two prizes are awarded each year – the Gold Inky for an Australian book, and the Silver Inky for an international book.

This year’s Gold Inky looks set to be tightly contested.  The five shortlisted books are all compelling reads.   They are diverse in style and themes – there’s something for everyone.  I have found it hard to pick one standout book so I have highlighted a special quality of each one.  Enjoy!

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Why it’s good: so funny, you wish you were part of the gang

For Alba and her friends, high school is over, and Christmas and a leisurely summer beckon. However, their plans are interrupted by an obscure prediction for apocalypse, resulting in hundreds of “believers” descending on their sleepy little town. There’s nothing like imminent doom and an influx of strangers to focus the mind on big Life Decisions, such as: What do I want to do in life?, and: Is heading to the City for uni and a career inevitable?, and: How do I really feel about my best friend – is it friendship … or love?

Alba is an appealing heroine – bold, sassy, technicolored like her comic-book creations; but beneath that chutzpah there is angst and vulnerability.  The easy camaraderie between Alba and her wise-cracking gang is endearing and hilarious.  They may not be “conventionally cool” people, but they are having so much fun that you’ll wish you were one of them. The book’s cover art – in retro comic- book style – complements the story perfectly.

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Why it’s good: a tense page-turner that transcends the “YA” tag

Sydney, 1932: the inner suburbs are a hotbed of crime and poverty, such that the tabloids dub Darlinghurst and Surry Hills “Razorhurst” and “Sorrow Hills”.  Razor gangs rule these areas with violence, and everyone lives or dies by their wits.  When Dymphna and Kelpie discover the aftermath of a brutal murder, they realise they are in great danger. Over the next 24 hours, they run, plot, mask their fears, and constantly recalculate their best strategies for survival.  As the truce between rival gangs crumbles and power shifts, will they live till tomorrow?

Razorhurst is anchored by a pair of feisty, street-smart heroines: Kelpie, a street urchin who never misses small details; and Dymphna, beautiful, intelligent, a (literal) femme fatale nicknamed “Angel of Death”.  They may seem poles apart but they share similarly traumatic pasts and an ability to see and hear ghosts – a twist that adds unexpected richness to the plot.

Razorhurst is a tense noir thriller.  Larbalestier’s meticulous research shines through in the vivid evocation of that glamourous-yet-gritty era.  It definitely deserves a wider readership than the YA tag would suggest.

Laurinda by Alice Pung

Why it’s good: schoolyard intrigues that get under your skin

John Marsden praises Laurinda as “funny, horrifying, and sharp as a serpent’s fangs” and he is spot-on.  Laurinda’s depictions of the insular world of an exclusive girls’ school are likely to bring back memories – especially the uncomfortable ones – to anyone who has ever experienced the bitchiness and power plays of teenage girldom.

Lucy Lam, Asian and from a poor neighbourhood, wins a scholarship to Laurinda: “no ‘Ladies’ College’ after it, of course; the name was meant to speak for itself”.  Far out of her comfort zone, her confidence falters; she becomes a quiet but keen-eyed observer of the power dynamics of her new environment.  Her outsider status offers her the perspective to critique Laurindan society and see its rottenness – condescension, casual racism, bullying.  When the most powerful clique at Laurinda makes overtures to Lucy, she becomes torn between her aspirations for sophistication and middle-class values, and her disgust at the duplicity inherent in privilege and “good manners”.  Will she retain her identity and stand her ground, or will she join in, in order to leave the poverty and lack of opportunities of her current life?

Alice Pung’s first foray into fiction elaborates on the themes of identity and belonging prominent in her earlier work. She offers a valuable voice for immigrant youth everywhere, who are trying to navigate issues of race and class in their adopted homeland.

The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

Why it’s good: a breezy holiday read with important life lessons

Sweet, earnest, gawky Josie has tumbled into an internship at a top women’s magazine.  This isn’t her first choice – she wants to become a newspaper journalist – but a prize for the Best Intern keeps her motivated.   Each week, Josie’s internship offers a glimpse into an exciting and glamorous adult life – living in a big city, meeting celebrities – although it also shows its dark side, with body image issues and online bullying.  As she focuses more on her internship, she loses touch with her family and friends.  Soon she has to make tough decisions about what matters most, and how to maintain her integrity.

The Intern is a fun read with coming-of-age themes.   Josie is not perfect, but likeable and relatable.  Gabrielle Tozer uses her own experience in magazine publishing to create an authentic setting, with just the right touch of ridiculousness.  Josie’s fish-out-of-water story invites comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada; what sets them apart is the Intern’s background detail- the struggles of Josie’s mother and sister since her father left the family; the exploration of issues surrounding body image, eating disorders, the definition of success and cyberbullying. Many supporting characters are drawn with depth, and I look forward to meeting them again in the sequel, Faking It, which is now available.

The Protected by Claire Zorn

Why it’s good: a harrowing but un-putdownable read

The Protected has already won this year’s CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year, will it win an Inky as well?  The Protected is not “fun” or “entertaining”, but it is mesmerising and unforgettable.  It reads like a mystery – the events that lead to the current tragic situation are slowly revealed.  The Protected draws readers in, empathising with Hannah, hoping against hope that she will have a happy, or at least hopeful, ending.

Hannah is a quiet, withdrawn fifteen year old, who has been shuttled from psychologist to psychologist following the death of her sister Katie.  The accident that killed Katie also left Hannah’s father seriously injured, and her mother clinically depressed.  When Hannah starts to connect with the school’s counsellor, the full tragedy of her situation is finally revealed.  Hannah’s pain is caused by years of relentless bullying – while her cool, beautiful sister watches on. Katie’s death leads to a tangle of guilt and grief and anger that Hannah, nurtured by the glimmerings of new friendships, finally learns to deal with.  The Protected is a powerful story with complex characterisation, all the effective because it is quietly, gently told.

For more information, including the shortlist for the Silver Inkys, see

Guest Book Reviewer: Palace of Tears

Palace of Tears is the debut novel from Julian Leatherdale. It is an historical, generational story, centred on a luxury hotel in the fictional town of Meadow Springs in the Blue Mountains and has all the elements of family passion, secrets and tragedy.

 Department store entrepreneur Adam Fox built the lavish palace based on luxury spa resorts in Europe. The story of the hotel intertwines with the story of the family who live in a cottage next door – much less well off than the wealthy Foxes but, over generations, sharing tragedies as well as love, hate and jealousy.

Initially I was daunted by the size of this book at over 500 pages, however Leatherdale achieves a good balance between educating and entertaining readers about events in Australia during the 1900’s and early 20th Century.

I love that Leatherdale mixes fictitious elements with real events and actual people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, opera star Nellie Melba and Australian film makers and directors Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyall all visit Adam Fox’s luxurious resort.

The author’s historical research into some of the less familiar events of early 20th Century history made for very interesting reading and for me in particular, the internment of the Germans during the war years was fascinating due to my own family history. His references to events of that time and fictional activities surrounding it were amazing and his passion evident.

I think this book is well worth the read, and with summer coming and holidays, it would be one to put on the list.

I hope Julian Leatherdale writes more novels as I will be lining up to read them.