Monthly Archives: October 2017

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).






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.”


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.