Category Archives: 2020

The best books for reading beside the pool this Summer

Summer has been particularly tough here in Australia with devastating bush fires burning throughout most of our wonderful country, our skies are filled with smoke and our hearts are heavy. 

It’s now mid January, a time when so many are heading back to work to begin the new year, for a few of us we are still dragging out the last of the holidays and are trying not to think of our inboxes or growing to do lists…so this blog is for those those that are either still away from the office, or have a chance in the evening to pick a book up and pretend you are poolside once more. 

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren’t willing to let it go. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. Explosive, timely, resonant and relatable (I’ve just finished it): if you love Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, you will love Whisper Network.

A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts

When my mother died, I was cooking. I was not a cook. I did not cook. I ate high-street-chain sandwiches, supermarket filled pasta, and more takeaway kebabs than I was comfortable admitting. My rare, haphazard forays into the kitchen led to fallen cakes, burnt biscuits, and stringy stews. But I had also recently started dating a man, a man who was very keen on cooking, and whom I was keen to impress. One weekend, he suggested we cook together for friends. And I thought, Oh god, that sounds like a terrible idea. But I said, “Sounds great.” And so I found myself standing in a kitchen that was not my own, baking a cake alongside a man I didn’t know. Meanwhile, 275 miles away, my mother was dying.

At the moment her mother died, Olivia Potts was baking a cake. She was trying to impress a man, a cooking enthusiast who would later become her husband. Grief-stricken by the news, Olivia took to the kitchen. She came home from her job as a criminal barrister miserable and tired, and baked soda bread, pizza, and chocolate banana cake (mostly unsuccessfully). It brought her comfort, and so she concocted a plan- she would begin a newer, happier life, filled with fewer magistrates and more macaroons. She left the bar for Le Cordon Bleu, plunging headfirst into the eccentric world of patisserie. Interspersed with recipes ranging from passionfruit pavlova to her mother’s shepherd’s pie, this is a heart-breaking, hilarious, life-affirming memoir about dealing with grief, falling in love, and learning how to bake a really, really good cake.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

I just finished this book after two friends recommended it to me. It’s really good. Raw, honest and slightly scary to see what may lie ahead, but good. People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn’t true. The graveyard, the stony dirt, that’s what it was like now. They knew each other better than their own siblings, but Sylvie’s death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them. Four older women with a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her? They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie’s old beach house, not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold. Without Sylvie to maintain the group’s delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good. The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we’re forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book, a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Grand Union Stories by Zadie Smith 

The Grand Union is a dazzling collection of short fiction by Zadie Smith who has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving eleven completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us. Nothing is off limits, and everything, when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze, feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced and utterly original, Grand Union highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This is a suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to, or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

Going Under by Sonia Henry

Dr Katarina ‘Kitty’ Holliday thought that once she finished medical school and found gainful employment at one of Sydney’s best teaching hospitals that her dream was just beginning. The hard years, she thought, were finally over. But Kitty is in for a rude shock. Between trying to survive on the ward, in the operating theatre and in the emergency department without killing any of her patients or going under herself, Kitty finds herself facing situations that rock her very understanding of the vocation to which she intends to devote her life. Going Under is a rare insight into the world of a trainee female medic that takes an unflinching look at the reality of being a doctor. It explores the big themes; life, death, power and love through the eyes of Dr Holliday as she loses her identity and nearly her mind in the pressure-cooker world of the hospital. But it is also there that Kitty might find her own redemption and finally know herself for the first time. Darkly funny, sexy, moving and shocking, Going Under will grip you from the opening page and never let you go.

Enjoy!

The Best Books to help you become organised in 2020

It’s January, the traditional time of year where we all vouch to become a little more organised and mentally prepared than the year before. And because it’s 2020, the start of a brand spanking new decade, the desire to do so is even more heightened. You’re in luck, we have found some fabulous new titles on the market that all aim to get our diaries, lives and minds in order. To be fair, a few of these titles are a bit older than the last month (but their lessons are so en pointe that we just had to include them). Righto, get yourself comfy, pop the kettle on for a cup of tea because these books are about to really challenge you to make the best of 2020. 

Get Remarkably Organised by Lorraine Murphy

Lorraine Murphy is one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs and founder of The Remarkables Group and in this books she asks some pretty straight-shooting questions: Is your life chaotic? Are you hungry for advice on how to live calmly, happily and productively? The cornerstone of success at work and at home is being organised and, with Lorraine’s help, you can achieve this by forming excellent habits in a way that’s easy and fun, not stressful. This book is an inspiring look at the organisational lessons Lorraine has learned during her entrepreneurship journey through study, trial and error; the strategies she has developed and the habits she religiously follows. As well as coaching you through specific challenges, you’ll discover 14 informative and approachable chapters with guidance on: The value of routine and habits, easy decluttering, tips for planning your week and managing your day, conquering distractions, the joy of hassle-free outsourcing, overcoming procrastination and even harmony at home. If you fancy giving this book a read this summer, be sure to check out Remarkability (I just finished that one and my copy now has yellow highlighter in each chapter as I devour her lessons). 

The Feel Good Guide by Matilda Green

When Matilda Green, bestselling author of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life, found herself facing some hard times, she knew she needed to do something to boost her happiness and her self-esteem. But what? So she set out on a journey of discovery, embracing gratitude, mindfulness and meditation techniques, and learning how to be kind to others and to herself. In The Feel Good Guide Matilda pulls together everything she has learnt and shares her own experiences, in the hope that it will help others too. This practical resource, full of helpful tips and real talk, comes complete with an action plan in every chapter to get your own journey kick-started. As Matilda says, this isn’t so much about changing who you are as it is about loving who you are. It’s about celebrating yourself, embracing and being proud of the person you have grown to be, and finding the right tools to help you remember just how awesome you really are.

Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble the Poet

The rapper, spoken word artist, poet, blogger, social media influencer, and international bestselling author of Unlearn delivers unorthodox lessons for shifting our perceptions and learning to create silver linings from our most difficult moments. Every one of us endures setbacks, disappointments, and failures that can incapacitate us. But we don’t have to let them. Instead, we can use these events as opportunities for growth. In Things No One Else Can Teach Us, Humble the Poet flips the conventional script for happiness and success, showing us how our most painful experiences can be our greatest teachers. Humble shares raw, honest stories from his own life – from his rocky start becoming a rapper, to nearly going broke, to being the victim of racial prejudice – to demonstrate how a change in mindset can radically alter our outlook. This shift in perspective, one that stops seeing the negative and starts seeing the lesson or positive spin, is what no one else can teach us. We must figure things out on our own, often through difficult and heartbreaking experiences. Humble inspires us to create these silver linings ourselves, preparing us to better handle any challenges that may arise. From a breakup to going broke to losing a loved one, our hardest moments can help us flourish, but only if we recognise and seize the opportunity. By doing so, we will become more self-aware, grateful, and empowered. Simple yet profound, Humble’s message is clear. While we can’t control the vagaries of life, we have the power to control how we react to them. Things No One Else Can Teach Us reminds us all that we have the power within us to transform the way we respond to everyday challenges and ultimately be our best selves.

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

488 Rules for Life is Kitty Flanagan’s way of making the world a more pleasant place to live. Providing you with the antidote to every annoying little thing, these rules are not made to be broken. 488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it’s not you who needs help, it’s other people. Whether they’re walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don’t know the rules. But thanks to Kitty Flanagan’s comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place. A place where people don’t ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it … where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don’t reheat their fish curry in the office microwave … where middle aged men don’t have ponytails … Other rules to live by include: Men must wear shorts over leggings. The gym is no place for people to discover whether or not you are circumcised. That’s a private discussion for another place and time. Team bonding activities should be optional. Some people love it when management decides that an afternoon of bowling or paint-balling or (god forbid) karaoke will help everyone work better as a team. Others would rather be dead. Don’t ever mention your ‘happy place’. To me, this sounds less like a pleasant, fun state of mind and more like some kind of utopian wank palace you’ve had built in the basement. 

What started as a personal joke is now a quintessential reference book with the power to change society. (Or, at least, make it a bit less irritating.) What people are (Kitty Flanagan is) saying about this book: ‘You’re welcome everyone.’ ‘Thank god for me.’ ‘I’d rather be sad and lonely, but right.’ ‘There’s not actually 488 rules in here but it sure feels like it’.

F**k No! by Sarah Knight

The latest no-fks-given guide from New York Times bestselling author of the international sensations The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K, Get Your S**T Together, You Do You, and Calm The F**K Down. How to stop saying yes when you can’t, you shouldn’t, or you just don’t want to With 2 million copies sold worldwide, Sarah Knight’s bestselling No F*cks Given Guides prove that she’s the Queen of No: no to a single extraneous f*ck given, to unwanted obligations, overcommitting, and overcomplicating her life. For Sarah, saying no is easy. For the rest of us, it’s stress-inducing, blood pressure-raising, teeth-grinding hard. But it doesn’t have to be. F**K No! is filled with tips, techniques, and practical strategies that will arm you with not only permission to decline, but plenty of ammunition for doing so. An encyclopaedia of examples, a cornucopia of comebacks, a plethora of polite replies: if you’re looking to say no (and without being selfish, unlikeable, or mired in missing out), you’ve come to the right place.

Becoming – A Guided Journal by Michelle Obama

What’s your journey of becoming? Based on Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir, this gorgeous journal features an intimate and inspiring introduction by the former First Lady and thought-provoking questions and prompts to help you discover, and rediscover, your story. 

‘It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.’ – Michelle Obama

Enjoy!

Time to load your e-reader for the holidays

Summer has well and truly arrived here in Melbourne and with the festive season done and dusted it’s time to load your e-reader full of books to enjoy while spending your days on the beach, in a hammock or beside the pool. 

We rounded up the top selling books of the year in December (you can have a read of that blog post here ) and you can find the eBook versions of them on Booko, too, by clicking eBook in the drop down menu of your search. 

We are a household that uses both Kindles and Kobos to read books on the go. We have Kobos for our children as they allow them to read their library books in an electronic version (via the amazing libby app). We love this functionality as it allows them to bring their library books on holiday without the fear of ever losing one! 

Here are our top downloads for you to enjoy. Let us know what you’re spending your summer reading in the comments below. 

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was discovered, filthy and half-starved, hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a shocking crime. Now approaching adulthood, Evie is damaged, self-destructive and has never revealed her true identity.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man haunted by his own past, is investigating the death of champion figure-skater Jodie Sheehan. When Cyrus is called upon to assess Evie, she threatens to disrupt the case and destroy his ordered life. Because Evie has a unique and dangerous gift – she knows when someone is lying. And nobody is telling the truth.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Based on the heart-breaking true story of Cilka Klein, Cilka’s Journey is the sequel to the internationally No.1 bestselling phenomenon, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle. Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love.

Cilka’s Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman’s fierce determination to survive, against all odds.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating, and storing; behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence in Dark Emu comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources. Dark Emu is a must read for anyone who wants to understand what Australia once was, or what it might yet be if we heed the lessons of long and sophisticated human occupation.

The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale 

This is the eagerly awaited new thriller from the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl. Imagine seeing your loving husband on a dating app. Now imagine that’s the best thing to happen to you all week. When Charlie sees a man who is the spitting image of her husband Oliver on a dating app, her heart stops. Her first desperate instinct is to tell herself she must be mistaken, after all, she only caught a glimpse from a distance as her friends were laughingly swiping through the men on offer. But no matter how much she tries to push her fears aside, she can’t because she took that photo. On their honeymoon. She just can’t let it go. Suddenly other signs of betrayal begin to add up and so Charlie does the only thing she can think of to defend her position, she signs up to the app to catch Oliver in the act. But Charlie soon discovers that infidelity is the least of her problems. Nothing is as it seems and nobody is who she thinks they are. 

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

This is the next episode in David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series is a thrilling ride that scales the heights of Everest and plunges the depths of Russia’s criminal underworld. In a climax of shattering violence, Lisbeth Salander will face her nemesis.

Lisbeth Salander’s mentor and protector Holger Palmgren is dead, and she has been gone from Stockholm since his funeral. All summer, Mikael Blomkvist has been plagued by the fear that Salander’s enemies will come after her.

He should, perhaps, be more concerned for himself.

In the pocket of an unidentified homeless man, who died with the name of a Swedish government minister on his lips, the police find a list of telephone numbers. Among them, the contact for Millennium magazine and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Following the scorched trail of her twin sister Camilla to Moscow, Salander nevertheless continues to watch over her old friend. Soon Blomkvist will need her help. But first, she has an old score to settle; and fresh outrage to avenge.

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carre 

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Enjoy!