Category Archives: Blog

On writers and publishing

Most of us booklovers have probably dreamt of writing our own masterpieces someday.  That dream may be more achievable than you think – the internet has given us more opportunities to get our work noticed, both in terms of helping us connect with potential mentors, buddies and audiences, and also in terms of self-publishing (physical books, eBooks and online).  Here’s some inspiration, information and motivation to finally get started on “that book you have in you”.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Did you know that this acclaimed novel of a woman’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was originally self-published?  After receiving no interest from traditional publishers and literary agents, Lisa Genova chose to self-publish, then set about engaging with potential readers through social media.  Her persistence was rewarded with internet buzz and solid sales, and eventually led to an offer from a major publisher.  E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy is another famous and successful example of a book that was self-published before gaining attention from traditional publishers.

How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn

This is the manual for Living the Dream – how to support yourself as a full-time writer.  Joanna Penn is an author, speaker, marketer and publisher who has developed a growing business – and a six-figure income – out of her creative output.  In How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she uses her own experience to show how to make money from books, and also how to capitalise on your creativity in other ways, such as by blogging, public speaking, coaching and content marketing.  Also checkout her website, The Creative Penn  for a wealth of (free) tips and resources for aspiring writers.

The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig has built a successful writing career by embracing new formats and media – his works include a blog, eBooks, computer games, scripts, comics as well as novels.  He also writes great writing advice – his tone is sharp and in-your-face and aims to challenge and provoke.  The Kick-Ass Writer starts from the beginning – how to get started, how to build characters and dialogue and develop suspense – and onto how to deal with publishers and agents, and how to promote, connect and market yourself.  It also discusses crowd funding, self-publishing writer’s block and how to handle rejection.  A great resource for helping you become the Kick-Ass Writer you want to be.

Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin 

For an insider’s take on writers and their relationships with the publishing industry, you cannot go past Gail Godwin’s memoir.  Gail Godwin has been a writer for five decades, with over 20 published works.  Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir reflects on Gail as a writer: her hunger to be published, her craft, and what it means to be a modern author (there is a great anecdote about branding and self-promotion).  It also reflects on the changing nature of the publishing industry, from a more “gentlemanly”, literary enterprise to big business. Gail Godwin offers fascinating insights to anyone curious about the book industry.

 

From blogger / vlogger to author

Developing great blogs and vlogs (eg YouTube channels) are an increasingly common pathway to a book deal.  Blogs/vlogs are powerful tools that can help you hone your writing skills, develop/promote your brand and connect with potential readers.  Many popular authors – particularly in the humour / food & wellness / lifestyle / parenting categories – first became known through their blogs. Two of my favourite bloggers/vloggers-turned-authors include:

Advanced Style: Older and Wiser by Ari Seth Cohen

Advanced Style started as a blog celebrating stylish, older New Yorkers, and has turned into a worldwide movement.  The colourful portraits in Advanced Style urge us to be bold, take risks and dress how we like, whether we are 15 or 85.  I saw the eponymous documentary a few years’ ago, and not only was there great style on-screen, many of the audience were bold and stylish too.  Advanced Style is joyous and gloriously inspirational.

The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook by Amy and Julie Zhang

Amy and Julie Zhang are popular YouTubers whose Dumpling Sisters videos showcase modern takes on homestyle Chinese dishes. 

The sisters – born in China, raised in New Zealand and now living in the UK – love their food because it’s a reminder of their Chinese background and their childhood, and also because it’s a great way to connect with their friends.  Dishes such as oyster sauce beef and broccoli, and prawn and spinach wontons, are great whether for some quiet me-time or for fun and casual entertaining.

New authors to read in 2017

Did you know Spring (in the Northern hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern) is the season when major publishers unveil fiction debutantes to the world of book lovers?

From the gripping and hard hitting The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, to the lighthearted romantic story of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne we’ve read the reviews of books being released and here are our picks for what you’ll want to cozy up and read this year…

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.

 

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

This is the first grown-up novel from TV presenter, and founder of Help Refugees, Dawn O’Porter. Following on from the success of her Young Adult novels, Paper Aeroplanes and Goose, The Cows is an equally smart and insightful read. It’s about three women, female friendship and feminism.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype. Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror. When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all. Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

 

The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

In this fabulous debut novel about love and betrayal, a young couple moves to New York City in search of success only to learn that the lives they dream of may come with dangerous strings attached.

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia, blonde, beautiful, and rich, fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

 

 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game has been described as ‘A brilliant, biting, hilarious new voice that will take the romcom world by storm’. Reviews like that from New York Times bestselling authors is pretty much a super shiny gold star in our books. Hats off to Sally Thorne for her debut novel.

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She prides herself on being loved by everyone at work – except for imposing, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman. Trapped in a shared office, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when a huge promotion is on offer. If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign.

 

Happy Reading!

Illustrators and their works of art

“The picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe”

Charley Harper

 

This month we are delving into the world behind books and will look at the different elements that exist to bring our favourite titles to life. This week, it’s illustrators and their amazing works of art.

Many of our favourite illustrators are found inside the covers of children’s books, and a few beautiful coffee table books too. Here are our favourites.

Charley Harper an Illustrated Life by Todd Oldham

Charley Harper was an American original. For over six decades he painted colourful and graphic illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike, from his home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio until he passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. Renowned New York based designer Todd Oldham rediscovered Charley’s work in 2001, and collaborated closely with him in the ensuing years; combing through his extensive archive to edit and design this stunning monograph. This coffee table tomb is a beautiful tribute to Charley Harper’s singular style, which he referred to as Minimal Realism.

 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Winning the Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year, 1964 it is no surprise that this is one of the most well known and best loved children’s stories which is appreciated as much for its illustrations as its narrative. Sendak’s attention to detail is apparent in the millions of tiny ink lines he added to show the hairs on the Wild Things.

 

 

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl

The gorgeous images that feature in Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile are by the enormously talented Quentin Blake.

This beautiful picture book was the first that Dahl and Blake collaborated on in the mid-70s. The duo went on to work together for many years, with Blake’s distinctive art helping to bring Dahl’s much loved characters to life.

 

 

 

 

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

Best-selling, multi-award-winning talent, Oliver Jeffers both wrote and illustrated this tale of mystery. Animals home are disappearing and trees are being cut down. Can the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor explain why?

This charming children’s picture book is full of Jeffers’ quirky illustrations. His childlike drawings are simple but brilliant, enabling children to identify with his characters as well as understanding the message in this moving story.

 

 

 

Animalia by Graeme Base

There’s no denying the talent of illustrator Graeme Base based on his drawings for this alphabet picture book. Each of the 26 letters is accompanied by an amazingly detailed illustration of a different animal.

The illustrations also feature other objects beginning with that letter for the reader to identify. And if that’s not enough, Base also included an image of himself as a child on every page. A year after it was released, Animalia won the title of Honour Book in the Council of Australia’s Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book.

 

 

If you have a budding illustrator in your midst, there is a session being held at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on March 16. Click here for details.

Enjoy!

10 ways to foster a love of reading for your child

Learning to read, or rather teaching someone else to learn to read can be a daunting task – do you start with phonetics, rhyming, sounds or learn the name of letters? Whatever way you choose, sharing the love of reading needs to be fun, relaxed and exciting. Our favourite book on the topic is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, it’s been a wonderful resource for several of the Booko children. Here are our top 10 tips from the book:

  1. Begin reading to your children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier, and better it is.
  2. Set aside at least one specific time each day for a story and make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Start with picture books that have only a few sentences on the page, then gradually move to books with more text and fewer pictures before building to chapter books.
  4. As you read, keep listeners involved by occasionally asking ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’
  5. If the chapters are long, or you don’t have enough time to finish one each day, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop. Leave your little audience hanging and they will be counting the minutes until the next reading.
  6. Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. Mood is an important factor in listening, make sure you foster a receptive one.
  7. Use expression when reading. Change your tone, adjusting pace and lowering your voice in suspenseful parts makes it all very exciting.
  8. Slow down. The most common mistake is reading too fast. Reading quickly allows no time for mental pictures to be made and more expression to be used.
  9. Bring the author to life. Google the author to find out more about them. This lets them know that books are written by people and not machines.
  10. When children wish to read to you, it is better for the book to be too easy than too hard, just as a beginner’s bicycle is better to be too small than too big.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Upon its first publication in 1982, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease’s beloved classic for more than three decades to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. It has also been a staple in schools of education for new teachers. This updated edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook discusses the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research (including the good and bad news on digital learning). The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.

 

Here’s a few of our favourites to help you share the joy of reading aloud:

 

Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman.

Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page.

 

 

Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep? The search is on in this cozy, sheep-filled story from beloved author Mem Fox and popular Australian cartoonist Judy Horacek. Complete with sleepy rhymes and bright illustrations, this book is sure to delight children of all ages, from the very young to those just beginning to read. Mem has never owned a sheep, let alone a green one, but she does admit to having woolly thoughts from time to time. Judy loves drawing things, especially sheep. This is her first flock.

 

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This gentle bedtime story, which has lulled generations of children to sleep, is the perfect first book to share at bedtime. In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one. Margaret Wise Brown’s comforting, rhythmical text accompanied by the warmth of Clement Hurd’s classic mid-century illustrations make Goodnight Moon a timeless picture book, which is known and loved around the world.

 

I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos

This is a terrific read aloud – it’s a book with some yelling in it, with a handful of  familiar characters like a wolf and Red Riding Hood and three pigs, joined by a couple of dwarfs, and a baby dinosaur and his HUGE mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of all, have fun together!

How to Learn Anything – our top 5 skills to learn in 2017

If you’re anything like me you’ll find January is the time of year we announce to the world that “I’m going to learn a new skill”…and now that it’s February we really ought to make a start.

People have been learning new skills from books for years so it’s nothing new, but to be honest there are some things that are much easier to teach yourself via videos online rather than from a book – playing the guitar, learning to crochet, how to use your online accounting system…the list goes on. However there are a few fabulous skills that are best suited to learning through a book. Books allow you the time to take things in and patiently wait as you get distracted and start daydreaming out of the window (or is that just me?).

Here’s our 5 top skills you need to learn this year…and they are all from books. You’re very welcome.

1. Start making a difference in the world

Getting to Maybe by Frances Westley

Many of us have a deep desire to make the world around us a better place. But often our good intentions are undermined by the fear that we are so insignificant in the big scheme of things that nothing we can do will actually help feed the world’s hungry, fix the damage of a Hurricane Katrina or even get a healthy lunch program up and running in the local school. We tend to think that great social change is the province of heroes – an intimidating view of reality that keeps ordinary people on the couch. But extraordinary leaders such as Gandhi and even unlikely social activists such as Bob Geldof most often see themselves as harnessing the forces around them, rather than singlehandedly setting those forces in motion. The trick in any great social project is to stop looking at the discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them. By studying fascinating real-life examples of social change this book teases out the rules of engagement between volunteers, leaders, organisations and circumstance and harvests the experiences of a wide range of people and organisations to lay out a brand new way of thinking about making change in communities, in business, and in the world.

2. Take control of your finances

The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need by Scott Pape

So I’ve just finished reading “The Barefoot Investor’ and I’ve been left feeling…a bit emotional really. One thing that you’ll find different between this book and any other finance book you have read is that getting on top of your finances gives you enormous freedom. Divorced? Made redundant? Want a change of career? Sort your finances by putting in place the ‘set and forget’ steps covered by Scott Pape and you’re halfway there. For many, this book has been life changing.

 

 

3. Get ahead in life

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

For the last two years, Ferriss interviewed nearly two hundred world-class performers for the podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger), athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing) and legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. This book contains the distilled tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else. It also includes new tips from past guests, and life lessons from new guests. “What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?

4. Learn how to Code
How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright

Become a master coder, with these step-by-step instructions and robot helpers too! How to Code teaches you all the basic concepts, including Loops, Variables, and Selection, and then develops your skills further until you can create your own website . . . and more! Learn how to use Logo, build games in Scratch, program projects in Python, experiment with HTML, and make interactive web pages with JavaScript.

 

 

 

5. Master makeup wizardry

Amazinger Face by Zoe Foster-Blake

Sometimes a lady just needs to know the most flattering lipstick for her skin tone, or how to correctly use sunscreen, or a very quick hairstyle to conceal her unwashed hair. And there’s no reason she shouldn’t know which foundation or mascara is best for her, either. All the answers are here, in this top-to-toe beauty extravaganza. Former Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR beauty director, and the founder of Go-To skin care, Zoë Foster (Blake) suggests makeup colours and brands for every occasion, useful, practical skin care routines and products for every age, and step-by-step instructions for winged eyeliner, arresting red lips, foolproof tanning, simple up-dos, sexy second-day hair, and much, much more.

 

And if that wasn’t enough (or if you’re already deciding to renege on the resolution) take a leaf out of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s amazing personal story of retraining her brain.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Revised Edition by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn — or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. She could make no sense of an analogue clock. But by relying on her formidable memory and iron will, she made her way to graduate school, where she chanced upon research that inspired her to invent cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain.

The capability of nerve cells to change is known as neuroplasticity, and Arrowsmith-Young has been putting it into practice for decades. With great inventiveness, after combining two lines of research, Barbara developed unusual cognitive calisthenics that radically increased the functioning of her weakened brain areas to normal and, in some areas, even above normal levels.

 

Happy Learning!

The Best Holiday Books for Christmas

It’s time to crank up the Buble, pop the Christmas mince pies in the oven and settle down with a great book to get you into the Christmas mood.

We have scoured the bookstores to bring you the ultimate Christmas Holiday Reading List to get those festive feelings flowing…sit back and enjoy!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s a classic and it’s amazing! In this beautiful story Charles Dickens invents the modern concept of Christmas Spirit and offers one of the world’s most adapted and imitated stories. We know Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, not only as fictional characters, but also as icons of the true meaning of Christmas in a world still plagued with avarice and cynicism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Adventures of Santa Claus by L Frank Baum

Written by the author of The Wizard of Oz, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus tells the captivating story of Neclaus, a child found and raised in the magical Forest of Burzee by a wood-nymph. Among the imortals, Neclaus grows an innocent youth, until the day when he discovers the misery that rules the human world and hovers, like a shadow, above the heads of the children. Now, in the attempt of easing human suffering, he, with the help of his imortal friends, will have to face the forces of evil and of resignation, in order to bring joy to the children and teach them, for the sake of humanity, the importance of sharing and caring for each other.

 

Christmas Days:  12 stories and 12 Recipes for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

The tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas is a tradition of celebration, sharing and giving. And what better way to do that than with a story? Read these stories by the fire, in the snow, travelling home for the holidays. Give them to friends, wrap them up for someone you love, read them aloud, read them alone, read them together. Enjoy the season of peace and goodwill, mystery, and a little bit of magic. There are ghosts here and jovial spirits. Chances at love and tricks with time. There is frost and icicles, mistletoe and sledges. There is a Christmas Tree with mysterious powers. There’s a donkey with a golden nose and a tinsel baby that talks.There’s a cat and a dog and a solid silver frog. There’s a Christmas cracker with a surprising gift inside.There’s a haunted house and a disappearing train. There are Yule-tides and holly wreaths. Three Kings. And a merry little Christmas time.

 

Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkin

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place, How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining-room, How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden, How there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house! Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories. From the first note to Tolkien’s eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition.

 

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”).

 

 

The Gift by Cecelia Ahem

The Gift is a magical, fable-like Christmas story from Cecelia Ahern, the celebrated New York Times bestselling author of P.S. I Love You and Thanks for the Memories. The story of Lou Suffern, a successful executive frustrated by the fact that he spends more time in the office than with his doting wife and two young children, The Gift is a tantalizing tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons visit the family home for Christmas. But the cantankerous patriarch has anything but a heartwarming family holiday in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults, while at the same time lavishing attention on his very attractive, long-lost granddaughter. Finally he announces that he is cutting off his sons’ allowances and changing his will to boot. So when the old man is found lying in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve, there is no lack of suspects. Intrepid Belgian detective Hercule Poirot suspends his holiday sorting through the myriad suspects and motives to find the truth behind the old man’s death.

 

 

 

The Christmas Card by Dilly Court

The perfect heartwarming romance for Christmas, rich in historical detail. She turned the picture of the Christmas card over with her frozen hands, a pretty picture of a family gathering at Yuletide. How different from her own life; stiff with cold on the icy cobbles, aching for shelter . . .

When her father dies leaving Alice and her ailing mother with only his debts, the two grieving women are forced to rely on the begrudging charity of cruel Aunt Jane. Determined to rid herself of an expensive responsibility, Jane tries forcing Alice into a monstrous marriage. And when Alice refuses, she is sent to work in a grand house to earn her keep. Finding herself in sole charge of the untameable and spoilt young miss of the house, Alice’s only ally is handsome Uncle Rory, who discovers that Alice has talents beyond those of a mere servant. But when someone sets out to destroy her reputation, Alice can only pray for a little of that Christmas spirit to save her from ruin . . .

Phew…that should rid you of any grinchy feelings! Happy Reading!

Books to help you win the Board Games This Christmas

Okay, we all know that the festive season is looming and with that comes the inevitable obligatory “Family Board Game Fun Time”…except this year we have a doozie for you*… a list of books that will help you beat Great Aunty Myrtle.

*actually these make great gifts for any board game fanatic but in the spirit of competition, don’t gift the books of the games you are likely to play…or at least read them first!

Monopoly

The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World’s Most Popular Game by Maxine Brady

Let’s get something straight, Monopoly is not a game of chance. There are ways to actually get Mayfair and Parklane first rather than end up with Stand and Whitehall…every single time!

One of the principal functions of this book is to explain and clarify the rules of Monopoly, and show how to avoid some of the obstacles that get in the way of just playing the game. It also catalogs some of the many strategies that operate during a good game, but which most players seem unconscious of, even when they themselves are using the strategies to excellent advantage. There are definite techniques by which you can improve your chances of winning.

 

Trivial Pursuit

The Ultimate Trivial Pursuit Question & Answer Book by Puzzle Wright Press

We all know a cousin who thinks they know everything and seem to be able to fill that little round disc with every piece of pie before you have even managed to get the pink entertainment one! So this book is definitely for you.
Trivial Pursuit is a game unlike any other because it tests your knowledge of events that have all happened outside the realm of the game so you have to actually study to win this one. Luckily, this book is a collection of over twenty-five years of trivia questions featured providing questions and answers in the fields of geography, entertainment, history, arts & literature, science & nature, and sports & leisure.

 

Risk

Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning RISK by Ehsan Honary

Risk is a complex board game involving both luck and skill. The goal is simple: take over the world. Despite this simple goal, the game is very complicated and dynamic. Players attempt to take over the world by eliminating all other players who are eliminated when they lose all of their troops on the game board. Players must be skilled in troop deployment and must be aware of the underlying probabilities present in the game.

This book aims to teach you how to beat all relatives this Christmas in your own way. But the book’s lessons evolve outside of the game, learn how to use diplomacy effectively to get what you want in life and apply this knowledge to negotiate more successfully and be in control.

 

Scrabble 

Collins Little Book of Scrabble Secrets by Collins Dictionaries

Inside the covers of this little book lie the secrets of Britain’s only ever Scrabble World Champion. Scrabble is played by millions but mastered by very few and unless you’re a Scrabble player who likes to lose, this book is a must. In it Mark Nyman spells out the most useful two letter words, what to do when you have a case of irritable vowel syndrome, strategies for how to get off to a flying start and lists our language’s strangest and most unbelievably useful words. Between these golden tips come anecdotes and words of wisdom from a lifetime at the top. Be careful who you give it to though.

 

 

 

Twister

Element: Yoga for Beginners DVD

Okay so this isn’t technically about Twister…nor is it a book… but it will certainly help you put left foot blue and right hand yellow without spilling any of your Christmas Mince pie or falling over Uncle Jo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on Family Board Game Fun Time!

Great Books of 2016 to Gift This Christmas

The season of gifts, tinsel and joy is looming. Every year people promise themselves not to leave it all to the last minute, so with that in mind we have come up with a list of the best books to give as gifts to all the different people in your life.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook where we will be revealing more top picks of great books, board games and DVDs each day in December leading up till Christmas.

For the Postman…

Every Song Ever by Ben Ratliff

What does it mean to listen in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera—or to dive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly anything, at any time. The possibilities in this new age of listening overturn old assumptions about what it means to properly appreciate music—to be an “educated” listener. In Every Song Ever, the veteran New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times.

 

 

Party of One by Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes has spent his life on the periphery, nose pressed hopefully against the glass, wanting just one thing: to get inside. Growing up, he was the artsy kid in the sporty family. And in his twenties, in the middle of a disastrous career in advertising, he accidentally became an MTV VJ overnight when he finished second, naturally, in the Wanna Be a VJ contest, opening the door to fame, fortune, and celebrity — well almost. But despite all the close calls, or possibly because of them, he just kept trying, and if (spoiler alert) he never quite succeeded, at least he got some good stories out of it. In Party of One, Dave tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a guy who finally learns to accept himself.

 

 

For the Teacher…

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighbourhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality–and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

 

 

 

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marcal

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, believed that our actions stem from self-interest and the world turns because of financial gain. But every night Adam Smith’s mother served him his dinner, not out of self-interest but out of love. Today, economics focuses on self-interest and excludes our other motivations. It disregards the unpaid work of mothering, caring, cleaning and cooking and its influence has spread from the market to how we shop, think and date. In this engaging takedown of the economics that has failed us, Katrine Marcal journeys from Adam Smith’s dinner table to the recent financial crisis and shows us how different, how much better, things could be.

 

For the Hairdresser…

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I know we wrote about this one last week…but it is sooo good!  When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity, the brain, and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

 

Try Hard: Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever by Em Rusciano

A hilarious, heartfelt memoir from one of Australia’s most adored performers. Funny, feisty and fabulous, Em Rusciano’s insights into her world of mayhem, stardom and motherhood is a laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud balm for the soul. From her exploits at Miss Sheila’s Fancy-pants School of Dance and her efforts to secure a solo at the end-of-year performance, to embracing the spotlight as an Australian Idol contestant and her deep and abiding love for John Farnham, Em Rusciano is a self-confessed hobbit with a taste for glitter. And behind the stage makeup Em is an overachiever of epic proportions – an elite athlete, the hardest working mum you’ll ever meet, and the best friend The Gays could ever have. She also has a heart bigger than Phar Lap’s, tells the best dirty jokes, and loves those closest to her ferociously. When the chips are down, you definitely want her on your side.

 

For the work Kris Kringle…

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Kieshin Armstrong

The hilarious behind-the-scenes story of two guys who went out for coffee and dreamed up Seinfeld—the cultural sensation that changed television and bled into the real world, altering the lives of everyone it touched. Comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld never thought anyone would watch their silly little sitcom about a New York comedian sitting around talking to his friends. NBC executives didn’t think anyone would watch either, but they bought it anyway, hiding it away in the TV dead zone of summer. But against all odds, viewers began to watch, first a few and then many, until nine years later nearly forty million Americans were tuning in weekly. In Seinfeldia, acclaimed TV historian and entertainment writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong celebrates the creators and fans of this American television phenomenon, bringing readers behind-the-scenes of the show while it was on the air and into the world of devotees for whom it never stopped being relevant.

 

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook will be packed with all the classics you need for the big day and beyond, as well as loads of delicious recipes for edible gifts, party food and new ways to love those leftovers. It’s everything you need for the best Christmas ever. Chapters: Introduction, Smart Starters, The Main Event, Veggie and Vegan Plates, The Wonderful World of Potatoes, Scrumptious Vegetables, Gravy, Sauces and all the Trimmings, Incredible Leftovers, Spectacular Festive Puddings, Afternoon Tea and Sweet Treats, Cute Edible Gifts, Super-Fantastic Salads, Dips, Bites and Handheld Nibbles, Perfect Christmas Drinks, Guide To Roasting Meat.

 

For the local donation…

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later. It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Red Shoes Goes To London by Kate Knapp

The third book in the best-selling Ruby Red Shoes series. Ruby and her grandmother love to travel and now they are in London, the home of red buses, red telephone boxes and red letter boxes. No wonder Ruby’s red shoes feel especially at home in this wonderful city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and a little something for you

 

The Art of Dinosaur Designs by Louise Olsen

As young art students Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy began selling resin jewellery with a stall at Sydney’s Paddington markets. Today they have a business that employs 85 people and nine stores around the world including New York and London. Dinosaur Designs is the name of their jewellery and homewares company, admired around the world for its bold, colourful designs and unique fusion of art and design. Almost every Dinosaur Designs piece is still handmade by artisans in its Sydney studio, because creativity remains at the core of what they do.  With this book Olsen and Ormandy open their hearts, minds and studio doors, to share their inspirations, ideas and process.

Enjoy!

Great books that help you to reflect on life

Connecting with a book is up there with some of the greatest feelings you can have. When it happens it’s hard not to want to recommend it to everyone you see. It’s my goal to have at least a handful of books that I can pop in my ‘toolbelt’ to help me navigate through life. So far I have three (follow us on Facebook to find out what they are). I love a book that stops me in my tracks and forces me to assess my life. Finding a book that helps to shape you, helps to cement your values and offer a little perspective when you need it most is a bit of a gem and needs to be held onto.

Here are a few of our team’s favourites that may just become a gem to you.

The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

Hailed as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift and financial planning Clason delivers classic insights into wealth accumulation through a series of parables set in ancient Babylon. The Richest Man in Babylon is a book you will want to read yourself, recommend to friends, and give to young people just starting out in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes by Stephen Hawking

Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece by one of the world’s greatest thinkers. It begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time, from the Big Bang to black holes, via spiral galaxies and strong theory. To this day A Brief History of Time remains a staple of the scientific canon, and its succinct and clear language continues to introduce millions to the universe and its wonders.

 

 

 

A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, A Long Walk To Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, it is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity, the brain, and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

 

…and because it’s nearly Christmas…

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A cruel and bitter old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, has no time for festivities or goodwill toward his fellow men and is only interested in money. Then, on the night of Christmas Eve, his life is changed by a series of ghostly visitations that show him some bitter truths about his choices and help him reflect on his past, present, and future in one of the most widely read and frequently adapted holiday classics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Reading.

Books that guide us through young adulthood

It’s no secret that the books we read can help to shape our lives. As we move through different stages there are often a handful of key books and characters that we relate to and help us make sense of the people and world around us.

One particularly ‘testing’ time is between the ages of 8 and 12. These young adults face a variety of hurdles and curveballs as they grow up and learn to find their place in the world. Sometimes listening to yet another tale from mum and dad is just too much to handle and so they turn (hopefully) to books.

Filled with characters working through life defining experiences such as gaining independence, forming friendship, going on adventures and growing curiosity the genre of Young Adult is fast becoming literature which is adored by readers of every generation.

The Chronicles of Narnia, the 13th Story Treehouse series, the Harry Potter books, and just about anything by Roald Dahl are just a few examples of titles that aid a 8 -12 year old through this exciting period of their life.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Journeying into magical realms, battles between good and evil and talking creatures await and delight every reader who settles in to enjoy these books.

The Narnia Chronicles, first published in 1950, have been and remain some of the most enduringly popular children’s books ever published. The best known, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been translated into 29 languages and hit the big screen in a film edition.

 

 

 

The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Andy and Terry live in a treehouse. But it’s not just any old treehouse, it’s the most amazing treehouse in the world! This treehouse has thirteen stories, a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you are hungry.

This is the start of a series of treehouse stories with Terry and Andy who enjoy completely nutty adventures because ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling

We very much doubt any of these series need an introduction, especially Harry Potter…but here goes.

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels chronicling the life of a young wizard, and his friends, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrowing the Ministry of Magic, and gain control of all wizards and Muggles (non wizards). There are many themes within this series including fantasy, drama, prejudice, madness, coming of age and elements of mystery, thriller, adventure, horror and romance. According to Rowling,however, the main theme is death.

 

Come and join us on Facebook to share what your favourite books were for getting through this phase of your life.