Category Archives: On The Web

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!

Celebrating the world of coffee table books

There’s something about having book candy sitting on your coffee table…or lining up in a stylish manner on a bookshelf.  I must admit, I am a bit of an interiors addict, and nothing pleases me more than merging my love of books and love of interiors. The children’s rooms have front facing shelves so we can enjoy the delightful (and have you noticed increasingly stylish?) book covers. Our lounge room is also home to books that are often rotated between the bookshelf and then curated subtly on the coffee table.

Real Living Magazine has recently been adding a selection of coffee table books to the pages of their magazine, and boy this month they are beautiful. So I thought as we are celebrating readers of all genres this month, I’d share their beautiful coffee table candy.

 

Book Cases: From Salvage to Storage by Aurelie Drouet

Bookshelves showcase our favourite books and most treasured objects. They are useful and practical but, far from reducing them to their simplest function, we love that they reflect our style and individuality, becoming design features in their own right and harmoniously fitting into our living spaces. They are also relatively easy to make and accessible to everyone. No need to be an experienced handyman to realise these original designs. This book presents 14 creations with step-by-step photos, plans, and technical tips. There’s also an injection of inspiration with the more ambitious bookcase projects by leading designers and architects.

 

Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence by Emiko Davies

Florentine is a collection of delicious recipes and stunning photographs from Tuscany’s capital. Emiko Davies draws on her personal experience of traditional Florentine cuisine to share recipes that transport readers to the piazzas of Florence. From the morning ritual of la pasticceria (the pastry shop) and il forno (the bakery), the tantalizing fresh produce of il mercato (the market) and il macellaio (the butcher) through to the evening romance of la trattoria, it will take you on a unique stroll through the city’s streets to the heart of its culture.

 

Best Kitchen Basics by Mark Best

Best Kitchen Basics beats the revolutionary drum in the domestic kitchen – no longer are high-end techniques or recipes the sole domain of multi-award-winning restaurants like Best’s Sydney fine diner Marque and his bistros Pei Modern in Melbourne and Sydney. Here, Mark Best breaks it down, putting the individual elements of each recipe into the home cook’s hands and empowering them to think differently. It includes 100 original recipes built around 30 accessible ingredients – from eggplant to pumpkin to chocolate and eggs. Best Kitchen Basics ups the ante on the familiar. Best insists that it is not a question of luxurious ingredients, simply the knowledge and wherewithal to unlock the beauty of some of the most basic elements of cooking.

 

Supernormal by Andrew McConnell

This cookbook is based on the restaurant of the same name where Andrew, owner and head chef, takes home cooks into the kitchen of his hugely popular pan-Asian eatery. Across eight chapters, he shares something of the McConnell magic, as well as menus for fans who aspire to a Supernormal-worthy spread at home. The book is filled with photographs from Earl Carter, who offers a behind-the-scenes take on the restaurant and its characters, as well as scenes from Tokyo, a long-time source of inspiration for McConnell, and his Flinders Lane eating house.

 

Life Hacks by Annabel Staff

Have you ever burnt your fingers trying to light a hard to reach candle wick? Try lighting it with spaghetti. Just how do you separate the yolk from the white of an egg? You use a plastic bottle, of course. When your ice-lolly starts melting, how do you stop your hands getting sticky? By using a cupcake wrapper, naturally…This book contains over thirty solutions to everyday problems encountered in the home or out and about, with each life hack demonstrated in a full colour photograph for easy reference.

 

 

Hello Tokyo by Ebony Bizys

This book by Japanese-based Australian blogger/crafter/designer/zine publisher Ebony Bizys is a cute and quirky guide to living a handmade lifestyle, filled with projects and ideas inspired by Ebony’s life in Tokyo. Capturing the charm, humour and originality of her eclectic and highly successful blog, Hello Sandwich, this book features craft projects and inspirational styling ideas, and gives the reader a glimpse of Japanese culture. Hello Tokyo is the quintessential Hello Sandwich publication. It captures Ebony’s fascination with the myriad treasures of everyday existence, ranging from personalised crafts such as handmade stationery and clothing accessories, as well as decorative items and storage solutions for the home; to recording your daily life and travels with a camera, journal or even a blog; to hosting, theming and styling a fun party or picnic.

 

A huge thanks to Real Living Magazine for inspiring us with such a terrific selection of titles.

If you are looking for more brilliant coffee table books, we have a Pinterest board full of them too. Hop on over and follow us.

The Inky Awards 2015: who will win?

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

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

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

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

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

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

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

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

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

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

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

Laurinda by Alice Pung

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

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

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

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

The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

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

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

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

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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

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

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

For more information, including the shortlist for the Silver Inkys, see https://insideadog.com.au/page/inky-awards

Australians cop it again

As if it’s not bad enough that whining Australian billionaires are complaining that international stores don’t have to pay GST, companies which can enforce regional pricing are going to town on Australian buyers.  Apple’s just released their new Mac App Store – the Mac equivalent of the iTunes store already available for iPhone / iPad / iPod devices.  Apple have regional pricing all worked out, so if you think we’ll catch a break with their latest online shopping experience, you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

Take one of my favourite Mac apps – Omnigraffle. Buying it direct from Omnigroup is $199 USD ~= $200.672 AUD

If you’re in North America and you use the Mac App Store US : $199 USD ~= $200.672 AUD

If you’re in the UK Mac App Store – $199 USD ~= $200.672 AUD

If you’re in the Finnish Mac App Store : €149.99 ~= $194.843 AUD

If you’re lucky enough to buy from the Australian Mac App Store, you’ll pay a whopping $249.00 AUD. That’s a 25% premium for living in the lucky country.   See JoshuaGan’s post for more info. (Update: This issue is mentioned in an Omnigroup blog post.)

It’s not just Apple though – check the Steam prices

Call of Duty:  Black Ops from the various international stores:

The UK Steam store : £39.99 GBP ~= $62.058 AUD

The US Steam store : $59.99 USD ~= $60.428 AUD

The Finnish Steam store:  €59.99 EUR ~= $78.447 AUD

And last, (and the opposite of least) the Australian Steam store : $89.99 USD ~= $90.647 AUD

The Steam prices are probably caused by Australian distributors taking some obscene cut. COD4: Black Ops is $89 AUD at both KMart and JB HiFi.

Booko’s moved, features added.

I’ve been working on a beta version of Booko for, like, 7 months now.  I finally upgraded it while moving from Slicehost to Linode.  I’ve made a large number of changes to the way Booko performs long running tasks and how those tasks communicate. But I’ll leave the nerdy stuff for later.

The biggest change from a user point of view is some integration into Freebase.com. You’ll notice extra information appear in book listings now. For example, the Booko page for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo now tells you:

  • that the book is part of the Millennium Trilogy
  • the other books in the series (The Girl who played with Fire & The Girl who kicked the Hornets’ Nest)
  • the other editions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – hardcover and paperback.

The data at Freebase is a long way from complete, but it’s constantly growing. This should be a very useful feature. I’ll be doing more to integrate Freebase into the search results – for example, so a book shows up only once, listing the different editions in that single search result item.

List management also got an overhaul. That old list manager page was pretty bad. There’s still work to do, but it should be far more usable now. Log in and check it out!

There are still bugs to fix (soooo many missing images for cover art) and features to add (smarter list price calculation, used books).

Bugs, Outages and a new shop.

It’s been a long night – the generally excellent Slicehost apparently had a network outage tonight, taking Booko down with them. They kept their blog, forums and twitter up-to-date which was appreciated. The outage, not so appreciated.  When Booko came back up, naturally Fishpond was down, leading to some errors on Booko’s side.  I’ve updated Booko to be more resiliant to 3rd party outages likke this and things are definitely improving.

In addition, I’ve added Melbourne University’s Bookstore to Booko – they sell both books and DVDs so it’s a great addition to have. This brings us to 32 stores searched for books and 7 for DVDs.