Head in a book

Lockdown: Always Watching

I would have liked to sneak up behind Tam J while she was reading today’s book – I think I would have been able to give her a good fright! I think it’s fair to say that Tam was more than a little spooked, and completely gripped by Chevy Steven’s Always Watching (Allen and Unwin)…


 Well, in short, Always Watching is fast moving, suspenseful, chilling and I loved it!

Nadine is a psychiatrist who suffers from claustrophobia but has never been able to work out why. That is, until she meets with a patient, Heather, who starts to trigger flash-backs, memories that may hold the answer to her panic. At the same time, as you might expect, that are also memories that Nadine is not sure she wants to relive.

always watchingShe helps people put their demons to rest, but she has a few of her own…

In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.

When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?

And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.

I have spent most nights this past week reading way later into the night than I should, unable to put the book down. Each chapter seemed to end in a cliffhanger and I couldn’t help but read on. Nadine is a courageous character. She lives on her own, and seems to have no-one that would notice if she went missing. Despite this she searches the streets and dangerous houses full of squatters in search of her drug addicted daughter who left her home seven years ago. Chevy Steven’s skilful writing ensured that, as the reader, I was able to feel the threat, I was practically able to smell the stench that was described by the author, and I felt like I was walking with Nadine past each shadow.

Throughout the novel, Nadine starts to remember some terribly troubling memories of her childhood and specifically her time spent with her mother and brother in a commune. The commune was run by Aaron Quinn, and as her treatment of Heather continues Nadine begins to remember why that name sends chills through her. Aaron wields amazing mind-control when it comes to convincing people to join his commune and convincing them that he is the answer to their problems, but Aaron was not what he seemed to be. Nadine becomes determined to make him accountable for his behaviour and protect others from being mistreated at his hand.  Even if this places hers in terrible danger.

When Nadine’s daughter, Lisa becomes involved with the commune, Nadine’s drive to shut down Aaron and his followers becomes more obsessive. But who can Nadine trust? Who can really help her? And who is just posing to help her, but actually putting her in further danger?

Although I did find certain parts of this story a little predictable, I think that might be because I have read quite a few of these kinds of stories. Still, this did not detract from the story or the suspense I felt while reading Always Watching. I was still surprised by the twists, right up to the conclusion of the book.

I felt the eeriness that Nadine must have felt when she thought she was being watched, and I could practically hear the bumps in the dark and I felt her heartbreak too.

Always Watching is an easy read, and an enjoyable one. I would definitely like to read more novels by Chevy Steven, as I really enjoyed her writing style. I might have to have a bit of a dig around her website for my next read.


You can find out more about Chevy Steven’s Always Watching here


Wishing: Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

TBYL Reviewer Tam spent some of her summer holidays with her head in a tale of cake, rugby and animal husbandry. Not exactly what she’d expected from Danielle Hawkin’s Chocolate Cake for Breakfast (Allen and Unwin) but seemingly enjoyable nonetheless…


Chocolate Cake for Breakfast is set in New Zealand, and interestingly it’s the first book I’ve ever read by a New Zealand author. It made for a new and interesting setting for me, and one that was at times a little surprising. I have to say that although I enjoyed the story, it was a very strange combination of themes…

chocolate cake for breakfast bigHelen McNeil is a vet in a small rural town. She specialises in caring for cows.  Whilst trying to dodge a painful acquaintance at a party she stubbles into Mark Tipene, the extremely famous and handsome lock for the All Blacks. As it happens, Mark is also trying to hide from a fellow party-goer and it only makes sense that they should help each out. Much to Helen’s embarrassment, she doesn’t realise who Mark is at first, but rather than being off-putting, this seems instead to endears her to Mark all the more.

‘…Mark appears the next day at the front counter of the vet clinic to ask her out. A whirlwind romance follows and everything is going swimmingly until one little hiccup changes everything…’

Not being a rugby fan myself, it took me a little while to get into this story – it took me a bit longer to get to know the main characters I suppose – but for a fan of the sport, I’m sure they would love this story from the outset. Danielle Hawkin’s certainly shows an in depth and personal picture of what it is to be a professional sportsman – the travel, the constant risk of injury, the highs and lows of PR, and the pressure sporting fame puts on a sportsperson’s loved ones.

I’ll admit, I did find the novel’s leading lady a little frustrating, she was unsure of herself and continuously doubted that she measured up to the other women that Mark had dated. Throughout the story, she doesn’t allow him to prove to her that he wants her, not a woman who only wants him because he’s an All Black. She guards herself because it all feels too good to be true and she worries that her heart will be broken. When Helen gets a ‘little surprise’ she spends a good portion of the story feeling like her life has gone all the wrong way, but with the help of friends and family she is helped through this misery.

Now, a little warning to readers… this novel has a lot of gory detail!! When it comes to the veterinary storyline, it goes into quite a lot of detail about some of the procedures that Helen is required to perform for her animals. If you’re a little squeamish, be prepared…

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed Chocolate Cake for Breakfast. It is full of fun characters, drama, romance, sport  animals and grumpy grandmothers…and Mark sounds gorgeous…lol


If you’d like to find out more about Danielle Hawkin’s Chocolate Cake for Breakfast click here…

True Safran: Murder in Mississippi

As we swelter away in our first real heatwave of the season, what’s better to do than read, or write or better still – both?!

Today’s review is of a book that I’ve recommended to at least a dozen people since I read it in November. John Safran’s Murder in Mississippi (Penguin) is skilfully written, effortlessly compelling and a really easy read, despite its dark subject matter…

murder in mississippiWhen filming his TV series ‘Race Relations’, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

As a true crime title Murder in Mississippi has been compared to numerous other true crime books, most particularly Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Having read Capote’s book a couple of time I’d say this is a fair and interesting comparison to make. Both expose a deprivation, a kind of evil that is hard to comprehend, but in a very factual manner. They communicate shock and bemusement but not indignation. This allows the reader to observe the situation, the crime itself, objectively and almost calmly, giving us the best hope of somehow making sense of a moment of violence.

John is a talented writer and a deft storyteller but interestedly, one feature of his writing that differentiates him from other true crime writers is his subtle self-deprication. This habit of poking fun at himself (and the people around him) is fairly typical of Safran’s work, you’ll find it in his documentaries and radio work as well, and I think it adds a humility, a ‘realness’ to his stories.

“You need to know about my job to understand all this. I’m a documentary filmmaker, or sorts. That’s how I pay the bills for the flat where I’m typing these words. That’s how I buy the bagels from the bakery one minute from my flat. I say ‘of sorts’ because they’re not the straightest of documentaries. I often ask dangerous people indelicate questions and try not to get thumped. And I often ask them about race. I’m a bit of a Race Trekkie – like a sci-fi Trekkie, but with race not space.

This story really begins – although I didn’t know it at the time – about ten years ago. I was filming a segment for a television series call ‘John Safran vs God’, in which I tried to join the Ku Klux Klan even though I’m Jewish.”

As a reader, his bluntness and honesty made me really trust the story that he was telling, and it’s an incredible story, made all the more incredible by the fact that John was himself, a part of the story, even if he didn’t know it at the time. He was personally involved in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the murder of Richard Barrett, and as he revisits Mississippi, he endeavours to complete the picture, to fill in that gap that is ‘during’.

“Every time I feel I’ve got a hold of Richard, he slides off again. I haven’t been able to get any sort of consensus on whether Richard might have made a pass at Vincent, and an aggressive one at that. I wonder whether the people who think Richard was gay are using ‘gay’ as another word for ‘just suspicious’. He was queer, bent, but as he literally homosexual? He was a racist, but was he aggressive enough to threaten Vincent?”

By the close of Murder in Mississippi we have a pretty good picture of the before, during and after of this violent tale, but as testament to Safran’s honestly, it’s still very difficult to say that anyone will ever really know what happened between Richard and Vincent. Richard takes his lies, double-life and ‘queerness’ to the grave, and Vincent seems to be an incarcerated bundle of misdirections, delusion and contradictions. Makes for a damn good story though…

For lovers of true crime or fans of John Safran’s work, this book is a must read. You can find out more, and pick up a copy over at Penguin.

Are you a fan of true crime? Do you have a favourite?


Eight (yes, eight) chances to win!!

Here’s a couple of numbers for you…

Did you know that you’ve got four more days to win one of eight copies of four different titles from Allen and Unwin.

Get it?

Put more simply, if you missed out last edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… here’s the run down on which books are up for grabs and how you can go into the running to win!

For each title, there are two copies to win. Entries close midnight 10 January 2014 after which I’ll draw winners at random. I’ll post an article here announcing the winners, who’ll also be notified by email. Please note, you’ll need to have an Australian postal address to enter.

Here they are…

chocolate for breakfastTwo lucky readers will win a copy of Chocolate Cake for Breakfast by Danielle Hawkins, courtesy of Allen and Unwin.

A wry, entertaining story about falling in love with a man whose shirtless picture adorns every second lunchroom wall and then doing your best when the relationship takes an unexpected turn…

Find out more about the book here…

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line ‘CHOCOLATE’ and tell us what you would have for breakfast, if you could have anything at all! Include your name and postal details.

the recipe boxWouldn’t you love to win a copy of The Recipe Box by Sandra Lee?Accessible, hugely entertaining, and featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, The Recipe Box is a novel that celebrates mothers, daughters, and friendships and features Sandra Lee’s deliciously original recipes – a book that will nourish readers’ appetites on many levels…

Find out more about the book here…

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au subject line ‘RECIPE’ and include a photo of your favourite dish, your name and postal details.

puzzles and words 2Do you love quizzes? This is the book for you! Two lucky readers will win a copy of Puzzles and Words 2 by David Astle.

There are over 175 original puzzles from anagrams to riddles and quizzes for all ages and all levels. Accompanying these are some 250 of David’s entertaining word stories-What does zemblanity mean? How does cosmic link to cosmetic? Where does a seahorse sleep each night with an almond?

Puzzles and Words 2 will keep your brain active and entertained for hours.

Find out more about the book here…

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line ‘PUZZLES’ and tell me what your favourite kind of puzzles are! Include your name and postal details.

And last but not least…

horse storiesI’ve two copies of Great Australian Horse Stories by Anne Crawford.

Great Australian Horse Stories brings to life the exploits – funny, poignant and sometimes dramatic – of horses from all over the nation. Outback legends, loyal carthorses, spectacular high jumpers and trusty stock horses. Among them animals that have defied the odds to win – or simply to live.

Find out more about the book here…

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line ‘HORSES’ and tell me where you’d most like to go for a horse-ride! Include your name and postal details.

Something for everyone, wouldn’t you agree? A hugh thank-you to Allen and Unwin for making this give-away happen!

Good luck everyone, get your entries in!

Top 5 TBYL Posts of 2013

Before I forge ahead into a new and exciting year (2014 promises to be pretty wild), I thought I’d take a moment to crunch some stats and share with you the five most-read posts of 2013…

snake biteFirst up was With a Can of JD: Snake Bite featuring a brand-new coming of age novel from Allen and Unwin.

Christie Thompson’s Snake Bite pulled me forward, through a smoke-filled, booze fuelled suburban landscape towards, with equal likelihood, oblivion or redemption… You can read the full review here.


meshel laurieNext was Behind the Scenes: The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny, a really popular post on Meshel Laurie’s memoir.

Like any good memoir, The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny drops plenty of names (it’s a veritable who’s who of Australian comedy) and shares plenty of behind-the-scenes insights into the Australian entertainment industry. Meshel is brutally honest, mostly about herself and sometimes about others. As we know, those who laugh loudest on our TVs tend to struggle the most with demons off-screen and true to form, Meshel is absolutely no exception… You can read the full review here.


new york cult recipesComing in third was my Hardcover Christmas: Five Titles, featuring five beautiful books that I thought might be good for Chrissy this year.

I think it’s been fairly well established that books make great presents, wouldn’t you agree? It must then be said that a wonderful hardcover book is possibly one of the best gifts that one person can give another. They’re readable, durable and substantial. They wrap so nicely, sit on the shelf so proudly, and can be enjoyed many times over… Read the full article here.


mwf2013To my delight, number four was my write-up of the Melbourne Writers Festival MWF 2013, Take 1. A wrap-up of the first Friday and Saturday of the festivel (my favourite time of year), this article was enjoyed by many.

Singer weaved a well-considered logic, making it pretty clear that all of us can and should strive to find a way to contribute to the improvement of the lot of the world’s children, those who are unwell or vulnerable and creatures with no voice to speak up for themselves. He stopped short at saying that we have a moral obligation to do so, but essentially… You can read the full post here.


wicked windFinally, at number five we’ve got another ‘compilation’ post, featuring three of the eBooks that I’ve reviewed during the year. Three eBooks, sure to please was a snap shot of some of the great fiction on offer in the electronic form.

The first thing that I noticed about this fun paranormal action-story is that it kicks off with a fantastic fight scene, featuring two tough women ready to save the day. A brilliant start, followed up by a really nice premise – it’s lead protagonist’s unique special ability – the ability to command the wind… Read the reviews here.
It’s been an incredible year, full of absolutely incredible books to read. My Reading Pile has not once got smaller than ginormous, and that, my friends, puts a massive smile on my face.

Thank-you to all – the writers, the publishers, the reviewers and most of all, the readers, for yet another spectacular year of That Book You Like…


Did you have a favourite TBYL post this year? I’d love to hear about it…


Taking a Dip: Three Titles

Over the last couple of weeks, life has gotten in the way of any decent writing sessions. Between birthdays, christmas preparations, school functions and a close relative passing away, I’ve been called away from the computer far more than I am accustomed to. Still, I’ve been reading, even if I’ve not had much time to write about it. Here’s a little of what I’m reading at the moment…

Actors Anonymous, by James Franco (Allen and Unwin)
Ambitious, fairly odd but strangely compelling, I’m having fun trying to grab the tale of this slippery collection of short stories by Hollywood actor James Franco.

actors anonymous

My favourite part so far…

Jack Nicholson struggled for twelve years before Easy Rider. He started as a gopher in the animation department of MGM at eighteen. He loved basketball even then. Eventually he took an acting class with Jeff Corey, James Dean’s old teacher. Later Jack studied with Marten Landau, James Dean’s old friend.

Jack might not have even wanted the role in Easy Rider. It was intended for Rip Torn. Dennis Hopper was a nut that Jack knew from the coffeehouses on Sunset, and then was in a movie that Jack wrote for Roger Corman called The Trip, about LSD. The story goes that Jack did the role in Easy Rider as a favour to his friends Bob Ragelson and Bert Schneider, the producers, in order to look after Dennis.

It’s these random bits of trivia, close-to-the-bone observations and memiors that make this book interesting. Most of the time it’s impossible to tell where Franco’s own opinions end and the fiction begins. It’s interesting, to say the least and you can find out more about the book here.

Yours Truly, Women of Letters (Penguin)
I can’t wait until I have more time to delve into this incredible collection of letters…

yours truly

The act of letter writing allows us to slow down and truly connect, with a person, a subject, an idea. At their hugely popular Women of Letters events, Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire encourage and allow our best and brightest to lay bare their sins and secrets, loves and loathings, memories and plans. Collected here for the first time, these dispatches from Australia’s favourite people are warm, wonderful and astoundingly honest.

The first ones that I’m going to read; Amanda Palmer to Anthony (‘To the person who told me the truth’); William McInnes to Wendy Sykes (‘To the woman who changed my life’) and Leigh Sales to Amanda (‘To the moment the lights came on).

I love letter writing, and to read letters like this feels like the ultimate in eavesdropping. Find out more about the book here…

Letters of Note, Shaun Usher (Allen and Unwin)
In a similar vain, albeit with a slightly broader scope is Shaun Usher’s compilation of letters, collected together in this beautiful hardcopy publication…

letters of note

Letters of Note is a collection of over one hundred of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters, based on the seismically popular website of the same name – an online museum of correspondence visited by over 70 million people.

From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression ‘OMG’ in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi’s appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives.

This time, for me, I’m most looking forward to reading Hunter S Thomspon’s letter to Hume Logan; Nick Cave to MTV and Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You can find out more about the book here. I’d love to know which letter you’d read first!

The greatest thing about all three of these books is that at this very busy time, they are the kinds of books that I can dip in and out of. They allow the reader five minutes of escape from the day-to-day without requiring a substantial time commitment. Of course, in saying that, I can’t wait until the holidays start and I can really sink my teeth into these amazing collections.




Day out in Seattle: Songs of Willow Frost

I was tempted to keep today’s book for myself, if for no other reason but that I loved the cover. It’s gorgeous design promises up a stunning, exotic story and by the looks of Narelle’s review, it delivered just that.

Here’s what Narelle thought of Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost (Allen and Unwin)…


Songs of Willow Frost opens telling the story of William Eng, on his 12th birthday in the orphanage that has become his home. The orphanage, as you would imagine, is a lonely place, and even more so for a Chinese boy, and Indian born Sunny and blind orphan Charlotte are William’s only friends.

songs of willow frostExperiencing a rare treat – a day outside the gates and exploring Seattle – William is struck when he sees a beautiful Chinese woman onscreen at the local cinema, Willow Frost. Convinced that the woman is the mother who left him behind, William decides he must find his way to Willow and find out if she really is his mother.

Together with Charlotte, William navigates the streets of Seattle during the great Depression, searching for Willow…

“As the bookmobile pulled onto the city street and sped up, William felt Charlotte squeeze his hand. 

She whispered, “Sister Briganti once said that all great stories of love and sacrifice have a moral – it’s up to us to find the lesson hidden inside.” 

William didn’t know if his story had a moral to it. Honestly, he didn’t care. He was going to find Willow Frost. All he wished for was a happy ending.” 

I was captivated by both William and Willow’s life stories throughout the novel and truly felt transported to the Seattle setting of 1920’s and 30’s. Its themes of love, family, sacrifice and hope for the future were beautifully rendered and genuinely moving. Songs of Willow Frost is a heartfelt, gorgeously written book that I believe many readers would enjoy.


You can find out more about Songs of Willow Frost here…

Stories That Move You and a chance to WIN!

Knowing how much I love books for Christmas, it’ll come as no surprise how much I enjoyed this little Stories That Move You promo video from Hachette Australia… so many wonderful titles just waiting to be chosen for your Chrissy stocking!

Click to watch...

Click to watch…

To help you to get into a Christmassy mood, I’ve got a quick draw give-away this afternoon! Courtesy of Hachette Australia I’ve got a copy of Lian Hearn’s The Storyteller and His Three Daughters to send to one lucky reader…

storytellerTOKYO 1884

Sei has devoted his life to storytelling, captivating audiences with his tales. But now he is starting to wonder if the new world has left him behind.

Just when he thinks he will never write again, his own life and the lives of the people around him begin to spiral out of control providing the inspiration for the greatest story he has ever told. A story of love, jealousy, intrigue, and betrayal.

Set against the background of Japan’s first incursions into Korea, Sei offers a wise and witty reflection on the nature of storytelling, its perils and delights, its lies and, ultimately, its truth.

You can find out more about the book here…

To enter this competition, just email us at info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line STORIES THAT MOVE YOU, with your name and address. Entries close midnight Monday 9 December after which a winner will be drawn at random.

PLUS… to get a double chance to win, there’s a bonus question. If you can spot a title in the video above that I’ve been talking about recently (there’s at least two) you’re name will go into the draw twice. Just include the title you’ve spotted in the body of your email.

Please note, the winner must have an Australian postal address and be okay with me forwarding their details to Hachette so that they can send you your prize.

Good luck!



Hardcover Christmas: Five Titles

I think it’s been fairly well established that books make great presents, wouldn’t you agree? It must then be said that a wonderful hardcover book is possibly one of the best gifts that one person can give another…

They’re readable, durable and substantial. They wrap so nicely, sit on the shelf so proudly, and can be enjoyed many times over.

Today I’ve got five hardcover titles that I’ve received throughout the year that I think would make really interesting gifts this Christmas.

text and drugs and rock n rollFirst up is Simon Warner’s Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Bloomsbury)… Exploring the connection between the the Beat Generation and rock (and jazz), this book has it all. This is the kind of book that I would have saved up for for ages as a teenager, and then taken a full year to read. It’s a collection of well-researched, well-written essays, stories and accounts capturing the ghosts of Ginsberg, Felinghetti, Kerouac and co. all wrapped up in the music of their time; Jazz, Dylan, and others.

My favourite essay so far is ‘Chains of Flashing Memories: Bob Dylan and the Beats, 1959 – 1975’, but I’ll be dipping back into this tome many times, as I’m sure any lucky recipient would.  You can find out more about this book here…

new york cult recipesNext is one for the foodies out there, a really unique recipe book, New York Cult Recipes by Mark Grossman (Murdoch Books). I love New York and so I wasn’t that fussed about whether this was an actual ‘usuable’ cookbook or not. I would have been satisfied with a few ‘spirit of New York’ dishes and some great photos of my second favourite city in the world.

As it happens, there are actually page after page of recipes I can’t wait to try. Smoothies, pancakes, bagels and burgers – my mouth was watering from start to finish. I can’t recommend this one enough, for any fan of NY or cooking, and especially a lover of both. You can find out more about the book here…

Oh dear, I just flicked through the book again, and now I’m really hungry…

bedside book of philosophySorry I digress. Next is something a little more pensive. It’s The Bedside Book of Philosophy, by Michael Picard (Allen and Unwin), a witty and intelligent guide to philosophy. It’s not entirely a ‘layman’s guide’ as it requires a bit of concentration, but it is a really approachable packaging-up of the fundamentals of philosophy. It uses illustrations, scenarios and puzzles to help you wrap your mind around some of the most interesting ideas in philosophy – logical paradoxes, moral dilemmas, utilitarianism – all the good ones! It’ll give you an intellectual workout that you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

I got particularly hooked on the discussion of ‘grammatical ambiguouity’…

The following sentences are [also] grammatically ambiguous. They are amphibolies, each having two meanings. Distinguish these meanings and identify the different grammatical roles played by individual words (as below):

Flying planes can be dangerous.

The lamb is too hot to eat.

The shooting of the hunters was terrible.

They are cooking apples.

Visiting relatives can be a nuisance.

These spun my head around, and as a lover of words, had me fascinated. The Bedside Book of Philosophy would make a great gift for that twisty-thinker in your life! Find out more about the book here…

1001 ideasAlong the same lines, book number four is all about ideas, but this time it’s about other people’s cleverness. 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think by Robert Arp (Allen and Unwin) is a fantastic reference, tracking 1001 ideas across the ages from Pre 500 CE to today including soap (2800BCE), the Chicken and Egg Conundrum (350 BCE), traffic lights (1868) and Rap music (1979) plus 997 others.

For lovers of trivia, this will be a bible. Not only that, but I’m loving having it on hand to slide over to my kids when they’re researching a period or concept. 99.9% of their research for school is now done online, but I love being able to show them that sometimes academically useful information comes out of books too!

You can find out more about 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think here…

the melbourne bookFinally, something a little bit lighter but equally as fascinating is the newest edition of The Melbourne Book, by Maree Coote (MelbourneStyle). Perfect for lovers of Melbourne, past and present, the fourth edition of this beautiful history includes new tales, added to stories of Melbourne – of the people, the places, the passions of residents and visitors alike.

As you might expect, it’s beautifully illustrated with photographs of landmarks and hidden corners. These photos are both new and old, the vintage shots capturing moments in time in Melbourne’s history. This is the first of Maree’s books that I’ve read, and I’m going to make sure I pass it around to all those who I know love Melbourne as much as I do. If you’d like to find out more about the book, and about Maree’s work, you can visit here…

Hopefully by now your shopping basket is pretty full, so I’ll leave it there (although I could go on). My point, in short, is that I think you should give books this Christmas – there’s just nothing better!


Anna Gare’s new cookbook ‘Eat In’

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to decide what to cook for dinner. I don’t mind the cooking, it’s the decision-making that drives me a bit batty… is that weird?

Coming up with new ideas for meals, that aren’t going to have me in the kitchen for hours in the evening (which, let me assure you, is never going to happen) can be quite challenging and that’s why I’m always on the look out for books like today’s title.

anna gareAnna Gare’s new cookbook Eat In (Murdoch Books) had me at page one, as it offered up a smorgasbord of great meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Anna’s introduction told me I was in the right place…

This book is about making simple yummy food with fresh ingredients. I really believe you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to make spectacular food. I get more excited when I cook something delicious with little effort, that I do when I make something fiddly and complicated.

Cooking, like love, does not have to be rocket science. It is a way of thinking, tasting and feeling that allows you to draw pleasure out of what could otherwise be ordinary. It turns a chore into a little party, or, sometimes, a big one. 

The best food is made at home, so Eat In and use some of my favourite recipes to indulge your cravings and treat the people you love.

And as I started flicking through the pages, I found myself tagging every second page. I’ll try that, I’ll try that, I’ll try that.

There’s an amazing smoked trout omelette, which I’m planning on trying this weekend…


and this delicious ‘pretty frittata’, ready for lunch (or dinner, or supper, or snack)…

pretty frittatta

If I’m not full from that yummy lunch, I’ll give either one of these a try – a semolina gnocchi with blue castello and spinach sauce or a really special beef burrito with green sauce and salsa. I think the kids will be happy with either of these, as long as I didn’t mention the spinach…


Lastly, if I can fit even a tiny bit more in, I’d definitely like to try these lemon lime puddings. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll just start with these…

lemon lime pies

As you can see, Anna’s book is beautifully shot and the food lovingly prepared. The dishes look impressive but won’t do your head in with complicated instructions or too many tricky ingredients (just the odd special item here and there).

Cookbooks always make great gifts, and I’d think Eat In would be a particular hit with friends or family who are fans of the Master Chef franchise. Anna’s appearance on Junior Master Chef in 2010 introduced us to her love of cooking and won her many fans, and this book is a wonderful continuation of her work.

You can find out more about Anna Gare’s Eat In at the Allen and Unwin website, where you can also pick up a copy for yourself.

In the meantime, stay tuned, I might post photos of my attempts at the dishes above, if I don’t scoff them first!