Friday, 19 December 2014

30+ days of books for christmas - the full list

And that's a wrap! My 30 days of books for Christmas has taken more than 30 days to put together and includes 32 publications - but what a list! I've been putting this post together with a warm fuzzy glow, thinking about all the wonderful titles featured during this series. From the multi-award winning Narrow Road to the Deep North to the exquisite Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon, there's something for everyone. I can't wait for my Christmas presents - something tells me I'll have my head in a book, with more to blog about in 2015! Roll on the New Year and more great reads to come.

The complete list of 30+ days of books for Christmas:
  1.  Delicious Ruth Reichl
  2. We are all completely beside ourselves Karen Joy Fowler
  3. Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon Kate Bruning 
  4. Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty
  5. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant Owen Beddall
  6. The Tea Chest Josephine Moon
  7. The Mapmaker Chronicles - Race to the End of the World AL Tait
  8. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes Anna McPartlin
  9. The Good House Ann Leary
  10. The Signature of All Things Elizabeth Gilbert
  11. The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd
  12. The Age of Miracles Karen Thompson Walker
  13. The Art of Adapting Cassandra Dunn
  14. My Salinger Year Joanna Rakoff
  15. The One Plus One Jojo Moyes
  16. The Vacationers Emma Straub
  17. Big Stone Gap Adriana Trigiani
  18. The Relatives Came Cynthia Rylant
  19. How Lucky You Are Kristyn Kusek Lewis 
  20. Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham 
  21. Dork Diaries Rachel Renee Russell
  22. Where'd you go Bernadette? Maria Semple
  23. Burial Rites Hannah Kent
  24. God is an Astronaut Alyson Foster
  25. We are called to rise Laura McBride
  26. The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
  27. Think Like a Publisher Randy Davila
  28. An American in Oz Sara James
  29. A recipe for dreaming Bryce Courtenay
  30. Father Christmas Raymond Briggs
And two bonus books!
Gardens are for Living Judy Kameon
Pippi Longstocking Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child

Collage image credits as follows:
Top Row Pippi Longstocking, Not That Kind of Girl, God is an Astronaut, An American in Oz
Middle Row Where'd you go Bernadette, The Vacationers, Big Stone Gap, Burial Rites
Bottom Row We are called to rise, Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon, The One Plus One, Think Like a Publisher

30 days of books for christmas - pippi longstocking

Could you imagine a more perfect collaboration than Astrid Lindgren and Lauren Child? Children's classic Pippi Longstocking has been updated in a large picture book format with beautiful, bright illustrations. Child, of Charlie and Lola fame, has created a visual feast, with Lindgren's story just as relevant and appealing today as when it was first published. My daughter Sophie (8) is mad on Pippi Longstocking's individuality, captured by the idea of someone who sleeps upside down in her bed,  feet on the pillow and head under the covers. Soph has whipped through her copy (a belated birthday present from Auntie Kate) carting it around and reading whenever she can. When a book so completely absorbs your child, it's sure to be a hit with other children too - there's still time to put one in the Christmas stocking (pardon the pun!) and enjoy!

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - gardens are for living

The warmer weather turns our attentions outdoors. Parties, barbecues, drinks with friends and loved ones. Cast your eyes around the garden - does the setting match your ideal, or are you still hazy on the design front? Look no further than Gardens are for Living if you need help! Judy Kameon's book has fabulous ideas for all kinds of spaces. It's an American publication, but with many plants relevant to Australian conditions including succulents and our very own kangaroo paws.
Just stunning! I love the path interspersed with the ground cover thyme. And the door! Anyone familiar with photos of my own house will know I love a brightly coloured door. The tiles and plantings on the right are amazing too - I've seen what a difference variations in height have made in our garden. So much inspiration here - this copy is courtesy of our local library, but I plan on tracking one down for our own bookshelves. It looks like we'll have a busy time ahead - how about you?!

PS Cover image via here, bottom left and right. Picmonkey collages.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - raymond briggs' father christmas

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas books were a highlight of my childhood and contributed to my great love of reading. That the big man was portrayed as cantankerous workaday hero was so delightfully subversive it appealed to my sense of humour. There wasn't a lot of text, but together with the pictures, each page told such a huge story. Behind the scenes Father Christmas was just like any one of us - stoking the fire, cooking dinner, leaving behind his cat and dog while he went to work. Perhaps the fact he had reindeer to feed was a little bit different, but all part of the big picture! Still in print over 40 years later, make Raymond Briggs part of your Christmas - guaranteed for a lifetime of reading pleasure.

Did you have any of Raymond Briggs' books when you were a child? Do you still have your well-thumbed copies or have you had to buy them again?!

PS Image via here.

Monday, 15 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - a recipe for dreaming

How often do you give yourself permission to dream?
Acclaimed Australian novelist, Bryce Courtenay, said 'The combination of learning to dream and getting into the habit of asking yourself questions is, I believe, the beginning of a way to live a happy and original life.' His small treasure of a book, A recipe for dreaming, has been on my bookshelves since 1996 when I heard him talk in Geelong. The charismatic creative signed my copy and waxed lyrical about the importance of dreaming in our lives - something I realise I've been too busy for lately and, on the occasion of my 41st birthday, plan to reclaim next year.

'If you don't know where you're going, then how will you get there? Visualise! Make pictures in your mind. See the destination. Imagine your arrival. Dream in perfect detail. See yourself the way you want to be when you arrive. See yourself arriving. Make yourself a road map and study it every day until you know the way and the destination by heart.' (Bryce Courtenay, A recipe for dreaming)

Courtenay, who passed away in 2012, leaves behind a wonderful written legacy. A recipe for dreaming is just as relevant today as it was when first published in 1994. A beautiful stocking filler, track one down for the family this Christmas.

Friday, 12 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - an american in oz

From New York to Australia's Wombat State Forest... Sara James' life is vastly different to the one she left behind as a television anchor in the US. This memoir provides fabulous insight into the surprisingly difficult transition between these two English-speaking countries and the quirks of Australian country life. Added to that, the complexities of caring for a child with special needs when most services are a couple of hours' drive away, a common problem for regional members of our population. This is a terrific read and well worth tracking down. I particularly loved the 'stranger in a strange land' aspect, having lived in Ireland and being so surprised by the many differences between our two countries - such subtle nuances that are hard to pick until you're living them day-to-day.

Have you ever been a 'stranger in a strange land'? How did you cope?!

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - think like a publisher

Randy Davila's Think like a publisher: 33 Tips to Write, Promote and Sell your Book is a fabulous and easy read. Davila covers publishing, marketing, editing and more.  He's big into platform building - especially creating digital points of contact between the writer and their readers.  Since I read his book, I've been prompted to widen my social network from just this blog to  Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads and Pinterest. Next up is the website, a place of my own to link it all together, something I hope to achieve in 2014.

Davila's 'How to' is something you can read from cover-to-cover, or pick a section and concentrate on that alone. His tips were of invaluable assistance with my first manuscript. I took my work apart and thought seriously about its direction.  With Davila's advice, I saw where my writing became too broad and reined it back in.  A must read for budding writers (and thank you to my 'anonymous' benefactor who saw my original post and bought it for me - I love your friendship, support and long distance phone calls. What would I do without you?!).

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - the narrow road to the deep north

Richard Flanagan's award winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North is not an easy read. A love story of sorts, it follows the trajectory of surgeon Dorrigo Evans, who becomes a POW on the Burma Railway. Horrific beatings, illness and the brutal day-to-day life for this group of Australians is unrelenting and disturbing - so much so that I took a break for a week in the middle. I felt guilty having to put it down, especially knowing our real-life POWs didn't have that option, but it's an incredibly confronting novel and I think anyone who has read it will understand.

It's been an interesting time to read Flanagan's work as I've been researching for a story based on my dad in 1940s Melbourne. His own father was a doctor on the hospital ships and had three significantly lucky escapes - steaming out of Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese (which would have seen him a POW); his ship being unable to dock at Darwin Harbour due to an industrial dispute and having to go elsewhere (the harbour was later bombed), and when he was meant to transfer to the Centaur, but didn't at the last minute - it, too, was bombed and he lost some dear friends as a result.

That same toss of the coin is apparent in Flanagan's novel - the prisoners' lives brought to an end by a scratch resulting in ulcers, someone else's folly sparking a beating of an innocent man, walking past a former lover in an unexpected setting. Flanagan weaves his threads in and out of the pages, drawing up the loose ends as the novel comes to a close. It's magic, really, and a tribute to the many years he has spent honing his craft. A must read.

Have you read The Narrow Road to the Deep North? What did you think?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - we are called to rise

One of my favourite reads for 2014 is Laura McBride's debut novel We are called to rise. The lives of four separate people become connected through tragedy. It's such a beautifully written book that you want to rush to read it, but force yourself to slow down and savour it for longer. I blogged about McBride's novel earlier in the year and picked out the following passage as an example:

'It all matters.  That someone turns out the lamp…tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit… wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed… accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends the dying' (p197)

A must read, I look forward to reading more from Laura McBride in the future.

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Monday, 8 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - god is an astronaut

Who do you turn to in a time of need? Alyson Foster's God is an Astronaut is a series of emails from Jess to her former colleague Arthur. Set in the aftermath of a shuttle explosion connected to her husband, Jess and her family are thrust into the media spotlight. Her husband and his colleagues face intense scrutiny as the disaster is investigated, its repercussions reaching into the family home. Jess' analysis of the situation and the impact on those around her makes for a compelling read.

Highly recommended.

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - burial rites

Sentenced to death for murder, Agnes Magnusdottir awaits her execution in the home of a regional official. This Icelandic tale is based on a true story and fictionalised by Australian author Hannah Kent. Burial Rites is a captivating read that transported me straight into Agnes' world and the heart of Scandinavia. The relationships between Agnes and those around her are complicated, but not without compassion. If you haven't yet read this novel, request a copy in your Christmas stocking and hunt it down for your book-loving friends - a must read!

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - where'd you go bernadette?

Maria Semple's debut novel showcases the effects of juggling too many balls at one time. When Bernadette disappears, her daughter Bee is left to piece everything together, discovering the truth behind her mother's complicated life along the way. Witty and insightful, Semple's novel is highly original and a delicious treat for literary lovers.  This novel was recommended on Alicia Paulson's blog and had been recommended to her by her own readers - so thank you to all of them for pointing me in the right direction!

Have you read Maria Semple? What's been your favourite find online, reading-wise?

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Friday, 5 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - dork diaries

Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries series has been a huge hit for Sophie this year. Each book features Nikki as the central character, 'tales from a not-so-fabulous life'. Themes include starting at a new school, bullies, friendship, falling in love (!), fighting for a cause and following your dreams. Soph, aged 8, says she really enjoys the books and finds them very funny. One of her favourites is How to Dork Your Diary when Nikki loses her diary. It also contains tips about diaries and a diary section for the reader.

Soph has read many of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but thinks Dork Diaries is way funnier - and not just because this series is about a girl. She loves the little sister, Brianna, who is always getting into trouble (a bit like her own younger brother, Jono!). We found a beautiful boxed set with titles including Dear Dork, Skating Sensation, Pop Star and Party Time. As a parent, I'm keen on anything that keeps kids reading, so I'm giving it a big thumbs up too!

Have the Dork Diaries made an appearance at your house? What have your kids been reading?

PS Cover image via here and collage via Picmonkey.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

reupholstering at home - vintage chairs

Last year I came upon these gorgeous vintage chairs - gorgeous in everything but the upholstery fabric... a tired, dull floral number that just had to go. Fix number one was to create a patchwork style cover... which didn't work either. The fabrics were lovely, but not quite bright enough. Fix number two was a beautiful bright fabric... which was too thin, creased easily and wasn't quite right. The third - and I'm delighted to report final fix is this, the big TA DAH!
 Bright fabric, check! Thick material, check! So far, this is the only one that's almost finished properly - it just needs a piece of calico on the base to hide all the workings - which makes this post a bit premature, but it's so exciting! The other three need their bases fitted properly which involves the long, arduous task to untack the existing fabric.  There must be millions of staples and nails in each chair, so I'll do them as time evolves. For now though, I'm delighted with the new look - something I've been meaning to do for ages. I'll do a more in-depth, step-by-step post down the track, but wanted to share this while I could...

Have you tackled any sewing projects lately, big or small?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - not that kind of girl

Imagine recording all your squeamish memories and publishing them for the world to see. Uni, boys, hang ups about your weight, dipping a toe in the working world for the first time - it's all there for us to reflect on in Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. Rolling from choking hilarity to embarrassingly awkward, chapters include '18 Unlikely Things I've Said Flirtatiously', '13 Things I've Learned Are Not Okay to Say to Friends', 'This Is Supposed to Be Fun? Making the Most of Your Education' and 'Emails I would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver'.

Lena Dunham writes with amazing honesty and always leaves me with a smile on my face - and there's a fine line between whether it's an amused smile or an oh-my-god one, but a smile all the same.  If you enjoyed her HBO series Girls, rush out and buy this book - there will be no regrets. If you're unacquainted with Dunham's work, now's the time to make your introductions.  Check out  Ask Lena on her website, then track down her book and tv series!  Enjoy!

Have you watched Girls or read Not That Kind of Girl? Were they your cup of tea?!

PS Cover image via here and collage via Picmonkey.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - how lucky you are

Do you ever really know the intimate lives of your best friends? In Kristyn Kusek Lewis's novel How Lucky You Are, Waverly, Kate and Amy keep secrets from each other - secrets that would be better shared. When the shocking truth is revealed behind one 'perfect' life, each of them put their lives under the microscope. Kristen Kusek Lewis weaves together a compelling story, which warns us away from envying others. She invites us to walk a mile in their shoes first - do you dare?

This is one book you can judge by its cover - a perfect match!  How is your book/cover success ratio or do you ignore the cover altogether?!

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Monday, 1 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - the relatives came

People tucked into all corners of the house describes my ideal family get together - just as in Cynthia Rylant's The Relatives Came. I discovered this children's picture book in our local library, but fell in love with it and had to buy a copy of our own. I've blogged about it before at this time of year, but this list of book for Christmas would be incomplete without adding it here too.

While it's not a Christmas book per se, it's about a family gathering during the American summer - their favourite time of the year.  I must confess that I'm unable to read The Relatives Came without bursting into tears and you'd be the same with lines like this: 'You'd have to go through at least four different hugs to get from the kitchen to the front room. Those relatives!' It reminds me of my own family, near and far.  We won't have the full quota this year but we will come close and we can't wait!

Does your family have The Relatives Came or another special book that reminds them of their cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents? Do you get it out for Christmas or other times of year?

PS Image via here and Picmonkey collage.