Sample the Flavours of Melbourne

Today’s review is very timely, for a few reasons…

(1) I’m laid-up, and need to live vicariously through others;
(2) Hubby and I really need to go on a date soon, it’s been far too long;
(3) In my opinion, winter is the perfect time to explore Melbourne, and there’s no denying that winter has arrived…

So, as I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time lying on the couch, I’ve been flicking through the pages of Flavours of Melbourne, by Jonette George (Designed by Daniele Wilton, and published by Smudge Publishing) and I’ve been making mental lists of sophisticated outings and laneway explorations.

Flavours of Melbourne is a gorgeous coffee table book that beautifully highlights the very favourite restaurants and bars in Melbourne’s laneways and rooftops. It includes fantastic write-ups on Melbourne; its history, and its highlights and makes it abundantly clear why Melbourne is considered to be so very ‘liveable’.

Some favourite inclusions for me would have to be Cookie and Pelligrini’s in Bourke Street. Now on the list of ‘things to do’ is Madame Brussels and The Croft Institute, and although I’m painfully aware of the fact that to check out every spot that caught my eye in the book would take more weekends than I’ve got at my disposal, I’m loving having such a wonderfully long list of ideas.

It should be said that George and Winton’s book is more than just a restaurant guide, of which there are many. There are a couple of things that set it apart… firstly, they’ve included a very special range of recipes, provided by some of the top chefs working in Melbourne. For those weekends where you can’t secure a babysitter, you’ll not miss out, you can recreate the Melbourne experience in your own home. A Calamari with Chickpeas and Radicchio entree from Guy Grossi and Matteo Tine, perhaps followed by a main of Braised Pork Belly, Drunken Potatoes, Steamed Baby Bok Choy and Star Anise Caramal from Seamstress chef Anthony Humphries and then finish off your stay-in evening with a devine dessert from Nikki Smith from Punch Lane, a Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Ginger Ice Cream.

The second thing that makes this book special is the photography – it’s bold, large and original. It paints our city’s nooks and crannies in an incredibly flattering light. I particularly loved the inclusion of lots of colourful and edgy Melbourne Street Art, from front-cover and throughout. This inclusion, wonderfully presents our urban gallery in all it’s glory.

Flavours of Melbourne will be a book that sits on my coffee table for a long time yet. It’ll take me time to work through, and it’ll provide me inspiration when I get out and about again, one day very soon. I marvel at the fact that every time I pick up the book and have a flick through, I find something I’d missed before. Quite a bit like Melbourne itself really.


I’m thrilled to be able to offer TWO readers a copy of Smudge Publishing’s Flavours of Melbourne!

All you need to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment,

…and tell us about your favourite restaurant or bar, or your favourite recipe. I can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

I’ll draw two winners at random on Thursday 7 June 2012. As usual, you’ll have 4 days to claim your prize or I’ll redraw.

If you’d like to find out more about Jonette and Daniele’s book and their other great titles, you can visit Smudge Publishing here.


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Enjoy some undead adventures

I’m pleased to announce, that Tam J  is the winner of That Book You Like’s The Immortal Rules give-away. Thanks for your entry Tam!

Thanks everyone for entering, it’s great to hear that there are so many vampire-lit fans out there! If you’d like to hear more about Julie Kagawa and her writing, she’ll be our very special guest in the June TBYL News: All Things Books... out next Monday. Subscribe here…

Tam, just email me your details (postal address) to by end Saturday, 2.06.12 and I’ll make arrangements for a copy to be sent to you! If the prize isn’t claimed, I will redraw on 3.06.12

And don’t despair, if you’ve missed out on this give-away, I’ve got another one for you tomorrow! Stay tuned for details…

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No-Sport Sunday with Jeff Kinney

Our weekends are often pretty sporty. The boys enjoy there basketball, and as such, Saturday and Sunday is often taken up with playing, watching or talking about basketball of one kind of another. And then, of course, there’s the footy…

But, every now and then I steal one or both of the kids away from all the sporty fun for a bit of a bookish adventure.

Sunday last was one such occasion, when I absconded with Evan into the city to hear from the fantastic Jeff Kinney, author of the bestselling Diary of  a Wimpy Kid series. Thanks to the Wheeler Centre, we tripped into the Town Hall along with thousands of other eager fans to hear from the talented, very unassuming author.

I was so impressed with Jeff’s story, it was fascinating to hear how his vision for himself as a cartoonist didn’t quite work out the way he thought it would. Rather, with patience and perseverance, his career in fact became about much more than his whimsical drawings. His cartoons and stories communicate a most refreshing connection with childhood, and his obvious commitment to making reading accessible to ‘reluctant readers’ is wonderful to witness.

His very visual presentation was wonderfully entertaining… I particularly liked being able to see how involved he was with the film translation of his book (I’ve often wondered about the author/film-maker relationship), and I think Evan’s favourite part would have to have been the different cover translations of Diary of a Wimpy Kid from around the world, in particularly the banana-ry Brazilian translation! He talked about it all the way home…

The kids were transfixed, Jeff’s presentation was pitched just right. The junior audience laughed and ooh’d and aah’d throughout. Not only that, I was incredibly impressed with the questions that the kids asked at the end of the session – concise, thoughtful and of real interest to the whole audience. Fantastic crowd.

Events like this one provide the most amazing opportunity to engage kids with writing, reading and authors. Just quietly, I like to be able to give Ev and Oscar a little break from the sporty world of weekends, and to encourage something a little more on the bookish side from time to time. These kinds of gigs give me a chance to do this.

Thanks to the Wheeler Centre for the opportunity to see Jeff Kinney this month. Please check out their calendar for some more amazing upcoming events, including evenings with Christopher Paolini and Jodi Picoult.


A couple of fun reminders while I’m here!!

The TBYL Book Club for May started today. Join us at the club to chat about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.

I’ll be drawing our The Immortal Rules competition at 8pm tonight. Find out how to enter here.

I’m currently getting the June edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish ready. Don’t forget to subscribe to get it by email, first Monday of the month.

There’s just a couple more days to enter our TBYL News, Mary Bennet give-away. Click here to find out how to enter!


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Operation Pre-emptive Strike

I’ve got another little hospital trip scheduled for tomorrow morning, and perhaps not surprisingly, the only things that I’ve packed so far are my books. I’ve chosen two to take with me; If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead and Turquoise both of which should entertain me nicely for the couple of days that I’ll be expected to bunker down at the hospital.

When I get home though, my full reading pile will be moved from my office to the lounge room and set up next to the couch where I’ll have built a little nest, and where I’ll stay cozy, resting and reading for a couple of weeks.

Thank goodness for books…

Some of you might know my breast cancer backstory, and this latest  health interruption is another ‘pre-emptive strike’, a precaution only. It’s recently come to light that ovarian cancer is a bit of issue in the family, and as such, well lets just say I’m taking measures. Better to be safe than sorry.

Anyway, I don’t want to over-share, but I did want to give you all the heads up that you’ll either be hearing a little less from me for a couple of weeks, or lots more. Which way it goes will depend on how spritely I’m feeling. Rest assured, at the very least I’ll be loitering around the edges of the internet until I’m back up and running, and of course I’ll catch you all next Monday, over at the TBYL Book Club. Our conversations about The Help kick off next week, and I can’t wait to hear from a whole bunch of new bookish friends.

Here’s to being back on deck as quick as a shot!

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A vampire for all ages: The Immortal Rules

I love the fact that there seems to be a vampire story for all age groups.

As I write this, my four-year old is watching a bizarre little show called Mona the Vampire on the ABC, yesterday I ogled over that (decidedly adult) True Blood magazine cover, and today I finished a fantastic young adult novel, an enticing, blood-sucking adventure The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen).

Aimed squarely at plucky teenage girls, Julie’s novel is a wonderfully entertaining tale of vampires, rabids, ferals and ‘bloodbags’ all battling darkly, hopelessly against extinction, striving towards an increasingly unlikely survival.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked – and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

It’s been said before, but there is undoubtedly a lack of strong female protagonists in literature, but Julie has kindly helped to redress the balance. Allie is tough and resourceful. Both before and after her turning, she shows true grit and determination, and the delightful ability to skilfully wield a katana. She paints herself as detached, but through her relationships with Stick, Zeke and even Kanin, she shows herself to be ultimately caring and subtly gallant.

There’s plenty of action, blood and gore:

“Something hit me from behind, hard, and warmth spread over my neck and back, though there was no pain. The blow knocked me forward, and I stumbled, falling to my knees. A weight landed on me, screeching, tearing at me, and bright strips of fire began to spread across my shoulders. I screamed and flipped over, using my legs to shove it away, but another pale creature filled my vision, and all I could see was its face and teeth and blank, dead eyes, lunging forward .”

And plenty of the usual vampire mythology, imagery and romance:

“I lunged, sinking my fangs into his neck, driving them deep. Stifling a cry, Zeke stiffened and gripped my arms, arching his back. His blood coursed hot and sweet into my mouth, spreading through me, a slow-moving fire. It tasted of earth and smoke, of heat and passion and strength, of all things Zeke. He breathed my name, a sigh of benediction and longing, and I couldn’t get close enough, never close enough.”

It’s little wonder really that the vampiric tale is so often revisited…

The novel itself brought to mind many favourites; True Blood, Underworld, even I am Legend, but the author’s creation of darkly decrepit vampire cities, vampiric hierachy and the threat of ‘rabids’ on the doorstep has kept her novel fresh and original. The search for Eden, and for an illusive, perhaps impossible cure drives the story ever forward.

I’m no YA expert but I’d say that if you liked Hunger Games and Twilight you’ll no doubt enjoy The Immortal Rules equally. This is the first in a promised triology ‘Blood of Eden’ and I for one am already looking forward to the next installment.


I’m pleased to be able to offer one reader a copy of Julie’s The Immortal Rules this month.

All you need to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment,

…and tell us where about your favourite vampire tale.

I’ll draw one winner at random on Monday 28 May 2012. As usual, you’ll have 4 days to claim your prize or I’ll redraw.

If you’d like to find out more about Julie’s book, you should visit her website.

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Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Reading through the night

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask for some reading ideas, so I thought it might be good time to do another …on the reading pile post. I’ve got a couple of books on the go at the moment, and number of tempting titles waiting for their turn next.

I’m almost through Jennifer Paynter’s Mary Bennet (Penguin Books) which I mentioned in March, and I’ve also recently finished this month’s TBYL Book Club book, The Help, ready to discuss at the end of May.

I’ve also made a start on a paranormal young adult novel by Julie Kagawa called The Immortal Rules (Harlequin Teen). It’s such a wonderfully easy read, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it in full next week. The first in a coming series, it’s a tale of vampires, fringe dwellers and the struggle between survival and extinction. Allison Sekemoto, the main protagonist is tough and likeable, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her in her fight against a myriad of threats, human, vampire and otherwise.

Once I’ve finished Julie’s book, I’ll be moving on to a love story, a novel by Ayshe Talay-Ongan, Turquoise (Find out more). It’s described as being…

“…set against transcendent love, unrelenting hatred and loyalties to friends and family, Turquoise is the story of an enduring and passionate love affair between Yasmin and Renan, which spans two decades, two marriages and three continents.”

I don’t read many romances, so this will be something a bit different for me. I’m looking forward to it.

Throughout June, I’ll be sure to read our next TBYL Book Club book as well, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep (Penguin Books). I’ve not read this previously, and I’ve heard impressive things about it. It’s described as a psychological thriller of the highest order;

“Each day, Christine wakes knowing nothing of her life. Each night, her mind erases the day. But before she goes to sleep, she will recover fragments from her past, flashbacks to the accident that damaged her, and then—mercifully—she will forget.”

I’m excited, and little bit scared about reading this one and I hope you’ll join us to discuss this book in June.

Next up will be Diane Chamberlain’s The Good Father (Mira) which has been recommended as being ‘essential reading for Jodi Picoult fans.’ It’s the touching story of Travis, a young single father who makes the somewhat unexpected decision to choose fatherhood over the usual fun and partying of young adulthood. The novel follow’s Travis as he’s backed into a corner, making potentially disastrous choices.

“With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter’s sake. Even if it means he might lose her.”

 Sounds very interesting, and a quite unique storyline and characters.

Lastly is a book that’s been on the pile for a little while, and that I’ve been very tempted by on and off, simply because it’s got such an appealing cover. It’s Andrew Nicoll’s If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead (Pan Macmillan).

“Sitting in his caravan, drinking what is left of his coffee (dust), Otto has narrowly escaped death at the hands of allied bombs. Convinced his luck has run out and he will not see morning, he decides to record the story of his life for the poor soul who finds his body.”

This novel looks like it’ll be an absolutely crazy ride! It’s war-time setting takes a back seat to a bizarre reminiscence of circus acts, royalty, striking and convenient resemblances and of course, Otto. Again, I can’t wait to get into this one.

I’ve a couple of other books that are sneaking up behind these ones, but I’ll chat about them soon. For now, I think that’s more than enough for me to get my head around. I think there’ll be a few late nights reading in June…

What are you reading at the moment? Have you read any of these titles? What did you think of them?

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Freedom of Speech. Over-rated?

Last week, after a busy day in the office I thought I’d better get myself off to a Wheeler Centre gig. It’d been a little while since I’d been to one, and I had tickets, after all.

I wandered up to one of my favourite venues, the Melbourne Town Hall, to attend the latest in the Intelligence Squared Debates (presented by the St James Ethics Centre and the Wheeler Centre.) I expected that the evening would be intelligent, philosophical and perhaps even humorous, and my expectations were most certainly meet. I cast my vote at the door, and took my seat ready to hear six great minds argue for and against the proposition, that “freedom of speech is over-rated.”

It had been a long time since I’d been to a properly run, serious debate. To be truthful, the last time was probably high school, and so I’d forgotten how perplexing they can be. Although I felt pretty certain of which side of the argument I agreed with, I found myself flipping, second guessing and questioning my commitment as each new speaker took to the podium.

The line-up was impressive; Marcia Langton, Michael Gawenda and Catherine Deveny arguing for the proposition and Julian Burnside, Gretel Killeen and Arnold Zable speaking for the opposing side. Without exception, the speakers offered up compelling and intelligent arguments, although I’ll admit that from the outset the negative come across incredibly strongly.

Marcia Langton raised extremely valid and convincing points, examples of the harm that can be brought about by ‘too much’ free speech. Arnold Zable in turn highlighted the frightening damage that can be done through ‘too little’.

Catherine Deveny, in true irreverent style, brought to bear an argument that not only was freedom of speech over-rated, but also that it was practically imaginary. In her opinion; “…some of the people could say some of the things, some of the time.” The rest of us, if not in this select group, suffered greatly if we dared to speak our mind. Gretel Killeen did not entirely disagree with this argument, although she did go on to demonstrated that even if freedom of speech did not exist, that this didn’t mean that it wasn’t incredibly important. In her opinion, it was in fact greatly under-rated, and was a freedom well worth fighting to obtain and maintain.

The final speakers, Michael Gawenda and Julian Burnside QC were both highly intelligent and incredibly entertaining. Michael Gawenda focused on the importance of facts, on the need for speech (free or otherwise), opinions or media to be based on factual realities. To use freedom of speech to excuse, or indeed validate lies or fallacies was a great crime indeed. Again, the speaker for the negative Julian Burnside QC agreed with this, and went on to say that freedom of speech, as it stands today does not, and should not, include the freedom to tell lies, or to mislead.

The fight was won with Burnside. He’s a sly one, and he turned the debate on its head at this point. He complimented the affirmative team, and highlighted how their careers, their life’s works were in fact great testaments to the importance of freedom of speech and that they had in fact worked to ensure that others could be assured of a certain, and potentially increasing, level of freedom to express their views, beliefs and opinions.

After questions, comments and final arguments from both teams, a debate winner was declared. The evening went to the negative team, freedom of speech was NOT over-rated. The victory was convincing.

This was a fascinating evening, and I’m looking forward to the next debate, on an equally contentious issue “Foreign Aid is a Waste of Money.”

Next up though, it’s looking like Ev and I will be enjoying an evening out together to hear from the very funny Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. We can’t wait! Tickets are available if you’d like to join in the fun…

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For right or wrong: The Light Between Oceans

I thought I’d better hurry up and write my review of this novel, before everything that can be said, has been said. It would seem that everyone is talking about The Light Between Oceans – it’s swept through blogs, book clubs and TV shows, as some books are wont to do.

M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, with a moral conundrum such as it has at its heart, was always going to be popular.

“1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife, Isabel, live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.

Then one  April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds…”

In short, this novel is full of many types of heartbreak, all of the particular brand that are felt sharply by those readers who are partners and parents. The thought of the loss of a child sends shivers down my spine, a shared worst-nightmare for many of us, and as such, parts of this novel were very unsettling.

Perhaps fortunately, The Light Between Oceans has more to offer than just the central moral dilemma. It paints a haunting picture of lighthouse life, the tyrannies and attractions of isolation and an affecting sense of the ocean expanse surrounding our main characters, Tom, Isabel and Lucy.

I found it a fascinating capture of the mind of a returned soldier:

“The cruellest joke was on the fellows everyone called ‘lucky’ because they got to come back at all: back to the kids spruced up for the welcome home, to the dog with a ribbon tied to his collar so he could join in the fun. The dog was usually the first to spot that something was up. Not just that the bloke was missing an eye or a leg; more that he was missing generally – still missing in action, though his body had never been lost sight of….Something missing.”

Tom’s ‘burden of guilt’ was ever present; why had he survived service while so many others did not? How could he have let his family fall apart, his mother disappear? How could he take Isabel into his Janus Rock isolation? And of course, there was Lucy…

Interestingly, at the same time as wishing that Tom would stop being so hard on himself, I found myself staggered by Isabel’s apparent lack of guilt. She was so able to reconcile her ‘decision’ with her own logic, her own version of events, that it was almost horrible.  Throughout the novel, her grief sadly clearly leads to her undoing.

This is Stedman’s first novel, and for that she should be congratulated. Critic’s views of her writing have been a little mixed, but to me she’s guilty of nothing much more than a few clunky pieces of dialogues from time to time. Apart from this, her storytelling is compelling and her picture of 1920s Western Australia is endearing.

I feel a little like I’ve read around Australia this last twelve months, and I’m pleased to have added this to my literary travels.

Highly recommended.

Buy your own copy of The Light Between Oceans at the TBYL Store!

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The brand new TBYL News: All Things Bookish…

I’m very excited this morning, as I happily welcome to my new ‘baby’ to That Book You Like – the TBYL News: All Things Bookish…

I’m so pleased to be able to publish our very first newsletter, and I hope you’ll enjoy having a little read – grab a cuppa and put your feet up for a couple of minutes.

TBYL News is a great way to catch up on recent reviews, upcoming news and words from my lovely special guests. This month, I had a little chat to Jackie from My Little Bookcase.

You’ll also find exclusive newsletter specials at The Store and excitingly, newsletter-only competitions! This month I’ve got a copy of Jennifer Paynter’s Mary Bennet to give-away, with thanks to Penguin Books. Don’t miss out on the chance to add this lovely novel to your collection.

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish, May 2012

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here. This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

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The Help: Readable, with chills

I have a bad habit.

I have a habit of avoiding reading a book if it’s ‘too popular’, if it’s being read by everyone else. It does me no favours, I’ve missed out on many interesting novels as a result, but I am gradually learning my lesson.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was one such book. I put off picking up this novel, despite being told it was a really fascinating, moving story. Likewise, I’ve not seen the film, although it’s on my to-do-list now. I can’t help thinking it’d have been a real shame if I’d missed this incredibly readable novel.

This month’s TBYL Book Club book, I am so looking forward to hearing what you think about this thought-provoking story:

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

The first thing to say about this novel is that it is entertaining. I was completely immersed in the time and place. The recreation of 1960s America was fascinating, complete with authentic referencing of events, personalities, fashion and music. And of course its prejudices. I was intrigued, and horrified by the picture painted of Jackson, Mississippi, and most particularly of the women who inhabited its houses – their habits, their polite society, and of course their matter-of-fact, day-to-day racism. Their attitudes and bizarre logics were disturbing, but from those who made the hard choice to buck the trend, inspiration could be drawn.

Hilly has few redeeming features, and it’s through her and her influence that we experience the most overt prejudice.

Skeeter is the quiet, brave voice of reason, who firstly with a whisper and then with a shout, calls out these women on their horrible behaviour. Still, although Skeeter is the voice, it’s Aibileen who provides the words. It’s only through her quiet defiance and refreshing honesty that a small step-change is made possible in the cloistered, old-fashioned town.

I was impressed with how Stockett was able to make it quite clear that Jackson, Mississippi was not indicative of the whole of the US in this time, but she nonetheless highlighted beautifully the path that America has travelled, and is still traveling in its move away from a culture of slavery, prejudice and contridictions.

It’s a clever novel, and as I’ve said, incredibly readable. It has its dark moments, its humour and its moments of inspiration. It’s well worth a read, and will no doubt prompt many moments of quite reflection. It’s a great book to share with fellow readers.

I hope you’ll join us while we read this book during May for the TBYL Book Club. You can join the club here!

Buy your own copy of The Help at the TBYL Store!

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