The Momentum Blog

Give a TV lover a book!

Posted January 14, 2016 by Sophie Overett

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Do you have someone in your life who is difficult to buy gifts for? Is it your dad? Regardless, all you need to know is their favourite TV show, and we’ve got the rest covered. Here’s some book tips for the TV lover!

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Watching: The Walking Dead
Give them: A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley

The Walking Dead is basically a cultural phenomenon at this point. The series about a man waking up from a coma to find himself in the throes of the zombie apocalypse captured imaginations around the world. Odds are someone in your life is a diehard fan of the series – whether it’s your teenage sister or straight laced hubby. This holiday season, grab them A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley, a terrific dystopian series set in the outskirts of Alice Springs with a small community left to fight off hoards of the undead.

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Watching: Grey’s Anatomy
Give them: Life Support by Nicki Edwards

Medical dramas are a dime a dozen, but few have had the longevity of Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, a series that really taps into the heart (pun!) of the genre. Stop wondering about the difference between McDreamy and McSteamy and instead settle your giftee with Nicki Edwards’ Life Support, a story about a small town nurse who finds herself balancing her career, the death of her husband and a mysterious new beau.

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Watching: Homeland
Give them: Standoff by David Rollins

The combination of crime, character study and national security proved the trifecta for multi-award-winning drama, Homeland. Standoff by David Rollins takes a different approach, but is similarly thrilling as the story of an OSI Special Agent investigating an airport massacre only to find a survivor left crawling out of the Texan desert.

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Watching: Reign
Give them: The Young Royals Series by S.A. Gordon

Who doesn’t like to see hot young royals caught between lovers and station? Reign might take you back to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots, but that doesn’t mean the monarch drama needs to stay in the 1500s. S.A. Gordon’s Young Royals Series takes an All-American girl and drops her into the life of luxury after she captures the eye of Prince David. Fraught relationships and torn commitments ensue!

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Watching: The Jinx: the life and deaths of Robert Durst
Give them: Chopper Unchopped

Thanks to the Serial Podcast, true crime seems to be a hot water-cooler topic these days. Everyone listened with eager ears as Sarah Koenig opened up the long closed case of Adnan Syed and scrambled to answer the question of whether he really did kill his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. With the podcast between seasons, a lot of listeners turned their attention to HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, a six-part miniseries exploring the strange connection between a string of unsolved crime and a real estate tycoon. Give your criminally-curious pal the insidelook at one of Australia’s most notorious criminals, Mark ‘Chopper’ Brandon, in Chopper Unchopped.

Is the show you have in mind not featured here? Tell us in the comments and we’ll let you know what to get!

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The Best Christmas Films Based on Books

Posted December 24, 2014 by Eve Merrier

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The film isn’t as good as the book: that’s what we bibliophile purists are supposed to say, and sometimes it’s true. But it’s Christmas; and, here in merry England, when we’ve eaten too much, the crackers have been cracked, and the Queen’s speech is over, there’s little else to do except settle in and watch some proper Christmas telly. Some of the best are based on books.

KermitThere are many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, though none so entertaining and close to its source material as the Muppet version. Dickens was a committed Christmas revivalist. Because of him it is legally obligated to snow in London on Christmas day. This blog post has collated every filmed version of A Christmas Carol they could find. Particularly novel is the 1901 silent film: the earliest adaptation in existence, made just 30 years after the death of Mr Dickens.

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Polar Express is based on the book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. He’s the genius who wrote Jumanji. In the book, the train doesn’t stop or slow down on its way to the North Pole, and apparently the kids get nougat to eat, instead of just drinking hot chocolate. There’s a delightfully pedantic website called thatwasnotinthebook.com that nicely summarises the differences for us.

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Die Hard begins at a Christmas party on Christmas Eve, his wife’s name is Holly, and John McClane brings us the gift of fighting terrorists who want to ruin Christmas parties with their nonsense. Ergo Christmas film.

johnIt’s based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. Also worth a mention is the Community Die Hard Christmas spoof, which is many levels of special.

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We cannot talk about Christmas films without mentioning Raymond Briggs for both The Snowman and Father Christmas. Briggs himself is not a fan of Christmas and feels The Snowman has been hijacked by sentimentalists. The Snowman melts (sorry – spoiler!) to teach children about mortality. The visit to Santa isn’t in the book, and I’m not sure Bowie’s in it either.

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Briggs said, “I thought, ‘It’s a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas’, as The Snowman had nothing to do with that, but it worked extremely well.” It did indeed.

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What are your favourite Christmas films?

Merry Christmas to you all and have a jolly time, as Dickens put it, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

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A very Matt Kearns Christmas…

Posted December 19, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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Matt Kearns hiked the case of beer up onto one shoulder, stuck the vodka bottle under the other arm, and kicked the car door shut with his heel. The music alone was a magnet drawing him to his destination.

Running up the few steps and standing just inside, he experienced all the sensations of the party – the heady mix of cigarette smoke, cooking meat, perfume and perspiration. Good music was playing a little too loud, forcing people to raise their voices. Laughter filled the rooms, tumbling down the hallways like a physical wave. To Matt, the blend of sounds was like an indecipherable, but welcoming, language all of its own.

He paused at a Christmas tree – the baubles and tinsel were immaculate at the top, but then got sparser near the bottom, as the decorator either ran out of time or patience. He grinned. It’s you all over, Ms Weir, he thought, hiked his beer again and followed the crush of voices into the main living room of Aimee Weir’s sprawling cottage.

He was late, fashionably so, he hoped people thought, as he looked for friendly faces – there were many. He couldn’t wait to catch up with everyone. It’d been a while, and given his therapy was over, and he’d been given a clean, but fragile, bill of health, he felt good-to-go. After all, he thought proudly, not many ancient languages experts can boast they’ve outrun a Kraken under the Antarctic ice, a giant spider attack in the Amazon, and then been to hell and back, literally.

‘All in a day’s work,’ he whispered, and pushed his hair back. There were several women who turned to briefly check him out. Matt nodded to a few, deciding on his first move after he had dumped his booze.

Aimee caught sight of him and waved. She was in animated conversation with a few academic types – probably other scientists or petroleum clients, he guessed. He smiled and pointed at her hand – she had a few sips of white wine left. Aimee liked dry whites, preferably from Napa valley – Twomey Cellars, usually, or Decoy, if she felt like spoiling herself.

She held up the glass, swirled it and nodded. Matt mouthed: coming right up, and headed towards the kitchen. On his way, he passed three huge men with the standard military buzz cut. Even though there was little space left in the crowded room, there was a good five feet of clear air around the soldiers. Their fearsome looks and brutal presence created an invisible barrier that none dared intrude on. Standing at the rear of them was the enormous Sam Reid, 6’8” and wearing a green t-shirt, probably the biggest he could find, but which still strained over huge muscles. In one hand was a pewter mug that was more like a bucket with a handle – it’d be full of beer, probably Bud, Coors, maybe Michelob, or all three mixed together – the big HAWC was more your quantity-guy.

Matt laughed softly, and looked across to the next man; his boss, Jack Hammerson. “The Hammer” was pointing at Sam’s chest as he spoke, one finger jutting past a glass filled with amber fluid – probably Wild Turkey, straight up.

Hammerson turned his brick-like head to Matt and nodded. The older warrior was starting to look less like flesh and blood, his features resembling something more durable like granite or old iron girders. Even his gray crew cut looked tough enough to give off splinters.

Matt became aware that someone was looking at him – the gaze like a physical force – and he turned quickly to see Alex Hunter’s unblinking eyes on him. The stare pinned him like an icepick. Behind that gaze there was something trapped, under control and caged for now, but only barely. Matt knew in the dark those gray-blue eyes would shine like a wolf’s – he’d seen it. Alex was different, he got that now, but still the man, though a friend, took some getting used to.

Alex nodded and didn’t smile – did he ever? Matt knew Alex Hunter, called the Arcadian, had gone through more pain – emotional and physical – than a dozen men combined. He stored it up, reactor-like, inside himself. At 6’2”, Alex was easily dwarfed by Sam, but that something behind those eyes, burning away, furnace-like, let you know he was a hundred times more dangerous.

Alex lifted his glass and toasted Matt before downing the two fingers of what he guessed was bourbon. Alex usually drank Jack Daniels, but when he put his glass on the table, Hammerson immediately refilled it with his own bottle of Turkey.

Matt felt himself relax as Alex’s stare moved to Aimee. He would watch her all night. Even though the HAWC team leader had fought through a hundred hells, when it came to Aimee, he had his Achilles heel and kryptonite all wrapped in one attractive and volatile package. Matt knew he hungered for her, but whether they ever got back together or not was beyond Matt’s forecasting ability. The one thing he knew for sure was that Alex would never let her memory escape his soul.

Big Sam waved Matt over – Matt grinned and approached, knowing he was about to lose several beers before he even unloaded the case. Sam slapped his shoulder, opened the box and took two, standing them on the table in front of him. Next, he snatched the vodka bottle and looked hard at it, squinting down at Matt suspiciously.

‘What’re you Russian now, Kearns?’

Matt laughed. ‘It’s Ketel One… from the Netherlands.’

Sam’s lips curled as he thought it over. ‘Okay.’ He twisted the top free and added an inch of the clear liquid to his beer mug.

‘Want to speak to you later, Matt.’ Hammerson grabbed his shoulder and pulled him forward. ‘Got a little project down on the ice coming up.’

Matt held up his hand. ‘Off duty, Jack.’ He broke away and headed to the kitchen to dump his booze. A cheer went up as some sort of party game was obviously reaching its crescendo. Matt peered around the corner and saw a grinning woman’s head rising and falling. He got up on his toes to see over the crowd. The woman was sitting cross-legged on the back of someone doing pushups. The count was at a hundred and there was no sign of slowing down.

‘Okay, okay, you win.’ A brawny guy shouted, obviously losing his bet. The seated woman jumped up, and turned to offer a hand to the new pushup champ.

Casey Franks stood straight, raised an arm and threw her head back, roaring her victory. Her blond crew cut shone with perspiration over a red face. She wore a green tank top and a wide grin that ended in a sneer from the scar pulling it up at her cheek. Her body was a mess of scars, tattoos, and gnarled muscles on a physique that was so ripped it looked assembled, piece-by-piece, each muscle and tendon added separately by a mad sculptor, who then sprayed his tortured masterpiece with multicolored ink.

Casey reached out to grab up a bottle on a desktop and raised it in the air to more cheers. Matt shook his head and smiled – it was her usual gut-rot – Old Forrester bourbon: 86 proof of spicy rye, big oak and just a kick of brown sugar.

She saw Matt, grinned wider, and then mouthed: you’re next pretty boy, and pointed to the floor. Matt held up both hands palms out and shook his head. She snorted and came over to bump fists before pulling him in close.

‘Good to see you, Kearns. You can never have too many himbos at a party these days.’ She turned keeping one brawny arm over his shoulders. ‘Great night.’

Matt looked up, seeing the sprig of mistletoe hanging above them. She followed his gaze, and then grinned.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ she said, her arm around his shoulders turning to a headlock. ‘Besides, you’re cramping my style.’ She let him go and raised her bottle to him, and then sauntered over to the woman who had been sitting on her back, and threw an arm around her shoulders.

Matt loved Casey Franks. She was one of the toughest and most ferocious people he had ever known, but she could also make him cry with laughter due to a sense of humor that cut to the bone. He dumped his case of beer, grabbing one of the Sam Adams long necks and twisting the top free. He snatched a pre-poured white wine from a tray for Aimee and headed back into the crush of the living room.

As he entered the room, Matt paused. There was a roar of motorbikes from outside, and then the sound of heavy boots, followed by coarse laughter. Matt watched as a dozen or more huge men in leather jackets with colored death’s head motifs crowded into the hallway.

‘Oh great,’ Matt whispered. ‘Crashers.’

Beside him Casey Franks appeared. ‘Goody,’ she said, and cracked her knuckles. She paused, grabbing him. ‘Whoa… even better, let’s just watch the Boss instead.’

Matt turned to where the HAWCs stood, and saw Alex Hunter put his drink down on the table. One of his hands had curled into a fist; the cage behind the eyes had opened and the furnace burned once again. The Arcadian stepped forward; he was finally smiling.

 

By Greig Beck – check out Matt Kearns’ latest adventure – The Book of the Dead now!

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Have a Scary Christmas: Robot Santas and Blood on the Snow

Posted December 23, 2013 by Laurie Ormond

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Sometimes it takes a work of comedy to remind us of the darkness at the heart of things.

Terry Pratchett’s superb work of comic fantasy, Hogfather  (first published 1996), is a story about how myths become folktales, folktales become Victorian fairytales and the  figures out of fairytale end up as commercial logos.

This book gets to the heart of stories, and it reminds us that hearts pump blood.

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In a way, the plot of Hogfather mirrors that of many of those zany holiday-themed comedy movies: Father Christmas/Santa Claus has disappeared, and it’s up to an unlikely schmuck and his team of sidekicks to take his place, deliver the presents, and Save Christmas.

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But the consequences are more dire: instead of a grouchy Santa being comically incapacitated, a god is being slowly erased from the minds of humanity.  This is the Discworld, where the winter holiday is Hogswatch, and the jolly red man at the centre of it is known as the Hogfather. The Hogfather is a big jolly fat man in a red robe trimmed with white ermine; he carries a bulging sack full of presents and drives a sleigh through the night sky that is drawn by four boars known as Gouger and Tusker and Rooter and Snouter. By tradition, the Hogfather lives in a Castle of Bones, and used to deliver a sack full of old bones (not coal) to children deemed naughty rather than nice. Pratchett’s Hogfather, with his association with boars and bones, is a little closer to myth than our “Roundworld” representations of Saint Nick.

The enemies of the Hogfather are otherworldy beings known as the Auditors, who are seeking to clean up some of the messier details of the Discworld’s universe – specifically, the stories and myths that humans have brought into being. (On the Discworld, gods and stories take anthropomorphic form more often than not.) The Auditors commission an assassin to inhume the Hogfather because he is a lodestone of mythic belief. The heroes trying desperately to keep belief in the Hogfather alive – Susan and her grandfather, Death – are fighting beings who want to quash the human imagination, for once and for all.

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Hogfather is a faboulous story about Story, but it’s also a wonderful reminder of the threat held inside the promise of Christmas celebrations.

The mid-winter feast uses up the last of the fresh food. There is meat in midwinter due to the necessary slaughter of animals once their feed has also starting to run out. As much as it is a celebration of life in the midst of cold and darkness, the winter feast always had some fear behind it, arising from the very basic worry that the food will run out before the spring. This is the last time the community will all eat well before the hungry times.

Hogfather charts the evolution of the winter holiday in the imagined world of the Disc, tracking it back to its origins in winter feasts, in solar rituals, in animal sacrifice, in the hunting of the boar, in the killing of the Sacred King who finds a bean in his dinner (all stories drawn from European folklore and mythology, some of which still haunt our Christmas carols).

As Susan attempts to save the Hogfather, she sees him transform into all the other versions of himself he has been in the past, when the winter festival had different meanings and traditions. She sees him as a hunted boar, and a wounded king, and then as a boar-hunter, and a priest of the sun, before he resumes his form as a jolly fat gift-bringer.

 

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The Hogfather’s various transformations remind me, actually, of the appearance of Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The animals of Narnia explain several times that the White Witch has made sure that in Narnia it is “always winter, and never Christmas”. The withholding of Father Christmas linked to the stasis of the seasons. His appearance is a powerful sign that the thaw is on its way, and when he does appear, Father Christmas gives gifts of both vital and mortal significance; gifts of life (Lucy’s cordial), and death (swords, a dagger, and Susan’s bow and arrows).

Terry Pratchett pares back the myths to expose the fear that besets human communities in the darkness and depths of winter: the fear that winter will not break, that  spring will not come, that the food will run out – that the sun will not rise.

The man in the red robe is the one who provides the feast, but on the Discworld, he once used to be the feast, the sacrifice to make sure the winter would eventually turn into spring. Death/Hogfather’s grotesque elf helper, his ancient butler Albert, explains to him the real meaning of Hogswatch. ‘It’s about the sun, master. White snow and red blood and the sun. Always has been.’

Prachett wants us to remember, “the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood.”

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A literal skeleton at the feast, the popular Discworld character Death in the Hogfather’s robe

“Later on” (Pratchett says) “they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it’s being shed by the deserving), and then wondered where the stories went.”

It seems the stories about blood wandered off and went to find some science fiction writers.

Hogfather ultimately shows us that society has moved on from solar festivals and ancient fears to a more santisied, even commodified, celebration of plenty. The winter feasting and the putting-away of winter foods has been transformed into a celebration of gift-giving and excess. Hogfather concludes with a series of characters receiving their Hogswatch gifts.

Science fiction moves us in the other direction, bringing back the fear.

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Stephan Moffat’s Christmas episodes of Dr Who attack Christmas with joyous savagery, turning the pantomime aspects of Christmas costumes and icons into cartoonish horrors. There is a great sense of fun in this, as the show takes commonplace and overcommercialised figures such as Santa Claus or a snowman and imbues them once again with supernatural power. The show’s usual excuse for its use of myth – the “oh, it was just the aliens using images out of human imaginations to camoflage themselves”  is a free pass to the fantasist writers of Dr Who to make Christmas as scary as they can.

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Lots of jokes turn on the idea of Santa as a policing figure, meting out punishment and reward for naughty or niceness. The writers of Futurama take this and extrapolate a homicidal robot with an array of Christmas-themed weapons of destruction.

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In the distant future Earth of Futurama, Robot Santa comes to Earth once a year on Christmas Eve, and people hide away in fear. Due to a mistake in programming, the SantaBot judges everyone on the planet to be “naughty” instead of “nice” and therefore a candidate for extermination.

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In the show’s second Christmas episode, A Tale of Two Santas, Fry decides that it’s their shared terror of Santa that brings the group together.  “Fear has brought us together.” Fry says, as as they huddle inside. “That’s the magic of Christmas.”

 

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Invader Zim (2001) is a Nikelodeon cartoon created by Jhonen Vasquez. It’s titiular hero, Zim, is an alien who infiltrates human society by posing as a weird kid at an elementary school.  Here Zim learns of Santa, a kind of emperor or god whom the humans seem to worship and obey.

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Zim’s alien perspective allows him to realise that controlling Santa means controlling the human population. Accordingly, he seizes the power of the Jolly Boots of Doom.

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This Christmas anthem should be played over and over again by anyone experiencing Christmas-related stress.

Maybe Santa is an easy target, given the abundance of  many kitsch or commercial or saccharine images of Santa Claus that start assaulting our TVs and and supermarkets browsers and children’s schools from October onwards.

But I think that there is also an element of fear woven into this festive season, and into the nature of festivity itself. The winter feast has an element of the-turning-away-of-death  – and comedy does too.

The ancient Greeks called it apotropaios, the turning-away (of evil). In ancient Greek comedies, apotropaios often involves the turning away of death (and politicians) with laughter.

In celebrating the death of the year, we are making a challenge to the new year to begin, taking a kind of “come at me bro” attitude to the final days of the year before everything is renewed.

There is an element of death in every feast. Of course it takes Pratchett to put the skeleton in the jolly fat man’s robe.

Happy Hogswatch, everyone.

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Christmas Gifts That Wont Give You Paper Cuts

Posted December 22, 2012 by Hannah Story

Gift-giving is hard. Too hard. I mean, how many gifts do you people want? Aren’t birthdays and anniversaries enough?

Apparently they’re not enough. Everyone wants presents on December 25 too. But luckily for you, I’m saving you all the thinking and the tear-jerking sense of failure that comes with being unable to pick out something perfect for your mother, father, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, and that guy who you’ve noticed watching you as you walk down the street. I’m just so helpful. You can thank me with a gift later.

I’ve chosen books, because if I had my hipster way I would give everyone Radiohead’s entire discography (on vinyl) and be done with it, but apparently giving people the stuff you like isn’t very “thoughtful” or in the “Christmas spirit.” Plus books make good Christmas presents because Anne said so.

And you know what the best parts about giving an ebook for Christmas are? There are so many options, and there are no lines on the internet.

So for dad, you could buy Defender by Chris Allen- because we all know dads love books with explosions in them.

And for mum, you can try Pamela by Samuel Richardson because classic romances make middle-aged ladies swoon.

And for your brother who thinks he’s the next George R.R. Martin, you could buy How to Write Badly Well by Joel Stickley. That way he’ll know if everything that he’s doing is wrong and he should start again.

Your sister who spends summer star-gazing in the mountains might like The Big Book of Astrology by Kelli Fox- she’ll then be able to tell you about your doomed Sagittarius-Taurus romance.

And your girlfriend? Buy her Flesh by Kylie Scott and wait with bated breath for your sex life to be magically spiced up. Also this way there’s no awkward unwrapping-apocalyptic-erotica-in-front-of-grandma moments.

Your boyfriend can read The Book of Bloke by Ben Pobjie to justify his disgusting bedside habits (and you’ll let it slide because it’s the festive season and he just poured you another glass of red).

And as for that stalker from down the street? I don’t know why you were considering buying him a gift. Don’t do that. That’s daft. He definitely wont stop sending you creepy emails if you acknowledge him at Christmas time. This is why your mother says you always make bad decisions. What were you thinking?

Hannah Story is a Momentum intern, young writer and wannabe publishing insider. She’ll be editing UTS’ Vertigo in 2013 and promises to make loads of burning crane jokes. Follow her on Twitter here.

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The Lazy Person’s Guide to Gift Giving

Posted December 17, 2012 by Anne

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Okay people, listen to me: Christmas is almost upon us. You have about a week, tops, to nail down this whole gift-giving thing.

Now if you’re like me, you’ll just inform your loved ones that Christmas this year is cancelled and shut yourself away for a week. If you choose to do this, well done, you’re a hero and your medal is in the mail.

Just kidding your medal isn’t in the mail because who in their right mind would visit a post office at this time of year?

If I were the Christmas joy and light gift-giving type, there is only one way I’d do it this year. And that is through the wonder of the internet.

A friend gave me a book for Christmas yesterday, and I have now decided that books are the best way to show your friends and family that you love and respect them. The right book says “I have put a significant amount of thought into what I think you would enjoy and I have chosen this one book out of millions because it is The Book For You.” It tells your loved one that you value their intelligence and want to share in their intellectual pursuits. There is no better gift than a book.

Let’s face it though, you’ve only got a limited amount of time now, and paper books PLUS wrapping paper and ribbons and a card is basically an environmental disaster. Really the only answer is to give ebooks. So I’ve put together this handy Ebook Gift-giving Guide. You are welcome.

There are two routes you can go down with giving ebooks. You can buy a gift card from an online retailer and let the recipient choose their own book. Don’t do that. Freedom of choice and gift-giving are not friends. Force your will on the ones you love in this small way.

First find out what type of device your intended recipient uses.  If they don’t have a Kindle, or you are unsure as to whether they have an ereader at all, you can still buy from either Kobo or Amazon. Part of Amazon’s evil genius is that any of their books can be read on most devices through the Kindle app. Unfortunately neither the iBookstore nor ReadCloud allow you to give a specific title as a gift, but stay tuned.

Kobo’s official gift-giving (or “gifting” as they call it) guide is here, but basically you just find the perfect book for the person you want to force your will upon shower with intellectual love and affection. then click the magical “Send As Gift” button.

Amazon’s official guide is here. They make it far too easy. Again, the hard part is finding the exact right ebook for the person you’re attempting to subjugate. Once on the book page in the Kindle store, to the right hand side of the browser you’ll see the below panel. Click the Give as a Gift button.

Then simply fill out your details, and purchase your ebook gift. You can either schedule the book to magically appear in your recipient’s inbox on Christmas Day, or send it to yourself for safekeeping pre-December 25. Just remember that Amazon runs on US time, so factor that into your scheduling.

So there you have it. Buy the love and respect of those around you with an ebook this Christmas. Look, just do it. No, do it. Go now. Buy ebooks.

Like these ones, for instance:

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