Today I am joined by Joseph Camilleri from Bolinda Publishing.
Bolinda is the largest online audio bookstore in the Southern Hemisphere and also has offices in the UK and the US. They also have one of my favourite apps, BorrowBox, for downloading eaudio and ebooks through your local library.
Joseph, my fabulous guest today, joined Bolinda in 2016 as Warehouse and Manufacturing Coordinator and is currently the Client Relationship Manager which means he works very closely with libraries around Australia for all our audio and large print needs!
We chat a bit about his journey from tennis coach to audiobook publishing, how many different aspects of the industry is represented at Bolinda and of course, pair some delicious things with some fabulous books ... with a little Christmas flair too!
The Survivors by Jane Harper
Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home. Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn. When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...
Joseph recommends this Aussie outback thriller as an after (Christmas) dinner read with a large glass of red wine in hand ... but be careful, you may be swept away (pun intended) by the narrator and end up finishing the bottle!
Lucky's by Andrew Pippos
Lucky's is a story of family.
It is also about a man called Lucky.
His restaurant chain.
A fire that changed everything.
A New Yorker article which might save a career.
The mystery of a missing father.
An impostor who got the girl.
An unthinkable tragedy.
A roll of the dice.
And a story of love, lost, sought and won again, (at last).
Joseph recommended this book to anyone who loves a good story and because the cover reminds him of an ice cream shop he suggests reading this with a classic vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone ... just don't drip it on the book!
The Book Of Delights by Ross Gay
A genre-defying book of essays—some as short as a paragraph; some as long as five pages—that record the small joys that occurred in one year, from birthday to birthday, and that we often overlook in our busy lives. This is a meditation on delight that takes a clear-eyed view of the complexities, even the terrors, in the authors life, including living in America as a black man; the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture; the loss of those he loves. The delights are everyday, ordinary and beautiful.
Sweet, tart, savoury and more-ish, Justine recommends this delightful book with her families traditional Christmas day brunch of French toast, mascarpone, fresh blueberries and strawberries drizzled with maple syrup and a glass of sparkling to wash it all down. YUM!
This episode I am joined by debut novelist, Melbourne writer, via Scotland, Paul Dalgarno.
Paul was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and immigrated to Australia in 2010. In Scotland, he was a senior features writer, columnist and Deputy Weekend Features Editor with The Herald and Sunday Herald newspapers. In Melbourne, he was a launch editor, Deputy Editor, Arts Editor and Science Editor of The Conversation website. Paul has written for many publications including Guardian Australia, Australian Book Review, Sunday Times Scotland and The Big Issue. His memoir, And You May Find Yourself, was published in 2015. In 2016, he was awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship to work on his second book.
When not writing, reading or parenting, Paul loves to cycle vast distances. Poly is his debut novel about Chris and Sarah Flood whose near sexless marriage has led them down the path to polyamory … but as tensions grow between family, friends and lovers Chris discovers he may not know someone close to them as well as he thought.
We talk about writing the book you want to read, how difficult it is to write sex scenes, mental health and some fantastic book pairings!
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
Horacio Oliveira is an Argentinian writer who lives in Paris with his mistress, La Maga, surrounded by a loose-knit circle of bohemian friends who call themselves "the Club." A child's death and La Maga's disappearance put an end to his life of empty pleasures and intellectual acrobatics, and prompt Oliveira to return to Buenos Aires, where he works by turns as a salesman, a keeper of a circus cat which can truly count, and an attendant in an insane asylum.
Paul suggested the caffeine-rich, herbal drink from South America called Maté, drunk out of a gourd with friends.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she'll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
In honour of the scene where Eleanor winds up eating with Raymond and his mother, Paul suggests a Scotch broth would pair perfectly with this wonderful story - salty and warm and Scottish.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. Nora Seed finds herself faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realising her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
Justine recommends a warming cup of hot chocolate and - if you're up late - a splash of rum to warm you through and through, just like this book will.
Joining me for this episode’s online chat is one of my favourite authors of weird and wonderful fiction, Catherynne M Valente.
Catherynne is the New York Times bestselling author of forty works of speculative fiction and poetry, including Space Opera, The Refrigerator Monologues, Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it).
She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.
We talk about her many fabulous books, how she came to write and then crowdfund the first book in The Fairyland series which went on to win the Nebula Award, planting Easter eggs in Space Opera, writing complicated books, the weather and her latest short story which just so happens to be a Star Wars story
Little, Big by John Crowley
The epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood—not found on any map—to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss; of impossible things and unshakable destinies; and of the great Tale that envelops us all. It is a wonder.
Catherynne chose a classic cocktail from 1688 - Milk Punch - to pair with this eerie and complex story.
Possession by A.S. Byatt
An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.
Man Booker Prize Winner (1990)
Catherynne suggested a 1920s cocktail called The Last Word to pair perfectly with this passionate literary thriller!
Smart Ovens For Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan
A collection of offbeat, mind-bending short stories that are a joy to dip in and out of.
A cat-shaped oven tells a depressed woman she doesn’t have to be sorry anymore. A Yourtopia Bespoke Terraria employee becomes paranoid about the mounting coincidences in her life. Four girls gather to celebrate their underwear in ‘Happy Smiling Underwear Girls Party’ and so many more. These are funny, sharp, witty and surreal stories that are somewhat disturbing at heart as they give us a glimpse of a potential future world and what might be…
I was thinking that i’d love something fresh and sharp to drink whilst reading these stories and the wine that comes to mind is an Argentinian wine called Torrontes - it’s nickname is The Liar as it smells sweet but is actually very dry and has an almost salty and lean taste and texture in your mouth. I think it would pair perfectly with this book of inventive and biting stories!
Joining me for this episode’s online chat is award-winning Young Adult crime author, Ellie Marney. Ellie has been involved in the creation of the national campaign #LoveOzYA to promote and advocate for Australian YA literature, she has contributed to the critically-acclaimed Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology and she co-runs the popular #LoveOzYAbookclub online.
Ellie’s books include the Circus Hearts series, White Night, the Every trilogy which begins with Every Breath and was her first young adult book published in 2013.
Her latest book is None Shall Sleep which was released in September 2020 and is a dark and chilling read following two teenagers unfortunately familiar with the violence of serial killers who are drawn into an FBI case and become the conduit between the FBI and an incarcerated teenage serial killer, who seems to have insight into the current case.
We chat about writing crime for young adults, the question at the heart of crime fiction, sociopaths and geniuses and how difficult they are to write when they are teenagers!
The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson
A girl wakes up on a self-driving bus. She has no memory of how she got there or who she is. Her nametag reads CECILY. The six other people on the bus are just like her: no memories, only nametags. There's a screen on each seatback that gives them instructions. A series of tests begin, with simulations projected onto the front window of the bus. The passengers must each choose an outcome; majority wins. But as the testing progresses, deadly secrets are revealed, and the stakes get higher and higher. Soon Cecily is no longer just fighting for her freedom - she's fighting for her life.
Ellie loves this book for its fast-paced storytelling and its mystery meat sandwiches so to pair with it she recommends Peck's Paste sandwiches and a Long Island Iced Tea cause you'll need a stiff drink before you're done!
Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Ellie found this a completely engrossing read, the kind of book you neglect your family over, beautifully written, refreshing, it left a profound impression. She suggests the only appropriate pairing is a platter of delicious feta cheese, dolmades, crusty bread and oil with a delicious chilled wine and I quite agree :)
Justine's book was The last days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp.
Creepy yet funny this book requires coffee to keep you alert then chamomile tea to calm your nerves!
This episode I am joined by Master of Wine, Meg Brodtmann. Meg recently joined the team at Rob Dolan Wines, a lovely Winery and Cellar Door in South Warrandyte part of Victoria’s Yarra Valley wine region. Founded by local legend Rob Dolan after 25 years of making wine for some of Australia’s most iconic wineries, this is the only winery which I have joined the wine club of, ever!
Meg actually started her winemaking journey in Australia with Rob before heading overseas and eventually ending up in beautiful Chile. She became the first Australian woman to pass the Master of Wine exam in 2002 and came back to Oz in 2008 working for wineries and sharing her knowledge and love of wine through education and is now the Education and Global Outreach human for Rob Dolan Wines!
2020 Rose - Fresh and youthful this is a pale strawberry coloured wine with a cherry, red currant and rose petals aroma and a palate of red currant that is crisp and textural with a dry and savoury finish.
The other side of the sky by Australian writer Amie Kaufman and American writer Meagan Spooner
There is a sinking city in the sky and a dying surface on the planet. A prince and the living god of her people whose magic has yet to reveal itself.
A beautiful blend of technology and magic this book is super fresh and youthful having only just been published in September and is a Young Adult book. The world-building is so vivid and the characters are lively and fun. There’s loads going on and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. It is a really fun read, with great characters and an interesting story which you’ll get through far too quickly and you’ll want more where it came from … just like this Rose!
2017 Arneis - pale straw, floral, crisp and textural this is a lean wine, smooth and creamy, nicknamed the 'little rascal'.
Silk by Alessandro Baricco
A pandemic is wiping out silkworms in France so a pilgrimage to Japan is undertaken and a forbidden love is uncovered.
The book I am going to pair with the Arneis is a lot older than the last one I mentioned … it was published in Italy in 1996 and translated into English in 1997 and again in 2006. This is a slim book, more of a novella even, written by an Italian and set in France and Japan … but don’t be fooled into thinking this small, romantic sounding tale is anything less than stunning! It has those crisp, textural and ripe elements of the Arneis and for such a small book there is so much to it, layers of beauty which will linger long after you finish reading it. It might be tough to find these days but it’s well worth the effort!
2017 Cab Sav - A deep crimson purple wine full of blackcurrant, forest fruits, bay leaf and cedar with juicy dark fruits, mocha this is a balanced and complex wine with fine tannins.
The forgotten garden by Kate Morton
Dark fairytales, a foundling, a secret garden and a love denied. This is the first Kate Morton book I read, and although I like all of her books, this is still my favourite. It is beautifully written, with three generations of women telling their story. Layered, delightful and seductive, this is an atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory, a book to savour, with a hint of darkness and perfect to read whilst sipping at this delicious Cab Sav!
This episode I am joined by lapsed lawyer, recovering academic, semi-reformed punk rocker, and now writer and stay-at-home dad, Bram Presser.
Bram’s writing has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac and Higher Arc. His 2017 debut novel, The Book of Dirt, won the 2018 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction in the US National Jewish Book Awards, the 2018 Voss Literary Prize and three awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and The People’s Choice Award.
We talk about our love of browsing bookstores, Bram's journey to writing a novel, writing a personal history as fiction and of course, we pair some delicious things to some fabulous books!
The Door by Magda Szabo
A busy young writer struggling to cope with domestic chores, hires a housekeeper recommended by a friend. The housekeeper's reputation is one built on dependable efficiency, though she is something of an oddity. Stubborn, foul-mouthed and with a flagrant disregard for her employer's opinions she may even be crazy. She allows no-one to set foot inside her house; she masks herself with a veil and is equally guarded about her personal life. And yet Emerence is revered as much as she is feared. As the story progresses her energy and passion to help becomes clear, extinguishing any doubts arising out of her bizarre behaviour. A stylishly told tale which recounts a strange relationship built up over 20 years between a writer and her housekeeper. After an unpromising and caustic start benign feelings develop and ultimately the writer benefits from what becomes an inseparable relationship. Simultaneously we learn Emerence's tragic past which is revealed in snapshots throughout the book.
Bram called this the most beautiful book he has ever read, a modern classic, and a beautiful meditation on dignity and how we imagine people to be. To pair with the interesting and complex character of Emerence he suggests a classic Borscht with sour cream and a traditional Pilsner Urquell.
The Curfew by Jesse Ball
William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citizens. But when an old friend seeks William out, claiming to know what happened to his wife, William must risk everything. He ventures out after dark, and young Molly is left to play, reconstructing his dangerous voyage, his past, and their future.
Bram called Jesse Ball the most exciting writer out of America right now and highly recommends this totalitarian dystopia with its surrealist and strangely beautiful experimental writing. The perfect pairing for Bram is a Corpse Reviver, made with absinthe, gin, cointreau, lillet and lemon juice ... ooooof! It is weird, subtle, warm, sweetly discombobulating with a kick!
This episode I am joined by Eamonn Hennessy, owner of Buck Mulligan’s, a Specialty Irish Whiskey Bar and Bookshop in the heart of Northcote.
Buck Mulligan’s is a lovely space with a cosy snug as well as a leafy courtyard. There are books for sale as well as some available for borrowing or reading whilst enjoying a drink. Eamonn joined me to share three of his favourite whiskeys and talk about his love of books and of whiskey!
The Irish Whiskey - The Hyde 6 year old single grain aged in bourbon casks.
The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien
This epic fantasy tells of a great and perilous quest undertaken to fight evil and to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord himself, and destroy the Ring of Power by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. This is a fabulously complex and yet utterly simple story. It is sweeping in scope and world-building, a whole language was created for this world too - Elvish - and whilst there is a darkness within this story there are so many sweet moments to cherish. It is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read.
Also The Fire Starters by Jan Carson
The Australian Whiskey - Bakery Hill Double Wood
Eamonn chose a Victorian author to pair with this Victorian whiskey ...
Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane
The book begins with the question, 'Must I write?' What follows is both a chronicle of the images that have endured in the author's mind, and an exploration of their nature. The clarity of the images is extraordinary, as is their range, from Mandrake the Magician to the bachelor uncle kicked in the 'stones' as a child, from the country cousin's doll's house to the mysterious woman who lets her hair down, from the soldier beetle who winks messages from God to the racehorses that run forever in the author's mind, beyond the grasslands, to the place where the characters of fiction dwell before they come into existence in books.
The Scottish Whiskey - Laphroaig Quarter Cask
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning, It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. A fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. So of course they soon tumble headfirst into love.
This book is not as dark and gritty as you might expect with this whiskey but it is beautifully descriptive and is a story which lives in the night and the dark and speaks to the chocolate, the cinnamon, to the sweet, mouth-coating and spice flavours and is definitely a story which lingers.
Also The Fireman by Joe Hill
Eamonn recommends the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin
This episode I am joined by bookseller and writer Michael Earp.
Michael Earp is the editor of Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories and contributor to Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories. He has a teaching degree and a Masters in children’s literature and has worked between bookselling and publishing for over seventeen years as a children’s literature specialist. His writing has also appeared in The Victorian Writer and Aurealis.
We chat about recommending books, writing for young adults and of course, we pair some great reads with delicious things!
The End of the World is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell
Identical twin sisters Summer and Winter live alone on a remote island, sheltered from a destroyed world. They survive on rations stockpiled by their father and spend their days deep in their mother’s collection of classic literature—until a mysterious stranger upends their carefully constructed reality.
At first, Edward is a welcome distraction. But who is he really, and why has he come? As love blooms and the world stops spinning, the secrets of the girls’ past begin to unravel and escape is the only option.
Michael asked his YA bookclub what they would pair with this book, but he didn't like their answer and went with Scones with Peach Jam as he says of this book 'It's incredible how much can pivot on a scone ...'
Pet by Akwaeke Emezo
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
A fabulous recipe made in the book is Spatchcock chicken baked in duck fat with sourdough bread and Michael really started thinking about the sour in sourdough!
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
The 1989 Danvers Falcons are on an unaccountable winning streak. Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza, whose bleached blond "Claw" sees and knows all, the DHS Falcons prove to be as wily and original as their North of Boston ancestors, flaunting society's stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport. There is a scene where one of the players, Abby, is eating a raw beetroot on a bus as the girls all talk about sex, her lips are getting stained this blood red and with the witchiness and Halloween references in this I did think about pairing it with a Blood Beetroot Cocktail - which is beetroot lemonade, Aperol and Prosecco but regardless of whatever drink you have I think you’d want to be eating a pizza, your favourite pizza whatever that might be, as long as it’s not too fancy but is oily and cheesy and tasty, it’s what the team would want you to do so that’s what I will pair with this book:
A Blood Beetroot Cocktail and your favourite pizza!
This episode I am joined by award-winning Australian author and environmentalist Jane Rawson.
Formerly editor of the environment and energy section of The Conversation, she now works for the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, writing about nature conservation, and is also the co-founder of Read Tasmania. She likes cats, quiet, minimal capitalisation, and finding out that everything is going to be OK … don’t we all! Jane is the author of two novels, a novella and co-authored a nonfiction guide to surviving climate change. Her stories and essays have been published in the Guardian, Lithub, Meanjin, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, Kill Your Darlings and Australian Book Review and in 2017 she won the Aurealis Award for best science fiction for her novel From The Wreck.
A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink
Winner of the 2020 The Australian/Vogels Literary Award
There is a woman, somewhere, here, in Van Diemen’s Land, unless she had died or otherwise departed, called Maryanne Maginn.
Gabriel Fox, the young son of an old English house, arrives in a land both ancient and new. Drawn by the promise of his heart’s desire, and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabriel begins his quest into Van Diemen’s Land. His guide, a cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north where Gabriel might free himself of his distracting burden and seek the woman he must find. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.
For this Tasmanian setting written by a Tasmanian author, Jane suggested a Tasmanian wallaby stew, made with a Tassie Pinot of course, and whilst waiting for it to cook - ever so slowly - a Poltergeist unfilterd gin and tonic.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon's sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die. Of course, some things are better left dead.
For this wildly dark space trip Jane suggests a Kaiju ‘Cthulhu on the Moon’ Black IPA with a shot of Tasmanian moonshine for that extra strength hit.
Everywhere I look by Helen Garner
Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.
This book is just filled with gorgeous little nuggets of observation and is so beautifully written. It doesn’t need to be read as a whole but is easy to dip in and out of.
I would pair it with a crisp, dry riesling and some perfectly fresh and crunchy salted or pickled cucumber sandwiches.
This episode I am joined by Christine Gordon, Programming Manager of one of Melbourne’s favourite independent bookshops.
Christine has been Programming Manager at Readings for over a decade and considers it the best job in Australia! She was one of the founding members of the Stella Prize, sits on the Readings Foundation board and has been a judge on various literary awards. She is passionate about Australian literature and ensuring that reading continues to allow endless possibilities for everyone.
We discuss Chris's most delicious moment working at Readings, the founding story of the Stella prize, her top tip for recommending books and of course, we pair some fabulous books with tasty treats!
The Spill by Imbi Neeme
Winner of the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize
In 1982, a car overturns on a remote West Australian road. Nobody is hurt, but the impact is felt for decades.
Nicole and Samantha Cooper both remember the summer day when their mother, Tina, lost control of their car – but not in quite the same way. It is only after Tina’s death, almost four decades later, that the sisters are forced to reckon with the repercussions of the crash. Nicole, after years of aimless drifting, has finally found love, and yet can’t quite commit. And Samantha is hiding something that might just tear apart the life she’s worked so hard to build for herself.
Chris suggested room temperature Chardonnay and a frozen ham would pair perfectly with this book ... and she thinks the author would agree!
State Highway One by Sam Coley
Winner of the 2017 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers
It's been years since Alex was in New Zealand, and years since he spent any one-on-one time with his twin sister, Amy. When they lose their parents in a shock accident it seems like the perfect time to reconnect as siblings. To reconnect with this country they call 'home'.
As they journey the length of State Highway One, they will scratch at wounds that have never healed - and Alex will be forced to reckon with what coming home really means.
Room temp again but beer or vodka this time with a burger - no veggies in sight - is Chris's pairing with this heartbreaking novel.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Luc O'Donnell’s rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he's never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad's making a comeback, Luc is in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship...and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He's a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.
But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating.
Justine thinks brunch and a peach Bellini would be the perfect pairing for this light, bright, fizzy romp of a tale!
This episode I am joined by historical fiction author Robert Gott.
Robert is the author of The Holiday Murders, The Port Fairy Murders and in 2019 The Autumn Murders a series of hard-boiled historical whodunits set in 1940’s Australia. He has also written the William Power series of crime-caper novels also set in 1940s Australia.
We discuss book fatigue, writing an unlikeable character, the uselessness of history and Jane Austen!
Jeeves and Wooster Omnibus by PG Wodehouse
Bertie is embroiled in plot and counterplot in these three glorious Jeeves and Wooster novels. In The Mating Season, Bertie pretends he is his old pal Gussie Fink-Nottle to ensure Gussie's engagement to the soppy Madeline Bassett comes to no harm. The Code of the Woosters finds Bertie in an even worse mess. His fearsome Aunt Dahlia has blackmailed him into purloining a particularly hideous cow-creamer from the home of Sir Watkyn Bassett. Unfortunately, other parties have their own plans for the unsavoury item, and for Bertie too. In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie takes matters in hand when Jeeves suggests Bertie's friend Gussie Fink-Nottle puts on scarlet tights and a false beard to achieve the object of his desire. As usual, only Jeeves can sort out the ensuing chaos.
Robert chose to pair a very, very, very dry martini with this series as it is elegant and graceful whilst being totally unrealistic and removed from reality!
The postman always rings twice by James M Cain
Cain’s first novel–the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston, the inspiration for Camus’s The Stranger–is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder. Double Indemnity–which followed Postman so quickly, Cain’s readers hardly had a chance to catch their breath–is a tersely narrated story of blind passion, duplicity, and, of course, murder. Mildred Pierce, a work of acute psychological observation and devastating emotional violence, is the tale of a woman with a taste for shiftless men and an unreasoned devotion to her monstrous daughter.
Robert enjoys the spare writing and would suggest a bourbon to pair with this author. The only bourbon he had on hand was a honey and ghost pepper bourbon with a sweet heat to go with these grim and somewhat violent stories.
Space Opera by Catherynne Valente
Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix - part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.
This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny - they must sing.
Eurovision in space could only be paired with a drink inspired by Eurovision itself!
Justine recommends a Rocket To The Stars, inspired by Eurovision contestant - SLAVKO KALEZIĆ from Montenegro Who sang ‘SPACE’ in 2017.
The cocktail involves watermelon, basil, sugar syrup and gin. It’s super sweet, yet super dry and will leave you mildly confused as to what just happened!
This episode I am joined by author Mirandi Riwoe.
Mirandi is the author of the novella The Fish Girl, which won Seizure’s Viva la Novella Prize and was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize and the Queensland Literary Award’s UQ Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Meanjin, Review of Australian Fiction, Griffith Review and Best Summer Stories. Mirandi has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies and lives in Brisbane. She also writes the Heloise Chancey historical crime series under a pseudonym MJ Tjia. Her latest novel is Stone Sky Gold Mountain.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.
Mirandi paired this beautiful story with a delicious and spicy Korean beef soup.
The Singapore Grip (Empire Trilogy #3) by J.G. Farrell
Singapore, 1939: life on the eve of World War II just isn't what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore's oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the natives go on strike somewhere else. His daughter keeps entangling herself with the most unsuitable beaus, while her intended match, the son of Blackett's partner, is an idealistic sympathizer with the League of Nations and a vegetarian. Business may be booming—what with the war in Europe, the Allies are desperate for rubber and helpless to resist Blackett's price-fixing and market manipulation—but something is wrong. No one suspects that the world of the British Empire, of fixed boundaries between classes and nations, is about to come to a terrible end.
A love story and a war story, a tragicomic tale of a city under siege and a dying way of life, Mirandi pairs this beautiful book with the Stengah, a drink made from equal measures whiskey and soda - refreshing yet strong, simple and elegant.
This episode I am joined by Emma White, Children and Youth Coordinator at Hobsons Bay Libraries and the current Convenor of the Public Libraries Victoria, Children’s and Youth Services Special Interest Group!
Emma has worked in public libraries for over 10 years, and is a passionate advocate for children and young people in library spaces. Emma has spent lockdown moving her cat off her keyboard during Zoom meetings, continuing home renovations with her partner and learning to make her own polymer clay earrings.
This episode we are talking about finding the best resources for kids in lockdown, plugging local libraries (of course!), our favourite children's books and just what we would pair with them for a fabulous reading experience!
The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin Kristy's Great Idea Book #1
Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun - and make tons of money. But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don't always tell the truth. And then there's Stacey, who's acting more and more mysterious. Having a baby-sitters club isn't easy, but Kristy and her friends aren't giving up until they get it right!
Emma loves this series for its wonderful portrayal of young girls beginning to find their way as young women, its focus on friendship and community and for how good the tv series adaptation has been!
She pairs this series with a Jellybean cocktail - a nostalgic classic, sweet but not too sweet, with enough colour, brightness and freshness and oomph for the whole club!
Jellybeans only for the tweens of course ;)
Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer
Meet twelve amazing Australian women who have changed the world, in small ways and large. Some of them are world famous, like Annette Kellerman and Nellie Melba. Some of them are famous in Australia, like Mary Reibey and Edith Cowan. All of them deserve to be famous and admired. These women are the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.
Emma loves how inspiring and informative this book is. Whilst it is a junior non fiction book it is told in a wonderfully readable narrative way which makes you want to find out more about each of these amazing women.
She paired this amazing Australian book with an amazing Australian gin! The Kangaroo Island Spirits Mulberry Gin makes for a pretty darn delicious gin and tonic, punchy, sweet and tart and quintessentially Australian.
It’s an interesting time to be in Melbourne right now, for me the current vibe is quite different from the first lockdown. Then there was an almost frenetic energy about needing to isolate. Now, at least what I am feeling, is a bit more of a malaise, you know? That general feeling of discomfort, unease and it’s also a little bit heavy, like there’s a weighted blanket on you and staying in bed is just the best you can do right now. And that’s okay if so.
I really struggle to read books in times like these. Where I would normally read a few books a week, right now I'm lucky to get through one. And trying to read a new book, even one I am super interested in, is quite tough. There are days I manage it, and there are days when I reach for my comfort reads.
So today I wanted to share these with you, these favourite comforting, gentle and sometimes not so gentle reads and perhaps they can help you get some reading in too.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer is a favourite which I paired with a delicious La Sirene wild ale - the Praline - in episode 2.
In episode 9 whilst chatting with the lovely Australian speculative fiction writer Samantha Marshall I recommended The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and paired it with a delicious warming coconut turmeric latte.
I spoke about I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith in episode 12 with the lovely librarian and youth advocate Adele Walsh and paired a wholesome chicken soup or chamomile tea with it for a warm and relaxing reading experience.
To Ride Pegasus (#1 in the Talents Saga) by Anne McCaffrey is the first in a series which I love to re-read all 8 books of when times are a little bit more difficult. Futuristic yet Old Fashioned I paired this with a warming Cocoa Old-Fashioned cocktail.
The Elenium and The Tamuli series by David Eddings. Knights on quests, Gods and magic, handsome men and strong women. Read with an Imperial IPA for a hearty, warming time!
American Hippo by Sarah Gailey. 1890s Louisiana, with hippos. Feral hippos. Hippo ranchers and outlaw hippo wranglers. Queer misfits on a quest. Paired with a Tequila Honeysuckle for a lip-smacking lime and alcohol hit.
The Babysitters Club on Netflix - fresh take on a classic, light and lovely, diverse and fun! Made me want a spider (ice cream soda) for the first time in years!
This episode I am joined by librarian Andrew Kelly.
Andrew is a library professional from Perth who has worked in both public and special libraries. He has spent the last few years earning a name for himself in the world of library makerspaces and 3D printing. In 2017 he helped set up the Perth branch of newCardigan - a group for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum workers, and is currently newCardigan Treasurer.
This episode we did something a little different … a few weeks ago I posted a pairing of a favourite read of mine, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. Andrew saw my post on Twitter and we started chatting about the fact that he had not read the book, but had watched the TV series and loved it and was nervous about reading the book, and I had not watched the TV series as I didn’t want it to ruin the book!
So we made a pact to each read or watch the other format of this story and report back.
We will be doing some pairings but first, a rant!
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the ageing Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. But it's about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunnelling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other.
Andrew paired this book with a classic Daiquiri cocktail, refreshing and delicious!
All Systems Red (Book 1 in the Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. However, in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied 'droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot." Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighbouring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
This is a delightfully snarky, fun, fast-paced page-turner. I love the main character of Murderbot, it is so darkly, drily sardonic. I would pair this with something really salty but really fun to drink. When I was looking at what cocktails that might be I stumbled across this delicious sounding drink, the Ponche de Champagne which is a punch (yes, that is a mild reference to Murderbot’s capabilities) that includes salt - roasted plantain syrup, banana, passion-fruit, star- anise and cinnamon with champagne floated on top.
This episode I am joined by award-winning horror writer Kaaron Warren.
Kaaron is a Shirley Jackson award-winning Australian author who published her first short story in 1993.
Her short stories and novels have won Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Aurealis Awards. She has published 5 multi-award winning novels, her debut Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone. Her most recent novella is a gothic-styled ghost story, Into Bones Like Oil, which has been shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award, the Bram Stoker Award and the Aurealis Award.
Kaaron chatted with me about writing across genres, finding the humour in horror, embodying characters and being inspired by the stories behind an object. And she recommended some pretty awesome books too!
Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson
A series of novels about Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp, the stories are a subtly brilliant comedy of social rivalry between the wars, featuring humorous incidents in the lives of (mainly) upper-middle-class British people in the 1920s and 1930s, vying for social prestige and one-upmanship in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery. Emmeline Lucas (known universally to her friends as Lucia) is an arch-snob of the highest order. In Miss Elizabeth Mapp of Mallards Lucia meets her match. Ostensibly the most civil and genteel of society ladies, there is no plan too devious, no plot too cunning, no depths to which they would not sink, in order to win the battle for social supremacy. Using as their deadly weapons garden parties, bridge evenings and charming teas, the two combatants strive to outcharm each other - and the whole of Tilling society - as they vie for the position of doyenne of the town.
Kaaron loves this series but particularly this story (#4) as it is full of funny, beautiful and yet somewhat nasty characters! She would pair it with Lobster a la Riseholme - a secret recipe known only to the character Lucia - and a nice glass of sherry :)
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
Set in a bleak strip of coastline in the north west of England in the 1970s, it’s the story of two brothers who accompany their parents and members of their parish on a pilgrimage one Easter. The novel is narrated by one of the brothers from a point in the far future. He recalls the pilgrimage of that Easter in the 1970s and wants to record what happened because a body has recently been found in the area that they visited. He feels a fierce sense of protection over his brother who he nicknames Hanny. As boys they were incredibly close because Hanny was mute up until that Easter and they shared a special communication. However, the boys' mother Esther (who the narrator refers to as Mummer) is determined to cure Hanny's muteness by appealing to God and puts him through a series of ardent prayers and rituals to cure him.
Kaaron couldn't recommend this tense, gloomy yet, according to her, hilarious, novel and the compelling questions it raises about faith, life's meaning and family. She suggests pairing it with a slow-cooked stew and buckets of tea. When questioned she confirmed no human bits are to be used in the stew!
Joining me for this episode’s online chat is award-winning Melbourne writer, Angela Savage!
Angela always wanted to be a writer, but figured she needed to live an interesting life first in order to have something worth writing about. She spent most of the 1990s living and working on HIV projects in Southeast Asia, before returning to Australia, where she alternated between writing fiction and working in the community sector. Her debut novel, 'Behind the Night Bazaar', won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and she won the 2011 Scarlet Stiletto Award for short fiction. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, giving her the Bond villain-like title of Doctor Savage. Her new novel 'Mother of Pearl' was published in 2019 and she is currently the Director of Writers Victoria.
Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe
Family circumstances force siblings Ying and Lai Yue to flee their home in China to seek their fortunes in Australia. Life on the gold fields is hard, and they soon abandon the diggings and head to nearby Maytown. Once there, Lai Yue finds a job as a carrier on an overland expedition, while Ying finds work in a local store and strikes up a friendship with Meriem, a young white woman with her own troubled past. When a serious crime is committed, suspicion falls on all those who are considered outsiders.
Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.
Angela loved the description in the book of a dried plum - sometimes called a dried prune - and thought that nothing would pair better with this book than this particular bittersweet delicacy.
Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch
In 2006, Tara June Winch’s startling debut Swallow the Air was published to acclaim. Its poetic yet visceral style announced the arrival afresh and exciting new talent. This 10th anniversary edition celebrates its important contribution to Australian literature.
When May's mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn't seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets off to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.
Her journey leads her from the Australian east coast to the far north, but it is the people she meets, not the destinations, that teach her what it is to belong.
Angela loves road trips and suggested that the best pairing for this story is your favourite road trip food, her pick was pies and boy does she know her pie shops!
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.
In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.
Justine loved this haunting, heartbreaking evocation of grief and of healing. She suggested a chocolate martini as the perfect soothing, creamy pairing needed to help you through it.
My recommendation for you today was also published in 2012, like my last one and is also by an Australian author, but there I think the similarities end - except for the fact that they are both cracking good reads of course!
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley open with Myfanwy Thomas waking up in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves and holding a letter with the opening line:
"The body you are wearing used to be mine."
With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
This is a richly imagined world, a creative and complex urban fantasy with British Spies, monsters and a super dry, badass female protagonist, it is richly inventive, suspenseful and it’s an absolute page turner!
I’d pair this book with a rich and intense red wine, something with depth that is fruit-driven, acidic and has a jammy-ness to it, a moreish-ness. Probably a Shiraz from the Heathcote area in Victoria. And much like drinking a good shiraz, you won’t want to stop reading this book once you start!
Today I am here to let you know that I am going to be taking a two week break in order to do a bit of planning. Never fear, I do have a book recommendation and pairing for you and will have one for next week also.
I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you, the Literary Elixirs community, what you have enjoyed most over these last 18 episodes? What would you like to hear more of? Feel free to comment on the Literary Elixirs facebook, twitter or instagram posts or msg me with any of your thoughts, questions or suggestions.
So, my recommendation for you today is The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina, book one in The Tribe series.
Three hundred years into the future our world is destroyed by an environmental crisis called The Reckoning. During The Reckoning the tectonic plates shifted resulting in one large landmass which emerged from the flood waters. This landmass is divided into cities and is heavily governed to keep The Balance in order.
People start being born with unusual abilities called Firestarters, Menders, Sleepwalkers and many more. The new government calls them Illegals and sees them as a threat. Ashala and some fellow illegals have taken refuge in the Firstwood where they form a Tribe and are hidden and free and can develop their abilities and try to save others.
But when she is betrayed by a friend and captured by an enemy, Ashala is forced to succumb to a machine that will pull secrets from her mind. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
This is a typical dystopian novel … at first … but there is a twist and suddenly you are on a very different journey than what you thought. I also love love love how the author weaves in Dreamtime stories seamlessly and creates a wonderful fully-realised world.
Though it is the first in a series, the novel reads like a stand-alone, tying up enough loose ends to satisfy, while still leaving you wanting more. This is one of the few series I have ever read where each book is as good as the rest! And they are not just good, they are pretty great actually!
So, what do i suggest you pair with this book? Well, for this original, unpredictable #OwnVoices story I suggest something a little bit different.
Have you ever heard of a Reunion Cocktail
This is a layered cocktail with the bottom layer grenadine, aperol, gin and lemon myrtle syrup, the middle layer grapefruit juice and then Australian malbec is floated on top.
I’d use a Sunburnt Country Larrikin Bush Tucker Gin from Ballarat which includes a number of Australian botanicals which - with the Aussie malbec and lemon myrtle - link us back to the rich cultural references in this book, the aperol and grapefruit give a bitterness, a sharpness and a punch - this is a bit of a thriller so that works! - this is then tempered somewhat by the grenadine which is tartly sweet and i think that references the love storyline which develops throughout this story.
There may also be a clue in the name of the cocktail about the twist in the book … but I won’t say anything more!
This episode I am joined by Leonee Derr, who, for the last 20 years has dedicated her work-life to serving and supporting community - particularly those under-served, under-represented and those most experiencing marginalisation. She has worked in public libraries for the last 14 years with the majority of her advocacy focussed on amplifying voices of youth and young adults. In 2012 she received a scholarship to travel the world gathering evidence, doing research and participating in work placements. Her research explored how physical space and place, architecture and its design, create an atmosphere that signifies inclusion or exclusion to young people.
Leonee has used her passion and voice to share important and crucial ideas about radical librarianship, social justice having a place in libraries, the myth of neutrality and safety amongst many other topics around the world presenting at conferences and publishing papers. Most recently, she and 4 other library leaders wrote the paper Who Do We Think We Are? Understanding Diversity in the Victorian Public Library Workforce.
Leonee is currently on a sabbatical from public libraries focussing on writing and storytelling to build community in her role as a content producer for a fortune 500 company.
Leonee and I talk about issues such as stigma, breaking down barriers and amplifying voices of marginalised groups, uplifiting humanity and reading to understand our past, inform our present and support our future.
There is a little passionate swearing involved ...!
One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A landmark 1967 novel that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founded the town of Macondo, a fictitious town in the country of Colombia. It chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as "magical realism."
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.
August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.
Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.
Joining me for this episode’s online chat is special guest all the way from the UK and the author of one of my favourite books of 2019, Beth O’Leary! Beth is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose debut novel the Flatshare has been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote The Flatshare on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher and now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time. Beth’s second novel is The Switch and was released in April 2020.
Beth spoke with me about the difficult nature of a second book, especially when the first book is a bestseller, and about how she generates her ideas. She also chose some fabulous books and delicious pairings to share.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So begins Jane Austen's classic novel of manners and mores in early-nineteenth-century England. As the Bennets prepare their five grown daughters to enter into society, each shows personality traits that illuminate their future prospects as wives. Jane, the oldest, is the most demure and traditional, and Lydia, the youngest, the most headstrong and impulsive. Attention centers on haughty second-born Elizabeth, and her blossoming relationship with the dashing but aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy. Adversaries at first in the endless rounds of balls, parties, and social gatherings, they soon develop a grudging respect for one another that blossoms into romance when each comes to appreciate the tender feelings that course beneath the veneer of their propriety and reserve.
Beth chose a light, yet filling and traditionally English Victoria Sponge with a refreshing Pimms and lemonade to drink to add a fruity sharpness that cuts through the cream.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked 'Where do you see yourself?' at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend's marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future. After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind. That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.
Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.
Beth didn't want to give anything away but thought that a delicious cupcake with a surprise centre would work well given the twist in this book, but then you'd need a glass of white wine too to sip away as you read to the end of this assured, crisp and classy story!
This episode I am joined by award-winning book reviewer, critic and genre-fiction advocate Kate Cuthbert!
After working for more than a decade in trade publishing, notably initiating the Escape Publishing imprint of Harlequin Australia, and serving as its Managing Editor for almost seven years, as well as working at the Australian Library and Information Association, Kate is currently the Program Manager at Writers Victoria and is also pursuing a PhD examining rural settings in Australian popular fiction.
Kate spoke about her love for genre-fiction, how much fun it is to research a PhD when it's on the topic she's writing it on (!) and just what her favourite, most basic snack and drink combo is ...!
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. Blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making "adult" budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette--she's "35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something"--detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father's ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms--hang in there for the Costco loot--she's as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.
Kate paired this fun, light, life-affirming, dip in and out of read with her most basic snack ... a sweet, sweet, sweet, the sweetest Moscato going around, wheat crackers and a cream cheese dip.
Bluebird, bluebird by Attica Locke
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes--and save himself in the process--before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.
A rural noir suffused with the unique music, colour, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.
Kate chose a classic, slow-cooked Texan barbecue and a beer as the perfect pairing for this deeply nuanced, sharp book in which the Texas setting is almost a character of its own.
Joining me this episode for an online chat is Australian author Karen Turner!
Karen is the author of three novels, Torn (2013), Inviolate (2014) and most recently in 2019, Stormbird. Prior to this, Karen published an eclectic compilation of short stories, All That and Everything, many of which have won literary awards, including the Society of Women Writers Vic Biennial Literary Award, and the Free XpressSion Literary Competition.
Stormbird, is a romantic fiction novel set in 1943, and delivers the reader to the once glorious Broughton Hall, where war-widowed young mother, Jessica Barrow, lives with her children in the now dilapidated manor house. It’s here that she discovers a mysterious diary and through the story held within, she finds an independence and passion she’s never known before. This new-found strength will be put to the ultimate test when she encounters a stranger; a German bomber who has been shot down near Broughton Hall. It also has the touch of the paranormal in the form of a ghostly presence!
Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti tour guide by Dario Castagno
A Tuscan guide whose client base is predominantly American, Dario has spent more than a decade taking individuals and small groups on customised tours through the Chianti region of Tuscany. Too Much Tuscan Sun is Dario's account of some of his more remarkable customers, from the obsessive and the oblivious to the downright lunatic. It is also a primer on Tuscany--its charms and its culture.
Structured around a typical Tuscan year, Dario takes us through the sights, smells, and sounds of Chianti during each of the twelve months, including the festivities and pageantry that accord with the season, most notable the Palio-the bareback horse race that consumes the social energies of the people of Siena for all of July and August. Dario also intersperses an account of his own life and times-that of a transplanted British "little lord" who learns to love the wilds of Chianti; of his discovery and adoption of abandoned peasant farmhouses; of his apprenticeship in the wine industry; and of his arduous transformation from bohemian layabout to thriving Tuscan guide.
Karen suggests pairing this funny, charming book with a sharp and sprightly Aperol Spritz, some warm homebaked ciabatta and fresh olive oil for dunking!
The Moon In The Water by Pamela Belle
Thomazine, born heiress to the Heron fortune, is orphaned at the age of ten. She grew to womanhood at the great house of Goldhayes with her cousins. Wild, headstrong Francis, the rebellious cousin, has his heart captured by Thomazine, but the sweep of time and politics was against them. Francis was banished, imprisoned and Thomazine was forced into bleak and loveless wedlock with Dominic, whom she could never love. As the drums and steel of war marched across England, with King against Parliament, their love must meet its test and so Thomazine rides North, forsaking all else for her heart's desire.
This is one of Karen's favourite books, with its meticulously researched account of life during the 17th century English civil war as well as a delicious forbidden love story. For its British-ness Karen recommends a fresh pot of loose leaf tea on a silver tray holding beautiful china cups and then, because its her favourite, a pack of original Tim Tams, still in their plastic tray, munching away on the whole packet and dunking a few in the tea for good measure.
Joining me for this episode’s online chat is one of my favourite Australian authors, Toni Jordan.
Toni has worked as a molecular biologist, quality control chemist, TAB operator and door-to-door aluminium siding salesperson. She holds a bachelor of science in physiology and a PhD in creative arts and is the author of five novels.
Her debut, the international best-seller Addition, and the first of hers I read, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award and won the Indie Award for best first book. This was followed by Fall Girl, Nine Days, Our Tiny, Useless Hearts and most recently The Fragments.
I asked Toni numerous questions about The Fragments, a sumptuous literary mystery (which I wanted so badly to be non fiction) and we discussed her cocktail game, which is strong my friends, very strong!
Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany
In the late 1970s, in the forgotten outer suburbs, a girl has her hands in the engine of a Holden. A sinister new man has joined the family. He works as a mechanic and operates an unlicensed repair shop at the back of their block.
The family is under threat. The girl reads the Holden workshop manual for guidance. She resists the man with silence, then with sabotage. She fights him at the place where she believes his heart lives – in the engine of the car.
Toni paired a favourite classic cocktail, the Negroni, which she makes in batches and uses the good vermouth but the less good gin (!) with this sparse, bitter and intense story.
The Dictionary Of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Toni chose to pair this beautiful, feminist re-telling of history with another classic cocktail, an Old Fashioned. Although she loves good whiskey she doesn't use the good whiskey here, any old whiskey will do!
Joining me this episode for an online is journalist and author Dan Kaufman!
Dan is a former newspaper journo and editor - who still occasionally writes columns for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. He launched, ran and wrote the very popular Bar Zine before starting his own media training, writing and editing consultancy business.
This year he has released his first novel, Drowning In The Shallows, a social satire poking fun at love, sex and masculinity set in the Sydney bar and nightlife scene.
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Ignatius J. Reilly is a 30-year-old medievalist who lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, penning his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relaying to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.
The many subplots that weave through this story are as complicated as anything you'll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. A true tragicomedy.
This is Dan's favourite book of all time and so he felt that he should pair it with his favourite cocktail of all time - the Sazerac. Invented in New Orleans, where the book is set, this cocktail is complex and bitter, just like Ignatius. A perfect pairing indeed!
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
In the small town of Martirio, Texas, fifteen-year-old Vernon Little finds himself in deep trouble after his best friend Jesus kills sixteen of his classmates before committing suicide as he becomes the target of both vengeful townspeople in search of vengeance and justice and the media's thirst for sensation. His mother, endlessly awaiting the delivery of a new refrigerator, seems to exist only to twist an emotional knife in his back; her friend, Palmyra, structures her life around the next meal at the Bar-B-Chew Barn; officer Vaine Gurie has Vernon convicted of the crime before she's begun the investigation; reporter Eulalio Ledesma hovers between a comforting father-figure and a sadistic Bond villain; and Jesus, his best friend in the world, is dead. As his life explodes before him, Vernon flees his home in pursuit of a tropical fantasy: a cabin on a beach in Mexico he once saw in the movie Against All Odds. But the police--and TV crews--are in hot pursuit.
Dan would pair this story of escape to Mexico with a classic Margarita cocktail. Salty, tart and strong this drink definitely reflects its pair!
Adele began blogging as Persnickety Snark in 2008 focussing on championing youth literature and its intended teen audience. She has been Program Coordinator for the State Library of Victoria’s Centre for Youth Literature, founding co-host of the literary podcast, Unladylike and co-host of the podcast What Would Danbury Do? about the Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn.
Adele is currently Senior Coordinator, Community Outreach & Engagement at La Trobe University Our conversation ranged all over from what exactly is snarkiness to creating podcasts around things we love and starting book blogs and getting reading hangovers ... and of course, to the books and just what would we pair them with!
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs—the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.
This is Adele's favourite Young Adult book of all time, it feels like home to her and she would pair it with a bowl of Mac N Cheese and/or a glass of the dry, delightful and refreshing Steels Gate Rose.
The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.
Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn't matter. She doesn't care that his leg is less than perfect, it's his personality she can't abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless.
Adele suggested a Gin & Tonic would be the perfect pairing for this tart, dry and effervescent romance!
I Capture The Castle by Dodi Smith
Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. Cassandra's father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riche. Their step-mother Topaz has a habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of rich new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love.
This is a lovely, gentle read with a great voice in Cassandra. It is a book which feels quite nostalgic, with a longing for a happier past, yet it is hopeful for the future.
I would want to have something wholesome and calming whilst reading this book, perhaps a delicious chicken soup or a chamomile tea for the perfect rainy day comfort read!
Joining me virtually for this episode all the way from New Zealand is librarian Justin Hoenke!
Justin has worked in public libraries all over the United States in various roles such as Coordinator of Tween/Teen Services at the Chatanooga Public Library and Executive Director of the Benson Memorial Library in Pennsylvania and has recently moved to New Zealand to take up the role of Team Leader at Wellington City Library.
We talk about moving to New Zealand, lockdown and creating a tween/teen space at Chatanooga Public Library, working at a hub in Wellington as well as Justin's favourite reads and just what he would pair with them for that wonderful reading experience.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970 by Mark Lewishon and PAul McCartney
This is EMI Records' official diary-format history of every Beatles recording session. Over 350 colour black & white photographs and illustrations, including rare photos by Linda McCartney and the first facsimile reproductions of Abbey Road recording sheets, tape boxes, album sleeve roughs, memos, contracts, press releases and much more.
A coffee table book which has been in Justin's hands for a very long time. His best friend through his teenage years this is one of his go-to comfort reads. Justin paired this book with a very specific Ice Tea ... a lemon-flavoured, generic Ice Tea available at gas stations across America.
Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! by Dominic Priore
This book is a pastiche of magazine articles, newspaper clippings, session sheets, essays, interviews, pictures, reviews, and other miscellany related to the beach Boys and their legendary unreleased (at the time of the book's publication) masterpiece Smile. Its modus operandi was to collect virtually all of the known writings about the album. Not for the casual "Beach Boys' Greatest Hits" type of listener, but for hard core Beach Boys fans with a particular obsession with Smile, this book is a treasure trove. Due to the scrapbook format and frequently very small print with many of its 300 pages divided into 3,4, and sometimes even 5 columns, it's a daunting, but ultimately very rewarding read. The book was compiled from the perspective of Smile being still unreleased, but is all the more enjoyable with the benefit of having heard the Smile Sessions (released in 2011).
Justin paired this book with his favourite milky, sweet tea - it reminds him of love and being loved and is a cosy pairing if ever there was!
Joining me virtually for this episode is academic and Young Adult romance author Jodi McAlister!
Jodi is the author of the Valentine series, a young adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy series about smart girls, small towns, and scary fairies. There are three books in the series so far: Valentine, Ironheart, and Misrule , all published by Penguin Teen Australia.
Jodi is also currently a lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University in Melbourne. Her academic work focuses on the history of love, sex, women and girls, popular culture and fiction.
Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) by Lucy Parker
It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.
Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…
Jodi suggested two wines, one to pair with each main character:
For Lily Lamprey Jodi recommends the Clem Blanc field blend from Sinapius winery in the Tamar Valley as it is dry, light, floral and refreshing!
For Luc Savage Jodi recommends the mature, dry and juicy (but not heavy) Julius Shiraz from Z Winery in the Barossa Valley.
Bittersweet (#1 True North) by Sarina Bowen
The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.
Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.
They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some
Jodi suggests that only a cider will do for this funky, sweet and delicious read, specifically Willie Smith's Wild Apple Cider as it is spicy, savoury and a little bit different!
Joining me for this episode via online chat is the lovely speculative fiction author Samantha Marshall!
Samantha has written three books across two series, Aislinn’s Shadow and Tobias’ Spark in The Kin Chronicles and Sorcery and Stardust is the first in The Weaver’s War series.
If you love action packed, shape-shifting, strong characters in an Australian (and space in The Weaver's War) setting then do yourself a favour and check out Samantha's books!
Samantha chatted with me about writing believable characters, our mutual love of hard SF and also chose two of her favourite books to pair with delicious elixirs!
Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh (#13 in the Psy-Changeling series)
Vasic is an assassin and a soldier. His soul is drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.
Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Vasic. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for Vasic who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…
Samantha says this is a meaty plot, layered, with a lovely romantic storyline, a good comfort read which would go well with a hot chocolate with a dash of caramel syrup and a chocolate mud cake as it is warm and snuggly.
The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #24)
They say that diplomacy is a gentle art. That its finest practitioners are subtle, sophisticated individuals for whom nuance and subtext are meat and drink. And that mastering it is a lifetime's work. But you do need a certain inclination in that direction. It's not something you can just pick up on the job. Sam Vimes is a man on the run. Yesterday he was a Duke, a Chief of Police and the Ambassador to the mysterious, fat-rich county of Uberwald. Now he has nothing but his native wit and the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya (don’t ask). It’s snowing. It’s freezing. And if he can’t make it through the forest to civilisation there’s going to be a terrible war. But there are monsters on his trail. They’re bright. They’re fast. They’re werewolves - and they’re catching up.
Samantha would pair this fun, dry, layered and salty read with a sweet moscato and antipasto platter to cut through the bitey-ness!
This episode will be a little different from previous ones as joining me for an online chat is the wonderful author, journalist and screenwriter Maria Lewis!
Maria got her start as a police reporter and has been a journalist for over 15 years. She has written on pop culture in publications such as the New York Post, Guardian, Penthouse, The Daily Mail, Empire Magazine, i09, Junkee and many more. She has previously been a presenter on SBS Viceland’s nightly news program The Feed and the host of Cleverfan on ABC.
Her best-selling debut novel Who's Afraid? was published in 2016, followed by its sequel Who’s Afraid Too? in 2017, which was nominated for Best Horror Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2018.
Her Young Adult debut, and the only one I have yet to read, It Came From The Deep, was released globally on Halloween, 2017 and her fourth book, The Witch Who Courted Death, was released on Halloween, 2018 and won Best Fantasy Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2019. Her fifth novel set within the shared supernatural universe - The Wailing Woman - was released in November, 2019 and recently shortlisted for Best Fantasy novel at the Aurealis Awards!!!!!
Cari Mora by Thomas Harris
Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. Ruthless men have tracked it for years. Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men.
Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country. She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of ICE. She works at many jobs to survive. Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.
Maria chose to pair this with a White Russian cocktail as it is hard hitting but with an underlying sweetness.
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She's definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There's just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.
Gavin fights to show Marlee he's nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team's wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee's return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.
Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin's relationship to survive the season.
Maria chose a Pimms Cocktail to pair with this book as it is refreshing, fun, fruity and sweet!
Jamsheed Urban Winery in Preston is a fully functioning winery housed in a rather large warehouse in Preston. The space, like the wine, is packed with personality with an industrial brewery feel on one level and a cosy lounge and pool room on another.
Gary and I sat in the lounge area of this working winery and had a lovely chat about three of his many beautiful wines, how he fell into the wine-making business and how a winery is similar to an author.
The wine and the books:
2018 Jamsheed Beechworth Roussanne - honeysuckle, buttercup, fleshy grapefruit, mineral, textural
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg - This book starts out as the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Ninny Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women-of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern cafe offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.
This is a delightful, moving, sassy, textural, fleshy and earthy read which deserves to be read whilst drinking a delicious wine like this one.
2019 Candy Flip - a blend of Pinot Gris, Mourvedre and Merlot - Pet Nat style - Red apple/Schapple, crushed blood oranges, rosehip and red rooibos tea flavours. Finishes lively and playful!
The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is a funny, clever and heart-warming debut novel. Kind of like a cross between Forrest Gump and Up! if you know those movies!
The 100 year old man, Allan, is a wonderfully playful character. His love of vodka and indifference to politics combine with his ability to blow things up and get him into lots of trouble! Through Allan we see some of the momentous events of the twentieth century in a new light.
It all starts on Allan’s one-hundredth birthday when, sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not... Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway.
This is a lively, light, bright, playful and fun read and highly recommended with a vibrant tipple!
2017 Ma Petite Francine 100% Cabernet Franc - raspberry, cherry mulberry leaf, funky with some green pepper, red liquorice and red berry, earthy forest floor
Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Totally clueless, yet suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behaviour, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls.
What follows is a fantastical series of events involving secret booknerd societies, typography, ancient artifacts, codes and puzzles, the capabilities of computers, and the coolest bookstore you have ever heard of. It's a collision of ancient mystery and very modern, internet-savvy characters. It is a juicy, red berry, funky and vibrant read.
Recently I visited Adelaide Writers Week and couldn’t resist popping into the Smelly Cheese Shop for a chat with the lovely Valerie about her amazing cheeses. The Adelaide Central Markets are a wonderfully vibrant, albeit slightly noisy background to this episode, enjoy!
The cheese and the books:
Mons Camembert, Normandy - Summertime, orange highlights, golden and softly clotted, intense and persistent, mouthfillingly fruity, mushroomy, earthy, buttery and meaty, rich and complex.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane
In an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself this book takes us on a journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. The author takes us from the birth of the universe through to a post-human future, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers.
Like this cheese, Underland is intense, persistent and meaty. It is a journey into wonder, loss, fear, and hope. At once ancient and current, this is a book that could change the way you see the world.
Primavera, Section 28, Adelaide Hills - Spring, floral, dried meadow flowers, beautifully balanced, smooth, rich and buttery, delicate nuttiness and subtle hints of grass.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Set in mostly in Italy in the Springtime, four dissatisfied English women find each other - and an Italian castle filled with wisteria - through the classifieds. They expect a pleasant holiday, but they don’t anticipate that the month they spend in Portofino will reintroduce them to their true natures and reacquaint them with joy in their lives. This is a beautiful story, gentle yet with a tartness to it. Somewhat nutty, especially the delightful Lotty, and full of smooth, buttery moments which just linger delightfully in your mind much like this cheese lingers on the palate. It is the essence of Spring and a perfect match to this delicious cheese!
La Tur, Northern Italy - Creamy, runny, oozy, moist, earthy and full, with a tang.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
A unique love story set in the New York City theatre world during the 1940s told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love. This book is an oozy, decadent and glamorous read, perfect for this cheese.
Milk the Cow has long been a favourite cheese destination of mine and the many varied and creative pairings were an early inspiration for this very podcast!
Cheesemonger Laura took me through a tasting with some weird and wonderful cheeses, discussed how cheese is similar to books in the ways they both tell a story, shared some tips on how to pair things with cheese and, for those intrepid listeners who stick it out until the end, some terribly cheesy puns as well!
The cheese and the books:
Wyfe of Bath, England - succulent, nutty, creamy, taste of old England
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is absolutely bonkers, witty and weird in that delightful English way. Set in an alternate Great Britain circa 1985 where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously.
This book is ridiculously nutty, funky, fun and absorbing, smooth and creamy.
Gjestost, Norway - Unusual, heated and reduced until it caramelizes. Extremely durable, sour but sweet, smooth and fudge-like
Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey is made up of 10 fable-like tales told by the souls of animals killed in human conflicts in the past century or so.
Each of these souls narrates their story and are playful and witty, beautifully written and poignant. This book has a depth and a sweetness, it is unusual and its fable-like style lends to the creamy, fudgy texture which just sticks with you and is a truly lovely read.
Jacquin Tradition du Berry, France - smooth, dense, mild, lemony, clean and bright
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal. This story takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, it is the story of the heart’s journey – and the story of all the lives it will impact - in the hours between the accident that cuts short his life and the moment when his heart will begin to beat again in the body of someone else.
The language is gorgeously smooth, rolling and warm whilst also clean and precise as this book examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death.
It is a fine balance of emotion and pragmatism, definitely dense and altogether a book which can wash clean what is otherwise a turbulent story.
Special extra ... the cheesiest book I know:
Match me if you can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a romantic romp following the trials of matchmaker Annabelle as she attempts to land the hottest client in Windy City and falls in love in the process. So cheesy, really funny and just a nice, light read!
Cheese is one of my favourite things in life, it is my personal elixir, and a good cheese shop is one of my favourite places in the world to be. So it was with a great amount of joy that I entered my local specialty cheese shop, Harper & Blohm, to chat with cheesemonger Olivia about that most wonderful, delicious, storied and historic dairy product!
The cheese and the books:
Le’Etivaz - slightly smoky, semi-hard, unique
Less by Andrew Sean Greer - with nuggets of deliciousness strewn throughout this is a scintillating satire, a bittersweet romance and a unique look at our shared human comedy.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino - this collection of essays and observations is smart, sassy, smoky, unique and bold.
Epoisses de Bourgogne - pungent, sticky, smooth, velvety, meaty
Perfume: the story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind is an intense reading experience for the senses. Definitely pungent, meaty, smooth, velvety, intense and odd ... not for all tastes.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman is a nice contrast for this cheese - it is dry, salty yet sweet and quite warm at heart.
Colston Bassett Stilton - rich, buttery, tang, mellow, fruity, savoury
The museum of modern love by Heather Rose is a weirdly beautiful, artistic tale ... salty, savoury, with a long finish.
The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein details the life of Enzo the dog and is a rich, creamy, complex and mellow read which will linger long after you’ve finished it.
Recently I ventured south-side to Cheltenham on a mission to drink beer and talk books.
I spoke with Craig Blackmore, head brewer at Bad Shepherd Brewing Co, and amongst other delicious beers, managed to taste something I never thought possible ... a Unicorn Beer!
The beers and the books:
Victoria Pale Ale - crisp, easy, historic Melbourne yeast
Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is the first of the Phryne (rhymes with my-knee) Fisher series set in 1920's Melbourne. It is obviously historic, but also a lovely easy read with a sharp-shooting, straight-talking, high-flying lady detective solving murders and taking lovers like it's no one's business!
Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner is a collection of short works, vignettes really, by the well-loved Australian novelist. These reflections are dry, relaxed, elegant and easy to read, even when they are devastating observations of humanity at its worst.
Unicorn Beer - Peach Brut IPA - fantastical, dry, badass, drinkable
Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a truly fantastical, magical story, but it's not the one you think you're getting. It is high fantasy at its best, told beautifully, as the main character learns and grows and faces the corrupting threat of the 'big bad'.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir has been described as 'lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space' and honestly, that's all you need to know about this bone-dry, crazy, amazing, unicorn of a book!
Hazelnut Brown - toasty, malty, smooth, nutty, rich, dry, clean
Rivers of London is the first novel in the series of the same name. Part BBC police procedural, part magical academy this story of a young police officer who, after seeing a ghost, becomes the first apprentice wizard in over seventy years, learning magic and solving supernatural crimes. A smooth, toasty, completely nutty story which is addictive!
To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis is comic science fiction featuring time-travelling historians ... a very dry, English style of nuttiness is on show here with smooth, clean writing that will keep you entertained throughout.
It was the hottest of hot days when I headed out to La Sirene Brewery in the suburb of Alphington to chat with brewery ambassador Will Macdonald. We spoke about the philosophy behind being a modern day Farmhouse brewer, Wild Ales as a house style and the importance of microflora in an open-fermentation brewery.
The beers and the books:
Saisonette - light, spicy, fresh, dry, tart
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Light and fluffy romance on the surface but with surprising depth and freshness.
Paradoxe - lively, refreshing, tropical, creamy
The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
An absolutely luscious, creamy, joy of a read!
Farmhouse Red - malt, rose, hibiscus, fruit, sweet, floral, bitter
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
This is a classic, beautiful story. Sweetly bitter but with a solid Farmhouse backbone that just grabs you and keeps you hooked. Simply lovely!
Praline - chocolate, nuts, vanilla, creamy, complex, sweet, elegant
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
This is an elegantly complex tale that will leave you feeling deliciously warm inside!
Welcome fellow readers to the debut episode of Literary Elixirs. It was a hot day perfect for a cold beer when I ventured down a few back streets in Brunswick to Inner North Brewing Co.
Brewmaster Zack was kind enough to chat with (a very nervous) me for the debut episode. Luckily we were discussing two things very close to my heart, beer and books. ☺
The beers & the books:
WTFPA Enigmatic, Australian, juicy, gritty
The lost man by Jane Harper
Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland. They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the shadow it casts was the last hope for their brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.
A deeply atmospheric, enigmatic and Australian, gritty and juicy tale this is a book that had me hooked from the very beginning.
The nowhere child by Christian White
Psychological thriller about a woman uncovering devastating secrets about her family—and her very identity. Kim has been enjoying her relatively normal life in Australia. Sitting alone in a coffee shop, a man approaches her. He shows her a photograph of his sister Sammy, who went missing over 20 years ago in Kentucky. He insists Kim is that sister!
This debut novel is definitely gritty and enigmatic. From Melbourne to Kentucky, this is a fast-paced, juicy story with a few WTF moments of its own!
Drink, Pray, Love Inspired by Thai sticky rice. Fruity, tropical notes of mango & coconut
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
Delightful, vibrant and cheeky this is a joyful read, fruity in the best of ways, it will transport you to a holiday state of mind.
Mostly dead things by Kristen Arnett
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles.
Florida is tropical right??? This is a strange, fantastic, gem of a book, different but with a lot of heart. Might seem sweet at first but really there's a lot more going on under the surface. Plus taxidermy is interesting.
Brunny Dubbel Complex, malty, sticky
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Set in the days of civilisation's collapse. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as the Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains.
A gentle, unhurried, evocative dystopia that lingers until long after you've finished reading. This book has a complex tale and a malty backbone which carries the story through.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Keiko has worked at the convenience store her entire adult life. But as she nears 40, the pressure to find a “real” job or get married is mounting – what sort of life awaits Keiko outside the comfort zone of the store and will she step out to meet it.
Darkly quirky, unique and non-conforming this is a short yet complex tale that is surprisingly easy to consume.