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.