Happy 20th to one of the best…

Harry Potter. What self-respecting bibliophile hasn’t read possibly the most prolific series of all time? Hyperbolic? Maybe, it’s just my opinion. I grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione and can still remember eagerly anticipating the next instalment, rushing out early in the morning the day it was released, sitting in my bean bag with a pile of snacks and not moving until I had finished the entire thing. I remember being devastated when the final instalment of The Deathly Hallows was released at the cinema because that was the last time I would have the excitement of waiting to return to Hogwarts. If I could go back and read a book for the first time again, it would most definitely be the Harry Potter series. I read them so long ago I can hardly remember life with out this magical world.

 

Today is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. How else is there to celebrate than with a reread of the entire series? It has been too long since I returned to Hogwarts and am so excited to put myself back in this world starting on this important days when 20 years ago it all started. Join me as I relive this series over the next month, finishing up on Harry’s birthday of course! Five weeks, seven books, a world of happiness.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 14/06

Officially winter means one thing: red wine season is definitely here. Let’s celebrate with a bottle of said red. Still clearly obsessed with new current favourite Artwine lets check out the other bottle I bought on my recent visit to their Adelaide Hills cellar door. The Saint Vincent Pinot Noir is grown in the Adelaide Hills and has a palate of cherries, spices and earthy tones. Pinot Noir is not huge here in SA but is one of my favourite varietals. Condemn me if you must but despite being a South Australian local I’m not a huge fan of super heavy reds that you tend to find in the Barossa. I often prefer Pinot Noir’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s as my go too. I was delighted to discover a local Pinot Noir that was delicious and well-priced and could not resist walking away without a bottle.

 

To book I will be pairing this special wine with is one that I adored and found to appeal to my soul. Where The Trees Were by Inga Simpson is a beautiful story set here in Australia, telling the story of Jay and her friends growing up in the country and discovering an important secret, sacred tree carvings of the Aboriginal people, or arborglyphs. Further down the track we see Jay as an adult, working as an art curator and still trying to protect these sacred trees. Why pair these two? Well, a major focus of this novel is the amazing artwork that is these sacred and culturally significant trees. It is important to Jay that there significant items are treated with respect and returned to their true custodians. Plus, adult Jay is a woman after my own heart, she loves good food and good wine and much of her conversations with her partner in this book occur in her kitchen, glass of wine in hand and food being prepared. This is a truly magical book that tells an important aspect of our Australian history, one we should all understand. It deserves to be savoured, much like this drop of wine. Bring the two together when you have the time to sit and appreciate both to their full extent. A greater pairing you will not find.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 31/05

Wine & Words Wednesday is back and we are ever close to my favourite season of the year: red wine season. Let celebrate with a bottle of the good stuff. Today’s bottle comes from a new favourite cellar door. Artwine‘s beautiful cellar door is located in the Adelaide Hills, with wine grown there and in the Clare Valley. Their cellar door was filled with friendly staff who were all too happy to oblige in any way they could. I had a great tasting (all the wines I tasted were delicious) and even ended up buying a glass to drink there so I could sit and read in the sun. What did I sit and drink there? Well the focus of today’s pairing, The Temptress 2016 Rose, grown in the Clare Valley. This Rose is made from Tempranillo with aromas of strawberries and florals and yet some savoury spice, stopping it from tasting too sweet. This Rose is delectable and I couldn’t help myself walking away wth a bottle and a glass for there. What might I pair this delicious and pretty wine with?

 

Well, with a name like Artwine you cannot go past a book that combines these two great things: art and wine. Okay, so maybe wine isn’t a heavy focus in this book but the characters definitely drink some wine in this novel. The Muse by Jessie Burton is a great read that follows two storylines, both heavily influenced by art. Odelle is a typist working at a fancy gallery when a mysterious piece of artwork is discovered. Olive is the young daughter of a famous art dealer who believes that women can’t be artists. This is an addictive and captivating novel that I highly recommend. Is there a temptress in this book too? Why, yes there is. Another fitting example of why this book and wine should be paired together. Who that temptress is, and if there is one or more, well you will have to read to find out.

 

Had a bust week at work? Need to unwind after a long day? Chill a bottle of The Temptress and transport yourself to London in the 60’s and Spain in the 30’s and lose yourself in this fascinating book, while pleasing your palate at the same time. Have the opportunity to visit the cellar door? Well, don’t delay, bring the Muse along and settle in with a glass and one of their amazing looking platters and take in the beautiful views of the Adelaide Hills.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 17/05/17

Just look at that beautifully balanced date (I’m a bit weird like that, I love dates that are balanced in some way of another). Let us celebrate with a bottle of wine and a great book. Just because. Today’s wine is brought to you by a favourite South Australian winery, Bird in Hand. Looking for a well-priced but absolutely delicious sparkling wine? You cannot go past their Sparkling Pinot Noir. Seriously, go try it. But this is not the focus of today. Today I am presenting you with their 2014 Two in the Bush Merlot Cabernet. A delicious and way too easy to drink red, this is what you might call their budget line of wines and yet it is still very drinkable. If you ever make your way to Adelaide, do head up into the hills and taste their many delicious wines, you really cannot go wrong.

 

What novel comes to mind when I think of birds and bushes or trees? Well the absolute classic To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. There are birds and trees filled with treasure and to be honest some of my favourite characters in all the literature. If you have not read this classic, I implore you to pick it up, Most deserving of the hype is this novel and if you have rad this but back in the old school days, pick it up again. My water damaged copy was purchased in Paris. I had been backpacking for almost two months and missed home and my own space. I picked up this familiar story to entertain myself for the rest of my trip and I was not disappointed. In fact I probably read this book every twelve months. If you don’t know what this book is about, who even are you? But if you haven’t, this book teaches you a very important life lesson, that is that…

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Ahhh, the wise words of Atticus Finch. Autumn is a beautiful time in the Adelaide Hills. The trees are turning orange and depositing the golden leaves on the ground. The mood is contemplative and melancholic. Grab your own copy of this novel (you won’t regret it) and take a drive up to Bird in Hand, grab a bottle of Two in the Bush and a blanket (provided by the winery too) and sip a little while immersing yourself in Maycomb County with Atticus, Jem and Scout. A better afternoon could not be found.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 03/05/17

Wine & Words Wednesday has arrived and not a moment too soon! This week is has an important accompaniment: cheese. All the cheese and for good reason, I promise (I mean, is cheese ever a bad idea? I think not). This Wednesday’s wine of the week comes from McLaren Vale favourite Coriole Vineyards. Coriole is located south of Adelaide and has the most gorgeous cellar door. A quaint little cottage filled with delicious wine and local produce. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. The wine I have selected is their 2013 Dancing Fig. Named after the figs that grow on their estate and dance in the wind while growing on the trees. This wine is blend of morvedre, grenache and shiraz that I could not walk away from after tasting. Earthy and smooth tasting Im excited to delve into this one. What am I paring it with this week you ask?

 

Well, thinking about figs, delicious cheese and all things food related I can’t help but jump to my favourite novel that is about all things food related. Julie & Julia is the hilarious recount of Julie Powell’s adventure that was cooking her way through every single recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I listened to this as an audiobook on a trip home and found myself laughing the whole way home. This novel is well-written and entertaining and you can help but root for Julie the whole way. Anyone who enjoys cooking with love this book, understanding Julies struggles along the way from overcoming her dislike of eggs to facing live lobsters.

 

Settle in with a delicious cheese platter, with figs of course, this delightful novel and a bottle of The Dancing Fig and entertain not just your mind but your tastebuds. Cheese, good wine and someone else’s cooking struggles? You cannot go wrong.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 19/04/17

Easter has just ended for another year. A weekend of family, friend, drinks and too much food. Time for a detox? Definitely not. Another Wednesday, another bottle of wine. This week embarrassingly enough I have already drained the bottle I wanted to discuss. Proof that it is a great drop? Most definitely. What wine am I discussing tonight? Let’s head to McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide to a local favourite Alpha Box & Dice. Alpha Box & Dice as their description suggests they are a boutique winery slowly making their way through the alphabet of unique and tasty wines. Each wine is named after a letter, a different letter every time with a correspondingly unique label. In fact a highlight of these wines are the beautiful labels capturing the essence of what is bottled inside. Their cellar door is eclectic and welcoming. If you ever head this way, this cellar door is a must-visit. One I stop at each time and walk away with more wine than I need (although, you always need more wine). Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘T’. Alpha Box & Dice’s 2011 Tarot contains mostly grenache, plus some shiraz and tempranillo. I’m going to borrow from their online tasting notes with this one because I could not describe this wine as eloquently as they have. This bottle “feels like a favourite pair on jeans, sounds like Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know and smells like toffee apples and gingerbread”. If this description doesn’t tempt you then what is wrong with you?

 

What book could I pair with this mysterious wine? Well, when I think of tarot readers I can’t go past The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Captivating and distinctive, this is a charming read that I stumbled across in a book store, drawn in by the cover. Quickly it became a fast favourite of mine. To quote the cover:

The circus drives without warning.

No announcements precede it…

It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

I’m not giving you anymore, trust that this is a stirring read full of mystery, intrigue and some unforgettable characters. Keen an eye out for Isobel, the mentioned tarot reader. A complex character who I always felt was a little hard done by, but some things cannot be denied. Intrigued yet? Good, now go get yourself the bottle and book. Sit down one quiet autumn night and let yourself be transported to another time and place, the night the circus rolls to town. Have the opportunity to visit the cellar door? Well, grab your book one crisp afternoon and travel down to McLaren Vale. Grab yourself  bottle (or three) to take home and glass to drink there. Indulge in one of their delicious platters and takes some time for yourself and meet the tarot reader herself within this intricate plot. You will not be disappointed.

 

Oh, and the beauty of their gorgeous bottles is you can reuse the empties as candle holders. I most certainly did not steal this idea from their cellar door either *shifty eyes*.

 

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The Stella Prize 2017

I learnt something this week. Two of the most notable literary prizes in Australia are the Miles Franklin Award, celebrating literary meriting novels that depict phases of Australian life, and the Stella Prize for exemplary literary works by Australian women. What I did know was that both these awards are celebrating the same person. Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin was a writer who supported the development of a uniquely Australian voice and endowed her estate to establishing the Miles Franklin Award. Disheartened by the underrepresentation of women in the Miles Franklin Award, the Stella Prize was founded celebrating our many amazing Australian women and their novels. The 2017 winner of the Stella Prize will be announced tomorrow and as requested I’m here to discuss my thoughts on this years shortlist.

 

To be completely honest, I have only read five of the six shortlisted novels. Two I had already read or was currently reading when the shortlist was announced and the other three all stood out to me when I perused the longlist. Poum and Alexandre did not particularly capture my interest so I chose not to read it. That said it is in the company of some exceptional novels so I’m sure it more than holds it own and is amazing piece of work. Of course I may have to retract my decision should it win.

 

I learned to stay quiet. I learned the nobody much cared. I learned that it was probably my fault anyway and that what they were doing was perfectly okay. This is how it alters us. This is how we change.

I read The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke in one sitting. This memoir made me laugh. This memoir made my cry tears of rage. This memoir blew my mind. The casual and institutionalised racism that Clarke grew up with was uncomfortable to read but is something that each and everyone of us as Australians needs to experience if only to understand. To stop asking someone where they are from because clearly they don’t *look* Australian, to lose our prejudices and the mentality that “these people should go back to where they came from” and even to reconsider the hypocrisy of our nation who took this country by force and still are yet to officially recognise the true custodians of Australia and still have not learnt to share. And Clarke does all this with clarity and at times humour in a way we can all empathise with.

 

Not that he forced me. Not saying that at all. You know how it is though, sometimes easier to let a man do his thing than go through the trouble of explaining why not, of kicking him out, of having a big scene. So, yeah.

This is just one of the many passages in An Isolated Incident, by Emily Maguire, where she completely hits the nail on the head. Where she perfectly captures the contradictions that are what it means to be a woman in society. The feeling that you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. These important messages and themes are wrapped in the guise of a psychological thriller of the murder of a young woman in a small country town. It is very clear from this novel that Maguire is passionate about women’s rights and violence towards women. On top of that she perfectly captures the voice of a small town bartender, tough as nails and who likes her men rough around the edges. Another fast-paced read.

 

When you’re dying, even your unhappiest memories can induce a sort of fondness, as if delight is not confined to the good times, but is woven through your days like a skein of gold thread.

Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor was not what I expected. Taylor who, as the title suggests, is dying of cancer but this memoir is not steeped in misery, you likely will not shed a tear at the bittersweet story of a beautiful life coming to an end. This memoir is devoid of sentimentality with Taylor showing off the brilliance of her mind. There are so many pearls of wisdom that I could have shared a number passages to demonstrate some of what Taylor can teach you. Instead I urge you to read this memoir yourself if only to experience the exemplary prose that shows a life long affinity for the written word. Taylor also broaches the controversial idea of voluntary euthanasia that I highly recommend everyone reads before taking a negative stance on this issue.

 

 Perhaps we have to stay ignorant of our blessings. Perhaps we can only carry our good fortune with us if we don’t know we are doing it – otherwise we would be overwhelmed by anxiety at the possibility of loss.

L’heure entre chien et loup. The moments after sunset as the sky darkens and blurs the vision, making it difficult to distinguish between wolf and dog, friend and foe. This clever and haunting title perfectly captures the essence of this novel. Blain takes ordinary characters in the throes of daily life, the beauty and the tragedy, and makes it something extraordinary. This was the kind of book that I could not stop thinking about, even once I finished reading it. I went for a walk not long after finishing it and found myself ruminating on the characters and their actions. Sadly this is Blain’s last novel but I find myself craving more of her work. She has a knack for perfectly capturing the essence of each character she writes and this novel had me hook line and sinker from the opening chapters to the dying pages and left me feeling melancholic with a few stray tears falling down.

 

Jane wondered how many times she had looked into Karl’s eyes for more than a few seconds. In twenty-eight years of married life, what was the sum total of eye contact they had ever made? What might they have seen in each other, if they’d really looked?

My first thought about the Museum of Modern Love was that it was a nice change of tone. Each of the other books on this list are sad, melancholic and while this one does have some sadness, it is not the focus of the plot and does not drive the story. The story is a unique concept based in fact around artist Marina Abramovic and her performance The Artist is Present. The characters Rose creates are endearing, vivid and memorable, a highlight of the novel. This book is a slow burn that quietly blew my mind and grew in retrospect. A fascinating story that provokes deeper thought.

 

I would not at all be surprised or disappointed if any one of these five novels took out the prize tomorrow. They are each unique and tackle some important themes. In my opinion this is a particularly strong shortlist of novels and we should be proud of the talent we are cultivating here in Australia. My prediction is that Between a Wolf and a Dog by the late Georgia Blain will take it out. This novel is an exemplary piece of fiction. The characters are vivid and memorable, her descriptions of the mundane snippets of life are astute and demonstrate such a crystal clear understanding of human nature, both the good and the bad. I do have to say, my sentimental favourite does go to the Hate Race. Clarke has a strong, clear voice that is impossible to not respond to and I was lucky enough to witness her quiet charisma when she spoke at Adelaide Writers Week and her memoir was unforgettable. Best of luck to each of these amazing authors, sadly two of which are no longer with us, and I am already excited for next years list.

 

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