BOOK REVIEW: R&R by Mark Dapin (Review by Caroline Baum)

r-rBlam! Author hits target with a bullseye.

Former magazine columnist Mark Dapin has become The War Guy (his military history The Nashos’ War was widely acclaimed) and this novel confirms that status and a whole lot more. I’ll admit when I came to this Vietnam War story about two Military Police – one a seen-it-all hard-drinking womanising American, and one a naïve but very tall Australian with reservations: I didn’t fancy being immersed in that macho violent brutal crude world. But I was wrong, and knew it within the first twenty pages, which were bracingly alive with a heady mixture of bawdy humour and raw masculine energy.

Dapin writes with tremendous swagger (his style is a head-on collision of Steve Toltz and Joseph Heller). In Nashville and Shorty he’s created two memorable characters: an unlikely couple defined by physical and psychological contrasts that suggest they may become enemies. Instead, the very opposite happens and the story of their growing effect on each other unfolds in scenes that are taut and explosive with occasional moments of gentler comedy that allow you to regroup before the next skirmish – there’s a dinner seduction scene which Nashville orchestrates when Shorty takes his nurse girlfriend on a date that he pulls off with surprising delicacy (this is not a book full of subtlety) and good natured fun, creating an oasis of innocence in a narrative that is otherwise steeped in sleaze.

Rude, raw, crude, violent and shocking, this is as satisfying a mateship story as you could hope for if you like yours on the perverse end of the spectrum.

Grab your copy of R & R here!


Mark Dapin

r-rJohn ‘Nashville’ Grant is an American military policeman in the R&R town of Vung Tau, tucked safely behind the front lines of the Vietnam War. Nashville knows how everything works: the army, the enemy, bars, secrets, men and – at least in Vung Tau – women. He’s keeping the peace by keeping his head down and making the most of it.

His new partner is a tall man from a small town: Shorty, from Bendigo. Shorty knows nothing about anything, and he wishes people would stop mistaking that for stupidity.

When another MP shoots a corpse in a brothel, the delicate balance between the military police, South Vietnamese gangsters and the Viet Cong is upset. Nashville and his partner … Read more.

Grab your copy of R & R here!

Brad Pitt set to turn Aussie YA thriller Illuminae into Hollywood film

Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have signed a deal with Brad Pitt’s movie production company, Plan B Entertainment (along with Warner Bros.) to turn their young adult thriller Illuminae into a major Hollywood film.

Illuminae pic

Since it hit the shelves, the book – which is told through a dossier of found documents, classified files, texts, instant messages and spaceship schematics – has garnered rave reviews, skyrocketing it to the New York Times Young Adult Hardcover Bestseller list in its first week.

Pitt will produce the film along with his Plan B partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. The search for a screen writer has now begun.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here
Check out our book review of Illuminae here


Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaeKady and Ezra thought their break-up was messy until they witnessed their entire world literally falling apart. Now they’re piecing together what’s left of their lives, and their romance, and trying to survive an intergalactic war. An innovatively designed story that’s best described as Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You.

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight … Read more.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!


Indonesia has a Lady Terminator? Turkey remade E.T? Marc Fennell spills the beans on the weird and wonderful world of cinema in his new book, Planet According to the Movies

Australia’s most listened-to film critic, Marc Fennell, tells the hidden stories behind the movies you know and love whilst also introducing you to a (bizarre) world of cinema you never knew existed.

Did you know that there are messed up filmic versions of fairytales? Take for example the ancient Russian version of Beauty and the Beast which shows that all it takes to marry a prince is non-consensual sex with a drunken (from vodka, naturally) reptile. A Scottish interpretation of Snow White culminates in an erotic three-way. Ahhh Disney …

Also … did you know that North Korea’s very own Kim Jong-il executive-produced his own version of Godzilla? Or that Japan has The Calamari Wrestler which follows the life of a professional wrestler who becomes a giant squid like creature after developing a terminal illness. Interesting, right? This book is jam-packed with these gems of information!



Planet According to the Movies

Marc Fennell

Awesome, weird and wonderful flicks from four corners of the globe.

Which nation is best equipped to survive a zombie apocalypse? Why do obese moustachioed Tamil action stars make the best politicians? What fictional country links Predator, Commando and Die Hard 2?

Planet According to the Movies is your official armchair guide to our tiny, weird planet as projected on cinema screens. It’s 30% travel guide, 30% film reviews, 10% racial profiling handbook and 45% testament to the fact that maths is hard.

Australia’s most listened-to film critic, Marc Fennell (triple j, SBS TV, That Movie Book), tells the hidden stories behind the movies you know and love – from the Wizard of Oz to Life of Pi – and introduces you to a world of cinema you never knew existed. Discover Japan’s Calamari Wrestler, Indonesia’s Lady Terminator, Turkey’s remake of E.T. and North Korea’s answer to Godzilla, which was executive-produced by Kim Jong-Il himself. Who needs a plane to travel the world when you can do it all from your couch, you shameful slob!

Grab your  signed copy of Planet According to the Movies here!

Takeaway food that’s healthy? Surely you jest! Australia’s favourite home cook Julie Goodwin talks to Booktopia TV about her new book, Homemade Takeaway

Forgoing fast and junk food because we’re of the mind that a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips is just hard work! Sometimes we really need to indulge in a little comfort food like that delicious pad thai from our trusty Thai shop around the corner or a mouthwatering cheese burger from that fast food chain which shall not be named. So when that urge once again persists – turn to Julie Goodwin, not your local fast food store!

Julie’s new book Homemade Takeaway will teach you how to make your favourite takeaway dishes and desserts from the comfort of your home, all using fresh, healthy ingredients. And you know what that means? More money in your pocket … and a healthier you.



Homemade Takeaway

Julie Goodwin

Let Julie Goodwin, Australia’s favourite family cook, show you how to make your favourite takeaway dishes – at home, from scratch!

Cheaper, healthier, and even faster than waiting for your order! Feel good about enjoying take away and save money at the same time. Julie Goodwin is back with Homemade Takeaway. In this beautiful new fully illustrated cookbook, Julie will teach you how to make all your best-loved take away meals. Whether it’s the local bakery or the corner store, chicken shop or your favourite Thai or Indian … Read more.

Grab your signed copy of Homemade Takeaway here!

GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The October Roundup (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible Quest, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and now The Beast’s Garden, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she read in October.

My son – like so many others his age – sat his HSC last month, and so I spent lots of time waiting for him outside exam halls and libraries. This meant lots of lovely reading for me! – Kate Forsyth

Newt’s Emerald

Garth Nix

newt-s-emeraldGarth Nix is one of my favourite Young Adult fantasy writers, and Regency romances are one of my favourite genres to read – put the two together and you get the wonderful, light-hearted, and utterly magical Newt’s Emerald.

Set in a world very much like Georgette Heyer’s Regency (a place that is in itself a fantasy), the book mixes together a stolen emerald with secret powers, a young lady who disguises herself as a man, a young nobleman who is really a spy, an evil enchantress, and a host of comic minor characters, plus an ill-fated ball in Brighton.

I raced through it with great eagerness, and am now hoping that Garth plans to write many, many more. An utter delight!

Grab your copy of Newt’s Emerald here

India Black

Carol K. Carr

india-blackIndia Black is the name of the central character in this rather charming Victorian murder mystery. She is a madam, in the sense that she runs a brothel, and she is only reluctantly drawn into the investigation of the murder of Sir Archibald Latham, an important official in the War Office, because he dies in the bed of one of her tarts.

The foggy underworld of Victorian London is vividly if a little wildly drawn, and the pace rarely falters.

The chief enjoyment of the book is the acerbic and witty voice of India herself – whip-smart, amoral, and always ready to see the humour in a situation.

Grab your copy of India Black here

Picnic in Provence

Elizabeth Bard

picnic-in-provencePicnic In Provence is a memoir of a Jewish American princess who marries a Frenchman, and moves to Provence to make honey & thyme ice-cream, among other wonderful dishes.

Charming , romantic and poignant, this book is full of delicious-sounding recipes and lots of wry observations on the cultural differences between the two countries (fast food, wearing sweatpants in public, and the like).

It made me want to move to Provence and cook stuffed zucchini flowers and fig tarts drizzled with lavender honey, always the sign of a good food memoir.

I’ve since cooked quite a few of the recipes – délicieux!

Grab your copy of Picnic in Provence here

What We See When We Read

Peter Mendelsund

what-we-see-when-we-readA strange, fascinating and totally original book about the relationship between the words on the page and the images seen in the mind’s eye, this is a book to be thought about and re-read again and again.

Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, and spends his days designing book covers and illustrations. Many of the pages in this book have few or no words on them. Instead, they are full of images – photographs, drawings, pop graphics, and scribbles. In a way, it reminded me of the astonishingly beautiful books created by Brian Selznick, in which his intricate black-and-white drawings replace sentences and scenes. Except that What We See When We Read is not creating a narrative – it is instead a meditation on the relationship between the writer’s and the reader’s imagination, partly informed by scientific investigation, but mostly by a certain type of literary criticism.

The book is marred by its literary pretentiousness – lots of references to Tolstoy, Flaubert, Melville, Nabokov, and other dead white males, for example. Virginia Woolf was one of the few female authors to get a mention, and Barthes was quoted quite a few times (something that always sets my alarm bells ringing). However, if you can forgive him for thinking the only writers worth examining are white, male, middle-class and no longer breathing, then the book offers a lot to think about – and some of the passages have their own exquisite and mysterious beauty.

Grab your copy of What We See When We Read here

The Marriage of Opposites

Alice Hoffman

the-marriage-of-oppositesI have loved Alice Hoffman’s writing for a long time, from well before Nicole Kidman starred in the movie of Practical Magic. She has a wonderful way of twisting together the ordinary and the extraordinary, finding magic in the everyday. Many of her earlier books were contemporary magic realism, about lightning struck boys and girls descended from witches, but in recent years she has turned her hand to writing historical fiction, which delights me.

The Marriage of Opposites tells the story of a young Jewish woman growing up on the Caribbean island of St Thomas in the early 1800s. Rachel is married to a widower with three children when she is little more than a girl herself. When her husband dies, she is left as an impoverished young widow with six children. Her dead husband’s nephew arrives from France to take charge of the business … and so begins a passionate love affair that will scandalize the island and, in time, produce the artistic genius that was Camille Pissarro, one of the founders of Impressionism.

Beautiful, romantic, haunting, and alive with sensuality, I cannot recommend The Marriage Of Opposites highly enough. Read it!

Grab your copy of The Marriage of Opposites here

The Folk Keeper

Franny Billingsley


Whenever anyone recommends a book to me that I haven’t read, I write it in the back of my diary and then I hunt the book down. The Folk Keeper was recommended to me by an artist friend, who shares my fascination with selkies and other magical creatures of the sea.

The Folk Keeper is one of those small, perfect books that seem so simple and yet are so hard to create. The first line reads: ‘It is a day of yellow fog, and the Folk are hungry.’ It tells the story of a boy who works as a Folk Keeper in an orphanage, keeping the magical Folk appeased so they will not do harm to the human world. One day a Great Lady arrives, and so the boy’s life is changed forever. He discovers many secrets about himself and his past, uncovers a long-hidden murder and faces death himself, and – in the end – falls in love.

Franny Billingsley won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction with this beautiful children’s fantasy and it is easy to see why. An utterly unforgettable read.

Grab your copy of The Folk Keeper here


Daphne du Maurier

rebeccaSome time ago, I decided that I wanted to re-read all my favourite books again. I love to re-read; it’s an acute pleasure quite different to that of reading a book for the first time. So each month I choose an old book off my bookshelves. This time it was Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a book I remember devouring in my late teens but have not read again since.

It was even better than I remembered.

Utterly compulsive, the book moves with all the swiftness and inexorability of a Greek tragedy. It begins with the young and nameless narrator (so clever, to never tell the reader her name!) who falls in love and marries with a much older and more sophisticated man, and moves with him to Manderlay, his grand house in Cornwall. Max de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, had died some months earlier in mysterious circumstances, and her personality is imprinted everywhere in the house.

The new Mrs de Winter is shy and painfully awkward. She lives intensely in her imagination, and slowly finds herself obsessed with the former Mrs de Winter and with the mystery around her death. The feeling of dread slowly tightens, and yet there are surprises around every corner. Brilliantly plotted and executed, Rebecca is an absolute tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it before, read it now. If you have, read it again. You won’t be sorry.

Grab your copy of Rebecca here

Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, KateKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.

Visit Kate Forsyth’s Booktopia author page

The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, Kate - The Beast's GardenA retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany.

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called The Singing, Springing Lark in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom.

In The Singing, Springing Lark, the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

GUEST BLOG: Bestselling author Fiona Palmer on what she’s been reading

Fiona PalmerHarvest has started over here in the West of Australia but the rain keeps coming and holding up the headers. I’ve been a bit busy with visits to Perth for Monster Jam (with the kids), Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network meetings and related work, then throw in kids’ sports, carnivals, hockey and golf AGM’s, housework, farm work, and writing my next book, which means I haven’t got much time left to read. It’s really sad, but I’ve only managed to read one book in the last month, Rachael John’s The Patterson Girls.

Rachael is a great friend of mine, we have done a few book tours together and support each other in our writing. But that isn’t why I read her work. I pick up Rach’s books because she writes easy to read stories and has an engaging storytelling ability that keeps you turning each page frantic in anticipation. Her books are always full of emotion and The Patterson Girls was definitely that! It follows four different sisters who come home to spend Christmas with their father, six months after their mother has passed away. Each sister has their own journey and while together they learn of a family curse.  Rachael’s stories are going from strength to strength and she’s making a big name for herself.

Even though I haven’t read this next book I’m still recommending it because my mum read it and loved it. Anything my mum has enjoyed I know I will too. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies is about Gwendolyn, who leaves her home at nineteen to travel across the world to Ceylon where her new husband Laurence owns a large and prosperous tea plantation. I’m keen to read this story because my grandfather was adopted when he came to Australia as a one-year-old from England. On his adoption papers it lists his father’s name, which states that he was in India working on a tea plantation and that is all we know of him. My mum said she couldn’t put it down, it had her intrigued and she said it was a beautifully written drama. I can’t wait to read it myself.

The Patterson Girls The Tea Planter's Wife












That’s it, just two books from me this time. I am busy trying to write my next book set in Lake Grace, which follows on from The Saddler Boys and includes a Vietnam veteran.  I’m looking forward to including all the little stories I’ve gathered from the vet’s I’ve been talking to. In the meantime, I’ll be spending most of my time on Holly, the New Holland header, and working on my plot as I harvest.

Grab your copy of The Saddler Boys here!

The Saddler Boys

Fiona Palmer The Saddler Boys

School teacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.

As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society … Read more

Grab your copy of The Saddler Boys here!

Read an extract of The Saddler Boys

A Wuthering Heights inspired tale: Debra Adelaide, author of The Women’s Pages answers Six Sharp Questions

Debra AdelaideThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Debra Adelaide

author of The Women’s Pages

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

My novel The Women’s Pages is based on a short story of mine that introduced two characters in a multilayered story about loss, silences, relationships between mothers and daughters, and above all about the power of the written word.

It’s based loosely on Wuthering Heights, which presents numerous themes big and small, but particularly for me is very much about storytelling, given the novel’s many intriguing narrative layers. I’ve not rewritten that extraordinary novel by any means, but simply responded to its elements and especially leapt into some of its most compelling imagined spaces, such as the unspoken, untold, age-old story of the mother and daughter dynamic. Wuthering Heights features only absent, silent, missing, dead or dying mothers: The Women’s Pages is partly about finding or restoring mothers to a narrative.

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

In the past year I have had two books published and as a writer with a full time job (at a university) I can’t hope for better than that. My last book was the collection The Simple Act of Reading, which was done in collaboration and for the Sydney Story Factory. Being able to present essays by authors on the topic of what reading means to them, and with the support of organisations like CA’s cultural fund and Random House publishers, all for the cause of fostering reading and writing in children, was a total pleasure and privilege. It’s been a very satisfying moment of my wDebra Adelaideriting life in every way.

Having a novel come next, especially one that’s so much about the act of reading – I must have a bit of a theme or obsession here! – only consolidates this pleasure. The day your publisher rings and says she loves your manuscript, the one you wrote in desperation, for yourself alone, and wants to publish it, is a unique joy, one you cherish forever.

The worst moments in recent times have involved the serious illness of two friends and the terrible swift death of one and the ongoing illness of one of my closest family members: not being able to help or heal someone you love is just devastating. But on that note, love always offers the very best moments, and I am blessed with an abundance of that in my life.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

My home email address signature includes this quotation from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary: ‘Human language is like a cracked kettledrum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity.’

I love this quotation because it reminds me almost every day what my job as a writer is, and how big the challenge is, that is, to take language that is tired and worn out, or lowly, cliched and undistinguished in every way, and turn it into something moving and beautiful and uniquely mine. I don’t achieve this all the time of course, but at least I am reminded to aspire to it.

MB quote

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

My writing life itself is messy, ad hoc, organic and irregular in every way. However once I am engaged in a writing project, a story, or a novel, once I am ‘in the zone’ I become very disciplined and write to a schedule that I set myself (and deadlines that I always meet).

Despite this I think I am supremely easy to live with! At least, I still do the household tasks and meet my family obligations and certainly never disappear into my study with bottles of whisky or boxes of chocolate biscuits, muttering or ranting when I do emerge. However I know I become distracted when I’m in the zone, and am really thinking deeply only about the work, so perhaps those I live with would differ on this.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

The only time I have tried to think about and respond to the marketplace the writing has failed. The marketplace is a terrible distraction: if I were a genre writer, say of crime or speculative fiction, this probably wouldn’t be the case. But for me I have learned I cannot hope to second guess the market or my readers. I write for myself first: everything I write I have assumed no one else in the world would want to read (but of course at the same time have secretly hoped that millions would). the-household-guide-to-dying

When I completed my last novel, The Household Guide to Dying, I gave the manuscript to my agent and without a trace of irony told her that if she didn’t like it I would just go away and bury it because I had another novel underway. Perhaps I am always preparing myself for rejection: that might imply some bleakness in my background, but in fact I think this is healthy for a writer. You need rejection, and you need failure, so confronting it yourself right from the start is helpful.

The market is far too protean and slippery to grasp with confidence: it can make you unconsciously censor the work, or stop you from concentrating on what the story might need.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Wuthering Heights, of course: this is a no-brainer given the context of my new book, but also because it is one of those novels that can bear endless re-readings, and one that for all its mysteries and even frustrations, has the capacity to speak across the generations. And then the characters are so bold and wild and wilful and out there, which I imagine might strike a chord. And finally because it can and should be read aloud, so I imagine sitting down reading this novel to commence the civilising process with some sense of community and even ritual.

The Little PrinWuthering Heightsce, because it is exquisitely beautiful and wise and clever and delightful, and would remind adolescents, who are always pretending to be so much more grown up than they are, of the importance of child-like wonder and imagination.

If the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is cheating (three novels) then definitely The Hobbit, mainly because I loved it when I was a child but have loved it and re-read it forever since; but also because it was a real breakthrough for so-called children’s literature, coming from that vast and intricate and complete fantasy world that Tolkien created.

Thea Astley’s A Descant for Gossips, which I have recently re-read, because it demonstrates the terrible consequences of prejudice and alienation in the way a vulnerable schoolgirl is picked on and ostracised. I think it would touch these readers in sensitive emotional spots. And because readers always learn a new word or two reading an Astley novel.

Definitely cheating, but The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which of course would be read aloud and performed with plenty of roles for the 20 adolescents; it would be marvellously civilising in every way. And they would also learn many new words.

Debra, thank you for playing!

Grab your copy of The Women’s Pages here!

The Women’s Pages

Debra Adelaide

Debra AdelaideEllis, an ordinary suburban young woman of the 1960s, is troubled by secrets and gaps in her past that become more puzzling as her creator, Dove, writes her story fifty years later. Having read Wuthering Heights to her dying mother, Dove finds she cannot shake off the influence of that singular novel: it has infected her like a disease. Instead of returning to her normal life she follows the story it has inspired to discover more about Ellis, who has emerged from the pages of fiction herself – or has she? – to become a modern successful career woman.

The Women’s Pages is about the choices and compromises women must make, their griefs and losses, and their need to fill in the absent spaces where other women … Read More.

Grab your copy of The Women’s Pages here!



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