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!

BOOK REVIEW: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Review by John Purcell)

A short history of nearly everythingI read this book many years ago and for the two weeks it took me to read it, I felt like a genius. However, closing the book having read the last page, I found to my dismay that I had returned to my natural moronic state.

Only quite recently I bought the audio book online. It was a drunk purchase, one I immediately regretted on discovering when popping it on in the car (I’d sobered up by that time) that it wasn’t read by Bill Bryson but by some over excited, irritating Bill wannabe.

As I had nothing but an hour of Sydney traffic ahead of me, I persevered and listened to it anyway.

With each passing minute my empty head started to fill with knowledge and sooner than expected I was parking the car at work – the pain of Sydney traffic nullified.

I have now listened to the audio book end to end three times in a row and one or two facts have begun to stick.

I kinda know a little about quantum physics, geology, biology, astronomy and err… moss.a-really-short-history-of-nearly-everything

If you’re feeling particularly ignorant – and in the age of Google who isn’t? – get yourself a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Until science discovers a way for us to download knowledge direct to our brains or invents a genius pill, this is the simplest way to know a little bit about a lot.

But if the short history of nearly everything is just too long for you … there’s always the really short history version.

Bryson thinks of everything.

Grab your PRINT copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything here!
Grab your CD/MP3 copy of A Short History of Everything here!

A Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely in his own study at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the A short history of nearly everythingworld around him.

A Short History Of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization- how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. Bill Bryson’s challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science.

It’s not so much about what we know, as how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? … Read more

Grab your PRINT copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything here!
Grab your CD/MP3 copy of A Short History of Everything here!

BOOK REVIEW: The Obernwytn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody (Review by Sarah McDuling)

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNIt’s (almost) here!

At long last, it has (nearly) arrived!

All hail The Red Queen.

Like so many others, I’ve been a fan of The Obernewtyn Chronicles since I was kid. I have read and re-read these books so many times, my copies have grown battered and torn and the characters have come to feel like old friends.

But alas, all good things must come to an end! With The Red Queen, Isobelle Carmody is finishing a story that has been captivating readers for many years. And I cannot wait to see how she does it. Really, I cannot wait. If I don’t get my hands on a copy soon, there is a very distinct possibility that my head is going to explode …

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book, is what I’m saying.

In case you’re not familiar with this highly acclaimed and much beloved series, allow me to explain. The first book in The Obernewtyn Chronicles was published nearly 30 years ago. (Well … 28 years to be precise.) Since then it has been a consistent bestseller, collecting new generations of fans with each passing year. In fact, the first book has been published as a Popular Penguin title (a true sign of greatness). In editions both pink and orange – how cool is that?!

Way before Dystopian Fiction became a whole big craze, literally decades before anyone had ever heard of The Hunger Games or Divergent, Isobelle Carmody was writing about a distant future in which the world has been ravaged by a nuclear holocaust. In other words, when it comes to Dystopian YA, Isobelle Carmody did it first. And more importantly, she did it better.

This series is a beautifully written and painstakingly imagined, with the kind of detailed world-building and intricate plotting that has ensured each new book is better than the last. It also boasts the most iron-willed, big-hearted and strong-minded heroine I have ever encountered. No kidding. Elspeth Gordie is pretty much my role model in life. In times of hardship, I frequently ask myself, “What would Elspeth do?” and the answer is invariably, “Elspeth would do the most difficult, awe-inspiring and heroic thing imaginable. And she would do it alone. And she would do it without hesitation and without complaining.”

So yeah. I think it’s safe to say that The Red Queen is my favourite YA book of 2015. And I say this with the utmost confidence, despite the fact that I haven’t read it yet. Such is my unwavering faith in Isobelle Carmody.

Long live the Queen!

Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNThe Red Queen

by Isobelle Carmody

The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal.

But before she can embark on her quest, she must find a lost key; and although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she imagined.

This is the final, dramatic volume in series of books that undoubtedly shines as one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, tapestries ever woven.

 Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

BOOK REVIEW: Life and Death (Twilight Reimagined) by Stephenie Meyer (Review by Ashley Sime)

Life and DeathLoyal Twilight fans, take a deep breath and release a collective sigh… Stephenie Meyer’s Life and Death is not the long-awaited Midnight Sun (the expected ‘Twilight as told from Edward Cullen’s perspective’) but an exploration into gender roles – a theory that Meyer wanted to indulge.

Stephenie Meyer describes the novel as ‘a pretty straight-across-the-board gender swap’, which it is, but she also wrote it to address the criticism that Bella Swan received in the original Twilight novel, as consistently being the ‘damsel in distress’.

In Life and Death, we are introduced to Beaufort Swan and Edythe Cullen, male human and female vampire respectively, with Meyer striving to highlight the species juxtaposition where Beaufort is depicted simply as a ‘human in distress’ who only appears weak due to the fact that he is constantly surrounded by superhuman characters.

While the novel follows a similar path to the original storyline, it is refreshing to see events recounted from a male perspective. Beau is an insightful protagonist who is less flowery with his words and less emotional than Bella. Life and Death also puts forward a whole new development of character personalities; including changing tough vampire Emmett to intimidating Eleanor and a pack of female werewolves that prove a force to be reckoned with.

Some may see this new installment as Meyer trying to resurrect the series and fit in with society’s current interest with gender fluidity or a thought-provoking new take on the popular novel. Either way, Stephenie Meyer proves a point, making it clear that gender and species has no effect on intense passion which is first love.

Grab your copy Life and Death as a part of the
Special Tenth Anniversary Edition of Twilight here

Grab your copy Life and Death as a part of the
Special Tenth Anniversary Edition of Twilight here

BOOK REVIEW: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (review by Sarah McDuling)

illuminaeWhen I first heard about Illuminae, it was described to me as “Battlestar Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate About You”. This obviously sounded like the best idea ever to me. I figured I was probably going to adore the hell out of it. And I was right!

With a story that has been carefully constructed using a collection of emails, IM chats, descriptions of video footage, classified documents, diary entries, interview transcripts, pictures and poetry – Illuminae is a wildly imaginative, constantly surprisingly and often visually stunning reading experience.

This is creative storytelling at its best. In fact, the book reads almost like watching a movie or playing a video game … except for being way better than either of those things because it’s a BOOK!

From the combined imaginations of Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War Trilogy) – Illuminae is the first book in a new trilogy that is best categorized as a Young-Adult-Space-Opera-slash-Romantic-Comedy-slash-Psychological-Thriller. This book shimmers with playful humour and burns bright with raw emotion. It’s exactly the kind of addictive read that will keep you up all night frantically flipping pages and mentally casting the movie adaptation in the back of your mind. (For the record, I settled on Miles Teller to play Ezra and Zoey Deutch to play Kady.)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A gloriously bold, genre-mashing masterpiece, Illuminae will take you on a madcap joy-ride through space, spinning a story that involves a fleet of refugees on the run from certain death, a highly contagious zombie disease, an evil planet-destroying corporation and a possibly deranged, definitely eccentric super computer called AIDAN, (Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network).

It also features a wonderful cast of endearing characters that will capture your heart (and then crush it into space dust) and an utterly adorable love/hate relationship between a wise-cracking hero and a pink-haired astro-princess with mad computer skills.

In short, Illuminae is a crazy-amazing rollercoaster ride!

Guaranteed to blow your mind, tie your heartstrings up in knots and play a frenzied game of ping-pong with your expectations – Illuminae is a must read for science fiction lovers, romance junkies and comedy fans alike.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!



Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Kady 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 … Read more.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!

BOOK REVIEW: Silas Marner by George Eliot (Review by John Purcell)

George EliotThis short novel used to be taught in schools. And I can see why. It is short. It is entertaining.

And it is short.

Teachers have always had trouble getting teenagers to read books of a quality worth teaching. How they would have rejoiced on finding a book like Silas Marner. It is a perfectly formed and executed story. And thoroughly readable and exceedingly engaging.

Times have changed somewhat however, and no teacher in their right mind would set Silas Marner as a text now. It has way too many words for today’s students. Which doesn’t mean a grown adult with an inclination to try reading more classics shouldn’t open its pages.

One of the books I periodically re-read for the sheer pleasure of it, Silas Marner is a great introduction to nineteenth century literature.

Grab your copy of Silas Marner here!

Silas Marner

George Eliot

George EliotWrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past.

Silas Marner, George Eliot’s favourite of her novels, combines humour, rich symbolism and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

Grab your copy of Silas Marner here!


BOOK REVIEW: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Review by John Purcell)

Death in VeniceI remember the strangeness of my first encounter with Death in Venice. I had taken it off the shelf because it was a very slim volume. I was feeling somewhat fatigued, intellectually, and wanted something I could swallow whole in an afternoon.

Something light and diverting. Death in Venice was the wrong choice entirely. Death in Venice only looks like a slim volume, but in reality it is as vast as the whole history of western culture. It is an extraordinary piece of writing to which I return from time to time to make sure I was not mistaken in my first impressions.

Strange, decadent, beautiful, uncomfortable and compelling, Death in Venice will shock some modern readers with its subject matter, but leave others one or two steps closer to an understanding of art, beauty, mortality and desire.

Grab your copy of Death in Venice here!

Vintage Classics newsletter banner

Death in Venice

Thomas Mann

Death in VeniceDeath in Venice is a story of obsession.

Gustave von Aschenbach is a successful but ageing writer who travels to Venice for a holiday. One day, at dinner, Aschenbach notices an exceptionally beautiful young boy who is staying with his family in the same hotel.

Soon his days begin to revolve around seeing this boy and he is too distracted to pay attention to the ominous rumours that have begun to circulate about disease spreading through the city.

Grab your copy of Death in Venice here!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,891 other followers

%d bloggers like this: