Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Author: Michael Herr Publication Date: 1977 Category: Memoir, Autobiography, Journalism, War Who'll want to read it? People interested in the Vietnam War, fans of Rolling Stone magazine, people who like 'Gonzo Journalism' (such as Hunter S Thompson's works) Point of no return: "Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar." Classic line: "'Boo-sheeit! Ain't never gettin' hit in Vietnam.'
'Oh no? Okay, mothaf***er, why not?'
''Cause,' Mayhew said, 'it don't exist.' It was an old joke, but this time he wasn't laughing." What's it all about? Fans of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket will recognise moments in this book, because Michael Herr was co-writer of both of those movies. Herr was in amongst the action covering the Vietnam War back when 'embedded journalists' meant something entirely different. Herr recounts his adventures along with cameraman Sean (son of Errol) Flynn, with a style that could almost be described as hallucinogenic. It's very evocative, and anyone interested in war or Vietnam should not miss this book. Fans of Hunter S Thompson or Rolling Stone in its glory days will want to pick this title up if they haven't already. One of the most important works to come out of a horrible war. Publisher: Picador

Slaughterhouse 5

Author: Kurt Vonnegut Publication Date: 1969 Category: Science Fiction, War, American Fiction Who'll want to read it? Anyone interested in American literature but wants an easy read, science fiction fans after something a little more 'out there', World War II buffs Point of no return: "And, even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death." Classic line: "So it goes." What's it all about? Vonnegut uses the premise of a man who has been abducted by aliens and subsequently able to travel in time to revisit the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Some of the history is dated - it cites David Irving as a serious historian even though virtually all of his work has been discredited (he is a holocaust revisionist for one). But if you ignore that, you're left with a sterling work of fiction. Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner of war in World War II are relived through the character Billy. Pain, suffering, anguish and death are all exposed unflinchingly, yet there is a beautiful optimism underlying the novel. It is also rich in humour and, unlike some American literature, not heavy-going - light readers will love it as much as the scholarly types. If you love science fiction, war novels or any American fiction, you need to add this book to your reading list. Publisher: Vintage

The Forever War

Author: Joe Haldeman Publication Date: 1974 Category: Science Fiction, American Fiction, War Who'll want to read it? Sci-fi buffs and war fiction fans, especially of the Vietnam War Point of no return: "'Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.' The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant." Classic line: "I suspected that the next time humans met Taurans in ground combat, we would be more evenly matched. And I was right." What's it all about? Humanity is at war with the mysterious Taurans. Faster than light travel is achieved by sling-shotting around certain types of stars: only trouble is, doing so sends you into the future anywhere from ten to a hundred years. Haldeman creates a brilliant allegory for the Vietnam war, with soldiers returning to Earth finding a world utterly alien to them. The only comfort they can find is in the military they hate so much. This book is a must-read for any sci-fi fan, and for any war buff who wants an insight into the emotional conflicts of the American soldier who served in Vietnam. Publisher: Millennium

Friday, December 07, 2007

My Little Blue Dress

Author: Bruno Maddox Publication Date: 2001 Category: Fiction, Satire, Humour Who'll want to read it? 25-40's, anyone out for humour with a difference Point of no return: "But the arrival of puberty changed all that. All of a sudden I was something, something people understood, a teenage girl, and as long as everyone was staring glazedly at my chest, I realized, the chances of their catching a glimpse into my soul and rejecting me for what they saw there were thrillingly remote." Classic line: "The fact that I delivered a letter today... Does that make me a postman?" You'll have to read the book to see why it's a classic. What's it all about? It's not about an old woman writing the memoirs of her life since her birth on 1 January 1900, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that. What starts off as a whimsy story of an old woman reliving her past twists and turns into a classic metanarrative tale. It would be easy to get a story like this wrong. But Maddox uses the right combination of self-effacement and urban alienation. He couples this combination with hilarious situations to create a delightful read. Especially likeable is his description of New York nightclubs: It's worth reading for them alone. Publisher: Abacus

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Author: Mia Gallagher

Publication Date: 2006

Category: Contemporary Fiction; Irish Fiction

Who'll want to read it? Not the faint hearted.

Point of no return: Page 5 "Then I duck through the bushes and the willa trees and when I get ta the big stone where I left her, I stop and scrabble around for a while. There's nothin there. I kick the brambles with me feet, hopin for a sign, dried blood, bone, anythin, and even though I know this is crazy, it was thirteen year ago, I'm still disappointed, and the ghost beside me more so, when I find nothin."

Classic line/s: Page 395 "They say in the telly wildlife programmes a mother will do anythin ta protect its cubs, even tear off its own foot in a snare, but they musta made another programme for Ma".

Page 471"Then ya push through that line - how I don't know - and drop yer face, breathin in the scenta me hair, and then ya kiss me throat with a kiss that's got more care in it than anythin else I've felt in me life..."

What's it all about? Lucy Dolan and her growin up in late 21st Century heroin drenched Dublin. There's murder, there's maimin, there's torture and a Ma that had her first kid when she was 14. Ma, Granny, Lucy and little sister Sam all have the sight, but none can prevent the tragedy the story revolves around. I'm not sayin what that is, cause that would be tellin and'd spoil the whole book. There is love in the book, but the only romance is the tellin' and retellin' of the tales of Buck Whaley and his dealins with the Devil. Or is that Nayler, Lucy's one-time hero, her Captain, and his dealings...?
Publisher: Penguin

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who killed channel 9?: The death of Kerry Packer's mighty TV dream machine

Author: Stone, Gerald Publication Date: 2007 Category: Social history/entertainment Who'll want to read it? Those interested in the Australian media. Point of no return: pg. 11 Classic line: "Am I still here? How f*%#@! long is this going to take?" Kerry Packer on his deathbed, 26 December 2005. What's it all about? The behind the scenes machinations that have changed the political and emotional landscape at channel 9 in the last few years. Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Sunday, September 23, 2007

12:23 Paris, 31st August 1997

Author: McNamee, Eoin Publication Date: 2007 Category: Literary suspense Who'll want to read it? Conspiracy theorists. Point of no return: Having read Eoin McNamee's last 4 books, reading this was a foregone conclusion.
Classic line: "The thing he liked about tailing someone was that it added an extra dimension to the subject. He liked to think of himself as bringing ambiguity and drama to people's lives" page 5. What's it all about? Eoin McNamee possesses a certain mastery in writing novels based around actual people and events. 12.23 is set in Paris on the weekend Diana Spencer died. It is a fictional account of the lead up to the fatal accident in the Alma tunnel. We see most events from the point of view of a washed up ex-special forces operative employed to "watch and report" on people connected with Diana Spencer. McNamee portrays a chilling world of espionage and corruption - a world in which to "sanitize" is to remove all protective surveillance from the vicinity of a subject, leaving assassins clean access to their target. The story explores some intriguing possibilities about the weekend of "Spencer's" death (as she is continuously referred to in the novel). McNamee's ability to portray the inner nuances of so many different characters creates a rich and plausible cast. Even if you don't like the topic, you will be entranced by the atmosphere created.
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Interview with Eoin McNamee from the Belfast Telegraph, 23.09.2007:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee
Publication Date: 1960 Category: Classic American Fiction Who'll want to read it? Everyone Point of no return: Page1 "We were far too old to settle an argument with a fist-fight, so we consulted Atticus. Our father said we were both right." Classic line: For context I'll give you a few lines: "Dill was becoming something of a trial anyway, following Jem about. He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then promptly forgot about it. He staked me out, marked me as his property, said I was the only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me. I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem." Chapter 5 What's it all about? The most beautifully written coming of age story I've ever read. Scout's innocent, honest and wise voice tells the story of a small town's prejudice, bigotry and snobbery. Yet it also tells of the strength of human spirit, the value of life, loyalty, patience, perseverance and love in it's many forms. Publisher: Warner Books

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Flowers of Ballygrace

Author: Geraldine O'Neill Publication Date: 2006 Category: Family Saga Who'll want to read it? Those who have read others by O'Neill & those who enjoy Maeve Binchy, or the "aga saga" Point of no return: Chapter Three Classic line: He paused for a moment, thinking, then he shook his head. 'You women are all the feckin' same - ye say one thing and mean another. And it's not fair - for us lads are left like eedjits trying to make sense of it all.' What's it all about? A family living along the Grand Canal in County Offaly, Ireland in the late 1950's. As the two adult children form relationships of their own the widowed "mammy" must find her own focus for life again. Deftly describes a period of social change in rural Ireland in this time, and describes the area around Tullamore, Daingean etc., incredibly well. Publisher: Orion

Friday, July 27, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Author: Lisa Scottoline Publication Date: 2007 Category: General Fiction Who'll want to read it? anyone who likes suspense, drama and chilled by thrillers Point of no return: page 39 Classic line: "Lockdown!" "Go, go, go!" "Its the lockdown siren. We gotta go!" Inmates bolted for the door, bottlenecking at the threshold. What's it all about? Corruption in the prison system, discovered by two law professors, but with a dramatic twist at the end. Publisher: Macmillan

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Unexpected Elements of Love

Author: Legge, Kate Date: 2006 Category: Contemporary Fiction Who'll want to read it? Anyone with an interest in contemporary Australian literature & emerging authors Point of no return: Page 18 & the introduction of Roy. Classic line: You can always turn the volume down on a child with spirit but you can't make a firecracker out of wet cardboard What's it all about? Family relationships, climate change & art Publisher: Penguin Viking

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Black Belt Librarians

Author: Warren Graham Date:2006
Category: Non Fiction Who'll want to read it? Anyone who works in a library, in particular the policy makers Point of no return: Chapter One: The inmates are running the asylum Classic line: "Where in the library is the most appropriate place for crazy people to hang out?" What's it all about? An easy readable guide to help staff with security issues and handling upset patrons. Written about the USA library experience but you'll recognise the universal human behaviour. It's all about creating a safer workplace. Publisher: Pure Heart Press

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

World to come

Author: Dara Horn

Date: 2006

Category: Contemporary fiction

Who'll want to read it? People who like to read

Point of no return: Page 1

Classic line: "Just crawl over the mistakes and you'll be fine."

What's it all about? Ben writes questions for quiz shows. His life is falling apart until an impulsive crime leads him to have an adventure that reveals long kept family secrets and the fragments of history, art and literature that make cultural identity. It' great to read because its jammed with so many images and ideas and at the end they all collide.

Publisher: W. W. Norton

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Wah Wah Diaries

Author: Richard E. Grant Date: 2006 Category: Memoir Who'll want to read it? Richard E. Grant fans! Point of no return: Page 1 Classic line: "There was a brigade of horsey women with enormous arses, moustaches and jolly-hockey-sticks ideas about everything walloping about in all directions, whose skins had weathered like leather and whose breath and hands always smelled of horse saliva and dung." pg 6. What's it all about? Richard E. Grant takes us on a roller-coaster ride, showing us the ups and downs and all-arounds of making his movie Wah-Wah. If you're thinking about becoming a director of film, this could be the book to change your mind! Or not. Publisher: Picador