Abundant Books

The blog of a self confessed book addict. Reviews and musing about what, where and how I read.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sister of the Dead - Book 3 of the Saga of the Noble Dead
by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

Magiere is a dhampir - half human, half vampire - sired for the purpose of slaying the undead. Or was she bred to be something else entirely? Outside the village of Chemestuk, where she was born and raised, stands her father's keep. Within its walls, she hopes to discover the secrets of her past and figure out why a vampire would wish to breed a creature capable of slaughtering his own kind ...But there are those who don't want Magiere to learn the truth - and when her half-elf partner, Leesil, makes a startling discovery in the keep, he can understand why. Before Leesil can reveal the truth to Magiere, they must vanquish a creature of unimaginable and unlimited power who has damned a small village of people with a horrifying curse.

The Noble Dead saga continues as Magiere and Leesil embark on a quest to uncover the secrets of their mysterious origins - and those responsible for orchestrating the events that brought them together. Along the way they discover secrets thought hidden forever.

Again, a thoroughly enjoyable read. Now I need to get my hands on the next book.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Girl with the Cardboard Port
by Judy L. McNeil

Judy McNeil is only fourteen when her father dies in a railway accident. Penniless and with nowhere to live, her mother is forced to take Judy and her five siblings to seek a new life in Brisbane, where she quickly remarries and Judy's life takes a dramatic turn for the worse. Fleeing to Sydney after attempting to kill her stepfather, all she has are a few belongings in a cardboard port, or suitcase. Judy falls in love with a Singaporean man named Richard, but her dreams of happiness are soon dashed. He sends her to live with his family in Singapore while he remains behind in Australia. So, still a teenager, Judy finds herself abandoned in a strange country with her young child and another on the way. The twists and turns of Judy's subsequent life make for compelling reading.

Loathed by her husband's father, she convinces her husband to relocate her from the family home only to find herself at the mercy of one of Malaya's headhunting Dayak rebels and forced to turn to prostitution to feed herself and her children. Later, reunited with her husband, she battles rats that feed on corpses buried in a neighbouring cemetery before returning to seek refuge in the drains. Ultimately she is faced with a devastating choice: to escape her nightmare world she will have to leave her children behind.

This is a true story that will leave you wondering how one woman could endure so much and yet still survive. I rarely enjoy non-fiction, but this was incredible. This woman's courage and the sacrifices and deprivation that she endured create a book that you cannot stop reading. It made me appreciate the life that I have.


by Kelley Armstrong

Book 6 in Kelley Armstrong's supernatural series marks the return of werewolf Elena Michaels from Bitten and Stolen. When half-demon Xavier calls in the favour Elena owes him, it seems easy enough - steal Jack the Ripper's 'From Hell' letter away from a Toronto collector who had himself stolen it from the Ripper evidence boxes in the Metropolitan Police files. But nothing in the supernatural world is ever as simple as it seems. Elena accidentally triggers a spell placed on the letter, and manages to tear an opening that leads into the nether regions of Victorian London. Toronto may be looking for a tourism boost, but 'Gateway to Hell' isn't quite the new slogan the city had in mind ...

This novel also sees Elena coping with being pregnant, and being a werewolf this presents unique circumstances. I enjoyed this series of novels, as they present a larger world than you usually see in a series, with novels linked, but featuring different main characters. The narrators may change, but the cast of characters doesn't diminish. If you liked a narrator, she's certain to return as a secondary character and perhaps as the narrator of a future book.

How many supernatural series can I get wrapped up in? Obviously, not enough!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Cross Stitch
by Diana Gabaldon

The first book of a trilogy crossing 200 years of Scottish history. On holiday in the Scottish Highlands in 1945, Clare Randall walks through a stone circle - and into a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. She becomes marooned amid passion, violence, superstition and shifting allegiances.

In this time-travel romance, strong-willed and sensual Claire Randall leads a double life with a husband in one century, and a lover in another. Torn between fidelity and desire, she struggles to understand the pure intent of her heart. But don't let the number of pages and the Scottish dialect scare you. It's one of the fastest reads you'll have in your library. I didn't think that I would like it, but read it when several different friends ensured me that I'd enjoy it.

While on her second honeymoon in the British Isles, Claire touches a boulder that hurls her back in time to the forbidden Castle Leoch with the MacKenzie clan. Not understanding the forces that brought her there, she becomes ensnared in life-threatening situations with a Scots warrior named James Fraser. But it isn't all spies and drudgery that she must endure. For amid her new surroundings and the terrors she faces, she is lured into love and passion like she's never known before.

Gabaldon creates characters that you'll remember, laugh with, cry with, and cheer for long after you've finished the book. I can't wait to read the next installment.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thief of Lives - Book 2 of the Saga of the Noble Dead
by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

Magiere, half-human child of a vampire, and Leesil her half-elf partner are investigating the sinister murder of a Councilman's daughter in a nearby town. Only her damaged town's desperate need for money could have pressured Magiere to return to the twilight world of crime that she used to inhabit. But this murder is not all it seems, and has all the hallmarks of something much darker, more complicated, more calculating. It seems that someone was trying to send a message, but was it a vampire or an even more dread force?

The second book proves even better than the first. More is discovered about Leesil and Chap, who is not what he appears to be. Magiere is finally coming to accept her real nature and is searching for answers. Finally, too, the relationship between Magiere and Leesil moves on to a new level of intimacy. The ending leads into another book, which I'll be ordering. If you loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you'll love this series. There are still lots of questions to be answered and more vampires to slay.

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Dhampir - Book 1 of the Saga of the Noble Dead
by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

Magiere has cultivated a reputation as the most formidable vampire slayer in the land. Villagers everywhere welcome her with both awe and dismay, grateful to her for removing the undead menace, but finding themselves poorer for their salvation. Magiere has never had a problem with exploiting superstition for profit. Now, tired of this game, Magiere and her half-elf partner are ready to retire. But Magiere has attracted the attention of vampires who recognize her true identity - even if she does not - and who fear her birthright and latent power. They will do anything to stop Magiere from realising her true potential.

This is Buffy meets Lord of the Rings. A satisfying medieval thriller with well written characters, this is an enjoyable story. Magiere and Leesil, along with the mysterious Chap, begin to learn the true nature of Magiere and her abilities. Magiere is a dhampir - born of a human woman and vampire father, with strengths from both races. The action is well-written and the setting is interesting - a medieval world peopled by everyday folk, along with vampires and elves.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Books Alive

What is Books Alive?

Books Alive is an Australian Government initiative that aims to encourage all Australians to experience the joys of reading. Every year, Books Alive runs a nationwide campaign to ignite the country's passion for books and make it easier to choose a really great 'read'.


The 2006 Books Alive Great Read Guide is your personal guide to 50 remarkable books, compiled by an independent panel of book industry experts from all over Australia. This year's guide has something for everyone so whatever your interests, you can be assured of a failsafe and rewarding experience when choosing that great new book. Plus, since it's never too soon to discover a love of reading, this year they're also introducing a kid's version - the 2006 Books Alive Great Read Guide Children's Edition.

Look out for your free copy of The 2006 Books Alive Great Read Guide at participating booksellers during August.

Kalahari Typing School for Men
by Alexander McCall Smith

'Ex-CID. Ex-New York. Ex-cellent' reads the sign outside the Satisfaction Guarantee Detective Agency. Cephas Buthelezi certainly talks the talk, Precious discovers, but would he have the wherewithal to deal with her current case - a man who has been attacked by ostrich rustlers, and is eager to reassess his life? Meanwhile, there are difficulties at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, where one of the apprentices has discovered the Lord, problems at home with the mysterious death of a hoopoe, and romantic complications when Mma Makutsi sets up a typing school for men...

The next in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series featuring Precious Ramotswe - Botswana's leading, and only, female private detective. This series is a lovely change of pace. I so enjoy Mma's leisurely outlook on life and her sense of morality. I shall definitely be purchasing the next book. I can almost smell and hear the desert and feel the dry heat when I'm reading this series.

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Danse Macabre
by Laurell K. Hamilton

The uniquely complicated life of Anita Blake, the St. Louis–based necromancer, gets even more complicated when Anita discovers she may be pregnant in the 14th novel in bestseller Hamilton's vampire hunter series. Her sexual magic powers require multiple lovers, so there are six potential fathers. One possible dad, werewolf Richard, has trouble understanding that, baby or not, Anita's still a federal marshal who raises the dead and executes vampires. In addition, terrifying, life-threatening obstetrical challenges are involved, since the maybe-mommy has to deal with vampirism and several strains of lycanthropy coursing through her veins. That Anita has no detecting to do is disappointing, but playing hostess to a gathering of North American vampire Masters of the City, ostensibly in town for a performance by a vampiric ballet troupe, keeps her plenty busy. When the vampire ballet takes the stage toward the end, several new plot elements emerge. The very lack of a finale suggests that there's no end in sight for this fabulously imagined series.

I am hooked on this series. If you enjoy horror, sex and metaphysical powers, then try it. If graphic sex offends you, then don't pick it up.

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The Undomestic Goddess
by Sophie Kinsella

Samantha is 29 years old. She's never baked a loaf of bread in her life. She can't sew on a button. What she do know is how to restructure a corporate finance agreement and save her client thirty million pounds. Samantha is a high-powered lawyer in London. She works all hours, has no home life, and only cares about getting a partnership. She thrives on the pressure and the adrenalin. Until one day...she makes a mistake. A mistake so huge, it will wreck her career. She goes into meltdown, walks right out of the office, gets on the first train she sees, and finds herself in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she is mistaken for the interviewee housekeeper and finds herself being offered the job. They've no idea they've hired a Cambridge educated lawyer with an IQ of 158 as their housekeeper - Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. Disaster ensues. It's chaos as Samantha battles with the washing machine...the ironing board...and attempts to cook a cordon bleu dinner...

This funny, delightful story was chosen by my bookclub to read. Although I wouldn't have picked it up normally, I loved it. I enjoyed all the food references; it made my mouth water. The kids in the library were puzzled as I sat there laughing out loud at the description of Sam trying to cook a cordon blue dinner and failing miserably (absolutely hilarious - especially if you can cook). There was a really nice love story too - I can see this made into a really nice tissue box movie. If you want an easy, funny, romantic story then this is it. I really liked it. I enjoyed watching Sam grow into a real person with an appreciation for the simple things in life.


Definitely Dead
by Charlaine Harris

The long-awaited Definitely Dead, the further adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, cocktail waitress and telepath, has arrived. With Bon Temps in the grip of wedding fever – but not, alas, Sookie’s – our heroine travels to New Orleans to close out her cousin Hadley’s apartment. (Have you read the short story that sets this up, “One Word Answer”? It was in the anthology BITE.) Hadley’s landlady is a forthright witch, and the two young women uncover a big surprise when Hadley’s place is unsealed.

This was worth the price of a hard-cover. I love this series and hope that it continues. It may be made into a series in America - let's hope so. I'd love to see it. Sookie appears to have a real, breathing boyfriend at the end of this novel and a good friend. Plus she gets even further involved in the politics of the supe world.

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Dead as a Doornail
by Charlaine Harris

In the fifth book in the series cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse turns sleuth to investigate a mysterious sniper who has set his sights on the local changeling population, especially when her own brother Jason, a newly transformed were-panther, becomes the prime suspect in the deadly series of attacks.

Like the rest of this series, this book is a scary, fun romp through the world of supes (supernaturals, for the uninitiated). I can't wait to read the next one.

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The Wing of the Night
by Brenda Walker

In 1915 a troopship of Light Horsemen sails from Fremantle for the Great War. Two women farewell their men: Elizabeth, with her background of careless wealth, and Bonnie, who is marked by the anxieties of poverty. Neither can predict how the effects of the most brutal fighting at Gallipoli will devastate their lives in the long aftermath of the war.

The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, about how people may become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be. Brenda Walker writes with a terrible grandeur of the grime and drudge of the battlefield, and of how neither men nor women can be consoled for the wreckage caused by a foreign war.

I found this to be a beautifully written, evocative novel. Although I read it as I'd set myself a challenge to read all the Miles Franklin short-list, I was particularly drawn to this novel as my grandfather fought at Gallipoli. The twists in relationships and the damage that war can inflict on those left behind and those who return is well told. Not the ending that I expected, but true to the story. Not everything ends up happyily ever after. I'd recommend this to others.

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