Abundant Books

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gang of Four
by Liz Byrski

They have been close friends for almost two decades, supporting each other through personal and professional crises - parents dying, children leaving home, house moves, job changes, political activism, diets and really bad haircuts. Now the gang of four', Isabel, Sally, Robin and Grace, are all fifty-something, successful and restless. It is Isabel who makes the first move, taking a year away from her family to follow in her mother's footsteps across Europe. Soon Sally is on her way to San Francisco, to come face to face with a guilty secret. Robin, in the wake of a clandestine relationship, heads for isolation in the country. And Grace? Well, Grace would never go away for an entire year, but, lonely in the others' absence, she thinks she might take a short holiday in England. Once there, she bumps into someone she hardly knows - herself.

This was a book chosen by a member of my reading group. It is a truly wonderful story and I really identified with that need to escape from my life for a time, and the women's stories ran so true. A beautiful ending, although it is not a 'happily ever after' story. I could truly identify with some of these characters and was truly touched by their friendship and the discovery of themselves. It happened to be selected by a wonderful person, who told us on the night that we discussed this that she and her family were doing a tree change and leaving us. Good luck, Alita.

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A Solitary Journey
by Tony Shillitoe

The nation of Shess is once again beset by enemies, and Meg Farmer's peaceful world is brutally destroyed. Her life torn apart by a sliver of amber, Meg Farmer flees to Summerbrook to marry and raise three children. When an invasion from the north forces Shess into yet another brutal conflict, Meg is wounded and her memory is erased. Now a refugee, she embarks on a journey to discover who she is. Lost, unsure of the past or present, Meg embarks on a journey to find her stolen children and her own identity. Pursued by mysterious Seers, and tormented by dreams of a trapped soul offering help, Meg brings an enigma from ancient Andrakis into her world.

This is the second book in the Dreaming in Amber series and is again wonderfully written. Amber travels to new and distant lands and discovers more about herself and her powers. A great read - I'd recommend it to any fantasy reader.

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The Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty Trilogy -
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
Beauty's Punishment
Beauty's Release
by Anne Rice as A. N. Roquelaure

I want to warn that it is definitely NOT for the timid, the easily offended or the closeminded. This is definitely not the Sleeping Beauty story of your childhood. It is extremely erotic and explores many areas of sexual fetishism that some people don't have the stomach to even THINK about.

The premise of the series is loosely based on Sleeping Beauty. Beauty is awakened from her hundred-year sleep by the Prince, not with a simple kiss, but with an initiation into a Satyricon-like world of sexual adventures. He takes her to his kingdom, ruled by his mother, the Queen, and Beauty is stripped naked and trained as a slave and a plaything. The rest of the naked slaves, dozens of them, in the Queen's palace are princes and princesses sent by their royal parents from the surrounding kingdoms as tributes. In this palace they spend several years learning to become obedient and submissive sexual property, accepting being spanked, being publicly displayed, crawling around on their hands and knees, servicing their masters and mistresses, until they return to their own lands "being enhanced in wisdom". Beauty fails to become an obedient plaything, and the first book closes with her being sentenced to brutal slavery in the neighboring village along with other failed slaves.

In the second book Beuty's punishment in the village is explored. Once the Prince's favourite pleasure - once the passionate plaything of his court - Beauty is being punished with banishment from that kingdom of carnal delights. Though Beauty's enchantment is over, her lessons in loving have only just begun.

In the final book, "Beauty's Release", Beauty has learned her lessons well. There are no pleasures that she hasn't given, no delights she hasn't known - but there can be no freedom for her. It means she must deny her body the joy it expects, the excitement it so desperately craves. As the story nears its end, Beauty meets the Prince of her dreams.


The Secret of Crickley Hall
by James Herbert

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a new take on the classic ghost story...in much the same way as his bestseller Once was a new take on the classic fairy tale. James Herbert is an author who has produced some of the most powerful horror fiction of the past generation. In recent years his fiction has become a skilful blend of horror and thriller fiction - what we like to call Chiller fiction. He explores the darker, more obtuse territories of evil, evoking a sense of brooding menace and rising tension. He masterfully and relentlessly draws the reader through to a story's ultimate revelation - one that will stay to chill the mind long after the book has been laid aside.

The Secret of Crickley Hall is set in a childrens home in a coastal town in England. Crickley Hall is an unusually large house on the outskirts of the village at the bottom of Devil's Cleave. Some of the children are persecuted by the people who run the home and have found places between the floors and walls of the home toavoid the adults. They can also spy, of course. One day there is a flash flood which sweeps through the town and the childrens home. All the children escape, except the kids in the walls and floors, who drown. They come back as ghosts and seek their revenge. A river flows past the front garden. Gabe has brought his wife, Eve, and daughters, Loren and Cally, down to Devon, to this peaceful seaside village of Hollow Bay. Here, they discover the secrets of Crickley Hall.

If you have not read any James Herbert, he is a wonderful gothic style writer. Lots of hauntings and creepy things that go bump in the night. A horror writer in the classical sense - more fright than blood and gore (except for his Rats series). Well worth checking out.


Monday, February 26, 2007

April Fools Day
by Bryce Courtenay

Bryce Courtney's beloved son Damon, a haemophiliac, died from medically-acquired AIDS on Aprils Fool's day 1991, at the age of 24. In this book, he celebrates his life, but he condemns the medical approach taken towards AIDS, and how he and his family coped with Damon's haemophlia and early death.

The story that is told is this memoir is sad and touching. However, I truly disliked the style of writing - the story was disjointed and more an attack on those who did wrong than a story about Damon's life. I also found the lack of other voices like his mother and brothers create an imbalance in the story. I wouldn't have read it, except that it was chosen by the book group I belong to.

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The Good, the Bad and the Undead
by Kim Harrison

Former-bounty-hunter Rachel Morgan has it pretty good. She's left the corrupt Inderland Runner Service and started her own independent service. She's survived werewolves, shape-changing demons, bad-hair days, and sharing a church with her vampire roommate Ivy. She even has a cute (if human) boyfriend - what more could a witch want?

But living with a reformed vampire isn't all it's cracked up to be, particularly when your roommate's very bad ex-boyfriend wants her back, and wouldn't mind you in the process. And especially when he's six feet of sheer supernatural seduction, and you've got a demon mark that makes vampires literally hotter than hell....

To save herself and Ivy, Rachel must confront the vampire master-and the dark secrets she's hidden even from herself. The second book in the series, it lives up to the standard set by Dead Witch Walking. Again, the word play on the title is clever.

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Dead Witch Walking
by Kim Harrison

Dead Witch Walking is a fantastically fun, first novel by Kim Harrison. The world Kim Harrison has created is marred by tomatoes. In our search for genetically engineered food and medicine, we created a nasty virus in tomatoes that has nearly wiped out mankind. This virus has exposed paranormal races to the world as they are immune. Society has splintered with all the upheaval and paranormal races have set-up residence in the Hollows.`Day-trippers' frequently take a walk-on-the-wild side to meet and mingle in the Hallows with werewolves, vampires, witches, and so on.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and an I.S. runner - similar to an FBI agent but for the paranormal world. Her career is going nowhere. It seems as though she can do nothing right and is given the lowest assignments available. Each day and night of work has become drudgery and Rachel is looking for a way out.

Dead Witch Walking quickly immerses the reader in a vibrant cast of characters. We meet Ivy, a living vampire; Jenks, a pixie with a lot of children; Trent, a businessman who may or may not be human and is believed to be dealing in Brimstone, a very nasty drug.

Kim Harrison has created a fun book with laughs that are unexpected. The story line is not completely predictable and has many different twists and turns. I hope that this series lives up to the standard of this, the first book in series. Oh, and I love the word play on the title (think spaghetti westerns).

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Mistral's Kiss

by Laurell K. Hamilton

Princess Meredith is in line to become Queen of the Unseelie Court. The only problem she has is that she must be pregnant to “earn” the crown. Merry is beautiful, courageous and the best hope for the sidhe to regain what they have lost throughout the centuries. So far, Merry has brought the Queen’s ring to life, awoke from a dream with the chalice and now she will protect her people by risking her life – again.

Her guards will gladly give their lives to protect her and not just for the sex that some of them have not had in centuries, but for her. She has proven to them that royalty can be kind, loving and able to sacrifice for others. Doyal and Frost are her favorites, but all are in the running to be King – whoever gets Merry pregnant, they will be King to her Queen.

Full of intrigue and magic, this book takes you to a new world - one where sidhe, goblins and night flyers are among us. Who will be the next to end his sexual fast? Who will be the one to get Merry pregnant? Can her allies be trusted to help her when she needs it or will political maneuvering cause distractions? Will the “wild magic” she unleashes take her or save her?

Mistral's Kiss is a wonderful addition to the Merry Gentry series. Laurell Hamilton is a wonderful erotic author and this book can attest to that. She has the ability to make you want to sit down and read the entire book in one sitting but you will definitely need a cold shower after finishing her book.

See an interview with Laurell K. Hamilton about sex in the land of faerie.

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