Abundant Books

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
By Susskind Patrick

Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets as a new-born child, but grows up in an orphanage to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human's. Soon, he is obsessively creating the most sublime fragrances in Paris. Yet there is one odour he cannot capture. It is exquisite, magical - the scent of a young virgin. And to get it, he must kill. And kill. And kill.

A novel both horrid and repelent, it draws you in with it's imagery. Perfume relates the fascinating and horrifying tale of a person as gifted as he was abominable. Born without a smell of his own but endowed with an extraordinary sense of smell, Grenouille becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. With brilliant narrative skill Susskind exposes the dark underside of the society through which Grenouille moves and explores the disquieting inner universe of this singularly possessed man.

The film is a visual feast - luscious and erotic, cruel and fascinating. You do need to have read the novel to truly appreciate the film and understand it's dark themes fully.

Labels: ,

The Time Traveller's Wife
By Audrey Niffeneger

This extraordinary, magical novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder - periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing. The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's passionate love for each other with grace and humour. Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

This was a BRA book club selection. I already had the book before it was chosen - I'd bought it to read 'one of these days'. It is an astounding, beautiful and incredibly sad novel - the story of a love that would survive through time. The inevitable result of Henry's time travelling is the most touching and poignant series of events that I've ever read. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Labels: , ,

The Dragon Queens - Book Two of Mystique
By Traci Harding

Ashlee Devere, 19th century clairvoyant, adventurer and historian is called upon by the Sangreal Knighthood to authenticate a Sumerian text taken from an archaeological dig. This text predates the Old Testament and the Genesis story it tells is radically different from any other. Tamar, daughter of the renowned 21st century linguist, Mia Montrose, is going through a crisis. While reading Ashlee's diaries for the first time Tamar is contacted by a powerful goddess - and endures an astoundingly rapid transformation of her psychic abilities and physical appearance. Kali is one of the keepers of the lost key to the gateway between our world and the next and is coming to clear a pathway to Tamar's destiny.

This is the second book in a trilogy. The stories of adventure in the journals of Ashlee's are well paced, but the story gets bogged down in extensive dissertation on soul spheres, planetary alignments and time travel. The author's interest in grail lore and esoteric philosophy is well researched but gets lost in the fog. I will probably read the third book because I started on this journey and just have to finish, but unless you are a diehard fan I would not read it.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Fistful of Charms
By Kim Harrison

This strong entry in Harrison's intricate Hollows series (number four) plunges headlong into the action as Rachel Morgan finishes up her latest bounty hunting mission by taking down an alpha Were. The book swings into gear when she returns home to find that her ex, Nick, has recruited her partner Jenks's son in a criminal enterprise—and gotten them both imprisoned by Weres in Michigan, apparently for stealing a priceless Were artifact. With the help of some borderline black magic, Jenks—a pixie—is given human proportions in order to accompany Rachel on a mission to rescue his son. Finding the jailed pixie ends up the easiest task in an operation that quickly spirals out of control after Rachel decides she must also rescue the errant Nick. Harrison provides conflict aplenty as Rachel debates how far into the black arts she'll venture to accomplish a good end; past and present boyfriends vie for her attention; and Weres battle vampires for supremacy.

This series just gets better and better. Harrison's characters are lively, interesting and unusual. She has a knack for building an intricate story line that is suspenseful, action packed and entertaining. It is definitely a requirement to read the story from the first novel, Dead Witch Walking, otherwise the relationships and supernatural lore are too complicated to understand. Highly recommended!

Labels: , , ,

Every Which Way but Dead
By Kim Harrison

In Harrison's third Rachel Morgan novel, the witch strikes a deal with the devil. To get demon Algaliarept to testify at the trial of evil vampire Piscary, who poses an imminent threat to witch Rachel, she agrees to let Algaliarept become her familiar and share her aura. Rachel is certain she can maintain control, since she is keeping her soul. When she changes places with the demon's old familiar, Ceri, she takes pity on the girl and rescues her from the demon's clutches. Rachel is distracted by the two men in her life. Boyfriend Nick is pulling away after Rachel accidentally made him her familiar. Unsure of how to reconnect with him, Rachel finds she isn't immune to the charms of Kisten, a sexy vampire who worked for Piscary. As she finds herself falling for Kisten, she learns that Algaliarept poses a greater danger than she first expected.

This book felt to me like Kim Harrison was really hitting her stride in writing. Although the first two books were really good reads this one was definitely better. There was actually less relentless action in it and much more time was spent with the characters - Rachel, Ivy and Kisten mainly. Jenks and his family are in the story, of course, as light relief and I love their interactions; this book was a bit more steamy than the previous two and there was more focus on the relationship between Ivy and Rachel. Overall this was another really good read from Kim Harrison. Less spells, more character, and I felt that was a definite improvement in direction and made for a more enjoyable and meaty book.

Labels: , , ,

Once Upon a Day
By Lisa Tucker

The young woman in Stephen Spaulding's cab was strange. Her view of the world was unusual to say the least. Gradually, however, Stephen learns how she and her brother have been raised by their once-famous father in a utopian 'Sanctuary', away from the decadence of modern America. She has come to St Louis to find her runaway brother, a brilliant painter who fled the Sanctuary himself two years before. Dorothea's search for her brother will turn into an odyssey of discovery, leading to the shocking truth about her family's past and the terrifying events of the day that drove her father to escape California in a desperate attempt to protect his children from a dangerous world. In Stephen, Dorothea finds a fellow traveller on her journey - together they learn that while a heart can be broken by the tragic events of a day, a day can also bring a new chance at love and a deeper understanding of life's infinite possibilities.

A BRA book club selection. A nice enough book with a good mystery but the story is too neatly wrapped up at the end. A good piece of 'chick lit' for a rainy weekend.

Labels: , ,

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
By Brian Selznick

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

This is a glorious book - a visual feast. Every page is beautifully presented. Here is a true masterpiece - an artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique, for a story as tantalizing as it is touching. Parts of the story are told through impressive use of meticulous charcoal drawings that grow or shrink against black backdrops, in pages-long sequences. They display the same item in increasingly tight focus or pan across scenes the way a camera might. One of the most beautiful books and stories that I have every had the pleasure to read.

Labels: ,

Stocking up for the holidays

We are off on a three week camping trip on Saturday and I have been ordering books from Dymocks and trying really hard not to read them before I go. I failed on a few, but I have managed to save some for the trip - the next two books by Tanya Huff, a book by Charles de Lint, a horror story by Stephen King's son, the first two books in a new series by Charlaine Harris and a few others. I am really looking forward to filling in the long drives with my nose in a book.

Thank you Alita and Stacey for making me update my blog. I will try to be more diligent in keeping it up to date in the future.

P.S. That's me on the right after a weekend of camping down near Goulburn.

Blood Lines
By Tanya Huff

It began with a dazzling vision of the sun. And for Henry Fitzroy, that was the worst vision of all. Sunlight never features high on a vampire's list of daydreams. But for Vicki Nelson, PI, one hallucinatory vampire hardly warrants a drop-everything case - even if they were sometime lovers. Or so she thought at the time. Vicki is investigating a bizarre crime within the Toronto museum Egyptology department. A double murder has been committed, but no one seems willing or able to shed light on the deaths. And it's only when Vicki begins to suspect that minds are being tampered with that Henry's sun-fixation is suddenly not so irrelevant after all.

Blood Lines is the third in this series and carves out some new territory. As I love stories about big, bad Egyptian mummies,I took great delight in discovering that the latest opponent of Vicki Nelson, Mike Celluci, and Henry Fitzroy is an ancient Egyptian wizard who is so old that his origins go back to pre-dynastic times. The series shifts from simply being Vicki's story to making Celluci and Henry equal characters. For the same reason, Henry's powers as a 450 year old vampire are downplayed to increase the part the others play in the final cataclysm. This means good character development and a rich and varied plot. All in all a very enjoyable novel, and the best so far.

Labels: , , , ,

Blood Trail
By Tanya Huff

It began with two bodies. Different locations, same cause of death. Vicki Nelson, PI knew right off that it wouldn't be a straightforward case. The silver bullets found at the scene were a pretty big clue. That and having the victim's niece shapeshift in her office. Now Vicki is on the trail of an assassin hell-bent on wiping out Canada's last remaining werewolf clan. And with back-up from five- hundred-year-old vampire Henry Fitzroy available on a strictly nocturnal basis, she's already regretting the decision. Because out in the wilds of Ontario it's no longer just lycanthropes that are in the hunter's sights.

The second book in the series. A change of scenery from the city and a good little supernatural mystery/detective story. Well worth reading, although it is what I would term a quick-read.

Labels: , , ,

Blood Price
By Tanya Huff

It began with blood and death. And Vicki Nelson, PI was at the scene. The victim had been brutally, inhumanly opened up. Messy work. She'd had to cover the corpse with her coat. It had sort of made her feel involved. Now Vicki is caught up in the deadly pursuit of a mass murderer with an inhuman appetite for mayhem and destruction. And her advisor on the case is doing nothing to dampen her growing sense of foreboding. But then, with a being of unspeakable evil stalking the city, only Vicki Nelson would ally herself to Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate child of Henry VIII and a five-hundred-year-old vampire.

Yes, another vampire series. I really like the main character Vicki, as she is not perfect - a retired cop who had to leave because of her failing eye-sight who feels frustrated and at times angry with the world that she is forced to live in. The world she lives in does not know that the supernatural exists - society is blissfully ignorant and happy that way. A quick, satisfying read.

Labels: , , ,

The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger and her younger brother are being taken by their mother to live with a foster family outside Munich. Liesel's father was taken away on the breath of a single, unfamiliar word - Kommunist - and Liesel sees the fear of a similar fate in her mother's eyes. On the journey, Death visits the young boy, and notices Liesel. It will be the first of many near encounters. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

The Book Thief is a story about the power of words to make worlds. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us an amazing book. This was another BRA book club selection (mine) and I loved it, as did everyone else. I think that was almost a first for everyone to enjoy a book. A very long book but well worth the effort. The book in the book that the Jewish man writes for Leisel is poignant and extremely beautiful. One of the best books that I have read in a long time.

Labels: , ,

The Bookseller of Kabul
By Asne Seierstad

Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict. In the following spring she returned to live with a bookseller and his family for several months. The Bookseller of Kabul is the account of her time spent living with the family of thirteen in their four-roomed home. Bookseller Sultan Khan defied the authorities for twenty years to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul. But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the more public lives of the men. The result is an intimate portrait of a family which also offers a unique perspective on a troubled country.

It's like looking in a window at someone else's life. This was a BRA book club book and I would not choose to read it. I disliked Sultan immensely - his treatment of his wives as chattels and his children as little more than slaves is terrible, but the book did offer insight into another culture.

Labels: , , ,

By Reg Egan

When Ethel Griggs dies suddenly in the Victorian country town of Omeo in January 1928, rumours about her husband's blatant affair with 20- year-old Lottie are rife. Police order Ethel's body to be exhumed and Ethel is found to have died from arsenic poisoning. Her husband, Rev. Ron Griggs, is charged with the murder.

This was a BRA book club choice. I wouldn't normally pick up this kind of book but I did enjoy it. It's a fictionalised version of a true story. What a cold fish Ron Griggs is - a horrid little man with grandious ideas of his importance in the world. I felt great pity for Ethel and cheered her journey of self-discovery and mourned her return to Ron and her death. A good, reasonably quick read.

Labels: , , ,

Rebel Fay - Book 5 of the Saga of the Noble Dead

By Barb and J.C. Hendee

The fifth installment in the Noble Blood series, a hybrid crossing Tolkienesque fantasy with vampire-infused horror, finds half-vampire Magiere and half-elf Leesil in the Elven Territories, searching for Leesil's imprisoned elven mother, Nien'a. The pair are accompanied by their preternaturally intelligent canine protector, Chap, and Wynn, a human sage who can connect psychically with Chap. This is really Leesil and Chap's book. On their mission to rescue Nien'a from her own people, the gang must battle the hateful elven leader, Most Aged Father, and his followers' prejudice against the human race. In an intriguing parallel adventure, the elegant vampire Welstiel, with the help of his undead companion, Chane, continues his quest for "the orb" that will free him of his blood lust.

New readers might find the plot mystifying at times, but fans will enjoy the ongoing clash between elves, humans and the undead. This is a pivotal book, answering some questions and raising many more. Well worth reading if you are a fan of the series.

Labels: , , ,


By Laurell K. Hamilton

At the start of bestseller Hamilton's solid 15th adventure to star vampire hunter Anita Blake, Malcolm, the priggish head of the Church of the Eternal Life (the vampire church), is so desperate for help in dealing with the Harlequin, a troop of vampire enforcers and spies so feared vampires are forbidden to speak its name, he turns to those he considers sinful and corrupt - Anita and her sweetie, Jean-Claude, St. Louis's Master of the City. The Harlequin may have targeted Anita and the powerful triumvirate she has forged with Jean-Claude and Richard Zeeman (aka Ulfric of the werewolves). According to the rules, the Harlequin must make contact through delivery of a mask - white to indicate they are watching, red for pain, black for death. Anita receives a white mask, but the members of the Harlequin aren't playing by the rules.

Shorter and more tightly structured than the previous entry in the series, Danse Macabre, This book is satisfying with its straightforward supernatural politics and steamy (but not extreme) sex. Anita is beginning to understand her powers better and I loved seeing Edward back. The plot lines involving Edward's family versus his job struggle, the were politics and their tenuous relationship with the vampires, the fight between Richard and Jean-Claude, and the whole threat of the Harlequin itself is pretty thrilling. I devoured this book in a weekend.

Labels: , , ,

Hunting Season
By Dean Vincent Carter

Eight years ago, the Austrian emergency services were called to the scene of a bizarre car accident... two mangled bodies were found in the snow not far from the vehicle, clawed and chewed by a ferocious animal...

Something unspeakable took Gerontius Moore’s parents from him, leaving him orphaned and alone. Now, that something, is back. Caught up in a terrifying hunt and finding help from an unlikely source, Gerontius must once more flee the clutches of an appalling beast, before it learns its business is unfinished.

Full moon or not, the hunt is on.

An interesting story with little depth. I read it in a few hours and then passed it on to my 13 year-old daughter, who loved it. Although it is marketed as adult fiction, it really is written at the level of teenagers. To truly engage adults, he needs to be a much more sophisticated writer and develop plots in more depth. A fantastic book for young people. The website that the author has developed is very good and provides really good background information on werewolves. Visit The Cabinet of Lycanthropic Curiosities.