Abundant Books

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The 2007 Books Alive Promotion

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’.

This year's list focuses on great stories, whether it's fiction, history, crime or books for kids. They reflect our shared experiences, enriching our cultural heritage with great story-telling. Among the books listed are:

Food, Sex & Money, Liz Byrski
The Shifting Fog, Kate Morton
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards
The Butterfly Man, Heather Rose
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, Carrie Tiffany
Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, Marina Lewycka
Swallow the Air, Tara June Winch
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
Journey to the Stone Country, Alex Miller

For a full list, go to http://booksalive.com.au/


Food, Sex and Money
By Liz Byrski

Nominated in this year's Books Alive promotion, this is a story about three women renewing their friendship forty years after convent school.

Following the death of her husband, Bonnie moves back to Australia after decades in Europe. She soon realises that it will take more than adjusting the amount of make-up she wears to fit back in. Along with her friends Fran, a well known food writer, and Slvia, a minister's wife, she decides to open The Boatshed - a combined restuarant, gallery and shop. It's an enormous undertaking that has an unexpected impact on them and their families.

It is not only a novel written with remarkable insights and sensitivity, but is also a tribute to about three quarters of the female population of the planet, who are more than twenty-five years old. It is most satisfying that an excellent author had the courage to star women, who are over the proverbial hill, have been battered by losses, are anguished by the future, and caught between the problems of their adult children on one end, and the last struggles of their parents on the other. In a society besotted by youth, the majority of women cannot find many novels in which they do not feel excluded, ( or when included than mostly as ridiculous, or pitiable figures).

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By J.K. Rowling

Here in this seventh and final book, Harry Potter discovers what fate truly has in store for him after the moments of calm as he inextricably makes his way to that final meeting with Voldemort.In this thrilling climax of the bestselling series J.K. Rowling reveals answers to the many questions that her readers have been so eagerly waiting for.

The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission - not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man - and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.

A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix's flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience.

Labels: , , ,

For a Few Demons More
By Kim Harrison

In bestseller Harrison's fifth demon-kicking extravaganza to feature Rachel Morgan, the Cincinnati-based bounty hunter and spell caster still possesses "the focus," a 5,000-year-old demon-crafted Were artifact. With the help of her pixie partner Jenks and Detective Glenn, Rachel must deal with demons and master vampire Piscary, who along with angry Weres, struggle for possession of the artifact. The elf Trent comes back into play and it's a totally different side of him than readers have read before. Ceri, the powerful ex-demon familiar, shows Rachel just how much she respects her and Rachel's pack mate David takes on a major role. A serial killer is on the loose and Rachel's alpha werewolf pal, David Hue, becomes the prime suspect of the FIB (aka the human-run Federal Inderland Bureau).

Action-packed and full of Rachel's persistent erotic ruminations, this tale includes a shocking finale that will leave fans anxiously waiting for the next installment in the Hollows series.

Labels: , , , ,

Heart-Shaped Box
By Joe Hill

Hill features a particularly merciless ghost in his powerful first novel. Middle-aged rock star Judas Coyne collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn't think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner's ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne's discarded groupies, and that the old man's ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter's suicide. Judas isn't quite the cad or Craddock the avenging angel this scenario makes them at first, but their true motivations reveal themselves only gradually in a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations. Hill gives his characters believably complex emotional lives that help to anchor the supernatural in psychological reality. His subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut.

This book is a true spine-tingler. Read it!

Watch an interview with Joe Hill on YouTube.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

By Charles de Lint

Since they were introduced in the first Newford story, Jilly Coppercorn and Geordie Riddell, their friends and readers alike have been waiting for them to realize what everybody else already knows: that they belong together. But they've been more clueless about how they feel for each other than the characters in When Harry Met Sally. Now in Widdershins, a stand-alone novel of fairy courts set in shopping malls and the Bohemian street scene of Newford's Crowsea area, Jilly and Geordie's story is finally being told.

Jilly is a wonderfully whimsical artist, now hampered by a physical disability and Geordie is a brilliant fiddler with serious commitment issues which leave him drifting through what could othwise be a prosperous musical career. Both have been friends forever, but even though there has been speculation, they have never gotten together as a couple due to bad timing and a series of spectacularly disasterous relationships and old baggage on both parts.

Jilly is held captive in a sinister world based on her own worst memories—and Geordie, attempting to help, is sent someplace even worse. To walk “widdershins” is to walk counterclockwise or backwards around something. It's a classic pathway into the fairy realm. It's also the way people often back slowly into the relationships that matter, the real ones that make for a life.

I've been a DeLint fan for years, but I was really disappointed at the end of The Onion Girl when Jilly, who of all of Newford's citizens, wants to believe and be touched by otherworldly magic the most, is left crippled and unable to visit the otherworld after her magical encounter.

Now, finally, we see a conclusion to the Jilly and Geordie saga in a story rife with new characters, North American "animal people", and fairy folk. Just as in DeLint's other works, we find new trails of stories intertwined with the main plot and explore human nature in a provoking manner. Appearances by other old friends, like the Crow Girls, pop up thoughout and just make the whole experience more enjoyable.

Labels: , , ,

Grave Surprise
Harper Connelly Mysteries Book 2
By Charlaine Harris

At the start of Harris's winning second supernatural caper to feature Harper Connelly, a skeptical anthropology professor, Clyde Nunley, tests Harper's gift of clairvoyance in a historic Memphis cemetery, where Harper correctly senses a fresh corpse in the wrong grave. Strangely, the body turns out to be a missing 12-year-old girl, Tabitha Morgenstern, whom Harper failed to locate in Nashville on a case two years earlier. The hotel suite of Harper and her manager and stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, both of whom fall under suspicion, becomes a magnet for a medley of amusing characters, including Memphis cops, Tabitha's assorted relatives and a drunken Clyde Nunley, who, shortly after accusing Harper of fraud, is found dead in the same grave as Tabitha.

Peppered with the author's trademark deadpan wit, this book should help make Harper and Tolliver as popular as Sookie Stackhouse, the heroine of Harris's vampire mystery series.

Labels: , ,

Grave Sight
Harper Connelly Mysteries Book 1
By Charlaine Harris

Ever since Harper Connelly survived a zap from a lightning bolt, she's been able to find dead people, a skill that makes the protagonist in the first installment of Harris's new series a tad more bizarre than the mind-reading heroine of the author's Sookie Stackhouse books (Dead as a Doornail, etc.). Harper travels to the Ozark town of Sarne, Ark., to find a missing teenage girl's body, accompanied by her stepbrother, Tolliver, who acts as her manager and bodyguard and with whom she shares a thinly disguised physical attraction that they manage to keep at bay by engaging in casual sex with various partners. Finding the body takes no time at all, but leaving town afterward isn't so easy. When Harper's life is threatened and Tolliver ends up in jail on trumped-up charges, it quickly becomes apparent that something sinister is going on in Sarne. Harris delivers a knuckle-gnawing tale populated with well-developed, albeit edgy characters. A nifty puzzle toward the end will challenge the most jaded mystery buffs.

This is the first book in a new series and it promises great things. Harper is a darker protagonist than Sookie, and the tone of the book is more serious; there is humor, but it's painted with a much lighter brush. Also, while Harper's "power" is certainly fantastic, the novel otherwise is entirely grounded in reality. The characters seem so real, it's hard to believe they were just invented for this book. This new series is a winner.

Labels: , ,

Blood Debt
by Tanya Huff

It began with a ghost in his bedroom. A tormented soul hungry for vengeance. The sort of nocturnal visitation that even a five-hundred-year-old vampire like Henry Fitzroy found tiresome. It would lead Vicki Nelson, PI into her most deadly investigation yet. The wraith is determined that Henry and Vicki track down its killer - and is prepared to use a little persuasion by way of the innocent inhabitants of Toronto to ensure their support. Forced to investigate, Vicki discovers a host of souls in desperate torment and evidence to suggest that trailing the killer will only lead to further deaths - starting with her own.

This is the final book in this series and has upset quite a few fans. I persevered and did enjoy it, though Henry's arrogance was annoying until he realises that he is not so superior after all. A tidy wrap-up with yet another kind of monster/bad guy involved.

Labels: , , ,

Blood Pact
by Tanya Huff

It began, as it so often did, with a body. Only this time death has struck close to home for Vicki Nelson, PI. Her mother is the victim. And what at first seems no more than a tragic natural death is about to become the most terrifying case of her career. For Vicki and her sometime lover, the vampire Henry Fitzroy, have discovered something suspicious in her mother's demise. Vicki feels unable to deal with the grief until she's investigated what happened. But she soon discovers that it's not just memories that can be difficult to lay to rest.

Again, a great story, with yet another type of monster to deal with. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, yet the ending leaves you wondering what's in store for the next story as a main character "dies".

Labels: , ,

My Mid-Year Holiday

I had a great time away travelling through the outback. Cold, beautiful and thoroughly wonderful. I did manage to read more than I thought as I couldn't read on the dirt roads (which made up a lot of our trip) but I made up for it when we hit the tar. Enjoy the pictures.

Labels: ,