Abundant Books

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

Garden Spells
By Sarah Addison Allen

A magical, utterly delicious debut that will cast its charm over everyone who loved Chocolat or Fried Green Tomatoes. Bascom, North Carolina is a town where everyone is known for their family's characteristics, passed down through generations. One family's women are good in bed: they always marry well. One family gives birth to a strong man - always called Josiah -
once in a generation (you go to him to help you when you move house). The Waverleys are known for their magic touch: Evanelle, who's lived in Bascom all her life, gives people what they need before they know they need it; Claire, who came to town when she was six and never wants to leave, can turn the plants in her garden into delicious food and drink with spectacular effects on those who consume it; Sydney, who ran away from her home town at 18, hasn't worked out what hers is. When Sydney returns to Bascom with her little girl, in flight from an abusive marriage, she proves a catalyst for change in the lives of all three women.

Allen bewitches with savoury prose and keen insight, leaving me to want more. Think of the very best fairy tale you were ever told; now pick up "Garden Spells" and read one of the best magical stories for adults I have enjoyed in a long time. I rarely pass on my books, but I did this one and the recipients were as delighted and enchanted as I was.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kissing Sin
Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 2
By Keri Arthur

Vampire-werewolf heroine Riley Jenson escapes an unknown enemy's breeding pens to kick off the second installment of Arthur's urban fantasy series. The action and sex come fast and furious as Riley works with her twin brother, her boss at Melbourne's Directorate of Other Races, as well as most of her lovers (who include a vampire with werewolf issues, a werewolf with mixed loyalties, an alpha werewolf and a horse-shifter) to uncover and derail a nefarious plot to create an army of super-beings.

Strong world-building, vivid personalities and the distinctive cultures of each of the various paranormal strains combine for a rich narrative, and Arthur's descriptive prose adds texture and menace. She also creates strong empathy for Riley, whose vampire half is beginning to assert itself, making her already precarious fertility problems worse.

Riley is a strong willed woman who accepts her nature and tells men who can't accept her for what she is to take a hike. The novel is a fast paced action packed romantic fantasy that takes place on an earth so descriptive readers will feel they must have visited it.

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Full Moon Rising
Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 1
By Keri Arthur

Werewolf novels and vampire novels are both hugely popular in the urban fantasy genre - and Keri Arthur has combined the two in her heroine, Riley Jenson, a hybrid of a werewolf and a vampire. Riley's werewolf side seems mostly to the fore - she changes into a wolf, she doesn't need to drink blood, can go out in the daytime, but does have a few vampire tricks up her sleeve such as the ability to sense things in a psychic way and to resist glamour.

Riley's twin brother Rhoan works for Melbourne's Directorate of Other Races as a Guardian - this means he is sent to dispose of any of the supernatural race that commit crimes (and the disposal is usually permanent). However when Rhoan goes missing Riley begins to worry, especially as ten other Guardians have gone missing and been found dead recently. Riley tries to persuade Rhoan's boss Jack to hunt for him, but Jack wants Riley to become a Guardian and seems to be using Rhoan's disappearance as a lever to persuade her to join. Just to add to the complication, Riley discovers a naked vampire camped outside her front door - Quinn, the vampire, can't remember what happened to him but knows he wants to talk to Rhoan and he gets dragged into the plot when it becomes clear he has a significant interest in what's been happening.

What follows is the hunt for Rhoan alongside the discovery of a plot to clone humans and supernatural creatures. Riley finds herself working with Quinn, who turns out to be a billionaire who's over a thousand years old, with Rhoan and his lover and with the mysterious Jack, boss of the Guardians. Her time is also spent with her two lovers, Talon and Misha, both werewolves.

I love that this series is set in Melbourne and not the usual America. Strong, smart and capable, Riley will remind many of Anita Blake, Laurell K. Hamilton's kick-ass vampire hunter. Fans of Anita Blake and Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse vampire series will be rewarded. I bought books 1 and 2 on a fly-by visit to the Sydney Dymocks store and will be ordering the rest of the books as soon as possible for some holiday reading.

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Crowthistle Chronicles Book 4
By Celia Dart-Thornton

Fallow Blade
, the final book in The Crowthistle Chronicles, continues on from Book Three: Weather Witch with the story of Asrăthiel Maelstronnar. Due to her unique heritage, Asrăthiel has inherited some rather unusual skills: weatherworking and immortality from her father's side of the family, stunning beauty and an inability to accept the status quo from her mother's. Asrăthiel also has the ability to wield the sword called Fallowblade that can defeat Goblinkind.

The book in the middle of a world war that engulfs all four human kingdoms of Tir. There's backstabbing, betrayal, brothers pitted against brothers in nasty choices of honour versus love, lies, deceit and attempted genocide. And that's just the humans.

Once upon a time the Goblins were defeated by the weathermasters and Fallowblade. Now they're back and wreaking havoc on the war-divided humans. These unseelie hordes are riding out of the northern mountains, led by the Goblin King, with nary a shred of mercy to their names. They may look human, but they are not. They are very alien in their reasoning, motivations, morals and goals.

This book is recommended if the prospective reader enjoys rich language, epic storylines and ending that are not so much "happily ever after" but rather, "setting things right". A worthy ending to the series.

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The Six Sacred Stones
By Matthew Reilly

Unlocking the secret of the Seven Ancient Wonders was only the beginning...

After their thrilling exploits in Matthew Reilly's bestseller, Seven Deadly Wonders, supersoldier Jack West Jr. and his loyal team of adventurers are back, and now they face an all-but-impossible challenge. A mysterious ceremony in an unknown location has unraveled their work and triggered a catastrophic countdown that will climax in no less than the end of all life on Earth.

But there is one last hope. If Jack and his team can find and rebuild a legendary ancient device known only as the "Machine," they might be able to ward off the coming armageddon. The only clues to locating this Machine, however, are held within the fabled Six Sacred Stones, long lost in the fog of history. And so the hunt begins for the Six Sacred Stones and the all-important knowledge they possess, but in the course of this wild adventure Jack and his team will discover that they are not the only ones seeking the Stones and that there might just be other players out there who don't want to see the world saved at all.

From Stonehenge in England to the deserts of Egypt to the spectacular Three Gorges region of China, The 6 Sacred Stones will take you on a nonstop roller-coaster ride through ancient history, modern military hardware, and some of the fastest and most mind-blowing action you will ever read.

Excellent read!! I love this author. If you want action, fast pace and historical mysteries you will love this book. Can't wait for the next one to find out what happens to Jack in the cliff-hanger of an ending.

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The Faraday Girls
By Monica McInerney

This story depicts the tensions that emerge between five sisters as they struggle to establish their own identities. The book opens in 1979, in Tasmania, Australia, just before the lives of Juliet, Miranda, Eliza, Sadie, Clementine and their father, Leo, are irrevocably altered by 16-year-old Clementine's announcement that she's pregnant. The sisters and widower Leo make a pact to raise the child until it begins elementary school. Despite their unyielding love for baby Maggie, the pact is an enduring challenge for the sisters (who range in age from 16 to 23), who each yearn for independence. Leo, however, sees Maggie's birth as the perfect excuse to keep all his daughters under the same roof. When Maggie is five, one sister's colossal error in judgment ruptures the tenuous familial bonds.

The consequences play out as the novel fast-forwards 20 years, with the family fractured and Maggie living in New York City. Two events within hours of each other have Maggie en route to New York and seriously considering a career change. Leo's love of inventing has accumulated quite a bit on money. Every July the Faraday clan meets up in "the holiday house" in Ireland. This year, Leo needs Maggie's help. Leo thinks he knows where Sadie is, thanks to a private detective. If Leo is correct, Sadie has a new name, lives in Ireland (very close to the holiday house) and has a family all her own. Maggie is about to learn that every single member of the Faraday family has their own closely guarded secret. At the center of them all is Maggie.

The story weaves a delightful plot, developing fundamentally flawed characters with underlying redeemable qualities. The author adeptly unveils rivalry at its finest, pitting sister against sister, mother against daughter and a grieving husband's memory against his children.

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Second Chance
By Jane Green

A group of seemingly disparate adults in their 30s gathers to mourn a dear friend, Tom, unexpectedly killed in a terrorist attack in New York. The friends gather in Britain for Tom's "hometown" memorial and a reunion. One friend, Saffron, is a grade B Hollywood actress with two big secrets to hide – her alcoholism and her very famous, married lover. Another, Holly, is married to a high-level lawyer and absolutely miserable, despite her two beautiful children. Olivia seems happy on the outside; she's an animal rescuer, but her longtime relationship has just collapsed. Paul seems the luckiest and happiest, married to a drop-dead gorgeous Scandinavian Internet entrepeneur, Anna, but they are unable to have children despite many IV attempts. And then there is Will, younger brother of Tom, who is still the perpetual hippie.

As all these friends gather, they find they still love one another, but must accept the realities of their adult lives. It becomes clear in short order that Tom was the catalyst who, all these years, kept them together by an invisible thread; although none of them really kept in touch, Tom kept in touch with them all. And it is upon him that many of their hopes and dreams have rested, in complete fantasy.

This is beyond chick-lit. This is a thoughtful book, maybe a bit cliched, but still well worth reading. It's a fast and interesting read, but meaningful as well. I had tears in my eyes quite a few times. I saw myself in one of the characters and found it deeply moving to see my feelings on the page. Recommended.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Diaries of an Internet Lover
By Dawn Porter

Tired of looking for Mr Right when all she wanted was casual fun, Dawn Porter placed an ad on a website notorious for its no-strings adult ads – to see what handsome, wealthy and charming men would respond to her request for surprising nights out and possibly more. Nine months later and the results make for jaw-dropping reading.

A cast of characters you couldn’t invent do their best to impress Ms Porter with their wit, wisdom and physical attributes. With nicknames like the ‘very clever wolf’ and the ‘big bumbino’, these would-be suitors’ antics read like a modern comedy of sexual manners.

Not content with looking for lust with cute guys, Ms Porter explores her ‘bi-curious’ side and builds up to a liaison with a couple. With a taste for fancy restaurants, fine wines and men who make her laugh, Dawn’s dates are a bang-up-to-the-minute look at modern dating from a clued-up young woman with her eyes on the prize. The question is, will she actually fall for any of her dates?

A fun, light read with a risque element. Good holiday reading. I'll have to wait and see what the rest of the BRA book club think. The question remains - is any of it real? Sold as fiction, but written as a journal by Dawn with herself as the main character. Hmm...

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Handmaid's Tale
By Margaret Atwood

Respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred ("of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be.

The Handmaid's Tale is a horrifying story of a government fully in control of each person's life and totally out of control. The Handmaid's Tale is the perfect book for book clubs as it will evoke numerous discussions on feminism, nuclear war, radical government policies, slavery, etc. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and it indeed led to some very interesting discussions and insights.

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How to Kill Your Husband
By Kathy Lette

Another BRA book club selection, and one that none of us really liked.

All women want to kill their husbands some of the time "Where there's a will, I intend to be in it," wives half-joke to each other. Marriage, it would appear, is a fun-packed frivolous hobby, only occasionally resulting in death. But when Jazz Jardine is arrested for her husband's murder, the joke falls flat. Life should begin at 40 - not with life imprisonment for killing your spouse. Jazz, stay-at-home mum and domestic goddess; Hannah, childless career woman; and Cassie, demented working mother of two are three ordinary women. Cassie and Hannah set out immediately to prove their best friend's innocence, uncovering betrayal, adultery, plot twists, thinner thighs and toy boys aplenty en route but will their friendship survive these ever darker revelations?

For a novel a serious premise, it trivialised the emotions and situations of the people involved. It dealt with serious marital issues as though they were a joke, with no compassion. Yes, it's supposed to be light chick-lit but it didn't strike a cord with me, or any of the BRA book club. Don't bother with this one.

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The Book of Lost Things: A Novel
By John Connolly

Thriller writer Connolly turns from criminal fears to primal fears in this enchanting novel about a 12-year-old English boy, David, who is thrust into a realm where eternal stories and fairy tales assume an often gruesome reality. Books are the magic that speak to David, whose mother has died at the start of WWII after a long debilitating illness. His father remarries, and soon his stepmother is pregnant with yet another interloper who will threaten David's place in his father's life.

When a portal to another world opens in time-honored fashion, David enters a land of beasts and monsters where he must undertake a quest if he is to earn his way back out. Connolly echoes many great fairy tales and legends (Little Red Riding Hood, Roland, Hansel and Gretel), but cleverly twists them to his own purposes. Despite horrific elements, this tale is never truly frightening, but is consistently entertaining as David learns lessons of bravery, loyalty and honor that all of us should learn. David must choose between good and evil. During this journey David finds himself growing from a child to a young man with a true heart. All lost things are found again.

The book held me from the very beginning with the books, the books talking, the life of books, the emotion of books! This is a book for all those who believe in the life of books and the power of words.

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A Lick of Frost
Meredith Gentry Book 6
By Laurell K. Hamilton

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court finally reaches an elusive goal in Hamilton's seductive sixth Meredith Gentry paranormal romance. Half-human, half-faerie, Meredith is a former L.A. PI whose current full-time job is trying to get pregnant - trying at least three times a day, in fact, mainly with her devoted retinue of sex-starved guards - to insure her ascendancy to the Unseelie throne of night. Unfortunately, her bedding schedule has been interrupted by Lady Caitrin of the Seelie Court, who claims she was raped by three of Meredith's guards. Meredith must protect her faithful retinue from the terrible wrath of her uncle, King Taranis of the Seelie Court, and defend herself from the dangerous desire Taranis harbors for her. Hamilton depicts Meredith's erotic adventures in her usual breathless, overheated style, but also reveals a deeper glimpse into Meredith's introspective side as she reflects on her favorite lover, Killing Frost, whose strange fate finds her re-evaluating the costs of being a future queen.

A Lick of Frost focuses on Taranis's hatred of the Unseelie sidhe, his desire to rule at all costs - even at the expense of his niece, and the madness he's wrought by keeping his people under the rule of a barren king.

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An Ice Cold Grave
Harper Connelly Mysteries Book 3

By Charlaine Harris

After being struck by lightning as a teenager, Harper Connelly has developed the unique ability to find the dead and see how they died. She and her stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, run a business in which they travel the country assisting law-enforcement personnel and family members of the dead. In her third case, Harper is hired by a woman to find her missing grandson. In fact, numerous teenage boys have disappeared from Doraville, North Carolina. Harper finds the bodies, but still reeling from coming into contact with her first serial killer, she is attacked and injured. She stays in Doraville to recover and assist in the investigation. Harris' series makes the most of its unusual premise, using the paranormal elements to good effect. She has also created a winning heroine; Harper is a caring person who gives closure to victims' families often at great cost to herself as she deals with the skepticism of the law-enforcement community. Her developing relationship with Tolliver grows and changes in this installment.

The plot kept me reading page after page until the book was done. "An Ice Cold Grave" is a satisfying read that I'd recommend to fans of mysteries, thrillers and paranormal fiction. While you don't have to read "Grave Secret" and "Grave Surprise" to understand this book, it's definitely not a waste of your time to do so.

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