Abundant Books

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Illustrated Dracula
By Bram Stoker
Illustrated by Jae Lee

This is a tactile and visually beautiful edition of the famous novel by Bram Stoker. Dracula was not the first vampire novel, nor was it Bram Stoker's first book. But after years of research, Stoker managed to craft the ultimate vampire novel, which has spawned countless movies, spinoffs, and books - and here, his immortal story is enhanced by the creepy, jagged art of Jae Lee.

Jae Lee's shadowy, sharp-edged pictures are well-suited for this story; a few are in muted colours, but most are black-and-white. Lee creates chilling portraits of the looming vampire, his brides, ships in the mist, and Renfield eating a giant beetle; the most shocking is a bloody-mouthed Lucy clutching a baby.

Dracula is the grandaddy is Lestat and Jean-Claude, but that isn't the sole reason why it is a classic. It's also incredibly atmospheric, and very well-written. Not only is it very freaky, in an ornate Victorian style, but it is also full of restrained, quiet horror and creepy eroticism. What's more, it's shaped the portrayal of vampires in movies and books, even to this day. Intelligent, frightening and very well-written, Dracula is the well-deserved godfather of all modern vampire books and movies - and arguably among the best.

Labels: ,

Mister B. Gone
By Clive Barker

Mister B. Gone marks the long-awaited return of Clive Barker, the great master of the macabre, to the classic horror story. This novel, in which a medieval devil speaks directly to his reader - his tone murderous one moment, seductive the next - is a never-before-published memoir allegedly penned in the year 1438. The demon has embedded himself in the very words of this tale of terror, turning the book itself into a dangerous object, laced with menace only too ready to break free and exert its power. Jakabok Botch, the child of two demons who has inherited his father's two tails, is rendered even more grotesque after he tumbles into a fire and most of his face is badly burned. A violent dispute with his abusive father, Pappy Gatmuss, leads to the pair being trapped by a net from our world. Jakabok manages to elude capture and eventually finds his way to the home of Johannes Gutenberg, whose wife turns out to be an angel in disguise.

I found this a strange book indeed. This fable about good and evil is less than rewarding. The book's format- simultaneously Botch's first-person narrative and his break-the-fourth-wall address to the reader pleading for him or her to burn the book - may puzzle readers. I really did want to burn this book, but I paid good money for it, so will set it free instead. Hopefully the next owner will enjoy it more than I did.

Labels: ,

Trip of a Lifetime
By Liz Byrski

Leaving her Newcastle office one afternoon, Heather Delaney, a parliamentarian, is shot in the shoulder, the apparent victim of an assassination attempt. A somewhat controversial politician, there seem any number of people who could have wanted her dead – but as the months drift by, no suspect emerges. Determined to get on with her life, but traumatised and vulnerable, she succumbs to the advances of Ellis Hargreaves, with whom she had an affair forty years earlier when she was a student and he a married man. Now divorced and living a reclusive life in Byron Bay, he comes back into her life seemingly eager to pick up where they left off. But as their relationship progresses, Heather finds Ellis determined to draw her into his shady schemes to set himself up as a New Age ‘life-coach’, and a dangerous game begins, in which she is forced to confront their embittered past, and choose between following her heart and her head.

Ellis is a slime-ball and why Heather can't see that is beyond me. All her friends, co-workers and family could see it. Heather's aunt is a beautiful character, as is her soulmate who lives next door. Their relationship is truly wonderful. I love Liz's novels and recommend them to anyone who loves to read about love, life and powerful women.

Labels: , , ,

No Humans Involved
By Kelley Armstrong

In Armstrong's assured seventh Otherworld paranormal romance, pretty Jaime Vegas, a 44-year-old necromancer who can reanimate the dead, faces her biggest career challenge yet - freeing the trapped ghosts of six murdered children. Thankfully, Jeremy Danvers, Jaime's hunky and very Alpha werewolf boyfriend, tags along for this hair-raising ride. Jaime, who has made a living onstage and off by her ghost-whispering skills, is in L.A. as one of three celebrity mediums participating in Death of Innocence, a TV special that hopes "to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe," but instead uncovers a serial-killing cult intent on man-made black magic. Seeking justice for the lost children and punishing the dark arts practitioners don't prevent Jaime and Jeremy from finding time for love.

Armstrong deftly juggles such creatures as werewolves, witches, demons and ghosts with real-life issues. A great story that further develops characters we already know and love. As long as she keeps writing them, I'll keep reading. Jaime is one of my favorite characters and seeing her come into her own in this book was a great satisfaction.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Duma Key
By Stephen King

Duma Key is the engaging, fascinating story of a man who discovers an incredible talent for painting after he barely survives after the Dodge Ram he's driving collides with a 12-story crane on a job site in which he loses an arm and badly fractures his skull.

He moves to a 'new life' in Duma Key, off Florida's West Coast; a deserted strip, part beach, part weed-tangled, owned by a patroness of the arts whose twin sisters went missing in the 1920s. Duma Key is where out-of-season hurricanes tears lives apart and a powerful undertow lures lost and tormented souls. Here Freemantle is inspired to paint the amazing sunsets. But soon the paintings become predictive, even dangerous. Freemantle knows the only way forward is to discover what happened to the twin sisters - and what is the secret of the strange old lady who holds the key?

The story is about friendship, about the bond between a father and his daughter. And about memory, truth and art. It is also is a metaphor for the life and inspiration of a writer, and an exploration of the nature, power and influence of fiction. This is the Stephen King we all know and scared us out of our wits so well. I urge you to read it. Highly, highly recommended.

Labels: , ,

20th Century Ghosts
By Joe Hill

Fifteen of the best short stories I've read in a very long time. Some are skin crawling horrid, some are touchingly human, but all are gripping and thought provoking.

Giant bugs, blow-up friends, vampires in training, flying blanket capes, a very strange museum of death; each story is a world of its own, all are the world of Joe Hill.

Critics often say, "I couldn't put the book down." I put 20th Century Ghosts down a half-dozen times, asking myself, "How could this guy be so damned good?" Do yourself a huge favor. Buy 20th Century Ghosts.

Labels: ,

A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled

Afghan-American novelist Hosseini follows up his bestselling The Kite Runner with another searing epic of Afghanistan in turmoil. The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women.

Mariam is the scorned illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman, forced at age 15 into marrying the 40-year-old Rasheed, who grows increasingly brutal as she fails to produce a child. Eighteen later, Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, a smart and spirited girl whose only other options, after her parents are killed by rocket fire, are prostitution or starvation. Against a backdrop of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies in an asymmetrical battle with Rasheed, whose violent misogyny - "There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten" - is endorsed by custom and law. Hosseini gives a forceful but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status.

His tale is a powerful, harrowing depiction of Afghanistan, but also a lyrical evocation of the lives and enduring hopes of its resilient characters. Hosseini's simple but richly descriptive prose makes for an engrossing read. This is definitely not one to be missed.

Watch the First Tuesday Book Club reviewing the novel.

Labels: , ,

Embraced by Darkness
Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 5

By Keri Arthur

Riley Jenson is part vampire and part werewolf. She had been forcibly given an experimental fertility drug in her past. She has developed a few interesting powers due to side effects, such as the abilities to see souls rise and spirits walk in the shadows. Riley never knows when another ability will pop up. However, they tend to come in handy during her job.

Riley and her brother, Rhoan, are Guardians; they are the super-cops, hunter-killers, of the nonhuman world.

When Blake Jenson, her family's alpha male, demands Riley help the pack, Riley is ready to tell him to get lost. Riley and Rhoan had been thrown out of the red pack back when they had been thirteen-year-old pups. But Blake throws down a verbal gauntlet when he informs Riley that should she refuse to help or fails in the mission her mother's life would be forfeit. Riley is now on the hunt for a serial killer. At the same time, Riley's lover is trying to convince her to quit her work. Yet should Riley do so, many will die.

This is the fifth book in the Riley Jenson Guardian series. The plot starts out immediately, on page one. Readers are able to dive right into the scenario. The action slows down two or three times during the course of the novel, but gets hotter than a blow torch by the end. Well worth following this series.

Labels: , , ,

Dangerous Games
Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 4

By Keri Arthur

Dangerous Games is the fourth book in the series by Keri Arthur, and each of the stories pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the lust filled life of vampires and werewolves that is Riley Jensen. With each story brings her closer to becoming a true Guardian, and right now she isn't so sure this is a bad thing anymore. This time she hunts a serial killer, but this killer is beyond anything she has ever faced before, because this killer isn't anything that is from this time or place.

In Melbourne’s urban underworld, there’s a nightclub for every fantasy and desire. But for Riley Jenson, one such club has become an obsession. Riley, a rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, hasn’t come in pursuit of pleasure but of an unknown killer who’s been using the steamy nightspot as his hunting grounds. Leave it to Riley to find the only ticket into the heavily guarded club: Jin, a deliciously hot-bodied bartender who might just provide the key to unmasking a killer unlike any other in the Directorate’s experience.

Taunted by a former colleague turned rogue, distracted by an ex-lover’s attentions, Riley follows Jin into a realm of pleasure she could never have imagined. Along with trying to stay focused enough to stay alive, she also has to battle her desire for her on again off again lover Quinn. This time her vampire lover may have crossed a line she isn't going to be able to let pass.

All in all, the Riley Jenson guardian novels are still an entertaining new series. I will definitely be buying the next one.

Labels: , , ,

Tempting Evil
Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 3

By Keri Arthur

Riley, almost a full guardian, is placed as the sexual entertainment and fighter (among other women) at Deshon Starr's estate - he is the kingpin of the great crime cartel that is responsible for the breeding labs and the experimental cloning. Riley's psychic powers are growing, as is her strength. This assignment will prove her mettle as a guardian. Although reluctant, she is determined to stop Starr's cartel, and if possible stop Starr.

The action is nonstop and the story progresses Riley and her guardianship. Quinn the ancient vampire and Kellen, the alpha werewolf, vie for Riley's heart. Neither will step aside for the other. Both are very strong characters. There is a lot of sex (willing and not) in this book - moreso than the other books.

I will be reading the next Riley Jenson book. She has strengthened and is a fuller character. Although she still is on the finding her were soulmate jag. - I think that Quinn may have a different plan, and that's what makes it interesting. Tempting Evil is a good read, and the series is great.

Labels: , , ,

Little Children
By Tom Perrotta

The characters in this absorbing tale of suburban angst are constrained and defined by their relationship to children. There's Sarah, an erstwhile bisexual feminist who finds herself an unhappy mother and wife to a branding consultant addicted to Internet porn. There's Todd, a handsome ex-jock and stay-at-home dad known to neighborhood housewives as the Prom King, who finds in house-husbandry and reveries about his teenage glory days a comforting alternative to his wife's demands that he pass the bar and get on with a law career. There's Mary Ann, an uptight supermom who schedules sex with her husband every Tuesday at nine and already has her well-drilled four-year-old on the inside track to Harvard. And there's Ronnie, a pedophile whose return from prison throws the school district into an uproar, and his mother, May, who still harbors hopes that her son will turn out well after all. In the midst of this universe of mild to fulminating family dysfunction, Sarah and Todd drift into an affair that recaptures the passion of adolescence, that fleeting period of freedom and possibility between the dutiful rigidities of childhood and parenthood.

Little Children looks at the sterility of suburbia and at the dark emotions that threaten the characters' placid and predictable lives. Most of the individuals in this novel are hypocritical, selfish, and immature. Nevertheless, Perrotta is such a gifted writer that he humanizes the characters and makes us care deeply about them. The author implies that even when we grow up and become parents ourselves, in some ways we all remain "little children" inside.

This book has been adapted for the big screen. Watch the movie trailer.

Labels: , ,

Moral Disorder
By Margaret Atwood

Moral Disorder could be seen either as a collection of ten stories that is almost a novel or as a novel broken up into ten stories. It resembles a photograph album - a series of clearly observed moments that trace the course of a life, and also the lives intertwined with it - those of parents, of siblings, of children, of friends, of enemies, of teachers, and even of animals. And as in an album, times change: the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s and 80s, the present time - all are here. The settings are equally varied: large cities, suburbs, farms, northern forests.

Moral Disorder is about a whole life, the life of Nell, married to Tig, or Gilbert. Margaret Atwood balances the apparently random - disorderly - events and memories against the sense we all have that a life as a whole has its own shape, possibly a destiny.

There were varying opinions about this novel in our reading group. Some found it difficult to read and disjointed. I liked the book and it's interlinked stories. A good piece of literature.

Labels: , ,