Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

I devoured this book in one day; it was so beautifully written and the set up made for quick reading. The creator of the first clock, Father Time, is banished to a cave for centuries, ageless and sleepless where he must listen to the voices of world asking for more time.

Two voices in particular rise above the others. One is teenager Sarah Lemon, an outcast in school who is hopelessly in love and who has given up on life. The second is Victor Delamonte, a wealthy elderly businessman who is seriously ill and seeking to live forever. Father Time is granted his freedom with the task of saving Sarah and Victor, and in the process try to learn the true meaning of time and thus save himself.

Throughout the book we go backwards and forwards in time. Back in time, we see Father Time as a child and his journey in measuring time and the consequences of his actions. Forwards in time we see Sarah in her everyday life volunteering at a homeless shelter, living with her mother and generally living the life of a normal teenage girl. We also learn about Victor, running his businesses, the relationship he has with his wife and his plans to cheat death.

The latter stages of the book reminded me of scenes from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is shown how his life plays out differently when he chooses a particular path of living. Sarah and Victor are lucky individuals to be shown how their actions affect both themselves and others, but Father Time is also learning how his actions affected people in not only his lifetime, but throughout time itself.

 This is a magical, inspirational read along similar lines of philosophical author Paulo Coelho. It is so simple in its story but so sublimely written that you’ll race to the end to learn Father Time’s lessons with him. Overall The Time Keeper is a deeply truthful and eye-opening read.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

I think any serious bookworm must have read a Stephen King novel at some time or another. A hugely popular author and original story maker, I have grown up with Stephen King books on the family bookshelf. So when I saw my mother with a collection of his short stories I jumped at the chance for a read.

This book comprises of four individual tales. “1922” is a compelling murder confession set on a farm. The farmer and his son are forced to cover up and live with a heinous act that they have committed. It is expertly narrated and ghostly at times. There are few characters but the narrator’s voice is simple and honest.

“Big Driver” is a revenge-based tale, similar to the horror flick “I Spit on your Grave”, whereby a woman is raped and left for dead, but returns to find the man responsible for the crimes inflicted on her. I enjoy stories where the victim returns, not neccesarrily to exact a brutal revenge, but when they seek redemption it almost makes them heal a little or get stronger after the torment that has befallen them.

“Fair Extension” tells of a cancer riddled man making a supernatural deal to save his life and the effect this has on himself and those around him. As human beings I think sometimes we do pray for astounding miracles, often to cheat death. But of course nothing is ever for free and there is always a price to pay. 

 And finally, “A Good Marriage” explores the ideas about truly knowing the people we are close to, in this case a wife finds there is more to her husband than she knew possible. The story tells of her horrible discovery and how as a woman, wife and human she deals with this new found information.

 All four are very different stories but murder, secrets, revenge and a smattering of supernatural are themes that flow throughout. My favourite of the tales was 1922 as the confession was eerily detailed, interweaving all the characters stories, and there were some quite gruesome and ghostly elements to it as well. Once again Mr King has crafted some great suspenseful and graphic tales within one book.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

Now that the hype has died down about the Fifty Shades Trilogy, I’m going to add my opinion to the pile! Fifty Shades of Grey first came to my attention through pub gossip. Friends of friends were clamouring to read it, saying that every female should read it and that it will change your life. The following day my Facebook was alive with Grey; girls unable to put the book down and guys moaning that they’d lost their other halves to a book.

The Fifty Shades Trilogy tells of student Anastasia Steele who starts a love affair with super rich, super handsome businessman Christian Grey, who is hiding a dark past, a rollercoaster temper and some unexpected sexual appetites. He has many good qualities but he is equally balanced by a lot of bad ones. I found Anastasia to be a little on the boring side. She’s quite reluctant and argumentative but I think I disliked her because I would have dealt with the things she was faced with in an almost opposite way. My favourite character was Christian’s sister Mia who is a happy and cheerful character who has a positive effect on everyone around her.

Referred to in the media as “Mummy porn”, I think the popularity of this book centres around two things – Christian Grey and sex. Problems aside, I think the character of Christian Grey is an unrealistic but dream boyfriend. He’s gorgeous, attentive and showers Anastasia with outrageous gifts. As for the numerous sex scenes I think it’s refreshing for a mainstream book to explore taboo subjects, and it is interesting to look through social media at the varying reactions from readers and haters alike.

Despite heated online debates regarding the books, Fifty Shades of Grey is officially the fastest selling book of 2012, with two million women purchasing the book in the UK alone. The popularity of the franchise has also seen an increase in sales of soft rope from DIY stores, sex toys and bondage gear. Whatever opinions exist, the truth is that sex sells!

Personally the novels haven’t changed my life as was whispered over bottles of wine with my girlfriends. But underneath all the sex there was a good basic storyline and is overall easy to read. I found the books got better as they moved along the trilogy. This isn’t the most daring of erotic fiction and Fifty Shades has spawned a number of similar novels with varying degrees of erotica, but if this doesn’t sound like something you would normally read I would suggest giving it a try just to escape your comfort zone. You never know, you might like it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Stephen Romano

Buck Carlsbad is a supernatural exorcist. He takes hold of an evil spirit, seeing and feeling every heinous act they’ve ever committed, pulls them in and gets rid of them. To do this he uses the Black Light, the cross over between the living world and the dead.

Buck takes on a dangerous new case involving nine bad-ass spirits and a futuristic high speed train, when he discovers that it may help him uncover what happened to his parents, how they met their untimely end and possibly tell him more about his own shady beginnings.

This novel from the writers of the Saw movie franchise and there is plenty of gore for the die-hard horror fans. I was surprised that the tale is actually narrated in quite an eloquent descriptive style rather than in a profusely gruesome way, even when the action gets grisly. Buck is a straightforward voice wrapped in a rugged, messed up shell and is everything you expect from an unadorned a hero.

There is also a host of interesting players; eccentric rich types, beautiful women and celebrities, tossed together in a dark whirlwind of spiritual horror. This is an original read for supernatural lovers, and it brings a whole new meaning to the term Ghost Train!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Rupture by Simon Lelic

In the middle of a heatwave, history teacher Samuel Szajkowski walks into a school assembly with a gun, killing three pupils, a teacher and then himself. Inspector Lucia May is expected to hastily conclude a seemingly clear-cut investigation but she soon becomes entangled in a web of hearsay, school and police politics.

Alternating between Lucia’s life and the monologued statements of witnesses and people linked to the case, Lucia begins to build up a picture of the teacher and his life at the school, in a bid to uncover why an ordinary school teacher would be driven to commit such a crime.

This novel explores bullying and bullying cultures, which is a theme that is particularly prevalent within education. Although Lucia’s life is played out in chronological time, the evidence statements from the other players are mostly in the past, and as they are presented they drip-feed the reader more information to build up the events and possible motives behind the grisly tragedy. After every new voice, you gain a new perspective and it cleverly leaves you wanting more. The characters’ voices are all convincing and the style of writing keeps the reader engaged. I thought this was a fabulous debut and a very gripping read!

Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman

Fairytales, folktales and mythology are my favourite genres within the infinite realm of the written word. I’ve grown up with fairytales and have loved them since as far back I can recall. For instance, I can remember devouring fairytales and cultural folktales from my primary school library, then retelling them to my sister at night at bedtime. For me, fairytales are timeless, often conveying a simple truth or fable in a beautiful elegant way, as they are retold throughout generations.

 I already have a small collection of fairytale books (see below!) and even some fairytale apps on my phone, but I was very excited to get my copy of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales.

 In this collection are assembled fifty stories collated by the Brothers Grimm and retold by Philip Pullman who stays quite true to the original tales. There are the standard renowned tales including Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella. There are also many lesser known but equally captivating narratives such as Thousandfurs, The Goose Girl and The Nixie of the Millpond.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite as I enjoy all tales of this kind. Some are familiar childhood friends. Others are new and enchanting. This book is perfect for young and old readers alike who appreciate classic storytelling at its best.