For One More Day by Mitch Albom

for one more day

Synopsis from Amazon:

‘Every family is a ghost story …’ As a child, Charley Benetto was told by his father, ‘You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both.’ So he chooses his father, only to see him disappear when Charley is on the verge of adolescence. Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been destroyed by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits rock bottom after discovering he won’t be invited to his only daughter’s wedding. And he decides to take his own life. Charley makes a midnight ride to his small hometown: his final journey. But as he staggers into his old house, he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother – who died eight years earlier – is there, and welcomes Charley home as if nothing had ever happened. What follows is the one seemingly ordinary day so many of us yearn for: a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets and to seek forgiveness.

This is the first Mitch Albom book I have read, and it has placed him in high stead. This book is very easy to read. It draws you in and pulls on your heart strings a bit. It is engaging and gripping. Yes, predictable but that does not spoil the story.

Albom touches on several issues in this book – divorce, alcoholism and death – all with a good degree of success. He talks about divorce in a time where it was not the done thing, and he examines how the children were pitied and the mother was shunned. He looks at how easy it is to fall into alcohol abuse, and what damage that can cause, and he looks at death – from the reasons behind attempted suicide to dealing with unresolved issues when someone you love dies. It is only a short book but all these issues are dealt with a satisfying and sensitive way.

The story does jump around in time as Charley remembers the past, deals with guilt from always trying to please his father and learns his mother’s life story.

This is a touching book. As I said, it is predictable but a lovely book all the same, as Charley gets answers to his questions and deals with his guilt, and ultimately, gets one more day with his dear Mum. This is well worth reading. It is hard to put down and hard to criticise.

9/10

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

dead until dark

Synopsis from Amazon:

Small town Louisiana has a big problem – or rather a number of big problems. And now some of them have come knocking on Sookie’s door …Sookie is an unassuming cocktail waitress in an (outwardly) unremarkable town. She’s quiet, keeps to herself and doesn’t get out much. Attractive as she is, her hidden ‘talents’ send men running. For some reason her mindreading skills are just a bit threatening …Then the unreadable Bill appears on the scene. Tall, dark and handsome, Bill seems to be the man of her dreams. Except he’s not technically human. Bill is a vampire and a vampire who keeps seriously bad company, some suspected – unsurprisingly – of murder. Things get a bit close to home when a co-worker is murdered and Sookie starts wondering whether she will be next …

Well it is fair to say Charlaine Harris really does know how to write a good story. This is the first book in her Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is a waitress in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. Yet she has a gift; she can read people’s minds, which makes her the strangest person in the community. But things are set to change in this sleepy town, as vampires are now legal beings and are trying to “go mainstream” and live in amongst humans. This is good news for Sookie – it gets her a boyfriend – a tall, dark, handsome vampire. But not everyone is happy with having vampires roaming around, and soon there are girls dying, girls who Sookie works with and who associate with vampires. With fear and death all around, Sookie fears she will be the next victim….

This book had action right from the first page to the last. Harris weaves a great web of suspense, suspicion and fear. She writes in several characters, all of whom could be committing the crimes. The deaths themselves were gruesome. She had no fear in writing a realistic murder. I liked how she wrote about vampires too. She stuck to the traditional ideas about vampires – such as them keeping out of sunlight and feeding on humans. Although I thought it was interesting that she invented “fang-bangers”: those who wanted to be bitten by vampires; I thought that was original.

I liked Sookie. She seemed strong and sensible, and fairly likable. I loved her Gran though – her interest in the vampires was fairly amusing. I couldn’t figure out her brother – his character kept changing. That makes me wonder if he will feature more further on in the series. Of course, the other key character was Bill. For a vampire, I liked him. I couldn’t work out how vampires don’t have emotions but do fall in love but I liked how he was written. He was dangerous, and he showed that, but he had affection too.

My complaint would be the amount of sex in the book. There was a lot. It did seem that when they weren’t out investigating, they were having sex. I didn’t think the book needed quite that level of intimacy – in a way it did spoil the book for me a little bit. However, I did enjoy the book for the most part and would recommend it. It didn’t take long to read; it was gripping and exciting; and Harris keeps her status as one of my favourite authors.

8/10

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

bones to ashes

Synopsis from Amazon:

Under the microscope, the outer bone surface is a moonscape of craters…

The skeleton is that of a young girl, no more than fourteen years old – and forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan is struggling to keep her emotions in check.

A nagging in her subconscious won’t let up. A memory triggered, deep in her hindbrain – the disappearance of a childhood friend; no warning, no explanation…

Detective Andrew Ryan is working a series of parallel cases, and requires Tempe’s forensic expertise. Three missing persons, three unidentified bodies – all female, all early-to-mid teens… Could Tempe’s skeleton be yet another in this tragic line of young victims? Or is she over-reacting, making connections where none exist?

Working on instinct, Tempe takes matters into her own hands. But she couldn’t have predicted where this investigation would lead, or the horrors it would eventually uncover… Can Tempe maintain a professional distance as the past catches up with her in this, her most deeply personal case yet?

I have only just started reading crime novels and this is the first Kathy Reich’s book I have read – and it certainly encourages me to read more of this genre and more of her work.

In this novel, Tempe is working with several skeletons – most of them from Ryan’s missing girls and cold cases. Except, it all gets a little personal. When a young girl her friend disappeared without a trace, and Tempe worries that one of the skeletons is her friend. With this in mind, she and her sister start their own investigation, which leads them into danger….

This was an exciting book with plenty of turns and twists and I didn’t work out the ending. It seemed very realistic – full of scientific knowledge and crime knowledge. Reich’s writing is engaging and gripping. She writes about more than just the crimes, there is love and friendship and family explored too, adding depth to an already good book. Through these she is able to explore the characters more fully.

My only complaints were lots of the conversation was in French, which then had to be translated, and there was so much science I didn’t understand! Other than that, this was a good book and well worth reading.

8/10

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

the prodigal god

Synopsis from Amazon:

In THE PRODIGAL GOD, New York pastor Timothy Keller uses the story of the prodigal son to shine a light on the central, beautiful message of Jesus: the gospel of grace, hope and salvation.

Keller argues that the parable of the prodigal son, while Jesus’ best-known parable, is also his least understood. He introduces the reader to all the characters in this timeless story, showing that it concerns not just a wayward son, but also a judgemental older brother and, most importantly, a loving father.

This short but powerful book is a reminder to the faithful, an explanation to the seeker, and finally an invitation to all – both older and younger brothers – to enter in to the ‘unique, radical nature of the gospel’: the reckless, spendthrift love of God.

This is the first Tim Keller book I have read, and I found it very useful in my walk with God. Keller looks at an alternative way of looking at the parable of the prodigal son. He looks at the elder brother – the one who didn’t take his inheritance, run off and shame the family. In that parable, the father shows amazing grace and love and forgives the younger son completely. The elder brother however, does not. Keller explains how Christianity is not a religion – where you follow rules, like the elder brother to get into heaven. He explores how it is by God’s grace and Jesus’ death and resurrection that we are saved. The elder brother did not have a relationship with his father, he was bitter – just like the Pharisees. He followed rules and was into legalism. Keller explains how that is something we need to break out of – that won’t bring us salvation.

This is a short book that clearly explains the Gospel message and how to adapt ourselves to live in relationship with the Father. I did dip in and out of this book, which was not a problem. It is a book that will get re-read. I did find however that when I was reading it, to take it in I had to give the book my full attention.

My fiancee started the book this afternoon and is already half way through – that is a good indication of how readable it can be – especially as he is not a big reader.

8/10

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

an ice cold grave

Synopsis from Amazon:

Harper Connelly was struck by lightning as a teenager, and now she can find the dead. In her third case, Harper and Tolliver, her stepbrother, are hired to find a missing grandson. But the truth is far worse than a single dead child, for numerous teenage boys, all unlikely runaways, have disappeared from Doraville, North Carolina. Harper soon finds the eight bodies, buried in the half-frozen ground, but then, still reeling from coming into contact with her first serial killer, she is attacked and injured. Now she and Tolliver have no choice but to stay in Doraville while she recovers, and as she reluctantly becomes part of the investigation, she learns more than she cares to about the dark mysteries and long-hidden secrets of the town: knowledge that makes her the most likely person to be next to end up in an ice-cold grave.

This is the third book in Harris’ Harper Connelly series, and of course, is as good as the other two – both of which I gave top-ratings too.

In this installment, Harper is in South Carolina. The grandmother of a missing teenage boy has contacted them to see if she can find his body. Not only does Harper find the body of one boy, she finds the bodies of eight. In this small town, a serial killer is at large. At once the place is swarming with police and the media. However, having had his dirty secret revealed by Harper, she is his next victim, and he lands her in hospital. Yet that is not the end of his man nor the investigation…

Well, this is by far the most creepy, what with it being a serial killer, who did horrific things to the boys before their deaths. Along with the suspense is an engaging and exciting book. Harris does not whip out of writing about the horrors of rape and torture – and although that is very sinister, it adds to the book. As ever, she continues story lines from the other two books – such as Tolliver’s and Harper’s changing relationship and their missing sister Cameron.

I love this series and am so looking forward to the next one, which is out later this year (2009). Harris is gripping and exciting. I love the way she writes and her characters. I enjoy reading about Harper, the realism in her physical pain and the way she becomes emotionally involved with the cases and the people. I highly recommend this book and the entire series.

10/10

Old Court Volume One by William Harrison Ainsworth

This book was published in 1867 and very hard to get hold off – I got it out my local library as a rare book.

The story follows the Chetwynd family. Sir Hugh, the oldest is competing with his younger brother Clarence for the affection of Amice. Having sworn never to speak to each other again, Sir Hugh follows Clarence to Kent with a proposition. However, at their secret meeting up by the famous grave, Clarence is murdered. After his brother’s death, Sir Hugh discovers some distressing news – Amice was in fact Clarence’s wife, and she is with child. He offers her everything, but she flees. Sir Hugh leads a dull, depressing life. He marries and has a daughter, but never loved his wife – who died shortly after their daughter’s birth. He spends his life looking for Amice and his nephew/niece. The story follows Hugh, Clarence’s offspring and Hugh’s daughter. The story is not concluded in this book, and we left with Lucette, the daughter, in Brighton with several marriage proposals, Hugh on a mission to find any record of Amice’s death and the child’s birth, and Clarence’s offspring alone in Hugh’s home with a mysterious French man, who seems to have ulterior motives.

Well, I really enjoyed this book. Considering it was written over 100 years ago, language was not a problem. The book was entertaining and engaging. It did not take me long to read this book at all, and I enjoyed it so much I have reserved the following two volumes as I really want to know what is going to happen.

All the characters were well written. I felt for Hugh. He lost the woman he loved to his brother, his brother was killed, and just as he began to love his wife, she died. Life seemed to deal him a hard hand. His loving side was amazing – and at the end of the book he was going to great lengths to help Amice’s child. I enjoyed reading about Lucette and her adventures in Brighton – all the balls and the attraction she was. The book has proved helpful for my dissertation from that respect.

This book captures the period it was written in magnificently. We are transported back to the 1800s with ease. It gives a vital historical insight into life in this era.

I really enjoyed this book. I can’t think of any faults at all. If you can get hold of it, I recommend you do read this book.

10/10

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

small gods

Synopsis from Amazon:

In the beginning was the Word.

And the Word was: “Hey, you!”

For Brutha the novice is the Chosen One. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love.

He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please…

Meet Brutha. He is not overly intelligent – in fact people think he is a bit nuts. But that might be because his god is trapped inside a tortoise, one he is carrying around and talking to. As it happens, he is right; and his mission, find some philosophers who can get the god out. A road trip is in order. Along the way they experience horrors such as the sea god, ship wrecks and war. All in all, another Discworld extravagant adventure, full of fantasy, humour and anticipation.

This is book thirteen in the Discworld series. I did not enjoy this one as much as others I have read. That said, this book is still funny and worth reading. Pratchett takes you into a fantasy world, filled with gods, all whom need followers to survive. As ever, his writing style is such that I was easily transported to the Discworld and remained focused and interested in the book.

I like to see characters who featured in other books pop up, and this is the case. The most persistant character is Death – who of course had me laughing, and Dibbler – that man is funny too, with the way he tries to bargin with everyone, gods included. Brutha was a great character too, even though this is the only book he will feature in. His simple nature, and his faithfulness to his god made him an enjoyable and humorous read.

Overall, although not the funniest book in this series, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to anyone.

7/10