Please note that you will not find any unfavourable reviews here. I only write reviews on books that I enjoyed reading.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Being Normal by Stephen Shieber

I've finished reading Being Normal by Stephen Shieber and published by tonto books (another indie publisher with a preference for their name in lower case, what is that all about?).

When I write finished I should clarify that I started it late one night, forced myself to put it down and get some sleep (and to not pick it up in the morning before work), then finished it on the train to London the very next evening.

I may have had the self restraint to not read it before work but I did talk about it at work and I have to confess that I also emailed several people about it before and during work...I blame Stephen!

This book should come with a warning label on the front cover, 'ADDICTIVE STORIES BARELY CONTAINED INSIDE' .

Stephen writes in a unique voice, one that resonates inside me, quickly convincing me that he KNOWS of what he writes. His skill is obvious in this regard as these stories are written in the first person with male, female and teenage voices. How is it possible to have such a flexible writing stream?

Being Normal is a wonderful book about, well, being normal. It contains all the beauty and ugliness that is part of everyday life, that which we witness happening, which makes us 'tut and tsk' when we see it reported in the media and that which we experience firsthand.

Being Normal sharply lays bare all that which is hidden, grabs you by the shirt collar and holds you captivated long enough for you to have an opportunity to really look at that person that you were so quick to dismiss in the past.

Being Normal offers a safe haven within which you may develop an understanding that there is a plausible reason for the behaviour of others that you may have found disturbing or even that there is an ulterior motive behind the behaviours you may have previously admired.

With his debut novel Stephen has joined the ranks of seriously talented short story writers and I am hoping that he succumbs to an urge to write more books in his distinctive voice.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Joe Stein - Cold Fire, Calm Rage and Another Man's World

Crime fiction novels are my favorite read of all and I am delighted to announce that Joe Stein writes satisfyingly good books. His first novel featuring Garron, an ex-boxer turned bodyguard, Cold Fire, Calm Rage and the sequel, Another Man's World, are published by bluechrome. Joe also writes short stories in many different genres and will occasionally post one of them here.

Garron is an engaging, complex and likeable character despite or perhaps because of the way he behaves in his world. The world he lives in has many more sharp edges than you or I encounter is our daily lives and as expected this has roughed him up, hardened his psyche. The few mentors he has had, have served to sand down his rough edges, making him a more efficient criminal rather than into a reformed 'good guy'.

Garron is an extremely believable character, who questions his actions, loses sleep over his perceived failings as a human and all the while he is behaving the way he must to exist in his dangerous world, there is a gentle element to his makeup which is subtly woven in. The theme of no one being all good or all bad is almost imperceptible but there none the less and I liked the books all the more so for this glimmer of positivity.

Garron has very few friends both by choice and circumstance but those he does have, he values with a fierce, almost palpable, intensity. The lengths he goes to in order to end one friend's debt goes beyond what many people would endure even for family. Garron is a pensive, introspective character whose reflections on life and love are concise and and insightful.

I have Asperger's syndrome which is a form of Autism and because of this, empathy is not one of my stronger characteristics. I have been socially conditioned over the years to know the appropriate responses to other's plights and moral dilemmas. I can usually be relied upon to to voice them at the necessary times but rarely, if ever, do I truly 'feel' for the other person except for a few family members that I am very close to on a daily basis. However while reading Joe's books I could feel myself begin to 'get it', I innately was able to understand why Garron behaved the way he did and why he felt his choices were the only right ones in those circumstances. That, my friends, is some very clever writing indeed.

Garron muses about life in a series of amusing one liners in both novels, my favorite of which is:
'Women have this really upsetting habit of asking very direct questions often in very direct tones.' (In Another Man's World)

Both books made me reflect on what I have and how very lucky I am to be where I am. I was sometimes lost in the world Garron lived in and relieved when I put the book down and realised that I was in my own safe world. These books are hard hitting and brutally blunt at times, no fluff whatsoever can be found within the covers. They appear to have been written for the 'thinking reader', are a sobering read in a few places and all the more valuable for it. I could not say which of the two I like best as both are written in a slightly different 'tone' and each gives Garron depth in equal measures.

My only regret is that there is not (yet?) a 3rd book in this series. My recommendation is that you buy both the books at the same time to prevent the withdrawal symptoms that are inevitable if you have to endure a break between reading Cold Fire, Calm Rage and Another Man's World.

If you enjoy a good crime novel (and I assume you must if you've read this far), then go buy Cold Fire, Calm Rage and Another Man's World! I found one on Amazon for $50.24! I suggest you go
here or here for a more affordable read.

If there are any agents reading this then I suggest you try to get Joe to allow you to represent him. I think that, with the right promotion, Joe Stein's books are good enough to achieve world wide recognition.