Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Abide With Me by Ian Ayris

Right from the start this novel was a delight to read. The author’s razor sharp perception sees all. He relays every little nuance in the lives of his characters and gets to the very core of family life. Ian’s writing is so grounded this could be a biography, it’s so believable and realistic. The novel is written in the East End dialect from the perspective of John Sissons as he grows up. We see how his attitude changes life gives him blow after blow. At times this can be a heartbreaking novel but also totally and utterly compelling, inspiring and hopeful. Alongside John’s own story there is Kenny who lives across the road. To John, and just about everyone else, Kenny is a strange alien creature that he cannot understand. When he finally discovers the truth behind Kenny it shakes him to the very core.

Within the first five chapters I had laughed out loud and come close to tears as the revelations tore at my heartstrings. A coming of age novel about friendship and everyday tragedies. The story is told in such an authentic voice that you feel you are right there with John Sissons. As a child of the seventies I found all the references from the period were absolutely spot on and brought my own nostalgia to the fore. I was reminded just what it was like going to school in the seventies. If you remember the Queen’s Silver Jubilee parties, Choppers, staying out all day, jumpers for goalposts or have ever had a special football away day then this novel is for you.

Ian Ayris puts the reader through the emotional blender with this novel but you’ll hang on his every word. Just when you think the novel can’t get any darker there are hints at redemption and hope. However, they seem impossibly far away and distant.  Anyone who has ever felt any passion for football or indeed life will be brushing tears from their eyes. A novel that would make a fantastic film or TV drama but frankly could any director do such a beautiful story justice? I doubt it.

Genre:  Literary
Publisher:  Caffeine Nights
Format:  E-Book Novel / Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Late Greats by Nick Quantrill

When Joe Geraghty is hired to baby sit pop band New Holland, who are making a come back, he thinks it’s going to be a boring and cushy job. He is soon proved wrong and finds himself embroiled in a maelstrom of violence and desperation. He soon discovers that there is much that the bands manager, Kane Major, has kept from him. The case leaves him at odds with his partners Don and Sarah and left out in the cold having to solve the case alone. He also finds himself being followed by some very sinister characters. The threat of violence seems to hang heavy in the air but Geraghty must solve the case due to a promise he makes and an obligation he must fulfil.

The Late Greats is Nick Quantrill’s second novel featuring his PI Joe Geraghty. This story like the author’s first novel, Broken Dreams, is set against the backdrop of modern day Hull which is Nick’s home city.
These Private eye stories don't pander to the clichés. They are firmly set in the modern age. They are tightly written, fast flowing and above all believable tales. Nick uses the setting of Hull to great effect using the older and newer parts of the city to flesh out his stories and give them some of the fantastic character of Hull, placing them solidly in a real world scenario. However, he doesn't once use the city as a psychological crutch it is secondary to the story and that's how it should be. Casual references slipped in that sit easy with the plot.

One of the things I like most about Nick’s writing is his down to earth approach. He knows how to tell a good story in a very believable fashion. I found the dialogue to be slicker and snappier than in his previous novel. Nick clearly has an eye for detail and it shows in his plot structure.

Nick's first novel Broken Dreams explored the city's history in a lively fashion but The Late Greats is all about the characters. Quantrill has expanded upon his first novel and brought to life a gripping character driven story that you’ll find yourself racing through. A cracking read.

Genre:  Crime / Private Investigator Fiction.
Publisher:  Caffeine Nights
Format:  Paperback or Kindle Novel
Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Snobbery, Self-Promotion and Friendly Reviewing

I’m known as a soft reviewer, the writers friend if you will. However, I fell compelled, out of frustration, to write this blog article. I am first and foremost a lifelong reader, of various genres, and perhaps a writer second I am writing this because of my passion as a reader.

I have seen a lot of remarks of late against self-promotion. I have made a few myself. However, as a normal working class bloke, what I can’t abide and what I am seeing is snobbery from some quarters. There are a few, a mere handful, of folk some are lucky enough have a publisher who have been, to my mind, overly critical of the self-promoters.  Think back to the time when you didn’t have your deal. Think back to when you had rejection letter after rejection letter and your voice felt lost in the wilderness. It felt lonely didn’t it? I am lucky to have a publisher I know, like and trust backing my own work. However, that has not changed my mentality or my ethos as a writer, reader and reviewer. When a number of us had problems with our previous publisher, who is not worthy of a mention here, again the snobs came out and took the chance to have a good old snipe and didn’t for one moment consider how those us who were “taken in” by that felt. A number of blog posts came up with condescending opinions. Everybody it seems knew better than we did and would not have made our mistake. The likes of Paul D. Brazill, Luca Veste, Col Bury and myself said our little piece on our walls or via blogs, kept our dignity and moved on.

Now I don’t know if Amazon levelling the playing field has frustrated some. Perhaps it has made it that little bit harder to shift your latest novel because of the competition out there?  Despite the cosy knowledge that your publisher is behind you right? You don’t have to dirty your hands with promotion too much. Your publisher does that for you don’t they? It’s demeaning right? NO. It isn’t. It’s called selling and that is what our society is based upon. Capitalism. Your art although recognised by a business that is willing to put money behind is no more valid than the self-promoter you have just criticised.

Your job as a successful writer is first and foremost to feed your family right? You go about this by selling your books. What do you think the self-promoter is trying to do? They don’t have the benefit of resources and perhaps not of time either. So the best way you can help is to guide them. Remember when you too were the lost voice in the wilderness? Use your experience to help them. Take the time to give them sound advice, don’t snipe from the wings.

Many of you know me as a mild and mellow guy always on hand with a joke or a supportive comment. I’m in the top 1,000 Amazon reviewers and the top 100 Good Reads reviewers. People click “like” against my reviews. People click “yes” to the question was this review helpful? Why? Perhaps because my reviews are honest but uncritical. Of course I can be critical. I can give books one, two or three stars. Why don’t I? Am I compromised? Are my reviews being bought cheaply with a review copy? NO. It’s called support. I am not a critic. No one “pays” me for my reviews. In any fashion. In fact in many cases I’ve been given a review copy and I still buy a kindle copy to support the writer. I don’t make a fuss about this. There are many ways to approach a review: From a negative point where you can pick something to pieces because your ego tells you that you should. From a positive point of view – I have no vast readership. I have no responsibility to a boss or magazine publisher. I write reviews in my own time and out of love for reading, so why on earth should I be negative? If a book was so awful I could find nothing good to say about it then I won’t take the time to finish it. To expend the time and energy posting a load of bile and vitriol posting a very negative review? Why on earth should I do that? I see some successful writers out there receiving the support of readers and reviewers and some of them are giving very little in return. These readers and reviewers are ALSO writers.

I’ve done a few reviews myself for some writers who haven’t taken the time to review my own work. So does anyone have the right to snipe If I put up, in my case, the occasional self-promotional Facebook or Twitter post? If you find my own posts too much, overdone or in any way offensive there is always the “unfriend” button. I feel that my constant unwavering support of others has given me the right to air my views publically. I see this blog post as a chance to redress the balance a little.  So to the snipers, naysayers and negative influences I say why not be positive and helpful today? To the self-promoters I say don’t overdo it and above all be thoughtful and supportive of others. To the one paranoid person reading this and thinking is this is about ME? It’s not. Have a wonderful day. The sun is shining.

P.S. This is not a debate post. Feel free to comment but don’t expect a rambling argument about the contents. We all known trolls love a good argument. This blogger doesn’t go in for pointless rows.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Bailout by Charlie Wade

A political thriller taking the current worldwide financial problems and asking the awful question: What if things got worse? The Bailout gets off to a running start with an excellent and intriguing opening scene. The feel of intrigue continues into the first few chapters and slowly, inevitably a sinister shadow becomes clearer. I'd say this is one of the best beginnings to a novel I've read in a long time. The novel soon settles down from the breakneck start and from there on in it's all about details. Charlie Wade uses subtle humour in his character development. This works well as we soon find ourselves empathising with them. It's quite a slow going novel but not without it's action points. The author drip feeds info to the reader slowly but effectively and you soon find yourself hungry for more revelations.

A very competently structured novel with thoughtfully crafted and credible characters. Despite the dark political subject matter a dry, very British, humour not dissimilar to that of Douglas Adams runs throughout the novel. It’s not overdone though, never silly.

The Isle of Wight is referred to as essentially a large open prison for dissidents. This way it is described reminded me of the village from the TV series The Prisoner, although the inmates bear little resemblance to Patrick McGoohan's dynamic number six. The Bailout is a very downbeat kind of novel and more realistic for it. You can only rebel if you have the energy too and in this society very few folk get an easy ride. Hard work is the order of the day and we discover there are a few interesting surprises within the country’s new regime.

The Bailout is one of those novels you want to keep reading. Your thirst for more of the plot is never quite quenched and Charlie Wade shows a number of the storyteller’s tricks of the trade in his creation of a Britain none of us will ever want to see. The conclusion when it arrives seems to jump out at the reader and comes from an interesting and unexpected idea by one of our ragtag band of rebels. All in all a very enjoyable read that will appeal to a broad cross section of readers. Charlie Wade’s talents are in the shop window for all to see and I hope you take the time to read this excellent novel.

Genre:  Dystopian Society
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book Novel
Price:  £1.53
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 12 March 2012

Uncle Mildred And Other Stories By Ian Ayris

Ian Ayris is a supremely talented writer whose work I have followed for over a year now.  Uncle Mildred and Other Stories is a collection of his short stories that have been published all over the internet at some of the best online magazines and fiction sites. As with any collection this varied it’s tough to write an effective review, such is the range of stories on offer to the fortunate reader.

If you need further reason to buy this book I’d like to point out that this is also a charity collection. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Cancer Research UK and The Breast Cancer Charities of America.

To whet your appetite I’ve said a little about each of the excellent stories:

Uncle Mildred:
The feel of a 70s coming of age story with a crazy psychedelic twist!

Surf Rider:
No one knows where the Surf Rider's mind is at but you don't mess with the board man. Never mess with the board.

A fable like tale of betrayal, loneliness, isolation and especially of things left unsaid.

A story about invisible chains that bind. Our cages of convention and the silent institutionalisation. Beautifully melancholic from start to finish.

Twenty-One Margoyles Street:
A chill like the breath of the reaper runs through this tale. Just desserts are served in many forms.

Small Print:
Always read it or there could be dire consequences...

There Is A Lake In A Wood:
A story of dreams unfulfilled with a surprising sting in the tale.

This story hits you like a baseball bat to the head. Give it some thought and you come to realise just how much intelligent social commentary the author’s tales contain.

Hard Times:
Our loveable hitman Charlie Splinters is practically a public service, as we discover in this sad tale.

A dark tale that nicely highlights why it can dangerous to look down on others.

By The Dim And Flaring Lamps:
Both disturbing and at times beautifully descriptive. You feel his pain. A masterful juxtaposition of two themes.

A deliciously ironic tale. Had it been a tad lighter it could have been penned by the late great Douglas Adams.

The Argument Bunny:
So believable it's utterly chilling...

The Rising Of Len Munch:
A quick trip to a grey purgatory. The life and times of the Jonah known as Len Munch.

Brutal. A trip to the heart of darkness with glimpses of nirvana on the other side.

Buy this collection not just for the charity aspect. It’s a hugely entertaining and frankly brilliant collection of Ian's short fiction. The strength of voice in Ian's characters brings them to life. You’ll fall in love with short stories all over again.

Genre: Crime Fiction
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book Short Story Collection
Price:  £1.53
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Killing Moon by Rod Glenn (Story also by Jamie Mitchell)

I hold my hands up and freely admit that I am a sucker for a post apocalyptic tale. To have one set in the North East of England near where I live? You have me “hook, line, sinker and copy of Angling Times” to quote the writers of Red Dwarf.

Now you can’t be hyper critical with this kind of tale. It’s very much an overdone genre and almost anything you write will have to cross a few clichés. It’s just the way the genre is. That never stopped any of those folk writing the bloody awful romantic vampire tales now did it? So having taken that on board I sat down to enjoy the novel.

Having read some of Rod Glenn’s work before I knew that I would more than likely enjoy the read. I wasn’t wrong. Rod’s fast and pacy style doesn’t so much lead you as drag you along by the scruff of the neck. The initial scenes deal with the release of a virus that leads to the breakdown of society as we know. Fast forward twenty years on and we see a very small community of ordinary folk trying to carry on as normally as possible. Well I won’t put any spoilers in this review but as you might expect things don’t remain idyllic for very long.

Tragic events soon lead to five young friends having to journey to the mysterious Black City or Middlesbrough as we know it. Not only is this an adventure tale but also a coming of age tale as the author charts the destinies of the friends. With strong adult language and themes throughout this is a tale for the older reader. Whilst there are bloody events and scenes of a gratuitous nature I don’t believe these are over done as some reviewers suggest. With a city full of warring factions and sub-human “crazies” you have to expect a little blood and guts don’t you?

A cracking read that I would recommend particularly for fans of the genre.

Genre:  Post Apocalyptic Adventure
Publisher:  Wild Wolf Publishing
Format:  E-Book Novel
Price:  £1.98
Rating: 5/5