Monday, July 23, 2012

Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May ★ ★ ★★

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Competition open until 19th August 2012

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‘Life, Death, Prizes’ went to the bottom of my ‘to read’ listnot really my cup of tea. It’s a great gig reviewing books but the downside is that many times you receive books that are just not to your taste.  The books that rock my world involve thrills, spills, psychopaths, and if you have a spare monster or ghost, I will take those as well. 
Now the upside of being a book reviewer—besides the lovely, free unreleased books—is the same as the downside.  Let’s just say I am forced to read outside my comfort zone and, sometimes,  I am pleasantly surprised.  On occasions, I am absolutely blown away.
So, where does ‘Life! Death! Prizes! fall?  If my voice sounds like an echo it’s because I’ve been blown away to Kansas by this book.  Not my usual fare but it proves a book well written, no matter what, is a good book.
Billy is a nineteen-year-old dealing with the emotions of, well, being a nineteen-year-old, and all the associated grottiness and self-consciousness.  His Mother has died pointlessly in a recent bungled street robbery leaving him parent to his little brother Oscar.  There are plenty of pedestrian books on kids whose Mother has died but author Stephen May has voiced Billy with uncommon clarity. 
The two brother’s home life becomes a blend of unscheduled lives, unsuitable film watching, and uneaten healthy food stacked in the freezer whilst they dine on takeaway.  When well-meaning relatives, teachers and Government bodies question Billy’s ability to care for his little brother he must add ‘fighting the establishment’ to his list of duties.  
There is, also, the smouldering mystery of the missing killer’s life, as Billy’s paranoia of his whereabouts grows, and we are offered a glimpse into what makes a criminal. Events are not neat or expected and an extraordinary ending will literally take your breath away.
Whilst the tag for the book claims it is funny, bittersweet, unforgettable; a story of grief, resilience and brotherly love, that is not the whole story.  It is probably the most intriguing book I’ve read in a long time.  Put it at the very  top of your ‘to read’ list.


         Stephen May is a novelist, playwright and TV writer. His first novel TAG (Cinnamon Press – 2008) was one of ten books long-listed for Welsh Book of the Year and went on to win the Media Wales Readers' Prize – an award voted for by the general public, as the best book on the list.
His plays Back The World and Still Waiting for Everything toured nationally to good reviews. He also had an unhappy stint working as a storyline writer on A Top ITV continuing drama.
Stephen also wrote the best-selling how-to guide Teach Yourself Creative Writing (Hodder and Staughton) and his second novel Life! Death! Prizes! is his second novel and is published in 2012 in the USA, Australia and Germany.  He is also working on new plays and TV projects both on his own and with the writer Mark Illis.
Stephen May was brought up in Bedford and now lives in West Yorkshire. Visit his website at 

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for my review copy of this book. Visit Bloomsbury ANZ for more information on their other fabulous titles.