Apr 29, 2012

[TSS] Review: Lamb by Bonnie Nazdam (Kindle Edition)

My very first thought after finishing LAMB by Bonnie Nazdam was simply, 'Wow'. Here's my brief description of the book, with no spoilers...

David Lamb just buried his father.  His marriage is all but over - his own doing - and he could be very close to losing his job. After the funeral, he finds himself in a moment of solitude in a parking lot in an area of town not known for it's beauty, natural or otherwise. 

While David is in this desolate parking lot, he encounters Tommie, an eleven-year old girl who has just been dared by her 'friends' to approach him. David quickly figures out what is happening and convinces the somewhat reluctant Tommie to play along with him and pull a trick on her friends. The trust that Tommie so quickly gave to David, a complete stranger, that first day is the basis for what turns out to be an unbelievable journey that is both deeply disturbing and horrifying from a parent's perspective, yet at times could also be interpreted as a loving and nurturing experience between a man who loves and appreciates all that nature has to offer and a young girl who has never been away from the concrete and coldness of urban life. 

(Read Goodreads Synopsis)

My Thoughts

LAMB has been on my radar ever since it came out in late 2011 and I read about the accolades it had received (2011 Flaherty Dunnan First Novel Prize).  Then I read a few reviews and I felt I had to add it to my Must Read List. If you do pick up this book, right away you will notice what a quick read it is. It's a complex story simply told that will grab you and not let go until you finish. That is how it was for me. The story is bizarre and once I got over the initial feeling of 'Oh my God, how can this be happening?', I was able to recognize the talent of Ms. Nadzam. It kind of reminded me of ROOM by Emma Donoghue, in that, the writing was methodically consistent  and didn't waver once. Her well developed narcissistic characteristics of David coupled with his parental-like yearning to nurture this young girl was maddening to me. David Lamb is also a master manipulator who repeatedly amazed me at how he could get Tommie to do what he wanted her to do while making it seem that it was her idea and he was just following her wishes. I was constantly waiting for the unspeakable to happen. Without a doubt the story of LAMB is every parents worst nightmare.

For me, I judge a book by the affect it has on me and how memorable that book is to me.  It is easy for me to say this book will stay with me for a very long time. No matter how unbelievable and unsettling the story is, I give credit to Bonnie Nadzam for writing a most unique, eye-opening and frightening account of what can absolutely happen when a child is left alone.

As a first novel, in my opinion, this book is completely impressive. Bonnie Nadzam is an author that I will not hesitate to read again. That said, LAMB may not be for everyone but I believe it would make an incredible book club selection given the myriad of conversation and discussion it creates.

Author: Bonnie Nadzam
Publisher: Other Press, Inc.
Published: September 2011
Length: 329KB/289pp

Apr 25, 2012

Review: Mick Abruzzo's Story by Nancy Martin (A Prequel to the Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series) Kindle Edition

As a big fan of Nancy Martin's very popular Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series, I was totally thrilled when I found this short story several weeks ago while perusing the Kindle Store.  I have been patiently awaiting the eighth book in the series to come out this August. This prequel is like a tiny hors d'oeurve given to me to whet my appetite until the big day when I'll finally get my main course! For those who have read the series - you know what I'm talking about! The chemistry between protagonist Nora Blackbird and her very sexy bad boy lover, Mick Abruzzo is the icing on the fun murder mystery cake!

With this delicious prequel, we get an insight into Mick's persona and how he got mixed up with Nora and her cooky sisters to begin with. In fact, after reading this quick prequel, I'm ready to re-read Book One, HOW TO MURDER A MILLIONAIRE because it leads right up to that book. It has been quite a long time since I started reading these entertaining stories and I have plenty of time until August when NO WAY TO KILL A LADY comes out.

If you are looking for something fun and quick to read this summer with a little romance and lots of sex appeal, you should check out this series and this prequel. It is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine and I enjoy them immensely. Nancy Martin weaves such clever wit and light romance into these mysteries, you almost want someone to get killed so they will continue! I'm speaking fictionally, of course!

Author: Nancy Martin
Publisher: Bookbaby
Published: 2006
Length: 328KB/35pp

Apr 16, 2012

Review: The Baggage Handler by Colin Browne (Kindle Edition)

The Book:

Londoner, Martin White is anti-social and he prefers it that way. He even goes out of his way to maintain his solitary existence.  His job as a writer seems to benefit from his lack of social interaction. Martin writes a column called The Shallow Review of Books that has a sort of cult following. It isn't your average mainstream book reviewing column.  He has people that he calls the 'Peepers' that he relies on for much of the content for his reviews. This approach works as long as he follows the rules, the most important being: Don't get involved with the Peepers. Keep the encounters brief and don't talk about anything personal.

So far, this approach has worked very well and has made The Shallow Review of Books a  success. Although Martin doesn't have any relationships, he is known for handing out advice to his fellow workers. His advice seems to be helpful and people keep coming to him for advice, thus earning him the nickname, The Baggage Handler. Martin certainly doesn't go out looking for people to solve problems for but there is never a shortage of advice being doled out. In Martin's way of thinking, hearing all the problems that his co-workers have in their lives just makes him even more sure that he is happy living his solitary, problem free life.

That is until the day he notices the new girl at the office. Her name is Kasia, she's Polish and Martin falls in love with her at first sight.  But Kasia tells Martin straight up that she is not looking for, nor does she want a relationship - especially with a co-worker. So Martin has his work cut out for him. This is completely out of character for The Baggage Handler and as the other office members take notice of Martin's obvious tactics to get Kasia's attention, what ensues is a bumpy, awkward, sometimes hard to watch game of cat and mouse with the ultimate prize being love.

My Thoughts:

I was initially drawn to this book after reading (and loving) Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman and really enjoying the male perspective on love. This book had been compared to it so I was intrigued.

Martin is a likeable character and his backwardness was charming to me. When he fell for Kasia, he fell hard and wholeheartedly.  He was trying the best he knew how and I began rooting for him right away. Kasia, on the other hand, had her own issues and made him work for every inch of ground he was to make towards her.  Most of the time, Martin would take one step forward and two steps back.  In the many times that he tried to make headway with her, I felt Kasia was being too hard on him, but that made him try just that much harder.

The tribulations that Martin went through to win Kasia's love were sometimes funny and sometimes just plain sad. There were times I just shook my head.  Ironically, Martin soon became the one seeking advice because, clearly, nothing that he did was working. Being the Baggage Handler and solving other peoples' problems did not prepare or help him in his own life. Along with his neighbor, Rupert, I also enjoyed the character of Isabel, Martin's mother, who would visit from France. Their back and forth bantering was comical and Browne's genius at making her a successful lawyer only made their conversations more combative, but in an insightful way.

All in all, THE BAGGAGE HANDLER is an entertaining read and I did enjoy Martin's character. I truly wanted him to win the girl. That said, near the end, I was starting to grow weary of the push and pull from Kasia, even though she was reacting to Martin's sometimes moronic moves. Poor guy, he just didn't know better. There is a definite message in the story though: No matter how good you think you are at giving other people advice, it doesn't necessarily make you equipped to handle obstacles that appear in your own life. As a debut novel I think THE BAGGAGE HANDLER was a success and I think Colin Browne has a unique writing style that will grow and be better with each new book. He is someone I will be on the lookout for in the future.

Author:  Colin Browne
Publisher: Self
Published: January 2012
Size: 503 KB
Source: Colin Browne