Winner of the 2006 Free Press Literary Award for his short fiction, "Blind Spot," JB Lazarte writes prose and poetry and blogs at www.thespinaltap.com. He lives in Manila.
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Smashwords book reviews by JB Lazarte
- The Ice Cream Vendor's Song
on May 27, 2013
Laura McHale Holland’s flash fiction collection, ‘The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song’ is just what today’s internet-reared readers need: short, punchy, yet emotionally impactful tales of just the right manageable length. At turns sentimental, often poignant and heartbreaking, the short (or very short) stories in this collection do not fail in hitting us where it hurts most.
Indeed, ‘The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song’—despite the stories’ individual lengths—is best enjoyed slowly, as each morsel is a rich helping, a close-up view of the human experience served in easy-to-assimilate units. From the romantic (“Rolling Toward Her Feet”) to the strange (“The Golden Sandals”) to the abrupt (“The Fool”), this eclectic collection of stories descends on our senses in some sort of cadence all its own.
I also love how Holland weaves her sentences—the end result is deliciously poetic and often brimming with pathos. It’s a joy to read the lines, regardless of what particular story you’re on. Overall, this is a book that deserves to be tried and enjoyed and downloaded. Even better, this can be a great gift to a loved one. Highly recommended!
- Happily Divorced, or how to rob the robber
on June 24, 2013
Benn Flore’s ‘Happily Divorced or How to Rob the Robber’ is a hilarious take on what probably is a common occurrence: getting divorced in your twilight years then being left with nothing but the clothes on your back.
Two old men, Harold and George meet each other in a strange time in their lives: they’re both recently divorced, broke, and probably facing the last few years of their lives in a very bad state. In such a situation, the two sort of team up to try to find a solution: rob the mafia.
The writing’s good and interesting, and the story has a lot of potential—if only it were truly fleshed out and is actually of novel length, then it would have feel more well-rounded and a deeply satisfying read. On the other hand, I gather there is actually a movie and Dutch play versions out there, so this ebook is something more like a foretaste of what you can expect. If anything, Flore’s story transforms what would have been an otherwise tragic circumstance (getting divorced and broke at 65) into something we can all laugh at—‘Happily Divorced or How to Rob the Robber’ will entertain you as long as the read, and will leave you pining for more.
- The Alchemist's Way
on July 13, 2013
It is not easy to write a convenient description to something as “all encompassing” as Charles Lambrou’s work, ‘The Alchemist’s Way.’ But let me attempt to describe it in one line: It will change your life.
First off, Lambrou espouses what he calls the “Three Steps.” It is a distinct method that has been proven to help countless people improve their personal situation—from business people mastering the art of negotiation, to professionals trying to succeed in their chosen vocation, to anyone who simply wants to have what each of us aim to enjoy on a daily basis: to wake up enthused, to be happy.
I have read countless self-help books, some of them bordering on the mystical, but ‘the Alchemist’s Way’ easily stands out for being thought-provokingly spot on—you feel the staggering truth behind every line. Overall, it is a thoroughly satisfying read, especially if you’ve been trying to find yourself and somehow all those other books dismally failed in helping you. And better yet, it shows the path towards “happiness, well-being, and ultimately, success” in straight, non-BS ways that allow you to immediately reap the positive benefits and really feel that it’s working.
Most importantly, ‘The Alchemist’s Way’ is perhaps the most comprehensive self-help book I have ever encountered—it tackles every single aspect of your personality, from mental, physical, spiritual, to emotional, that I believe it’s the book that can really change your life. What’s more, Lambrou has a rare flair with words, as he writes emphatically and sincerely. ‘The Alchemist’s Way’ would be a perfect gift to your friends and loved ones—download or pick up a copy today and see what the fuss is about. Five stars, no less.
- Heartstealer (All Things Impossible #2)
on July 19, 2013
I’m not originally crazy about the fantasy genre, but the more I read exceptional books, the more I realize the unfathomable depths a fantasy story can plunge into just to flesh out something truly memorable. And one of those “exceptional books” is Deborah Dalton’s ‘Heartstealer’—the story hooks you right into a major dilemma, and you stay hooked until the very last page.
A seven-year-old girl is dying, and she happens to possess something special. Thomas Delauncey must save her, and he could only do so if he coerces someone to help him—but of all the young women in the world he could kidnap, he chooses the feisty Derora Saxen. Tough luck, right? But then again, that’s only the beginning, as the duo find themselves pawns to a power struggle much larger than their own lives.
Obviously, ‘Heartstealer’ is a delight to read—there’s always something that compels you to keep on turning the pages, and you sink your mind-teeth in the book’s scenes with gusto. This is a huge plus, given that there are so many fantasy books out there whose authors seem to have no idea about pacing, or how to keep the level of interest and intensity sufficiently high to keep the reader like putty in the author’s hands. ‘Heartstealer’ stands out simply because it is so much fun to read—there’s never a boring moment.
Deborah Dalton is at the height of her literary powers, as ‘Heartstealer’ is the work of someone who not only knows her craft well, but also has the power to conjure more. I love the subtle sense of humor, the gravity of the solemn scenes, and the way Derora and her friends interact, especially how their strong friendship is portrayed even through the meat-grinder of the foreboding war.
I haven’t yet read the first book (‘Heartstealer’ is supposedly the second one in the ‘All Things Impossible’ series), but due to the sheer fun I had in reading ‘Heartstealer’, I guess I’ll be getting that other book soon. This one deserves all the five stars in my bag.
- Tabous Trois
on July 24, 2013
With the surging popularity of erotic fiction, there are more and more titles that appear in this genre, but most of them seem carelessly shoddily written. Not MacCailin’s ‘Tabous Trois’—a searing hot collection of three long erotic stories that will leave you panting for more.
Kari realizes she is desperately attracted to her handsome cousin in “Familiar Stranger.” Finn finds himself in a very lucky but very strange situation when his step-sisters “demand” that he share their hotel room in “We Insist.” And in “Fun Sara,” Ash gives in to his love for his aunt. Obviously, at the heart of the book are strong undercurrents of taboo or forbidden desire. The stories are about things that we avoid to talk about, but deep inside we find incredibly irresistible. And the great thing about it: they are written in a sophisticated flourish that makes the stories worth reading.
MacCailin’s talent shines through these stories—she deftly builds up the sense of desire then unleashes it like a dam filled with boiling water at the right moment. The scenes—even the sexual ones—feature a kind of literary cadence, a sense of intellectual confidence and not desperation, you rarely encounter in erotic fiction. ‘Tabous Trois’ reads like Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’—but more daring, more “taboo,” and exquisitely more pleasurable to consume. It features the kind of writing that lends credibility to an often dismissed genre—with MacCailin around, the genre has just become much more interesting and more enjoyable. I highly recommend this to anyone who has seen things like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and was appalled with the bad writing—‘Tabous Trois’ will change your mind. Five stars, no less.
- Handsome Devil - A Filipino Novel
on Aug. 18, 2013
First off, this story is written in the Tagalog (or Filipino language, but author Jessica Larsen is coming up with an English version, so I think this book is worth a thorough review. ‘Handsome Devil’ is one of those romance stories that once you start reading, you won’t ever be able to put down.
It starts in the middle of a riveting yet hilarious scene—Benjamin, incredibly handsome and wealthy, narrowly escapes one of his parents’ ‘plots’, only to bump into the beautiful Yuna at a public market. For some crazy reason, Benjamin kisses the girl out of the blue, but only a few moments before his parents’ ‘henchmen’ arrive to escort him back to the hotel.
They meet again a bit later at the hotel, only to learn a shocking truth: they’re being arranged to marry each other. Although attracted to the angel-faced Benjamin, Yuna is disgusted with his arrogance and hubris, and she’d rather stab herself in the neck than spend the rest of her life with him. But the ‘agreement’ between the two families seem set in stone, and Yuna sees no way out of marrying a red-haired, green-eyed, tall and handsome ‘devil’ who seems to have the power to pull her heartstrings.
Author Jessica Larsen knows where to push all the right buttons—she keeps the scenes tight and highly interesting. The interaction between Yuna and Benjamin is an endless source of endearing hilarity—Benjamin acts like a douchebag, but you sense that he has reserved the deepest, most genuine part of him for Yuna. On the other hand, while she outwardly ‘hates’ Benjamin, Yuna secretly wavers whenever she looks into his eyes or whenever Benjamin ends up ‘saving’ her in one of those awkward situations that always seem to happen to her—she has even begun liking how the guy carries her in his arms.
‘Handsome Devil’ is an unforgettable, highly entertaining romance. I can’t wait for Larsen’s English version of the book—I’m betting my right arm it’s going to be a huge hit among romance fiction aficionados. Five stars, no less.
- Invasion of Privacy and Other Short Stories
on Aug. 24, 2013
Short story collections have become relatively rare these days—almost the only ones that make them are the already famous ones—Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, George Martin. But sometimes you encounter a writer so gutsy that he throws all caution to the wind and goes ahead with what he does best. One such writer is Jim Liston, whose book, ‘Invasion of Privacy and Other Short Stories’ consists of strange, dark, compellingly intriguing stories you will want to consume in one sitting.
The title story, of course, is a dark, but ultimately satisfying tale called “Invasion of Privacy.” Jim Gotweb, a computer programmer who runs a small computer shop, is on the war path: his wife was stabbed to death during a robbery, and the only clue he’s got is the distinctive spider tattoo on the killer’s face. But that doesn’t stop him from going over the top to find his wife’s killer—a computer coder, he creates a program that allows him to track a growing network of webcams throughout the city in the hopes of finding his target and exacting revenge. As it turns out, what he wants is not so simple, and soon, he meets other characters who join him on his “mission:” Roger, a teenaged geek, and the bombshell named Melanie, who seems like Irene Adler to Jim’s Sherlock.
The other stories in the collection are a heady mix of the macabre, the absurd, the horrific—they somehow remind you of the 1960s-era ‘The Twilight Zone’ or the more bizarre episodes of the Ray Bradbury Theater’. Some of the stories serve like “breathers”—clever, thoughtful intermissions to the more intense stories. But I admit, I love the title story ‘Invasion of Privacy’ the most—it drips with a sense of adventure, and the suspenseful cliffhangers are chilling enough to leave you panting for more. Melanie—with her sex appeal and the fact that she’s also smart and sassy—is a great complement to the Jim and Roger geek duo. And because they can remotely watch a seemingly unlimited number of households through their webcams, the possibility for many more sequels is endless—I’m thinking a TV series based on this story would be great.
Overall, I love the book. But I would love it more if it were longer, or if it were a full novel. I’m hoping Liston writes more, and soon. Highly recommended!
- Which Fish Tank
on Dec. 07, 2013
For its price, George Butler’s ‘Which Fish Tank’—a complete beginner’s guide to everything you need to know about setting up a fish tank and making the right decisions—is simply a life-saver. When the author says it’s “comprehensive”, he’s not kidding.
I’m currently trying to set up my third fish tank, and fortunately, I’m setting up this one correctly, thanks to this book. If I had known about this book when I was still working on the previous two fish tanks, I would not have wasted precious effort, money, and the lives of those poor fish. ‘Which Fish Tank’ helps you arrive at the correct decisions right at the get-go, such as determining which type of fish you want to raise and what can best complement your home environment, whether to go the saltwater or fresh water option, or what aquarium size and shape can work well in your home’s interior. Moreover, it even discusses the finer points of raising fish and watching out for signs of distress or illness. You’ll learn how to proactively take care of your fish and not just being someone who’s keeping a fish tank solely for cosmetic reasons.
Overall, George's ‘Which Fish Tank’ E-book is a straight-to-the-point, helpful guide to anyone who is considering raising fish in their own home. Avoid making the costly mistakes I made by ordering a copy of this book before you even go to the store to buy the first supplies. This is also a perfect gift to a friend or loved one who is into raising fish. Highly recommended, this book deserves all of five stars.
on March 28, 2014
Avraham Azrieli writes like a more substantial John Grisham—his novel, ‘Thump’ is a sweeping, edge-of-your-seat novel that basically fleshes out the old saying, “Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned.” Or something along those same lines.
‘Thump’, of course, is main character T.M. “Thump” Jefferson, an up-and-coming junior analyst in an investment firm. His upward mobility in the firm happens to be due to the machinations of his lover, the much-older Henrietta Kingman. But Thump, being the red-blooded guy that he is, could not help getting his paws inside the pants of a much younger girl—worse, he actually falls in love with her. When Thump attempts to break it off with Kingman for the sake of the younger one, all hell breaks loose—and that’s when the meat of this deeply engaging novel starts running through the grinder.
Azrieli, for a plot like this, wisely chooses the slow burn instead if the flashy narrative—hence, the build-up is more palpable, the plot twists—although visible from chapters away—are deliciously satisfying when they occur. Among the things that I love most about this book are the court room scenes—the way the arguments are fleshed out are jaw-dropping, to say the least. You can almost see the sparks flying from that viciously intense legal “swordfight”. ‘Thump’ is that rare literary gem that effectively touches upon a lot of other side issues, and thereby leaves you more educated than when you start reading the book. I highly recommend this so those who like a book that’s actually worth reading. Get a copy of ‘Thump’ today—enjoyment guaranteed.