Wednesday, October 2, 2013

'Pearl' by Malory Thomas

Official Summary:

Pearl, a married 30-year-old convenience store worker, longs for change and excitement. Believing she can find it in the purchase of a Mustang, she soon learns that her co-worker, Austin, a recent college graduate, offers the thrill she's missed out on. When circumstances force the two apart, Pearl faces the difficult decision of repairing her marriage, thereby staying true to her religious beliefs, or disrupting her entire life to explore something life-changing.


There are many ways that this story endeared itself to me. At first, it's the main character Pearl starting off in such tragic circumstances that I couldn't help but feel compelled to keep reading. Then its watching her as she wakes up to just how bad things really are and realizes that she might actually deserve to be happy. Finally, with the support of out-of-town co-worker and love interest Austin, she finds the strength to change things, and starts her climb out of the miserable life she's just let happen around her.

I'll also throw in that was happy to see that Pearl was believably thirty and this wasn't another story centered around teenage or young adult angst. Believe it or not, that by itself makes this title more genuine. Not because I'm in my early thirties, but because it makes what Pearl needs to do that much more difficult and meaningful.

But be aware: A handful of reviews out there seem to be deducting points from this title for being too predictable. To those reviewers, and the army of skeptics who would believe them, yes, the general story line here is predictable. However, it needs to be asked if this is, in fact, a bad spot for Pearl to be. I would argue that if the book had gone any other way that the title wouldn't be worth reading. Not because of bad writing (which it isn't) or poor character design (not that either) but because the message would have been absolutely heinous for anything but a horror novel.

Bottom Line: Pearl is a quick read and showcases the author's ability to tell an inspiring story but it doesn't really break any new ground. That said, I can safely recommend this title to anyone whose looking for an easy, Hallmark after school special, kind of read. Personally, I'm interested to see what Malory Thomas does next.

*In the spirit of full transparency, the author provided me with a copy of this title for review.

Friday, July 26, 2013

'Dust & Decay' (Rot & Ruin) by Jonathan Maberry

Official Summary:
Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It’s also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny’s zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them.

Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?

In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny’s small band of travelers will make it out alive.

I don't remember how I discovered Jonathan Maberry but it was probably back in the old MBTA commute days where every few weeks an Amazon bookstore day was needed to restock the queue. The entire ride up into work (never back because getting a seat heading out of the Park Street station during rush hour is near impossible) would be spent perusing Amazon's reading recommendations and downloading the next months title selections. That kind of convenience is the big reason I'm still remise to give up my Kindle with 3G even though the model with wifi would work just fine at home... wherever I am, I can always shop for books.

Anyway, I digress.

On that fateful day, sometime in late 2011, the first Maberry title I would ever read, Dead of Night landed on my Kindle by way of WhisperNet, and it was awesome. So awesome in fact that it not only spurred a zombie titles influx on the reading list (World War Z, Married With Zombies & Warm Bodies to name a few), but Jonathan Maberry made his way onto my author watch lists. 

Being on my author watch list is a BIG DEAL because being on that list means that I'll probably read everything you ever publish, including your pre-teen novels like the Rot and Ruin books, of which the second title is Dust & Decay, the supposed focus of this other chatter

What I'm trying to say is that Jonathan Maberry is a great writer. Not only because all of his novels are interesting and touching even when the backdrop is filled with flesh eating monsters, but because it is exceptionally tailored to his audience.  If I were twelve this series of books would some of the best stuff out there. Unfortunately, I'm in my thirties and the writing and story lines in this series are just too simplistic.

The Bottom Line: While I love Maberry's more mature titles and don't plan on letting them fall off my radar anytime soon, the language and plot lines explored in the Rot & Ruin series are much better suited for younger readers. As such, I'm still giving this title the green light it deserves, just be aware that if you're looking for a more graphic zombie experience than I'd say check out his Joe Ledger series or Dead of Night and pass this title onto the nearest horror or dystopia loving tween in your life. I think they'd love it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

'Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

Official Summary:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Once a week a friend and I leave our desks just long enough to drive down to Starbucks and order incredibly high-calorie drinks smothered in whip cream and gossip. Sometimes it's work related, but most of the time we just talk about movies we've seen recently or television shows worth checking out. This last time we went out he insisted that I watch the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. His recommendations have yet to let me down, so when he said that it was the first film he'd watched in awhile that made him feel like he'd actually watched a moving piece of cinema, I couldn't help but check it out when I'd finally meandered back to my desk.

Unsurprisingly, the movie was based on this book of the same name and with a quick Amazon 1-click it was ready and waiting at home on the Kindle. If I'm presented with an awesome movie or the awesome book that movie was based on, I'll choose the book every time. So that night, immediately after I'd eaten, cooked and cleaned up dinner, I sat down and started reading.

The first thing to mention is that Perks is an incredibly quick read. From cover to cover it only took about three hours. The second is that the backdrop for this coming of age story is high school in the early 1990's. Having been in high school during roughly the same time period as the characters in this book, and having lived through a lot of the same uniquely '90's moments (Rocky Horror Picture Show anyone?) which made reading this book similar to flipping through a photo album filled with people and places you thought you'd forgotten about.

Because of that association, the story lingered with me, not so much because of the thought provoking content. I mean, let's be honest here, I'm a little old to do much more than reminisce over the kinds of issues complicating Charlie's life.

Bottom Line: While other reviewers seem to either love Perks by Stephen Chbosky for it's accessible, character driven narrative, or hate it because they don't identify with Charlie, the time period, the catchphrase (see left) or all of the above, I think it would be a wonderful summer reading title for kids going into their freshman year. Not just because that's the age of the narrator, but because it seems like time well spent helping these kids prepare for a complicated new phase of life filled with dating, drugs and drama. To boil it down further, if you're not either A: a Gen X'er or B: transitioning into high school, you'll probably have a tough time understanding this one and might have better luck elsewhere.

Monday, July 1, 2013

'Trail of the Chupacabra' by Stephen Randel

Official Summary:
Avery Bartholomew Pendleton is back, and he’s just as crazy as ever. Avery is a paranoid loner obsessed with global conspiracy theories who spends most of his time crafting absurd and threatening letters to anyone who offends him. That means pretty much everyone.

Still convinced of the existence of the mythical Mexican chupacabra*, Avery enlists the assistance of the Southwest Texas Revolutionary Armed Confederate Border Operations Militia (STRAC-BOM) and their manic leader, General X-Ray, to help him invade Mexico. Accompanied by Ziggy, a burned-out hippy, and an uncommonly large iguana named Nancy, the group follows the advice of a New Orleans voodoo priestess and heads straight into the Mexican desert.

Unfortunately for the motley gang of explorers, Mexico can be a dangerous place if you cross the wrong people -- specifically, the Padre, a vicious drug cartel boss, and El Barquero, a murderous gunrunner who has crossed Avery’s path before.

What unfolds is a laugh-out-loud dark comedy of insane humor, unforgettable characters, and chilling thrills.

*No chupacabras were injured in the writing of this book.

Trail of the Chupacabra’ by Stephen Randel is a fabulous revisit to the world of ‘The Chupacabra’, released last year. While Kip and his father Bennett’s story take a backseat during this installment, we get to see a whole lot more Avery – a self-proclaimed technical god, possible genius and letter writer extraordinaire – his best friend, Ziggy – Avery’s complete opposite and a guy who totally reminds me of someone I know – and STRAC-BOM… and who doesn’t love that motley band of gun totting, 'Merica loving guys? 

As this strange group of monster hunters (of chupacabra and otherwise) are running back and forth over the United States and Mexican border they somehow manage to stumble into, and magically survive through, stings, crossfire, explosions and chance meetings with cartel goons at just about every corner, all while maintaining an endearing innocence (or inflated sense of self importance in Avery’s case), that is sure to keep your eyes glued to the page. 

Like its predecessor, ‘Trail of the Chupacabra’ is filled with punchy one-liners, “so-bad-they’re-great” jokes, and a richly diverse cast of mostly demented, but incredibly deep characters. While this title doesn’t have one ounce of fantasy (a genre that this particular reviewer usually thrives on) the fantastical world that Randel paints through the main character Avery gives any book about vampires or faeries a run for its money.

Bottom Line: If you love books like ‘Domestic Violets’ or the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, I honestly think this one, (or ‘TheChupacabra’ if you haven’t read it yet) is right up your alley. In fact, this one gets the T.T.P. satisfaction guaranteed. Yes, it’s just that good. I promise.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's Release Day for 'In Stone' by Louise Gornall!

Good morning Monday, and what do we have here? Looks like Louise Dornall's YA fantasy romance 'In Stone' hit shelves today, and To the Point is part of the release day blog tour! Haven't read it myself, yet, but take a look at the summary and cover below and you'll see why it's earned a spot in the TBR pile.  

Beau Bailey is suffering from a post-break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later, the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he’s sprouted horns and is going to kill Beau unless she hands over the knife.

Until Eighteenth-century gargoyle, Jack, shows up to save her.

Jack has woken from a century-long slumber to tell Beau that she’s unwittingly been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races: Demons and Gargoyles. The knife is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they’ll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau goes with Jack in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they’ll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is, provided they can outrun the demons chasing them

Pick up this title from:



Add to Goodreads:
Book Trailer:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

'Smallworld: A Science Fiction Adventure Comedy' by Dominic Green

Official Summary:
Mount Ararat isn't your average extrasolar agrarian colony. A world the size of an asteroid yet having Earth-standard gravity, Mount Ararat plays host to a strangely confident family whose children are protected by the Devil, a mechanical killing machine, from such passers-by as Mr von Trapp (an escapee from a penal colony), the Made (manufactured humans being hunted by the State), and the super-rich clients of a gravitational health spa established at Mount Ararat's South Pole. But it soon transpires that the Devil is harbouring an ancient and deadly secret.

I expected great things from Smallworld. Something about the title, the cover, the description, billed as both a science fiction and a comedy smack in the title, and by a Hugo nominee no less - it felt like it could have been literary magic. At very least engaging. And at very, very least maybe deliver a chuckle or two.

So it's with a small amount of regret that I must report that Smallworld sucked.

From a character naming convention that was little more than a cheap way of telling the audience what the character should be like, rather than having the character filled out enough to come to that conclusion on your own all the way to scenes that were about as coherent as an SNL skit that falls apart somewhere in the middle and ends with the comics running around like chimps - suffices to say there was very little here that didn't make me feel like the idiot in the room missing the joke.

Who knows? Maybe I AM that idiot. Maybe this novel was absolutely brilliant and my plebian mind just couldn't wrap itself around the 'bone-dry satire' that at least one reviewer points to being this author's forte. By the mid-point I was actively forcing myself to the end because I thought it might all come together in some amazing ah-ha moment. Unfortunately, it ended in such a ludicrous, out-of-the-blue, anticlimactic way it made me wish time travel had been invented so I could go back and warn my past self to avoid this complete waste of time. 

Bottom Line: I usually love this stuff. I'm a Monty Python addict and have a near religious appreciation for author's like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and I just don't get this one. But then again, maybe I just don't get it or maybe it was the unreasonable expectations I had walking into it. Either way, save yourself the time and walk by this title.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

'Into the Dark' (Parts 1-4) by Milly Silver

Official Summary:
When seventeen-year-old Oxford student Emily Baxter steps forward to become part of the search and rescue team for her kidnapped family member, she sees it as her last chance to put things right. Despite her seizures and being ripped between parallel universes, Emily is determined to get back to living a normal life. But first Emily has to join forces with the mysterious Gifted & Talented set and the darkly beautiful Henry Seadon. And survive. Killing the Misery-Makers who get in their way is a necessary evil.

Into the Dark by Milly Silver is a series that could have been great. It has an interesting premise and some promising character dynamics but due to a few big issues the title ends up being little more than a big disappointment. 

The first criticism is that all four parts of this title really should have been delivered as a single book. In most cases this particular issue wouldn't have made it so far up the chain but here it means that you'd end up paying a grand total of seven dollars to get through all four parts. Before you start thinking that I'm being miserly* with my money, let's put that in a little perspective. Most unknown author titles (and this falls square into that category) go for around one to two dollars on Amazon for the WHOLE experience. For Into the Dark, Milly expects her readers to not only fork out admission at the door, but then she doubles the cover and scalps them every six or seven chapters. It's not right.

The second issue is dialogue that falls flat on its face, lacks personality and really drags down the pacing of this story. If you've ever taken even a high school level creative writing class your professor probably said something along the lines of "show the action, don't speak it." This title would benefit a lot from another edit that really embraces this advice. Getting rid of passages where the character announces that they're leaving and then they leave is nothing short of bad writing. Put another way, the dialogue was so bad in spots I felt challenged to stumble through it.

Last but not least, one of the biggest relationships in this book felt so fake and forced that every time it came up it made me question my ability to get through all four parts. It wasn't the main character Emily and her boyfriend, friends or uncle. It was Emily's relationship and her uncle's comatose fiancee Irene. Just thinking about it makes me roll my eyes. It was awful! It's like the author decided after writing part one, (where Emily makes a mind-bogglingly dreadful decision that lands Irene in the coma to start with) that Irene was going to play a bigger role in the story than was initially planned for and didn't want to go back and rewrite the first half so that the relationship made sense. By the time we get to the later-parts Emily now really adores this woman and visits her every day in the hospital, wishing she hadn't been so outrageously stupid selfish and will literally put her life on the line to get her mom sister uncle's fiancee (?!) back. Yes, showing a protagonist have a change of heart and emotionally grow during the course of a book is something most good titles, and all the great ones, seem to get right effortlessly, but trust me when I tell you this one didn't come close to effortless - there was definite effort there... and it chugged by at the speed and grace of a poorly fed coal engine.

Bottom Line: This title is rough around the edges and doesn't have enough polish rounds put in for it to be fit for public consumption yet. This series would be exponentially better if it were put in the hands of the right continuity and dialogue editor. If it ever gets one and is re-released I'd love to give it another shot because the premise really is intriguing. Until then my best advice is to steer clear or Into the Dark no matter what your 'bad dialogue' tolerance threshold.

*Disclosure: This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

'The Misremembered Man' by Christina McKenna

Official Summary:
The Misremembered Man is a beautifully rendered portrait of life in rural Ireland which charms and delights with its authentic characters and gentle humor. This vivid portrayal of the universal search for love brings with it a darker tale, heartbreaking in its poignancy.

The Review:
When the cover of the The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna flashed up on the Kindle's screensaver two things happened:
  1. I bought the book based on the interesting title and pretty cover and;
  2. Amazon's ad executives had another reason to pat themselves on the back for orchestrating another successful attack on my wallet.
If you'll notice, at no time during the buying process did I stop to read the book description, check the genre or read any of the existing reviews which, at least in this case, may have stopped me from grabbing up the title in the first place. That would have been my loss. More to the point, if I'd read the severely cut down, vanilla description above I wouldn't have even given this title a chance mainly because it screams 'boring'!

Now literary fiction isn't usually my thing anyway - in fact, it's usually my experience that titles with more interesting descriptions than this one can result in some frustratingly mind-numbing stuff. And don't think for a minute that when I finally got around to cracking open The Misremembered Man  and realized that it was a staunch member of the dreaded literary fiction camp that I didn't contemplate cutting and running onto the next title on my list.

This desire to move on was amplified by the adjective laden opening chapters. Thankfully though, the overly descriptive style of the first few pages is tampered down once the stage has been set and the stories of both the weathered, rough-edged Jamie, and the spinster Lydia begins. Centered on each of these characters search for companionship using the classifieds section of the local newspaper, McKenna adeptly weaves in a poignant critique of the church and their gross abuses of children in the Irish orphanages in the 1930's while introducing some truly colorful characters along the way.

Bottom Line: Pick up The Misremembered Man if you have an interest in cultural books about Ireland, love this genre, or you liked titles like A Friend of the Family or Mariana, (although, in my humble opinion, this title is leaps and bounds better than either of those). Avoid it if you're searching out romance or humor as this title is really has very little to offer in either category even though the too short summary would lead you to believe otherwise.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

'Tempest: A Novel' by Julie Cross

Official Summary:
The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun. That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities. But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him. Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

There's something about time travel novels that will always get my attention. The prospect of discovering a whole new theory that's been dreamed up is just too hard to pass up. So, when I saw 'Tempest: A Novel' by Julie Cross flash up in an Amazon wallpaper ad I couldn't help myself - the book was downloaded and available for reading in less time than it took you to read this sentence. And in case you're wondering, no I'm not kidding. I truly have that little self-control... especially when a tragic love story is promised on top of the already enticing sci-fi stuff. This self-admitting control issue is also the reason why you're seeing a review for this title and not one of the titles promised earlier in the month. The allure of 'Tempest' was just too great.

But was it any good? Was it worth shoving all the other books that have been patiently waiting their turn in line aside so that I could indulge in a bit of time-travel speculation?

The answer to that question boils down to a classic case of 'a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B', I suppose.

Column A: The love story was equal parts endearing and tragic. The bits involving the sister were memorable, sweet and always delivered with just the right touch of sadness. The best friendship felt real, grounded and comfortable. Overall, the characters really do make this story - even though it feels as though Jackson feels like he should have been at least 21due to all the drinking he's doing. Seriously. What 19 year old's do you know of taking their scotch neat?

Column B: Time travel in this novel is used a bit too divisively for my taste. In some cases the jump is about equivalent to an historical movie. The protagonist jumps back, can interact with the characters involved, even change outcomes - but the changes don't stick and the future is unchanged by his actions. In others, Jackson jumps back in a 'full' jump - but doesn't go back in his actual timeline, instead he's in something akin to a parallel dimension. It doesn't seem like Jackson can complete a full jump in the same timeline, or to go about it the long way, one where he can effectively change the actions in the past relevant to his current circumstances without just abandoning ship to another, entirely new dimension. Although, it seems as though some time travelers can. To confuse things even further everyone except those gifted enough to travel time is duplicated across however many of these parallel dimensions exist while only one of the time traveler peeps exists across all of them. In a strange way the time traveling aspect turned out to be a kind of similiar to that mid-nineties show Sliders - but without the pesky problem of consistently running into alternate versions of yourself, or the historical divergence. You'd think with all these timelines being created by the time travelers (or visited by them... I never really figured that one out), there would be some level of difference between them. But alas, each dimension (timeline? confused) seems to be a pretty good replica of the last one leaving finding what time they've landed in as the only real issue for the time traveler.  

Bottom Line: I could go either way with this one. The relationships in this book are engaging and the plot, while being a bit too heavy handed on the scattered and inconsistent time traveling, is a lot of fun. It's in that spirit that I've already downloaded the second book in the series, "Vortex". If you're usually reaching for YA fiction and enjoy titles like 'Whispers in Autumn ' by Trish Leigh than this should be added to your TBR pile. If, however, you're searching for the next great science fiction novel than I recommend you keep looking.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cover Reveal: 'Endre' by ST Bende

A few weeks ago, the incredibly talented ST Bende took some time out from her busy release schedule to visit with us here on TTP. Now she's gone one step further and I've been given the opportunity to share something with awesome with you guys: The cover of 'Endre', the newest book in the Elsker Saga!

Pretty cool, right? Personally, I'm loving the simplicity of the monotone trees and silvered text. Definite thumbs up from me, ST Bende - I approve.

What's even cooler is the official summary:

Sometimes, finding your destiny means doing the exact opposite of what The Fates have planned.

Winning the heart of an immortal assassin was a dream come true for Kristia Tostenson. Now she's knee deep in wedding plans, goddess lessons, and stolen kisses. But her decision to become immortal could end in heartbreak -- not only for Kristia, but for the god who loves her. Because while Ull would do anything to protect his bride, even the God of Winter is powerless against the Norse apocalypse. Ragnarok is coming. And the gods aren't even close to ready.

Yup. Totally going to be picking this one up when it gets released on September 23rd! What about you?

More about ST. Bende:

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the ELSKER series. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

You can follow ST Bende on Twitter @stbende, or send an e-mail to

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the ELSKER series. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

Author social media links
Twitter: or @stbende