Saturday, December 27, 2014

'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline

Official Summary:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.


I've been holding off on this review for a little while now. To be fair, I probably should have posted something immediately after finishing it in the vain of "OMG OMG This book is AMAHSZING! Ahhhhh!" but I really do try to keep that kind of commentary for in-person, arm waving, full on animated, recommendations only. When writing for TTP, I try to keep it a bit more, um, sedated. And that is where I have failed you.

Because this book is absolutely worth picking up and you should have read it two months ago. Love, loss, science fiction, bad 80's pop culture references - it's got it all in spades.

Bottom Line: Sometimes I should just jump on and write the review, arm-waving OMG's and all. If you like video game culture, weird potential future scenarios, or science fiction written in the style of Stephenson (Snow Crash), you'll love Ready Player One: A Novel

Friday, May 9, 2014

'Double Blind' by Tiffany Pitts - Special Blog Tour Review!

Official Summary:

Delilah Pelham’s brother, Paul, is missing. She should probably be worried about that but honestly, he’s been in trouble since the day he learned the words “trust me." In fact, if it weren’t for his roommate, Carl, she would gladly leave him to his fate.

Carl is a good guy, even if he’s a bit of a dork. Okay, a large slice of a dork. Possibly the entire cake. But he wants to help, as do his gamer friends, which is how Deli finds herself in the middle of Hong Kong with the King of the Dorks, running from creepy guys with slicked-back hair and shiny black guns.

Back at home, Carl’s friends aren’t faring nearly as well. All they had to do was monitor the situation and feed Deli’s cat while she was gone. How could that possibly end in bloodshed? There is an answer, of course, but no one ever thinks to ask the cat.


Before delving into today's review I'd like to extend a warm welcome to all of those who traveled here through Sage's Blog Tour Portal. It's been an exciting couple of weeks hasn't it? And I've gotta say that I love being a part of the 'Double Blind' welcome wagon. I can say that right? Of course I can! This is my blog and I say what I want!

So, I've just finished this one (thanks to both Sage and Tiffany) and I've gotta say, while I was a bit skeptical through the first 20 or so pages, this one is absolutely fabulous. Not only does it keep you guessing throughout (as it should, given the title and all) but it's brimming with some of the best character's I've come across since 'Trail of the Chupacabra.' 

If I had to say one thing bad about this book, my statement would follow in the form of a question: Why would you give your leading lady the nickname Deli? Her name is Delilah - so why not Dee, or Lila? Just saying that the first few chapters would have probably been a better experience overall if I weren't constantly imagining a submarine sandwich.

Never mind the sweaty guy behind the counter making this.
Even then, this title proved to be so good that I got passed the perspiration dripping, completely out of shape sub shop guy I kept picturing in my head every time the name showed up after a few dozen pages. A feat that I honestly thought would have been impossible if you'd have asked sometime during the first page or two. In fact, I was so engaged in this one, that I found myself opening it up at work.*

Bottom Line: If you love books like ‘Domestic Violets’, Trail of the Chupacabra, or the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, I honestly think this one is worth the read. In fact, this one gets the T.T.P. satisfaction guaranteed. Yes, it’s just that good. I promise.

And bonus (!!!) because this is a Blog Tour and not just another book review I've got some additional details to share:

Author Bio

Tiffany Pitts grew up in the Seattle area in a time when the Super Sonics were huge and Starbucks was just a store at the end of the Market. Tragedy struck early in her life as her family moved to New Jersey mere months before Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” album hit record stores. It took nearly a decade to wean herself off the hairspray. But Seattle called her back, so she went; eventually earning a degree in Botany (pronounced “Bar tending”) at the University of Washington.

She made one more valiant attempt to leave the PNW after college by travelling around the country doing not much of value and making very stupid decisions. She is thankful every day that the internet was not a huge deal in those years. Then Seattle called again so she picked up and moved home where she spent many years being a scientist of middling talent in several labs that she absolutely did not blow up—except for that one time and everyone agreed not to talk about that any more.

Now she divides her time between writing fiction and raising two kids who are wonderful but, for some reason, won’t stop licking things. 

Tiffany can be found using the following Social Media coordinates:

Twitter:  @snickerpants
or on good ol' Facebook: Tiffany Pitts, Author

*And you'll just need to take my word for it when I say that the only other time I've ever been compelled to read a title during work was when I was still in the throws of the vampire mysteries that shall-not-be-named. I'm not going there right now. Really. I might not ever go there ever again. [angry]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

'Petals on the Wind' by V.C. Andrews

Official Summary:

For Carrie, Chris and Cathy the attic was a dark horror that would not leave their minds. Of course mother had to pretend they didn't exist and grandmother was convinced they had the devil in them. But that wasn't their fault. Was it?

Cathy knew what to do. She knew it was time to show her mother and grandmother that the pain and terror of the attic could not be forgotten...Show them. Show them -- once and for all.


I wasn't the only person to watch that crap Lifetime movie based "Flowers in the Attic", was I? No, of course I wasn't... although if I were I wouldn't be particularly upset about it. While it wasn't outright bad, it wasn't exactly a moving piece of cinema either. I mean, let's be honest here... it was a Lifetime movie. That's about as close as you can get to being a real potato when you're actually a Pringle. You know its nothing but processed garbage, but once you've had one you need to indulge in another. They're nothing but junk food for the soul. I know this. But I watch them anyway.

It's a curse.
A damned curse I tell you.

And after indulging in this strange form of rubber necking a life so ghastly what did I do? I downloaded this title, of course! Of course I did, because what did I see in the credits? You know what I saw. It's the same thing I see in dozens of other movies or TV shows that guides me down a similar path nearly every. single. time. I saw my call to action. I saw: "Based on "Flowers in the Attic" by V.C. Andrews."

I mean who doesn't love a good story about incest, crazy women who are somehow predisposed to become even more insane then the generation before and, oh, don't forget the truck loads of child abuse? Really what was I thinking? God, I wish I knew what I was thinking sometimes.

Bottom Line: If it weren't for the fact that it was only one of two titles I had downloaded to my Kindle when I boarded a thirteen hour flight then I would have given up after page ten. I usually try to avoid spoilers here but here's a big one: she never gets better! She never, ever, ever, gets better! Carrie surpasses her mom's level of crazy, she adds in grandma level crazy, and in some ways gets so stupid crazy batty that you hope she chokes on her own fist. Don't do it. And if you really feel like making a bad decisions today, instead of using your money to buy this book go outside and burn it. This one is braincell killer.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bridal Title 5: 'Dream Wedding on a Dime; 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride‏' by Bobette Kyle

Official Summary:

Getting married is like buying a house; it's a major milestone in life, and almost always, there is initial sticker shock. ("It costs how much?") Dream Wedding on a Dime; 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride is for those who cannot afford the average cost of a wedding or want to spend less.


I think the only other reviewer of this title on Amazon is missing the point completely. Having tied the knot myself only a few months ago I can tell you first hand that yes, you might be able to stumble on these techniques on the wedding websites and yeah, you might have a friend or two that's a veteran of the process and willing to share a few tips with you, but is all that searching around necessary when you can spend a few dollars on a title like this one and have all the tricks in one place?

Not only is this a well organized book that I could see being easy to reference when needed, but the tips Bobette shares are well articulated and the positives and negatives of each are explained in easy to understand language that you probably won't find in that hastily written Top Ten Ways to Save on Blah article you just googled. She also helps the hectic bride save time by including the links to the websites she mentions directly in the eBook text, something that many other titles I've explored in this category sorely lacked.

Bottom Line: The tips in 'Dream Wedding on a Dime' might sometimes border on the common knowledge of someone whose already been through the process, but to a newbie this reference would make an excellent starting point that would get even the most clueless among us up to speed quickly. If you've spent the last six months buried in wedding info than this title probably isn't for you, but if you're just starting out, or looking for a gift for someone who recently got engaged, this one definitely deserves your attention.

'Dream Wedding on a Dime; 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride‏' by Bobette Kyle was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The 80's As Remembered by Me, Through Books

Having been born in the 80's, it's one of my favorite decades - even though I can't remember a whole lot of it. That said, let's take a look at what I consider the top 5 titles that shaped my future love of reading at such an impressionable age.

1. 'The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary'

No early childhood list is complete without the title that taught you how to read and if it weren't for this title I probably wouldn't have. Hours in the living room with my parents patiently teaching me how to sound things out. 

I owe this cat, and my parents, a debt of gratitude.

2. 'The Story of Dr. Dolittle' by Hugh Lofting

Once I learned how to read, it's really all I wanted to do. I begged and begged for something to read and my dad came home with this.

I think I read it in a night and my mom quickly ended up having to add "bring Jess to the library" to her list of chores.

Unfortunately, I don't remember a whole lot about Dr. Dolittle or his animal companions. Aside from the fact that he could somehow communicate with them and magically make them better. But I guess that's all one really needs to know about this guy, isn't it?

3. Childcraft: The How and Why Library 15 Volume Set 

Does anyone else remember these things?  I'm pretty sure my mom bought them one or two at a time from the grocery store, but I know I owned all 15 of them, (actually, I'm pretty sure I still own all 15 of them, but now their in a box in someone's attic or basement), and I know I read every page.

For me, these books were absolutely fascinating. Pictures of ligers, articles about how the Native Americans or Ancient Romans lived, and amazing facts like people are animals*. Hours were spent with these books. I loved them.

4. 'Black Beauty' by Anna Sewell

'Black Beauty' was one of the last titles I would read in the 80's and not only was it depressing as all hell, but it taught me that both the children I went to school with at the time and the teacher could be insensitive, cruel and dumb as rocks.

I won't get into too many details, but first grade is one of the many reasons why I'm happy that I didn't end up finishing out school in the backwoods town we were living in at the time. Where I left, they told me that this book was too complicated and boring for the class to understand, and no one else my age had even heard of the title before I brought it in for show and tell.

Where I ended up it had been on the recommended reading list.

5. 'The Hobbit' by J.R.R. Tolkien 

One of the coolest things I remember at that age was visiting my first book store. What made the experience even cooler was that the bookstore in question was owned by my mom's best friends husband!

I imagine it was for me what most kids experience the first time they go to Disney. I was overwhelmed enough that I turned to the adults and asked them what I should read. Someone handed me this, it was awesome, and the rest, as they say, is history.

*So let me tell you a little story about the day I was invited to Sunday school. The girl across the street was a catholic and I was sorta friends with her, so when her church decided it wanted to open its class up to all the heathens for a day (i.e. Jews and other non-affiliated kids in our dust speck of a town), I was invited to go. And off we went to the basement of a church that had been decorated up like a kindergarten nursery and were told the story of Noah. 

Oh the heartache! Oh the tragedy!

"Any questions?" asks the teacher. Yup! I've got one, "If all the animals drowned, did they go to heaven?"

"No! Animals don't o to heaven, they don't have souls!" Ummmm.... "But people are animals, so people didn't go to heaven either?"

"No! People are special - we have blah, blah, blah - God decides and...." followed by a ton more garbage that I can't remember, and I just kept getting more and more upset until I think my mom had to physically drag me out of there kicking and screaming.

Not so ironically, it's the day I became an atheist.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn

Official Summary:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

 As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


I have to stop doing this. I have to stop seeing a book title everywhere and thinking I'm missing out if I don't add it to my TBR pile. I have to stop having thoughts like 'gee - it's on top of the NYT best seller list so it must be good' and 'someone is making a movie out of it so there must be something to it!' I have to stop doing all of this.

Instead, I need to remember that I can't stand to sit through 85% of movie theater drivel and life is too short to get all glossy eyed and subservient to our 'thought leaders' over in the NYT editorial office. Most importantly, I should remember what happened the last time I let myself get swept away in the must-read-it-madness... and someone is planning on making a movie about that one too, aren't they?

My point is that something can be critically acclaimed and still have a predictable plot line. It can be elegant social commentary, but absolutely empty of anything real, gritty or plain old fun.

Bottom Line: The characters are developed enough for you to have personal opinions about but don't fool yourself, you won't like them and they won't surprise you. The biggest 'meh' about the whole thing was the ending. Sure - I get it, but I think it was a cop-out and a disappointing ending given the narrative. Read this if you're a fan of contemporary fiction that leave you with a sense of cosmic justice but little else.

Have you read Gone Girl? Do you agree or vehemently disagree with my review above? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stop Wasting Your Time!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

'Painted Faces' by L.H. Cosway

Official Summary:

Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn't have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.

Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she's around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn't know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.

She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.

In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.

I always hate being on the fence about a title, but every so often it happens, like it's happening now with Painted Faces.

Why didn't it get the full green light? Answer is about as hazy as my opinion, I guess. I'm not going to run out and recommend this title to everyone I see because in a number of places during Nick and Freda's escapades the writing style seemed a little too familiar... a little too Gray, (and if you've forgotten my opinion on that 'gem' of literary history, here's the link).

But on the other hand, unlike it's genres defining cousin, Painted Faces does a number of things right. For example:
  1. It tells a one book story in one book. 
  2. It doesn't make either of the lead characters seem weak for the sake of being weak.
  3. There is zero BDSM in this one, but the adult scenes are still 100% working it.
Bottom Line: You liked the 50 Shades books, did you? Well I hated them. This title is written from a better place, has a better message and has funnier, wittier and generally likeable characters. Sadly though, the writing style can get a little too close to that piece of garbage, keeping it from earning a full go signal from this reviewer. If you like adult romance but can't stand it when the female character is nothing more than a brainless, undersexed zombie, then pick up Painted Faces

Sunday, March 23, 2014

'The Martian' by Andy Weir

Official Summary:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


There's this guy I work with whose a book geek like myself. Unlike me, he's usually got his nose in the next epic space odyssey (a la Dan Simmons) or technical fantasy novel (think Terry Brooks). Not that I don't appreciate those two genres for what they are - hell, some of my favorite titles are founding members of those categories - but unless they've got a bit more to them, I have a tough time getting into them.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it means that when either of us are gushing about the last best book discovery the other is usually trying really hard to withhold snark comments. Instead, we nod politely to one another and say something in the grandmotherly vein of, "It sounds lovely. I'm so glad you're enjoying it." and the conversation steers itself back on course*.

This time it was different though. This time, he was blabbing on about this amazing new novel he'd just picked up and couldn't put down about some guy getting left behind on the surface of Mars, and blah blah blah... I was feigning interest through cigarette drags as best I could but my glazed over expression must have given me away because after a few seconds he changed tactics.

"The first line is 'Well I'm pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked.' and it just keeps going from there."

I think I chuckled at that point, but even then wasn't 100% convinced. It took another week of him relaying a few choice lines before I conceded and downloaded the title.

I should have downloaded it sooner.

Bottom Line: From the first line to the last this book had me. If you like science fiction, a good laugh or even if you just had a fleeting interest in the movie Gravity you will adore this story, guaranteed. This one is a must read.

*The proper course usually consisting of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Almost Human, Helix, or any of the other dozen or so television shows that we both watch. We might not have matching taste in the literary sense, but it's pretty spot on in the T.V. category.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' (Dexter Morgan Series #1) by Jeff Lindsay

Official Summary:

Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened–of himself or some other fiend.


So you liked the show Dexter on Showtime, did you? Watched the finale and got just a little bit depressed that you'd never again see Michael C. Hall starring as the best antihero since Batman, hm*? Found out it was based on a series of books by some guy names Jeff Lindsay and got all excited, did you? Might have even thought that even if it were completely different, (because it would be wrong to not recognize that books and the media based on them are usually utterly dissimilar) there had to be something amazing on those pages... maybe something even better.

Yeah. Well about that.

Surprisingly, the talented writers, actors and staff of one of my favorite shows took a steaming pile of poo and only used it as the fertilizer for bigger and better stories and characters. Unfortunately, it means that this book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the steaming pile of poo. The author's got a great idea (obviously), but the whole novel feels flimsy. Poor characters, bad dialogue and I really didn't buy Dexter Morgan's ability to live behind the scenes without being caught red handed.

The one small redemption in reading it was that every so often it's possible to catch a glimpse of Dexter's personality, but it would flash by too quickly to make the book worth recommending to anyone. Well - maybe one isn't fair... it's second redeeming factor is that this book helped to create one of the best television series of all time, and for that I am eternally thankful.

Bottom Line: Even if you loved Dexter as much as I had, or are a usual fan of the mystery/thriller genres I'd say give this title a wide berth. I really wanted to love this one, and who knows, maybe high expectations were part of the problem, but it was impossible to get past the two dimensional characters or weak plot lines.

*You thought I was going to say I was depressed because that was one of histories worst finales ever, didn't you? While I'd be inclined to agree my opinions on the book and the series are trying to be civil with one another. I mean, what the hell was that?! A magical boat ride and an explosion later he's somehow living it up in the middle of freakin' no-where? Making the love of his life and his son... OMFG his SON!... think he's a dead man while he plays lumberjack? How many years of my life did I WASTE for this to be the closure? Seriously?

As you can see, it's not really working all that well.

It's Alive!

"It's alive!" Gene Wilder, ‘Young Frankenstein”
Hello and welcome back to TTP!

I know, I know, it's been too long. So long in fact, that you probably thought this blog had gone to the grave and you were nearly correct. It almost did. Almost.

The hiatus (as it will henceforth be referred) was brought on by a sever case of bride-brain. And while I kept reading throughout all the vendor calls, on-site appointments, dress fittings, and "parties" designed to make my poor bridesmaids do a fair chunk of slave labor fueled by wine, the idea of powering on a computer to do any writing at all was completely outmatched by the need to collapse into bed like a heap of laundry.

Starting this weekend the real fun begins! With over 30 titles in the review queue, two new book giveaways planned and a few author spotlights in the pipeline there's plenty to share.