In this second Christmas novella by Mary Higgins Clark we revisit two of her favorite characters, Alvirah and Willy Meehan. Alvirah and Willy are volunteering at a local after-school shelter when they stumble into a seven-year old mystery involving an abandoned newborn and a stolen treasured artifact – a diamond set chalice. The two must use all of their deductive powers to solve the puzzle before the shelter is closed for good and the chalice is lost forever.
Bubby: In years past, Sissy and I had a tradition of giving the newest Mary Higgins Clark thriller as a Christmas gift to our mother each year. Imagine how thrilled we were when Ms. Clark wrote her first Christmas novella, Silent Night, in 1996. Mom was thrilled too. In later years, Mary Higgins Clark teamed up with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark to write the annual story. Although our mom is no longer with us, we still enjoy rereading these holiday mysteries every year. All Through the Night is one of my favorites because of the main characters, Alvirah and Willy. They are featured in several other books and I love them in every one. They are a former housecleaner and plumber who struck it rich in the lottery but still maintain their working class sensibilities and humor.
Sissy: I covet Alvirah’s secret agent diamond starburst pin. I don’t know if it’s actually in this book but I think it is and when I see the name Alvirah I always think of that sparkling pin. This is not in any way your usual dark and twisty Mary Higgins Clark mystery, but rather Clark’s nod to the cozy mystery genre. Willy and Alvirah are like your favorite wacky great-aunt and uncle, only unlike my great-aunts and uncles they have pots of money. Why, Bubby, do we have no relatives leaving us pots of money?
Bubby: Because, Sissy, all of our relatives had lots of children and died penniless. Maybe Willy and Alvirah could adopt us? If they were real, I’m sure they would! My favorite character in this novella is little 7 year old Stellina. She is just the sweetest thing ever. I like my holiday stories to be light and fluffy with lots of snow, lots of cheer and a happy ending. All Through the Night provides all of that and more.
Sissy: This story has your requisite holiday newborn babe, only this one is abandoned in a church, the holiday sparkle, in the form of a stolen, jewel-encrusted chalice, and a Christmas theme name, Stellina (you know, as in stellar, or star). Why go with Mary, Carol, Noel, or Holly, when you can make up a new name? I love Mary Higgins Clark, but I hate the name Stellina. It’s like a mob wife name. I would have come up with something better, like Starlighta, Jingloria, or Awreatha. Right–back to my original train of thought. We have the feel good aspect of a saved homeless shelter, and a nice little tale all wrapped up in the end with green paper, red bows, and glitter spray.
Bubby: Awreatha? Wow. I don’t know why you didn’t use that name for your first daughter! Oh, wait – she was born in January, not December. She’s lucky you didn’t go with “Frostiana.” Whatever your preference in names, dear reader, you will like this tasty little morsel of a Christmas tale. 4 bubbles from Bubby-Claus.
Sissy: Yes, a perfect read for your Hawaiian Christmas vacation. 3 1/2 bubbles and Mele Kalikimaka from Santa Sissy.
Click HERE to buy All Through the Night by Mary Higgins Clark on Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy All Through the Night by Mary Higgins Clark on BookDepository.com
©Bubble Bath Books 2012
Bubby: Sissy! Our first contest went so well that I think we should do another. What think you?
Sissy: What’s behind door #1? A trip to Tahiti? A golden necklace? Or . . .Godiva chocolates?
Bubby: Ooo! Let’s do Godiva chocolates! They are better than a trip or a necklace (and our budget won’t extend to a trip or necklace anyway.)
Sissy: Right! So here’s what one must do to enter to win a deluxe one pound box of Godiva Chocolates: “like” us on Facebook AND leave a comment on our blog site about your favorite author and why we should review a book by them.
Bubby: What if someone ALREADY “likes” us on Facebook? Can they still win?
Sissy: Yessirree! If you’ve already liked us on Facebook, simply do the comment bit and you are in! Make sure that we have some way to contact you just in quesadilla you are a winner. There will be two winners, p.s., and they will not have to share their chocolates–they will each get their own. But how long does this bit of chocolatey cheer last, Bubby?
Bubby: The contest will stay open through December 31st at midnight. Of course this is all contingent on the world not ending tomorrow – but I’ve never trusted the Mayan calendar so I think we are all ok. Winners will be announced on January 2nd because we will be too sleep-deprived to do it on the 1st. Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year to all!
Sissy: I do like Mayan Truffles, however. Enter the contest! Win! Eat the best chocolates in the world! (Godiva never gave us nothing for saying they were the best, so don’t get your hankies in a knot!)
Bubby: Don’t forget that to win you need to “like” us AND leave a comment. Previous comments don’t count, no matter how much we like you. Good luck to all and to all a good night!
Sissy: Last word. (I just wanted to have the last word for a change.)
Sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has left a family party to escape to her childhood tree house t0 dream about the boy she likes and the future they might have together. The tree house overlooks the long country lane that leads to the family farm, which gives Laurel an excellent view when a stranger comes to visit. Suddenly, Laurel witnesses a shocking crime that will change how she feels about her family, especially her mother Dorothy, forever. Fast-forward fifty years into the future and now Laurel is a famous actress. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Laurel knows that if she is ever to find answers about what happened so long ago, she must get them now. As we learn the true story, we travel from pre-WWII England, through the war, to present day. It is an intriguing story about love, secrets, and unexpected consequences.
The earth has been invaded by an alien race simply known as “Souls” that take over the minds of humans and use their bodies. Most humans cannot resist and their consciousness disappears. But in the case of Wanderer, her new “host” named Melanie Stryder refuses to go silent. Wanderer never expected to have to battle with Melanie for possession of the body. Now as Melanie’s thoughts and feelings begin to influence Wanderer more and more, they must search for the man they both love and perhaps find a new home and new purpose along the way.
Bubby: I can already hear it. “What? Stephenie Meyer? Isn’t she that Twilight author? I hate/love/ignore Twilight! Another book by her?” Yes. She is the author of the Twilight series. But you’d never know it from reading The Host. No vampires here, sparkly or otherwise. No werewolves, no teenage love drama. Instead you will find a thoughtfully written novel about what it means to be human and what love really is. It’s so different from Twilight that one would think it was another author altogether, although, like Twilight, there has been a movie made – (coming out March 2013).
Sissy: This stunning new story concept from Stephenie Meyer is as un-Twilight-like as can be, which is fortunate because if it had been another vampire book I would have thrown myself into the gaping jaws of Hell (in a strictly non-literal, metaphorical way). This author has a very fertile imagination. So the premise is that alien silver worm-like creatures take over human bodies and thus take over the world making it a more “humane” and peaceful place. Sounds creepy, right?
Bubby: The interesting part is that the “Souls” don’t see anything wrong with taking over the humans. They have done this before on many worlds – Earth is just next on the list. They feel that by using the humans as hosts, they are making our world a cleaner, safer, better place. They have no understanding of how the humans feel about the conquest – humans are simply irrational and Souls are not. It’s not a war – it just is a way of life.
Sissy: This is a back-handed yet thoughtful treatment of racism and bigotry. What happens when the human consciousness and the Soul co-exist in the host’s mind? What happens when they begin to know and understand each other and feel sympathy for one another? And what about free will? This is my favorite of the author’s works so far.
Bubby: As Melanie and Wanderer spend more and more time sharing the host, each begins to more deeply understand the other. Unfortunately, this means that Wanderer starts to feel the same feelings as Melanie, including Melanie’s love for her boyfriend Jared. These feelings cause Wanderer, also known as Wanda, to go against her responsibilities and instead search out the little band of rebels hiding in a cave system designed by Melanie’s Uncle Jebb. There, for the first time, Wanda must deal directly with humans – some of whom want nothing more than for her to die and let Melanie have her body back.
Sissy: Oh my dear Bubby Muffy Boo-Boo. I feel that we are waxing so philosophic that we are becoming stodgy britches. Let us put in our cool silver rimmed contacts and talk about how a human can fall in love with an alien silver ribbon thingy.
Bubby: Ooo, like the ones the actors are wearing in the movie trailers? I am in!
Sissy: If the movie turns out to be as hideous as the first Twilight movie, I’m going to throw silver foil thingies at the screen in protest. You will like this book, my dear blog readers, because it is intellectually stimulating while at the same time being entertaining and romantic. Save the world. Make it a better place. For you and for me and the entire human race. 4 bubbles.
Bubby: Yes, I do hope that they don’t butcher the movie. That would make me very sad. I loved this book – I love that it explores alien invasion in a new and different way. I love that everyone ends up . . . well, I can’t tell you how everyone ends up but I liked the result. 4 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy The Host by Stephanie Meyer from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy The Host by Stephanie Meyer from BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
Gwyneth Shepherd has spent her life watching her beautiful cousin Charlotte being prepared to travel through time. Charlotte (by virtue of her birth date) is supposed to be the last in a long family line of travelers – the one who will usher in a new era. But everything changes when Gwyneth, without warning, is the one who travels off to a past era. Gwyneth now faces the task of learning 16 years of history, dancing and etiquette in just a few days as well as figuring out why her mother lied about her birth date. She also meets Gideon, the current time traveler from the other side of the family, who just happens to be a gorgeous teenager. Together Gwyneth and Gideon must travel through contemporary London and the London of the past in order to find out who they can trust and who is still keeping secrets.
Bubby: I must admit I have a soft spot for anything related to time travel. Wouldn’t it be so cool to be able to just pop back into the past and get to, oh I don’t know, maybe meet William Shakespeare? Or be at your parent’s wedding? Unfortunately for Gwyneth and Gideon, they don’t get to choose where or when they are going. It’s all determined by the “society”, a bunch of egotistical misogynists.
Sissy: I too like books about time travel however I have serious misgivings about stinky breath, smelly body odor and the lack of flush toilets so prevalent in exciting periods of the past. And for all us backwater hillbillies, what is a misogynist?
Bubby: A misogynist in backwater hillbilly terms is a he-man woman hater. Don’t worry – your dictionary is on order!
Sissy: I really liked this book and I was so happy to have book two (Sapphire Blue) right there next to me to dive right into. However, book three (Emerald Green) does not come out until fall of 2013 because it is being translated from the original German. What I would have given in the moment I came to the last page of Sapphire Blue to be able to read German! And they are also making a movie of it in Germany. I have a sister-in-law who speaks German so maybe I’ll have to hop a plane to Connecticut and watch it with her and make her translate.
Bubby: Or maybe you can find a version with subtitles – cheaper than a plane ticket, yes? One of my favorite parts of this book is the period fashion. The society employs a French seamstress, Madame Rossini, who takes great delight in costuming Gwyneth and Gideon in perfect attire. The descriptions are just scrumptious – makes me want to strap myself into a corset, pop on a few dozen petticoats and a lovely frock in watered green silk and head off to a tea party.
Sissy: Substitute some Spanx for the corset and I’m in. Like I said before, these books are very readable and I’m amazed that good writing can be translated into other languages. The one thing I’m hoping for in the third book is that Gwyneth grows a spine. Her Aunt Glenda and cousin Charlotte plus all the stinking male chauvinist pigs say the rudest things to her and she does not fight back. If someone told me that I was brainless, underdeveloped or inferior, I’d be on my soapbox so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them! Of course, that is my mature and wise, non-sixteen-year-old self speaking. If I could go back in time to age 16, there are certainly some things I would say to some people.
Bubby: I agree. I understand that Gwyneth is way in over her head with all the new developments in her life but I sure hope that Kersten Gier gives Gwyneth more self confidence in the final book. I also hope all the secrets are revealed; what happened with Lucy and Paul? What is going to happen when the Chronometer is filled? What side is Gwyneth’s mom really on? What’s Gideon’s role in all of this and how does he feel about Gwyneth?
Sissy: Actually I read a review from an Austrian blogger who says that it is all wrapped up very nicely in book three, which just made me jealous of the bilingual Austrian blogger. I also want to know what happens to that nasty piece of work, Count Saint-Germain, aka Darth Vader (you’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean by that). If I ran into Count Saint-Germain, I would whack him over the head with Bubby’s very heavy anodized aluminum frying pan. Yes, I would!
Bubby: Not with my pan you wouldn’t! You know how much good frying pans cost these days? Just pelt him with one of those overgrown hockey pucks you call muffins! He’d go down and stay down!
Sissy: Wow. Bubby the Patron Saint of Gourmands has truly hit below the belt this time. I’m speechless.
Bubby: If I’d known that all it took to make you speechless was to insult your muffins, I’d have done it long ago! Ha! *Rimshot!* I’m here all week!!!
Sissy: Okay, you should go on tour. You could call your act “Bubby! – Queen of the Exclamation Points! Live!!” (Or “Queen of Refuse”, to quote The Princess Bride). Back to the book. You will really like it. Yes, it is another YA book but these days it’s hard to find adult audience books that are not steamy bodice rippers. I give it 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: Nothing wrong with YA books. Helps us to pretend we still are young adults. 3 1/2 bubbles from me as well.
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
Fairy Godmother Desiderata has died without doing any estate planning – leaving Princess Emberella at the mercy of the not so good and wise Godmother Lilith. Lilith is dead set on having a happy ending no matter what and she’ll stop anyone who tries to get in her way. Now a trio of witches from a neighboring land, Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg, must travel via broomstick to Genua and make sure that the age-old story of servant girl and prince ends differently this time. During the journey the witches face vampires, werewolves and even falling houses before they can battle it out with a power mad woman who is eerily familiar to one of their own.
Sissy: This book is not for people who take themselves too seriously. Terry Pratchett is a wickedly funny satirist and overly stuffed shirts might find him silly. But as I told my friend the other day, if you don’t take time for silliness in your life, your soul becomes constipated.
Bubby: Ooo, which friend? Can I guess? Never mind, I’ll be nice.
Sissy: In Witches Abroad, Pratchett revisits many familiar fairy tales. He teaches us about sensible magic and manages to crack me up on every page. Even the character names are hilarious. I tried to read funny bits out loud to my 17-year-old son today and he just looked at me like I was a blooming idiot.
Bubby: Yes! That’s the same reaction I get from my husband. I own almost everything Terry Pratchett has written and I often find his books so hooting funny that I laugh out loud. I try to share the funniness with my family but they are too closed-minded to appreciate dry British humor. That’s the disclaimer with these books. It seems that a reader will either find them side-splitting or just a pain in the side. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. If you appreciate old BBC television shows like “Fawlty Towers” or “Keeping Up Appearances” then you will enjoy Terry Pratchett. If not, well, just move on to the next review.
Sissy: Reading this book kind of reminded me of watching the movie Waking Ned Devine. And if you don’t like that movie, then skip this book and read Tolstoy. Or something from Oprah’s book list. The three witches, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick and Granny Weatherwax (see, can you even say that without giggling?) have great adventures amongst the “furriners” on their travels to the city of Genua.
Bubby: And Greebo, the salacious cat who is deadlier than a troop of Green Berets – can’t forget him.
Sissy: Greebo, who had “skin that looked less like a fur than a piece of bread that had been left in a damp place for a fortnight (and who) would attempt to fight . . . anything up to and including a four-horse logging wagon.”
Bubby: We don’t usually use quotes straight from the book but Pratchett’s writing is too good. One of my favorite things is Pratchett’s footnote explanations. For instance, he will mention “Bear Mountain”, which should have been called “Bare Mountain” (no trees, you see) and then put an asterisk at the end of the paragraph which links to a footnote on bad spelling, explaining all about when a badly educated deity cursed the seraph of Al-Yabi and how he was cursed to turn everything into Glod, who was a small dwarf from some mountain community thousands of miles away (instead of gold, you see) and now all the people in Al-Yabi are short and bad-tempered and it’s just so dang funny and, well, I can’t do it justice. Just go read the book already. I own it. You can borrow it.
Sissy: Unrestrained frivolity. Monty Python (but more literate and less crude) meets The Brothers Grimm meets Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Ha! Which brings me to my next point – why do we like books with magic and witches?
Bubby: We? As in us, sisters Bubby and Sissy? Or as in we, the human populace at large? Or we, imperially speaking, meaning you?
Sissy: What a frothing waste of words, Bubby. We (you and me, the Bubble Bath Bloggers) are not pagans who routinely light black candles and dance naked around the firepit.
Bubby: Well, except for last Thursday when –
Sissy: Shut up. I’m not done. We like books with magic and witches because they are good imaginative fiction. I don’t believe in magic because I believe that magic is simply science that I don’t yet understand. So all you uptight Harry Potter-book-burning, rioting peasants relax. We are not a coven.
Bubby: Because there’s only 2 of us and you need 3 for a proper coven, everyone knows that. No, seriously. No witchcraft practicing going on here.
Sissy: Okay. Now, back on topic. Read the witchy magic book. It’s good. 4 bubbles.
Bubby: Yep. Delightful. Be aware that not all Terry Pratchett books are created equally – if you’d like a list of which ones to read in which order, leave a comment or shoot us an email and I, Bubby, will share my knowledge. 4 1/2 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett from BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
A plague has swept through the Fifteen Realms, decimating the populace. It is believed that the dreaded disease was created and spread by the Healers – people who have the ability to absorb the wounds and diseases of the ill and injured into themselves. Throughout the land Healers are hunted and executed for the gold bounty on their heads. One such is a young woman named Avry of Kazan – only half-trained before the plague hit. Avry lives her life in hiding, revealing herself only when her desire to overcome suffering outweighs her need for safety. When she heals a small child, she is turned over to the town watchmen to await execution. Suddenly she is rescued by a stranger who wants to use her powers for his own agenda – to heal a plague infected prince who is the enemy of her people. As they make the daunting journey across the Nine Mountains they are attacked by mercenaries and encounter a multitude of magical dangers. As Avry learns more about the origins of the plague and the hidden motives of the Healer Guild she must face the fact that healing the prince may cost her own life. And not healing him may cause a war that will cost the lives of everyone around her.
Sissy: The story is full of magic, adventure, intrigue and romance. You really never know what’s going to happen next in the lives of a group of characters that you feel attached to immediately. Avry is the perfect heroine with a mix of compassion, femininity, courage and fighting skills. Her magical powers of healing are only the beginning of her potential. As the book unfolds you realized that Avry is so much more than just a Healer. I am excited to peel back even more of her layers in the next book of the series (Scent of Magic, available December 18, 2012).
Bubby: Wow. That was a mouthful, Sissy! I see that you really like this girl! I did too. In the first pages of the book, Avry is faced with an ethical dilemma – does she keep her powers secret, keep herself safe and let a little girl die or does she heal the girl, knowing that might mean facing her own death? Obviously she chooses to heal little Fawn. This sets the theme for the entire book. Avry would always rather do what is right than what is safe.
Sissy: Yes, Avry is much like myself. Always wanting to do the right thing.
Bubby: I roll my eyes in your general direction, dearest sister.
Sissy: The problem Avry has is that she never knows who to trust. Everything that she has believed in all her years could be wrong. Does she go ahead and let herself have feelings for a man who participated in the decimation of her people?
Bubby: Yes, and is the Healer’s Guild really the wonderful altruistic organization she thought it was or are they actually responsible for the horrible plague?
Sissy: Avry has lost all of her family except for her sister from whom she is estranged. That is completely unimaginable in my world. I would rather have a toothpick stuck horizontally in my nostrils than be estranged from my dear, dear sister.
Bubby: Awww! That is so sweet! I’m glad that this is published so that I can show it to you next time you decided to disown me! I love you too. You are strange, to be sure, but we are anything but estranged. To be without loved ones is truly something I cannot even fathom. I need a piece of chocolate just thinking about how awful Avry’s situation is.
Sissy: THis book has lots of exciting mysteries to solve and skeewumpus relationships to sort through.
Bubby: Skeewumpus? Wow. (Already ordered her a thesaurus for Christmas, don’t worry).
Sissy: AND it’s all very engaging and well written as is usual for a book by Maria V. Snyder. Bubby is just jealous that I am a wordsmith.
Bubby: *snort*. Wordsmith. *SNORT*.
Sissy: Of the Wordsmith Guild. You were not chosen as a child like I was.
Bubby: This is why I don’t drink carbonated beverages around you anymore, Sissy. I have ruined one too many shirts with the Diet Cola spewing as a response to your, ahem, imaginative wanderings. I must get back to the book now and mention that I have great respect for our author. I have read several series by her and it’s fascinating how she can write equally well in a fantasy/medieval genre like this book as well as in sci-fi like her last series (Inside Out and Outside In). Her characterizations really make the stories come alive.
Sissy: “Her characterizations really make the stories come alive”?
Bubby: That’s what I said.
Sissy: Who are you? Scholastic Press? The Weekly Reviewer? Where is your imagination? Let’s hear something new!
Bubby: Alright. How about this? Snyder weaves a rich tapestry of magic and mystery as she draws us into the saga of Avry of Kazan. Avry is a delightful rendering of a young woman at a crossroads – torn between her duty and calling as a Healer and her love of a man who has wreaked atrocities against her countrymen. How’s that, Sissy?
Sissy: I swoon. I faint. I wipe my fevered brow with a cold compress at the complexity of your verbalizations.
Bubby: Ha! Who’s the wordsmith now, huh?
Sissy: So back to the story, go out immediately and read it. It’s really good. Oh, and we forgot to mention the Death and Peace Lilies. Even the flowers in this story have personality! I give it 4 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: I can’t wait for the sequel. Maybe if I am really nice Sissy will buy it for me for Christmas. I give it 4 bubbles.
© Bubble Bath Books 2012