The Betarrini sisters, Gabi and Lia, have spent every summer of their lives in Italy with their archaeologist parents. On yet another hot and dusty archeological site in rural Tuscany, these two teenage girls are bored out of their minds. The sheer boredom drives them to break their mom’s rule and enter an ancient tomb. When Gabi places her hand atop a hand print, she finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy in the middle of a fierce battle. With the introduction of handsome knights, castles, and intrigue, Gabi’s summer in Italy becomes much more interesting than she could ever imagine.
Sissy: We have done reviews of books that involved time travel before, but this one seemed to be a bit different and refreshing, don’t you think, Bubby?
Bubby: Yes I do agree. I think part of the difference may be location – in Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren, we are in the luscious land of Italy. Specifically, Florence and Siena. Complete with fabulous scenery and fabulous heroic men. I’m definitely refreshed!
Sissy: How old are you? And how does your hubby feel about your penchant for other fabulous heroic men?
Bubby: There is not a man on the face of this earth, real or fictional, that can compare in any way with my husband. He is without peer. However, that does not stop me from, shall we say, appreciating beauty and such when it appears in my life! Surely you were moved by the bravery and handsomeness of Luca and Marcello?
Sissy: Okay, I appreciate chivalry as much as the next gal (I think it is a dying quality), and I am all for handsomeness.
Bubby: Yeah – you married a fairly fabulous man yourself, especially in the handsome and chivalrous department. Apologize for slandering me!
Sissy: Nope. You are a creepy 14th century knight lover! And yes, my lovely hubby need not worry about my eyes wandering to fictional knights with bad breath. That reminds me– I love how Gabi describes the smell of her beloved, all manly and positive, and I’m thinking that he probably smells like rank, dirty sweat and rotten, stuck between the teeth food. But I guess that would take away from the romance…
Bubby: Bah, humbug. I am tired of your issues with the book genres we are reading – cozy murder mysteries have too many random dead bodies, foodie books have too many skinny people who eat anything they want and time travel novels have smelly people with bad hygiene. Me thinks you should just let go and FEEL. Become the story! Embrace the romance!
Sissy: Thank you, Dr. Phil. I am pleased with how well Gabi and Lia adapt to their situation and use their modern skills in the 14th century. I also enjoyed their bravery and prowess in battle, although I did have to suspend belief a few times to go along with them not being killed in some unlikely situations. I know that I would definitely have been dead. And really tired. And wanting a diet Coke. But all in all, I thought Lisa T. Bergren did a great bit of writing here.
Bubby: The author manages to put in a few clever plot devices (no, I won’t tell you what they are because that would spoil everything) that save Gabi and Lia from certain death once or twice.
Sissy: There are 3 books and 2 novellas in the River of Time series, and I read and liked them all. However, I had to take a break between them because there was just too much mayhem and battle and swordplay going on and I felt tense. I give Waterfall 3.5 bubbles.
Bubby: I enjoyed Waterfall immensely. I haven’t finished the series yet but it’s on the top of my to-do list. 3.5 bubbles from me too!
Click HERE to buy Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is the first of Joanne Fluke’s delectable murder mystery series featuring amateur sleuth and cookie store owner Hannah Swensen. The series is set in Lake Eden Minnesota, where Hannah was born and raised. When Hannah isn’t baking and selling cookies or stumbling upon a murder, she is dealing with her lovable but meddling mother and sister or spending time with her two equally wonderful boyfriends, Norman (the dentist) and Mike (the police officer). Full of humor, intrigue and great recipes, the Hannah Swensen Mysteries are a must-read for any lover of cozy mysteries.
Bubby: So I will just get this out there before Sissy has a chance to spread vitriol about my Friday Favorites pick. Yes, it is another cozy mystery – book after book of random dead people in a little town, totally statistically unlikely and unbelievable and why wouldn’t Hannah move to someplace safer already! I don’t care. I like cozy mysteries. It’s supposed to be fictional – it’s o.k. if it doesn’t seem plausible. Yes, it’s another book/series featuring food and/or chocolate. Yep. I like food. Especially chocolate food. I like books about people who make food. Deal with it. Yes, it’s another strong female lead. And? Is there a problem with that? I don’t think so! The Hannah Swensen Mysteries are GREAT READS. I don’t care what stinky Sissy says. Now I am done. Sissy, do you care to rebut?
Sissy: Speaking of butts, someone has a burr up theirs today. Since you’ve ruined all chances for my witty commentary about your ridiculous obsession with foodie cozy mysteries I’ll just say yep. I’ve read them. They are readable. People die a lot. People eat a lot and don’t get fat. That really bugs me because if I eat a lot I gain a lot of weight.
Bubby: Readable? That’s the best you can do? They are funny. Entertaining. The characterizations are excellent – tell me you don’t love the interaction between Hannah’s mom (a beautiful well-kept widow who knows best about everything) and Norman’s mom (also a widow who meddles a lot in her children’s lives)! What about the relationship between Hannah and her sisters? And Hannah and Mike and Norman? Epic.
Sissy: A bunch of tall Swedes who eat a lot and don’t get fat. And talk about food and put the recipes for their food in their book when I am trying to live a whole and non-processed food lifestyle.
Bubby: Who has a burr where?
Sissy: I am also tired of the love triangle between Bessie, Norman and Mike. What’s her name? Should be Crumbcake. That’s how I think of her. Anyway, Norman is stable and committed and responsible AND has chemistry with HannahCrumbcake. But she can’t choose between him and dangerous, player bad-boy Mike. Duh! Are we 15? You can tell that I have an interest in these characters and their stories are well written, so I’ll give you that.
Bubby: I have to admit, I do think she should just marry Norman and get on with life. But Mike is seriously yummy and a good kisser and, well, sometimes it’s hard to choose between oatmeal raisin and double fudge. Oatmeal raisin is better for you and tastes good but sometimes double fudge is all you want. Or two double fudge. Or three. (Unlike Sissy I find that cookies fit quite nicely into my whole and non-processed food lifestyle). I enjoy Joanne Fluke’s detailed descriptions of small town life. Having grown up in a ridiculously small town myself, I can relate!
Sissy: Bubby has been feeding me (get the pun?) these books for years now so yes, I am invested in the series. They are fun to read, fluffy, entertaining and don’t make me have to ponder my purpose in the universe, which is a good thing sometimes. The covers are big pictures of delectable desserts which is not necessarily a good thing, depending on my state of mind. Like last night. When I had a sudden, intense craving for something carb and sugar laden. But I ate some protein instead. Wouldn’t it be nice if Hannah Swensen had a side business of colorful organic veggies? On the cover?
Bubby: I see that someone has missed lunch and is experiencing irritability due to low blood sugar. Evidently the beef jerky that Sissy stole from my pantry an hour ago has worn off. Suffice it to say that whatever your personal nutritional philosophy, you will enjoy these books. If you are on a fitness and diet kick, as many are at this time of year, then read them for the mystery and humor aspect. If you are extending the holiday sugar and fat overload, then read them for the recipes. Either way, the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke are winners. I rate them 4 stars overall.
Sissy: Righto. 3 bubbles (but only organic, whole-grain, protein-rich bubbles) from me.
Click HERE to buy Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke from BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Julia Beckett has always known that Greywethers was her home, from the very first time she saw it at age 5. Now, 25 years later, the house is finally hers. But it’s not just a house. It also seems to be a portal back in time. Julia is unpredictably and uncontrollably thrust back into her former life as a 17th century woman named Mariana. As she continues to travel back and forth from past to present, her past experiences threaten to overtake her current life. Can she lay the past to rest or is she doomed to lose love in both lives?
Bubby: So for a few months now Sissy’s eldest daughter’s best friend Jenny has been bugging us to read this book. “It’s fabulous!” she said. “Marvelous! A must read!” And did we listen? Nope. Totally ignored her. Until one day she finally forced Sissy to buy and read Mariana by Susanna Kearsley – shortly after which Sissy told me to read it RIGHT NOW. And I did. And I am so glad. Hands down one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Sissy: I totally agree and thank you thank you to helpful Jenny Joonie Poonie. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley is a sweeping romance that spans across time. The writing is brilliant. This was one of those “don’t talk to me until I’m finished with this book” books – where your teenage boys are standing around looking hungry and you just tell them to go make themselves a quesadilla.
Bubby: It was utterly spellbinding. I was completely drawn into the character’s lives – I loved Julia’s brother Tom. I was concerned about how Mariana would escape the clutches of her evil uncle. I wondered who her 17th century love Richard De Mornay had been reincarnated as.
Sissy: Reincarnated as? Bubby, you cannot end a sentence with a preposition. It makes my insides writhe.
Bubby: Nope. Your inside writhing is coming from too many prunes, not my writing. Sorry about the improper grammar. I shall endeavor to improve myself. Anyway, as I was saying, was it the Iain the Scottish gardener? Was it the Geoff, Lord of the Manor from up the hill? Was it the bartender’s assistant? I shall never tell. You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Sissy: There are other secret romances in this story as well. I enjoyed the character of Aunt Freda Hutherson who has “the sight” and serves as a guide to Julia. She reminds me of myself because I think I have “the sight”, as well.
Bubby: You think you have “the sight”, do you? Just because Grandpa saw little blue men running around his house shortly before his death (he was 99 – and a little demented) doesn’t make you “gifted”. Sorry. If anyone around here has “the sight” it’s me. Cause I’m special. I love this book for so many reasons, one of which is the descriptions of the lovely English countryside. I’ve mentioned before that I like to pretend I’m British – this time I was pretending I was British, with a lovely home in the countryside, complete with herb garden and dovecote. Delightful.
Sissy: Pearls before swine. There is a reason that gifted people like Aunt Freda, Julia and myself don’t discuss our gifts with outsiders. But you are right about one thing. You ARE special. And you ARE British. I have the genealogy to prove it.
Bubby: I have predominantly British ancestors, but until I set foot on the cobblestones of the village square and have tea and crumpets with Devonshire cream in the village tea shop, I must remain, sadly, American. Boo. Perhaps we should plan a trip . . .
Sissy: Mariana is a wonderful book that filled me with anticipational anxiety as I waited with every page turn for her to pop back into the past. Would she be in danger? Would her body wander about unsafely in the present? Would she escape the plagues and imprisonment of the 17th century and be allowed to return? Would she figure out who her own true love embodied in the present? Read it. You’ll love it.
Bubby: Fantastic book. I am anxious to read some of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels. If they are even half as good as Mariana, buying them will be money well spent. I give this fabulous book 4 1/2 bubbles.
Sissy: Yes, you can buy them and then loan them to me! 4 1/2 bubbles from this member of the gifted community.
Click HERE to buy Mariana by Susanna Kearsley from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy Mariana by Susanna Kearsley from BookDepository.Com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
“Bertha Maude Anderson. Never liked my given name. Don’t it sound like some maiden aunt no one ever heard about until someone pulls a family tree out of a tattered Bible and all of a sudden there she is? Ma said I was scatterbrained. Mayhap she was right, if it’s any indication of the way my life turned out.” This is the beginning of Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders. When the circus comes to a tiny town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Bertha Maude Anderson falls in love. First with Cecil the elephant and shortly thereafter with his owner and trainer, Paytre (pronounced Peter). She decides to leave her life of toil and struggle and run away with the circus. Her journey leads her to true love, new friends, fame and danger as she becomes immersed in the world of the Gypsies and chooses her own path in life.
Sissy: I saw Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders on Amazon and had to try it out just because the title was so fabulous. It turned out to be quite a good book, so then my next task was to convince Bubby to read it. I’ve told you before that Bubby is a first class book snob, and getting her to read such a “colorful” sounding book took some doing. I admit that this premise is not our usual, but life would be boring if we never changed things up, right? I begin by saying that Inzared’s parents are pretty much nudnicks, and I despised them. They treat her so badly, you find yourself rooting for her to run away and join the gypsy circus. Now in what universe would grown people be encouraging children to run away with the gypsies? And join the circus? In this North Carolina hillbilly universe, I guess.
Bubby: Ahem. I feel slighted and insulted by the above comments. Book snob? Nay! Let us rather say, perhaps, that I am a bit choosier than the average girl (Sissy) when it comes to my reading material. Was I reluctant to read Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders? Yes. Am I glad I read it? Well, it wasn’t my favorite book of all time, but it wasn’t horrible either. Sissy seems to have fallen in love with it – in fact I am waiting for the elephant delivery truck to back up to her garage any day now. I am not quite so enamored but it was interesting and worth a read.
Sissy: Hey now! Mayhap you should stop lollygagging and start broadening yer horizons. Do I need to remind you that you were doing hillbilly talk for a while after you read this book? Just because L. Leander drops the nouns at the beginning of some sentences in true hillbilly style don’t mean that this particular brand of colloquialism ain’t capable of fittin’ into yer snooty patootie literary world! Inzared (can’t stand to call her Bertha Maude) is actually a very complex character who experiences many things in her life and grows by leaps and bounds in positive ways. And I am happily awaiting the sequel.
Bubby: I am truly at a loss for words. Sissy has fallen off the turnip truck. I am concerned for her well-being! Seriously, though, it is refreshing to read something completely different every once in a while. Inzared is a well-written, interesting tale that left me guessing the whole time. There was absolutely nothing predictable anywhere in this book. How could there be? I mean we’ve got circus people (The Amazing WolfBoy, The Human Skeleton, The 500-Pound Woman), acrobats, elephants, gypsies, wagons, the whole nine yards! We have a mysterious saboteur, travel, excitement . . .I could just go on and on.
Sissy: So in all actuality, circus life is probably not that glamorous but for Inzared, her dream come true love and found purpose make it wonderful for her. I am not needing to escape an abusive back-water lifestyle but this book tempted me to change my name to Naztrillia, Queen of the Human Nightingales and wear a huge sparkling ostrich-plumed headdress.
Bubby: OK, then. Guess I know what to buy Sissy (aka Queen of the Insane Bird People) for her next birthday. I wonder where the Vegas showgirls get their costumes and if they sell them on EBay?
Sissy: That’s better than what I’m buying you for your birthday- – a porcelain teacup with roses and a pinkie splint. (For those of you who are confused, read the Friday Favorites post from 01/11/2013). Naztrillia, Queen of the Human Nightingales highly recommends Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders by L. Leander. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: Bubby, Sole Remnant of the Sane People also recommends this book. 3 bubbles (with pink feathers on top)!
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
This is a retelling of the beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. In this enchanting version, Beauty hates her nickname (her real name is Honour) because she feels that she is the least beautiful of her father’s three daughters. Instead, she values her intelligence and her love of learning and riding. Her merchant father’s financial failure causes the family to auction off their belongings and move to the country where Beauty is grateful for her practical skills. When her father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle and an angry beast, Beauty agrees to go to the castle to spare her father’s life and eventually learns to love the beast.
Clara Gardner is part angel – an angel-blood. She is smart – she can speak any language fluently. She is strong and fast – she has to hold back so that the humans don’t realize that she is different. Most importantly, Clara has a purpose. It is what she was put on earth to do. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite know what it is. She has visions of a raging forest fire and a handsome boy who might need her help. But she is torn between what she is supposed to do and what her heart tells her is right. Clara must try to make the right choices – but how can she decide between two destinies?
Sissy: Well, this time I actually read these books first and told Bubby she must immediately read them. It’s hard to say anything without giving the story away. Let’s just say that I got so caught up in these books that I pre-ordered the final book (Boundless, coming out January 22, 1013). I usually do anything I can to avoid paying full price for a book because I am a cheap skate and so that tells you something about how good these books are.
Bubby: Unearthly and Hallowed by Cynthia Hand are truly riveting. I really enjoyed them much more than I thought I would. There is another series out there about a race descended from angels (I like it, I own them all – The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare) and I thought this would just be more of the same. Wrong. So very, very wrong. This is a story about love and choices and consequences. What happens when we don’t want to follow the path that is laid out for us? Does it matter who we love? What if we make the wrong choice – even if we think it’s the right one at the time?
Sissy: Oh, dear–Bubby is waxing philosophical again. What you have to do is just allow yourself to become engrossed in the story, thoroughly enjoy it, and suspend all deep thought until you’ve finished (that will be about January 23rd for me, when I’ve finished the third book.) Bubby accosted me with her deep thoughts such as “how often have we not met OUR purposes in life, and we don’t even realize it or the consequences?” and “you know, all that depth of feeling and romance occurs with high school juniors and seniors, like your son.” I say stop it! The romance in the book is beautiful and poignant and clean, but I definitely don’t want to think about my son being completely in love like that. And I certainly don’t want to review, at present, all my own purposes lost. This is Bubble Bath Books! Read the books and escape! Not read the books and have a university course.
Bubby: Sorry! I just finished Hallowed 10 minutes ago! It’s all still percolating through my brain. And who was it, may I ask, that I found wrapped up in a blanket on the couch a few days ago, tears running down her face? Oh yes. It was Sissy – having just finished Hallowed. Hypocritical much, sister?
Sissy: Yes, I felt the story. I was enraptured by its majesty. I was emotionally engaged. I was NOT, however, having a cerebral discussion with my college literature class. And my son is not allowed to be in love with anyone like that! He’s too little!
Bubby: Yes, while the romance was lovely and enthralling, I had to wonder what the heck their parents were thinking! Ah, but it’s just a story. I guess I might have gotten a little TOO caught up in it! The book is set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – a place I now feel the need to visit. But not until spring – I am not a big fan of cold and snow. Cynthia Hand’s descriptions are beautifully written – she makes me want to be knee-deep in a placid river, learning how to fly fish, just because it’s that lovely. And I don’t like to fish. Or even eat fish.
Sissy: O.K. Ditto on the fish. And wanting to go to Jackson Hole. This book is a thoroughly lovely read. I want to say more but there are too many ways to spoil so I just give both books 4 1/2 bubbles. I don’t know if I cried so much over the second book because our father recently died or if it’s just that emotional, so get out the tissues just in case.
Bubby: I didn’t cry at all but I think that was because Sissy warned me in advance. Just read them in the bathtub and then no one can tell if you’re crying or not. 4 bubbles for both books from me.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather have a dream of being Dublin’s newest and best catering company, appropriately named “Scarlet Feather”. Unfortunately, their families are not on board with their plans. Cathy’s mother-in-law disapproves of everything Cathy does – and her husband Neil doesn’t seem to notice anything Cathy does. Tom’s girlfriend has career aspirations of her own that don’t necessarily match up with Tom’s dreams. Scarlet Feather chronicles a year of hope and heartache, struggle and success as Tom and Cathy try to both realize their new dreams while keeping their old dreams alive.
Bubby: Sissy and I were strolling through the internet trying to decide on this week’s Friday Favorite when we came across Maeve Binchy’s website. Much to our horror, the opening post was a statement notifying us that Ms. Binchy had passed away in July. Since she has long been one of our favorite authors, and we are still mourning the death of our dear daddy in October, this came as quite the shock. I even got all teary (not that it takes much for me to cry).
Sissy: So in honor of Maeve Binchy, who we’re sure we would have been friends with if we’d have known her, we are reviewing Scarlet Feather. Something interesting about Maeve Binchy books is that they are written in a very specific style and not all people like them. Her books contain multiple characters and storylines that weave in and out amongst each other and this book is no different. In reading other reviews for Binchy’s books, I found that people generally either love her or hate her. Bubby and I love her characters, how you feel like they are your family and long-lost friends, and how delightful it is to meet up with them again in other novels.
Bubby: I must make two disclaimers right up front. First, Maeve Binchy’s books sometimes contain a smattering of less-appropriate language and/or the odd sexual innuendo. No F-bombs or heaving bosoms (if you know what I mean) but these characters sometimes make poor decisions. Secondly, I have to be in the correct mood to read a Binchy book. Sometimes (like when I had shoulder surgery last year) I will gather 5 or 6 of her books together and just read them one right after another. And then I want to wait a good long while before I read any more Binchy.
Sissy: Cathy and Tom are characters you like right away. Cathy’s husband Neil is indifferent, cold and dismissive. I wanted to slap him. Neil’s parents needed slapping likewise.
Bubby: Actually, can we just slap Neil’s whole family? Parents, Aunt and Uncle, even Cousin Walter?
Sissy: Slap away! *(There is no actual slapping involved in the making of this blog . . .usually). Muttie and Lizzie Scarlet are likeable real people, flaws and all. The story takes many twists and turns and sometimes readers don’t like the fact that things go really wrong for people in Binchy’s books – just like in real life. But everything always turns out for the best in the end.
Bubby:I have a soft spot for any novel dealing with food as I’m sure our readers have noticed by now. I was thrilled that the Scarlet Feather catering company was a success. Unfortunately, with success often comes sacrifice. Ultimately this book is about dreams and what they are worth. Is your dream more important than your marriage? Your children? Your honor? Hard questions with hard answers. I think that in the end, everyone in Scarlet Feather achieves their true dream – and the consequences that go along with that. There are some humorous bits and the dialogue between the characters is well written and enjoyable. And sometimes it’s just nice to read something where everyone elses’ problems make your own problems look tiny.
Sissy: Wow! That was so eloquent, Bubby! I am tempted to not tell everyone that you are a food snob and that you tried to buy me a bookmark today that said “Many people have eaten my cooking and gone on to live perfectly normal lives.” Therefore, since I am not saying that, I am also not talking about the food in the book.
Bubby: Was that last paragraph supposed to make any sense whatsoever?
Sissy: I just couldn’t think of anything to say after your rhapsodic paragraph that sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Anyway, read Scarlet Feather. And if you like it, read other Maeve Binchy books. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: Let me adjust my respirator here (no oxygen left in the room, you know). OK. Only 3 bubbles from me – I am still upset that Maeve Binchy passed away and so I won’t be able to read one of her books for a while. Grief is not logical!
Click HERE to buy Scarlet Feather from Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013