Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is a painting titled “The Shell Seekers”, painted by her father. Penelope has recently had a heart attack which has prompted her to take inventory of the many experiences she’s had in her richly unconventional life. As her father’s works have become popular and are now worth a fortune, Penelope’s children each have an idea as to what should be done with the beloved painting, none of which Penelope likes. As she reminisces she realizes the perfect solution – one that would have thrilled her father and one that warms her own heart.
Sissy: The vague memory in my head was that I loved all of Rosamund Pilcher’s books, so I decided to review The Shell Seekers, which was one of her best sellers. While I still think the book is very good, in re-reading it I found that some of the characters live a rather more morally Bohemian lifestyle than I had remembered. Nothing spelled out or explicit–just mentioned as part of the story. That having been said, Pilcher doesn’t shy away from the consequences of such a lifestyle–which include unplanned pregnancies, loveless marriages, and some lost chances for true love.
Bubby: La la la la gardening, la la la la sandy beaches, la la la sunshine breaking through clouds, la la la art and romance, la la la . . .
Sissy: What are you doing, you crazy person?
Bubby: La la . . . what? Oh! Sorry. I was immersed in my lovely little kitchen garden in the back of my tiny stone cottage in Cornwall. You know, in my dreams! I think we should add Cornwall to
the list of places we absolutely must visit before you are too old to journey, Sissy.
Sissy: Well I’m so glad you haven’t been sipping the crazy sauce and are just doing your usual “Dame Bubby” dream world weirdness. I am having a significant birthday soon, so feel free to send us to Cornwall post-haste! However, I would be glad to not be there during World War II, as some of this book is. No bombs or rationing, please darling.
Bubby: As much as I would love to whisk you away for your significant birthday (70 is the new 30, darling!) I am afraid all my money is currently going to pay the plumber who is at this moment filling my home with strange fumes and has turned off all my water. So if I get a little loopy today, it’s the plumber’s fault, ok? I am always shocked when I read WWII era books at the deprivations ordinary people had to suffer through. No gasoline, no sugar, no chocolate!!, no new clothes, make it all yourself or go without. I feel quite spoiled. The Shell Seekers moves seamlessly from the WWII era to modern-day (about 1984 or so).
Sissy: Okay, so our main character Penelope is minding her own business and living her life in Cornwall, when she suffers a heart attack. This is the beginning of her life story. And p.s., in the far-flung future when I turn 70, I will be the sexiest 70 yr old you’ve ever seen! Any hoodle, Penelope’s 3 children appear and we get to know all about them and their lives. Two of them are completely selfish and bratty, and the other is at least a functional and compassionate adult. Each chapter is named after a character in the book, and the reader gets to travel back and forth through time and enjoy the ins and outs of the family saga. There is a lovely little art mystery woven in there as well.
Bubby: While I was reading this earlier in the week, one of my teenagers was giving me grief and I was getting rather annoyed. And then I read more about Noel and Nancy and Olivia, Penelope’s children, and suddenly my kid didn’t seem so bad!
Sissy: No, your kids are not greedy, backstabbing monsters who think they are entitled to everything and want to do nothing to earn it.
Bubby: Thank you, Sissy! I was appalled at the behavior of the so-called adults in this tale. At least Olivia had some sense and feeling and it was obvious that she was her mother’s favorite. My favorite characters, at least two of them, were Antonia and Danus. They were so sweet to Penelope and so in love and deserved all the good things that happened to them!
Sissy: A sweeping saga of family, love, and history, The Shell Seekers is good for an afternoon or two of getaway-ing. I give it 3.75 bubbles. And now I want to watch the movie!
Bubby: And it’s been made into not one, but two movies! One in 1989 starring Angela Lansbury as Penelope and one in 2006 starring Vanessa Redgrave, both of which were well rated (but 2006 sounds better). I can see a movie and popcorn night in mine and Sissy’s future! 3.5 bubbles.
The Woodcutter family has seven daughters, each named after a day of the week. The youngest, Sunday, has a hard time living up to the exploits of the other 6. Her only comfort is writing stories in her secret retreat down by the water – even though what she writes often comes true. One day she meets an enchanted frog who, unlike everyone else, is interested in her beloved stories. They become friends and soon Sunday’s feelings turn to love. One night she kisses him goodbye and goes home and true love’s kiss turns Rumbold back into a man – who happens to be the prince of the land. Now Rumbold hopes to woo Sunday into loving him as a man, just as she loved him as a frog. But the path of love never runs smoothly and both the Woodcutters and the royal family have many secrets in their histories. Can Sunday and Rumbold overcome their pasts and the magic forces pitted against them and form a beautiful new future together?
Bubby: The part I like most in this book is that Alethea Kontis drew aspects from pretty much every fairytale ever. However, the part I liked least in this book is that the author drew aspects from pretty much every fairytale ever. We have Jack and the Beanstalk, the enchanted dancing shoes, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and most importantly for this novel, the Frog Prince. It’s all very well done but it gets a bit confusing. The biggest irritation for me is that the writing that Alethea Kontis does is so very good and I feel that there needs to be more of her and less of everyone else. I am excited to read something from her that is hers alone and has no borrowing.
Sissy: In a rare and alternate universe sort of way, I agree with Bubby! Alethea had so much going on here (she even says herself that this book came from a story writing challenge to use every possible fairytale reference) that I sometimes felt it took away genuine feeling from the characters and story. I did love many of the references, especially the sister who ran away with the pirate king, but the sister who danced herself to death was too much. And the poor mom suffered guilt and pain because of all the dumb fairy tale references that impacted her life. I liked the main character, Sunday,and her friendship with the frog prince seemed genuine.
Bubby: How would it be to have 7 girls – and a few boys – with all the girls named after the days of the week? The depictions of each child are so rich and detailed – everyone has their own unique interests and abilities. For instance, Sunday’s ability is that what she writes down has a tendency to come true. And when Sunday’s mother speaks, people have to do what she says. I know that there are lots of bad karma-y things that come out of having special powers and such but I think that it would be worth it sometimes. Can you imagine? I say “Sissy! Buy me a fabulous lunch!” and lo and behold, she goes forth and procures me something yummy. Or “Disobedient teenage child! Clean the bathroom!” and poof – clean bathrooms! I am sure that I would only use this power for good and it should be granted unto me by my fairy godmother immediately.
Sissy: If I could, I would grant you that power, although I would probably almost immediately regret it! My favorite character in the book was Sunday’s fairy foundling brother Twix–their relationship was delightful, and he was delightful! Honestly, sometimes I got confused over which day of the week sister was who, and what fairytale we were referencing at any given moment. It was weird how I liked finding new tales, but then I didn’t. The woodcutter dad was a great guy, and the fairy godmothers were well-depicted. So I guess I am of two minds concerning this book. It was a good, magical story, but sometimes confusing and disjointed. Alethea Kontis has many moments of beautiful, prosaic writing, but other times, I felt a “clunk.”
Bubby: I loved Twix as well. He was the perfect fairy – childlike, capricious and kind. He reminded me of my own dear younger brother who is so sweet and loving and funny that he’s almost too good to be true.
Sissy: What have you been smoking? Or is there something that went on while I was away at college that I was never told about? You are the youngest child, and none of your older brothers would appreciate being described as “sweet, loving, and funny.” They would say “grrr” and hit you with a pair of deer antlers.
Bubby: Well, I DID say he was too good to be true. Oh, well. I enjoyed the “Wizard of Oz” -esque relationship between the two fairy godmothers; one good and one evil. Interesting how sisters are often portrayed that way in fairy tales. Hmm . . .
Sissy: When in reality sisters are usually a mix of good and evil, except in our case, where good prevails, mostly. So, all in all, this book was good, in a weird way, but still good. I want to see more of Alethea Kontis’ writing. I give it 3 wands, no, golden balls, no, dancing slippers, no, magic beans, no, pumpkins, no…BUBBLES.
Bubby: I really enjoyed most parts of Enchanted. The basic storyline was great, the characterizations were really well done and there was magic and princes and beautiful ball gowns. I give it 3 ½ bubbles and I am definitely going to read the sequel, Hero, which comes out soon.
Click HERE to buy Enchanted by Alethea Kontis at BookDepository.com
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© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Elantris was once the capital city of Arelon, a beautiful city filled with benevolent godlike beings. Each of these beings had been an ordinary human until they were transformed by the magical power of the Shaod. But 10 years ago the magic failed. Elantrians became misshapen and wizened, not quite dead but not quite living anymore and the city itself became a filthy crumbling ruin. Now there is a new capital city, Kae, which sits in the shadow of Elantris. A new princess is coming to marry Crown Prince Raoden but before she can arrive, Raoden is stricken down by the curse of the Shaod. He is secretly exiled to Elantris while his father tells everyone that he has died. But Raoden will not give up hope. Why did the magic fail? Can Elantris be saved? Raoden will do all he can to find answers.
Sissy: This was Bubby’s Friday Favorites pick, and I was not happy about it for a couple of reasons. Number one was the fact that I don’t generally like this sort of fantasy, number two is that my two teenage boys loved this book and that can be a telling thing, and number three is that it is over 500 pages long and at page 476 I turn into a picture-book loving toddler.
Bubby: You do know, dear Sissy, that I picked this book specifically in protest against your Lois Lowry books. I figured if you could choose a Friday Favorite I didn’t like, I could choose one you didn’t like, and the world would be in balance. You do have to admit, Sissy, that Brandon Sanderson’s writing is beautiful. Can’t you just SEE the city of Elantris? Gorgeous.
Sissy: I wouldn’t say his writing is beautiful. I would say it is interesting and descriptive and very good if you like this sort of thing. However, just to highlight my maturity as compared to yours, I did find the storyline to be very engaging, and enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. The descriptions of the cities and people are well done, but this is also the genesis of my dislike for this genre–too much description. Too many new cultures, languages, people, words, blah blah blah…when you have to give all the things a new name (can you just say “I ate a fish” instead of saying “ I ate a tutakara fish from the purple violet waters in the lake of zootuzinga where the ssassa people who came down from the great Hunbun mountains of the North singing and dancing the ritual clangaclanga dance of fertility, which involves intricate tattoos shaped like Ululanga birds.”) anyway, you get my drift. It gives me a headache.
Bubby: Wow. Well, now you’ve scared all our readers into thinking that Brandon Sanderson writes like an encyclopedia on an acid trip. The true difference is this – would you rather read something that begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.” or something more like “The skies above Bellangia were full of black menacing clouds that threatened to release a drenching rain upon our heads as we ran towards the safety of the . . .” you get the picture. It’s a word painting – a description of life and culture and surroundings in a place that you have never been. It’s no different than having to learn the words and names in a book set in India or Russia. Bah! Now I have a headache!
Sissy: Kind of like how you scared our readers into thinking Lois Lowry’s beautiful writing is like the death throes of dark and dangerous dystopia? And by the time I figure out who is from where and what language they’re speaking and what color their hair is, I wish the black, menacing clouds would release a drenching rain upon my head! However, after having waded through the multifaceted ethnicological descriptions in this book, I liked the story. I wanted to know what happened. Did the prince escape, find happiness and love, restore peace to the countryside, convert to Shu-Kudaraism? Yes, fair bubby, I wanted to paint myself silver and find out!
Bubby: Rant and rave much, Sissy? I am thinking that perhaps we should add a new segment to our blog – we could call it “Tuesday Tirades” and feature books I love and you hate. I suppose we could do it the other way around, too, just to be fair. But enough quibbling–back to the book. My favorite character is Princess Sarene. According to their culture, she should be a meek, mild, quiet recluse who spends her days painting, doing needlework, or engaging in other delicate, feminine arts. But she is not content to languish in the shadows, but rather wants to take an active role in life and in the government and not just look pretty.
Sissy: My favorite character is Uncle Kiin, who has a huge pirate axe and knows how to use it. Also he cooks. Sarene is an awesome example of true, powerful womanhood, and is well-matched with prince Raoden, who is the perfect balance of brave and smart, yet kind and compassionate. Too bad he has been overcome by the Shaod and has rotting patches of skin and all his hair fell out. Kind of a lust buster, don’t you think? All in all, the book was better than what I expected for a windbag, over 600 page tome, and I get how the fantasy world geekmeisters like Brandon Sanderson’s stuff. I give it a solid 3 bubbles.
Bubby: Elantris is fabulous! An exotic world, new and fascinating religions and cultures, magic, romance, it’s all there! How Sissy only finds it worthy of 3 bubbles, I’ll never know. Must be early onset dementia. Elantris is an engaging story set in a richly detailed world and I love it. LOVE IT! 5 bubbles. Yep, I said 5. Now go read it!
Click HERE to buy Elantris at Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy Elantris at BookDepository.com