Bubby: We’ve turned one and we want to celebrate with a contest!
Sissy: What’s the prize, Bubby?
Bubby: Well, it’s getting cold in our neck of the woods and what’s better on a cold day than curling up with a mug of delicious hot cocoa and a good book? So we’ll be giving away a gift basket of gourmet cocoas.
Sissy: What, so they can sip cocoa and stare at the wall? I think we need to give away something more. Since we’re a book blog, how about a book?
Bubby: Brilliant! Hot cocoa AND a book! How does one win this fabulous prize, Sissy?
Sissy: If you want to win, you have to share one of our blog posts on your Facebook page and then leave us a comment, either on Facebook or on our blog and make sure to let us know how to contact you. So in a nutshell, share and comment to win!
Bubby: We will choose 2 lucky winners in a random drawing on November 13th. Winners will get to choose ANY book that we have reviewed in the past year. Please let us know if you’d like your book in digital or traditional format.
Sissy: So get sharing and commenting because we would LOVE to send you a prize.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending. (From Goodreads.com)
Sissy: First of all, if I were rating the covers of the books in the Selection Series, straight 5’s baby. Each cover has a lovely girl in a stunning dress that any girl of any age would want to wear. When I saw the cover of the first book, The Selection, I was immediately attracted to it, like a magpie to a diamond. And the final book, The One, is coming out in the spring. See, aren’t they gorgeous?
Seriously, could I just wear that white gown with my tiara? I swear I would never take it off! Fortunately, the stories are just as fabulous as the fashion.
Bubby: I. Want. These. Dresses. I don’t know what I would do with them, maybe just hang them on the wall as art? Wow. But let’s get into the story, here. So The Elite is book #2 (you don’t technically need to have read book #1 but it helps) of 3 books total, not counting the 2-in-1 novella book called The Selection Stories. These shorter stories tell a little background about our main characters. I haven’t read them yet, but Sissy has! Speaking of characters, I have a bit of an issue with our male leads. On one hand we have dashing Prince Maxon – heir to the throne of Illea, handsome, rich, all that and a bag of chips. On the other hand we have Aspen – childhood sweetheart of America who has become a palace guard just to be near her. Also handsome and dashing etc., etc. Here’s my problem. They are both twerps. Maxon is a lustbucket. He says he loves America but then he’s off snogging with the other girls. And when he gets caught he’s not even remorseful! And Aspen. First he loves America and then he breaks up with her and now he wants her back. I just want America to have a man who wants her, only her, with no strings attached. I don’t think either of these guys has her best interests at heart.
Sissy: Are you sure you’re finished? Or do you want to write another five pages? Don’t mind me, I’m not doing anything. *Yawn*
Bubby: Well, actually –
Sissy: Step away from the computer. Yes, the romance is delightfully frustrating. I just want America to decide! I like the premise of this series. A dystopian former USA cum United States of China (because China really owns us, surprise!) cum Kingdom of Illea. We have returned to a monarchy and put in place a caste system to “protect” the citizens from their own ignorance. To show the good citizens of Illea how down-to-earth monarchy can be, the crown prince is allowed to choose his bride from any caste. Maxon struggles between standing up to his father (evil despot!) and waiting to be in power himself so that he can change things for the better. Oh, the roiling conundrum!
Bubby: Yes, there is much intrigue and connivery (yes, we made up the word. Deal with it.) going on in the palace. Maxon is sneaking around and trying to defy his father, America is sneaking around with Aspen and there’s lots more that I just can’t tell you about. You’ll have to read it for yourself.
Sissy: The quote from Publisher’s Weekly best sums it up: “A cross between the Hunger Games (minus the blood sport) and The Bachelor (minus the blood sport).” Ha! Would that I had been clever enough to write that quote! 4 bubbles from me.
Bubby: Lots of fun. 3 3/4 bubbles from me.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Click HERE to buy The Elite by Kiera Cass at Amazon.com
Sissy: Someone had the great idea of recruiting different authors to write retellings of favorite fairy tales and call them Once Upon A Time. We have chosen two of those, Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguié and Snow by Tracy Lynn, to review for you this week. Midnight Pearls is based on The Little Mermaid and Snow is, of course, based on Snow White. Each of these has an interesting twist on the original story; one is a merperson/human love square and one involves human/animal mutants. Yes, you read correctly.
Bubby: I know that someone out there is saying, “More fairytale retellings? Haven’t you already done that? Why would we want to read more of those?” Well, you naysayer you, let me tell you why. There is a reason why singers keep recording new versions of classic songs and authors keep rewriting fairy tales. When something is good, it’s good and it’s so much fun to take something classic and put your own spin on it. One of my favorite stations on Pandora is an a capella station that is all covers of popular songs redone without accompaniment. It’s fabulous. I feel the same way about fairy tales – and I especially love this series because they are so well done and unusual.
Sissy: I thought these were rather cleverly done. If I had to choose my favorite of the two, it would be Snow, because of Tracy Lynn’s interesting characterizations. If you like this kind of story (always a guaranteed happy ending!) you will like these and you will want to look up the others (19 of them, including several by one of my favorite authors in this genre, Cameron Dokey).
Bubby: Both stories are beautifully written and are just the thing to cure the “oh crap it’s almost winter” blues. There is nothing quite like a well-done fairy tale to make me feel all happy and bubbly – they’re almost better than chocolate. Almost.
Sissy: Also, in the midst of one’s “oh crap it’s almost winter” moment, one might only have a small bit of time to read and these are short little delicious nuggets of around 200 pages that can be nibbled up in no time. You will still have time to haul out the warm clothes and snow boots and dig up the last of your garden and go to the children’s fall concert, etc., etc. I give them a magical 3.5 bubbles each.
Bubby: It’s kind of like Disney Princesses for grownups. Delightful. A collective 3.5 bubbles from me as well.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Click HERE to buy Snow by Tracy Lynn at Amazon.com
Click HERE to by Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguié at Amazon.com
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us. (From Goodreads.com)
Bubby: So I am frantically rushing around my house getting ready for a family vacation and I get a message from the fabulous Amy Harmon. “Do you want an advanced copy of Making Faces?” she asks. Well, duh! I am not sure if I was more excited about reading Making Faces or going on vacation!
Sissy: It was Fall Break and my son and I decided to have a total reading and treats day.
Bubby: Every day should be reading and treats day!
Sissy: It just so happened that the literary gods were smiling upon me because my inbox contained Amy Harmon’s new book, Making Faces. My son and I grabbed our books and treats and climbed into my king-size bed, yes we did, and read for hours. When I emerged from the cocoon of reading, I was crying. I immediately went to my computer and sent an email to Amy Harmon (may she live long and prosper) and told her basically that she is not an author but a goddess of the written word.
Bubby: I wish that I had been able to immerse myself as you did, Sissy. As it was, I had to grab a page here and a page there between zoo visits and beach trips. I want to read it again so that I can experience the full impact.
Sissy: One of the things that kept going through my mind as I read this story was that it is unbelievable to me how a fantastic author can come up with these characters and situations, do all the research and weave it together seamlessly, all the while using the most perfect language that evokes deep emotion from my soul. When I am thinking these things, it’s like my whole self is validating this author as one of the truly gifted ones. That is honest-to-goodness how I felt.
Bubby: So what you are saying here is that you like Amy Harmon’s books and you think she should write 20 bazillion more? Me too.
Sissy: Yes. Some authors should stop writing immediately, or take a class perhaps, but at the other end of the spectrum are the Olympic Gold Medal authors, so to speak. I am not an author but I have Spidey-Sense when it comes to sniffing out the good ones.
Bubby: A big part of the story here is centered on high school wrestling. That just grabbed me right from the start and made me want to know more. Back in the day, most of my guy friends were wrestlers. My dad and two of my brothers wrestled. So did most of the men in my husband’s family. It is an intense sport and you either love it or hate it. Obviously, Amy Harmon is a fan. The bonds between Ambrose and his teammates are deep and strong – they are family, almost more than if they had been brothers. It’s important to understand the depth of their relationship because for me, that’s what drives the story. They wrestled together, they go to war together, and even when they are no longer together (I SO want to give a spoiler here) their hearts are still knit as one.
Sissy: Bushwah, Bubby! Wrestling is simply a backdrop that showcases Ambrose’s beauty and prowess. It’s a story of redemption, of the emergence of inner beauty over outer. Fern has UGS, Ugly Girl Syndrome, which is something that all women can understand to some extent, but has inner beauty in spades. Everything Fern is on the inside is what attracts Ambrose – she is everything he needs and wants to be.
Bubby: As much as I enjoyed watching Fern and Ambrose’s relationship unfold, we are forgetting my favorite character. The hero of this story is Bailey. Bailey has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair. He could be a pitiful character who feels sorry for himself and his fate but he is not. He is hilarious and strong and amazing. If you want a great love story, read this book. If you want a good look at small town life, read this book. Looking for a band-of-brothers type story? It’s in here. But for me, the heart of Making Faces is Bailey. Because of Bailey, Fern is the caring, giving woman that Ambrose loves. Because of Bailey, Ambrose finds redemption. Because of Bailey. All because of Bailey.
Sissy: Bailey’s story is especially poignant. Heck, the whole thing is poignant and moving out the wazoo. Making Faces by Amy Harmon would make an excellent movie (hello, Hollywood? Hello?) It does have some language (not F words) and is sometimes grittingly realistic so maybe not the best choice for our younger readers). I personally loved it and will give it 20,000 bubbles.
Bubby: We only go up to 5 bubbles. Try again.
Sissy: I do what I want. Amy Harmon is my favorite author in the universe. If she needed a kidney I would give her mine.
Bubby: Allrighty then. I may not feel QUITE as strongly as Sissy about Making Faces (and about Amy Harmon – any extra kidneys Sissy has belong to ME!) but I did love the book. 4 3/4 bubbles from me.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Click HERE to buy Making Faces by Amy Harmon at Amazon.com
After having her heart broken twice, Alicia Dayne has sworn off men, decided to concentrate on her career, and is delighted to win a lucrative contract to make a commercial for Highborn Mattresses. She could make the most awesome fairytale commercial ever, except for Jonas Highborn, who isn’t exactly thrilled with her Princess and the Pea ideas, and really doesn’t want a prince in tights representing his company. Though he’s trying to keep his grieving mother happy by letting her have charge of the commercial shoot, and though Alicia’s trying to keep in mind that this annoying guy is her boss for the moment, they can’t seem to keep from clashing. Throw in an overly-handsome prince, a matchmaking mama, and a stunning rose garden, and maybe, just maybe, Alicia can be convinced they have a chance at something real. Because while she might not be a real princess, sometimes an ordinary girl’s got to take a chance, even when it seems too good to be true. (Synopsis from Goodreads.Com)
Sissy: Sometimes after having a rousing good political discussion with my daughter or trying not to be worried about the state of things on Capital Hill, I just want to read something so happy and non-threatening that I turn to a fluffy bit of literary froth like The Princess Problem by Diane Darcy. This soothes the savage beast and takes me away from the tragic turnings of reality. A delightfully creative reworking of The Princess and The Pea.
Bubby: You know when it’s cold outside and not the good kind of cold but the nasty drizzly I-live-in-a-snowcone kind of cold? And you are grumpy and can’t get warm? And then someone (like Sissy) makes you a cup of cocoa and brings you a blankie? And then you feel all better? Yep. That’s how this book made me feel. All warm and snuggly and happy. I do have a major issue with this story, however. It’s too short! I needed just a bit more. It was like having only half a chocolate bar. I need the whole bar! The whole entire bar, people!
Sissy: I was just about to say that The Princess Problem was almost too fluffy for me and then I glanced down at my hands, which I just polished with my 8-year-old niece’s pink glitter polish, complete with sparkling flower jewel, and noticed the eight strand seed pearl bracelet wrapped around my wrist and I realized that if I were a stripper, my name would be Fluffy GlitterSparkles. The prospective mother-in-law Willa Highborn is my favorite character because she is glamorous and elegant but at the same time warm and mischievous in her matchmaking. She reminds me of myself, really.
Bubby: Seriously? Must every review include how a main character “reminds you of yourself”? Especially when you describe her as elegant – right after your stripper name. Heavens.
Sissy: Don’t be jealous of my great depth of character that is similar to –
Bubby: Great depths of sewage treatment ponds?
Sissy: Your rudeness is unbecoming the sister of someone who resembles literary giants, which is how I was going to end my previous sentence. Anyway, there was some tongue-in-cheek cleverness in Diane Darcy’s writing which I enjoyed, such as the last name Highborn.
Bubby: The cleverness of the writing is really what saves The Princess Problem from being a complete sugar overload. There is just enough snark and sass to balance out the sweetness. Alicia and Jonas have delightful chemistry and it was fun to watch the relationship develop. I also enjoyed the fact that no one was ridiculously stupid in this storyline. Too often a major character (usually the female lead, unfortunately) overdramatically and self-abasingly undervalues herself and overvalues the inappropriate guy with whom she has fallen desperately in love. “I know he is the spawn of Satan and turns into a werewolf on alternate Thursdays and only wants me for my blood plasma, but I LOVE him!!!” None of that here. Alicia has some issues with commitment, but resolves them quickly and moves on with life! And Jonas is a good guy. Not the spawn of Satan.
Sissy: I generally like retellings of fairy tales. I have read hundreds of them. However, I just finished reading a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and it was the most stupid book of all time. Made me want to pull out my uvula.
Bubby: Oh, that’s uvula. That hangy-down thing in one’s throat. I thought for a moment you said ukulele. I was confused as to why you’d feel the need to pull out your ukulele . . .
Sissy: And what? You thought I’d pull out my ukulele and write a song about hideous fairytale retellings?
Bubby: Exactly. You see my confusion.
Sissy: Yes, I see it daily.
Bubby: Actually, it might be a good song. You know my little girls’ favorite lullaby is “Truck Squished”, written by none other than you, Sissy.
Sissy: Yes. The truth is out. Famous, elegant blogger + songwriter. Now to finish. This fairytale retelling is a good one. A relaxing, non-demanding read. I give in 3.75 bubbles.
Bubby: I agree, as always, with my famously elegantly creative sister. 3.5 iridescent and sparkly bubbles.
Click HERE to buy The Princess Problem at Amazon.com
Since her parents’ bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out. (From Goodreads.com)
Sissy: In What Happened to Goodbye, the main character McLean deals with her parent’s divorce and frequent moves by becoming a different person in each new place. As a child I moved a lot but while I entertained the idea of changing myself, I never was brave enough to carry it out. I think the idea is good except you never get to truly know yourself, which McLean finds out in the end.
Bubby: I actually tried this once. I’ve always been the loud, out-going, attention seeking type of girl, and I’ve often been told that I needed to be quieter and more reserved. Shortly after I was married, my dear hubster and I moved across the country to a city where I knew absolutely no one. No one knew my family, no one had preconceived notions about me. I decided to be that shy, sweet, quiet girl people kept telling me I should be. And I was. For about 18 months. But it wasn’t really me. And I was so relieved when we moved back to a place where people DID know me – because then I could be myself again. I learned that I don’t have to apologize for the quirks and traits that make me Bubby. I’m pretty awesome just the way I am.
Sissy: Thanks for tuning in to Dr. Bubby’s Self-Therapy Hour. I do think you’ve turned out pretty smashingly, to tell the truth. Sarah Dessen is the quintessential coming-of-age author. We have dysfunctional relationships, secrets and communication failures, self-discovery and first love. This story is beautifully written and I spent the entire afternoon engrossed in it. Nobody cared because they were all out fishing. Although well-written, all of Sarah Dessen’s books are not squeaky clean so let the buyer beware.
Bubby: Yes, I was surprised when you told me to read What Happened to Goodbye. I have read Sarah Dessen before and had been put off by a bit too much something-something (if you get my drift). Just goes to show that authors are subject to whims just like everyone else. I got sucked into this story quickly. It’s such a great concept and it illustrates the truth that if someone really loves you, they love you inside and out, warts and all. McLean and Dave’s relationship starts off rocky – I believe she actually inflicts harm upon his person (unintentionally, of course) but grows so easily and naturally that you can’t help but fall in love right along with them.
Sissy: I think it would be really difficult to recover from the kind of betrayal McLean feels from her mom. It is understandable that she just wants to move from place to place, never getting involved, never putting her heart on the line. But she not only finds the strength to change this pattern in her new town, she also finds unexpected friendship and love from many different people. Maybe she was just ready and didn’t know it or maybe there is something really special about that place and the people she meets there.
Bubby: Can you imagine how our daughters would feel if we not only cheated on their dads, but cheated on them with the coach of their favorite sports team? And then had twins with said coach? I think part of the reason McLean constantly changes herself is because her mother has changed so much in her new role as high-profile coach’s wife. Gone is the laid-back, granola mom of the past, replaced by a woman who is perfectly made-up and coiffed at all times, complete with snooty vacation home on the beach. Who are you supposed to model yourself after when your role model has changed and disappeared?
Sissy: Fetal position, dude! But take heart, happy endings are in sight. You know this because I otherwise would not have read it or reviewed it. Great book. Give your children a Benadryl and spend the afternoon reading. (Just kidding. That would be felonious behavior! No lawsuits, please. Twas only a joke.) Yes, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen gets 4 angsty romance bubbles from me.
Bubby: And now we know why Sissy’s children are the way they are. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy What Happened to Goodbye from Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013