When Cora’s mother whisks the family away for the summer, Cora must decide between forging her future in the glimmering world of second homes where her parents belong, or getting lost in the bewitching world of the locals and the mystery surrounding a lonely old woman who claims to be a selkie creature—and who probably needs Cora more than anyone else.
Through the fantastical tales and anguished stories of the batty Mrs. O’Leary, as well as the company of a particularly gorgeous local boy called Ronan, Cora finds an escape from the reality of planning her life after high school. But will it come at the cost of alienating Cora’s mother, who struggles with her own tragic memories?
As the summer wanes, it becomes apparent that Ronan just may hold the answer to Mrs. O’Leary’s tragic past—and Cora’s future.
Sissy: Learning to Swim has layers of backstory, memories, and tragedies, and it was quite engaging–I read it in a couple of days and was kept up at night trying to make sure I had everything straight in my head (that is a slow pitch to you, Bubby).
Bubby: Oh, the possibilities! Should I make a snarky comment on your age and the affect thereupon your brain? Or say something about my infintiely greater mental capacities? I can’t decide! I’ll just let this one go – call it an early birthday present. I had a hard time getting into the story of Learning to Swim. It came off as the typical YA summer romance novel. There was some teenage drinking among the rich and fabulous set, some Romeo and Juliet-type issues with the rich girl and the “townie” boy and all the accompanying angst that one would expect. However. The story started dragging me in. Before I knew it, I actually cared about these people and their lives. The thing that pulled me in most was Mrs. O’Leary and her stories. I figured out who (or should I say what) she was pretty early on and it just got better from there.
Sissy: I truly felt bad for Cora. Her parents are garishly noveau rich and want her to have the right friends and the right college and they are willing to pull whatever strings they can to get her those things. Cora hates the shallow set of rich teens and has no clue what she wants to do with her life other than backpacking through Europe. There is such a lack of communication between her and her parents. I just don’t get it. Would parents really choose an arrogant, lazy party boy for their daughter just because he is rich?
Bubby: Our dad would have! Remember John M.? I think we’ve mentioned him before… I too was amazed by this. Even after Cora reveals that all Mr. Richie Rich wanted from her was to “get in her pants”, her parents still favored him. Stupid, stupid. I love how Cora has so little interest in the rich teenagers that she can’t even be bothered to remember most of their names – two of the girls are simply Blondie and the bimbo. She ends up regretting her reverse prejudice later on, though. But you’ll have to read the book to find out why and with whom!
Sissy: My favorite character was Mrs. O’Leary. She is a complex individual who cannot be labeled as good or bad. The Irish folklore she introduces is fascinating, but full of riddles and hidden meanings. Mrs. O’Leary, known as Lia (short for Cordelia) by the townfolk, has episodes of warmth and lucidity mixed with outright lunacy.
Bubby: Sounds like you!
Sissy: I knew you were going to say that, but I was also going to say that it reminds me of myself. So there. Just because you’re in control of the keyboard you think you can steal my mad thoughts and write them as your own!
Bubby: I try, but then you smack me. I have the bruises to prove it! Just kidding. Once you know more about Lia’s history, everything she says makes perfect sense. Don’t you think?
Sissy: Yes, that was what I was going to say before you hijacked the blog.
Sissy: Poor baby. Maybe you’ll behave better next time. So Learning To Swim left me with all kinds of questions. We don’t know exactly who is who and what belongs to whom and we don’t even know when book two is coming out. We are hoping Annie Cosby will shed some light on that soon.
Bubby: Way to be cryptic, Sissy. But it’s true. I read the last page and kept looking for another page, one that would keep the story going. But it’s just a classic cliffhanger. I, for one, want more! 3.75 bubbles from me.
Sissy: I give it 4 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy Learning To Swim at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
Emma Burcelli has suffered over a decade of dating disasters. But she concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi suddenly passes, leaving her grandmother Nona devastated. To help out, Emma works in the family bookstore, which Nona insists must be decked out in sweetheart décor as Poppi would have done for Valentine’s Day. Although she feels like a Valentine’s Day Scrooge, Emma quickly learns to enjoy the task with the help of a handsome family friend, Lane Forester, who shows her that hanging hearts is much more fun when done to the tune of Dean Martin. As Emma and Lane share time and memories of Poppi, she reconsiders the notion that romance is alive. Just as Emma’s heart begins to lift, however, she learns her sister has already staked a claim on Lane. Emma’s mother and sister insist Lane only sees her as a future sister-in-law, but she can’t help wondering if it could be something more. (From Netgalley.com)
Bubby: My heart is all warm and fuzzy after reading Once Upon A Winter’s Heart. I feel the need to play Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra music at loud volume and dance about my kitchen. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about this story. Delicious!
Sissy: Okay. Bubby just put on the Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra Pandora mix. So here we go. Do you remember the movie Return To Me with Minnie Driver and David Duchovny? This story kinda has that background feel. It lifted me up and made me happy in the magical way that few books can. Some reviews I’ve read of this kind of book are very critical of the fact that they prefer their romance with lots of sex and/or heavy duty dark subject matter.
Bubby: Not us! There’s a reason why our blog is called Bubble Bath Books, not Coffee House Existentialism Books. Or Steamy Sexbite Books. Seriously, Once Upon A Winter’s Heart is EXACTLY what we love to read.
Sissy: Well said, Bubby. It just delighted me. I really can’t think of a better word than delighted. Imagine me swing dancing with my imaginary partner around the living room with a big smile on my face. Of course there were bumps in the plot line to make it interesting, like Anne, Emma’s sister. Anne is a pretentious snob, albeit beautiful, with a stick up her … nose. She has a terminal case of “the grass is greener on the other side” and she doesn’t appreciate the wonderful things that are right in front of her nose. Also Emma’s mother made me crazy! She reminds me of my Aunt Matilda (names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) with her agenda that she can’t see past, even though she is hurting those she’s supposed to love.
Bubby: I lied when I stated above that there was nothing bad to say about the story. I do have one criticism. There was this tension-filled issue between Emma’s parents that just suddenly went away without much explanation. I would have liked to know a little more about what happened there. But it’s a little tiny criticism. Maybe Melody Carlson felt that fleshing out that side plot would have taken away from the main story. Anyway, I’m over it now. I love the concept that romance blooms when it’s made a priority. I know so many couples who don’t go on dates and don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day and anniversaries because they are secure in their relationship and don’t want to buy into the whole “romantic mythology”. For me, it matters. I don’t need a big production of dozens of roses and a lavish dinner to know that my husband loves me. But when he brings home flowers just because or when we go out to dinner just the two of us and hold hands across the table? That makes me happy and all gooey and melty inside. Even after all these years.
Sissy: The relationship between Nona and Poppi was a great example and represented not just good fortune but years of good practice. And that is the truth about relationships. Every worthwhile one has to be worked at. Bubby and I have proved that with our relationship. It wasn’t too many years ago that Bubby wanted to kill me because of my great and exorbitant talents and I wanted to maim her because of her unfathomable beauty. But look at us now! Things that matter to us, we make work.
Bubby: That’s not exactly how I remember things, dear one, but we all know your memory is going fast! It’s true, though. Love takes effort. It took no effort, however to love Once Upon A Winter’s Heart. 4.75 blissfully floaty lovey-dovey bubbles.
Sissy: Wow, over the top much? 4.75 for me too.
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of this title from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Dive into the fabulous, fun lives of six Academy girls as their friendships are tested, torn and ultimately triumph. It’s obvious that Dante thinks he’s way too good for Lizzie. And Lizzie knows Dante is a snob with a gift for pressing her buttons. But things are changing fast this year at the Academy. And when Lizzie’s quest to stop those changes blows up in her face, taking her oldest friendship with it, she has nowhere else to turn but to Dante, with his killer blue eyes, his crazy-sexy smile, and his secrets… Secrets Lizzie can’t seem to leave alone, no matter how hard she tries. The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is hot guys to flirt with. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And it’s about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…(From Netgalley.com)
Sissy: There were things I liked and disliked about this book. I liked that it was a quick, enjoyable, YA romance read. I didn’t like it as a Pride and Prejudice retelling, because I thought the parallels were too vaguely drawn. I liked that the main character Lizzie is a smart, hard-working student who likes a good journalistic challenge and does not back down in the face of pressure from the nasty headmistress. I don’t like that Lizzy is negative and judgemental, and somewhat disloyal to her best friend Emily.
Bubby: Ah, but Lizzy gets over herself and fixes her relationship with Emily by the end. I agree that it was quite difficult to find traces of Pride and Prejudice in this story, so I’ve decided to ignore that bit and just review it as a regular young adult story. The best part of Fall For You is that everything works out. Cecilia Gray really wraps up the story nicely and ties it with a pretty bow. There are 4 Jane Austen Academy books currently available with 2 more forthcoming. Some of the characters might appear in more than one book but they can all definitely be read as stand-alone novels.
Sissy: The fact that many of the characters we are introduced to will live on in their own novel is a draw for me. I actually liked this book better than Bubby did, and despite my pride I will admit her prejudice did rub off on me. Ba dum bum!
Bubby: Nicely done there, Sissy!
Sissy: Anywho, Fall For You has all the requisite emotions of YA high schoolishness and is well-written enough to make it a pleasant Friday afternoon reading distraction. I give it 3.5 bubbles.
Bubby: I agree. Perfect for curling up on the couch with a slice of pizza in hand, whether you are a teenager yourself or old enough to reminisce about high school days gone by. 3.5 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy Fall For You at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of Fall For You by Cecilia Gray from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.
Cooper Reynolds’s life is going to the dogs… literally. As if being a high school senior in a small Texas town wasn’t hard enough, Cooper has bigger things to worry about than who he’ll take to prom and whether or not the Poisonfoot Padres will win homecoming. He has less than a year before his eighteenth birthday, when a curse placed on his family will doom him to live in coyote form forever. The last thing he needs to complicate his already messed-up life is a girl, but fate has other plans in mind for him when it brings Eloise “Lou” Whittaker to Poisonfoot. She’s grouchy, sarcastic and has no love for her new Texas home, but she might be exactly the right person to help Cooper break the curse. The clock is ticking, and Cooper will have to decide if he’s willing to let Lou in on his dirty little secret before it’s too late. (From Netgalley.com)
Sissy: Holy cliffhanger, batwoman! I hate cliffhangers, but I gotta say, I enjoyed getting to it. I didn’t like Lou’s attitude at first (trying to hearken back to my teenage years to see if I was such a selfish stink-butt to my mom, and the answer is “probably”). I really didn’t like that her father dying was not her number one pick for the worst things ever in her life but rather number two after moving because her dad died. But, she does redeem herself in many ways. The best way is that she ignores everyone who tells her to stay away from Cooper and instead befriends the poor, friendless guy.
Bubby: You were absolutely a selfish stink-butt. I was there. I remember everything! Besides, aren’t most teenagers selfish stink-butts for at least some of the time? My biggest problem with Autumn is that there is so much more to the story and I have to wait to get it. I am not good with waiting. I much prefer instant gratification – why do you think I buy most of my books on Kindle? There is a sense of tension throughout this whole story, even from the very beginning. You know that something is going to happen to Lou in this new town she’s going to. You know that something is hinky with Cooper and his mysteriously missing brother. And you know that there is something else going on but you just can’t put your finger on it. Until the end. The quite literally explosive end. Oh my.
Sissy: And let’s just get it out there that you were a bratty poop-head. But I’m over it. I’m not over Autumn by Sierra Dean, however. This book is essentially a teaser, a trap to get you hooked into reading the whole series. You are introduced to the mystery, the curse, the watchers (we don’t really know much about them), the ghosts (yes! Creepy stuff that I hope becomes less creepy!), and the coyote. It is no spoiler so I’ll just say it–Cooper is doomed to turn into a coyote on his 18th birthday because of a long-lived curse. Very original, Ms Dean. No turning back and forth from human to animal like some werewolf or shapeshifter, but just a one way trip to coyote-hood. The end. Everyone in the book except Lou knows more than they’re letting on, and we have to wait. for. it.
Bubby: Can you imagine dealing with the reality that you ARE going to be a coyote? At least with werewolves there is a chance to live something like a normal human existence. But not here. We’re not even sure how much, if any, human remains in the coyote. It seems to be a clear-cut case that once you’re turned, it’s all over. But nothing is really clear-cut in Autumn. There are layers and twists aplenty and I am sure there is much more to come. Perhaps there is a redemption in store in the future? And we haven’t mentioned anything about Wyatt and his family yet. Not that I can say much without giving away spoilers, but Wyatt is a super popular kid who also seems to be genuinely nice. But Wyatt has a few surprises of his own up his sleeve. Aaargghh! I want to say more but Sissy would smack me for giving things away, so I will stay silent.
Sissy: Just so you know, readers, even though Bubby says she is often threatened with smackage by me, the only smack she has ever received from me is the clever verbal type– even if she was ever annoying enough to receive the physical kind. That said, I don’t have much more to say about Autumn and since Winter isn’t expected to be released until November-ish I am going to pout for a minute. Okay, I’m done. Sierra Dean is quick-witted with her dialogue and metaphors, and her characters are well-rounded. I especially liked Granny Elle, except for when she was being a stink-butt about Cooper, and who wouldn’t want to live in a town called Poisonfoot?
Bubby: Autumn is a really enjoyable page turner of a read. Oh, and it’s on sale at Amazon.com for only 99 cents right now. What a steal! I can’t wait until Winter comes out. I guess I will have to wait until then to find out what’s really going on in Poisonfoot, Texas. 4 bubbles.
Sissy: I’m not going to read the next one until all the books are out. That may be in 2016. But I’ll give Autumn 4 impatient bubbles.
Click HERE to buy Autumn at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of Autumn by Sierra Dean from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.
For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.
Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated? (From Goodreads.com)
Sissy: I think I use the word “delightful” too much so I will say Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg was adorable, agreeable, and pleasing. I sat in my new sleep number bed at zero G setting and read it, and had you looked at my face you would have seen the cat who just licked up all the cream (sans post-licking lactose intolerance tummy ache). The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of our hero and heroine in the past tense, and each chapter cleverly ends with a paragraph or two of bantering commentary between the two in the present. Loved it.
Bubby: Better Off Friends is advertised as “When Harry Met Sally for teens”. It’s a pretty good description. Macallan and Levi become friends right off the bat and stay that way, off and on, through the whole book. Their parents think they are cute and their friends think they are weird. I wish the book had gone a bit further though. Yes, they end up together, but does it last? Do they end up happily ever after? They are only in high school. One wonders what the future holds for these two.
Sissy: I did wonder what the rest of the story was and at what point in life the bantering couple at each chapter end was. Were they happily married? College sweethearts? Two weeks later? Anyway, it is quite charming how we can see inside the heads of both Macallan and Levi, but at the same time are wishing they would know how the other was feeling. But I guess that would make the story too short and rushed and perhaps change the outcome. Time and place, and all that. I thought the characters were sweet and engaging. I had a best friend who was a guy in high school, and although we “like” liked each other off and on it was never at the same time. We spent so much time together people always thought we were a couple, but we never were. So this made Better Off Friends relatable to me.
Bubby: I also had a best guy friend in high school, but we actually tried to be romantically involved. It lasted for approximately 12.5 seconds and afterwards our friendship was never the same. I wished that we had just stayed friends and not done the dating thing. I supposed this experience might make me a little jaded about the future of Macallen and Levi’s relationship! But I also have several friends that fell in love in high school and have now been happily married for years and years. I guess it just all depends.
Sissy: This story is not very deep or complex so its hard to think of what to write about it. That may sound like a negative but it is truly not—I was blissed out by this simple, well-written tale. If you want to feel happy and content as a crumpet, bite into the little slice of heaven that is Better Off Friends. 4 bright and sunshiney bubbles.
Bubby: I agree. Sometimes you want complicated and thought provoking and deep and other times (more often for me) you want happy and fluffy. Better Off Friends fits the happy and fluffy category quite nicely. 3.75 bubbles.
Click HERE to buy Better Off Friends at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of this title from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.
The eldest of ten children on a dirt-poor farm, Becky trudges through life as a full-time babysitter, trying to avoid her father’s periodic violent rages. When the family’s barn burns down, her father lays the blame on Becky, and her own mother tells her to run for it. Run she does, hopping into an empty freight car. There, in a duffel bag, Becky finds an abandoned baby girl, only hours old. After years of tending to her siblings, sixteen-year-old Becky knows just what a baby needs. This baby needs a mother. With no mother around, Becky decides, at least temporarily, this baby needs her. When Becky hops off the train in a small Georgia town, it’s with baby “Georgia” in her arms. When she meets Rosie, an eccentric thrift-shop owner, who comes to value and love Becky as no one ever has, Becky rashly claims the baby as her own. Not everyone in town is as welcoming as Rosie, though. Many suspect Becky and her baby are not what they seem. Among the doubters is a beautiful, reclusive woman with her own terrible loss and a long history with Rosie. As Becky’s life becomes entangled with the lives of the people in town, including a handsome boy who suspects Becky is hiding something from her past, she finds her secrets more difficult to keep. Becky should grab the baby and run, but her newfound home and job with Rosie have given Becky the family she’s never known. Despite her guilt over leaving her mother alone, she is happy for the first time. But it’s a happiness not meant to last. When the truth comes out, Becky has the biggest decision of her life to make. Should she run away again? Should she stay–and fight? Or lie? What does the future hold for Becky and Georgia? Providence proves that home is where you find it, love is an active verb, and family is more than just a word. (From Goodreads.com)
Bubby: I loved this book. Loved it. Everything about it is just right. It’s nice and clean, it’s beautifully written and it has the best characters I’ve read about in a long time. I agonized with Becky over her choices and her horrible family. I rejoiced with her when Rosie took her in and made her a new family. I blushed with her when it became obvious that John had feelings for her. There are not enough good things I can say about Providence.
Sissy: Bubby and I read a lot of books for this blog and we don’t always agree about whether or not we should review them or even whether or not we liked them. I am usually right about all books and Bubby is weird and stubborn but every once in a while when we compare notes there is a book that is a standout “bam, nailed it!”. This was the case with Providence. Author Lisa Colozza Cocca is obviously a gifted storyteller and crafter of characters. This is her debut novel (she usually writes school and library materials) and she definitely has the chops to write more. I hope she has a long and proliferate novel-writing career.
Bubby: I tell you, this novel was so good that I am tempted to go out and buy her textbook “Reconstruction and the Aftermath of the Civil War” and I don’t even really like history! I was truly sad when Becky’s story ended. I want to go have dinner with Becky and the baby and Rosie and John all the other fabulous characters that I grew so fond of. Even the crotchety old guy who owned the bike store across the street from Rosie’s shop, Secondhand Rose. I hope that there are very few actual people on this planet like Becky’s father. He deserves to be hogtied and horsewhipped. And whoever left that baby on the train? I have words for them, too, but they are not polite for mixed company, so I will restrain myself. The contrast between the people who had a familial obligation to love and care for Becky and Georgia and the people who actually did love and care for them, with no obligation whatsoever, is striking. It’s a master class on compassion and acceptance.
Sissy: Becky came from such a hard situation and jumped right into what could have been a minefield of disaster. Cocca could have gone all dark and literati and made a tragedy at every turn. In fact I was anxious about what could happen but Cocca makes the story very happy and readable for the anxiety-stricken reader and leaves just enough bumps in the road to make it real. The real message of Providence is hope. With the right mix of people and in the right circumstances, hope blossoms. I think that’s why I loved this so much. The story is unique. The characters are believable. And the takeaway is happiness and hope.
Bubby: “I believe that children are our future. Treat them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty…”
Sissy: Stop that right now or I will barf.
Bubby: I just felt that we needed a musical interlude there. I was moved. I give Providence 5 big fat homemade pie bubbles. Doesn’t get any better than this.
Sissy: Even though Bubby rudely made fun of my sentiment, I will also give Providence 5 bubbles.
Click here to buy Providence at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of Providence from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.
Meghan Elam has been strange her entire life: her eyes have this odd habit of changing color and she sees and hears things no one else does. When the visions and voices in her head start to get worse, she is convinced that her parents will want to drag her off to another psychiatrist. That is, until the mysterious Cade MacRoich shows up out of nowhere with an explanation of his own.
Cade brings her news of another realm where goblins and gnomes are the norm, a place where whispering spirits exist in the very earth, and a world where Meghan just might find the answers she has always sought.
Bubby: At first I didn’t see anything strange about our girl Meghan. Funny eyes that change color? Mine do that. Voices in ones’ head? Isn’t that normal? Doesn’t everyone have voices in their head telling them to do things? My psychiatrist says it’s perfectly fine. I just shouldn’t do what they say! But seriously. I was intrigued with Meghan from the beginning. She was abandoned at the age of 2 on Halloween and has been dealing with all sorts of what she thinks are psychological issues ever since. She has a loving family and good friends but there has always been these issues she has to deal with. And as a teenager, the worst possible thing you can be is different.
Sissy: Well, Bubby, you’ve outed yourself. People didn’t realize that I came and blogged with you in your padded cell, and that I have to wear body armor, just in case. The author describes Meghan as “strange-looking” and obviously the kids at school agree with this description but I couldn’t get a picture in my mind of what it was that was strange. Was it simply the changing eyes? Was it being tall and gangly? Were her eyes too big for her head, like a Roswell alien? What? And then Cade is described as having similarities to Meghan but he is called handsome. Maybe it’s all in how Meghan sees herself. What I do like is that once Meghan finds out who she really is and what she can do, she isn’t suddenly then transformed into a beauty or described as such.
Bubby: On the surface, this seems like the same formulaic plot we’ve seen a bazillion times: girl is weird and is drawn to otherworldly handsome boy who is dangerous to her for some reason, but the attraction is too great and they must be together no matter what. But this is not the case. Meghan is not at all what she thinks she is. She is actually more dangerous than Cade, even though he has a very interesting quality that I cannot reveal at this time. Meghan is not that kind of girl who is willing to throw away her life and safety for the unsuitable boy. If anything, the roles are reversed here.
Sissy: After 17 years of psychological trauma (even though her adopted parents are great), it is understandable that Meghan is a bit of a ninny and has a hard time seeing herself as anything wonderful or more than the freaky awkward person she’s always felt herself to be. But the author does a fantastic job of showcasing Meghan’s potential, promising that in books to come, Meghan will be able to come into her own and recognize how special she truly is. Also, the plethora of otherworldly characters and the whole emotional complexity of the Fae world is very well presented.
Bubby: Yes, Jenna Elizabeth Johnson does a great job of foreshadowing. All the way through you can see hints of what’s to come – just enough to tantalize you into reading the next books ( Dolmarehn and Luathara, both available now). I was totally sucked into the story by how quickly I felt invested in the characters. It’s a quick paced read that moves from conflict to conflict peppered with bits of humor and romance.
Sissy: Meghan also has the requisite geeky friends, but one in particular turns out to be a great ally. I immediately read book two, Dolmarehn and I had pangs of longing when I had to put aside Luathara until I had finished the stack of books I was required to read first. Faelorehn is a wonderfully intriguing first book in a very well written trilogy. 4 bubbles.
Bubby: I haven’t gotten to read either book two or three yet, but they are definitely on my list. 3.5 bubbles from me.
Click HERE to buy Faelorehn at Amazon.com
We were given a copy of Faelorehn by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.
© Bubble Bath Books 2014