Books To Take You Away From It All

Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ella Martin’s always done what she should. But has she lost touch with what she wants? When she gets the call that her father and stepmother have been injured in a freak accident, coming home to Green Pines to take care of them isn’t really what she’d planned. She’s spent her life getting away from small-town Green Pines. If ever there was a dying community in need of Ella’s expertise in neighborhood revitalization, though, this is it. She’s willing to give a shot at saving Green Pines, but things get complicated when billionaire real-estate developer Covington Black moves in up the road. Sure, she’s got a crush on him – who wouldn’t? But he’s just taken out an injunction to keep her from picketing his construction sites, so when he starts romancing her, he must be up to something. Whatever game he’s playing, she knows he’s only going to break her heart. Covington Black knows what he wants. He’s seeking solace in the only place he’s ever been truly happy – his grandfather’s farm in Green Pines. He’s got big plans for the place and he’s looking for a partner to share his dreams with. He wants to believe Ella’s the one, and yet it seems like falling for her is the one thing he shouldn’t have done. A tender tale that hits the sweet spot at the intersection of family, community and the love of your life.

 

Bubby: I just fell in love with Reclaiming Home. It had everything I am looking for in a book – romance, intrigue, obnoxious relatives, you name it. The romance bit of the plot was a bit predictable but only in the best way – that of a happy ending. In other words, it ended just the way I hoped it would. I loved the setting of Green Pines. Me and Sissy, we are small town girls and this town felt like it could have been home. My best friend’s dad ran the town lumber yard/hardware store and we always knew that if we had done something naughty Friday night our dads would be discussing it over paint and lumber on Saturday.

Sissy:  That pretty much happened every Saturday, in other words.  Dad had discussions with the Baptist minister about me and all my good works, on the other hand.  Nauseating, really.  Bubby and I were both like Ella in that after high school we couldn’t wait to get out of town forever, but we weren’t  altruistic like her–we never went back and saved the town.  I think we let the casino take care of that–right Bubby?  Anywhoodle, this is a situation where we both read a list of books and then tell each other which ones are good so we can review them and Bubby got the best of the lot–Reclaiming Home by Milou Koenings.  It was a delight to read from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Unlike most of the books on my list, which were crap.

Bubby: Tell me about it! It was such a relief to read something both well written and clean! Milou Koenings does not feel the need to swear every third word or have her characters making mad passionate love at the drop of a hat. Instead she writes about relationships and self-exploration. I loved the character of Johnny, Tony Black’s younger brother. He is a sweet and kind soul and the kindness that Ella shows to him is what attracts Tony to her in the first place. I see a deep thought in there somewhere- something about how hard we try to attract attention when all we really have to do is be the kindest possible person to those around us that we can be. See? I have depth. I am a philosopher at heart!

Sissy: And then you woke up… Ella’s sister Katie is a well-written character that I love to hate. But she provides a dramatic understory and a lovely tale of redemption. This is one of those books where you just fall into the story and it carries you along and two hours later you become cognizant of your surroundings and say “Oh rats! The book is over!” and you are sad and head directly to Milou Koenings’ website to see if she’s written anything else because she’s that good.

Bubby: Wow, Sissy. Run-on sentence much? But I have to agree. I spent a great deal of time reading the website because she’s dang funny! Unfortunately, there are no other books yet. But we can hope that there will be soon. Loved it. 4 1/2 bubbles.

Sissy: I swear I read somewhere that there would be another tale set in Green Pines. I’m going to read it. Reclaiming Home gets 4.5 bubbles from me.

Click HERE to buy Reclaiming Home by Milou Koenings at Amazon.com

We received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review from Netgalley.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

 


Fifteen-year-old Thea Wallis was born to entertain. Her mother, Oscar winning actress Cassie Hartley, thinks differently and has kept her daughter out of the spotlight since day one. Coming from showbiz royalty, it hasn’t been easy to go unnoticed, but mismatched surnames, a family home in Tasmania and a low-key scriptwriter father has made this possible. Just like her cousin Rory on the hugely popular TV show Saturday Morning Dance, Thea loves to dance. She learns the show’s routines off by heart each week, despite her mother’s attempts to convince her that dentistry would be a far more fulfilling career choice. However, when Rory goes off the rails in LA, Thea’s mother is suddenly left with no choice at all – Rory needs them and to LA they must go. Within forty-eight hours, Thea finds herself a long way from Tasmania and living her dream – on the road to Las Vegas with the Saturday Morning Dance team. It doesn’t take long before Thea’s talents are discovered and she’s offered everything she’s ever wanted on a plate, including the dance partner she’s had a crush on forever. But, as her mother has always told her, Hollywood dreams come at a price. Thea soon realizes she will have to work out just how much she’s willing to pay. And, ultimately, discover her own way to be Hartley. (From Netgalley.com)

Sissy: Being Hartley by Allison Rushby was just a fun little read.  Thea lives in a world that seems magical to me, but was slightly annoying to her.  I kept thinking that being in a famous family and having no money worries and travelling the globe would be, I dunno, rather fun, but I guess it has its downsides too.  I am willing to give it a try, though.  “Hollywood!! Yoohoo–I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!”

Bubby: I know, right? They kept ordering room service or buying jewelry or reserving cabanas the same way I buy drinks at Sonic (only during 1/2 price happy hour) and socks at Wal-Mart. How the other half lives, I guess. But as much as the money and recognition would be nice, I think the constant pressure to be “on” and perfect would kill me. I’d go from happy homemaker to star to dead of a heroin overdose in the blink of an eye.

Sissy: Once you get past the mindless spending of money, you find a great teenage story. No super powers or magic, unless you count the platinum visa, just kids growing up and finding out how to be. A little family drama, a little romance, a little bungalow in Tasmania, all great stuff.

Bubby: All Thea’s mom wants is for Thea to grow up as a normal teenager, without all the pressure of stardom. All Thea wants is to be allowed to make her own decisions. Seems like the issues between kids and parents are pretty much the same no matter if you are famous or not. (Except for the bungalow in Tasmania). I love reading stories that are good enough for me to enjoy and for my teenagers to enjoy as well. This is one that they will really like.

Sissy: Also all the Hartleys have beautiful distinctive curly blonde hair and are beautiful and talented, sort of like me and Bubby. Without the curly bit. Could have been named “Being Sissy”. Great fun of a book. I give it 3.75 bubbles.

Bubby: Sissy is delusional. I love her anyway. 3.5 bubbles from me.

Click HERE to buy Being Hartly by Allison Rushby at Amazon.com

We were given a copy of this title by Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .
Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions. Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

Bubby: Manor of Secrets came at just the right time for me, having finally finished the current season of Downton Abbey last night. It could very well be an account of events at any of the homes of the Crawley associates. Just quite delicious and perfectly British.

Sissy: First thing I am going to do is put on the gown pictured on the front cover, complete with jewels. Then I shall sit down with a spot of tea (less tea, more cream and sugar) and tell you about this delectable froth of an Edwardian mystery romance (Ha! You were thinking it was one of those stuffy Regency romances but you were wrong! Ha!)

Bubby: Methinks there might be something in that “tea” of yours besides cream and sugar, dearest sister. I, for one, am grateful to live in the modern era and not back in the day. Don’t get me wrong – there is something very enticing about the gowns and the jewels and the servants and the estate and all that but with my luck, I would have been a scullery maid instead of the lady of the manor! Besides which, I have never been very good at doing what I was told to do. Or behaving like a lady.

Sissy: No truer words…Also, those empire waists do nothing for those of us who are both height challenged and how shall I say, more “blessed” in certain areas than others?

Bubby: Exactly. Not that I suffer from the height issue, but let’s just say that I am more Dowager Countess in shape than Lady Mary. Unfortunately. In Manor of Secrets, we have two girls who also are not so good at following the rules that society has laid down for them. All Charlotte wants is to be free and all Janie wishes for is to have a place to call home. Neither of them are happy with their lot in life. And both of them want to get to know Lawrence, the handsome footman, just a little bit better.

Sissy: Lawrence needs to be slapped and thrown into the dung heap. Lord Andrew, on the other hand, is a fabulous surprise and he can escort us to the ball any day! In addition to the handsome men in the story, there are scandalous secrets, twists and turns and an ending you don’t see coming. Also, women’s suffrage! Hooray for suffrage!

Bubby: Yes – there is a massive plot twist that I certainly wasn’t expecting but in hindsight makes so much sense. Oh, and a happy ending. Really. What more could we possibly ask for? Beautiful dresses AND intrigue AND romance AND suffrage! Perfect.

Sissy: And so as my bustuousness and I sail into the parlor like the Dowager Countess, I say “Good heavens! Manor of Secrets deserves 4 bubbles.”

Bubby: And as I shake my head and apologize for Sissy and her “bustuousness”, I too give Manor of Secrets 4 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore at Amazon.com

We received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


Interior Decorator Madison Night has modeled her life after Doris Day’s character in Pillow Talk, but when a killer targets women dressed like the bubbly actress, Madison’s signature sixties style places her in the middle of a homicide investigation.

The local detective connects the new crimes to a twenty-year old cold case, and Madison’s long-trusted contractor emerges as the leading suspect. As the body count piles up like a stack of plush pillows, Madison uncovers a Soviet spy, a campaign to destroy all Doris Day movies, and six minutes of film that will change her life forever.

Bubby: When I was little (and not so little) I used to watch old Doris Day movies on TCM with my mom. Pillow Talk was always one of our favorites. Not as good as The Pajama Game but wildly entertaining all the same. I never had the desire to model my own personal style after Doris Day, though, unlike our main character Madison. She seems a little “stuck in the 60’s” to me. She owns an interior design store called Mad for Mod that’s all mid-century stuff and she drives a vintage car and dresses in vintage clothes. I get the appeal but I think Madison is so entrenched in the lifestyle that it’s actually holding her back from progressing in her life.

Sissy: I personally think that everything about the 60’s should stay in the 60’s. Since I was actually alive then, I can bear witness that all the furniture and clothing and hairstyles were hideous. Howsomeever, Madison sounds like she does the 60’s well and she’s cute and fun. If there are people out there who actually want to design their houses in mid-century style (because they have no taste) then more power to them. This was a very fun cozy mystery romp. Plenty of the requisite dead bodies (only people we didn’t care about, mind you), nice little secrets and twists and a satisfying love triangle.

Bubby: My favorite characters in Pillow Stalk were the elderly swimming friends. Madison swims regularly at a community pool that is frequented by old geezers (one of whom has “roaming hands” if you know what I mean). The descriptions of these seniors are just hilarious. I have made it my new goal in life to be an elderly swimmer – just so I can wear a bathing cap with pink rubber flowers on it. Pretty sure Sissy has one that I can borrow.

Sissy: Don’t be jealous of my pink flowered swimming cap. One day you’ll be as cool as me. The thing I liked most about Pillow Stalk was that I could not figure out who the perpetrator was until I was told at the very end. Also it was very fast paced and all the Doris Day movie references are great fun. I can’t wait to read book number two, That Touch of Ink. Warning: after hearing all the descriptions of Madison’s cute 60’s clothes and how cute she always looks, you may be tempted to go try on some 60’s couture. Do not do it. No one looks good in 60’s clothing unless they are built like Twiggy.

Bubby: Who’s Twiggy?

Sissy: Put down those white vinyl boots, Bubby!

Bubby: Pillow Stalk is a fun, quick moving, keep-you-guessing mystery that I really enjoyed. 3.75 bubbles.

Sissy: Fun and retro groovy. 3.75 cool cat bubbles for me.

Click HERE to buy Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

We were given a copy of this title by Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.


An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on toFollow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Sissy: I haven’t read anything from Ann Brashares since the days of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The Here And Now couldn’t be more different from that series, but I really got caught up in this story. This is such a refreshing new twist on the dystopian futuristic society type of story. Imagine solving the problems of the future by going back to the past.

Bubby: It’s like Back to the Future in reverse! Except that the new future you make might not always be the one you were hoping for. I’d like to expound on that but Sissy is smacking me and yelling “Spoilers! Spoilers!” so I guess I won’t.

Sissy: If we could go back in the past I would start smacking you in order to make your present day lies the truth. One thing this book made me do is really think about the future consequences of the way we treat our planet–what could occur because of global warming and the overuse of petroleum.  This showed depth and intelligence in the thinking of author Ann Brashares.  Blood plagues and mutations and the proliferation of mosquitoes in the overly warm future world are convincingly crafted, and I found myself buying into it and counting the years to see if I would be alive when things got “really bad.”(No, I would be thankfully dead, which was a relief to the part of my brain having paranoia about the future).  And even though it is fiction, my psyche found the whole thing to be frightfully plausible, except for the escaping to the past part.  Which is bad, because that means being stuck in a hideous, tragedy-filled future with no way out.

Bubby:  I agree that it was scarily plausible and doesn’t sound like any future that I want to be a part of.  I like my current lifestyle of overabundance and ease.  I loved the characters of Prenna and Ethan. With one exception.  Ethan is a horn dog.  Now I realize most teenage boys fall into this category, but there I felt like Ethan pressures Prenna too much and it doesn’t jive with the otherwise thoughtful and loving boy that he is.  I have a really big issue with teenage sex in books–its just not okay.  They are too young and too dumb to realize the meaning and consequences of intimacy.  Fortunately, they didn’t actually go that far in this book, but I wanted to smack Ethan upside the head and say “give it a rest already!”

Sissy:  That being said, the love story between the two is sweet.  Prenna’s mother is portrayed really well.  She is a flawed character trying to do her best in a difficult situation.  She annoyed me, but I don’t know that I would or could have done things differently in her shoes.

Bubby:  Overall a fascinating, entertaining read.  3.75 bubbles

Sissy:  Captivating and thought provoking.  3.75 for me as well.

Click HERE to pre-order The Here And Now by Ann Brasheres at amazon.com

©Bubble Bath Books 2014


When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies. Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And—perhaps of the most lasting importance—could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love? (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: I will admit right off the bat that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Shannon Hale’s books. The Princess Academy books? Love them. Books of Bayern? Not so much. Austenland, the companion book to Midnight in Austenland seems to fall between these two categories for me. I really wanted to love it. I did love parts of it. Overall, though, I found myself a bit dissatisfied. But then I saw the movie. And it was rollicking good fun. So I decided to give Midnight in Austenland a try. At worst, it would still be an enjoyable, clean, decent read. But it was so much more than that. It was hilariously funny in bits and deeply romantic in other bits and I so connected with Charlotte.

Sissy: Well, I do not have a love/hate relationship with Shannon Hale’s books. I have loved all of them (with the exception of The Actor and The Housewife which did not fully satisfy me). When I saw the movie Austenland, I had only read the first book and so I thought that they changed a lot. But I see that Midnight in Austenland, which was written before the movie came out, is a lot more like the movie. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that I loved the movie Austenland so much that I went back 4 times and dragged every female friend I owned to it. So you can guess how I feel about Midnight in Austenland. Shannon Hale is to writing as Bill Murray is to comedy.

Bubby: Bill Murray? Really? How old are you, anyway? Maybe Tina Fey? Or Jimmy Fallon? Welcome to 2014, Sissy.

Sissy: Well I may be older than dirt and Shannon Hale but she actually refers to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day as “delightful” and can “make her laugh” in the very book we are reviewing right now. I am sorry that your short-term memory is so poor. So much poorer than mine that you didn’t recall that.

Bubby: I recalled fine. I was just trying to make your image more hip and current.

Sissy: It’s hip to be square. I think Shannon Hale is delightful and she makes me laugh. I laughed out loud when Charlotte follows her daughter’s boyfriend and is caught hiding in the bushes outside his cousin’s house and again when she explains to her Austenland hostess Mrs. Wattlesbrook how her husband has died in a “gruesome and exceedingly painful demise” (her husband is now her ex, after she caught him cheating with some young thing).

Bubby: I laughed out loud at those bits too. It’s rare that my favorite character in a story is the main character – I usually enjoy the quirky side characters more – but in this case, Charlotte felt like an old friend with whom I was reconnecting. She tends to let her imagination run away with her – when things take a decidedly scary turn, she lays in bed, searching the shadows and jumping at every noise. I do that when my husband is out-of-town or working late – often mistaking the shadowy outline of the vacuum for a rapist or murderer intent on ravaging my household while we sleep. Mayhap both Charlotte and I are just a touch overdramatic!

Sissy: There are two other things that I really liked. One, how in between scenes at Austenland, Hale inserts little paragraphs from Charlotte’s past giving us insight into what makes Charlotte the way she is now. Two, how Charlotte has conversations with her “inner thoughts” …

Bubby: I almost wrote “inner thighs” there. I don’t know why because that would have been awkward. I think I need medical assistance…

Sissy: Imagine having a conversation with one’s inner thighs. Hmmm. Anyway, that is the kind of borderline irreverence that makes Shannon Hale a lovely author and Midnight in Austenland a thoroughly entertaining read.

Bubby: One of my favorite of those conversations is this: “This scarcely qualified as a secret room-more of a secret hole, or nook, or niche even, perhaps a cavity or alcove… Come up with synonyms all you want, said her Inner Thoughts. It’s not distracting me from the fact that you’re stupid.” Just a sampling of the deliciousness you’ll find in Midnight in Austenland. 4.5 bubbles.

Sissy: Delightfully clever. Delectably romantic. Wonderfully witty. 4.5 quaint and corseted bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Midnight in Austenland at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014