Christmas was once the best time of the year for Joy Candellaro. But as the holiday draws near this year, she can’t find it in her heart to celebrate. Recently divorced and betrayed by her sister, she feels totally alone. She decides to just disappear for a while, to a remote destination in the Pacific Northwest. But life has a way of changing one’s plans. Soon Joy will begin an adventure no one could have forseen – one that could change her life forever. once loved Christmas more than any other time of the year. Now, as the holiday approaches, she is at a crossroads in her life; recently divorced and alone, she can’t summon the old enthusiasm for celebrating. So without telling anyone, she buys a ticket and boards a plane bound for the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When an unexpected detour takes her deep into the woods of the Olympic rainforest, Joy makes a bold decision to leave her ordinary life behind—to just walk away—and thus begins an adventure unlike any she could have imagined.
Bubby: Sometimes I read a book that just hits me right in the heart and it becomes an instant favorite – one I go back to and re-read often and one that I recommend often. This is one of those books for me. I just love love love it. It’s a magical story and it ends good and it just makes me happy.
Sissy: I re-read this at Bubby’s behest because I couldn’t remember if I had read it or not. As you can tell by the word “reread,” turns out I had read it and liked it some time ago. The writing by Kristin Hannah is excellent, and this is underscored by the major plot twist that comes up mid-book of which I shall say nothing further. Lovely, lovely love story, emotional tale of sadness and joy. As the garage door repairman said today after telling me about how this week so far his truck has broken down, he broke his finger, and his tools all got stolen “without the bad things we wouldn’t appreciate the good things.”
Bubby: Yes, I could not agree more. Joy Candellaro is in desperate need of some comfort and joy in her life. She has to be – why else would she be desperate enough to hop on a chartered plane with a bunch of bearded hunters bound for the north of nowhere?
Sissy: What happens in her personal life is horrible, and I think I would be tempted to do the exact same thing. Actually, I probably would have reacted with more violence and mayhem and THEN hopped a plane to nowhere. I sincerely hope I would be as forgiving as Joy if I was in such a situation. I can’t imagine it, though. I can only picture bloodshed…
Bubby: Well, as much as I love and adore your dear husband, I really don’t think you have to worry about us running off together. Icky. I’m not worried about you stealing my husband either – if only for the fact that he’s 3 feet taller than you and 20 years younger. Bad match there! Yes, readers, Joy’s sister and Joy’s husband have hooked up and left Joy in the dust. And oh yeah – the sister is pregnant. And did I mention that Joy has no children and would love to be a mom? I agree that getting on a plane is the best of the options!
Sissy: Let’s clear some things up here. A. I am NOT 20 years older than Bubby’s husband, nor am I three feet shorter. B. I have spent the last 26 years training my husband to be just perfect and I’m certainly not going to start over on some interloper. And now that Bubby has told you the beginning of the story, you can see why I might become violent in that same situation. But the story just gets better from there. Joy goes on to a whole different adventure, delves into the paranormal, and comes out in one piece at the end.
Bubby: The best part of Comfort and Joy is the sweet relationship that develops between Joy and little Bobby, the boy she meets after the plane trip. They just bond instantly – it’s like they can instantly fill the holes in each other’s hearts. It makes me remember when my boy was little and sweet. Ah, those were the days! But there is a problem – Bobby’s father Daniel is not as fond of Joy as Bobby is.
Sissy: Bobby is adorable, but in his grief over losing his mother he suffers from some delusions. But are they really delusions, I ask you? And Daniel is described as a very fine looking Irishman (I’m thinking Gerard Butler in that role), who Joy finds herself very attracted to. I admit I was nervous about Bobby getting so attached to Joy so fast, because I didn’t want him to suffer again if and when she left. Now you are thinking you know how the rest of the story goes, but you are WRONG! Just when you think you have it figured out, Kristin Hannah pulls a fast one out of left field and you don’t know what hit you. Good stuff.
Bubby: Hey! I was going to say that!
Sissy: Great minds…-
Bubby: Exactly. I have read this book on the couch by the tree at Christmas, on the beach in Hawaii and of course, in my bathtub and it never fails to make me smile. Pure magic. 4.25 bubbles.
Sissy: I read it in my massage chair…I think this is a first class getaway read. 4 bubbles from the violent one.
Click HERE to buy Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
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.
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
The community allows no pain or fear; war or sorrow. Jonas thinks he lives in the perfect world, and is eager to receive his assigned role when he turns twelve. When his time comes Jonas is apprenticed to the Giver, the only person who knows how things really are. As Jonas learns the truth his whole life changes, and he can never go back.
Sissy: I chose The Giver by Lois Lowry as my Friday Favorite (actually the whole Giver trilogy) because it is a beautifully written, thought-provoking story that, although it may seem heavier and more philosophical than our usual fare, manages to give us relationships, magic, and plenty of imagination as well. Bubby does not agree with this pick, but what she doesn’t know is that I’m also going to fight to review Lowry’s much newer finale to this (now) quartet. Originally published in 1993, the Giver is the much-loved dystopian tale of sacrifice and redemption. I’m excited to read the newest book, “The Son,” to see how the story wraps up. Hopefully happily so Bubby won’t be annoying and “I told you so”-ing.
Bubby: Well, Sissy, you sure have an opinion today! Wow! O.K. Let me start by saying that I have read The Giver numerous times over the years and i do agree that it is a moving, beautifully written story. However, it’s not exactly what I would qualify as a relaxing, calgon-take-me-away-moment type of book. It’s heavy stuff – lots of weighty issues and thought-provoking moral dilemmas. In fact, many school libraries across the country have had to pull this book off their shelves because parents feel that it is inappropriate for children of any age to read. I do not approve of censorship like that but I do agree that this is a book for older kids and adults and it will bring up some questions that may be hard to answer.
Sissy: It is also required reading at some schools, and I consider that the “good” kind of required reading, like Pride and Prejudice, not unbearable required reading like most everything else. I don’t know–sue me, but I thought everyone read The Giver. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every bibliophile who hasn’t read it is a complete moron (because that would be extremely rude and inappropriate), I will say “read it, ya moron!” No, just kidding–I would say hey–give it a try (smile, smile).
Bubby: The most interesting part of The Giver for me is the question of personal freedom. What freedoms are you willing to give up in order to have peace? To have wealth? Or health? How far would you go? Is it ok to deny others their freedoms and rights so that you can enjoy yours? And what effect does that have on your humanity? Since Sissy is jumping out of our comfort zone today, I’ll do the same. I have just finished A Memory of Light – the last book in Robert Jordan’s epic series The Wheel of Time. Many of these same issues are discussed in this series. Specifically, it raises the question of whether it is possible to have true happiness, true joy, without having sorrow and pain and grief. I think that the answer is no. I believe that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but I also believe that unless you have experienced the bad times it is impossible to recognize the good.
Sissy: Our main character, Jonas, goes from believing that he lives in a happy utopia to realizing that, just as Bubby explains above, this happiness is false, because one cannot experience true happiness without contrasting feelings, and without freedom of choice. This is a clear message, thoughtfully woven into fiction, that all people about 6th grade and up should be able to grasp and appreciate.
Bubby: I would make it a little older, maybe 7th or 8th grade simply because of the infanticide and similar adult issues. I am not saying that The Giver is a bad book. It is a great book. You just have to be in the right frame of mind and know what to expect. I would compare it to WonderBread versus homemade whole wheat – one is light and fluffy and has little nutritional value, but it’s easy to digest. The other is dense and hearty with lots of good stuff but it’s a bit harder to chew. Both are good in their own way. I enjoyed The Giver but at this particular point in my life I need more WonderBread and less whole wheat. Because of that, I am giving it only 4 bubbles.
Sissy: Some days I feel like that too, but other days I want to rant and rave and write letters to my legislators and fix things that are wrong in the world. My kids all read The Giver by Lois Lowry in the 5th and 6th grades and survived–no budding sociopaths in the lot! I give this book 4.5 bubbles.
©2013 Bubble Bath Books
Click HERE to buy The Giver by Lois Lowry from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy The Giver by Lois Lowry from Bookdepository.com
Welcome to Mitford, North Carolina where the hills are green, the air is clean and the people are downright neighborly. This is the home of Father Tim, a late-middle-aged bachelor Episcopal priest who is somewhat unsatisfied with himself and his calling. In his search for a more meaningful life, Father Tim is about to get more than he ever bargained for – a new dog, a new neighbor and lots of new challenges – all of which will make Father Tim’s life better and richer than he could possibly have imagined.
Bubby: I have loved the Mitford books since they first came out, back in 1996. They are ALWAYS clean, uplifting and entertaining – rare qualities in books these days. I love the characters – they are well drawn and really feel like friends right from the beginning.
Sissy: I too have enjoyed Jan Karon’s Father Tim series, although I could only read two in a row and then I would have to give myself a break and then come back and read more. Mitford sounds like an idyllic town but having lived in small towns myself, I know that there are downsides as well. Father Tim has to deal with everybody knowing everybody’s business and everybody wanting to know his – especially all the middle-aged single women. I do love Father Tim.
Bubby: You know, it’s been quite a while since I’ve read this book but the characters have stuck with me the whole time. First there is Emma Garrett, Father Tim’s nosy but loving secretary. I’d love to meet this woman. She sounds like an Episcopalian version of my dearly departed Aunt Hermoine. Loud, sassy, brassy and fabulous! Then there is the new neighbor, Cynthia. Oh how Father Tim wants to dislike this woman! And we can’t forget little Dooley, the boy who needs lots of love and care and has nowhere to turn but to Father Tim. And Esther – the lady who bakes the fantastic orange marmalade cakes.
Sissy: Father Tim, in case you wondered, is an Episcopalian priest, ( in case you didn’t catch that in the synopsis) and therefore allowed to have romance and marriage. His quirky relationship with new neighbor Cynthia is fun to watch unfold. I was surprised when I saw reviews from people who don’t like this series– they accused it of being too “nice,” or “unexciting,” or too “non-cerebral.” While I agree that this is not the stuff of Oprah’s book club or of the Hunger Games excitement league, sometimes its nice to read about good, wholesome people doing good things. And these characters do have unique quirks and endearing traits a-plenty.
Bubby: I also saw comments saying that Jan Karon’s writing isn’t realistic or true-to-life and has too much “religious content”. Hallelujah! I find that real life is either not very interesting or way too painful or dramatic! I don’t want real life in my reading – I want something that makes me happy, that has a good ending and that spiffs up my day. Jan Karon’s Mitford series does that in spades. And who reads a book about a priest without expecting to run into a scripture or two? It’s good for you. Trust me. The series isn’t static, either. Even though our main character is an older gentleman, he still goes through the whole gamut of emotions and experiences, from love to fatherhood, sorrow and joy. It’s all there.
Sissy: Yes! And who says that just because you’re in your 50’s that means life is over and you’re all washed up and crinkled?
Bubby: Actually . . .
Sissy: I am not done. Who says that just because your jowls are sagging you don’t still need love? Love, romance, excitement, adventure? Who says you don’t still have the same feelings you had in your 20’s? You’re just a little bit wiser.
Bubby: And . . .
Sissy: Not done yet. And when you are in your 50’s, you know who you are and you have half your life left to get it right. That’s why I like Father Tim and Cynthia. I get tired of these perky little 20 and 30 year olds running around acting like they are the only ones who are important.
Bubby: *Raising hand* Can I speak now, Sissy? Or are you STILL not done?
Sissy: No one has to worry about you not getting your say in, Bubby. I’ve never worried about that our whole life!
Bubby: I’ll take that as a yes. I was trying to agree with you, dear one (not that you actually have ANY first-hand knowledge about being in your 50’s.) We review a lot of Young Adult fiction here and it’s refreshing to have an older protagonist for a change. Give At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon a read – or a re-read in my case. You’ll feel all warm and happy inside when you’re done! 4 bubbles.
Sissy: Father Tim and company get 4 bubbles from me as well. Take that, you young whippersnappers! You kids get off my lawn!
Click HERE to buy At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon from BookDepository.com
©Bubble Bath Books 2013
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