The Far Pavilions is a sweeping epic of India in the 1800’s. Ashton Pelham-Martyn was born in India to British parents but was raised as a native Indian after the death of his parents, making him never feel completely at home in either culture. Anjuli is a half-caste princess whose mixed background also causes her tribulation and pain. The story takes the reader on a rich journey through wars, tribulations, hope and romance, teaching us that love can truly conquer all in the end.
Sissy: Back in the day when I first read this I was enchanted by the imagery and senses evoked by the writing in this epic tale. I could see the purple shadowed “Far Pavilions” mountains, smell the spices of India and see the bright, bold saris worn by the Indian Princesses. I wanted to go to India then, and I still do.
Bubby: I really feel that we should stop writing right now and pop off to “The Bombay House” and fortify ourselves with a little chicken kurma and roti. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it Sissy?
Sissy: Ah, that sounds divine!
Bubby: As I was refreshing my memory of this book I found that I could get the 1984 miniseries (Ben Cross, Omar Sharif!) and immediately started watching it – boy did I get comments from the kids! I didn’t get to finish so if you can’t get my attention in the next few days, it’s because I’m watching The Far Pavilions! It’s such a grand sweeping epic – not to be missed, either in book form or movie.
Sissy: I remember when the miniseries came out–I was so excited. I was skeptical about Amy
Irving playing an Indian princess, but she pulled it off. This go round I listened to the “The Far Pavilions” on fully dramatized audiobook, and it was great. I loved the music and the accents. It is frustrating, though, to hear all that they have to go through before they finally get together (is that a spoiler?). Princess Anjuli is too loyal to her sister, in my opinion, and that causes lots of unnecessary anguish.
Bubby: I have to say that I fell in love with our main characters just for their names. Who can resist Princess Anjuli and Ashton Pelham-Martyn? Just delicious. Add to that the story of a boy who is English but was unknowingly raised Indian, a forbidden love affair and the struggles between British rule and Indian autonomy. Fabulous.
Sissy: Agreed. I also am going to watch the mini-series so that I can have the full sensory experience again. One of my favorite characters was Koda Dad, the protector of the princesses and the prince, who also becomes close to Ash. Played by Omar Sharif in the mini-series, by the way.
Bubby: Omar Sharif! He’s up there with Sean Connery and Cary Grant in the fantastic hot old guys list. Sorry, I got distracted there for a minute. Wow – you should all hear the noise that is coming from Sissy’s kitchen right now. Sounds like a herd of rabid rampaging elephants! M.M. Kaye is one of the most descriptive writers I have ever had the privilege of reading. Within the first 20 pages you feel that you are right there in India in the 1800’s. You can almost smell and taste and feel everything that she is writing about. It’s rather amazing.
Sissy: I’ve sent the elephants back to the Maharaja’s stables, now, and I’ll have Mustaq, the stable boy, clean up their “leavings.” After that I shall retire to my mosquito netting covered bed, pat some patchouli on my temples, drink some mango lassi, and finger my forehead jewel. M.M. Kaye’s sweeping epic of romance and adventure in colonial India inspires me thus, and I give it 4 bubbles.
Bubby: I have to put in a few disclaimers before I rate this book. First off, this is a HUGE book – 960 pages. Secondly, it is violent. We have wars, uprisings, ritual burnings – but it’s not gory. And all the violence is integral to the storyline. Thirdly, the ending is not storybook perfect. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not Disney Princesses happy ever after. All this being said, I still think everyone should read The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye at least once in their life. And watch the miniseries too. 5 bubbles.
A plague has swept through the Fifteen Realms, decimating the populace. It is believed that the dreaded disease was created and spread by the Healers – people who have the ability to absorb the wounds and diseases of the ill and injured into themselves. Throughout the land Healers are hunted and executed for the gold bounty on their heads. One such is a young woman named Avry of Kazan – only half-trained before the plague hit. Avry lives her life in hiding, revealing herself only when her desire to overcome suffering outweighs her need for safety. When she heals a small child, she is turned over to the town watchmen to await execution. Suddenly she is rescued by a stranger who wants to use her powers for his own agenda – to heal a plague infected prince who is the enemy of her people. As they make the daunting journey across the Nine Mountains they are attacked by mercenaries and encounter a multitude of magical dangers. As Avry learns more about the origins of the plague and the hidden motives of the Healer Guild she must face the fact that healing the prince may cost her own life. And not healing him may cause a war that will cost the lives of everyone around her.
Sissy: The story is full of magic, adventure, intrigue and romance. You really never know what’s going to happen next in the lives of a group of characters that you feel attached to immediately. Avry is the perfect heroine with a mix of compassion, femininity, courage and fighting skills. Her magical powers of healing are only the beginning of her potential. As the book unfolds you realized that Avry is so much more than just a Healer. I am excited to peel back even more of her layers in the next book of the series (Scent of Magic, available December 18, 2012).
Bubby: Wow. That was a mouthful, Sissy! I see that you really like this girl! I did too. In the first pages of the book, Avry is faced with an ethical dilemma – does she keep her powers secret, keep herself safe and let a little girl die or does she heal the girl, knowing that might mean facing her own death? Obviously she chooses to heal little Fawn. This sets the theme for the entire book. Avry would always rather do what is right than what is safe.
Sissy: Yes, Avry is much like myself. Always wanting to do the right thing.
Bubby: I roll my eyes in your general direction, dearest sister.
Sissy: The problem Avry has is that she never knows who to trust. Everything that she has believed in all her years could be wrong. Does she go ahead and let herself have feelings for a man who participated in the decimation of her people?
Bubby: Yes, and is the Healer’s Guild really the wonderful altruistic organization she thought it was or are they actually responsible for the horrible plague?
Sissy: Avry has lost all of her family except for her sister from whom she is estranged. That is completely unimaginable in my world. I would rather have a toothpick stuck horizontally in my nostrils than be estranged from my dear, dear sister.
Bubby: Awww! That is so sweet! I’m glad that this is published so that I can show it to you next time you decided to disown me! I love you too. You are strange, to be sure, but we are anything but estranged. To be without loved ones is truly something I cannot even fathom. I need a piece of chocolate just thinking about how awful Avry’s situation is.
Sissy: THis book has lots of exciting mysteries to solve and skeewumpus relationships to sort through.
Bubby: Skeewumpus? Wow. (Already ordered her a thesaurus for Christmas, don’t worry).
Sissy: AND it’s all very engaging and well written as is usual for a book by Maria V. Snyder. Bubby is just jealous that I am a wordsmith.
Bubby: *snort*. Wordsmith. *SNORT*.
Sissy: Of the Wordsmith Guild. You were not chosen as a child like I was.
Bubby: This is why I don’t drink carbonated beverages around you anymore, Sissy. I have ruined one too many shirts with the Diet Cola spewing as a response to your, ahem, imaginative wanderings. I must get back to the book now and mention that I have great respect for our author. I have read several series by her and it’s fascinating how she can write equally well in a fantasy/medieval genre like this book as well as in sci-fi like her last series (Inside Out and Outside In). Her characterizations really make the stories come alive.
Sissy: “Her characterizations really make the stories come alive”?
Bubby: That’s what I said.
Sissy: Who are you? Scholastic Press? The Weekly Reviewer? Where is your imagination? Let’s hear something new!
Bubby: Alright. How about this? Snyder weaves a rich tapestry of magic and mystery as she draws us into the saga of Avry of Kazan. Avry is a delightful rendering of a young woman at a crossroads – torn between her duty and calling as a Healer and her love of a man who has wreaked atrocities against her countrymen. How’s that, Sissy?
Sissy: I swoon. I faint. I wipe my fevered brow with a cold compress at the complexity of your verbalizations.
Bubby: Ha! Who’s the wordsmith now, huh?
Sissy: So back to the story, go out immediately and read it. It’s really good. Oh, and we forgot to mention the Death and Peace Lilies. Even the flowers in this story have personality! I give it 4 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: I can’t wait for the sequel. Maybe if I am really nice Sissy will buy it for me for Christmas. I give it 4 bubbles.
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
Mrs. Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, is a widowed empty-nester. She is tired of her life and tired of Garden Club Meetings. She decides that she needs to do something new – something exciting, something patriotic. So, naturally, she becomes a CIA agent. Her first assignment is to Mexico City. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, things do not go according to plan and Mrs. Pollifax finds herself in the middle of a mess. Fortunately for her, she is one feisty lady and those who go up against her are in for quite a surprise! Subsequent books in the series find Mrs. Pollifax anywhere from Switzerland to Damascus, always feisty, always funny, always uniquely Mrs. Pollifax.
Sissy: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax is the first in a delightfully scrumptious series of 14 books written between 1966 and 2000. Mrs. Pollifax is a great character who not only has the mind of a detective but also knows karate and she uses it! I imagine that I will be like Mrs. Pollifax in my golden years.
Bubby: Well, considering that you ARE in your golden years and have yet to learn karate, I sincerely doubt it.
Sissy: Excuse me, Bubby, I am a purple belt in karate for your information.
Bubby: You were a purple belt 20 years ago. Not sure what your belt would look like nowadays. But anyway, I too adore Mrs. Pollifax. The whole series is fantastic. She reminds me of someone who would fit right in at the Red Hat society – those older women who wear their red hats with their purple dresses and have a ball with life.
Sissy: ONe of my problems with most cozy mysteries, although I do like them, is that murdered people just don’t turn up by the dozens in the same location. Mrs. Pollifax, on the other hand, doesn’t sit around the Garden Club and find dead people under the geraniums. SHe joins the CIA for heaven’s sake! At first they just give her little inane assignments that aren’t supposed to pose any danger but she proves once and for all that age does not diminish one’s innate wonderfulness.
Bubby: I agree with Sissy – in real life one call only find two or three dead bodies before people start accusing them of BEING the murderer. Mrs. Pollifax heads out to all these fantastic exotic locales (Mexico, Egypt, Africa, Morocco) and is involved in situations where murder and mayhem are plentiful.
Sissy: That is one of the most fun things about this series – the exotic locales. Mrs. Pollifax is a hoot when she tries to wear disguises and assimilate into the cultures. Dorothy Gilman is writing is witty and clever.
Bubby: The descriptions of places are so rich and detailed that I can almost smell the saffron couscous and feel the hot Damascus sun beating on my head (referring of course to Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled). I have no desire to be a CIA agent but I enjoy reading a book that can make me feel like one!
Sissy: Ah, yes, the burning sand squidging between my weary, travel-stained toes; the sweat dripping down my lobster-red brow, a tepid mug of barley tea clasped in my gun-grip calloused hands…I’m feeling it with you, Bubby!
Bubby: That’s my point exactly. I don’t actually WANT to go there and do that. I would much prefer to relax in my lavender scented bathwater and live vicariously through the pages of my book.
Sissy: Mrs. Pollifax even finds romance eventually. She is so not your Miss Marple brand of heroine. So go out and buy or borrow these books and read them because you will like them. 5 bubbles for me.
Bubby: Absolutely. I also recommend that you read any or all of Dorothy Gilman’s other books. She is a great writer. 4 1/2 bubbles for Mrs. Pollifax!
Click HERE to buy The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman at Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman at BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
You’ve grown up thinking that Robin Hood was a dashing, handsome young man in green. But what if he was really a she? Robin of Locksley is a headstrong young woman who is struggling to find her place in a male-dominated society when her father announces that she is to be married to the Sheriff of Nottingham. Unable to accept this fate, Robin rebels and tries to flee to the safety of London to seek aid from the King. Along the way she encounters deadly adventures and familiar characters and begins to make a life for herself among the trees of Sherwood Forest.
Sissy: I was actually IN the bathtub when I began reading this book.
Bubby: My eyes! My eyes! Scrub that mental image!
Sissy: No time for your pathetic body jealousy, Bubby. Anyway, I got so caught up in this tale that I became positively pruney! I really liked this twist on an old tale. I loved that it had a strong female protagonist who didn’t give up her femininity but could still thrash the boys with her stunning archery skills.
Bubby: I am all for the strong, beautiful girls as lead characters. I remember when I was growing up, the only girls that had leading roles in books were either wimpy victims or evil hags.
Sissy: Are you referring to Evil Aunt Hilda’s diary?
Bubby: No, but I could be! Man, she was a piece of work, wasn’t she? But to get back on topic, I am so glad that today’s books offer some better role models. Plus, they are much more interesting to read! I was so impressed with Robin’s decision to take her life into her own hands rather than marry that stinky sheriff. This was just a great read all the way around. Action, romance, it had it all!
Sissy: O.K. so you meet all the familiar characters from the original Robin Hood tale and it’s fun to see how the author introduces and develops each one. In the historic tale, Robin and Maid Marian have a beautiful romance. This incarnation of the story also has romance and at the beginning you wonder who the female Robin Hood will fall in love with and what will happen to her sister Maid Marian. The results are truly satisfying. Since this is not a spoiler, I shall not tell you who ends up fancying whom.
Bubby: I loved the romance subplot as well. As every new male character popped up I wondered if he could be the one. Would it be Will Scarlett? Little John? The other Will? Friar Tuck? I admit I was a bit surprised at who it turned out to be, but it was the perfect choice. (And no, it isn’t Friar Tuck!)
Sissy: How insensitive of you to suggest Friar Tuck as Robin’s romantic interest! I am as offended as if you had said the Pope or the Dalai Lama!
Bubby: Hey, Friar Tuck renounced the authority of the Sheriff. Maybe he had renounced his vows too! You don’t know! Anyway, it’s not like I was offering him as a serious possibility!
Sissy: What literary abyss have you fallen into with your overactive use of exclamation points today? (Bubby is typing my parts today while I dictate).
Bubby: I always type. Cause you’re computer illiterate, remember?
Sissy: As always, I shall ignore Bubby’s petulance and continue my review.
Bubby: Wow. Did you eat a thesaurus for lunch or what?
Sissy: As I was saying, R.M. Arcejaeger cleverly weaves well-known characters and scenes from the original Robin Hood with new twists and turns and plots. I give it 4 bubbles.
Bubby: I really enjoy retellings of classic stories. This is my new favorite in that genre. I just noticed that this author has another book out – a retelling of Cinderella. That is going to the top of my must-read-next list. Robin: Lady of Legend gets 4 bubbles from me too.
© Bubble Bath Books 2012