Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: Fantasy

Forget prophecy. Make your own destiny. Sheltered from the outside world with no hope for escape, slave girl Reychel dreads her fifteenth birthday – when her master’s symbol is burned on the back of her bald scalp. Her best friend disappears the night before, leaving her to face the branding ceremony alone. She soon discovers nothing is as it seems when people desperate for freedom beg for Reychel’s help. Can Reychel learn to believe in herself? (From Netgalley.com)

Bubby: Sometimes we go and look at other’s reviews on a given book just to see what other people are thinking. Sometimes when we do that, we find wildly conflicting opinions. That is the case with Anathema. It seems to us that Anathema was published previously and has been re-released after some major editing, hence the conflicting reviews. At any rate, the version of Anathema that I read was really quite a treat. Original, well-written, great characters. It is the first in a series of 6 books that are split into two trilogies (Cloud Prophet Trilogy and Swarm Trilogy) and a novella that promises to tie the two trilogies together. I have in my possession said novella and book 1 of the Swarm Trilogy. Happy reading ahead for me!

Sissy: Our main character Reychel is a slave who is given some strange preferential treatment by her owner Kandek. Her story is an exciting adventure that leads us to find out she is much more than she thinks. Twisty relationships and secrets revealed add drama and color to the whole tale. There is a touch of romance to spice things up and a whole cast of interesting characters.

Bubby: Including, as always, one you’ve just got to hate. Oh, that character is a nasty piece of work!

Sissy: But that character is dealt with deliciously in the end. All you have to do is look at the face of the cover model and her dreamy eye makeup and you know she is clever and bound to come out on top.

Bubby: Perfect book for a beach read. Now all I need is a beach! 3.5 bubbles.

Sissy: Experience with Reychel secrets that will change her life. I know you can’t wait to find out what happens! 3.5 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Anathema at Amazon.com (Currently FREE!!)

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

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. In The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Bubby: The plot was good, the characters were great but the best part of The Kiss of Deception was definitely the way Mary E. Pearson structured the novel. We’d have a segment from Lia’s point of view, a section from the prince’s side of things and then one from Mr. Assassin Boy. And the kicker was that for most of the book you have absolutely no idea which boy is which. We only know them as Kaden and Rafe. Is Kaden the prince? Or is it Rafe? Only one way to find out!

Sissy: I totally didn’t know who was the prince and who was the assassin until it was revealed when the assassin kidnaps Lia. I got it all wrong and was surprised but glad. This tale leads you on a merry chase, literally and figuratively. First of all, when Lia flees on her wedding day with her maid Pauline, she knows where she’s going but not how to get there or what she’s going to do when she arrives. She has to take on a whole new persona and hide from unknown villains. She doesn’t know who to trust, even though her heart is trying to give her clues.

Bubby: Her heart is doing her no favors. It tells her to trust BOTH of the boys – even the one who’s been sent to kill her.

Sissy: But her heart definitely makes her lean in a certain direction. Her new life as a hard-working bar maid prepares her for the rough road ahead when she gets kidnapped and her life takes on a decidedly un-princess-like turn.

Bubby: You’d think there would be a clear-cut bad guy in this story but there really isn’t, except for the shadowy leader of the barbarians who we really don’t get to know much about. And there is one other big nasty scumbucket but I can’t reveal who. You’ll know him when you see him. You’d think the assassin would be the bad guy, but even as you hate what the assassin is doing, you still feel for him and wonder what he could have been under different circumstances.

Sissy: There are lots of delightful side plots and characters that fill out the story and make it so delectable. When I got 95% into the book and realized that things weren’t going to resolve, I threw myself onto the floor, banged my fists and said “Fie!” And when is book 2 coming out? Quick, Bubby, google it and tell me!

Bubby: She’s working on it, but no publication date yet. Boo.

Sissy: The way Mary E Pearson did end this first book was so yummy. So poetic, so fateful. So clever. You must read it!

Bubby: I must admire Mary E Pearson for her versatility as an author. She has written several other YA books but they are all very modern or even futuristic. The Jenna Fox series is really well done and my teens just ate it up but I have to admit it wasn’t my favorite. Just not quite my thing. But this book. Is. Magic. Everything I am looking for in a YA Fantasy novel.

Sissy: The Kiss of Deception is a delicious romantic adventure saga with a touch of magic. All you have to do is look at the fantastic cover art and you will have a preview of the wondrous story ahead. 4.5 bubbles.

Bubby: Practically perfect in every way. 4.75 bubbles.

 

 


A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance. Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory. The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect? (From Amazon.com)

Bubby: In my dreams sometimes I pretend that I am a beautiful woman disguised as an elite warrior. My fighting skills are legendary and the few men who know my secret are captivated by my exotic beauty and keen intelligence. And then I wake up and realize that I am dreaming about this book I just read: Defy by Sara B. Larson. There are many many writers out there, and multitudes of books to read and many of these are debut novels. However, not many of them (whether they be debut books or book #42) are as captivating and intense and just dang GOOD as this one. At its core, it is a story we’ve heard before – a girl dresses up like a boy to escape a “fate worse than death”, in this case, the breeding houses set up by the evil king to provide a never-ending source of warriors. But the plotline explodes from there. Secrets, rebellions, love triangles, handsome princes…I could go on and on.  But when I go on and on Sissy yells at me so over to her.

Sissy: Well, Bubby, that was a literary lake of lusciousness, although I remember your dreams differently. You must have been dreaming the warrior fighting bits when your heel was shoved into my ribcage (Bubby and I had to share a bed in our youth, when we were sharecroppers in Alabama). Did your princess self like to wrestle, too? Cause I remember being caught up in your claustrophobic clutches many a time, causing me to dream about being strangled by dwarves.

Bubby: Seriously? Are you EVER going to get over this? So I was a bit of a restless sleeper. And I wouldn’t go to sleep unless you sang to me. Repeatedly. But is that so bad? And really, it was only for five years or so and then you abandoned me! It’s time to move on. You’ve been sleeping without me for decades now. Talk about the story!

Sissy: So our heroine Alex(a) never has to sleep with her sister –

Bubby: Because she doesn’t have one. Otherwise I bet she’d have loved to share a bed with a beloved sister…

Sissy: Anyway, she is the very definition of a kickbutt girl. I had an inner conversation at one point when I was reading of her great feats of strength and endurance and bravery and I said to myself, “Self, you are overly fond of this chick and her exploits. But you are nothing like her! You don’t like to sleep on the floor and fight with men hand-to-hand and be smelly and have scary adventures and save the world. You must be schizophrenic!” And I answered myself, “You could possibly be right.”

Bubby: Umm. Well, let’s not rule out schizophrenia just yet, but I think we all do this with characters we love. I love the Lord of the Rings books and movies but there is no way on earth (or Middle Earth for that matter) that I would have volunteered to go on any kind of world saving mission. I would have just hung out with the elves and learned cool hair braiding techniques. That’s what good books are for – to escape our own existence and live vicariously through someone else. And if they happen to be beautiful and exciting and ever-so-deadly, then hooray!

Sissy: Bubby the philosopher has answered the esoteric question of the hour. Notwithstanding my weenie arms, I identified with Alexa and thoroughly ate up Defy. I give it 4 bubbles, not to be popped by hidden boot daggers, which I will probably start wearing any day now.

Bubby: I still think you might be schizo, Sissy, but I will agree with you that Defy is an outstanding debut. I loved it. 4 bubbles from me.

Click HERE to buy Defy by Sara B. Larson at Amazon.com

We were given a copy of Defy by the publishers in return for a fair and honest review.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


Jarod Klum was trapped in his small life in the small village of Eventide and saw no means of escape. He would never be worthy of the woman of his dreams, never achieve great deeds of valor and never be remembered in song or story. It wasn’t that he was without dreams. He dreamed them every night; of rescuing the imperiled Caprice Morgan from marauding pirates who had somehow come up the river or of returning from a great Quest beyond the village boundaries laden with treasure that he could lay at the feet of the appreciative Caprice Morgan. But each morning he awoke in his straw bed and knew he was just Jarod Klum.
Until, that is, the coming of the Dragon’s Bard. The Dragon’s Bard convinced Jarod to win his fair Caprice through ‘heroic deeds of a more manageable scale’ – setting Jarod on a course of misadventures that turns the town on its head. Jarod’s single-minded pursuit of his greatest wish – even if it is a broken one – escalates until the only thing left for him to do is to become a dragonslayer and save the town from a ferocious, legendary monster that everyone fears but no one has ever seen. ‘Eventide’ is brought to life through the stories of the interweaving lives of its citizens, their follies, joys, tragedies and triumphs on a scale of life to which we can all relate. In the end, it is a visit to a place where we ourselves would like to settle down and live out our lives as we should. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Hey, Sissy, it’s been a while since we’ve done a Friday Favorites!

Sissy: And this one is one of the most fun books I have ever read. It is so clever and goofily whimsical. I applaud the Hickmans for having such creative brain cells! The characters are so weird, entertaining and craftily crafted. I had a ball reading Eventide.

Bubby: Craftily crafted? Really?

Sissy: Do we have to deal with your absurd wordsmith envy again?

Bubby: Wordsmith envy? Really? It’s like you think you are a character in Eventide. Hmm, let’s call you Sissy the Witless Word Coining Sprite. You can even have little purple iridescent wings with all of your strange words and expressions flitting across them. I like it! I like it! And I can be, let’s see…

Sissy: You can be Bubby the Fatuous Foot Fungus Fairy!

Bubby: Hey! Who you calling fatuous? I prefer Sorceress of Sarcasm, thank you very much. Now back to the book. Any novel that has characters like Gossip Fairies and Centaur Farmers and dancing blacksmiths is a win for me. I have long been a fan of Tracy Hickman’s high fantasy work – his Dragonlance books are well known to us nerdy geeky people – but his writing with his wife, Laura is fantastic in a whole new way. Eventide is light and fluffy and just dang fun.

Sissy: The premise of the story is that the Dragon’s bard has to collect stories to tell the dragon king so as not to be killed. So the Bard is always meddling in the villager’s affairs, especially Jarod our main character, with hilarious results. But there’s also a bit of romance and danger and even heart warming moments. I can’t say enough about how satisfyingly enjoyable Eventide was.

Bubby: A great start to a (so far) 3 book series. I can’t wait to read the other books (Blackshore and Moredale) and find out what the Bard is up to next! 3.75 floaty and frothy bubbles from me.

Sissy: Such a fun read for teens and adults alike. I don’t want anyone to think that this is too lightweight or is just for kids. It really struck my funny bone and for that reason, I give it 4 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Eventide (Tales of The Dragon’s Bard #1) at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king–a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do. (From Amazon.com)

Sissy: I have to just jump right in here and say I LOVED the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson!  I spent a lot of time with those books, and lost a lot of sleep.  I read the first one and told Bubby about it, and then she (speed reader extraordinaire) read all three and urged me to finish the series AT ONCE! (She is bossy like that…).  I finished the 2nd one a little after midnight one night and texted my dear sister that I needed the last one IMMEDIATELY! (I pull “eldest sister” rank like that sometimes…).  She is a night owl anyway.  The story is epic!  Any male would have to rank this tale as high on adventure, action, and all the other manly stuff, except there is enough romance, mystery, magic, and assorted girly stuff to satisfy any female.  I wanted to glue a gem in my belly button and pretend I am a bearer of the Godstone.  I may still do it.

Bubby: Well, then. So are you saying you liked these books, Sissy? Wow. For me, this series was not an instant hit as it was for Sissy. It grew on me, line by line and chapter by chapter. I have an issue with novels that are written from a first-person present tense point of view. You know, like “I walk through the door and there Sissy sits, eating the last piece of my Godiva Chocolate. I wonder how I will ever be able to love her again as I begin to cry.” Everything is happening RIGHT NOW. It takes me a while to get past that and be able to enjoy the story. I know, I’m a traditionalist old fuddy-duddy for preferring third-person writing. Get over it. The point is, once I got past my issues, I began to really enjoy Elisa’s adventures. How would it be to know without a shadow of a doubt that you were one of a very few choice persons who had been chosen by God for a very specific purpose? I loved watching Elisa grow from a confused little girl into a strong, powerful, confident woman.

Sissy:  The books were so good, I didn’t even notice what person they were written in, except for maybe “skillful writing” person.  And I would never eat the last of your Godiva chocolates–I might find myself impaled in the eyeball by a corner of the empty box!  I also was intrigued with the evolution of Elisa–from a girl who felt unremarkable in every way and unworthy of a Godstone to an all-powerful warrior/sorceress queen.  Now, those who want to hear the message that they are fine just the way they are may mistake this as a tale of one who must change everything about herself in order to be worthwhile.  But it really is a tale of discovery.  In discovering her full potential, Elisa realizes the extraordinariness that was always part of her;  not discarding her unique self, but empowering it.

Bubby: These are not light and fluffy books. There is violence and death, trial and pain, redemption and love. They are marketed as Young Adult novels but I think they appeal to a much wider audience. I know that one of Sissy’s pet peeves is when fantasy authors put too much detail into their world building (see our review of Elantris for an example of her ranting) but Rae Carson did an excellent job of building a world that had just enough differentness to keep it interesting without alienating any of her elderly, mush-for-brains readers like Sissy.  Just kidding, Sissy. I know that you are as intelligent as you are beautiful! These are captivating books that will reel you in and keep you up well past your bedtime. 4.5 bubbles

Sissy:  I agree with you, Bubby (not about the part where you call me elderly) that Rae Carson’s civilizations of Oravalle, Invierne, etc. are beautifully done and do not give me a headache.  What can I say, but that if you’re up for an exciting, adventurous read, these books are good!  4.5 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson at Amazon.com

Click HERE to buy Crown of Embers by Rae Carson at Amazon.com

Click HERE to buy The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


Sissy: Someone had the great idea of recruiting different authors to write retellings of favorite fairy tales and call them Once Upon A Time. We have chosen two of those, Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguié and Snow by Tracy Lynn, to review for you this week.  Midnight Pearls is based on The Little Mermaid and Snow is, of course, based on Snow White. Each of these has an interesting twist on the original story; one is a merperson/human love square and one involves human/animal mutants. Yes, you read correctly.

Bubby: I know that someone out there is saying, “More fairytale retellings? Haven’t you already done that? Why would we want to read more of those?” Well, you naysayer you, let me tell you why. There is a reason why singers keep recording new versions of classic songs and authors keep rewriting fairy tales. When something is good, it’s good and it’s so much fun to take something classic and put your own spin on it. One of my favorite stations on Pandora is an a capella station that is all covers of popular songs redone without accompaniment. It’s fabulous. I feel the same way about fairy tales – and I especially love this series because they are so well done and unusual.

Sissy: I thought these were rather cleverly done.  If I had to choose my favorite of the two, it would be Snow, because of Tracy Lynn’s interesting characterizations.  If you like this kind of story (always a guaranteed happy ending!) you will like these and you will want to look up the others (19 of them, including several by one of my favorite authors in this genre, Cameron Dokey).

Bubby: Both stories are beautifully written and are just the thing to cure the “oh crap it’s almost winter” blues. There is nothing quite like a well-done fairy tale to make me feel all happy and bubbly – they’re almost better than chocolate. Almost.

Sissy: Also, in the midst of one’s “oh crap it’s almost winter” moment, one might only have a small bit of time to read and these are short little delicious nuggets of around 200 pages that can be nibbled up in no time. You will still have time to haul out the warm clothes and snow boots and dig up the last of your garden and go to the children’s fall concert, etc., etc. I give them a magical 3.5 bubbles each.

Bubby: It’s kind of like Disney Princesses for grownups. Delightful. A collective 3.5 bubbles from me as well.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013

Click HERE to buy Snow by Tracy Lynn at Amazon.com

Click HERE to by Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguié at Amazon.com


Feyland is a full-D (which means you are fully immersed) game-the most high-tech of its kind-and Jennet Carter is the first to play the prototype. But what she doesn’t know is that the Dark Queen of the faeries has decided to use the virtual world as a portal to the real one, and that she’ll be battling for her REAL life.
Tam Linn’s real life is so bad that he finds solace in the simulated life of gamers.  He has no plan to get involved with a rich girl like Jennet.  But he may just be the hero she desperately needs.
Jennet and Tam enter the Dark Realm of Feyland and discover that much more is at stake–like the future of the entire human world.  Can they, with their limited abilities, defeat the dark queen and save mankind?

Sissy:  This book is far out of my wheelhouse (I heard Blake Shelton and then Usher and then Shakira use that term on The Voice) so Bubby was surprised when I loaned her Feyland by Anthea Sharp.  I think Bubby asked me 5 times if I really liked it for sure, because it was so much more her than me.  I told her that I reserve the right to broaden my horizons and be startlingly eclectic at any given moment.  I wondered about it meself when I started reading it, but I actually was able to follow all the futuristic techie jargon without going into a menopausal brain peat bog.

Bubby: At least you THINK you were able to follow it all. As I do not have access into said menopausal brain, I wouldn’t know for sure! But what you say is true. I started reading Feyland and was amazed that you had enjoyed it. But I really shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, the gaming and futuristic stuff is the only aspect that isn’t you – and that’s only part of the book. The bigger part is Fairyland itself – and you are all about the fairies and magic and stuff.

Sissy: I am a fairy. A sparkling flower fairy. Therefore, yes, all that stuff was appealing. This book is futuristic, though, because the rich people have such things as grav-cars (like a hover car sort of dealie), wrist chips, and fully automated houses (named HANA for House Activated Network Assistant). Sort of big-brotherish if you ask me.

Bubby: I like it. I want a grav-car and an automated house. Like the one in the tv show Eureka. Except you never watched that show so you don’t know what I’m talking about but it was cool. It was named SARAH (for words I can’t remember what they stand for). But the future bits aren’t my favorite. My favorite was right at the beginning when we met one of our main characters, Tam Lin and then when the character of Thomas Rimer was introduced. Now if you are a big fan of faerie-realm stories, you will already recognize these names. Tamlin is a famous character from the old Scottish Ballads – a mortal man who was captured by the fairies (Fae, Faery Folk, etc.) and then rescued by his own true love. Thomas Rhymer is also a ballad character – a bard who was so talented that the Fairy Queen decided to keep him as her own personal songsmith. The instant I saw Anthea Sharp use these names for her characters, I knew I had found a kindred soul. I was hooked.

Sissy: Yes, Bubby, you are a nerd. But since I am actually half-human and half-fae, I can’t really blame you for your fixation on the world of fairy.

Bubby: Which half? Somehow I’m not seeing either of our parents as faerykind . . .

Sissy: Just go with it! Stop trying to ruin my alternate realities. The clever thing about Anthea Sharp is that she was able to retell a very old story in a very modern way without any bumps or hitches. It works beautifully. The story flows so well, even for those with no knowledge of fairy lore. I think the author has written something that will capture a whole new demographic.

Bubby: I loves it. Loves loves loves it. I have a weakness for modern-day retellings of old stories; they just do something for me. I love tales that are seasoned with a little (or in this case, a lot) of magic. I even love stories that use age-old archetypes, in this case the poor little rich girl and the poverty stricken boy with a heart of gold. As Sissy said, the tricky part is weaving all of these elements together and actually having it work. This one works. It has it all, even a little hint of romance.

Sissy: The budding romance between Tam Lin and Jennet is reason enough for me to want to continue this series. I can tell they will have a lot more exciting and bonding adventures ahead. Tam Lin’s life is so painfully tragic, I hope better things are in store there, too.

Bubby: I agree! Jennet lives in this great big huge house with just her and her dad, who is never there anyway and Tam and his mom and brother (both of whom have some big medical issues) live in a shack in the super scary part of town. Can’t the Lin family just move into Jennet’s basement or something?

Sissy: Obviously, there is a lot more to explore in the lives of Tam and Jennet and the world of the Fae. I highly recommend Feyland to the techies, the fairytale lovers, and the fantasy fans, because this is a category bending read.  4.25 hover-bubbles.

Bubby:  Feyland checks all the requisite boxes for me.  I can’t wait to continue the series.  Maybe I can get cheapskate Sissy to buy them this time (she says “Not fairy likely…”).  4.5 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Feyland at Amazon.com