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
Nineteen books comprise this excellent series about Sylvia Compson, her quilting group The Elm Creek Quilters and her home, the historic Elm Creek manor. The series begins with “The Quilter’s Apprentice” where we are introduced to Sylvia and her home. Sylvia is the last living member of the Bergstrom family and has come back to Waterford, Connecticut to clean out the family manor. Sylvia is scarred by the tragedies of the past and wants nothing more than to sell the house and go back to her solitary life. She hires a young newlywed, Sarah McClure, to help with the cleaning. In the process, Sylvia begins to teach Sarah to quilt and Sarah teaches Sylvia how to heal and find new meaning in her life. As the series continues, we meet other members of the Elm Creek Quilters and find out more of the rich history of the Bergstrom family in particular and quilting in general.
Bubby: Technically, The Elm Creek Quilts Series is Sissy’s choice, but since it’s my week and I love the books and I found them first, I am stealing them.
Sissy: You did NOT find them first. I found them when you were still in Junior High.
Bubby: I am very young, it is true, but since it was published in 1999 and I have teenagers born before then, I think you might be a big liar. Regardless of who found them (and now that I think about it I actually think Mom found them first) they are excellent. I haven’t read all 19, but they are on my list.
Sissy: Either I am a dismal, aged crone with cobwebs for brains or the 1999 publishing date is a typo perpetuated by the fiends at Amazon.com
Bubby: I choose option #1 . . .
Sissy: At the dawn of time, when I discovered the first book, I immediately thought “Nah, not reading a quilt book.” I do have warm fuzzies about quilts and spent many happy hours playing with my Barbies underneath quilts that Mom and Grandma were working on. I did not, however, inherit the quilting gene. Ditto on the sewing. So I thought that a quilt series would be boring. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. A rare occurrence, mind you. It turns out that quilting and quilts are a goldmine of life metaphors. I was so inspired, I almost decided to make a quilt out of the 40+ year old fabric scraps I have in a bin from Mom. After more than ten years, I am still looking at those fabric scraps, but now I appreciate more their history.
Bubby: Excuse me for just a moment while I run to the garage and fetch a shovel with which to shovel myself out of the above load of crap. “A goldmine of life metaphors”? When did you turn into Oprah, Sissy?
Sissy: The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head once again. I am sorry that you can only write drivel, Bubby.
Bubby: *Shoveling frantically* OK. All clear. Yes, Mom and Grandma were quilters. I still have the quilt Grandma gave me for my wedding sitting on the foot of my bed. I, unlike the Queen of Schmaltz Sissy, have actually MADE a quilt. But only one. And it was difficult. And I’m not ever doing it again. But I like to pretend that I am a quilter and these books help me do that. There is a great cast of characters, from curmudgeonly Sylvia, sweet young Summer and her free-spirited mother, to quilt shop owner Bonnie and many others. The books cover all sorts of topics; slavery, teenagers, divorce, Hawaii, love, and cooking but everything is tied together with quilting. (And by the way, only one of us has green eyes. It’s not me.)
Sissy: I prefer to be called Queen of ‘de Nile.
Bubby: Whatever floats your boat. Ha! That was funny! Get it? Boat? Nile? Floating? . . . *crickets*
Sissy: You need to rein it, Bubby. This is a serious blog for serious readers. The Elm Queek Quilter’s Series by Jennifer Chiaverini has introduced to me a whole subculture of which I had no foreknowledge. Did you know that quilts have an absolutely fascinating history? Do you know the importance of quilts in Feminist Issues? Did you realize that there is a whole body of quilt-related collegiate study opportunities? Read the books and you shall know more. I am reminded of Maeve Binchy’s characters which are constantly interwoven throughout her various novels. You find characters in Chiaverini’s books sometimes playing major roles and sometimes making cameo appearances but almost always present.
Bubby: Before I read these, I had no idea that quilts were used to help slaves find their way to stops on the Underground Railway or that I could go to college and major in “Women’s Handicrafts.” I might just do that someday! The plots are varied and interesting, the characters are vibrant and the history is enlightening. So glad that I discovered this series on my own and then introduced them to Sissy!
Sissy: I have read 16 of the 19 Elm Creek Quilters novels and think Jennifer Chiaverini is an excellent storyteller. I read a review on the latest one (The Giving Quilt) which said that the author is too politically liberal. Therefore, I would not recommend it for gun-hoarding, right-wing conservative militants such as Bubby. I will read it first so as to keep Bubby from making a run on the ammo store. That said, I highly recommend this series!
Click HERE to buy The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini
Tasmin and William have been betrothed since birth even though they are from opposite sides of the kingdom. When William is unjustly accused of murder Tasmin drops everything and rushes to his side to help clear his name. She settles into the apartment William has prepared for them above his chocolate shop and begins to investigate. She soon finds herself facing more than she’d bargained for – suspicious townspeople, William’s dysfunctional family and a complex web of deceit surrounding the murder. Tasmin and William must work together to solve the mystery and find the real killer – before he strikes again.
Sissy: I relate to Tasmin, because she is a Hag. And I mean that in the best possible way. In the world where Tasmin lives a Hag is magical and beautiful.
Bubby: *Snort*. Sorry. Please continue, dearest Haggy Sissy.
Sissy: When she is promised to William, his family is upset because they believe in a more traditional definition of Hags. Kind of like when I married a boy from Utah and my dad told me that Utahns eat their young.
Bubby: Which is why I married a boy from Washington. No young ‘uns being eaten there! Yes, William’s family thinks that everyone from the North must be evil and deceitful and dangerous. Tasmin’s family thinks that those from the South, like William, are all uncultured savages. Of course they are both wrong. And it doesn’t matter anyway. Tasmin and William fall in love through letters written over Tasmin’s lifetime. They care only for each other, not the opinions of their families.
Sissy: In The Chocolatier’s Wife, Cindy Lynn Speer uses the wonderful literary device of letter writing between the two main characters to give us background, build their relationship and clarify the present story. She does a fantastic job and this was one of the things that drew me into the story. I read an Amazon.com review of this book where one reader said the writing was “painful”. I was completely discombobulated by that remark–that reviewer obviously had too much lead in their water pipes, if you know what I mean.
Bubby: It is very well written. No complaints about that from me. I loved the many twists and turns in the plot – you don’t actually find out who the murderer is or why the murder was committed until the very end of the book. It’s quite shocking, really. I never would have guessed. The romance between William and Tasmin is so sweet – they interact as if they’d been married already for 10 years and are totally dedicated to one another. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I also enjoyed hating William’s mother and sister-in-law. Talk about hags! (And not in a good way).
Sissy: Yes, there is plenty of intrigue in this book. While I usually can guess who the murderer is early on (because I am like that Mentalist guy on TV), this time I was taken by surprise. If I dangled the tag words “chocolate”, “magic”, “pirates” and “romance” in front of a group of mixed age women, who would come forward to devour this book? I would say all of them between 13 and 104.
Bubby: So it’s a little young for you, is that what you’re saying? Ha!
Sissy: Yeah, I’m the sexiest 105 year-old you’ve ever seen!
Bubby: Not too high of a bar there. Anyway, now that you’ve written our tags for this post, let me sum up by saying that The Chocolatier’s Wife was a good read. It was a bit slow for me in bits and I wavered between hating William’s family and wanting to slap some sense into them, especially his brother. I have no use for weak-willed lily-livered girly men. Grow a spine already! Overall, though, enjoyable. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Sissy: If I didn’t know you I’d think you had the personality of a cabbage! It only seemed slow in bits to you because you’re always trying to set the speed reading record. It’s part of your insecurity. I, on the other hand, am able to savor every word like a bit of fine chocolate. Someday I will coach you in this skill. The Chocolatier’s Wife is a scrumptious bite and I give it 4 bubbles.
© Bubble Bath Books 2012
This series features budding forensic anthropologist Elizabeth MacPherson. She makes her debut in 1984’s Sick of Shadows, where she investigates a suspicious death at the wedding of her cousin Eileen. Throughout the series, Elizabeth continues to solve mysteries both foreign and domestic, as well as fall in love. We also get to meet Elizabeth’s lawyer brother, Bill and his radically feminist partner A.P. Hill. There are nine books in the series, ending with 2000’s PMS Outlaws.
Sissy: Sharyn McCrumb is one of my favorite authors. She has written other series that I also like but today we’ll focus on the very sharp-witted, interesting mystery series, led by the character of one Elizabeth MacPherson. When the author stopped writing this series to go onto other pursuits, I wanted to get in the car and drive to the South and beg her in person to continue writing. It was like having my favorite TV series cancelled. I went into mourning.
Bubby: It’s interesting to read these books back-to-back, which I have done, but not in a while. At the beginning of the series, Elizabeth is shy, has a fairly useless degree and no job prospects. The whole tone of the first few books is very light and fluffy but by the end of the series, McCrumb has really come into her own. She has developed a really nice sharp, dry sense of humor, which makes the last two books, If I Had Killed Him When I Met Him and PMS Outlaws, my very favorites. I also in love with the character A.P. Hill, a little tiny petite woman who thinks she’s Napoleon and wants to be appreciated for her brains, not her boobs. She takes feminism to a whole new level.
Sissy: I know how it is to be shorter than your average sixth grader and not be taken seriously.
Bubby: I don’t. Sorry.
Sissy: How can you feel empowered when you go up to the counter in some retail establishment and it hits you about nose level? I get A.P. Hill. I think I shall start calling myself S. I. Sy.
Bubby: S.I. Sy? Sounds like a new type of synthetic fabric! Really, at your age you should have achieved some sort of closure about your lack of stature. I shall have to get you a shirt that I saw someone wearing the other day. It said, “I’m not short, I’m fun-size!”
Sissy: I have one. I also have a shirt that has a picture of a grinning Cheshire Cat that says “We are all mad here.”
Bubby: I fail to see how that is relevant, except as an expression of your ongoing mental state . . .
Sissy: Speaking of which, the characters in these books are just crazy enough to be highly entertaining.
Bubby: I personally find Elizabeth’s obsession with Scottish culture to be a good example of the above, as demonstrated in Highland Laddie Gone. And then she takes her United Kingdom mania one step further in The Windsor Knot where she *gasp* gets a chance to attend a tea party with Her Royal Majesty.
Sissy: In the last few books the author shows a great understanding of the angst of middle-aged womanhood, which Bubby is in denial about.
Bubby: Not so! No denial here! As I am but a wee 29, middle age is far far far in my distant future, not just a memory as with Sissy.
Sissy: You’re delusional. And it’s just that sort of language usage that makes it impossible for me to have closure. Your words imply that there is something WRONG with being short, WRONG with being of a certain age. These things are actually positive! Do I have to start a rant? Do I have to stand on my soapbox? Do I need to start a grass-roots movement?
Bubby: I believe that the rant is already in progress.
Sissy: As scintillating as my rants are, I would like to get back on topic.
Sissy: I feel that I am giving our readers to this series we are giving them an early holiday gift. Nine good books. Happy Day! I give this series 4 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: I agree. The series is well worth a read. My favorite line in all the books is when one of Bill’s clients informed him (while in jail for murdering her husband) “If I’d killed him when I met him, I’d be out by now”, hence the title of my favorite in the series. I give these books as a whole 4 bubbles. Happy Holidays!
Click HERE to buy Sick of Shadows by Sharyn McCrumb at Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him by Sharyn McCrumb at Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him by Sharyn McCrumb at BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2012