This is a retelling of the beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. In this enchanting version, Beauty hates her nickname (her real name is Honour) because she feels that she is the least beautiful of her father’s three daughters. Instead, she values her intelligence and her love of learning and riding. Her merchant father’s financial failure causes the family to auction off their belongings and move to the country where Beauty is grateful for her practical skills. When her father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle and an angry beast, Beauty agrees to go to the castle to spare her father’s life and eventually learns to love the beast.
Clara Gardner is part angel – an angel-blood. She is smart – she can speak any language fluently. She is strong and fast – she has to hold back so that the humans don’t realize that she is different. Most importantly, Clara has a purpose. It is what she was put on earth to do. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite know what it is. She has visions of a raging forest fire and a handsome boy who might need her help. But she is torn between what she is supposed to do and what her heart tells her is right. Clara must try to make the right choices – but how can she decide between two destinies?
Sissy: Well, this time I actually read these books first and told Bubby she must immediately read them. It’s hard to say anything without giving the story away. Let’s just say that I got so caught up in these books that I pre-ordered the final book (Boundless, coming out January 22, 1013). I usually do anything I can to avoid paying full price for a book because I am a cheap skate and so that tells you something about how good these books are.
Bubby: Unearthly and Hallowed by Cynthia Hand are truly riveting. I really enjoyed them much more than I thought I would. There is another series out there about a race descended from angels (I like it, I own them all – The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare) and I thought this would just be more of the same. Wrong. So very, very wrong. This is a story about love and choices and consequences. What happens when we don’t want to follow the path that is laid out for us? Does it matter who we love? What if we make the wrong choice – even if we think it’s the right one at the time?
Sissy: Oh, dear–Bubby is waxing philosophical again. What you have to do is just allow yourself to become engrossed in the story, thoroughly enjoy it, and suspend all deep thought until you’ve finished (that will be about January 23rd for me, when I’ve finished the third book.) Bubby accosted me with her deep thoughts such as “how often have we not met OUR purposes in life, and we don’t even realize it or the consequences?” and “you know, all that depth of feeling and romance occurs with high school juniors and seniors, like your son.” I say stop it! The romance in the book is beautiful and poignant and clean, but I definitely don’t want to think about my son being completely in love like that. And I certainly don’t want to review, at present, all my own purposes lost. This is Bubble Bath Books! Read the books and escape! Not read the books and have a university course.
Bubby: Sorry! I just finished Hallowed 10 minutes ago! It’s all still percolating through my brain. And who was it, may I ask, that I found wrapped up in a blanket on the couch a few days ago, tears running down her face? Oh yes. It was Sissy – having just finished Hallowed. Hypocritical much, sister?
Sissy: Yes, I felt the story. I was enraptured by its majesty. I was emotionally engaged. I was NOT, however, having a cerebral discussion with my college literature class. And my son is not allowed to be in love with anyone like that! He’s too little!
Bubby: Yes, while the romance was lovely and enthralling, I had to wonder what the heck their parents were thinking! Ah, but it’s just a story. I guess I might have gotten a little TOO caught up in it! The book is set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – a place I now feel the need to visit. But not until spring – I am not a big fan of cold and snow. Cynthia Hand’s descriptions are beautifully written – she makes me want to be knee-deep in a placid river, learning how to fly fish, just because it’s that lovely. And I don’t like to fish. Or even eat fish.
Sissy: O.K. Ditto on the fish. And wanting to go to Jackson Hole. This book is a thoroughly lovely read. I want to say more but there are too many ways to spoil so I just give both books 4 1/2 bubbles. I don’t know if I cried so much over the second book because our father recently died or if it’s just that emotional, so get out the tissues just in case.
Bubby: I didn’t cry at all but I think that was because Sissy warned me in advance. Just read them in the bathtub and then no one can tell if you’re crying or not. 4 bubbles for both books from me.
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather have a dream of being Dublin’s newest and best catering company, appropriately named “Scarlet Feather”. Unfortunately, their families are not on board with their plans. Cathy’s mother-in-law disapproves of everything Cathy does – and her husband Neil doesn’t seem to notice anything Cathy does. Tom’s girlfriend has career aspirations of her own that don’t necessarily match up with Tom’s dreams. Scarlet Feather chronicles a year of hope and heartache, struggle and success as Tom and Cathy try to both realize their new dreams while keeping their old dreams alive.
Bubby: Sissy and I were strolling through the internet trying to decide on this week’s Friday Favorite when we came across Maeve Binchy’s website. Much to our horror, the opening post was a statement notifying us that Ms. Binchy had passed away in July. Since she has long been one of our favorite authors, and we are still mourning the death of our dear daddy in October, this came as quite the shock. I even got all teary (not that it takes much for me to cry).
Sissy: So in honor of Maeve Binchy, who we’re sure we would have been friends with if we’d have known her, we are reviewing Scarlet Feather. Something interesting about Maeve Binchy books is that they are written in a very specific style and not all people like them. Her books contain multiple characters and storylines that weave in and out amongst each other and this book is no different. In reading other reviews for Binchy’s books, I found that people generally either love her or hate her. Bubby and I love her characters, how you feel like they are your family and long-lost friends, and how delightful it is to meet up with them again in other novels.
Bubby: I must make two disclaimers right up front. First, Maeve Binchy’s books sometimes contain a smattering of less-appropriate language and/or the odd sexual innuendo. No F-bombs or heaving bosoms (if you know what I mean) but these characters sometimes make poor decisions. Secondly, I have to be in the correct mood to read a Binchy book. Sometimes (like when I had shoulder surgery last year) I will gather 5 or 6 of her books together and just read them one right after another. And then I want to wait a good long while before I read any more Binchy.
Sissy: Cathy and Tom are characters you like right away. Cathy’s husband Neil is indifferent, cold and dismissive. I wanted to slap him. Neil’s parents needed slapping likewise.
Bubby: Actually, can we just slap Neil’s whole family? Parents, Aunt and Uncle, even Cousin Walter?
Sissy: Slap away! *(There is no actual slapping involved in the making of this blog . . .usually). Muttie and Lizzie Scarlet are likeable real people, flaws and all. The story takes many twists and turns and sometimes readers don’t like the fact that things go really wrong for people in Binchy’s books – just like in real life. But everything always turns out for the best in the end.
Bubby:I have a soft spot for any novel dealing with food as I’m sure our readers have noticed by now. I was thrilled that the Scarlet Feather catering company was a success. Unfortunately, with success often comes sacrifice. Ultimately this book is about dreams and what they are worth. Is your dream more important than your marriage? Your children? Your honor? Hard questions with hard answers. I think that in the end, everyone in Scarlet Feather achieves their true dream – and the consequences that go along with that. There are some humorous bits and the dialogue between the characters is well written and enjoyable. And sometimes it’s just nice to read something where everyone elses’ problems make your own problems look tiny.
Sissy: Wow! That was so eloquent, Bubby! I am tempted to not tell everyone that you are a food snob and that you tried to buy me a bookmark today that said “Many people have eaten my cooking and gone on to live perfectly normal lives.” Therefore, since I am not saying that, I am also not talking about the food in the book.
Bubby: Was that last paragraph supposed to make any sense whatsoever?
Sissy: I just couldn’t think of anything to say after your rhapsodic paragraph that sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Anyway, read Scarlet Feather. And if you like it, read other Maeve Binchy books. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: Let me adjust my respirator here (no oxygen left in the room, you know). OK. Only 3 bubbles from me – I am still upset that Maeve Binchy passed away and so I won’t be able to read one of her books for a while. Grief is not logical!
Click HERE to buy Scarlet Feather from Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Emmeline Thistle should have died the day she was born – rejected because of a deformed foot. Emmeline Thistle should have died the day her village was destroyed by a flood. But Emmeline, although only a dirt-scratcher’s daughter, knows that her life is worth saving. Striving to survive on her own, Emmeline discovers she has a rare and fabulous talent – she can churn cream into chocolate, a treat that is more valuable than gold. Suddenly Emmeline is in great demand as everyone seeks to use her talent for their own gain. All Emmeline wants is to find someone who loves her for herself – and if it happens to be Owen Oak, the dairyman’s son, all the better!
Sissy: Every once in a while, Bubby goes into stealth book search mode, comes home from whatever store she has searched with a pile of books, reads them, then blessedly appears on my doorstep and hands me the best of them. These are good days. A couple of weeks ago The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors was in the blessed pile that Bubby gave me. It was a perfectly lovely confection of a tale. And I put it on my own pile of books to give to my 21-year-old daughter to read.
Bubby: I want it back, by the way. It just goes to show that great books can be found in the least likely of places – I believe this particular shopping trip took place at the Smith’s Marketplace a few blocks from my house. I never know what I’ll get with these books – this time I found a treasure!
Sissy: Bubby truly has a magical good-books-sniffing-out talent. I liked this book because it follows the tried and true themes of good vs. evil, underdog comes out on top, acceptance of people with clubfoots, and of course, magic and romance. It also has a happy ending (which is mandatory because we are not Oprah’s Book Club).
Bubby: And it has chocolate! Lots of chocolate! Buckets of it! I was thrilled to find a culture where chocolate is quite literally more valuable than gold. I am sure that if I were to live in this lovely mythical kingdom that I, too, would possess the talent of churning cream into chocolate. Or else I’d have to be a bank robber (just so I could afford my daily chocolate fix). Poor Emmeline has the deck stacked against her from the beginning – she is born with a deformity, her mom dies soon thereafter, her dad has “relationship issues” and she is a Kell – the people who are the lowest of the low. And things just go downhill from there.
Sissy: Bubby thinks she is writing a novel.
Bubby: Bubby actually thinks she is commenting on a novel, thank you very much.
Sissy: It is interesting how The Sweetest Spell treats the issue of prejudice, and prejudice within prejudice. The dirt-scratchers of the flatlands are ostracized from the rest of the kingdom. But they themselves ostracize Emmeline because she has a clubfoot. It makes one think about how ridiculous we are for treating people badly because they are different from us.
Bubby: Wait. You just barely said you WEREN’T Oprah’s Book Club. And now you’re philosophising!
Sissy: Bubby ostracizes me because I am brilliant. And beautiful. And I COULD be Oprah’s Book Club if I wanted. But if you’d let me finish, I would tell you that this book also has lots of witty banter and cultural humor which gives it a lightness not found in tomes that give me a headache.
Bubby: O.K. I think I will save my readers the argument that could possibly ensue here and just move on.
Sissy: What, no snarky comment about my headaches?
Bubby: Nope. No snarky comment about how you ARE my headache, either. I am moving on. Yep. Here we go. Emmeline is rescued after the flood by a lovely family which is quite the opposite of her own family – they are loving, warm and wealthy and well-fed. And then there’s Owen Oak – the son of said family. But I won’t say anymore about him right now – no spoilers! Suffice it to say that all turns out well and everyone gets chocolate. Well, not everyone.
Sissy: This is a sweet chocolatey read and I give it 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: A lovely treat. 3 1/2 bubbles from me too.
Click HERE to buy The Sweetest Spell at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
Bubby: Hey, Sissy, have you gotten the accounting firm of Jacobs and Sons to tally the contest winners yet?
Sissy: Yes dear. The winners have been selected and we are ready to announce them to the world at large!
Bubby: It’s like Christmas all over again! So who won?
Sissy: The lucky ladies are . . . Gina M and Diana B!!
Bubby: Congratulations, Gina and Diana! We will send you an email right away to let you know you’ve won and to get your addresses. Your chocolate will be on its way faster than you can say Godiva 3 times!
Sissy: Happy New Year! Happy Chocolate!
Bubby: And for all of you wonderful people who entered and didn’t win this time, do not fret. Another contest will be announced in the near future. Keep reading!
© Bubble Bath Books 2013