Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer (2001)

Once a month, my local library branch hosts The Book Lover’s Club where readers and library-lovers like me can come and talk about all the of the wonderful books they have been reading. The format of the meeting is genius: everyone comes with a list of books they loved (or hated) in the past month, and we all take turns going over our list. No required reading to suffer through and everyone leaves with at least one suggested new book to try. In fact, it was this book club that finally sparked my idea to start this blog.

A few months ago I mentioned to the The Book Lover’s Club that I am a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. Despite an early reluctance to read them (which I can only attribute to snobbery), I have fallen in love with the silly, perpetually-in-trouble heroine and her cohorts. In fact, every summer at the beach at least one Stephanie Plum paperback comes along with me for a re-read. A fellow Book-Lover, Plum-lover (and branch librarian) suggested that I try a series of books very similar called the Bubbles Yablonsky Series.

Before I get into details about Bubbles, I want to say a few words about popular fiction by women for women. For a long time I was in the closet with my friends, especially my fellow book-lovers, about my love for writers such as Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts. I felt that to admit that I love their books was somehow to diminish my love of other more thought-provoking books. However, I have come to realize that is a ridiculous way to feel. No one can only read one kind of literature, and no one should. We need breaks from heavy books — to laugh or get caught up in an unlikely romance — so that we can go back to the more serious works with a fresh mind and heart. I often find that I need time to absorb complicated books but I don’t want to stop reading, I simply want to change direction for a while. (This is also true of super-scary books. It might be that half-way through Pet Sematary, I need to read a Nora Roberts romance to build my nerve up to finish the former.) After all, no one expected TV viewers to only watch True Detective; we respect their mutual love of Modern Family. There is room for all kinds of books in a person’s life, without any shame.

I picked up the first book of the series, Bubbles Unbound, just this week and read it through and found it be a fun read, especially refreshing after I finished nine horror novels in October! The main character Bubbles is very similar to Stephanie Plum — living in a less than thriving town, pursuing a career where she is still learning the ropes, crazy family, lousy ex-husband — but Bubbles still brings something unique to the storyline (perhaps her uniform of push-up bras and stilettos? her teenage daughter? her intense desire to better her life?) that had me reading to the end. The author Strohmeyer manages to keep the story just different enough that we don’t feel that we are re-reading a story we have already heard from Evanovich. Readers race around Lehigh, PA while Bubbles tries to simultaneously style hair, raise her daughter, solve two murders, and land a reporting job. Will she solve whodunit and collect the documentation to publish an expose of the murderer?

The the light-hearted humor and fast pace meant that it was a quick read — perfect between weighty novels. I followed Unbound with the second book in the series, Bubbles in Trouble, and enjoyed it as well, keeping up as Bubbles goes undercover in an Amish community to find a killer.

Note: The books includes several “recipes” for skin and hair tonics. There authenticity seems dubious. Follow them at your own risk.

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