Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer

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Back of the book: It doesn’t help that her name’s Bubbles. Or that she’s a gum-snapping hairdresser with Barbie-doll curves pinched into hot pants and a tube top. Or that she’s saddled with a sleazy ex-hubby, a precocious daughter, and a shoplifting mother. What can a beautician do to add new highlights to her image? For starters, trip over a corpse and implicate a wealthy town socialite in the crime. Now, with a well-muscled photographer by her side, Bubbles is playing star sleuth. But as the investigation unravels, her shining moment grows as dark as a shop girl’s roots. However dangerous her new career, at least the hottest graduate of the Two Guys community college is finally busting loose – and this time she’s really giving Lehigh, Pennsylvania something to talk about.
Bubbles Unbound is a fun and fast mystery. I look forward to reading the next in the series. If you like Stephanie Plum, you’ll enjoy Bubbles Yablonsky!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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In the town of Crosby, Maine lives a woman named Olive Kitteridge. She’s a tough nut and most people avoid contact with her. She’s a retired 7th grade math teacher and she taught many of the people of Crosby. This book of linked stories (yes, I read another book of short stories!) involve Olive in one way or another. To quote the book jacket: “As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – it’s conflicts, it’s tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.”
I enjoyed reading this book if for no other reason than to see how Olive would figure into each story. I found several stories depressing, yet thought provoking. I’m still not in love with short stories but this book was better than the other collections I’ve read in the past several weeks.
Olive Kitteridge would be a good book club selection. Discussion could go in so many directions.

One Mississippi by Mark Childress

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Back of the book: This exuberantly acclaimed novel tells an uproarious and moving story about family, best friends, first love, and surviving the scariest years of your life. You need only one best friend, Daniel Musgrove figures, to make it through high school alive. After his family moves to Mississippi just before his junior year, Daniel finds fellow outsider Tim Cousins. The two become inseparable, sharing a fascination with ridicule, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and Arnita Beecham, the most bewitching girl at Minor High. But soon things go terribly wrong. The friends commit a small crime that grows larger and threatens to engulf the whole town. Arnita, the first black prom queen in the history of the school, is injured and wakes up a different person. And Daniel, Tim, and their families are swept up in a shocking chain of events.
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One Mississippi grabbed me on the first page and didn’t let me go until the last. It takes place during the early 1970s which is when I was in high school. I identified with a lot in this book, but not everything. The story takes many turns – some expected and some not so much. It was painful to read one part that I found rather unbelievable, given the time frame. I have to say the final few pages made me want to know the next chapter of Daniel’s life. I would read that book.

Savage Garden by Denise Hamilton

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Back of the book: A new play by a rising Mexican playwright is premiering, and Eve and her lover, Silvio Aguilar, are there — the writer is Silvio’s friend from their barrio days. When the lead actress is a no-show, Eve quickly uncovers that Silvio has complicated past ties to the missing diva. But there is no time for hurt, betrayal, or suspicion — not when there are signs of a struggle at the actress’s bungalow. To make matters worse, an eager young reporter, whom Eve is mentoring, keeps insinuating herself into the case at every turn, crossing ethical lines that could bring Eve down with her… or get them both killed.

This mystery kept me guessing to the last pages. I really didn’t know who did it until it was spelled out. Savage Garden is the 4th Eve Diamond book I’ve read. I enjoyed it. Publishers Weekly wrote “Like Raymond Chandler, Hamilton describes California in gritty, lyrical prose; like Sue Grafton, she shows a tough-skinned, tenderhearted heroine breaking a few rules.”
I recommend this entertaining series.

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

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“Tony Earley celebrates the world of one young boy in one small place in a simpler, sweeter time. Deceptively understated, Jim the Boy is a luminous rendering of an ordinary life, told with gentle grace and good humor….Earley is a master at sketching small but crucial moments with bright, telling strokes.” – Philadelphia Inquirer
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Jim’s father died a week before he was born. Jim lives with his mother and near his uncles in a tiny North Carolina town during the Great Depression. Most of the book takes place between his 10th and 11th birthdays. It’s a fast read and I didn’t want it to end. Earley is a wonderful storyteller. I think this would be a good audio book.

I recommend it for all ages. It might be a good book to read aloud to a child.

Riding Lessons by Sarah Gruen

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Back of the book: “As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished. Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home…”

Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants) proves to be a very good story-teller in this, her first book. It was difficult to put the book down but I forced myself to take 2 days to read it. I felt like I was watching a train wreck as the main character does a downward spiral throughout most of the book. Gruen kept me wanting to find out what happened next. I’m not a horse person but loved reading about horses. I’ll be reading the sequel (Flying Changes) in the not too distant future.