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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Scratch Beginnings (A Nonfiction Book)

Pro: A very interesting read. Surprisingly fast, too.
Con: None

The Bottom Line: Adam shows that it is possible to scrape your way up from the bottom – it’s hard, and it sucks, but it is possible.

One day at work, a girl asked for this book for one of her school classes. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. I think if that subheading hadn’t been there, I might not have given it a second glance. After all, I get people asking for all kinds of books all the time. But with that subheader coupled with the picture of some guy standing on the side of the road with just a duffle bag made me wonder – what is this book about?

It’s about just that – Adam Shepard heads out to a random city with only the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, and $25 to his name. He can’t use family and friends for help. He can’t use his previous history to help him get a job. He’s going in on a blank slate, or at least as blank as any person can be. He becomes another homeless person lost in the masses. But his goal is to have $2,500 saved up, a functioning vehicle, and a place to call his own at the end of one year. Is it possible these days? Can hard work and sheer desire get you to a better place in life like we’re all taught to believe?

Published back in 2008, it’s not terribly old so a lot of it should still easily apply. I found this book really hard to put down as each chapter brought something new into Adam’s life. This is a look into a place that we never see. The world of homelessness. The places they can go to get help and food and shelter. What it’s really like and the reasons it’s not what many people think it is. I learned about places that hooked places up with quick and easy labor (easy as in quick to acquire for the location, not always so easy on the workers), but paid like garbage because they’re essentially the ones doing the hiring so they can get away with paying the person a lesser cut than normal. I didn’t even know places could do that (restaurants aside – and let’s face it, people shouldn’t have to rely on tips to survive, but that’s a whole other ball of wax).

And before you jump on the “Oh, well he’s a white guy anyway so he’s got an advantage” wagon, Shepard acknowledges at the very beginning of the book that he is not in the same sort of position that many others are in. He’s not a single mother, he’s not a person of color – he doesn’t have added disadvantages and he is well aware of this. But this also isn’t a book saying, “Hey, anyone can do it!” It was his own sort of documented social experiment – a personal one. He wanted to know what it was like in the dredges of society. He wanted to know if people really were getting screwed day in and day out. He wanted to know if it was possible to get out, to get up, and for at least one person to, in essence, live the American Dream.

But I’m not going to tell you if he did or not – you need to read the book for that.

I think it’s the kind of book any person could read. It’s interesting and insightful. It has funny and poignant moments like any story of human interest. Adam has his setbacks, too, from struggling to find a job to breaking his toe and facing the money-eating world that is the hospital (he didn’t know about free clinics). It’s a reminder that if you think you have it tough, there’s always a lower rung you could be on (though most of us don’t like to think about that). Ultimately, it’s a good story, a real story, and one that might have you appreciating what you have just that much more, or perhaps working a little bit harder or budgeting a little bit better to improve your own lot in life.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The District 120 Reading Challenge

Wait...I thought I was District 150? And no, that's not any sort of Hunger Games reference/pun/whatever.

Anyway, that's beside the point.

My workplace (re: bookstore) has issued a reading challenge. Given that I need to read more books in general, I'm all for it. The challenge includes a long list - 50 items to be exact - that is actually quite handy. Each one describes the type of book we should try to read, which means we can either go out and find something that matches (and in some cases, you kind of have to), whereas in others you can simply pop in any number of books that you already intended to read.

The official challenge operates on the fiscal year - basically from tax season to tax season - so it started back in April. For some strange reason it's only just recently made it's way to us, so I've already lost several months to the year-long time frame it offers. I'm going to see if I can't go ahead and finish within that time frame (ending 4/30/2016), and will go ahead and include books that I've read recently after the start date (5/3/2015), but if it doesn't work out well I'm going to go ahead and give myself until October. Why? Because A.) that's when I'm obviously starting all this and B.) I have absolutely not read that many books as of writing this. I think the total is currently at 6.

So without further ado, here is the list I'll be working off of. Feel free to join me or just follow along.

  • A book you can finish in a day
  • A book with more than 500 pages
  • A classic romance
  • A book that became a movie
  • A book published this year
  • A book with a number in the title
  • A book written by someone under 30
  • A book with nonhuman characters
  • A funny book
  • A book by a female author
  • A mystery or thriller
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book of short stories
  • A book set in a different country
  • A nonfiction book
  • A popular author's first book
  • A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
  • A book a friend recommended
  • A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  • A book based on a true story
  • A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  • A book your mom loves
  • A book that scares you
  • A book more than 100 years old
  • A book based entirely on its cover
  • A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
  • A memoir
  • A book with antonyms in the title
  • A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
  • A book that came out the year you were born
  • A book with bad reviews
  • A trilogy
  • A book from your childhood
  • A book with a love triangle
  • A book set in the future
  • A book set in high school
  • A book that made you cry
  • A book with magic
  • A graphic novel
  • A book by an author you've never read before
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book that takes place in your hometown
  • A book that was originally written in a different language
  • A book set during Christmas
  • A book written by an author with your same initials
  • A banned book
  • A play
  • A book based on or turned into a TV show
  • A book you started by never finished
And there you have it. There are a few that I foresee problems with - such as the book I was supposed to read in school but didn't. I was that kid who read everything, no matter how dull or annoying the book ended up being (like The Scarlet Letter or Ellison's Invisible Man) and for the life of me can't think of a single book that I was supposed to read but skipped out on. So I might have to improvise on that one. A book to make me cry will be tough, too. Only 3 books in my life have made me get all teary-eyed, and you never know what might do it.

Still, there it is, and that's what I'm doing. Tally-ho (and all that).


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Plum Spooky - Beware the Pine Barrens in Jersey

Pros: I like Diesel, some funny stuff
Cons: "Er...what?" plot; I would have liked to see more of Wulf

The Bottom Line: This is one of those between-the-numbers novels, and for this one in particular, you can either take it or leave it.

If you aren't familiar with Stephanie Plum, you'd better go back and read the first book.  Or, if you don't want to do the entire series, you ought to at least go back and read the first between-the-numbers book so you at least know who Diesel is and get a better grasp of what his deal is.

In this book, you get to follow Stephanie around as she kind of follows Diesel around.  Diesel, meanwhile, is trying to follow a man named Wulf.  Wulf is working with Martin, one of Stephanie's skips, so it all works out.  Sort of.  Wulf and Martin are doing something weird in the woods.  Wulf is super dangerous, and the woods - the Jersey Pine Barrens - also happens to be where the Jersey Devil lives.  But he's not, right?

Actually, the Jersey Devil doesn't really do anything aside from an extraordinarily brief cameo appearance so don't read too much into that.  There's actually not a whole lot of plot.  A lot of trying to follow Wulf, not get killed, follow Martin, and get lost in the woods a few times in the process.  Diesel does his pop-in, pop-out thing, and in the end you'll close the book wondering what the heck Wulf's nefarious plan was anyhow.  Martin mentions it, but honestly, it sounded kind of stupid.  One of those, "Really?  Is that really what's going on?  Er, that's pretty lame."  And considering the way Wulf is described, it didn't really make much sense to me.

Overall, the book is amusing in typical Stephanie Plum fashion, though some people don't like the between-the-numbers books.  These deviate from the typical ridiculousness of the regular books and take things up just one more notch with elements of the fantastic.  Diesel and Wulf are "Unmentionables."  In short, they have weird powers normal humans don't have.  Personally, I don't mind the urban fantasy element because, let's face it, the regular books aren't exactly all that plausible as it is.  Besides, I like Diesel.  I really would have liked to see more of Wulf - including seeing him in action against Diesel.  Maybe that will happen in a future book.

So would I recommend it?  Eh.  Barely.  It scrapes by with three stars.  You don't need it as a stepping stone to get from one book to the next, so if you were inclined to skip it entirely, you'd be fine doing so.  But hey, it was funny watching Stephanie kick Martin in the gonads more than once, and oh, I forgot to mention the monkeys (that's right, more than one).  Carl the monkey makes a return appearance, and he's actually much more amusing this time around.


Originally published 2010 on

Friday, September 25, 2015

Plum Lucky - Horseshoes, Money, and Gambling

Pros: A horse and a would-be leprechaun. How is this NOT funny?
Cons: Semi-weak ending.

The Bottom Line: A hilarious little interlude between the 13th and 14th book. Too bad that makes it shorter.

Just when I was getting a little burned out on Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, Plum Lucky arrived in the stores. Since I’ve read every book so far (and intend to continue, as I have a habit of always finishing what I start), I’d put it on my “To Read” list long before it even came out.

If you’ve never read a Stephanie Plum book, I highly recommend them. I’ll give you a brief rundown, and while you could read this book without any extra knowledge, it would be a better idea to at least read Visions of Sugar Plums because a recurring character named Diesel pops up yet again in this book and she doesn’t give him a whole lot of introduction. That would be hard to do anyway because Diesel’s not exactly, um, normal. Ok, so Stephanie Plum blackmailed her cousin into giving her a job as a bounty hunter. Since then she’s been kidnapped, shot at, had numerous cars get destroyed in a multitude of ways, and in general, tends to screw up and yet make it out alive every time.

This time Stephanie finds out her Grandma Mazur has discovered a duffle bag full of money. Turns out a strange little man claims the money is his. Then Diesel pops up and informs Stephanie that he’s after the little man (who also claims to be a leprechaun). Nothing normal ever happens when Diesel is around, and Stephanie would rather say no – except now Grandma Mazur has gone missing. It’s going to take the combined efforts of Stephanie, Diesel, Lula, and Connie to find Grandma, figure out what the “leprechaun” wants, and who the money belongs to. They soon realize the problem is much bigger (in more ways than one) than they expected.

I really don’t want to give away too much, though the title and Pros have mentioned a few things that come into play during this book. It’s been a while since I’ve found myself cracking up while reading one of these books (or any book for that matter). Each book is written in first person, and the voice Janet Evanovich gives Stephanie is just fantastic. Her descriptions are wonderful and often hilarious. The situations Stephanie gets into tend to be so ridiculous, but because of Stephanie’s history, it’s not hard to believe she’d end up in them. While the main series is slightly less...fantastical, the in-between novels each deal with Diesel and the strange things that go down while he’s around. Elves (sort of). Cupids (sort of). Leprechauns (“You’re not even Irish.”). But who cares? It makes for great reading. It’s mindless fun, and who doesn’t need a little of that now and then?

Sadly, the book is rather short, and a fast reader can polish it off in a matter of hours. However, each in-between book is rather short and I’m sure Evanovich is busy working on the main series, so it’s acceptable. Hey, at least we’re getting a book, right? The ending did feel a little abrupt though, as if Evanovich was thinking, “Okay, let’s wrap this up, I need to get to work on something else.” Then again, maybe she was.

But it was hilarious, and extremely enjoyable. Read it on St. Patrick’s day and maybe you’ll find a duffle bag of money (though that’s usually cause for worry, so maybe not!)


Originally published 2008 on

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Plum Lovin' - Feel the Love

Pros: Goofy, fun, plenty of Bob the dog.
Cons: Not especially exciting, but that's okay too.

The Bottom Line: Hey, it's Stephanie Plum.

Stephanie Plum. Woman. Bounty hunter. Has amazing luck and too many men looking to hook up with her – which isn’t too bad since they’re all exceptionally hot. Enjoys doughnuts. Often has problems and exploding cars.

If you’re not familiar with this character and all her crazy misadventures, then I recommend rewinding to One for the Money just to get a feel for who Stephanie is, how she became a bounty hunter, and who some of the other characters mentioned fit into the picture. Then you could try skipping ahead to Visions of Sugar Plums so you know who Diesel is. After that, you’d pretty much be up to speed (but you’d still be missing out on tons of hilarity by not reading any of the other books).

Plum Lovin’ is “Between-the-Numbers” book, published after Twelve Sharp. These little stories include Diesel, labeled as an “Unmentionable.” According to him, it’s better than being called a freak of nature. Unmentionables tend to have strange and unusual powers beyond what anyone else would call normal.

This time Diesel pops into Stephanie’s apartment and has a deal for her; he will give Stephanie her latest bail-bonder skipper, Annie Hart, in exchange for Stephanie’s help. Annie is being stalked by Bernie Beaner, and until Diesel can shut Beaner down, he’s hidden Annie. Great. So what does Stephanie have to help Diesel with? Easy – Annie is a “relationship expert” and since she’s tucked away, her clients still need help. It’s up to Stephanie to play matchmaker and make sure these people all have a good Valentine’s Day. Swell. Except there’s more to the story than meets the eye…

That’s one of the weird things about this novel. You already know Stephanie is looking for Annie and that Annie’s wanted with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. But it isn’t until quite far into the book do you find out the details and the second plot going on. I think it might have been a little better had that second plot been weaved ever-so-slightly into the rest of the book, but oh well.

Otherwise, this was a decent book. No cars exploding, and no one out to kill Stephanie (for once, which was actually kind of nice come to think of it. Made for a good change). Basically, Stephanie is playing Cupid the entire time with the occasional help from Lula and Diesel. It’s fun and a refreshing switch from the typical Plum novel, and though there isn’t any major action, there is some action – a different kind and the fun kind. Like a cat getting set on fire and Stephanie pretending to get married. The novel keeps going and never slows down, even when nothing major is going on and Lula’s eating doughnuts and Stephanie is chatting with Annie’s clients.

It’s a good time with some great lines and goofy situations. A happy ending on Valentine’s Day complete with a lot of flowers for Stephanie.


Originally published 2008 on

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Visions of Sugar Plums - It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas...

Pros: Creative and enjoyable - wish Diesel would pop into my kitchen
Cons: Faster than it should have been, not quite right for Stephanie Plum

The Bottom Line: This gets my creative thoughts stirring - I think this has a lot of potential to go somewhere else instead of just Jersey...

You know, I’m pretty much convinced that if my sister were to ever write a novel, this is the style she would write it in. …no freaking fruitcake and no goddamn partridge. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

For those of you who’ve never encountered a Stephanie Plum novel before, this actually would be an odd place to start. Normally I’d say, “Yeah, dig in” because I know people who have simply started at a number other than one and have been fine and dandy in the ways of non-confusion, but here Stephanie is already more than buddy-buddy with Joe Morelli, foregoes the explanation on how she became a bounty hunter, among other things. Janet Evanovich basically jumps right into the book, and it seems she assumes the reader already has read previous books and needs no introduction. Makes sense to me, since in the book is a list of previous novels, numbering up to eight, so I’m guessing she hadn’t popped out book number nine yet (currently she’s up to thirteen). In any case, I recommend you start elsewhere, such as book #1. If you know your Plums, stay tuned.

It’s four days until Christmas and Stephanie Plum doesn’t have a tree, presents, decorations, or anything Christmas related, basically. And now there’s a strange, albeit handsome, man kicking his boots up and making himself comfy in her apartment. The name’s Diesel and he’s, uh, well, something. Stephanie guesses maybe he’s an alien – he pops into her apartment, can unlock doors in the blink of an eye, and doesn’t set off her gut-instinct bad-guy alarm. He decides to tag along with her as she searches for Sandy Claws, a guy who stole thousands in power tools and a few gallons of paint from a hardware store.

When Stephanie isn’t falling off her roof, trying to fend off Diesel’s teasing, getting attacked by angry elves/little people, and looking for Sandy Claws, she’s trying to squeeze in the last days of Christmas shopping and tree hunting, hoping that she can somehow pull off a great Christmas and not get killed in the process.

For a long time while reading this I was wobbling back and forth from 3 stars to 4 stars. I finally decided on 3. Why? Well, while this book has a lot of good things about it, the not-so-good things simply outweigh them.


The sheer creativity put into this book is a lot of fun. Elves that aren’t elves, but they’re still little people, but they riot so they’re not exactly lovable. A somewhat supernatural dude named Diesel who bounces around teasing Stephanie but has a serious side too (vaguely reminding me of the phouka in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks). A guy who isn’t Santa Claus, but at the same time kind of is. The bad guy and what he can do, etc. etc. Stephanie’s usual problems are still, well, usual, but at the same time, the circumstances around them are just unusual, all the while the book is easily enjoyable.


Creativity is great, but in the end, this is a Stephanie Plum novel, and even as wacky as those get, there is still reality behind them, or as much reality as we allow ourselves to believe. In short, nothing remotely supernatural. So that made this a little off-kilter, and while I’m sure that’s what Evanovich meant to make, it still doesn’t quite work out. I think if this was another set of characters with everything slightly reworked in order to somehow accommodate for the interesting plot, it would be better. Having said that, even as it is, the book feels a little rushed. Again, that may have been Evanovich’s intention, as Stephanie is stuck with just a few days to get Christmas right, but even leaving the rest of the book aside, the ending was pretty anti-climactic and finished up rather quickly. The bad guy shows up and suddenly is in custody and voila, a dash of Christmas magic and it’s over with. I don’t even mind going without a full explanation concerning certain persons, but don’t deny me the apprehension of the bad guy. Come on.

I could just cop out and say 3.5 stars since the imagination takes it a notch above "Average" but the rest takes it down from being "Above Average." Still, keep in mind I thought it was rather enjoyable, I really liked Diesel, and the book essentially did what it was supposed to do; entertain me for a few hours on end.


Originally posted 2006 on

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Secret Twenty-One - Why Is This Top Secret Again?

Pro: 4 (meh) entertaining hours
Con: Forgettable (though I guess that might not necessarily be a con…)
The Bottom Line: *shrug* It’s a Stephanie Plum book.
I think I’m desensitized to Stephanie Plum books. I think I’ve read so many at this point that they’re so predictable it doesn’t matter what happens or what decisions Stephanie (or others) make that I don’t really have much of a reaction. I’m not terribly amused, but I’m not mad either (though I will still occasionally roll my eyes when she slaps on one handcuff and not the other and the skip inevitably gets away).
This is book 21, and the next one won’t be out for a few months yet. I’m actually looking at the inside flap of this book because even though I read it just a few weeks ago, I’ve already forgotten the plot. This is not an exaggeration.
In this book, Stephanie is out to catch Jimmy Poletti, scumbag extraordinaire, but of course he’s disappeared. However, he does seem to be trying to kill Randy Briggs, who decides - for some reason – that he’ll be safe with Stephanie. Adding to the mix is someone trying to kill Ranger – which isn’t all that surprising given that he’s made plenty of enemies over the years.
In the end, the mystery isn’t really a mystery – I mean, it is until Stephanie walks into the person doing the killing while they’re in the midst of doing some more killing. I’m just saying that no one really figures anything out. Ranger is Ranger so he picks up on his problem pretty quickly, and everyone else is essentially, “Oh, yeah, that was me.” But I guess that’s true for a lot of Stephanie Plum novels – and mysteries I guess. Heck, even the Scooby Doo gang was surprised every time they pulled off the mask with a collective gasp of, “Mr. Withers!”
It’ll entertain you for a while, but there’s not a lot going on. There’s a great deal of Stephanie driving around, chatting with Lula, occasionally chatting with other people, going to her house and talking about food, going to Morelli’s house and chatting about maybe sex, and more driving around. Occasionally she tries to take someone down and fails miserably. Oh, and cars get blown up. Can’t forget about that. Frankly, if I were Porsche, I would stop sending cars to Ranger. Mostly because I’d be mad that all that hard work and dedication into a quality car was getting destroyed on a disturbingly regular basis. Like taking the time to make a really lovely ice cream sundae only to have the person you’re offering it to smack it out of your hands and onto the street. Granted, I don’t know where Ranger actually gets his cars, but that’s beside the point.
So read it if you want, or don’t, either way it’s not like you’re missing much. I cleaned this book up in about 4 hours, and yes I’ll end up reading the next one as well. I guess in that way I’m a bit like Stephanie – I keep doing something I should probably stop doing, but hey, at this point I’m invested, so why the hell not?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Takedown Twenty - In Which Stephanie Doesn't Really Take Anyone Down

Pro: Entertaining
Con: Meh

The Bottom Line: It’s the usual Stephanie Plum stuff.

I almost wonder if at this point I’ve become sort of immune to Stephanie Plum antics. Car gets blown up. She can’t catch her skips. Lula suggests they go get food. It’s book #20 now, so honestly if you’re joining in here I don’t know why. Though you could read the first book to get into the swing of things and then pretty much go wherever you want. For some bizarre reason Janet Evanovich still introduces all the characters, though by now it’s pretty much a given that people reading this book are most likely going to be those who’ve been reading it from the start.

This time Stephanie is charged with bringing in Stanley “Sunny” Sunnuchi, mob guy and favorite of the folks in the neighborhood. So this doesn’t exactly make Stephanie popular. Finding him is tough; catching him will be even tougher. Making matters more complicated is the fact that there is a serial killer on the loose, bumping off old women and leaving them in dumpsters. Sunny is annoying, but the idea that someone is killing old ladies and just dumping them really grates on Stephanie, so she’s made it her personal mission to figure out who’s killing them. Oh, and there’s a giraffe on the loose.

There’s a lot of meandering in this book. When we can’t find important people we’re visiting Morelli, going to Stephanie’s house, getting food, or cruising streets hoping to see something new. *shrug* Stephanie doesn’t actually solve anything- or even find anyone, for that matter. She just gets into messes, destroys cars, temporarily quits being a bounty hunter, debates about Ranger vs. Morelli (as usual), and so forth.

It’s not boring, per se, but just the usual stuff with the occasional actiony bit thrown in. The books don’t make me laugh like they used to and they’re pretty forgettable. I’d actually read this one as well because I did remember who the killer was and I remembered the giraffe – although what his purpose was I couldn’t recall. Already I don’t remember if Stephanie actually brought in any FTAs. …Maybe one.

I was disappointed that Grandma Bella didn’t at least come in and take the eye off Stephanie after the big reveal at the end. Then again, she probably wouldn’t believe any of that stuff anyway, so I guess it makes sense that Bella never makes a final appearance.

Otherwise, it’s a fast read that can keep you entertained for a bit before you’ll need a brand new book.

3 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notorious Nineteen - A Little Bit of Everything

Pro: Entertaining for a few hours.
Con: Actually, not much with this one.

The Bottom Line: I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read this one before or not, but the one was much more tolerable than others.

I first read this book in 2012 and only vaguely remembered it. All I knew was that there was gold buried in someone’s flowerbeds…that’s pretty much it. Even then I wasn’t sure if that was right. But since I’m doing Janet Evanovich September, I figured I ought to go back and read it again in order to do a proper review. You’d think I might be keen on skipping out on the rest of the books since they’re getting a bit repetitive, but they don’t take long to read, and after this one, I’m hopeful for the next two.

Stephanie is looking for Geoffrey Cubbins. Apparently he stole $5 million from the retirement place he worked for and got busted. Except after going into a hospital for appendicitis, he disappeared and no one knows how. As she looks for Cubbins, Ranger’s been getting cryptic threatening messages and wants Stephanie’s help. Here’s hoping that between exploding cars, other tricky skips, and Morelli sexy time, Stephanie can solve the case, get her man, and get home by dinner.

The Cubbins mystery was kind of weird, but interesting, though I’m not sure why the bad guys would go after people that would be actively looking for them. Still, it’s nice that it was a multi-layered mystery even if it’s ultimately not too hard to figure out what’s going on. Though, to be fair, I didn’t figure out (or remember) how Cubbins got out of the hospital.

The Ranger thing was also interesting, though not much of a mystery, but that’s okay. The guy wasn’t exactly hiding his intentions, and Ranger had already figured out who it was, so it was just a matter of waiting for him to show up.

We get a nice little list of characters showing up and being useful in interesting ways, such as Randy Briggs, and Stephanie finally utilizes the toys that Ranger gives her without balking about it (too much). Though I still think she’s dumb for not staying at Ranger’s for the duration of being stalked by a psycho – her only reason is that she’s worried about sleeping with Ranger. Frankly, my priorities are not being murdered in terrible ways first, cheating on (sometimes) boyfriend second. But hey, then we wouldn’t have certain sections of the book, so it’s acceptable.

I don’t think I was as amused as I used to be with the first several books, but this is book #19 and it’s all the things we’ve seen before. At the very least I noticed that I was nowhere near as annoyed with things as I was with Wicked Charms. Stephanie actually shows real fear, isn’t afraid to call for the cops or other help, and characters act like they (mostly) ought to in various situations. She also doesn’t get ridiculously quippy when in said situations. If she talks, it’s to stall for time until the cavalry can arrive or at least gain some information, and there’s enough description around to fill us in that she’s freaking out and trying to think of other alternatives to not dying.

So I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. On to the next!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Smokin' Seventeen - A Day in the Life of Stephanie Plum

Pros: A fun, fast read.
Cons: If you were looking/hoping for something different - don't.

The Bottom Line: Good to read when you want something fun and stupid.

Long ago (when I was still in college), I had three completely different people recommend the Stephanie Plum series to me. Normally that doesn't happen, so I decided to take a look. Fast forward to now, twenty books later (she has in-between books featuring Steph). If you know nothing about this series, you're better off at least starting with the very first book, One for the Money, so you can understand the important characters. Then you could skip around if you wanted to because there are only a handful of things that actually link between books. There is the occasional mention of past events, but usually it's not important to the story.

This time around, Stephanie is just doing her thing - until a body is discovered under a dumpster beside the bail bonds office (or at least, where it used to be since it burned down in the last book). Awkward, but not really Stephanie's problem. Her problems include trying to catch a 70-year-old skip that may or may not be a vampire, dealing with the vordo and Grandma Morelli's evil eye, trying to avoid being fixed up on a date by her mother, and now there are more bodies showing up - a few of them with notes addressed for Stephanie. She's got a lot on her mind, but at least this time around she gets a lot of good food and, mm, good lovin'.

I know by now that the series isn't really going anywhere. It's more like what I put in my title - a day in the life of Stephanie Plum. A car blows up. She can't decide between Ranger or Morelli. Lula shoots people when they call her fat. Everyone eats donuts and Cluck-in-a-Bucket chicken. And Stephanie is still a total moron when it comes to catching skips. Actually, most of that I don't mind because I'm used to it and pretty much expect it. It's silly and mindless and just what I wanted at the time. Heck, it's a small book, too, and I read it in a single day. Okay, granted I was standing at the Nook counter with no customers so I amused myself for most of my shift by reading it on a Nook, but still. Give yourself a handful of hours and you'll have this baby done in no time.

What annoys me is that Stephanie is still such an idiot. I don't mind her being an idiot from time to time, but when it comes to catching skips, I really, really wish she would be smarter by now. I understand we need funny things to happen, but I think that's still possible even if she gets smarter. As it is, she's doing the exact same crap she was doing a dozen books ago. I sat there thinking, "For heaven's sake, when the guy opens the door, just taze his butt and drag him in!" It's also getting tiring when Lula pushes her around. For half the book Lula keeps fussing and whining about turning into a vampire after getting her neck sucked on by the old guy (even though he had no teeth). At one point I just wanted to Stephanie to tell her to stop being so stupid and just shut up already. But whatever. Sometimes I feel like I'm reading a more adult version of Scooby Doo, minus the talking dog. ...Though if Bob were around more, it might make things more fun.

As for the mystery, it's not such a big deal. It was more interesting seeing how many people were actually after Stephanie this time (three) as opposed to just one main bad guy. However, it's not hard to figure out who the killer is. At all. I had the killer pegged, oh, well before I think I even hit the midway point of the book. There's really no clear way of figuring it out, but if you've read enough mysteries, you'll know.

So it's quick, predictable, fun, ridiculous, and 100% Stephanie Plum. If you want high quality, go somewhere else. If you want total fluff, this is your book.


Originally posted 2011 on

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sizzling Sixteen - Not Really Hot Enough for That Title

Pros: Amusing
Cons: A bit too ridiclous, got kind of boring.

The Bottom Line: This book is the one that will make you wonder – is Janet Evanovich going to wrap up the series sometime soon to move on to other things?

As usual, if you don’t know anything about this series, scroll to the end and click on the first book. This is #16 in the series so you’re better starting at the beginning.

Stephanie Plum is a crappy bounty hunter. Ranger is smokin’ hot. Morelli is delicious, but he and Steph can’t seem to hold down a solid relationship. Connie has cleavage and Lula is, well, Lula. Vinnie, however, is a weasel and runs up his gambling debt a bit too high, landing him in some seriously hot water. He needs to get the money or die. Except since he’s been kidnapped, it’s up to Steph, Lula, and Connie to do it. Not easy. And eventually they discover that there’s a bit more going on than Vinnie’s crappy bookie problem…

This book went rather slowly. At least, compared to other Stephanie Plum books, this one was slow. It was just one long, “Where’s Vinnie? Where’s Vinnie?” deal with them sneaking around and trying not to get caught and cruising this boulevard and that street before finally doing something. It kind of dragged from time to time. It wasn’t all that funny, and in some places it got just a little bit too ridiculous. Kind of sounds like a dumb thing to say considering how ridiculous other books have been, but I don’t know…this time…

Hobbits. In a word. Evanovich brings back Mooner (for those that remember him) and he keeps yammering on about Hobbit Con and Hobbits start coming out the woodwork. I’d also like to add that I think Steph, Connie, and Lula are stupid. I realize if they’d gone to the cops, we wouldn’t have a book, and that their asinine plans are supposed to be funny, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. And I can’t believe they gave up a ton of money when certain guys didn’t even have Vinnie. Considering everything they’d already been through, the threat the guys made was a pretty crappy one (especially after what happened later in the book). And I’m really tired of Stephanie ditching Ranger's guys and being so dumb when it comes to catching skips.

It’s amusing, but not the best, and considering some of the things that happened near the end, I’m starting to wonder if Evanovich is running out of juice. That’s fine if she is. I mean, geez people, she’s done 16 books (if you don’t include the between-the-numbers ones). I wonder if maybe she’ll wrap it up soon with Stephanie Plum. But only time can tell.

3.5 stars.


Originally posted 2010 on

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finger Lickin' Fifteen - Saucy!

Pros: Amusing read
Cons: Some of Stephanie's dumbness.

The Bottom Line: Something fun to read for those times when you're bored or want something fun to read.

Welcome to Stephanie Plum book #15.  I'd actually read this book a few days after it came out.  But then I forgot to review it, so here we are a year later with #16 due out in a week.  I read it again.  It's fine because for the life of me I couldn't remember what this one was about.  I just remembered Lula and a lot of barbeque sauce.

Lula, as it turns out, has been witness to a murder.  A beheading, really.  And now the killers want to snuff out their only witness.  Except they're pretty bad at, well, everything, so in the process they just end up with more witnesses.  Now Lula's trying to keep her behind (all of it) from getting taken out, and of course Stephanie has to help.  Meanwhile Ranger's security services are being compromised and he needs Steph's help too.  Except helping Ranger might be a lot spicier than helping Lula, especially since Steph and Morelli are on the rocks...

I pretty much read this novel in a day because it's fast, fun, and not too involved.  It's pretty much a day in the life of Stephanie Plum, and it's been long enough that I was as tired of Stephanie's dumbness as I'd recently been getting.  But that doesn't mean I don't remember.  Steph is notorious for making moronic decisions when it comes to her skips (the people who don't turn up in court after posting bail).  Twice in this book she allows people to go into the house or another room for some reason while standing there, la de da, oblivious to the fact that the skip is getting away.  At least the second time she acknowledged how stupid she was being, which helped to redeem her a little bit.  However, I still think she's dumb for even entertaining the idea that Morelli would let Joyce Barnhardt touch him without a HAZMAT suit.  Come on, the guy likes sex but he's not about to jump into bed with something that questionable.  He's not stupid.

It's pretty much all Lula drama this time, so if Lula annoys you, sorry.  If not, then you'll be in for some giggles.  I laughed aloud a few times because I just haven't read any Stephanie Plum-ness for a while.  There are plenty of good bits to enjoy, and I do like (from a writerly perspective) how Evanovich takes typical non-verb words and makes them into verbs, like "I fobbed my way into the garage." as in with a key fob.

Of course, there's plenty of Ranger goodness, and that's really hard not to enjoy.  In fact, you have to be dead not to enjoy Ranger.  All in all though, it's a good time.  All for fun, so don't take it seriously.  Just enjoy the ride.  And the barbeque sauce.

Ok, maybe not the barbeque sauce...


Originally posted 2010 on

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fearless Fourteen - More Like Forgettable Fourteen

Pros: Bob the dog is always fun; a potato gun.
Cons: Lack of get-up-and-go, overall just "meh."

The Bottom Line: Once you put it back on the shelf it's easy to forget it's there, or that you even read it. Hey, that's what happened to me.

Janet Evanovich has now written a crazy fourteen Stephanie Plum books and I think she’s getting tired of her main character.

If you’re not familiar with the whole Stephanie Plum bounty hunter girl thing, then I recommend you try out the first book to see where it all started, as well as understand who the characters are and where they’ve come from. Otherwise, read on.

Life as usual for Stephanie Plum. When Loretta, a cousin of Morelli’s, has to go back to jail after skipping, Stephanie gets suckered into babysitting Loretta’s teenage boy. Fine. Except now Ranger wants her to help him run security for famous-ish singer Brenda. Okay, fine. Er, now Loretta is missing, and not by choice. Not so fine. Dom, Loretta’s slightly crazed brother, serves Morelli with death threats and people keep breaking into Morelli’s house. Really not fine. There’s also the possibility of millions hidden in Morelli’s house. That could be fine...but it could also be fatal. Dang.

It sounds interesting, I know, but it’s not, sadly. I expected more from this novel than I got, even though I’m getting the sense that Evanovich is getting bored with the whole Stephanie Plum thing, especially since she’s expected to crank one out as fast as possible to keep readers happy (a normal thing to do as a writer, for the most part, but still easily tiresome). Not a whole lot happens that’s worthy of my memory, and usually I soak up silly book facts like a sponge. The book felt a little disjointed and more like Evanovich was just slapping stuff down on paper to fork over to her editor.

The plot is definitely not all that exciting. Straightforward and lacking any real mystery, with only a handful of giggle-worthy spots that include a potato gun and Bob the dog. Don’t let the mention of a monkey fool you—that part wasn’t all that funny. Brenda the singer could have lead Stephanie into a lot more trouble, especially since some dialogue from Ranger gave the impression that Stephanie was going to have a really difficult time with her, but instead Brenda comes off as stupid, pointless, and annoying from time to time. Even Brenda’s stalker could have been more interesting and turned into a good subplot, but instead it falls flat and while that could have been made into something funnier, it wasn’t. I read through this novel in about a day, mostly because I was bored and I figured finishing it would allow me time for more rewarding things.

The best parts are probably just the banter and sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger. The Lula and Tank story could have been better as well, but like I said, it just seemed like Evanovich cranked something out to shut up all the fans (understandable). Still, despite the lack of laughs and mundane plot, there are still some unresolved issues which easily means there will likely be a #15 somewhere in the future. Hopefully avid fans are willing to wait in order to give Evanovich proper time to come up with something really exciting and hilarious. I know I am. Besides, I need that down time to read other things anyway.


Originally posted 2008 on

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lean Mean Thirteen - RangeMan Underwear? Yes Please...

Pros: Fun, dangerous, sneaky, and delicious (in more ways than one)
Cons: Somewhat typical of the Plum series

The Bottom Line: What you read is what you get.

Janet Evanovich started out writing Romance. A lot of writers tend to cross into another genre from time to time, and when Evanovich stepped over that invisible line into Mystery, we got Stephanie Plum. Bounty hunter extraordinaire (sort of) with several hot men on her heels, a knack for being in the wrong places at the wrong times, the right places at the right times, getting downright lucky, and always getting a happy ending. Just the way we all like it (right?).

This is the thirteenth novel in the series (hence the title), and if you want to make the most sense of the characters, I suggest reading at least the first novel. Doing so is also likely to suck you into reading the rest of them, which would be fine, since they’re all pretty much hilarious and a good time.

This time Stephanie has agreed to do a tiny favor for Ranger – plant a bug in Dickie Orr’s office. Actually, it’s a big favor since Dickie is Steph’s ex-husband and huge jackass and every time Steph sees him, she’s likely to punch him in the mouth. But she manages to get the job done (with a few extra violent perks) and all seems well with the world. Until Dickie goes missing and Stephanie finds herself the main suspect. Is he dead or alive? And was the firm he was with even legitimate? Er...and why is everything on fire?

That’s the barebones lowdown. You’ll have to read the book to find out the rest – like whether or not Stephanie hooks up with Ranger or if another one of her cars goes kablooie.

Basically it’s your typical Stephanie Plum book. At the very least this time Stephanie manages to balance stupidity with smarts. For example, she’s still too dumb to figure out when you cuff someone you cuff both hands immediately. You do not cuff one hand and then stand around chatting with your FTA. That’s getting really old and annoying. Or when someone comes to your apartment and threatens you big time, you call the freaking cops or Ranger’s men the second you get the chance – you don’t let the guy get away. This time, though she, ah, does those things like a moron, she actually welcomes the security that Ranger’s guys bring by following her around instead of getting on an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar ego trip and giving them to slip (only to really, really need them later). That in itself was a nice change.

There isn’t much mystery though. Now when I say that, I mean there aren’t a lot of clues for you to put together and try and solve yourself. Rather, you’ll be busy thinking, “Where’s Dickie?” and probably wondering what the deal is with the guys at the firm, but it’s not really something you can puzzle through. Instead you find out what happened to Dickie and then get told what the deal is with the firm. It’s all laid out for you, map-style. This may bum some people out but since I’m not exactly an avid mystery reader (though I do really like to piece things together), I don’t much care. It happens.

Your usual crazy escapades with Stephanie are dotted throughout the book, subplots consisting of FTAs. Though those FTAs really do have some quirky things going on. Things you’d never expect. Ever. There are a few parts where you’ll laugh out loud, others where (if you’re a woman or gay) you’d go “Oooh” and envision either Joe or Ranger next to you, um, doing things, and still other places where you may not even be sure what to make of what the heck just happened. Haha.

It’s a good book. Keep going with the series. Plum Lucky is next – and it’s hilarious.


Originally posted 2008 on

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Twelve Sharp - Stephanie Plum; Just Call Her " Bait"

Pros: Mmm, sexual tension, a few fresh ideas
Cons: Stephanie's apprehension skills, I question the bad guy's abilities somewhat

The Bottom Line: With this falling a teensy bit flat in my tastes, that makes me hope book #13 will be all the more exciting.

I don’t know when or why Stephanie Plum decided to stop working for Ranger and go back to bounty hunting. I can make some vague guesses (ignoring, of course, the obvious – that the author says so), but overall I sure as heck wouldn’t have. Tch. Forget that. Nice, comfy job in a little cubby running background checks on people. I will take that job now, especially if Ranger and a free car comes with it. Dear sweet Lord, what I wouldn’t give…

Don’t tell me you don’t know who Stephanie Plum is? Let me guess, a friend told you about this book and so you’ve wandered into this area for some info. All right, well you’ve come to the right place, but let me be the first to tell you – you’re at the end of a series my friend. That’s right, end of the line. You see, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. She used to sell lingerie, but that’s a long story. It includes her cousin Vinnie and a duck. That’s an interesting story. She fights crime and sucks at it – well sort of. That’s, well, 12 stories, including this one. Your best bet is to at least read the first book where you can get the rundown on all the basic characters. The author, Janet Evanovich, recaps the essentials in the novels, but trust me, it’s a lot more fun to be there when the details all go down.

So Stephanie Plum is back on the job, picking up bad guys and dumping them at the police station to earn herself some kind of living. It may not be a decent living, but it’s better than nothing. Life seems casual – semi-boyfriend Joe Morelli does his cop thing, Bob the dog eats everything, Ranger slips in and out like smoke and then *poof!* it’s off to Miami. Lula wears two sizes or more too small, Connie paints her nails, and Stephanie’s mother makes pot roast. All is good.

Except now some crazy woman dressed in black is stalking Stephanie, and she’s got a little piece of information that has the potential of putting anyone into shock. If that’s not bad enough, a certain little girl disappears off the face of the map, and yet another psycho is tailing Steph. While she’s giving Morelli heart palpitations, Ranger has made a few surprise moves on his own. It’s going to take everyone’s efforts to take down the new mystery man, even if it means taking a few bullets.

Ooooh – exciting, isn’t it? *shrug* Well sort of. I think the part I liked the most was the sexual tension. Big fan. Otherwise I was sort of let down. I guess I expected awesome times from this book and failed to get them. I won’t lie – I liked the premise, I liked the plot, and I liked the Ranger goodness, but there were just aspects that had me cocking my head with a bit of a grimace, thinking, “Yeah, but I dunno…”

I think it may just have seemed a bit farfetched for me. It’s because of who you find out the culprit is and compare him to Ranger’s character and somehow it doesn’t make sense that he’s able to slip past him so many times. Ok, there are times when yes, it makes sense, but then there are other things that just boggle me. Ranger not knowing he’s being followed? Knowing this guy is so good and yet not anticipating certain (what seem obvious to me) aspects? In fact, I already had one (very correct) idea pegged down at page 214 when the guy first shows up. Does that make me smarter than all the characters in the book or was it just obvious? That sort of thing just kind of annoys me later on in the book. Same goes for the new girl they hired at the office. I knew who she was within moments of her working there while everyone else was saying, “Hmm, gee, I get this weird feeling from her…whatcha think it is?” Sheesh.

Another problem I have is Stephanie’s screw-ups. I don’t know how many more of them I can take. She puts one cuff on a guy, chit-chats, and then the guy bolts and she loses her, what? 20th pair of cuffs? Freaking come on! Cuff both hands behind the back right away and you won’t have all these problems of looking like a total moron. Right, it was funny the first four books, but now it’s just downright annoying. I like Stephanie, she’s great, but her ignorance is gnawing away at me now. Or with another skip she goes in with Lula and the two screw around and therefore screw up. Then they do it yet again. How thick can you be?

I wasn’t laughing out loud with this book, just cracking smiles here and there and making “ooh!” giddy noises when Ranger waltzed onto the page. One of the things that I didn’t ever get tired of was Stephanie losing a car, simply because they went belly-up in so many ways. Ok, most of the time it was via fire, but the ways the fire started were always rather unique. I don’t mind a car going ka-blooie. Too bad there wasn’t any of that in this book.

So what did I like besides the Ranger/Morelli alpha male struggle for dominance? Sally Sweet dances his way back into the book with some fantastic thongs, though sadly he didn’t get much personal time on the pages. Joyce Barnhardt getting zapped again simply rules, and some of the spontaneous things that occur right in front of Steph and Lula are great. And as I said, I did enjoy the overall idea of the book, plot-wise and such, even if I did have several issues with the bad guy.

As with all the books, you’ll find it written in first person with Steph doing all the narration, which is always worded for the most fun factor and that is something I know I’ll never get tired of, not when she’s sashaying out of rooms and risking comments with erotic overtones. It wasn’t a bad book, it gets a solid four stars, even though I’m sure you’d thought I’d give it three, what with all the fussing I did. But hey, it’s Stephanie Plum – even without sheer awesomeness, it’s hard not to enjoy.

So…what will book #13 hold? Looks like we may have to wait a while…


Originally posted on

Friday, September 11, 2015

Eleven On Top - Life is Like a Jelly Doughnut

Pros: Finally, the book where Stephanie doesn't take sh*t from anyone (or at least less)
Cons: Bit of that Scooby-doo ending

The Bottom Line: I wanna work for Ranger...that would so damn sweet...

It’s because of Stephanie Plum and the last two books that I’ve had an insane craving for doughnuts. This morning mom went out and got some.

Thank God for small favors.

Except now I’m ready to pop and I’ve basically undone every step I took on the treadmill for 4 miles yesterday. Oh well. Did I get a jelly doughnut out of it? Dang skippy I did. There are still 3 doughnuts left since there are 3 of us and we got 12 doughnuts. I’m already trying to scheme my way into getting the chocolate creme filled one. Am I a horrible person or what?

If you’re confused by all this, fear not. You seemed to have found book #11 of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. Stephanie is a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter), and not a very good one. Well, ok, she’s good in that she gets hella lucky all the time, but not so good because the rest of the time her court date skippers slip away from her or she ends up rolling in garbage or dealing with naked guys or getting her car blown up. Someone should start a tally on that last bit. There’s no real need to go in order, but there are a few books that would be much better if you read something before them. If you want the full story on how Stephanie became a bounty hunter, read One for the Money. If you want to know the full story on the deal that goes down relating to this book, read Two for the Dough. If you don’t mind jumping in and spoiling a few things, read on.

That’s it. Stephanie Plum has officially quit her job as a bounty hunter. She’s rolled in garbage for the last time wrestling with some jerk. She’s been shot at, spat at, attacked by geese, humped by a pack of dogs, wrestled with a Vaseline-covered naked guy, shot a few people herself, been stalked by homicidal maniacs, and has gone through more cars than Big Foot at a demolition derby. So she quits. Enough with the wackos, freaks, idiots, and killers. Time to get a job at the button factory. Or Kan Klean dry cleaning. Or Cluck-in-a-Bucket. Or the personal products plant.

Or with Ranger. *involuntary shiver of giddiness*

While Stephanie hops from one job to another, it looks like someone thought to be dead is back and wants revenge. Steph is left with threatening notes, body parts, bombs, all of which seem to match up with the disappearance of four men and leaves her semi-boyfriend vice cop Joe Morelli with a broken leg and her trying to figure out the connection before she goes ka-boom with her next vehicle. But which is worse? Possibly getting blown to smithereens or looking like an eggplant in her sister’s slowly-going-psychotic wedding?

I wonder how many times a month Stephanie has to testify in court? Random ponderings aside, I liked this one. Sure, Steph isn’t out chasing down guys (ok, well she does on occasion, when Lula asks her to), but the tension between her, Ranger, and Morelli makes up for a lot of it. Making up for the rest of it is the fiascos that go on at the different jobs she takes. You never see half of this stuff coming. Actually I never saw any of it coming. Ok, maybe one or two things, but nothing major. Even the little things were great, like Bob sleeping in the bathtub. What dog does that??

As usual, the book is written in first person, so we get every detail from Steph’s perspective, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how people, places, and situations are described, I love the metaphors she uses and the binds she gets into. There aren’t many new characters that come into this, which is fine. I’m getting a tad burnt out on crazy new people, as much as I love them. Even usual characters take a bit of time on the back-burner here, such as Grandma Mazur and Lula. We hardly even see Connie and Vinnie. What we do get is a lot of Morelli and Ranger. And you can’t not enjoy a lot of those two, Ranger especially. *drools*

So what are the problems with this book? Not much at all, actually. I’m fine with the plot, though things don’t come together until the very end, it seems a little far fetched. The bad guy, though you won’t ever guess it, seems out of place. I actually felt bummed at who it was. Though it was a total surprise, it wasn’t an “Oh wow!” one. Sort of mediocre I guess. And then there’s the Scooby-doo bit where for some unknown reason the bad guy decides to spill the beans on everything. What happened, what the motive was, “wait here until I come back to kill you,” etc. I’m willing to let a few times go, but not so much this time. Sure, I suspend my disbelief and I suppose I could even stretch it to sheer ego, but otherwise I don’t see why the killer would bother at all. However, as cut off as it may have seemed, I did like the last little bit at the end. Stephanie Plum – no longer taking shit from anyone.


4.5 stars.


Originally posted on

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ten Big Ones - Plums, Doughnuts, and Diets

Pros: Lula sitting on people, Sally Sweet, the Batcave
Cons: Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am ending

The Bottom Line: ...It's Stephanie Plum. What more do you want?

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t read one more Fear Street book for fear I would implode or something. So I had to move on to much greener pastures.

My name is Nicole. Not Stephanie Plum. I don’t have a cousin named Vinnie. In fact, I don’t have any cousins, which means I have no one in the bail bond business to blackmail for a job. I have no job. That also means I don’t have cars blowing up all the time on me. Though I did get in a wreck last month so I’m still without a vehicle. But at least I don’t have psychos chasing me around. Then again that means I don’t have a hot vice cop named Joe Morelli to protect me. Same goes for an ex-Navy SEAL named Ranger. My life is a lot more boring than Stephanie’s.

The only thing I have in common with Stephanie is that she’s a character created by Janet Evanovich. I’m not a character, but I am a writer. Except I’m just not published. Yet. But enough about me. Let’s know more about Stephanie.

Nachos or a sub? Those are the things Stephanie and Lula are thinking about when a guy known as the Red Devil comes flying out of the deli, having just held it up, the situation ending in his escape and yet another one of Stephanie’s vehicles aflame. The words “It’s not my fault” are becoming standard in Stephanie’s vocabulary. Her semi-boyfriend and cop Joe Morelli is going to have a stroke over her at some point, and she just amuses the Batman-like bounty hunter (among other things) Ranger. At least she can get some satisfaction out of being able to ID the Red Devil.

Except that’s not a good thing either. It turns out he’s part of a rather nasty gang, a group Stephanie manages to screw up and get into deeper, leading to the introduction of a contract on her head and a man named Junkman taking it up. And Junkman does his killing with flair. Crap. There’s nowhere for Stephanie to hide without endangering her family and friends – except…dare she say it? Dare she even think it – the Batcave?

I’m tempted to do a lookup on Ranger’s soap in the case that it really exists and I can find out what Ranger is supposed to smell like. Shut up. I know I have issues. I acknowledge my insanity. No matter – because at least my life isn’t as nuts as Stephanie’s, though in some ways I wish it were. Definitely more exciting than living here in Illinois where the land is flat, the cornfields are empty, the trees have gone into hibernation, and I sit on my ass and dream impossible dreams.

This book is much mellower than some of its predecessors. I wasn’t cracking up at every turn, but that didn’t mean I was less interested. Hey, when stuff like the Batcave is involved, it’s hard not to be interested. She still does her apprehensions, still has Lula to randomly jump people, and still has Joe to deal with. Sometimes Stephanie’s stupidity can be annoying, but here it’s a little less annoying. Probably because she’s not as stupid as she’s been in the past. She still needs to get used to the gun factor, and ease up on Joe some when he just wants her to be safe.

All in first person, Stephanie’s perspective, as usual. Janet Evanovich is a woman after my own heart. Finally someone else who freely uses the words “mosey,” “hork” and other things. No one else I know uses those in their vocabulary. I use them all the time. Ok, maybe not hork because I don’t exactly have the need to use it, but I enjoy mosey and sashay and such.

The end resolves itself really quickly and has a very brief resolution. I wish both of them were a little longer, maybe with a little more umph to them or something. I know, it’s hard to top what actually does happen when it comes to Stephanie’s rescuer, and in some ways it even seems a little over the top. I just wanted more in terms of length, maybe Stephanie getting mean, something. Not a semi deus ex machina thing going on. I seem to be running across a lot of those endings these days…

Oh well. At least it wasn’t a Scooby-doo ending. Though the situation didn’t really allow for one. Still, I’m entertained and that makes me happy.


Originally posted on

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

To the Nines - Stephanie Plum Has More Than Nine Lives

Pros: Change of pace in plot, issues with Ranger's Merry Men
Cons: Where were the good times in Vegas? Tiny letdown.

The Bottom Line: Just keep on keepin' on.

As weird as it sounds, I couldn’t start this book right away. Steph already has a new car – I do not. I’m frustrated, feeling useless in my own house, and getting fat on microwave pizza. So I put down the Stephanie Plum books, got on the treadmill, and stayed there for 74 minutes, 4 miles, and 550 calories (exactly how many the pizza had). I felt better after that and decided to read R.L. Stine’s Bad Dreams for a brief change of pace, even though I was ODing on Fear Street books.

Now I’m ready to get back in the saddle with Stephanie.

If you have no idea who Stephanie is, then it’s a good bet you don’t know who Janet Evanovich is. She’s the author of the Stephanie Plum novels, where Steph is a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds company. She got there by blackmailing him (it involves a “romantic relationship with a duck”), and now has a Batman-quality guy named Ranger as a mentor and vice cop Joe Morelli as a hot ticket love interest. Except there’s always someone who wants to kill her. There’s always gotta be a downside, doesn’t there?

We begin the book with Stephanie going for a roll in ze hay (and by hay I mean a fat guy covered in Vaseline). When she gets back to the office, she’s assigned a new task; help Ranger find a man named Samuel Singh. Singh was working at a place called TriBro and went missing several days ago, and if he’s not found, Vinnie becomes a laughing stock for being the first to screw up a visa bond. Ranger’s all about Singh, but Steph would much rather find Boo, the little dog that went missing along with Singh. Of course, all her snooping gets her into trouble with someone she ends up naming the “Carnation Killer.” Not someone you’d want to be friendly with. Her on/off boyfriend, Joe Morelli isn’t pleased with any of this, and Ranger goes as far as setting bodyguards around her – which makes for some interesting situations when Steph gets a lead that takes her, Connie, and Lula to Las Vegas.

Actually, considering I knew she was going to Vegas from the back of the book, I expected some good stuff. But I was sadly disappointed. For having Connie and Lula along I was expecting some crazy situations, but they weren’t there that long and there were just a few things to be amused by. I mean, it’s Vegas but we get more action in Jersey? Sad. So sad. Atlantic City was more fun. Maybe they should have brought Grandma Mazur…

You’d think Steph would be safe with a bunch of Ranger’s Merry Men around her (as she calls them), but she still manages to get into trouble. How she does so is always interesting and the way she goes through these guys is pretty great. The whole chase throughout this book makes for a decent change simply for the fact that it isn’t your typical trial skipper that Steph has to go after, and what made for an even bigger relief was that there wasn’t any other skipper she had to go after and was trying to do so throughout the entire book. I mentioned in the last book, Hard Eight, that those kinds of issues were starting to drive me nuts.

As usual the book is written in first person from Steph’s point of view. That’s the best way for these stories to be told. And yes, you will have to do that whole suspend your disbelief thing because weird stuff goes on in this book that probably wouldn’t happen in real life, or at least happen in the way it does in the book. We don’t get many new characters in this book aside from Ranger’s boys and the bad guys.

And speaking of bad guys, will you be able to guess who the bad guy is? Possibly. I had my thumb pegged on a specific few people, finally narrowed down to one once we find out what the deal is. Of course, you won’t be able to figure out what the deal is – I sure didn’t – but as for the head honcho in everything, if you think like I do and know what everyone tends to do in their mystery stories more often than not, then yes, you’ll have it. Maybe Steph needs my insight – then she may not get into these situations… Still, the last bit she gets snagged up in was exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Overall? Mm, four stars again. It’s good, but like I said, I was hoping for more. I think it would have been great if Steph had gone on the roadtrip with Lula. That could have made for some great material. They could have gotten lost, had crazy conversations together or with truck drivers or anyone else, visited a national monument and have something ridiculous happen that gets them thrown out, all kinds of things. Ah well. The story was good, not as plausible as some of the others, but not entirely out of the realm of reality either. Some of you may be doubtful, but I can honestly see something wacko like this going on in real life. People are nuts, so you never know.

Don’t forget – Stephanie Plum is for entertainment purposes only. Any attempt to take this book seriously, plot, characters, or otherwise will result in immediate failure and no fun taken on your part.


Originally posted 2006 on

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hard Eight - Good in the Sack

Pros: The rabbit; score one for Ranger! Cons: Getting tired of the un-catchable FTA

The Bottom Line: (I was reading this in bed this morning.) The book was great - but Andy Bender took it down a notch.

I guess I might as well write the review while I try and figure out a title. Maybe a little Missy Elliott will help inspire me…

Do you know who Stephanie Plum is yet? No? That answer makes me wonder what you’re doing here, hanging out with number 8. But I guess it’s my duty as a reviewer to enlighten you. After all, for all I know your cousin was simply raving about this book and didn’t give you any details. How rude. To the point, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter who is constantly finding herself in very sticky situations; people want to kill her, and two very luscious men want to hook up with her. I’m up for the latter part of that. Janet Evanovich, the author, comes up with all these scenarios and has written 12 books so far. #13 is in the works (or just out in hardback – I lack the details). You can start here as Stephanie always briefly explains how she got where she is, but if you want the full story, you’ll have to read at least book #1.

Are we crystal? Good.

Stephanie Plum, not your average bounty hunter, wanted by vice cop Joe Morelli and her mentor and the next Batman, Ranger. Wanted in a good way, at least. Well, maybe good. Stephanie has man issues. When it isn’t those two, it’s going to be the people she’s supposed to cuff and take back to jail so she can get paid. Andy Bender is next on her list, but he’s a pain in the ass and keeps slipping through her fingers. So that’s not going very well either. What makes things better? Going home to have a good dinner.

Of course, that can’t be normal either. Mabel, their next door neighbor, has put up her house as collateral for a bond used by her daughter Evelyn as part of a child custody deal. But Evelyn and her daughter Annie have gone missing. Mabel’s going to lose her house and asks Stephanie to find them. Not exactly Steph’s bag of chips, but she does it as a neighborly sort of thing. No sooner does she start snooping than a man named Eddie Abruzzi show up. Eddie’s got the eyes Ramirez used to have, and that is not a good thing, especially since he wants Steph to keep her nose out of this – or face the consequences. But we wouldn’t have a book to read if she listened, now would we? Time to bring out the killer rabbit…

So what does Eddie want with Evelyn? In what ways will Steph twist out of the crazy rabbit’s grasp? What twisted ideas does Eddie have for Steph? Joe and Steph – will they get together? Or will it be Ranger and Steph??

Next time on As the World Turns….wait, sorry. Getting out of hand aren’t I? Truth is, I’m not telling you squat. You’ll have to read it for yourself. I review – I don’t give away the goods.

Will you like it? If you’ve read any other Stephanie Plum books and have enjoyed all of them, then yes, you will. What’s good? Just about everything you’ve come to expect from the series. Stephanie getting into ridiculous situations, involving things like dead people, geese, cars, etc. The ideas are always different – as in who is trying to kill her and why. The style, written in first person from Steph’s view, makes things just that much better. I still stand by my declaration that these wouldn’t be as great if they were in third person. Steph is the girl who wanted to be Wonder Woman when she grew up and dreamed of flying, so being in her mind is amusement to the 3rd degree.

You can’t deny the fun times of the other characters as well. Eddie is truly a freaky crack pot. If you know who Ramirez is, then you’ll be able to understand the freakiness of Steph’s situation. Lula, ho turned file clerk, is always great to have tag along. The dialogue for everyone is a hoot, though you do begin to wonder when Lula will just stop asking to shoot people because Steph always says no. Doesn’t hurt to try I guess.

Bad things? *sigh* Well, though I’m fine with the formula (Steph gets involved with something much bigger than she bargained for and now people want to kill her, so she has narrow scrapes with death, and a car usually ends up destroyed), I found myself very annoyed with the Andy Bender situation. In several past books, there has been one court date skipper that she has to go get and it basically takes her the entire book to do it. Sometimes they’re involved with the main plot, sometimes they’re just side dishes. But whichever they may be, Steph usually runs into them multiple times throughout the book. Oftentimes she has perfect, perfect chances to catch them and haul their butt to jail and be done with things, but she freaks out or screws up, or just lets them go for some dumb reason.

It’s this repetition that is beginning to annoy me. It started to irk me in the last book, and this time it just flat out annoyed me. She lets these people take her stuff and use it on her, and she does dumb things that allow them to get away and honestly, she should have learned by now, fictional character or not. She helped to redeem herself a little bit by getting more use out of her gun, but it wasn’t enough. It isn’t as though these big incidents happen to her every month – time does pass between the books, so she really should be accustomed to at least the general idea of how not to screw up quite so much. The screwing up can be funny sometimes, but there were a few places where I rolled my eyes and thought, “Geez woman, how dumb are you?” Such as don’t put your pepper spray in a non-easy access spot. Same goes for your gun. Keep a tight hold on your cuffs. Keep a tight hold on all weapons. Etc. etc.

That’s my major beef right there. The rest of the time I didn’t have many problems. Steph is either braver than I am or just stupider to do some of the things she did when it comes to psycho Eddie and the people after her, but that’s forgivable. That’s her character. The ending may seem abrupt and possibly even anti-climactic to some, but I honestly didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I liked it. I just wish the note had read something different. More cryptic. Like, “I lost the war,” or something like that.

Don’t expect magical characters or deep plots of intrigue – it’s pure entertainment, and if that’s not your bag baby, then don’t go for it. As for me? I think if I ever want a Ranger in my life, I’ll have to start running on the treadmill tomorrow.


Originally posted on

Monday, September 7, 2015

Seven Up - Lucky Seven Is More Like It

Pros: Wide range of stuff to do, wackos to visit
Cons: Timing of ending(s) felt outta wack

The Bottom Line: Driving round in my white Cadillac, crushed velvet seats, wavin' to the ladies as I cruise down the street...

When I read the inside cover of this book, I literally started dancing with joy, grinning like an idiot. Excited doesn’t quite cut it. More like ecstatic. It can’t be because I’m wired yet as it’s only 11:03. Usually I pass the marker of “wired” around 2am or later. No, this is because of Ranger. That’s right, Ranger. I don’t normally have a thing for Cuban-American guys, but I do have a thing for guys that don’t exist. I suppose I’d be better off with real Cuban-Americans. Still, a girl can dream – I asked my sister for Ranger for a Christmas present.

Don’t know who Stephanie Plum is? She’s the main character for a whole series of books written by Janet Evanovich. She used to be a lingerie buyer until the company went kaput and then blackmailed her cousin Vinnie into turning her into a bounty hunter. All of this is detailed out in One for the Money, something I think you should read if you’re considering this book. For the most part you can start anywhere, but it’s a good idea to start in the beginning to see where about half of the recurring characters came from. Details are fun.

This time around, Stephanie has to go snag an old geezer, Eddie DeChooch, who’s skipped his court date, having gotten arrested for trafficking contraband cigarettes. But he’s a spry old man, and even with Lula in tow, Steph loses him. Fine whatever. Or at least that’s what Steph would think had she not discovered the dead woman in DeChooch’s storage shed, shot five times in the chest. She has a tendency to find dead people. Then Mooner, a float-on-the-breeze (or in his and his pal’s sake, weed smoke) kind of guy shows up to inform Stephanie that his buddy Dougie has gone missing. Steph starts to put together pieces after a few hit and misses with DeChooch and a lot of questioning, but she isn’t fast enough to create a clear picture because then Mooner disappears as well.

It’s at this point in time that Steph realizes she’s in water much deeper than planned and wants Ranger’s help. However, this time instead of jumping to the rescue, he’s got a single condition. If he gives her DeChooch, she has to give him a single night of her presence. *cue excited knuckle cracking* And naturally, with problems at work, problems at home are an automatic; Steph’s sister Valerie is home and considering being a lesbian, Gradma Mazur is herself, and the only one seeming to do anything constructive seems to be Bob the dog, and that has to do with Steph’s archrival Joyce and her lawn.

It’s always hard to sum up these books and make sense. Haha. There’s always just so much going on it’s hard to cram it in and all the while be discreet about all the good stuff. I’ve heard some people complaining that the books are repetitive though. True – I will give them that the books have the same formula: Steph has to catch a skip, and the skip is involved with something that gets a whole lot bigger and usually involves people trying to kill her and more often than not, the destruction of a car (or two). But you know what? The plot details are always different and the characters that come in for the first time are usually quite colorful. You can never be quite sure of who is going to say what or what their next move is going to be. Personally, I look forward to each book, even if I already know what is going to be the deal in the big scheme of things. It’s the details in Steph’s life that make the story so great. In short, you may know the outline, but when it comes to guessing what comes next, you’d have to be psychic.

Speaking of guessing, will you guess what is going on? Good lord, not in a million years. I thought I had a basic idea and then found out I was way off base. Then later I’d narrowed it down more and was *this* close to betting money I was right and then found out I was totally wrong. So yeah, good luck with that.

As per usual the book is written in first person, so we get to know all that goes on in Steph’s head and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I swear this is the way my sister writes, which is another reason I wish she’d update her blog. Things ago along nice and even until we get to the end. Things wrap up fairly nicely and then suddenly, oh yeah, forgot something! It’s all on purpose, of course, but it felt weird. Almost like it took too long to round up the guy and pack him off to jail. I don’t mind in the least how any of it was done, but I think by that point I was just impatient for this crazy guy to be caught already.

Along those lines, I do get annoyed sometimes at Steph and the way she handles things. There are a few times when she has her skip and he gets away in the stupidest ways. Stupid as in, “Hey Steph, maybe if you held onto both those cuffs instead of just clanking it over one hand and letting go, you’d be in fine shape.” Or the whole gun thing. She’s still terrified of guns. I’d have learned to be a prime shot now. Yes, she may not be quite as much fun if she wasn’t as much of a coward as she claims, but actually I think it might instead make things more interesting if she’d pluck up and cap someone in the leg once and a while. It’d turn Ranger on I’ll bet.

One more thing – who was doing the editing here? Or in all the books? There was one spot where Dougie suddenly has a line, except he’s been missing for a while, so it was Mooner actually talking. Someone goofed. Then there’s the word “ho.” I’ve seen it spelled three different ways up until this point. ‘Ho. Ho’. Ho. Merry Christmas. Seriously, pick one. Preferably ho because I’m not sure what those apostrophes are supposed to be accomplishing.


Originally posted on

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hot Six - Working With Batman 101

Pros: It's Stephanie Plum
Cons: Names, clarity, fast finish

The Bottom Line: Do you remember what I'd said in an earlier review about Stephanie going through more cars than I read books? Um, yeah, about that...

Stephanie Plum, fictional character from the mind of Janet Evanovich. Stephanie is a bond enforcement agent, aka bounty hunter. She’s technically not a very good one, but she’s got a ton of intuition and plenty of luck to go along with it. If you haven’t read any of the books before this one, you’ll probably be okay, though the prologue might throw you off as it picks up where book 5 left off. In which case I’d say read #1 just to get the whole “how Stephanie became a bounty hunter” bit and then #5 because it rocks and you’ll know where the prologue starts from. Or just read them all, that’s my best recommendation – in fact, I’m seriously thinking of just going out and buying the whole series because I’d love to read these again.

Having said that, on to the plot.

Homer Ramos, the son of an infamous gun-runner is found charred to crispy perfection in his office. The thing is, he also had a big bullet hole in his head, which means someone killed him before setting the fire – and that someone might just be Stephanie’s bounty hunter mentor Ranger. He’s caught on candid camera, leaving the building minutes before the fire alarms start blaring. Doesn’t look too good for the ex-special forces would-be Batman. Naturally, Stephanie’s sent after him, something she isn’t keen on in the least because Ranger can slip through people’s fingers faster than a wisp of smoke. Forget that nonsense.

But it doesn’t even matter if she doesn’t want to track him – two guys start following her around, making certain if she catches Ranger, they can snatch him up. If not, Stephanie is in deep doggy doo. To add to her ever mounting stresses, Grandma Mazur has decided to move out of Stephanie’s mother’s house and crash with Steph for a while. A man who killed his wife is out on bail, and will do anything he can to keep Steph from bringing him back in, and a cop friend of Steph’s has tricked her into taking his dog…and the dog eats everything, furniture included. Ranger needs to figure out things fast, Steph is doing all she can to help, but if things don’t solve themselves, she’s going to end up burned, shot, or missing some body parts.

Once again we get plenty of crazy goodness from Stephanie Plum. I was cracking up almost ever 10-15 minutes because of something someone said or just the way things get described by Stephanie. The books are all written in first person, and it just adds to the hilarity because Steph’s point of view is simply great. I don’t think we’d ever get the same effect if it were written in third person.

We get some more crazy characters involved this time, and I was expecting the dog to be just as loopy. Though he does eat everything he can get his mouth around, other than that he’s a pretty normal dog. The descriptions of him are what makes him hilarious. Poor Joe is going through sex withdrawal because Grandma Mazur is living in Steph’s apartment. Ranger is absolutely delicious and I love the way he simply slips into her apartment late at night and sits there until she wakes up to give him information. He might as well be Batman – geez. The skip, Morris Munson is a wack-job and I’m glad for once Steph used her gun. She doesn’t use that thing often enough. Kinda drives me nuts sometimes, actually. She gets faced with some totally unhinged dude, has him at point blank range and either her gun is empty or she simply doesn’t shoot. You’d think by this point in time with all that’s happened to her, she’d be trying to get cozy with that thing. I know I would. In fact, I think most people would.

Which brings us to the believability. Not too hard, really. Suspension of disbelief is the key phrase here, and if you’re not familiar with it, then I suggest you study up on the benefits of it. Actually, most Stephanie Plum books aren’t going to be wholly realistic, but that’s to be expected. They wouldn’t be half as much fun if they stuck 100% to reality.

Problems with the book? Though I’m used to utter non-stop action, and this has 99% of that going on, there were a few tiny lulls, but that’s no big deal. What is a big deal to me is that I didn’t completely understand the who-dun-it and why. I got the basics, but the details eluded me. Maybe I read too fast. That’s always a possibility. But I didn’t feel like I got the whole pictures this time – I got a mite confused. Some of the names threw me off too, which might have been part of it. So many people got dead or involved that when someone like vice cop Joe Morelli or Ranger starts doing the whole explanation thing, they have all these people they bring into the picture and I think, “Wait, who? Who is this person again?”

Of course, I did read this book in one whole sitting. Yeah, all 294 pages in a matter of hours. I pretty much read all day from lunch until, well I don’t know because I forgot to look, but I didn’t have anything else to do and the book was good times so I just kept reading and reading until I was at the end. Fine with me - Seven Up is already in my possession and I already have my bookmark stuck in it.

Still, the end seemed abrupt and a little anticlimactic in some ways. You won’t ever guess who makes the final appearance in her apartment with plans to kill her, that’s for sure. I guess it’s supposed to make for a great twist but to me it seemed out of place. In some ways it makes sense, but in other ways it doesn’t. Possibly because of the timing. Honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on it, for which I apologize, but there’s just something about how everything went down that bugs me.

No matter. A good solid four stars. Great, now that this review is done I can start reading Seven Up. Give me a day – two at the most.


Originally posted 2006 at

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