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

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