Two for the Dough (Janet Evanovich) (Stephanie Plum 02)

And so the misadventures of Stephanie Plum, New Jersey’s accident-prone bounty hunter not-quite-extraordinaire, continues. This is the second novel in the series, the first was reviewed here.

As previously introduced, Janet Evanovich is an American crime writer. Wikipedia, personal page, and Amazon. She started off as a romance writer under a pseudonym, but came to fame when she moved to crime, winning several awards.

Stephanie Plum, is a fugitive apprehension agent, more excitingly known as a bounty hunter. Kenny Mancuso, a cousin of Plum’s love interest, Joe Morelli, has failed to appear for his court date, and is proving difficult to track down. He has just been discharged from the army, is suddenly flush with cash, and has just shot his best friend. Spiro Stiva, a childhood friend of Mancuso’s, is a sleazy mortician, who hires Plum to retrieve stolen military coffins, and later hires her as his personal bodyguard to protect himself from Mancuso’s incredibly erratic and violent attentions. (There is a particular scene that will make all male readers wince. Certain things should not be posted through the mail is all of the hint that I’m going to give.)

To assist with the investigation of funeral parlours and the business of death, Plum’s completely barmy grandmother (throughout referred to as Grandma Mazur) is enlisted to provide cover. This is a task that she utterly fails at, with Grandma Mazur causing chaos and mayhem wherever she goes. Early-on, Grandma Mazur is an interesting foil to Plum’s activities, but her time in the spotlight should be limited, since as a character she isn’t particularly well developed. Some of the charicaturisation that was lurking in the background in One for the Money is far more evident in Two for the Dough, an issue that becomes far more prevalent as the series continues. (I was going to say develops, but that implies change. Actually, it’s a little harsh to say that, the books are distinguishable, even if the characters become a little set in their ways.)

Joe Morelli provides a much better counterpart to Plum’s hijinks, and assists nicely with the plot development. Ranger, bounty hunter extraordinaire and mystery man, doesn’t have much of a role in this novel, but turns up occasionally to move the story along.

The showdown is well-written, and the story moves along at a nice clip. It’s light and easy-to-read, and shouldn’t be mistaken for more than it is. Judged on its own, it’s a decent light crime novel. Judged with respect to the rest of the books in the series, it’s more of the same. In small doses, that’s not a bad thing. However, it’s entirely possible to have too much of a good thing.

Obligatory Amazon Links

Actually, I’m a little cross at Amazon at the moment, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, their MP3 store is excellent, but is geographically locked to the US. I’m not in the US, and therefore can’t access the store. Damn. Second, they locked my account last night, much to my frustration. However, they have an automated callback system thing, and I talked to an actual person quite quickly to get it unlocked. For that, I’m actually quite impressed.

Two for the Dough isn’t available on Kindle, but there is a box-set of the first three Stephanie Plum novels here: Plum Boxed Set 1, Books 1-3 (One for the Money / Two for the Dough / Three to Get Deadly) (Stephanie Plum Novels).

One for the Money (Janet Evanovich) (Stephanie Plum 01)

There are some authors who are the literature equivalent of a weekend away. They are easily digestible, low-stress, don’t require a lot of higher brain function, and are fine in occasional doses, but you wouldn’t want to do it too often. Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum books fall squarely into that category for me.

Author in brief Janet Evanovich is an American crime writer. Wikipedia, personal page, and Amazon. She started off as a romance writer under a pseudonym, but came to fame when she moved to crime, winning several awards.

One for the Money is the first story in the Stephanie Plum series, which as of writing has nineteen primary titles and a variety of holiday-themed one-offs. It’s a little difficult for me to review, as I’ve read most of the series, and am quite familiar with the characters and the format of the books. (They might be just a little bit formulaic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it ties in with the weekend-away idea from above. They’re light and fluffy and able to be swallowed in a few days. Colin Forbes is another really good example of this, but to a greater extent. I’m sure that he does a global search-and-replace of a few words from title to title.) Back to the point: I’m going to try to balance what I know about the series as to what one might expect encountering the series for the first time.

The character cast is quite static: Stephanie Plum is a rather hopeless bounty hunter who muddles through a series of desperate situations. Joe Morelli, a Trenton New Jersey cop, is her occasional boyfriend and love interest, and spends a lot of time rescuing her from desperate situations. Ranger, an expert bounty hunter, is the third part of the triangle, and plays to the other side of the law than Morelli. Lula, who in the first novel is introduced as a prostitute, will become Plum’s useless off-sider who should be working at filing at the bond office. Plum’s family provide a range of secondary characters: the sleazy cousin for whom she works, the long-suffering stereotypical ethnic father who harumphs over the crazy situations, the worrying mother, and the kooky grandmother who has a fascination with Plum’s line of work, and in particular the weaponry. Character development doesn’t really occur after the first few books.

One for the Money sees Stephanie Plum broke and in employment troubles. She blackmails her cousin Vinnie to give her a job rounding up Failure To Appears for his bond agency. Joe Morelli has skipped bail on a charge of murder, and is hunted by Plum. Up-and-coming boxer Benito Ramirez is connected with the killing, and is a particularly nasty piece of work, having raped and mutilated women, only to have his fame save him. Unable to apprehend Morelli, Plum forms an uneasy alliance with him to take down Ramirez. The writing is fast-paced, the scenes are quite well-written, and the story is a bit darker and grimmer than later books, with far less slapstick.

It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s easily digested. But be careful–it’s a little addictive. An easy-to-read book from an easy-to-read series.

Oh, and it’s now a film.

Amazon links

One for the money doesn’t appear to be available on Kindle, but there are a variety of dead-tree editions, including an omnibus: Plum Boxed Set 1, Books 1-3 (One for the Money / Two for the Dough / Three to Get Deadly) (Stephanie Plum Novels)

Children of the Night (Mercedes Lackey)

Following straight on from my review of the first Mercedes Lackey book I read comes Children of the Night, apparently the second book in the Diana Tregarde series.

Mercedes Lackey has a personal website, a wikipedia page, and an Amazon page. She is a prolific author of mainly fantasy novels. (Though she has ventured into Sci-fi as well.)

Children of the Night confused me a little, as it was part of the same file as Invasion (The Secret World Chronicles Book 1), which ended on a terrible cliff-hanger, so I figured that the second half of the file was the second book in the series. (These books and files were part of the Humble Bundle eBook bundle, so I should be allowed a little leniency for my confusion.) Given the number of characters in Invasion, the introduction of a new narrator in Di Tregarde didn’t set off alarm bells. The presence of magic and being set during the Nixon administration did, however.

Having not read the first in the series, I was initially a little lost regarding the main character, Di Tregarde. She is introduced as a powerful magic practitioner, wary of intrusions into her space. Slowly, she is revealed to be a Guardian, a witch of extreme power, who is duty-bound is assist the helpless. She is currently making ends meet working in a magical supplies store whilst her career as a writer struggles along. Our other protagonist is a musician by the name of Dave, who has the misfortune to be transformed into a psychic vampire who feeds off the emotions of others. Despite his transformed state, he maintains his morality and sense of ethics to some extent, and has a rather cliched battle against his own transformed self, and the other psychic vampires that attempt to drag him down. A ridiculously handsome genuine vampire by the name of Andre enters the mix, and completes the obligatory love triangle between Di and Dave. (The obvious comparison to Twilight shall not be made. Perhaps I’ve not read enough romantic paranormal fiction, as the dark-and-mysterious good vampire is still a novelty to me.)

The rise of the psychic vampires must be thwarted, a task that Di, Dave, and Andre handle admirably over the climactic chapters of the novel. Romance blossoms. In a quite linear tale, dots are connected.

Reading back over what I’ve written, I sound quite down on this book, which is actually a little unfair. It’s generic sure, but is it any good? Well, yes and no. I found that it was light and non-taxing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a story. There are definitely times in one’s reading life where such things are required. I don’t feel that my time was wasted, but I don’t feel the need to put it on my To-Be-Read-Again list. The story and the world were set up sufficiently well that if the first or third books of the series happened to cross my path, I’d most likely have a go at them.

Obligatory Amazon Links

The Di Tregarde trilogy is available in a collection: .

Or you can pick up the first book Burning Water, the second book Children of the Night, and the third book Jinx High from Amazon in paperback formats. (No Kindle versions appear to be available, sadly.)

Invasion (The Secret World Chronicles Book 1) — Mercedes Lackey (and others)

Let me know when this sounds too much.

X-Men.

Global police force of X-Men.

Alien invasion.

Space Nazis.

(Still hanging in there?)

Angels, a sentient universe, space Nazis, aliens, mysticism, and a global police force of X-Men.

Yup.

Author bio briefly: Mercedes Lackey is a well-established fantasy novel author. She has written more than one hundred novels over a two-decade career, as well as writing lyrics for and recording songs on the Firebird Arts label. Despite this, Invasion was the first novel of hers that I’ve read. Her Amazon page is here.

Invasion is actually a collaborative work with Steve Libbey, Dennis Lee and Cody Martin, with various combinations of authors tackling each of the braided chapters, following a few of the main characters.

Essentially a sci-fi superhero novel, Invasion is set in more-or-less modern-day America, where Metas are tolerated by the general public. Supermen and superwomen, with powers ranging from super-strength, super-speed, mind-reading, psychic manipulation, the ability to fly, Metas are uniformly beautiful, with many part of the Echo law enforcement force. Our narrator, who I believe appears in other Lackey stories, is a mage (dealing with magic rather than superpowers) is collecting the interwoven stories of a variety of metas who survive an attack upon the Earth. All standard fare so far. However, the giant aliens in their death suits are revealed to be space Nazis! Or occult followers from Nazi Germany. Or … something. The story develops in fits and starts, and keeping it all straight isn’t the easiest thing.

We follow at least a dozen main characters whose stories vaguely interweave as they react and adapt in the aftermath of the attacks. And therein lies the problem. There isn’t sufficient time for the characters to develop, for the audience to connect and to understand the motivations of these metas. The collaborative writing is also a little disconcerting at times, as the four authors styles occasionally get a little out-of-sync. However, it’s generally noticeable.

I had to grind through the first half of the book (read on my kindle), and it was a genuine struggle. However, by the time the story really started rolling, I was beginning to genuinely engage with the story, and was quite annoyed when the tale ended on a massive cliff-hanger.

It wasn’t a bad read, but I’m not sure that I’ll be chasing up the next two books in the series. The second book is World Divided: Book Two of the Secret World Chronicle and the third is due out some time in 2013.

There is a podcast version of the story available from the Secret World Chronicle podcast page.

Obligatory Amazon Links

The paperback: The kindle version:

Upon procrastination

Well, another year has slid by, and to be perfectly honest, the new year doesn’t feel much different than the old year. I suppose that’s the way of things after a certain point. I find it a little sad–the passage of time. There used to be such excitement at a new year! (Admittedly for me the excitement was having to change part of the date when I wrote it at the top of each page in my school workbook.) (Oh c’mon, dear reader, you honestly can’t be that surprised! This is a blog ostensibly about dedicated to me pontificating about books.)

Speaking of! I haven’t been doing much pontificating about books. Real life…. uh. It just got in the road! I am still reading voraciously (I love that word), but I’m not getting to write about it. I start to write the post about the book in my head, but by the time I get near a computer, or some kind of recording device, it’s faded away. Sad, really.

So, in the spirit of the new year, I shall be more dedicated to this blog. That’s the resolution.

What does this have to do with procrastination, I hear you ask? (Why can I hear you reader? Why are you in my head?) Well, I should be doing work, rather than writing this. There is a mountain of paper strewn (another good word, I wonder about its derivation…) about the place that needs to be sorted and organised and prepared in the next hour or so. Perhaps I should focus on that?

Strew, transitive verb, \ˈstrü\.  Essentially, to strew is to spread by scattering. According to Merriam-Webster, the derivation is Middle English strewen, strowen, from Old English strewian, strēowian; akin to Old High German strewen to strew, Latin struere to heap up, sternere to spread out, Greek stornynai. The first known use was before the 12th century.