Dusted Off: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top (Stephanie Plum, #11)Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #11


Mass Market Paperback, 321 pg.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2006

So here in number eleven, Evanovich shakes things up a bit. Stephanie’s had enough of the way things are going and quits the bounty hunter biz. This leads her to the first of a series of ridiculous and embarrassing jobs (and one great one). Great, funny stuff there.

But, of course, the bounty hunter biz isn’t done with Stephanie–someone from her past wants to settle a score, so the book’s more than just a montage of crappy jobs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: Despite her best efforts, Stephanie gets her man; the family and relationship stuff are at their usual goofy levels; and once again, car insurance premiums in the Burg are jacked up.

I have no doubt that there will be a return to the status quo, but I’m hoping we keep the current setup for another book or two.

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3 Stars

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Dusted Off: To the Nines by Janet Evanovich

To the Nines (Stephanie Plum, #9)To the Nines

by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #9


Mass Market Paperback, 320 pg.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2004

There’s no such thing as a bad Stephanie Plum book (at least this far in the series, with the possible exception of Visions of Sugar Plums), but there have been a few that were less-good. This is not one of them, possibly the best since One for the Money.

There’s real tension here, and plenty of genuine laughs (including the grossest visual I’ve read in months). Some of the long-term story lines get some actual advancement as well (finally!). There should be more to say, but I can’t think of it. This is Evanovich at her best–which is a heckuva lot of fun.

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4 Stars

Dusted Off: High Five by Janet Evanovich

High Five (Stephanie Plum, #5)High Five

by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #5


Mass Market Paperback, 317 pg.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2000

One part Spenser, one part Lucy Ricardo, that’s the recipe for success that got Evanovich & Stephanie Plum to book #5 and it served them well here, too.

I found the mystery this time around more satisfying than most of this series’ cases have been–and the antics (while plenty amusing) are slightly less madcap than usual (which is a good thing).

Hive Five delivers a great mix of twists and turns, a little romance, plenty of laughs. Great read.

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4 Stars

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Smokin' Seventeen
Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #17


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the best Stephanie Plum novel in quite a while. Yes, absolutely, the mystery was a piece of cake to figure out — the herring wasn’t red, it was crimson. But you know what? It worked for me. People looking for clever, twisty mysteries that leave the reader stumped shouldn’t be reading Plum novels. You read these because when Evanovich is on her game, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Vincent’s office being run out of Mooney’s RV is good, great comedy fodder. As is having Connie moving around between temporary work spaces. Most importantly to the success of a Plum novel: Grandma Mazur and Lula weren’t too crazy.

I’m not crazy about the state of the Joe-Stephanie-Ranger triangle, but what else is new? Time for something interesting to happen to at least one of the guys, if not a permanent resolution to this.

The bad guy this time was creepy as all get out, yet he fit very well into this sit-com world.

Not a lot to say about it, I guess, but it entertained me.

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Sizzling Sixteen
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #16


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When it comes to books in a series — particularly one that I’ve read more than 3 of (so the Plum books qualify several times over) — I don’t bother to read the back cover, I just want to read whatever’s next. So I had no idea how tough a sell this book would be for me until I got a few pages into it.

Vinnie Plum is probably my least favorite character in the Plum books (well, other than Joyce Barnhardt, now that I think of it). His character isn’t that interesting, almost never contributes anything to the story that couldn’t be handled by someone less-skeevy, say, Connie. So when the big story of the novel is going to be about rescuing Vinnie, I’m not going to be that invested. Actually, I’m going to root against Stephanie and her crew saving the day. A happy ending to this book would be Vinnie getting capped and Connie taking over. Or, fine, if he has to live — he’s so shaken by the experience that he sells his business to Ranger.

Of course, I knew that this is a Stephanie Plum novel, so the odds of that happening are pretty low, if not non-existent. Typically, everything resets at the end of the novel, and that status is quo going forth.

So, I had to seek fulfillment elsewhere — how many cars will Steph blow up? (her car’s in the shop for mechanical difficulty, of all things, when the book starts) Will Lula’s diet and the breaking of it annoy me? (not too bad, really) Will Stephanie’s efforts to bring in a pretty easy FTA or two be stupid flops, or actually funny? (eh, not bad…not as funny as they could’ve been, but not annoyingly stupid) Will Grandma Mazur’s antics seem like they’d be a better fit for The Nanny‘s grandmother than a crime novel? That kind of thing.

And overall, Evanovich pulled it off. This isn’t her at her best, but it’s her doing her thing. It’ll satisfy long-time readers, but probably wouldn’t win a first-timer. Pleasant enough way to spend 300 pages.

The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

The Heist
The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #1

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being a big fan of Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich, the prequel to this (Pros and Cons) left me apprehensive about The Heist. But I’m, so, so glad that I went ahead and picked this up.

Kate O’Hare’s a top-notch, driven FBI agent, cream of the crop type, who’s obsessed with bringing down Nick Fox, an equally driven and top-notch con man. After years of trying, she finally gets the cuffs on him, only to find herself thrown into an unwilling alliance with her target in an off-book mission to bring down some of the FBI’s most-wanted and most-difficult to catch. And then the globe-trotting hijinks ensue.

There are a few moments that are pretty heavy-handed, and early-on the humor is a little broader than it needed to be. But on the whole, this is a fun read. I was initially tempted to go over some of the laugh and/or smile generating lines and try to guess which author came up with them, but soon gave that up and just enjoyed them (I’m still pretty sure I could get 70% or better on a test of them).

The temptation would be to focus on Fox, O’Hare and their target. But Evanovich & Goldberg are sure to give the reader a decent amount of supporting characters — providing other people for the protagonists to react to, other perspectives for us to see the protagonists through, as well as people whose possession of skills Fox/O’Hare don’t have keep them from being total super-hero types. They need a team of experts to get them through this mission, and thankfully, the experts here are pretty amusing. I’m not sure I need to see most of them again — I’m not opposed to it, but it would be interesting to have an ever-changing team working with them. Other than O’Hare’s father, anyway — it’s clear he’s sticking around, as he should.

I’ve seen a few reviews on Goodreads compare this to USA’s White Collar — and I get that (tho’ Neal and Peter have a very different chemistry). But this feels more like Remington Steele to me — a tough, no-nonsense female investigator and a suave and debonair con man with an historic pop-culture obsession thrown together in an uneasy partnership with more than enough sexual tension to spare.*

Fun story, fun characters, with good action (and yet no one has a car get blown up!!), and some laughs. Promising start to a new series, I’m coming back for more!

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* Only thought of the Remington Steele comparison when I was about halfway through this, and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to be seeing Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan in my mind next time I read one of these.

Pros and Cons: A Short Story by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

I spent the better part of an hour writing a different review this morning — it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but I’d worked on it a lot. And then I lost it. One stupid, wrong and mostly stupid click of the mouse and …poof. Didn’t have time to try to recreate it, but wanted to post something new today. And hey, I just purchased the Evanovich/Goldberg short story, Pros and Cons. Perfect! That’d fit the bill. Right? well…

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Pros and Cons: A Short Story (O'Hare and Fox, #0.5)Pros and Cons: A Short Story by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #0.5

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Heist since it was first announced — I’m a big fan of both Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, so when this short story prequel was released I couldn’t resist.

I probably should have found the will power. This, at best, was not bad. Amusing at times, but most of the humor felt forced. Even then, the humor was overly broad most of the time. Worse than that, the story was chock-full of exposition dumps that are almost worthy of Dan Brown.

That said, I’ve read almost 30 books by these two over the years and have no doubt that the novels are going to be better. The primary characters — Agent O’Hare and scoundrel Fox, are promising and chock-full of potential. Sure, I’m a little less enthused about The Heist than I was yesterday, but I’ll get over that once it’s in my hot little hands.

Short version: Skip this tease, come back for the real thing.