Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

Title:  Visions of Sugar Plums: A Stephanie Plum Holiday Novel

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Hardback:  149 pages

published:  2002

ISBN:  9780312306328

My name is Stephanie Plum and I’ve got a strange man in my kitchen.  He appeared out of nowhere.  One minute I was sipping coffee, mentally planning out my day.  and then the next minute… poof, there he was.

He was over six feet, with wavy blond hair pulled into a ponytail, deep-set brown eyes, and an athlete’s body.  He looked to be late twenties, maybe thirty.  He was dressed in jeans, boots, a grungy white thermal shirt hanging loose over the jeans, and a beat-up black leather jacket hanging on broad shoulders.  He was sporting two days of beard growth, and he didn’t look happy.

“Well, isn’t this perfect,” he said, clearly disgusted, hands on hips, taking me in.

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich, page 1

I took up this little book just before Christmas as part of my dash to the 75-book finish line.  It only took a couple hours to read it, and it was rather amusing.  It was a quick, light, and fun read for the holiday times.  Much like the chocolate chip cookies Mags and I made, I quickly devoured the whole thing and barely remembered it a couple hours later.  But I do remember the tickly-happy-treat feeling from both 🙂

Okay, so it’s not an instant classic that speaks from our generation to all generations (HaHa.. if you’ve ever read a Plum novel, that will be about the funniest joke you’ve read lately), but it’s still fun.  And since it was written later than the earlier books, the characters are much more developed than those in my most recent Plum foray, Three to Get Deadly.  Also, this is the book that introduces the read to Diesel, the third member in Stephanie hunk-buffet. 

The book opens up with Diesel popping into Stephanie’s kitchen, telling her he’s been assigned to her to teach her Christmas cheer.  He accompanies her as she tries to bring in Sandy Claws… sounds like a criminal caught stealing truckloads of cat litter, right?  LOL…  who is  a toymaker hiring elves to handmake product in a wharehouse converted from a daycare (hence the need for elves, as the potties and other equipment are just the right size).  Stephanie’s divorced and formerly-perfect sister has moved back in with mom and dad, and has found out she’s pregnant by her less-than-stellar boyfriend (who faints).  Add to all of this, Grandma Mazur has a new studmuffin, and there’s a supervillain with electrical powers trying to kill them.  It all adds up for some absolute craziness.

While I found it a fun and quit book, the super powers stuff kind of irked me.  Honestly, I felt it was a bit of cheating on Evanovich’s part.  I’ve always enjoyed the mystery-book aspect of the Plum books, but reaching for the paranormal makes me wonder if the next book will have aliens and spaceships to chase down her FTA’s on.

It’s quick, it’s fun, but it stretches credulity, so I’m giving Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich 3 out of 5 stars.

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Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich

Title:  Three to Get Deadly:  A Stephanie Plum Novel

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Paperback:  321 pages

published:  1997

ISBN:  0312966091

“You’re ruining everything,” Stuart said to me.  “Why can’t you leave me alone?  Who’s going to be Mr. Cluck if you take me in?”

I pulled the cuffs out of my pocket.  “Don’t give me a hard time, Stuart.”

“You can’t put cuffs on Mr. Cluck!”  Stuart said.  “What will all these kids think?”

“Wouldn’t get my hopes up that they’d give a hello,” Lula said.  “Isn’t like you’re Santa Claus.  Truth is, you’re just some whiny little guy dressed up in a bad suit.”

“This isn’t a big deal,” I said to Stuart as calmly as possible.  “I’m going to cuff you and walk you out the door, and if we do it quickly and quietly no one will notice.”

I reached out to snap the cuffs on Stuart, and he batted me away with his chicken wing.  “Leave me alone,” Stuart said, knocking the cuffs out of my hand, sending them sailing across the room.  “I’m not going to jail!”  He grabbed the mustard and the special-sauce squirters off the condiment counter.  “Stand back!” he said.

I had pepper spray and a stun gun, but it seemed like the excessive force to use them against a chicken armed with special sauce.

Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich, page 236

In this third book of Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, Stephanie back in the Buick, even though she tried to replace it with a cute little truck that spends more time in the shop than on the road.  She’s caught what she’d thought was a couple easy skips, but have turned out to be like trying to find Jimmy Hoffa and capturing Dilinger.  What’s worse, Morelli is treating her diffidently, while Ranger seems to be a superhero, and Grandma Mazur keeps bringing men over (her studmuffins) who seem to want to move in with the family (some have all their original parts, while others plop their replacement parts on the dinner table while eating).  If that’s not bad enough, Stephanie gets a bad dye job making her look like Ronald McDonald’s Jersey cousin.  It’s all very hilarious and quite a fun read.

I give Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  It’s not the best Plum, but still quite fun to read. (Wow, that was about the shortest review EVER!.. at least, for me.)

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title:  The 19th Wife

Author:  David Ebershoff

Hardcover:  507 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  Random House

ISBN:  9781400063970

Twenty minutes later we were outside the Chevron, eating a sack of microwaved burritos.  ‘Now I know who you are,” said Johnny.  “But remind me:  why’d you get kicked out?”

“I was caught alone with one of my stepsisters.  What about you?”

“I was listening to the Killers.  It wasn’t even my disc, it was my brother’s.  But they caught me.  I don’t even like the Killers.”

That wasn’t the real reason.  They get rid of the boys to take away the competition.  With no boys around, the old men have the girls to themselves.

The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff, page 96

In The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff switches back and forth from the story of Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young and his only EX, and the mystery behind the murder of Jordan’s father.   Jordan’s mother, wife number 19,  sits in jail, accused of shooting her polygamist husband, insists she is innocent.  Jordan believes her and sets about to discover the truth, which ends up being a lot more convoluted than he thought possible.

One of the interesting things about this book is how the two seemingly unrelated stories of the two 19th wives were used to not only display how such a lifestyle can be possible in the 21st century but how such a belief system came to be.  It gives the history behind the “Revelation” of plural marriage through the eyes a Sister Wife, and how the practice affected the whole family.

How this book affected me:

I couldn’t help but get angry again and again while reading it.  For one, it boggles my brain how any woman with half the sense God gave a house plant would tolerate such a practice.  I don’t mean that I don’t understand it on an intellectual level, the book does an excellent job of showing how it was a progressive thing, but at a heart level I can’t believe (it scares me to think it possible) that a woman would say, “Why yes, you have my permission to objectify me and treat me like livestock.  Then, when my daughters are older, you can passel them out to their uncles and other men three times their age to be chattel.  It sounds like a lovely set up!” 

No, I learned the history of it, that a man decided to use his position as a leader to cover up his own leachery by saying, “God said” then made his followers eternal salvation contigent upon their following along because if everyone’s doing it then it’s not as bad.  Then the powers that were discovered that if they kept the women breeding their numbers and voting power would be formidable.  Also, the idea of the man being king of his castle and serviced and waited upon by as many women as he wants, doing whatever he wants, would bring in flocks of them in a time when men were the only ones with legislative powers.

To be honest, I haven’t finished this book yet, I’m not even halfway through.  But I will continue to read it because it’s very compelling and well-written.  I want to know how 5 will fare… Why did she lie about not being there the night her step father was killed?  Will Queenie get caught? or will she escape the Firsts?  Did Jordan’s mom do it? Will she be found guilty?  What’s the lawyer’s, Mr. Heber’s, real angle and why does he seem to want her to be guilty?  Is there really unrest within the Firsts? And how did Ann Eliza become the 19th wife of Brigham Young?  I can’t put it down… I wish life would leave me be to read it, though.

Well written, intriguing and, best of all, inspires conversations and further study, The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff is an excellent book.  I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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And NOW for the good stuff…. 

How would you like to win a copy of The 19th Wife? 

To enter, leave a comment telling me you’d like a chance to win 🙂  Contest ends 11:59 pm, June 23, with the winner announced at the beginning of next week’s Viral Video Wednesday post (June 24th).

 

Tweet, blog and email about this contest for an extra entry each.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Title:  Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Author:  Jeff Lindsay

Paperback:  275 pages

Date Published:  2004

Publisher:  Orion Books Ltd

ISBN:  9780752865744

Moon.  Glorious moon.  Full, fat, reddish moon, the night as light as day, the moonlight flooding down across the land and bringing joy, joy, joy.  Bringing too the full-throated call of the tropical night, the soft and wild voice of the wind roaring through the hairs on your arm, the hollow wail of starlight, the teeth-grinding bellow of the moonlight off the water.

All calling to the Need.  Oh, the symphonic shriek of the thousand hiding voices, the cry of the Need inside, the entity, the silent watcher, the cold quiet thing, the one that laughs, the Moondancer.  The me that was not-me, the thing that mocked and laughed and came calling with its hunger.  With the Need.  And the Need was very strong now, very careful cold coiled creeping crackly cocked and ready, very strong, very much ready now – and still it waited and watched, and it made me wait and watch.

Dearly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, page 1

Dearly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is the first book of the Dexter series, and the basis for the first season of Showtime’s Dexter.  I’ve definitely decided darling Dexter is a delightfully delicious diversion 😀 (Okay, Lindsay does the alliteration-thing a lot better than me 😉 )

For those who might not know, Dexter Morgan is a forensic officer specializing in blood splatter for the Miami police department.  He’s a nice guy, well-groomed, a quiet gentleman with a witty repartee.  He has a sweet and shy girlfriend who has two young children.  And to keep the stress levels down and help him stay centered and focused, Dexter has a little hobby.  He likes to hunt. 

People.

Dexter has a Dark Passenger that demands he kill, but Harry, Dexter’s adopted father, recognized the predator in him at an early age and gave him a code of conduct.  He must be 100% sure the person is guilty before killing him.  Dexter is a serial killer who kills serial killers.  A monster with a conscious.

But Dexter is deeply impressed, one artist of another’s talent, when his sister Deb calls him to get over to the scene of a recently discovered, BLOODLESS, disassembled body.  He knows that, according to the Code of Harry, the Tamiami Butcher (as he is called in the book) deserves to be caught and killed, yet there is beauty in his presentation and work, Dexter wants to meet his new playmate.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is a fun and compelling page-turning.  Showtime was good enough to make the show different enough from the book that you can still be surprised by the book if you’ve seen the series.  And I’d have to say Michael C. Hall is the best actor for Dexter I could think of (their Deb is perfect, too).  Of course, since I saw the show before I knew of the book (in fact, that’s how I found out about the book, it’s mentioned in the credits), so naturally I see the shows faces in the roles as I read the book.

Another beautiful Miami day.  Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers.  -page 164

Darkly Dreaming Dexter has a bit of a paranormal mystery to it, where as the show seems to lean more on logic.  The Dark Passenger is a character, a spiritual being, with a connection to other dark passengers and silent watchers in other killers, which enable Dexter to have something of a psychic understanding of them.  It’s this skill that make the detectives, and even his cop sister, turn to him on solving the serial murders.  It’s also what creates a crisis within Dexter, as he is unsure whether he himself is the Tamiami Butcher, killing his victims while sleeping.

I give Darkly Dreaming Dexter 4 out of 5 stars.

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I’m so excited! Season 3 of Dexter comes out on DVD August 18th… Oh, how wonderful! Kids go back to school and Dexter comes home with me for my viewing pleasure 😀

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Title:  The Sleeping Doll
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Hardcover: 398 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: 2007
ISBN: 9780743260947

I see violent crime like dropping a stone into a pond. The ripples of consequence can spread almost forever.

-The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deavers, page 40

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaversis an amazing labyrinthine crime thriller. Intelligent and highly suspenseful, the twist and turns of this novel kept me guessing and surprised me again and again to the very end. There were a few things here and there I could guess at, which is a nice thing for the author to do so I don’t feel completely stupid, but I could not anticipate many of the plot twist and revelations. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and Deaver might supplant Coben as my favorite crime thriller writer.

Set in scenic Monterey, California, The Sleeping Doll is the action packed story of Kathryn Dance, human lie detector and Kinesic Interregator for the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation). The first line of the book,

The interrogation began like any other.

Sets the reader’s feet on the track… let’s you know to lace up your running shoes… and quickly takes off. The interrogation is with Daniel Pell, dubbed “Son of Manson” for his cult-family set up, his belief he was a Svengali, and the clippings and books he had about the infamous La Bianca mastermind, Charles Manson.

When this sociopath is sprung from the minimal security of the county jail in an explosive and elaborate jail break, Pell begins racking up the body count while Dance and her team desperately hunt for him. They use everything at their disposal, including reuniting Pell’s “girls” and speaking with the sole survivor of the Crayton family murders for which Pell was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Theresa Crayton had been found sleeping among all the toys on her bed and had been dubbed by the media, “The Sleeping Doll”.

With the help of the women, among others, Dance nearly catches him a few times, but he always manages to be five minutes ahead of them. Is he that smart and lucky? or is someone helping him? Dance wonders. Throughout all this action that comes with the job, she also must balance children and family, and as a widow and mother, not to mention an attractive thirty-something woman, she must balance honoring the memory of her late husband, father of her children, with the practice of dating. I’m not sure which is tougher: Chasing maniac killers or raising teenagers while trying to date and meet people.

For me, this book was a blessing. After reading the disjointed and dull One More Year and the rather sleazy (but fun.. sort of… in that “caught touching yourself” way) Tan Lines, The Sleeping Dollwas a fantastic page-turner that was an absolute thrill to read! The kinesics (the interpretation of body language such as facial expressions and gestures) that is throughout the book made me very aware of my body whenever I spoke, and aware of others, too. It is a fascinating study, one I’ve always been interested in.

It does contain some profanity, a bit of sex, including forced and S & M, as well as violence, kidnapping and death. This book is not for those who are sensitive to violence, and is wholly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 16 (IMHO). I would rate this book R.

However, anyone seeking an exciting thrill ride of a book, The Sleeping Doll would make an arresting book to read! 😀

5 out of 5 stars

Two For the Dough by Janet Evanovich

Two for the Dough cover art

Title: Two For the Dough: A Stephanie Plum Novel
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: Pocket Books (div. of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
ISBN: 0671001795
Publication Date: September 1996

“…Sweetie pie, you are the worst bounty hunter in the history of the world.”

“That does it. I have better things to do than to stand here and take your insults.”

I pushed him out of my foyer, into the hall, slammed the door closed, and threw the bolt. I pressed my nose to the door and looked through the peephole.

Morelli grinned at me.

“This is war,” I yelled through the door.

“Lucky for me,” Morelli said. “I give good war.”

My first experience with Stephanie Plum was Plum Lucky. I had never read anything that hilarious for adults, and could only compare the experience to reading Junie B. books with my nine-year-old. Stephanie is a sassy, independant woman bounty hunter with a helicopter mother, crazy Grandma Mazur, and over-sexed reluctant partner Morelli.

In Two for the Dough, the second Stephanie Plum novel, Stephanie is still learning the ropes of the fugitive recovery business. Her car is stolen, forcing her to use an obtuse eyesore she lovingly refers to as “Big Blue”, making stakeouts and tailings near to impossible. What starts out as a simple recover turns into a mad murdering lunatic with his sights set on Stephanie AND Grandma Mazur. There are funeral homes, corpses’ body parts lurking for Stephanie to find (at one point an embalmed “Johnson” is overnighted to her, causing her father to announce his desire to be cremated so he’ll go out with all his parts). The coup de gras of the book is Morelli standing in a darken parking lot in nothing but his unbuttoned shirt and socks, Stephanie’s taillights disappearing into the night.

Janet Evanovich’s writing is sarcastic and playful, and gets down to business when appropriate. She turns on a dime, one minute laughing at the antics of Grandma Mazur, next minute a frantic search for her. At one point in this book, I literally laughed off my chair, hitting the floor with a thud, so I can say I was actually “ROFL”.

There’s a cat found trapped in Rex the Hamster’s cage, Rex no where to be found. A severed foot in the fridge. Stephanie hits Morelli’s car four times (Stephanie, Morelli and a car… never a good mix!). Grandma Mazur with a gun, AGAIN. Stephanie in the backseat of a ’53 Buick with Morelli. Gradma Mazur on the slab in the funeral home. All these ingredients make up a recipe for a fast and fun read!