Thursday, May 31, 2012

Plum Awesome

I've finally gotten around to reading another series I've been meaning to sink my teeth into.  A while back I reviewed Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich (The sequel is out this June.  Excited!), and it completely hooked me on Evanovich's writing style.  So, I figured I'd read Stephanie Plum next, who brought Evanovich success in the first place. I went in expecting to enjoy One for the Money, and I did. But the novel took all my other expectations, stomped on them a couple times, kicked them in the ribs, and showed me how much better it could really be.

The Basics
I've already told you a bit about Ms. Evanovich's writing in my previous post, but here's bit more about her for kicks.  Evanovich grew up in New Jersey; she was a second-generation American and the first in her family to attend college. She currently resides in New Hampshire with her husband, and according to her bio wants to be like Grandma Mazur when she grows up (read this first book and you'll see why).

One for the Money is the first book in the Stephanie Plum series, featuring none other than Stephanie Plum. Stephanie is a down on her luck ex-discount lingerie buyer from blue collar New Jersey.  While her mother thinks she needs a new husband, Stephanie knows she needs a job. Fortunately her reluctant and perverted cousin Vinnie is a bail bondsmen, and she blackmails him into taking her on as a bounty hunter. Her first target? Joe Morelli, a cop who skipped out on bail for murder.

The Book
Sadly I had already seen the movie before I read the book. Not that the movie wasn't enjoyable, but this is a mystery book, so I went in mostly knowing what happened. That being said, I'm really looking forward to the second book, when I can experience the mysterious part of the mystery.  Evanovich weaves a really good tale and lays all the investigative work out for her readers.  I can easily see myself solving things along with (and hopefully slightly ahead of) Stephanie. Evanovich creates nicely complex story lines with lots of interconnected details and red herring or two.

I also really liked her characters.  She crafts believable human beings with just the right hint of ridiculousness.  My favorite books are those that are full of humor, and the way Evanovich incorporates that humor is genius. Rather than stuffing her characters into bizarre and goofy situations to create humor, she makes the characters themselves funny.  It's the characters and their actions and reactions that make the story amusing.  So whether Stephanie hops the curb to run over the guy who kissed and told or Grandma Mazur adopting hot pink shorts as a new fashion statement, the hilarity arises mostly from the people. Not that situational humor doesn't have its place. Evanovich balances the funny parts so nicely that you'll always be laughing and never thinking "Oh, please."

Speaking of balance, don't think that One for the Money is all giggles; Evanovich really goes for the whole cannoli (I should learn to make those...).  One of the elements that surprised me once I got into the novel was how gritty the story could become.  My previous Evanovich experience was a little more light and fluffy and cupcake filled than this, where the only cupcake we get is Morelli's nickname for Stephanie (nope. Cupcakes. I should make cupcakes Sunday).  Evanovich doesn't shy away from the more realistic and dangerous side of Stephanie's new bounty hunter gig.  The book has its share of blood, bruises, and psychos, and it will get your heart pounding as you root for Stephanie and bite your nails until you see her come through it alive but not unscathed.

You can also tell that Evanovich has a really feel for the New Jersey setting of her series.  Since she grew up there, I'd hope so.  As Stephanie navigates Trenton, we get a real sense of life in Jersey. Evanovich incorporates everything: the landscape, the people, the mannerisms, the turns of phrase, the culture.  The book doesn't just have a New Jersey setting; I feel like I'm breathing the (decidedly questionable) air as I read.  It's the difference between "oh, neat, they're in New Jersey" and imagining that if you look out your window you'll discover you've been transported to the burg.

Evanovich offers a well-rounded reading experience that's sure to delight. And, I highly recommend that you pick up this series.  Start with One for the Money and go from there; you'll have plenty to keep you occupied, since she's already up to 18.

  • Head on over to the author's website for lots of fun information and especially check out her Stuff for Fans section.
  • So, you might have heard that the first book got a movie.  Sadly it was widely panned by the critics so there likely won't be a second. I thought it was cute and that critics didn't like it cause it's hard to classify. Just don't expect high art and you'll enjoy.
  • Check out this fun Stephanie Plum website that lets you visit the Burg and play games. What's not to love?
  • And lastly, a photo of Janet Evanovich with doggie for your viewing pleasure.

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