Becky’s Two Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Book Review: “Tricky Twenty-Two” by Janet Evanovich

“Tricky Twenty-Two” is the twenty-second book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I have to say, this is one of those guilty pleasure book series. There is a certain comfort that comes with these books, knowing the dynamics between Stephanie and the different men in her life – that makes it so much fun to read these and revisit characters I know and love. When at the bookstore recently, I saw “Turbo Twenty-Three” and realized that I had somehow missed the release of “Tricky Twenty-Two”. Don’t worry though; I immediately solved the problem by purchasing both books.

SPOILER ALERT – There are some spoilers for those that haven’t read the first several books in this series.

We once again open this book following Stephanie Plum as she tries to scrape by in her job as a bounty hunter. At the beginning of the book she is in the “on-again” part of her relationship with Morelli, but that soon changes. As she tries to work through things in her personal life, she is spending time making money by chasing down bad guys. It’s what she does. There were a lot of the same things happening as we have seen in the past books. Destroyed cars, lusting after and sort of pursuing a different job, an excessive amount of ridiculousness… and far too much indulgence in food. But that is part of the fun of these books.

What I really enjoyed about “Tricky Twenty-Two” was the slight shift that came over Stephanie. Instead of getting herself into heaps of trouble and fully playing the part of the damsel in distress, she actually tried to solve the problem herself this time. I was impressed. After all those times of needing rescuing, Stephanie decided to stand up and help herself. It was a nice change of pace. There was another character in this book that surprised everyone by getting in on the action. But in a series where there is seldom a surprise, I don’t want to give too much away.

Would I recommend this book? It was certainly a fun way to spend an afternoon. I really do like the main characters that Evanovich continually brings back to the table with these books. Lula is always a source of amusement and the dynamic between Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger continually leaves me entertained. Is the series a little overdone? Sure. Am I still going to keep reading these books? Probably. As long as Evanovich keeps writing them, I am going to want to know what fresh challenges are going to arise in Stephanie Plum’s life. Luckily for me, the next book in the series is right upstairs and ready to go.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Eighty-Second Book Review: “61 Hours” by Lee Child

“61 Hours” by Lee Child is the fourteenth book in the Jack Reacher series. This series can suck you in for sure. Jack Reacher is a great character and it is especially fun to watch him when he puts himself on a mission to protect. His ability to forge connections with all sorts of people is pretty astounding when you consider his general dislike for most people and his rather intimidating stature. But under that hard exterior is a guy that just wants to see justice prevail.

When “61 Hours” opens, Reacher is on a bus that is driving though South Dakota on a slippery road. His fellow travelers are older folks and when the bus swerves to avoid another car on the road, Reacher steps up and takes charge. He recognizes the situation as precarious if action isn’t taken. After all, it is winter and the bus is full of elderly people. It is this take-charge attitude that leads Reacher to fall into his latest role of unofficial security for a witness. The witness, Janet Salter, that Reacher begins protecting is one of those genuinely good people, simply trying to do the right thing. Which is rare. The relationship Reacher develops with Janet is quite entertaining and at times, endearing.

The different people Reacher encounters in “61 Hours” are on two opposite ends of a spectrum. There are those that grew up in this small town and have spent their whole lives here, and then there are the newcomers. The once small town has been faced with a unique challenge when they have a prison built right up the road. Suddenly they have increased traffic and there are strangers in town. And when dead bodies start showing up, the police force that is already divided between the old and the new are now faced with an even bigger situation that they haven’t had to deal with before. And then Reacher comes to town. “They frighten people. Simply by being there, I think, and by being different. They are the other. Which is inherently disturbing, apparently. In practice, they do us no overt harm. We exist together in an uneasy standoff. But I can’t deny an undercurrent of menace.” (61 Hours, pg 131). This quote is referencing some of the bikers that have come to town since the prison was built, but I think it is an interesting perspective of how people in a small town would feel towards anyone that is a newcomer. It illustrates the prejudice that Reacher faces whenever he comes to a new place. He is the other.

I think it’s impressive how Lee Child is able to write fourteen books following this one character and still capture his readers from the first page and keep that grip until the very last page. He leaves you wanting more too. Thus far, this series does not feel formula, which is no small feat. I continue to relish his writing.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Reacher is an amazing character, as I’ve said before. And the fact that these books keep you wanting to come back for more is a true testament to the quality of Lee Child’s writing. I’m very eager to pick up the next book in the series.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Eighth Book Review: “Gone Tomorrow” by Lee Child

“Gone Tomorrow” by Lee Child starts off once again, with Jack Reacher refusing to behave as a civilian. He sees a woman on a subway car and can’t help but start analyzing the situation. Trouble always finds him, but his inquisitive nature and his need for justice guarantees his involvement whether or not he is wanted. This woman appears to Reacher to be a suicide bomber. And so he runs through the list that he was taught back in the army. “Twenty years later I still know the list. And my eyes still move. Pure habit. From another bunch of guys I learned another mantra: Look, don’t see, listen, don’t hear. The more you engage, the longer you survive.” (Gone Tomorrow, pg 1). And so of course, he engages. He can’t help himself. And that is the beginning of his trouble in the thirteenth Jack Reacher book.

It’s interesting, the way that Jack Reacher sees the world. He spent so much time being told where to go and what to do that now that he is on his own he does whatever he wants. And because of all he has seen, he doesn’t discriminate against bad guys. Or bad people as was the case in “Gone Tomorrow”. The mystery in this book is finding out not only who the bad people are, but what it is that they really want. And what the lengths are that they will go to get it.

Despite loving Reacher as a character, it is hard sometimes to justify what he does. He meddles. He can’t leave things alone. Especially when there is an injustice, even more so when that injustice is against him. It makes you wonder why he hasn’t started a career as a private detective or gone into police work or something. But at the same time, he is a loner. And he likes not having to answer to anyone else. That much is clear. His personality is so blunt, and he stands out so much that to work for someone else – even as a private detective would be stifling. So he does his own thing. He answers only to himself. And listens only to himself. A dangerous combination for anyone that crosses him.

Would I recommend this book? As a Jack Reacher book, of course I would recommend this. Anyone who is already addicted to the series will quickly tear through “Gone Tomorrow”. I wouldn’t however, recommend it to anyone that had not started somewhere else in the series. Most of these books could be read as a stand-alone despite being part of a series. This one might not get a reader hooked as well as some of the earlier books. And there are some aspects of Reacher’s personality that would be difficult to understand if you hadn’t already met him. That being said, I am writing this review while on vacation so that I can go start the next book in the series. So if you haven’t already started the series I strongly recommend that you do – and start at the beginning, it is always the best place to start.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Third Book Review: “Nothing to Lose” by Lee Child

“Nothing to Lose” by Lee Child is the twelfth book in the Jack Reacher series. Reading through the series, I have come to know and love the character Jack Reacher. He lives life by his own code and he doesn’t get caught up in unimportant matters such as possessions or, from his perspective, relationships. He just is enjoying living a solitary life outside the military. Reacher is the kind of guy that stands up where he sees injustice. He will fight for the little guy. He’s always ready to help out a damsel in distress. And almost always, I find myself cheering him on for his behavior and his honest outlook on life. In “Nothing to Lose” I found myself in unknown territory. Instead of cheering for Reacher, I found myself judging him harshly. He wasn’t getting involved because of some grave injustice where someone smaller was unable to stand up for themselves – this time Reacher was causing trouble because he felt personally insulted. He didn’t like getting kicked out of a town. “He liked to press on, dead ahead, whatever. Everyone’s life needed an organizing principle, and relentless forward motion was Reacher’s.” (Nothing to Lose, pg 7). This was a situation where Reacher’s own stubbornness was the cause of his troubles. And boy, does Reacher like to get into trouble.

Despite my personal frustrations with Reacher and his behavior in “Nothing to Lose” I really liked the fact that Lee Child wrote this book. It was a different twist to have Reacher appear as the guy making trouble from the start. Causing problems in a town that never did anything to him except ask him to leave. On his quest for personal justice, he does stumble upon his standard heroic default – but that was unclear to the reader for the majority of the book. And that was a nice change.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing this book series is and I really enjoyed that Lee Child wrote “Nothing to Lose” where Reacher was painted in a different light. It is amazing that twelve books into a series, the author continues to surprise and capture readers. I am eager to read the next book and see what Reacher will be up to next.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Book Review: “Bad Luck and Trouble” by Lee Child

What would you do if an old friend put out a call for help? For Jack Reacher in “Bad Luck and Trouble” by Lee Child, there was no question. He saw the coded call for backup and made his way to one of the members of his old unit. When he reaches her, she informes Reacher that she has not been able to get a response from the rest of the team. Then a body turns up and just like that Reacher and his team go into full investigative mode. “Together they had handled two years’ worth of crimes, some of them gruesome, some of them merely venal, some of them cruel, some of them appalling, and they had joked their way through like cops everywhere. Black humor. The universal refuge… No one was laughing now. It was different when it was your own.” (Bad Luck and Trouble, pg 153).

In the previous Jack Reacher novels, whatever injustice that he finds himself in the middle of, more often than not, he is fighting for someone else. The helpless woman, the friend of a friend, his dead brother’s girlfriend – rarely does Reacher find himself in the position to dish out justice on his own behalf. That was exactly what we got in “Bad Luck and Trouble”. This is the eleventh book in the Jack Reacher series and his cold determination and passion for vengeance is intimidating.

Would I recommend this book? Hell yes, the Jack Reacher series all together is amazing thus far, but the depth of Jack Reacher as a character continues to grow the further into the series that we get. Reading about Reacher when things get personal – that was intense and made for an edge-of-your-seat read. I cannot wait to pick up the next book and learn where Lee Child is going to take Reacher next. If you’re not reading this series, you should be.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-First Book Review: “The Enemy” by Lee Child

“The Enemy” by Lee Child is the eighth book in the Jack Reacher series. What was fun and different about this book was that it took place further in the past, before Reacher left the army to explore civilian life. That is how we meet him in the first book. Also in the first book (spoiler alert) Reacher finds himself part of a murder investigation and learns that the victim was his brother.

I always found the relationships between Jack and Joe Reacher to be curious. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about one another; they just were never overly close. I consider myself to be very close with my siblings, so I find it hard to believe that one could be so estranged from their brother when there was nothing really wrong there. In “The Enemy” we get to see the Reacher brothers together for the first time and it was a nice change of pace. “Joe was probably the only other human on the planet who liked coffee as much as I did. He started drinking it when he was six. I copied him immediately. I was four. Neither of us has stopped since. The Reacher brothers’ need for caffeine makes heroine addiction look like an amusing little take-it-or-leave-it sideline.” (The Enemy, pg 81).

I really enjoyed how in “The Enemy” we get to learn more about Reacher’s relationship with his brother and his relationship with his mother. While he is trying to figure out who the enemy is that he is battling, Reacher learns that his mother is very sick and dying. Not only did we get to learn about his relationship with his mother, but Joe and Jack learn more about her after she dies. It was really interesting to get a better picture of why Jack Reacher is the way he is, beyond just how he was shaped growing up in the army.

Would I recommend “The Enemy”? Absolutely, I really enjoyed this book. I think that it was brilliant for Lee Child to spend some time on a story that takes place in the past so we could learn more about how Reacher grew into the man we know from the first seven books. I highly recommend this series. It is very well written and I’m already salivating waiting to start the next book, which I’m certain I will devour as well. Lee Child has a real gift for writing and considering there are at least ten more books in the series – I have a feeling that he is just getting started.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Twentieth Book Review: “Swerve” by Vicki Pettersson

“Swerve” by Vicki Pettersson is a book that I received directly from the author per a recommendation by Taylor Stevens who writes the Vanessa Michael Munroe series. Since I tend to avoid reading the back cover of books, all I knew going into this book was that Taylor Stevens gave her endorsement and that it is similar to Dean Koontz’s thrillers but with a female protagonist. That was enough for me.

The novel starts out with Kristine and her fiancé Daniel driving to his parent’s house in California. After spilling her iced coffee all over the place, Daniel pulls over at a rest stop so Kristine can change her clothes. Within minutes her world is turned upside down when she is attacked and Daniel is taken. Kristine is left with a treasure map of instructions she has to follow to get Daniel back alive. I found myself hooked from the beginning. We knew only bits and pieces about Kristine and as the book progressed the layers of her past were peeled away, hinting at something terrible.

“…I can’t even imagine what I could have done to deserve this. / Okay, maybe except for that. That one thing. / But that’s long past, and besides, everyone has something in their history that makes them flinch. My memories just happen to spring up like poisonous mushrooms, mealy and rotted and contaminated by my mother’s voice.” (Swerve, pg 55). I loved this quote. I think it is a great example of the texture that Vicki Pettersson’s writing takes on. Her words come to life on the page.

I think that Kristine is a very intriguing character. At the beginning she is just a frazzled woman on a drive to see her fiancé’s mother, whom Kristine knows disapproves of her. Then she is thrown into this impossible situation, where being disapproved of is the last thing on her mind. She needs to pull from deep within her and find the strength the save those she most cares about. Throughout this rollercoaster of a thriller, Kristine is pulled in so many different directions and needs to continue to dig for that strength to get through the horrible challenges she is currently facing. Despite the helplessness that she feels, and the weakness, she keeps fighting. “I feel the old anger well up inside of me, a flash flood of roiling heat, and for a moment I don’t stop it. Instead of fighting the situation – the man in front of me and my helplessness and my anger at both – I let myself feel it, fury so primal it burns everything from existence. I can live in this white space without pain. I can hate everything with a completeness that flattens meaning into dust, and I know I’ll be safe. I’ve lived here before.” (Swerve, pg 259).

Would I recommend this book? Yes – but not to everyone. I was warned by the author beforehand that it is a violent book and the violence was intense, even for me. It is not a book for everyone. “Swerve” is the first thriller that Pettersson has written, however she has two book series that she wrote before this novel. I am definitely intrigued by her writing and plan on reading her other works and would most certainly pick up another thriller by her.