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.

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Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Sixth Book Review: “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood

What does love look like? In “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood, we follow Wavy as she tries to find her way in the world. Her parents are useless – negligent at the least but ready to shell out abuse whenever they take notice of her. The only family she has left after her parents are thrown in jail are her grandmother and her aunt. When thrust in with her extended family, Wavy refuses to follow any rules. Her mere presence puts a tremendous strain on her aunt and the fact that she refuses to talk, refuses to eat, and will not allow anyone to touch her, especially contribute to make Wavy a challenge.

Wavy comes to realize that the people in her life try to make her fit in one particular space. When she finally meets someone that doesn’t spend his time trying to change her in any way, is there any surprise that they build a relationship? “After Liam and Butch took Kellen away I thought about how he left spaces for me when he talked. If I saw him again, I decided I might put words in those spaces.” (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, pg 28).

There were so many weird parts to this book. On the one hand, Wavy is the main character and throughout the book we are learning more about her and how she is treated and what expectations others put up for her. It isn’t surprising that she does her own thing. So when she starts to fall for Kellen, you can’t help but cheer for them. That is, until an outsider observes them. And you realize that it is weird. That if your niece was in a similar situation that you would fight tooth and nail to protect her. That this relationship is for lack of a better word – icky.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. It was really well written and I liked the different characters. And it was definitely a book that made me think. But it is a little messed up. There are plenty of ugly things that come into play in this book and I was a little uncomfortable at times. So I wouldn’t recommend this book to the public at large. But I am glad that I read it and I would definitely pick up another book by Bryn Greenwood.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Fifty-Third Book Review: “NOS4A2” by Joe Hill

“NOS4A2” was a really weird book – not that I would expect anything less from Joe Hill. He has a distinctive way of looking at the world. He creates characters that provoke pity and disgust more than anything else and then turns them into the good guys. His ability to completely envelope your senses with his words made NOS4A2 a real page-turner. It was hard to pull myself out of that world. Even though I finished the book several months ago I still find my mind wandering to Vic and wondering “what if”. NOS4A2 was an intense read.

When we first meet Vic, she is introduced as “The Brat” and this is right before Vic discovers her ability to travel in a non-traditional manner. She uses the Shorter Way Bridge almost as a portal to find things. After several trips across, she wants to find someone to explain this ability to her, someone to confirm that she isn’t losing her mind. That is when Vic meets Maggie. “There’s the real world, with all its annoying facts and rules. In the real world, there are things that are true and things that aren’t. Mostly the real world s-s-s-suh-sucks. But everyone also lives in the world inside their own head. An inscape, a world of thought. In a world made of thought – in an inscape – every idea is a fact. Emotions are as real as gravity. Dreams are as powerful as history. Creative people, like writers, and Henry Rollins, spend a lot of their time hanging out in their thoughtworld. S-s-strong creative, though, can use a knife to cut the stitches between the two worlds, can bring them together. Your bike. My tiles. Those are our knives.” (NOS4A2, pg 100). I really liked this quote for several reasons. One, it paints a clearer picture of how Vic is able to do what she does with the Shorter Way Bridge. Secondly, I can totally relate. No, I don’t have a knife to cut stiches between the words, but as a creative individual I experience my own version of a powerful inscape. Joe Hill eloquently describes this other level of consciousness that many people experience – he puts a name on it, he makes it make sense.

While Vic is the protagonist of our story, the antagonist and the nicknamed NOS4A2 is Charles Manx. He is vampire-esc in his behavior and his knife is a car. He uses his car to “save” children, or at least that is how he explains it. He makes for a very creepy bad guy and his ability to recruit Bing just confirms how powerful and influential Manx is. Bing didn’t question, he just followed, worshipped, adored, and obeyed. Bing was his own kind of creepy and together Manx and Bing are a whole new kind of evil.

What I really enjoyed about NOS4A2 was how much of an anti-hero Vic is. We meet her as a kid and it is clear that she comes from a dysfunctional family. She uses her ability to spend time traveling through her inscape to get away from her reality. In doing so, she convinces herself that what she is doing is not real. As she becomes a damaged adult, she blames it on her parents and her own mind. “She had crossed the bridge almost a dozen times in five years, and always it was less like an experience, more like a sensation. It was not a thing she did, it was a thing she felt: a dreamy awareness of gliding, a distant sense of static roaring. It was not unlike the feel of sinking into a doze, easing herself into the envelope of sleep.” (NOS4A2, pg 79). I think the way that Vic felt about the whole experience helped her bury the memories. I like the way that she describes the experience. And one of the most challenging things for Vic is facing this reality and accepting it as fact.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – but only to a certain kind of reader. NOS4A2 is an intensely weird book, and at times it was on the border of ick. Even I got a little squeamish. This is not a book for everybody. But if you like weird, and you like Stephen King, then you’ll love Joe Hill. Like father, like son. I’m looking forward to reading more of Joe Hill’s works and I happen to have another in my personal library as we speak. This was a very enjoyable and intense read – not for the faint of heart.

Becky’s Eighty-Seventh Book Review: “Dead Ever After” by Charlaine Harris

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE NOVEL AND ARE PLANNING IT

“Dead Ever After” by Charlaine Harris wrapped up the Sookie Stackhouse series very nicely. I absolutely devoured the novel. It came out on Tuesday. I finished it Wednesday. The book was very well done, true to Harris’s usual style, a swift plot, colorful characters of the supernatural persuasion, entertaining dialogue, and an extreme attention to cleanliness. This is one thing that is consistent throughout all of Charlaine Harris’s novels–her characters are always clean freaks. Reading about her characters and their cleaning habits makes me want to clean my house. But back to the novel.
“Dead Ever After” features pretty much all of the characters that we have come to know and love from throughout the series including Quinn, Bill, Tara, Jason, Barry, Amelia, Bob, Alcide, Pam, Mr. Cataliades, Diantha, and a slew of enemies which I am not going to name because some of them were a big surprise to me and I’d like them to be a surprise to you! At the conclusion of the book before this, Eric and Sookie’s relationship was on the rocks, partly because Sookie had used her Cluviel Dor to bring Sam back to life. This book picks up right where that one left off and Sookie has to face many challenges that had come to light because she used such a powerful magical object. Magic always has its price and it seems that Sam has changed since coming back from the dead. While Sookie is trying to come to terms with the fact that one of her closest friends has become distant, she also has to decide what to do about her relationship with Eric. As always, there are people out to kill Sookie and in addition to dealing with all her personal problems, she has to dodge her unknown enemies. Another problem that arises in Sookie’s never-dull life is that she is arrested for murder. It is at this point that most of the characters come back into Sookie’s life to help prove her innocence.
“Dead Ever After” has a very quick pace to it and never a dull moment which is why I read it so quickly. I very much enjoy Sookie’s character, from her crazy adventures, to her funny thoughts such as, “I’d rather have a gun than magic any day, but maybe that was just American of me.” (Dead Ever After, pg 165). The series definitely has a southern influence to it, this is very obvious in not only the food that she describes, but the people and behaviors–quite entertaining. I am sad that this is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but it wrapped up the series very well and I personally am eager to see what new character Harris comes up with next. Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think anyone who enjoys a light read and does not object to the supernatural would enjoy this book, although if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you would be very confused as to what was going on. “Dead Ever After” was a great read.