Book: Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

I laughed my butt off. Stephanie continues her recent pleasant trend of being vaguely competent, Lulu continues her trend of being really annoying, and the host of sidekicks this time around are amazingly funny. At least this time I didn’t want Lulu to die in a fire, so I suppose that’s progress.

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Book: So Faux, So Good by Tamar Myers

I have a soft spot in my heart for Tamar Myers, because she was one of the authors I latched onto early into my foray into mysteries, when I was first realizing how much I like the genre. But if ever there was an author who has a formula, it’s Myers– if you took the character names out of the books, it would be virtually impossible to tell which series the characters are from.

Mostly, this book taught me that I’ve outgrown Myers. I found myself even more frustrated with the heroine than usual, and 90% of the book was her completely and utterly failing to talk to her companions. Also, I could happily strangle pretty much all of the recurring sidekicks.

Book: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Often, you can figure out where a piece of writing is going by asking yourself “What does the author want to be true?” Pullman wants The Church to be evil. And thus you have a series in which The Church is pure, unvarnished evil.

Story-wise, the series isn’t bad, but there are definitely moments in which I had to stop reading and ask “Seriously? You think God is responsible for all that? WTF?”

This book is clearly the second of a trilogy, and feels weak. It’s chock-full of setup, in which Pullman ties up loose ends from the first book (the body count is shockingly high by the end, and not just faceless minions, but characters I knew and liked) and puts some guns on the mantle so that they can go off in the next book.

In addition to the “that could have had more to it” moments, I was actively disappointed in how the entire-book arc of “Will is looking for his father” ended. Really, Pullman? Why even bother?

But I still plan to read the next one, partly because it’s already been lent to me and partly because I want to see if the third is as good as the first was.

Book: Immortal In Death by J.D. Robb

I still like this series, but I felt this book was weaker than the first two. I’ve gone on and on about the line between “keeping the killer a secret” and “keeping your reader in the dark” and I’ve also written about the challenge in an ongoing series of keeping the character from becoming stale. This book felt “off” on both counts; I knew almost as soon as a certain character was introduced that he was the killer, but it never even occurred to the detective until the very end. Knowing early on is okay, if you can keep the reader second-guessing that knowledge, but I spent most of the book mentally yelling at Eve to stop and *censored* think. Also? Three books into the series, Eve’s nightmares have turned into full-fledged flashbacks and her entire backstory is laid wide open, PLUS she gets married. In the same book. I’m surprised there was room for a murder. I feel like I was cheated out of Eve’s character development; it all got shoved into this book instead of progressing gradually.

And yet? Robb still did a good job of keeping my interest. I’m hoping that this is just a temporary downturn, and more interesting things will happen in the series now that all that icky backstory is out of the way.

Book: Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Remember when I said that I was pleased about Evanovich letting the main character of this series get a little more mature? This book felt like a step backwards, in which Stephanie does more stupid things rather than less. Which is a shame, since she handled the bounty-hunter bits with more class and less bumbling than usual.

Also? Lula needs to either grow up or die in a fire, because I’m seriously tired of her.

Book: Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

One of the books that magically appeared with the rest of the Stephanie Plum novels from AJ. It’s a fairly light-hearted romance, with a twist of intrigue and some missing pieces of backstory. I like the main character most of the time, which puts it a step ahead of a lot of romances. Much of the story required an awful lot of suspension of disbelief, but that’s light-hearted romances with twists of intrigue for you.

Book: Glory In Death by J.D. Robb

As good as the first book in the series.

[Note: Not the most useful of reviews, I admit, but that’s how I found the post when I copied it over.  I presume I meant it as much as a “hey stupid, you already read this book!” reminder as an actual review.]

Book: Lethal Justice by Fern Michaels

Not the murder-mystery I was expecting when it was given to me. Not even a mystery, really, since you know exactly who did what right from the start. (The name is completely misleading, as not one person died in the story.) It’s a little weird, jumping into a book that is so obviously in the middle of an ongoing series. Several times, I felt like I was being beaten over the head with “and *this* reference is from an earlier book, and *this* reference is from an earlier book, and…” It was also slightly weird in that I got the sense that one of the major story elements was “tying up an old arc that spanned a couple of books.”

I had considered picking up some of the earlier books and seeing if that made things better, since on the whole the story was enjoyable, just weird. Then AJ sent home 10 books for me to read, and … it will be some time before I get any more of this series. Or any other series.

Book: The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

Remember when I said that I dislike murder mysteries that the reader has no hope whatsoever in solving for themselves? This is one of those mysteries.

I don’t think I would have been quite as annoyed about it, except for this bit on page 21, which just happens to be in the middle of the initial crime-scene investigation (the victim is not even dead until page 12):

(Here Lord Peter Whimsy told the Sergeant what he was to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.)

I kid you not. I as the reader am supposed to know everything there is to know about the situation and note that something is missing from the contents of the victim’s satchel. And if I happen to have a different set of interests than painting and fishing (which are the pursuits of the townsfolk, as established in the first chapter), then I’m not even going to be thrown a bone.

Worse? Whimsy assumes that the item is missing because the murderer has a particular habit, and then spends a substantial amount of time later in the book observing the suspects to see if they have that habit. So it’s not like “Hey, whoever has the item is the murderer” (though the murderer is later found to have the item, and I didn’t pick up on that at all because I didn’t know that it was fucking missing in the first place). There is no reason they couldn’t have told me what the missing item was. Then I might have been able to form my own conclusions about why it went missing, and I’d have been able to observe the suspects along with His Lordship.

Now add in a thick Scottish accent that sometimes seems to be exaggerated for the purpose of confusing the reader and making them go back over it slowly. (“bluidy”? Seriously? If you had written it as “bloody” in with all the “ach”s and “aboots” and such, I’d have supplied the accent in my head, thanks. No need to make me sit and puzzle it all out.) The result is a book that I finished out of sheer stubbornness rather than out of any sense of enjoyment.

Book: Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Continuing my trend of mooching books off of friends, I actually managed to have a quick turnaround time on this one. It also turned out to be a “stay up until 1am and finish the book” sort of book, though that was as much because I wasn’t tired yet as it was because the book was riveting.

I commented in February that Eleven On Top was a departure from the bumbling bounty hunter schtick, but that Evanovich had done it well, keeping the core of the character while letting her grow. Twelve Sharp continues that trend, and for the first time ever, she gets to help Ranger with things he can’t do, rather than being saved by him. (Don’t worry, she still gets saved by him a few times.) It’s nice to see Stephanie gaining some core competency, and being able to start holding her own on normal days. Evanovich keeps the bumbling aspect, by upping Stephanie’s challenges, but I can handle that– it was only when Stephanie continued having trouble with routine take-downs that I wanted to throw the book across the room.

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