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What I Read in January

Ok folks, I seem to have forgotten how to blog. Or, rather, I can’t seem to get my blogging mojo off the ground. In my defence I’m going through some stuff and there are too many things that are overwhelming me. Being online, blogging, social media… those are a big chunk of the GAH! feelings so I have been avoiding the internet as much as possible. It’s helping me so that’s good. On the other hand, I miss blogging and having handy reference of what I read online, so here I am with a mini update!

I managed to read 7 books in total throughout January! This was surprising to me since I didn’t think I’d actually gotten that many read! I read some great books and some not-so-great books and here’s my rundown in one post because I’m just not up to multiple blog posts right now.

Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight

In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate’s in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter–now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump. (goodreads.com)

This book was the first Featured Book from the 50 Book Pledge hosted by The Savvy Reader. It sounded pretty interesting and I was looking for less YA novels and more adult ones. I’m feeling mystery or suspensy these days and very little is holding my attention, I had hoped that this book would be a nice change of pace – I wasn’t wrong! This was a great mystery to read and I think it would be a prefect bridge-book between adult and YA fiction since the story is told in two points of view – that of Amelia and her mother. This has the added bonus of a Prep school. It’s not a boarding school, but there are still rich kids being all mysterious and secret societies! I love that stuff. Woo!

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)
by Janet Evanovich

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is certain of three truths: People don’t just vanish into thin air. Never anger old people. And don’t do what Tiki tells you to do.
(goodreads.com)

I saw a bunch of complaints about this nineteenth book in the Stephanie Plum series, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I am seriously hoping for some sort of character progression in Stephanie’s case over time, but ultimately this book made me laugh. Laughter is something I seriously look for in one of these mystery novels. I also love me some steamy Ranger scenes and although he was in the story a lot, there wasn’t a ton of steam. I don’t know if the love triangle will ever be resolved, but Morelli is getting a tad boring for my liking. He used to be a bad boy and now he’s just feeling like an old man. Hmm. At least Stephanie seems to be slightly more competent in her bail bondsman job. She’s not always failing miserably and I will admit to a certain amount of glee every time one of her cars blows up! Hee!

The Gospel of Winter
by Brendan Kiely

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s. (goodreads.com)

This one was sent to be by Simon & Schuster Canada after an email exchange I had with my pub rep. Once she told me it had been one of her favourites I admitted I was extra curious about it. It’s certainly a subject that’s pretty taboo and not often written about. I didn’t see many favourable reviews on goodreads for this one so I was apprehensive as I began it but I was surprised by how much I liked it. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing (now majorly lapsed) but this story was pretty riveting and I thought, well told. I liked Aidan a lot, too. As troubling as the story itself was I found the book to be quiet and calm, sort of like a snowfall. It was sort of nice to read an “issue novel” from the point of view of a male protagonist, too. I am very happy that I was able to have included this novel in my 2014 reading.

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy, Book 1)
by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. (goodreads.com)

Release date: March 4, 2014

You might have seen photos of the epic packaging floating around the internet for the ARCs of The Winner’s Curse – they came with a dagger! I didn’t get the epic packaging, but my friend did send me an ARC and although this doesn’t come out until March, since I was so desperate to read a book that I could connect with I tried this one out. It’s an easy read and a nice fantasy but my problem with it was the constant pining between Kestrel and Arin. I wrote this on Goodreads, “I’d really like someone to write a YA fantasy novel that isn’t just a romance in disguise. I wanted to like this one more than I did but there was just too much pining between Kestrel and Arin and it overshadowed all the rest. 🙁” I KNOW Rutkoski can write an amazing fantasy novel because I adored her middle grade  Kronos Chronicles trilogy. I think the problem here is that YA novels always have to have this stupid OMG I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU UR SO PRETTY ZOMG! theme to them and I am so, so tired of that crap. Do I want to continue with the series? Probably. Mostly out of curiosity though.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, Book 2)
by Sarah J Maas

Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is bold, daring and beautiful – the perfect seductress and the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But though she won the King’s contest and became his champion, Celaena has been granted neither her liberty nor the freedom to follow her heart. The slavery of the suffocating salt mines of Endovier that scarred her past is nothing compared to a life bound to her darkest enemy, a king whose rule is so dark and evil it is near impossible to defy. Celaena faces a choice that is tearing her heart to pieces: kill in cold blood for a man she hates, or risk sentencing those she loves to death. Celaena must decide what she will fight for: survival, love or the future of a kingdom. Because an assassin cannot have it all . . . And trying to may just destroy her. (goodreads.com)

Oh, look. Another YA fantasy novel that’s 80% PINING! This sequel to The Throne of Glass might just have ended the series for me. The first half of the book is all about how Celeana and Chaol can’t be together because OMG THE LUST and OMG THE DISTRACTION! And let’s not forget about how Darion can’t even look at her because OMG SHE WANTS CHAOL! Ugh. Then (SPOILERS) there’s this entire section of the book that’s nothing but sexsexsexsexsexsex all of the time and I just wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust because it added NOTHING to the story. Nothing. Nada. The last quarter of the book things got more interesting but then we’re totally thrown for a loop with a plot twist that I am still trying to decide between it being obvious and unoriginal or a surprise. Jury is still out on that one. I didn’t even like Celaena anymore. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue with this series or not. We’ll see how I’m feeling when the next book comes out.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive  (goodreads.com)

Now THIS book was FANFREAKINGTASTIC! I picked it up for my Kobo with some gift cards I’d gotten at Christmas. I bought this one on the recommendation of my naturopath of all people. When I went to an appointment in January she mentioned having just read a great YA novel about teens with OCD and that totally piqued my interest. I am so happy that I found out about this book because it was just amazing. Yes, there is romance-ish between Adam and Robyn but it’s not the over-the-top swoony kind that you get in most novels these days. This book is so raw and real and just heartwarming you are rooting for Adam the entire time. This was a great story about mental illness that will make you laugh and cry and feel uncomfortable but also happy and hopeful. It even has a bit of a mystery within the story that kept me on my toes until the end. I know I’ve only read seven books (now 8, since I just finished one in February) so far, but this is the best one I have read so far.

Explosive Eighteen

Explosive Eighteen (A Stephanie Plum Novel)
by Janet Evanovich

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, and she’s flying back to New Jersey solo. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead—and a ragtag collection of thugs and psychos, not to mention the FBI, are all looking for a photograph he was supposed to be carrying. (snipped for length and spoilers from goodreads.com)

I can make this review short and simple: I would have much rather have read the story of what happened in Hawaii than the one that took place in New Jersey.

Sigh.

They can’t all be winners, right?

I was beyond excited to find this on the rack next to the candy counter at the train station in Kingston, ON when I was coming home from visiting my parents over our long weekend (the weekend before the US long weekend in May). I didn’t think this paperback was going to come out until November, so delight was mine!

Sadly, this isn’t going down as one of my favourite installments of the series. I don’t even think I laughed out loud more than once – if that. It wasn’t horrible, but I found it dull and lacklustre.

I don’t want to think that the Stephanie Plum series has jumped the shark just yet. I have often liked one numbered book over the other in this journey. I stick by the above cliche – they can’t all be winners. I’m certain some people out there like this one more than ones I found amazing. It happens. I wasn’t overly disappointed by not liking it, I was due to find one a little less fantastic than the last couple.

What I am worried about is the possibility that because Ms. Evanovich is writing a spin-off series and I think still has some chick-lit happening, that she’s going to be stretched too thin. I don’t care for the Wicked series with Diesel. I didn’t like him as a character in the Plum books, so I’m not going to read that spin-off.

I shall content myself with waiting for the 19th Plum book to come out and I am still determined to re-read these all one month. Maybe over the summer. Or over Christmas. They certainly deserve a reread because this series is so much fun!

That’s all I’m going to say about that. Really, this is the 18th book in a series so if you don’t know what’s going on, I’m not going to ruin 17 other books for you and if you’re behind in the series, I won’t ruin that either! As always, the Plum mysteries are comfort reading and an easy, fun read when you need to just turn off your brain for a while and chill.

Stephanie Plum series

  1. One for the Money
  2. Two for the Dough
  3. Three to Get Deadly
  4. Four to Score
  5. High Five
  6. Hot Six
  7. Seven Up
  8. Hard Eight
  9. To the Nines
  10. Ten Big Ones
  11. Eleven on Top
  12. Twelve Sharp
  13. Lean Mean Thirteen
  14. Fearless Fourteen
  15. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
  16. Sizzling Sixteen
  17. Smokin’ Seventeen
  18. Explosive Eighteen 

Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novellas

  1. Visions of Sugar Plums (between 8 & 9)
  2. Plum Lovin’ (between 12 & 13)
  3. Plum Lucky (between 13 & 14)
  4. Plum Spooky (between 14 & 15)

Book to Movie: One for the Money

A million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed (1994), a fun little mystery series began; starring Stephanie Plum, the world’s most inept bounty hunter who lived in Trenton, New Jersey. This was a book series that everyone in my family enjoyed. I read it, my mum read it, my sister read it, my father read it and my grandmother read it. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries were hilarious and fun for all ages (well, sort of, there is some salty language, often death and occasionally some Sexy Times. *mmmmmm Ranger*.) Back in 1994 the only person I could see ever playing Ms. Plum on the big screen was Sandra Bullock. Especially when the movie Miss. Congeniality came out as the role she played there was rather Stephanie Plum-ish. And the only person I could picture playing Grandma Mazur was Estelle Getty (RIP).

Fast forward to today. It’s the year 2012 and we’re on book EIGHTEEN of the series. After many, many years of potential movie rumblings, the first book in the Stephanie Plum series was finally released in theatres. I have to say, not many people that I spoke to over last summer were at all thrilled with the casting of Katherine Heigl as Stephanie. I know I wasn’t. I’m not the biggest fan of her acting and I was sceptical of her ability to pull this off. Never mind the fact that I had no clue who the actors were that were cast as the two leading men, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara) and Ranger (Daniel Sunjata).

I am always wary of books becoming live and large on the big screen. With the exception of Harry Potter, I have yet to ever be satisfied with a movie representation of a book that I love. But after 18 years of loyalty to this series and having so much joy in sharing the books with my Mum, I knew that I had to go and I had to take her with me.

I had the day off on Friday and I had gift certificates left for the cinema, so I called up my Mum and said, “let’s go on a date!” and we did.

Was the movie stellar? Not at all. Did it suck? Not as much as I thought it would. Perhaps because we went in there expecting the worst we were easily appeased by what we saw. I don’t know. I do know that Katherine Heigl didn’t completely ruin the Stephanie Plum role but she did seem like she was phoning it in at times. Sure, Stephanie is from Joizey and can be a bit of a hardass, but she’s also pretty giggly and bubbly in the books. Heigl did not capture the effervescence of the character at all. Sometimes she seemed downright bored with the role. I would have liked way more bubblicious in the representation, but if I ignore that part, she didn’t suck. I could SEE Stephanie Plum by looking at her (and Katherine Heigl looks so much prettier with brown hair if you ask me!) but often her line delivery was lacking and sadly flat.

All of the secondary characters were pretty good, though. I loved the actor they cast for Cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler) and although they cut down on the amount of screen time Lula gets (since it’s the first book and she’s not as huge of a role), I thought she would make a great Lula if they keep on making movies (plus, I just happen to like Sherrie Shepherd). I was ok with Debbie Reynolds playing the Grandma Mazur role, though I think they made her too young looking and well-made up. In the books, Grandma Mazur is always in track suits and seems a little less together in the brain than Reynolds portrayed her.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I am all about Ranger. Mmmmmm. But I couldn’t stand him in this movie. I do not find the actor playing him particularly good looking but besides that, he had these awful bags under his eyes and just looked run down and not the healthy, ex-military guy he seems to be in the books.

I was, however, madly in love with Morelli by the end of this movie. Madly. I don’t even like Morelli in the books! I could finally see why Stephanie let him show her the way to heaven on the floor of the Tasty Pastry when she was 17. heh

I don’t think that One for the Money should have been a big screen movie though. I feel like this would have worked much better as a made for TV movie. Heck, put it on HBO or that other one I can’t think of right now, so you can keep the swearing and whatnot if you want, but it doesn’t need to be in a theatre. In fact, the movie itself didn’t even have anything remotely I’M A MOVIE! about it. I felt like I was watching TV the entire time. There was nothing Big Screen about it.

Not to mention the humour, that’s so everything in the books, wasn’t there. I rarely laughed out loud. I think a lot of it was due to the semi-bored and disinterested acting of Katherine Heigl. She just didn’t bring the funny.

I would enjoy move movies in this series if they stuck to TV I think. Maybe perked Katherine Heigl up a little. Gave her some life. Oh, and change the actor for Ranger. I don’t know who I can think of to play him, but I didn’t think this Sunjata guy worked very well.

At least Hollywood didn’t ruin the movie/book experience. They did a half-decent job, but it wasn’t quite right. Of course after 18 years with a series you feel awfully possessive of it and you just want everything to turn out like you have in your head. So not everyone will be happy, I get that.

Overall, I didn’t think this movie was as horrible as I thought it was going to be, but I am certainly happy that I used gift certificates for it and not my own money.

Plus, bright side, I got to have a lovely date with my Mum and I can’t think of the last time we were out together, only us, that didn’t involve some sort of hospital trip. heh

Mum & I

Bottom line? If you don’t mind spending the money and you’re curious, go for it. It’s not as awful as we all thought it would be. If you don’t want to spend the money, just wait for it to some out on DVD or show up on Netflix (or whatever other streaming thing you can get in the US that we Canadians can’t) because I think it would work well on the small screen. Of course, you can’t get those delicious movie theatre nachos when you’re at home though. I go for the nachos myself.

Smokin’ Seventeen

Smokin’ Seventeen (A Stephanie Plum Novel)
by Janet Evanovich

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list. Short on time to find the murderer, Stephanie is also under pressure from family and friends to choose between her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom wants her to dump them both for a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, suggests a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Joe’s old-world grandmother gives Stephanie “the eye,” which may mean that it’s time to get out of town.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke. (goodreads.com)

I read this book in one evening, which is pretty impressive right now since I can’t seem to find any time to read. For the first time in a long time I have a whole bunch of books to review for pubs and I just can’t find the time. Ugh. (Which is why I have decided to not accept books for review now except from 3 places that I have a long-standing relationship with, but I’m being picky picky about what I accept.)

This book was so much fun. I was worried because I’d seen quite a few people say it wasn’t one of the best, but by golly, did I find it funny. From the 72-year old vampire FTA to the Mooner Bus I was laughing and laughing.

Not to mention Ranger… OH LORDY! Ranger! *swoons*

There were sexytimes galore in this book and, I might be wrong about this, but I think this is the most graphic (and that’s being generous because they weren’t graphic at all) they have ever been. There really isn’t much sex in these books, if any and so when you get a book full o’ Morelli (meh) and Ranger (is it hot in here? Or is it just me? *purr*) it was… hot. Ranger.

Hang on a second…

..Ranger…

Sigh.

So, you might guess (though I don’t know how you would) that I am totally on the Ranger team in this series. I have yet to find anything all that appealing about Morelli. The man needs to grow up and go away. I don’t know why Stephanie hasn’t just moved on. I mean, I know, but still.. R-A-N-G-E-R.

’nuff said.

All the sexytimes made me totally ignore the fact that I had guessed what was going on and who the killer was right from the first time we met said person. I don’t care. I don’t read this series for super hard to figure out mysteries, I read it for the laughs, sheer entertainment value and the characters (Did I swoon over Ranger yet?).

I can’t believe this series is up to eighteen books though! I feel like it was only a handful of years ago they started. This is always going to be one of my Comfort Food books. I actually call them Mashed Potato Books because I loooooove mashed potatoes. Yum. Those will always pick me up when I am down (or sick)!

Janet Evanovich has an amazing sense of humour and it shines through with these books. The entire cast of characters make these books so entertaining.

I didn’t even crave McDonalds ONCE through this entire story, though! That’s a first I think. Thank the gods I don’t have a Cluck-in-a-Bucket or I’d be eating my weight in fried chicken with each book. Mmm.. fried chicken.

Mmmmm….Ranger…

*swoon*

Stephanie Plum series

  1. One for the Money
  2. Two for the Dough
  3. Three to Get Deadly
  4. Four to Score
  5. High Five
  6. Hot Six
  7. Seven Up
  8. Hard Eight
  9. To the Nines
  10. Ten Big Ones
  11. Eleven on Top
  12. Twelve Sharp
  13. Lean Mean Thirteen
  14. Fearless Fourteen
  15. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
  16. Sizzling Sixteen
  17. Smokin’ Seventeen
  18. Explosive Eighteen 

Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novellas

  1. Visions of Sugar Plums (between 8 & 9)
  2. Plum Lovin’ (between 12 & 13)
  3. Plum Lucky (between 13 & 14)
  4. Plum Spooky (between 14 & 15)

Sizzling Sixteen

Sizzling Sixteen (A Stephanie Plum Novel)
by Janet Evanovich

My mother lent me her hard cover copy of this book before Christmas and as much as I was longing for the next Plum book I just wasn’t feeling like reading it yet.  I picked it up at the end of last weekend and read it in a day. I needed comfort food reading due to my stress and unease over my poor sweet dog and I thought maybe the Evanovich book would help pick me up. Happily it did. I was giggling over the dialogue and events as of the first chapter. I knew that was a good indicator of how well the book was going to go.

Even though Stephanie and Lula were together the entire time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by Lula very much in this book. Sometimes she can be a little much. So can Grandma Mazur, so I was happy both doses of those ladies were just the right amount.

There was not enough Ranger at all. There should always be more Ranger. Heck, Ranger should come over and visit me and let me spend all the time I want with him. *rawr*

There wasn’t enough Morelli either, oddly enough and when there was they’d argue and walk away. It was sort of sad and irritating at the same time. I know this love triangle, if you want to call it that, has been going on long enough, but for the love of god, woman! Make a decision already! (Feel free to leave me Ranger though.)

I loved that Connie had a larger role in this novel and that she was determined to rescue the kidnapped Vinnie, if only so she wouldn’t have to try and find another job. I like Connie a lot and I always feel she’s not in the stories enough.

The alligator and the herd of cows – especially the herd of cows – made me laugh out loud and I enjoyed that SO BLOODY MUCH.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again – shouldn’t Stephanie be a little bit more adept at the bounty hunter thing by now? I mean, sixteen books, plus novellas. Just once or twice I’d like to read a book where she successfully captures her skips and doesn’t have some sort of freak event ruin it for her. She deserves that much.

Or she could go work with Rangeman… though I see how that would conflict with the Ranger / Morelli romances. Still, I think Stephanie is a smart enough woman that she should be able to apprehend a few skips with no problem. I find it hard to believe everyone in that town is completely insane and incompetent! As funny as the books are it can get a little frustrating at times.

I have had ups and downs with the books in this series, thankfully this sixteenth book was quite the up for me!

Stephanie Plum series

  1. One for the Money
  2. Two for the Dough
  3. Three to Get Deadly
  4. Four to Score
  5. High Five
  6. Hot Six
  7. Seven Up
  8. Hard Eight
  9. To the Nines
  10. Ten Big Ones
  11. Eleven on Top
  12. Twelve Sharp
  13. Lean Mean Thirteen
  14. Fearless Fourteen
  15. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
  16. Sizzling Sixteen
  17. Smokin’ Seventeen
  18. Explosive Eighteen – Hardcover November 2011

Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novellas

  1. Visions of Sugar Plums (between 8 & 9)
  2. Plum Lovin’ (between 12 & 13)
  3. Plum Lucky (between 13 & 14)
  4. Plum Spooky (between 14 & 15)